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Into the Black - CTS part 4

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The start of this CTS and intro is here.

By kallysti

Fridai had quickly regained his composure, his hands no longer shook by the time he was halfway done donning his armor. The cobalt chainmail fit almost like a second skin, such was the quality of the weave. He sheathed the short, wicked dagger on one hip, and the razor-sharp short sword on the other. Shouldering his backpack, filled only with food now, he climbed back up onto the docks and into the Freeport streets.

But he wasn't halfway to the gate before he heard it: "Death to the enemies of Lucan! Stop in the name of the Overlord!" Not that it was an uncommon sight to see the militia chasing any Qeynosians but suddenly he had a sinking feeling, a premonition of who it might be.

No, more like a "just my luck" feeling, came the thought as he looked down the street. Whoever it was had quite the crowd of guards behind him. More than usual, too: so Freeport's 'finest' were either bored... or this one that they chased had really pissed them off. In the end, it didn't matter: these chases always ended the same way and it wasn't pretty. One man, no matter who he was, could not take down the entirety of the militia by himself... and they were not the forgiving sort.

He got a closer look and his sinking feeling was confirmed. The little bard saw the wagon rolling in the distance, then saw the monk, Toeii, slowly gaining on it. But gaining on him was every guard from here to the Freeport gates... maybe a few more... and they would surely reach him before he reached his target.

No time for thinking, crossed his brain as he put on a burst of inhuman bardic speed. Easily, he caught up to the big cat and without a word grabbed him by the wrist as he quickly chanted the cantrip to evacuate the two of them back to the gates. It wouldn't get them completely clear but it would give them a better lead. Maybe the guards didn't see me... the last thing I need right now is trouble from the Freeport militia for aiding an enemy to the Overlord... In a moment, he and the large Kerran were back at the entrance to the city, which stood momentarily empty, as it's usual guards were down the road in pursuit of the monk who was no longer there.

"C'mon," urgently, he pulled Toeii back towards the gate and the Commonlands beyond. The guards were still realising what had happened but they would return soon. Too soon for Fridai's liking.

"You idiot!" the big cat growled, "The girls were in that wagon!"

"The girls were... " his eyes widened in sudden understanding, "Dammit! I thought I asked you three to..."

"Halt!" came the shout, far off now but quickly getting closer, "Enemy of the Overlord, stay where you are!"

A desperate plan formed quickly in the bard's mind. He drew his weapons, "Play dead!" he hissed through clenched teeth. The monk, frustrated at the wagon that had now moved out of sight, hesitated a moment, "We'll get them, I promise," he continued under his breath, "just trust me." Toeii nodded almost imperceptively in understanding and dropped quite convincingly to the ground.

A bard-worthy performance, my friend, Fridai thought grimly. He pasted a big, dumb grin on his face as the guards got closer. "I got him, sir!" he hooted proudly, "Death to the enemies of Lucan! Want me to throw him off the docks?"

One man narrowed his eyes suspiciously at this but the other, the senior of the two, just shrugged and gave a derisive ilttle laugh, "Sure, knock yourself out, kid." So the bard grabbed the 'dead' monk, and with a surprising strength from one so small, began to drag Toeii towards the docks.

By roorni with help from brig_xen

After a long bumpy ride, the wagon finally stops. Not being able to see the sky Xenith had no idea where they were or how long they had been traveling. Someone picked her up and carried her. She kicked and struggled helplessly. She could hear laughter and glasses clinking together like in a tavern then it sounded like she was being carried down a set of stairs. Xenith was dropped onto the floor and the ropes were removed from her hands. She yanked off the blindfold and gag and looked around.

Secia is on a cot nearby still out. Before she gets a chance to do anything the men that had taken them here exit closing and locking the door behind them. Xenith still tried to open the door and finds that not only is she weaponless, her lock picks are gone.

She hears a slight moan and sits on the edge of the cot looking over Secia. There's a small cut on the side of her head where she was hit and some hair is matted down in red blood. Xenith brushes back more of Secia's hair checking for more wounds.

Secia comes to in the darkness and starts to sit up. Nearly passing out again she reaches her hand up to the side of her head. "Oh my, that really hurts."

"You alright? You took quite a blow to the head I think. I didn't see it unfortunately."

Secia flinches a bit as Xenith looks over her wounds. "I think I am ok, it hurts but I am sure it will heal well. How about you, you have some scratches and bruises as well? Anything really bad?"

"Having some trouble breathing but it's not bad. I may have cracked a rib or I hope it's just bruised. Boy we should could use that bard now huh?"
"Sure could. Any idea where we are, or why we are here?"

Xenith shook her head. "I was blindfolded until we were brought into this cellar. I heard some noises upstairs that make me think it's a tavern or an inn there. They haven't said anything to indicate what they want other than..." she paused not sure she should tell the young monk about the man's comment on her beauty and making money. "...I don't know."

