Private Tales The Far Fallen..

A private roleplay only for those invited by the first writer

Neith

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The rain had been relentless for hours. Had she been indoors, watching it from her window as she so often did, she'd have found it peaceful. Instead she'd been sent out to work in this and warned not to return until she had acquired what was owed. It was a punishment for coin she'd lost a few days prior and she knew it. Cyrus had waited for the rain, she knew that too, because he was well aware that it done absolutely everything to hinder her abilities. On a dry day, Neith could smell magic a mile away, she could hear the thrum of it on the air, she could see it radiate from a person's skin. In this? She might as well have been blind. Her other set of eyes, in the form of a large black Raven, chose to perch himself in whatever shelter he could find along the way rather than keep close company.

She'd been to every tavern in the outskirts of Elbion looking for weasel of a man named Russo. Russo's debt had climbed considerably with interest, and he'd evaded Cyrus for almost a month. The crime lord had grown impatient, and so Neith had been sent out on the hunt. The sun had long since set when she found herself out on the dockyard. The torrential rain, buffeted by that cold, confident wind had swept the people from the streets hours ago in favour of shelter and warmth.

"Prick." she muttered to herself as she narrowed her eyes through the sheets of water, pulling her cloak tightly around her shoulders despite it doing absolutely nothing to warm her or keep her dry. The cold had crept into her bones, and strands of soaked, tawny hair lashed against her face. "Utter prick." she grumbled as she carried on.

Neith was a sitting duck out here, and those who knew her knew it too. Had she been able to hear or sense anything over the roar of rain against cobble and wood she'd have known she'd been followed for the past five minutes. Russo, the rat bastard, had known that he was being hunted, and had put together a little hunting party of his own, turning predator to prey with the aid of a small band of sell swords. The girl paused as one cloaked man stepped into the path ahead of her and turned to face her, his face shrouded in darkness, but she didn't have to see his face to know he was grinning at her.

Neith took a step back, and turned to steal herself into a side street behind the dock tavern, her gaze leaving the cloaked man a little too late to notice the towering half-orc stood in the alley waiting to grab her. She ran face first into the rock hard surface of his chest and fell back into a puddle to stare up at him as he gave a toothy grin down at her. "Hello lil mouse..." he grunted.

"Joruk." Neith greeted with unease, her brown eyes falling to the large club housed in his palm. Shuffled footsteps behind her caused her attention to shift to the man who'd followed, his white teeth stark against his ashen skin as he grinned down at her.

"Nice work Joruk." the dark elf purred. Joruk was hired muscle, sometimes he'd helped her, other times he hadn't, he had not a loyal bone in his body and simply worked for the highest bidder. The dark elf though, she didn't recognise, but the look he gave her sent a chill spider-walking down her spine. She'd been about to speak when a meaty hand gripped the back of her neck and hauled her up, clean off of her feet which kicked at the thin air. She let out a yelp, her eyes widening as steel was drawn. "Don't worry, we're not here to kill you. Just to, send you home to Cyrus with a message, that's all.. Come now hold still." he chuckled maliciously as he tore her from Joruk's grip and slammed her into the wall so hard the world spun.

"Get the fuck o---!" Neith screamed out, the echo of her words ringing through the alleyway after they were cut off by a hand slamming against her mouth. Cold steel pressed against her face, just underneath her right eye, the first ruby bead of blood forming against it.

"Right eye, or left? How bout both? Cyrus' little dog can't hunt if she can't see now, can she?.." he pouted, and pressed his body hard against her, crushing her to the wall. "Or perhaps we take the eyes last. Let you see what other fun we can come up with first."

She growled against his palm and bit down hard, her knee flying upward and into his crotch before attempting to make her run for it.
 

Cassidy Ackerson

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There was no easy way to slice it: Cassidy Ackerson simply didn't like Elbion. Granted he'd only bothered to travel to the enormous city two or three times in his life, it had already made a pretty rotten impression on the man. The elite and wealthy at Elbion's core would perhaps tell you that their fair city was different from anywhere else in the whole of great Arethil. Hell, maybe that was true, but the people in charge were exactly the same as almost anywhere else: Human-Supremacist gold hoarders.

The weather matched his mood, the rain showering the docks in thick sheets. Lacking much in the way of protection from the rain, Ackerson had pulled the old brown duster coat over his head, and cradled a shivering ball of fur in his arms. He'd found the black tabby cat a few months ago, wandering the base of The Spine all alone with matted fur and hardly any meat on her bones. He wasn't sure what had driven him to adopt her, but Mar, as he'd named her, had become his only friend in the last four years.

It'd been four years now... Born to a powerful family in charge of one of the more prolific trading companies in Dalriada, it was expected that he marry once he reached full maturity, and begin taking over some of his aging father's responsibilities.

Not everyone was happy with that idea; He'd been born out of wedlock, the son of his father's true love instead of the one he'd wed for politics. Rather than allow a dirty half-breed to replace her, his mother had ordered his bride to be and Cassidy himself to be slain. Ackerson had been tipped off and fled. His lover had not been so lucky. To cover for Cassidy's disappearance, it was declared that he'd killed his own fiancé before fleeing the Kingdom. Now any time he found himself in a particularly large town, he'd find the odd poster plastered with his face. It made him sick.

He wasn't going to take the risk today. He was only here for a night, hopping between some of the taverns that rested on the outskirts to cash in on tired travelers just arriving into the city. Swinging the door to the dockside tavern, he slides the soaked coat from his body. He'd taken to hooking it to the waistband of his trousers, so instead of hitting the floor, it hung uselessly from his waist. The little hole in the wall tavern didn't have much space to spare. A few tables and a bar was the bare minimum, he supposed. The place wasn't too busy aside from a suspiciously sober looking pair sitting around a table pushed into the corner.

He rose a curious eyebrow, pulling out a seat at the bar and setting Mar down on his lap. Throwing up a finger to the balding human behind the bar, he flashed his warmest smile to him, "Cheapest stuff you got. A bit of milk too, if you've got it." That last part always garnered him the funniest looks, but the bartender shrugged and poured him a tall glass of a bright yellow grog.

Scratching under Mar's chin, he coo's down at the cold tabby. "Sorry girl, not this time. I promise we'll visit a farm soon and you'll have a ball."

Mar mewled in response to his assurances, and Cassidy moved his hands into the dripping mess of fiery red hair on his head. He pulled it back, letting it hang off the back of his head while it dried out before reaching for his grog and downing a few gulps of the sour tasting drink. Gah, you really did get what you pay for... but he needed a little buzz.

