SEE ALSO THE LILITH GALLERY, THE ART HISTORY ARCHIVE & THE LILITH EZINE.
"If I didn't know better," said Victoria to Wynic. "I'd say you've crying, which is unusual for a man I gave a black eye to this morning and barely blinked." Victoria was a little less than six feet tall, brown hair, dark brown eyes and rose coloured lips. She was thin and sinewy due to a life of hardship, but had a healthy tan. Her hair was cut short so it wouldn't get in the way when she was fighting. She was wearing a gray fur cloak, brown vest, green skirt and shiny black leather army riding boots. If she had been on duty she would have been wearing a purple tunic and a yellow kilt. Her shortsword was buckled on her belt, and her bow and quiver lay on the seat beside her in the booth.
The Drunken Dragon Tavern was run by a short fat man called Billip. Despite the tavern's exterior look, inside it was warm, cozy, and clean. Clean was something most other taverns and inns couldn't say. The ceiling, floor, walls, tables, booths, and bar was all made of polished Arthian Oak. The chairs, however were made of inexpensive Arthian Maple, because they usually get broken one way or another in a brawl. This way Billip didn't have to fork out the gold to everytime someone breaks a chair.
The tavern had a homely smell of fried potatoes, bacon, and venison sausages. Billip brewed his own ale, but sent away for Kinian wine due to his own fondness of the famous drink.
"You're right. I have been crying," Wynic admitted, sitting down across from her.
"Why?" she asked, intrigued.
"My father was a cutthroat of some small reknown in Avolic, he taught me most of what I know," said Wynic bitterly.
"Did you like him?" she asked cautiously.
"Yes, I loved him. And hated him. I-" he shuddered. Wynic took a deep breath. "I killed him. Everytime I say that it gets easier," he sighed.
"Do you want the long version or the short one?"
"Whichever you prefer."
"My father convinced my mother to run away with him promising to marry her once he was rich and powerful, which he promised her would be soon. It never happened. My mother became pregnant and my father left for the Kinian mountains without telling her. I was born in a covenant where I lived for about a year. My mother died and the sisters raised me until my father came for me when I was five. I later learned that he had killed several of the sisters because they refused to let him take me. He began teaching me the trade and continued to until he started to drink more excessively. Soon he-" Wynic sat for a moment quietly. "He started to beat me. If I made a mistake he'd beat me. If I was caught stealing, he'd rescue me and later beat me. If I disobeyed him he'd beat me. Always later he'd tell me it was for my own good and that I deserved it. He said it'd make me better, like a smith pounding away at a sword until it's razor sharp. He was right, I suppose, I'm now the best assassin in the world and possibly one of the best fighters, having been taught by my father and by Lord Redhawk. He wasn't always bad, he started taking me with him when I was twelve, we'd get drunk together like drinking buddies, we'd go out, play immature pranks on guards. Then one day an another boy came along and accused my father of ditching his mother. It occurred to me that my mother wasn't the first of the young maidens to be led astray by my father with promises of marriage. I asked him if it was true, and he lost his temper and killed the boy. He later almost beat me to death. He told me not to speak unless spoken to." By now Wynic looked like he was about to burst into tears.
"Here, drink this, you'll feel better," said Victoria, handing Wynic a mug of mulled Kinian wine.
Wynic took a sip, and his voice noticeably steadied. "I've tried to forget about him, but whenever someone mentions him I lose my temper, and all those damn memories come back, threatening to drive me insane."
"Let's go," said Victoria, grabbing her bow and quiver, and slinging them over her shoulder.
Billip waddled over to the archeress and she handed him several silver coins. He took them happily, noticing a tip. "Come back again," he called.
"Where to?" asked Wynic, stepping into the street.
"There's a park at the end of the street, we could talk there," suggested Victoria, giving Wynic her arm.
"That's beside my estate," noted Wynic, taking her arm in his.
"How did you get the estate?" Victoria asked, leaning on his shoulder.
"I bought it from the government when the Lord living there died. I got it for a deal, since I worked for King Willium occasionally. It's becoming more often that I have to put down an uprising or slay an ambitious Lord. People are getting far too power hungry." HE glanced at her.
"Back to our original topic. Why were you crying?" asked Victoria, looking up at Wynic.
"I was at the banquet celebrating Emperor Nebonex's arrival here today," sighed Wynic.
"I heard about how you saved his life," she said.
Wynic nodded. "I was eating and this arrogant bitch said I was like my father. I might have killed the bitch, but Redhawk reminded me about you, so I left after excusing myself," explained Wynic bitterly. "Okay, I told you about me. Now how about you?" asked Wynic, forcing a smile.
"What do you want to know?" asked Victoria, sitting down on the wooden bench under a huge Arthian maple.
"I don't know. Why did you become a soldier?" asked Wynic, looking around the park. The sun was stooping below the horizon, giving everytime a reddish tinge. The park was filled with Sweet Williums, Crimson Cascades, lilies and every now and then a rose bush trimmed to represent a hero from a old myth.
"It's better than becoming some merchant or farmer's wife. I dread boredom." Victoria sighed. "I found that people respect those of authority so I went for it. I later found that I enjoyed the excitement of a fight.
"Oh?" asked Wynic, putting an arm around her and holding her close. She smelled faintly of appleblossoms.
