Hidden Potential – Part Three

AN: Finally getting a chance to continue this drabble 🙂 hope you guys have enjoyed it so far; I’m sorry if this one seems rushed but I really just wanted to get through it. I’m slowly getting back into the groove of writing again so yay!!! Oh btw it’s my baby Bento’s birthday today! My little Shiba Inu turns 2 today *sniffles* they grow up so fast!

BTW: totally didn’t notice the lack of Sitzu in these posts. My bad, I’ll write him in this one probably. Lol Enough of me rambling; here we go!

An image of shimmering green orbs burned into Korin’s mind as she kept at her chase, the boy Keeper and his companion dashing through the decrepit ruins of the city of Prece while the redhead remained at his heels. Shadow’s thundering pleas for her to cease her running fell on deaf ears; she couldn’t turn back when her desperation grew so strong.

That boy was a Kepper and she needed to speak to him. She needed to make sure he and his friend were safe; she needed to know more about him. Ignorant of the dangers she created for herself by screaming like a fool through the crumbling streets, Korin kept at her chase and refused to give up for anything.

From her nest of curls, a familiar form of black fur peeked from his hiding place, the creature amazed that during his nap such an event as a heated chase had occurred. Korin didn’t have time to address Sitzu’s questions that flooded into her mind however; her personal objective in the mission had changed since finding out there was another Keeper among them.

So the tiny creature kept close to his mistress while she ventured after the duo, her eyes trained on their every move so as not to lose them. And as she closed in on them, she thought that she’d get her wish.

That is, until the boy turned mid-step and raised his palm, a flash of light forming there as it developed into a sphere. With a flinch of his fingers, the sphere of light shot through the air towards the redhead in pursuit; Korin letting a scream escape her throat as she dived for the dirt. A cloud of dust rose from the impact of her body to the floor, the redhead lost in a fit of coughing before she managed to pry herself up.

The boy was gone along with his companion, Korin left sprawled out and alone with only her bitter tears that threatened to cascade down her cheeks. “I’m not here to hurt you; why do you run away?” Korin whispered to the open, smoggy air around her. “Don’t leave; I just want to talk to-.”

 As she spoke, her hand reached to brush the curls from her sight; however, her ice-colored orbs widened as she felt the vacancy of a particular creature that took refuge there. Sitzu was gone. Leaping to her feet, Korin searched her surroundings for the familiar bat; his squeaks void in that instance. Panic set in her gut and she began to dart forward once more; her mind doing its best to latch into a connection with the beast.

The push for all her wishes to come true kept her going forward; her mind closed off to everything else but her desire to find those she hunted. And then she felt the connection in her mind, “I found him, Miss Korin! I found him!”

Sitzu’s location came almost immediately after his words sounded and the redhead made for her destination. She squeezed through every obstacle before stumbling through an underground opening; her eyes searching for her small fruit bat as well as the two he pursued.

A gasp escaped her lips as Korin turned a corner into an opening, her eyes staring back at one pair of glowing green eyes. And then another pair of similar eyes. And then another. Before her stood nearly 10 children; each one focusing their glowing gaze at the intruder. And at the lead of them stood the boy from before, the bruised girl cowering behind him pleading for him to stop.

But it was too late it seemed; each figure held out their palm along with the boy though they drew no sphere of light like he did. The redhead quickly reached for her brush at her belt but her timing was too slow; the sphere soon shot forward straight for her heart. And all the while, Korin’s world was left blurred.

*~End~*

Hidden Potential – Part Two

AN:  This is the second part of the drabble series Hidden Potential I started earlier today. It was originally going to be a single oneshot but somehow developed into a much bigger story than I originally anticipated. Hope you guys enjoy!

Dust rose from her pounding steps among the debris, Korin’s gaze forward as she maneuvered the labyrinth of ruins that was the city of Prese. Shadows danced up ahead and she couldn’t help but pursue whatever it was she saw; it was the first form of life she’d encountered while on the mission and she wasn’t about to let it just slip away. Just a little further and she’d be at the opening she saw the figure scurry to; just a little further and she’d see just who she saw.

A hand from behind wrapped around Korin’s mouth before she could advance herself into the clearing, her shrieks muted by Shadow’s hold as he wrapped him other arm around her struggling hold. He released a low grumble as the two of them dipped behind some debris; the girl continuing to struggle despite his tightening grip.

“Stop it, Red; you’re going to end up hurting yourself if you keep struggling,” Shadow hissed in her ear, his devilish tone returning at full force and causing her to shiver in fear. Her body slumped in his hold and it seemed he relaxed a bit at her consent. “Good; don’t go running off again like that Red. We’re not in the safest of places and you have a tendency to-damnit!”

As he monologued, Korin allowed his guard to drop just enough to break from his hold. A content grin appeared on her lips as she escaped and began to scurry towards the clearing once more; however, the good feeling was short-lived as she was yanked backwards by her curls. A low hiss escaped her throat as she felt Shadow ease in behind her and take hold around her waist once more; his anger evident as he growled.

“Red, you’re really starting to piss me-!” He began to hiss but his gaze soon widened before he wrapped her close to his chest and hid from view. Korin’s cheeks burned at their closeness and she continued to struggle until she felt his warm breath tickle the nape of her neck. “Shut up and stop it now.”

She hissed. “No, let me go! I saw-!” Before she could finish, his hand was once more wrapped over her mouth.

“Just shut up and wait alright?” Shadow warned before sliding them towards a small crack in their cover so that the two of them could peer out onto the scene they’d found themselves present to.

The scene was quite dreary as was the rest of the city, the clearing surrounded by towering ruins of skyscrapers and brick buildings that likely seemed grand in their former days as homes, stores and businesses. At that particular moment however they were a ring, enveloping a tragic scene that had befallen the remaining people of Prese.

A trio of brawny men loomed overahead a fallen child, her tattered form trembling wildly as her tiny hands clung to what looked like a rotting piece of fruit she’d likely snatched from the outskirts where wildlife still held strong. Her soft whimpers were barely audible yet Korin’s heart sank with every uttered tone; her eyes wide as she struggled once more in Shadow’s hold. The doppelganger refused however and tightened his hold once more; his own heart begging to step in before seeing anymore of the particular scene unfold.

“Looks like this little brat’s tried stealing some of Kraken’s food supply,” one of the men howled as he stepped closer to the trembling child, his foot raised before slamming into her side. The air left her lungs as she collapsed on the floor, recoiling while gasping for the air that left her. Tears began to well up in the corner slits of her pale green eyes but it did not deter the men from their attack. “Should we add a few fingers to the collection plate?”

“A few fingers? This little brat actually made off with something!” Another chimed in with a snicker. “I say we take off her whole damn hand. What do you think, Truce?”

The addressed, a man taller than the others and towering at the middle of their group, seemed to linger his gaze on the girl as she panicked on the floor. He watched her fear grow at their conversation, his hand twitching slightly as he seemed to ruminate the thought of what to do next.

The clearing fell to silence, save for the girl’s whimpers as she shivered upon the dirt; it remained as such for quite some time and both Korin and Shadow’s own panic began to rise. The redhead clearly wanted to rush out and cause pain to those who threatened the poor girl; however, the doppelganger couldn’t allow even himself to step in let alone his companion. Afterall, though the girl was clearly being mistreated; they weren’t supposed to step into situations of their own accord unless invited in by the locals.

“S-Shadow,” Korin’s lips moved against the darkened skin of his palm as the man flinched. “P-Please-.”

“We can’t Korin; not this time,” he whispered, his own doubts filling his mind as he looked back out onto the scene. “It’s not our place.”

“That never stopped you before,” she whispered onto his skin and Shadow shuddered at the mention. She was correct in that regard; he was quite the professional in regards to fitting into situations that were considered ‘not his place’. This situation was no different.

“I suppose there’s no way around it,” a voice broke the two from their conversation as they glanced back towards the scene; the middle man stepping closer to the fallen girl as he tugged at the blade on his belt. The dagger released from its sheath and glistened even in the smog-filled city that it found itself; its wielder kneeling down and snatching the girl’s hand from her chest. A deafening scream erupted from her lips as she tried to kick away from the man’s hold, the fruit falling from her grasps and rolling away from the crowd. Cascading tears flowed like waterfalls down her dirtied cheeks but it didn’t seem to matter; the man had lowered his blade to the wristline and was prepared to hack away at her guilty appendage. “You’ll have to pay for your crimes, my dear; may this be a lesson for your robbing ways.”

“Shadow, Shadow please!” Korin’s squirming grew more desperate as she screamed in his hold, the doppelganger unsure what was the right decision at that moment. “Shadow, we have to help her! Shadow please!”

“I-ok!” Shadow announced as he tossed Korin to the side and prepared to sink into the scene; however, his movements paused as his gaze widened at what he saw next.

A light shone brighter than the sun itself and for a moment the three men all found themselves blind on the scene, the one known as Truce releasing the girl’s wrist before stumbling back with his dagger extended at the ready. Their howls of pain grew loud and deafening as they shifted backwards and that’s when the Keepers got a look at someone they never thought they find in a place such as that.

His figure was slender and ragged, his hair buzzed and stained with dirt. He was young, probably no older than ten years of age; yet he stood before the crying girl as if he were a hero of his own kind. The blinding light seemed to protrude from his outstretched palm, its source definitely a magic of some kind. However, this didn’t seem to shock the duo in the least; what really made them gasp was his eyes.

Though dim among his gray pupils, a bright light shimmered from his gaze; a light that Korin knew all-too-well since she too had experienced her change. Upon closer inspection, one would be able to see a glimpse of the knowledge inside the boy’s mind; the mark of a true Keeper.

“T-That kid’s one,” Shadow stuttered as he shifted his glance towards the equally shocked Korin. “D-Did your Master know about a Keeper here?”

“N-No,” Korin whispered as she reached a hand for her rapidly beating heart. “Master Drelo gave no mention to a Keeper ever being present in this world.”

“And yet there he is,” he added while he watched the young boy’s light grow brighter before the three men suddenly flew back into the rubble behind them. The shimmer in his gray orbs fell away as he reached down and snatched the bruised girl from the ground before he darted off towards safety.

“W-Wait! Korin called out as she darted out from their hiding place and took off after the young Keeper and his new companion. “Wait a minute! I’m here to help you! Wait!”

Shadow cursed at her loud tone and dashed out to follow her. “Red, shut the hell up! You’re going to-!” He then paused as he heard the grumbles from the men behind him as they seemed to pick themselves up from the latest attack. With a wave of Shadow’s hand and a glance over his shoulder, all three men were suddenly entangled in shadowy vines; their eyes covered to block out their vision. “That’ll do-for now at least.”

With a nod at his handiwork, Shadow disappeared in pursuit of his companion and their newest discovery.

*~End~*

Hidden Potential – Part One

AN: I got this idea a little while ago after watching the collection of music videos from M83, including Midnight City (my favorite <3). The storyline featured in the videos is quite amazing and I long to see where it goes next. After watching them though, I couldn’t help but be reminded of my Keepers; Korin, Rutt and Shadow. And thus, this idea came about. It might be a good subplot for an RP in the future with Taji *winkwink* 😛

It was original going to be a simple oneshot but it somehow got bigger as I was writing it and I decided to give it multiple parts so as not to make it too huge. Hope you guys enjoy!

 A drizzled haze settled over the decrepit city, polution looming overhead as Korin tried desperately to keep the smog from her lungs. At her side, the doppelgangers stood and eyed their surroundings carefully; the original calm as usual while the shadowy double grumbling with a frown. The two Keepers had joined for a scouting mission in the world of York, times of war proving to be catostrophic as they looked out towards what was once a lush, beautiful land.

“This place is nothing compared to what Master Drelo first transcribed all those years ago,” Korin whispered through her fingers; she felt like crying as her eyes scanned each visible sign of disaster and decay. “Everything’s so heartbreaking; how could no one reach out to this world in times of need?”

“This is what happens when a world’s people focus too much on advancement and power; their own greed destroys what was once so grand and majestic,” Shadow spoke as his eyes shifted to the girl beside him. “You’ve jumped from world to world nearly all your life yet you’ve never experienced a place like this?”

She couldn’t form the words to answer him; all Korin could do was shake her head as her eyes searched for some form of life among the debris.

“If it were up to us, Shadow; we would have preferred to never witness such worlds as this ourselves,” Rutt added as he stepped along the broken path, tredding carefully through the ruins of the city while his shadow stayed behind with Korin. The redhead noticed his movements and jumped at attention, the girl wrapping her scarf around her mouth before preparing for the next step.

A darkened hand reached out before her and the redhead gasped at the offer, her ice-colored orbs glancing up at the doppelganger beside her in surprise. Shadow refused to look down at her but she could tell this was his way of offering her comfort in such a grim situation. “T-Thank you, I suppose,” she managed to stutter before taking hold of his hand, the two of them following after Rutt carefully.

“Whatever Red,” he acknowledged before shifting his attention fully on the original. “You told me there was still a vast population of people here though I’ve yet to see a single lifeform; did they all flee the city for the wilderness or something? Possibly head back to the roots of their ancestors to live without the means of power and advanced technology?”

“That is only the case for some; the desire for power still looms over this land. There are still superpowers here who’s lands are still intact as a whole. Unfortunately, the city of Prece here isn’t one of those great superpowers,” Rutt spoke carefully so that the information could flow easily to Korin as they walked. “This was one of the first metropolis’ to fall during the Great War; to think its only been fifteen years since this city stood tall and brilliant. Just because its fallen from power however doesn’t mean there isn’t a sort of civilization living below this rubble. There is still a large population taking up refuge here. It’s unprotected however and welcoming to thieves and rebels and criminals alike. It’s not a safe place and we should be on our guard.”

“We’re always on our guard,” Shadow added, a line the original often spoke of while on missions. “Korin, that goes for you too.”

“I-I am on my guard,” Korin huffed at his side, a small blush tinting her cheeks as the doppelganger kept her from stumbling forward. “Y-You don’t have to help me you know.”

“If I don’t help you, you’re going to be face-first into the dirt before long,” Shadow retorted while guiding her carefully around a fallen skyscraper, the dirt below their feet mixed with steel and glass. “So these people are hiding themselves for fear of what’s roaming above?”

“Most likely; we lived in similar situations as children if you recall,” Rutt added as he paused to glance back at his shadow, the two of them locked in a moment of reminiscing while Korin looked on in confusion. It was the first time she’d really heard anything about their past; it was also one of the few times she’d truly noticed how much more human the shadowy figure seemed than the original of the two. Rutt’s face showed little emotion at the mention though the redhead knew pain still lingered deep in his heart; however, Shadow’s frowned twisted into a sad sort of smile as pain filled his eyes. The more she stared, the more Korin wanted to know about her supposed ‘rivals’; though, this was one of the few missions they had together that they weren’t at each other’s throats and she feared bringing anything up would jeopardize it.

“Let’s move on already; we’re supposed to be studying this place and gathering as much information as possible for the Council,” Shadow snapped suddenly as he shook his sadness away and allowed his frown to return at full force.

“Yes, let’s continue,” Rutt agreed as he continued forward, coming across fallen buildings acting as a stairway down to the lower levels of the surface. His boots kicked lightly to judge each step carefully before he motioned for the others to pause, the man then leaping down step-by-step towards the lower level. The others watched him make his way down and did not attempt to move until he made it safely below, the original then turning heel towards them and giving a nod that all was well.

“Looks like it’s safe,” Shadow managed to say before releasing Korin’s hand, his body diving into the ground below before shooting up at the original’s side with a nod. “Come on Korin, tread carefully.”

Her cheeks matched her hair color as Korin huffed at the warning, the doppelganger’s words clearly teasing her clumsy nature as the two awaited her down below. Though in a sense she knew the warning was valid for she’d often deemed herself  a professional ‘clutz’, she didn’t appreciate the constant jokes from her forced company.

“Miss Korin, is everything ok? Do you need assistance?” Rutt asked as he noticed the pause, the armored man ready to scale the makeshift steps once more to aid the woman.

“I’m perfectly alright; there’s no need for that,” Korin replied as she took a deep breath and prepared to cascade down the steps below. “I’ll be right t-!”

A shift in movement at her left caused Korin to pause, her glance now settled on the decrepit alleywalls where she could of sworn she heard the shuffling of footsteps. Someone was there; she knew she saw someone run by. Without a word to her companions, Korin was on her toes as she darted for the alleyway; both Rutt and Shadow eyeing her in shock.

“Miss Korin!” Rutt called out as Shadow growled. “Shadow, I’ll be right behind you; go after Miss Korin.”

“You don’t have to tell me twice; that idiot’s going to get herself killed if she keeps doing shit like this!” The doppelganger managed to say before diving into the ground below in pursuit of their forced partner for the mission.

*~End~*

What Lies in Those Deluded Depths

AN: So, the Alice: Otherlands page on Facebook is having a contest this weekend to describe your favorite scene in the Alice games (as well as pushing for more likes on the pages of their games Alice: Otherlands and OZombie). Well, I didn’t just wanna write a few sentences like mostly everyone else was doing. I wrote a poem; it’s not the best but I’m relatively proud of it lol. Hope you guys enjoy!

UPDATE: I totally failed to let you guys know before this but I was one of the winners for the contest 🙂 I got an Alice figurine!

A favorite scene you ask of me, well let’s see if I can recount the tale; of a blood massacre at sea that could leave an audience pale.

The Deluded Depths weaped that night, the fishlings all distressed; for some were left mangled in heaps, for others their story progresed.

The constrast was bleak on that fated path, Alice took that particular eve; corpses hung in the shadow of Dreary Lane Theatre, while inside others waited in unknownst reprieve.

The orchestra spun up as Totentanz began, a tale of death and demise; the Carpenter stood in watch with the delusional maiden, while the Walrus gorged on his prize.

A swirl of madness befell the shipwrecked hall, the depths tainted with blood and deceit; Alice watched the horrific scene in stride, the Carpenter blamed for his manners of mistreat.

He pleads with his muse he’s not the enemy, only a protector who failed at his craft; he shared that Alice had been deceived, another party was to blame for this story’s failed draft.

The Infernal Train stormed through the hall, flames and destruction at its bow; Carpenter threw himself between his savior and hell, his final words, “Catepillar may know how.”

(Lol I was bored as you can see, my favorite part of Alice was the Deluded Depths, especially at the end when madness overtook such a beautiful landscape and “the death of a dream” is discovered. The visuals are stunning and the sacrifice is clear as day; it’s definitely a turning point in the tale towards the final outcome.)

Prone to Injury

AN: Here’s another drabble from mine and Taji’s Special Delivery 3 RP; I really like her character Lady Constella and I wanted to highlight her a little bit. Again, I only just met her character last night and I don’t much about her; I really hope I don’t screw her up >.< I just wanted to write a little idea I had in my mind (it’s probably not going to happen whatsoever in the RP but I thought it was a cute little snipit I could write :D). Lady Constella, Serum, Byron and Sniffles belong to Taji; Korin and Sitzu belong to me. Hope you guys enjoy!

Her wide orbs, an icy blue sparkling with wonder, focused on me at our first chance meeting; a guest accompanied by my Serum into the fighter’s den on business I wasn’t aware of. The poor dear was injured, cuts and bruised formed about on her neck, arms and face and I could feel the hunger inside me grow at the sight. My fingertips itched for the touch, pleading to grace her alabaster skin and mend the wounds she’d been dealt. Who would I be to deny them their wish; after all, I longed for the little one’s admiration once I was done.

I must admit her squeals of delight and sudden embrace were a shock once I healed her that first time; her red curls bounced as she moved forth and threw her arms around me like a child. She was so impressed, so honored and so grateful; I couldn’t help but find the little one adorable. I allowed for a moment for the knowledge that she had been found out to be a powerful fighter in her own right to fall by the wayside and simply take in her praise; and that’s when I discovered something about the dear Korin.

It seemed the adorable redhead who found herself in my care was prone to injury; the self-proclaimed ‘clutz’ stumbling over her own two feet while I watched in awe. Her latest fiasco caused a bloody noise which I quickly tended to, the two of us curled up in my canvas of pillows while Serum finished his fight. Korin mumbled in embarrassed tones I found even more adorable by the second, her tales all involving some sort of injury she’d received from her clumsy escapades.

It was almost too good to pass up; for each wound I mended, the girl would look up to me in admiration that I so desired. I was a hero in her eyes; and it was wonderful.

I couldn’t help myself as I scooped the redhead into my grasp, pulling her close as I snuggled up to her nest of curls. My fingers traced each lock as she squeaked in my hold, another adorable feature that made me chuckle. This girl saw me as a hero and being so prone to injury, I knew I would continue to add that shimmer in her gaze towards me; I wanted to keep this girl in my company for with her joining the ranks I knew I’d never be bored.

*~End~*

A Healer’s Touch

AN: So me and Taji have been working on our Special Delivery 3 RP and yesterday she brought in a new character, Lady Constella. She’s a beautiful being with the power of healing bestowed upon her by her goddess (like the Bygone Monks are bestowed their powers by their god). I don’t know too much about her yet besides she owns the fighting arena and she loves to heal but I wanted to write a little something about her! Lady Constella, Serum, Byron and Sniffles belong to Taji; Sitzu and Korin belong to me. Hope you guys enjoy!

 For the duration of their travels through the back halls to the grand hall, Korin was left in a daze. Her vision blurred and her mind was riddled from the pain she felt; she could barely hold her head up much less her whole body as the tall guard at her side carefully aided her along. She had lost all sense of her companion Byron and his faithful St. Bernard; even when both of them pursued the leading party and made sure to never let the redhead out of their sight.

“We’re almost there; just a little further now my lady,” the guard whispered in a soothing fashion to his charge, ice-colored orbs seeking upwards at the towering man though unable to fixate on him through the strain her gazes caused. “Lady Constella will see to your wounds and you’ll be good as new.”

“L-Lady Constella sounds quite powerful,” Korin stuttered in reply, her grip tight on the man’s arm as to steady her recent stumble.

“Oh, she’s quite powerful indeed; and the leader of this fine establishment,” the guard mused on, a slight snort barely audible from behind the duo as they moved. Korin managed a half-grin at the sound; it seemed Byron was still there and couldn’t help himself at the mention of such a place being considered a ‘fine’ establishment. “She will tend to your wounds, my lady; you’ll feel right as rain after she’s aided you.”

 It wasn’t long before the group had entered into the grand hall and glittering objects all around seemed to gather Korin’s fleeting attention. Brilliant bobbles, decorations and silk furniture ran throughout the room; paintings and statues towered along the glistening walls though through her blurred vision looked only to be blobs of various colors. Forms of all sizes and shades lined the walls, likely servants awaiting to tend to their mistress who waited far across the other side of the room.

