As fate would have it, it just WOULD have to be a dark and stormy night darker than normal on account of the clouds blocking out the Procession, of course, though broken by the occasional flash of lightning. Here in Darkside, though, the ruinous buildings stretch high enough to greatly reduce what illumination is provided by those unheralded bursts of light.
Fortunately, it has not begun to rain yet. There's no telling how long that will last. Perhaps long enough for a dark-furred Khatta to make his way off of the street and into the ruined building just along the way.
In the cool wind, a wooden sign swings back and forth, hanging precariously by a single wooden link from the broken pole that suspends it above the cobblestone and dirt street. The name of the establishment can no longer be made out, though the mood is set well enough by a worn emblem of a skull with a dagger stuck through its crown.
The open doorway awaits like a gaping maw, the empty windows looking eerily like hollow eye sockets, and the gable over the entrance like the peak of the nose of a human skull.
Jynx shivers at the sight; this part of town is bad enough in bright sunny daytime, not really needing all the added atmosphere. He clutches his obsidian dagger wrapped in cloth to conceal it close, having left the precious silver one at home. Reluctantly, the black feline slips on into the establishment.
Feline eyes serve Jynx well. He's able to spot a couple of Skreeks lurking just inside the doorway probably originally seeking shelter from the rain, but by the glint of chitin blades, opportunistic enough to waylay anyone else trying to do likewise. In the brief instant Jynx has to take in his surroundings, he finds that the main hall of this bar is littered with broken furniture and refuse, with several holes either rotted or knocked in the far wall. The staircase up to the second level has collapsed long ago, and there are a few holes that provide very quick access to the basement for the unwary.
Jynx tenses up, not wanting a fight, and bolts through the door. Luckily (for a change), the Skreeks miss, but the one on the right side makes a near miss, slicing a large gash down the Khatta's cloak. The feline doesn't stop to play, however, and continues into the bar as fast as he can, narrowly avoiding a hole in the floor.
The Skreeks curse in their high-pitched language (Or, at least, it's a fair bet they're not making pleasant small talk… ) and patter after the feline. Although they may not be able to see as well as the black Khatta in the darkness, they expertly avoid the pitfalls. Nonetheless, they are still slightly more cautious in their approach, giving the Khatta a precious moment which might be used to react somehow.
The cat continues quickly inside, dodging the scattered debris on the floor as best he can. Seeing the Skreeks still persuing him, he pulls out his weapon and readies it, and dodges behind some overturned chairs and tables between him and his attackers. "I don't wanna fight," he says, in a cracking, nervous vioice, "but I will!"
The Skreeks chitter laughter, pausing just a moment to look about blindly, sniffing at the air. One pats the other on the shoulder and turns him toward the black Khatta's hiding place. "A fight's just fine wit' me!" one chatters, with a feral gleam in his eye barely visible in the gloom. "I like my prey KICKIN!" He licks his chops noisily, then hunches down and begins to stalk toward the overturned tables, the other forking just off to the left to circle around from the other direction.
White glare from a flash of lightning peeks through a hole in the back wall just long enough to illuminate some of the debris at the Khatta's feet. Humanoid bones are amidst the filth, and a skull of unknown species grins up at him blindly, staring at the rafters above.
Jynx hunches down in a springing position, nervously shaking, but with eyes kept wide. Taking a glance upward, he notices that he is directly below an old, rather large, rather rickety chandelier, hanging to the ceiling only be a few old threads. The Khatta decides to let his attackers come to him.
The Skreeks let out squeaks of anger and alarm, and close quickly on the position where Jynx was just a moment ago. Looking about, they at last stare upward, pausing for a moment to find their prey.
*creak* The chandelier hangs lopsidedly from the deteriorated rope, swaying side to side in the low wind that whines as it finds its way through breaks in the rotten walls.
The ebony feline springs out from his hiding place and slashes up at the chords, making sure to dodge whatever comes down.
*snap* The rotten cords break easily under the sharp edge of the gift of the Savanites. A decidedly more sturdy rafter nearby provides a point of refuge for the Khatta as the chandelier goes crashing down upon the surprised Skreeks … and then through the rotten floor and into the basement.
The Skreeks are, at least for the moment, out of the action, and below ground level.
Off from the direction of the collapsed staircase, the staccato sound of rapid clapping of hands breaks what little silence settles upon the scene. The dust takes much longer to settle.
Jynx sits on his rafter for a small while, panting hard and trying to catch his breath. The sudden unexpected sound of applause sets the feline's fur on end. Taking a better grasp of the rafter, he stares down into the old bar to find the source of the noise.
