Part 1: An elf and a catgirl named Trisha
"Time for the harvest." Rilliana muttered, pressing into the crowd that was just waiting to be robbed by her. The market was in full swing and the residents of Leon's Keep were far too busy watching the hustle and bustle of entertainers and vendors. A paradise for every pickpocket. Rilliana's skilled fingers sank into the first pocket of an unknowing man who was examining a gold chain. Easy money made, Rilliana thought, and slipped the purse into her pocket.
She disappeared into the crowd in a flash and could still hear the man cursing faintly, which was barely audible over the commotion of the market. She made her way to a stall selling sweet bread. Her stomach growled loudly as she caught the delicious warm smell.
"If it is not my favorite elf, you look half starved. Here take one." said baker Eric and threw her a bun, which was deformed and thus no longer suitable for sale.
"Thanks Eric I can use that right now."
Eric leaned over to whisper to her.
"But don't steal from my customers in return, okay?"
"What makes you think I would ever steal?" Rilliana asked with an innocent smile and feigned indignation.
"Come on, get out of here, you little day thief," he said with a laugh, while Rilliana winked at him and turned the corner.
As she passed under an archway she realized just in time that she had almost run into two guards. She decided not to press her luck and avoided them by using a nearby staircase that led up to the wall.
Normally the walls were closed to the common people, but on market days they were opened to provide more space. Here and there stalls were built on the wall, but they were rare and offered strange products. Nothing that interested Rilliana. She climbed over the battlements and dropped onto a nearby structure. The roof held up, but creaked ominously, and she carefully walked to the edge to let herself slide to the ground.
There was a loud bang as a window in the house opened to reveal a dwarf woman.
"Are you insane, you good-for-nothing?!" she shouted so that the whole marketplace could hear.
"Sorry!" shouted back Rilliana, without giving the dwarven woman a glance, and mingled with the people again.
She tried again to spot a wealthy target who wouldn't cry if he was missing a few coins, and sure enough, she spotted a fat man eating his fill.
He can probably afford a lot. Rilliana thought and snuck up on him. Despite a clumsy jostle she managed to get to the man who was busy eating half a pig.
Rilliana reached for a bulge in his pocket but was suddenly grabbed by the wrist and yanked around.
"Hey maggot, what do you think you're doing?"
A plainclothes guard lifted her a hand's length off the ground without much trouble.
"I … I just wanted to scare away an insect that settled on the fine man."
"You want to screw with me little one? I'll show you what we do with thieves!" said the guard, slamming Rilliana's hand on the table while drawing a dagger.
"Markus let go of her," said the fat man between two bites, "I don't want you to make a mess here. Besides, it would be a real shame if she's innocent. When you get a little older, come find me, I can take care of you, Harharhar!" He laughed out loud and the guard flung Rilliana into the dirt at his feet.
"Piss off before I change my mind, thief!"
Rilliana breathed a sigh of relief as she quickly stood up and looked for the distance.
That was a close call. She looked for a quiet corner to take a breath.
She pulled the first wallet out of her pocket and counted the coins. Among them was a small crest showing the emblem of Leon's Keep.
"That should probably be enough for a few days," she muttered and put the bag back. She had enough for today and didn't want to risk anymore. Rilliana joined the masses again and drifted towards home when she was jostled again. She sensed something was wrong. She quickly fumbled for the wallet and realized it was missing.
"Who dares to …" She hissed and turned around. Just in time she saw a feline shifter put the purse in her pocket and started to run.
"Not with me!" said Rilliana and set off in pursuit. She ran after the shifter, always careful not to lose sight of her target. A centaur pushed into her field of vision and prevented her from running further. Annoyed, she lunged and squeezed past him. Rilliana looked in the direction where she had last seen the shifter, but there was no sign of her. Rilliana felt her pulse skyrocket.
Instinctively she looked around and saw a platform from which she could have a better view. She ran to it and began to climb up.
Just in time she saw the long tail of the shifter disappear behind a corner into an alley.
Rilliana jumped down and landed among some crates and merchants who were haggling.
"Careful young lady we are standing here!" one of them shouted angrily.
