Hunting the Hunter Ch. 04

byEnithermon©

She fluttered her lashes over her shoulder. "Oooh, promise."

"Yeah, I'll cut it out and nail it to my desk for safe keeping. Now get a move on woman." He nodded to Feric and strode out the door after the Orc. Ina smiled at him. "Is Gro-ba ever gonna get it. Modryn swears like a sailor, but he has very particular ideas about proper behaviour. He almost cut my feet of for putting them on his desk once."

He smiled back, not doubting her words. "How did you talk him out of it?"

"I didn't. I'm lucky I can run so fast." She shuddered dramatically. She led him up a couple of flights and into a large office, plopping into the chair and waving him into the one next to her. "I think he likes you though, so that'll help."

He gave her a disbelieving look. "He said I'd last hour or two, that's hardly encouraging."

"Trust me...that's high praise. He told me he could break me over his big toe when I first met him."

"You're sure this is a good idea?"

She rolled her head back and toward him. "Oh yeah. At least...I'm pretty sure."

Ah, brother.

"If it's not you do know that Mirisa will kill us both? Or rather she'll kill me after I kill you." She saluted. "Aye aye boss man." She swung her legs up onto the desk in front of her and crossed her ankles. Feric rolled his eyes and leaned forward, pushed her legs off the furniture.

"Hey!"

He gave her a low growl. "I don't particularly feel like going for a run, thanks. So keep your feet on the floor or I'll hold you down while he removes them." She gaped at him like he'd just turned pink and grown gills.

"Sounds like he's not a total idiot. Funny he's working with you, Ashlander." Feric smirked at her. She may not have noticed him sneaking up the stairs, but he did. Her eyes widened then narrowed slightly glittering with sudden awareness, as though she was coming to the sudden realization that two can play at that game. If she wasn't...she should be. She turned her lopsided grin on Modryn.

"Yeah, but I'm not looking for work, and neither is he."

Modryn dropped into the big chair behind the desk with a heavy sigh and the noisy clank of armour. Interesting how he had been so quiet coming up the stairs. Full of surprises these Dunmer. He suspected that like Ina, there was far more to this mer than met the eye.

"Then what are you bugging me for, I've got a ton of jobs and not enough people. We're still dealing with the fallout from all that Blackwood nonsense. First they steal all our jobs, then all our people, and to top it off they go and get themselves blown up by junior. He could have left some of them alive, enough to come crawling back and up our body count at least."

"He's working out of Leyawin these days right?"

"Yep. And I'm stuck up here doing all the work. Fetcher."

"I'm sure he'd disagree. " She grinned again and he shrugged then leaned down and pulled a bottle out from one of the desk drawers along with three absolutely miniature glasses. He filled them and passed them out as he talked.

"I bet he would, the lunkhead. Not as bad as his brothers mind, but a lunkhead Nord regardless."

"I thought they were half Nords?"

"Whatever. The other half is imperial, just as bad." He glanced at Feric and took a tiny sip from his glass. "No offense."

"None taken." Feric took an equally small sip from his own glass. He was glad he did. It burned like hell going down. He looked down at it. It was mostly clear with an unwholesome greenish tinge.

Modryn raised his glass. "Good eh? Aged Greef, spiked with black anther." Feric glanced at Ina and she shrugged.

"It's a Vardenfell thing, very popular with those crazy Redoran kids. But hey, whatever doesn't kill you...doesn't kill you." She saluted them both with her glass and tipped it back.

They carried on with a good deal of guild gossip for a few minutes and Feric took a moment to look around. The office was actually quite nice, everything seemed clean and well organized, the furniture was heavy but ornate, and the walls were covered with elaborate hangings, unsurprisingly with primarily combat related imagery. Over all it was an unexpectedly pleasant space, not something one would expect from people who fight for a living. The two of them stopped chatting and placed their empty glasses on the table. Feric dutifully killed his as well and waited with his hands folded in his lap, wondering, and not for the first time, why it was he was letting Ina drag him along. He was beginning to share Mirisa's concern that he really wasn't thinking straight after all. He watched her, wondering if the pull of mating hadn't finally gotten to him and over rode all of his better sense. He knew he wanted her, that was painfully clear, and her perpetual nearness over the last couple of days had only exacerbated that fact, turning uncomfortable urges into excruciating ones. More than once today he'd been forced to tear his eyes from hers, from her mouth, the line of her neck, or the curve of her hips. Even her slender, agile hands drew his admiration. He literally had to force himself to look for faults just to keep himself from pulling her behind the nearest tree or building and having his wicked way with her. The worst part was the knowledge that she'd be more than happy to try turning wicked into something closer to downright depraved. That little bit of information did nothing for his self control. To say the least.

