Private Tales Waters Deep

MJK

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Zara's lungs burned, still unused to the pure air she had to breath in compared to the soothing water that had passed through her gills only hours earlier. The girl absent-mindedly brought her hand up to the sides of her neck, still surprised to find smoothened skin there and the vaguely detectable lines of closed-off slits indicating her shut off gills. Land-breathing takes a while to adapt to...she thought to herself, forcing the burning sensation to the back of her mind so she could focus on the task at hand.

She was almost near the tavern, her turquoise eyes looking up past the rim of her cloak's hood to peer at the yellow light emanating from the windows. That criminal is inside there somewhere...her thoughts were tainted with rage, nimble fingers itching to grasp the hilt of her dagger hidden by the folds of the cloak. That would do her no good though. Not yet at least. Taking it from it's sheath on her belt would make blending in more difficult, especially in a small seaside village like this one where everyone knew everyone else. She needed to blend in though, getting close enough to her intended target required a stealthy approach.

The female looked over her shoulder, eyes searching the shadows for anyone that might be following her. Zara was aware that she had a few hours head-start on the guards that surely would find her missing from her cell by now. However, it didn't hurt to remain cautious.

Escaping had irked her, going against everything she had been trained to do as a Clan Protector. Proving her innocence would be impossible if she had remained behind bars though. Even if she had stayed long enough for her trial, it would not have been a fair one and she knew she would have been given a death sentence. Of this she was certain, considering that an enemy tribe had seized power when the previous nights events had provided the opportunity to do so. With her father, the leader of her siren clan, being murdered hours earlier she was the last person in their way of unquestionable power over the clans people. Since Zara's dagger was found to be the murder weapon, embedded in her father's back, they had enough cause to jail her and lay the guilt of his death solely on her shoulders.

Zara knew the truth though. She had been the first to find her father dead after all, with the sight of the true assassin disappearing into the shadows. More than likely the assassin was hired by the rival family to assist them in usurping her father's rule, but she had no proof of that. Not yet. Her goal was to find such evidence and then kill the man who had ended her father's life. Her search had brought her onto land, the female following a short trail of fish scales that had ended on the beach of the seaside village she now walked through. The scales were typical of someone who had taken a potion to give them the appearance and water-breathing ability of a siren, but were shed once the potion began wearing off. Thus they had been useful to track the individual at least up until this point but now Zara was relying on the scent of the sea still clinging to him in order to track him down.

However, the scent was fading quickly. She needed to find them man soon if she wished to fulfill her goal of either killing him or at least identifying him. The echo of her bare feet slapping against the cobblestone street quickened with her pace, the female stepping up to the entrance of the tavern to head inside. She checked her appearance one last time, straightening the simple dress she had stolen from one of the villagers washing line and pulling her cloak further up to obscure her features. I'm coming for you... she thought with determination, pushing open the heavy wooden door and stepping inside.

The tavern was noisy and crowded, smelling of spilled alcohol, sweat and dirt. It made finding the salt-tainted scent difficult, forcing the female further inside the establishment. She tried to remain inconspicuous, slipping into a nearby corner table so she could observe those around her and look for possible clues as to who could be her target.

Khai
 
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Khai

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Blood spilled about, painting the barren walls of the grotto with images of death. The shadow that moved between the men was quick and deadly, their painful screams echoing around as steel met flesh and cut it open, a most sweet sound that Khai enjoyed as a child playing with her toys. Daggers were flying, some falling short of meeting their intended targets, others making home in arms, legs and backs. A few mercenaries were grunt and brave enough to try and retaliate against the assassin, his sword clashing against their axes and rapiers.

Their attempt wasn't nearly enough to stop the man from fulfilling his duty. And yet, he was still far from it.

Several weeks ago, the Masters of the Order of Shadows came to know that a rogue assassin had slipped from capture, killing a few allies in his escape and joined with a band of ruffians and raiders, taking advantage of the sea waves to evade their vengeful grasp. But now, opportunity had presented itself to right the wrongs of the past, and so Khai had been sent to deliver their wrath against the betrayer. Not an easy task.

Not only carrying the knowledge and training of the Order, he had mingled with other criminals and elevated his position amongst the rats. Fitting company for such a petty being, Khai thought. The young assassin had tracked his former comrade all the way to a seaside region, where his target would be enjoying the comforts of the land before returning to hide in the vast oceans. He passed a few small gatherings and met some travelers, seeking information about the possible mercenary groups in the area, but to little avail.

Until he found the grotto where a few of the rogue's allies were living. Their purses were filled to the top, a reward from a recent job well done, but their celebrations were cut short.

Khai put his blade just inches from the kneeling man's neck as he gasped for air, trying to hold back the blood that was flowing from a cut on his side with his hands. The only survivor. With a quick glance, Khai judged that the man wasn't long from death's embrace. Playing the executioner while hiding behind his mask, Khai sought answers from his victim before his demise.

"Your boss. Tell me where he is", he asked, intimidating the man as he put his katana ever closer to his neck, starting to draw blood. The man flinched, fearful and in pain, words barely forming before falling from his mouth in desperation. A scroundrel's honor seemed to be as fickle as their risky lives.

"A v-village! Ha-Half an hour from here! That's all i know, i swear!", he started crying, seeking some sort of mercy from Khai.

Unfortunately for him, he would have none. Mercy was meant only to the worthy, not cowards and criminals.

With a quick swing and a clean, strong cut of his Cassaegrin, the mercenary's head fell backwards as blood erupted from his parted neck. Khai closed his eyes, savoring the newly found silence in the air, and the crimson rivers of corpses surrounding him. Yet, there was more to come, he was sure of it. The Shadows demanded more.

Leaving behind the carnage, Khai started his walk towards the said village, longing for more blood to equal the Balance.
 
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Zara's head was getting light, her senses assaulted from all fronts. Men were chattering loudly, pulling at the skirts of bar wenches who passed to fill up emptied mugs. Rowdy laughter sounded from a large group playing a card game nearby, the one man guffawing loudly at something a fellow player had said. Zara scoffed under her breath, squelching her desire to hold her breath or leave the seedy business. The hours were late and it was apparent that many of the patrons had been here since the early afternoon. A passing bartender dumped a goblet onto her table unceremoniously, the contents the colour of mud spilling from the rim and onto the table. She had not ordered it, but the arrival of the drink made it clear to her that at this time of night, no one entered into the tavern without the intent of making full use of it's liquors.

Attempting to blend in she picked up the wretched smelling item, bringing it to her lips and cautioning a sip. The liquid at least tasted better than it looked or smelled, malty and frothy on her tongue. She dared not drink much though, instead trying to listen in on conversations as to pinpoint her target, since trying to smell him out amidst the heavy scent of rum and tobacco smoke was near impossible. The familiar twang of a sailor caught her ears, the girl carefully placing down the drink as she listened in. Sirens had above average hearing compared to humans, but even she was struggling to eavesdrop as the noise somehow heightened with the arrival of a popular local. She managed to pick up a few words, grinding her teeth irritably.

"Underwater....reward of coins.....tasted terrible.....dead old man....." The last few words made her heart rate quicken, the female's hands balling into fists and tightening until her nails bit into her palms. That must be him.She thought to herself, chewing on her lips and dragging in a deep although burning breath to steady her mind. She was ready to leap up right then and there, wanting to cut his tongue from his mouth in front of all these people. The small bit of uncertainty she had stopped her though. I need to make sure it's him. If it's not, killing him would only frighten off the real murderer. She looked up, bright eyes looking for the face who the voice belonged to.

