Friday, February 2, 2018
Empire of Shenendril: Payback is a Bitch!
“What Do You Mean You Can’t Take Me Out Of The City?!?” Genevieve Rutledge’s voice rose in volume and pitch as she stood so fast her chair scraped against the dirty plank floor of the disreputable tavern she’d found herself in.
“Sit down ya daft bitch or do ye want to bring the fuckin Watch down on all our heads.” The man hissed as he reached across the table, grabbed the aristocrat’s arm, to yank her back down.
She jerked her arm away from his as she tried to regain her calm while she adjusted her skirts. Stolen from a clothes line the fabric was cotton, not the silks she deserved as due to her station. But to wear silks in a tavern like this would have gotten her throat cut, and her neck was already in danger of the executioner’s axe. “You are supposed to be the best smuggler in the city. Are you saying that claim isn’t true?”
“What I may or may not be is not important. The Watch has the city locked down tighter than a guild virgin’s cunt. Ain’t no way in, nor out. Not for you, not for me, not for no one.” He leaned back once more and picked up his pipe. “They got the chains up in the river. Ain’t a single ship allowed out of the harbor till it’s been inspected by tha college mages. No one gets in or out of the gates without having ta answer the Watches questions... and they’ve mages that can read yer mind to catch anyone in a lie… Every wagon, cart, and barrow is being searched.” He puffed on his pipe as he sent clouds of smoke towards the stained rafters. “Even the sewers n’old mine tunnels got Watch patrols in ‘em. So, unless you’ve got magic you’re stuck here with the rest of us.”
“If I had magic I wouldn’t be here consorting with the likes of you.” She sneered.
“Then I suggest you find the deepest darkest hole in the city and hope they don’t shine a light down it.” He growled around the stem of his pipe.
Genevieve Rutledge glanced over her shoulder at the two men with her. The only guards she had left. She considered having them kill the insolent man across the table from her but that would only bring the Watch down on their head. She let her eyes drift over the others in the tavern, too many witnesses, and even her guards could not get them all without the risk of a Watch patrol called to see to the disturbance. She turned back to the smuggler before her as she removed a small pouch from her sleeve and pushed it across the table to him, “For your silence.”
He picked it up and tossed it a few times in his hand as if he could count the coin within just by feeling its weight then tossed it back to her, “Keep it. I only take payment for a job done… and you’ll be needing this more than I.”
She wanted to slap his insolent face. Just a few days ago she could have had a man like him killed and no one would have questioned her right. But now circumstances trapped her… and he was right. She had limited coin with no way of getting more. She stood with a rustle of skirts as she pulled up the hood of her cloak to shield her features from view when she turned and walked away. Her guards quickly fell into step behind her as they left the filthy tavern. Once outside they trailed after her for a while before the elder of the two moved to walk by her side, “My Lady... where do we go from here?”
Her jaw clenched, and teeth ground together at the question. If she knew the answer to that she wouldn’t be on those filthy streets, nor need to dodge gods knew what floated in the puddles. She had thankfully not been in the family manor when the Watch raided the other night. The Watch had chased her out of three hide outs already, once she barely escaped minutes before the Watch burst through the door. She had tried to do the Empire a favor when she poisoned that useless guild bitch Katherine. They should hail her as a hero... if only her attempt had succeeded. Instead that thrice cursed whore, catamite of the Lord General, had saved the bitch’s life and now she had to run for her life.
Just as she was about to tell her man that they sought new shelter for the night she saw someone step out into the road from a nearby alley. A woman, tall, curvaceous, with golden tan skin, who wore indecently form fitting white leather. Her bright red curls spilled onto the white leather like blood. She must be some sort of mixed breed whore, the Gulch was full of such indecent, low class women. Sailors from the Goddess Isles paid well for mainland women to spread their legs for them only to leave half breed git in their wake. It disgusted a woman of refined breeding such as Genevieve Rutledge. The people of the Gulch bred like rats in the sewers.
The whore walked towards them and Genevieve was fully prepared to ignore the strangely dressed woman. It wasn’t like the woman was a member of the City Watch, not dressed like that. With her guard on her left they went to pass by the girl. There was a sudden flash of light then Genevieve felt something warm and wet splash her face. She heard her second guard cry out in shock as she turned and saw that her man’s head looked ready to fall off his shoulders from the deep slash to the throat. She screamed as she stumbled away from the guard’s body as he slowly dropped to his knees then fell forward to land with a heavy splash in a muddy puddle.
