sassysharpshooter said: no bby u need that
it’s okay i’m going to pick it up with
heart broken on floor
Just then, the server came back with Toni’s balaclava and she smiled gratefully, waiting for the woman to leave again before speaking further.
“Haven’t you ever heard that the best place to hide a tree is in the forest? Where would have us meet? In some exotic smokey bar with thieves and spies? In the castle, surrounded by MORE spies who can cast magic and overhear our conversations? I suppose a safer place might be the cathedral, but Doom knows I don’t pray to any Gods. It would be suspicious.”
She chuckled and took a bite of her sweet food, crossing her legs and sighing with pleasure. Damn that’s good. She dabbed at her mouth with a napkin and looked around at the crowd. No one was watching them. Even the guards on parole only looked at her and nodded, continuing on their way.
Shrugging, she continued on. “I won’t work with a team. The more people who know about what I’m doing, the more chance there is for someone to screw up. Another phrase you might not have heard: Loose lips sink ships. I can’t trust men I don’t know and I can’t afford to meet with them either. You do realize the position I am in, don’t you? I have my own contacts and my own agenda. If you want to help me out, stay out of my way.”
And just to tease, she chanced a full on look over her shoulder, eyebrow arched and lips quirked wickedly. “You have a pretty face, and I can tell your heart is in the right place, your intentions good. But good intentions is not all it takes to win a war.”
Turning back to her treat, she bent to take another bite. “Mm. I don’t know who you are working for, but I would appreciate it if you didn’t go babbling about me. If you want help, I can give you help. But you are going to have to gain my trust first. Crashing through my ceiling and smiling sweetly isn’t quite enough to do the job, handsome.”
He nodded, understanding where she was coming from. How naive of him to believe she’d so easily be swayed—how would he have responded if it’d been him? Surely not with open arms. Surely not with anything of the sort. How dumb, how naive…
“I can’t see how you’ll be of much help considering we have our own means of getting information out and getting men in—I just—” his eyes followed a long split in the wood as he sighed. Finishing that sentence would only cause him trouble. He couldn’t quite explain it but he knew this woman was different. She was beautiful, yes, but that wasn’t it. She was strong, for one, a strong witch that wasn’t about to let anyone treat her in a disrespectful manner.
He’d have been afraid of her power had it not been for the numerous witches they’d sought out in hopes of gaining easier access to the castle itself as well as Doom, but when each witch proved to be simply in cahoots to better themselves, Nick thought it better to leave the spying to trained, professional spies.
Witches could be useful, but too powerful to trust he and Nick had decided, but from the moment their eyes met he was sure, one hundred percent sure, his immediate trust in her was sound. It wasn’t just another case of the wondering eye, he just…felt something about her. Felt something different about her. …Perhaps it was the way she carried herself…
He shook the thought. She didn’t need protecting for one, and she didn’t need him—or any of the resistance for that matter.
“I’ll keep your being secret, know that. But in return I want to know that if by some strange chance you do need help, you’ll come for it. Until then, let me prove my trust with something else…other things, I should say. Give me time. I’ll earn it, and you’ll earn mine.”
At the very least he needed to double check they were fighting for a common good.
A soft kiss to her bare shoulder had Toni smiling sweetly, her revulsion hidden expertly beneath her glamorous facade. She turned and pressed a kiss in return to Doom’s plated face. “Good morning, Victor. How was the morning meeting?”
“Fine,” the metallic voice responded, metal plated fingers skating over Toni’s skin as he caressed her arms from behind. His brown eyes bright and yet so very cold, staring into Toni’s hard blue ones in the mirror she sat in front of. “We’re sending more scouts to the Genoshan border this evening under the cover of darkness. We will shall see how prepared they are for another attack. Reports are saying that Magnus is getting lazy, and War General Summers isn’t even on the continent at the moment. We expect to be able to strike soon.”