It made him laugh to think anybody would even recognize him from a wanted poster. The guy on the poster looked like a powder-faced, prim and proper rich boy. Four years on the road changed a man; His hair hung low over his ears, and he didn't bother to tie it anymore. The little bit of facial hair he had begun to grow out stuck out even more because of it's bright color.

Mar hopped gracefully over onto the stool beside him, curling up to nap. Cassidy couldn't help but grin at his feline friend. He'd have to remember to spoil her soon, as she'd been so well behaved on this little trip to Elbion.

He sat and nursed his drink, and then another one. The entire time, the pair sitting in the corner wouldn't stop their noisy murmuring. They took turns looking out the window, like they were waiting for somebody. Cass didn't think much of them when he'd came in, but their behavior was troubling. One of them wore a hood, and in the shoddy lighting of the tavern, he wasn't able to see under it. The larger one was hoodless however, and looked to be orcish in nature. This wasn't just some group of water-swilling college students...

Cassidy knew a pack of wolves when he saw them. They'd been set on him enough. He felt a small frown grow on his lips, his teeth clenching. The thing many people didn't realize about sending packs of wolves to take out your prey was that if one isn't careful, they might create a predator that will fight back.

He placed his drink back on the bar, but did not order another. Instead, he tapped the surface of the bar to get the man behind it's attention. "S'cuse me sir. Somebody should have left a package here for me. Under the name Mar Ingress. Could you see about that?" The old man nodded, looking Cassidy over with only a modicum of suspicion before making a show of taking his money-box with him. Normally Ackerson would have found humor in that lack of trust, but his mind was focused on the impending fight he intended to instigate.

The man stationed at the window raised a hand to the orcish one, and Cassidy watched as the smaller one shuffled out of the front door of the Tavern. Whoever they were waiting for was approaching. The Orc shot Cassidy a look, perhaps a silent warning not to interfere, before leaving through the backdoor the bartender had shuffled into. Were they cornering somebody into the alley? Cass swore and scooped Mar up. "Naptime is over, Mar. Somebody's about to be in some serious trouble."

The bartender would emerge from the back with what appeared to him to be a sword of some kind in a leather sheath. He would also find that the redheaded patron had leapt over the bar, and was pulling his jacket back on. Cassidy didn't even cast the man a glance, reaching out and taking the sword in his hands before pushing past him and out the back door he'd seen the Orc leave through.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"Right eye, or left? How bout both? Cyrus' little dog can't hunt if she can't see now, can she?"

The two of them had a girl pinned against the wall of the tavern, a blade to her face and hands wandering places they really shouldn't be. The thin, smaller man was a type he hadn't seen in a long time... Dark Elves weren't common sight, after all. The Orc was just muscle, it seemed; The elf was the one who was worrying Cassidy most with his behavior, as he hid behind the corner, waiting for the right moment to intervene. He couldn't afford to take too much time to plan.

He pats the lump of feline hidden in his coat, and Mar's head pokes out of his clothes to watch.

"Or perhaps we take the eyes last. Let you see what other fun we can come up with first."

Cassidy's eyes went wide as the girl drove her knee up into the elf's nethers. Damn, what a shot! If there was anytime to act it was now. Mar sprang from his jacket, screeching as it sprang out at the elf with claws drawn. Cassidy drew his blade from it's sheathe, revealing himself and stepping out into the alley as well. The sword was a sky blue color, with silver designs running up it's sides. The one thing Cassidy had brought with him from his upbringing was Damascus, and it hadn't failed him yet. Rushing towards the Orc with the blade raised over his head, he instead dropped to the ground and slid low, his feet aimed at the top-heavy creatures ankles.

Neith
 
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Neith

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Everything was a rain-washed blur. The screech of a cat, the shock of red hair, and the blue glint and song of a drawn blade. It caught her two assailants off guard as much as it did her.

Neith turned on her heels and stumbled backward, her wet hair clinging to her face, her quick breaths tiny white plumes on the frigid night air. Her dark eyes squinted as she tried to make sense of what in fuck's name was happening. The dark elf was flailing around with a cat clawing at his back, cursing loudly as the little creature's needle like claws raked at him. Neith winced as she watched him throw himself back against the damp wall aiming to crush the feline, though the cat leaped from his back just in time and the elf grunted furiously.

For a moment, both the elf's gaze and Neith's were on the red haired man as he rushed toward Joruk, but the sound of Neith's foot taking a step backward caused the pair's eyes to meet again, and the look he gave her was pure venom. He stepped toward her, his eyes pinning her to the spot for a moment, as though he could detect every muscle tightly bound to flee. Neith was, and always had been, exceptionally quick on her feet. She seemed to move with a fluidity, as though her feet barely touched the ground, and her agility had often gotten her out of scrapes such as these. But none of that mattered.

She turned swiftly to flee when she felt his grip, not physically, but like a clawed hand on her very mind, scraping against, puncturing and ensnaring every sense, every nerve and muscle and setting them alight. The pain was blinding, and whether he forced her to her knees or she went there herself, she didn't know, but she crumbled like sand and slammed her hands to her head as a scream tore itself from her throat. He held it for long enough for her to muscles to weaken. She couldn't run, she couldn't move, and he picked her up with ease and slammed her back against the wall with a sneer of impatience.

Joruk fell for the feint. He was too late to move, and could only lift one massive foot to stamp down on either the man, or his blade, but not before it had sliced through one of his ankles. The roar that he let out dwarfed any sound Neith had made, a deep, thunderous rage that shook the bones of whomever was close enough to hear it. The club he wielded rose up to come plummeting down, aiming for the man's skull before he crumpled against the wall.
 

Cassidy Ackerson

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Damascus slid through Joruk's flesh like hot steel through butter; Cassidy had never doubted his trusty metal companion for a moment. His outstretched foot collided with the other ankle as he slid, his boot meeting his bone with a sickening crack and sending the big oaf to the ground even faster than he already was headed there. He did manage to get a swing of that mean looking club off though, and Cassidy saw it just a second too late; He turned his body, letting the club meet his shoulder in return for the safety of his skull. A fair trade, but the pop he heard in his shoulder blade accompanied with the searing pain that came soon after seemed to disagree with him.

"Geez, what is that thing made of?" He hissed to himself, rolling to his feet with his left arm hanging limply at his side. He was lucky it wasn't his sword arm, but it wasn't going to be much use for a while. Still, the orc-like fellow was down, and with one sliced ankle and the other kicked in, he doubted the brute would be getting to his feet anytime soon enough to stop Cassidy from getting that girl out of here. He felt Mar run up his leg and into his jacket, and his head spun around to look for his mark.