The first thing Korin’s vision could make out was the golden locks cascading down, jewels and trinkets twirled in for decoration. Beautiful blue eyes held their gaze downward to the creature the woman was tending to; matching the gown that graced her slender frame.

A slight hint of pink crossed the redhead’s cheeks as she was led closer towards the woman; it always humbled her to be in the presence of such beauty and grace, regardless of where she was to experience such. For a moment, she’d forgotten that she was in the middle of a fighting arena that she found quite despicable. After all, not only was the woman sprawled out amongst her bed of pillows so captivating gorgeous; she was also clearly talented beyond compare in terms of healing.

Ice-colored orbs strained to follow the woman’s every move of her hand upon the large feline creature before her; the beast ragged and bloodied yet docile as it allowed the care it was receiving. A shimmer emitted from her fingertips as she traced each and every cut and scar; the wounds sealing up as if by magic. Oh, but it was magic; a magic that this world only granted to those linked with the divine.

The guard carefully helped the tranced Korin over to a couch and placed her lightly on the silky service, the man gently patting her shoulder for good measure before stepping away to leave her in the hands of his mistress. Another guard’s voice sounded somewhere closeby but the redhead’s focused was still on the woman as she finished her work on the creature. A beautiful woman such as her infused with a healers touch; Korin simply had to learn more about her. The knowledge of her being head of the fighting arena fell by the wayside; all the Keeper wanted was to learn all about the healer known as Lady Constella.

*~End~*

Dragon Hunters 4 – A Mae/Taji RP

AN: So we finished the latest dragon hunters RP today; it’s literally only been a little more than a month now so that RP was a huge achievement for me and Taji. We couldn’t wait to start up the next storyline so here we go! This RP is ongoing so check back for updates! Hope you guys enjoy!

*~Start~*

Tajiface: Graham sat before a roaring fire, idly stirring the stew in front  of him. Once satisfied he turned his attention to the single window. The sun had set awhile ago and the night’s creatures timidly made their rounds in the surrounding forest. The small cabin Graham had built was nestled in with the surrounding trees. This area was void of most wildlife because there was no easy water source here,  so dragons tended to leave this area alone.

Behind him the door of his cabin slammed open. He looked over his shoulder with amusement. Miller stood in the door and glared at Graham. He looked rougher than when Graham had first brought him here. His clothes, guild issue, were now ragged and stained with mud. His dark hair had grown out and almost covered his eyes.

“Back already?” Graham asked. “How far did you get today?”

In answer Miller threw down the sack he had been clutching. The bag landed near Graham’s feet and its meager contents emptied on the floor. A few trinkets, a knife, and other  odd end supplies were present. Graham recognized them  as pilfered items from his cabin.

Miller stomped to a small pile of blankets at the corner of the cabin. He threw himself down and said nothing. He crossed his legs and leaned against the wall. He glanced at the boiling food, however, and suddenly his glare was gone.

“To the creek.” He mumbled.

Graham grinned. He continued to stir the pot. “You didn’t go as far as I thought. I suppose you figured you could get some fish and not have to come back here.”

Miller shrugged, but still his gaze lingered on the pot. Graham leaned forward to take in the smell of his brew with a satisfied sigh.

“Unfortunately for you that creek hasn’t had fish in it for years.” Graham explained.

Graham scooped a heaping portion of soup into a wooden bowl. Again he breathed in the wonderful aroma with content. He finally took a spoonful and shoveled it into his mouth. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Miller stare intently. The tracker even wrapped an arm around his own stomach.

“Let’s see, how many days has it been since you’ve had a full meal? Three or four? I doubt those berries you pick up on your escape attempts are very filling.” Graham mused in between bites.

Miller tore his eyes away and stared intently at the floor before him. “You win. Give me some damn food already.”

“Now, Miller, we’ve talked about this before. You don’t work, you don’t get food.”

The younger glared again as the fire returned to his eyes. In a swift movement he threw himself on the makeshift bed and turned to the wall, his back facing Graham. He curled up as though he were about to sleep, wrapping his arms around his empty stomach.

Graham chuckled. He leaned back in his chair and stretched his legs out before him. He had watched Miller grow up and knew the young man very well. When Miller originally agreed to accompany Graham into the wilderness he had no doubt what the other had planned.

Sure enough, the day after he brought him here Graham had returned from a hunt to find Miller gone. By evening the tracker returned, under some pretense of tracking down a big game for dinner. In the days that followed Miller consistently disappeared while Graham was away, and arrived just after sunset every night.  Finally Miller gave up the charade altogether and declared he’d find his way back to Eastwyvern. Except every attempt only brought him back to the cabin.

There were days Graham could coax Miller into assisting him in hunting. Not always dragons, but just game to feed themselves or sell fur to nearby towns. He worked and Graham gave him a full three meals. Then there were days when Miller grew stubborn and refused, disappearing again and returning. This had been the longest he had gone without food, and Graham was curious to see just how long he could last.

“I can’t track well if I’m hungry. I need to eat first.” Miller grumbled to the wall.

“So you’ll help me tomorrow?” Graham asked.

Miller rolled over and scowled at him.

“Fine.”Graham nodded and reached forward into a basket. He tore off a bite of bread, barely a handful, and tossed it to Miller.

“This is all I get?” Miller asked, eyeing the small chunk of bread dubiously. Despite his objection Miller choked it down, even licking his fingers to make sure he got all the crumbs.

“If we catch something good tomorrow, then you get soup.” Graham explained.

Miller grumbled something under his breath and turned back to the wall. Shortly later he was fast asleep, probably because he was exhausted from the day’s escape attempt.

Graham finished the soup and left the fire to dwindle on its own. He plotted through all the job offers he saw at the nearest town, which was a few hours away. They were so far out in the wilderness he was confident Miller would never  be able to find his way back to Eastwyvern, or any town for that matter, without Graham to guide him. It was only a short matter of time for Miller to realize this, too.

Once Miller accepted there was no escape Graham could begin taking the higher bounty jobs. Miller’s family was known for their tracking skill, and Miller definitely inherited that skill set. Graham planned on utilizing it to make an immense profit. All he needed was an established reputation and reserve of wealth. Then he could retire to a lifetime of luxury. Whether Miller decided to join him in the end wasn’t his concern.

Graham’s only regret was being unable to see the look on Barlet’s face when he realized the mutt was long gone, never to return to his mother’s beloved town.

~~~

Aaron stretched yet again in the morning sun. He was eager to go, as was Baila, but they waited on the others to arrive. The two Eastwyvern Guild Hunters sat on the side of an old and crumbling road. Two large bags were at their sides, packed and ready for a long adventure. Aaron sat with his arms crossed and tapped his foot impatiently against the ground.

“Calm down,” Baila admonished Aaron. “I see someone coming. We just need to wait on Barlet, now.”

Aaron looked down the road, to where Eastwyvern’s gates ended. He sighed. “We should have left days ago.”

Baila looked at him with concern. “It’s too late to regret now. Just relax, Miller is fine. Probably camping out in the forest somewhere, enjoying a nice vacation from account books.”

Aaron sighed and continued to fearlessly tap his foot.

Maeeverglow: Down the dusty road came two figures dressed for travel, Bayelei’s fingers wrapped around her satchel’s strap while Quellin’s fists were shoved into his pockets. Both seemed to frown at the other’s presence however they didn’t flinch away from the other as they walked towards the awaiting group. The female hunter was dressed in thin attire, her wrappings from some of the lingering wounds from the latest fiasco with her mother visible to those who bothered to notice. Her injuries for the most part were clearing up nicely though she did occasionally aggravate some of the wounds; something that would often end up sending Wendell into a rant against her about how it was important to maintain proper healing while dealing with such injuries. Did Bayelei listen ever? Not so much.

Quellin had recently announced his official retirement from the military after the fiasco with Vette and he had taken root in the town of Eastwyvern partly to mend the wounds of the past war, as well as to secretly remain at the side of a particular nurse he’d grown rather fond of. In fact, if she wasn’t tied to Miller’s side, he’d have probably tried to win her hand. And after Miller’s disappearance, he pledged to aid the others in finding him; though he did rather enjoy the moments he got to spend with Wendell without the tracker’s presence anywhere near.

“You really think you need to come along?” Bayelei asked, rather flatly as they closed the gap between them and Aaron. “Don’t you have more important things to take care here?”

“Not in the least, I promised Wendell I’d help find him and besides,” he paused before motioning a wave to the hunter beside him. “Vita was not particularly happy that you’d volunteered to go on this particular adventure, especially after everything that happened with Vette. So I promised her I would help look after you and make sure you didn’t do anything rash.”

“And what makes you think I need your help with any of this?” Bayelei muttered with a huff. “You think you owe me or something for my mom’s issues? Well, you don’t; so you can just go on ho-.”

“Nope, not leaving,” Quellin interrupted as they halted before the others. “I promised.”

“Whatever, damnit,” Bayelei growled before releasing a sigh and nodding to Aaron and Baila. “Ok, so my contact in *placeIhavenonameforsoleavingittotajitoname* said he’s seen someone who fits the description of Graham in their town. If we leave now, we should make good time without worry.”

Tajiface: Aaron stood to greet the two. He nodded at Bayelei’s information. “Thanks, you two, for coming along.”

“Looks like ole Barlet’s here too.” Baila commented, pointing down the road.

A military issue jeep hurtled towards them. It stopped just in front of them and two men exited. Barlet was still dressed in casual wear. The paperwork still had not gone through yet and he was stuck as an ordinary civilian until the entire mess with Vette was sorted out. This seemed to suit Barlet just fine, as he had the freedom to pursue Graham now.

Luke also stepped out of the vehicle, eyeing his former boss. “Sir, is would think it best you stay here and allow Aaron to locate Graham.”

“I’m not your boss for now, Luke, stop using sir.” Barlet socially corrected. He cast an eye over the ragtag team and grinned. “Leave it to them to find him? They couldn’t find their way through a garden, let alone to Victorville (that’s right, I just rock at names hahaha).”

Baila grinned. “I see this loser is back to his usual self. Glad we’ll have such enjoyable company, it’ll make things interesting.”

Barlet straightened his light jacket. “If you are quite ready, please climb aboard.”

“We’re taking that?” Aaron asked incredulously. “Why not just sent Graham a letter stating we’re coming for him? It’d be just as obvious.”

“This isn’t exactly a stealth mission, mind you.” Barlet explained with irritation in his voice. “Time is of the essence, and I refuse to endanger Miller’s life for the sake of ‘stealth.'”

Aaron rolled his eyes. “Fine, fine. Everybody ready?”

Maeeverglow: Both Bayelei and Quellin were already propped in the backseat, the female hunter clearly impatient as she crossed her arms. “Well hurry up then!”

Tajiface: Victorville was far larger than Eastwyvern, there was no doubt about that. The buildings were kept from falling apart, cars were actually seen on the streets, and people were dressed in more than just rags. Unlike Eastwyvern, however, there was no sense of community. Aaron could hardly walk down the street without being greeted by locals. Here everyone seemed a stranger to one another. Strong hordes of thugs collected at various corners and Aaron found himself remembering days of the capital.

The drive itself took little more than a day thanks to the military vehicle. Barlet left the jeep at a nearby base as the group entered into this town. Baila confidently walked in the lead as the others followed behind.

“This town is notorious for its guilds.” Barlet quietly said to the others. “They act more like gangs. They bully any free lance hunters who haven’t joined their ranks.”

“Sounds like the opposite of the capital.” Aaron commented.

Baila dropped behind so she could join in on the conversation. “We need to stay low, Aaron. Even the Scarlet Wings didn’t mess with these guys.”

They walked through the main streets of town until they came across a side alley. Baila lead them through until they were at another street. Few people walked in the abandoned part of town. Those who did gave weird looks to them as they passed.

In the middle of the square was a large, empty fountain. A man dressed in light hunting armor sat at its base. At their approach he stood, giving them a sheepish smile.

“Been a long time, Baye.” Kyle said. He appraised her fading wounds and gave a whistle. “You’ve looked better. And here we have Baila, ex member of the Scarlet Wings. So that must make one of these three men Aaron, right?”

Baila bristled at the charming man. “How would you know all of this?”

He hummed in response. “I’m sort of a hunter of information as well as dragons. Bayelei here used to be one of my best customers.”

Maeeverglow: “Still one of your best customers,” Bayelei mumbled, stressing the still as she gave a half-smirk. After a moment’s pause, she allowed herself to give him a light embrace before she gestured to the man in question for her companion’s benefit. “When I was a traveling hunter a few years ago, he helped me a lot with finding information and jobs all across the country; he rivals some of the best military scouts when it comes to information gather.”

“He sounds rather skilled,” Quellin said with a nod towards Kyle.

“He’s extremely skilled, for your information,” the female hunter boasted with a pat on Kyle’s shoulder. “Anyway, he said he’s seen someone fitting Graham’s description in town; though I can practically guarantee he has seen Graham and just wasn’t ready to commit to it yet.”

Tajiface: Kyle gave a small smile again. “You flatter me Baye.”

“Yes, yes, let’s get on with it.” Barlet said in agitation. “Someone’s life is at stake.”

Aaron almost cringed when Barlet said that. Beside him Baila wore a similar expression. One of the golden rules he had learned in big cities was to give as little information as possible.

“Oh? Baye left out that part.” Kyle said, trailing off. When nobody made to explain further he shrugged and moved on. “There’s this gruff man, looks like a werewolf almost, who used to come into town every few weeks for supplies and jobs. Recently, though, he’s been coming almost every week and picking up the higher priced jobs. Which isn’t all the odd. The odd part is he’s actually delivering and getting paid. Somehow this guy went from being a small fish to a big fish in almost a month. Of course, this has caught the attention of many… eh, interested parties. If you catch my drift.”

Maeeverglow: “And he’s been coming in alone right? Nobody is ever with him?” Bayelei asked with a glare towards Barlet.

“Is Graham really all that tough on his own that he could handle such jobs on his own?” Quellin asked aloud, directing his question towards Aaron.

Tajiface: “No.” Aaron replied quickly. He crossed his arms and a familiar irritation crossed his face.

Baila filled in the details. “I’m sure you’re aware, as the good man here has just made obvious, but I’m from an elite guild. Trust me when I say that guy really only had charisma and guts going for him. He was an idiot, barely able to survive on his own, really. Only in a town like Eastwyvern would he be able to stay in charge of anything let alone a guild.”

“Which is why so many members perished under his leadership and we sought a new one.” Barlet continued.

Kyle listened with extreme interest. When the others provided no more information he cleared his throat. “No, he’s been coming alone, as always.”

Maeeverglow: “So then have you seen where the man’s been going after he leaves here?” Quellin began, glancing over towards Kyle. “Perhaps he lives in town?”

“No he doesn’t live in town, most likely lives further out in the woods away from prying eyes,” Bayelei answered for him, crossing her arms with a sigh. “Where’s he getting these high-paying jobs Kyle?”

Tajiface: Kyle thought a moment. “Well, that depends, really. Most of the jobs are offered by the government. There are some private investors, though, who collect various items found on dragons. They’re all posted at the main hall.”

“When was the last anyone has seen of this man?” Aaron asked.

“A week ago. I contacted Bayelei as soon as he left.”

“So he should be back in town soon, right?” Aaron mused aloud. “We could find the bastard when he’s getting another job.”

Kyle nodded. “A word of caution, though. If you are seen in there by members of The Ivory Blades then you will be assumed to be competition.”

“They’re the main guild dominating here,” Baila explained before any questions were uttered. “They’re led by a cut throat businessman. What Kyle means is they’ll assume we’re traveling hunters poaching in their town. They’ll try to rough us up or get us to join.”

Maeeverglow: “So clearly starting a fight in there isn’t wise so we should avoid cornering him in there,” Quellin said with a glance towards Aaron, Bayelei slipping some money to Kyle before pausing her hand. “What’s the plan here then? We should have things well thought out before rushing in.”

“How much do I have to pay you to not tell anyone what we’re up to, Kyle?” She whispered, only audible for him to hear.

Tajiface: Kyle glanced between the money and Bayelei. He smiled fondly at her. “Forget the cash, I’ll keep your actions secret if everyone stays the night. It’s a dangerous town, Baye, I want to make sure you guys aren’t stabbed in your sleep or anything.”

That was only part of the reason. The other was he wanted the group to slip more details. He was burning to know more about this gruff man. He also was curious as to this endangered life they made references to. And of course, he wanted more details about Eastwyvern’s current gossip to update his own clients.

“My apartment may be shabby, but it will be a safe place for you guys to plot out your next move, too.”

Maeeverglow: Bayelei tensed at the offer, having quite a few suspicions as to why he was offering. However, they were in need of a place to stay and the place was quite dangerous from the look of it. She’d be fine but with a group so large she was sure they’d be spotted and targeted within the hour.

“I think we should take him up on the offer,” she finally said with a huff; she’d have to warn the others not to divulge anything too important less they want their secrets on the black market. Kyle was after all a tricky person to be friends with, there were times where his good nature showed and Baye was fond of his company; and there were times she frowned at him for his push for information. “Unless our good leader has something else in mind?”

Tajiface: “Miller would say yes, to save money on inn costs.” Aaron said, frowning at the thought of his friend. “I guess our best option is yes.”

Baila patted Aaron on the shoulder with a look of concern. “Lead the way, I’m ready for a break.”

Kyle nodded with a smile. “Right this way, then.”

He took them through more alleyways until they reached an old apartment building. Aaron considered it a dump but nobody else seemed to mind. Even Barlet remained silent.

Kyle’s apartment looked as rundown on the inside as the out. The kitchen was clearly not used often, as piles of boxes occupied the space. The front room seemed to double as the master bedroom. A large mattress and blankets lay in a heap on the floor. Several opened books and ancient magazines were splayed around the makeshift bed.

“It’s not much,” Kyle said as he closed the door behind him and made sure to lock it. “But at least I have a second bedroom for the ladies to use.”

“We won’t be sleeping for awhile. We have plans to make.” Barlet declared. He threw his bag in the first empty spot he could find and sat in a chair with a look of distaste.

Aaron sighed. “I apologize, the man has no idea what manners are. Thank you for your hospitality.”

Maeeverglow: “That man has no idea what anything is,” Bayelei remarked before taking a seat on the floor, her satchel remaining over her shoulder as she crossed her arms. “Thanks for this, Kyle.”

“Yes, thank you!” Quellin exclaimed with a nod before plopping down next to Bayelei, the female hunter cutting her eyes at the man before scooting away from him. The ex-soldier feigned hurt at the action however he allowed himself to not question her attitude towards him; after all, if she didn’t trust him even a little bit, he would never have been allowed to accompany them in the first place.

Bayelei glanced over towards Barlet with a huff. “Perhaps there’s some food we can trouble you for Kyle?” She really didn’t feel the least bit hungry but she had hoped they’d at least have a few moments alone for planning without the man around. “You wouldn’t want poor little me to starve?”

(Hopefully he doesn’t remember that Bayelei eats…like nothing xD)

Tajiface: Kyle quietly laughed at the interactions happening before him. Truly he had stumbled across an interesting bunch.

“Yes, of course. I have to meet with another client anyways. Please, make yourselves at home and I will return shortly with dinner.”

Once Kyle left both Aaron and Baila took seats near the door. Aaron felt slightly more relaxed being in a closed space. Beside him Baila was still tense. He expected as much, for she was never truly settled unless she was at the guild hall.

“So what’s our next move? Wait Graham out at the job postings?” Aaron asked.

“If he shouldn’t arrive for awhile our presence would be noted by several, as Kyle hinted at.” Baila added.

“He could hear through word of mouth we’re here and we’d never see him, or Miller, again.” Barlet said.

Aaron frowned. “There’s too many unknown factors as well. What the hell does Graham want with Miller anyways? If he wanted to get back at that idiot over there he would have just killed Miller at the hospital.”

Baila thought a moment before turning to Quellin. “Did Graham mention anything of use before he took Miller?”

Maeeverglow: Everyone’s eyes were on the ex-soldier and he did his best to recall the situation that faithful morning they battled against Vette and her troops to regain control of Eastwyvern. With a sigh, he stated, “he mainly talked about how it was all Barlet’s fault really about something that happened with Miller’s family. Though he did mention starting up a guild elsewhere while utilizing Miller’s skills.”

“Sounds like Mr. Graham’s gonna reclaim the throne one way or another, though it looks like it’ll have to be the throne of a brand new guild,” Bayelei added with a huff. “Well, we won’t be able to just walk around as a group either without dealing with the locals. No matter which angle we try to work this job, we’re going to get noticed by somebody. We should focus on a way that would work highly in our favor at least.”

Quellin stared at the female hunter and tried to understand her words. “So that would be?”

“Maybe get on the good side of some of these jackasses that run the place?” She suggested. “We can give them Barlet as a gift; they’d love him!”

Tajiface: Aaron kept a close eye on Barlet as Quellin talked. Sure enough, at the mention of Miller’s family a flash of guilt hit his eyes.

Aaron groaned. “Start a new guild? That is definitely something the bastard would do.”

Barlet snapped back to attention at the mention of his name. He rolled his eyes. “Very funny. Any real suggestions? They sound like a tough crowd, why not get your friend Kyle to mention our predicament to them and ask for assistance?”

Maeeverglow: “I know a few people in these guilds around here and unless you’re paying big time, they won’t be inclined to help,” Bayelei sneered towards the man. She then said in a mocking voice, “how about making a smart suggestion dumbass?”

“Bayelei,” Quellin spoke up as he narrowed his eyes at the hunter, the woman rolling her eyes before returning to the matter at hand.

“Well, I could try reaching out to a few of my connections here but for the most part I highly doubt even that would get us anywhere,” Bayelei added with a sigh. “And I don’t want to rely on Kyle more than needed here. What are your thoughts, Bossman?”

Tajiface: Aaron was quiet as he thought over the situation. He was never a good planner, he left the thinking to others in the guild.

“What if we didn’t hide our presence in town?” Baila suddenly spoke. When the attention was focused on her she continued. “Look, we’re going to attract unwanted attention. Graham is going to find out we’re here one way or another, why don’t we just become notorious anyway?”

Aaron frowned. “I don’t follow… Isn’t Barlet right? Graham will hit the road if he sees us snooping.”

Baila cocked a brow at Aaron. “Really? That arrogant man? I think he’d visit town more if he knew we were here. He knows we have no leads on where he keeps Miller, and we won’t be able to follow him stealthily into the wilderness. He’d never miss an opportunity to flaunt around town just to spite you two. Besides, If he wants to start a guild he’ll need a reputation to do it. Sounds like he’s already started it here, he won’t abandoned all that hard work willingly.”

“I suppose you have a point,” Barlet commented. “How do you propose we garner such a spotlight? To what benefit would it give us?”

Baila grinned. “We do what we do best: kill dragons. If we start stealing the high end jobs from Graham he’ll have to confront us somehow. Hell, we might even run into Miller out there in the wilds. Plus, we’d be rich by the end of it all.”

“Sounds like we’re just making ourselves even bigger targets for those thug guilds.” Aaron said.

Baila waved him off. “Nothing we can’t handle. These guys can be rough but we’ve tangled with worse, Aaron.”

Maeeverglow: Bayelei’s eyes glittered at the mention of getting rich. “M-Money you say? I’m all for a job that gets me paid!”

“You think we as a group can take on all these high-level jobs?” Quellin asked with a fearful glance. In his position, he never was one to face-off against dragons; in fact, he rather believed he’d never stand a chance even in a group setting against them.

The female hunter gave a nod, her eyes still sparkling at the money she’d earn for the job. “Duh, you’ve got three professional dragon hunters on your side, idiot. Of course we can handle it!”

Tajiface: The next day Kyle took Bayelei and Baila to the main hall. After much discussion it was decided the two women had the most experience in picking out legitimate high paying jobs. The job posting area was more of an arena than a room. In the middle of the old convention center towered a four boards. They were giant and towered over even the tallest hunter in the room. Hundreds swarmed these bulletin boards, all desperate to grab the best offer.

Kyle stood on the edge of a crowd and smiled fondly at the two crazy women before him. Baila dashed madly around a corner to Bayelei’s side. She held up three papers in her hand with writing.

“Look at these I found!” She screeched like a woman who just found the perfect shoes. She held up one and went into the details. Upon seeing Bayelei’s reaction she thoughtfully shook her head. “No, you’re right. We’re better than that.”

Baila returned to the crowds only to reappear seconds later with more in her hands. Behind her a woman stood rubbing a fresh bruise on her face. Kyle stared at Baila in shock. Her fist wasn’t even red from the pounding she’d just administered.

“Oh, Bayelei, look at this one I just happened to find!” Baila squealed in eagerness, holding the paper up.

(I’m so sorry, I couldn’t resist…)

Maeeverglow: With a wide grin and dreamy eyes, Bayelei took hold of the paper without even making a mention of the bruised woman stalking away. She mused about all the ways they could handle the job and what her and Baila could use the money for. She could see Kyle staring at them with wide eyes but she didn’t care; it had been so long since she had gotten to do a good job that paid well and she’d be damned if the job they started off with wasn’t a great one.

“These jobs are all well and good but there’s gotta be something better up there Bai! Really get in there and dive for the top prize! I’ll back you up!” Bayelei declared with a wink to the other woman. “Let’s do this!”

Tajiface: Baila pumped her fist and hollered a warrior’s cry. The woman’s antics startled those around her. She took advantage and ran for the board, shoving a man aside as she jumped to reach the highest place flyer. She took Bayelei’s “top prize” quite literally. The paper ripped from the board and she pulled it down with her. Again she shouted in victory and those near her took cautious steps back.

Baila turned to Bayelei and waved the paper with a grin. “How about this one?”

Maeeverglow: Both hands raised in the air as Bayelei cheered at their triumph. “That’s the one! We are the winners!” She then rushed forward and took Baila’s arm before darting about the crowds like schoolchildren, the two of them singing merrily at all the cash they could make.

Tajiface: Kyle crossed his arms with a small smile of his own. He managed to wave the women down when they neared him.

“If attention is what you wanted you definitely got it.” Kyle whispered. He nodded to a group of hunters wearing similar outfits with daggers emblazoned on the sleeves. They glanced over at Baila and Bayelei and whispered amongst themselves.

“Of course, they won’t take you seriously until you’ve actually completed the job.” Kyle added. He paused and looked to the far end of the hall, where a retreating grizzly bear of a man retreated to one of the unused hallways. He pointed. “Isn’t that the guy you’re looking for?”

Maeeverglow: Bayelei’s smile was wider than it had been in a long time as she laughed along with Baila and stood proudly before all the occupants of the room, their plan quickly coming to reality. “There’s no worry on that love; I can guarantee you that we’re going to kick ass at these jobs and they’re going to be respecting us a hell of a lot in this town!”

When Kyle mentioned a certain man they were there to find however, her face paled before she followed the man’s gaze and dashed through the crowd following the one into the hall. Graham was in her sights; she’d recognize that rough mug anywhere. Without a second thought, Bayelei was in the air in a pounce, the woman’s arms wrapping around his shoulders while she threw him off-balance. He slammed into the wall with her grasp tight around him, their stance almost looking like a from-behind hug if not for the fact that a blade was now in hand and dangerously hovering above his heart.

“If it isn’t Mountain Man; aw, I’ve missed you so much,” Bayelei mused with a growl in her throat. “You miss me?”

Tajiface: Baila carefully stuffed the job posting and followed after Bayelei. She was no match for the girl’s speed, however, and simply followed along at a trot. By the time she arrived in the empty hallway Bayelei bad Graham pinned with a blade. Kyle soon appeared behind her, but she held a hand out to prevent him from continuing further.

Graham struggled in the woman’s hold, certain an Ivory Dagger had challenged him. Bayelei’s voice growled, though, instead of an unknown assailant. He relaxed in the hold and chuckled.

“I must admit, I didn’t expect to see you alive.” He replied.

Maeeverglow: A huff sounded at the remark, “of course I’m alive; there’s no way I would fall at the hands of such a vile woman.” The blade pricked lightly at his skin as she inched closer to him. “Say Mountain Man, a little birdie told me you’ve got a little friend of ours. Mind handing him over? Nothing needs to get ugly, just hand him over and all will be well in our world. Of course, you can say no but I assure you that you wouldn’t want that at all.”

The dagger played along his chest as she awaited his answer, the woman managing a sigh before pressing closer to him.

“Come on already, what do you want in all this anyway? From what I’ve heard you’ve got a lot of power on your side so you can easily get a guild started up on your own. Why the hell do you need Miller? Haven’t you already gotten a good jab at that stupid asshole Barlet? Can’t you just work something out here with me and let me have Miller?”

Tajiface: Baila stepped forward. “Bayelei.” She warned. A murder in such a public place would cause more than one problem.

Graham allowed the blade to graze his skin. “I don’t know to what you’re referring, little missy. I don’t keep useless mutts around.”

Maeeverglow: She was about to press the issue when she heard the tone in Baila’s voice, the woman snapping back into reality as she remembered where she was currently located. With a huff, she withdrew the blade before backing away calmly; her hands raised in defeat though her eyes still fixated on her prey.

“Fine, no need for sharing Mountain Man. Can’t say I didn’t warn you though,” Bayelei announced with a wink before gesturing towards him. “You keep your little secrets and see where they get you.”

Tajiface: Graham rubbed his chin thoughtfully and looked to Baila. “I’m not the only one keeping secrets apparently. Just how many from Eastwyvern are here?”

“That is none of your concern, Graham.” Baila sternly replied.

He shrugged and began to muse aloud. “I doubt you would leave Aaron’s side to come this far, so I can assume he is here. The question is who else…”

Baila glared back but said nothing more. Meanwhile Kyle listened to every detail dropped with relish. He loved emotional outbursts like this. The best information could be gleaned from them. Now he knew the name of the kidnapped canine, apparently a valuable mixed breed?

Graham shook his head. “You’re wasting your time here. The mutt ran off a long time ago, haven’t seen him since.”

Maeeverglow: “We’re here of our own accord Mountain Man,” Bayelei announced, her arms crossed over her chest as she glared him down. She couldn’t tell if the story of Miller was true or not but she wasn’t going to allow the man to think he’d have her wrapped around his fingers with any story he could muster. “I highly doubt Miller just up and disappeared without finding some way to get in contact with us; the boy’s a highly skilled tracker for god sakes. He can make his way through the most dastardly obstacles and end up back home before the sun sets.”

She inched closer to Baila to get a read of the woman’s thoughts; after all, she didn’t know much about Graham besides what the others had told her and her moments she’d encountered him during Vette’s time in Eastwyvern. She was so lost in the moment she didn’t even notice Kyle’s observations nor did it occur to her that the situation might truly be bad for them when it all boiled down to it.

Tajiface: “Even the most skilled have their limits. Perhaps the mutt finally met his end somewhere out there.” Graham shrugged again. He turned towards the exit and glanced one last time at them. “If all you can do is accuse me then I’m off, ladies. You’ve reminded me I need to buy some rope while I’m in town before it gets too late. Farewell, happy hunting.”

Baila watched the man go, glaring at his back. “He’s definitely lying. He only acts that calm when he’s lying to your face.”

Kyle was absolutely ecstatic at this new development. It wasn’t a kidnapped dog, but a human… highly skilled at that. The kind of money the Ivory Daggers would pay to know the secret to Graham’s success. He stopped himself short of drooling, however, when he thought of Bayelei, whom he actually considered a friend. He decided to put the plan on the back burner for now and save it as a last resort.

“Well, ladies, shall we return to the others? Following him might prove difficult at this point.”

Maeeverglow: Almost in a comical manner, Bayelei jumped at the sound of Kyle’s voice; the woman bringing a hand to her heart as she released a sigh. “Y-You were there that whole time?” The hunter bit her lip at the predicament; she trusted Baila moreso than many of the people she’d come across in Eastwyvern so when she said he was lying, she damn well believed her. However, they couldn’t go chasing after him without putting a damper on their plans so she gave another sigh before turning to her friends. “R-Right, let’s head back already; we should let the others know of the job we’ve gotten.”

Tajiface: Graham fumed the entire trio back to his cabin. He couldn’t believe he had seen the two hunters from Eastwyvern all the way out here. How had they known where he was? Graham recognized the man with them, an informant in the town. His only guess was the man had seen him around.

The forest was as wild as ever, teeming with evening commotion. After purchasing some supplies Graham had wasted no time setting out for his cabin. The trip was long, which was why he didn’t traverse often to Victorville in the first place. As he paced along the creek bed he reminded himself that Miller wouldn’t be able to reach the town on his own without knowing the way. Such was the way of these twisting valleys and forests. Baila and Bayelei certainly lacked the skill to follow him this far out.

He nodded to himself as he reevaluated every aspect of his plan. He needed Miller to stay and work for a long time in order to raise the funds he needed. This was a perfect opportunity he did not intend to waste because Aaron’s goons were snooping around.

He just needed to readjust his plans, slightly. Lately Miller had been consistently joining him on hunts. Apparently starving for a few days had finally taken its toll on the tracker, and he didn’t intend to starve again. Graham moved the coil of rope to one arm and patted his pocket. He had picked up a particularly good job offer today, but it would have to wait. He would tell Miller they had earned a break, and keep a close eye on him.

The cabin appeared in his sights, the roof peaking over the smaller trees. To his horror smoke billowed over the wooden beams. He sprinted and fully assumed Miller had decided to burn down his beloved cabin. He threw down his supplies, including the large bundle of rope, just outside the door. He paused in the doorway at the scene before him, utterly shocked.

“You made dinner.” Graham stated.

Miller stooped over a pathetic fire burning in the hearth, just big enough to boil a pot. He glanced over his shoulder and rolled his eyes at Graham.

“That’s why you left some food out, wasn’t it?”

Graham braced himself against the doorway, breathing heavily after his abrupt sprint. He eyed Miller suspiciously and walked to a chair. He slumped into it and continued to stare in disbelief.

“I didn’t expect you to actually do it, though.”

Miller carelessly tossed in a few more ingredients. “It’s not poisoned, if that’s what you’re accusing me of.”

Graham chuckled. “No, I’m just shocked you didn’t try to escape while I was in town.”

“I was too tired today.” Miller sipped a spoonful of the concoction and recoiled from the heat.

“Hungry too, I see.” Graham commented.

“Whatever. Did you find any good jobs today? That last one was too easy. A black dragon in the middle of the forest… I can’t believe anybody found that job difficult.” Miller tried to hide the bit of excitement in his tone.

“I know, I was surprised too.” Graham grinned. The reason the Ivory Dagger had such issues with that particular dragon was its size. The small dragon easily evaded any hunters by slipping into its den. Finding it was the kicker, one issue Miller had no trouble with.

Graham debated whether to bring up this new job or not. He knew they should stay low in case Aaron’s crew caught up with them. This moment, though, reminded him of his past life in the guild, and even before that. Although Miller looked eerily like his mother, the boy took after his father in personality. Sitting in front of a cooking dinner, talking about the next job, felt too comfortable for Graham to let the moment slip away.

He pulled the flyer out of his pocket. “I did find this one job, offered by a traveling agency. A brown dragon of medium build…”

