Updated: Dec 26, 2020
Joon looked at him for a long time, taking in his rough boyish face, his expressions, his body language(which was nervous, but transparently reticent), and his naïveté. She couldn’t believe for a long time that this boy would be sent to do what he was sent to do. Somebody must have fucked-up. That, or they were willing to have him killed in the name of the cause.
“Do you know who that old man was?” she asked.
“I—uh, I—hmm... no. I don’t know him,” said Moonsun. “Should I?”
Joon smiled at his honest offering. “You should know a lot of things you apparently don’t.”
“I’m... well, I’m not such a simpleton as you might think,” said the boy.
“Yes you are,” she said.
Moonsun took his belongings from the center of the table, and put them back in his pockets. “Thank you for these,” he said. He bowed as was the custom in his family, his city.
“He will come back with reinforcements now, you know. They’ll be young soldiers in the cause with no feelings about how wrong revenge might be. They’ll have no qualms about killing the both of us in some dark alley,” she said.
“Killing! Who said anything about killing?”
She shushed him. “Keep your voice down. There are ears everywhere.”
Moonsun lowered his voice. “Look, I—uh, I mean, I was just down here looking for you. I didn’t mean for any of this—.”
“You didn’t mean for any of this and yet this is what happened. If you think intentions are going to keep you from trouble, you’re not living in the real world.”
“You what? You thought you’d just stroll into this city and what?”
Moonsun stood up. “I was taken by you at the wagon. I continue to be taken with you now. I came down here against my better judgement because I was hoping to see or run into you. It almost cost me a heavy price, and may yet have jeopardized my job. I’m not regretting what I’ve done, but I’m not a child, and refuse to be treated—“
Her eyes darted to the roundway behind them. Moonsun quickly sat down in response. “Do you have a room here?” she asked.
“Yes,” he said.
“Don’t make a commotion, and don’t draw attention, but make your way there as though you own this place. Stand up straight, shoulders back and casually go to your room,” she said. “And no matter what I do, don’t be alarmed—just play along.”
“Just do it,” she said.
Moonsun stood up, adjusted his sword, and dropped a coin on the table as a tip.
“Good,” said Joon. “Now go.”
He strode across the lounge, looking left and right as though he would smack the first man that stepped out of line. Joon grabbed his arm and hung on him. She started singing a song, out of tune as though she were drunk. He could tell she could really sing but wasn’t. When they made it to the stairs there was an oaf standing to one side. She wobbled over to him shouting nonsense, in a language Moonsun had never heard, and planted a big wet kiss on his cheek, before returning to Parks’ arm. “Goodnight everyone!” She shouted. “It’s been lovely to see you all again! We’ll be back tomorrow for more fun!”
They ascended the stairs and Joon kept watch for followers. When they reached the top of the stairs, she dropped the act and they hurried into Parks’ room, closing and barring the door.
“We’ll be safe here for a while,” she said. “But we cant stay long. The oaf at the stairs is an ally, but even he has to sleep sometime. We can sleep in shifts. I’ll tell you when it’s time to go.”
Moonsun was in shock. He didn’t understand what was happening. He walked in circles around the room, trying to figure it out. Was he in actual danger? Was there some deeper plot here he was missing? This kind of thing never happened before. How was this possible? Joon stood at the window, watching. Moonsun thought in circles. He wondered if even this, even Joon was part of some plot against him, but each time he thought that he looked at her and couldn’t believe it. He watched her let her hair down, shake it out, and tie it back into a knot on top of her head.
On the back of the door was a woman’s camisole with a pair of soft breeches. Fucking Lalafells! How did they—?” Moonsun unhooked them and laid them across the writing desk. “These are for you, I presume,” he said. “I’m not going to sleep tonight, so if you want to clean up, you can. I’ve still got a job to do here, but once that’s finished we can go.”
Joon looked at the outfit and smiled. It was pretty, but modest. The Lalafells... she looked into the washroom, relaxing a little now. “You have a room with a tub?” she said. “How did you—?”
“Don’t all rooms have tubs?” he said.
“No, they don’t.”
“Well, if you want to... I’ll just... I mean, I won’t look. We can place one of these rugs over the doorway and you can have your privacy. I assure you I’m a gentleman. I wouldn’t...”
