The Prince of Thieves Ch. 09byUseli©
Hey, it's Useli! Be sure to read and review, ladies and gentlemen. I'll be sure to sure to keep pushing out chapters when I have free time. Thanks for reading!
Their traveling was done at a good pace. They began their traveling early, before the sun had spread it's gilded wings across the azure sky and continued even when the golden sun began to sink below the horizon, setting the sky ablaze with beautiful colors.
For Atlas, the time passed slower then the others. His thoughts constantly occupied by the information regarding his father, and the gnawing desire to reach Aer as quickly as possible to seek him out...
- - -
"Wow, look at these flowers!" exclaims Nero, looking around them. Indeed, the plains were covered with flowers, upon flowers, upon flowers. The beautiful bloomage was of all colors of the rainbow.
A strong gust of wind caused them to sway, rocking back and forth in a motion not dissimilar to the rolling blue sea. A shower of pedals floated skywards upon the wind in an elegant dance of beautiful colors before slowly descending and bringing with them scent that brought to mind all the comfort of a lazy summers day within a dusky glade. "They smell so good..."
"Indeed," agrees Nizel, producing a piece of linen to cover his nose and mouth. "I caution you against enjoying their scent too much. These flowers are known as 'Laeti Visus' to the people of Unda."
"Laeti Visus," repeats Kale. The elvish was completely lost on the other three. "Laeti Visus...'Joyful Sight'...?" Nizel nods in the affirmative. "What kind of name for a flower is that?"
"In some, it simply induces a relaxed state. It can be used to 'recall' memories of a more relaxed time. But in others like myself, it can induce complete paralysis of the body, sickness and even death." Atlas actually laughs.
"So, if you begin to slump in you saddle I should reach for you?" speaks Atlas, causing Nizel to laugh as well.
"It was just poor luck that we arrived during their bloom. However, this will give us an opportunity for enjoyment if you should wish it. The people of Unda hold a grand celebration each year during their bloom. Make offerings to the temple and their goddess for the blessing."
"Yes. It seems the flower is used by healers in various ways, such as easing pain or preventing a wound from turning rancid. Of course, it's also dried and uses for decoration or turned into a powder and used to promote a..." Nizel looked cautiously at Nero, attempting to choose his words wisely in front of the boy. "...a healthy night life." Illia and Atlas chuckled.
"What's that mean?" questions Nero. "A healthy night life? I don't understand."
"I'll...tell you when you're older," replies Atlas, while patting the boy thief on the head.
"Quite the medicinal flower," comments Kale. "It's no wonder they celebrate it's bloom every year."
"Yes, it's a VERY remarkable flower," agrees Nizel. "But it all depends on just how it's prepared for use. I would suggest that we visit the local apothecary and acquire some before we begin our crossing. It's a useful flower."
"Hey, Nizel?" calls Nero in question. "If it's so useful, how come it's not grown anywhere else?"
"An excellent question, Nero. I've been told that it refuses to take root in any other climate or any other soil. The people of Unda conclude it is the will of their goddess that it grow only upon the Vulpus plains."
"Or it's simply not being correctly cultivated," reasons Kale. "Blindly following some faith can only lead to disaster."
"Very true, Kale," agrees Illia. "But one should always balance knowledge and faith in equal parts. There should be no choice between the two, everyone should have both."
"Well said," speak Nizel and Atlas the same time.
"That's confusing to remember," calls Nero, making them all laugh in response...
- - -
Unda was a beautiful, bright city totally lacking the dull grey color of Caliga and oppressive feeling. The streets were filled with people, all dressed in brightly colored clothes and wearing smiles as they celebrated the bloom of their goddess' flower.
The streets were lined with vendors, all peddling delicious looking treats and confections, as well as some brightly colored clothing items.
It was obvious that their clothes were dyed to resemble the blooming flowers themselves. Just being surrounded by that joy was enough to bring smiles to faces of all of them.
"It reminds me of the harvest celebrations in Solis," speaks Atlas, after turning Ezma over to a stable hand. Before Nero could even run off to join the festivities Atlas caught him by the back of his traveling cloak. "Stay close, Nero. You'll get lost."
"I'll be alright, Prince," replies Nero. "I just want to look around." Atlas sighs heavily and produces a few silver coins from a pouch on his leather belt before handing them to the boy. "Thanks, Prince!" Nero runs off into the crowd and sighs again.