He swallowed and cracked his neck, attempting and failing to change the course of his thoughts by trying to find the conversation interesting. It really didn't help.

Modryn lifted a hand and muttered something inaudible. Feric couldn't tell what he did, but the air changed somehow, felt thicker, quieter. A heavy silence.

"Ok. Enough small talk. What's all this about. This might be a social call, but I know you like mixing business with pleasure, so get on with it."

Ina smiled and tilted her head back, as though she were listening to some distant sound. Feric frowned. He could hear nothing, which was disconcerting in itself since he could usually hear a good deal more than most. She nodded, satisfied, and cleared her throat.

"You want the song and dance, or can I count on you to say yes no matter what?"

"Neither, but I lean towards the latter." She nodded again.

"In that case, Feric is part of a rare race of shape shifters who are being killed off by some unknown faction, for unknonwn reasons, and they need friends, badly. So I'm going around giving them my friends." If he'd still been drinking he would have spit it out. He had expected a lot of things to come out of her mouth, but the naked truth hadn't been one of them. Modryn seemed unaffected.

"Why, what's in it for you?"

"My good deed for the day." They both stared at her. Modryn with suspicion, Feric in shock. She turned to Feric first. She didn't say anything, but the look in her eyes was unmistakable, he could practically hear the unspoken words rattling around in his brain. 'trust me.'

Could he? Or better yet, should he? He knew what he wanted to do, but he wasn't so sure he could trust that anymore. Everyone who knew her seemed to look at her a little askance, if indulgently, why should he be any different?

Inanna could see that Feric was not thrilled that she'd just outted him. For a moment she regretted not giving him more time to get to know Modryn, but then, an instant later, she remembered that they didn't have any freaking time. She knew this Dunmer, better than most, and she knew that Modryn was a sure thing, and she'd stake her life on it. Feric was just going to have to trust her and deal. She hoped for his sake, and for hers, that he could. Modryn was still looking at her like she was going to rob him blind...which was really annoying 'cause it sure as hell wasn't going to earn her any points with Feric. Was he trying to mess up her game here? He probably just didn't give a damn.

She sighed and leaned forward, her elbows on her knees. "Look, I do have my reasons, and no I'm not trying to screw you over, and yes there might be a something in it for you, including a good fight and possibly good recruits, and yes...I will owe you one, personally...maybe two. Are we good? Are you in?"

He leaned back. "Two?"

"Maybe."

He grinned. "Yeah, alright, let's hear it. What do you need Ashlander?"

"Nothing yet, a safe house maybe, just in case. Maybe back up in the future. It'll all be short notice since we're figuring it out as we go along." She licked her lips and considered how much she should fill him in on. He was a tough nut, and Dunmer to the core, he always knew when she was screwing with him, or when she was holding back. He was one of the few who hadn't been soften by easy living in the lap of the empire. "I'm currently in the process of hunting down the culprit, and I don't intend to stop until they're eliminated." She shrugged and leaned back, crossing her arms. "We'll see how that pans out and go from there I guess. I'm also asking you not to take them up on any job offers..."

"I see."

"So?"

"Two favours."

"Fine...jerk."

"Done." He leaned forward and they shook hands, a single solid pump.

She beamed at him. "You're the best second cousin twice removed a girl could have."

He rolled his eyes and ignored her, turning to Feric. "So what's this about shape shifting?"

**

To his credit Feric didn't rip her head off when they left the guild hall. Though he had remained rather quite as they sat upstairs in a comfy corner of the inn gradually making the most of a bottle of Surille's finest. A little sweet for her taste, but she still liked it better than Tamika's which was just a smidge too fancy schmancy for her. Honditar had been right about the venison as well. Now that dinner was over and the wine almost gone she found them sitting and waiting for her contact in not quite comfortable silence. He was toying with his glass, watching the table top contemplatively when two lanky figures plopped down beside them.

