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[center Aneili took one last drink of the water as it was passed to her before returning it to its designated spot. She licked her lips and gave out a happy, relaxed sigh. A good workout always made her feel at ease. She loved releasing all the tension that built up inside of her, and there was a lot of tension. Hatred.
She listened to Issa as he spoke, her eyes not leaving his face. It made sense that no one could beat him, it was the same for her. At a young age she became the top of all the warriors, rendering them all basically useless. While others stumbled on jobs, she completed them. It became regular to use Aneili instead of anyone else. She was the perfect pet.
"I guess you could say that. After I turned fifteen no one wanted to spar with me. It was hard to get my skill level up. My [i King ] would go to different kingdoms, trying to find someone to test my skill upon. They all failed." Aneili gave out on last sigh. "I'm glad I've finally found someone who I can test myself against."
[i 'Even if it is with a Lithian.' ]
It was hard for Aneili not to wonder what the Lithian's intentions were. If they were planning on betraying her and her people. It was so easy for Aneili to play out different scenarios in her head, all of them ending the same. Issa betraying Aneili. Aneili killing Issa. She was cocky, to say the least.
"I think it's time to sleep, for me anyway. I need to keep my energy up." She moved closer to the fire. "I will get up every once and while to keep the fire going, so we won't freeze."
She didn't know much about his power, either.
Mage crafted blade. Issa followed its progress with his eyes, aware it wasn’t meant to hit him. She was more rough and aggressive than he expected a Vellessi to be. At least this wasn’t going to be boring.
Issa huffed an unamused laugh at her comment about the cold,”I’m tougher than that. But I won’t say no to some warmer clothes.”
The rules sounded simple enough. It’d be a good way to see where they each were physically. Her first strike almost caught him off guard, but Issa was fast. And he knew how to get his balance back quickly. No hesitation on her part.
Issa pulled his mask down, breathing heavy. He’d expected once he got on the offensive it would be easier. Instead, they’d gone back and forth, and even his speed wasn’t enough to dodge all her attacks. Or get in enough good hits on her.
He caught the flask and drank. It wouldn’t have mattered to him what it was, but water was good. It was refreshing. He felt warm now, but knew he’d freeze if he didn’t sit by the fire. Sweat and cold air didn’t do him any favors.
Issa plopped himself down next to the fire, and after catching his breath a bit better laughed,”You’re fast to keep up with me. This will be good.”
He handed her the flask and laid back to rest on his elbow, watching her. She was a fearsome fighter, and he appreciated that. He felt better about the whole thing, even as his body ached. She really could punch hard. “You’re the first to fight to a draw with me since I was…”
Issa paused, thinking, and laid back in the dirt,”Fourteen? Fifteen? That’s when the soldiers stopped being able to beat me. No one beats me now. Except…” Issa sighed then quickly laughed, though the sound was a bit unconvincing. He pushed the wrappings and jewelry off his head, revealing more of his white hair in a mess on his head,”It doesn’t matter. Are you the best in Velless? You have to be. I wouldn’t believe anyone in Velless being half as good as you.”
[center "It better not dull," Aneili frowned, flinging the blade into a tree near Issa's head. "Or I'll have to give a talking to the mage who crafted it." Aneili got up from where she sat, walking over towards Issa.
She gave him a weak smile, noticing his arms wrapped around himself. She cocked her eyebrow slightly, a mocking laugh escaping her lips. "You know, if this place is too cold for you, then when we get to the mountains you are going to simply [i die.]" She rolled her eyes, biting slightly on her lip. "Tomorrow, we will get you a new garb. I need something myself. If we don't, we will surely freeze."
Aneili took notice to the blue feather that was now apart of Issa's outfit. She didn't say a word about it, instead, she focused in on his next question. "No weapons, no magic. Hand-to-hand combat. First one down wins, got it?"
She didn't wait for him to respond, putting all her weight into her first hit. It almost landed on target, but she only grazed him. Aneili couldn't help but smirk. [i 'Interesting...'] She pushed forward again, trying to not let him regain his composure.
Aneili pulled back, practically breathless. She moved to a flask near her old sitting spot, opened it up, and let the beautiful water pour down her throat. She then turned to Issa, throwing the flask his way. "Just water," she coughed. Aneili was surprisingly upbeat given the circumstances. She had never gone into a draw, not with anyone, but now she and her opponent were both a tad bit bruised and breathless. It was a great fight, taking up a half hour of their time. "You're fast," Aneili stated, adding two logs to the fire. She stripped off her tunic, revealing a small white underneath. Her tunic was drenched with sweat. "I look forward to working with you." Aneili let out a sigh, never thinking she would say those words to a Lithian.