"Is that wise?" asks Kale.
"Oh, what kind of trouble could he get in?" questions Atlas. "Anyway, it's important from him to be a child and enjoy himself while he can. There'll be plenty of time for him to be an adult later."
"Not that." Kale adjusts his spectacles. "I mean, getting so attached to the boy. You've grown rather fond of him, am I correct?" Atlas nods firmly, crossing his arms and glancing over Kale.
"I suppose he's grown on me." Atlas turns from Kale to face Illia, who had just handed her horse over to another stable hand. "Illia, I'm going to get the supplies we'll need for the crossing..."
- - -
They gathered at the local tavern, which seemed to be just as a lively as the rest of the town. It was decorated in bright colors, and a large fireplace occupied one wall.
The flames bathed the tavern in their soft orange glow, warding off the slight chill outside. People laughed and drank around them the same as Nero. The boy thief was very much enjoying a meal that wasn't cooked by himself.
"What is this?" asks Kale, looking at the strange brew brought to their table by the bar-maid.
"A brew local to Unda," replies Nizel. "It's made from the flowers."
"Interesting." He raised his flagon and took a drink. Kale was pleasantly surprised, not only with the rich, hearty taste but the alluring scent. "That is absolutely delicious, Nizel." Kale looks back sharply at a hand suddenly placed upon his shoulder.
"Why so jumpy, Kale?" questions Atlas, smiling from under the hood of his thin, grey traveling cloak. Atlas passes Nero, ruffling the boy thief's dark hair before taking a seat beside Illia and grabbing a flagon from the table. "I've got the supplies...and some new clothes, as well. I had to guess as to what size you wear, Nero." The boy thief nods, a smile appearing on his face and a muffled 'thanks' sounding from him.
"Acting like a father already," comments Nizel. "How very noble of you, Atlas." Atlas chuckles and sips from the flagon. "Next you'll be shopping for Miss Illia."
"Really?" Atlas looks over at the amazon with a smile on his face. "I think I would enjoy that, actually."
"I don't require helping selecting clothes for myself," replies Illia.
"That's too bad."
"Maybe some other time," teases Illia, causing Atlas to smile wider. Hearing uproarious laughter from across the crowded tavern, all heads turn in it's direction to a thin man in black clothes somewhat similar to the kind Atlas was currently wearing.
"What a loud man..."
"It is a bit annoying," agrees Kale, adjusting his spectacles. "Hmph. He reminds me of Fox." A laugh sounds from Atlas and Kale glares at him in response. "He was an insufferable man, Atlas. Always doing his best to irritate me."
"You disliked Fox because he accidentally broke your glasses, Kale. That's all there was to it." Kale huffs in response and raises his flagon. Again the laughter sounded from across the room. "At any rate, I have something I need to do. Excuse me." Atlas weaved a path through the crowd towards the door.
He steps out of the tavern into the cool night and sighs a bit. Atlas, who had spent most of his life being watched, spent his life dodging guards and trouble had developed a bit of a sense for it.
Not that Atlas complained. It was the life he made for himself, and one he was rather proud of. A tingling between his shoulders caused him to roll them in irritation before slowly looking around.
Aside from the people of Unda coming and going from different shops and taverns, who were unconcerned with his presence, things seemed rather ordinary. Still, the feeling persisted and he slowly glanced around yet again. "Hm?"
A figure, leaning against the front of a shop drew his attention. The woman wore a black hood not at all dissimilar from his own. Atlas was unable to make out the details of her face or little else except for the face that she was looking directly at him.
In the silvery light of the moon, Atlas vaguely recognized her fingers moving this way and that, a gold coin dancing across the tops of her knuckles.
In that moment, Atlas felt as though he had been dashed with a bucket of cold water. His feet carry him in that direction at a slow pace, and then when the women turns and disappears down an alley, at a full sprint.
"Stop!!" roars Atlas, causing every head within ear-shot to turn in his direction. It was also enough to pull a small crowd from out of the tavern. Nizel and Illia were the first to break free of the group, chasing after the swift thief.
Atlas turned down an alley and they followed several moments later, finding it empty. "There!" exclaims Illia, pointing straight up at Atlas moments before he disappears across the roof-top. "This way, Nizel!" Neither had ever had cause to chase the thief, but realized what a disadvantage they were at whilst he took to the roof-tops.
