Red Fur and Saber Teeth 1:
The First Hunt
by Fur and Fantasy
NC-17 for Violent M/F
R for Violence and Themes
full contents and notes located at the bottom of the file
Sharo cut a distinctive figure as she worked through the back streets of Enylar. She was used to it by now, and most of the people back here knew better than to look too long at her as she walked by. The Remok was taller than most Tigers, and just as well built as a large Bear. Thick, powerful muscles shifted beneath her tawny fur and tight leather armor, but even that wasn't what was really striking about her.
No, that would be the long, steel saber-teeth that curled down from her upper jaw. Saber-toothed females weren't common, especially not in the city, and especially not staying there. One with steel fangs was downright unique. But she'd been a fixture for most of two years and everyone knew her and what she meant.
She carried a heavy metal-ringed club strapped to her back, and a number of small blades, all supposedly peace-bound, strapped to her body. She was going to pay a visit to a scribe her employer knew. At least that was the polite term for it. Even now she could see the small shop at the end of the mostly deserted street.
She wasn't surprised that most of the derelicts that would normally be hanging about had made haste to be elsewhere. It wasn't healthy to see a crime boss' enforcer at work, and by now everyone knew she was trouble, on duty or off it.
She sniffed the air to make sure the Weasel was inside. A slight frown creased her forehead when she smelled blood, but it wasn't that unusual down here and she worked around to the out-of-the-way back door to surprise her quarry in his workshop.
As she opened the door, she knew there was something very, very wrong here. The smell of blood in the small building was too strong, though not quite enough to hide the scent of old fear and fresh anger just before she heard the front door slam shut.
She stepped inside, cautious as she looked for the source of the blood. If this was her target, she needed to know. It wouldn't do to have him die and get her blamed for mishandling a simple roughing up.
Damn it. She didn't have to check twice to know that the Weasel on the ground was dead. He'd been beaten up badly, a dagger left in his chest. He probably hadn't died quickly either; he looked like he'd died just moments ago. Still, his eyes had been closed by somebody. Probably whoever had slammed the door she'd heard on the way in.
Then she heard the guards approaching, fast. Somebody must have called for help outside or something.
Two steps got her to the back door, and face to face with enough guards to make her doubt she'd be able to fight her way out, even if she wasn't painfully easy for anyone to recognize.
"Surrender peacefully," the Captain snarled, a Lion almost as tall as she was. She recognized him; he was one of the officers the Guildmaster had in his pocket. Most of the other guards were in his employ as well. Lucky her; she could probably get out of this easily. "Raise your hands and let my men disarm you, and you won't end up dead."
"Right," she listed her hands away from her sides and dropped her body language to submissive.
A couple of the guards moved forward at a signal from the Lion and started disarming her, starting with her club and then the knives she was wearing. Most of the people there knew full well she didn't need to be armed to be dangerous, but if it was going to keep them happy she'd play along.
"Quill's dead, sir!" A guard called from the front. "Not for long either!"
"He was dead when I got here." She said simply.
"Well, it looks like you'll be coming with us," the Captain told Sharo as her round ears flicked back. "Can't say I haven't been looking forward to it. Men, make sure she's chained up good and muzzled tight." They started to pull out a set of heavy chains and manacles to bind her, tossing the last of her knives off to the side.
"Captain ...." She rumbled dangerously. They both knew who their employer was and what his job was if someone was caught.
"Shut your mouth, unless you want to make it easy on us and admit you're the one who killed him," the Lion snarled as she was muzzled with extra care to make her long steel fangs were as small a danger as possible. Either he was suicidal, or there was something very, very wrong... and, judging by the fact that the only response from his men was a nervous step back slightly in case Sharo lashed out, she was leaning towards the second.
That meant that what she'd heard was right, and their employer wasn't loyal to his subordinates, even those who were loyal to him. The bastard... she hadn't even done anything to make him worry, as far as she knew.
She could fight, make him pay dearly for setting her up in the loss of his men, or she could play along and get out later to make him pay personally.
The second gave her a better shot at living.
"I didn't kill him." She repeated stubbornly.
"Then you won't be in the cells long," the Captain sneered. "Chain her up, men, and get her in a holding cell."
Marshan listened quietly to the Rat chatting with his friends inside one of Enylar's shadier bars. The lean Fox fingered the hilt of his light sword in anticipation, knowing he probably wouldn't need to use it just yet. Still, it tended to distract people from what he was truly capable of, and that was all that mattered.
He heard the Rat finishing his conversation, and got ready to grab him. He'd find out why he'd killed Quill, and then make him pay for it.
The Rat stepped outside, clearly slightly drunk. Marshan could swear he smelled Quill's terror on him yet. The bastard hadn't even bothered to do more than change his bloodstained shirt after murdering his friend.
"*Turn to the right,*" he spoke into the Rat's mind, a simple spell of Suggestion to tug at the threads of his soul and make him walk the way the Fox wanted him to. On the drunken and unsuspecting mind, it was almost too easy, and the Rat did what he was silently told.
After that, grabbing him around the throat and pulling him back into the alley was almost easier.
"Try to fight me, and you'll think Quill died easy," he growled, drawing his sword and pressing it to the Rat's throat in a well-practiced motion.
"Who?" The Rat tried to play dumb, though he knew exactly what was being referenced.
"Let me put this the simplest way I can. You can talk to me, or I can rip your mind apart finding what I want before I castrate you and let you bleed to death," Marshan said darkly. "I'd probably enjoy it, tonight. Why did you kill my friend?"
"Guildmaster Kennis paid for it." He got out fast, trembling as he realized that the scribe had friends no one had bothered to tell him about. "To set up that Sabertooth bitch."
"You're pathetic," the Fox sneered, throwing the Rat against the opposite wall of the alley. "A coward who'll beat a defenseless scribe to death for another coward who doesn't have the balls to do it himself, then cave the moment you've got a blade to your throat.
"You're just lucky I still need you," Marshan said darkly. "You will follow me to the guardhouse and confess," he said firmly, his voice brooking no argument though he put no magic behind it. "If you're lucky, they'll only hang you. If you make this difficult, I'll do much worse."
He could see the Rat debate it with himself, the odds of escaping him verses the odds of escaping the prison and living threw Kennis' rage, and the odds that Kennis would be around long enough to matter, with this Fox and the Sabertooth both mad at him.
Slowly he nodded. No one escaped a mage like this one.
The few that did tended to regret it more than the ones who didn't, as they were taught painful lessons about pissing off wizards.
"Good." Marshan sheathed his sword, though he kept a paralysis spell in the back of his mind, just in case the Rat tried anything. "Get going. Slow enough I can follow you, but without dawdling. And don't do anything stupid."
"No more stupid than confessing to murder." The Rat muttered and did as he was told.
Marshan didn't dignify the comment with a response, following him to the guardhouse. 'That Sabertooth bitch' had to be the person who'd walked in just after Quill had died. The Fox felt a twinge of guilt pass through him as he thought about it. If he'd only studied a little healing magic, he might have been able to save his friend's life. Instead, all he'd been able to do was go into his mind and claim the face of his killer.
He wanted very badly to repay that debt himself, but an innocent life... well, innocent of this crime, at least... was on the line. Not for the first time, the slender mage wished the College's ethical classes hadn't taken as well as they had.
After a few minutes walk, they approached the tall, imposing structure, a fortified building meant as much to hold off attacks from rioting peasants as to hold in criminals. Marshan had time to think things through on the trip. The Rat had killed his friend, but the Guildmaster had pulled the strings. The Captain was probably in on it too; the rumors that he was crooked were too well known to discount in this situation.
After all, you'd need a crooked guard-captain to make sure you railroaded the right person.
"Get in there," he told the Rat gruffly when it looked like he was having serious second thoughts. It was enough to get him to walk forward, going into the imposing building reluctantly.
"What the fuck?" The guard sitting in the entry looked completely shocked to see the Rat walking in, though he glanced up at Marshan as he followed him in. "What's your business here?" he asked the Rat, clearly unsettled by something.
"I ... urrr ..." he glanced back at the Fox nervously. "Here to confess to killing that Weasel."
"We've already got the killer, get outta here," the Alsatian said, trying to sound dismissive and get them out of here. Marshan's expression darkened. The canine was in on it; he didn't even need to use a spell to sense the confusion and slight fear that something was about to go wrong.
"You have the wrong person, I assure you," the Fox said firmly. "I saw the Rat fleeing just before the woman you caught arrived. You'd know that by now, but I went to capture him after finding out what he did. If you'll get your superior officer, I'm sure he'll see things as they are."
If he didn't... well, that would just confirm a few rumors and give Marshan an opportunity to practice.
The guard stared at him for a bit too long, and then turned to get the Captain, his body language a mixture of confusion and distress.
"Good thing I didn't just trust you to come here, confess, and get this all cleared up," Marshan observed dryly. "I rather suspect you could have killed him in front of them and they'd still have arrested her for it."
"It's what we got paid for." The Rat said, and then blanched when he realized what he'd said.
Marshan considered the Rat intently for a moment, though he looked as though he hadn't noticed a thing. He considered his options for a few moments. In a very, very real sense, he wanted the thug to die, painfully, for what he'd done to Quill. Leaving him here, dropping what he'd just said to the right ears... that would accomplish it.
But that would only kill the one who had done the act. It would be like the King deciding to melt his sword for committing murder. Destroying the implement, not the person behind it.
And, as more than one instructor had noted, Marshan was not known for being anything less than intensely vindictive when he was wronged. He murmured the words of a spell softly, not wanting to waste any more power than necessary to cast this time. The incantations, even softly spoken, helped him to gather the threads of mana in the air and wield them without draining himself.
He'd need more brute-force approaches soon enough, he was sure.
"*Do as I tell you, and I can make sure the Captain doesn't kill you for what you said, or for failure to do your job,*" he spoke silently to the Rat, one of the first spells he had learned. "*If you don't... well, you're up to your own devices.*"
The Rat glanced at him, even more frightened at the subtle display of power, and nodded.
"*Don't get me wrong, I don't want you off the hook for this. However, you've already said this isn't your idea, and you seem to know enough names to cause some trouble for the people whose idea it was.