~~~

“It’s a brown dragon of medium build, west of the town.” Baila continued excitedly. “The Capital Couriers, you remember them Aaron? They’re offering the job, so you know they’re good for the money.”

Aaron sat across from Baila at the table and read the flyer in front of him with approval. “You girls did well, nice job.”

Kyle appeared and placed tea on the table. “They’re a respectable traveling agency,and always offer the best jobs. The Daggers will not be pleased if someone else bags that dragon.”

“All according to plan, then.” Aaron added.

“There is something else that happened while we were there, Aaron,” Baila said with a frown. She couldn’t bring herself to explain, as she knew Aaron was not going to be happy. She turned to Bayelei, silently asking her to explain the run-in with Graham.

Maeeverglow: (That scene…was too cute…omg…why are Miller and Graham so cute?!?!?! I don’t understand xD)

There was a hesitant pause on Bayelei’s features as she glanced over towards Baila, the female hunter silently pleading with the other not to be the one to bear the news to her friends. However, she soon relented when she recalled just whose fault it was the incident had occurred; it was all Bayelei’s fault for not taking a moment to think of what would happen.

“Well-,” she began, the tension visible on her face as she curled up next to Baila for some added protection. “I saw Graham walking about after we got the job and I cornered him in one of the halls. I tried to get some information out of him; maybe strike some sort of deal I suppose if it meant getting Miller back. However, he wasn’t having much of it; though we do figure from the lies he did share that Miller’s definitely with him and they’re located somewhere out in the woods…so basically back to square one on that front.”

The ex-soldier peeked over in a state of shock, a slight hint of disappointment evident in his wide eyes. “You tried to take him on alone? What the hell were you thinking?”

Narrowed eyes fixated in his direction. “I was thinking there’s Graham, let’s get him talking. What the hell does it matter to you?”

“It matters that you rushed in there without even thinking that some of your injuries are still lingering and you’re trying to start fights with everyone,” Quellin argued. “Plus, we have a plan in affect right now and you basically just put the whole thing at risk because you couldn’t just sit still for five seconds.”

Her glare was intense yet Bayelei kept her lips pressed together as she ruminated his words, trying her best to keep calm despite the ex-soldier seemingly trying to pick his own fight with her. She knew he was truly only doing it out of concern after all; however, it wasn’t helping their relationship have a proper footing in the long run. The more he argued or messed with her, the more distrusting Bayelei was of the boy. She’d given him his chances during Vette’s attack mainly because of the situation however he had shown little reason for her to trust him outside of that event.

She instead turned her gaze back towards Aaron and readied herself for what he would say to her. “Sorry…”

Tajiface: (It just comes naturally for those two! Haha I’d like to focus more on them but it wouldn’t lead the overall plot anywhere x3)

Aaron slowly placed the flyer on the table. His eyes clouded over and Baila recognized that look well. She figured he was internally debating the consequences of leaving this moment and finding them. Usually Baila was supportive of his crazy schemes, and even added in her own brand of crazy. This time, however, was different.

“There’s no helping it now. Graham would be aware of our actions eventually.” Aaron finally said with a sigh.

Barlet narrowed his eyes at the other. “That’s oddly calm of you.”

“Stop worrying, it’s not like Graham intends to kill Miller. He obviously needs him for something.” Aaron grumbled.

“You’re just masking the fact that Miss Bayelei has yet again acted irrationally and jeopardized our position.”

“She didn’t jeopardize anything. She just roughed him up a little-” Baila stopped in mid-sentence as she realized she’d said too much.

Barlet threw his hands up in exasperation. “Oh, well, that’s nice. Also show him how aggressive we intend to be.”

“Enough,” Aaron said sternly. “Bayelei doesn’t have to be here, we should be thanking her for helping us fix your mistake.”

Barlet glared at Aaron with fury. “My mistake-“

“Yes, your mistake.” Aaron replied firmly. “Have you forgotten Miller wouldn’t be in this mess if he hadn’t gone to save your worthless hide, from a mess you made?”

Barlet abruptly stood, violently pushing his chair back with the movement. He glared at Aaron and balled a fist. Even Baila grew defensive at the sight, but Aaron simply stared back with calm resolve.

“I’m stepping out.” Barlet muttered. He grabbed a jacket and slammed Kyle’s front door on his way out.

Kyle quickly got up and locked the door behind the man. “Someone will let him in later if I’m not awake, right?”

Nobody said a word. “I guess I’ll just stay up then. So, this Miller guy must be a noble or something to have so many trying to free him, am I right?”

Silence followed Kyle’s question. He stalked casually back to the table and pulled a chair around so he could rest his arms over the back, his chin on top. He blinked innocently at Bayelei, batting his eyes at her.”What’s the big deal over one guy? Why not just let him stay with this Graham?”

Maeeverglow: (Lol but itd be cute! I demand drabbs!)

At his stare she gave a half-smile before patting the man’s arm lightly. “Maybe I’ll tell you later if you’re good.” She then stood from her seat and fixed her coat before stepping towards the door Barlet walked out of. “I’m going for some air.”

At her motion, Quellin was right to his feet. “Baye, you shouldn’t-.”

“I’ll be fine,” she snapped before slipping out the door. The ex-soldier was left to stare at the space she’d once been in.

“We should go after them right?”

Tajiface: Aaron sighed and relaxed in the chair. “Let em be.”

Barlet strolled down an empty street until he found the empty fountain where they had met Kyle. He sat on the cold stone and tilted his head towards the star-filled sky. The open air was actually a welcoming feeling. It seemed to chill his thoughts so he could think more clearly.

(Ugh, lame reply, sorry)

Maeeverglow: As she pursued the man, Bayelei kept her steps light as she walked. Her fists dug into her pockets and she kept her eyes to the stone, hoping to keep under the radar as she followed the military man. To be honest, Baye didn’t know why she cared even a little that it was dangerous for the man to be alone in the city; she just continued to follow until she saw him plop down at the familiar fountain.

With a sigh, she inched over before taking a seat close by. “You shouldn’t be out here alone Barley.”

Tajiface: Barlet jumped slightly at her presence, then sneered when he saw who it was. “I can handle myself, Miss Bayelei.”

~~~

Kyle practically skipped through the small tavern. The tavern was located near the town’s edge, and therefore was mostly unused by locals. This made for ideal business meetings and transactions. He nodded to the gruff bartender as he rounded the bar to enter a side door. The room was mostly empty, save for a table and few chairs. He wasn’t surprised to see the occupants.

“Ah, I apologize for being late. I didn’t want to miss an opportunity for information.” He greeted. “Irene, Lyra, Benjamin- good evening.”

Irene smiled back and reclined in her chair. The woman wore the standard green jacket given to every guild member, as did her present fellows. A bright, white dagger was proudly imprinted on the upper sleeve as sign of their membership. Under the jacket she wore her typical light gear and various blades. She absently played with the end of her long, dark hair.

“Perhaps the informant is losing his touch,” Lyra commented with a soft voice. She was almost the opposite of Irene, with blonde locks instead of black. Where Irene was lithe Lyra was well built. “We should have called someone else here.”

“Nonsense,” Irene said. “Kyle here is… uniquely qualified for the information we require.”

Kyle raised a brow. “Oh? I’d be happy to oblige… for the right price, of course. What is it you wish to know?”

Maeeverglow: “Yeah sure,” Bayelei mused, rolling her eyes at the comment. “You’ve handled things pretty well so far…”

*~*~*~*~*

The dirty-blonde male smirked from his spot between the ladies, a slick stretch and his arms were around both their shoulders as he smirked. “Seems there’s some new ladies in town; practically beat the shit out of some people to snag some high-class jobs,” he explained with a nod. “You know anything about that?”

Tajiface: Barlet crossed his arms. “If you’ve just come to insult me then kindly leave. I’ve no use for your judgments.”

~~~

Kyle didn’t miss a beat. “Oh dear, I’m afraid those ladies are off limits… In more way than one, Benjamin.”

Irene turned sour at the comment. She folded her hands on the wooden surface before her. “Now Kyle, you know we have plenty of money to pay you.”

“I’m sorry, my dear, there is no price for them. I apologize for the disappointment; I’ll just be on my way then.” Kyle turned for the exit but stopped short when a blade dug into the wood inches from his face. He slowly looked over his shoulder to see Irene had barely moved from the maneuver.

“We asked nicely, maybe we should try a little… Rougher approach?” Lyra mused beside her partners.

Maeeverglow: (I fell asleep >< sry!)

Her eyes strained and she recoiled at his tone, the woman bringing her knees to her chest as she nodded. “Sorry…I can’t leave you out here alone though so…sorry…” She then cast a glance towards the man. “Miller would be upset if you got hurt so let’s head back…or at least somewhere safer.”

*~*~*~*~*

Benjamin sported a devilish smirk as he ripped himself from the table, releasing the ladies before darting across the floor. He swiftly grabbed Kyle by the collar and forced him into the wall, a chuckle in his throat as the captive struggled in his hold. “Now you know how rudeness upsets the ladies Kyle. I suppose you’ll just have to answer to them.”

The man then held tighter to his collar before turning to Irene and Lyra. “Well ladies, what do you have to say to our guest?”

(I figure the ladies start asking him questions with threats and if he doesn’t comply Benjamin beats the shit outta him. Sound good?)

Tajiface: Barlet sighed in resignation. “Very well, lead the way.”

