Where: Small Village on the border of the Near-Woods, Eastern Realm
Kyky left the healer's small house and reflexively pulled up her hood… but was pleasantly surprised to find that the rain had - finally! - stopped. It was the early morning now, and all the easier in the rising sun to see the blood smeared on her hands. For such shallow wounds, they had bled a lot, and Kyky hadn't minded being bled on a bit if it meant keeping her friend calm and comforted and the wound compressed. But now, she frowned at the mess, but had no choice but to shrug it off, and lifted her blue eyes to locate her companion waiting for her.
"I have good news and bad news. Good news: Hawkins' going to be fine," Kyky said, clearly relieved. It had been a long night. "That goo isn't poisonous, just sticky as fuck. Sounds like Marcus did a fine job..." ....of slicing off mostly just skin, she thought, but tried not to let the image come back up into her mind. She was starting to get hungry and she'd never be able to keep breakfast down if she kept thinking about how Hawkins' skin looked a bit like raw bacon.
Ironically, a tired smile pulled at Kyky's lips with the other. "The bad news is that I promised I'd be back to pick him up at noon with eight silver pieces." It was a tidy little sum, and more than these prison escapees had on hand. "So… those lessons you promised?" She had so been looking forward to learning a tip or two about thieving and now it was for a good cause!
Manny looked up from where he had been resting outside the home at the sound of the girl’s voice. He had never heard a maiden use such vulgarity like a working man, and coming from the sweet looking, wide eyed Kyky it was even more out of place. But he was learning not to judge his new companions by their covers.
They had been taking turns in assisting the healer with their comrade, the house’s common area wasn’t big enough for so many people. He gave the blond a bone weary smile, because he was glad that Hawkins would live too. “Eight, at noon?” he repeated getting to his feet. Maybe they should be stealing from the healer…. He kept that notion to himself for the moment.
The centaur didn’t want to filch the coin from the workers who had been kind enough to take them in. He was a thief, but he wasn’t a bastard. “Let’s go see what we have to work with”.
"We've got this," Kyky said, with the false sort of confidence that she hoped would become a self-fulfilling prophecy. The town was small, but there seemed to be a number of relatively wealthy people. There were perhaps two large homes made of both wood and stone that, Kyky guessed, belonged to perhaps cider or lumber merchants. She didn't see the men-at-arms that spoke of nobility even if the homes had walls and gates around them, which made their task seem less dangerous. She would let Manny take the reins on these judgement calls, she thought… and the turn of phrase in her mind led her to open her mouth.
Then close it.
Then, open it again.
They hadn't spoken yet about much besides their friend's predicament since they had woken up. Although Kyky could sense some tension between them, she wasn't quite sure how to breach the subject, so she just opened the door: "When we fell asleep in the forest, I had a weird dream…"
Manny watched a few townies that past them by, and looked to the said when the petite blond broached the subject of what had happened in the green woods. “The forest is suppose to be enchanted, with a witch residing in its shadows…. Strange dreams are not to be unexpected there” he replied.
He had heard tales about the woods from his father who was born there as a child. But it definitely was as beautiful and frightening as his sire had said, no wonder he took the family to the Western plains. Looking at the girl beside him, he shrugged his shoulders and said “I saw you and Marcus on a beach, in strange attire with unusual buildings of the sort I have never seen…”
Kyky nodded along. She'd heard rumors about the East, but her bias as a New Yorker was to assume it was all stories and exaggeration, but she'd been proven wrong enough times that even if this wasn't intuitive, it wasn't a surprise. But when Manny's words turned and he seemed to know details of the dream, Kyky straightened up and her head snapped in his direction. He had been there! Somehow she'd known it…!
But when he said strange attire, her blue eyes went wide and her lips opened into an "O" as realization dawned. She had been wearing her favorite blue bikini, the one she'd bought from Victoria's Secret - not notable by Florida standards, and the beach had felt very much like home to her, but by Eventyrian standards? Kyky was hardly the most modest of girls, but this particular culture shock was enough to bring a blush to her cheeks.
"It was… uhm… traditional garb," Kyky said, with an inflection in her voice that made the words sound like a question. "I mean, if I tried to swim in this," she illustrated the point by picking up a handful of her skirt, "I would sink!"