Honditar and Glistel. Honditar had lost the bow, but that was it. Glistel was also dressed for work, though her clothes consisted of a tight silvery grey blouse and long grey silk skirt which complimented her dark, almost bluish skin and short black hair admirably.

"While I live and breathe. How are you doing you old dog?" Glistel punched her in the arm and grinned. She was her usual friendly, in your face, self. She flopped an outstretched hand down on the table top and offered it to Feric to shake. He took it. "Glistel. Pleasure. What's your deal partner?"

She watched him shrug as he withdrew his hand and motioned it toward her. "Just playing her shadow." An almost smirk pulled at his lips. "And waiting for the other shoe to drop." Glistel chortled.

"Yah, I'll bet. So I've been told you want to chat?" She asked turning rapidly back to Inanna.

"Indeed. I've got a project that may require calling in a few favours. I was hoping you might know some people who owe me favours."

"Oh?" Glistel's eyes twinkled.

"Yeah, you know...the green rabbit...the purple muskrat, the orange hamster...those guys." They all stared at her a moment before Glistel broke into howling gales of laughter. Honditar rolled his eyes and Feric looked confused. Eventually the laughter calmed and Glistel wiped her eyes. Inanna smiled placidly.

Glistel leaned forward on one elbow and pointed a finger at her. "Listen...I can do you one better."

"What...better than the fuchsia weasel? Impossible!" Her sarcasm was less than subtle. It was well known by many in 'the guild' that she wasn't too hot on their fearless leader, the infamous 'Grey Fox.' Truth was she couldn't stand the guy. She couldn't quite put her finger on it, but something about him just rubbed her the wrong way. He just wasn't smart enough, clever enough, or interesting enough to be the leader of such an interesting group of smart clever people. It made no sense to her. She couldn't believe for a second that such a dullard of an imperial could have found it in himself to steal anything from a Daedric prince, let alone an artifact of any real power. Ah well, one of life's little mysteries.

Glistel gave her another grin. "Yeah, tell me about it. The deal is, M has been wanting to talk to you, so if you're needing favours, M's the fella you wanna talk to."

Inanna leaned back giving Glistel her best 'I know what you're up to' look...even if she didn't. "Does he now? Should I be worried? This isn't something to do with the blue squirrel is it?" Glistel rolled her eyes.

"Jeeze, will you cut that out already, some one'll hear you."

"So?"

"So, not everyone shares your feelings on that particular matter. You're not even in the club for Pete's sake, what do you care anyway?'

"He irritates me." She enunciated the three words carefully. "M should have his job. Or better yet, the A-man should. That guys talents are being wasted playing nanny to all the youngsters."

"Again I ask why you care?" Inanna shrugged and glanced at the others at the table. Feric was still toying with his glass, feigning interest in it and Honditar was downright ignoring them and waving over the railing at the proprietor with a peculiar hand gesture. She gave him an 'all clear' sort of nod.

"Honditar...I didn't know you were a club member." He cocked a brow at her. "I'm not."

"Then what's with the secret hand shake?" He smirked at her.

"Like you, my dear, I am a free agent, and though I find myself in particular company from time to time, I don't care to be tied down. I still know how to play the game...and the field." Glistel shot him a side long glance.

"Oh really?"

His smirked widened. "Professionally...of course." She arched a brow at him and turned back to Inanna.

"So, are we good to go? You eaten?" she looked to Feric who nodded. "Alright then Mr. Shadow, why don't you two walk this way?" She stood and Honditar rose as well. Inanna and Feric followed suit.

"Green."

Glistel was just turning away and she paused.

"It's Mr. Green." he repeated with a mild smile. Glistel raised a brow and nodded, giving him an appraising look. Inanna felt her stomach tighten a little and she sidled up next to him, slipping her arm under his. Did that mean he wasn't cross with her then? He didn't spare her a glance though, so she couldn't tell for sure.

They followed them out of the inn at a leisurely pace, looking for all the world like a group of friends strolling home from a late dinner. She squeezed his arm and he glanced down at her. She gave him a questioning glance...the 'you ok type,' and he gave her a small smile and brief nod...the 'for now' type. She was getting the feeling she was starting to tread on thin ice. Well she'd done nothing but right by him so far, hadn't she? He just needed to loosen up and have a little faith. He said he trusted her, and she knew he wasn't BS-ing her about that, but something was up. She could sense the wariness in his body, like a ripple of tension that ran like a current from his body to hers, making her skin twitch in ways she did not like. She wondered if he wasn't in some way afraid of her. That was a weird thought. It felt some how wrong. Terribly wrong.

