The street was getting crowded. Guards doing their patrols, mothers carrying children, and people going about their everyday lives. To the outside observer there was nothing about the scene that looked ominous at all.
Several children pointed at Frank as he passed, “Mama, it's a giant.” They said and received a smile and a nod from Frank for their deduction skills.
While most of the children’s and mothers’ attention were on the obvious threat, the bartender, Tila had received a fair amount of male attention as well.
Those ten years of youth mixed in with her earlier stim treatment had resulted in the ex-slave becoming something of a looker. Tila's conditioned hair, her clean sin, her straight white teeth, and while her clothes were strange and manly her Northern features made her appear clean an exotic.
The Orian also got a few looks but that mostly had to do with her wearing bronze armour and carrying a sword. Cyme’s people's reputation for violence and skill caused her to gather a number of worried looks.
So what made several members of the crowd stand out to Cyme and Frank were not the people gawking and looking at their group with interest, it were the ones who were trying everything they could not to look at them.
The inevitable happened faster then Cyme expected.
Four scruffy dirty little girls came over to the giant, “Excuse me mister, would you care to buy a flower for your ladies?” The youngest member an adorable girl with blonde hair held up a weed.
Frank smiled and got down on one knee, for making the first move the children looked terrified. “Well how can any normal person resist talking to you lovely children?” he asked and allowed his duffelbag to sit on the ground. He went into his vest pocket to pull out a gold coin worth far more than a common piece of grass.
Cyme saw the hand reach out between the crowd's legs and take the sorcerer's bag. The foot traffic was too thick so she didn't get a good look at the thief, but she could guess from the arm that he was a young man and most probably a runner. Normally she would have stomped on the arm until the bones turned into fertilizer but Frank seemed to be allowing this to happen.
The children gasped as they looked at the gold coin in awe, their fear of the giant was gone but it was replaced by something else. Nobody bought a weed with a gold coin. Two of the older girls held flashes of terror before their expressions became dead.
“Um, master.” Tila said.
“Now how about you children run off before some sneaky adult takes this off you?” Frank said handing the coin to the little girl and taking the weed off of her.
The girls' shock knocked them out of their terror. Their mouths hung open as their youngest member held the gold coin and stared at it as if it was some fantastical creature.
“Master,” Tila said.
Cyme sucked in a breath, He knows.
“Master, I think this man wants your attention.”
Cyme and Frank turned to see that there was a bearded man standing directly at both of them, he was smiling but Tila wasn't. The bartender’s assistant was as stiff as a tree, her eyes wide in horror. When Frank looked back down the children and his bag was gone.
“Now...” was all the man was able to get out before Cyme sent her fist on a collision course with his nose.
Not expecting to be soccer punched the man stepped back and grasped his now broken nose, in his right hand he was holding a bronze dagger.
“Thief,” Frank called out and pulled Tila to his side, he pointed at the man, “He stole my enchanted bronze dagger of the witch doctor Wala Wala Bing Bang. It's worth THOUSANDS of gold coins.”
“What?!” Tila's would-be abductor called out in confusion before another man tackled him to the ground, seeking to wrestle the worthless dagger from his grasp.
By now an entire crowd had gathered around the spectacle and Frank was holding Tila carefully in his arms. He spoke something into her ear and the woman's face went wide in horror. Tila looked up at her master, gave him a determined nod and ran off in the direction of the brothel.
A nod was all the Orian was given before Frank causally walked over to the opposite side of the street. Cyme spent a moment to glance over at the fleeing Tila before following her employer. He looked more irritated than afraid for his belongings or the safety of his servant.
The shop itself was bare with almost no stock showing. With the price of materials the blacksmiths had to rely on orders, what he did have out front were a stone box filled with nails and a barrel. Frank glanced over the pitiful wares and at the young man who was at counter, the sound of banging filled the air telling everyone who wasn't deaf that the boy's master hard at work.
He gave the boy two pieces of silver, “What can I get for this?”
The attendant checked the coin and glanced over at the Oria, “My master has some a few daggers and some pots.”
“The best pot I can get then.” As the shop assistant left, Frank turned to Cyme, “I don't think that was a random mugging, do you?”
Cyme sucked in a breath and crossed her arms, “I saw others following us since we entered the city. Maybe they were given a set of new orders.”
Urilus Marus was not the only power in the city. Barnus was simply the first who had bothered to cut the observation short and come to Frank directly. If even a fraction of Frank's abilities were shared everyone in the city and beyond would be after his services.
“May I ask what you told Tila?” she asked.
“That this was most likely a distraction and that the door has been taken. Of course, the door was stolen when Barnus picked you two up so Tila will be too late to do anything. With the money I paid Roumpíni, she should be safe at the Triplets until we sort this out.”
Cyme let out a growl. If she had been able to bring more of her unit with her both the door and her master might be properly guarded. “If you had bothered to warn me I could have brought it with us, or hidden it better.”