So she had poison on her. He wasn’t sure if he should be surprised or not. He’d been forbidden by his king from bringing any, but Lithians had a certain reputation. That reputation meant the other kingdoms generally distrusted anyone from Lithia.
It sounded like just the sort of poison to help with their job too. No one would suspect a thing. He’d be curious to find out more, but she seemed interested in sparring. He smirked at her,”Sure.”
Once he finished his meal. He glanced at the coins, then watched her leave. He had an advantage with height, but Issa knew he couldn’t underestimate a pretty girl. Still, he wouldn’t plan on hurting her, that wouldn’t do any good for their mission.
With slight irritation Issa finished what he could bear to of the bland food and finished his drink before pushing himself away from the table and pulling the mask back up into place. His mother was hoping for success, in fact she depended on it. So he’d be good and play well with the Vellessi girl.
On a whim he picked up the blue feather and tucked it in with the red ones before leaving the building. It was silly, a habit carried over from when he was a boy enamored with birds and feathers. A feather from a foreign bird was a nice addition to his collection.
The air outside was colder than he liked. It chilled him past the layers he wore, and he crossed his arms as he made his way toward the smoke of a fire. The fire would be a relief.
He could hear a little thump as he got closer, repeated over and over. He followed the sound to see it was from her stabbing a log,”Seems a poor use of such a pretty blade. You’ll dull it that way.”
Issa came closer to the fire, sighing in relief as the heat seeped in to chase away the cold,”So, what limits should we have for our match? Since we shouldn’t really hurt each other and compromise the mission.”
[center Aneili pushed her bowl away from her, unable to finish the course in front of her. Her stomach was tiny and she didn't need much food to keep going, and also, she was a bit full on the ale. She, however, did have enough room for one last swig from her flask.
She cocked her eyebrow at the [i fairly ] part, obviously intrigued by what he meant. She waited a moment for him to elaborate but when he didn't she didn't press on. They had plenty of time to get to know each other, and in all honesty, she didn't even think that was going to happen. No expectations, no rules.
"I have some on me. The one thing my people know is their poisons," Her voice was almost purring. "We have a rare fish called the Viper that only swims near our land. It is untraceable and mimics signs of the flu."
Aneili pushed out of her seat and stood up, looking at Issa dead in the eyes. "I'll meet you out in the woods. I want to see what you can do," And with that she turned, dropping the appropriate amount of gold coins on the table. Enough to pay for his and her meal, plus more. Her boots clicked against the floorboards as she exited the building.
Aneili started a small fire in the woods and sat next to it, removing her cloak and putting it next to her. She tapped her foot against the ground, not in any particular hurry to get started. She took a beautiful blade from her pocket and stabbed it into a log near her. She did this again and again.
Bandages, and an excuse about visiting the south to explain any skin they happened to see. It could work. That would be their ticket in the door, from there they would still need a plan about how to get close to their target and kill him.
Issa took a bite of the bread, which wasn’t bad. If they did one thing right around here he supposed the bread was it. He stirred the soup, not exactly eager for it as he talked almost wistfully about the food back home,“A much deserved reputation if you ask me. Nothing as watered down as this, we have spiced goat in a thick sauce on a flat piece of bread. Not everyone can handle some of our food, but it sounds like you could.”
They both clearly enjoyed talking about food, and that might pass time as they traveled better, but the conversation did have to keep at least coming back to work. Issa smirked,”I can handle myself. No one has beaten me [i fairly] in years.”
The way he said fairly betrayed some bitterness over a memory. He glossed over it by leaning a little closer,”Dear, I’m Lithian. I know a fair amount about poisons, though obviously I know more about poisons from Lithia. Not that my king let me [i bring] any. Insisted it wouldn’t endear us to our Vellessi friends if I showed up with any on me. But if you want one for the job, it’s easy enough to get one, just tell me what you need it to do.”
While he was clearly supposed to be prepared, there were some lines this time given the more diplomatic nature of working with Velless. Things he would have to procure while traveling, if it was determined they needed it. His king gave him a mission, but the plan itself was up to him and his partner to figure out. It was often like that, the king said to do something and didn’t care how it got done as long as it was done well.