It was without a doubt the reason he had never been captured by the guards. Illia and Nizel ran, as fast as their feet would carry them down the mainstreet before ducking between alley's in an attempt to follow him.
Atlas was moved far less constricted as he followed the woman across roof-tops, thin beams and even a rope stretched taunt between two building as a clothes line. The woman moved as sure-footed as Atlas, not a single pause in her step.
Atlas wouldn't let her out-run him, just as Illia and Nizel wouldn't allow him to out-run them. They followed at street-level, eyes turned towards the roof-tops now and again.
The pair only caught glances of him now and again, but it was enough to guide them in the right direction as they attempted to keep pace. The woman leapt a gap between buildings and Atlas saw his chance.
On the flat roof, he quickly turned and leapt the gap as well. He planted one foot firmly on the edge before bounding to the next and tackling the woman broad-side. The two hit the ground and Atlas pins her face down with ease, yanking her hood off.
"You sure haven't lost a step," pants the dark haired woman. She glances back at him and presses her firm behind against his manhood. "It's good to see you again, Atlas."
"Ella," comments Atlas, breathing deeply. "You still like you play hard to get, I see." She pursed her lips and made a kissing sound. Atlas shook his head in response, making sure to keep her pinned.
"As much as I just love this position, do you think you could let me up now, Atlas?"
"Not until you answer my questions, Ella." Hearing running foosteps behind him, Atlas glanced in that direction moments before he was kicked in the chest.
He rolled to his right and dropped straight down off the roof. His instincts drove him to grab something, anything to stop his fall but he was unable.
He impacted an awning in the middle of his stomach and was thrown back. He caught another awning in the middle of his back and then impacted the ground on his side.
Atlas cried out in pain, turning and holding tight to his shoulder. "Atlas!" exclaimed Illia, rounding the corner with Nizel.
"We need to get him to a healer," speaks Nizel, kneeling beside the injured thief.
"Ella!" shouts Atlas. "Get down here, now!" Both of them looked up at a pair of figures standing on the edge of the building.
"I'll meet you in Aer, Atlas," replies Ella. She made a kissing motion and then turned, disappearing over the roof-top. Kale and Nero finally appeared.
Kale leaned over, placing his hands on his knees and panting heavily. His face was flush and his brown hair disheveled as he looked at them.
"Help me with him," speaks Illia, as Atlas' vision began to swim...
- - -
They waited in silence, the tension thick in the air. Nero paced back and forth restlessly, he was more nervous they he could ever recall being. After a wait that seemed like an eternity finally the healer appeared. "He's resting," speaks the man.
"How's his shoulder?" asks Illia, approaching.
"There's no breaks or dislocations. He's lucky. If he hadn't had those awnings to break his fall, he'd have died at that height. What on earth was he doing on the roof this time of the night anyway?"
"Enjoying the view," replies Illia curtly. The amazon nearly shoves him out of the way as she enters the room behind the healer. Moonlight streamed in through the window, bathing the bed and it's occupant in it's silvery glow.
Atlas was asleep, naked except for a folded linen cloth across his hips that covered his manhood. Illia approached the peacefully sleeping thief, making note of the dark bruising on his taunt stomach and shoulder.
She pulled a chair close to the bed and sat down in it, capturing his hand gently so as not to wake him. She did notice that the wound on his opposite shoulder had healed the same as the one on his rib-cage.
Both were nothing but puckered scars against his skin now. Illia reached up and brushed some of his blond hair from his closed eyes, gently stroking his temple a moment later.
Illia stopped and then sighed softly. 'When did I fall for him exactly?' Illia questions herself. 'A thief...an outsider.' A small smile appears on her lips as she gently squeezes Atlas' hand. That was enough to bring Atlas around.
His amber eyes opened and he looked around for a moment before looking solely at Illia. A wry smile split his sleepy face as their eyes met.
"Here I thought I was just having a good dream," teases Atlas.
"Not a dream," replies Illia. "How are you feeling?"
"Stiff...but I think I'll live. You?"
"Had better nights, Atlas." The two shared a bit of a chuckle. "Everyone is gathered in the other room. Do you feel up to seeing them?" Atlas nodded and attempted to sit up when Illia stopped him, pressing firmly to his injured shoulder. "Stay still," Illia spoke firmly, as though dealing with an amazon male in her village.