"*The Guildmaster will be receiving my personal attention. The rest of the scum involved ... when we're out, break this.*" He explained, slipping a small glass bead into the Rat's pocket. "*When you're coherent again, you will explain how you got the bead, why you are in here, and give the nice people you will be talking to a great deal of information about who pays who in this city. They will almost certainly let you go once you are done, more than you can hope for here. You and I will be considered even at that point, though you had best keep your ass hidden until the College is done arranging a few well-deserved jailings.*"
The Rat nodded again, his outlook a little higher and a strong mental note to be sure of whom any other targets called friend.
"*Be very sure of that,*" Marshan agreed. "*Ever make the mistake of crossing me like this again, and you'll find that I can be very, very creative, for a mind-mage. I'm going to be leaving your mind now, but it's not all that difficult for me to be back in it if I feel I have to be. Remember that.*"
After all, a little paranoia rarely hurt for making sure people did what you told them to. Marshan released the spell, knowing he would be able to summon its power again in an instant if necessary.
It was not a moment too soon. It seemed the Captain was on his way, and less than pleased with the situation.
"Now what is this rubbish about us not having the right murderer?" The Lion's voice boomed, his displeasure a vicious rumbled in the background.
"It so happens I saw this one fleeing before your suspect even got there," Marshan said easily, not letting the Lion's manner shake him in the least. "And he's confessed to it. Seems he was trying to set up the person you've arrested now so he could take her job," he said, offering an option that would be both feasible and give the Lion an option that didn't include incriminating himself.
The Captain, for his part, was beside himself in more ways than one. He had to keep the Remok locked up; if he didn't, there'd be hell to pay. And yet, if this idiot Rat was going to confess, then that meant there was somebody else outside the plan who knew about it and could talk.
And, to judge by the light green and purple robes the Fox wore, it was a mage who knew about it. Not the easiest person to make disappear quietly, especially not with his resources. There was one way to deal with this though....
"Sergeant, lock the Rat up until we get this sorted out," he snarled at the Alsatian. That would satisfy the Fox, most likely. They could manufacture enough evidence, drag the case out... by the time the Remok was 'accidentally' killed trying to escape, they'd be able to sweep the whole thing under the rug.
"*You will not escape until after I have gotten the Sabertooth free,*" Marshan warned the Rat silently as the canine moved to do it, still clearly perplexed.
"I assume you will be releasing the unfortunate soul he tried to have hanged?" He said to the Captain, his expression saying he wouldn't be leaving until that was done.
"She has not been cleared yet." He tried for a stall, mentally scrambling for a way out and trying for 'blame it on the bureaucracy.'
"Ah, the red tape and formalities," Marshan actually chuckled. Somehow, it put the Lion even more on edge. "Something I'm far too familiar with, I'm afraid. Of course, there are usually some ways that can be dealt with, especially when one's subordinates and superiors are absent?" The Fox said knowingly, reaching into his robes and pulling out a small pouch that landed with the weight and jingle of ten silver coins.
It was a good bribe. Not huge, but more than what the Captain had earned to pull this off and risk his neck if his prisoner got loose. But why would this mage.... A chilling thought passed through the Captain's mind.
He knew all the people who worked for and were loyal to Kennis... but he didn't know all the people who worked for his enemies. If this mage was trying to get into the Guildmaster's position, and wanted the Remok to help him pull it off....
He almost went pale at the thought of ending up between the Guildmaster and a mage who wanted him dead and out of the way. It wasn't unheard of, but it was usually very, very messy. The best way to stay alive through these impromptu promotions was to keep from getting involved.
And of course, the Fox just had to go and involve him.
He considered it and reached for the pouch, which was handed over. A good amount of legal silver coin. He might as well get paid for his trouble. Nothing in town outside of the Mage Collage was equipped to keep a mage in or out.
"I'll see what I can do." The Lion agreed and left the main room, casually palming the silver into his own pouch.
Marshan smiled, letting his body relax very slightly. He let go of the suggestion he'd given the Captain, that the coins were silver rather than copper, leaving behind only a very gentle suggestion, to be triggered later, that a pickpocket must have managed to sneak up on him.
Not that it would matter, soon enough. The Rat would be speaking to his old friends soon enough, and the Captain wouldn't have the chance to spend his ill-gotten gains, meager as they were.
He waited to see just who this Sabertooth he'd rescued was; he'd heard rumors, but never met her before. This had the potential to be a most interesting evening. Hopefully he wouldn't have to convince her to be friendly. He suspected she was strong-willed and difficult to control when she set her mind to it.
Physically, she clearly was, given the way she was moving and that the Lion had her very well chained up and muzzled just to control her. He almost blinked when he realized that her nick-name of 'steel teeth' wasn't a joke. The eight-inch curved saber fangs of her kind were in steel. He didn't respond to it visibly, but he made a mental note to ask some other time.
Praying her mind was relatively open, he shielded his own from what was very probably going on inside her mind, and summoned the telepathy spell again.
"*I'm the one who brought in the real killer; don't be alarmed,*" he told her. "*I can give you a chance to put that anger to a better use,*" he offered mentally. "*Say, teaching a Guildmaster a well-deserved lesson?*"
Her attention abruptly shifted to the only other person in the room, the small Red Fox in mage's robes, her body language calming down and her ears perked up.
It only made the Lion that much more uneasy. "Just leave the key and manacles here." He tossed a key to the Fox and left the room, shutting the solid door behind him.
Marshan caught the key and chuckled as the Lion left.
"Smart man, not waiting while I let you loose," he said to the powerfully built Remok, a female easily half again as tall as he was and many times heavier, as he undid her muzzle. "Let me get you out of those. The name's Marshan, by the way. Yours?" He asked conversationally, moving around behind her to start undoing her manacles, fairly confident that if she tried anything, he'd be able to get out of it in one piece.
Her body language made him fairly sure she didn't intend to, though. He'd said enough to hold her attention in a good way. It was no guarantee, but she would at least wait until he explained things further.
"Sharo." She supplied and rippled the corded muscles of her shoulders as her hands came free.
"Come on, let's get out of here before things start coming together to give the Captain some serious hell," he said. "You have somewhere safe to talk near here?"
"Considering who just turned on me, no." She shook her head and rubbed her wrists. "You?"
"Safe enough," he nodded. "Any idea how you managed to tick them off?" He asked as he started out of the guardhouse and into the back streets, making his way back towards his small apartment in this part of town with Sharo on his heels, her senses alert for trouble.
"No," she shook her head. "I've never failed a mission, made demands, crossed him ... I don't get it."
"I suppose it's possible Quill pissed him off and making sure you couldn't be a threat anymore was a fringe benefit, but I suspect he just decided you'd had your job longer than was safe," the Fox mused darkly. It wasn't long before he worked the latch to a small room off a larger building.
"Come on in," he said, stepping into the sparsely decorated room. "It's not much, but it's secure."
"When you've lived off the land, anything with four walls and a roof is nice," she chuckled softly. "So why'd you get me out of that mess?"
"A couple reasons," he said easily, sitting down on a cot next to the sole table in the room. "First off, Quill was a friend of mine. Didn't want to let the guy who'd killed him get off that easy. Beyond that, I don't like the idea of letting somebody hang for a crime they didn't commit, even if they have committed others."
Sharo nodded. "I've never committed murder."
"Depending on how you define it, this might be a first for you then," Marshan said seriously. "You want to get back at Kennis for this?"
"Yes," she nodded sharply, her ears flicked back in irritation. "I rather like living in Enylar."
"Unfortunately, I'm not too sure how feasible that's going to be for a while," Marshan admitted. "Between paying back the Guildmaster and the shit hitting the fan when that Rat starts talking, it's not going to be all that safe here for either of us."
"Of course," Sharo sighed and rolled her eyes. "I finally find a city I like and I can't stay. So where are you going to head to?"
"I have some contacts in Tellys, and I was getting ready to move there already to be honest. Not sure if you want to take my example though," he chuckled slightly. "I'm not exactly known for sticking in one place."
"It's not a bad place," she consented. "Smaller, but not bad. Good hunting too."
"That's what I'm hoping for," he said seriously. "Though probably not the sort of hunting you're thinking of."
"So what do you hunt?"
"Magi," the Fox said simply. "At least some of them. Have to 'ask' your old boss about one before he dies, by the way."
"You're a bounty hunter?" Sharo raised an eyebrow curiously, suddenly a bit more interested in this Fox.
"At times," he nodded. "It's the easiest way to stay fed right now. I'm looking for one mage in particular, but when all you have for a name is a little-known alias it's not much to go on. Mage-hunting pays well, and it's a good way to get more information while I'm working."
"I don't doubt it pays well," she chuckled softly. "Not many are willing to even consider such a target."
"Not many can expect the other wizard to be the one with the 'oh shit' look after he casts a spell," Marshan chuckled. "Suppose you're going to be looking for a new job after you get out of town," he observed, idly wondering what it would be like to work with a partner again.
"I did well in Tellys' arena before," she shrugged. "I can live off the land. I don't worry about it too much."
"Can and wanting to are two different things," he chuckled slightly. "That I know well enough. Think you might be interested in adding 'bounty hunter' to your resume for a while?"
After all, if she did well enough when they were going after the Guildmaster, she just might be useful. She was certainly an interesting enough person to talk to, so far, and probably more so once he started to get to know her. Gods knew it would have been useful to have serious muscle around sometimes.
"If it pays better for the risk than the arena." She nodded. "It's hardly a far stretch from what I've already done. So how soon are we going to pay Kennis a visit?" Sharo asked evenly.
"How quickly would you say is feasible?" He asked her seriously. "I want to pay him back personally before the College decides to start sending their people after him."
"Now that depends on what your magic can tell us." Sharo said simply. "I have a good idea where he'll be and how to get to him. Actually knowing would be useful and reduce the number of traps we have to deal with."
"Do you have a possession of his?" Marshan asked. "Anything he owned for some time and that you haven't had for long should do."
"I don't, but I can get something easily enough if they haven't trashed my room yet."
"If you can do so safely, I need a link for the location spells to function," the Fox explained. "It doesn't need to be much, though the more personal it is, the better it works. Of course," he chuckled, "the best ones, we wouldn't need the spell."
She looked at him, lost at his final comment. "I've got some of his undergarments."
For a moment, Marshan was tempted to ask why she did, but decided against it. For now, at least.