Zara found the man, dressed in the filthy uniform of a renegade and common mercenary at a table on the opposite end of the room. His hair was greasy, hanging in dreads down the side of his face while a pale scar made a distinct line from his forehead to his chin, cutting through his eyebrow, eyelid and corner of his mouth along the way. He sure does look the part of a heartless killer. She thought angrily, taking another sip of the strange beverage she had been given. Her bare foot tapped against the floor with impatience, an odd sight considering that most people didn't walk around town without shoes. The siren was oblivious to such mannerisms though, focused only on her target and the possibility of getting revenge while clearing her name.
 
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Khai

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After some walking, Khai reached the village where his target was supposed to be hiding, blending with a few merchants who were passing through in their caravans as the young assassin carefully examined everything. It looked a fishing village, quite small but with the constant trade, they were able to put together a good flow of coin, even going as far as having a tavern to house weary travelers on the way. Certainly, not too many people who passed there looked forward to staying long, as the rigors of a life of labor were far too much for common folk to endure. The village also possessed a distinctive and familiar vibe, making Khai remember of a time long past, in the pirate bay of Cerak.

Indeed, some of the inhabitants had that rough exterior of sailors and adventurers, but a few looked more they were just there out of coincidence. That made Khai wonder how many men the betrayer had at his disposal, for it certainly looked like there were mercenaries roaming loose on the village. They were clever enough not to cause too much commotion though, as it could upset the villagers and bring down unwanted attention on their heads.

Pirates disgusted Khai above all things, after everything that happened years before he came to be an assassin. He grew up a thief and a mercenary himself, but he took no pride in doing so. He only did what he had to survive, bowing and scraping through the dirt. Pirates on the other hand... They were ruthless. Most traded in slavery, for the plundering of general cargo had become too common amongst the kingdoms. A mercenary has his own code of honor, mostly bound by coin. But pirates are below even that, and Khai had suffered greatly beneath their heel once.

As the small band of merchants walked, with Khai among them, a small girl started to pull his long, dark scarf. So full of energy, she handed him a silver coin with a ship inscripted at the center. A thoughtful gift for someone she would dread to even stay close had she realized what he was. And yet, one deeply appreaciated, as Khai rubbed the top of her head slightly, leading to the girl closing her eyes to enjoy the moment. Khai smiled, his face now fully revealed as he had taken out his hood and mask prior to meeting the merchants.

When the girl opened her eyes again, Khai was long gone. Disappointed, she had no choice but to keep pace with her parents as they searched for a place to settle in for the evening, before carrying on to the next village in the morning. Khai, on the other hand, had much work to do before that night ended.

From a nearby alley, Khai carefully watched the tavern, where more of those suspicious men seemed to be gathering. Quite the predictable place to hide. What caught his attention was the presence of two guards, posted outside a door on the side of the building. That peaked Khai's curiosity, leading him to believe that his target was indeed there. With a smile on his face, Khai put up his hood and mask again, before carrying on to meet them.

A few willy daggers thrown about later, and Khai had easily and silently dispatched the guards. He looted a key from one of them, granting him passage to the lower rooms of the tavern, occupied only by cobwebs and crates of booze. Some sort of deposit, for sure.

He examined the crates carefully, before resorting to his Shadow Magic as their darkness traveled through the far and gloomy corners of the place, where the shadows made their nests, getting a feel of everything that was inside. Khai felt the buzz of the many customers attending their drinks and gambling there, loud and sparked conversations, heated by alcohol. And he felt some dangerous presence nearing. Firm footsteps, reaching closer and closer to the room.

It was time to confront the betrayer, or whoever it was that walked to their impending doom.
 

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More laughter and loud chatter, setting the sirens nerves on edge. Her transformation to her human form had not been pleasant and the adjustment period was long and arduous. The noises she heard fell and rose, as if someone was playing the dial on the volume of a radio. She knew it was just her senses settling into this new form, but it was aggravating to say the least. Persistent as ever though she listened more closely to the individual she had singled out, now able to get more of what he was saying by carefully watching his lips. So concentrated was she on eyeing out the words he spoke, she did not sense the approaching hulk of a man who ambled over to where she sat. It was not until he settled his weight into the chair opposite her, blocking her view of her target, that she even noticed him.

Her ocean-hued eyes narrowed as she focused on his face, a scruffy looking hulk who clearly lacked in brains what he had in muscle. Zara clenched her jaw, grasping on the words to say to get him to leave. The dialect of land-men was a crude one, different to those used by sirens. When in air their words were unusual, sounding like flowing water with abrupt breaks with hard syllables or pronunciation. One would say it was like the tide that way, ebbing gently in a swell before crashing onto the shore repeatedly. Underwater they used much of the same words, except they were communicated telepathically as sound did not travel well underwater. For this reason she had to first think of what she was going to say, the words coming out with a faint accent despite her voice being velvety and pleasant to listen to.

"Move. I do not remember asking for company." She said simply, peering over the man's shoulder to try and see again. The man leaned into her range of vision, blocking her sight again. "But you 'avn't even give'n me a chance ta woo ya yet. A lady yer size should nat be so hasty ta cross witha man like me..." He said, words slightly slurred and breath smelling of rum. Zara had little patience for this crude being, her dagger suddenly whipping out and wedging into the table top....right in between where his fingers were splayed. The edge of the weapon had nicked the webbing where his fingers joined his palm, a small droplet of blood already forming. "Move, or my aim will be between your eyes next." Her words were acidic, the man swallowing a lump in his throat before rising grumpily and waddling off. She pulled out her dagger and sheathed it once more, focusing again on her mission.

By the time he had left and Zara looked back to where her target had been sitting, his chair was empty. Zara swore in her own tongue, growling to herself as she stood, trying to peer over the heads of the many people in the area. She caught the sight of the dreads disappearing around one of the corners, the female hurrying to follow after him. Although strong she was small, needing to find gaps in the crowd to get to where she had seen the head of dreads disappear. When she finally reached the spot, seeing the man nowhere, she swore again. However, she did catch sight of an open door, one which led to a set of stairs that led down into what she assumed to be a basement area. A breeze blew up through the stairwell, carrying with it the faintest scent of salt which had led her here in the first place. Found you again. She thought triumphantly, heading down the stairwell. Little did she know it was the backdoor which the man had left through and that there was someone else waiting in the shadows at the end of the stairs.

Her eyes took some time to adjust to the dark, a disadvantage of being in human form compared to full siren. For this reason it was too late for her to react by the time the assassin appearing, seeming to have melted out of the shadows themselves. She only had time to draw her dagger, eyes searching her attackers features for those belonging to the scarred man she was after while trying to deflect the attack he launched at her.
 
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Khai

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The moment to strike was edging near, and Khai was already prepared for it. He tightened the grip on his katana, still sheathed on his back, while waiting for whoever would be unlucky enough to arrive. And yet, after a few seconds of excruciating expectation, he was left disappointed, as the steps ceased and only heavy silence filled the air. Until a thumping sound, followed by what sounded like someone falling.

Turns out the lower rooms of the tavern were even bigger than Khai had anticipated, as he opened the door to gaze upon a corridor with other doors next to him, and a staircase at the other end. He could see the light coming from the upper floor just a few moments before the door closed, sealing off the staircase, while another door was already open. Khai sensed the presence again, coming from this other room. Fearing that his own element of surprised had failed, he used his powers to blend in with the shadows, travelling through the darkness until his presence reached the room, unnoticeable by the two figures seemingly fighting already.

