IT’S ALL IN THE NAME
(The Cut Ranong Bar Fight Scene from Mettilwynd)
She walked into the bar dressed to kill, literally and figuratively. Her dark, straightened, chin length hair swung with each bold step as everyone watched the short, petite woman of Indian decent make her entrance. A glamour spell masked the natural glow of her mage skin so that wasn't the reason everyone stared. Nor was it the way she carried herself: as if she owned the place.
More likely, the focus fell on all the blades that covered her body. Being a Metal Mage, all the weapons worn hummed an allegiance to her; from the poison tipped metal throwing stars nestled into pockets of her buckled bodice, right down to her knee-high, steel toed/heeled boots.
While heading toward the group of tables and chairs on the back right, far from the door, she heard someone whisper, “It's Katara,” with fear thick as tar on their tongue. This triggered many patrons to discover it was time for them to go faster than if the place had caught on fire.
“It seems you have a reputation here as well, Captain,” her ship’s Quartermaster said.
A sly grin slid into place as Katara scanned the room for her contact. “You bet Michael's mighty sword I do.” Noticing her contact by the red silk tied to his wrist, she added, “Conrad is here.”
Her Quartermaster just huffed.
“Problem?” Katara asked.
“You mean other than this whole meet up? Yes, who've you ever met named Conrad that you could trust?"
“Name prejudice isn't becoming, Arcadia.”
“Pfft,” was her Quartermaster’s only reply.
Katara wandered over, slung her leg over a chair, and sat at Conrad’s table, keeping her back to the wall. Arcadia stood beside her captain, her back turned the same way.
Once the chatter and bustle of patrons began again, the man whispered, “Does your bodyguard need to stand there like that?”
“She sure does, Conrad. All six foot, one-hundred and seventy-five muscle bound, red-headed, weapon-ready, pounds of her.”
Arcadia grinned at the scrawny, dark haired man and his Adam's apple bobbed up and down.
Katara touched Conrad’s hand to feign comradery. “Don't worry, she only has orders to run you through if you try something stupid. You’d not do something like that, would you?”
“No, of course not.”
“Good boy. Now, what news do you have for me about the one they call, Havâ?”
“Do you have my money?”
Katara placed a pouch of gold coins on his knee under the table, but left her hand on it until he placed a folded piece of paper in front of her.
Conrad’s eyes nervously looked around the room. “That is what you need.”
Katara noted the smooth texture of the paper. This told her it was high grade, the kind only the rich, pious, and non-Earth conscious used. The rest of the world bought recycled. Opening it, a key slid to the table. Pocketing it, she started at the hand drawn map hand-drawn inside. It was similar to those she’d previously been shown, but this one held more detail than the rest.
Letting go of the money at his knee, she skimmed her fingers over Jetrel's embossed insignia pressed into the top. “What is this room with the star? Is that where she is kept?”
He nodded. “It's a secret room behind the tapestry in Saval’s quarters.”
“And the key?”
“You’ll need that but beware of—”
A blade, tip first, exploded from his throat, stopping Conrad’s sentence as blood flew into Katara’s face and onto the map. Without pause, Katara’s left hand came up and caught the second blade six inches from her face as Conrad’s head hit the tabletop.
Hearing another piece of steel come singing through the air toward her, its pitch like a well-trained soprano, telling her its exact speed, she ducked. The third blade flew over her and sank into the wooden wall with a ‘thunk’ as she looked in the direction it’d come from. Seeing a tall man in royal colors, a grin on his face, she need look no further.
A fourth blade suddenly slammed into Arcadia’s shield as she raised it to protect Katara. “He’s not alone.”
“Demon bones!” Katara swore, grabbing the dagger embedded in the back of Conrad’s neck and throwing it with immense speed toward the man she’d already identified.
He dogged, causing it to clip the bartender’s ear before embedding itself into the wall behind him.
“Angelsnot!” she said, leaping up to yank the blade from the wall and throwing it with a spell on her lips, causing it to move like a curve ball, confusing him as to its real trajectory. This time the steel hit him, sinking into his eye, dropping him to the floor.
“Why do people still think attacking me is a good idea?” Katara muttered.
“I told you not to trust a weasel named Conrad,” Arcadia said, pulling her broad sword. “We still have four.
“Any other name prejudices I should know about?” Katara asked, folding and shoving the map into the back pocket of her black leather pants.
“Trevor. Trevor is a bad one for sure,” Arcadia said, giving a hand signal to tell her Captain the locations of the other four while the chaos of the other patrons ran screaming out of the bar.
“I'll keep that in mind,” Katara replied with a nod, placing each hand on the hilt of a dagger in the double blade-holding sheathes attached to her thighs. “Shall we go home or stay for a drink?”
“Oh, there's only four, let's stay for a drink,” Arcadia said with glee in her voice.
Katara pulled a blade from each side and two of the four men began to advance toward them as a spinning round blade flew at Arcadia and another dagger sang through the stale air toward Katara. With an easy twist, Arcadia blocked the circular blade with her round shield as Katara swatted the dagger with one of her own, sending it to the floor.