Frank shrugged, “Your civilization wouldn't know how to open it. Think of the door as a type of anchor for a huge ship. The chain represents the link, and boat is the realm on the other side. While you might be able to drag the anchor around physically. You don't have the tools or the power to sever the chain, or destroy the anchor.”
The Orian thought about this metaphor, “It is just a door. I would be able to break it with a hammer.”
Frank raised a finger, “It looks like a door. The same way that the sun just looks like a big light in the sky. Anyway, if the door was damaged the link to the other side would be come fragile and brake.” He looked away and appeared frustrated, “The rift should have closed by now. I normal tear would have bled out and both universe would have been fixed. I don't understand. Did it open into a black hole of something?”
“I still don't understand what you mean by that. You are trying to siphon this storm of its power. How much power can there be? How much have you collected?”
Frank crossed his arms, “Let's put it this way. Gods have made entire universes with less. I am not kidding, Cyme. The power behind that door you could wipe out all life with it.”
This time it was Cyme who held her head, “And you knew that it was stolen this morning?” as it was getting dark outside that meant that the scum who stole it had it for hours to understand its secrets. But what irritated her was that Frank’s careless attitude. “Why aren't you upset? Another sorcerer could be turning himself into a god with that power.”
“But we don't know how long we will be here. If I make a great big fuss about getting back a funny little wooden door than everyone will want to know what's inside it. Right now, whoever has it thinks it is just a door with a damaged lock. They will either sell it or try to blackmail me with it.”
A frustrated growl crept out of Cyme, she wanted to punch someone in the face. As strategies went it was completely lame. She could not understand her employer’s logic, everything that he appeared to be doing was so random and strange.
She should have hidden that door herself, buried it. She should have found an another Orian to take care of it, to keep it safe. Now they would have to track it down.
The attendant rushed back with the pot. Frank thanked the young man and put it into his back pack. “See,” he said to Cyme, “pays to be prepared.”
“I am curious as to why your black bag has not returned to your side, yet” Cyme commented, had the sorcerer's magic failed him? Her only reply was Frank’s smile. The sorcerer was most definitely up to something.
A figure with a broken nose and wrist entered the small blacksmith shop, he and the five men behind him did not appear to be happy. They were also armed with clubs and knives.
Frank turned to Cyme, “You know what? I completely forgot about him.”
Despite his newly acquired broken nose, a smile stretched across the man's face and there was a trace of mad promise in his eyes, “You're going to pay...” he was interrupted again when a flash of intense red light struck his body.
Before anyone could react the men in the group were showered in dust. They cursed and sputtered as they attempted to rid themselves of foulness that touched their tongues.
Everyone stood there, Cyme, the attendant at the counter, the thugs. They all looked at their dust covered clothes and then at Frank who appeared to be holding a strange metal device with a textured handle, it almost looked like the handle of a sword but one end of it was pointed to the armed men.
“Take me to your leader.” Frank said, his grin wide and cheeky.
From the way that Tila ran down those streets an observer would think the dogs of the underworld were on her shadow. She ran, her thick soled sneakers throwing up bursts of dust as her feet touched the ground.
Her lips split wide open revealing white and straight teeth. As the owners of the stalls began to close and retreat away from the encroaching night, the now young and strong ex-slave screamed in her head. Those dog fucking, backstabbing, pig rapers are going to eat their teeth.
It had been a truly beautiful moment. Frank had given her ten years of her life back with his magic. True, she didn't know how old she was when she sold Frank her memories, but from the looks that she grabbed before told her that she was an old spinster unworthy of children.
She had wanted to attack him there and then, to rip off her clothes and to present herself, but she held back, fearful that her master's illusion of her would crumble.
Then that sonvawhore came behind her and placed his dagger on her spine, breaking the moment. How Tila wanted to hear his screams for making her leave her master's side, how she wanted to pluck his eyes out with her thumbs and listen to the melody.
She shook her head and she ran on.
Travelers and merchants and labourers were walking the streets, unafraid of the pick pockets and villains who walked right next to them. Several saw Tila and after a moment of confusion smiled and called out to her, but their cries of the company of a pretty lady turned to surprise as the young woman ran passed them at an incredible dash.
Growing tired of the pedestrians who blocked her path, Tila gave a very unladylike curse and went up. She jumped on a crate of barley and onto the roof of a house.
Those who watched her pointed upwards at the crazy athlete who chose the thief's highway rather than the safety of the congested street.
Jumping over roof tops, Tila felt the night descend upon Thebes.
In just under thirty minutes from where she was held hostage, Tila made it to the other side of Thebes and in front of the Triplets. Putting her left hand into a fist and then extending her thump and pinkie, Tila spoke into her hand. “Master, I am at the inn.” She said.
Frank's soothing voice flowed into ear, cutesy of the implants as he called them. “You know, as I and Cyme are currently playing the prisoners. If Tila was here I would tell her to be careful and to act normal. Don't drink anything, don't eat anything. And always have an exit strategy.”