"That's work fine," he nodded. "Clothing's up towards the top of the list."
"Then let's go find out if my place is still intact." She got up from one of the few chairs in the room.
"Let's," the Fox agreed, standing and following her out. "Will you need a chance to arm yourself before we finish this?"
"Need, no." She chuckled grimly. "If my place is intact, I'll have the chance anyway."
Marshan froze when Sharo put her hand out, a signal even he recognized as 'hold', especially with the way her body went tense. They were only steps from her small home and he couldn't see anything off, but she obviously did.
Given that it was her home, he trusted to her expertise.
"What's wrong?" He asked with a whisper, just loud enough for her to hear. If a fight was brewing, he didn't want to risk draining his magical reserves any more than necessary right now.
"Intruders, two or three." She told him, her claws unsheathed as her only real weapons at the moment besides her mass.
"Give me a clear line of site to them when you're ready and I'll be able to even the odds," he promised her, summoning the words and gestures for a sleep spell even as she moved, exploding into the room with a roar that made the fur on both her targets stand on end.
They turned to face her, blades drawn as she bowled into the pair, her leather armor a solid match for the ill-aimed knives as she swung them around bodily for Marshan.
"Somnic omini," he spoke clearly, motioning with his hands for the two thug's eyes to close.
They didn't stand a chance. They struggled for a moment, but the spell left them both limp and asleep in the Remok's hands.
"It never ceases to amaze me how ill-prepared most of these thugs are for such a simple spell," he smirked. "So, they take what you were after yet, or did we catch them in time?"
"Doesn't look like they've found anything yet." Sharo let them drop to the floor and made a quick circuit of the two-room apartment, gathering both weapons and personal belongings into a knapsack and handed a set of drawers to the Fox.
A glance at the very nice bed and the relatively simple furnishing that contrasted with it made him wonder again just how she had these.
For now, noting that she was gathering a few minor luxuries for herself, he began the spell of seeking. He wove the threads of magic around the garment, seeking the bonds that connected them to their former owner. The emotional, psychic ties that made them "Kennis' old clothes" to Sharo instead of "my souvenir."
There it was. He found the binding thread, and wove a strand of magic along it, leading to the Guildmaster. He spoke the words to the location spell, closing his eyes as images and words started to come to him.
"Does 'Kyshanti' mean anything to you?" He asked the Remok.
"She's a brothel-madame. Tends to pay protection money in services." She supplied easily. "I can't say I'm surprised."
"Mmm ... it'd be a shame if somebody interrupted him before he had the chance to collect," Marshan grinned evilly. "Is it close enough for us to get there before somebody lets him know you're out?"
"If he's still there, definitely," Sharo grinned evilly and headed out at full stride. "It's not far from here."
"Oh he's there," Marshan chuckled. "All the indications said he was just getting there. We going to have any trouble getting to him?"
"Only if he's let her in on my demotion," Sharo smirked. "I know how to deal with everyone on the payroll."
"Good," Marshan chuckled. "Just remember, I do need him to keep breathing long enough to answer a couple questions, okay? After that, as long as I get to watch, I'll leave him to your mercies."
"No problem." She grinned. "Let's go."
It wasn't long before they reached the brothel, already starting to get noisier as the sun set and business started.
"Never did like places like this," Marshan murmured quietly as they started in.
"It's good money for those who don't mind." She shrugged and walked through the milling customers and girls with an aura of authority that dissuaded the few who did more than glance at her. It was hard to doubt that she was not for hire and she had the authority to go wherever she pleased.
"That's not why," he said softly to himself, following Sharo through the room, glad that she at least seemed to know where they were going.
Here, with so many minds and so many strong feelings, he had no clue how to pinpoint the Guildmaster's location beyond the building.
"Mage-thing?" She asked as they moved upstairs.
"Yeah," he nodded slightly. "Too many minds, too much chaos. It's kinda like being in the middle of a storm for me."
"Is it true, that mages don't care about sex?" She asked as if it was a perfectly normal question and paused at each door, sniffing for her former employer.
"That depends entirely on the mage," he chuckled. "The old ones and the priests usually don't, my College prefers it a bit more private than here, and the Tombsmen put on a hell of an act when they're in civilization."
"In here." She said simply after a sniff at one of the many doors. "Any plan?"
"You grab him before he can call for help or fight back, I pull what I need from his brain, and we make him pay for tonight," Marshan said just as simply. Once he could see him, the mind-reading spell would work just fine.
Especially if the Fox 'accidentally' pried just a little too hard.
"No problem." Sharo grinned and put her shoulder and full mass against the door, taking the chunk of wood right off its hinges to the scream of a female that was silenced almost before the Fox registered it. He did see his companion lunge onto the bed, pinning her former boss down with an ease that was disturbing despite her mass advantage.
Impressive, but disturbing. Marshan did a quick check to make sure the Mouse was only unconscious and had to admit to himself that knowing such a strike was a surprise for a gladiator and enforcer. They didn't usually pick up such subtle techniques, much less think of them first when she was already going to kill and leave town. Maybe she hadn't been kidding about not having a taste for murder.
He hoped so. It could make his life a lot easier if he worked with her after this.
He walked over to the Guildmaster. "You really are an idiot, aren't you?" He said contemptuously. "Not only do you turn on your own enforcer, one who was loyal to you up to when you betrayed her, but you kill the friend of a wizard doing it. Look on the bright side; by the time I'm done with you, she'll probably be doing you a favor."
"Mage?!" The big Badger snarled even as he fought against the Remok pinning him down.
"That's right, mage," Marshan nodded slightly. His eyes met the Badger's for just an instant, but it was enough. He sent the spell he'd prepared into his mind and soul, not taking nearly the same caution he usually did. It didn't shame him in the least to know that the Guildmaster would likely be grateful to die when he was done. A murderer like this deserved to have his mind raped.
He ripped open the layers of lies and falsehoods people like Kennis always built around themselves, tearing off chunks of his mind and spirit like a careless chef removing the shell from a lobster. Any information that seemed useful, the Fox absorbed. He followed one path and then another, delving deeper, seeking names and faces of people the Guildmaster knew. Then he found who he was searching for.
Bandon had just left down a few days before. Good. It was the closest Marshan had been to this particular quarry in several cities. On a whim, he spent a few more moments searching for any knowledge of the Black Beast or the Circle he was supposedly a member of, but found nothing. No real surprise there. He was aware that Sharo was holding the Badger's mouth shut to keep him from screaming when he came back up from his soul-dive.
"He's all yours," he said, rolling his shoulders stiffly. "Want to do this here, or somewhere more private?
"Got a way out that doesn't involve being obvious?" She looked at him over her shoulder.
"Not really," he admitted. "Wasn't sure if you did."
"Not lugging him." She shook her head and quickly snapped the Badger's neck. She got off the bed with her fur unruffled but her mind a little sick as she walked to the window and opened it. "Let's go."
Marshan followed her easily, not nearly as affected by the death as she seemed to be. He put a hand on her shoulder lightly before she climbed out, squeezing it reassuringly.
"Let's go," he agreed.
"Hope you don't mind squirrel," Marshan called as he walked back into camp early the next evening. "It was that or try finding a wild dray-lizard." He put down a couple large squirrels, cleaned and skinned in the field where they wouldn't attract predators to the camp.
"Meat's meat, once it's dead." She chuckled. "Stew or roast?"
"Up to you," he chuckled. "In the field, as long as it's not just singed until it's edible, it's probably better than I usually bother cooking."
"Stick around me for long and you'll learn how to cook." Sharo laughed easily and ran a stick threw one squirrel to put over their small fire before cutting the other up to add to a pot of wild plant life. "Sit, mage, and pick up a trick or two."
"Maybe after I've had the chance to clean up a bit?" He suggested with a chuckle, picking up on the playful tone. "These paws aren't always red, y'know."
"That's why we camp on a creek." She winked at him. "That and I happen to like fish."
"Maybe tomorrow," he chuckled, moving over to the creek to start washing up. "Land critters are usually a bit easier to catch, for me."
"I learned to use tools for hunting solo." She relaxed back to wait for the food to cook. "Otherwise I tend to bring down critters far too big for just me to eat."
"Ah yes," he chuckled. "That new-fangled 'hook and line' thing." He shook his hands off, drying his fur as he moved back towards the fire. "Unfortunately, when I learned to hunt they taught me to use spell and sword instead."
"You aren't built to bring down animals several times your own size." Sharo pointed out with a grin. "You can get away with hunting what you're sized for."
"The sabers don't work too well going after smaller critters, do they?" He asked, settling back and watching her cook.
"Neither does the mass." She shook her head. "Remok are built for power, not speed or agility. I can snap a rider-beast's neck with my bare hands, but catch a squirrel or rabbit? Not likely."
"True," he nodded. "How much do you usually eat a day, by the way? Think we've got wild dray-lizards around here, but figured it would be too much to go after tonight."
"More than this," she admitted with a motion towards their meal. "But we've also still got the biology to eat heavily when we can and go light for weeks at a time. A dray-lizard would be a good kill if we weren't in a hurry. I'm not usually in a mood to move for a day or so after a meal like that. I figured on eating light until we get to Tellys."
"Or at least until we're a few more days away from town," he nodded. He wondered just why she'd come to the city, given that it sounded like she'd almost be more comfortable out in the wilderness much of the time. Of course, it wasn't entirely unheard of for Remok to move to the cities. He could hardly blame them for giving up the hunter-gatherer routine.
"So," he asked her, "how long were you living in Enylar?"
"Year and a half year," she shrugged. "I never managed to stay anywhere long, always ended up back in a city where the money's good."
"No real home?" He asked her softly. "By choice, or... otherwise?"
"Otherwise," she shrugged. "Not many leave our lands by choice."
"I'm sorry," he said. "Never easy, no matter how it happens."
"No," Sharo agreed. "But it's life sometimes."
"Too often," he agreed, leaning back a bit against the log and looking into the fire. "So, you usually work for people like Kennis, or was that an exception to the rule?"
"The exception. The pay was right and his rep wasn't too bad. It was nice not to spend so much money and time on healers."
"You mentioned the arena before," he nodded slightly. "That is one advantage of the bounty hunting work. It might not pay quite as well, if you've got a reputation and the betting's good, but for the danger involved, you're a lot less likely to get killed on any given day."
