Chapter 8, Part 1

As soon as the mercenary leader spoke, Kraylea was moving, his hand lashing out faster than anyone would expect a man his size could move. Almost as soon as the word “them” left his mouth, he had a knife in his throat and was collapsing onto the ground, clutching at the hilt of it. Even before he started falling, Kraylea was moving, racing toward the nearest mercenary with a knife in each hand. The other members of his team followed suit, and the result was that before the mercenaries could even react to their leader’s last command, half a dozen of them were already dead.

They still outnumbered the thieves three-to-one though, and the surviving mercenaries had gotten over their initial shock and were fighting back now. The thieves were much faster than the mercenaries, but the mercenaries had heavier weapons and armor, and were physically much larger than the thieves, even Kraylea and Fergen. The result was a fierce battle that the thieves didn’t stand much of a chance of winning.

Fortunately for them, they didn’t need to win. They just needed to escape. Having taken down a number of mercenaries, the thieves were able to slip through their line and race out of the bank.

Unfortunately, there were more mercenaries outside.

“Scatter!” Kraylea yelled, flinging himself toward the nearest mercenary, ducking under his sword, and slamming a knife into the gap between his breastplate and his helmet. “Meet at the rally point!”

That was the last Alessandra was aware of any of her teammates for quite some time. For the next few minutes all she was aware of was herself, the knives in her hands, and whoever was standing between her and escape at any given moment. She weaved, ducked, and leaped out of the way of swords, axes and polearms, stabbing at vulnerable spots whenever she got a chance, but mostly focusing on moving forward and staying alive.

For what seemed like an eternity, that was all there was to Alessandra’s existence. Then, suddenly, there were no more mercenaries in front of her, just an empty alleyway. She could still hear the sounds of fighting going on behind her, but she didn’t hesitate for a moment before she was racing down the alley as fast as she could. Part of her hated to abandon her clanmates, but Kraylea had ordered them to scatter, and outnumbered as they were, the best could hope to accomplish by going back was to get killed herself.

She emerged from the alley and out onto a busy street. There were no mercenaries here, just a lot of civilians going on about their normal routines. She slowed down and walked quickly through the crowd, looking for another alley. After a few minutes, she found one, and ducked inside. In the alley, she stripped off her wig, wiped off her makeup, popped out her contacts, and shed her jacket. If the mercenaries were smart, they’d be circulating her description to other clans, and maybe even the Elder Guard, and she wanted to make sure she looked as little like the description they had of her as possible.

A few minutes later, and she was rounding a corner and arriving in front of a small park, a different one than the one they had met in before robbing the bank. Kraylea was already there, sitting on a bench and pressing a white cloth to a cut on his forehead.

“You made it,” he said with a grunt as Alessandra walked up to him. “I was beginning to think I was the only one that escaped.” He paused for a moment, and then said, “Fihal’s dead.”

“Ah, crap,” Alessandra said, slumping onto the bench next to Kraylea.

“Yeah,” Kraylea replied bleakly. “One of those bastards got him in the leg, and that was the end of him.”

“What about the others?”

“Dunno,” Kraylea shrugged. “Never saw any of them after we left the bank.” They sat in silence for a few minutes, both thinking bleak thoughts. Then Kraylea stirred, as if he was about to say something, but before he could, Fergen strolled into the park.

“I know that that’s not how a heist is supposed to go, but damn I got to kill a lot of mercs today,” she said with a grin. “So satisfying.”

“How satisfying is it to know that Fihal is dead?” Kraylea asked with a grimace. That wiped the grin off of Fergen’s face immediately.

“Oh, no,” she said. “That’s terrible.”

“Yeah,” Kraylea agreed.

“What about Sharae and Shiena?” Fergen asked.

“No idea,” Kraylea shook his head.

“How much longer we gonna stay here?” Fergen asked.

“Long enough,” Kraylea said. Fergen grunted in reply, and the three of them lapsed into a morose silence.

They weren’t waiting long when Shiena limped into the park. Kraylea jumped up as soon as he saw her,  ran up to her, and wrapped his arms around her. She returned his embrace, but it didn’t change the haunted look on her face.

“Kraylea,” she said, pushing away from him slightly, “Sharae is dead.”

“Wait, what?” Kraylea asked, stunned.

“Yeah,” Shiena said. “One of the mercs was about to run me through, and suddenly she was there. She stabbed the guy, but not before she took the blow that was meant for me.” Kraylea just stared at her, as if unable to process what she was saying.

“Well that’s that, then,” Alessandra said. “We need to get moving.”

“Don’t you have a shred of decency?” Fergen hissed at her angrily. “Give the man a moment!”

“He can grieve when we get back to the clanhouse!” Alessandra hissed back. Before Fergen could reply, Kraylea turned to them.

“Let’s move,” he said tonelessly. He and Shiena shuffled slowly out of the park, he with his arm around her shoulders, and her leaning on him as his body was all that was holding her up. Alessandra and Fergen exchanged a grim look, and then followed after them.

To be continued…

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