The damned elf had her again, pinned against the wall and glaring at her as though that was going to do anything besides piss Cassidy off even more, if he could even see through his rage to notice the fiery-headed merc. The elf didn't worry him though, not as much as the look the girl had on her face. He'd seen that far off blankness in somebodies eyes before... and he knew just then that what he'd written off as 'glaring' was something much more dangerous. "Damned mindtricks." Leaning down, he grips Damascus with his good hand and lifts it up over his shoulder. "I'm a bit jealous, she's getting all the attention." He muses to Mar, before setting off into a run.

He could have taken a swing with the shining blue blade raised high in the air and cut the elf down, but Cassidy preferred not to kill, even if the rat probably deserved far worse. If he was lucky, the asshole would be too focused on torturing the girl to defend himself. Holding Damascus upright, he winds back as he reaches the pair of them, swinging his fist at the elves face and using the hilt of his blade as a knuckleduster.

Neith
 
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Neith

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The sounds of pain and injury were lost to her, the edges of her vision blurring and the rest of the world washing away like a dreary painting left out in the rain, now clouded and indistinct. She couldn't even hear what the dark elf said to her as he crushed her throat in his grip and lifted his blade back toward her face, her own heart pounding so hard in her ears that the rest of the world was muted by it.

Neith's muscles felt weighted, pinned to stillness by some invisible force and there was not a thing she could do but brace herself for the inevitable pain and whimper as the elf pressed the blade's edge into her mouth. The corners of her mouth stung, and her eyes closed as she felt his arm brace to slice her a new, wider smile when he suddenly let go and she fell to the ground with nothing to hold her up.

She cowered for a moment before peeking out at the thud of the elf's muscular form splashing into the dimpled alleyway, flailing dizzily as he tried to reach for the blade that had clattered at her feet. Neith's foot kicked out, her boot slamming into his face and sending him sprawling onto his back before she picked up the blade instead.

Adrenaline surged in her veins, propelling her forward and onto him, his own blade pressed against his ashen throat, though as much as she enjoyed the terror of inevitability pale his dark features, she didn't cut. The girl bared her teeth at him, her breaths hissing as she fought the urge to kill him then and there. Instead, her dark brown eyes bleached of all colour and swirled like smoke on glass. The elf cried out immediately, the same swirling mist in his own widened gaze as he stared up at her, his entire body rigid and his fists clenched, his face contorted in a rictus of agony and the tendons of his neck taught bow-tight.

After a few seconds, the elf tried to scream, but no sound was thrown from his lips and instead came a tendril of light that Neith seemed to breathe in for a short moment before it was gone. The elf passed out, his body shivering as it lay there in the rain, and Neith stood quickly to stumble into the wall to lean as she violently hurled up the contents of her stomach into the street.

"Thank you.." she called out above the sound of wind and rain after a moment, her arms still braced against the wall as she dragged in a few breaths and shuddered them back out again, her body shaking as she tried to make the elf's magic settle. She dragged the back of her wrist across her lips before turning to squint at the stranger, a tear of blood rolling down her cheek from the small nick under her eye as she watched him, and glanced over the two slumped bodies of her attackers.
 

Cassidy Ackerson

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Cassidy couldn't have asked for a more solid hit; The elf had been way too absorbed in torturing his victim to pay any attention to his blind spots, and the jagged hilt of Damascus crashed into his cheek, it's edges slicing the ashen flesh of his face. He went down in a heap, and Cassidy spat at him. "That's no way to charm a lady, asshole." Of course, he'd been careless once again. In the moment he looked away to ensure that the other man was still down, the elf sprung for his blade, and Cassidy was wide open.

He heard the sickening collision of cracking bone, and swung his head back to see the wild eyed girl, having delivered a vicious kick to the bastard's sleazy face. Reflexively, his face cringed in involuntary sympathy. Ouch. He collapsed helplessly onto the uneven stones of the alley, his face bloodied and broken as reward for his unsavory actions on this night.

The elf wasn't out of the woods yet either. The girl had brandished a blade and sprung onto him with the edge trained on his neck. The red-head sprung forward, dropping his sword behind him. Nobody was dying on his watch tonight, even if they deserved to twice over. He couldn't expect to be able to pull her off reliably, not when she was this distraught and he this injured. Thankfully, he ended up not having to worry about such a thing, because instead of the telltale death gargle of a slit throat that he knew too well, he heard a piercing scream

She hadn't cut the man. At least, not his throat. No, something else was happening, and Ackerson slid to a stop. There was a bright light seeping out of his mark's face, seemingly being captured by that of the girl he'd just stuck his neck out for. Cassidy was anything but an expert on magic and all that spiritual mumbo-jumbo. He had no clue what he was watching, but he did have one prominent question running circles through his mind now:

What the hell did he just save?

It didn't matter. He fell back on his ass as the girl scrambled off of the elf to hurl her lunch onto the street. He watched her with eyes both wary and curious. Whatever she was, she would live another day. Cassidy only wished he would stop being reminded of his own foolishness by the throbbing pain in his shoulder, and the thumping of his heart in his ear. He'd been reckless, seeing himself in a girl being ganged up on. Now he was going to be out of action until his arm healed, and that meant no money coming in.

He heard her voice, calling out to him through the sound of the sheets of rain bombarding every surface around them, a cacophony of white noise. Coughing a bit, he responds. "Yeah..." He reaches out, grabbing his discarded sword and using it as a crutch, to haul himself back to his feet with a groan. "I don't like two-on-ones. Thought I'd even things up, that's all." He quipped sarcastically.

His feet were still wobbly, the aftermath of his adrenaline surge taking a toll on him. Even so, he made his way over to her on at least one steady foot. They couldn't afford to stick around; He offered the girl his hand. "They aren't dead, and we need to be far away when somebody finds them. Come on, I know a place."

Neith
 
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Neith

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Neith let her head fall back against the wall and a shuddered laugh tumbled from her bloody lips at his quip. She closed her eyes and let the rain wash over her face as she tried to decide whether or not she had to throw up again. Even how hard her heart was hammering at her ribs was nauseating. She dragged in slow, deep breaths and spit the blood from her mouth as she glanced over the two still forms as the stranger spoke before her attention settled on the offered hand.

She considered for a moment, her dark brown eyes narrowing through the heavy droplets as she stared up at him. Neith hadn't realised that he'd gotten himself injured until she studied him, the way his arm hung at his side, and her brow furrowed, unused to people helping her at all let alone getting themselves hurt in the process. It was enough to gain him enough of her trust for her to reach out and take his hand, but she didn't leave the little alleyway until she had deftly looted the pair of anything of worth.

"Lead the way I guess." she shrugged, praying to the Gods that whatever this place was had a fire.
 