(Shortest scene we’ve ever written LOL)

~~~

Kyle gripped Benjamin’s hand but couldn’t pull the grip off. Benjamin slammed him against the wall, sending his head crashing against the wood behind. These three had a reputation for being relentless, and he knew there was no escape until they got what they wanted.

“Who are those two women you were with?” Irene asked.

“I truly am sorry-”

Kyle’s world went dark for a few moments after Benjamin punched him. He fell to his knees, cradling his bruised face.

“Should I ask again?” Irene asked sweetly.

Another kick delivered to his ribs sent him reeling. He did all he could to not show any visible signs of pain.

“Please,” He cringed as Benjamin made to hit him. He crawled away and held up his hands for protection. “B-but I do have other information I can offer.”

“That’s not in the bargain, sweetie.” Lyra chimed in.

“Free of charge!” This created pause in the others, and Kyle pressed on. “Graham, I found out why he’s successful in dragon hunting lately.”

Irene narrowed her eyes. “I’m listening.”

“Some guy is helping him, a trained tracker. His name is Miller.”

Irene crossed her legs in thought. The Ivory Dagger leader would love to have this information. The guild had been planning on pressing Graham into membership because of his recent successes. They could never get a hand on the mountain man, though, because he only spent hours in town. Apparently it wasn’t Graham having this success, but another.

Irene glanced at Lyra, who seemed to have the same thoughts as her.

“Why hasn’t this other man been seen in town?” Lyra asked.

Kyle swallowed. He didn’t want to give out more information than he needed, he knew Bayelei would already be upset with him. He came up with a lie as quickly as he could.

“Graham appears to be overprotective. He’s worried a big guild will enlist the tracker.”

Irene hummed in thought. Maybe Graham wasn’t the one the Ivory Dagger should recruit, but this Miller seemed a viable candidate. She locked eyes with Benjamin, silently asking him to make the final decision.

“Has Kyle shared enough information to earn a pardon from us?” Irene smiled.

(Sorry I controlled Benjamin a bit, didn’t want to dwell too long on this scene x3)

Maeeverglow: (I didn’t want it to end yet xD)

Bayelei hopped from the fountain and reached out a hand to the man; however, he didn’t take it and instead brushed right past her. A simple pout formed on her lips before she through a foot into his path, sending Barlet into a trip as she huffed.

“Jerk,” she muttered, crossing her arms over her chest as she rolled her eyes. “Funny how mentioning Miller’s name gets you to do anything. If I say Miller will be ever so sad if you didn’t apologize for sending my psychopathic mother after me, would you apologize? I wonder!” Lingering for a moment, Bayelei finally relinquished a sigh before stepping past him with a wave over her shoulder. “Who am I kidding; you’d send things at me in a heartbeat if you could? Course everything you send after me doesn’t get me dead so I guess it all works out in the end.”

She paused and glanced over her shoulder.

“Well, you coming or what?”

*~*~*~*~*

(Quite alright 🙂 it was awesome!)

The muscled man gave a careful stare to the man crumbled before him, his mind focused on Irene and Lyra’s voices as he smirked. “I’d say he earns his life for the information he’s given us; however, that wouldn’t excuse him from the fact that he’s withholding the information we originally asked for in the first place,” he snatched Kyle up by the collar once more before throwing him into the wall and sending punches into his face and chest. “He needs a little bit more punishment I’d say.”

(So you can either continue the scene or just timeskip to him returning or whatever xD Benjamin’s showing off to his lady friends xD)

Tajiface: Barlet ran a hand through his hair, which was getting rather long since he had been forced from the military. “Miller would never say anything like that, he’s already given up on me, long ago. He knows I am not the type of man to offer apologies.”

He stomped past her and continued down the street.

~~

(Oh Benjamin, gotta strut his stuff)

Kyle settled on a few stacked crates outside of an inn. He had managed to limp from the tavern this far, but knew he needed to rest before going any further. The crates were uncomfortable, providing no relief for his aches and pains. He knew his face must look a mess from the beating he had recieved. The blood still seeped from cuts he had sustained on his hands and arms.

He glanced down the street and at the people walking by. They paid him no mind, as beaten up hunters were a common sight in this town. He closed his eyes to slow the ebbing headache. Just a little rest and then he’d go back to his apartment. By then he’d have a convincing lie to tell Bayelei and the others…

 

Maeeverglow: She watched him stomp away before opening her mouth, “would you apologize to her though?” Bayelei stressed the her as she stood there, talking about Miller’s mother. Once again, she didn’t think before opening her mouth.  

 

Tajiface: Barlet stopped in mid-step. He whirled around, narrowing his eyes in a fierce scowl. “You have no right to talk of her.”

 

Maeeverglow: Instead of backing off, Bayelei narrowed her eyes at him. “You had no right to do what you did, Jackass. Looks like I hit a sour spot. Was what Duncan said true? Was it all your fault?”

(She’s gonna feel bad after this but she’s assuming right now he’s egging her on)

Tajiface: “I suppose you would believe such a thing without a second thought, am I correct?” Barlet sneered. He turned his back to her and felt the anger rising again. “I don’t know how much Quellin told you of what was said down there, but you have no idea of what you speak. Graham was responsible for their deaths, all of them. His poor leadership killed Miller’s father and brother during a dragon hunt. He blames me, for not having the authority to send in soldiers as backup.”

Maeeverglow: “Never said I believed it,” Bayelei gave a shrug as she spoke. “Just wanted to hear your side. I thought you were ‘super powerful don’t take no shit from anyone’ Barley; what the hell were you doing when that guy was running around getting people killed?”

It was then that she paused, releasing a sigh before shoving her fists in her pocket.

“You weren’t always such a dick right? Miller seems fond of you in a sense so I’m guessing you were non-dickish’ at some point,” she muttered.

Tajiface: “I was trying to keep the town’s order in place. This was before we convinced the military to protect the hospital. I suppose someone like you wouldn’t know that.” Barlet snarked back. “I don’t know why Miller chooses his loyalties as he does. I’ve always been the same as I am now.”

Maeeverglow: She glared back at him. “I didn’t know because I wasn’t there you pompous dick,” she snarled. “I was living with my father away from here so excuse me for not living a dick life like you did.”

With a huff, she stomped past him in the opposite direction of the apartment.

“You know what, screw you I tried to be nice but there’s no dealing with a fucker like you,” she snapped, blazing away towards where the taverns were.

(Figure she can accidentally come across Kyle xD btw u read drabbs?)

Tajiface: Barlet watched her go with resignation. He eyed down the street, where its end met with the city gates. For a moment he entertained the thought of leaving the city without the merry band. He thought finding Graham alone would be more efficient, really. Unfortunately it was already dark, and setting out now would only end in disaster. So he stuck to wandering around the streets, eyeing the townspeople and getting a feel for who was considered top dog.

Meanwhile Kyle thought he heard a familiar shouting. He reluctantly opened his eyes. His vision was hazy, but he thought he made out a familiar form….

(I did read them!! I love that backstory~ And it’s short again, I’m sorry…)

Maeeverglow: It didn’t take long for Bayelei to stomp towards thetaverns, the hunter coming to a halt before leaning against a neighboring wall close to an alleyway. Only a few city folk passed by, luckily paying her no heed as she pressed her back against the wall and slumped onto the ground.

Her head throbbed from her plaguing thoughts and she did her best to massage her temple. However, nothing she did seemed to help ease her pain.

“Damnit,” she muttered, running a hand through her auburn locks. “Nothing’s been right in so long; everything started going to shit when I moved back to Eastwyvern…I should have never gone back…”

A grunt and a scuffle sounded behind her and Bayelei paused, her gaze following the sound as she peeked into the alleyway. A battered figure was sprawled on some crates recovering from some brawl and at first she didn’t recognize him. When her eyes focused within the dark, she made out the familiar features and gasped.

“Kyle?” She called out, stumbling to her feet as she aimed for his side. She gingerly touched his bleeding shoulder before lifting his chin slowly. “What the hell? What happened?”

Tajiface: Kyle gave a weak chuckle. He smiled at Bayelei despite the pain. “I had a bad business deal. Could you… Maybe help me back to my apartment?”

Maeeverglow: She frowned at his chuckle and wanted to press him for information; however the state he was in was enough to force her into action. With a sigh and a nod, she whispered, “sure; let’s get you home.”

Carefully, she helped him to his feet and threw his arm over her shoulder. Wrapping her own arm around his chest to steady him, she then began their trek back home.   

“I hope you don’t get hurt like this every week with you shady business deals,” she muttered while helping him home.

Tajiface: (This is kind of uselessly long, sorry! It had occurred to me that in competitive towns like this it’d be hard to prove who actually killed a dragon… this is kind of a dumb solution, but I thought I’d go ahead and address it at least x3)

 

Kyle grinned. “It happens more often than I care to admit.”

 

He hobbled at Bayelei’s side as they made their way back to the apartment. Kyle struggled with the lock for a second before swinging the door open. He allowed Bayelei to ease him onto the mattress on the floor. The mattress seemed to only press against every bruise. He cringed as he sat with his back against the wall.

 

“Dear gods,” Aaron breathed. He stood from the table to investigate Kyle’s wounds, leaving Baila to pick up the cards of their game. “What the hell happened?!”

 

Baila glanced at Kyle but continued to sweep up playing cards without any real concern. “Oh no. Now we don’t have someone to be runner for us tomorrow.”

 

“How can you be worried about something like that right now?” Aaron looked back at his guild mate in horror.

 

She shrugged. “Being half beaten is a common occurrence here. Don’t look at me like that, Aaron. I’m not keeping anything from you, I just did some work here for the Scarlet Wings is all. These kinds of injuries are superficial, made to look bad. He’ll be fine in a few days.”

 

“She is right,” Kyle confirmed. He shifted with a cringe. “Although it doesn’t lessen the pain at all. Could you get me some ice, please?”

 

Aaron sighed. He couldn’t believe these two would just accept that this attack happened. Had this been Eastwyvern, and his guild, he’d make sure the beaters learned a lesson.

 

He nodded at Kyle’s request and stepped into the kitchen where a cooler was kept.

 

Barlet had returned moments before Bayelei and Kyle. He did not move from his seat in the corner, and only crossed his arms at the exchange.

 

“What is a runner and why do we need one?” He asked.

 

Aaron ignored the question and helped Kyle pile wrapped ice on his eye. Baila finished putting the cards together and started to absently shuffle them.

 

“Eastwyvern is a small enough town with only a few guilds and hunters competing. When we kill a dragon we usually leave the carcass and get a recovery team to haul it back later.” Baila explained. “Waiting on a recovery team can take days, sometimes. In towns with several competing parties, if you leave a dead dragon lying around unattended another party could easily claim they were the slayers. A runner goes back to town and grabs an official representing the client. While the hunters guard the dragon’s carcass the runner brings this official back to personally witness the hunters with the downed dragon.”

 

“Sounds like an awful job. Surely there is an easier way to prove your kill.” Barlet retorted.

 

Baila grinned. “Maybe there is, but this way is almost tradition now. Clients accept this as enough proof that you or your faction killed the dragon, and thus pay the right hunters.”

 

“It still sounds so… primitive.”

 

Kyle pulled the ice off his eye and tested the tender skin with a finger. “Runners get paid a lot to do these jobs, and even the officials representing the clients too. Some people make an entire living performing either of these jobs.”

 

“Of course, the client can always send a representative to accompany the hunters in the first place. Very few willingly accept the danger, though. In our case I thought a runner would be better than an official stalking our every move. Kyle knows the area well enough, so we thought he’d make a good runner.” Baila finished.

 

“I’m sorry…” Kyle said with a frown.

 

Baila leaned onto the table, resting her chin on a hand. “Don’t worry, love, we have two ex military goons who will make fabulous runners.”

 

Barlet rolled his eyes. “I am not degrading myself to running back and forth.”

 

Aaron sighed. “I thought you’d say that… What do you think Quellin, can you be runner for us?”

 

Maeeverglow: The ex-soldier gulped from his spot on the far wall, feeling the room’s eyes burn on him as he pondered what he’d answer. He sent a hopeful gaze to Bayelei; however the female hunter paid no mind to him in the least. She was too focused on kneeling beside the injured man and carefully touched his wounds, a mix of concern and frustration playing in her crystal orbs. There was no seeking help from her in this state; so he released a sigh and nodded

 

“F-Fine; if I get a feel of the land, it should be easy for my speed; though Bayelei is much faster than me so shouldn’t she?”

 

“No, I’m a hunter and therefore I will stand by the carcass in case another dragon…or team…comes,” she muttered, never lifting her eyes from Kyle’s injuries.

 

Tajiface: “You’ll do just fine!” Baila cheerfully said.

 

Aaron backed away from Kyle, content to allow Bayelei to find any serious injuries. He returned to his seat across from Baila. “It’s really not that difficult… and you’ll be traveling with us to find the dragon, it’s just a matter of remembering the journey so you can return. How hard can it be to navigate these woods?”

 

Maeeverglow: The man gulped before giving a nod. “Al-lright. Yeah, I can do this.”

 

As Bayelei continued to prod the man’s wounds, she pinched his nose lightly to gain his attention. “I hope you know that I still want to know what happened. Mind telling me what’s up?”

 

Tajiface: Kyle considered himself a decent actor. Putting on a mask was almost an essential part of his job. He didn’t want Bayelei to know he’d given up the information of their lost friend, but he knew she’d want something to latch onto. He frowned and put on a perfect display of being upset.

 

“I’m afraid to say. You’re not going to be happy with me, Bayelei…” Kyle trailed off.

 

Maeeverglow: Bayelei pinched harder onto his nose, “well I’ll be more upset if you keep quiet.”

 

Tajiface: Kyle coughed as blood seeped down his throat. “Alright, alright. They wanted me to give details about you and Baila-“

 

“Our plan worked!” Baila suddenly shouted with a grin. This was followed by a frown as she eyes Kyle suspiciously. “But you didn’t say anything… did you?”

 

“Of course not! I gave Bayelei my word I wouldn’t tell them.” Kyle retorted. “They wouldn’t let me go without any kind of information, though…”

 

He looked down at the mattress to avoid Bayelei’s gaze. He twiddled with a loose thread. “I had to give them something… Please forgive me, Bayelei. I told them about the high priced job you girls snagged. They know you’re going to be out hunting tomorrow.”

 

(Those three Ivory Daggers are going to pop up later and then Baye and the others will really find out what Kyle revealed to them! Does that work??)

 

Maeeverglow: Bayelei let her gaze fall from the man as she slipped back, the hunter thinking a moment before releasing a sigh. With a steady hand as brushed her fingers through Kyle’s hair, “get some sleep alright?”

 

She then got to her feet and without a word to anyone else, she moved to the other room to sleep.

 

Tajiface: (it’s really long, sorry ><)

The next morning they set out as early as possible. Unlike Eastwyvern, the morning hours drew crowds of workers to the streets. Luckily the bustling crowds made it easy for the hunters to slip out of town unnoticed. The hard part, Aaron soon discovered, was actually navigating through the wild woods. No path could be relied on. Each one twisted and, sometimes, they found themselves right back at a previous path. The job offer provided a map of where the dragon was last spotted, but even Baila had a hard time reading it.

They stopped to take a break at the fork of two paths. Baila perched on a large rock, holding the map out with both hands. Aaron leaned against a tree near her and kept a steady eye on their surroundings.

“Well, I can see why Graham chose to live out here now. No outsider would be able to find him.” Aaron said.

“I think even locals who know the area would have trouble.” Baila absently commented. She turned the map on its side and traced a line, frowning.

Barlet collapsed on the ground, dropping his heavy pack in the process. Aaron took a sick delight in seeing the man exhausted and cranky. He looked disheveled in the outdoor climate, which was clearly not his area of expertise. He noticed Aaron’s grin and returned it with a scowl.

“Aren’t you considered professionals? How hard is it to find a damn dragon?” Barlet growled.

Baila paused from her scouring of the map. “Dragons aren’t just mindless beasts, you know. They’re predators and can stalk prey without leaving a good trail to follow. The smaller ones can weave through trees and take to the sky at any moment. You wouldn’t even know it was there.”

“The scenes of destruction I’ve seen dragons create would argue otherwise.” Barlet replied.

“Those are what happen after my guild takes them out, Barlet. Dragons certainly do not just blindly blunder through trees for the hell of it.” Aaron said. He lowered his head sheepishly and looked away from Barlet.
“I’ve never been good at finding them, honestly.”

Baila snorted. “That’s an understatement. This guy starved his first few months at the capital until he learned to team up with other solo hunters.”

“I see.” Barlet simply replied. He was silent a moment. “So Miller must be the one who tracks down the dragons around Eastwyvern?”

“Hey now, Miller’s not the only one with tracking talent. I’m not so bad myself.” Baila said indignantly.

“Miller grew up hunting and tracking, though, so typically yes, he tracks the dragons we have difficulty finding.” Aaron said, giving Barlet a look. “And no, I don’t blindly send him after dragons on his own. I’m not as stupid as Graham.”

“Alright,” Baila interrupted before the two got into a real argument. She folded the map and put it in a pocket. “I’m going to go off trail just a bit, I think the spot the dragon was last sighted is somewhere over there. Give me five minutes.”

Aaron nodded and watched her go. Five minutes was more than enough time, however. She disappeared only a few minutes before they heard her yell for them to follow. Aaron trotted through the trees, keeping his gun ready for any surprises. Baila wasn’t far from the trail; her own gun was at her side and she pointed to the scene before her.

The trees opened up into a clearing which cradled a large pond. Further beyond they could see the outcropping of a small mountain’s side, rocky and steep. Ducks and other animals paused at their presence but quickly returned to their activities. Just before the water’s edge lay blood and branches. A few dragon scales, clearly the plated ones layered on a dragon’s neck, were scattered among the wreckage. Claw marks were imprinted in the mud, some of them crusted with blood.

Baila ventured forward and bent before one of the muddy claw marks. She ran a finger over the blood. “This is fresh. Whatever fight occurred here happened recently.”

Aaron kicked over one of the scales. The dragon’s skin was still attached at some places, but overall the blood still looked wet. The brown coloring matched the description of the flyer.

“There are other hunters around.” Aaron declared.

Barlet finally appeared behind him. He had lagged behind when the others rushed off. “How do you know?”

“Only a strong blade is enough to rip off this kind of scale. Clawed animals wouldn’t be able to do it.” Aaron explained. “Bayelei, can you scout around? Hollar if you find it, we’ll back you up.”

~~~

Miller didn’t consider the shaded rocks a suitable place to hide. They were higher up than the ground, on a rocky path which seemed to lead over the mountain. The brown dragon could easily scale the height and have a second round at them. Graham’s side still oozed blood, even after Miller had tied bandages tightly around it. The dragon could easily sniff them out as well. Miller could only drag him this far before they had to rest. He nervously scanned the landscape below for any signs the dragon was still following them. The gun he had taken from the guild hall all that time ago was more suited for close range combat. He gripped it now and hoped he wouldn’t have to try it at long range today.

They found the dragon earlier than expected. The beast had recently arrived to the area and needed to make its territory known to rival dragons. It had clawed several trees in the area and left bloodied animals at various spots. This made the tracking easy for Miller, along with the more subtle signs of a dragon’s den. The fight itself went well until Graham made one of his classic mistakes.

“I suppose that could have gone better.” Graham said with a chuckle. He rested against the rock side, pressing a hand against his bandaged wound.

Miller looked once more below before turning his attention to Graham. “You shouldn’t have charged it like that. You go stabbing at its neck and of course it’s going to rip you off with its claws.”

“Don’t patronize me, Miller.”

“You’re not much in a position to order me about, are you Graham?” Miller snapped back.

Graham narrowed his eyes at the tracker. “You could easily just leave me here to die, or even shoot me yourself. It seems the perfect opportunity to escape.”

Miller grew silent at the idea. He had pulled Graham to safety out of mere instinct. This was the man who commanded their guild for years. In the midst of a battle his adrenaline did not make the distinction that Graham was any different now. This was the first time they rested since fleeing the battle, and his rational thoughts slowly returned. Graham was right; he could just leave him here to die. He looked at the tantalizing forest before him, which he could easily slip into and Graham was unable to follow.

“Of course, there are a few things you have to consider.” Graham continued. “You could find your way back to the cabin just fine, I’m sure, but what then? The food is locked up tight, and you don’t know where the key is. Even if you busted down the door somehow the supply would eventually run out.”

Miller’s expression darkened and he said nothing as Graham continued.

“You would hunt for yourself and survive, to what end? Without me you have no idea where the town is. I can assure you it is nowhere near our current position. You would never return to Eastwyvern or any form of civilization for that matter-“

“Shut the fuck up.” Miller growled. “You don’t have to remind me.”

Graham regarded the other carefully. He knew Miller was impulsive and wanted to make certain the other didn’t get any ideas. Even wounded Graham was in control. He wanted Miller to know that without any doubt.
“Let me rest a moment longer then we’ll head back to the cabin.”

“What about the dragon?”

“We’ll just have to hope it lost sight of us. Looks like this is one job we won’t fulfill.” Graham closed his eyes and tried to take his focus off the pain.

“I better still get dinner.” Miller grumbled in reply, turning his attention back to the forest below.

 

Maeeverglow: A nod was all Bayelei mustered before she dashed out of sight, the woman quickly taking to the treetops as she followed the scent of blood that filled the air. Claw marks and destruction were easy to follow below as she kept her lips pressed shut. There was a chase from the look of it, the damage weaving about the forest floor in what looked to be a clear attempt to outmaneuver the other.

“The stench of blood here is more than just the dragon,” she thought to herself, studying the path as she ran. “Looks like a hunter got hurt; don’t see any bodies left over so either they managed to escape the dragon or they were taken to the nest.”

The woman continued to rush through the forest before coming to a halt, the cracks and shallow growls in the area ahead giving insight to what awaited her.

“Looks like its Showtime,” Bayelei thought, debating calling for her friends. However, she decided to study the situation further to see just what possibly occurred before their arrival.

(Did you wanna describe the dragon? Lol I don’t know its type besides…brown XD)

Tajiface: (Girl, you know me, details aren’t my thang x3)

The dragon sniffed furiously along the trees before it, desperately trying to catch the humans who had previously attacked it. The beast was rounded with well-toned muscles in its upper body. Its wings were curled at its side, a sign this dragon didn’t tend to take to the skies. Sharp ridges trailed alongside its back and tail, swinging from side to side as it padded along. Occasionally it would stop and paw at the ground, raking earth aside with a large claw. It stuffed its muzzle into the ground only to pull away when it couldn’t get a scent. The lower part of its neck and upper shoulder were riddled with cuts. Its scales had been peeled off and soft skin was visible. Blood dripped down its side but the creature paid it no mind.

Suddenly it snapped its head back and roared loudly, warning nearby humans and predators to stay clear of its path.

Maeeverglow: (That was good XD)

A blazing roar was all Bayelei needed to move into action, her blades at the ready as she stayed in the trees. She kept her gaze on the cuts around its neck and sides, her aim preparing to open up the wounds more before she went head on.

