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In this piece (Post-Jack encounter), we find out more about the guild and its members. At the end, a kind of cute moment between Silas and Smythe.
Following the rest of the group, Smythe and Silastrix rode next to each other.
“Feeling better yet?” Smythe asked gently. He managed to avoid asking her to let her calm down until they came within a mile of the guild.
“If it means anything to you, he really was a nice kid. I’m sorry I had to light him on fire.”
“You’re no being very sensitive, you know,” said Silastrix, giving him a pointed look from under her helmet.
“I’m a regular coldhearted corpse. How else am I supposed to act?”
She couldn’t help it, she smirked. “Maybe act a bit less smug...?”
“A bit less scary...”
“A bit less big headed...”
“A tad more considerate...”
“A tad? More than a tad, I think.”
“I can’t help it. I’m a smarmy kind of skeleton, aren’t I?”
She laughed. “So lovable I’ll find some dog to play fetch with me using your bones.”
“Ack,” said Smythe.
The triumphant whooping of the score of thieves reverberated against the towering castle, the hideout for the Guild of the Black Rose. It was an ancient, decrepit castle filled with cobwebs and was rumored to be haunted. People avoided the crumbling ruins because they claimed that the howls of the agonized spirits echo throughout the castle. Actually, that was the work of the overexcited thieves laughing and snarling.
They tethered their horses to spindly, dead trees and ran into the castle. Inside was dark and musty, and the smell of mold was enough to make one retch. The bandits stayed on the ground floor, for if they climbed to the higher levels, they would surely fall through the floor. Instead, Kyto pulled open an inconspicuous trapdoor that blended into the stone blocks that led to a dimly lit passage way into the cellar. While the cellar was as old the castle, it was refurbished and revived by the funds the thieves would bring in.
Laughing raucously, Silastrix and Smythe followed, along with Armageddon Snow, Perelyne Faul (known to the villagers as Leonine), Voracious Malcolm, Tyrus Fellandor (known as Turmoil), and several other thieves.
As the group descended into a lantern-lit room with several tables, Malcolm scrunched his nose. “Coil isn’t here to see our success. Where’s the bloke been hiding?”
“Maybe I ate him,” Perelyne suggested with a toothy grin.
“Oh, please,” cut in Smythe. “He is skin and bones. Not much meat. Besides, he never was here before to greet us and give is a pat on the head for a job well done.”
“You’d have a job trying to even speak to him face to face.” Tyrus chimed in curtly. Curt and brooding were his only moods. “He is almost never available. I would think he has something to hide.”
“Heap of dung,” snarled Armageddon Snow. “He’s our leader. The least you can do Fellandor, is show him some loyalty.”
“Yeah,” Kyto agreed heartily with her, although he had no inkling what she was speaking of, “what Snow said. Show some loyalty!”
“You talk too much for your own good,” snapped Silastrix. “Why don’t you say something of use, Titan?”
“If you’re man enough, tell me that to my face,” Kyto grunted. Smythe crossed his arms, as if to say, Silastrix is more man than you could ever aspire to be. But Smythe, being himself, took no part in what he always considered petty arguments.
“I could take you on with my eyes closed, Kyto,” growled Silastrix in response. She unsheathed her claws.
“Oooh, tough guy. Watch out, Kyto, you’ll be ribbons,” muttered the other bandits. Silastrix gave an inaudible sigh. She only wished she could let them know her true gender.
Kyto faltered, a nerve twitching in his cheek. It twitched, it seemed, whenever he got nervous. Apparently, he wasn’t so ambitious as to take on Silastrix, the dragon-man. “You’d be smart not to cross my path,” he said, trying to sound threatening, but instead sounded like a cow in pain with how his voice cracked. The crowd roared with laughter that shook the thieves’ cellar. Embarrassed, he retreated to a well-shadowed corner.
Silastrix sheathed her claws, and with a nod to the rest of the bandits, retired to her quarters. Down the newly renovated corridors she strode, glancing at the doors on either side. The rooms, when the castle was chosen for the guild house, had once been dungeons and jail rooms. When the skeletons and shackles had been cleared out, beds and lamps replaced torture equipment. Smythe wanted to keep one of his room’s skeletons, adoringly calling the skeleton his roommate. He even dressed it in a jester’s outfit with jingle bells. Silastrix felt it was faintly disturbing whenever she’d see his room and the skeleton in the jester outfit would be grinning at her from the ceiling.
Names were scribed onto the wooden doors leading into their own chambers by last name, and if they had none or omitted them, then their first names were written. Kyto’s messy scrawl was across his door, and Armageddon’s tidy handwriting was etched neatly into hers. Faul, Smythe, Noryll, Jasper, Fellandor, Holt, Tythen, and several others labeled the doors. She stopped and stared at the door to her left. The guildmaster’s door. Amyranth’s name had been scratched out, and above it in firm writing, was the name Coil. It was normal to see it locked with seven different latches and faintly sparking with a sealing spell. It seems as though he values his privacy, thought Silastrix. A few doors down was her own chamber, her name scratched on the door with her claws. With a sigh, she opened it and, closing the door behind her, collapsed on her bed and began to remove her cumbersome armor. Beneath it, she was dressed in a simple commoner men’s clothing, made with comfortable cloth. She smiled stretching her sore limbs and brushing her hair. She didn’t have time to settle, for someone interrupted her relaxation with a knock on her door. “It’s me, Smythe,” said Smythe’s voice from behind the door.
“Come in,” she answered.