Joon eyed the washroom. It had been weeks since she’d had a proper bath. Bathing in a stream with a bucket had its romantic charms, but it didn’t replace a real hot tub. She looked at Moonsun again, reading him. His crooked nose, his serious face, his determination in the face of a small crisis. Oh, he could lie when things were mundane, but when the shit hit the fan he was all game.
“You stand at the window and watch the street,” she said. “If I hear one footstep in this direction I’ll—
“What am I looking for?” he asked.
“Anything that doesn’t look right,” she said.
Moonsun looked down at the street. There were lots of people dropping in out of the aether. There were groups of children still out playing—in his homeland this would have been unheard of at this hour. Didn’t these children have parents?
He heard the tub filling and stiffened. He was on guard duty now. But he listened as she dropped her clothes on the floor, trying not to imagine what that looked like. He heard her groan as she sank into the tub. “You’re still looking out the window, right?” she called from the washroom.
“Absolutely,” he said. “You can trust me.”
He noticed, that at a certain angle, the reflection in the window beamed across to the dressing table mirror, and he could just see Joon’s feet, propped up on the end of the tub. He looked for a second, felt guilty, and switched sides so all he could see was the front door. A gentleman never took advantage of a woman in her time of need. His father taught him that. They had never been what one might call a rich family, but they did well in their small community, and his father and mother did their best to raise good boys. It hadn’t worked on his brothers, but Moonsun thought of himself as someone who did the right thing in this world.
Joon soaked for a long time. Eventually Moonsun heard the tub draining. He watched the street more closely now, but saw nothing out of the ordinary. He heard her shuffling around in the washroom, and humming something he recognized. When she had dressed she came out and said: “well? See anything?”
Moonsun blushed, “no, no, I swear I didn’t look, I—“
“I don’t mean that,” she said. “Out the window dummy.”
Moonsun was still red faced. “No, I—“
Joon looked beautiful in her gray camisole and pants. She’d put her belt and rings back on and was clicking the gold a silver against the brass buckle at her waist. “I’m going to call you Mooney from now on,” she said.
“Mooney? What has that to do—“
“It rhymes with looney, and I like it,” she said.
“Fine,” he said. “But what happens next? You have to tell me what’s going on. Who was that old guy and why would someone come after me—us?”
“His name is Mylar, and he’s a fairly low level thug around here, and a thief. Do you know how this town runs? No? Of course you don’t,” she said. She toweled her hair and shook it out. “He’s like a sergeant. He has a group of loyal underlings who do his bidding—for a price. This whole place is a criminal syndicate with a thin veneer of respectability, laid over the top. They keep it all going because there’s money in respectability, but it’s a racket from top to bottom.”
“Yes, but what does that have to do with me?” he asked.
“You were just an easy target, easy pickings, a free lunch. That is, until I intervened.”
“I upped the ante. I’m sorry, but I couldn’t watch them do that to you.”
Moonsun shifted his spot at the window. There was a commotion on the street. Several men—rough looking men—were chasing some of the people and children back into their homes and shops. They were laughing, but looking around like they wanted something. “When you said ‘something unusual’ did you mean this?” he said, pointing. Joon came to the window. She smiled and looked relieved. “They got my signal,” she said. “By the twelve it took them long enough.”
“Took them—? What are you talking about?
“Those are my men. They’re here to extract us. We’re safe now.”
“Extract us? I can’t go anywhere until I receive instructions from my father. I’m here to deliver something and probably bring something back home.”
“The thing under the bed, right?” she said.
“But—how did you know that?” Moonsun felt foolish. How did she know anything about him?
“Come on Mooney. I wasn’t born yesterday. Do you have any idea what you are delivering?”
“It’s not my job to know, and I don’t care,” he said. He folded his arms over his chest and pursed his lips.
“Relax, I don’t know what it is either, and I don’t care. But you’ve got to learn how to hide stuff better if you’re going to make it in this town. We’ll take it with us and I’ll find a way to get your job done, but it’s not safe here now. I’ve put you in jeopardy. I’m sorry for that but I’ll make it up to you. I promise. “
Joon took a small pointed object from her belt. When she pressed a button on the back of the device a point of light hit each of the men in the street below. They saw the light dancing on each other’s tunics and looked up for the source. They nodded in unison, and disappeared.
“Load up,” she said. “We’re busting out of here.”
They gathered their belongings, Moonsun putting the box in a shoulder pack and moved to the door. There was a knock, followed by a whistle, and Joon opened the door and slipped out. Moonsun followed, unsure, but willing to believe he was still doing the right thing.
