Free {Kingdoms of War}

An outlaw, tuned to kill. A shifter, transformed from myth to monster. A prince, denied rightful claim to the throne. An assassin, adapted to survive and to kill. Four monsters, and a common enemy to unite them.

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19. Chapter Eighteen

"This job request. Who handed it to you?" Axel demanded. The woman studied the parchment, her finger tracing over the words as she turned it over thoughtfully, reading over each detail.

"I might need a little incentive for my memory," she said slyly. Axel growled, opening his palm and allowing dark magic to dance through his fingers.

"And is your life incentive enough?" he asked her. The woman gulped, and nodded.

"There was only one. I recognised him from the trading market."

"Take me to the trade market, and show me who it was," Axel ordered her. "Unless, of course, you'd like to die."

The woman glared at him, but pushed back her chair and stood. Walking to the entrance, she eyed Axel hatefully, before opening the door and leaving the simple building. He followed her, slipping through the door and closing it quietly behind him.

Hopefully, it wouldn't take him long to find out who had sent the request in, and then he and Skala could destroy them.

It would be interesting to watch Lux's reaction. He seemed to be the only person - other than Vipera and Rubin, but they were too loathsome to count - who didn't tremble in Skala or Axel's presence. Axel wondered if the innocent-looking boy was more suited for monstrosity than it seemed.

He had, after all, killed the guards with perfect accuracy. It would probably be amusing, Axel decided, to see his reaction to the carnage black magic could cause.

"That one there, with the brown hair," the woman pointed. Axel nodded, and she disappeared, vanishing back between the stalls and the crowds of criminals. Humans. Just a little black magic, and they would crumble at an instant - even ones such as her, people who wore human bones strung around their necks.

Axel approached the criminal trader, wiping his face of all emotion and narrowing his eyes. Appearance was a large part of fear. The rest could be done with magic.

"Does this look familiar to you?" Axel snarled to the trader, slamming one hand upon the table of goods, and thrusting the paper forwards with the other.

The trader swallowed. "No," he said, but his voice was trembling. "I'm just a smuggler. I don't request-"

"Of course," Axel said. "And if you don't remember, I could always slit your throat."

"You're bluffing," the smuggler stuttered, but his eyes were wide and he didn't sound so convinced. Axel withdrew slightly, holding out his free hand and allowing the magic to flare up within his palm.

"If you gamble that I'm bluffing, and decide not to tell me," he threatened slowly, "Then I will kill you. Slowly."

The smuggler trembled, lowering his eyes in submission. "They paid me good money to give it in."

"They?"

Nodding furiously, the smuggler gulped once more. "There were two of them. They were wearing the emblem of a curved blade, and I think I've seen them head over to accept jobs sometimes. They look like killers or mercenaries."

Axel tilted his head. "And do you know where I might find some of them?"

The smuggler nodded again. "There's always a few of them trading here. I think they steal goods, as well."

"Where are they?" Axel demanded.

"Near the centre," the smuggler told him. "But please... Don't tell them I said that to you," he begged. Axel laughed coldly.

"If I spare them, I'll be sure to point them to your ugly, wretched little self," he told the man, turning without another word and heading to the centre of the Shade's trading area.

He was going to get the answer out of them, one way or another.

 

 

"Did you find out who it was?" Lux asked him. The prince's golden eyes were wide and alert.

"Better," Axel replied. "I've found out where they operate from." He held up the job request, wiping a remaining drop of blood from his fingertip to his trousers. The two traders from the gang, to their credit, had not given in to the mere sight of black magic. A few missing fingers had been enough encouragement, however.

"It should only take you about half an hour to fly there," Axel told Lux. The prince nodded. "It's off the port town Selya, hidden beneath one of the houses," he added. "We can find it when we get there. We'll be at the docks."

"Thanks," Lux smiled, remounting the griffin and settling himself into the saddle. "I'll see you there!"

Axel nodded, and, with Skala beside him, entered the shadows.

 

 

Lux checked the map one more time before he steered the griffin downwards, plunging towards the port town. It was strange, how quickly he'd trusted Silver. Usually, he wouldn't simply cast his trust to strangers, but Silver was different, somehow.

The griffin spread its wings, soaring elegantly down across the docks. People around looked up at the descending shadow, and Lux grabbed for his hood, pulling it quickly up over his albino hair as the griffin swept over the ships, turning his head away from the people in case they somehow caught a glimpse of his golden eyes.