“Then a drink it shall be!” Katara threw both of her daggers, keeping them close so each would hit a different man. Both hit their target, embedding into a shoulder of a thug coming at the two women. Using a chair to launch herself onto the top of a long table, Katara ran the length of it, shouting, “Balance weight!”
Arcadia quickly leapt to stand on her side of the table as Katara reached the opposite end. Pivoting on her left foot, Katara raised her right knee, and kicked out, being sure to angle her ankle so as to do damage. Her foot hit him in the windpipe, causing his hands to fly to his throat as he stumbled backward, hit the bar, and dropped to the floor, wheezing for air.
Pulling her sword, Arcadia smiled at the second royal thug. Seeing this, he changed his mind on who to attack, and turned toward Katara, throwing two more disks as the two other men ran for Arcadia.
Katara flipped backwards as Arcadia leapt forward off the table. Landing on both feet, Katara dropped into a squat to make sure both disks flew over her head, hearing the clash of Arcadia’s sword with the two who’d chosen her as their target.
Knowing Arcadia could handle herself, Katara wasted not a second. Bouncing up, she ran forward, grabbed the edge of the table, and threw her herself over the table like she was sliding across the hood of a car. Both feet slammed into her attacker’s chest, sending him flying backwards. Landing with one foot to his left and one to his right, her momentum was too great to stop. Falling forward, she placed a hand on other side of his head and somersaulted over him, but not without injury. For as she came down, the man raised his head, slamming his forehead into her nose, breaking it.
Once sitting on the floor, Katara spun counterclockwise. Shouting in pain, her right flying up to hold her noise, her left pulled the dagger from the man’s shoulder. Swiftly she slit his throat before throwing it into the heart of the man still wheezing on the floor. “And den dare were two.”
Rising up, she placed fingers on either side of her nose. With a crunch of bone and cartilage, she set it back into place while using the power from a healing medallion in her pocket to lower the swelling that had already begun.
Wiping tears from her eyes, she rapidly blinked to clear her vision, and walked over to the dead man on the floor at the bar. Pulling both of her blades from his body, she wiped the blood on his shirt, and slid them back into their sheathes. Turning to check on her Quartermaster, she saw that Arcadia still had both in a sword battle where it was evident she wasn’t trying her hardest to kill them.
“Quit playing around.”
“Why should you get all the fun?” Arcadia quipped.
Reaching behind her, Katara unsnapped the latches on her two matching dirks that were horizontally attached at her waist at a slight angle, the handles low to make them easier to grab. Drawing both, she joined Arcadia, stepping into the fray, taking one of the attackers on herself.
Blades clashing, Katara shouted above the sound, saying, “So…Trevor is the other bad name, huh?”
“Yeah, always felt that name was pompous,” Arcadia replied.
Another man ran into the bar, sword in hand.
“Wrath of angels!” Katara swore. “Guess you get this one back!”
Arcadia whooped with glee as Katara kicked the man back to her.
Turning full attention on the new arrival, Katara heard the sound of a man being run through behind her. “About time.” Bringing both dirks to meet her new opponent, she added, “I think you have name phobia.”
Arcadia laughed, pulling her sword free from the man’s abdomen. “Well, duh, why else do you think I changed my name?”
A sixth man came through the door.
Katara sighed. “Are you effing kidding me? Screw this!” With two swift moves, she scissor-sliced in and upward, and then out. The first move opening both sides of the man’s mid-section while the latter slit his throat. Lowering her arms, she watched as he fell backwards to the ground, his carotid arteries pumping his life out onto the wooden floor.
Katara stuck both swords into the man, to keep them accessible, and pulled two poison throwing disks from the pockets below her breasts, flinging them with deadly accuracy into the incoming man’s chest. He stumbled a few steps before dropping to the ground, never moving again.
Everything went silent, save for the labored breathing of someone behind her. Twisting around, Katara found the source of the sound. It was the last man standing. Arcadia had the him pinned against the bar, her sword held perfectly poised with the tip of it at his throat.
Katara yanked her two dirks free from dead man number five and walked slowly over to the bar. Cleaning her weapons on his clothes, she spoke to Arcadia, “Ya know, not that I don’t like your new name, but I didn’t hate your old one.”
“It was the name of a Mule,” she said, using the derogatory name for her breed, one of the Second Unforseen. “A slave Mule at that. I'm a Guardian and warrior, not some lowly peon.”
“Point taken.” Katara said, putting both dirks back into their holster and snapping the safety to keep them there before turning her full attention to the man at the end Arcadia’s sword. “Speaking of names, what is yours, my friend?”
When he said nothing, Arcadia pierced the skin of his neck until he began to bleed. “Name!”
“Hey! Looky there,” Katara said with a grin, “That used to be my guardian's name!”
“See? Peon. I rest my case,” Arcadia said, her tone flat.
Her smile still in place, Katara shoved her two-inch heel into the highest part of his foot. “Who do you work for, Francis?”
“Jetrel,” he said too easily.
