“Oh,” said the larger man. “It's another one of them.”
His ears twitched, but otherwise the anger inside him did not show. What did he mean by one of them? By only having a few interactions thus far, Raithe still wasn't exactly sure what the people thought of the Purren. Or perhaps it was any race with animal characteristics, the humans and elves sure didn't seem to be facing any racial problems. Or at least, as far as he could see.
“Let me-” the boy started to say, but he only received a fist in the gut as a response.
“Quiet you!” said the other man. He stepped up closer to the boy and stuck a finger in the kid's face. As a result, his finger was almost bitten off.
Inwardly, Raithe smiled. He admired the boy's spunk and his unwillingness to give into his captors. Good for you kid, Raithe thought and then he took another step forward. Whatever this was about, he would rather it not continue. “You can let him go now,” Raithe said. His tone was calm, his posture non threatening. All he wanted, was for them to let the boy go. If they did that, Raithe decided he would not resort to violence.
“Or you'll what?”
He changed his expression from one of compromise, into one of malice.
This caused the man step take a back in surprise. But it didn't last very long. A moment later, he stepped forward, reaching a hand down to one of the holsters on his waist. The man brought up a long, thin whip.
The first man, put the boy down and the kid ran to hide behind Raithe. Then he stretched out his other hand, stalling his partner. He looked at Raithe with a cautious eye. “You don't even know what this is about, so why would you risk interfering?”
Because what Raithe could see, was two grown men, exploiting a child maybe three times younger than themselves. “He's just a boy,” he said.
“Boy?” the man laughed. “That doesn't mean shit here.”
Raithe raised an eyebrow.
“I'm guessing you've already noticed,” he said. “Even if it is only minor. Well, the way you're treated will undoubtedly get worse the longer you stay here. It's only not so bad yet, because you are new, that'll change though. Just you wait.”
“What does this have to do with you... exploiting a child?”
“Exploi...? That's what you think we are doing?” the man paused until he regained control of his chuckling. “Boy, we are providing a service.”
What service could possibly involve the act of theft? Raithe crossed his arms, unconvinced. “A service to yourselves you mean?”
The man shook his head. “No no no,” he said. “You've got us all wrong. The service we provide is for the Beast Made. Many of them can't get jobs you see? And some of them are paid so poorly from the jobs they are able get that it means nothing. They are forced to live on the streets and save what they do make, for only buying food. That is also money they can't store in banks because... well you get the idea.”
He had an idea now, about how horribly they were being forced to live. What he wanted to know, was why? Before even that though... “and what is this service?” he asked.
“It is as you originally thought. We are a thieves guild.”
“Who will steal even from those whom you are trying to protect?”
The man's expression became stern at this. “Who said we were trying to protect anyone?” he said. “The only reason we hire the Beast Made, is because with how stealthy most of them can be, they make the best thieves.” he paused, as if he were considering something. “Don't get me wrong though. They are actually paid pretty well. Much better than they would normally be anyway.”
A thieves guild. It did make sense.... but then, there was something that didn't quite add up... “There is a fee, isn't there? To be in the guild I mean?”
The man snapped his fingers and pointed at Raithe. “Bingo!” he said enthusiastically. “Yes, there is a fee. Call it like... a month's rent. To join the guild you much provide us with a substantial sum of Teroes. After the first payment however, the fee you are required to pay depends on how much money you have been able to make for the guild.”
In a way, it was a service for themselves. A cleverly disguised one though. Those men, hired anthromorphs in order to do all the heavy lifting. According to the man though, they did get paid. At least there was that. “I want my Teroes back,” he said. “And that satchel.”
“These?” the man held up the items.
“Sorry but.. no. That kid owes us rent, for two months and he owes us a lot. This won't provide us with even a tenth of the money but, it's something at least.”
“Then I'll have to take them back by force,” Raithe said and took a menacing step forward.
“Wait wait,” the man put his hands up in a surrendering gesture. “I can't just give these to you. But maybe there is something you can do for me.”
“Yeah,” he said.
“Don't do it,” the boy whispered. “Whatever it is... it's a trick.”
“What is it?” Raithe asked. He chose to ignore the boy, though he had heard those whispered words. “I'll do whatever it is, as long as it also releases the kid's debt in the process.”
A grin crossed the man's features. “Fine,” he said and extended his hand.
“I want to know what it is first.” it would be important to know what he was getting himself into, before he agreed to anything. And besides, Raithe didn't trust this man as far as he could throw him which in this case, not far at all.
“I want you to explore a dungeon,” he said. “Kill anything that stands in your way of completing it and that includes the boss at the end as well. Bring anything you find in the dungeon back here and tell no one about going inside.”
“I have no weapons right now and there is an event that...”
“Yes yes, I know about the festival tonight. To be frank, if you don't go to it then people are likely to get suspicious. So I'll have you return here tomorrow instead.”
Raithe nodded. “Is there a way I can... bring a large cat down here?”
“Oh! You have a companion pet already?” he clapped his hands together, seeming a little too excited for something that wasn't his.
“Please,” the boy pleaded. “Don't do this... that guy can't be trusted...” he pulled on Raithe's shirt.
“Excellent!” the man said, ignoring the boy's obvious distress. “Then yes, there is a way you can bring her down here.” he extended his hand again. “I'll tell you if...” he pointedly nodded to his hand.
Raithe moved his to take it, but the boy reached up and tried to pull his hand down. He looked at the boy and then at the man. And he saw the deceitful glimmer in the man's eye. He was about to pull his hand away, but was too late in doing so. The man grasped it and pain immediately shot up his arm and all over his body. When the man released him, Raithe found himself on the floor, clutching his hand and gasping for air.
“Idiot!” the boy said. “Some are allowed to choose to work for this guy. Others... he... he basically made you into a slave.”
“It's just a.... brand,” Raithe said in between gritted teeth.
“More than that,” the man said. “It will be impossible for you to disobey me.”
“Well yeah... you'll see soon enough though.”
Both the money pouch and satchel landed with small clinks in front of his knees.
“There, now don't say that I break promises. Cause I don't,” he turned to walk away, with his partner following him. “Oh and... I want you to return here by noon tomorrow. That should be enough time, right? After a night of partying.” he laughed and then walked away.
With fire in his eyes, Raithe watched the man go and for the first time, noticed the city located below Galeron. This was a city... a world of thieves and probably assassins. Where the Beast Made as that man had called them, could make better lives for themselves. Or so he was told. Raithe stood up, grabbed both the satchel and pouch and then opened his hand. He stared at the brand, still hot, still burning. A glyph. The rough image of a raccoon, the little masked bandit.