"Why did I get stuck with you?"
"What, you think your precious little prince would make better company? I'm not surprised. Then you could cuddle up together and stuff before going out to get the everflames."
Axel clenched his fists. "Drop it, assassin. Firstly, he's not mine, and secondly, I would not cuddle up with him!"
A snigger. "You're not a very good liar, amateur."
"Shut up. I thought you wanted to go and help your precious little spy," Axel spat, increasing his pace to try and evade the assassin. Did he really have to provoke him? To constantly irritate him to such extremes?
"You think Krig belongs to me?" Rubin laughed. "Yeah, right. Am I not allowed to talk to anybody any more?"
"Well, he seems to be the only one you ever defend at all," Axel growled irritably.
"I defended Lux, remember? I came to find you when your prince was in trouble."
"He's not mine!"
Rubin scoffed as they entered the griffin stables. No doubt, beneath the mask, he would be grinning. Did he really find this all so amusing? Did it really entertain him?
"Besides," Rubin added. "It's just that Krig makes a good ally, and so does Lux."
Snorting, Axel shook his head. "No. I don't believe that. You defended Krig with too much emotion to see him as just an ally. He's your friend, isn't he?"
The assassin scoffed. "I fight for myself, amateur. Not for friendship. That's stupid."
"You know, assassin," Axel sneered, standing back as Rubin saddled the a second griffin. "You're an even worse liar than I am."
Lux left the hall with Skala following him closely. He was already feeling exhausted; trying to control the Golden Flame had proved more difficult than anticipated. Evidently, none of them were feeling completely prepared for the fight tomorrow, but somehow, he'd managed to reassure them. Besides, Axel and Rubin were meeting Krig to receive some of the Tarn family's most effective weapons - the everflames.
"You did well."
"Thank you," Lux replied politely, a shy smile touching his lips. He appreciated Skala's presence, and yet Lux couldn't help thinking that Axel was more reassuring.
"Why do you think he went with Rubin instead of staying here?" Lux asked, on impulse. He caught a faint smile dancing across Skala's face.
"He wanted to feel useful. He probably wanted me to have a rest, as well, so he volunteered to go with Rubin so I wouldn't have to."
He could tell, from the almost entertained curling of her upper lip, that there was another reason, but he didn't push her.
It was probably for the best.
Axel swung himself from the griffin's back, all too glad to be rid of the creature. Twice, Rubin had been forced to chase after his mount, easing it back onto the right direction. That would be Axel's torment for later, undoubtedly, but now, they had to find Krig. Evidently, that was the one thing more important than irritating him.
"I hate griffins," he muttered. "Next time, I'm not going unless somebody tells me where it is so I can just use shadow-voyage."
Rubin shot him a swift glare. "Stop being a child and hurry up. If Krig's out too long, they might realise what he's doing and kill him."
Snorting disdainfully, Axel followed Rubin through the city streets, resisting the urge to melt completely into the shadows, as the few people who were still roaming the city glanced at them. In the dark, nobody would be able to see Axel's silver eyes, and Rubin had removed his mask temporarily, just in case, but that didn't stop him despising the eyes of the people as their vision flicked briefly to the two hooded figures passing through their city.
"Down here," Rubin muttered, entering the darkest alley they'd come across so far. On either side of them, buildings rose up, but the entrances were clearly blocked or elsewhere. There were no windows, no doors.
Perfect for a trade point.
And also, perfect for an ambush.
Axel allowed a tiny whip of dark magic to snake around his wrist, preparing itself for attack as Krig emerged from the darkness.
"Do you have the everflames?" Axel asked briskly. Krig nodded, handing over two bulging satchels. Cautiously, Axel opened one up, inspecting the contents. He nodded.
"They look like everflames," he concluded, carefully placing the bags over his shoulder. "But Krig, let me warn you..." He looked up, and the solitary ray of moonlight reflected the deadly seriousness in his silver eyes. "If you do anything to hurt either Skala or Lux, I will kill you slowly, and make you watch as I kill Rubin. Is that understood?"
"Very well, then," Krig nodded. "Is there anything else?"
"No," Rubin said. "Make sure they don't catch you." Again, the spy nodded, backing into the shadows and melting back into the city streets.
"Take the griffin back," Axel ordered. "I'll shadow-voyage there with the bags. You know how dangerous everflames are."
Rubin sighed. "Flying two griffins is a lot of work, amateur."
"Would you rather the everflames explode while we're flying, and we're both blasted out of the sky?"
Shrugging, Rubin waved his hand dismissively. "Whatever. With you flying, they'd definitely be ignited, and then we'd both be dead, amateur," he grinned, turning around before the dark mage could hiss a reply in return.