A man, poised to strike against a unnaturaly looking woman, who was raising her arms in defense, a blade in hand, but clearly shaken by his surprise strike. Khai could only conclude that his target was right in front of him, as he emerged from the shadows while throwing a shuriken towards the man's weapon, ripping it from his grasp. The attack surprised him and granted some space for the woman, with Khai quickly following up with a overhead kick that threw him off balance, stumbling back.

With vicious anger, Khai drew his katana and ran the man through just before he fell, his face yet hardly visible due to the dark. He started coughing, blood filling his throat, just before he let out a short, boasting laugh. Even as the Cassaegrin penetrated his ribs, the man still had the gall to think lightly of his own demise. Or so Khai thought, until he heard his voice.

"Ah... He told us you were coming...", now Khai was the one stumbling back, shocked to see that he had taken what seemed to be the wrong life. A few steps back were taken, the man still fallen with Khai's blade deep into him. And yet, he laughed once more.

"Where is he?!", Khai demanded answers, frustrated. The man started to agonize over his own blood, his throat almost completely taken, leaving him suffocated. He could only muster strength for a few last words, ones of taunting.

"You'll never know now..."

Khai reached forward for his katana, ripping it from the mercenary's body as he had his last breath. He was left with a bloodied sword, but with no real answers.
 
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Zara lifted her dagger just in time to stop the rapier coming straight down in a slashing movement, one that would have bitten straight into her shoulder had she not halted it. She growled angrily, pushing back against the weapon with strength much greater than that a human woman her size would have. You've caught me off guard, a dishonorable way to confront an opponent. Nonetheless it will not be a mistake you'll make again...The deflection of the man's weapon surprised him, but he simply howled and changed his momentum to attack her once more. The female was agile and fast, although hindered by the folds of the dress caught around her feet. She stepped back a second too late, the rapier ripping a tear into the hem of her dress where her leg had been a moment earlier. So impractical...no wonder the woman around here are as easy to pick off as deer. The man was attacking quickly, too quickly for Zara to spend any time inspecting his face in the thick darkness to try and see if it was indeed the man she was seeking who attacked her.

Some presence frayed her intense focus, an unknown aura that felt like thick ink and looked in her minds eye like smokey black mist came from nowhere, yet she saw no hard solid appearance in the room. This confused the siren, who did not understand how she could feel someone arrive in the room but not see them. Her mental abilities were weak and simply used for her race's ability to communicate feelings as well as manipulate other species. She could not part the veil of shadows hiding the man's form. Her lapse in focus, only for a moment, was one her attacker used to his advantage. He changed the swing of his weapon last minute, Zara only noticing too late that trajectory of his blade was headed to her gut and not to her throat as she had been anticipating. Her mind await the pain of a blade breaking through her flesh, only to have it not happen. Instead, the strange aura she had sensed materialized into the form of a man. A man who quickly surprised her attacker, put him off balance and ran his blade through him.

Her attacker stumbled back, right into the light of a small, porthole window allowing in the thinnest beam of moonlight. This is where he collapsed, exposing his features to be not of the man she was looking for, but instead another man dressed in a similar uniform to the one her target had been wearing. The impaled man was on his knees, somehow smug in his expression despite the blood pouring from his wounds. His look infuriated the siren, who knew now that her real target had managed to slip away in the time she had taken with this imposter. The dying man exchanged words with the one who had slain him, causing Zara to direct her fury instead at the one who had dispatched the man before she could glean some sort of information forcibly from his mind. Instead what she got was the gurgled, gasping last breath of the man, who slumped onto the floor where his blood was already collecting in a pool once the katana was removed.

Zara stormed up the new individual, wrath evident in her tense stance as she gripped her dagger tightly. "He was mine. How dare you interfere, now you've killed him before I had to chance to eek out any sort of information I could use!" She stood defensively, dagger raised and eyes narrowed. There was a strange glow that stood out on her arms, the top of her feet, sides of her neck, across the bridge of her nose and under her eyes where there was many faint glowing dots. In odd places the dots seemed to gather in clusters to form the image of a nautilus shell, while others creating swirling patterns that would remind anyone who gazed upon it of water. The dots were visible in the near blackness of the room, the bio-luminescence hidden where her legs were covered by her dress and shoulders were covered by her cloak.

"You've killed the only chance I had of finding him! I've come all these way only to have my efforts thwarted by some blood-lusting fool!" She was angry, that much was evident, her mind swirling with thoughts as to what she was going to do now.
 
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Khai

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Still feeling lost after what just had happened, Khai sighed in disappointment, even failing to notice the woman who was storming towards him, her words carrying weight of grief and vengeance, blending with her own bloodlust in a supposed search for answers, much like Khai. He watched in awe as lights began emerging all over her body, like gracefully traced bits of runes, slightly illuminating the dark interior of that hollow room. Khai paused a moment, he understood her anger, and no one was more disappointed in that situation than himself. He thought he had his answers right in front of him, but fell short of achieving his goal, the rogue assassin still loose and possibly boasting at his stunt of leading a Shadow Assassin to such a childish mistake.

The Masters were right, this wouldn't be an easy contract.

Khai let his gaze over her linger for a few more moments, eventually losing himself in her eyes before snapping back to reality, putting away his katana. He walked straight past her, staring at the nearby wall. He closely inspected the worn out bits, a few pieces of wood torn off and spider traces over it. That whole place was dirty.

He turned after a few seconds, his hood and mask dissolving with the winds as the moonlight peaked through one of the open windows, gleaming over his face and revealing his young features.

"Who are you again?", he asked with a cheeky smile, as if disregarding that whole ordeal. Even the mess that had just happened, she seemed quite ungrateful, considering that Khai had just saved her. And he also felt that she looked a bit out of place, her features unique enough for him not to have seen anything else similar. She looked like a fascinating creature, if only a bit human. Guess everyone has their own secrets, a thought that peaked Khai's curiosity greatly.

Before he could indulge said curiosity however, Khai was startled as he felt something arise through his shadows. A sort of heated restlessness that traveled all over the place, with the assassin putting his hand on the nearby wall, so he could better judge it. Widening his eyes in surprise, he looked back at the woman.

"We have to move", he said, firmly. Not a bit of the cheeky look from earlier, just a cold and straight stare at her. Moments later, loud bangs and screams could be heard coming from the upper floor. Khai had sensed the danger beforehand, but it arrived fast.

Above them, the tavern had been set upon by the now uncovered mercenaries, following instruction to cause havoc if the bait was taken. And Khai took the bait perfectly. Not long after the tavern was wrecked, the whole village was set upon by the mercenaries, the villagers being forced to run or be killed. They took people for slaves while burning their homes.

The mission had just gotten a bit more complicated.
 

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The man eyed her, his gaze focusing on her arms and glow rather than on anything she was saying. It made her swallow anything she had been about to say next, his look somewhat unnerving to her. When she got upset, her true nature was more prone to showing itself as it did now with the glow, but she had been expecting a harsh reaction rather than the more curious look he was giving her now. People usually reacted poorly to sirens, given their mysterious nature and the legends that surrounded their existence. Thus, his look of almost reverence rather than disgust shook her, the female hushing slowly.

He seemed oblivious to her words anyway, walking as if deaf to her rant which only managed to anger her more. He instead seemed to be focusing instead on a piece of a wall, a broken plank of wood which had splintered off to reveal the dirt beneath and insects crawling about in the exposed place. The strange, shadowy man paid no attention to what she had to say, only turning once he was content with analyzing the skittering bugs and fractured piece of wall. The mask dissolved away, revealing a face much younger than she had been anticipating. He seemed to be similar in age to her, contrary to what her expectations had been.