“Let’s go,” she whispered before sending two blades down, their sharp edges securing into the cuts and opening up the wound more. A roar escaped through its jaws as it slammed into tail about, eyeing about for its attacker. “This way!” She called out, hoping her friends would hear as she rushed to another tree to begin another chase.

Tajiface: Aaron and Baila were the first to arrive at the fight. Aaron took a few seconds to observe the dragon’s wounds and Bayelei’s plans to utilize them. He waved a few motions to Baila. “Support Bayelei, do not go near it.”

Baila circled to the other side of the creature, aiming her shots towards the dragon’s eyes. With trained precision she was able to take the shots without any of them landing near Bayelei. Aaron did not trust his aim quite as much. He stayed to the side and fired where he could, when no one was near. The beast twisted around, whipping its tail in Aaron’s direction. He rolled to the side and used the opportunity to fire at it’s under belly.

The dragon howled in pain and soon stumbled to the ground. It rolled onto its back, crushing its useless wings, and swiped at the air with all four claws.

Barlet stood a great distance away, uncertainly holding his gun up. Every time he thought he found a clear shout the beast would move and he’d lower his gun again. He finally gave up and readied himself in case the dragon tried to run for it.

Maeeverglow: Suddenly Bayelei was on the ground, new blades at the ready as she crouched low and scurried towards the dragon. Even in such a position, her speed was unmatched; her whole body agile as she dived from the tossing claws and readied her aim towards the oozing cuts she had already aggravated.

She thrusted her blades into the cuts deeper than before, blood seeping from the wounds onto her hands as she eyed for her friends around her. “Shoot the belly; he’s losing a lot of blood and won’t be able to squirm away. Hurry up!”

Tajiface: Aaron and Baila closed in on the creature’s underside. They only fired a few rounds before the beast finally went silent and still. Aaron tensely waited as the dragon breathed for the last time.

Baila yelled in victory, the sound echoing against the rocky slopes before them. “We did it! Great job, Baye!”

~~~

The sound of the fight had carried through the distance to Miller and Graham. Judging by the sounds Miller knew there were hunters taking down the beast. He cursed to himself knowing someone else was benefitting from their hard work. For a few moments all was silent again and Miller sighed.

“Looks like it’s clear to head out-“

A familiar shout stopped him. His heart pounded and he grew deadly silent as he waited for it to sound again. Sure enough, Baila’s voice rang for another round of celebration. He found it hard to breathe when the realization suddenly hit him. They were here. His guildmates were actually here.

He glanced back at Graham. From the man’s glare he had also figured the group was here. “Miller-“

Miller did not wait for Graham to finish. He pivoted on the rock’s slippery surface and sprinted down the slopes away from Graham. The slope was covered in gravel, making Miller’s quick escape treacherous. His foot slid out from him occasionally and he soon abandoned his gun to the side so he could keep his balance. All that went through his mind was finding Baila and the others. Soon he could get away from Graham, he just had to find them.

Graham struggled to his feet, grunting in pain. He steadied himself and watch as the tracker made his way down the slope. He wouldn’t give up now, not after having the perfect set-up for his new life. The pain at his side yielded to his furious thoughts. He would not allow Miller to escape, even if he had to tear himself up in the process.

He struggled over a rock and leapt over its top, landing a few feet from Miller below. The tracker whipped around at his sudden appearance, too startled to avoid him. Graham firmly grabbed his arm and pulled backwards. Miller struggled against his attempts to yank the other back and managed to keep Graham at bay. The rocks below proved to go in Graham’s favor, however, as he simply held tight and pulled them both to the ground.

They tumbled down part of the slope together and came to a rest several feet away. Miller managed to hit him solidly a few times before Graham finally had him pinned. They sat on the ground, both panting with the exertion of the fight. Graham held Miller’s wrists firmly behind his back and no amount of struggling set him free. When Miller realized this he started shouting for his friends at the top of his lungs. Unlike Baila’s shout, however, the surrounding slopes seemed to only muffle the sound.

Graham let go of one wrist and fished into his pocket for a handkerchief. He firmly placed the cloth over Miller’s mouth and sealed the noise with his hand. Miller clawed at him with his freed hand and elbowed his side, but Graham simply held the boy tight against his chest. When this didn’t work he kicked at the ground and tried to throw his head back at Graham. He continued to yell through the clothe, his voice barely audible now.

Graham leaned forward to whisper in a low tone. “Silence, or I swear you won’t eat for another week.”

Of course this did nothing to deter Miller’s resistance. Graham simply held firm and kept an eye out for anyone in search of them.

(You can have Bayelei notice something is up, like there are two humans around or something… or they discover Miller’s gun, which is from Eastwyvern’s guild so it’d be recognizable. They can come close to finding Graham/Miller, but I’d prefer them not discover Graham and Miller are actually there… this close call is going to push Graham to be more drastic with his actions, which will lead into something else 😉 or you can just have none of them notice, your choice x3)

Maeeverglow: Baye gave a nod to the acknowledgement however she kept silent, her attention on their surroundings more so than ever. Quellin stumbled forward and grinned like a fool before searching for clarity if he should head back.

“Yes now would be the time to go hun; be fast alright?” The female hunter whispered the command, the ex-soldier nodding more before dashing off to handle things exactly as Kyle instructed him to do.

Something wasn’t right and Baye focused everything she could to figure out what was wrong. It wasn’t another dragon; she could tell the beast miles away with the proper sounds. No, this was a struggle of a much lesser caliber; this was a fight between men.

She reached a hand and grabbed Baila’s shoulder, the hunter gazing at her for silence before she nodded to Aaron. “There’s something else out here. One of you come with me, the other can keep the carcass and Barley company until our official arrives. We’ll call for help if needed.”

With that, Bayelei dashed off; not even waiting for the one who’d accompany her.

Tajiface: Baila looked to Aaron, concerned. He nodded and she ran after Bayelei. She followed the other hunter to a slope covered in all sizes of rocks. Baila had to pause and catch her breath, however, as the running took too much effort.

“Hey, do you see that thing shining in the sun up there?” Baila rasped, pointing to a glittering point on the rocks. “What is that?”

Graham dragged Miller as best he could backwards, until his back hit a large rock. The outcropping offered shade over them and a little more cover. Graham could hear voices now, too close for comfort. He tightened his grip over the handkerchief to muffle any sounds Miller made. The younger struggled less now, and Graham absently wondered if he was accidentally smothering him. He didn’t care at the moment and focused instead on the newcomers.

Maeeverglow: Without pause, Bayelei expertly scaled the rocks; the woman pausing above what caused the shiny object. It was a gun; an all-too-familiar gun by the look of it. Her heart skipped a beat yet she didn’t allow the panic to settle in. She needed confirmation; Baila would know better than her about the weapon.

“Stay there,” Baye hissed to the woman below before scooping up the weapon. She then jumped down the slope to her companion. “Do you know of this weapon?”

Tajiface: Baila took the weapon from Bayelei and inspected it. She felt the color drain from her face. “This is definitely from Eastwyvern, this is the gun Miller used during the fighting.”

Maeeverglow: Bayelei’s shade matched Baila’s after hearing her words. “Th-there’s blood stinking up the place and it’s not just dragon blood. There’s human blood Bai; oh god we have to find him right-!”

Before she could finish her statement, a scream for help resonated over the trees. If it were possible for Baye to go paler, she did at that moment. She knew that scream; it was Quellin.

“Jesus! What the hell is going on in these woods!” She hissed. “What do we do, Bai?”

Tajiface: Baila frowned. She looked around the area , just in case Miller happened to pop into view. No such luck.

“We don’t have a choice. Miller could be anywhere in these woods, but we know where Quellin is. We’ll come back and search, for now let’s back Quellin up.”

Maeeverglow: At the order, Bayelei was off in a hurry; the woman’s blades ready to attack as she followed where she heard the voice. She was ready to kill whatever plagued their friend; all she had to do was get to-

“Oh god! Help!” Quellin cried as Baye jumped out of the trees to eye him cautiously. “I-I’m stuck!”

The ex-soldier had somehow gotten himself tangled in a hunters trap; the man dangling upside down while he swung like a pendulum.

Tajiface: (LOL poor Quellin)

Baila groaned as Bayelei dashed into the distance. “I’m not made for running!”

She took a deep breath and trotted after Bayelei.

Maeeverglow: (Couldn’t help it XD)

As the ex-soldier swung back and forth, Bayelei stood there dumbstruck at how someone actually once a part of the military could be so stupid as you get trapped in such a feeble thing. And not only that, he screamed like a little girl, likely informing all evils in the forest of his presence.

“B-Baye please help!” He continued to cry.

Her blade at the ready, the hunter stepped over to the tree before sawing through the rope; the man falling down with a thud onto the floor.

“Idiot,” she grumbled, her worry growing for Miller. “Bai, we’re over here.”

Tajiface: Baila stared at Quellin with a raised brow. “Did I miss the monster attack?”

~~~

Graham waited until all was silent and the pair had gone for good. Miller ceased to move any longer. He slumped against Graham in defeat. Hesitantly Graham released his hold on the tracker, but the younger did not move.

“I hate you.” Miller muttered.

“You’ll just have to learn how to get over that in the future.” Graham replied in a low voice. He stood, dragging Miller to his feet. “We are going to walk back to the cabin without incident, understood?”

Miller gazed at the spot where Bayelei and Baila had been. He thought he could catch them if he just ran for it-

“Understood?” Graham growled, stepping forward and fisting Miller’s shirt. “Or I’ll knock you out and drag you all the way back.”

Miller absently nodded. Graham had that killer look in his eye and Miller knew he’d follow through. This answer satisfied him enough to release his hold. He stepped away and motioned for Miller to walk. He watched the tracker saunter away in gloom. It was time to shorten the mutt’s leash, Graham decided. It was also time to take care of those Eastwyvern idiots for good.

Maeeverglow: (I can actually envision Miller pouting and saying I hate you)

“Yeah you missed me slay the big bad rope,” she growled as she glared towards the ex-soldier who groaned and tried to pick himself off the ground. “Our damn runner is failing completely at his job I’ll have you know. Maybe I should run and get the official myse-.”

She then paused, remembering Miller’s situation.

“Damn it, just go already Quell in,” she muttered.

“B-But-,”

“I said go!” Bayelei snapped, the ex-soldier gulped before darting away, leaving the two ladies standing there. “Let’s go relay what we know to Aaron and find Miller already.”

Tajiface: Aaron listened to the women’s story without interrupting. He sighed when they finished.

“At least we know Miller was in this area at some point.” Barlet commented.

Aaron raised a brow. “I thought you’d be upset they didn’t leave Quellin to die so they could thoroughly scour the area.”

Barlet shrugged. “Nonsense. Leaving a member of the party to death is unacceptable.”

Aaron lightly chuckled at the remark. Quellin hadn’t returned, but Aaron figured it wouldn’t take much longer. The dead dragon lay motionless behind them as the group thought of the next move.

“We still need to pick up jobs in town, I was hoping we’d get back before the center closes.” Aaron thought aloud. “But if Miller is still around here it might be best for one of us to stay.”

“I will stay here to search the area.” Barlet declared. He threw down his bag beside him. “If need be I will stay the night.”

Aaron nodded. “Anyone else volunteer?”

(Alright! I figure at this point its early afternoon, so I’m thinking of time skipping to the evening after this reply… that work?)

Maeeverglow: (Sounds perfect!)

After the story was told, Bayelei was rather silent after the events that took place that morning. The dragon was clearly already being hunted before they got there though the ones from before either fled the coop beforehand or were slain in battle. From the lack of remnants left over, she had to guess whoever it was had left before the situation got too bad; and she also had to guess that in the grand scheme of things Miller was also one of the ones who were out there for the hunt. Was he injured and alone out there? Or maybe it was Graham who was injured? Maybe Miller had scurried away and left the gun as a trail for others to find?

Bayelei wasn’t sure on anything at that moment. All she knew was that she wasn’t going to let Barlet stay out there alone, dragons were going to be more likely to run amuk at night and though she disliked the man for obvious reasons she wasn’t about to allow him to risk his life like that; though her concerns were mainly on the fact that if Barlet died, Miller would still be lost and then where would they be?

“I’ll stay behind with Barley,” the female hunter whispered to the ground, the woman refusing to glance up at her partner for the night. “You all just secure us a good job for tomorrow and get back to Kyle’s alright?”

Tajiface: (Just in case this posts publicly… Please disregard! Mae and I are trying different ways to reply, and WP is our first option. This is just a random reply to our latest rp, not a drabble!)

Barlet threw more twigs into the fire before them. The sun was slowly drifting away into evening in the distance. They had spent most the afternoon taking turns searching the surrounding area. While one stayed at their makeshift campsite the other walked into unexplored parts of the forest. Every time they came up with nothing, however.

Finally they decided to start a fire so they could make something to eat. Barlet tended the flames as he waited for Bayelei to return from the latest exploration.

~~~

Irene stood behind a tree without any concern for hiding herself. Beside her Lyra made an effort, at least. The woman lay against the tree and played with a knife in her hands. Instead of a stealthy agent ready to attack the woman simply looked like she was lounging.

Before them, a small ways up the hill, was Graham’s small cabin. The exterior was littered with junk and supplies, which was a usual sight for this place. The unusual factor was the closed and locked door.

The Ivory Daggers, and a few other locals, knew how to find Graham out here. The man could usually be found inside with the door wide open and in a rather friendly mood. Irene had even been sent to send him supplies before, and she had been received in that manner.

The locked door was very odd, and created a pause in their plan. They were going to simply barge in and demand both Graham and this Miller join their ranks, else they would suffer consequences. Now Graham was nowhere to be seen, which definitely hindered the plan.

Irene bit her lip uncertainty. Something felt off about this situation, like they were missing an extremely important piece of information.

A noise hustled behind her and she calmly turned to its source. “What did you find out, Benjamin?”

(I figured Irene sent Ben to scout around to look for Graham or maybe peek inside the cabin? Graham isn’t around yet, is all that’s really important, haha)

Maeeverglow: (Ok, let’s see if the silly RP will let me reply since it’s giving me some trouble on the computer. If all else fails, I can use my phone but I hope not too. Here we go!)

The evening air was rather calm as Bayelei surveyed her surroundings before aiming back for camp, two rabbits tied to her belt that she clubbed for their dinner. She wondered what Barlet would have to say about the prey she’d gathered, somewhat welcoming of his words to keep her mind off the obvious worry the both of them held for their missing friend. Quickening her steps, she soon appeared at the campfire’s side and tossed over the rabbits towards the military man.

“Here ya go, Princess,” Bayelei mused before taking a seat across from him, her eyes focused on the crackling flames as she sighed. “Still nothing; sorry.”

*~*~*~*~*

The usually confident man came stumbling out of the bush seemingly dirtied by the trek he had decided to take in surveying the area, his face littered with scratches from the trees as he seemed to pout. One of the ladies seemed to giggle at the display before them but his glare quickly silenced them before he managed to speak up.

“Well, you called it; Graham doesn’t seem to be anywhere close by and I don’t hear any possible hunts going on so I don’t know where he could be. We would have known if he stayed in town so this whole situation keeps getting stranger by the second,” Benjamin then paused a moment to glance around before his lips curved into a grin. “Though I do have a bit of good news about all this, I believe there is someone in the house and I do believe that one is the infamous Miller we heard so much about. I didn’t see him but I could hear some muffling sort of sounds coming from the inside.”

He then gestured towards the ladies.

“So we either approach after Graham returns or we try to sneak in now and force this Miller’s hand,” he stated. “What do you think about all this?”

Tajiface: Barlet eyed the dead rabbits with a moment of disgust. He wasn’t used to eating wild animals, but he had done it on occasion. Back in the day Tonya had shown him how to skin and cook all kinds of animals. If you were friends with any of the Dullins then they taught you everything they could about hunting and surviving in the wilds.

He pulled out a knife and began work on the unfortunate rabbits. Although gruesome work Barlet found the distraction welcoming. He wasn’t as panicked about finding Miller now. They had an idea of where he was, and that was enough hope to keep him calm.

“We should rest now; we can begin searching again tomorrow.” Barlet grudgingly glanced at Bayelei and lowered his voice slightly. “You did well, thank you.”

~~~

Irene grinned. “I say we seize this opportunity to persuade this one to our side.”

Lyra excitedly jumped to her feet. “Lead the way.”

Irene confidentially walked to the cabin. Even if Graham were nearby she was confident he’d pose no problem for them. In the distance she could sense how late the evening was becoming. There was no way they’d make it back to Victorville before dark. She entertained the idea of forcing Graham to keep them as house guests for the night.

With a swift kick from Benjamin the door was no problem to kick open, even with the lock. Irene was the first to step inside the dimly lit space. It was just as small inside the cabin as it looked from the outside. There was barely enough room for a fireplace, bed, and the small locked room to the side she took to be the pantry.

She edged around the wooden bed and froze when she caught sight of the piled blankets. On the floor was a man, surely the Miller they were looking for. A thick rope kept his arms bound behind his back and ankles held firmly together. A strip of cloth was tied tightly around his eyes and another around his mouth. He lay on his side and tilted his head at the noises they made as they approached. The blankets curled around him in all different ways, clearly he had been struggling against the binds.

Irene hesitantly took another step closer. At the sound of her boot hitting the floor he twisted away and made muffled curses. She frowned and waited until his back hit the wall and he had nowhere to go. She approached and received a kick to her shin. Even without shoes the kick was enough to cause pain.

“Damn- calm down!” Irene shouted in frustration.

He froze and she could tell he was shaking. With a sigh she grabbed hold of the knot around his ankles and slid him closer to her. She took her time undoing the clothe around his eyes. The clothe pulled away to reveal enraged blue eyes. She made no move to undo any of the other bindings. She didn’t know anything about this man and wasn’t about to just let him free in case he was dangerous.

She smiled sweetly as she tossed the clothe aside. “Now this is interesting.”

Lyra joined in as if on cue. She plopped on the bed and leaned forward with a grin. “Did someone go and piss off the mountain man?”

More muffled cursing and the man focused his glare on Lyra for a moment.

“Are you this Miller we’ve heard so much about?” Irene asked, returning the glare to her.

Instead of answering he writhed in his bonds again, as though the thrashing would work this time. She shook a finger at him.

“I’d stop moving around so much if I were you, love,” Irene continued. “Looks like you’ve already torn some of your skin; I can see the blood on your wrists. Rope burns can be a bitch, huh?”

Lyra tapped her knife idly against her leg. “Looks like our little information hunter left out some important details in his account of the tracker.”

“We’ll just have another little chat with him when we return.” Irene shrugged. She leaned closer to Miller and took a firm hold of his chin, forcing him to look at her. “Now I’m going to remove this gag. If you shout for help Benjamin here is going to have a few violent words for you.”

She reached behind and roughly undid the knot. Miller spit out the clothe and coughed a few times before speaking. Suddenly his whole demeanor changed. He worked himself to his knees and desperately looked to Irene.

“Please cut these ropes off- please, if he comes back I’ll never get out of here-” He went on in a frenzy, so fast Irene could barely understand his various requests.

She wasn’t prepared to hear the desperate ravings of a captive. With the anger gone all that was left in Miller’s eyes were desperation. This matter suddenly grew more complicated and it bewildered Irene.

She stood and uncertainty looked to Benjamin.

(This makes how many times Miller has been tied up? LOL he’s just unlucky)

Maeeverglow: (OMG Barlet said what now?!?!?! xD)

A barely audible compliment was uttered from the man’s lips and Bayelei’s cheeks pinkened slightly at the sound, her mouth agape for a moment before she shook back into her composure. It was truly the first time Barlet had ever said anything…remotely nice at all about her or her actions; she had to admit, it was a nice feeling she was left with after hearing those words.

“Thanks,” she whispered with a chuckle. “You’re pretty good at that; perhaps I’ve misjudged you somewhat. I would have never taken you for the hunting type.”

(random chatter before the events of the evening lol!)

*~*~*~*~*

The muscle of the group was propped against the wall tending to the various scratches on his arms, the man frowning as he heard the exchange between the ladies and their prey that was no longer silenced by his muzzle. He watched the man called Miller carefully, noticing the panic and desperation in his eyes as he spoke.

Miller was genuinely terrified it almost seemed like; perhaps their judgment of Graham was not as accurate as they’d hoped. The man might actually be quite the dangerous man if he treated an ‘ally’ as cattle and left him starved and injured in a cabin alone while he roamed about.

“Get him up now and let’s get out of here,” Benjamin concluded as he pulled out a gun and began to eye his surroundings carefully. “We need to hurry up and get this kid to the boss; we don’t want to waste another moment out here. He can walk right?”

He took a few strides across the floor before pressing the gun against Miller’s cheek with narrowed eyes focused on him.

“There’s no funny business kid, we rescue you from this place and you’re now working for the Iron Daggers no ands ifs or buts,” Benjamin hissed. “You do anything and I have every right to see to your actions with a bit of forceful persuasion. Got it?”

Tajiface: “I’m not, really,” Barlet replied. He worked silently a bit longer before he divulged further. “Tonya taught me. She said it was a crime her two children knew more about surviving in the wilderness than I did.”

He smiled at the memory of the first time she had shown him how to skin an animal. He was exhausted from the day’s adventure, and no longer cared if Bayelei knew more about his past at the moment.

