Italina felt empty and desolate in the night. At night, the civilians bled out into their homes like the Fat Man bled out into the dirt-floor of the Bell's Brothers Pub. With the exceptions of ones and twos, the crowds were scarce to none. And in each glance around the streets, each footstep upon the marble sidewalk, it was like looking at a new city other than the one they'd been in before.
Covered with dirt footprints, even the smell of the city felt less thick and heavy, without the rivaling scents battling back in fourth.
“How long you think it'll be before Knights arrive at The Pub?” Secrat asked, looking at his hand, checking to see which fingers he could move and which ones he couldn't. He couldn't move most of them.
“If the civilians leaving The Pub made a complaint about fighting, they'd stop by eventually just to look at things. But, at the same time, you gotta think they get a lot of these sort of complaints. But, if anyone says anything about there being murders, anything at all, they'll put a hustle in it. Could be already there, in-fact.” Brutus said knowingly.
Brutus limped with every step he took, like a dying antelope waiting to be put out of its misery. But he wouldn't be put out. Copé couldn't do it. He needed Brutus alive, at least long enough to confirm to the others why he'd be dying. Brutus looked like hell. His eyes nearly forced all the way shut by the swelling on his face, his cheeks were various shades of purple and red.
“Well then, we best not roam about long. If Ezic and Ricar provide fallacy as description of us that could buy,” Secrat stopped, hearing the chuckles from Brutus.
“You don't think those lily-livered type gonna vouch for us or help us, Italinians don't give a horse's ass of gratitude.” Ess' voice was loud as usual, the alcohol still in his system.
“They said they were from Olzaric, a couple knights won't be enough to intimidate them.”
“A rustling leaf is enough to intimidate that Giant,” Brutus quipped.
Copé had no real defense for him.
Several feet later, and Secrat did begin to take sight of individuals in larger abundance. A lot of them, in-fact. But they were not up-and-about, but, rather, on the sidewalks were makeshift tents and pallets.
Men, women, and children finding refuge as they stared up at the skies. Secrat did the same. The stars brightly visible. For some, in Italina, it made for a romantic setting, and had Copé had more time, he might even had gawked at their simple extravagance.
“I just don't get what the fuck he was so damn sad about. Crying like he'd murdered a saint and not someone who was trying to whip his ass.” Brutus blurted out, not interesting in waiting to see if Copé would ever respond to his initial statement.
As said, the setting was romantic for some, but not for Brutus, who was beyond such romanticism.
So as not to disturb or have to deal with the ones sleeping off on the sidewalks, Copé ventured off from the marble sidewalk and down to the roads where they'd only bump into horses and wagons on occasion. It wasn't completely pitch-black outside. A full moon was in the sky and it shined a small light on their pathways.
“If you thought so low of them,” Secrat began. “I don't see why you bothered putting your nose in their affairs. All those bruises on your face could have been prevented!” Secrat threw his hands up and did all sorts of vaguely meaningful hand-gestures. He'd never been the best at verbal confrontation and knew not if Brutus could even see the expressions. “Would've saved us a lot of time and a lot of blood!”
“Yeah,” Brutus concurred. “But now I know where you stand.”
“Oh, and where's that?” The Thief wasn't really truly upset, or at least, the adrenaline and the alcohol helped numb him of that.
“Father Toucan Veras believed in you, still believes in you. Some think it favoritism. But you can't say it's all favoritism. Terrible thing you did, yes, yes, but you still escaped the wagon and killed Elson Man. And before that, what had you done? You killed a man who exceeded your size four times over.
That's special, hell, makes you seem like a wunderkind thief.” Brutus smiled at his fancy verbiage, but then, his voice changed to add: “But then, you damn near got me killed.” He touched down at the wounds on his stomach.
“That was your own ignorance. If you would've died, it'd be your own hands with blood on them.” Copé tried his hand at sounding assertive and definite. It would not be to his benefit for Brutus coming back to the Flux making such malicious proclamations.
“Why?” Brutus said, making eye-contact with Secrat, a condescending half-smile, “Because Daddy dearest forbade you from taking a life?”
They continued on further into Italina and saw men mopping the marble floors. That's how they kept them clean. Secrat thought that rather eccentric. Copé stared back at Brutus but said nothing. The confrontation would end as soon as they arrived back at the wagon with Taison. If Secrat replied, he'd only be pouring more alcohol on a roaring flame in a time when being inconspicuous was necessary.
“Remember that boy, the boy earlier on the real big wagon? The boy who said things about a group who slaughtered children and experimented on folk?”
Brutus stopped only long enough for Secrat to nod. “Who does that sound like to you? The Carvers? No, that's not their forte, not where they shine. What then? The Carvers scalped heads, cut eye-balls out, sodomized with spears, did all that shit. But specific things, large tents and mad doctors, that's different. They don't do that!” Brutus sounded mirthless and empty.
The same strange look he gave in intense moments. A look that gave Secrat a fairly good idea why Toucan demoted him and gave Samuel position as his right-hand man. Secrat let out a sigh, they couldn't arrive to the gates fast enough. Unfortunately, they remained a way’s away.
“Not The Carvers, another group on the outskirts of Hardan. I believe it. Do you believe it? Because I believe it.