"Kennis didn't pay as well as the arena either, but I got to keep more of when I got after putting myself back together." She chuckled a bit. "It's what you have when the bills are paid that really counts."
"True," Marshan smiled. "And it's been about two, three jobs since I've needed a healer. Of course, the last couple jobs went pretty peacefully. Bandon, the guy I'm after this time, might not go that way."
"So what's the deal with him?"
"Some wizards are hunted for normal crimes," Marshan explained. "Bandon's being hunted for worse than that. He's an elementalist by training, fire specialist. One of his apprentices approached the Colleges secretly about a year back; they'd found out that he was studying the Path of the Soul Eater, black magic."
"What's so bad about it?" Sharo asked, wanting to hear the reason for the ban.
"It's not simply a poetic name," Marshan chuckled grimly. "When Bandon kills with his magic, he literally consumes the power of his victim's soul. It wouldn't be that bad if he was only going to use it against people who deserved it, but he's not that picky. Remember that string of mysterious deaths a couple weeks back?"
"Yeah," she nodded. "That was him?"
"Yeah," he nodded. "It took a while to find out, but it was him. He's gone past the point of no return now, too. The scale of the killings implies that he's either addicted to the rush, or bound something to him that needs to eat a hell of a lot. He left Enylar a couple days ago, headed towards Tellys. And with his magic, forbidden and otherwise, he's probably most of the way there by now."
"Okay, so besides catching him by surprise, how do you fight someone like that?"
"Backlash," Marshan said easily. "Black magic has a nasty way of turning on its user. Eventually, he'll have to stop using it to speed himself up. Judging by how long he's been running, and how long he stayed in Enylar before we found him out, he's just about used up his luck. Once I catch him, his magic can be dispelled just as easily as any other wizard's."
"So what's a non-mage to do to stay alive?" She leaned forward to stir the stew and turn the skewer.
"Honestly," Marshan said easily, "the easiest way to handle him would be for me to focus on stopping his magic, and you to beat the crap out of him until he got smart and gave up on spells. If I take him solo, I'll be able to handle him, but it'll be trickier since I have to choose between stopping his spells and doing something to stop him. He doesn't have to cast a spell at me for me to stop it, just has to cast it."
Sharo nodded thoughtfully and pulled the squirrel-roast from the fire, deftly cutting it in half lengthwise for them to share.
"So does he have to stay alive?" She finally asked after making quick work of her half-squirrel, bones and all.
"The money's better if he does, but he'll be dead after we take him back anyways," Marshan said easily, working on his half somewhat more delicately. "Only reason they're worried about it at all is they want to find out if there's anybody who was working on him. They don't think there was, but the chance is there."
"What part of this fee will be mine, if I help you?"
"Given the fight's the most important part of the job, I think an even split's fair," Marshan said easily. "Bounty's four aureals if he's dead, six if he's alive."
That raised an eyebrow as she realized that he was talking about a good month's wage to her for her share. "They really want him."
"I told you mage-hunting was good money," he said seriously. "Even the little ones are usually worth ten denari or so in bounty."
"How many do you usually get in a year?" Sharo asked, now seriously considering this as more than a one-shot option. His spell-stopping and her muscle could do a very effective job if he was even close to telling the truth.
"About three a month," the Fox explained. "Most of 'em are worth more than the ten denari; those are basically thieves on the run who happen to be mages. On average, a decently powerful mage who commits a serious crime is worth about an aureal."
She nodded, doing a little math. It'd be a small pay cut for her if they kept that rate, and obviously a big one for him. "You figure you could bring in a few more with a partner?"
"And more dangerous ones," he nodded. "I know I can, actually. I've worked with a partner before. Between the fact that there are two sets of ears looking for information, two people there to be intimidating, and a partner to help me fight, I can go after more valuable bounties faster."
"I'm not much of a snoop." She pointed out. "Intimidating I can do, though." She cracked a grin, the firelight glinting off her steel fangs.
"And I've already seen you can do the rough and tumble well enough," he grinned back. "That's the biggest part for getting the big bounties. Bandon's about the hardest I can handle on my own, and only because I know he'll drain his magical power and be shit out of luck while I've got a sword yet."
"Always good to have a backup," she nodded. "Though I prefer a club to a sword."
"To each their own," he chuckled. "I think if I tried to use a club like yours, I'd end up swinging myself more than it."
"It might just well weight more than you do." She chuckled deeply. "Sharp and pointy has its uses, I just come with built-in knives." She tapped her eight-inch steel fangs.
"Whereas mine are more like toothpicks," he chuckled, taking some of the stew as he finished the roast. "They work, but I'd rather have my Fang than my fangs," he smiled easily. "This is good," he added appreciatively after a bite of the stew.
"Thanks," she nodded and relaxed back with her meal finished.
He finished his own quickly, putting the small bowl to the side and leaning back.
"So," he asked, looking over the fire at her curiously. "Why'd you ask about mages and sex back there?"
"Hurr?" Sharo's ears flicked forward, her expression easy to read, and lost for a moment as she placed the reference. "Umm, just came to mind. You complaining about being in a brothel."
"Okay," he chuckled. "Just seemed like an odd question to ask right then. Figured it was probably something like that."
"Odd things come to mind sometimes." She chuckled sheepishly. "Most Foxes I've met are very ... playful."
"Mmm ... I'm afraid I'm a little too used to the whole 'grim avenger' routine to do playful too often," he chuckled. "Not that it's a concept entirely lost on me," he winked.
"Good," Sharo relaxed against the tree behind her. "It's not healthy to be serious all the time."
"Sounds familiar," Marshan chuckled. "So, what do you usually do, when you're not being serious?"
"Sleep, when I've got a nice bed, sex, friendly contests at what I'm good at." She ran off the short list of her off hours time. "Sometimes hunting."
"Not a bad list of hobbies," he mused, thinking back to her room when she'd been packing. "You do like to make sure you've got a good bed, don't you?
"I indulge myself when I can," she nodded. "Good food, a comfortable bed, nice clothes. I don't get to that often. Especially not the bed."
"Always moving around too much," he nodded slightly. "Maybe one of these days you can manage to settle down somewhere."
"Maybe," she consented, though she was doubtful. "Odder things have happened."
"Seemed like you'd almost managed it back in Enylar, before Kennis decided to pull the rug out from under you," he pointed out.
"It's as close as I've come," Sharo nodded. "I don't know if I'd stay for life, but it was a start."
"Well, if you came close one place, there's probably another that can manage it. Heck, maybe even Enylar again, once things calm down there. I don't think anybody's going to particularly care about Kennis after a year or two.
"True," she nodded. "Especially not after your friends are done with the place."
"Exactly," he nodded. "By the time they're done, the guards will probably be a lot less corrupt, and the crooks like Kennis will be largely out of power, in all likelihood. The guards at least."
"Power corrupts those who are not vigilant." She nodded. "Even those who start out honest don't seem to stay that way long."
"Too true," he nodded. "Though I suppose I can't complain too much about the theory. It means I'll always have a job I can turn to when I need the cash."
"It is nice to have something you can fall back on." Sharo agreed. "Between the arenas, mercenary demands and survival skills, it's a good feeling, knowing I'm unlikely to ever go hungry. Good fighters are always in demand. I'd think that someone with your abilities would have an easy time finding employment too, outside of bounties."
"Oh I could," he agreed. "I could try taking a position at one of the Colleges; even try starting my own if I wanted. The Guilds would back me. But I've got some personal business to take care of before I do something like that."
An eyebrow raised at that, a question of what that she was willing to let pass if he didn't want to explain. At least for now.
"There's one mage in particular I'm hunting," he explained, looking up at the stars as the clouds moved out of the way. "Possibly a group of them, but I only know the name of the one. Killed my partner about five years ago, razed my home-village about twenty years before that, just after I was sent to the Colleges."
"Powerful, or just vicious and lucky?" She asked quietly.
"Both," he said softly. "Goes by the name of the Black Beast. You'd think that somebody with his skill would have an official presence in the Colleges' books. He seems to have advanced knowledge of all current forms of magic save white and mind magic. Truly mastering more than a single college is enough to be recognized as an arch-wizard."
"You're making a lot of assumptions there," Sharo pointed out simply. "That he's done any training in your system, that he can't hide his identity while training, that he's from this world, that he's mortal as we understand it, that he's a mage as you understand it and more. The Colleges and Guilds may be what you know as the world, but they rule only a very small part of it."
"I know he's mortal," Marshan said. "That he can be killed, at least. The rest... you're right, it's mostly assumptions based on the time my old partner and I caught up with him. The forms and incantations were a little archaic, but they bear all the trademarks of a formal training with the Colleges, at least at some point."
"Or training by someone who had trained there and passed it on. The connection to the Collages could be generations back and long dead." She added thoughtfully. "There are warriors in this land that my kin would recognize the fighting style of because I trained them to some extent. If they pass that on intact, then another of my clan could pass through in generations to come and mistake them for someone who must have been trained in one of our camps in ancient styles."
"That's a possibility that worries me more than others," Marshan admitted softly. "According to rumor, he works with a cabal of other mages. The possibility that there are people out there none of the Colleges are aware of that can train a mage so thoroughly is... disturbing. At least from the perspective of having to hunt them in the future."
"Or have them hunt you." Sharo finished the statement. "Marshan, how much do you know about the Black Beast from reliable first hand accounts?"
"Aside from what I saw with my partner, not much. I know he exists, and that he's powerful. I will catch and stop him, but I'm realistic about it. After what happened the last time, I know I'm not up to his power level yet. Getting there, but not yet."
"Is there a bounty on his head, or on his friends?"
"A very substantial one," the Fox nodded. "On him, at least. Once it was confirmed that he was real, the bounty set records, though they do put restrictions on who they'll give information about him. They don't just send any idiot graduate out to get his head blown off."
"A good thing," she nodded. "It sounds like he's worth it, especially if he's in any shape afterwards to give up information on his friends. If even most of your ideas about him are correct, you need to prepare for a war. A powerful rogue is dangerous. One with allies is a warlord waiting to happen."
"That, or a group of warlords waiting for the time to strike," Marshan nodded. "When I think about what he's capable of, it reminds me way too much of some of the old legends about the Autarchs."