Cassidy Ackerson

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As he pulls her up with a tight grip on her hand, he looks her over briefly. She was a bit bruised and bloodied, but they'd done much worse to the other guys. Once she's steady on her feet, he releases her hand and watches her as she begins to ruffle through the clothing of their two downed adversaries. "Careful with the orcish one." He began, gripping the wrist of his injured arm and raising it up before pushing back and applying pressure until he felt his shoulder pop loudly into place. He bites back a pained yelp, and finishes his warning. "I only messed his legs up, so he might have use of his arms if he hasn't passed out."

Of course, based on what he'd just seen, this lady could take care of herself in a fair fight. He gives an experimental roll of his shoulder, and immediately regrets it. Pain still radiated from the joint, and he sharply pulls his arm back down. It'd have to wait, until they were safe. Once she was done pilfering away at her attackers, he led her out of the alley and further up the dockyard. He kept them close to the walls, never wandering out into the open road for fear of further searchers for her. He didn't know who she was, but obviously somebody didn't want her around right now.

The place they finally arrived at looked like nothing but an old house, with no markings of a business or tavern on the outside. Surely he wasn't trying to sneak them into somebodies residence? He holds a hand up, as if telling her to step back, before giving the door a 'shave and a haircut' knock. The door almost immediately swung open, a rather rotund human in sleeping clothes squinting at Cassidy on the other side. He looked to be a good deal older than either Cassidy or his new acquaintance appeared to be, and he spat out angrily at him. "Is it done already, Ackerson? Why are you bothering me this late?"

Cassidy put on the most genuine smile he was able. He had no love for Jimo, or the people he tended to shelter here. Even so, as Cassidy's current employer it was in Jimo's best interest to give him whatever he needed. "There's been a slight delay, had to fight off a couple of thugs down the road. They took one of my arms out of action, so I'll need to--"

"Health insurance wasn't part of the damned deal, Cassidy! I paid you good and well to find out where Cyrus is, not get in bar fights.

Cassidy quickly raises a hand to his mouth and coughs, an eye looking over towards Neith. "I know, listen... I'll cut my pay in half for this. I just need space for my associate and I to rest, at least until those thugs aren't crawling around anymore." Cassidy hadn't told Jimo anything about an associate, and the large fellow's eyes narrowed accordingly. He was obviously too tired to argue further, however. He grumbles "Stay here." and closes the door.

Cassidy turns to Neith and sighs. "Alright. Think that did it. While we wait for our esteemed host, I'd say introductions are in order. I'm Cassidy Ackerson, sword for hire. The big boy inside is Jimo, my current 'contract-holder'." He cradles his injured arm in one hand, continuing. "Look, I heard those goons saying you work for Cyrus, but as far as I'm concerned you aren't the one I'm after. I won't say a word."

Neith
 

Neith

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Joruk was blacked out and still snarling quietly. He'd been busy, judging by the two fat coin purses that hung from his belt. She stowed them both away along with the other she'd found on the elf, and she slipped his dagger inside her cloak, her fingers never far from it as they scurried through the dark streets and alleyways. Her muscles protested every step she made, but the paranoia that lurked around every corner kept her moving. She had no idea how many men were out looking for her and despite her reservations, it was in her interest to get somewhere safe as quickly as possible.

She peeked up from under her hood to look over the building they'd arrived at, her gaze narrowed against the lashing rain as she took a step back and waited with apprehension. Neith was not in the habit of following strangers to strange places. She was more aware than most of the darker side of the city, and trust wasn't a wise thing to offer. Still, he'd helped her and saved her from a far worse evening, and she wouldn't make it to the other side of the city without resting first, not whilst she was being hunted.

Neith took another half step back as the door opened and the man barked out in disgruntlement, her dark eyes moving between the pair as they spoke.

I paid you good and well to find out where Cyrus is, not get in bar fights.

She froze, the name striking like a flint on the man's tongue and sparking an answering panic in her chest. Was he looking for her too? As soon as the door closed and she regained the ability to move, she took another step back, staring at Cassidy with a wary frown. "Is that why you helped me? So that you could use me to get to Cyrus?.." she asked cautiously, a bite of frustration in her tone.

Another step back and her legs buckled, though she only just managed to stay upright, her body shaking so violently it hurt. "Because it won't work." her head shook.
 

Cassidy Ackerson

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Cassidy may have been naïve sometimes, but he wasn't an idiot. He knew damned well that just asking the girl to follow him this far was pushing the limits on how much one trusts a stranger. He'd been hoping to perhaps broach the topic of who he worked for once the two of them were safe inside, but now it would appear to his new acquaintance that he'd been hiding the information from her. He should have come out with it sooner. He raises his hands as she steps back.

"Hey, if I wanted you to tell me where he was, why would I have bothered jumping in?" The answer was simpler than he made it sound. Even if he'd been planning to use her to get to his mark, he wouldn't have abided by those two's methods. Ackerson liked to pride himself on standards, for lack of a better term. He continued: "I don't know what the hell is going on with Cyrus and the rest of this armpit of Elbion, but it smells. Until I know more and until my arm is healed, that whole thing is on hold. Besides, there's probably more where those two came from, and if you have an idea of who sent them, maybe I can tell you what I know. A lot of people pass through here."

Mar's furry black head pokes out of Cassidy's jacket, looking towards the door with a curious mewl. Cassidy swears and peeks through the window. "Look, he's coming back. You can either stay out here and risk getting mugged again, or you can let me help you. All I want in return is to know what the hell is going on in this city. Sound fair?"

Before she had time to answer, the door to the nook swung open again, and the rotund fellow named Jimo gestured the two of them inside. "In. Last room on the left, and don't bother me until morning." Cassidy gave the man his best suck-up smile and nodded. "Of course, Jimo. We're very grateful. Soon as I can move my arm, I'll be out of your hair, on my word."

He turns to look at the girl, nodding for her to follow, if she's made her choice.

Neith
 
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Neith

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Neith's gaze narrowed at him through the merciless deluge of rain, so weak she was just about shoved aside by a confident gust of it. He had a point, but she continued to stare at him in scrutiny as she considered, her expression softening as she saw the cat's face peeking out of his jacket. Her lips pressed into a thin line as she huffed and moved back toward him.

"Fine. But I can handle myself, in case you plan on trying any funny shit." she scowled. She looked back toward the door as Jimo appeared again, leaving the door open for them, and her teeth latched onto her lower lip to chew on it idly, the skin there already ragged and torn from the habit. Neith groaned to herself and trudged up to the door, glancing up and down the street before finally following Cassidy inside, puddles of water marking their trail to the last room on the left.
 