The words he spoke to her for the first time caught her off guard, the man inquiring somewhat cheekily as to who she was. Zara's mouth opened and closed like a fish out of water, the female stumbling over his curious reaction to her presence. "Who am I? Well...I...." She stumbled over her words, feeling suddenly flustered. The siren had been prepared to be assaulted for who she was, not find someone who was interested in finding out more instead of cutting off her fins. Snapping back to attention, she finished responding, adding, "I guess you could call me Zara. My full name might be difficult for you to pronounce in your tongue. Maybe instead it is I who should be asking who you are, considering you killed the man with information I needed."

She didn't get an answer though, instead receiving an instruction for him about leaving the tavern. "I would be all to happy to do that, this wretched place is-" her words were interrupted by sounds of screams, bangs and general chaos breaking out above them. A loud bang made her flinch, the female sniffing the air which caused her nose to wrinkle in disgust. "I can smell gunpowder. Something's not right..." More screaming, while a new smell filled the air - a thick huskiness of black smoke, erupting from the building next door which had been set alight.

Zara turned back to the male, eyes wide as she tried to think of a plan. "You're right. We need to get out of here." She did not sheath her dagger, instead padding up the stairs on the balls of her feet quickly, trying to find a way out as people were brawling and men fought angrily all around them. Zara felt her heart quicken, the female unused to the chaos around her. Battle on land was different to when it was underwater, the noise was louder and more confusing. Men were brutal than she had ever imagined, blood and glass sticking to the underside of her feet as she looked around for the nearest exit: the door the target had escaped through. She made for it, only to grind to a halt when the hulking man she had dismissed earlier stepped into her path. "Going somewhere?" He asked with a smug grin, showing off broken and blackened teeth as he approached her.

Zara pulled out her dagger, moving in the blink of an eye. Using a nearby wall and a running start, she flipped herself through a small gap on the side of the man, bending low to slice at his achille's tendon before landing just behind him. The man buckled to his knees, grasping at his ankle while Zara looked around to see if the shadowy figure was still around and following her. While she did not know who he was, he seemed different to the rest of the men here. That would have to be enough to let her trust him...for now.
 
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Khai

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Just as they started to get moving, Khai flinched as the smell of burning wood and smoke descended upon them, with the building already starting to collapse around them. Lucky for them, the woman's quick thinking got them out easily, but not before they were confronted by a towering brute, easily dispatched to the grave by her. She was indeed a box full of surprises, one Khai intended to open at a later date, if they somehow managed to escape a village taken by vengeful pirates and mercenaries.

They started running away from the tavern and through the alleys, trying to fall from sight of those men. What was left behind them was a memory of a once merry place, before those ruffians decided to rain hell upon the good people of that village. Holding the coin gifted to him by that little girl, Khai couldn't help but worry about her, and if she was lucky enough to escape as soon as the village was set upon. As worried as he was, Khai couldn't possibly think about delving headlong into the fray of those marauders, not without returning with his life. His retribution would have to come later, but the wait would be worth it.

The woman looked around, checking if Khai was still with her. Her eyes couldn't grasp his presence, but his shadowy figure moved quickly as she was seized by two mercenaries, quickly killing them with but a few precise swings from his katana, as the Cassaegrin felt more and more satisfied by the blood it consumed that day. After the dangerous stunt, they paused for a moment, in the middle of one of the village's mudded gutters, seeing nothing but the dark smoke rising to the skies and eclipsing the stars. The mercenaries were hellbent on putting that village to the ground if it meant cornering and murdering Khai and that woman, who went by the strange name of Zara. He certainly had never heard a similar name before, which spoke highly of her unnatural background and mystique. He even went as far as wonder how her 'full' name would look like, but such trivialities would have to come later.

Khai walked around a bit, checking the alley's entrances for any sign of incoming thugs, but he grew relieved as the shadows communed to him that they were far away, for the time being. He sighed, taking in all that was happening in that mess, while trying to come up with a plan.

"All the entrances to the village are blocked. Groups of mercenaries roaming around every third corner, they'll find us soon. We need to get out of here, fast", he said, strangely calm considering the circumstances. But Khai had that cold aura about him when he was focused, another perk developed in his assassin training. In the business of taking a life and risking having yours taken, one could never show emotion, not without facing prejudice.

"My name's Khai, by the way."
 
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The pair made their way out of the building, the sound of burning wood popping and cracking from behind them. The tavern itself had now caught alight, the flames of the building next door eagerly clawing their way at the tavern roof and eating through the wooden exterior quickly. Zara thought back to the plentiful crowd that had been inside just a little bit earlier, her mind wondering as to how many of them would make it out alive. Very few I would think. Escaping both a fire and murderers seems all to difficult. She gulped quietly, sending up a small prayer in her own tongue for whatever great being was watching to have mercy on their souls and to ease them in their passing. Once her words were finished she hurried away, bending over when an window exploded out and sent glass flying over her head.

There was pain in her feet, probably from being cut up by the plentiful glass and debris that already littered the streets. It hurt, but Zara could not afford to stop now and examine what damage had been done. Her eyes searched wildly for a safe path to take, curls splaying around her face as her head whipped from side to side. Exposed feet smacked against the road as she took a nearby alleyway, the fire all around her outlining her silhouette in orange and yellowy-gold.

As she rounded the corner she felt calloused hands grasp either of her forearms, forcing her to a halt and making her yelp in pain. She looked to either side of her, confronted with mercenaries similar in dress to the one the shadowy man had killed earlier. Flailing and fighting she tried to release their grip on her, unable to reach her dagger which she had dropped after being plucked mid-stride. The men's grip was hard and unrelenting, but brief. Within seconds both men dropped dead to the ground, nothing but a shadowy figure which was difficult to make out in the light of the fires visible. Zara knew it was the man from earlier, grateful that he had in fact been following her. The female bent to retrieve her dagger, one of the dresses sleeves slipping down her shoulder from where it had been ripped by the men grabbing her. She did not know if the shadow-man could see her, but she nodded her head gratefully before taking off again, only stopping when reaching a damp and muddy alley strewn with gutters.

The shadow man materialized again, while Zara was panting and gasping for breath. Her lungs hurt from the effort of needing to run while still getting used to air instead of water as her medium of respiration. On top of that the smoke she had had inhaled made her throat feel dry and tight, the girl bending at the waist to put her hands on her knees while dragging in deep breaths. The man spoke to her calmly as she recovered, telling her of the blocked exits as well as giving her his name. "Khai....nice....to meet you..." She said in between breaths, taking in one more deep one before straightening. "I do not know this village, but I know the beach and coast. There's a cave that leads to the next bay on the other side of the village, but we'll need to swim for part of it that is underwater. Think you can manage that?"
 
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Khai

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Khai swung his katana around, the swift and rapid movements that cut the air just enough to take some of the blood from the darkened blade as the moonlight gleamed over it. Cassaegrin was much more quiet now, having had its fill of blood and death after such an eventful day. As the woman spoke, Khai sheathed his weapon and took another quick glance at the alley's nearest exit, noticing a couple of mercenaries who just passed them wide. As the Shadows said to him, the mercenaries were getting closer and closer.

But he couldn't help but fill a bit uneasy at Zara's words, once she spoke of underwater caves and having to swim their way out of that tricky situation. She had that look about her that seemed to enjoy matters of sea and its many unknown wonders, but Khai simply couldn't grasp why. For all purposes, she looked as human as he was. And yet, he too wasn't a normal human. He was Shadowtouched, his whole being maintained by the Shadows and the lives he took. As for Zara, he couldn't possibly even guess what she truly was, other than the mystical and beautiful grace that she had fit her.