“She really was something. Here was this petite and polite woman, raised in the capital, butchering cute animals in front of me. I was shocked to say the least, which Tonya thought was hysterically funny, of course.”

~~~

Miller shot the man a look. “I’m already part of a guild, asshole.”

Irene tapped her hand against Miller’s cheek, playfully pretending to smack him. “Not any longer, dear. Now hold still, it’ll take me a few minutes to get through this rope.”

Miller glared in silence as the woman started with the rope around his wrists. The strands around his arms came undone almost as easily as his wrists had. Once cut through he pushed her away and pulled at the rope around his ankles. She shook her head but allowed him to free himself.

“Where are your shoes?”

“He took them, just in case I got out of the ropes.” Miller said flatly. “Figured I couldn’t run around outside in bare feet.”

Irene frowned. “You can’t, and we’re sure as hell not carrying you back.”

He continued to work on the rope around his ankles and ignored her.

“Where did he put them?” She sighed.

Miller nodded towards the second locked door. “I didn’t see, but probably in there. It’s where he keeps the food locked up.”

Irene started to turn for the locked door but a hiss from Lyra stopped her. Lyra was off the bed now, staring intently at something behind them. Slowly, Irene followed her gaze to see Graham had returned. The man’s breathing was labored and a red hue tinted his cheeks. His side was wrapped in bandages which once were white, but now tinged with red blood. He gripped a shot gun in his hands, barely able to hold onto it in his weakened state.

Graham feverishly glanced around at all of them. He took a step forward, only to stumble to the side and brace himself in the doorway. “What the hell are you Ivory Daggers doing here?”

Lyra, who always had trouble reading a situation, did not falter. She took a step forward with a playful grin, ready to lay down the terms on this man. The gun shot barely registered to Irene. She heard it, and saw it, but her rational mind was unable to comprehend what had happened until she saw Lyra.

Her partner- her friend, took a step back in shock. Blood poured out of the open hole in her chest, drenching her front. Lyra choked back tears as she fell to her knees. Irene screamed and, heedless of the danger, dashed to her friend’s side. Irene dropped to her knees and turned her over only to see quivering eyes staring back. Irene screamed again and cradled Lyra in her arms, unable to provide any other comfort.

The scene was more horrifying than any injury or death a dragon had caused. Miller had known Graham his whole life. Before these past few months he had still considered the man close to an uncle. Never would he have guessed the other would actually kill a human being. He tore his eyes away from the bloody scene and looked back to Graham. The man looked just as shocked as Miller was.

Graham met Miller’s eyes and all hostility melted away. “T-Tonya, I- no, Miller, wait-”

This was enough to bring Miller out of his shock. He kicked off the final ropes binding him. Without a second thought he grabbed the nearby chair and whirled it at the cabin’s lone window. The glass splintered and cracked under the first blow. Miller tried a second time and the glass shattered completely. Graham sputtered at the tracker, slowly building into a roar of ignored commands.

Miller vaulted the window and landed with a thud outside the cabin. He knew glass had punctured his arms and hands, but somehow his mind didn’t register the pain. Evening was rapidly sinking away before him, bringing on a bright, full moon. He hadn’t eaten in days, barely had any water for that matter, and had no way of procuring food without appropriate weapons. Again his mind didn’t register the danger of taking off. All he thought was to run. He rolled onto his side and swiftly disappeared in the tree line.

(Alright! Feel free to control Graham a bit here… he’s weakened because of that wound, but not helpless. He’s feverish, though, and clearly not thinking straight, haha and also, RIP Lyra ;;)

Maeeverglow: (My first reaction from reading this reply, RIP LYRA! U BARELY LIVED! XD)

Bayelei’s eyes were wide as she studied the man across from her, crystal orbs focused on the military hound as he recalled his moments with the woman she knew well to be Miller’s mother. There was a smile on Barlet’s lips, something she’d never thought she’d see in all her life. In all admittance, the rare sight rather suited the man in Baye’s opinion though she would never say aloud. After all, the man would realize later exactly what he had shared with her and would be more furious with the hunter than ever for it.

She was willing to spend the rest of the evening listening to his stories if not for the sharp accent of a gunshot in the air. It was muffled, barely audible from distance; however, Bayelei could hear it too clearly from her years of hunting. She was soon on her feet, her eyes focused on the shadows in the direction of the shot as she bit her lip.

“B-Barlet, stay here,” she began, preparing to charge into the bush as she reached for her blades.

*~*~*~*~*

The whole scene that transpired left Benjamin pinned to the wall, his eyes wide and wild as he looked upon what was left of his team. Blood poured from Lyra’s wound as she lingered in Irene’s quivering arms, her final breaths escaping her red-soaked lips as she neared death. He could see the hole in her chest, he could see the blood that soaked the floor and the two females he had come to know and love more than anything else in the world.

Irene’s tears were cascading waterfalls and he wanted nothing more than to envelope both her and their dying friend in his strong arms; he wanted to hold them close and never let go for fear of what were to happen if he no longer grasped them. However, what good would that do him; Lyra was still dying if not already dead and there was nothing they could do to change that.

Benjamin was careless that evening; he assumed the situation would be easy and he had gotten cocky. And what did that get him? A friend’s death.

“L-L-Ly-Lyra-,” he stuttered, tears threatening to streak down his own cheeks as he narrowed his eyes towards the man in the doorway. “Y-You bastard! You killed her! You killed Lyra!”

He readied his gun and prepared to take aim, his fury causing his hands to shake and unable to gain a clear shot. Benjamin cursed; was he really that pathetic of a man that he couldn’t shoot back on one who had dared to shoot upon them?

“D-Damn it,” Benjamin howled as he ran his bare hand through his hair, his eyes strained as he continued to aim his gun. “I-I should kill you for this! I should kill you and kill your little boyfriend too! I should kill everyone one of you for this; Kyle, those lady newcomers, Miller and you!”

A shot sounded in the room, securing into the wood of the wall; Benjamin crying out in anger before sending more shots out, all of which failed to secure anywhere near the intended target.

(Sorry it took so long xD)

Tajiface: (INTERNET WHY)

Barlet nodded, pausing his work with their meal. The gunshot was followed by silence as even the animals stopped their chattering. The time passed without another fire and Barlet started to relax. He turned back to the stew before them.

“It’s probably some hunter out late or something. I think it’s safe to settle down.”

~~~

Graham ignored Benjamin’s mutterings and stared at the window Miller had just escaped from. Miller’s look of hurt and fear looked just like Tonya… it was enough to rattle Graham’s resolve. He blindly stared until Benjamin mentioned killing Miller and gunshots fired all around him.

He turned his attention to the Ivory Dagger and glared. Without a hesitation he shot again, this time aiming right at the boy’s shoulder. He missed, slightly, but the damage was already wrecked in the delicate flesh.

“You will not put a finger on that mutt. I am leaving, if you two are here when I return I’ll finish the job and kill all three of you.” Graham growled.

He paused only to look to the forest, unsure of where Miller had gone. In his panic he chose what he would have thought was the easiest escape route, unkowingly going in the complete opposite direction of Miller.

Maeeverglow: (Lol silly internet and its failing xD)

The hunter exchanged a glance between the military man and where she heard the gunshot, a frown playing on her lips as she held tightly to her most-trusted dagger. “Y-You expect me to just ignore even a single gunshot out here this evening when-?” A pause settled over the woman as she stared down at Barlet, his focus mainly on the meal. He was so calm at that moment; it almost eased her mind entirely before she released a sigh and settled down across from him once more. “F-Fine but if I hear another shot I’m going to check things out. S-So, you were saying?”

*~*~*~*~*

The warm gunshot pierced into the man’s shoulder with enough damage to send the gun from his grasps, Benjamin crying out in a mix of pain and anguish as he reached for the bloody wound. “Y-You bastard! Don’t you leave here! You have to answer for your damn crimes!” He wailed before biting back his tears, the man falling to his knees as he cried. “H-He killed her; he killed Lyra. And I couldn’t do anything.”

Tajiface: Irene froze at the second gunshot and wondered if it was aimed at her. In horror, she saw it wasn’t. Benjamin was now coated with blood right before her. Graham spoke roughly and then left. With all her strength she lowered Lyra’s still body to the ground, whispering one last goodbye. She rushed to Benjamin’s side and investigated the wound.

She cried without pause, but didn’t let this stop her. She took a deep breath to pause her sniffling. “We need to get you out of here, this wound is deep.”

~~~

Miller had almost given up. He had run for what must have been hours with only the moonlight to guide his movements. He hoped he was at least in the general direction of where he had seen his friends earlier that day. Luckily the moon provided enough light for him to catch some signs of his earlier trek through these woods. The image of the woman being blown apart in front of him was enough to keep him sprinting the whole way. Adrenaline rushed him forward and he did not slow down until his foot hit a rather deep dip in the ground.

His foot twisted painfully as he tumbled onto the forest floor. He lay in twigs and fallen foliage, suddenly unable to move. This forced pause made him realize a few things. One, he was exhausted. No matter how hard he breathed his chest still felt tight and constricted. Two, both his feet burned with pain. Rocks and twigs had scratched them to a sore and, probably, bloody mess. Lastly, he was starving. The empty feeling of his stomach carried to the lightness of his thoughts. He couldn’t think clearly anymore, and all his mind could conjure was Graham standing over a bloody woman.

Miller pushed himself onto his back and focused on the shining moon above. The moonlight was so strong it almost seemed like daylight. When he was younger his father would take them fishing on nights like this. Sometimes, even, his mother would join in. She was viciously competitive, though, and always made night fishing more exciting than relaxing.

He allowed himself to reminisce about his dead family. He started to close his eyes and wondered if tonight he’d join them. Aaron would probably be the one to break the news to Wendell. He hoped she’d be able to open up to people without him. He knew Aaron would blame himself, and Barlet would blame Graham. He chuckled at the thought, how his friends never did change.

The moon suddenly grew a smudge on its side. Miller squinted at it, wondering how anything was high enough to smudge the moon. The blurry mark then started to move in a wavy motion and Miller recognized it as a nearby campfire’s smoke.

Miller abruptly sat up and followed the pattern of smoke in the distance to its source. Over the trees he recognized the outline of rocks as the earlier ambush spot for the dragon. It had to be them!

He climbed to his feet and surged forward, only to stumble when he put weight on his right ankle. It throbbed in pain even without stepping on it. He took a deep breath and limped on towards the source of the smoke.

Soon Miller heard voices just beyond a line of underbrush and bushes. He pushed past the foilage with no attempt at stealth. There was the campfire, oozing smoke into the air. Around it sat two figures. He looked at Bayelei and smiled uncontrollably. His eyes moved from her to the other figure at the campfire and all color drained from his face.

“You’re not supposed to be here.” Miller stared at Barlet in shock.

Barlet jumped to his feet when Miller stumbled into their camp. He could hardly believe his eyes and felt elated at seeing the other finally, after so long. At Miller’s reaction, however, he felt pain crush his happiness. He tried to cover this, however, and came towards Miller. The mutt might hate him for the rest of his life, but Barlet wasn’t going to allow this hatred to compromise his safety.

“Come sit down-“

“No!” Miller smacked the outstretched hand away. He stepped forward and cringed, stumbling into Barlet. He grabbed the man’s jacket to keep from falling. He weakly pushed at Barlet, trying to move the other backwards. “You can’t be here!”

Barlet grabbed Miller’s shoulders to steady the tracker’s movements. Miller continued to push Barlet

without any success.

“What’s wrong?” Barlet firmly asked.

Miller buried his face into Barlet’s shirt. “He’s going to kill you just like he killed her, because I’m here- I lead him right to you. Please go!”

“Hold on- Graham killed someone?!”

Miller jumped at the exclamation. He muttered incomprehensibly into Barlet’s shirt. Barlet took a strong hold of Miller’s shoulders and pulled the tracker away. He looked Miller in the eyes and firmly shook the other.

“Miller Dullin, calm down. Nobody is going to kill me tonight. You and I are safe here.” Barlet waited until Miller’s breathing slowed slightly. “Listen to me. Graham isn’t stupid enough to go blindly running into the night, which, apparently, you are. Regardless, he couldn’t track an elephant in a zoo; he’d never be able to follow you. Besides, Bayelei is here. She would take him out before he even knew he was near us, isn’t that right?”

“Y-yes.” Miller nodded.

“Alright,” Barlet took a deep breath, worried any sudden movement or command would set Miller off again. He had seen soldiers in this state before, anything rattling enough would set off another episode. He spoke to Miller like he was a child again, soothing and slow, similar to the time Erik broke his leg jumping off the roof and Miller came to him for help. “Now, can you sit by the fire and let me get a look at you?”

Miller nodded but the panic did not leave his eyes. Barlet held an arm as he guided Miller to sit against the packs they had piled onto the ground.

Barlet glanced at Bayelei. “Can you get all the canteens we have with water? I need some bandages, too.”

Maeeverglow: Benjamin barely took notice to Irene at his side, his whole body flinching away as she reached in to examine his wound. His eyes were still so wild; still so full of tears and fury. He wanted so badly to end the one who killed his friend; however, it seemed he wasn’t ready for anything of that nature to happen. “I-I can’t just let that man run away; I have to kill him! I have to kill him like he killed Lyra!” He shouted as he stared back at Irene, as if unable to notice her through his strained glance. “I have to kill him!”

*~*~*~*~*

The entire scene seemed like one of those movies her father used to take her to when she was little, a somewhat happy ending to one hell of a hardship of a tale; Bayelei sat crosslegged across the fire and kept her eyes on the men, refusing to even utter a word or make a move as the two men exchanged words. Miller had definitely seen better days, the poor boy’s feet torn from his wood racing that evening. His skin from his wrist was torn from rope and he was definitely malnourished more so than ever before.

At Barlet’s command, Bayelei shot to her feet as if she were a soldier in his ranks; the woman quickly dipping into her satchel and handing over the bandages Aurora always had her carrying around. Apart of her was worried about leaving the two of them alone there by the fire but she didn’t want to speak up; not at that moment. So she quickly took the canteens in hand and dashed away to the closest water source she could find, Miller’s tale of Graham killing a woman fresh in her mind.

It seemed she misjudged how dangerous that man was; even with Miller in their possession now, she knew there was going to be more trouble before they ever thought of going back to Eastwyvern.

Tajiface: Irene stared back without flinching. “We will kill him, don’t you worry. We’ll get that bastard. For now, though, we need to get back to town.”

~~~

Miller was finally starting to calm with Barlet prodding at his various injuries. Barlet determined they were mostly just scratches, which would heal once Miller rested. At Bayelei’s absence Miller shut down again and Barlet was unable to get him to answer even the simplest of questions. Instead his focus was on the darkness, where he thought Graham was lurking.

Barlet stopped questioning and ran a torn rag over Miller’s bloody feet. He wiped away dried mud and blood, revealing all the cuts underneath. Again the cuts were mostly shallow and offered no real danger. Barlet rubbed the rag over Miller’s right ankle and stopped abruptly when the other yelped.

“What happened here?” Barlet asked. The firelight was barely enough for him to make out a dark, purple coloring surrounding the ankle. He made to wipe at it again but Miller pushed him away.

“I fell- Don’t touch it, it hurts!” Miller pouted, a slight glare playing at his features.

Barlet did not relinquish his hold and simply continued to wipe away, albeit a bit more softly. “This is what you get for running around in the dark. Remember, I told you that when you were younger, chasing fireflies with Erik.”

Miller hissed. “We had enough light to see- Ouch, stop!”

Barlet sighed and only released his foot when he was satisfied most the cuts were clean. “I’m going to have to wrap that foot; it’s at least sprained, maybe broken.”

“Fine,” Miller indignantly replied. He frowned, then, as the trees around them rustled. “W-when is Baye coming back? It’s not safe…”

Maeeverglow: (Miller and Barlet are so cute)

At Irene’s tone, Benjamin finally settled and glanced up at her. “W-what about Lyra?”

*~*~*~*~*

As if on cue, Bayelei leapt down with canteens all filled, the woman placing them down gently beside Barlet before studying the scene carefully.

“I couldn’t find anyone’s presence besides ours so we’re safe for now,” Bayelei whispered with a nod to Barley. “Will we be able to head back?”

