The sound of the Skimmers reversing course never reached Tythel’s ears. The Skimmers carried on, flying off to wherever they had been heading in the first place. Tythel’s heart still pounded in her chest. They might have sent a song to some soldiers in the area, they might have…
Might have said what? All they would have seen is a group of people, gathered in an alley. The crate could have just been closed with the warning she had given. Even without it though, a group of people lunging into a building is hardly something worth dispatching a squad of soldiers to investigate. Probably, at least, Tythel reminded herself. She didn’t want to second guess the Alohym too hard – they’d surprised her before, and it could easily happen again.
“What the flath is a Skimmer?” Eliert hissed, emphasizing the curse.
“A new thing of the Alohym,” Eupheme explained in hushed terms. “They’re flying creatures, far faster than the Alohym’s vessels.”
Eliert’s eyes narrowed. “I’ve never heard of a Skimmer before. How did you?”
“We’ve encountered them. I think they’re new – we barely got away last time.” Eupheme shrugged.
Tythel took a moment to look around the room. They were in the back of some store, from the sounds on the other side of the wall. In here were a large variety of crates, though none were as big as the one Tythel carried, and all were labeled with glyphs that indicated they were shipped through proper channels. She didn’t need her nose picking up whiffs of fresh paint to inform her that some of those glyphs were forgeries.
Light came from a single arcglobe that hung near a door that lead into the back of the shop. Tythel could hear a couple people talking out there, haggling over the price over a heat extractor.
“Awfully convenient,” Eliert said, drawing Tythel back to the problem in front of her. “An Alohym invention no one else has heard of, and we get warned of by the veiled maiden who – somehow – heard them before anyone else did.” He reached to the single hand arcwand that hung at his side.
“Eliert, what are you suggesting?” Tellias asked, tensing up himself.
Eliert’s eyes were taking on the wild look of a trapped animal. “How in the shadow is she still holding that crate? It’s over twenty-five stones, and she’d holding it like it’s full of feathers!”
“Just stay calm,” Eupheme said, taking a half step back, placing her foot in one of the shadows cast by the shelves that surrounded them. “Eliert, I’ve worked with you before. You know me.”
Eliert let out a laugh that held an edge of hysteria. “Do I? Do I really, ‘Grendella’? That’s not even your real name, is it?”
“Of course not,” Eupheme said, putting on her best soothing voice. “I’m not a flathing idiot, tossing around my real name for these kinds of purchases. Light, it’s not like Eliert’s your real name.”
His eyes widened, and Eliert clenched his teeth.
“Oh, shadow forsake me,” Eupheme swore, her hands going to her daggers. “It is your real name.”
“Kill them,” Eliert hissed.
Tythel dove forward before he even finished the word, bringing the heavy crate down to collide with his face. The impact hit the moment Eliert got the word out of his mouth, and he rocked back, the arcwand tumbling from his fingers. Something cracked under the impact, and a small part of Tythel hoped it was Eliert’s face and not some of their goods. She lashed out with her foot and kicked it away from the fight. It set her off balance, and she stumbled to the side, barely righting herself before the weight sent her tipping over.
The two bruisers Eliert had hired had pulled out their clubs. “Don’t, you idiots,” Tythel snapped, pitching her voice as low as she dared. Eliert lay on the ground, clutching his nose and groaning in pain. “Do you want to bring the Alohym down on us?”
“And more importantly,” Eupheme said from behind one of the thugs, “do you want to still be breathing?” There was a dagger pressed to the man’s throat, and his eyes widened. She’d taken advantage of the distraction Tythel had provided to step through the shadows, which made her usual vanishing trick even more unnerving than usual.
The man with the dagger to his throat dropped the club, and his companion followed suit. “Good choice,” Eupheme said, not moving her dagger.
“She broke my nose!” Eliert growled from the floor. “She broke my flathing nose!”
“You pulled an arcwand,” Tellias said, walking over to bend down and look at the man. “You pulled an arcwand in the middle of a crowded chamber when the Alohym could have spotted us. Light, how have you survived this long selling black market goods?”
Eliert responded with a string of curses that Tythel didn’t understand, but they sounded incendiary. “What do we do with him?” Tythel asked.
Eupheme and Tellias shared a look, and Tythel fought down a curse of her own. This wasn’t a look she’d seen before, but it seemed to have weight and gravity behind it. I am getting better, she reminded herself, but it was a cold comfort when it seemed like everyone else on the planet could share looks that seemed to hold entire conversations in a glance.
“We leave him,” Tellias said, and Eupheme gave a reluctant nod. “He has as much to lose as us if he goes running to the Alohym.”
“More, really,” Eupheme amended. “As dimly as the Alohym look on people who purchase goods illegally, they take an even more unkind view to those that sell them.” That last sentence was for Eliert’s benefit, Tythel was sure. It didn’t make sense for the Alohym to prioritize the sellers of weapons over the buyers, especially with an active rebellion.
Eliert went pale, and Tythel hoped that meant he got the message. “Fine,” Eliert spat. “But don’t come around to me anymore, you hear me? We’re done!”
Eupheme gave Eliert a tight-lipped smile as she stepped out from behind the thug. “Believe me, Eliert, I wouldn’t dream of it.”
With that, the three of them exited the dark back room.