"A group of mages went bad?" She guessed.
"Beyond that," he said seriously. "If the legends are true, before our people even existed the Autarchs were a race of mages that utterly annihilated each other, and very nearly took the world out with them. There are some factions trying to find what they knew, find proof they even existed, but it's not a section of history I want to see repeated if it was real."
Sharo nodded slightly, her gaze distant. "I don't know anything about them, but I'm sure the core of it is true. It's happened before, it will happen again. Sometimes a few people survive, sometimes only the world does. Some worlds never recover. It's part of the cycle of life to have death and every legend has at its core a seed of truth."
"Yeah," he nodded, sighing as he looked up at the stars. He'd looked Death in the eye that day, when he'd fought the Beast. He'd looked her in the eye, and Gilad had paid for it.
"New subject?" He asked Sharo hopefully. "Might be a personal question, don't have to answer if you don't want."
"Doesn't hurt to ask." She accepted with a slight shrug.
"Your sabers are pretty clearly prosthetics. I was wondering if it was intentional, something you'd added for the intimidation factor, or something else?"
"A little of both," her mood dropped sharply. "When you're banished from Remok lands, you are banished from the race. Your teeth are cut off and enchanted so they can't be grown back. It's a physical mark so all know what you are and that no Remok will take you in. I tried to have healers fix them, but I had to settle for the steel ones."
"Sorry," he said softly. "If you'd rather not talk about it, I understand. I might be able to get you some help with repairing them though; any enchantment can be broken, if you know a skilled enough thaumaturgist."
"It's that 'skilled enough' part that's been the problem so far. A healing-trained mage is rare enough where I've been." She admitted. "I've gotten used to the steel ones in the years I've had them; they are much more effective weapons."
"I probably have more contacts than you do that would be qualified," he offered. "If you make the decision. If you're fine staying with those, I could see why. They're definitely distinctive."
"There's time," she shrugged. "We've got a hunt to deal with first."
"Very true," he nodded. "And a few days hike to get back to civilization. You want first watch, or second?"
"I'll take first watch." She chose easily.
Tellys was smaller than Enylar, but by the time Marshan and Sharo arrived the markets were full, the people wide-awake and caravans moving in. The smells and sounds of the border city were both well and truly in the air, animals and people alike going about their business.
"Been a while since I've been out this way," the Fox mused, looking around. "Find somewhere to stay while we're in town, then see if there are any signs Bandon's made it here yet?
"If Della's still in business, it's a great inn for the coin." Sharo commented. "Where I stayed when I was fighting here."
"Let's go hunt it up then," he said easily. "Know the way?"
She paused, looking up over the roofs to orient herself to the arena. "Yap." She nodded and started off at a full stride.
The Fox hurried to follow her, having to move a little more quickly than he usually would to keep up. It wasn't long before they reached the inn, which looked like it was clean and well-kept and smelled of good food.
Better than some of the places he'd stayed, that was certain.
Sharo walked in like she owned the place, her natural authority resonating in the air to claim quick service from the woman seeing to the room.
"Steel Fang, it is good to see you again." A middle-aged feline smiled warmly at her. "Here to stay?"
"Yes." Sharo nodded sharply. "One of the big rooms available?"
"Oh yes." Della nodded easily. "Does your friend wish a separate room?"
"That won't be necessary," he said simply. "As long as there's an empty room with two beds, that's fine."
"Of course," she smiled easily. "It will be arranged within the hour."
"Thank you," he smiled with a nod, easily slipping into the role of mage-companion.
"Has a mage come into town in the last day or two?" Sharo asked, her manner relaxed. "Wolf, well-built, probably wearing red robes and looking a little edgy?"
"Yes, I believe so." Della nodded. "It was a topic of chat last night. I don't know where he is though."
"Just knowing we're closer than we were in Enylar is most helpful." Sharo smiled warmly at her and swung her pack off her shoulder to hand to the young tom that came up to them. "Thank you. We'll be back for dinner."
Marshan handed his own smaller pack to the tom, heading out of the inn quietly with Sharo.
"I'll want to go check in with the local mages, see if he's started hunting yet," he said. "Anything you want to do today yet?"
"I can keep myself busy if they'll talk easier without me there." She looked down at him.
"I doubt it'd be an issue, given the questions I want to ask," he said easily. "Just wondering if you wanted to come along or do something else."
"Then I'll come." Sharo nodded. "There isn't that much of interest here."
"About what I figured," Marshan nodded. "Give me a few moments to get my bearings...." He started walking down the street, clearly focusing on something before he turned off into a side alley, Sharo a step behind him and guarding his back while he followed the trail he could sense.
It was just a few minutes before they were back in the market, bustling with sellers and shoppers alike and Sharo's nose was assaulted by the smells of good, civilized food she'd been without for days.
Her stomach rumbled lightly as she made a note to consider buying some supplies before they left town again, at least for any serious length of time. Her reverie was disrupted by a small burst of light and sound from one corner, along with a cheer from the crowd.
"There," Marshan said, speeding up as he worked his way towards the stall where a lean Rabbit was putting on a magical performance for the crowd.
"That's your mage?" She looked between them dubiously before they got close enough to the Rabbit to offend.
"Not Bandon," Marshan said, shaking his head. "He is, however, somebody who stands a good chance of having seen him." The Rabbit cast another spell, a spectral dragon forming between his hands before it took off to fly above the crowd, drawing squeals of excitement from some of the children watching. It was clear that he enjoyed his work quite a bit.
And, watching him while his illusion did its rounds, equally clear that he was fully alert to who was in his audience. His eyes settled on Sharo and Marshan, and the dragon disappeared in a flash of sparkles.
"He's winding up his act," the Fox explained quietly.
After a few more brief illusions, the Rabbit stepped down from his stage, passing a few collection bowls around the crowd as they started moving away.
"Come on," Marshan said, starting to work up through the audience. "If he's got a pretty good take, this should be easier for us."
"Here's to luck then." She nodded and easily fell into the background role of guard.
"Greetings, Mage," the Rabbit said quietly as Marshan approached him. "Can I help you?"
"I'm looking for somebody," the Fox explained. "Have you heard of Bandon Flamemaster?"
"Every mage in the provinces has heard of him," the Rabbit pointed out. "Seen him, that's another issue." Marshan rolled his eyes mentally and worked a brief mind-reading spell. He was good enough at this that he doubted the Rabbit would detect it; he was a competent illusionist, but little more.
Well now, that was interesting. Interesting, and potentially useful.
"Well, Apprentice Tarsis, have you seen him?" He asked.
The Rabbit swore under his breath. "Look, I don't want any trouble with the guilds, all right?" He asked, looking around as if trying to see if there were any other mages in the area. "I can't afford to pay the dues, and the College out here doesn't care about a minor performer who isn't on the role...."
"And yet, you know the official stance of the Guilds," Marshan pointed out. "However, as I haven't been hired to waste my time tracking down apprentices who never officially joined, I'll let it go. Assuming, of course, you'll stop side-stepping questions?"
"All right, all right," Tarsis sighed. "Come on, I don't want to talk about that psychopath in the open." He nodded towards a nearby bar, turning and starting to walk towards it as Marshan and Sharo followed, the Remok a silent giant watching over the smaller males.
Once they were in the bar, they found a quiet spot to sit down. Tarsis signaled to one of the waitresses, a buxom Rabbit a few years younger than he was, and brushed his long, sandy-furred ears back as he regarded the mage-hunters.
"So, you're looking for Bandon?" He asked them. "I saw him a couple days ago, coming in off a caravan. I always keep an eye out for wizards passing through here, you know why," he said, nodding towards Marshan.
"Have there been any unusual deaths in town since Bandon arrived?" The Fox asked. "And do you have any idea where he was going?"
"No clue," Tarsis said easily. "And no deaths yet, not that I know of. Ill-tempered son of a bitch though. When I noticed him, one of my illusions swooped his way before I checked my control on it. I've had mages dispel them, swat at them, all sorts of things, but nobody's ever shot a fireball through one before."
"And the guards here didn't intervene?" Marshan asked, raising an eyebrow as the salmon-furred Rabbit fem brought over a beer for each of them, winking at Tarsis before she walked off to serve another table.
"Hope you guys don't mind beer, Jessie's a little new," he explained, taking a sip of his own. "About the only thing they serve here that's worth drinking, too. Anyways, no, they didn't. C'mon, would ... well, stupid question," he chuckled slightly. "But he didn't hit anybody real, didn't seem too obviously inclined to, and he could if they pissed him off. Only found out who he was after that."
"Do you know if he's still in town?" Sharo perked up.
"Most likely, unless he went off with another of the caravans," Tarsis said easily.
"Not yet," Marshan said. "Assuming he didn't murder anybody with him on the caravan, he'll need to feed before he spends another week going without."
"Do you know which caravan he came in with?" Sharo pressed, eager to test herself against this mage.
"Yeah, but he's probably not with it anymore," Tarsis said. "Assuming he knows he's wanted, he probably went down by the Arena. Enough folk there who know not to ask questions, and he might be able to glean a little power on spirits from dead prisoners and animals."
"It also happens to be my old stalking grounds." Sharo grinned predatorily.
"You're the 'Steel Fang' they used to talk about just after I got into town?" Tarsis asked, looking at her respectfully. "Yeah, you'd probably be able to find him then. Don't know if he'd be fighting there though, they tend to frown on death matches these days. More likely just in the area."
"Yes, I am." She inclined her head slightly. "It's still a smaller area to hunt in."
"That it is," he nodded. "So, you two have any more questions?"
"No," Marshan said easily, drinking his beer. "However, if we do, we'll come back to you."
"You give a good show too." Sharo slid a copper across the table to him. It wasn't a lot, but it was a good tip for a performance she'd only seen half of.
"Thanks," the Rabbit said, as Marshan left a pair of coins behind to pay for their drinks and they stood.
"Don't worry about the guilds," the Fox said easily. "I don't plan on mentioning you to them. We'll be seeing you around."
Sharo nodded in agreement and followed Marshan outside.
"Any other mages to chat with, or down to the arena?" She asked.
"I think we can get started now," he said easily. "You know the way there better; I'll follow."