Still, they were in that deep spot together, anyways. She had trusted him even after he supposedly had his way with the answers she was supposed to get, and they ended up in that mess. A whole village being reduced to ashes, while the man behind all of that yet lived and mocked their attempt on his life, and now his small army of cutthroats and vagrants were after their heads. If survival meant having to trust Zara and delve into a underwater cove so they could get out of there, he had no choice but to do so.

But as they stepped forward towards their escape, Khai felt something through the shadows. Not long after, screams were heard near their location. One scream in particular worried the assassin above everything else. He rushed across the alley and his eyes fell upon the carnage and destruction on the streets, and to one of the most horrid sights he could ever see.

The girl from earlier, her small figure being ran through by one of the mercenaries as their parents and a few of the other merchants were cut down as well. It seemed that those mercenaries had no intention of seeking profit with that misfortune, but to send a message to Khai and Zara after their stun. A message very well received.

Khai's eyes widened as he saw the little girl have her last breaths, and the man laughing sharply because of it. Even though his mind went numb, wanting nothing more than to paint that village with the blood of all those bandits, his body disagreed with such approach. He couldn't even flinch, knowing that that would be his death, and it would serve no purpose to his mission.

He held the girl's coin, his hand gripping it strongly until his arm started to tremble with fury. And then, the assassin turned his back, his blue eyes void of emotion, a complete turn to what had just happened as he started walking down the alley and towards the exit to that nightmare. Deep down, Khai knew he would have retribution.
 

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Shadows of men passed nearby. The female spotted them in her peripheral vision, squatting lower and closer to the wall so that she could hide herself better. Unfortunately for her, she did not posses the useful ability of blending into the dark that he did. The girl waited until they were gone, her eyes still watching carefully for in case they returned, before turning to him to receive an answer. He didn't give her words exactly, but she could see the understanding in his eyes. They had little choice but to take the escape she had suggested. He had said himself that all other avenues of escape were futile. The female nodded her head briskly, closing her eyes for a moment to try and remember the path back to the beach she had arrived on. Her memory was hazy at best, but good enough that she could lead them back to the white sands and pushing tide that had welcomed her.

Standing up again, pushing herself off the wall, Zara made to leave the alleyway they had turned down to seek refuge. However she noticed that Khai did not immediately follow, instead running in the opposite direction. Eyes wide with exasperation she sprinted after him, gritting her teeth against the pain that throbbed it's way up the soles of her feet. "That's the wrong way!" She insisted, sliding to a halt next to him. The sights that greeted her eyes made even her pause though, the female's hand going up to her mouth to silence the scream in her throat as the small child lay dying in the street.

Her knees weakened, the female's other arm wrapping around her middle. Bile and the contents of her stomach threatened to spill, the girl paling to the color of sea foam....a sickly white-yellow. "She....she's just a child." Her voice was a faint whisper, but held all the disbelief and horror as to what she had witnessed. Sirens were said to be viscious, heartless creatures. In some cases the legends were true, but even her race had moral and ethical codes when it came to slaughtering young. Zara lost the battle with her nausea, the female turning and retching. Once she felt that she actually did not enough in her system to throw-up, she pulled herself back to focusing. If we don't move soon, we will be part of the bodies piling up in the streets.

She wiped at her mouth with the back of her hand, using the other to grasp the forearm of the male who had turned his back on the horrible sights. "Come on. It will do us no good to join the dead." She led the way, grateful when he did indeed follow her this time back out the alleyway.

The pair walked through the maze-like streets, Zara needing to stop occasionally until the coast was clear before she could continue. She envied the mans ability to meld with any shadow, needing to rely instead on her slightly smaller stature and ability to squeeze into tight spaces in order to hide. It took time, but eventually they were breaking through a small group of trees and heading onto the white sandy shore. "It's just past those boulders." The cliffs guarding the bay stretched up above them, reflecting a white-blue in the moon but speckled with an orange glow from the distant fires still raging. Zara walked her way through the clusters of large rocks, eventually pushing her way to the cliff base where she revealed a small opening behind hanging cliff vines. The girl entered into the dark, skin faintly glowing and leaving a blue hue on the narrow corridor walls.

"Up ahead the floor falls away sharply. Its a hidden lagoon of sorts, you'll have to dive down and under the rocks at the far end of the pool to find the opening leading into the next cavernous space. You won't have to hold your breath for more than a minute but the hole is small and it's dark. The moon is in the wrong place to light the way. Are you going to need help?" The last question wasn't said in a belittling manner, the girl instead looking to him with neutral seriousness as she stopped on the edge of where the floor began to be covered by water.
 
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Khai

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Even as they escaped through the thin, debris filled streets and flaming horizons, Khai's mind wandered to far away. For all his training, he still couldn't shake some unpleasant memories from the past, ones that usually came back to haunt him in moments such as those. A innocent girl, left to rot on the streets as a result of a violence ridden world. The Order promised him that they would, one day, correct such mistakes. And yet, all he saw was more death. The Masters said that it's simply the way of life, the destiny that people like to say, or as the Order calls it... The Balance.

If that's true, then the scales were tipped and Khai would have to balance it. And he surely would. He planned on plunging his blade in those men's blood, but not out of duty. For satisfaction, that was the closest thing he could think about having after what happened. The Masters would surely be watching him, to see how he would cope with such harsh realities that he used to push aside when living, for the first time, a peaceful life back in the Shadowrealm. Khai was no stranger to such barren sights, he was after all, from Cerak At'Thul. A past slave, almost died for it. But he used to think that was all in the past, that he and the world had moved on. All lies. Everything was still the same.

Snapping back from his thoughts, he faced the entrance to Zara's plans as she talked about how they would reach the other side of the bay. She looked quite relieved about being near water again, almost as if it called to her like a home. Khai, however, even in the dark, wasn't too convinced about it.

"I'm used to the dark. Underwater delving, though... Not my greatest forté", he spoke in a much friendlier way now, almost as if the past events hadn't really fazed him. Such was Khai's persona, actually. From cold assassin to a cheerful trickster in the hint of a moment. A young and rather naive soul being thrown to the harsh depths of a dangerous life, ever since he was young.

"You lead, lady", he said with a cheeky smile and a trusting nod, signaling that he was ready to take the risks for her. Not that he had too much of a choice either.
 

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Zara could hear repeated dripping, coming from somewhere within the lagoon area. There was also the sounds of water lapping up against the sides of the lagoon walls, most likely because the tide was coming in and causing the lagoon to become deeper. She nodded her head slowly at his response, eyes watching his face carefully for any signs of fear or worry. While the sea was her home and her sanctuary, she knew it was not the same for humans. Many of their kind often died in her paradise, bodies becoming pale and bloated as they eventually found their way back to the shores they belonged to. It was a gruesome sight at best, but it had helped her understand why it was that many of Khai's kind feared the watery depths she belonged to.

The girl plunged into the water, dress billowing out around her as her form sunk into the lagoons depths. She closed her eyes for a few seconds while under, relishing in the cool feeling of the saltwater brushing up against her gills. With the short period of time she would need to hold her breath she wouldn't actually need to allow them to open, if only briefly, but she would be staying under for longer than Khai might expect in order to watch him and make sure he made it safely into the other cavern.