Aneili nodded, her hands wrapping around the flask he passed back towards her. She took a quick swig from it before returning it to its rightful place, making sure the barkeep and staff didn't see. People didn't particularly like when you brought your own food or beverage to a bar, it was considered disrespectful. A real slap in the face.
"We can bandage you up real nice, make it so you are unrecognizable," She took a bite from the stale bread on her plate and grumbled, unimpressed with the whole thing. She turned to the stew and took a bite and was quickly back to high spirits, loving the taste of the meat as chewing. "This is so much better than fucking fish."
When Issa mentioned getting a real drink Aneili grinned, nodding up and down quickly. "It's been a dream of mine to taste all the cuisine from your people. I heard many great things, many." Food and drinks seemed to be what the two bonded over.
Aneili was actually surprised that she didn't completely hate the guy that sat beside her. Of course, there was distrust there. Lithian's played dirty, stealing and backstabbing when they could. In all honesty, when Aneili figured out she was felt rage bubble up inside her like never before. She was never forced to work with others, in fact, the King preferred her to be alone. She couldn't help but think her 'beloved' King was planning something devasting.
"Now I must ask, how well are you at hand-to-hand combat?" Her eyes were now focused, determined. She would need to see if he could keep up with her, not just with magic but with physical activity as well. The best way to do that was to test it herself. "Also, do you have any knowledge of poisons?"
A fire, huh? Issa smirked to himself. She was right. He could do a lot of damage with a little preparation around here. They were peaceful here, raising crops and animals.
He raised an eyebrow at her, surprised she had a flask of anything like that. Velless didn’t usually make anything like that. She confirmed that it was unusual. He was curious to try and see if it was anything close to asave.
His curiosity would have to wait. He tilted his head down, both eyebrows raised. Was she serious? Before he could say anything the woman was back with food for Aneili. His attention went to the serving girl. That wasn’t an accidental touch. Issa gave a grin that was a little forced, though he was usually pretty good at controlling his face.
Aneili seemed to deter the girls advances a little. Or she had actual work to do. Issa laughed at her comment about fish. “No fish where we’re going. Well, not much. Now,” He looked at her with an amused half grin, his voice dropping down to keep the serious parts of their conversation too quiet to hear from any distance,”That’s an interesting plan, but I don’t really look like an Edwin, do I? We’re going to have to do a lot to make me pass for any kind of northerner. Unless...”
Issa ran his fingers down one of the jeweled chains hanging from his head,”This Edwin has been ill, yes? If say, he recently returned from the south seeking healing… It will still take a little work, but it’s doable.”
Now for his curiosity. He lifted the flask, taking a mouthful before passing it back to her discreetly. It had a good burn, though not much flavor. He decided he liked it better than any drinks he’d had since leaving Lithia. Besides that, the fact that she drank anything like this meant her taste in drink at least wasn’t awful. He chuckled,”It’s not bad. I should buy you a real drink if we get the opportunity. Let me know if you spot any Lithian traders, I think you’ll like it.”
He couldn’t trust her, not really, but he had to admit that for a Vellessi girl she wasn’t bad. His mood now was better than it had been since leaving home, which was mainly because of her. She was surprisingly easy to talk to, and not as useless or stupid as he worried she might be.
Aneili watched as Issa removed a part of his mask, revealing a devilish smile as he let out a chuckle. "That's why you drink it fast," Aneili winked yet again, downing another pint. "I know what you mean though, this land is nothing but herbs and forest. If a large fire was to come into play there would be great devastation here." She waved her hand out, not at anything in particular. Her tone lowered, "Lucky for them that they have no real enemies because it's such an [i easy ] target."
As soon as Issa mentioned asave Aneili scrambled to her pockets, removing a pewter flask wrapped in leather. "I got this from a mage from my kingdom. She used magics to create a strong brew, supposed to match what you guys do in Lithia. It's not the same, but it's a step up from this shit." Aneili tossed the flask onto Issa's lap before moving her eyes back to her now empty mug. She waved toward the barkeep, who sent two more clay mugs down her way. Aneili was known for her strong stomach and love for a good drink.
