Title: Holiday Heist
Khizer Qadre - December 14, 2011 11:52 AM (GMT)
It was time.
He found himself at her door—well, the door to the collective she belonged to. A commune of sorts; the last resting place of a once proud people. Now, like the sands of their desert land, they were scattered and lost. They'd come here as grains, collecting in pockets pretending they could be a Sehra again.
He chewed thoughtfully on the Khar for a few seconds, his bloodshot eyes taking in the rotting door that guarded access to her world. Letting the juice mix with his saliva, he waited for the effect to hit before lazily knocking, his knuckled hammering out a swift series of taps on the wood.
It opened to reveal a young face. A woman with braids in her hair. She looked at him. Her eyes were rimmed with sleep and they blinked as they adjusted to the new image in front of her.
Khizer looked at her for a few seconds, his eyes glassy and snakelike.
"Shaman. Call her."
The woman blinked.
"I'm sorry I don't understand."
"Yes you do." His smile was lazy, his red teeth bared.
"It is late, she is sleeping...I..."
The woman pursed her lips. Then, with a nod, she turned and disappeared into the bowels of the commune. Khizer looked at the crack in the doorway, one hand reaching out to adjust the length of rope coiled around his shoulder. The rope tightened and shifted, more alive than it had any right to be. Like a snake preparing to strike, it eased itself around the muscle, waiting, watching...
Manyara Thandiwe - December 21, 2011 05:08 AM (GMT)
She awoke as soon as Trihidar touched her, the young woman's smooth palms resting on Manyara's shoulder. The shaman roused quickly and silently, coming from fully asleep to fully awake in seconds. She'd had a lot of time to learn how to wake up properly.
"What is it?" she murmured, her eyes coasting around the sleeping forms of the last of her people.
She could barely make out Trihidar's face in the dim lighting. "There is a man, outside... he demanded to see you," she whispered. "His teeth were red." Everyone from the Continent knew what that meant.
And Manyara understood who it was, then.
She stood, pulling her shawl over her shoulders. "Lock the door after me. I want everyone to be careful the next few days," she said, lowly. "Tell Rahan that he is in charge until I'm back."
"Maybe. Just remain inside tonight." With that, Manyara moved towards the door, fastening her shawl and grabbing her bag. She opened the door and stepped outside. After readjusting her bag a bit, she looked at the man. "We're going?"
Khizer Qadre - December 21, 2011 05:16 AM (GMT)
His smile was out in full force.
He stepped back from the door, giving her the space she needed. His head cocked to angle, his body swaying ever so slightly. Like a reed caught in a lazy wind, his middle seemed to shift ever so slightly, bending so that his face was nearer to her.
His finger jabbed out to indicate her bag. “What's inside?”
Manyara Thandiwe - December 21, 2011 05:18 AM (GMT)
"My things," she said, putting a slight emphasis on the my to make him fully understanding of the fact that he was not to touch it or try and look inside.
She was tired, and she still wasn't certain this was a good idea.
But she hated this place, and so did everyone in the shack behind her. There had to be a way out, and if this madman knew the path, then she had little choice but to follow him. "Where do we go?"
Khizer Qadre - December 21, 2011 05:23 AM (GMT)
He retracted his hand, letting it rest over the rope on his shoulder.
For a second he looked upwards, at the sky, his dilated pupils taking in the vast expanse above them. Stars and galaxies and all the wonders no man had ever visited. So much space. So much space to fill. When he jerked his head back to look at her, Khizer found himself blinking.
“Do you still have the thread I gave you?” he asked, wondering if she even bothered to keep it or not. Khizer spent a week crafting the thing. It was a long process and he wasn't about to repeat it if she'd tossed it into a hearth or given it away to some cretin.
Manyara Thandiwe - December 21, 2011 05:26 AM (GMT)
She rested her hand on her bag. "Yes." It was in there, writhing quietly, she was sure. She didn't like that sort of magic, but she could endure it. She kept it as far from her bones as she could while still keeping it in the bag. "Do I need it?"