In her element her mood lifted, the dots on her skin glowing slightly brightly. Her eyes too joined in on the glow, having a vague self-lit appearance to them as she floated back up to the surface of the water. After checking that her dagger was still safely on her self and had not dislodged during her submergence, she turned to the male to see if he had joined her in the water. Once he did she swam up to the other end of the lagoon wall, gently feeling the surface underwater where she knew the rim of the hole would be. Once her fingers grazed over the smoothened stone edge she grinned slightly, turning to look at the male while brushing her wet hair from her eyes. "I'm going to go first...see you on the other side." She ducked under calmly, concentrating on allowing the neck slits of her gills just below her ears to open, the female dragging in a deep breath through them. I've missed this and it's barely been a few hours. Though her thoughts were somewhat depressive, Zara reminded herself of her mission and she strengthened her resolve.

The siren swam through the hole in the wall, taking a little longer than she usually would since she had only allowed her gills to open rather than having a partial or even full-transformation into her siren form. Normally her webbed fingers at the very least would have hastened her swimming speed, but they did not have the time it would take for her to change back once she had taken on some of her siren characteristics. It was a defense mechanism her species had, being able to revert quickly into siren form if they were human. However, going from siren form to human took much more time and energy that Zara knew they couldn't afford to waste.

Once through the short tunnel she waited on the other side, eyes searching for any sign of the male as he made his way through.
 
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Trying to put the hesitation behind, Khai decided to follow Zara and jump into the water, feeling its cold, wet touch and letting it wash away some of the blood and trouble he carried. As his head surfaced, he couldn't help but notice the transformations on the woman, and how she began to spark even more, gleaming brightly as if she was a beacon on the water. He didn't know exactly what she was, but Khai knew it had something to do with her feelings for the sea. A water creature, then? But not one who sought harm to others, simply following her emotions and her judgement, much like him. He hoped to have a chance to talk such things over with her, if they happened to get out of that chaos in one piece.

"It's cold!", he said, cheerful. He knew she was enjoying herself, feeling at home once again. Khai felt like that when he was with the Shadows as well. The cozy feeling of belonging in such a place, when he couldn't call a simpler place home, like the common folk. They had their small wooden houses, with fires to heat them in the winter, and Khai had the Shadows, where they always made him feel secure and welcome.

The time came for them to cross the lagoon, to try and reach the other end of the cave Zara spoke about. Khai simply tried to follow her lead as she glided effortlessy, as easy as walking. The young assassin was a decent swimmer, but nowhere near as efficient or flashy as the woman, her movements so natural. Thankfully for him, she was right when she said that he would only have to hold his breath for a short time, as they reached the moist goal.

Another cave, filled with silence and with the bright rays from the moonlit water reaching across the walls, the air much colder than before. Zara was the first one to reach the safe surface, waiting for Khai to appear, who followed suit and resurfaced a few moments later, gasping for air and trembling with cold. Quite the funny sight.

"You're fast!", he spoke between recollected breaths, trying to push aside some of the white tips of hair in front of his eyes. He laughed a bit. Khai wasn't used to underwater escapes, certainly not like that. In fact, it was rare thing for him to have such a risky attempt, as he always liked to keep his assassinations as clean and discreet as possible. That didn't work well with this one, though.
 
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Zara stayed under, watching and waiting for the male to appear through the hole in the wall. He did soon enough, swimming in to the new cavern. Once she was satisfied he was one one piece she made for the surface, breaking the skin of water soon than the assassin did. She shut off her gills again before dragging in a burning breath, gasping from the sensation of switching to air rather than because she had been holding her breath for so long. The male soon surfaced too, his teeth chattering and locks of hair covering his face. The sight was amusing to her, the female's head cocking to the side like a curious bird of prey while her eyes narrowed. For someone so lethal with his weapon, being out of his element changes how dangerous he can be. Now he seems almost normal.

The female looked up, seeing the large opening in the roof of the cavern that exposed the night sky. It would have been a pretty sight, with the pale white-blue light of the moon reaching down to them from the blanket of navy overhead. However, the sight of smoke obscuring the sight like menacing clouds helped the siren remain focused on keeping them both moving. He commented on her speed as she looked around, searching for the familiar small stretch of white sand that would act as their hiding place for the night. Her head didn't turn as she responded, instead swivelling as she searched. "Thank you for your kind words.....as well as for saving me earlier. I owe you a debt." Her words were somewhat serious, but said in a tone that was bland and almost nonchalant. Thus, the combination might have been confusing, leaving some space to wonder as to whether or not the female had been serious. Spotting the white sand glinting in the moonlight she swam forward, the caverns waters becoming shallow quickly as she dragged herself up onto land.

The sandy beach, although small, was at least sheltered. Hidden in the corner it would be hard to see from the opening in the rock nearby which led onto the beach of next bay. Zara plonked herself down onto the sand unceremoniously, wringing out the soaked dress as well as her hair. Some of her glow had faded, considering she was now out the water and the moons piercing light provided plenty of illumination. "Sorry about the need to swim. It might take us hours to dry off before the sun rises. We might not dry off at all." She wrung out her hair next, twisting the long strands together until the water came leeching out. Pulling her knees up to her chest she leaned against the back wall, pulling her arms close to her chest to ward off the cold. Staying in the water without transforming would have left her just as cold, but sitting nearby the inescapable breeze of the opening wasn't a whole lot better.

"What do you propose we do from here? The man you killed was my last lead....and I can't leave without answers." Her voice had turned somber. With the pair now being the safest they had been all night, Zara's thoughts returned to her failed mission. With the man who had helped the criminal escape dead, she had no clue as to where to turn to next. Going home would be guaranteed death and so that wasn't an option either.
 
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Khai

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After he got out of the water, Khai had a quick look around the small cavern, trying his best to focus his senses into sweeping the nearby area in search of enemies. In the end, he sighed in relief that there wasn't a soul nearby except for the pair.

"We're safe, at least for now", he broke a few words after Zara had her say. "But if they don't catch us first, i might as well die of cold!", Khai jokingly remarked again. He was still trembling a bit, from his teeth to his legs, the chilling breeze that now flew through the cove wasn't making matters easier too. At least they had managed to escape from the village, or the pile of rubble and ashes it now was. He would never forget that place, nor the memories that would forever haunt him.

A hole in the roof from which the moonlight made its way into that dark place added a simple yet beautiful touch to the improptu hideout, and as tempting as it was, Khai knew they couldn't hang around there for too long. The mercenaries would surely sweep the bay looking for them before taking their leaves back to the sea, but he assumed that they couldn't risk wandering the woods at night as well. Traps, wild animals and even monsters could be just around the corner waiting for them.

Seeing it as a reasonable thought, Khai made his way towards a nearby rock, tall enough and wide enough to serve as a seat, not too much comfortable though. With the adrenaline going off, the assassin now felt the effects of tiredness kicking in on his body, and a bit of rest wouldn't be such a bad thing either. They had time to spare now, and so Khai saw it as an opportunity to poke a bit of his curiosity from earlier, driven towards Zara and her beautiful mystique. Her complaints only served to help the matter.

"You don't owe me anything. I had a life to take and i took it. Too bad it was the wrong one, but i plan on rectifying that soon", Khai cheerfuly added that last bit, a short laugh and a dwelling smile as he looked towards the female, intrigued. His own eyes tightened and his gaze lingered towards hers.

"And what's your story for wanting someone dead? You don't look like much of a killer."
 
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The man seemed oddly cheery, considering he was soaked to the bone, on the run from a gang of mercenaries and now was shivering the presence of a 'blood-thirsty monster' according to the legends of the area. Not that Khai knew about the last part from his easy disposition towards her. Zara didn't think too much of the myths and stories surrounding her race...they had kept them safe for the most part. Besides, not all of her individuals in her race were as placid as she, some even fit the descriptions that the legends contained. Sirens and their motives were as variable as humans. However, with information details about sirens lacking she couldn't blame humans for the generalizations they made. The only real problem with it though is that people tended to judge her once they knew what she was. Judgement was on the lighter scale of reactions, considering some went as far as to drive her species out for fear that they might sing folk to a watery grave and then feast on their flesh.