"My contact says that only one lord, Edwin, will not be attending the Ball. Since no one has ever seen his face it will be easy for you to disguise yourself as him. I will either be your handmaid or lover, whatever you [i wish]," Aneili's voice had a a tiny drop of seduction for emphasis. "We can just say that you, as Edwin, have gotten over your illness and decided to drop in."
Aneili dropped quiet as the wench moved back towards their table, a stew and bread in hand. She pressed herself against Issa as the woman dropped off the food, making a small, fake, giggle. Her chest rubbed against Issa's arm, a fake grin plastered on her face. "Thank you so much for the food," Aneili kindly bowed her head towards the girl.
A large sigh escaped from Aneili's lips when the girl backed away. "All we have is fish and more [i fucking ] fish," You could hear the disgust in her tone, "It's honestly the worst."
It wasn't hard to tell that Aneili had a great dislike for her own kingdom. In fact, she wished every day that she was born in Wistel or Lithia. Not god damn Velless.
Issa hasn’t touched his drink yet, or moved to remove his mask. He would have to at least partly. He wasn’t eager for the weak drinks people in this country seemed to like. Or the way they foamed.
His head tilted in curiosity when she used her magic to steal ale from one of the distracted men. So, that was her power. The king hadn’t given many details about Aneili. While she talked, he pulled down the lower part of his mask, letting it hang around his neck. The upper part remained in place, more decorative than concealing.
Options. A party or catacombs. While he considered the options, she made her joke, and he chuckled,”If we were going to just drink I’d want something better than this.”
He took one sip of his drink and set it down, raising an eyebrow,”It’s weak and sweet. I could forgive the sweetness if it were stronger. Now, for the asave back home, I might take you up on it.”
Asave was his people’s name for the alcohol they made from desert plants. It was stronger, and most had a more bitter taste, though some were a little sweeter. He looked forward to drinking entirely too much of it once this was over.
First, there was the plan to consider. He leaned toward her, trying to give the impression to anyone glancing over that he was flirting, but his tone was more serious than the playful smirk he was trying to keep,”I’ll take a party any day. What’s the cover story going to be?”
He leaned away when the serving girl returned with his food. A stew with some bread on the side. After the woman left Issa stirred the mixture. Cabbage, beans, it was heavy on a lot of vegetables, some he could identify and others he couldn’t. “Do you want some? Tell me, is the food where you’re from as bland as this?”
He wasn’t shy about voicing his dislike of the food and drink in the farming region. They had plenty of food, but as far as he was concerned most of them didn’t know what to do with it. His people were known for strongly flavored food and drinks.
Aneili was considered odd to her people. While Veless was known for being kind Aneili was known for being cruel. Then again, this was the way her precious king shaped her.
Aneili downed the ale as quickly as it took for Issa to finish his sentence, wiping the foam from her lips. Her eyes watched as the wench moved away from the table slowly, almost tripping over a few men who were having quite a laugh about the tumbling waitress. Noticing that they were distracted made Aneili chuckle, an idea forming.
Aneili raised her hand towards one of the men's mug, who was at least 6 feet away from her and flicked her wrist. Slowly the ale from the man's mug lifted into the air, dancing its way into Aneili's now empty mug. The man didn't even notice.
"I have a contact in Wistel who says there will be a Ball in a weeks time," Her voice was now quiet, almost a whisper, "It will take five days to get to Wistel, if we are lucky." Aneili put her index finger to her lips, pondering for a moment. "Do you prefer sneaking in through catacombs or should I forge us an invite?" She cocked her eyebrow. His answer would show her a glimpse into what he can do.
"Or we could just say fuck it and drink here until our hearts content?" Aneili gave a wink, [i A joke to lighten spirits. ]
When he didn’t see the woman he was meeting, Issa found a seat and the barkeep to get food and alcohol. The place was noisy, but cheerful. All the laughter would mask their talking. He saw someone enter, his head tilting slightly when he noticed the blue feather in her hair. His eyes never left her as she made her way over and took a seat. Clearly she was looking for him as well.
She was pretty, but he saw something more hardened in her golden eyes. There was little doubt about her being like him in profession. A skilled slave in service to her kingdom. He thought people from Velles were soft, but she didn’t seem as soft as he was expecting. Good. He figured she would be less of a liability than he feared.
He rested his elbow on the table, leaning to rest his cheek on his closed fist. His lips curved into a smirk matching hers under his mask. His eyes were the only thing visible, but they were very expressive, dancing with interest and amusement. “Yes, I’m the Lithian. My name is Issa.”