Toni watched with a small smile and a careful eye as Doom turned and went to the desk, casually pulling open a drawer and sifting through papers. It had taken months to get Victor’s tongue so loose and she had been careful with the secret magical messages she would send to Rhodey, stay vague so that Doom wouldn’t realize he had a spy so well informed.
“Do you have any plans for the day?” Victor asked, bending to sign one of the papers and fold it up, put it in an envelope and seal it with wax.
“I thought I’d go to the market, see if Gregory has gotten any more more grapes in. I’ve been craving some.”
“Hmm. Well, be good. I’ll see you at dinner tonight.”
And then Toni was alone again, with her thoughts and that damned bracelet on her wrist. She wasn’t dumb enough to try and remove it. The least amount of trouble she got in, the better her plan would go.
Crimson hood pulled to shield her eyes from the harsh sunlight, Toni slowly raked her gaze over the crowds of people at the market. Doom’s men were on most corners, observing and keeping the peace. They were very nice, didn’t harass the public, but they didn’t do any favors either. Their eyes were sharp and they were hand picked by Victor, each and every one of them, for their intelligence and agility.
She had to be careful. She’d learned that much.
A small basket of cheese and cold grapes hung off her arm and she picked at them lazily, savoring the sweetness of the fruit as she strode with well-hidden purpose towards the Summer Dragon.
There he was, her blond intruder, looking uncomfortable and standing out like a sore thumb as he picked at a loaf of bread. He sat at an outside table, and when his eyes raked over and met hers, he looked away immediately. She snorted and swept passed him to sit at the table beside his, her back to him.
“You look like a damned queen’s concubine out here with the sun blazing against your golden skin like that. You should at least have someone magick those eyes a different color. You’re practically painting a sign on yourself saying you’re not from around here.”
She spoke quietly, keeping her head bowed. She unclasped the red cloak and let it hang over the chair she sat in, her long thick black hair comfortably loose on her shoulders. Her dress was soft and white and kept high on her bosom— women weren’t allowed to bare much breast in public, it was unladylike. But her collar and shoulders were on full display, tanned skin and ruby red painted lips looking lovelier than ever in the natural light of the sun.
A woman came to take her order, looking dazzled and blatantly envious. Toni shooed her off with a request for balaclava, and she turned her face to speak over her shoulder. “Now, tell me what you wanted to speak to me about.”
Steve laughed softly, picking at the meat on his plate. “Well…you want to trust me don’t you? I mean…I’d like to trust you. We’ve got a common goal don’t we? It couldn’t hurt to have some outside men and it wouldn’t kill you to let on some additional inside men. Am I right or am I wrong?”
He’d felt more nervous looking directly at her, so having their backs facing was a tremendous help.
Damn these nerves… he cursed, wishing that just once he’d made time for romantic endeavors in his erstwhile life. And then it struck him what had crossed his mind. Romantic endeavors? Steve was on the brink of laughter. There was no means for romance, and the fact that he was even dwelling on such for a second was a testimate to his weakness for women.
“And…if you don’t take kindly to groups…allow me to assist you. I would to see to it that we are both successful in taking him down…” Steve coughed, covering his mouth and turning his head as a man passed, showing little interest in either of them.
“This place isn’t safe,” he thought, aloud. He was sure there wasn’t much of a chance they’d be heard by anyone unless they kept speaking even as one person or other decided to pass, and that certainly wasn’t happening, but he worried still.
There was clearly no ill will meant towards her, and besides the blatant lying to her face, the man was nothing other than respectful. And the way he kept looking at her ever since he’d crashed into her room…
She took pity and wiped the scowl from her face, visibly relaxing with an exasperated sigh. “I do not think it wise to meet with someone who could ruin months of planning so easily. But if you insist on it…”
Looking around the room for an idea, she licked her lips and held up her wrist to show off a golden bracelet inlaid with diamonds. It sparkled in the brazier’s lighting and she spoke quietly, “See this? Doom keeps track of my whereabouts with this. He will know if I am going somewhere I shouldn’t. But should we meet somewhere in public that does not seem suspicious, I doubt it will be a problem.