Tajiface: Irene gulped, swallowing back tears. “W-we’ll have to leave her. Come on, let’s go.”

~~~

Miller visibly relaxed at the hunter’s statement. Barlet took the opportunity to dump water from one of the canteens on Miller’s ankle. The cold water jolted against his bruised skin. Miller gasped and shoved Barlet.

“What the hell are you doing?” Miller demanded. He scooted closer to Bayelei for protection. “Baye, help me!”

Barlet sighed. He had forgotten about this. Erik and Miller were constantly getting injured, in the most outlandish ways possible. They both despised getting their wounds treated and even sometimes would go days with broken bones before any adults noticed. It often took combined efforts to hold the boys down, even with Tonya looming over them. Apparently Miller had never outgrown the habit.

“I’m just washing it off before we put any bandages on it.” Barlet calmly explained. He wetted another rag with the canteen and threw it to Miller. “Wash your wrists off with that.”

Miller eyed Barlet as he took the rag against the rope burns on his wrists. He stayed by Bayelei’s side and never took his eyes off the other rag in Barlet’s hands.

“If you’d just relax it’d be over soon.” Barlet rolled his eyes. He made no move closer to Miller, however, and looked up to Bayelei. “To answer your question, we should head out at dawn. We’ll only gain more injuries if we try back for town at night. Looks like I’ll have to carry Miller.”

Maeeverglow: (Sry it took so long!)

Benjamin gave a slow nod and allowed her to help him up. “O-ok-Irene.”

*~*~*~*~*

The hunter gave a nod to Barlet before smiling and throwing her arms around the tracker, pulling him close as she patted the matted hair atop his head.

“Now Princess, don’t be mean to Milly; he bruises easily,” she mused.

Tajiface: Miller frowned at the comment and an immense blush darkened his face. “That is not true!”

The embrace was welcoming, in a way. Miller could hardly remember the last time he had relaxed with others in his presence. He felt as though he’d spent an eternity in Graham’s beat up cabin. The juxtaposition of just a few hours ago to his current position was hard to think about. He wanted to just head back to Eastwyvern that night, but he knew it was impossible.

Barlet advanced on Miller’s ankle and, before the other knew it, roughly scrubbed the injury. Miller yelped at the sudden treatment, but before he could object Barlet was finished. He sat back and started to unravel the bandages Bayelei had handed him.

“This isn’t a proper brace, but it should keep that ankle from jostling around too much.” Barlet said.

Maeeverglow: “Heh see Milly, not so bad,” she giggled before releasing a sigh. “I’m so happy you’re OK.”

Tajiface: Miller allowed Barlet to wrap bandages tightly around his ankle, only wincing when there was a sharp tug. Finally Barlet finished and pulled away. He took a seat next to the fire and grinned.

“You’re all done, mutt. You can relax now.”

“Thanks,” Miller grumbled. He lowered his eyes and glanced between Bayelei and Barlet. “Thank you, both of you, for risking your lives for me.”

Maeeverglow: Bayelei scooted away from the boy and grinned towards Barlet. “Well, it was mighty tough at times with Princess over here but for the most part the whole experience wasn’t so bad.”

She kept her eyes on the military man, debating if she should pry for information. Instead she motioned towards stew.

“Just in time for Princess’ home cooking,” the hunter said with a giggle.

Tajiface: Barlet spooned some of the brew into a bowl and handed it to Miller. The tracker attacked the bowl, devouring it in a few minutes. Barlet handed him another serving and eyed the other critically. Miller had definitely lost weight and looked much paler than last Barlet had seen him. He narrowed his eyes and inwardly cursed Graham.

Barlet gave up his own portion of the stew to Miller and handed Bayelei a bowl. He sighed. There was no avoiding it.

“I need you to tell me everything that happened since you left Eastwyvern.” Barlet said.

“What do you want to know? That ass brought me here, that’s it.” Miller frowned, placing his latest empty bowl on the ground beside him.

Barlet continued without missing a beat. “I’m not asking you lightly. We need to know what Graham is up to and what occurred tonight.”

Miller shifted uneasily and stared intently at the flames of the fire. “Graham brought me to this damn cabin in the middle of nowhere. I thought I could easily find my way back to Eastwyvern, or some town, but it was so out there I never managed to get my bearings. He talked about taking on jobs and earning more money. If I refused to work he didn’t give me meals, so, I had to help him…”

“That’s nothing to be ashamed of, you had no choice. What happened tonight?”

“G-Graham, he… we almost ran into Bayelei and Baila today, it really freaked him out. We got back to the cabin and he had a meltdown. Then these three goons showed up, they called themselves Ivory Daggers or something. Talked about some informational hunter who told them about me, and I had to join them or else. Graham busted in, and-” Miller paused and shook his head. “He shot one of them in cold blood. I ditched out the window. The other two, I don’t know…”

Maeeverglow: At first, Bayelei had every intention to try the meal that was prepared; she caught the rabbits herself after all so she should have been entitled to it. And yet she watched Barlet carefully as he slipped the tracker his own share and her whole body paused. Bayelei could live weeks without food if she needed to so a few meals wouldn’t be missed; and it really did look like Miller could use the food.

Slipping him the bowl, she whispered, “take this. I’ll go get some more water and see if I can’t gather more food.”

Without waiting for an objection, the woman was on her feet with the emptied canteens in hand. She could hear the boys talking but decided it was best to tend to Miller for now and hurried to find what was needed.

That is…until Miller mentioned an informant revealing information about Miller and Graham. A gasp nearly escaped and her grasps stumbled with the canteen; Bayelei pressed her back against a tree in the shadows and crept forward to listen more.

When Miller finished his tale, the woman’s heart beat rapidly within her chest as her mind swirled. It was true she had been suspicious of Kyle but hearing what the tracker had said only confirmed the ugly truth.

“H-He really did lie…” Bayelei whispered to herself before she cursed and rushed off to fetch water and food; she couldn’t address it now especially after Barlet had been rather tame that evening with her. No, she’d just have to hold it in and force her hand once her and Kyle could have a private chat.

Her efforts were quick as Bayelei soon returned with water and one more rabbit, offering it to Barlet before she sat close to the military man.

“I’ll go off as many times as you need tonight,” Bayelei whispered, her arms hugging around her knees as she stared into the flames. “I’ll stand watch and help you gather things; whatever you want.”

Tajiface: Barlet listened to Bayelei’s offer and nodded. He started to skin the latest killed rabbit. “Thank you, Bayelei.”

Miller watched the exchange with drooping eyes. He finished the last bowl of stew and for the first time in weeks actually felt full.

“Since when have you two been buddies? I must be dreaming right now.” He paused to yawn. After a moment’s thought his eyes grew big and glanced around the shadows again. “I’m not dreaming this, am I?”

Maeeverglow: The comment caused Baye to form a mischievous grin, “aw, you dream of me Miller? How sweet!” With a giggle, she shook her head and added. “You’re not dreaming love; don’t you worry though, Barley will be back to hating my guts most likely the second we get you to safety.”

She peeked over at the military man with a nod. “Isn’t that right?”

Tajiface: Barlet shrugged. “Continue to prove yourself useful for once and we’ll see- Miller, don’t lay your head down in the dirt!”

The full meal and conversation had finally taken its toll on Miller. He started to lay on the ground and paused with his elbow on the ground when Barlet spoke. He slumped to the ground anyways, rolling his eyes at Barlet.

“What’s it matter?” Miller muttered.

Barlet grumbled in response. He abandoned the food he prepared and search through the bags to find the blankets. He shoved one at Miller and only relented once the blanket was more or less bunched under him.

Although Miller was exhausted he couldn’t keep his eyes shut for long. Images from the image plagued his imagination, and sometimes it was Barlet or Bayelei laying dead instead of the woman. He rolled onto his side so his back was facing the others, hoping they wouldn’t notice.

Barlet went back to the stew. “We can share shifts tonight. We better leave just as the sun is rising, that should give us a decent head start back to town.”

Maeeverglow: Her nose crinkled at the military man’s comment of being useful but she didn’t dare utter a word; after all, she had brought the group to see Kyle and he was the informant to the guild of the Ivory Daggers. So instead she hugged her knees close and stared into the crackling flames with a nod.

“Are you sure you’re up for any shifts? You seem quite tired and you’re going to have to deal with carrying Miller at first light too,” Bayelei whispered to Barlet. “I can watch as long as need be. I would prefer you get some sleep…I would prefer you both get some sleep.”

Baye nodded to Miller with a frown.

“He’s struggling; perhaps you have anything to ease his mind? I could knock him out though I wouldn’t want to do that unless absolutely necessary.”

Tajiface: (Pfffft knock him out LOL)

Barlet’s gaze lingered on Miller for a moment. He turned back to the pot. “I doubt there’s anything to console him now, let him be. I can handle the watches as well, I used to back in Eastwyvern on a frequent basis, and still be ready for marathon meetings the next day. Don’t you worry; we’ll all pull our weight.”

Maeeverglow: The evening carried on without a hitch and Bayelei was quite pleased for that. She welcomed the sounds of nature and the crackling flames and she was mighty pleased to not hear a single sign of a human besides the two others in her camp.

Morning crept up rather quickly in the hunter’s opinion; the woman sporting the backs and the lead while Barlet trailed with a reluctant Miller on his back. So many snide comments formed in her mind on the scene yet Baye held her tongue; they were close to home base and that meant close to what she needed to do as soon as she encountered Kyle.

Puffs of smoke climbed from fireplaces as some of the bordering buildings came into view. She let a grin form at the sight before she gestured for Barlet to hurry.

“We don’t want to be noticed right?” Baye cheered. “Let’s go Barley!”

Tajiface: The morning was a blur to Miller. He didn’t get much sleep the night before, and even throughout the morning he was filled with anxious thoughts. Clinging to Barlet’s back felt safe and reminded him of his childhood. At times he felt relaxed enough to bury his head into the soldier’s shoulder and snooze. His injuries felt worse than they had the night before. Sleeping on the hard ground amplified every ache and cut. His ankle felt worse than the night before. Barlet wrapped the bandages again before they set off. Although nothing was said Miller could tell from his cringe the swelling was not a good thing.

At Bayelei’s comment he lifted his head to see the town in the distance. He stared in awe at the odd structures, which looked much different than Eastwyvern. Miller was so enthralled by them he didn’t notice Barlet had stopped.

He leaned backwards with a frown. “Do you need me to get off and take another rest?”

Barlet did not allow Miller to slide off. “No. Bayelei, we need to talk.”

“Hey, you said you’d be nice.” Miller glared at the back of Barlet’s head.

“It’s not-” Barlet sighed. “Look, the military headquarters for this town is just down this way. I was thinking… maybe it’s best for me to take Miller there.”

Miller pushed at Barlet’s shoulders in disapproval. “No way, I want to see Aaron, and Baila, and I want to go home! If we go to your damn military we’ll be stuck there for ages!”

“Yes, it will, because you are going to file charges against Graham. They’ll keep us in protective custody until Graham is apprehended. Or at least until they have our official statements recorded.” Barlet waited for Miller to stop shouting before continuing. He looked Bayelei in the eyes with serious consideration. Over the past few days he had seen the more reliable side to the Hunter, a side he could respect. He allowed those he respected to voice their own opinions.

“What do you think, Bayelei? Miller and I can stay at the military base. Your lot can visit, of course, and check on Miller. They can give him medical attention and protection… which, unfortunately Kyle’s apartment can provide neither. I think it is our best defense against Graham right now.”

Maeeverglow: Baye took a long hard look at the situation before she could answer; she knew Miller wanted to see the others but with everything that happened, perhaps letting them go to the military was the best bet. Giving a quick glance over the tracker, Bayelei finally relented with a sigh. “I’ll tell the others you’re here since they’ll want to see Miller immediately. With everything that’s happened, it would be safest for our tracker to be in the care of the military,” she whispered with a guilty stare at Miller. “I know you want to see everyone and I will make sure they see you as soon as possible. I know you want to go home but Graham is still out there and clearly he’s proven to be trouble. For now, please go and get yourself cared for; you can charge me anything as payment for this but please just be safe alright.”

Tajiface: Miller glowered at the two of them. “I suppose I don’t really have a choice.”

Barlet grinned. “You’re stuck with me for now, mutt. At least until that ankle heals. Tell Aaron to wait until this evening to visit, hopefully the local officers are efficient enough to get us situated by then. Farewell, Bayelei. Thank you.”

Miller muttered a goodbye and continued to grumble. The pair walked the edge of town and entered into the military encampment.

(Gah, it was lame, sorry ;;)

Maeeverglow: (Lol so my comments page here is like not letting me just reply to the actual post xD so that’s why the comments turn out being random replies to other comments xD also that was good, hush!)

Her crystal orbs watched the two depart as she bit her lip, noticing Miller’s mood rather quickly and feeling guiltier than before. It was difficult not dashing after the military man and calling the whole thing off; however, it was what needed to be done and they would all just have to accept that.

“Sorry Miller,” she whispered before beginning back towards Kyle’s apartment, the woman soon at the door. With a sigh, Bayelei knocked three times on the door, awaiting someone to come let her in. Inwardly she prepared herself for the events that would occur in that apartment that morning; she would share Miller’s rescue with the group before confronting Kyle in private.

There was a scuffle on the other side of the door, almost as if someone had heard the knock and tried to rush forward only to meet with a stumble and a fall. Her curious stare remained on the door as she heard an audible groan and a latch undoing, the door creaking open to reveal an embarrassed Quellin.

“Baye, you’re back!” He managed to say before waving her in, his eyes widening as he noticed Barlet and Miller were not with them. “Oh no, is something wrong? Where’s Barlet? Did you find Miller? What hap-!”

“Shut up and I’ll tell you everything inside,” Bayelei announced with a raised hand, the hunter slipping into the apartment before they shut the door and latched it tight. Though such a dirtied space with air the scent of a junk pile, the female hunter welcomed it all fully as she then prepared herself to share everything she could with the occupants in the room, leaving out a few choice pieces of information like Kyle’s possible involvement with everything.

Tajiface: (Oh man, I’m super rusty….)

Aaron had been lounging on the makeshift bed on the floor, trying to get more rest. The previous night brought no sleep, as he couldn’t stop thinking about the possibility of finally being done with this place. After they met with the clients and collected their pay the group returned to the apartment for the rest of the evening.

Aaron sat up at Bayelei’s entrance and waited for Quellin to calm down. He wasn’t sure what to make of Bayelei returning alone. Of course, he didn’t truly have high hopes of them returning with Miller. He expected Barlet decided to stay behind and search the area, in case they missed some clue.

Aaron patted on an empty spot of the mattress, motioning for Bayelei to sit. He grinned at her with mischief, trying to lighten the situation. “So Barlet didn’t survive the night? Can’t say I’m surprised.

Maeeverglow: Bayelei couldn’t help but grin at Aaron’s words, her steps slow with exhaustion as she made her way over. With a sigh, she lowered herself onto the mattress and ran her fingers through her tangled locks.

“Actually, I have some fairly good news in the regard of the mission. You wouldn’t believe who stumbled into our camp last night,” she began.

Quellin was brimming with wonder as he stumbled back over towards them, the ex-soldier sitting cross legged before them with a gasp. “G-Graham?”

His reaction brought a chuckle to Baye’s lips. “No silly, Miller. He was pretty rough from the look of him; Barlet took him to the military headquarters so he could get the proper treatment and whatnot. I signed off on the decision because he was really not looking too hot and we both thought it best for him to go there…me and Princess Barlet.”

(I figure you can either have Aaron question her or not on trusting Barlet then she shares the bad news. She’s gonna leave out the informant part until she talks to Kyle one-on-one.)

Tajiface: (sounds good! I have a general idea of where to go next, but nothing concrete… so we’ll just go with da flow for now~)

Aaron couldn’t stay seated any longer. He hopped to his feet, his mind racing over the many thoughts in his head. On the one hand he was absolutely relieved to hear Miller had escaped. On the other, he didn’t like Barlet swooping him into the military’s arms. Aaron had no love for the military. Even if Barlet shared a common goal with them that didn’t mean the man was on their side. Aaron could think of several reasons why Barlet would take Miller to this town’s headquarters, and only a few of them involved MIller’s health.

“One thought at a time, Aaron.” Baila called from the table. She watched Aaron paced with an amused glint in her eyes. She knew he had trouble processing multiple things when given too much time to think over them. He was a good leader under pressure, in the heat of a sketchy situation which required a quick decision. When he was left to his thoughts, however, he tended to overthink every detail

Aaron took a deep breath to calm himself down. “Alright, first about Miller. How did he get away? Why does he need proper treatment? Did he want to go to this town’s military HQ? Second, where’s Graham?”

Maeeverglow: “And that’s where I switch over to the bad news,” Baye muttered, tensing at Aaron’s barrage of questions. “I’ll start with Graham; we aren’t sure where he is currently. All we could gather from Miller’s mumbles was that he is held up in a cabin in the woods. As soon as I’m done here I plan to be on my way to find him. Next, we’ll talk about Miller’s condition.”

She paused for breath, her eyes scanning the room for attention.

“He was dangerous malnourished and scarred slightly from his escape, his feet were practically barren of skin by the time he found us. He told us that the only way he could eat was by helping Graham on hunts and chores.”

Another pause and she sighed.

“Miller managed to flee last night only by absolute fear. It seemed some people found the cabin and came in. When Graham found them, he shot one of the females of the group. Miller was terrified and luckily had the sense to escape that place. Barlet wanted to get the military involved on Graham’s arrest with Miller as a testimony. And no, Miller didn’t want to go exactly but I said he could…you can break him out if you want since you’re his leader but I said he could go mainly for the care that he wouldn’t have gotten here.”

Tajiface: Aaron was angry before, but with every word he grew even more furious. Graham had gone too far this time. He had never cared what happened to Graham after the man left. Now their former leader had endangered Miller in his profiteering schemes, and now Aaron wanted more than anything to see him pay.

“Aaron,” Baila spoke again, breaking into his thoughts. “What are we going to do?”

“We’re going to check on Miller, that’s for sure.” Aaron sighed. “I suppose what we do after depends on how that meeting goes.”

He took another deep breath and sat on the mattress again. “Bayelei, thank you for seeing him safely here. Our guild owes you a debt for all this.”

Maeeverglow: Lifting her eyes to stare up at the guild leader, she gave a nod to his words. “It’s no problem; you guys are friends after all. Barlet asked you give it a day to visit; though feel free to ignore that suggestion. As for me, I’ll-.”

“You can’t be thinking of heading back out there. You look exhausted and plus if this guy killed someone you shouldn’t charge out there on your own,” Quellin interrupted.

“I’m-gah, no, I’m just going to go into town for a bit and get some food,” Bayelei argued, noticing Kyle’s absence. She had to see him…right then and now. “Do you know where Kyle went? I wanted to see how he was feeling.”

Tajiface: Aaron crossed his arms and grumbled. “I don’t care much what Barlet asked, I’ll go when I damn well please.”

“I think Kyle said something about going to the main street in town,” Baila answered instead. “He left awhile ago, haven’t seen him since.”

(short, sorry ;;)

Maeeverglow: The female hunter chuckled with a wink towards the man. “I thought you might; that’s what’s awesome about you. You should head on over, Miller misses you something awful,” she then turned to Baila. “Thanks. I’ll head there now. I’ll stop by after eating and talking with Kyle so I can see what happens during your meeting. I’ll see you guys.”

Without a second look towards the worried Quellin, Bayelei disappeared from the apartment and headed towards the main street to have a word with her so-called friend.

Tajiface: Kyle slumped on a bench which sat on the side of the former main street. The former roads were crowded with booths selling all kinds of goods. The crowds were a relief, as Kyle found his best information came simply from eaves dropping. His bruises still tormented him from the previous beating, so he simply sat today and listened. Apparently there was something big going down at the military camp. He heard bits and pieces, and only knew for certain that Ivory Dagger leaders were seen to enter the camp. He observed a heightened amount of security but could gather nothing about what had caused it. So he waited, hoping some more news would reach his ears soon.

Maeeverglow: Crowds of folk flocked the main street as Baye stepped lightly along the edge of the road. Her eyes scanned each one in interest, the occasional conversation of commotions around town piquing her interest. She knew for a fact that Kyle lived for things like that; the man was known for eavesdropping on passerbys for any possible tidbit of knowledge he could use.

“He’s here, I know that for sure,” Baye whispered before finally resting her eyes on the man sitting patiently on a bench. “There.”

Within seconds she snuck up behind the bench and lightly blew a stream of air in Kyle’s ear to gain his attention.

“Got anything good?”

Tajiface: Kyle shivered at the contact. He whirled around with a grin to see Bayelei. “Just something big going down at the military camp… it’d be exciting if I could actually get some details on it. Care to take a seat?”

Maeeverglow: She accepted the seat and looked out at the ever-shifting crowd with a sigh. “So, you work a lot with the Ivory Daggers right? After all, you’re one of the best and people pay big money for some juicy information.”

Baye then narrowed her eyes as she glared towards Kyle. “Is there something you’d like to tell me?”

Tajiface: Kyle cringed at the glare. Suddenly some pieces started fitting together… the sudden uproar at the military camp, Bayelei’s return from the previous night of scouting for their lost comrade. He scooted a few inches away from the hunter, purposefully avoiding her eyes.

“Baye, listen, I don’t know what you’ve heard, but I was in danger, I had to give them something…” Kyle trailed off; unable to actually admit the full information he had given the Daggers.

Maeeverglow: Suddenly Baye was hovering above Kyle with her arms pinning him in on either side. Her eyes were intense as she inwardly demanded her friend to look up at her. “You told them about Miller didn’t you? You told them that Graham had a tracker who was the reason the mountain man scored so many bounties?”

Her knuckles went pale as she tightened her grip on the bench. “Your little team spoke of an informant when they came across Miller and I knew immediately what that meant. Guess what, your team lost a member to Graham and are likely to be quite infuriated with us and you.”

There was a pause before Baye growled. “I trusted you Kyle…I trusted you and you betrayed me. The best part is you probably don’t care right,” she then punched her fist on each side of him as the slightest hint on tears stung her eyes. “I’m not even mad at you…I’m just disappointed…I’m disappointed in myself for actually believing you were my friend. I was the one who brought Aaron and the others here. I was the one who brought them to you. I’m to blame for what happens…and you’ve made things horrible for me. So thanks…have a nice time.”

With that, she stomped away without a look back. She was much too angry to realize what all she had said.

Tajiface: Kyle watched in agony as Bayelei stormed away. He sighed and slumped into the bench. Again he screwed up, and this time he wasn’t sure if he could fix it…

~~~

Once, when Miller and Eric were younger, the boys had broken a wall of mirrors in a store while their mother shopped. Ever since that day the brothers were convinced bad luck loomed on every step they took. Now, more than ever, Miller believed the bad luck still cursed him.

The first few hours of the military camp commenced as expected. Miller was taken to a small room which served as the infirmary; they investigated his injuries, interrogated him, and then left him to rest. Barlet had reluctantly left to speak with the officer in charge and some other person. After sitting alone in the infirmary for what seemed ages Miller finally succumbed to the intense need to sleep.

When he woke he was sure he still dreamed. Instead of a dark, empty room Miller found a strange man grinning down at him. From there, things seemed to only escalate to the current, strange situation. He yelled for the guards to no avail. Before he knew it the stranger flipped him around and pinned his arms. Struggling did no good; he was still exhausted and no match for the man’s strength. Without a word the man grappled around the counter beside the bed until Miller heard a roll of medical tape being torn. Oddly enough the grip was firm but heedful of the injuries on his wrists, instead the tape wrapped tightly around his forearms. Miller cursed and yelled again, this time for Barlet.

The man smiled sympathetically, his sunglasses glinting off the small amount of sunlight that escaped the blinds of the window. “Ah, no, I’m sorry to say he is caught up in a meeting right now. I wanted to get a good look at you alone. After all, adoption is a big responsibility. We want to make sure we have the right mutt.”

“What the fuck are you talking about?” Miller wanted to kick at the man, but two sore feet and his ankle told him it wasn’t a good idea.

The man sighed and shook his head. The movement sent his long, dark hair into a similar motion. In a sickeningly swift motion he hoisted Miller up. A whirling world overtook his senses and only after a few minutes did his mind settle to take in the new, awkward position. The man rested on the bed, his back propped up by the mountain of pillows Miller had recently been laying on. Miller was forced to sit on top of the man by two strong hands held firm on his sides.

“Name’s Leon, by the way- Now don’t move, you’re making this uncomfortable,” He shifted, forcing Miller to straddle higher on his front. He brought his knees behind Miller’s shivering form for extra insurance. “There we go, much better.”

Miller found himself blushing uncontrollably at the situation, which made him even more angry. He pushed on his knees, trying to bring space between the two of them, only to have Leon hold him firmly in place. He glared at the other, who’s grinning face was a little too close for comfort.

“Wh- what the hell are you doing?” Miller yelled.

Leon continued to look at some point behind Miller, as though he weren’t actually focused on him at all. One of his hands moved abruptly and pressed lightly against Miller’s forehead. Miller instinctively pulled back, only to be held in place again. Once he settled Leon attempted again, gliding his fingers lower until they rested under Miller’s chin.

“I told you, I’m just investigating your worth.” He smirked. “You’re blushing.”

“Who wouldn’t when a pervert is doing pervy things?” Miller retorted.

“Hmm I suppose.”

Miller blamed the broken mirrors and their bad luck. What else could explain this bizarre set of events? Escape from one psychotic man only to run into another… this was not normal, in any way, he decided.

Miller twitched as the touching moved to one arm and then the other. At times Leon would pause and rub a bruise or scratch. Miller bit his tongue, refusing to even cringe.

“Graham was rather hard on you, I see.” Leon mused quietly.

“Whatever, are you satisfied? If you just leave now maybe my friend won’t kick your ass- Don’t you even think about going there!” Miller practically screamed when Leon threatened to lift his shirt.

Leon played with the hem of the shirt between two fingers. His eyes, or at least the imagined eyes behind sunglasses, still seemed focused on some far off point. Miller wondered if he had even listened.

Eventually Leon shrugged. “Very well. I’d like to investigate your more serious injuries, anyway.”

Miller collided face first into Leon’s chest after the man held him there with an arm around his back. The expensive material of the suit muffled Miller’s cursing, and only then did Miller realize how obnoxiously gold the fabric was. He squirmed, creating an unpleasant friction between the two. Leon chuckled, his breath hot on Miller’s ear.

“Now if you move like that I might just have to ravish you on the spot.”

“Mother fucker just try it and see what happens.” Miller growled.

Leon laughed loudly. “What a delightful creature, I see why charm was left out on your list of credentials.”

For the moment Miller decided to lay still and hoped this embarrassing situation would soon be over. Again Leon roamed sore muscles and bruises, this time along his lower legs. He leaned forward, pushing Miller as well, so he could reach further down. He finished at his left foot, brushing lightly over the abused skin underneath. Then came the right leg and, sure enough, Leon paused at the bandaged ankle. Miller held in a cry of pain as the man tested a grip on the injury.

“Does it hurt?” Leon asked.

Miller shook his head, not trusting his voice. Of all his injuries his ankle still hurt the most. Leon tightened his grip on the bandages, rubbing a thumb over them.

“Your breath hitched, though. What happened here?” Leon’s voice actually softened with concern.

Miller remained silent until Leon pressed harder. He whimpered, slowly losing his hold on composure. “Stop-”

“Answer me.” Leon demanded soothingly, a stark contrast to the pain he caused on the ankle.

“I fell, damnit, why is everyone so concerned about it?”

Leon released the ankle and casually leaned back on the bed. Miller attempted to move away, but Leon kept him still.

“It doesn’t feel broken; I suppose it won’t leave permanent damage.” Leon thought aloud.

“Great, thank you doctor, now I’ll just be leaving since you took my room.” Miller replied sarcastically.

Leon laughed again but said nothing more. They sat in silence for awhile after that, until the door clicked open. Miller froze, feeling all color drain from his face. It was embarrassing enough as it was, but he had hoped nobody would walk in on this insane scene. Especially not Barlet…

Leon tilted his head but didn’t look at the doorway. “Mariah, is that you?”

“Ah, there you are, my dear. Irene, darling, is this the mutt you spoke of?” A woman appeared in the doorway, dressed in a similar color to the man. Instead of a suit she wore a simple outfit of trousers and a long sleeved top that still looked more expensive than anything Miller had seen in his life.

She stepped into the room, heels clicking on the floor. She wore a similar smile to Leon’s and Miller guessed they were related. She did not look the least bit surprised at their awkward position, which made Miller even more embarrassed. Apparently Leon did this sort of thing a lot.

His heart skipped a beat when he saw two familiar figures enter the room behind her. He couldn’t forget those faces now, as they were etched in his memory from the night their guild mate was murdered.

The woman, Irene, looked at him with calculating eyes and nodded. “That’s him, ma’am.” 

Maeeverglow: (I figure we focus on these guys for now then we also balance a Baye/Kyle thing and also bring in the others :3 )

Benjamin was quick to Irene’s side, his arms folded over his chest as he narrowed his eyes towards the captive. He knew that face anywhere; it was Graham’s special tracker boy.

“Yeah that’s him alright,” Benjamin answered with his partner as he huffed. “You having fun there Leon?”

Tajiface: “Quite a bit, actually,” Leon grinned. “Mariah, can we keep him?”

Mariah circled the bed with a fixed eye on the tracker. “I don’t know, Leon… He looks rather malnourished.”

Miller kept his head down and stayed quiet. He remembered those idiots demanding he joined their guild. All he had to do was wait for Barlet to get back from his stupid meeting, then this would all be over.

“He’s just a little underfed, a few days of eating right and he’ll be normal weight!” Leon pressed.

“What of his injuries? How much will all those cost?”

“They’re fine; the worst is a sprained ankle. Bed rest for a few weeks will heal it right up. Trust me; I gave him a good look over.”

Mariah paused to sigh. “He’s already part of a guild.”

“So what? We’ve commandeered members before.”

“Members who already lived here. Keeping someone captive is more trouble than it’s worth.”

