Episode 6.

CW: Mention of Violence, Attempted Murder.

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image shows the letters C, I, T, B, in bold green type.

Inside the dank, stinking cell, Kayn is flash, and putting on a display. After turning down countless others, the real estate not prime enough for him, he and Jed have chosen one with running water and fewer rats than all the others. Or rather, it was more as though Jed held very little sway in what was happening at this moment in time.

“See, now? See? See less rats in here. This jailer knows how to run a business. Way less rats. He knows, right?” Tapping his nose, he pointed at the turnkey. “Don’t want to be giving her the chance of any extra food. Because you know damn well she’ll eat them.”

“Aye, Kayn.” Jed sighed and rubbed at his temples. They'd looked over every cell in the town, and the day had been long. Not satisfied with any of the villages they'd passed along the way, none so far had suited his extra specific needs, and manic Kayn was hard to deal with. He wasn't to blame for this mood, but he was bored of it, and tired. He wanted to go back to the way things were. He missed laughing with his brothers. He didn’t want to torture the girl. They'd never been this aggressive for no reason before, selecting their targets with calculated precision. Anyone who was rich enough to rob – and could fight back and win – was fair game, until they weren't or couldn't any more. That was the rule. A fair fight, or nothing doing. Stone walls closed in on him. He wanted out of this, and fast, but there was no hope while Kayn was playing the showman.

Arms outstretched, mind too busy to listen, he was indicating spaciousness as he ridiculed Issané. “Ahhh, yes. Yes, very nice. Very nice. Plush even, you might say.” He stepped back, leaning in to her. “You’re a lucky girl getting a room all to yourself like this.” Spinning to stand in front, he wagged a finger as he punctuated his sentence. “Very. Lucky. In. Deed.” Shifting closer again, whispering, mockingly conspiratorial, grim, he indicated Jed with his thumb. “I have to share with this one sometimes...” His attempt at camaraderie made her queasy, stepping back a slight inch from his unpredictable advance, and Jed takes a step towards her before he can get any closer.

Feigning an indignant look at Kayn's jibe, he turns back to her. “Only the best for My Lady.” Smiling, he kisses the back of her hand, and her shackle clinks, a soft chime in the dank room. He feels terrible, not wanting to leave his charge like this, although he cannot chance crossing Kayn either. There was no way she needed chaining up if they were locking her in, but Axel had given him full responsibility, and this was the only way the situation was going down.

Still animated, Kayn turned his full attention to the jailer, agreeing his price. Handing over a large bag of coin, he tells him how the girl’s stay will be indefinite, the emphasis on the word making Jed as uncomfortable as the recipient's overt, sadistic look. Eyes closed once the turn-key sealed his own fate by asking how he came by so much money. Concentrating too much on the bag, he did not see the silver flash, or notice the knife driving into his gut until it was too late. The shock didn't register on his face until he was gruesomely twisting it, voracious, taking his time, butchering him where he stood. Spilling his innards across the floor, he took back the purse before it hit the flagstones. Without forgetting the key, he cackled, wild, at the dying man in front of him, while Jed, begrudging, laughed, somewhat shocked, accent thick.

“Ho... That’s no fair! I was gonnae do that!”

“You snooze, you lose, dickhead.” Scratching at a bare forearm, a slight tremor came to his voice as he picked at the skin. “You know as well as I do what he was going to say.” Mimicking the jailer, he is perfect in his impression. “Err... well... You know, I'm going to have to ask. How'd a... you know, a... a kid like you come by this much coin?” He spat, the inference of the slur not said aloud a poison. “Ugly. Stars, just say Orc when you mean Orc.” Vicious again he turns to Issané, snarling. “Don’t think I’m doing you a fucking favour. He got what he deserved. Too, too many questions. Tricksy-tricksy...” He licked his lips, and grit his teeth. “And we don't use anything but Orc here, either. Or Orcen. Try any of the other words you've heard, and you'll get the same as him. Don't be thinking you're special.” Cruel, he extinguished the torches on her wall using the blood on the floor from the jailer, and he laughed as he pulled the door up. “And don’t fucking eat him either.” His voice turned sing-song, his finger a tilda in the air. “You’re going to want to. But don’t.”

Jed shook his head in disbelief at the declaration that, actually, he was starving and a bit worn out from the day, and wanted dinner somewhere nice next. Kicking at the dead man and chiding him for not having any good recommendations, he grinned that wherever they chose, it'd be his treat, weighing the coins in the heavy bag, finally stepping out into the fresh air. Kayn hadn’t ever been this brutal with an innocent, and Jed was pretty sure the jailer had been unarmed too. Yeah, alright, he thought, following down the road, more than one or two of us have caused serious injury when we've absolutely had to, and we are unscrupulous in thieving from the bandits who can spare it, but we don't torture people.

Unarmed innocents and fellow outlaws were left as such. That was the plan. It wasn't like Kayn to pick a fight with someone who couldn't fight back.

And it definitely wasn't like him to carry a blade.

Abandoned in the pitch blackness, Issané is cloaked in the stench of fresh shit, despair, and burned blood as it fills the air. She retched, cursing herself for the millionth time that day – this was ranking high in the top five worst situations she'd ever been in. Moving around in the dark, it didn't take long to get her bearings and she was grateful for the water to drink, grateful that she couldn't see what colour it was, by the taste. Kayn had taken the key, though. He meant to open the door again. She battled to decide if she will be thankful for that too, or not, with nothing left to do about it but wait and see.

On the road for weeks, she'd discovered none of the others but Jed had enough humour in him to share his horse. With his continual babbling in the saddle about whatever crossed his mind, he had zero filter, mind wide open – easy for her to read. She'd learnt much, mining him for information about her new Sanguine men. He couldn't care less that she never replied. Thinking her silence was out of fear, he'd continued anyway, taking the task upon himself to talk Tristin up to her.