Cassidy Ackerson

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"Funny shit. Right." Cassidy repeated with a small sigh. That, unsurprisingly, hadn't won him any points, and he knew it damned well. He'd have to figure out a way to prove his trustworthiness to her at some point if they were going to get anywhere, like learning her name, but for now he was more than satisfied that she relented and followed him inside. The small little nook had a larger interior than could be inferred from the outside, but it was cramped, at least the main room was. There was a fire going strong, but there wasn't much in the way of sitting room in the small den. It was littered books, boxes and chests. There did seem to be a small place cleared out directly in front of the fire, and an old rug sat in place there.

There were two hallways, one looked to open up at the end, and Jimo could be heard speaking to somebody inside. The hallway going straight back seemed to be the one they were directed to though, and indeed there were two doors on the left, and one on the right. Voices could be heard through the other doors, quiet murmurs and the odd bit of laughter. Cassidy seemed to know where he was going, and he ushered her into the last room on the left first.

It was a small room, but it looked as though Cassidy had already been set up with it. A small window peeked outside, over a small wash basin and a shelf with various cans and containers on it. It looked like there had once been an oven beside the bit of food, but it seemed to have been removed for some reason. Instead there was a chest, seemingly filled with spare clothes of Ackerson's.

There was only one bed, but Cassidy had already set off on pulling a sleeping roll out of the chest, rolling it out onto the floor. Surprisingly, it looked to be one of considerable quality.

"Here we are, this one should keep me warm enough for the night. Hopefully my damned shoulder feels a little better by morning..."

Cassidy slides out of his damp jacket, tossing it next to the wash basin as Mar falls to the floor and shakes her fur. "So, I gotta ask, and I'm not trying to be pushy..." Ackerson begins, stretching out before lowering to sit on the floor, favoring on shoulder. "Who are you? Why the hell were Russo's bootlickers after you?" He raises a hand, stopping himself and closing his eyes. "More important question. Are you really okay?"

Neith
 

Neith

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Neith was quiet as she followed Cassidy through the hallways, her feet squelching slightly as she walked. Neith's heightened senses honed in on the voices and she listened for the familiar thrum of magic, her nose pulling at the air in search of it's metallic taint. It was habit, but a useful one. If there were any around her with magic in their veins, she'd know.

She stood watching him by the closed door after the paid had stepped into the room, her arms wrapped around her shivering form as the water dripped from her clothes and hair. "I'm alright." she answered firstly and let out a shuddered breath. "Just, cold.." And tired. So tired.

Her eyes fell to the cat and her lips tugged into a small smirk as she crouched and held out a hand toward it.. "I'm not really anybody.." she shrugged in answer to Cassidy's other questions, a wary glance up at him, but her attention quickly returned to the cat, somewhat soothed by its company. "My name is Neith. Russo owes Cyrus a fair bit of coin and knew I'd be trackin' him." she frowned. "Pretty sure Cyrus knew that too. I can't, track well in the rain..." her head shook, and she muttered a quiet curse under her breath.

She felt the warm bead of blood trail down her cheek from the small nick under her eye and quickly wiped it away with the sleeve of her jacket, and licked at the still stinging and bloody corners of her mouth. "Thank you, for steppin' in.." she murmured awkwardly.

"Is your arm alright?.."
 

Cassidy Ackerson

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Cassidy's expression changed as he watches Neith stroke Mar's drying fur, seeing his feline companion make a new friend was a dash of wholesomeness that he'd been sorely missing these last few months, and he couldn't help but crack a little smile, his hand sliding from his arm. "She likes you... she's usually really shy." He says softly. A tiny little chuckle bubbles up from his throat, and all of a sudden he collapses onto his back with a huge sigh and a loud thump.

With the matted red hair on his face, and his arms and legs splayed out as he stares at the ceiling with a contented smile on his face, he really looked like little more than an overgrown boy in that moment. It was all the stress of the day; Jimo's overbearing demands to track down a powerful figure in a couple day's time, the unexpected fight, and now the relief of knowing he'd managed to not get the girl killed... it all crashed down on him at once. "Neith." He repeated, slowly rising on his good arm to get a good look at her. The oversized rag of a shirt that hung loosely on his chest, and the patched trousers to match both made him look like little more than a vagabond. Nevertheless, her words seemed to light a fire in his eye.

"I used to say I was nobody too..." He pushed himself to his knees, then swung a leg to rise to his feet unsteadily. "But claims like that are fallacy. We've all got a place in the world. For me, it just so happened to be pulling you out of there." He watches her as he stretches, before wandering over to the chest by the bed. Dropping to one knee, he cracks it open digs around inside of it. "I don't know what this 'tracking' is... but I think I can help you out, maybe pay you back for the company. That's few and far between these days." He pulls out a dry jacket and a towel, and stumbles back up, turning around to hand them to her. The poor girl was shivering...

"Here, take these. I've got dry clothes, but they ain't likely to fit you. I'm a little bigger, I think." He attempts to joke. When she frees his hands, he raised one and places it back on his arm. He was thankful that she was concerned about him, but he'd really asked for it. He'd been reckless, angered by the idea of a couple of guys ganging up on one lady. How cliché. "Naw, it'll be alright. It's really my fault for getting all chivalrous and headstrong. I jumped in like an idiot, knowing those two could probably wipe the floor with me."

He takes a step back, giving her some space before he continues.

"Sounds like Cyrus did you just as dirty as Russo. Somehow doesn't surprise me, but... Tell you what." He leans back against the wall with a soft grunt. "Russo stops by here pretty often. If you were lookin' for a lead, maybe this little meeting will be good for us after all."

Neith
 
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The little cat seemed to enjoy her attention as it paced back and forth, butting its head against her crouched knees and brushing itself against her legs, purring as she scratched at its ears. Neith's expression brightened, and a breath of a laugh tumbled from her lips, her brown eyes narrowing with warmth. "I like her too." she nodded slowly at Cassidy, feeling somewhat drawn to the purring creature.

She glanced up as he repeated her name and nodded, catching his gaze and watching him for a moment as he rummaged around but his words were met with an incredulous huff. "My place is not as gallant.." she commented dryly and slowly stood to hesitantly accept the towel and jacket. "Oh." she frowned gently at the gesture. Kindness was not a common thing in her little corner of the world, and Neith seemed a little lost for words for a brief moment before shaking her head and remembering her manners.

"Thank you." she smiled, glancing to the bed roll on the floor. "But please don't let me put you out of a comfortable bed. You've done enough." she laughed under her breath, shrugging out of her wet jacket and down to her vest which clung to her damp skin.