A second feline enters the main room, this one digitigrade. Although such details as spots on the fur cannot be seen in such poor conditions, the "audience" is clearly recognizeable to the Khatta as the same Savanite that he had been seeking in this First-Ones-Forsaken place.
"Staccato?" Jynx calls aloud. He lightly bounds off the rafter and back to the ground below, still keeping a paw on his dagger just in case. "Staccato? What was that all about?"
The Savanite walks up to Jynx and presses her hands against his fur, as she signs, "Don't pretend. They could be easily avoided if you chose. You've had your fun. Let's get to work now."
A puzzled look crosses Jynx's face, but then he remembers. She still thinks that's he's Shikouju! This makes the black feline stutter a bit, "O- oh, yes… work… " How does he explain this? Maybe he should just play along for now. "Work, of course, with most haste."
The Savanite doesn't give any response except to turn and tug at Jynx's hand, leading him to a back room. There, she lights an oil lamp. The back room, once a poor excuse for a kitchen, shows signs of suffering as much from the ravages of time as the front room, but the holes in the walls have been hastily but effectively covered with patches of various sorts, so that the lamp's light does not serve as a beacon to attract additional vagrants and predators from outside.
Jynx looks around with a grimace. "Uhm… this your place? Its… uh… quaint… "
A broken table with a couple of empty crates serving in lieu of two of the legs holds some moldy food and garbage … which are swept aside by the Savanite to reveal a rag upon which a map has been scrawled. It looks like the layout of a two-story building.
Jynx glances at the map, trying to make it out. "Is this our… er, mark?" He hopes that's the right word, he's already forgotten the lingo.
The Savanite nods, then points out the important points of the layout. It's rather familiar, really It is one of the basic layouts used throughout the area that comprises the Bazaar, and a several houses in the city proper as well. Jynx's own house follows this same basic layout, so he'd have no problem finding his way around, even in the dark (barring furniture, of course).
A large red X is on the master bedroom, and it would seem that the suggested method of approach would be through the roof According to the diagram, there is a loose patch in the roof, and apparently the idea is to turn it into an additional entrance.
"Who are we going after? You never told me," the black Khatta signs reflexively. He looks at the familiar floor plan, taking it in as much as possible. "And why are we going after this person? I'm still in the dark… "
The Savanite shrugs, then signs, "We go because you're getting paid, and because I'm ordered to. Other than that, I know only that this is a corrupt merchant who is stirring up the fires of rebellion." She looks at Jynx. "My masters will be very pleased to see him dealt with as an example."
Jynx arches a brow, trying to look as much like his former Shikouju-esque self as possible. "Well, does this merchant have a name? It's bad luck to kill your mark without knowing who he is." Corrupt merchant? There's a lot of those in the Bazaar, and just who are Staccato's 'masters'? He hides his look of curiousity.
The Savanite frowns, looking again to Jynx. "The merchant is known as 'Master Black'. Are you with me, or not? We have no more time to waste. You spent enough of it getting here, and then playing with the trash."
The black cat frowns. She's sure a testy gal. "After you my dear, but I may have to ask you a favor once we are finished with this job."
The Savanite smiles. "I aim to please, Sir," she signs, turning her head to look at Jynx sidelong. And then she tosses the rag onto the lamp, leaving the rag to turn to ashes as she kicks aside some wooden planks and bounds through a hole in the wall, to the street outside.
Jynx shivers at that look, hoping that the cheetah isn't starting to catch on. After some hesitation, he bounds after her, following her down the twisted streets. He has no plans to actually go through with this job, but isn't quite sure how to get out of it now that he's in this deep.
The cheetah takes the black Khatta on a meandering path that crosses back and forth too many times to be the fastest route from one point to the next. It's evidently meant to shake any pursuers, and almost succeeds in shaking the Khatta … except that the Savanite demonstrates that she has no intention of letting 'Shikouju' out of her sight. At last and STILL before any cloudbreak they reach a building like so many others, and, working their way across the rooftop of an adjoining building, come to a rope and grapple set aside for just such an occasion. Skillfully, the Savanite uses it to snare the chimney of the other building, and secures the other end of the cord around a weathervane. She gestures to Jynx, bows, and makes an "after you" movement of her hands toward the rope "bridge".
The ebony Khatta gulps, but keeps his face emotionless. With a bow to the Cheetah, he grabs onto the rope and starts to make his way across, avoiding looking down.
As Jynx shimmies across the rope, he has no hope of seeing the Savanite's reaction to his choice of locomotion … but as he alights to the roof at the far end, he finds the cheetah quickly traversing the cord by walking across the top, one digitigrade pad in front of the other, arms held out for balance. She lands softly on the sloping, shingled roof, making not a bit of noise that couldn't be mistaken for the storm.
