Sisters of Westwinter
The First Law of Atla
Chapter Two III: Underhanded Designs
Chapter Two, Part Two: Sisters of Westwinter – Chapter One VI: The Exile of Second Alley
Late, as usual, Sekhenna ducked beneath a hanging bolt of linen that hid the exposed face of a ruined house from the aftermath of a long passed fire. Inside, she met the gaze of a man in polished armor with swords at his side. Her new dagger bucket into a belt beneath her coat rubbed against her hip as she slid a stool from a half broken bar top and offered a smile of appeasement.
“Apologies, for my usual tardiness.”
The man grunted and stiffly pushed himself from the bar top and paced around her. She tensed, stretching her fingers slightly toward the dagger.
“I would be frustrated, but you have not been late where it matters, the payments.”
She rolled her eyes and slipped a leather pouch filled with scales from her cloak.
“As per your request, twenty percent extra on top of your usual fee for procurement of a physical key.” She tossed the bag across the room to the guard who caught it and spilled its contents onto a table. Without a word in reply, he sorted the coins and flicked through them. Sekhenna watched him as he verified his payment silently, piece by piece the ting of the coins slapping against one another echoed in the room until he turned to face her.
“Adequate. In return.” The guard revealed a small iron key from a pouch on his side and handed it to her.
She took and laid it onto the wooden tabletop.
“You are certain that this is the correct key?” With her free hand she reached into her bag and felt the cold brush of metal, wrapped poorly in linen. She slipped it from the wrapping and the guard readied himself with his hand to the hilt of his sword.
“You need not worry.” She assured him. “I have no intention of harming you.”
“Wonderful, but you know that isn’t true.” The voice chimed in the back of her mind as she withdrew a plain gauntlet and slipped it over her left hand. The cold metal warped and formed around her, fitting to her thin hands as ornamental filigree curled and wrapped the metal unnaturally. The thin plates that comprised the gauntlet molded and separated between each knuckle, delicate curls and joints evolved as she flexed her hand and felt the sick and still exciting warmth from the gauntlet fill her body. Like warming her hand above a campfire, she sighed as a delicate thrum reverberated through her forearm.
The guard took a step back at the sight of the gauntlet and left his eyes transfixed on her as she spread her fingers over the key. Light flowed from the fingertips of the gauntlet like falling mist as the thrum of the metal grew more intense. A sudden chill permeated the room as Sekenna watched her own work in bewilderment. The mist pooled around the iron key and began to solidify.
Across from her, the guard stared.
“Take it and run, he can’t stop you.” The voice growled into her ear.
“There is no reason to take it if I craft a perfect replica.” She danced her fingers across the thin metal key and wisps of chilled air fell onto it. Crystals grew where droplets of moisture fell from the gauntlet. The guard backed into a shadowed corner of the stone shack, his mouth agape. The only sound from within the occasional gasp as she twirled her hands and worked to mesh the freezing mist over the frame of the key.
“Careful.” She reminded herself as the ice grew and encased the key itself. When her work had finished, she closed her gauntleted hand and allowed warmth back into the room. The guard remained silent.
Sekhenna looked him in the eye, his fear enrapturing the gauntlet. “You know, I find it amusing that a nobleman kept such a useful device all to himself. Something like this could benefit the city greatly.”
The guard shook his head, tears forming in his eyes as she waved her hand.
“My, Sekhenna you’ve grown rather fond of me, haven’t you?”
She ignored the voice.
On the table, the ice that surrounded the key cracked and melted back to flowing water. She hung her gloved hand in the air above it and kept her fingers spread wide. Below her outstretched hand, the water pooled and lifted from the table in the shape of the key. It twisted around the metal and pulled itself from the wooden counter top in response to Sekhenna’s will, and reshaped itself, into a perfect replica of the key. She snapped her fingers and the guard jumped as a flash of cold burst from the center of the watery key, which froze solid immediately.
“Are you certain this is the key to his cell?” She demanded as the replica of ice floated into her palm.
The soldier nodded, quickly wiping tears from his eyes.
“Perfect. I will see you soon then, when it is time to finish the job.” She paused, and held the frozen key lazily in her hand. “You will still be there to see this to completion, no?”
The bald guard nodded, sweat dripped from his brow onto his trembling lip.
“I will be there, ma’am.” He spouted.
“That’s my boy.” Sekhenna tossed the replica into the air and caught before she slipped the key into her bag and nudged the real keys across the table.
“That will be all, for now.” She turned and stepped out of the house without waiting for a reply, and ducked behind a fallen strap of cloth as the guard within composed himself. She waited until she heard the jingle of his keys, then his timid steps out of the house behind her and a few more moments before she snapped her gauntleted hand once more.
Down the street, he heard the gasp of the man followed by cursing and a splash of water against the stone.
She stepped from behind her cover and into a nearby alley, away from the cursing guard who had gone to his knees to pluck the replica scales from the ground, as they melted between his fingers.
“Bold of you, Sekhenna. Refusing his payment will lead to his betrayal.” The voice quipped.
“I have no need for him. In fact, I’d adore being greeted at the gates of Icehold. It will make my arrival so much better.”
Chapter Two, Part Four: Sisters of Westwinter – Chapter One IX: Loyalty to the Hunter
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