She stepped away from the door, and it shut. She heard them locking it behind her.
Khizer Qadre - December 21, 2011 05:28 AM (GMT)
“No. But it's worth keeping.”
He extended a hand out to her.
“Give it to me. I will show you what it does.” He wasn't eager to give her a lesson on the streets, but he didn't have much time to do it the other way—nor was he willing to risk her unease if they ever found themselves in a tight spot. No; she would have to learn its secrets. And she would learn them now.
Manyara Thandiwe - December 21, 2011 05:30 AM (GMT)
She eyed his hand for a moment, and then mentally shrugged and fished in her bag for it. If he was going to do something dastardly to her, he'd have done it by now. Besides, from what it sounded like, he needed some manner of assistance from her.
It coiled around her finger, and she pulled her hand out, extending it towards him.
Khizer Qadre - December 21, 2011 05:39 AM (GMT)
The thread darting forward at the sight of him, scrambling across her arm back to him. Her met it with a smile, even as it writhed in his palm like a worm. “This is an Assassin's Coil,” he told her, his smile holding in a fashion that could be best described as macabre. Red teeth were bared and his eyes were bloodshot.
He turned his hand over, his palm now facing the ground. The thread reacted to movement, snaking across his fingers and coiling between his index and ring finger.
He looked around for something then. When he found it, his hand snapped forward, the thread flying like an arrow towards his target.
It was a alley cat.
The thread snapped around the feline's throat, coiling and tightening. It didn't take long for it to work it's magic. With a sudden jerk, it cut easily past the fur and skin, going so far as to draw hot blood through the throat. The cat was dead in a heartbeat—and it hadn't even cried out.
Khiser extended his hand again and thread flew straight back to him.
With another smile, he held the now bloodied thread out to her.
Manyara Thandiwe - December 21, 2011 05:43 AM (GMT)
She had never liked the look of the string, and had kept it in her bag since he'd left it behind. Now, she knew why she hated it, as though the fact that it were a living piece of string weren't enough. Assassin's Coil. It certainly sounded macabre.
Manyara watched dispassionately as he attacked the cat with it, only the slightest hint of disapproval showing through the thinning corners of her lips.
However, when he handed it back to her, she didn't flinch away from the blood. She let the soiled string drop into her hand, and closed her fingers over it. "It will respond to me if I use it exactly so?" There was no telling, after all, if it only truly worked for him.
Khizer Qadre - December 21, 2011 05:46 AM (GMT)
“Exactly so.” As long as she didn't try to kill him with it. That would be a bad idea on more levels than Khizer could care to count.
“Are you ready?”
Manyara Thandiwe - December 21, 2011 05:48 AM (GMT)
She inhaled deeply, stuffing the string into her bag again. When she pulled her hand out, she wiped the blood onto her shawl. "As I'll ever be. Lead the way."
Khizer Qadre - December 21, 2011 05:52 AM (GMT)
And he did.
They walked for a few minutes, silence dictating the better part of their session.
He reached into his front pocket and pulled out two paper-thin Khar leaves. He slid the first between his lower lip and teeth and extended the other leaf out to her. It was dried out and red, the colour of particularly corrosive rust. He twirled it between his fingers.
“You want some?”
Manyara Thandiwe - December 21, 2011 05:53 AM (GMT)
Khizer Qadre - December 21, 2011 05:55 AM (GMT)
He shrugged and pushed the leaf into the mouth, sliding it right next to the first. The leaves had sharp edges, enough to make small cuts around the lips and inside the mouth. That was what made Khar so effective. It was an instant high the moment it hit the bloodstream.
His pupils dilated slightly and the sector was suddenly beautiful again.
“It bothers you,” he commented.
Manyara Thandiwe - December 21, 2011 05:57 AM (GMT)
"Yes," she said, equally as flat.