Although she could not commune with shadows as he did, she felt a certain restful period begin. One in which she could recover from the nights events. She felt safer than she had all night, despite sitting with a man who she knew could kill without a second thought. Zara didn't know how or why she thought it, but she knew that despite his obvious lethality this male was still more trustworthy than those looking for her. She still would not be sleeping with him nearby just yet, that would be simply foolish and asking for trouble, but he wasn't someone she needed to run away from. Despite her uneasy trusting of him, his question still irked her and made the female sit up a little straighter.

"If you think all killers are easy to identify then I'm surprised you've made it this far. Sometimes death comes in the form of more than a man with a sharp blade. " Her words were serious, but slightly teasing. She couldn't help but laugh, knowing the truth of what she was when he did not. "Sometimes, not having others know you're deadly can be an advantage in itself. As for my reasons for wanting the man dead....that is quite personal and so I will only answer broadly. My intentions align with most others with the same need for murder. I seek retribution for someone that he killed, someone who was important to me but also to a much wider group of people. With him gone the safety of many hangs in the balance so the sooner I find him the sooner I can put things right and help them feel safe and secure again."

She drew patterns in the sand, swirling lines and curves similar to those on her skin. "What about you? What twist of fate led you to seek out the same target as myself? The murderer must have a darker soul than I originally thought to have a reaper like you after his death." The flow of her words was improving, but she still could not entirely do away with her slight accent. Her head tilted up to look where he sat on the rock when she finished speaking, hand leaving the sand and instead getting tucked into her lap.
 
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Khai

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Khai looked a bit puzzled as the woman talked, her words taking turns like spiderwebs and entangling with difficult sense as he tried to figure out what exactly she was going on about. Every person has a different view on life and death, but Khai liked to think a bit out of the box, or so he thought. Life and death was a simple matter of balance for him, like a feather hanging on your finger without edging too much to one side. His life's purpose was to kill - he was given a target, and that target died. No fancy speeches or anything.

"I don't think too much on it. I'm given a target and then he dies", Khai's words were set in a much more calmer and bit melancholic tone than before, his eyes going around the cavern, short of fixing on the woman as he gave her an answer. He put his hand forward, a couple of short blades slipping between his fingers effortlessly, as if they were already there. A bit of dark smoke faded near it, signs of his unnatural shadow magic at work as he sought to show that woman his practicality. He was a weapon, a simple life but a good one.

He started playing with the knives, his gaze completely focused on them as a short smile formed on his lips as he did so. Until it stopped, and Khai looked serious than he has ever been since the two met each other.

"The man you're after... He was once like a brother. A assassin from the Order, like me. Until he betrayed us. The Masters set me on the path to his death, and i'll have his blood so the Balance can be restored", he spoke, his words colder and intimidating as he skillfuly threw the blades against the ground, sticking them into the sand at their feet.

Khai glanced at her, somewhat lost in her beautiful features and the fearful gaze that lingered towards him after that show. Not that he was one to boast, but Khai enjoyed playing with a bit of fear in other people. He had learned that fear was both a powerful weapon and a sturdy shield. Used to intimidate or to gauge danger, as to preserve one's life. But Khai felt as if they could trust each other, and thus would never seek to harm Zara.

The assassin walked over to her, slowly taking seat at one of the rocks at her side, his hand stretching forward, palms open he sought her belonging, his head pointing forward towards the dagger at her waist. "Can i take a look?"
 

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Zara couldn't help but give a sardonic laugh at his views. He said it so simply, as if taking a life was the equivalent of taking an item off of a shelf. "If you think every target is as worthy of death as every other target then you are as mistaken as believing me to not be a killer simply by my looks." She rubbed at her temples, biting down to keep her jaw from chattering with the cold. The glint of a blade caught her attention, the female turning her head slightly to look at the small knife he had produced. He wove it in and out of his fingers, as a sewer would with a needle and thread.

He continued to move the blade deftly, showing his skill and finesse with the weapon as he suddenly turned serious. The reasoning behind his need to kill the man was plain and clear, if what a little confusing for her. The slick sound of the blade hitting the sand did not rise even a flinch out of her, but rather a tired sigh. She knew what he had intended, to make her fearful and wary of his skills. If he meant to intimidate her, he would need to try much harder than that. However, she knew how this worked. Playing along with his expectations she looked in his direction, allowing a glimmer of fear to cross her features. At seeing the satisfaction in his eyes she dropped it once more, allowing her stony expression to return. The words of one of her teachers came to her then, the elders voice a hot whisper in her ear as she had given her a lesson. The heart of men are easy to manipulate. A direct approach will work on many, but to earn to real attention of a few one needs to merely make them believe you are where they want you to be. Lion do not fear the presence of mice...by the time they realize the roles are actually reversed it is already too late. Use your appearance as weak and vulnerable as armor, allowing you to slip closer or even under the radar if need be.

Khai was not someone she needed to try and convince of her skill...not at the moment at least. She had no need to manipulate him with her velvety words. However, playing the fearful young woman who was intimidated by his knives would be smarter than trying to act tough. By doing what was expected, she could keep herself safe.

He came closer to her side, taking a seat close by before asking after her blade. The female raised a brow curiously, looking between the hilt of her dagger and his outstretched palm before saying, "If the roles were reversed, would you not think it unwise to hand over your only weapon to someone who had just shown you how dangerous they can be with theirs?" It was more of statement than a question really. She didn't expect an answer. The slick sound of her blade being taken from it's sheath echoed in the cavern, the light coloured metal catching the light of the moon as she placed it in his palms. The weapon was deadlier if she could wield it, but she had other hidden talents that she could also rely on. The siren placed the blade in his hand, exposing the runes on the blades surface as well as the carved handle. The hilt was decorated with mother-of pearl, shaped and laid to look like fish scales amongst carvings of swirling water and waves.
 
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Khai carefuly took the blade from Zara's soft hands, his eyes sparking as he felt the light weight of the dagger, intrigued at the runes and inscriptions etched upon it. He deemed that this wasn't a common dagger, much like Zara was anything but common. She had this important and unique feel about her, royal traits of grace and mystique much like that dagger. He smiled, playing with the weapon as he skillfuly juggled it from hand to hand, his fingers working effortlessly like an artist painting his pictures.

When he was finished, the assassin's hand reached forward once again, the blade pointed at him. His face was serious and yet somehow calm, clear on his intent to show he was no enemy to that woman. They shared the same goal, so it was best to put aside any judgements that could jeopardize that mission, or the astute enemy could use it against them.

"You don't need to fear me. I won't harm you, only those who seek to do so to you", he smiled after she took her weapon back from his hand, bending back as his eyes scoured through the cave's ceiling, marvelling at the luminescence provided by the moon through the great gap above.

"Who are you, anyway? You don't seem... from around here", Khai let out a small, friendly laugh at the end. He wasn't sure how to put forward his question, and he wasn't the best at describing his thoughts, always so hazy and somewhat innocent. He was still a young man after all, although the way with which he carried himself indicated different. Khai was cold, calculated and violent when he was set on the path of a mission, but he could be cheerful and a 'normal' person when removed from that. Seeing as they were stuck there for the night until they could think of a proper plan, he thought it would be good to have a 'normal' conversation for once.

"I'm as mysterious as the next assassin, but you... i don't know. What's your story?"
 