"I wonder why they would bring us here. It's not like I have anything valuable to anyone." Secia shrugs and looks at Xenith, "Do you think Master Toeii heard the fight and will come help us out of here? Or should we just try and find our own way out?"

"It's possible he did. He could have heard a lot better if you had run for help when I asked," she replied gritting her teeth. "Why did you stay and fight?"

Secia drops her eyes to the floor in a mixture of shame and guilt. "I thought we could handle it. I am sorry. I should have done as you asked. I let you and my training master's down. I am sorry, Xenith."

Xenith exhaled heavily. "No I should have known better than to wander so far away from Toeii when we're close to an enemy city like that. I promised Toeii I'd protect you and I couldn't even take care of myself. I just wish I could have seen you fighting. Sounded like you put up quite a struggle." She grinned at Secia.

Secia looks up and sees Xenith smiling at her, and smiles back. "You were amazing; perhaps when we get out of here you could show me how to use daggers. It is something I haven't really learned yet."

"I'd be happy to show you. It just takes some practice. I bet Toeii and Fridai are looking for us. However I think was should try our best to get out of here if we can. I will do everything I can to keep you safe though."

"I agree, but since there are no windows in this room, do you have any ideas how? I mean we could attack the first person to come through the door, but I am guessing that he or she would have friends not far that would help."

"We'll have to find out what they want from us first and try to get more info on this place. Then we can form a plan. We better cooperate with them for now. No need to get hurt any worse. When we do try something, those wine bottles might make a weapon for us. Of course it seems you can be a weapon yourself," Xenith said snickering a little.

"Yeah, sure and I have the bloody head to show for it." Secia shakes her head a bit and asks, "When do you think they will come down here to check on us? Do you really think the guys might be on the way here also? I don't know how they would even know which way to look for us."

"The ground was pretty soft I noticed when we walked to the trees. They took us here by wagon so there should be plenty of tracks to follow. I don't know Fridai well but I know bards can track. Just knowing your order Toeii would insist on looking for you. I get the feeling he is taking responsibility for your safe return. As for our hosts, I'm sure they'll come down soon. It must be getting late. I'm hungry how about you?" Xenith rummages through her pockets to see if there is at least a small snack that wasn't confiscated. Her pockets are all empty.

"I hope Master Toeii won't be too angry at me. I know I should never have been out of the guild hall in the first place. I am hungry as well; perhaps someone will bring us something to eat soon.”

They sit awkwardly in silence for a while. Finally footsteps can be heard coming down the stairs. A hulking dark haired man entered the room. He carried a tray of some food and a bag. He set the food down on a small table they hadn't really noticed off to the side. "Here's your dinner. My name is Damien. What are you ladies called?"

"What do you want from us?" Xenith asked. She recognized the voice as the man that had pinned her to the tree.
"Why have you brought us here, and where are we?" Secia pipes up from behind Xenith.

"Feisty still. Do we need to give you another lump on the head girl? However I will answer you. This place is The Drunken Lizard. Where does not matter. We are far from Qeynos. Behave yourselves and someday you will go home. It's not often we see a full Fier'dal or a goody Ayr'dal.”
“Men will pay plenty of gold just to see you. But I have a job for you. In the bag," he said while tossing the bag to Secia on the end of the cot, "you will find the clothes you are to wear tonight. Hurry and eat. In one hour I'll be back down to get you and you start serving drinks upstairs. If either of you don't obey, I'll hurt the other one. If you both misbehave too much I'll send you up to Miss Ler'Vasta and she'll put you to work on your backs. Eat up!" He turned and left slamming the door shut.

Remembering Xenith's words about cooperating, Secia holds her tongue all the while glaring at the man as he leaves. She looks at the bag and the food and decides to eat a bit before looking at the clothes.

Xenith joins her and frowns at the bland meal. "Wonder how bad the outfits are. This is not going to be easy. Who knows what kind of filth frequents this place."
Between bites of food, Secia thinks about what the man said. "Xenith, about what he said, you don't think we will have to do more than serve drinks do you? I mean, they don't expect us to, well..." Secia looks at the ground and blushes slightly, not sure how to finish her thought.

"No. I won't let them do that to you. If anyone has to, I will. Not like I haven't had to before." She sighed then took a sip of water. She was trying to stay strong for Secia but she trembled slightly. I will do whatever it takes to get us out, she thought, even the worst.

"Xenith, I didn't mean it like that. I don't want either of us to have to go through anything that. I was just wondering what you thought is all."

"I don't want to do it but I certainly want to keep you safe. Let's just do as he says and hope he keeps his word and we just serve drinks. That should be easy enough." Xenith opens the bag and pulls out the uniforms. She gasps in shock. "Oh sweet Tunare! I think he forgot the clothes."

Secia takes the clothes from Xenith, and looks in wonder. "Umm, well at least we won't be hot in these. But my mother will kill me if she ever sees me in this; she already has a problem with my training clothes."

Xenith laughed. "Yeah definitely won't be warm. But what if it's cold in the room?"

Xenith and Secia finish eating and get dressed in what little clothes Damien left them to wear. Secia choose the blue and Xenith took the green outfits. Not that they left much to the imagination…the skirts were impossibly short and the tops were so low cut it was almost impossible to stay decent in them.

By Wychwethl

Once they were clear of the guards Fridai shifted Toeii so that he was slumped over his shoulder, still feigning death. The bard listened with his trained ears and couldn't hear the Kerra breathing.

"Good trick," he muttered, repositioning the dead weight into a more comfortable position on his back.

A group of passing fishermen eyed the pair strangely but disregarded the sight of the small half elf carrying the much larger Kerra toward the docks as quickly as it took for them to pass each other; too many questions could draw the wrong kind of attention.

Fridai turned his head and made sure the fishermen were out of earshot. "Not sure if you can hear me like that, but I assume you want to go in after the girls." Fridai pasued and thought a moment, this was becoming a lot of trouble. "But we're going to do it my way. I think I may know where they were taken. There's a- there's a bar in the north end of the city, it isn't too far off the canals and the current off this dock should take you deeper into the city, I'll dump you in and fish out as close to the bar as I can... you'll just have to trust me."

As they neared the docks Fridai could see an ogre loitering just a few feet from the wooden planks. As he got closer Fridai could see he was trying to smash a scurrying crab with a large rock, futitily dropping the stone where he thought the crustacean would go. Fridai had seen this ogre in town before, trying push a pull-to-open door to a gnomish gizmo shop, after several minutes he settled for ripping the door off it's hinges...

"Her her her, hey there little elf-man, what's that yoo gots there? Luks ded, can Gront eat?"

"Sorry, Gront is it? This is a Qeynosian, he'd probably give you heartburn. The Militia told me to throw him off."

"Gront sorry to hear that..." The ogre's stone crashed to the ground again with a heavy 'thud'.

Fridai grunted and dropped Toeii into the chilly water, standing on the end of the dock, watching to make sure the monk caught the current and had drifted far enough away to discourage ol' Gront from becoming interested. Satisified the small bard trotted off to where he intended to pull Toeii out of the canal.

By brig_xen

Secia and Xenith followed Damien up the stairs quietly. Secia tugged on her skirt trying desperately to lengthen it. At the top of the stairs was a small stockroom filled with supplies for the bar. Damien opened the door and there was the main room of the sinister and filthy “Drunken Lizard.” The bar was to the left of the supply room running along the wall then turning left leaving a small dark corner with a few tables. On one wall was a piano with a brown haired human playing. Next to him was a petite half-elf girl with red hair. She was humming and speaking in whispers to the piano player. There were tables along the rest of the walls and in the middle of the room. At the far end of the room was the staircase to upstairs. A little bit of the second floor was visible from a balcony near the stairs. The main door wasn’t far from the storeroom they had come out of. A tall barbarian leaned against the wall next to the door.

Damien led them behind the bar where a ratonga was mixing drinks and a human girl with short brown hair was drying some glasses. “Ladies this is Mistress Chamista. She’s going to show you what to do and set you up. Have either of you served drinks before?” he asked. Xenith nodded while Secia shook her head. Damien looked at Secia. “Well then she’ll teach you what you need to know. Chamista’s in charge of you both so do what she says and you won’t be punished. Behave yourselves and sell lots of drinks and you could get a reward. I’ll see you later, sweetheart,” he said to Chamista squeezing her around the waist and kissing her cheek. She winced and forced a half smile. He walked across the room pausing to shake a few hands before he headed up the stairs.

“He's not all bad,” Chamista said, “but he isn't the nicest man. Just do what's required and you should be fine. What are your names?”

“I'm Xenith and she's Secia. Were you forced here too?”

Chamista shook her head. “I ran away from home a few years ago. I had to find work to feed myself. I saw a sign outside for a job and three years later here I am.”

“So you could leave if you wanted?” Secia asked.

“I suppose so. But I don't have anywhere to go. I'm not going home. My father was cruel and heartless and I liked my stepmother even less. There aren't alot of ways for a girl to make money in this town. At least here I work on my feet.”

Xenith seemed to understand and agree with her. Secia persisted though. “You could become an adventurer and travel. Or maybe come back to Qeynos with us. You could train with me at my order.”

“You're a sweet girl but they wouldn't allow someone from Freeport in,” she replied. Chamista then changed the topic showing them around the bar. She showed them the table assignments, where supplies were, the cash box and tip jar. “Damien takes a portion of the tips and the rest I get.”

“Then why would we even try to get good tips?” Xenith asked.

“Because I use the money to buy things for you girls. Like everyday items and clothes for your off hours. What you earn is for you in a way,” she explained. “Now over at the piano is Steesil. Bring him drinks throughout the night and he'll watch out for you. The girl with him is Jolich, the singer and entertainer. Damien took her from outside an inn near Qeynos after a performance. The guy at the door is Ugarte. He's the bouncer and also looks out for you if the customers get too friendly. He likes to drink water or coffee while working but will have several pints of ale after closing. Over there that high elf waiting on that table is Laenerin. She's been here over two years now and tried to escape at least a dozen times. But she's learned there's no escape.” Chamista looked sad at the last statement. She introduced them to the ratonga bartender, Rakja. She assigned some tables to Xenith and asked Secia to shadow her until she knew the job better.

It was quiet at first but the place filled up as it got later into the night. Dark elves were the predominant customers with some humans, barbarians and a few ratonga in the crowd as well. Jolich finished another song and the place thundered with shouts and applause. Xenith was getting tired of smiling politely at Tier’dal and restraining herself.

As she was passing one table a young dark elf grabbed her leg and said, “Hey darlin’ let’s go upstairs later for some fun.”

“Take your hand back now Mister before you regret it,” she replied half grinning. When he refused she leaned forward and her hand disappeared under the table. “Want your little soldier intact?” He quickly let go of her and she withdrew her hand producing with a dagger in it. She jammed it into the table and walked off to pick up her next order. He stared at his dagger wondering how she had disarmed him so quickly.

Secia was fairing pretty well following Chamista. She was uncomfortable in the revealing apparel and with how the customers treated them. Chamista told her that there were probably places like this in Qeynos although the girls there were more likely there at their own accord. She didn’t believe her and doubted anyone in Qeynos would act like this.

Xenith approached a table of dark elves and shook her head. “Oh no, not you. What would you like to drink?”

One of them smiled in recognition. “Well well. It’s the little cheater. Xenith, wasn’t it? What a surprise. I see you got what you deserved though. I want my money back. You can start by getting us some ale though.”

“I never cheated, I’m just a better card player. Do you want a rematch, Valar’ash? I’d be happy to clean you out again,” Xenith said wryly.

“Just fetch our drinks, wench.”

Xenith took a deep breath and kept her cool. She went to the bar and got the drinks. Laenerin was there too waiting on an order. She spoke to Xenith in elven, “Don’t bother trying to escape. You’ll never get far. It’s Freeport after all. You just have to accept your fate like I've done.”

“No,” Xenith said. “There’s always hope. We’ll all make it out somehow. You’re from Castleview?” Laenerin nodded. “I think I met your family. They haven’t given up on you and your brother still searches for you.” The high elf smiled and looked like she would cry. Xenith then collected the ales and headed back to the table of Tier’dal. She started to set the drinks on the table.

“I hear that your father loved one of our kind and your mother was nothing but a whore to him,” Val said to Xenith.

Xenith glared at him. “Take that back now, liar.”

“Funny, the cheater calling me a liar. Do you charge the same as your mother did per night?”

Xenith was boiling with rage but still maintained her composure. “Here’s your drink, Val.” She poured out one of the ales over his head. She turned and walked to the bar. Val stood up shouting and Damien, who had just come back downstairs a few minutes ago, rushed over to him to find out what happened. After a brief discussion he grabbed Xenith and started to drag her to the storeroom. Secia dropped a glass and Chamista told her to get another round for the table while she went over with some towels to clean up the mess.

Damien pushed Xenith against the wall and closed the door. “Turn around and stand still!” he shouted. He pushed her skirt up a bit and whipped her across her behind with a belt. Xenith gritted her teeth to keep from crying out. After several lashes he stopped. “Now I don’t want to see you treat a customer like that ever again do you understand?”

Xenith nodded quietly pulling her skirt back down. Damien opened the door and stepped partly out into the bar. “If you cause even the slightest bit more trouble tonight, I’ll sell you for the night and take any offer.” He said this loud enough that several patrons could hear. Those customers would probably make it harder for Xenith to behave. He stormed off and Xenith slumped against the wall in tears.

After a few minutes Secia and Chamista came in. “You ok? Better pull it together Xenith. You have to get back out there or he’ll be even angrier,” Chamista told her. The two consoled her then they all went back out to the bar. Xenith looked at the clock. It was still a while until the bar closed for the night. It was going to be rough. She grabbed her tray and headed off to a new group of humans that had just entered. She wasn't sure but she thought one dark elf was eyeing her strangely.

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