Khizer Qadre - December 21, 2011 05:58 AM (GMT)
He smiled. Juice bled out through his teeth.
Manyara Thandiwe - December 21, 2011 05:59 AM (GMT)
"I just dislike it. I will not attempt to keep you from enjoying it," she reassured him, her voice sharp and sarcastic.
Khizer Qadre - December 21, 2011 06:02 AM (GMT)
He knew that much.
“Why do you dislike it? Have you ever tried it?” Or was she looking into the fishbowl, wondering what kind of pathetic existence it's inhabitants had?
Manyara Thandiwe - December 21, 2011 06:03 AM (GMT)
"I have tried it." All shamans had. It was part of the initiation. Some of them kept it up after, but she couldn't stand the idea of that. She wanted a clear head, unclouded. She wanted to know that her thoughts and feelings were hers.
Khizer Qadre - December 21, 2011 06:07 AM (GMT)
He gave her a sidelong look, his teeth bared in that trademark smile of his.
“Did you enjoy it?”
Manyara Thandiwe - December 21, 2011 06:07 AM (GMT)
"In a way." She had, but the experience had been terrifying in its own way, because of how enjoyable it was.
Khizer Qadre - December 21, 2011 06:17 AM (GMT)
His smile faded into something more neutral, his tongue working over the cuts of his lips. He'd picked off the dried skin and left the lips raw and exposed. He peeled one such flake as they walked. It disintegrated in his fingers and was flicked away.
“How good is your Escovan?” he asked after another bout of long silence. They'd passed through most of the Refugee Quarter and were cutting around towards the river. The Temple's dome was visible now, its mother-of-pearl inlay glowing softly in the moonlight.
Manyara Thandiwe - December 21, 2011 06:19 AM (GMT)
She stared up at the dome of the temple, the lines of her mouth grim. "Better than yours, I imagine," she said, quietly. After all, she'd taken more steps towards integrating, which was a shame in and of itself. She'd let herself go soft, molded herself to fit into the island.
She didn't fit, and never would.
Khizer Qadre - December 21, 2011 06:25 AM (GMT)
That wasn't saying much.
His Escovan was terrible.
The language was ugly and blunt. It didn't harmonize it's vowels and there were too many guttural stops. Khizer had made a concentrated effort not to learn it. That was Vy's job. Fitting in, manipulating, it was her sphere of expertise. He was much better with his ball of string.
“Good,” he said, his own eyes focused on the dome. It was an impressive structure in any language; few places on the Mainland could boast a building like it. Khizer continued, his speech oddly slurred.
“When I die, tell them I wanted an Escovan burial.”
Manyara Thandiwe - December 21, 2011 06:26 AM (GMT)
She looked at him, eyes widening. "What do you mean?"
Khizer Qadre - December 21, 2011 06:30 AM (GMT)
Ahead of them, the Temple seemed to grow out of the ground, meeting at the confluence of two streams. The stairs leading into it werent far, maybe another dozen or so steps.
Khizer reached into his pocket and pulled out another them. This one was impressive to look at. As if threaded from gold itself, it shone and hummed, like the chime of a distant bell. He wrapped it around his finger. “Don't take this off. Let them. And stay close.” Then, with a breath, he whispered a word.
His eyes rolled into the back of his head and crumpled forward, dead to the world.
Manyara Thandiwe - December 21, 2011 06:34 AM (GMT)
She wondered if he was going to be bruised and aching, later. Probably with all that khar in him, he wouldn't even notice. How was she supposed to explain his sudden death at the temple stairs?
She glanced around to see if anyone was looking at them, and then sighed. She hoped he wasn't heavy.
Hooking her hands beneath his arms, she began to drag him up the shallow steps to the front of the temple. It was only a matter of minutes before someone noticed, and a flurry of people hurried down the steps to meet her. Somehow, Manyara summoned tears, blubbering in Escovan about her "husband," how he'd wanted an Escovan burial, a true burial, because this country had taken him in when he needed it most.