Manfred stared at her and it was clear that he didn’t understand. “Only certain races swim in a state of such undress”. The young man tilted his head at her, gazing intently through a curtain of black hair at the blond.
“Are you a…. Mermaid?” Manfred asked cautiously.
It was probably the most flattering question Kyky had ever been asked, and it showed in her response. Her hand fluttered to her chest, a gasp of pleasure stole her breath, and for a moment, her smile was so wide that she couldn't use her lips to speak and all she could do was shake her head.
"No, but… that would be so amazing!" Kyky explained, before her brain caught up and she realized that Manny wasn't asking in a hopeful way. Maybe he was, like, Eventyr-racist against mermaids. Maybe mermaids deserved it - she had no idea what they were like here! She backed up - with a deliberate gesture that looked like tossing something over her shoulder - and vaguely tried to explain her glee. "I heard so many stories about mermaids when I was a girl. They were always so beautiful, and mysterious, and enchanting…"
That might have been enough, but Kyky hesitated, stole a glance back up at Manny's face (or what she could see of it through that goth-y hair of his) and decided, with a measure of discomfort, to continue. "You see, a few years ago, I was shot," with an AR-15, but she didn't specify and let him think it had been an arrow, "In my hip and leg." Her hand ran over the right side of her body, where the scars would have been if she were wearing her Earth body. "I could have been crippled for life, but I got my strength back by exercising in the water. The water made me feel… normal again. I could move without pain. So I dreamed, often, of being a mermaid." And, anticlimactically, concluded, "But I'm not. I'm just Kyky."
Manfred halted his forward momentum his brow furrowing at her story. Firstly who would shoot a maiden… such a cowardly act. He looked at the blond when she seemed to be putting herself down. His mouth curled slightly and he gingerly put a hand on her shoulder, “You are beautiful and enchanting, Kyky” he said quietly. “And strong to overcome such adversity” he added hastily.
Blowing out a breath that made his hair flutter from out his face for a moment, he shrugged a shoulder. “Not many people here appreciate some of the other races that share Eventyr…” the the smithy and thief stated as he looked around them. “...I’m sure that the mermaids would appreciate your fondness for them”.
He gestured to a house that stood out from the rest in extravagance, “Tax collector or a low grade noble, they’ll do…” Manfred didn’t like stealing from the common folk, it was like robbing his parents.
Kyky's hand closed over Manny's when he touched her shoulder, sending him a warm smile. She quipped "That's me!" in a dismissive way that implied she believed Manny was just being kind with his compliments… but her hand followed his when it fell, and she gave it an appreciative squeeze.
She liked Manny - he was smart, resourceful, thoughtful, sweet, but she hadn't actually thought about getting attached to someone from another world… Maybe it was time, because when he blew the hair out of his face, Kyky pulled him to a stop by his arm and brushed his hair back and joked, "We aren't thieving yet; who are you hiding from...?"
When they arrived at a good mark, Kyky nodded along. Nobles and tax collectors seemed both like good choices. It was intuitive that they needed to scope out the house, and they moved carefully through the woods around the building. As they did, Kyky opened her mouth. "So if you were there…" In the dream, clearly, "Are you… like… sometimes... " Why was it hard to say? Was she also Eventyr-racist? She hardly thought so, and so she went on. "A centaur?"
He smiled a little when she tried to tame his hair, although Manfred wasn’t sure exactly how to explain it. “It’s a… cultural thing” he finally said glancing downward which made the black curtain cover half his face again.
His mouth pursed slightly at Kiki’s question, and clearly he mulled over the answer. Mostly it seemed she was asking out of curiosity, and it would be difficult to deny it after the dream. “I am a centaur all the time… even when you see only two legs” he replied rather cautiously. His teeth sawed his lower lip for a moment, “Is that a...problem, Kiki?”
"Oh," Kyky replied, and immediately worried about how offensive her question had been. Was it like assuming a biracial person was one or the other? Or was this like asking a trans person whether their preferred pronouns really mattered? As an activist, Kyky was very aware of the spectrum of problematically, and while she immediately felt like she wanted to make an excuse, that instinct was privilege and fragility.