She dried off as much as she could and rubbed the towel through her hair as he spoke of Russo and Cyrus, an irritable growl rattled free of her throat. "Mh, I lost Cyrus some coin. He said it didn't matter and that I could make up for it by finding Russo. I know exactly how he intended on my night going. Why beat me himself when there are plenty other brutish bastards on the street happy to do it for him?.." her head shook.

Her brow quirked at his mention of Russo and she gave a slow, thoughtful nod.. "Aye, perhaps it will." she smiled. Neith tossed the damp towel back to him and slipped into his dry jacket, pulling it tightly around her with a soft sigh at the comfort, and knelt back down to empty the coin purses she'd taken from the two in the alleyway. She slid the coins around and stacked them, counting her takings before divvying them back into their respective pouches and looking up to toss one of them over to him without a word.

"So he sent you lookin' for Cyrus hm?... What's he want him for?.." she asked cautiously. "You don't..have to tell me, I get it if you don't trust me. But you likely saved my life, I ain't about to sell you out to that Prick." she smirked.
 

Cassidy Ackerson

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Mar may have just been a cat, but she'd proven time and time again to have a damn good judge of character. Seeing her take such a liking to Neith, mewling up at Cassidy as she curled around the woman's legs, he felt pretty confident that he'd made the right call himself. The little moment of speechlessness from her was met with an amused flash of teeth in her direction. Cute girl, he couldn't help but thinking. She could pack a hell of a punch too, from what he'd witnessed earlier.

He raised a hand, waving it behind his head to dismiss her insistence on him using the bed. "Bullshit. You got mugged, so you're sleeping tight tonight. Doc's orders, alright?" He turned back around towards the shelf as she dried herself, pulling some bandage off of it and sliding the baggy shirt off his torso, swearing silently as he tried to lift his arm free, having to try several times before he was able to barely eek his injured arm out of confinement. His shoulder was definitely set in a weird position, a small dimple where it connected his arm to his neck. Already it was swelling and red.

"You ever consider..." He began, as he attempted to wrap his arm tight enough to relieve some of the pain until he could get looked at proper. "Maybe you just ain't found your real spot, yet? There's a lot more out there than just Elbion, you know." He didn't know Neith's situation, and he assumed there was something keeping her here. Even so, he couldn't help feel like there had to be more for the obviously different girl than this. Her insinuation that the guy who was supposed to be her boss would be the one to put her in that situation made him pause his wrapping and turn back to her. Aside from his shoulder, there didn't look to be any other wounds on his chest. "That wasn't a beating they were getting ready for. That was something much, much worse." His face twisted in disgust, and he averted his eyes from her at the thought.

He hadn't liked Russo since the day he got here. The prick was so full of himself, talking to Cassidy like one of his brownnosers. He whistles for Mar, who purrs and trots over to him. "Well, I'm technically not supposed to know the 'why' part of things. I'm just paid to do the job." He leans down, scooping Mar up in his good arm. "However... You could say I hear things." He grins over at her mischievously, as Mar's fur begins to glow faintly, the cat staring up at Cassidy intensely. Bit by bit, Neith would begin to see through the cat's body until eventually, it dissipates into nothing but a faint glimmer, and then nothing.

"My familiar works as a pretty damn good eavesdropper, you know." Mar wasn't just a cat, she was an extension of Cassidy's being: A piece of him that could split apart and live on her own. In Cassidy's case, a very specific piece. "Jimo's looking to cut Cyrus a deal. Something massive, so big he won't even say it in his own house." He walks towards Neith, leaning in close and lowering his voice to a hush. "Russo's in on it too, and my educated guess? You were in the way somehow. Neith, I think tonight was a concerted effort to take you out of the picture permanently."

Neith
 
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"Ah, I've had worse.." she laughed quietly as he used her attack as an excuse for her special treatment, and her shoulders lifted and sagged with a sigh in resignation. "But alright, thank you." she nodded with a soft smile in gratitude as she sat on the edge of the bed.

"You ever consider..." He began, as he attempted to wrap his arm tight enough to relieve some of the pain until he could get looked at proper. "Maybe you just ain't found your real spot, yet? There's a lot more out there than just Elbion, you know."

Her head tilted, her brown eyes narrowing softly as she considered. "Yeah, I know. I've seen much of it." she smirked, but her eyes were a window to her bone deep sadness at just how far she had fallen and how so very trapped she felt. "It's, complicated." she frowned and pursed her lips. "My father was a spice merchant. I used to accompany him on his trips. From Amol Kalit, to Alliria, Vel' Anir all the way down the Cortosi coast." she smiled. "I grew up in Oban, but much of my time was spent travelling."

Neith didn't comment on what the pair may or may not have been prepared to do to her in the alleyway and only caught his gaze for a moment before letting it fall to the floor with an awkward twisting of her lips and a slight shrug. It wasn't the first time people had been handsy with her, and she'd had a few too many brushes with death thanks to her line of work. It was simply the way it was, and there wasn't much point in complaining about it.

"Well, I'm technically not supposed to know the 'why' part of things. I'm just paid to do the job." He leans down, scooping Mar up in his good arm. "However... You could say I hear things."

Her brown eyes widened slightly, a slender brow quirking at the sight of the feline's glowing fur. "Ah." Neith grinned and a soft chuckle tumbled from her lips. "I knew I sensed something.. That's impressive magic." she complimented with a warm smile. "And pretty cute too." she mused as she watched the cat dissipate.

She pulled her feet up onto the bed and hugged her knees as Cassidy explained what he'd heard. Her head shook slowly, her gaze narrowed and distant as she chewed idly on her lip. She let a pregnant silence fall between them before she swallowed and looked back at him.. "I.." she shut her mouth again. Should she really be trusting a random stranger with the information she'd been about to spill?..

What if he was right?...

"There's a drug, called Lyrum. Blue powder. It's, basically pure magic. Mages use it to strengthen their magic and here it's, well you can imagine it's pretty popular. But it's killing their natural magic off, and soon they rely on the Lyrum entirely. There's only two people who know how it's made, and that's me and my father.. Years ago, my father and I wound up on the streets and he wound up owing Cyrus some money. He was going to have his cronies beat me and whatever else, and we had no money so he offered his services instead, and mine. I can sense magic, it was helpful.." she rubbed at her face. "So we've worked for him ever since. But I think he knows that I've been trying to get my father out. I'm the only one he has left, if I'm out of the equation then I suppose he doesn't have to worry about my father going anywhere.." her jaw clenched.

It made sense. She hadn't lost that coin at all, she'd paid a ship's captain for passage, and Cyrus must have found out. "At least I know he won't kill my father." she breathed out to quell her own rising panic a little and she turned to look at him with a frown.

"That arm is dislocated. I can fix it, but it will hurt like a bitch."
 