“Meet me at the Summer Dragon in town tomorrow at noon. But do not look as if you are expecting me, and do not be surprised if I avoid sitting directly with you. The last thing I need is for someone to see us and report to Doom that I am going into public to meet with handsome strangers— he’ll tighten my leash even further.”
The men on the floor seemed to be beginning to stir and Toni’s eyebrows pinched, her mouth a thin line. She went to the blond and pushed him towards the exit, waving her hand to reveal what she’d hidden. “Here,” she whispered, hand at the small of the man’s back, mouth close to his shoulder. “And do not double cross me. You will sorely regret it.”
Steve nearly beamed grabbing hold of the stone and hoisting himself atop it, “I beseech the same of you.” And with that he was hanging from the side of the castle, dragging his foot this way and that over the mismatched stone until he was able to crawl down a story or two and hop through the opening he’d known would greet him just as it had in days previous.
He would not enjoy relating this story to Nick. Nor would he enjoy each moment he’d have to spend gathering the boys he’d been forced to leave behind, but at the very least he knew they were safe, and would remain safe in those passages, despite their lack of familiarity with them.
Hours later both himself and the boys were back at home base, safe and sound enjoying the comfort of their beds. It’d taken an eternity to explain to Nick just how he’d failed to get the boys through the passages Steve knew better than his own makeshift chambers, but after a short reevaluation of Steve’s sleep schedule, Nick realized the only way their best guy back on his feet was to give him a few moments of rest.
Steve wanted to deny the much needed rest, but at this point, he hadn’t much of a choice. His sleepless nights had almost cost them the entire edge they’d been building up against Doom, and had it not been for the sinister plot Doom’s mistress already had in place, Steve wasn’t completely sure he’d have made it out alive.
“She’s clever, and more than likely on our side, but—”
“But what?” Nick had cut in, “Naturally you’ve got to take anything she says with a grain of salt, but we need all the help we can get. More men have been captured along the eastern front, so we’ll have to come up with a new plan if we want to be successful.”
Steve shook his head. “I don’t feel I trust her fully until we’ve met again…” That dazzling charm she seemed to be emitting worried him—how easy it would be to fall victim to such an elegant woman’s grace. Nick looked more and more like a desperate man everyday, and Steve kept trying to tell himself it was the weight of his service finally weighing on the man…but this behavior was peculiar coming from him…Nick of all people.
Steve decided he’d just have to be weary of everyone.
Tomorrow though, he’d be at Summer Dragon, what happened next would depend on what he’d find there.
From the blond’s performance, Toni could see that she was not dealing with any spy from Doom, that this was a rebel who’d stumbled upon her chambers by mistake. This man had his own plots in mind, and had not planned to interfere with hers. It was a relief, to say the least.
Her chin in the air, Toni had both hands on her hips as she replied to the man’s inquiries. The men on the ground were unconscious and had no magic of their own, so she felt relatively safe in this man’s confidence. “Nice show,” she purred, waving at the men crumpled on the floor. “I can see that you were, in fact, lying. No servant of Doom’s would attack His guards in such a way. So now that we are being so honest with each other…”
She still didn’t like the idea of sharing her secrets with a stranger though. “I am not happy here. Being here is not about being happy! I am here with a purpose— to change things, because no, I do not like how things are. I am in a very opportune position at this moment, and I will bring Doom’s reign of terror to an end. You are part of the resistance, are you not? Then you can understand my purpose. Get out of here and I will gladly spin them a tale of your escape. But do not interfere with me and do not get caught. I will not blow my cover to save your sorry ass.”
It shouldn’t have surprised him—really, look at her—but for some reason it did. She certainly wasn’t part of their group, that was obvious, but she was strong willed and Steve liked that in a person. What struck him as odd was that she had put herself in this position. He wanted to offer her some sort of aid, something to assure her the potential for friendship was present, but everything that came to mind seemed to belittle her.