It seemed to strike a chord with many of the temple girls, and they called for some servants to help carry the man up, relieving her of her burden.
Still fake-sobbing, Manyara followed them into the temple proper.
Khizer Qadre - December 21, 2011 06:38 AM (GMT)
Men came and picked him up. Limp, dead, he was easy to move. They carried him into the Temple, a priest seemingly appearing out of nowhere to follow them. Old, bearded, he wore a heavy medallion around his neck and even heavier wrinkles around his eyes and lips.
He fell into step next to Manyara.
“What great calamity,” he said, his ancient voice strained. “How did it happen?”
Manyara Thandiwe - December 21, 2011 06:41 AM (GMT)
The lie was the easiest of all of them, since his lips and teeth were already stained with the evidence of it. "It was the khar," she said, her voice heavy with false grief and honest dislike. "Nasty habits, from the homeland." They didn't really do khar here, she'd noticed.
Khizer was the first she'd seen with it in years. "He had been doing more and more... it works on you in such... such a way, that..." She looked up at him. "You always need more."
Khizer Qadre - December 21, 2011 06:49 AM (GMT)
“Such shame,” the Priest said. “And so young too.” He shook his old head, his shoulder-length hair shifting with the movement. His eyes were genuinely distraught. These Refugees and their addictions were tragic; no doubt the curse of their pagan worship.
But this man had seen the light. Yet...
The party cut into a hallway, and then into another one.
A few minutes later they'd taken Khizer into a room. The priest stepped into the doorway and turned to face her, one hand extended out to stop her.
“You must wait here.”
Manyara Thandiwe - December 21, 2011 06:51 AM (GMT)
She nodded meekly, every part the refugee woman, grateful for scraps. "It was his last wish to be buried like a true Escovan. Bless you for your generosity towards him," she said, clutching her entwined hands to her chest.
Khizer Qadre - December 21, 2011 07:06 AM (GMT)
“And he will,” the Priest promised.
A hand was extended to touch her forehead: a blessing. With that done, he turned and marched into the preparation chambers.
The servants laid the body out on a slab of marble and departed into the heart of the temple, leaving the priest to pray over the corpse for just under a hour. Prayers were recited: canticles and words of scripture. The Lords of Escova were implored. Have mercy on this wayward soul. All men only sin against themselves. He did not know better...
The priest emerged sometime later, the golden thread now tied unknowingly around his wrist. If he noticed its presence, he did not say.
He found her then, his mouth turned in a reassuring smile that only the clergy could pull off.
“I have prayed for his soul. You may go to his side now, if you wish...”
Manyara Thandiwe - December 21, 2011 07:07 AM (GMT)
The waiting was terrible.
Eventually, though, the priest returned to the hall. Immediately, she noticed the golden thread, but she did not comment on it. Instead, she merely bowed her head meekly, heading into the room where her deceased non-husband was to be.
Khizer Qadre - December 21, 2011 07:08 AM (GMT)
He was sitting cross-legged when she arrived, a smile on his lips.
Manyara Thandiwe - December 21, 2011 07:09 AM (GMT)
She had thought he'd be "dead" for a little while longer, and was shocked to find him awake. "What does that gold thing do, then?" she wondered.
Khizer Qadre - December 21, 2011 07:12 AM (GMT)
Manyara Thandiwe - December 21, 2011 07:13 AM (GMT)
As all his strings seemed to do. "Why kill the priest?"
Khizer Qadre - December 21, 2011 07:14 AM (GMT)
Khizer shrugged again.
He patted his pockets, searching for something. When he couldn't find it, he felt a snarl tug his lips apart. They'd taken his Khar.
Manyara Thandiwe - December 21, 2011 07:15 AM (GMT)
She knew what he was looking for, and felt a sense of perverse satisfaction when she realized it was gone. "Come. Should we not be moving?"