Saturday, February 18, 2006
First of all: BurningDeamon has to leave us for a bit, so everyone drop by her site and wish her well!
And, as promised... chapter two of my novel-in-progress! (If you didn't read chapter one and you'd like to, just scroll down a bit. ^_^) Hope you guys enjoy!
WARNINGS: Other than mild language, nothing much.
"What's going on?" Lily demanded as she warily eyed the stranger. Tobias smiled at her, and she shrank further behind her brother.
"Ahhh, and you must be Miss Lily!" Tobias exclaimed as he extended his hand towards her. "You're even lovelier up close!"
Ignoring him, Lily turned to Aidan. "Who is this?" she questioned.
"It's fine, Lily," Aidan muttered, moving himself between her and Tobias. "Mr. Locke here was going to offer me a job."
"And naturally, I wanted you present, as well," Tobias said, withdrawing his hand and running it through his hair. "Aidan here needs your approval, after all!"
Lily paused as she looked Tobias up and down, frowning, and then nodded quickly. Aidan gave her a small smile and patted her shoulder. "It's just for a few minutes, I promise."
"So we're all in agreement, then?" Tobias gestured for the siblings to follow him. "The rest of my crew are aaallllll the way over there!" He laughed. "They're just so shy sometimes!"
The three of them walked about a mile away from where the other refugees were clumped together, slowly leaving the glow of the flames behind. As they approached an abandoned building, Aidan could see a small bonfire with four people huddled around it, and hear little snippets of conversation.
"—well, it's not like there'd be any left for him to go to," a woman's voice said thoughtfully. "But some of the people here might strike his fancy—"
"C'mon, Theo, he's not that bad," chimed a boy's voice. "I mean, he can be like that sometimes, but in a situation like this, Tobias knows that—"
"I know what?" Tobias smiled as they approached the small group.
"N-Nothing!" the boy stammered, turning a shade of red that matched his thick hair. "Theo was just sayin' stuff, like that you were…" He trailed off as his eyes fell on Aidan and Lily, and his mouth fell open. "Oh…"
A tall man with graying hair and a silver crucifix frowned. "Tobias…" he warned, and then turned to Lily. "Miss, is this man bothering you?"
The small, olive-skinned woman grinned at Aidan. "Oh, Tobias, is that one for me? How thoughtful!" She seemed pleased as Aidan flushed, and the slender, dark-haired man sitting next to her looked at her sharply. "Okay, okay, sorry… they new clients or something, Tobias?"
"Not quite!" Tobias responded, sitting down and motioning for the siblings to do the same. "Hmm… well, I guess I should introduce everyone first, shouldn't I? Everyone, this is Aidan and Lily Connors! They're siblings," he purred, leaning forward. "And, Aidan and Lily? This is Anton Croft."
The slender, dark-haired man inclined his head with a cold politeness, but said nothing to either of them. Tobias moved on. "And that's Theodora Croft!" He gestured to the olive-skinned woman, and then to Anton. "They're married, but they're not siblings."
"I should hope not," muttered the gray-haired man.
Unfazed, Theodora waved cheerfully at them. "Yo! 's a pleasure! You're welcome to call me Theo, though."
Tobias pointed next to the red-haired boy. "This is Loki Tomren." He turned to Lily with a sly smile. "Cute, isn't he?"
"T-Tobias!" If possible, the boy flushed even redder. "I-I'm sorry, Miss," he stammered, addressing the ground rather than Lily.
Tobias didn't seem to notice Loki's embarrassment. "And lastly, that's Silas Bristow. He's our spiritual advisor!"
"Far from it." The gray-haired man sighed heavily, but smiled at Aidan and Lily. "Sorry about your home, kids."
"Yeah." Theo shook her head. "Although it could've been worse… looks like a lot of people got out. What happened, anyway?" Her quizzical look rested on Aidan.
Caught off guard, Aidan couldn't think of how to respond for a moment. "It's obvious, isn't it? Some lunatics set fire to the place."
"We know that," Loki prodded. "Who was it?"
"There's been non-stop rioting in the Inner Districts for a few days, now." Aidan's tone became clipped with annoyance. "It just finally escalated beyond picketing, is all."
"Picketing what?" Tobias asked.
Aidan paused. "…just the troubles again," he said with a shrug. "I hadn't given much thought to it."
Theo's face fell. "Aww… well, we'll find out for ourselves soon enough, I guess!"
"Ahh, that's right!" Tobias beamed. "Loki, have you found a way in yet?"
"Yep!" Loki crossed his arms, puffing out his skinny chest. "Took me forever, but there's a spot they left unguarded by the South Entrance, should be easy for us to get in."
"You're still crazy for even thinking this, Tobias," Silas said with a slight smile that didn't match his words. "You know how dangerous this is?"
"Maybe so," Tobias said, grinning, "but as a very wise man whose name I forget said, the ends justify the means! And… oh, that's right!" He gestured grandly to Aidan. "Boys and girl, Aidan's agreed to be our medic!"
"Hey!" Aidan frantically looked at Tobias. "I told you, I haven't decided on anything yet—"
"We don’t need him," Anton interrupted. All six pairs of eyes turned towards him, showing various degrees of surprise. Anton shrugged. "Theo's just fine at it."
"Anton…" Theo fidgeted. "You know it was only temporary. Besides, I'm much better at making people bleed than patching 'em up-"
"Making people bleed?" Aidan echoed.
"Hey, it's not like I do it for kicks or anything… I mean… Tobias explained to you what the job was, right?" At Aidan's blank expression, Theo bit her lip to hold back a smile. "…he didn't, did he."