Cassidy Ackerson

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He closed his eyes for a moment, breathing in deeply as he felt Mar's energy return to him. The truth was that Cassidy wasn't much good at magic, and the abilities that afforded him the ability to use Mar were not his own. That was an entirely different story, and one that he certainly wasn't ready to reflect on. Instead, he continues to rub his shoulder with a grimace as she tells him about her hometown, and the travels she'd made in the past. Cassidy offers a cheeky grin as she eyes the vanishing cat, moving his hand from his shoulder to press against his chest in mock flattery. "Cute? Me or the cat? I mean, I'd like to think I'm easy on the eyes but..." He can't finish his sentence without breaking into a small fit of laughter, walking over to sit on the bed beside her.

"I actually grew up in Oban too. Small world, huh?" Normally, he wouldn't have been so open about his upbringing... but hell, they were having a little sharing hour, weren't they? "Parents were real rich folk, so naturally they raised me to be spoiled rotten. Got to live in a fancy manor, had some of the best food and the nicest clothes. I was all set to take over my dad's duties as head of the family too, had a lady willing to put up with me and everything..." He cleared his throat now, awkwardly raising his hand to run through his hair, a nervous tic of his... "Real sweet girl, if a bit spoiled herself. We were gonna get married and take over the family, but my... ah... mother had other plans."

He'd been born of an affair between his father and a peasant girl, he explained to her. His mother had found out, and wasn't about to let a boy with peasant blood be the head of any table she sat at.

"She sent some goons to take us out the night before our wedding. I got tipped off to it and managed to just barely get away. My girl though..." He kind of just trailed off. It didn't need to be said aloud for Neith to put together what had happened. He shrugged his good shoulder, averting his eyes from her for a moment. "Anyways, I've been on my own ever since. Took up mercenary work to stay fed, thought maybe I could make a difference here and there while I'm at it, do some good in the world you know?"

It was weirdly idealistic of him, and he wasn't about to expound on it. Neith probably thought he was an oddball as it was. He wanted to hear more about what she knew regarding Cyrus and his lot, and not just because of his job. Something smelled, and he wasn't happy he'd been dragged into it. He shifts his body to be facing her, crossing his legs on the bed.

She hesitated, and Cass's lips pursed a bit, his fingertips gripping his legs. Maybe he shouldn't have suggested something so unpleasant.

Then she told him about Lyrum, and suddenly it all made sense. A magic-enhancer in Elbion? It was like candy in a playground, and he pounded on the bed with his fist. "Damnit. Some nerve, pulling me into some drug dealing nonsense." It wasn't just him, either. Neith was more or less a slave to the wheeling, dealing fatcats of some drug underworld. He shakes his head, brushing some hair from his face. "You're just a drug hound for him? And this asshole has your dad?"

It suddenly made a lot more sense why she'd defend Cyrus. She didn't have any love for Cyrus himself, but she couldn't risk her father's safety.

But from the sound of it, Cyrus had plenty of reason to eliminate one of the two of them.

"Both of you need to get out of here..." He murmured as he leaned towards her, offering his arm and shoulder silently. If she was willing to help him heal up, he certainly wasn't about to turn her down. He braced himself nonetheless. "You're too good for this shit. I barely know you and you're fixing me up... you don't belong in the Elbion drug underworld. This isn't your place..."

Neith
 
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Neith

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Neith snorted a quiet laugh at his humour, rolling her eyes in amusement. She pulled herself a little further back on the bed as he joined her, crossing her legs to sit comfortably whilst listening to his story. She didn't really talk to many other people, the people she dealt with were not generally the sort she wanted to associate with after all. Her fingers ran idly through her damp hair as he told her of his upbringing, a brow quirking to hear that he too had been from a wealthy family in Oban. Perhaps she had even seen him before and hadn't realised, but it seemed she had left a long time before he had.

Her fingers stopped their combing as his story took a dark turn and her slender brows dipped with an apologetic frown.. "That's awful.. I'm sorry." she commented quietly and bit down on her lip. It was clear that he found it a difficult subject to discuss, and so she cleared her throat and smiled weakly at him. "Well, you can count tonight as a good deed. Gods know I'd be in a worse state if you hadn't shown up." she dropped her gaze, fidgeting with her fingers.

She let out a huff and rubbed at her face, groaning out a quiet "Mhmm." in confirmation. "I can track the people who try to avoid paying what they owe.." she explained. "What you saw in the alleyway I, I can draw out a person's magic, sort of.. leech it from them. It hurts them, a lot. The elf's magic didn't quite agree with me hence.." she mimicked being sick.

"I've been trying to get him out of there for years. But they have him warned, if we leave and they catch us, he'll murder me and let him watch. He's too afraid to risk it. But Cyrus knows that I want to get him away from here.." she shrugged, and gave him a small smile as he passed comment on her character. "Mh, you don't know me.. Maybe this is exactly where I belong." she laughed under her breath and settled her hands on his shoulder and arm, lifting the arm up in front of him and bracing it.

"Ready?.." her brow quirked. "Take a deep breath. I'll go on three......One....." She lied. Before she could count to two she jerked the ball of his shoulder back into it's socket with a loud 'pop', wincing at the pain she knew it was bound to have caused.

"Three."
 

Cassidy Ackerson

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Cassidy wouldn't usually be so ready to share his story either, but carrying it on his back for the last few years had worn him down. If nothing else, telling Neith everything that he did was a hell of a good way to vent. He only hoped that the rather broken state the whole mess of affairs had left him in wasn't obvious by his tone. He smiles at her thanks, reaching up with his good arm to brush some hair out his face to get a better look at her smile. It was so rare to see people genuinely smile, especially in his line of work. He made it a point to take in every one.

"Oh, stop mentioning it, it's nothing I wouldn't do again. What kind of dashing young rouge would I be if I didn't swoop in to save the pretty girl?" He shot her a wink. "That'd be a pretty lousy legacy, dont'cha think?" He snickered, rolling his neck a bit to alleviate the pain, or attempt to. She was right, this shoulder was a lot more messed up than he thought it was; he sure hoped she was good with her hands, because he was already as sore as could be. He shifts over, leaning into her slightly so that his side and shoulder were slightly against her. "That's one hell of an ability." He observed, peering at her through the side of his vision as he settled in. "I can see why you and your father would be a hot commodity in Elbion, I'm sorry... you two got caught up in this mess." He spoke softer.

It was kind of funny... if Jimo knew just who was working on his arm in here, he'd have blown a heart valve. If he was following his contract, he should have been getting every bit of information out of her that he could about Cyrus. Honestly though, now he was considering a contract breach for the first time in his career as a sellsword.

