In and Dak found themselves alone again. It was no surprise to either of them, given the unsettling news they had received. They did not fault Daeni for wandering into the huddled masses in search of her children, and though they were disappointed that Joden had once again lost hope, they understood, for the situation was bleaker than either of them had anticipated.
It didn’t matter though, neither of them were the kind to give up, especially since they were working together. They were the team that had successfully pulled off some of the greatest heists in the history of their city. No one beat them when they were in unison, and they were always in unison.
And so began their own journey into the crowds, on a path that would allow them to observe those that were engrossed in their depression, often staring blankly into the glow of the crystals, and rarely speaking. There was no laughter, not even smiles, just despair. On occasion they would catch simple apathy, and as that was the best they came across, they began to mark those as the ones they would approach, once they deemed the time was right.
“I don’t get how people could give up this easily,” In suddenly asked, his voice barely above a whisper. “This many people working together ought to be able to do something!”
“I can’t blame them too much after that Kobix guy,” Dak replied, then hurried and continued as In gave him an incredulous look, “Not because there isn’t hope mind you, but he was less optimistic than a kick in the face.”
In nodded solemnly as he turned his attention back to the crowds. He continued to scan until it dawned on him that they were searching incorrectly. He grabbed Dak’s arm and started running toward one of the side tunnels, his slightly startled friend in tow. When he got to the mouth of the tunnel he abruptly turned around and stared out at the people before him. about two dozen were still watching them, though more than half simply turned back as soon as they realized that the boys had stopped running. Those whose gaze lingered on the duo In made sure to remember their faces as well as he could in the dim light.
“What was that all about?” Dak finally asked, not quite catching up with In’s line of thought this time.
“You see the people that watched us? Those are the ones we keep in mind for later. They are the ones that are awake.”
Dak nodded slowly and then clapped his friend on the shoulder and said, “You are smarter than I give you credit for, and I usually give you a lot. Way to go.”
“Thanks, but I was just following instinct, a trait I learned from you I believe. Now, I think I have another plan though, and this one is probably even crazier,” In replied, a smile slowly growing on his face.
“If it’s what I was thinking, then I am right there with you. Let’s find us a Scavi.” Dak had a smile of his own when he responded, and, knowing his guess was on the mark as he could see it in his friend’s eyes, he started down the tunnel.
In followed right behind, and both he and Dak drew their daggers as soon as they were outside of range of the glowpits. The wall crystals were still present, though the light was certainly dimmer, but it took the boys barely an instant for their eyes to adjust. They were used to stalking targets in varying degrees of shadow, and this was an easy setting for their skills.
They came to a crossroads of sorts, where three tunnels branched off of the initial one. Deciding to take the rightmost one, they continued only until they hit another fork before doubling back. Neither could hear each other move, and both were sure they knew how the other’s footfalls sounded, so when the sound of skittering feet was heard in front of them, it was doubtful it was anything but their prey.
Dak moved first, which was common for the pair, as he settled into a crouch before heading toward the sound. In was careful to keep a slight distance behind his partner, in case the older youth found it necessary to tumble away from whatever was ahead of them. It wasn’t but a few seconds later that they caught sight of what they assumed was a Scavi.
The creature was not much longer than In’s arm from shoulder to wrist, and seemed to have little bulk as well, as it’s entire structure seemed bony and thin, with it’s thickest section being the main body near the forelegs, which was only about as big around as In’s slender thighs. The ribs of the creature were quite visible, almost as if it were starving, though it didn’t appear to be weak due to it if that were the case. It’s hind legs seemed perfectly structured for jumping, and was in a position to do so when they first caught sight of it, though it did not appear to be aware of them yet. The head resembled something between a rat and a crocodile, though neither youth could tell which was a closer cousin, for though it was hairless like a reptile. it didn’t seem to have scales, and seemed to be moving with the energy that mammals were more commonly known for.
It didn’t look menacing at all to either of the youth’s. though they had spent some of their early years hunting sewer rats larger than this, just to survive. The only thing that even seemed threatening at all were the teeth, which definitely fit more with the crocodile theory. The sharp points certainly appeared as if they were perfect for rending flesh from bones.
Dak slowly approached it, and got within a few feet before it suddenly pushed off with it’s hind legs and jumped through the air, right toward his face. On pure instinct Dak ducked and dodged to the side, though the creature simply landed a few feet behind where Dak had been standing, which was right in front of In. It began to sniff the air, as In stood perfectly still, his dagger ready in case the Scavi made any aggressive moves. Neither knew what it was sniffing for, but it apparently didn’t find it as it made to jump again and headed beyond In into the tunnel.
Both boys waited a minute before they moved again and they began heading back the way they came. They didn’t speak, as both was taking the time to analyze their encounter. It had not gone the way they had expected, at least not based off of what Kobix had said.
“You are an interesting pair,” said a voice suddenly from behind them, back toward the Scavi, startling them as they turned, weapons bared. A humanoid form stood leaning against the wall, arms crossed over it’s chest. Most of it’s features were hard to make out, as it was wrapped in layers of cloth that resembled the desert nomads that had sometimes come to the city as merchants. The voice had been male, though they had been fooled before, so no assumptions were made as they made and kept eye contact with the newcomer.
“You are no less interesting yourself,” Dak finally replied, after making sure the man understood through his eyes that they were not afraid of him. “Who are you to sneak up on us? A very impressive feat.”
The newcomer sighed and replied, “Indeed, I was fairly careful with the two of you, though I have yet to see if your skills are impressive yet. You move well though, so at least I have a compliment for you. My name is irrelevant, I am a simple man, with very simple goals. I believe you share these goals, and so I have approached you.”
“What do you know of our goals sir? We have just met you?” In asked incredulously. He was starting to get irritated by the cryptic people he seemed drawn to today.
“I believe you wish to get out. I think that is simple enough. And I learned from observation. You haven’t exactly been keeping your voice down you know,” the man chastised as he stepped away from the wall and bowed toward the two. “For the time being, you may refer to me as Kesh. That was the name a person I once killed, so I might as well use his identity. He’s not using it.”
Recognition crossed both boy’s minds and suddenly fear crept through the cracks in their emotional walls. They only knew of one Kesh, and they knew the legend that surrounded the one that killed him. They had practically lived in the wake of that legend. Kesh Alsinnon was Dakidrae Alsinnon’s uncle, the former High King.
“Bastard!” Dak shouted before he pounced toward the man who had caused the revolution that had left he and In destitute. The revolution that had led to the deaths of everyone he had loved. In almost dove in right beside him, but something stopped him dead in his tracks.
The man called Kesh was smiling at them, and it was the most frightening thing In had ever seen.