“Nice try, but I work for His Horribleness, so he'd have sent much more talented men if he was coming for me. Who do you really work for?”
Francis looked as angry as a swatted bee, but with another push into his foot he yelled out, “Pichai!”
“You see, now that makes sense,” Katara said. “The eldest of the King’s twin sons hates me.”
“Gee, can’t see why…” Arcadia said dryly.
“That was an accident. I didn’t know his old man was behind me…” Katara said, letting the rest of the sentence trail off. For there was no need to out Pichai as gay to anyone else, she’d already done enough damage. “We were friends once upon a time, he and I,” she said instead.
Arcadia backed the sword off of Francis’ throat since Katara’s heel on is foot seemed to be just as effective. “But your traitorous reveal to his father isn’t the only reason he hates you.”
“No. It’s not. Tell me, Francis, is Pichai here in Ranong?”
“I don't know,” he replied, and tried to make a run for it, but finding Arcadia’s sword blocking his path.
“Now you’re just pissing me off,” Katara said, yanking him back by the neck of his shirt and throwing him up against the bar again, placing the tip of one of her daggers at his throat. Clucking her tongue at him, she added, “You’re not trying hard enough, Francis. Let’s try this again. Is Pichai in Ranong?”
“No. He heard you were going to be here so he sent us to find you.”
“I find that highly unlikely,” Arcadia told him. “He’d have sent better soldiers.”
Katara raised a second dagger and shoved it in under his right clavicle. “Try again.”
Francis screamed in pain, shouting, “All I know is that Saval told Pichai that he believed there was a traitor in his ranks that was meeting someone here in Ranong, he didn’t know who it was or the person they were meeting.”
“And?” Katara pressed, turning the blade a hair.
“We quickly figured out who it was and we followed him straight to you.”
Katara nodded and pulled the blade out. “See, Arcadia, Conrad wasn’t untrustworthy.”
“No, he was just an idiot.”
“Poor dead Conrad,” Katara said, looking over her shoulder briefly at him, his head still on the table.
Arcadia walked around to stand to Francis’ right, in case he tried to make a run for it again. “You don’t even know who we are, do you?” Seeing he did not, she leaned her back against the bar, crossed her arms, and laughed. “I thought not.”
“So, when did Saval leave?” Katara asked.
Francis’ face twisted in disdain. “He said he must consult his psychic adviser right away so he and his fancy beard left earlier than planned. About four days ago.”
“Fancy beard?” Arcadia asked.
“It’s an old term,” Katara explained. “Seems Francis here knows the big secret about Jetrel's oldest human brother in law.”
“Setan-benih homo,” he said, the first of the two-word sentence a Malaysian word for demon-spawn. Carefully turning his head, he spit on the ground to show his utter disgust. “He struts her around like a peacock, all bejeweled and elegantly dressed, but we all know Saval beds men at night.”
“Does this peacock have a name?” Arcadia asked.
“Havâ is what they call her.”
Everything seemed to stop. The feeling of the air, the stench of blood, the sound of voices outside walking by without a clue to what was going on inside the pub; it all blurred into absolute silence.
“Now you have my attention,” Katara said quietly, holding back the fire burning in her chest. “Did they both head back to Penang?”
Francis said nothing, pursing his lips.
Without considering another option, Katara stomped on his foot, breaking it. “Damn you to the eternal fires of hell! Answer me, you cur!”
Eyes wide, he screamed, “My foot! You broke—”
Arcadia grabbed his ear and twisted it hard. “You think that’s bad…you’ve seen nothing yet. It only takes ten pounds of pressure for me to remove this. Want me to show you?”
“No no no! Please…” he begged.
Using the blade at his throat to urge him to lower himself, Katara leaned in so her eyes met his. Speaking through clenched teeth, she said, “Are he and Havâ here now?”
“No,” he squeaked out. “They both left for Penang together to attend the Feast of Tithes.”
“See, that wasn't so hard,” Katara said, easing back from Francis.
Arcadia looked to Katara. “So we head to Penang and deal with Saval.”
With a growl, the man said, “Kill that homo for all I—”
Katara shoved the dagger through his throat. “Wrath of angels, you had to be a batang and say that word again, didn't you?”
“Captain's got zero tolerance for prejudice,” Arcadia explained to a dying Francis just before Katara took her knife out and he fell to the ground.
“Peon,” Katara said.
Arcadia nodded. “It's all in the name.”
“You may be correct.” She cleaned her weapons on Francis’ shoulders and slid them back into their sheathes. “Come, we're going to pay Saval a visit. It's time this was over. Besides, Havâ is with him. If we don’t move now we may never get her back.” Katara walked over to Conrad, thanked him, and took back her gold coins. Tossing the sack of money on the bar, she said, “for damages,” to the one person she knew was still in the bar before heading for the door.
Following behind her, Arcadia asked, “So, how’s your nose?”
Pointing at her warrior over her shoulder without looking at her, Katara said, “Don’t start.”
The last sound the bartender hiding behind the bar heard as they walked out was Arcadia’s laughter.