The things a pretty face made him do.

He braced himself as she gripped his shoulder. This was going to suck, plain and simple. He counts along with her... "One... FUCK." All the air leaves his lungs as she jerks his shoulder into place, his entire body going stiff with the sharp sting of pain shooting through him like a lightning bolt. Just as fast as he stiffened, his body relaxes against her for a moment. "Mmh... Nah. You're too cute and nice and all that for the drug sniffin' business..." He murmured as he forced himself back upright to slide to the edge of the bed. He rolls his shoulder a few times, short gasps leaving him as little aftershocks ping his shoulder muscles... Finally, he turns to her, lifting an eyebrow. "Wanna bust your dad out with me?"

Neith
 
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Neith let out a huff of a laugh at his flirtations, a crooked grin on her face as she shook her head and dropped her gaze, though she curled a tress of hair around her ear somewhat shyly. It wasn't often she was called pretty, it wasn't often she was called anything nice at all.

As he apologised for the mess her life had become she shrugged. "He brought me here with good intentions.. He blames himself, and I understand why but it's this place. We were just too weak to fight it." her shoulders shrugged. "There's no point crying about it." she smiled with a soft sigh.

She gave him a look of apology and examined his shoulder which appeared to be back in the right place.. "How's that feel?.." she asked as he slumped against her a little, another coy grin as yet another compliment rolled off of his tongue, but his question wiped that grin straight off of her face and she blinked at him incredulously.

"I.." she paused and laughed under her breath, though there was no amusement in it this time. "It's not that easy, Cassidy. Cyrus has a far reach. I've tested his patience enough. There's too much risk, he'll kill one of us if I try, and he'd find us eventually if we succeeded.." she smiled gently. "But I appreciate that you care enough to risk your neck another time."

Neith smirked at him and flopped back onto the bed, her fingers lacing together across her stomach as she stared at the ceiling.
 

Cassidy Ackerson

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Despite his blatant flirting, Ackerson certainly hoped Neith didn't think him too forward or pushy. She was cute as could be, and he felt like a bit of light flirtation didn't do anything except lighten the mood between them a little bit. He wasn't about to try any 'funny shit' as she'd so eloquently described it. If the situation were less complicated...

He shook the thought from his head, and shot her a sympathetic look as whatever lightheartedness she had taken from his words was replaced with worry at his suggestion. He could understand her trepidation, and that maybe he was being a bit too gung ho. Unlike her, he didn't have much to lose... He rested a hand on the side of his face, letting a low sigh escape before nodding. "Yeah, I guess that's a risk you can't afford to take..." It almost sounded like he intended to continue that sentence with something else, but he trailed off.

He rolled his shoulder again, wincing softly. "It's still sore as the devil, but it feels a lot better. Thanks, Neith." Cassidy wouldn't tell her of the idea beginning to blossom in the back of his head. Not yet. She'd try to convince him otherwise, and his mind had already been made up. As she lay on her back, Cassidy rose off of the bed to his feet to give her space.

Stretching his arms out high above his head, a faint glow began to shine as Mar slowly reappeared on his shoulder, hopping off immediately to trot around the room as though patrolling, her gait proud and smug. Cassidy bent over, straightening out his roll as he called back to her. "I guess we can figure out what we're gonna do with you tomorrow. I'm not sending you back to Cyrus, not if he's just gonna try and get you killed again. Try to get some sleep, I'm sure you need it more than I do."

Neith
 
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Neith gave a tight-lipped smile at his understanding. It was a risk she'd taken before, she'd already been given a serious warning, her father's leg would never fully recover. Cyrus didn't do second warnings, he only needed one of them to make the Lyrum, and it didn't matter if they were crippled, so long as their hands and eyes remained in working order. He'd even threatened to cut out her father's tongue if she spoke against him or his men again.

His thanks caused her smile to warm and she shrugged.. "Its the least I could do." she murmured in response, shifting onto her stomach to hug the pillow under her head, watching with a quiet chuckle as Mar strutted around the room.

"Hm.." she smirked and let her eyes close with a sigh. "As much as I appreciate your interest in my welfare, Cass. I have to go back." she yawned and nuzzled into the blanket, finding the bed far more comfortable than what she was used to.

"Night.." she whispered, already half asleep.
 

Cassidy Ackerson

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Cassidy slept far less soundly that night.

Neith's wishes... that he not get involved, and to return to Cyrus went directly against Ackerson's own reasons for doing what he did. All this talk of Lyrum and the holding of Neith's father to keep her in line reminded him of why he'd become a sword for fire in the first place.

He could never forget the taste of blood in his mouth, the feel of a club against his face as he was dragged out of his own bed and beaten half to death. He remembered the vile words they spat at him, pulling his hair out and destroying his belongings all because of who his mother was. He'd been helpless, unable to stop the pain from coursing through his body.

He remembered watching them drag Ariella into the room, bloodied and naked. He hadn't even gotten to say goodbye to her; they only wanted him to see what they'd done to the corpse. They were a pack of rabid wolves that had made him nothing but prey.

Ever since that night, he'd sworn to never be prey again. And the wolves who would take advantage of those who couldn't fight back? They would taste his blade.

Vengeance was a petty motive, and he knew that. The man who now sat up, his sleeping bag pushed to the wall as he looked down at the cat now in his arms again didn't believe himself to be some righteous avenger. He had no illusions of grandeur, and he certainly didn't think himself a hero. He was a flawed man trying to cope. That didn't change what he knew.

If he sent Neith back to Cyrus, she would die. As soon as her father outlasted his worth, he was going to die too. They were prey to the same kind of wolves that had killed the only woman who'd ever loved him. Maybe he wouldn't be forgiven for interfering, but he couldn't just let her go.

Neith would awake to sunlight peeking through the window over her bed, and the sight of Cassidy pulling his clothes on and strapping his blade to his back, seemingly unaware that she'd roused from slumber.

Neith
 
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Her sleep was deep and dreamless, void of the usual torments that seemed to plague her slumbering mind, mute of all of the noises that she was used to that kept her on high alert, as though her body knew that she was safe here. The sunlight poured into the room like a flamboyant guest, not awaiting an invitation, and Neith frowned softly at it's presence and sighed as her lashes fluttered open, her eyes squinting as they adjusted to the light.

She watched Cassidy for a brief moment, taking the time to wake a little before she asked. "Going somewhere?.." Her voice was gritty with sleep, and she groaned as she stretched and yawned. Neith sat up slightly, rubbing the sleep from her eyes with a huff, her hair a disheveled mess and her expression as grouchy as it was every morning when she fought the urge to turn over and go back to sleep.