Sharo relaxed, stretching out with a contented sound on the larger of the two beds in their room, one clearly designed for one of her height and mass. She had even removed her armor, giving him a good look at her in the nude. She wasn't body-shy in the least, and he had to admit that she had nothing to be shy about. Despite a week's worth of traveling grime, her health and fine physical condition showed clearly to his experienced eye.
Marshan had to admit, for the few coppers it cost, it was a good deal with good food and very comfortable beds. The room was fairly small and simple. Della clearly knew her clientele; those more interested in a good rest and good food than space or decoration. He suspected any bathhouse Sharo recommended would be just as good. The Remok had a definite taste for the more practical types of luxury.
After they took care of Bandon would be a good time to find out. They hadn't found him today, but he wasn't very surprised by that. Soon though; he could feel the familiar tingle that told him he was close. Maybe not physically, but it was never long after he started feeling it.
He stretched out himself, his bed understandably smaller than Sharo's, though just as comfortable. He leaned his head back against the pillow, thinking things through.
"Mind going over what we've found out today with me?" He asked.
"Not at all." She agreed easily. "Not that it's much."
"Maybe not much, to look at it, but that's why I want to go over it again," he explained. "We know he arrived just a day or two ago, and that he was in a foul mood when he did. Probably knew he was going to have to start hunting again soon."
"Which he probably hasn't done yet." She added. "And while he may get enough for a few days from the arena, it won't be enough to travel on."
"Not without killing his traveling companions," Marshan agreed, putting the information together mentally. "The fact that he traveled with one of the caravans instead of by magic surprises me. He had to know that if he used his magic, he'd be here faster, have enough time to hunt, and get out of town, beyond the reaches of any more mundane authorities."
"Maybe he didn't have enough energy to make the entire trip on his own. Or maybe they had something else he wanted."
"Possible," Marshan agreed. It didn't seem right though, either way. Admittedly, it had been a few weeks since he'd killed, but he should have had enough energy to at least make most of the trip. He might have been worried about the potential for backlash, but that seemed unlikely too. There had to be some reason....
"He was hiding," the Fox said. "He knew that if anybody came chasing after him on horseback they could catch up with a caravan, a good rider with some magic on his side might have even been able to beat him here, if they knew where to go and started out just after he did. By traveling with a caravan, he wouldn't attract the attention a mage would have flying."
"True," she nodded slightly. "And if he hadn't reacted so badly to that illusion, he may well have gotten into town without drawing attention to himself."
"Exactly," Marshan nodded. "Which suggests that he's trying to hide, but the need to kill is getting to him. He hasn't attacked anybody yet, but that isn't likely to last long. Possibly in the next day or two. I doubt he'll go outside his old habits though; the victim will be somebody the guards won't miss, probably even expected to die."
"Which means the poorer sections of town. Much like all the dead in Enylar."
"And it's not a very poor part of town. Best he'd hope for is that somebody might mistake one of his killings for a natural death or somebody collecting on a number of bad gambling debts. Damn it," he muttered, shaking his head. "We were looking in the wrong places today, I think."
"It was a good guess on very little information." Sharo reminded him. "Grab a good nap and we can hunt him when we're fresh again."
"Yeah," he nodded, rolling up out of bed to start undoing his robes. "Still aggravating. Just hope he doesn't do anything to get the bounty raised before we catch up with him."
"Try not to worry about it. You'll sleep better." She suggested seriously and stretched in place with a wide yawn, showing her killing bite with an impressive, if unconscious, display.
He couldn't help but look at it, his eyes trailing down her nude body briefly before he caught himself and focused on undressing himself instead.
"Right," he nodded, removing his outer robe, then the light leather armor he wore under it and a silk shirt beneath that. When he finally got back into the bed, he was just wearing the short trousers he wore beneath his lower robes, thick red and white fur standing out against the bedding.
It was fur he was glad for when he realized that she'd looked him over as well. He knew she meant nothing by it, that she was merely curious about his physical condition as most who lived by their bodies did, but it still brought an unwelcome rush of blood to his face.
"Rest well, Marshan." Sharo smiled at him and reached out to turn the lamp in their room off.
"You too, Sharo," he said easily as the candle was snuffed out.
A grey-furred Wolf stalked through the back streets of Tellys, his every sense keenly alert for the nightlife of the city.
Bandon had left his robes behind at his room in favor of a more casual change of clothes stolen from an earlier kill. People tended to be less on-guard if they didn't think you were a wizard, something that suited him just fine tonight.
"*Feed us!*" The voices in the back of the renegade wizard's mind protested their long fast; if he didn't find a good victim tonight, he swore he'd go insane.
He chuckled slightly as he thought about that statement. To listen to the Colleges, he already was. The damned fools.
"*Near ... there is food near,*" the voices told him. "*Young and fresh.*"
There had better be. He was wandering through the parts of town he'd learned were best known for prostitutes, cutthroats, and others who wouldn't be missed until somebody recognized his handiwork. It had kept him in Enylar for weeks, before the Hunters were onto him again. He could do the same here, stock up, and then be on his way to the next kingdom before they found him.
All he had to do was be a little more careful, let nature take its course. He'd been too impatient early on, when he first earned the bounty on his head. He'd learned his lessons since then.
"Hello there, handsome," a female rumbled throatily from nearby, her body language the suggestive sexuality of dozens of his victims.
He looked the Lynx over briefly as he moved towards her slightly. Not that he particularly cared about her looks, but it was generally expected. Besides, she was fairly attractive; he could do with a little relaxation before feeding the fiends.
"And what are you doing out at this hour?" He asked with a slightly dangerous, playful growl.
"Looking for company," she grinned back. "How about you?"
"Hunting for the same," he chuckled, a grin spreading across his muzzle. "Think you've found some?"
"Well, my company does require a few coins," she purred, showing off her assets.
"Looks worth it to me," he grinned lewdly. "How much for a couple hours entertainment if I cover the place to spend it?"
"Sounds reasonable," he nodded. "So, know a good place near here to spend a part of the night?"
"Of course," the Lynx smiled seductively. "This way."
He followed her, reaching into a pocket to count out the coin necessary along the way. Not like she was going to be keeping it, but she'd expect it before they did any 'business.'
"*Just kill her now!*" The voices hissed at him. He dismissed them; they always wanted him to hunt more, hunt faster. He was smarter than that though. He knew how to do this properly.
Besides, he was entitled to a little fun before feeding them. They certainly didn't complain when he finally did get around to giving them what they wanted.
The building she led him to wasn't a surprise either. Small and ill-kept, with rooms clearly not meant to be lived in, it was still quite enough to do business in. A gruff Mastiff in the cramped entrance looked up at them as they walked in and held his hand out expectantly.
"Two hours, Berin." She told him with long familiarity.
"Twelve bits." He looked at the Wolf solidly. "Five for her, one for the room per hour."
Bandon pulled the money out, a little annoyed that the Mastiff would be collecting it instead of her. One change from how it had worked in Enylar, though one he could understand.
No matter. He'd just have to kill them both to get it back. He had no doubts that there wouldn't be any complaints from his mental companions.
"Twelve bits," he said easily, spreading the copper coins on the counter so they could be counted at a glance.
"Room 5." The Mastiff said gruffly as he brushed the coins off the counter into his hand and watched the pair go down the hall.
"Friendly sort," Bandon observed quietly as he and his 'partner' made their way to the room they'd been given.
"It's his job." She shrugged and opened the door to the tiny room mostly taken up by the bed big enough for two to really get going.
"Well, I can't really complain about people around here doing their jobs, can I?" He chuckled, following her in and closing the door behind them. He knew the walls weren't thick enough to block much sound, but it hardly mattered; he'd just have to keep the screams down when he was finishing up. His plaything had already let her dress drop to the floor, revealing reasonably well-groomed fur for her profession.
He rumbled appreciatively, starting to undo his shirt, tossing it off to the side.
"You undercharge," he half-grinned, turning her around and pressing her back to the bed, muscles shifting beneath his fur as his fingers ran through her thick pelt.
"Tips are always welcome," she winked at him seductively and spread her legs, inviting him to sate his lusts.
"Mmm ... let's make sure you earn 'em then," he rumbled, pulling his pants off and pressing his thick, hard shaft into her sex with a groan. The pleasure of a skilled body was welcome after his fast.
He started thrusting into her sex, her tail teasing his heavy balls. He growled lustily as he nipped her shoulder, pummeling her pussy with his length, teasing the most sensitive spots inside it. He shivered inside at the thought of what he'd be doing to her soon, the ecstasy of feeding. The anticipation made the mating all the more pleasurable.
So did her absolute ignorance of what was to come. It was so sweet when they thought of him as nothing special.
He gripped her ass tightly as he pumped a load of hot seed into her sex with a deep groan. She might just be thinking of him as a customer right now, but when he was done... he'd be the last one she'd ever service.
He spend most of the next hour and a half emptying himself into her, sating his lusts and taking some time to enjoy himself. Finally, he pulled out of her, licking one of her breasts as he stepped back slightly.
"On your hands and knees," he growled, chuckling mentally as she obeyed without a word.
It was amusing, in a way. One complaint, one protest, even just acting like they were real people, and they'd probably end up in a different line of work, one where they wouldn't be perfect victims for him. Instead, they just kept on taking whatever he wanted to do to them. By the time they complained....
He climbed up behind her, grabbing her hips roughly and sinking his slick cock into her ass, not taking any care for whether or not he hurt her. It rarely did, these people were usually quite used to it by the time he met them. He started thrusting harder and deeper, slowing down as his knot starting to stretch her anus. He wrapped his forearm around her throat tightly, cutting off her breath and ability to make more than a whimper of noise.
"Count yourself lucky," he rumbled into her ear. "You'll never have to turn another trick after tonight."
He was ready for her when she started to struggle; he was used to the claws and desperation by now. She was no different from any of the others, not in the end.
So she managed to get her teeth into his arm, but they weren't much more than her claws.
He started to murmur the words to the spell as he kept taking her ass, keeping her from crying out as he slowly tightened his grip, strangling her to death.
The last work escaped his lips, and he let out a low groan as he felt her life-energy begin draining into him. His balls tightened, pulling up close to his body as he filled her one last time, the pleasure pushing him over the edge as her soul fought against his magic, trying desperately to remain in her body.