"No time to be careful!" shouted Rilliana back and after a short sprint turned into the alley. She saw in front of her the shifter girl grinning from ear to ear. She had paws and a tail like a cat and dark yellow eyes. Her dark brown hair fell down her back, giving her otherwise human body a wild appearance. Just in time Rilliana spotted a tripwire which she jumped over at the last moment. Immediately the grin disappeared from the shifter's face, and she grabbed a whip hanging from her hip. Rilliana used her momentum from her jump and landed right in front of the shifter and rammed into her. Unfazed, the catgirl dodged and let Rilliana run into empty space. The shifter cracked her whip toward Rilliana. The weapon wrapped around her wrist and with a jerk Rilliana landed in the dirt again. Trembling with rage, Rilliana forced herself up and grabbed the whip to make it harder for the shifter to attack her with it.
"Give me back my money!" growled Rilliana, drawing her dagger.
"This really isn't your money, is it?" asked the cat, giggling.
Rilliana's eyes turned to slits.
"Come and get it sweetie," said the shifter and started grinning again.
Once again Rilliana leapt at her this time with her Dagger raised.
Quick as a flash, The Catgirl drew a dagger herself and blocked Rillianas blade.
"You have fire in you. I like that!" she said, swinging her dagger.
A small cut appeared on Rilliana's arm which immediately started bleeding.
"Whoops I'm sorry elf," the shifter said and licked her lips.
Rilliana had enough of her games and struck again. Once again, the shifter simply dodged her opponent.
"Are you even trying? I'm only asking because I have some other things to do."
The shifter pulled hard on her whip causing Rilliana to lose her balance again and stumble. Roughly, the elf crashed into the nearby wall of a house.
Suddenly Rilliana found herself between a stone and a hard place as the cat grabbed her arm and pushed her against the wall.
"You're a lucky elf. I like you for some reason. Tell me your name."
"Rilliana." The elf pressed out through clenched teeth.
"You have potential Rilliana, no question, but you let your anger get the best of you. Try to keep control next time. I'm going to let you go now, and I don't want you to move. Do you understand?" she asked in a playful voice.
"Mmh mmh!" was the only thing Rilliana said.
"I asked if you understood me?" the shifter asked again, painfully lifting Rilliana's arm.
"YES!" replied Rilliana.
The cat let go of Rilliana's hand and released the whip.
Rilliana's hand twitched.
"Ahah," said the shifter, and a claw drew dangerously close to her throat, "we don't want to make a mess, do we?"
Rilliana gritted her teeth.
"That's what I thought. Here I'll help you," said the cat, taking Rilliana's hands and stretching them out on the wall of the house.
"I'm going to leave now, and I want you to stand like this for a minute afterwards, got it?"
"Good girl," said The shifter, patting the back of her head, "Well then, goodbye."
She turned to go but barely took three steps before stopping. "I finally found you Trisha." said a cold male voice.
"Faluden? How did you …?" the shifter replied, and you could hear the panic in her voice.
"It's not exactly hard when you're racing a thief and then still taking your sweet time playing with her."
"You know me, I like to play with my food," Trisha said with feigned confidence, "You could help me if you find the time, by the way," she whispered to Rilliana. But Rilliana just chuckled and continued to stare at the wall.
"Men, grab her!" said Faluden, and Rilliana felt the ground tremble as his men closed in on them.
"Well, I won't get my money back, but at least the cat will get what she deserves," Rilliana thought, grinning to herself until her head was smashed against the wall, and she collapsed, unconscious.
Rilliana weakly opened her eyes. It was dark, but nothing her darkvision couldn't compensate for. She felt that her hands were tied behind her back and her legs were also bound together. Next to her, she felt hair. She turned around and saw the shifter also tied up lying next to her. She did not seem to be conscious yet.
Rilliana turned away and observed the surroundings while quietly working on her restraints. She was in a cage that the two girls filled almost completely. Otherwise, she saw only a few boxes stacked on top of each other. A door at the end of the hall promised freedom, light could be seen behind it.
"First of all, untie these ropes." Rilliana whispered, but they didn't give in, they even seemed to get tighter.
"Come on!" she said impatiently and accidentally bumped into the catgirl who jumped up.
"What the … Where are we?" she asked, looking around nervously.