The street is far below two stories, to be exact. In this part of town, despite attempts at renovation near the Clock Tower, there are no working streetlamps. A flash of lightning reveals some papers blowing across the cobblestones, and a doll in a frilly dress lying flat on its back amidst some weeds growing through the cracks.
Jynx's eyes go wide at the Cheetah That was impressive! He quickly hides the look as she alights on the roof however, and returns to his emotionless cat face. Try as he might, he can't shake the familiarity of this place. "Lead the way, madame," he touch signs.
The cheetah responds by padding over to a patch of the roof that looks like any of the others … but as she tugs upward, it is painfully obvious that whomever paid to have a leak in the ceiling repaired got ripped off by the contractor. A dim light comes from within, and the cheetah quickly slips inside.
The black Khatta trots after the Savanite and slips in after her, fur on end at this whole situation. Once inside, he takes a look around.
The layout is eerily familiar, indeed. The cheetah quickly signs for Jynx to head for the master bedroom, and then she makes a finger "cutting" motion across her throat. She heads for a door nearby presuming the same layout as the Kurai estate, another bedroom.
Jynx nods, fighting hard not to let the cheetah see how much he is shivering. He goes over to the master bedroom, or where it should be, and opens the door quietly.
A faint whiff of perfume reaches Jynx's nose. The interior is totally unfamiliar, since he's never been allowed inside the corresponding master bedroom of his own house, but it's easy enough to figure out the layout. There is one master bed, two lumps in the bed, and a large barred window that occasionally lets in bursts of light from the worsening storm outside. There's a flash of something white outside, and then the room falls into darkness again. Perhaps it was just a trick of the light … but it was as if Jynx could see the face of that fallen doll in the window for just an instant.
*snnnnnxxxxxxxxxx* A rasping snore emits from the master bed, and a couple of ears flick from where they poke out from beneath the covers. The second lump elbows the first, and the first lump's snoring abruptly stops as it rolls over.
Jynx just stands at the door for some time, the uneasy feeling of deja vu filling his head. Slowly and carefully, he makes his way to the bed, just to see who this is.
The wind whistles through the hall and the newly opened "sunroof". It almost sounds as if the wind is asking, "Dead?"
Grey-furred ears poke from beneath the covers. The second lump has calico fur. Both lumps look most certainly feline.
In Jynx's own house, there would probably be two sleepers in this room as well. And one in the adjoining room, which would correspond to the bedroom of a certain annoying kitten.
His house… his house?! Dominic is the one they are after?! Impossible! Feeling sick, Jynx clumsily backs away from the bed, when a thought hits him: The other Room! Eve! Fighting his rising dinner, he bolts out of the room, bumping into a few furnishings, and sprints over to his sister's bedroom.
Once inside the door … Yes, it's Eve's bedroom all right. The pink curtains blow wildly in the wind, as the kitten has apparently left her window open against the rules of Mama and Papa Kurai again. A cheetah silently stalks toward the wriggling lump underneath the covers of the bed.
The sick feeling lost, and anger only left in its place, Jynx's blood feels as though it's boiling. Dagger raised, the black feline charges the cheetah, emitting an angry feline hiss, intent on protecting his younger sibling.
The cheetah, caught off guard, has her own dagger on a downward arc even as the Khatta surprises her. There's an audible "SQUEAK!" and then the Khatta is upon her. The room goes topsy-turvy. A squeaky voice shrieks, "Kill!" An end-table collapses, spilling a collection of dolls.
Jynx wrestles with the cheetah, leaving it all up to infuriated instinct as he makes attack after attack.
"What is going ON?" yowls a feline voice from the hallway, but it's barely heard over the melee in the room.
In the middle of a thrust with the dagger, it slips from Jynx's grip, flying across the room. It hits a lantern by the bed, and somehow a spark ignites the oil, bathing the room quickly in light. Several fuzzy creatures, caught off guard by the sudden increase in light, stop from the point where they were about to clamp their sharp teeth upon the tails of the entangled combatants, and try to beat a hasty retreat under the bed. One of them knocks over the bookshelf, spilling more dolls, a musicbox and several heavy books (Eve is an avid reader, and likes to have even more stories read to her before she'll go to sleep) falling from above.
Oblivious to all the commotion, and still numb in fury, Jynx continues his attack upon the Savanite assassin.
Another fluffy creature tries to scamper up the curtains, but its weight pulls the curtain rod free, causing it to swing in a pendulum arc, and sending the furry projectile hurtling through the air. Its sharp claws flail through the air, gripping for any possible hold … which turns out to be a spotted head. At just that moment, Jynx's fist meets the same head … and knocks out the smaller, fluffy creature in the same punch.