All of Italina probably believes it. But were his words heard? Deliberately ignored, most likely. They feel protected. A barrier keeps the ugly outside world from them, and that disassociates them from the monsters. But they deliberately ignore, which makes them become the monsters.” Brutus stopped speaking for a moment, his facial expressions made his bruises ache.
“They stick their heads in the ground, not realizing their Kings, their Knights, they aspire to commit atrocity beyond the gates.”
Secrat couldn't disagree, looking at the marvelous city in the moonlight. Outside was a broken wasteland.
“But they're better than us!” Brutus exclaimed with a drunken hiccup. “Even The Carvers are better than us!”
“No, they are not,” Secrat replied fast, feeling defensive.
“The Carvers leave a legacy of pain and heart-ache wherever they go. The Italina People do nothing but obliviously coast. And we, The Red Flux, seek repentance to the God's through excuses, lies, and technicalities,” Brutus said dryly.
“The Red Flux is contrived of good men. Could you imagine Lukas Lewis bleeding out a child and stamping his head onto a pike!?”
“No,” Brutus admitted. “Though, I could see you doing it.”
“Alright,” Secrat said, he felt the red hotness of his temper poking through the inner confines of his mind but stuffed it back down. He could not hide his irritation physically, however.
“Barbarism is the way of life in Maharris. Always has been. Always will be. Flourish or perish, kill or be killed, and you understand that. These walls around Italina, they only contain it to the wilderness. You understand that. Toucan doesn't, but he does understand one thing ...”
Secrat hushed Brutus Ess with his hand, but it was in vein. A small army of men, a small army of knights, at least ten of them, all of them in one large carriage pulled by several horses. Lanterns hung from the sides of the carriage.
“What!?” Brutus hollered out, and it was needless to speculate whether their presence was noticed or not.
“You two, come with us,” one of the Italinian Knights demanded, yelling loudly and with a forceful voice.
Brutus silenced himself, realizing, at last, his misconduct. “They found us fast,” Ess said. “So much for giving 'em dummy descriptions of us.”
“This is your fault.” The Thief felt his snarl form, his teeth grinding. Having to escape from all of this would be tough enough already but having to account for the beaten and maniacal Brutus would stack the odds out of his favor.
Secrat and Brutus both scrambled the opposite direction of the carriage. Brutus walked achingly, and soon, Copé led him off into a narrow alleyway between adjacent buildings. The Knights pursuit of them would have to be on foot. Ess did his best to keep up, Copé would only slowdown so much for his sake. Ess' limp lagged him some, but there was at least a feel of pep and effort in his step.
They heard the Knights leap out of the carriage, at least some of them, not all of them. The sound of their sabaton's slapping down against the marble.
Their footsteps were large and seemed synchronized.
Brutus and Secrat bled deeper into the alleyway as it approached its end. The hyperventilating happened early on from Brutus Ess as he followed not too far behind, Secrat, on the other-hand, roamed his eyes about the darkness, the moonlight supplied so little, and did not supply a definitive game-plan or answer to their survival.
Breaking into a home and hiding out until it settled down could work, but they'd never able to kick in a door discreetly. And it was hardly like Secrat's nervous shock would calm long enough to pick a lock.
Civilians could help. Disappearing in the crowd, that is. It worked in the Whispey Deserts. But there were more in search of them. And the crowds became scarcer as the night time raged on.
Secrat and Brutus found themselves back on the roads, leaving the alleyway. The high exhaust, Secrat felt his feet move slower. He fought the fatigue. It'd give him no assist.
Copé turned and looked back and saw a single knight on their tail. And, without thinking, spiraled his body and threw a knife in his direction.
It'd do nothing and only offer distraction. The Thief knew it on some level before throwing it. He raced toward the Knight, running at him with a second wind. Soon after, the knife struck the silver armor of the knight, who instinctively tried to block it. Secrat drove a boot to the Knight's chest and unsheathed the Knight's sword. Bringing it out, Copé slashed at him with the sword. The Knight went down at once, without an audible sound of dismay.
Could have been simply playing dead. It didn't matter.
As The Knight was falling, Copé saw something out the corner of his eyes, and without stopping to think, on impulse again, brought the sword in-front of his face on the defensive. As he did, a sword came down fast on him, blocked by this own. It was fast, however, and it caught him off-guard.
Copé fell. Once his eyes adjusted, he saw that at least ten knights were running his way. He made certain to dodge the preemptive strike of the Knight, causing him to dig down into the dirt-ground. Secrat crawled away before scrambling back up to his feet, racing off and ahead of Ess. He'd risk losing Brutus and being kicked out of The Red Flux again over his own death.
His escape had to be imminent or not at all. Sooner or later, the numbers would outmatch him, and his fatigue would halt him. However, as his eyes poked and prodded, looking for something to come loose. Nothing did, no hiding spots, and sure enough, The Guards would have his head soon.
He ran down the road. This time running in-front of a chariot. His heart racing. Secrat made eye-contact with the man at the reins. Then looked at The Guards running in their pursuit of him.
The Red Flux & the Wunderkind THief
Chapter One (1 - 2 - 3)