"I thought you could tell me." replied Rilliana dryly, continuing to work on her restraints.
"Can you give me a hand here?" She asked impatiently as the shifter continued to look around.
"I'd love to, but my hands are tied."
Rilliana stopped. She just couldn't believe the shifter.
"Stop joking around and help me, will you?" she said irritably.
"I wasn't joking. Look." the shifter said, showing her hands that were enclosed in a tight leather mitten.
"Oh that makes it a little more complicated. Sorry …" said Rilliana embarrassed and went back to her own restraints which fortunately were not so extreme.
"Finally," said Rilliana with relief and slipped out of the rope around her wrists. She then undid the ropes around her ankles.
"Hey since you're at it can you untie my legs too?" the shifter asked hopefully.
Rilliana rolled her eyes but opened them.
"Who are these guys anyway?" Rilliana asked casually while fiddling with her necklace.
"Faluden. He's been a thorn in my flesh for some time. You could say he's part of the nobility of Leon's Keep, but he is more of an underworld boss. Our paths crossed recently, and he has wanted me on his team ever since. However, I didn't want to. I just can't stand this guy. And well last time I might have taken a few things and I guess he wants his stuff back now … Sorry you got involved by the way."
"Mhmmm." Rilliana listened with half an ear while she fumbled a metal pin out of her necklace with which she now tried to open the lock to the cage. "Nothing works today," Rilliana muttered as she continued to poke unsuccessfully at the lock.
"Hey, when you're done there, maybe you could take my emergency lockpick."
"Your what?" asked Rilliana, turning to the shifter.
"My emergency lock pick. It's hidden in the bottom of my shoe."
Rilliana examined her boots and sure enough, she saw something shiny in the sole of the shoe. She quickly had the lockpick removed and tried to pick the lock again. She made a turn and the lockpick cracked loudly.
"Girl, you are not having any luck today."
"I was lucky until I ran into you!"
"No shit. It went downhill when you tried to steal from Big Little John."
"How long have you been watching me?"
Rilliana shook her head and leaned back in the cage.
"So what now?" she asked, looking to the shifter.
"Wait, since our last way out is half on the ground and half in the padlock."
"Haha." said Rilliana dryly, pulling her legs close to her.
"What's your name anyway?" muttered Rilliana lost in thought.
"Trisha." Came back as if shot out of a gun.
"I would normally say that I'm pleased to make your acquaintance, but the current situation doesn't allow it," Rilliana said, closing her eyes as she leaned against the bars.
"No problem, I can understand … Hey Rilliana?" said Trisha.
"You owe me a lockpick."
Rilliana sat with Trisha in the small cage for what felt like hours, and after the initial layer of ice had melted, they talked about each other. Rilliana learned that Trisha had only recently arrived in Leon's Keep and had directly messed with the wrong people. Trisha tried to steal from Faluden, but she was caught and since then he made her life a living hell.
"What's so important that you wanted to steal from him?" asked Rilliana, frowning.
"An informant told me he had information about my parents' remaining. I just want certainty, you know?" she answered and fell silent.
Rilliana said nothing. She understood all too well. Her own parents had abandoned her when she was still a baby and since then she lived alone in Leon's Keep. First in an orphanage, then on the street, and not a day went by that she didn't think of her parents.
Trisha suddenly listened up.
"Someone's coming," she whispered, watching the door over Rilliana.
Shortly after, it opened, and several men came in.
"Someone's been busy here," said Faluden, examining the lock, which still had the broken lockpick in it.
"I'm sorry you got in the way, elf, but I'm always a little more thorough when it comes to my business."
He turned to Trisha.
"Let's get to you. I've been wondering for a long time why you wanted to rob me of all people until I finally discovered the answer today, and it's in here."
He pulled something out of his suit and waved a roll of parchment in front of Trisha's nose.
"And since this seems very important to you little cat I'd say we keep it in a safe place right?" he said, handing the scroll to one of his men. Trisha followed the scroll without blinking as if she was afraid it would vanish into thin air the next moment.
"Do it." said Faluden and his henchman let a flame arise in his hand that completely engulfed the parchment.
"You bastard!" said Trisha, pressing her face against the bars. Her neckhair was erect and if her hands were not still in the sack she would certainly have tried to scratch Faluden's face.