It was no good though; seconds turned into minutes as he slowly killed her from the inside out, taking everything that she was and stripping it down to pure energy that coursed through his veins, healing the wounds her claws and teeth left in his arm, sating the infernal hunger of the fiends. Her body dropped to the bed as he finished, pulling out of her body and releasing her throat. He rolled her over onto her back, her terrified eyes staring up at the ceiling.
Sometimes he wondered what they saw, that left them so scarred just before they died. But then, he knew what sort of madness waited on the other side. A weaker mind than his would have shattered long ago.
He dressed himself quickly, starting out to the front, buttoning his shirt and preparing to make much quicker work of her pimp.
Tomorrow was going to be one hell of a great day.
"I'm tellin' you, I have never seen anything like that before. The hooker's one thing, but that Mastiff's taken on Bears before...."
Marshan's ears perked up as he looked up from breakfast, seeing two guards walking by, just getting out of earshot. They'd be easy to recognize at least; the one who'd been talking was a Goat, not many of them in town.
"I think we've got our first lead for the day," he whispered to Sharo.
"He's hunting again, isn't he?" She said softly as she made rather short work of her extra-large portion of meat, vegetables, bread and wine.
"I think so," he nodded. "Just heard a guard say there was something weird about a case ... hang on, I'll go see if he's willing to chat over a good bottle of wine." He left a few coins behind to pay for the aforementioned bottle as he stood and started out, looking for the Goat.
It wasn't too hard, and he didn't really have to run; the Goat and his Dalmatian friend were strolling casually back towards their guardhouse.
"Excuse me," he said, coming up behind the Goat. "Did I just overhear you mention something about an odd situation you're coming back from? Something about a girl and a Mastiff?"
"Yes," he raised an eyebrow at the Fox in mage's clothes. "What's it to you?"
"Well, I didn't catch any details, but I'm looking for a killer from Enylar. Depending on what you saw, it might be him, and I might be able to help keep him from getting anybody else."
The Goat considered it, and the possibility of the killer being a mage was definitely something to put off on another mage. "I'll catch you later, Vas." He nodded to his companion, who left with a nod.
"C'mon," Marshan said easily as they walked back to the inn. "My partner's waiting for us back at the inn; should have something there for you to drink while we talk if you'd like."
It never hurt to be nice to the guards; they were usually the best way to get information and it was always useful to be on good terms with them when things went bad.
"So what's the guy you're hunting?"
"Wolf," Marshan answered easily. "Renegade mage practicing forbidden spells, if you're asking why we're after him. He threw us off in Enylar, but we managed to get back on his trail." He led the Goat into Della's common room, pulling an extra chair over to their table. "Make yourself comfortable," he said, setting the chair down near the fresh bottle of wine.
"Well, a mage would explain what happened to them," the Goat admitted and poured himself a glass. "The girl was choked, but Berin doesn't have a mark on him. The look on their faces though ...." He shuddered slightly. "Never seen anything like it."
"That sounds about right," Marshan nodded. "My partner, Sharo," he said, nodding towards the steel-fanged Remok as he took his seat. "So this just happened last night?"
"You used to fight in the arena." The Goat looked her over seriously.
"Yap. Met up with him in Enylar." She nodded towards the Fox.
"Nobody really knows." He shrugged. "One of Berin's girls found him dead around eleven and called the guard in. We found the dead girl in her room."
"So early last night, probably, maybe earlier in the day," the Fox said, feeling a twinge of guilt that he viciously shoved back down. He was not at fault for Bandon's crimes. "Nothing else like that happening recently?"
"No way," he shook his head. "Not since the Captain's been in town, and that's been a long time."
"Which means he's likely just starting," Marshan nodded thoughtfully. "There's that much, at least. Where did this happen again? I'm new in town; don't know who works where yet."
The guard paused, glancing at Sharo to see if she knew where it was.
"Probably easier if I just show you." He admitted and took another long drink of the wine. "That's not a part of town to wander around."
"If you want," Marshan nodded easily. "I think we could take care of ourselves, but I'm not fool enough to turn down help that's freely offered."
"Come on then, or you'll miss seeing the bodies." The Goat said simply and stood. Marshan stood along with him, leaving the money for their meal behind.
"Keep the bottle," he offered the Goat. "For after we've found the place. The help's been worth it."
"Thanks," he nodded and picked it up before leading them into the town and to the murder scene deep in the seedier part of Tellys.
It was a fairly lengthy walk, a fact that Marshan was privately grateful for. It was good to know they hadn't been sleeping just a few buildings away from where Bandon had been doing his dirty work. He just regretted the fact that it seemed to be well and truly away from the arena as well.
They had really been looking in the wrong area, for all they didn't know any better at the time. They started moving through streets that smelled almost as bad as they looked, the background of the city shifting from 'easily ignored' to 'be grateful you don't live here.'
He had to feel for the people who did... and those who didn't anymore.
Or at least he should have. Normally, a murder like Bandon's, so recently, should have left some sort of impression. Maybe he wasn't as sadistic as he'd thought.
"This the place?" He asked needlessly as he saw some guards working to move the bodies out before they started stinking the place up any worse.
"Yeah," the Goat nodded. "Have fun you two."
"Right," Sharo shook her head and glanced at Marshan. "The bodies of use to you?"
"Yes, but I can tell from here," he said easily, focusing and falling back on his mage-site. The glows of the living were a familiar sort of warmth, bright and vibrant with their souls.
The bodies... they were more telling.
Not even a day after their deaths, their souls should have been clinging to the bodies, at least until their funerals. There were some lands where you could practically watch a dying man's soul dim and flicker as it left, but he sorely doubted the Lynx hooker and her Mastiff pimp were both from one of them.
"This is Bandon's work," he said certainly. "That, or another mage like him. When they're gone, I'll need to see the inside."
"It won't be long," she said easily. "They're almost done."
"Good," he said, closing his eyes and shaking his head a bit. "That was very strange. I'd heard it described, but hadn't quite believed it."
"About what?" She looked down at him curiously.
"That he can literally take the entire soul out of a person. Not just enough to kill them, but enough that there's nothing left."
"That's just creepy." Sharo shook her head, watching the guards finish their work. "I just hope he can't do that in combat."
"Not according to our records," Marshan said. "The spell takes time. He could try it, and if I couldn't dispel it it might hurt, but he wouldn't be able to kill you with it unless he had lots of time. I can only imagine what he did to the Mastiff to leave him vulnerable."
"Sleep spell or paralysis comes to mind." She shrugged.
"Not magic he knows, unless somebody has a lot of explaining to do," Marshan said. "But there are similar spells, mostly related to inflicting intense pain. End result's the same, but it's the difference between handcuffing somebody and beating them into submission. Come on, let's go see if he left enough of himself behind I can find him."
"I hope so. We could end the hunt today with a good trail." Sharo nodded and followed him inside, letting the mage do his work.
He walked through, making his way to the fifth room down the hall, the only one that was open. Given the state of the room, with clawed sheets that were clearly still well-used from the night before, it was a safe guess that this was where the Lynx had been killed. He moved towards the bed and sniffed lightly.
"Phew," he said, shaking his head. "Don't breathe too deeply over here. Death and sex are two smells that just don't go together."
"Be grateful you don't have my nose." She wrinkled her entire squarish muzzle at the smells assaulting her.
"If you want to step out, feel free," he said easily, pulling the sheets off and wincing at the close-up scent.
He really, really hated this part of his job.
"Not a chance," she shook her head. "Not when we don't know where he is."
"He won't be here, I'm sure, but thank you," the Fox said, looking over the sheets, towards the middle. Finally, focusing on a patch of the rough material that was matted and dried with all manner of fluids, he shook his head with a disgusted snort.
"I hope to every god there is that this is the first time he fucked one of his victims," he growled. "Because if it isn't, I'm going to kill somebody myself." He pulled his eating knife out, quickly cutting the patch loose. "C'mon, let's get out of this place."
"I can almost guarantee you it isn't." Sharo said quietly and followed him out. "Behavior like that doesn't spontaneously happen."
"No excuse not to have a synecdoche by now then," he muttered. "Not unless he burned the sheets before." He took a deep breath as they got out into the open air again, fresher by far than the room they'd just left, for all it was still potent.
"Or he's had victims you don't know about. A lot of these girls don't use beds."
"That could be," he admitted. "Still, between clothes, the victim's fur, and everything in the area around the body, you'd think somebody would have thought of this before." He scraped at the cloth with his knife, slipping the rest of it into his pocket in case he needed to use it later, and started working the seeking spell, using the mix of dried Wolf and Lynx juices to create the link to the only soul remaining they could connect to.
"We have, stick with that."
"Right," he nodded, finishing the spell. The knife in his hand almost jumped out of it, pointing sharply back towards the arena district before he forced it back into his sheath.
"Come on," he said simply, starting off quickly in the direction the knife had pointed.
With any luck, this would be over by sundown.
"That give you any indication how close he is?" Sharo asked even as they took off at full stride.
"Fairly close," Marshan explained. "Probably within a mile or two. At the least this'll get us within a few dozen paces of him."
"Where sight and scent can be used," she nodded and followed him, her senses on full alert for the battle that was very close.
It was about fifteen minutes before Marshan cancelled the spell, his knife finally stilling from where it had been twitching at his hip the entire time.
"We're close," he said, looking around. They were near the arena district, albeit the poorer parts of it. "Time to start hunting."
"There's more than one male Wolf around here." She pointed out, sniffing the air for the scent that matched the killer.
"Not surprised," he admitted. "It'd be too easy to find him if he was the only one.... On the other hand, I have a feeling that when we find him he'll make it quite clear that we've found the right Wolf. Here," he said, pulling an iron nail out of his pocket and handing it to Sharo, "in case he gets a spell off before I'm ready for it. I've bound a counterspell to it, should stop the first spell that gets through to you."
"Thanks," she nodded and slipped the small object into a concealed compartment in her belt, her eyes scanning the crowd from her vantage point of being several heads taller than most people. There were several Wolves in the crowd, male and female alike, and most of them were looking back at her.
Nothing unusual there. Everyone tended to stare at her unless she was in a mood to hurt something.
It wasn't easy to pin any one in particular down.