"I've never met a centaur before," Kyky said - or at least, she hadn't met one that she knew was a centaur. Apparently sometimes they looked normal. Oh god, she berated herself, normal was such a relative term! She was bombing, even in her mind. There was a script for this. Sure, it was hardly meant for centaurs, but Kyky leaned on it. "I know that as a… centaur-person?, it's not your responsibility to teach me how to accept you…."
The script was shit. Kyky wanted to respect her new friend, of course, but reciting canned lines from academics was hardly the way to do it. It didn't fit, at all. So she wrenched her gaze up from the ground, and reached for his hand instead, meeting his eyes even though they both really should have been keeping watch.
"But…. I would like it if you could, because…" Kyky paused for a breath but did not stop, "I like you."
Manfred looked up and arched his brows, before he let a smile curl his mouth. “I like you too, Kiki” he replied softly. She didn’t seemed disgusted or frightened by his nature… curious perhaps.
He squeezed her hand and pointed to the house as the owner lift to run some kind of errand. “Lesson one of a good thief, don’t take any unnecessary chances” Manny advised, saving talk about Centauri for later when they were someplace safer. And he had time to collect his thoughts, how did you explain what was simple nature to someone who never experienced it?
Really, Kyky knew, she needed to keep her mouth shut. Let Manny come around to talking in his own time. But the fact that he was dismissive and refocused on the task at hand made Kyky feel terrible - if he liked her, as he said, then why didn't he want to talk to her?
Kyky looked his way again, with a sort of hopelessness, eyebrows lifted and lips parted. He had smiled, he had squeezed her hand. These were signs that he accepted her in the same way she wanted to accept him. He just didn't want to talk about it.
So Kyky squeezed back, and tried to bridge the gap. "Okay, so, like, I hear you…" she said, and knew it was a stretch, but she tried. "But…. isn't being, like, half horse sort of a risk? How does that work?"
God, she was being awful, and knew absolutely knew it. Kyky let Manny's hand go, out of sheer embarrassment, and instead said: "I mean, I can go do the actual…." her voice lowered, "theft. Just tell me what to do."
He didn’t understand her question and made a confused face. “Risk, how do you mean?” Manny paused resting on his haunches in a squat on the balls of his feet. Usually he could read people’s body language easily but Kiki was so foreign sometimes. “I have better hearing and agility than a normal human… no offence, you seem quite able bodied….” he replied.
Ugh, what was that Manfred? He rolled his eyes behind his hair at his sudden ability to stick his feet in his mouth. Good thing he had only two in this body. “I’m quite capable of stealing a few coins” he mumbled out.
"You have super powers? That's so cool," Kyky asked, with an impressed sort of smile that she tempered by biting the edge of her lip in the interest of keeping her escalating tone in check. While she was glad to be able-bodied, given her serious brush with permanent disability, she found herself totally enamored with the abilities Manny described. Better hearing and agility, he said. What did that look like? Was that part of why he was such a capable thief? Was anti-centaur discrimination part of why he was in the royal dungeons in the first place? So many questions.
Her hand grasped his wrist gently, and with a cheerful light in her eyes, Kyky said, "I'll follow your lead, Manny."
The young man looked at Kyky and smiled, “Not super powers...All centaurs have them, but our human counterpart has its advantages in blending in and concealment”. Her way of speaking was a bit odd, and Manfred wondered what part of Eventyr she was from.
His eyes were drawn to where the blonde was touching his arm, and Manny had to make an effort not to nicker like a lovestruck colt or some kind of idiot. He had just been on the road, away from home too long… that was all.
“C’mon Kyky…….. Do you always use a staff as your weapon of choice?” he asked softly as they snuck around the house to look for entrance.
Kyky thought she saw an emotion flicker across his face… but it was obstructed by that hair of his and gone before she could place it, so she just snuck along after him.
"It's the only one I've really learned," Kyky answered. It had been the weapon of choice for Bertie, the now-sheriff who had helped saved her life from that vampire, and he had been the handiest teacher. And she'd liked the idea of defending herself, but non-lethally. She smiled, that too-cheerful smile, and added, "It's a weapon, but you can lean on it, too. Can't do that with a bow, can ya?" She laughed at herself, then said, more helpfully. "But I'm actually pretty good with most weapons." It had been weird, the first couple times she had been disarmed in a fight. She had picked up a sword, and used it. Axes, too - not just the battle kind that some Eastern knights carried, but even the skinny ones the miners in the North did. She'd pass on a bow, though. "Gotta use what you can get your hands on, sometimes… Wait - do you think we'll need to fight?"