"Don't worry kitten, I have memorized all of it, and you know my price."
"Never, will I work for scum like you!"
"Well, what a shame, I guess I can't use you either, if your opinion of me is so solidified."
He turned to leave. Only one man stayed behind and lit a few of the boxes that were in the warehouse.
"My ladies," he said, grinning stupidly. After that he turned around and ran towards the exit. The door was closed and Rilliana heard a bolt being put in front of it.
"That's it then …" said Rilliana and slumped down while around her the flames grew bigger and bigger.
"Not quite yet." said Trisha, trying to kneel down.
"What are you doing?" asked Rilliana.
"I didn't really want to do this, but I guess we have no choice. Do you see my foot claws? I want you to pull one out for me."
"Don't ask silly questions and do it, we don't have much time."
"By the gods how did I get into this!" Rilliana cursed and carefully picked up a claw.
"Careful. You don't want to cut yourself." Murmured Trisha, preparing herself.
"All or nothing." replied Rilliana and pulled.
"FUCKING SHIT!" roared Trisha and a Bloody Claw was in Rilliana's hand. "What now?" she asked in horror.
Trisha gasped in pain.
"Cut … Cut the bag then I can try to squeeze through the bars."
Immediately Rilliana did as she was told.
"Finally … that was starting to hurt," said Trisha, circling her arms to get feeling back into them.
"Are you sure you can get through that?" asked Rilliana incredulously.
"Just one way to find out, right?" the cat replied, pushing against the bars again, but this time more thoughtfully and with the help of her hands.
Rilliana was amazed when Trisha's head slipped between the bars.
"So far so good." said Trisha and pressed on until her whole body was through.
"Why didn't we do this right away?" asked Rilliana, looking up at Trisha who was patting the dust off her clothes and gasping for breath.
"Because this," she said, pointing to her back paw, "hurts like hell, and I'll be feeling it for weeks."
"Sorry," said Rilliana, lowering her head so as not to show her blushing.
"It's all right. Wait a minute I'll get you out of this right now."
Rilliana watched as Trisha limped behind a corner, and she heard her pick something up from the floor.
"I'll get you out with this!" said Trisha, brightly, and applied a crowbar to the lock.
It cracked loudly, and the lock broke.
"Come on now, let's get out of here before we breathe in too much of that smoke!" she said to Rilliana.
The two girls tried to open the door, but a latch blocked their way.
"What now?" asked Trisha, looking around the burning hall.
"Maybe we can lever the bolt away with a crowbar?" pondered Rilliana aloud.
"Let's try it."
They applied the crowbar and pressed. Immediately the bar popped away and the door opened. Not a moment too late, the next instant a burning beam came crashing down behind them.
"That was close," they both muttered at the same time, grinning at each other.
"Do you have a hiding place nearby?" asked Rilliana.
"On the other side of town." replied Trisha dryly, surveying the sea and the harbor.
"Then come let's go to one of mine."
"One?" asked Trisha in surprise, leaning against Rilliana as she limped along beside her, her face contorted in pain.
"Hold still I need to tend to your paw!" said Rilliana as she tried to wash the wound with strong alcohol.
Bravely, Trisha held still but bit her lower lip.
"Over in a minute." said Rilliana, wrapping a bandage around the paw.
"How many hiding places do you have in Leon's Keep?" asked Trisha, trying to distract herself somehow.
"Four. No five if I count the shared hiding place from the other Orphans." Answered Rilliana, knotting the bandage with a small bow.
"There, that should do for now."
"Thanks." murmured Trisha, leaning back.
"You're welcome." Replied Rilliana, smiling at her.
"You probably shouldn't be walking around in your condition. You can stay here overnight until you're better."
"I can't accept that. How am I ever going to repay you?" asked Trisha, trying to stand up.
"Stay down!" ordered Rilliana, pushing her back into the straw mat with one hand and propping herself up on the floor with the other.
Trisha knocked the supporting hand aside and both ran red as Rilliana fell on top of her.
"You'll figure out a way," Rilliana said gently.
"I can think of one thing right away." said Trisha, closing her eyes and pursing her lips. Rilliana did the same and closed the distance between them.