A guard walked past them as he made his rounds through the church district. He eyed them up carefully, particularly taking note of Glistel, something Inanna could help but catch. That wasn't too good. She must be getting a reputation. Feric leaned in, his mouth against her ear, his lips brushing the sensitive ridge and making her insides tingle.

"Turn and look at me like I've just said something terribly sweet, and possibly suggestive."

She glanced up at him, doing just that. The tingle made it easy. "Suggestive of what," she murmured back, pressing into him a little more with her own rather evocative wriggle.

He winked and gave her a smile which turned the tingling into an all out throb, then glanced up at the guard who was now watching them instead of Glistel. Feric gave him one of his sun-bright smiles and a macho nod. The patrol man seemed to be as fond of those smiles as she was because she literally watched as his guard fall as he returned the smile with an 'attaboy' smirk of his own.

Boy maybe she was the one who should be afraid of Feric, that was some heavy duty charisma he was oozing, and she had just proved her own lack of immunity to it. She wouldn't have thought it, but he was a born lady killer. And here she thought she was the charmer...she could only hoped that he used those powers for good. Inanna watched out of the corner of her eye as the guard went back to ignoring them.

When they arrived at the small non-descript house at the end of road, one of many small non-descript houses clustered on this side of town, Glistel turned and made a sweeping bow, indicating that Inanna proceed. Honditar plopped himself...well he plopped about as much as any mer with altmer blood can plop, onto a long bench near the door and made a similar waving gesture, only to Feric instead.

"Have a seat Feric, Glistel will do our prowling for us." He glanced at Glistel and she winked back at him. Feric looked to Inanna for her thoughts and she tipped her head.

"It shouldn't take long, but it sounds like it might be touchy business. He might not like the extra company." If he was unhappy with that plan he didn't show it.

**

"Muthsera Inanna, just the woman I was looking for." Malintus smiled as he came out from behind the bed screen, his boots in his hands and wearing his simple leathers and a wool shirt. He was one of those people with the natural ability to simply blend in. There was nothing about him that stood out, just your average uninteresting imperial...well at least on the outside. She nodded to him.

"Did I wake you friend?"

"Nah, just getting up. There's only one bed, so I got used to sleeping in shifts."

"Got?"

"Heh. Well Glistel doesn't sleep here much anymore, just enough to keep up appearances." She chuckled. "I love how you have to 'keep up the appearance' of being an interracial couple living in sin. Usually it's the other way around. This is why I picked Cheydinhal instead of this place...they could give a flying leap who I have living with me."

"Oh they'd notice...they'd just keep the rumours circulating behind your back and be a little more subtle about it."

She shook her head. "Funny how that crap still matters to people."

"Well it's working for us. They're all too busy asking the stupid questions to ask the real ones." He chuckled and waved her into a chair at the kitchen table. "Can I get you anything, food? Drink?"

"No, I'm stuffed. But thanks."

"Venison?" he asked as he plucked an apple out of a basket and started peeling it with a nearby paring knife.

"Yeah, at the Oak and whatchamacallit."

"Good stuff that." The peel curled in out in one long unbroken rope onto a tin plate.

"Neat trick."

He grunted. "Thanks."

"So..."

"So."

"You want something?"

"Do you?"

Oi, this was going to be a long conversation.

"Glistel told me you wanted to talk."

"And you're here looking for favours."

She narrowed her eyes at him. "Now how do you figure that?" She didn't remember anyone having time to let him in on what was going down. Unless the sneak had been pulling some kind of invisibility spell at the inn. Shocked she would not be.

He sliced into the apple and lifted it to his mouth with the blade, pausing when he noticed her expression. He chuckled and lowered the blade.

"You know it's looks like that which give you away. You like to think you're sly, but you're as open as a bloody book sometimes. I was only making an educated guess. Usually we come to you, it's rare that you come to us. Honditar told us you were asking after Glistel. I just put one and one together. I also heard from a mutual friend in the waterfront that you had some kind of run in...and that someone none too friendly is looking for you. Apparently they've been asking a lot of interesting questions about a feisty little Dunmer with red hair in the company of a tall Nord type individual. Sound familiar?"

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