"Respect," growled Victoria, so suddenly she startled the assassin. "I'm presently hired by the Arthian army as an archer and lieutenant. People respect guards, probably because of the uniform and what it stands for. Some people disagree that women should become even mercenaries, but my captain says that as longs as a person is worthy of being a mercenary, then he doesn't see what the problem is!" sighed Victoria and leaned her head on Wynic's shoulder.
Wynic's senses were more attuned to the dark and Redhawk had once joked that he'd make a good owl. His eyes noticed something dark against shadow, quickly looked closer, his senses becoming alert. Silently, he tapped Victoria on the arm.
"What she murmured quietly.
"Don't get alarmed, but we're being watched," he whispered, so quietly she could barely hear him. Wynic felt her muscles tense. "Don't tighten your muscles, relax," he whispered. Victoria silently following his words, and relaxed so much he wondered if she was asleep.
A high chirping sound came from a tree nearby, which Wynic recognized as a signal, he counted to ten in his head, and slowly tensed his muscles. When he reached ten there was a rush of movement. Wynic and Victoria jumped to their feet and drew their weapons.
They were surrounded by five dark clothed men, but Wynic knew there was two or three more lurking in the bushes at least. "You obviously don't know who you're dealing with!" said Wynic so calmly that it startled Victoria and unnerved the cutthroats. Rogues, Wynic noted mentally. The crime underworld was ruled, governed and disciplined by crime Lords. They laid out laws for members and the penalty for not following the laws was death. One of the laws was no killing in public areas for complicated reasons only a politician could understand.
"Throw down your weapons, and we'll consider letting ye go!" sneered the leader, a huge man about Wynic's height.
Amateurs! Wynic should have been dead by now if they'd been professionals! "Do you know Lord Redhawk?" asked Wynic teasingly.
"No! Now do as yer told!" threatened the leader, waving his sword. Southern accent, Wynic noted.
"He's a friend of mine. I'm sure he'd be displeased if he found out what you're doing," said the assassin, maneuvering so he could see all of his opponents with the exception of one which only Victoria could see but Wynic knew he was there.
"Yea, right, and I'm Wynic Doxon," snorted the leader. His companions jeered and laughed.
"I find that hard to believe," said Wynic.
"And why's that?" replied the leader.
"First of all, you're way too ugly to be Wynic Doxon, and secondly, I happen to be Wynic Doxon. I live in that estate right over there," Wynic pointed at the walled mansion.
"Kill the damn liar!" swore the leader fiercely, raising his sword.
Steel flashed, and a Stornium Star shot from Victoria's hand, stabbing smoothly into the leader's throat. He sank to his knees, clutching at his throat. A gurgle wheezed past his lips.
Wynic cut circles in the air in front of his opponent's face, catching him off guard, so Victoria could stab him in the chest. Another two were dead by the time the two lurking behind a bush rushed in to help. Wynic became hard pressed with one man attacking him high, another attacking him low.
Dodging between the blades, Wynic waited until they had turned halfway so they could see him. Feigning a stab at the attacker on the right, Wynic kicked the other in the side, pushing him so he impaled himself on his comrade's sword which had come forward to parry Wynic's stab.
Looking at his comrade in shock, the cutthroat had forgotten about Wynic, before it was too late.
Victoria was bleeding from a cut on her forearm, but nothing major. Ripping a scrap of cloth off one of the dead amateurs, Wynic prepared a crude bandage for Victoria's arm. Her fur cloak had been ripped length ways, so Wynic placed a cloak from one of the cutthroats around the cutthroats around her shoulders to keep her warm. His own cloak had been frayed slightly, but nothing a good tailor couldn't fix.
"You can stay at my place tonight," he mumbled quietly, taking her arm in his.
"Devid boil some water for me on the stove, and go down to the market and buy Lady Victoria a new fur cloak will you?" asked Wynic, helping Victoria into a velvet padded chair.
"Yes master. Shall I buy some more food as well? Lord Redhawk eats like a pig," asked Wynic's retainer
"Yes of course," replied Wynic, still not used to having servants even after four years of living in the mansion.
"So," Victoria sighed. "All in a days work, eh?" she said, pushing a strand of hair out of her eyes. "Too bad we didn't get paid for it."
"Actually, I believe there's a reward for those guys. So I told Devid to send a servant down to the city patrol office to explain what happened, collect the reward, and inform them to remove the carcasses. Besides, I think you'll want your Stornium Star back," chuckled the assassin, sitting down beside her.
Victoria reached over and caressed Wynic's face. Leaning forward Wynic gave her a long, lingering kiss.
"You better go check on the stove," she suggested halfheartedly.
"Right away," said Wynic, jumping up, and returned with a cloth and a pot of hot water. Removing the crude bandage, he gently daubed her cut with the damp cloth, wiping off the dried blood, and cleaning it so it could be properly bandaged to prevent infection. After dressing the wound, Wynic wiped his hands on his pants, and went to the kitchen with the pot and cloth.
"Now where were we?" he asked, returning from the kitchen.
"Victoria stood up and walked over to him. "I don't know," she said. "But this feels right," she murmured putting her arms around him, and kissing him.
"You're right. It does feel right," Wynic agreed, scooping her up in his arms, and carrying her up to his room.