Genevieve looked at the woman again. The woman stood there with crimson blood to match her hair splashed on her neat white leathers, in her hands were what looked like twin daggers made of light. The aristocratic woman backed away in terror as her second guard swept in to defend her. That strange deadly girl ducked under his first swing and caught his second swing on her crossed blades of light, a shower of sparks rained down onto the cobblestone road. He tried to press his advantage of height and weight as he bore down on his sword, to break through her crossed blades. The girl’s lips twisted into a cruel smirk and for a moment it was like her eyes glowed as Genevieve saw what looked like lightning crackle along her guard’s blade and into his arms and all through his body. She watched as the man’s body convulsed before he too fell dead at her feet. The girl then turned on Genevieve.
“The reward they offer… I’ll pay you double to leave me in peace… triple!” She nearly tripped over her own skirts in her effort to get away from that deadly girl.
“I am not here on behalf of the crown.” She stalked right up to Genevieve to back her into a wall. The girl met Genevieve's eyes as if they were equals. There was no deference or respect in her gaze.
“Then why? Why are you doing this?”
“There is only one ruler you shall see tonight Genevieve Rutledge… The Shadow Empress of Auranapolis.”
“She’s a myth! A story told to scare the foolish!” She gasped in desperation.
The girl’s lips twisted into a smirk as if she mocked the woman’s denial, “Unfortunately for you... she is very real.” And the girl hauled back and delivered a sharp punch to the aristocratic Genevieve, to send her to the ground in a heap where she moaned. The girl knelt by her victim to lift her up and drape the woman across her shoulders. She left the dead guards behind as she carried her prize into the same alley from which she emerged and disappeared into the shadows.
When Genevieve awoke sometime later she found she lay upon cold rough stone. A single lantern hung from a chain above her that left only a small circle of light where she lay, the rest of the room lost in shadows. With a soft groan, she pushed herself upright. The stolen dress was gone, now clad only in her shift with her hair unbound to fall loose about her shoulders. Other than the slight ache in her jaw from the punch she could feel no other wound upon her body. But that was small comfort when she had no idea where she was and who had sent that strange little bitch after her.
“Is anyone there? Where am I?” She called into the shadows as she got to her feet. The rough stone was cold against her bare feet as she moved to the edge of the light. Something moved in the shadows, just beyond her vision. “What do you want?”
“Did you think it would be that easy?” A distinctly feminine voice purred from the shadows. “Did you think you could kill the Imperial Consort, mother of the future Emperor, and lay the blame elsewhere?”
“Why do you care? You aren’t declared enemy of the crown... you aren’t the one running for your life. Is it money you want... My family…” The deep hiss of a shadow viper cut off further words.
“Your family precious… is no more. Perhaps some distant cousin will throw themselves upon the mercy of the throne and the name shall live on... but much diminished.” Her captor said with a laugh meant to mock her. “You have nothing precious... Not even your life.”
“What! No! Do you not realize what is happening? What is going to happen? That boy cannot grow to be Emperor! If he’s Emperor, then we all die! I was trying to save the Empire damnit!” Tears streaked down her face to fall from her chin onto her chest.
“And you believe the lies the enemy is telling you precious? Do not look so surprised… We know who has been telling you lies. We know that you think you shall be rewarded when they sweep down from the mountains. Poor sweet deluded child… the only reward those monsters will give you is a swift death. Otherwise the best you could hope for are their hordes to rape you to death before they feast upon your flesh.” As she spoke the figure of her captor finally came into view. Tall, pale skin, with hair so dark it looked like midnight personified. She wore a dress that clung to her curves with a deep v neck that reached almost to her navel and a slit up one side all the way to her hip. Draped around her neck was a truly massive shadow viper that had to be at least eight feet long. The woman caressed the deadly serpent as if it were a beloved pet.
Genevieve dropped to her knees, “Please! Whatever I have done to offend you… I take it back. Whatever you want... I will get for you. If you are the Shadow Empress… Surely, we can come to an agreement. My life is in your hands... what can I do for you to spare it.”
The Shadow Empress stepped into the circle of light to look down at the pathetic human at her feet. The veil she wore hid her eyes, but not the smirk upon those blood red lips. “It is too late for begging little one. Perhaps if you had the intelligence your gods gave a slug you would have considered the consequences of your actions. There is only one sin which I cannot abide and will not allow to fester in My city… and that is stupidity. Good bye Genevieve Rutledge, perhaps your death shall serve as a warning to others.”
Genevieve shook her head as the shadow viper which had draped so innocently around the woman’s shoulders reared its head to look at her. She fell backwards and started to scramble away as the massive snake slithered down its Mistresses body onto the stone floor in pursuit of its prey. The noblewoman screamed as the last image seared into her mind was of the shadow viper as it reared up and struck, its wicked fangs sank deep into the flesh of her thigh. Perhaps luckily for her, she received a full dose of the deadly venom, and her death, while brutal was swift.
The next morning as the sun banished the last shadows of the night the body of Genevieve Rutledge appeared not far from the foot of the Golden Orchid Bridge on the western side. Pinned to her shift was a note which simply read, “A Gift.”