In no mood to disagree, he obeyed and kept still as she stood and approached the door. Nero was the first one in the moment it opened and he quickly approached Atlas.
"Are you alright?" blurts Nero in question. Atlas chuckled and reached over, patting him on the head as though he were consoling a small child.
"Never better, Nero. I'll be up and about in no time, don't you worry."
"Then you'll teach me what you know, right?" Atlas laughed.
"Yes. Then I'll teach you what I know." Nizel and Kale approached. A huge grin split Nizel's face and Atlas sighed. "Oh...don't say it, Nizel."
"Oh?" questions Nizel. "Was there ice up there as well, Atlas?" Nizel and Kale began laughing loudly, paying no need to the glare from Illia.
"There WAS ice on that roof-top in Solis, Nizel. Not that you would know, watching me from the streets like you were. I'm just lucky I landed in a snow-drift rather then on the cobble-stone."
"You're lucky it wasn't more embarrassing then it was."
"True enough, I suppose." The healer enters a moment later, shuffling everyone towards the door. Illia was the only one who remained, threatening him by gripping the hilt of her sword. When the room is clear the healer approaches the amazon and hands her a small package.
"Brew this and make sure that he drinks two cups each night," the healer tells her. "It'll reduce the swelling and repair the muscles properly. The rest is in the satchel in the other room. There's enough for a fortnight. Until then, make certain he doesn't stress his shoulder. Nothing too demanding and certainly no climbing." Illia nodded, taking the package from him.
"Can I leave now?" asks Atlas. "And perhaps get dressed?" The healer looks at Atlas and then Illia.
"I'll help him dress," Illia tells the man. "Leave." The healer does just that, closing the door behind him. Atlas grits his teeth and groans as he attempts to lean up. Illia helps him with that and he throws his feet over the edge of the bed. "So, that woman..." Atlas sighs heavily. He knew that this conversation was unavoidable and fast approaching. "That was Ella?"
"Yes. My clothes, please." Illia retrieves the neatly folded pile of clothes and hands them to Atlas before turning her back. "Thank you." The thief stands and begins to dress, careful to avoid bending too far over as he pulled his trousers on.
"She didn't seem like much. A bit too skinny if you ask me...and short." Atlas actually laughed and it irritated her immensely. "It's not funny. She nearly killed you, Atlas!" A pair of arms slowly close around her and she looks back at the thief.
"I only have my eyes set on one woman right now, Illia. One incredible woman who's skill only seems to be surpassed by her intelligence." Illia reaches up and captures one of Atlas' hands.
"Flattery will get you nowhere, Atlas. In fact, you should get punished for grabbing me without my permission."
"It would be more then worth it." Illia reluctantly pulls free of his arms and looks back at him.
"Just...finish getting dressed. We're going to be leaving soon."
"I thought it would be best. If anyone finds out that you're the Prince of Thieves and you're injured...they'll be more eager to try and claim the bounty that you have on your head."
"What about you?" Illia smiles and pats the sword at her hip.
"If any of them believe that they're man enough...then let them try." Atlas laughs and then grunts in pain as he pulls on his hooded vest. "Atlas?"
"Unh...my back." Illia couldn't help stop herself from laughing, and Atlas joined her even though he was in pain. "Listen to me. I sound like an old man." He grabs his belt and quickly buckles it around his waist. Atlas checks the pouches on his belt once and then twice.
He had to be absolutely sure that all of his things were still there and when it was confirmed he retrieved his boots and sat down on the edge of the bed to pull them on.
It never was trouble before but now that he couldn't double-over without pain Atlas was finding it rather difficult. "Hurry up, OLD MAN," teases Illia. "We haven't got time for you to shuffle around." Atlas finished the first few buckles but couldn't lean further without hurting his stomach or back.
"I...I hate to ask this, but..." Illia sighs and looks at the door then Atlas.
"If you tell anyone about this I WILL kill you, Atlas." The thief holds both hands up in a gesture of surrender and Illia kneels, finishing the buckles on his boots as quickly as possible. "There." Atlas manages to stand and then surprises her with a quick kiss.
"Thank you, Illia. I'd never have managed that without you."
"Just...keep it between us." Atlas flashes a wry smile, blond hair dropping into his eyes as he did so.
"We seem to be keeping quite a few secrets lately," jokes Atlas. He motions to the door. "After you, Miss Illia..."