“No, but it’s good to know what resources are at hand. May I?” He inquired holding out his hand for the staff. Manny looked it over checking to see how straight, flexable and the type of wood. He flashed a smile and turned to dig one end of the staff into the ground and pushed off to almost literally run up the side of the house to a overhead balcony.
He held the bo staff down to Kyky, “Want to try, or I could just pull you up?”
Kyky passed over her staff without question. It was a good one, she knew, and so she was unsure why Manny seemed to be curious about its make… until he was using it to kung-fu his way up the wall. Kyky stood there, frozen, then looked around her and then up, dumbfounded, as if she doubted what she had just seen. Agility. Okay, yeah.
"Do you want me to break my neck?" Kyky asked facetiously at a stage whisper as she placed a hand up on her hip. She wasn't excited about scaling the wall either way, and it showed in the nervous way she double-checked the forest around them before looking back up at Manny. Her nerves settled a bit, when she finally let her eyes settle on his face. Instead, her anxiety was replaced with a cheerful sort of challenge. She bit her lip.
So she reached up, hoping and trusting for the best, and soon found herself crawling in a graceless sort of triumph up on the balcony beside him. Her skirt was too long for this sort of thing, and without thinking, Kyky wrenched it up past her knees and thus out of the way as she caught her breath - trying not to be too noisy about it - and got her bearing. Eventyrian ladies really needed to get turned on to pants.
He had reached over to help her up, happy that she took up the task. Although his face went red when Kyky hiked up her skirt to show off half of her legs. “Are you alright?” he whispered once they were both huddled on the balcony together.
“You know...female pirates wear pants under their skirt in case they need to fight or run. But you could use it to your advantage… You should think about a knife sheath underneath, catch someone by surprise with that”. He touched her hair to push it aside from her face, and grinned a little.
“Most locks are pretty simple in the mechanism, just strong material wise…” And it became a lesson in picking locks after all. From the very simple use of a common dagger to break tumblers, to the more complicated use of pins. Once in a while he would lean in to smell her hair when they were sitting close together. “You try” he offered her a set of straight pins for a window lock.
"That's a good idea," Kyky said, happy to hear that some females somewhere were practical, but where did one buy such pants? She would look into it, after they got the money to heal Hawkins. His touch to her face calmed her racing heart a bit, and her fingers brushed his when he withdrew them. Then she joked: "As long as I can have the pants without the murder or the rape, you know. Pirate's life's not really for me. Just pirate pants."
Kyky was an excited student, her expressions ranging from baffled to amazed very quickly. She repeated important points, to check she was understanding them, but still somehow seemed surprised when Manny handed the reins to her. She had assumed he would do this today, and maybe she'd try next time… but no time like the present, right? They hadn't yet heard any noises from the house.
Quietly repeating Manny's words as she moved through the process, Kyky was elated to find that the heavy metal lock in her hand clicked open after all. "What!" She let out a delighted squeal, then quickly covered her mouth and instead let a silent but deeply satisfied and grateful smile spread there instead.
Manfred smiled widely they were in luck that the owner of the home was probably out collecting taxes on some poor farmer. Still stealth was better than drawing attention, but Kyky exuberance was adorable. “Now you still have to be cautious even if you get a lock open, you never know if there could be a trap or even a spell protecting a window or door” he advised.
“Kyky, how do you know Marcus? You spoke to him as if you were familiar with each other…” Manny asked as they crouched on the balcony outside the window of the house.
Kyky's smile faded a bit - there was no denying that Manny was right. She and Marcus had quite a bit in common and it made conversation easy, but she hadn't been aware anyone had been watching them. Manny sure was observant.
"I don't know him; I met him maybe an hour before you did," Kyky answered, and tried to explain. She didn't want to lie, but the truth wasn't exactly an option, either. Or was it? After all, her world had just grown a little larger as she learned about the existence of centaurs. Maybe Manny wouldn't freak out if she told him…. What? That she and Marcus were time travelers? Dimension hoppers? No, it sounded crazy. So, instead, Kyky just simplified the truth down to its core. "It just turned out - funny enough - that he and I came from the same home town. He hadn't been there in a long time, but I just came from there right before the festival, so…."