“Understood, master.” Cyme said and flexed her hand.
Next to her she saw the suspicious looks of nearby drunk individuals and ignored them. She walked into the Triplets and was assaulted by the smells of warm wine, over spiced meats, obnoxious shouts, fake smiles, greedy eyes, and a host of other distractions.
She moved as best she could, hoping to lose herself amongst the chaos. It didn't work. If she had been walking around topless, it would have been less eye catching than her current uniform.
“Look at that lovely thing.” A loud lout called out and Tila just knew that he was referring to her.
She continued on, wanting the dullard to shut up or catch the hint that she had no patience. Again came the cry but Tila turned to a nearby serving girl, “Has anyone been inside my and master's room?” The woman turned fearful and that was all the information that a growling Tila needed. Her anger rising to the point that her innocent mask was cracking, she moved to the direction of the storeroom.
“Where do you think you're going?” a bouncer stepped in front of Tila, his dark eyes declaring that he had no patience tonight. “Employees only.”
“She's okay.” The bartender shouted. “VIP suite.”
The bouncer looked confused. “What are you talking about. It's just the storeroom, nothing in there but wine and rats.”
Tila could understand the fool's confusion. Frank had spilled many coins trying to find a suitable establishment as to set as his temporary base. Right at the centre of the city, a place that was well known, public and, yet, easily defendable. Someplace where three strangers could go unnoticed, gather information, and could escape without trouble.
He had paid in diamonds, enough funds to secure the lease of a mansion. Roumpíni didn't care what they did down there. Her exact words being, “They can take a shit in a wine barrel for what they paid.”
The bouncer looked between Tila and the bartender and she could see that he didn't like this new situation. “Forgive me, my lady. Can I buy you a drink as an apology? The owner of the Triplets is currently taking stock and...”
Without effort, Tila pushed the clearly larger and stronger man aside as if she were guiding an infant. She did not have time for this.
The bouncer shocked at how this foreigner had so causally dismissed him, went to put a hand on Tila's should. “Hey!”
Tila looked at the offending hand, pinched the bouncer's ring finger, and twisted.
There was a pop, and Tila was free to carry out her assignment. She marched down the stairs and into the dark. It wasn't until she reached the second step that the bouncer managed to scream as the shock and the confusion passed and he looked down at his broken finger.
Moving into the shadows, Tila's eyes adjusted to the low light quickly. Another gift of her master. She should have blinded, but her eyes saw the hooded men who skulked in the shadows.
There were two of them. One with darker skin and using a scimitar, the other was drinking the Triplets stash of wine.
The pair's eyes landed on Tila, but her eyes were on the vacant spot where the door to the Abstract had been. “Where is master's door?” she whispered, her voice sounding as if it came from a scared child.
At first the men were shocked, but seeing a mere woman their grins turned wide and perverse. The one who had been sitting on a nearby crate of expired pomegranates got up and moved in a clumsy manner. “Come to give us company?” he wiped his chin.
Tila stared right at the spot where the Abstract had been, “Where is my master's door?” she stepped forward and politely closed the door to the storage room.
The one with the obsidian skin and the sword put himself between Tila and the door, his toothy grin could have lit up the street. Suddenly, he moved like a viper, putting his arm around his new Toy and whispering into her ear. “You smell nice.”
Hot violent rage filled Tila. This man was touching her. This godless swine was putting his hands on her. Only Frank had that privilege.
With one hand, Tila grabbed her molester by the forearm that he was using to keep her in place and squeezed. She could feel the man's bulky muscles compress and the bones strain under the intense pressure.
There wasn't a sharp crack or a casual pop like one got from twisting a stubborn stick. This was the jarring grating sound of a clay pot falling off a building.
“Ahhhhhhhhhh.” The man screamed as he backed away, holding his crushed arm.
That burst of violence had not slated Tila's vengeance. She spun around, cold fury in her eyes, her fingers contracted into deadly claws.
Her attacker's screams abruptly stopped as four of the ex-slaves manicured nails pieced his temple and entered his brained. The force of her attack making small impact craters in his skull.
Despite his new found vow of silence, Tila could tell that he was still alive. She could see it in his eyes. The fear, the confusion, the silent suffering. It felt so familiar to her, like the first time she saw herself in a mirror. For some reason, she did not like it. As if taking her hand out a bucket full of ice, Tila ripped her fingers free of the man's skull.
There was a thump as his body fell to the floor.
Her fingers now painted red with blood, Tila turned to the drunk who had watched the exchange with his mouth open. “Where is the door to the Abstract?” she asked coolly.
Born in Australia I am a late bloomer when it came to books. I started writing when my grandfather died and it just sort of turned into a hobby.
I like science fiction, but not space opera. I like fantasy but I am picky when it comes to epic and urban types. I try to stay away from vampires, zombies and romance novels when I can.