"Think he might be inside somewhere?" Marshan asked her.
"Quite possible," she nodded. "No one is acting unusual."
"And he was hunting last night. Might be catching some sleep... is there an inn around here, likely somewhere comfortable but still quiet enough that you can come and go without notice?"
Sharo took a few steps to give her a better view down the intersecting streets and nodded. "This way." She motioned him to follow and made her way threw the milling lunchtime crowds towards a two story building with a grey Hippocampus on the sign. "The Grey Sea Horse."
"That looks about right," Marshan murmured, getting a feel for the place and the sort of clients it usually served. A number of them were good, decent people, no mistake about that. Likely even the majority of them. But there was something about the place that gave the impression that a good share of its clients wanted as little attention as possible.
Every town had at least one, most had several. He suspected this was the class of place Sharo would stay when she wasn't doing well. Comfortable, but not nearly of the quality as Della's, and right in the arena district where both work and healers would be close by.
About half the people in the common room looked like they were from the aforementioned arena; well-muscled, clearly armed and watching Sharo like a hawk, gauging her as an expected opponent.
He made his way to the bar, waiting for the dappled Mare behind the counter to finish with the customer she was talking to and come his way. If anybody would know if Bandon was there, it'd be her.
"Hi there, Steel Fang," the Mare smiled warmly at Sharo. "Haven't seen you in ages."
"I was up in Enylar's arena." She grinned. "Still got giroth in stock?"
"Around here?" The Mare laughed easily and turned to pour her a good sized glass of dark amber liquid. "I value my life you know." She set it down for her.
"We're looking for a Wolf, a mage named Bandon." Sharo said easily and relaxed against the bar, though to the trained eye, she was anything but relaxed. "See him?"
"Well, y'know I'm not much for checking names, but there is this one guy...."
As the Mare described her unusual tenant, the Wolf in question was starting down the stairs from his room. He paused on the landing, recognizing the Fox who was scanning the crowd.
He knew him ... and, as Marshan's eyes chanced up towards the landing, he knew him as well.
"Down!" Marshan shouted as Bandon raised his hands.
"Pyrin jetol!" The Wolf hurled the ball of flame he had just created towards the two mage-hunters.
"Negate!" Marshan pointed at the magical missile, a thin blue beam lancing through the air to intercept and annihilate it even as Sharo roared. He swore she did it for show value as she plowed through the scattering crowd towards her target. Not even arena fighters stuck around when two mages went at it.
"Hey! No trashing the bar!" The mare yelled at them, amazingly defiant for her kind.
"I'm doing my best, ma'am," Marshan pointed out, a slightly irritated tone to his voice as he kept an eye on Bandon in case he fired off another spell. He didn't have any magic that would really work to guarantee Bandon would get out. As far as combat magic was concerned, the best he could do was counter anything the Wolf threw at him, wait for an opening to try one of his spells to put him out of the fight completely.
Fortunately, Bandon was just as interested in getting out and into the open... and to where he could get lost in the crowd, no doubt. The Wolf jumped off the stairs, speaking the words to a longer spell as he backed towards the door.
Marshan's ears flattened as he turned towards one of the lanterns along the wall, hurriedly working to unravel the magic Bandon was weaving as the rogue mage tried to summon a flame-spirit.
"I'm not about to let you stop me now, hunter," Bandon laughed as the fire flared and started to take form even as Sharo was on his heals, using her longer legs and greater height to good advantage in catching up. "They've already told me you can't beat me now!" He turned to dash away, leaving his pursuer otherwise occupied.
Marshan finished the counterspell, breathing a sigh of relief as the ifrit was destroyed before it was even created, turning to face the mage and follow him out into the open. He drew his sword as he reviewed the Wolf's words.
Who the hell was he talking about?
He wasn't terribly surprised to see the area largely cleared; when Steel Fang was hunting, all but the most drunk cleared way for the giant and her metal natural weapons. He watched as she caught Bandon's shoulder with one hand, spinning him around to connect with a punch to the side of the muzzle intended to crush bones and make speaking that much harder.
He winced at the sickening crunch of bones breaking, practically able to see the damage to Bandon's jaw and the teeth that flew out to the side with the blood.
The Wolf reached beneath his robes, pulling out a wickedly curved, jagged-edged dagger that glowed with an ominous flickering red. Bandon lashed out at Sharo, his enchanted blade narrowly missing her arm.
Marshan lashed out with a mesmerizing spell, hoping to stun Bandon long enough for them to get him restrained. The chaotic jumble of thoughts that greeted him inside the Wolf's mind forced him to pull back before he had any chance to make a serious attempt.
"Sharo, take him down," he shouted, going back to counterspells. "Mind's too fragmented for my spells to stop him!"
She didn't nod, but she did go into a serious attempt at pummeling the Wolf into the ground. She avoided the fatal strikes, her training and long experience in the arena showing clearly as both males realized just how skilled she was in close-quarters pounding.
Marshan was incredibly grateful for the fact that Bandon was becoming more familiar with it than he was. She broke plenty of bones, tore muscle, everything but what would kill him outright. It was plain to see who the better fighter was, and Bandon couldn't focus enough to cast his spells with Sharo beating him into submission.
It wasn't much longer before the Wolf's dagger fell to the ground, his hands limp as he finally gave up consciousness.
Sharo took several deep breaths, calming herself before she half turned to Marshan.
"We tie him, bind him, and get him to a healer so he'll last long enough for us to get him to a guild-house," Marshan explained, reaching into his robes for some light restraints. "Not comfortably, but so we can move him that far without causing any more damage." He worked the unconscious Wolf's hands around behind his back and bound them, trying not to think of just how easy it was to get them into some distinctly unhealthy angles.
"You definitely don't hold back," he observed approvingly, looking around at the gathering crowd. "Can somebody get a cart?" He called out.
"I can carry him," Sharo chuckled easily and picked off the broken Wolf a little too easily to host him over her shoulder and headed for the healer, a shop that never moved.
Marshan stood to follow, sheathing his sword and trying to make sense out of why he hadn't been able to use his spells to end this less painfully.
An hour later, after making a report to the mages at the local guild-house and letting the healer make sure Bandon would survive long enough to be hung properly, Sharo and Marshan were on their way out of the large, well-appointed building they'd dropped the Wolf off at.
"Seventy... seventy one... seventy two denari," Marshan said quietly, counting silver coins into a pouch and tossing it over to Sharo. "Feel free to count it yourself if you'd like, but here's your share." He put his own pouch on his belt, the weight a welcome addition, knowing he had enough money to get by with ease for a month or two.
"So feel like a bath before dinner?" She suggested and tied the pouch to her belt without checking the contents.
"Sounds good to me," he said with a bit of a grin. "You lead the way? I'm learning that you have excellent taste in pampering."
"Live hard, party hard, indulge yourself for the rest." She chuckled and headed for her favorite bathhouse in town. "What's the point of working if you don't enjoy your time off?"
"It depends on what you're doing instead of enjoying yourself," Marshan chuckled, hurrying to follow her. "But your idea does have merit."
It earned him a bit of a skeptical look, but she didn't comment as they walked back towards the part of town Della's was in and to a sprawling one story stone building that radiated warmth. "It has been far too long since I've had a good bath."
"Probably not as long as I've taken," he pointed out with a chuckle. "Though I can't think of any better time to fix that than now."
"You'll be much cuter clean." She winked at him as they walked into the steam filled building, then went to separate sides for their baths.
"So," Sharo spoke up over a slightly nicer meal than usual at Della's. "What now?"
"To be honest, I'm inclined to stay in town for a few days," Marshan said, looking up at her across the table, cocking his head slightly. "So, think it's good money for the danger involved yet?"
"Yeah," she nodded with a bit of a grin. "Face it, if you can keep the spells off me, it's not like there are many that can out-fight me."
"So," he asked, sipping the potent wine they'd bought for the evening's celebration, "does that mean I've got a partner again for a while?"
"Sounds like a good plan to me," her grin got a bit bigger. "So who's next?"
"Heh - sure you want to get back on the job again so soon?" He asked, raising an eyebrow slightly. "After all, I think we deserve a little R&R before we go off searching for the next wizard who paid his tab with glamered coins."
"A day or two, sure." She shrugged and took a long drink of wine. "But I happen to like fighting."
"Well in that case," he said, taking a bite of stew and chewing it before continuing, "on our way out I happened to notice a bounty up for a group of highwaymen with a Deer providing magical backup. Supposed to be on the roads west of here, in the contested territories. Certainly be a fight," he said, grinning a bit.
"Sounds fun." She rumbled and licked her long whiskers back. "And the kind of hunting I'm good at."
"And they shouldn't be running off on us while we relax a bit," he rumbled. "Even better, since nobody's quite sure how many there are, they're on a per-head bounty. Each of the regular thugs is five denari, the mage is ten."
"Even better," She chuckled, her snub of a tail twitching in excitement. "Did it mention who the leader is?"
"Not that I saw, though that might change before we head out," he said easily. "Probably some deserters from one army or another who decided it was worth more to go private."
"They aren't wrong, until you piss somebody off that can take you down." She rumbled. "Same thing rules the arena."
"Well, they might not've pissed us off, but I think we'll be able to prove 'em wrong," Marshan grinned, raising his glass. "Welcome aboard, partner."
"To fruitful hunts and well-lined pouches." Sharo raised her mug to his with a grin.
Red Fur and Saber Teeth 1: The First Hunt
NC-17 for Violent M/F
R for Violence and Themes
104 KB, Story is Complete, Series is Finished
Written March 12, 2005 by Rauhnee Ranshanka and Karl Wolfemann
Primary Races: Fox, Sabertooth, Wolf
Contents: Furry. Gen.
Notes: Yes, you saw it right. There is het sex in a gen story. Gen means no romance and that sex has nothing to do with romance.
Blurb: What do a Fox mind-mage and a Saber-toothed arena fighter have in common? A taste for hunting dangerous quarry: rogue mages. This is their first hunt together, and it's a memorable one for them both.
Disclaimer: All things taken directly from the sources listed under 'Fandoms' belong to the owners of those shows. No harm is intended and we're definitely not making any money. Now, the things we created are ours, and if you see 'Non-FanFic' up there, it's probably all ours.
Page Hit Count from March 12, 2005