“And you know, he’s quite sweet when you get to know him. Loyal. Kind, even, under all the gruff exterior. But you already know what’s under there, don’t you? Little miss eyes-on-stalks. Don’t worry that he’s ignoring you now,” He’d patted her on the head. “He’ll come around...”

His talk spanned days. “Brave? Oh, all the stars above know he’s brave. I’ve seen him fight six men alone before, because he wanted to stop them from beating some mangy old dog they’d found. Like, he won't kill you. Not outright. But he's got this look. A kind of Dismay. Scary as hell, and you should run if you see it. Many have tried. Have you ever seen someone attempt to run away while trying not to piss and shit themselves out of fear at the same time...? You know, like, when it’s really bad to laugh because some people can't help it, but they brought it on themselves, so you can’t help it?”

And nights. “Oh, he's strong, too. But more than in a physical way. Calm. A sort of... mental toughness? He’s been called stubborn more often than not, but strong-willed is a better way to describe him. Do you know what intestinal fortitude is...?”

And days. “A lot of people say we look like brothers. We’re not though. Been together long enough, but not related by blood or anything. But, you know, if anyone wants to call us that, well, then I won’t be the one to stop them...”

Issané was glad his incessant jabbering didn't get in the way of her ability to read the others. It was alright as far as background noise went. He'd looked gutted to leave her there in the dark, too. Not gutted enough to act, mind. He had his reasons, and even though he couldn't find any one of the twenty she had, he'd at least bothered to look for an opening. He'd seen his promise to watch over her through to the end. Sort of. At least he tried. she smirked.

Tristin himself had all but grunted in her direction when asked if they should bring her, that much was true. Nor had he spoken to or looked at her at all since – he made his excuses during the day, and sat across the fire from her by night, a barrier between them he didn't want to cross. He was a busy guy. Preferring to hunt with Reed instead, together they were tasked with providing the bulk of the food for the group, and combined with what the rest of them foraged from the woods, there was plenty to go around them all. She'd miss the cooking, that was for sure.

But, unable to forget how Reed had daunted her, and how she never wanted to pry too far into his mind again – while she waited for Tristin's return, she was glad when Reed left them. She'd never looked into someone's eyes and seen death staring back at her before. Responsible for fixing up her bumps and bruises, he was a crack-shot with a longbow too. A medic, he was able to keep you alive for as long as he could, or until he couldn't any more. Or didn't want to. This one could make you wait for the end, and who knows how long for? Until he decided you should be buried? It went against everything a healer stood for, and the shock of discovering his intent had been extreme. Yet she'd laughed to herself when this information was confirmed by Jed’s endless chatter. “Yeah. He takes a bit of getting used to...”

Along with Reed, Kayn was the other one of them she'd successfully avoided while out there. Safe enough in the saddle, she made sure she was never alone while he was around, but where she'd been reticent to delve into Reed’s mind, Kayn intrigued her. Dangerous, that much was obvious, but a deep rage, coupled with the hindrance of exacting his promise to her bubbled under his surface.

He was aware of telepathy, locked tight and hiding from another who could read him. Only a high level of discipline in his own magic could afford him such a protection. He'd worked hard to get to the level he was at, so much so that his appearance was changed by his power just the same as Jed and Tristin. While that pair are dark-haired, tresses grown out, lighter-skinned and freckled, he'd almost a white gold, close-cropped fuzz. Longer on top in almost the same style as Axel – their leader’s wiry, curly coils were expertly picked and twisted to stand and fall over one eye – although Kayn’s thick blonde is straight, textured and combed to match.

Paler than porcelain, an unnatural skin tone – much closer to her own – he was Northern, as was she, and their leaders' rich, dark umber from Hessonia's Southern countries, and Reed's golden fawn from the East stood out next to him. Where Axel's eyes were deep pools, stag-like, almost ebony and hypnotic, a dead Elven giveaway, Kayn's are a pure silver, bright as fresh minted coin, all the colour washed away. They never seemed to calm from his Frenetic state the way the power left the other two, and where Reed was merely cold and aloof, he was ice. All the way through.

A sharpness about him, and pride, Issané thinks of a hawk whenever she looked his way. The kind brought in to cull vermin, now considered vermin themselves. With his vigilance, it made him look as though he was on a continual search for whatever came next. Alert for it. Not about to be caught off guard. Always ready to pick clean a corpse. Vicious, feral, he talks in low snarls and growls, and swings between inseparable from his comrades, and not being able to stand the sight of them.

Axel in particular. Catching on to him reading Tristin, their leader was the other telepath among them after all, as well she thought he'd be, top in command of these self styled Sanguine boys. The other four, sworn to him, brothers in arms, followed him and the theories he held true. Convinced he is a prince among men, she snickers inside at how altogether narcissistic that would sound, if it weren't completely true, and the second-most reason she was inside this cell at all.

She has something to show him, a specific message for him only, and if he'd calm his mind for long enough, she'd make him see it – but, buried under his books and scrolls and manuscripts and maps, he is too preoccupied to listen to anyone, or anything outside of them. Despite having memorized them all, verbatim, the words and the diagrams in the pages now fused to his soul, he threw himself into studying, obsessive in his need to read, and she saw how he clings to the hope of finding some new hidden meaning or missed detail. Digging further, she'd seen the fear which terrorises him too. Numbing himself to the idea that the others think of leaving him, he ignores it, driving them on and on to the next place and the next, never giving them the chance to. Lost, and wandering for too long now, the pact sworn between the five has begun to mean less and less with each passing day.

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