…Well, it wouldn’t generally be considered insulting, but he could tell by this woman’s demeanor she wouldn’t take kindly to what he’d imply. Instead of piecing some sort of sorry excuse for a response together, Steve inched toward the place where the opening used to exist, his hands up in defense, yet again, but just as quickly as they’d gone up, they fallen.
Shooting a look to his far left, Steve thought on how he might let the boys know they’d have to go the way they’d come. “I must return,” he drawled, paying extra attention to the final syllables, “Madam…and you should know, I trust your strength. More than that, I trust your cunning…but…” he could see the doubt crossing her features as an eyebrow began to rise.
“Let me come back. I want to speak with you again…is that alright?”
Flushing red with anger, Toni waved her hand and the window was suddenly sealed off, magic’d away as if it had never been there. “You take me for a fool, stranger! And still you give me not your name!”
She seethed, her voice no longer as low as she’d been trying to keep it. Her skin began to shimmer red as she glared daggers at the handsome blond man. “You break into my chambers, you spill your lies like water, you try to trick me, you— you think I am stupid! If only you knew who I was. Yet you are so disinclined to introduce yourself, I do not see why I should do you the honor! Lowly scoundrel, you would be on your knees if you had half a brain.”
Words unspoken lay burning in her mouth, buzzing like wasps. Was he here to spy on her? Had Doom found out her own plots? Was this a test? She could not afford to lose her footing at this point in the game. Doom would have her head and all would be lost.
“GUARDS!” she bellowed, and then a sneer at the blue eyed man. “Maybe the rack will loosen your tongue.”
The two men in royal guard dress burst into the room and, before they could even ask what the problem was, they were raising their weapons. “Who the hell are you!?” one snarled, taking in the bloodied shins and dusty garb and knowing immediately that the man was not supposed to be there.
Toni crossed her arms. “I caught this man hiding in my wardrobe! He says he is some secret guard here to protect me. I think he is lying. Take him to the dungeon and clear the rack, he needs to be taught a lesson.”
Luckily in the proceeding scuffle, the absence of the window hadn’t been mentioned. No one knew she was a magic wielder, that glamour was her specialty, and if they found out, she would probably be burned at the stake.
Heaving a great sigh, Steve rolled his eyes and lunged for the door, stopping only to huff quietly, “You assume far too much, M’lady.” It couldn’t have been longer than a second or two but both men were already limp and sprawled across the floor. If her eyes had followed the movement she would have seen him run at the left one first, putting him to sleep with a single arm around his neck, a foot jerking to the side with blinding speed as he knocked the wind from the second.
Near silence had flourished around them, gaurd number two properly disposed of with another carefully placed punch. The armor really should have rendered his mode of attack useless, but Steve had long since found a way to bend material to his whim—whether or not there was witch craft involved was nobody’s business but his own. He certainly wasn’t hurting anyone with it…well, no one who deserved it at least.
…Better he possess it than anyone else…not that now was the time to mentally debate the mater.
“Everything’s fine!” he announced, loud enough for the boys to hear, but never once breaking eye contact with the woman. He could practically hear the sigh of relief drifting from the small corridor, but despite the needlessness of imagining such, he was convinced any comforts were worth while. “Please do not call any more guards, they will merely pile up.”
Stepping over one of the absent minded bodies, Steve put his hands up in surrender. “I have no intentions of hurting you, so please, let’s not perpetuate madness. If you’ll only…” Steve glanced over to the window he’d planned to use as an escape route, realizing now there was more than his own magic afoot.
Dropping either hand to its side, Steve shrugged and sighed again. “I see we are going nowhere fast, so I feel the need to ask…” it was a complete stab in the dark, and really, he ought to have jumped through what used to be that opening and pray for the best, but this option seemed to at least begin to put the odds in his favor, “…are you happy here? Do you like the way things are?”
At least he sounded as sincere as he felt for once. Her silence, however brief it would end up being, was promising at the very least.