Kyky tilted her head toward the house. "Think it's safe to go inside? How do we tell if there's a spell? I don't want to get turned into a frog."
Manny nodded his head in understanding as she spoke about the marauder leader and herself. He looked inside the house carefully, and used her staff to carefully run a light pressure around the frame. “Well, if I had time to plan better usually a field mouse or a frog are good spell scouts, but hiring a witch or spell caster is pricey….. I think we should be okay”.
He insisted on going through first just to be sure. Leaving his bow and arrows outside the window, the lean young man glanced around before he went through in one smooth movement.
Kyky held her breath as her friend entered the building, suddenly wondering what she would do if something happened to him, but he was right that they didn't have a ton of options…. Except optimism, and that was something Kyky had in spades. A sigh of relief escaped her lips when he made it across the threshold in one piece. She followed, carefully, and cast her eyes around the space curiously.
It was a stone house, sturdier than the wooden ones common to the East, but more expensive as well since usually stone was imported from the quarries in the North or North East. The fireplace was cold and empty, which reassured Kyky that no one was likely around nor had been for a while. It was quiet.
"Okay, what are we looking for?" Kyky asked, voice soft. Did people usually just keep cash on hand like that? Did they have time to try to sell valuables they could pocket?
Manny peered out a door that he had cracked open. “In this case, something easy to sell that’s needed if not straight out coin” he said softly. He inspected a dagger, but left it alone since it would be easy to track it down. Being a smithy if he had the time he would alter the handle and sell it on the black market somewhere.
“You’ll know it when you see it, Kyky” he said suddenly holding up a golden wedding band.
Kyky offered an approving nod of her head and then went to task. The room was a master bedchamber, if she had to guess, because she found herself drawn over to a noble lady's vanity. There were candles around the mirror, heavily scented enough that Kyky could smell their sweet lavender even though they weren't lit. The fine marble tabletop was carefully organized with a variety of items. She began plucking up bottles - creams, perfumes, powders, but it was hard to tell which were valuable, and she pocketed the ones that she didn't think would spill on her. She found a few pins that were clearly gold, a few with pearls on the ends...
Then, Kyky gasped with delight when she spotted the most beautiful hairbrush: a polished wood handle, with a rainbow of jewels on the back. This family was definitely from the North."Oh my god!" Kyky exclaimed, softly, and she beamed at her reflection in the mirror as she pulled it through her long hair. And even though her hair was in rough shape after their long night, being tucked in her hood, and blown by the wind, the brush moved smoothly, and Kyky guessed that the bristles might have been waxed or something...or bewitched? The thought made Kyky drop it down on the table with a noisy clatter.
Manny was on high alert from the sound like a skittish animal, eyes wide, head high and nostrils flared…. He huffed out a relieved breath when nothing happened, and walked carefully to his companion’s side. “We should go…” he said softly bending to pick up the brush.
His fingers carefully pulled strands of hair from the brush, tucked them into a pocket and he placed the brush carefully back on the table. “Don’t leave evidence that you were here, Kyky” he tilted his head and furrowed his brow slightly. “Are you alright?” he asked tentatively.
He wanted to get out of the fancy home, and back to the freedom of the outdoors.
"Sorrysorrysorry," Kyky whispered repeatedly, as Manny swooped in to fix her mistake. She hadn't thought that DNA evidence was exactly a thing in Eventyr, but who knew? Maybe all a witch needed was a strand of your hair to curse you from afar. Kyky frowned - a silly, overdramatic expression to amuse Manny as she blew a kiss to the beautiful hairbrush that she coveted so much, and then she followed him back toward the door.
The air outside felt especially fresh, and Kyky realized her heart was pounding from the excitement of their little heist. She could practically taste the adrenaline, and it had the biggest smile across her face, which accentuated the ever-so-slight lopsidedness to her grin.
Manny took note how much Kyky liked the brush, before he hopped outside again. “There are spells that can use things like hair and skin to find the owner…..And there aren’t many blondes here in the Eastern realm, I noticed”.
He smiled back at her because… well, it seemed the proper thing to do.
"Let's get Hawkins taken care of," Kyky said, beginning the careful descent back.