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Watching him with the dagger, moving it with ease despite it being uniquely made to suit Zara's training, was mesmerizing. The movements spoke of his years in handling weapons, which Zara could respect. Although he had committed himself to a life Zara didn't quite understand he had committed himself wholly, mind and soul. That kind of commitment was enough to earn some awe from her, the female happily accepting her dagger back from him and sheathing it back at her hip. While she knew she did not necessarily need it, having it back at her side was a comfort.

He said he had no intent of doing her harm, the girl unable to keep a sardonic chuckle from escaping her. "I would like to believe you, really. Unfortunately, where I come from, promises like that are often made and in no way at all genuine. I guess, in some way, promises like that are what led me to being here in the first place." She remembered when her father had welcomed those that had most likely hired the assassin into his home, showing them hospitality and wanting fruitful discussions about how they could help each other and their families. Being cautious as she was she shared with him her concerns over their true intentions, but he had been too kind a man to turn them away or even to think of them as having ill thoughts towards him.

Next he asked further as to who she was, prodding and poking at her stony facade she had been trying hard to keep in place. Sitting there shivering, her hair beginning to dry and curl thanks to the frigid breeze rolling over them, Zara couldn't help but wonder at what telling him some truth would do. Would he try and kill her? Hand her over to some filthy pirates to make some gold? She could never truly know. However, something deep within her knew that he wasn't the type. He was blood-thirsty, maybe....but not completely heartless. His reaction towards the slaughtered child had told her that much. She smiled to herself, deciding she would impart some information his way...after all, if he decided to turn on her, she would be back in the water and escaping out the multitude of underwater tunnels these caverns held before he would have time to get wet.

A small laugh escaped her, light as bells on a sleigh and just as pleasant to listen to. After all, her voice was her greatest weapon, one meant to be alluring and irresistible to all those who listened....when she needed them to. "I am most definitely not from around here. Much farther removed than you might imagine." She lifted her hand, parting her semi-damp hair off to the side and exposing the slits at her neck. "I'm what your folk like to call a siren, a sea songstress who lures sailors onto their dinner plates." Her last statement was said with heavy sarcasm, a short exhale of exasperation leaving her while she rolled her eyes. "At least, that's true with a small minority of us. Not like any of us taken to land are kept alive long enough to explain that."

She dropped her hair again, resting her arms on her knees. "As for my story - you know most of it already. I'm on land searching for the same man as you because he killed my father. What you don't know is that I am the one framed for doing it because the man escaped and in doing so allowed some very powerful people with very bad intentions take control of my clan." The female's muscles had coiled tightly at telling her story, her peripheral vision carefully fixated on him so she could gauge any action he made. If he was going to try and hurt her, she would be able to react quickly.
 
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Khai

The Twilight Assassin
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Khai's mouth opened in a oh as surprise came in following Zara's words. By wrapping his head strong enough around them, the young man remembered a bit of the stories he used to hear by the pirate's bay at Cerak, of one of the many dangers of the sea, and possibly the most beautiful. The sirens. As tragic as it sounded, Khai had heard many a sailor talking about jumping into the arms of a siren, towards a beautiful and satisfying death. They spoke of how marvelous and enticing these sea creatures were, and Zara certainly looked the part. Yet, although very beautiful, she didn't seem as deadly or monstrous as those stories made her out to be.

He could feel the unrest growing around her edges, probably due to thoughts about Khai's human reaction in regards to her true nature, and that prompted a smile to appear on his face as he looked down. "I remember... Stories that my friends used to tell before we...", he paused short of completion, the smile on his face ceased and melancholy settling in, painful memories now resting on his mind again. He looked up to her again, anxiously listening to the rest of her story. Fascinating as well as tragic. She too had felt the sting of betrayal, and the pain of losing someone so dear and yet be held accountable for it. It was tune Khai knew well, one sang to him with great sadness that he still carried in his heart. A heart yet beating thanks to the Shadows.

"Sorry that happened to you", he calmly said. "It won't be easy, but we'll have our revenge. I promise, on behalf of the Order of Shadows, we'll take that man down", Khai's gaze was firm and his confidence genuine. Taking long enough for him to lose on the mesmerizing traits of that woman. Sirens were indeed hauntingly beautiful, but the young assassin trusted that he wouldn't become like fish food at the end of that journey.

Khai decided to take a gamble, for the first time in a long time. More like his body moved on its own, even as his mind almost yelled at him to contain himself but to no avail. Slowly, his gloved hand made its way towards Zara's face, his fingers, trained for death and blood, now carefully caressing her cheek as his eyes connected to her own. A fleeting moment before Khai distanced himself, clearly nervous and out of his element.

"I... Y-You should get some rest. I'll walk around a bit, see if we were followed", he tried to put out the words as best he could, although his red cheeks spoke about his embarrassment. Hastening his steps, Khai searched for a way out of that cave, towards the frigid embrace of that cold, starry night.
 

MJK

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His facial expression seemed to morph into a variety of different stages. First, she detected what was something like remembrance, the man most likely recalling everything he had heard about sirens. That was never a good start in her experience, people usually tended to only share horrible tales of loved ones forced to drown because of the more violent individuals of her species.

There were some traditional families which still participated in surface hunts, tracking down a particular morsel of man flesh. This was especially a tradition during certain life events, such as coming of age or marriage to join two clans together. Valerie's clan had few such families, but many also chose not to practice the beliefs of their ancestors, finding that it harbored greater distrust towards their species as well as fear and hatred. It seemed nothing much had changed in the times since they started changing their ways, but Valerie's father had been one such of her people who knew that in order to grow their civilization, they would need to start trading with those on land to acquire items and materials impossible to retrieve from the water. Although doing this would be hard if others still continued in their carnivorous ways, slow progress was better than no progress.

Khai spoke of stories his friends used to tell, not quite finishing his sentence as the next set of emotions changed the expression of his face: grief and pain. He never finished what he had been saying before, instead moving on to give her a heartfelt show of empathy towards her situation. "You can't kill him immediately as you did so so irrationally with the other mercenary. I need him to provide me with evidence of his being hired so that I can take it back to my clan. It will help me to remove the people who have taken control in my father's death and my accusation of his murder. Promise me that and we will have the same goal."

His promise to exact revenge was genuine. It helped Zara feel confident about eventually finding her father's murderer and making him pay for what he did. What she had not expected though was the smooth leather of his hand against her face, a touch which did not suit the same hand which had ended so many lives tonight. She was startled at his sudden approach towards her, the female's hand moving quickly to grasp at her dagger handle in confusion but the man had distanced himself again almost as quickly. Khai's reddening cheeks spoke of his own confusion and embarrassment, the girl heaving a heavy sigh as he stood suggested she get some sleep.

He walked away, feet leaving imprints in the sand. Before he was too far she spoke to him, trying to ease the awkwardness he had displayed. "Khai, you should know....sirens are meant to pull in their prey. Even if they don't always want it. Don't feel bad about what you did, but keep in mind that it was probably just a reaction to what I am. If you want to walk around go ahead, but I doubt I'll be getting much sleep tonight. Not in my damp state and this cold breeze." She also shared a thought with herself, not voicing it out loud. I shall also not be sleeping after telling you what I am. Who knows, perhaps this show of affection is simply to lull me into a state of safety...which would make it all the more easy to catch me unaware.

She turned over anyway, propping herself up against the wall to keep as much of her body off the sand as possible before curling up with her knees pulled tightly to her body. Her eyes were shut but she remained listening, resting her body but most definitely not her mind as she remained alert for any danger.
 
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