Smythe opened the door just enough so that he could slip through. His studded leather armor gleamed in the light of her lantern. His skull was still lit with supernatural fire.
“So,” he started, dismissing introductions, “do you think Fellandor is right?”
“About what?” asked Silastrix, moving her red hair out of her face to search for her armor polish.
“About what he said earlier,” pushed Smythe.
“Will you quit winding me up and tell me what he said?”
“He thinks Coil may be hiding something. Do you think it’s true, Silas?”
Finding her polish, she went back to work restoring the sheen on her armor. “I don’t know,” she said. “He might be.”
“I think Fellandor might be right.”
“You think that because you don’t like Coil.”
“No,” he said. “Well, yes, but that’s not the only reason.”
“What’s the other reason, Smythe?”
“Isn’t it obvious?”
“Think about it. Something isn’t right.”
“Please, you’re building the suspense again...”
“Mortal Coil is a mage, and a well-practiced one, I’ll gather. Did you see the spell cast on his door? From my knowledge, however limited it is of magic, it’s a pretty powerful spell. If someone tried to break their way inside without disarming that spell with equal power, they’d be charred crisp, doomed to become reduced to a pile of ashes with just the slightest touch. Not fun.”
“Where are you taking me with this speculation?”
“What I mean, dear Silas, is that he wouldn’t lock a door with a sealing spell so powerful unless he had a secret to keep from us.”
“Mmhmm,” she mumbled, taken by her armor polishing. Smythe patiently stared at her. “I can see you’re not really listening to me.”
“You know me too well.”
The skeleton’s response was a sigh and he shook his head. Silastrix frowned and scrubbed hard at a bit of stubborn rust that tarnished her armor.
“Moving on to a better topic sounds like a pleasant idea,” she said finally. “I’d rather not brood about our mysterious guild master.”
He shrugged. “Whatever suits you.”
“I think Kyto looks like an ox.”
“Actually, I thought he resembled a pink hairless gorilla.”
“That works, too. He has the mental capacity of one, as well.”
“That’s mean, you know,” said Smythe.
Silastrix snorted in amusement. “Since when did you stick up for Kyto?”
“I meant it was insulting to the hairless gorillas. They at least know how to tie their boots properly.”
“Hairless gorillas wear boots?” She cast him a dubious glance.
“Yes. They fly too.”
“You’re being funny."
“Well spotted,” said Smythe, and Silastrix gave a good-natured harrumph.
It may seem to any person who knew nothing of them that they bickered t each other all the time. Actually, they were old friends. They had joined the guild together, moved up to admirable ranks, and sometimes raided for valuables as a team. In fact, Smythe was perhaps the only person in the guild who knew Silastrix was a woman, other than herself, of course. Smythe kept the secret well.
Armageddon Snow would often complain about how she practically had to jump through hoops to join the guild. Her being a notorious criminal helped her entry, and people often thought that if she didn’t have those skills, she would be denied just because she was a female. That was the reason why Silastrix decided to masquerade as a man. She played the part exceptionally, and because she had a reputation for being ruthless and intimidating, no one questioned who she really was. Smythe also backed her up if anyone tried to prove her to be false, which really didn’t happen much at all.
Smythe’s witty comments always cheered her up, and Silastrix’s loyalty to her friends and the people who won her respect was unending, especially to her best friend. Smythe was like a sibling Silastrix never had, and though Smythe had one other (dead) brother, Smythe treated Silastrix like a sister.
This day, she especially enjoyed his clever comments because she still thought of the boy. She needed to be cheered up. Jack was innocent, she knew he was. He had given her his favorite toy, his best friend, and what had happened? She knew Smythe was right, she couldn’t afford to go soft, not at the height of her career. Still, the little boy’s eyes burned into her mind.
She found her hand moving to her bag of possessions and extracted the wooden horse from a tangle of beads and examined it again. Doubtlessly, he loved the horse very much.
“Nice horse,” said Smythe. If he were able to display facial expressions, he would be arching an eyebrow.
“Thanks. His name’s Thomas.”
He tilted his head to one side. “Jack’s horse?”
“He gave it to me. Right before...”
“Oh,” he said, “right.”
She couldn’t stop herself. A tear trailed down her face. Smythe stepped back as if he’d been slapped. “You okay?” he asked, concerned. Silastrix nodded, but didn’t say anything for fear of breaking down completely. He stepped forward and with his skeletal finger, he wiped her tear away.
“Are you mad at me?” he asked.
She gave him a quizzical look. “For what?”
“For killing him. The boy.”
“Of course not,” she said. “I’m only mad that he had to die.”
“The way things worked for a long time.”
“It didn’t seem unfair until now.”
“Ah. Que sura, sura.”
“Whatever happens, happens. We can’t rewind the sunset. The wheel of time goes on.”
“I guess,” she said. Still, she was frowning.
Smythe crossed his arms. “Don’t cry,” he said. “I almost never see you cry.” It was more of a plea than a statement. And, in spite of his plea she did. The waterworks came. Startled, he stared at her with empty eye sockets. He was alarmed because he never saw his friend like this. In truth, he had no clue what to do.
Don’t comfort her, he reminded himself harshly. She needs to learn. Don’t comfort her. However, in the end he comforted her anyways, giving her a hug. He decided to reprimand himself later, but for now, his only friend needed him.
|My Beloved Enemy (The Dragon Bandit)||Jack, Part 1 (The Dragon Bandit)|
|The Demon's Child (The Dragon Bandit)|