The men were three in number and formed a triangle around the two, leading them quietly down the hallways, looking this way and that, the whole time. They made their way down the stairs, and the men gave them both cloaks with hoods they could pull over their heads. They scooted through the lobby, around the roundway, and out the large wooden doors, down the stairs and into the street. “Stay sharp men,” said Joon. “This is where the danger is.” They walked briskly, but quietly. Just outside the gate to Central Thanalan came the attack. Two men, both in tunics with hoods and face coverings jumped out of an alley. The largest of Joon’s men took the first one, dispatching him quickly, snapping his neck with a move Moonsun barely saw. The other drew o long dagger from his breast, and Moonsun zeroed in on him, punching him with a solid right fist in the nose. The man folded like a marmot, and fell back on his ass, stunned, out of the fight.
In a clearing waited a large flying whale. The quintet boarded and swam away with large flaps of the whales’ fins. Joon told Moon they had a safe house, not far. They could hold up until the heat was off. She’d make a plan. It all sounded so adventurous. Moonsun liked that.
The whale landed at what looked like a hermits’ hut, tucked between a forty foot ridge of red rock, and an equally towering, overgrown, Cedar. They all jumped off, and the behemoth disappeared back into the aether from whence he’d come.
“Jael, Kruck, you two make sure we weren’t followed,” said Joon, dispatching the two smaller men. “Circle back and watch closely. These bastards can be tricky.”
Moonsun asked if she thought they’d been followed. “Relax Mooney, it’s just a precaution. You can’t be too careful here.”
“I’m not afraid,” he said.
Joon called out to her last man, a giant of a being with huge arms like tree trunks. “Hey Cookie, see if you can round us up some fire wood,” she said.
Moonsun watched her open the shack and make sure nothing was inside waiting for them, clearing the room like a soldier. Peering in the door it looked clean and utilitarian. There were two sets of double bunks, a stove, a hearth, and some chests which looked like they doubled as seating. “What do you want me to do?” He asked. She was rifling through the chests looking for something.
“Just stay close for now. I got you into this and I’ll get you out, but I don’t need you attracting attention,” she said.
“So, I’m a liability?” he said.
She turned to face him. “You’re a responsibility,” she said. “I got you into this.”
“Regardless of how it happened, I’m into this, and from here I have to help get myself, and you, out of it. I can fight, and I can run,” he said. “What more is there to it? My father has me on a mission, and it may yet get done, but if it doesn’t, I’m not sure I’ll care.”
She softened towards him. He saw her drop her guard for a moment. She dropped her head and for just a second she was delicate, vulnerable. “I know Park, I know,” she said.
The two scouts came back and reported no followers. They seemed safe there for now. Cookie returned with fire wood and while he was building a fire he said: “so Joon where’d you pick up the pup?” His voice was so deep you could feel it in your chest when he spoke, and his skin so deeply red it seemed black at night.
Moonsun winced at the thought. “You can mind your own business Cookie, and do your job—it’s what you get paid for,” she said.
Moonsun tried to look busy. He checked his belongings, stood by the front door, looking out through the cracks, and made gestures like he knew what was going on. But the truth was he was at a crossroads. He could sense the seriousness of the situation and would soon have to tip-toe across the river or dive in and let it take him. He had never failed his father. He knew that would be a big blow. His brothers would laugh and slap each other and tell their father they told him so. He would be the baby of the family again.
Four took bunks, and the fifth, Jael took first watch. He was to wake the others at the first sign of danger. A two hour shift, and then he was to wake his brother and sleep himself, and so on, and so on. Moonsun volunteered for a turn, but the group shot his offer down. “Just sleep kid,” said Cookie. “Get a good nights rest. You’ll need it tomorrow.”
He dreamed of a target buried deep in a forest and a crooked bow, and a crooked arrow. No matter how carefully he aimed, pulled the string back, he missed.
Kruck burst into the cabin, breathing heavy and frantic. “They’re coming! Brass Blades! Dozens of them!”
The crew sprang from their beds and readied themselves, but it was too late. The flaming arrows hit their mark, the voices surrounded them in the thick black smoke, and it was pile out into the hands of the authorities or face certain death. Moonsun, choking in the dank smoke-filled air, looked around for Joon as a Brass Blade hit him hard on the back of the head, and he fell face down into the cold dirt.