Leon frowned. “He’s supposedly a good tracker. He led Graham to dragons in days while our best men spent weeks tracking them. And we need a new member to fill the vacant spot…”

This seemed to give the woman pause. She dubiously looked over Miller again. “We have trackers who are perfectly capable. Like I said, holding this one captive just isn’t worth the trouble.”

Leon pouted, hugging Miller close. “Oh come on Mariah, you haven’t let me do anything fun lately. At least let me recruit a member.”

Irene stepped forward, coughing politely. “If I may, ma’am. Graham seemed emotionally attached to him. Perhaps if he learned the tracker had come to us he’d appear within the near future. We could deal with him our way, instead of the pesky military butting in.”

Irene glanced to Benjamin, hoping the other would back her up. She wanted to see Graham dead, not rot away in some jail. Here they had the perfect bait, if they could only convince their superiors to go with it.

Maeeverglow: Those familiar orbs stared up at Benjamin, silently pleading for him to agree. He didn’t need the push however; he knew exactly what he needed to say.

“Graham kept this kid close for a reason. He…he killed for a reason,” Benji muttered, throwing an arm over Irene’s shoulder for comfort partially to comfort her and also to bring him comfort as well. “This Miller kid with bring that dick to us; and that way we can handle him in the only way worth the crime. Plus, he’s got his little friends poking around town. Maybe we can use him to mess with them too.”

Tajiface: (This is probably one of the longest replies I’ve ever written… I’M SO SORRY. I got these great ideas for everyone’s characters, though, and I just couldn’t stop >< Hopefully it’s not too boring!)

Mariah coolly stared at her subordinates, quietly considering the suggestions. She brushed fingers along her chin in thought and turned again to eye Miller. With a few clicks of her heels she approached the bed.

“I spoke with Barlet and the officers who interviewed you. I’m familiar with the details of your… situation. It seems this whole ordeal was influenced by events which happened long ago.”

She stopped and Miller knew she wanted some kind of response. He refused to look at her and opted to stare at the opulent threads on the shoulder of Leon’s suit.

“It’s none of you damn business.”

“I see why you like this one, Leon.” Mariah chuckled quietly. She stepped forward again, this time with a serious look. “Is it true Graham was severely injured when you escaped?”

Miller remained silent until Leon grabbed at his ankle again. The man held tightly this time, with intention to hurt, and Miller bit his lip so he wouldn’t cry out.

“Answer her, Miller. This all might work out in your favor if you cooperate.” Leon calmly explained.

He hated this. Again Miller felt helpless and weak. He ground his teeth as Leon continued to squeeze his burning ankle.

“A dragon clipped him in the ribs. He was feverish and too weak to think anything through.” Miller glared up at her.

Mariah drummed her fingers under her chin again. “Will Graham react if we enlisted you into our guild?”

“The hell are you talking about, enlisted?!” Miller managed to get the insult out before Leon silenced him, admonishing him for rudeness. He took a few shaking breaths, lulling the throbbing pain his ankle away, before he could answer. “I-I don’t know.”

“Liar!” Irene took a step forward but froze when Mariah shot her a glare. She clutched at her chest nervously, knowing she had spoken out of turn. “Wh-what I mean, ma’am, is the mutt could easily be lying to save his own hide. Graham seemed adamant about keeping Miller there… well, obviously.”

Silence followed with a lingering tension in the room. Miller thought this was a good sign, as every moment bought raised the odds of Barlet returning.

“Graham only wanted me there to make him money, nothing more.” Miller suddenly spoke up, determined to keep the indecision going. “It was a convenient situation for him at the time. He won’t come for me if his life’s in jeopardy.”

Mariah continued to strum her fingers in thought. It was Leon who moved first. He sat up, with Miller in his lap still, and lifted his chin to look into his eyes… At least, Miller guessed that’s what he was doing behind the sunglasses.

“Unlike Mariah I am not aware of your past dealings with this man. However, I am observant enough to see you’re conflicted over this.” He glanced over his shoulder at Mariah with a slight grin. “Despite my appearance I can be a pretty serious guy too, you know. I would venture to guess there are several factors weighing on your mind right now.”

“Nobody was accusing you of being a slacker, Leon.” Mariah sighed. She lowered her hand so she could cross her arms.

Leon shrugged and continued. “Regardless, putting aside my ignorance of your past and those involved with your predicament, I’d like you to consider a few things. For one, it was our people who resulted in your escape in the first place. You would probably still be there if it weren’t for them, and Ms. Lyra’s sacrifice.”

The serious tone was enough to keep Miller from shouting in outrage. Leon was engaging him in an actual conversation, giving enough respect to actually consider his opinions in the matter.

“You say that, but they’re the same as Graham.” Miller spoke evenly, narrowing his eyes at Leon. “You’re the same as him too. I don’t want to work for Graham or your thug guild.”

Leon smiled and tapped Miller’s nose. “Ah, which brings me to the next point. I can tell from your accent you’re not accustomed to a big city like this, right? Probably a small town in the mountains, if I truly had to guess. A town you miss dearly and wish to return. Only in a small town would your guild leader actually come looking for you. A city or somewhere too far away and they would have written you off as an enormous loss.”

“I don’t have an accent.” Miller grumbled.

Leon ignored the comment and continued on. “Honestly, you have no choice in the matter. I am far too infatuated with you to allow you to stay here-“

“Be serious.” Mariah groaned with a shake of her head.

He chuckled and dismissively waved a hand at her. “You’re coming with us back to the Ivory Daggers, you just have no say. Like you, we have too many factors riding on these strings of events to let this opportunity go. Our guild has a reputation to maintain and members to protect. We can’t allow someone who murdered one of our own to tarnish that protection. Ms. Irene and Mr. Benjamin are right; we must handle Graham our own way.”

Miller shifted uncomfortably. “Let the military handle justice, guilds have no place in it.”

“Ah, you definitely are from a small town then.” Leon sadly smiled. “I’m sure that mindset works in your little town, but here the law has a different definition. One which can be exploited rather easily.”

Miller frowned at memories of the past few months in Eastwyvern. Exploited was an understatement for the events with Bayelei’s mother. Leon’s statement sounded eerily similar to something Aaron would say. Miller suddenly understood why Aaron had such distaste for the military after living in the capital.

“I don’t want to be responsible for another man’s death.” Miller looked down, ashamed he felt this way after all Graham had done.

In a swift motion Leon hugged Miller tightly, squealing like an energetic fangirl. “Oh Miller, I’m going to marry you if you keep making statements like that-“

“Leon!” Mariah sharply snapped.

“Alright, alright, I apologize.” Leon said, releasing the embrace. He spoke low enough so Mariah couldn’t hear. “I am serious though.”

Miller stared in disbelief and tugged at the tape binding his arms. “Are you one of those people with multiple personalities?”

Leon placed a hand on Miller to still him and again the tone turned serious. He waited until Miller looked back at him. “Graham’s actions alone direct his fate, you are but an unfortunate bystander caught up in the flow.”

The words were oddly effective. The point strung against a deep feeling of guilt he had developed for some time now. Despite these people being lunatics Miller was starting to relax in their presence. He didn’t want to admit it to them, though.

“Miller,” Leon broke into his thoughts again. “You are coming with us, and voluntary or not you’re joining the Ivory Daggers. The question of your reaction to this event will determine your own fate. Should you not cooperate with us then we will treat you like a captive. We’ve done this before, it’s not an experience you want. Willingly work with us and you’ll see benefits a small town guild could never give you. Money, safety, and a home are only the beginning. Just from observing you I can tell you have a talent for observation, which is keen for tracking. That talent of yours will result in immense profit if you work with us. We provide top dollar jobs and top teams to carry out those jobs. In no time you could earn enough to pay off Lyra’s lost membership and a trip to anywhere in this savaged world.”

“I already have a home.” Miller replied darkly. The proposition was outrageous, and Leon presented it like some kind of opportune deal.

Leon was undeterred, and Miller suspected the man had expected him to answer this way. “Then work for that home. Call us your temporary family members and this family will help you achieve your goal of returning safely to your hometown.”

Miller found he was more tired than before, and this made it hard to think. The proposition was genuine enough to him. He didn’t trust Leon completely, but the honesty was enough to win Miller over for the time being… well, almost.

“What about my friends?” Miller asked.

“Oh, those others who are in town?” Leon looked to Mariah.

“Two of them have stolen jobs from us already, right under our noses. Utterly intolerable.” Mariah said with a sigh.

“Come now Mariah, look at the big picture here.” Leon ventured, endearingly gazing at his partner.

She placed a hand on her hip. “You didn’t let me finish. If your revenue outshines the jobs they take from us then perhaps I will overlook their meddling for now. Barlet, I am sure, will follow your location. However I will insist he stays close to our guild hall.”

“Oh? Is this man a person of interest?” Leon innocently asked.

Mariah winked at him, a smile growing on her face. “Let’s just say there’s more than one person who holds similar interests as us.”

Leon grew serious, nodding at her vague remark, and then turned back to Miller. “What’s it going to be?”

“Untie me already,” Miller stated. “I better not be working with the idiots who let Baila and Bayelei steal a job from them.”

Irene stared in awe at the turning of conversation. Leon squealed again, wrapping his arms around Miller in a silly fashion as the tracker glared. Inwardly she was glad Leon talked Miller into joining them without violence. Seeing the man in such a state, beaten and bandaged, reminded Irene of the cruelty Graham was capable of. She pictured Lyra, yet again, in the grip of death with Graham looming overhead. She wanted to see Miller healthy and happy. It was a desperate need welling up inside her.

She was so lost in her thoughts she hadn’t noticed Mariah’s presence next to her. The woman smiled at Irene and patted her shoulder.

“You should have more faith in your leaders, Irene.” Mariah softly said.

Irene stared in confusion for a moment. “Ma’am… did you know Leon would be able to convince the mutt to come with us?”

The Ivory Dagger guild leader winked and grinned. “Despite his odd personality Leon has quite a way with people. I am entrusting Miller’s care to him. You and Benjamin are to assist with any needs.”

“Yes, ma’am.” Irene gravely nodded. The events which lead to this big promotion squandered any feelings of accomplishment or pride she had.

“Should Graham appear I will send for the two of you. I understand Lyra was close to you and Benjamin… I will make sure you both have the revenge you require. Until then, Leon will be in charge of your assignments.” Mariah looked back at Leon and shook her head, exiting the room.

“Death isn’t enough for that bastard. I want to see him suffer, too.” Irene turned to Benjamin with a heavy look. “I believe Graham thinks he can just beat people enough until they submit to him. That’s why the mutt was tied up when we got there… It’s why he killed Lyra, to scare us into not interfering. He wants to beat people down so they’ll fear him for the rest of their lives. I’m going to make sure he gets a rude awakening, the biggest slap to his pride possible. I’m going to help Miller. I’m going to make sure that mutt is the happiest damn person on this planet, so Graham knows his whole life’s philosophy was meaningless.”

“Alright, kiddos, time to go!” Leon happily cheered. He walked towards the door with Miller awkwardly balanced in his arms. All the tracker could do was cling to the older man to keep from tumbling backwards.

“Don’t call us kiddos, you’re not that much older than us.” Miller shouted. “And put me down!”

Leon hummed. “The mutt is yapping so loudly, our neighbors at home will surely file noise complaints with the landlord.”

“Shut up!”

“Can you walk well?” Leon asked.

“Yes.”

Leon slowly allowed Miller to slip to the floor. The tiles felt cold to his bare feet, a welcomed contrast to the heated situation from before. He took a deep breath and stepped forward. The pain was too much, for both his sore feet and the ankle. He stumbled forward into the wall.

“…No.” Miller corrected his earlier answer with a sigh.

“Lucky for me!” Leon chirped, scooping Miller into his arms again.

Irene grinned as Leon followed after Mariah with the newest Ivory Dagger member. She turned back to Benjamin. “Are you ready?”

Maeeverglow: (Leon is my new fave; it’s official :3)

At first Benjamin was too lost in the moment to hear Irene’s words; he couldn’t help but think of Lyra. The pain was huge and even though things were working out with Miller; he wanted nothing more than to rip out Graham’s heart.

“Huh?” He blinked when he noticed Irene’s stare. “What was that?”

*~*~*~*~*

The smooth mahogany of the bar was welcome to Bayelei as she slumped in her stool; her head propped in her arms as she groaned. After confronting Kyle, she scurried there to be alone; the hunter avoiding the stares of others as she sunk before the bartender. The man gave a careful glance over her before remembering his job.

“What can I get ya, miss? You look like you’ve been through hell.”

Any other time, Bayelei would have sneered at such an offer for she did not like wasting her precious money on worthless things like booze. However, she was having a rough moment and needed a pick-me up.

“Get me the strongest drink ya got!” She announced without a care.

Tajiface: Baila walked into the bar with bravado, stalking over to the bar where she saw Bayelei. She approached just in time to hear the outlandish order.

“She’s just kidding,” Baila announced loudly. She took a seat next to the hunter and slammed down some money. “She wants water- The good imported stuff, not that junk from your well.”

She watched the bartender scurry away and waited a few moments before speaking. She prepared for Bayelei to be outraged with her intrusion.

“Sorry,” Baila said. “I heard you came this way. This bar is unique, you know. It has this reputation for being the lowest of the low, but really it’s just a sad little bar. I can’t leave a friend to sit here idly alone.”

~~

There were no smiles, no joking, and no feelings of relief. This reunion was different than previous ones for the two best friends. Miller sat on the back of a truck and dangled his legs over the edge. He was alone, Leon and the others apparently had one more errand to run at the military camp before departure. Small crowds of people walked by at different times, and after one had disappeared behind some barracks Aaron was in the distance.

Miller wordlessly watched his former guild leader stalk past the annoying soldiers, a look of irritation on his face. Aaron stopped a few feet away from Miller and looked the other over with a blank stare.

“Hey.” Aaron offered, though there was no cheerful tone.

Miller took a deep breath and leaned back. “Hey.”

At the common response Aaron ironically smiled and hopped onto the truck beside his friend. Neither said a word for a long while. Miller was unsure of what to say, or how to say it. Aaron, on the other hand, had several things he wanted to say, but knew better than to say any of them.

“So I guess you heard.” Miller ventured.

“Yeah, I heard. That bastard Barlet sure was smug about it. He kept going on about how a proper guild wouldn’t have allowed this to happen in the first place, and that you’re going to be better off in their service. I would be money he’s still preaching to Quellin the benefits of this new plan of his.”

“That asshole.” Miller leaned forward so he could rest his elbows on his knees. Despite feeling like dirt at the moment he grinned at that image, which would have been a typical argument between the two.

“At least one of the guild leaders is smoking hot,” Aaron said with a laugh. “Doesn’t hurt to be following orders from a babe like her.”

“The other one kind of cancels that benefit out.” Miller said with a shudder.

Aaron cringed with a laugh. “Yeah, even I have heard rumors of that one. Better watch your tail while you’re there.”

“I guess you won’t be around to have my back, then.” Miller replied seriously.

“What’s this? You think I’m going to just return to Eastwyvern with my best tracker stolen into the arms of another guild? Like hell I will.”

Miller looked hopefully back at Aaron. “So you’re going to stay?”

Then the usual Aaron returned. Not the capital-hardened shell that sometimes appeared in situations like this, with cynical and angry retorts to everything. His smile was genuine, the reassuring light returned to his eyes, and a confidence that could scaffold even the shakiest of plans. Aaron placed a hand on Miller’s shoulder.

“Hell yeah I am. Baila too… and I assume Bayelei will as well once Baila catches up to her. With all of us putting in money for this pretend debt the Ivory Daggers say you have then it’ll take no time at all to get out of here. We’re not leaving you alone that easily, Wendell would have my hide if I did.”

“I miss her the most.” Miller quickly said, changing the topic as he was too overwhelmed with gratitude to properly express it to Aaron.

“You won’t have to for long. Once we take care of Graham most of this will be behind us.”

The two sat in silence again. The coldness crept back into Aaron’s hardened expression. Miller wondered what thoughts were going through his mind. Did Aaron plan on murdering Graham as well? He certainly expressed desire to over the past few months when Graham interfered in Eastwyvern. This was probably the reason Aaron agreed to disband his membership so he could officially join the Ivory Daggers. He knew that was the real reason Barlet had met with Aaron earlier, to convince him to denounce his membership to the Eastwyvern Hunters.

A cold hearted plan like this would never have worked at home, in Eastwyvern. Their members would be completely against the idea of falsely pledging loyalty to a guild they didn’t believe in. All that deceit just to murder another human being. Aaron seemed content with this at the moment. Miller also wondered if Aaron had been forced into situations like this before at the capital. He imagined his best friend, whom he trusted and believed in with all his heart, had become the same as the vicious leaders in this town. He wanted Aaron to fight against this horrendous plan, not align himself with them. He hated the very idea that Aaron was capable of planning another man’s execution. He absolutely hated it.

Miller finally decided to say it. “I’m not sorry.”

Aaron looked at him critically, slightly narrowing his eyes at the sudden confession. It was a coldness Miller rarely received from his leader.

“I’m not sorry for any of it,” Miller repeated. “I’m not sorry for going with Graham in the first place, for saving Barlet’s life, or for not killing Graham while the bastard slept.”

“I didn’t think you would be.” Aaron calmly slid off the truck and brushed off any dirt which had collected on his clothes. He glanced further down the camp to see a small group of Ivory Daggers walking towards them.

“I’ll be leaving, then. I’ll keep in touch; you just focus on getting better for now. We’ll all be in Eastwyvern soon enough.” Aaron forced a cheerful demeanor as he turned to leave, but Miller knew him better than that.

“Aaron.” Miller paused and leaned back as he locked eyes with the other. “When you left before, you asked me to go with you to the capital. I was always torn between regret and acceptance over my decision to stay. I… really felt guilty over it all.”

“Why’re you bringing up such odd memories now?” Aaron asked in a light manner, trying to mask his uneasiness of the topic.

Miller continued in all seriousness. “I’m not guilty anymore. I’m glad I didn’t go with you. This new world we live in, I hate it. Humans fighting humans while everything is going to hell, it’s like these cities thrive on it. If I had lived in the capital it would have erased these values which make me human and changed me… like it did to you.”

Aaron’s eyes widened and he could only stare. He dumbly stood there while Ivory Dagger members piled into the pack of the truck with Miller. A man with sunglasses pulled Miller safely into the truck while another woman sat beside him, talking softly to no one in particular. Mariah joined them, struggling to climb into the back with her heels. The truck honked at a few passing walkers and drove off.

Aaron watched the empty space before him and wondered if he had lost something important.

Maeeverglow: (That was so intense! Very nice display from your characters. Mine’s gonna be short, sry)

A narrowed glare was all Baye could muster before she simply sighed and slumped further in her seat. “I guess I needed that. What are you doing here?”

Tajiface: Baila eyed the other carefully. She wasn’t the most perceptive person of the guild, but even she could pick up the signs.

“We have a change in plans… again. Miller’s an Ivory Dagger now, apparently.” Baila said casually. “Aaron seems to think this will help draw out Graham, however he’s a bit uneasy allowing Miller to join that guild’s ranks without someone to keep an eye on him. He’s wondering if you’d be willing to join the Daggers, at least in name, and help keep Miller out of more trouble.”

Maeeverglow: Tension rose within Baye’s person as she slowly turned her gaze fully on the intruder. Not only was Miller in danger again but an Ivory Dagger no less? “How the hell did that happen? I left him in Bar let’s care just awhile ago and now this…”

The bartender had stumbled over and settled two glasses before the women; however, the moment was met with the hunter taking up her glass and slamming it past him. Various curses sounded from the man while Baye howled in agitation, the woman slamming down money before bolting for the door.

Everything about this mission was sending her over the edge; now she was being asked to join a guild to protect the boy she’d already saved.

(You can have Baila follow, Baye will open up if pestered more in private)

Tajiface: Those in the bar watched in awe at the scene. Baila whistled at the outburst then set off after her companion with a grin.

“Woah, Baye, that was awesome! Hey- Wait up, I said before I’m not good at all this running!”

Maeeverglow: “Sounds like a personal problem to me!” Baye managed to shout over her shoulder at her pursuer; the hunter finding refuge at a neighboring building’s decrepit fire escape and without a second thought shot up the wall and perched herself up. Her legs dangled below as she pressed her arms on the bars and eyed Baila carefully. “In fact this whole ordeal was a personal problem from the start. Might I remind you I’m not a part of your damn guild? Might I remind you that I’m one of the reasons that boy is getting in so much trouble now? Might I remind you that I’m-.”

There was a pause again and Baye curled up more with a sigh.

“Baila, does Aaron know? Does Aaron know how Miller was found out?”

Tajiface: Baila bent her head back to stare up at the other woman. She crossed her arms and raised a brow.

“What do you mean ‘found out?’” She softened her tone a bit and continued. “Bayelei, if you don’t want to be here then I’ll go join the Ivory Daggers myself. Just say the word.”

Maeeverglow: “It’s not that I don’t want to be here; I didn’t mean to snap at you. I just-” Bayelei paused before slumping back with a frown. “Baila, the Ivory Daggers went out to Graham’s place because an informant to them about Miller: Kyle told them about Miller. The reason that boy is captured again is because the man I brought us here to betrayed my trust…therefore it’s my fault.”

She then lifted a wary eye to her friend. “Is Aaron going to kill me?”

Tajiface: “Was it that night he came back all beat up? I thought he was acting strange then, even despite the injuries.” Baila tilted her head in thought. “Look, I’m sure Kyle had his reasons. If my life was in jeopardy I’d gladly rat out someone I didn’t know without a second thought. That’s why Aaron won’t even bat an eye at this… He understands what life is like in places like this, I doubt he’d hold it against Kyle either. Also, it seems the situation has turned into our favor anyways.”

She paused and took a few steps closer. “It’s just a lesson learned, is all. We’re in a delicate situation; Aaron knew the risks when coming here. Your friend just happened to be one of those risks.”

Maeeverglow: A calm settled over the female hunter as she listened to her friend’s words. For some reason, Baila always had a way of calming her down and helping her see things her madness blinded her from. “I guess you’re right,” she whispered lightly before forming a half-grin. “You know, Barlet actually said I did a good job out in the woods; I’m convinced the madman’s on drugs.”

She allowed herself a moment to chuckle before she swung her body down to her friend’s side and gave a nod.

“I apologize for my outburst and all. I’m glad to be here helping you guys; I enjoy being even a temporary part of the team,” she stated with a hand outstretched to Baila. There were still lingering thoughts of her screw-ups and the events that made her question her return to Eastwyvern; however, she wouldn’t trouble Baila with it.

Tajiface: