Date: Arc 719, 60th trial of Ymiden
Time: 2nd Break
Location: Vluharqih's House
The sound of the floor creaking brought Alex out of her slumber. Her eyes still closed, she focused on breathing slowly and steadily, as if she were still asleep.
After so many trials on the road, she was a light sleeper and still hadn't been comfortable in the security of her house. A good thing, as it turned out. Another soft creak came from the floor, closer this time.
Alex felt around, but the knife she now carried with her wasn't under her pillow. She must have knocked it around in her sleep. Damn.
Now that she was fully awake, she could hear the intruder's breathing, feel their soft presence in the room. Without her knife, she would be helpless. She had only one option and began to shift forms. Her nose grew and elongated, her legs shortened, and soon the body of a Grey Velox lay on the bed, tangled in the sheets. With a deep growl, she leapt to her feet, facing the shadowy form.
A rustling came from the floor as Amber, her Hyx, slithered out from under Alex's bed and, half asleep and confused, began to growl at the shadowy form. There was a moment of indecision as the intruder stared at the massive wolf-like creature on the bed before him, and he slowly began to back towards the door.
But Alex's blood was up and letting whoever this was escape to try again when her guard was down was a bad idea. With a snarl, Alex leapt forward, Amber following behind a moment after. Her feet hit the floor for the briefest moment before her body was hurtling towards the attacker. Alex felt the blade of the knife dig into her shoulder up to the hilt as she hit him with her front paws, her jaws locking around his raised forearm.
Her teeth tore through the skin, forcing him to release the knife still stuck in Alex. She wrenched her neck back and forth, tearing at the flesh, but an explosion of pain in her side hurled her several feet away, landing in an awkward tumble.
Unbalanced as the attacker was after kicking her, he stood no chance as Amber's ten-foot-long length hurtled into him, bearing him down to the floor. A large crash echoed as an end table was crushed under their bodies.
The light from two of the moons was streaming in across the room, and Alex could see Amber struggling with the man. Crawling back to her feet and breathing shallowly to avoid paining her ribs, she lunged for his flailing hand and felt her teeth sink deep. A surprisingly high pitched squeal of pain came out of the intruder's mouth and she realized it was a woman.
She had not been prepared for an alert victim or her pet Hyx, and Alex wondered what kind of sloppy job this was. Even burglars knew enough to scope out their targets before creeping in at night, and there were hundreds of empty houses the attacker could have chosen if that was her goal.
Two more trills passed as Alex worked her powerful jaw, tearing the sinews and shattering the bones in the woman's hand. A ring caught in Alex's teeth and she shook her head, sending it flying off into the darkness. The struggling became weaker as the sounds of tearing flesh came from Amber worrying at the woman's other arm. There was a short spasm that worked it's way through the woman's body, her feet kicking at the floor once.
Alex rolled onto her uninjured side and began to shift back into a human. She cried out as the dagger shifted in her shoulder, sending stars shooting across her vision. She panted and fought back the blackness, forcing herself upright. Alex made her way to the corner and pulled out her medical supplies.
As always, a jar of Claytona Monticola sap was buried in the bottom, and she set it beside her. Deep breaths
she told herself. You've dealt with worse than this before.
Taking heart that the ordeal was almost over, Alex reached behind her with her good hand and found the hilt of the knife. Knowing delaying the inevitable would be harder on her, she yanked it free with a gasp. Blood leaked down her back, and the light leaking from the serious wound was more obvious now. She quickly let it clatter to the floor, and smeared the sap deep in the wound, pressing the cleanly sliced flesh together around the gel. A quick set of stitches for appearance's sake and her wound looked treated.
Alex was startled to hear banging on her door as she wrapped her shoulder in cloth. "Open up for the Blackguard!"
Holding her ribs and wincing as she stood, Alex stumbled to the door, nearly slipping in the pool of blood that had spread across her floor.
She pulled open her door - noting that it had been unlocked- and gestured into her house with a sarcastic wave of her hand. "A bit late to the party, but you're more than welcome."
A tall, sandy-haired boy frowned at her, his frown deepening as he saw the blood coating her shoulder and the floor. His companion, an old man well into his sixties, leaned on the brace of his spear shaking his head at her.
"Not all of us are spring chickens. We came as soon as we got word there had been a disturbance."
Alex moved back to a chair at her kitchen table and slumped in it. The adrenaline was leaving her now and she felt drained. The two guards cautiously moved inside, weapons at the ready, and the younger one swore as he saw Amber. "Syroa's tits, is that a Hyx?"
Alex whistled, and Amber let go of the woman's arm and trotted over, licking at her gore spattered muzzle. She curled her long body around Alex's chair and settled down, keeping her body between Alex and the guards. The young guard stared at it with his mouth open, needing a strong cuff over the back of his head from the older companion before he came back to himself. He hurried over to the body and felt for a pulse.