Meanwhile, another flying fluffy creature propelled by some disaster out of Jynx's line of sight lands on the cheetah's posterior, and digs in with all its claws to hold on tight. Evidently, this cheetah cannot scream, or she would have done so by now, by the expression on her face.
Dominic opens the bedroom door, just in time to get a fluffy creature in the face. "Yaaaaaaa!" He closes the door, and sounds of scuffling can be heard in the hall. "Dead?" "NO! NOT DEAD, you little !" "Keeeeeeeeelllll!" *whapwhapwhap*
From the window, a high-pitched voice calls out, "POOKUMS!"
Jynx continues attack after attack, punch after punch in blind anger. A few hissing words find their way out."You filthy spotted rug! I'll show you assassin! Leave my sister be!" Of course, Eve isn't the one under attack here…
The cheetah goes limp under Jynx's attack. Dominic finds his way in, using both hands to try to pry a struggling fuff'nar from his face. "NOT dead! NOT dead! Hisssssss!" "Keeeeeellll!"
From the window, Eve, clutching a doll in a frilly dress, squeals, "Papa! Don't hurt POOKUMS!" Then she looks at Jynx and the battered cheetah and lets out an ear-piercing shriek.
Incidentally, the doll looks just like the one Jynx saw laying on the street a little while ago.
The black cat slams Staccato to the floor a few times more, not realizing at first that she is unconciouss. The painful scream of the kitten brings him to his senses, and after a few blinks, he lets the limp figure drop to the ground.
Eve whimpers, looks at the disaster in the room, then clutches the doll to her chest. "I'm SORRRY!" she sobs. "I know you told me not to take Miss Muffy outside, but I wanted to show her to my friends, and I forgot her, and then I woke up when it was storming, and I remembered, and I had to go outside so she wouldn't be ruined by the rain, and I had the fuff'nars in here because they might get scared by the storm and … " She starts bawling.
Dominic pries Pookums off of his face, and shoves the struggling creature into Eve's open toybox, then slams the lid closed and sits down on it. "Feli? Eve? Are you all right?"
Lylia rushes into the room, then gasps and stops at the sight of the cheetah intruder. Then, "Feli! You're hurt!"
Jynx shakingly gets to his feet, staring in astonishment at the knocked out cheetah, not really believing he did what he just did. He stares at his father, then shakes off his puzzlement."I- I'm fine… "
Then the Khatta looks down at himself. He doesn't feel hurt, but from the look of his clothes some would beg to differ.
Eve tumbles into the room, and hides behind Jynx, grabbing one of the fuff'nars (maybe that one is Snookums) along the way.
The dazed fuff'nar doesn't say anything.
Jynx doesn't say a word, and just pants looking at his father. Its unlikely he'll let this slide, to say the least…
Dominic blinks a few times, surveying the situation, then says, "A slave broke into the house? Into Eve's room? Good … good job, Feli!" He wipes his brow. Lylia dashes past him to sweep up Eve in her arms and to encompass Jynx in the same smothering hug. "Oh, my poor kittens!"
The black cat doesn't fight as his mother gathers him into his arms, "Uh, yeah… a slave… broke in… " He looks down at Staccato with a grimace. He doesn't like to lie like this, but what's the alternative?
Eve gives Jynx a … curious look. But whatever's on her mind, she doesn't speak it for once.
"Well, we'll turn it over to the Temple," Dominic says, his voice shaking almost imperceptably. "They'll take care of it."
Jynx exchanges the glance with his little sister, only heaving a quiet sigh. He nods to Dominic, then shudders. He didn't stop to think of what would happen to the cheetah. Then something pops into his mind: "D- dad? Why… why was she here?"
Downstairs, banging can be heard on the store door. "Kurai! Kurai! Are you all right in there? We heard screaming!" Must be the neighbors.
Jynx continues his gaze at Dominic, waiting for an answer.
Dominic frowns. "I don't know, son. Probably to fin " He blinks, and then his eyes widen. "What in the Procession?" He leans forward, and reaches for the prone cheetah's face, turning it so he can see better. "It's HER!"
Lylia gets up, releasing her grip on Eve and Jynx. "I'll get the door, dear." She hurriedly pads out of the room and down the stairs, throwing on an overcoat along the way.
Jynx blinks, startled at Dom's sudden outburst. This was unexpected. He watches his mother go, then turns back to Dom. "Her… who?" He stares hard.