Only the well-off and wealthy could afford griffins. Most would simply own a horse; a pegasus if they were lucky. To own a griffin was a show of money. To own any other form of winged creature was, usually, a form of nobility.

Especially a phoenix.

He landed the griffin in the woods near to the port town, swiftly tethering it to one of the trees before emerging, running lightly down to the docks. Silver had found him an older cloak - a mottled black and grey one - that would draw slightly less attention to him, or at least conceal him more effectively in the dark. That was another thing about Silver - he would act as though he hated Lux, and yet allow him to come on such a mission, and find him a cloak.

"Silver, Shadow!" he called out, spotting the two hooded figures, garbed in grey and black. It seemed like the residents of the town had grown accustomed to seeing them there, since nobody seemed to be paying them much attention 

Shadow turned, giving him a slight smile, but Silver simply glared down at him in his usual cold, uncaring manner. Resisting the urge to flinch, Lux smiled back to Shadow, trying to ignore Silver.

"You ready?"

Lux nodded. "Absolutely. Where's the house?"

"Follow me," Silver ordered, heading away from the ships and further into the town, glancing at the parchment every so often. Lux couldn't help but notice that it was splattered with blood. What had Silver done to get the information?

Glancing at the job request, Lux took note of Silver's writing. It looked, to be perfectly honest, like a child's writing. The letters were uneven and scrawled, indistinguishable and messy. The words seemed to merge together, and, if the letters read what Lux thought they did, then Silver's spelling was atrocious.

"Here." Silver nodded at the old, rotting frame of a building. "Apparently, it's beneath this one."

Without waiting for a reply, he pushed open the door. It creaked as it swung, the hinges shrieking in protest as Silver stepped inside. There was a flash of metal, all so sudden that Lux hardly registered the knife until Silver had raised a wall of black energy before him, deflecting the weapon easily.

"A guard?" he laughed. "How pathetic you look, trying to fend us all away."

Their single enemy - a woman disguised as an ordinary villager, dropped her next blade in fear, her eyes widening as Shadow darted forwards, an orb of black flames within her hand. Lux hadn't seen her fire before, and it was beautiful. There was no other way to describe it but alike a rose: elegant and captivating, and yet so deadly and dangerous.

The woman's scream was cut short, and Shadow glanced back to Silver.

"Where's the entrance?" she asked. Silver moved forwards, kicking aside a rug to reveal a trapdoor of wood.

"They seem rather fond of trapdoors and the underground, don't they?" Silver mused, easily blasting a hole through the wood. Splinters flew everywhere, and Lux was reminded of the mage's power once more. He should be scared - he knew he should be - and yet he wasn't. Not of Silver. He might have killed people, but Lux felt almost safe beside him.

"Let's go." Silver disappeared quickly into the ladders left by the trapdoor, and Skala followed loyally. Lux bit his lip, his stomach fluttering quickly as he lowered himself into the dark.

Quickly, he scrambled down the ladder, already envisioning the fight below. The short, cut-off screams had started, meaning that Silver had started fighting. Lux climbed down the last few rungs, leaping down, throwing knives in hands.

Identifying the nearest target, Lux threw the knife. He didn't watch as his target fell beneath him: Vipera had trained him to fight. In close quarters like this, Lux knew he couldn't miss. Moving to the next, Lux threw another two knives and hit those nearest to Silver.

"You're somewhat friendly for a highly skilled murderer," Silver commented, ducking a sword strike and rolling to the side. Lux took a deep breath, before unsheathing two daggers and charging into the fray. Blades slashing, he ran between enemies. Fear pulsated through his veins, but with it exhilaration, the thrill that kept him going. He was small: that had become his advantage as he'd learnt to fight. He was quicker, faster, harder to hit. His blades were extensions of his arms, like two lethal hands that could slice open the stomach of any man.

The last enemy dropped dead, and Lux looked over to Silver. Only a second later, he realised he was seeking approval, and it sickened him. He never liked to kill. He'd accepted that it was a necessity, but to seek approval for it?

"It seems you're a good fighter," Silver said. "Explain."

He smiled, blushing. "Vipera made me learn. She forced me to train as hard as I could."

"Then how come you're still so... friendly?"

Lux's smile grew larger. "I wanted to show her that she couldn't control me completely. That she couldn't turn me into a perfect heartless puppet."

Silver grunted in acknowledgement. "Good for you."

It wasn't exactly much of a compliment, but it seemed like the most rewarding praise Lux could ever receive.

This was Silver, after all.

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