"Nothing," he said, his eyes hard.
Alex cursed. If the woman had been alive she could have given up info. Mainly, Why? Was it just a burglary gone wrong or was there more at play here? The older guard gingerly got down, wincing as his right knee clicked loudly. "What happened here?" He asked.
"I woke to the sound of someone entering. I got up and called out, and the woman attacked me,"
Alex lied easily, gesturing at her wounded shoulder. "Amber here took issue with that and tackled the intruder to the ground. I went to help restrain the woman, but I had to deal with this first,"
she continued with another gesture at her shoulder. "Apparently I was too late."
The guard's eyes took in the carnage, the medical supplies strewn across the floor, and the bloody knife sitting in a pool of Alex's blood.
The older guard's eye landed on the hilt of the blade and he snapped his head around to look at Alex. "Gregor? Do me a favour and run and grab the Watch Commander. Now!" He snapped as the boy showed no signs of hurrying.
Alex frowned at the urgency in his voice and glanced over at the dagger. It was a long, thin blade with a hollow cavity for poisons, and handle inscribed with insects.
Alex thought, confused. Why would she send an assassin after her? Alex got closer to the knife and scanned the hollow. A translucent grey liquid lined it, and Alex stuck a finger in it, tasting it. She heard a startled outcry behind her, but the older guard was too slow to stop her. She quickly spit it out, nodding to herself. It was Ash, made from powdered sinith slug, suspended in an oil, likely just a stabilizer. It held no danger for Alex, as a Yludih.
"Hey, stop that!" The guard managed to get out at her. "Don't go tampering with the evidence!"
Alex walked over to her open medicine kit, and removed a small vial of coloured water, drinking it down. "I work at an apothecary, and I recognize the poison,"
Alex explained. She gestured back at the knife. "Someone knew what they were doing."
The guard nodded slowly. "Aye, that's the same knife used from acolytes in the Shrine of Lisirra, though Sintra knows why we let them keep operating in the city, considering." He snapped his mouth shut instantly, looking at Alex as though he had said too much.
Alex frowned at that. The Cauldron had sent this woman after her? Why? The Hood didn't seem like the kind to screw up an assassination by sending a rookie. So what then? Alex walked closer to the woman's body and stopped suddenly.
Her face was a pale blue around the lips, and a glance towards what remained of the would-be assassin showed that her fingers were blue as well. Troxler spider poison?
Alex thought with confusion. The nearly instantaneous death it provided left few clues beyond the telltale blue lips and fingers.
"She didn't die from blood loss,"
Alex said, enjoying how the man's eyebrows rose. She enjoyed his next words much less.
"Now that's enough of that. I don't know much about these goings ons but I think it'd be best if you waited for the guards to show up and do their work, young lady." The older Blackguard said firmly, steering her to her seat to await the return of Gregor.
Alex fumed as she stalked down the nearly empty streets. She kicked a stone and watched it fly off down an alley, doing nothing to improve her mood.
The guards had appeared and whisked the body, the knife, and even cleaned the bloodstains away. The broken end table was the only sign that anything had happened.
Worst of all, they had refused to tell her anything. They told her they'd be in touch but refused to elaborate. Something about the whole ordeal didn't smell right to Alex, and she was stonewalled now. How could she get more information? Going to the Cauldron or the Hood seemed like a bad idea, and she had avoided Pug, Trixie, and Crelian up till now. If they had sent someone after her, waltzing up seemed like a bad idea.
She stopped and set her back against a wall, breathing deeply and slowly. She closed her eyes and replayed the whole, wild incident, trying to pull something, anything out of the jumble. The door had been unlocked, so the woman had picked the lock. Her house was plainly still inhabited, so it wasn't a mere burglary, and the presence of the poisoned blade confirmed this. Someone wanted her dead. But the assassin backed out when the Grey Velox stood instead of Alex, so she likely knew what her target was supposed to look like. And the guards had scooped up the body so fast Alex couldn't examine her for the poison to confirm her suspicions. They hadn't left a trace-
She tore off back down the street, the sound of her running echoing off the empty structures. Back at her house, she hit her knees and peered around the floor. There!
She slithered on her stomach towards the back of her bed, scooping up the ring that had landed on its side near the corner of the room. A sturdy band of silver, with a spider motif made from delicate filigree on the top. The body of the spider looked to be a semi-precious gemstone, but Alex was no appraiser.
The spiders left side was crushed slightly, likely from the tearing that Alex had done as the Grey Velox. The motif was memorable though. It was the symbol of Sintra, and one Alex had seen many times during her undercover operations over the past two arcs. If the assassin was from her, it meant Sintra knew where she lived, and knew what Alex knew.