Dominic stammers, "T-the SLAVE … " He points at the slave, his hand shaking. "That accursed slave that was 'helping' me to the door right as that Shiga attacked! It was HER on the airship!"
The thunder rumbles outside, louder, closer.
The black Khatta shivers, looks at the slave, then back at Dominic. Gathering up his nerve, he steps between Dom and the Slave. "Dad… you're not telling me everything," he does his best sober stare, a simple cat-like poker face, dead serious.
Out of the corner of his eye, Jynx can catch a movement from the slave. She gasps audibly, though her eyes remain closed.
Dominic frowns. "I AM telling you everything, son! That cold-blooded son of a Gooshurm almost had my HEAD! If I could just get my HANDS on him right now… "
Footsteps can be heard ascending the staircase, and light plays in the hallway from a carried lantern.
Movement, that's not good, she must be comming around. Jynx might be able to best her in a fit of blind rage, but he more than likely won't be able to do it again. Ignoring his father's banter for a moment, he takes some of Eve's sheets and binds the Savanite's hands and feet tight. Making sure its secure, he turns back to Dominic, "No… I mean, why were they after you in the first place?"
Dominic says, "I don't KNOW. Maybe I insulted the Queen of the Savanites, for all I know!" His neck-hairs bristle. "Or how about that Sheriff of Safar? Remember what he said about anyone who was going to that spotty ceremony? Or … " His eyes narrow. "A bit of a coincidence that your dear beloved grandmother has made an appearance so recently."
The thunder booms, and then there is a loud CRASH as the glass of the window shatters inward! Three shadowy forms burst into the room, landing on their feet in a triangular formation near the fallen slave. They are humanoid, of indeterminate species, each one of them adorned completely in black.
Jynx swallows, maybe he is telling all he knows after all. He winces at the 'grandmother' remark, but it is cut deadly short as the forms burst into the room. The black cat instinctively crounches in defense, but is absolutely confused. "Dad! Eve! Duck!"
Eve shrieks and dives with a couple of fuff'nars under the bed. Dominic reflexively grabs Jynx, shielding him from some of the pieces of glass … but the few pieces that reach this far into the room do little damage. "We come for the slave," one of the three says and it is not clear which in a distorted-sounding voice. "She is acting outside the Guild. We shall deal with her. You need concern yourself no further." One of the shadows tosses a few shekels toward Dominic. "For the window. I hate dull entrances."
Dominic sputters, "Now, just one blessed min " Then he takes in the tall figures and the weapons they sport. "Ah … that should cover it, yes."
Jynx struggles in Dominic's grasp, trying to get at the intruders. If they take Staccato, he may never find Martinette! "No! Stop!" He stammers.
"Heh, heh. I would be glad to stop for the mighty Shikouju… " one of the three says, and the one on the right points with a gloved hand toward Jynx, "… but not for a pretender such as yourself. Your charade has been amusing, but it ends now."
One of the other three grabs the cheetah. She has regained consciousness, and struggles weakly with her bindings, but to no avail.
Although his heart sinks, Jynx continues to struggle with his father's grip. "Less a pretender than you think, hairball!"
"Tut tut," says one of the three, as the other two haul the slave out of the window, through the broken glass of the pane. "Shikouju would not resort to such petty insults. Now then, I bid you good night. And you Feli Kurai do not set paw in Darkside again. I say this not as threat, but as warning, for you have embarrassed many who fell for your ruse. Should you enter Darkside, you shall not leave again alive."
Dominic's face is full of questions, but he says nothing.
Jynx, still in Dominic's grasp, angrily shakes in frustration, no words of retort comming into his head. Finally conceeding defeat, the cat slumps to the floor.
The last of the three laughs again, then slips through the window. There is another crash of thunder … and then rain bursts from the sky.
Dominic loosens his grip on Jynx.
The young cat heaves a heavy sigh and fights back tears of frustration. If he can't get back into Darkside, then he'll never find out about his family's past. His tail twitches in agitation, and he looks up to Dominic.
Dominic sighs as well, shaking his head. He pats Jynx's shoulder. At last, the neighbors come in, along with Lylia. "Hello?" "Dom! What in the seven ?" The room is filled with a bustle of activity as neighbors pour into the room, and more are in the hall.
Jynx takes a look around at all his neighbors, all oblivious to what really transpired here tonight. The black feline sets his ears back in failure. Pushing through the crowd of gawkers, he slumps his way back to his room, closing the door behind him. Once inside, he lays down in frustrated defeat. No more acting like Shikouju. No more Darkside. He rolls over in anguish, and as his conciousness fades, one last thought comes to his mind. Tomorrow he'll use a disguise.