His eyes briefly darted to see if the barkeep was coming with their drinks yet. Sure enough, he was sending over a girl with the clay mugs. Issa sat up straighter, giving the girl a slight nod to dismiss her. He slid one cup toward his companion,”Where do we start? We’ll need to have a plan settled on tonight. Something both of us are fine with, since we’re stuck working together.”
The king had been perfectly clear. Issa had to work with this Vellesian, ditching her or not working well together wasn’t an option. There was the ever present, often unvoiced threat if he didn’t comply precisely to the wishes of the king. The king hadn’t said anything this time, but Issa knew all too well that his failure or disobedience would cause his mother suffering. His mother and baby brother or sister, whichever it was when they were born. So for their sake he would play nice.
[center ~~3 Days Ago~~ ]
"The Lithians will just be a nuisance," Aneili sneered, her face full of disgust. "I can do this on my own, you just have to trust me-"
[#000080 "Quiet, Zi, my mind has been made up. You will meet the Lithian and you [b will ] work together. If I find out otherwise there will be dire consequences." ] King Castro huffed, pointing towards the painting he had of Aneili's sister. [#000080 "Do I have to remind you what happens when you don't listen to me, Zi?" ]
Aneili let out a sigh but didn't say anything, her eyes fixed on the photo of her younger sister, Ana. The painting was old, with flecks of dirt scattered across it. Ana's eyes looked tired and there was a long scar across her face. Aneili didn't know if this was a new scar or an old one, since she hasn't seen her sister for months.
"Okay, I'll do it. But I want to see her when I'm done."
King Castro nodded. A silent agreement.
[center ~~Now~~ ]
Aneili pressed her finger against the tip of the blade, digging it slightly into her skin until she saw blood. [i 'Too dull,' ] she reflected, before throwing down the knife in front of the blacksmith. "Is this the best you got?" Aneili spat, her eyes focusing in on the man in front of her. He was obviously no mage.
The man shuddered then nodded, not daring to look up to meet the eyes of Aneili. She couldn't blame him, her golden eyes could cause any man to tremble.
"Shame," was all Aneili said before turning, her white cloak hitting against the man's pale face. Rolling her eyes, she proceeded to the Inn.
Aneili pushed through the doors of the Inn, her cloak coming off of her head to reveal her dark locks. Behind her ear sat a beautiful blue feather that darted out of her hair. [i 'This is it,'] She thought to herself before fully pulling off her cloak, revealing a blue tunic and green trouser. She raised a hand to the barkeep, asked for his finest ale, then proceeded to look around.
Aneili took in her surroundings carefully, looking to see if the man she was to meet had arrived. Surely enough her eyes found him, a tan man with red feathers protruding from his outfit. He was attractive and young, with red eyes that could bore into your soul. Aneili took a few steps forward before plopping herself next to the Lithian. She removed the feather from her hair and placed it in front of him, a small smirk creeping across her face.
"The name is Aneili of the Kingdom of Velles. I assume you are the Lithian, am I correct?"
This mission would change things. At least that was what Issa hoped. Regicide was not the usual sort of assignment, and he was being sent far away. A success here might mean [i he] would acknowledge Issa, finally. Those thoughts fueled his lone journey to the rendezvous point.
It was ridiculous that he was being forced to work with another kingdoms mage. The only reasons he went along with it were that it was an order, and they were being sent to the coldest region on the continent. In that place alone he thought it might be good to have some backup.
He typically wore red feathers from desert birds, and had to keep them visible for this partner. His mask was on, another thing to distinguish him from others even as it obscured most of his face. He dressed in a way that made it clear he was from Lithia, though his outfit wasn’t entirely typical. The kingdom held the desert lands for as long as any record that existed, and none had conquered the proud people. He wore a tight fitting dark outfit, with looser, cream colored fabric draped and wrapped over, and a cloak of the same light, breezy material. He was dressed for traveling, and had come a long way to the promised inn.
Night was coming. The sun was sinking fast and the cold was starting to set in. Issa was glad to finally slip into the warmth of the main room. He pulled the door shut behind him and stepped to the side then stood there for several seconds. He was still save for his red eyes, which darted around from person to person looking for a blue feather. Most of the people seemed to be locals here for a drink or two, and a few were travelers likely staying in a room upstairs like he was planning to.
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