"…no, he didn't." Aidan turned to Tobias. "But I believe he owes me an explanation now."
The grin slid off Tobias' face a bit. "Well… you see… we're frequently employed by... certain... businesses who need some kind of service done that they can't do themselves! And we carry out that service, in exchange for a small fee!"
"…oh God," Aidan moaned, putting a hand to his forehead. "You're not a private practice! You're all mercenaries!"
"Now now, don't go throwing around words," Tobias chided.
"Yeah," Theo assured, "we're absolutely dedicated to helping our clients!"
"We're just also very broke," Loki added.
Silas, on the other hand, nodded. "Mercenaries… yeah, that sums it up nicely."
"Just slow down, here," Tobias soothed. "This is a perfectly legitimate business we run here! In fact, we've been hired to assist your fine law enforcement officials in cleaning up the city tomorrow!"
"If you were hired," Aidan began, "then why were you talking about breaking in?"
"We haven't been hired yet," said Tobias with a shrug. "But once we make their jobs easier, I'm sure they'll be grateful enough to pay us!"
"Come on, Lily, we're leaving." Aidan took Lily by the arm and stood up. "Thank you for your offer, Mr. Locke, but we're not interested."
"Really?" Lily's question was so soft that Aidan wasn't sure he'd heard it at first. "Are you really not interested?"
"Sweetheart, now isn't the time for this." Aidan pulled her away from the group. "Let's go back now, okay?"
"Will you wait for him?" Lily addressed Tobias now. "Tomorrow, before you go in… you'll wait for him, right?"
"…tell you what." Tobias smiled warmly at her. "We leave at 8:00 tomorrow. If your brother changes his mind, you can meet us at the South Entrance?"
Before Lily could respond, Aidan tugged her arm harder, dragging her away from the bonfire and back towards the crowd.
"Why did you say something like that?" sighed Aidan, wrapping his leather jacket tightly around his shoulders.
"You were going to change your mind anyway," Lily said as she played with a strand of her hair.
"What, are you psychic now?" Aidan snapped.
"No… just know you want to do something, is all."
"There's plenty of other jobs to be had." Aidan shrugged. "I don't need to stoop to that level."
"There's not." Lily looked at their surroundings. "You can tell by the way everyone's just sitting around. There's nothing productive to do here." She looked back to her brother, pausing before she continued. "You don't have to be productive, either."
Aidan laughed mirthlessly. "That would be nice, wouldn't it?"
Lily studied the ground for a long moment before she spoke again. "…if you go into the city tomorrow, can you take me?"
"Neither of us are going in there," Aidan said. "If I do say yes, which I haven't yet, we're going to wait for them by the gate." He put an arm around her shoulders. "You don't really want to go back there again, do you?"
"Well… that depends," she replied, fingers twisting in her hair. "I left some things there… in the marble house."
Aidan tensed. "…Lily, you don't have to worry about the marble house anymore." He smiled reassuringly. "You never even have to look at it again."
To his own surprise as much as anyone else's, Aidan found himself standing at the South Entrance the next morning.
"Everybody here? Great!" Tobias clapped his hands. "We can cover the most ground if we split up into small groups… although it looks like we have an uneven number." He pouted. "I guess Anton and Theo can go that way," he pointed left, "Silas can go that way," he pointed right, "and Aidan and I go that way!" He pointed dead center, looking pleased with himself.
"Wait, who said I was going in?" Aidan scowled.
"We have to go get you supplies from Wittenberg, right?" Tobias said loftily. "What good is a medic without the medical things?"
"Tobias?" Loki asked. "You forgot to give me my job."
"My boy, you have the most important job yet!" Tobias clapped him on the shoulder. "You're going to stay here with Miss Lily and Blue Heaven!" He gestured to the girl, and the rusted powder-blue van parked a few feet away.
"I'm not leaving Lily alone with him," Aidan said quickly.
"Hey, hey, she'll be perfectly safe with me!" Loki growled.
"How am I supposed to know that?" Aidan shook his head. "No, I'm staying here."
With a sigh, Tobias pulled something out of his coat pocket and handed it to Lily. "All right, dear, point the red end away from you and push that button?" Slowly, she did, and jumped as a blade popped out. "There," Tobias sighed. "She's armed. Better now?"
"…fine." Aidan glared daggers at Loki. "But if you let anything happen to my sister-"
"Now now, Aidan!" Tobias shouted. "Death threats create a negative atmosphere!"
"We're wasting time." Anton gave the group a contemptuous glance. "I'd like to get this done sometime today."
"He's right, of course!" Tobias grabbed Aidan's arm and dragged him towards the entrance. "Remember, everyone, never say die, unless you're really serious about it!"
As the group departed, Loki flopped onto Blue Heaven's driver's seat halfheartedly. "Well, looks like we're gonna be here a while, Miss Lily, so—"
"Is this your job?" Lily asked. "Babysitting the car?"
Loki frowned at her. "I've been on plenty of jobs with them before… 'm only here now because Tobias needs someone capable to protect you!"
"Then surely someone as capable as you could take me somewhere." Lily climbed into the passenger seat of the van.
"Oi, oi, you heard what your brother said." Loki grimaced. "If he finds out we left this spot—"
"You could probably take him," she intoned.
Loki's laugh came in a nervous burst. "You're crazier than I thought, girl." He pulled the keys out of his pocket. "All right, where to?"
Lily gave him a small smile. "We're going to the marble house."
Comments? Questions? Kicks in the head? All quite welcome. <3