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Rated: 13+ · Fiction · Action/Adventure · #2285716
Skyla wakes from a deep sleep to a mundane life. But which is real? Now or what she dreamt
Skyla Bringer of Balance

Chapter 1

Skyla bent over, filling her canteen from the stream. Standing, she glanced skyward; the sun was low on the horizon. She let her stallion drink his fill before mounting. Skyla stroked the glossy black mane of her horse affectionately. “We will have to hurry if we want to make it to the settlement before dark, Dusker.” The horse bobbed its head as if understanding and acknowledging her words. The horse and rider set off at a fast gallop, following a well-worn trail as it meandered through the countryside. It was near dark when Skyla settled. Feeling tired, she looked forward to sleeping in a bed with a roof over her head instead in the open on the hard ground, at least for one night as Skyla dismounted and headed towards what looked like the inn. Two rough-looking men holding swords stepped out in front of her.

Skyla frowned as she gave the men an appraising glance. “Hi, I’m looking for a bed for the night.”

“Town is off-limits right now. Look elsewhere.” The burly of the two spoke gruffly.

“What’s the problem? I only want to sleep one night. I’ve been on the trail for several days.” Skyla could see the light coming from the inn and the sound of bawdy laughter mingled with the odd shout of protest.

“I said it is off limits. There is another village further along; you can stay there.” The man spoke in a menacing tone.

“But it’s nearly dark, and I’m tired.”

“You heard he said to move on.” The second man said firmly.

Skyla sighed, “And if I don’t ?”

“Then you’ll not leave here alive. Wait, you are not a bad looker. Maybe we will keep you alive for a while.” Both men smirked as they advanced on Skyla. She drew her sword, and both men died before taking another step. Skyla stepped over the bodies. She tied Dusker to the rail and stepped into the inn. Skyla took in the scene before she let her gaze pass over several drunkards. One man was raping a woman while the others watched gleefully, shouting encouragement. They all stopped turning to stare at Skyla.

A tall, powerfully built man sat in a corner and eyed Skyla with cold, lifeless eyes. He noted the sword in her hand with blood dripping from it. “Who let you in? Joss and Kiligan were supposed to keep anyone out.”

Skyla raised an eyebrow and shrugged, “They tried.”

“Have you come to join the party,” one of the men said, his speech slurring as he looked Skyla over leerily. The tall man banged his fist on the table, giving the others a furious glance. “Fools, she’s taken out Joss and Kiligan. Kill her now.”

The others finally noticed the bloodied sword in Skyla’s hand rose to attack with swords and clubs. Skyla sidestepped, running the nearest attacker through and kicking the body back. She turned and sliced the throat of another. Two more men entered the inn and immediately drew swords. Skyla stepped away from her attackers, holding her sword at arm’s length. The blade left her outstretched hand in a halo of light. Cutting each of her attackers down before returning to her. The inn fell silent the half-naked woman fell to her knees, trembling in fear. The tall man finally got to his feet, staring at Skyla with no emotion. “What are you? A spellsword.”

Skyla glanced at the woman with sympathy giving her a reassuring nod before regarding the man who now brandished a heavy mace as he stepped towards her.

“Huh, no, I’m much more than that.” Skyla waited as the man advanced to face her. He raised the mace menacingly, ready to club her to death before he could, though Skyla moved lightning fast and ran him through—the sword, burning through flesh and bone. The lifeless body fell to the floor.

The woman who was raped took Skyla’s hands, thanking her with tears in her eyes. More villagers came then to thank Skyla, offering her a comfortable room and bed to sleep in. At last, feeling drained, Skyla went to sleep in a bed for the first time in she couldn’t remember how long.

Skyla woke to stare up at her sister. It was all a dream!

“Skyla, your awake. Mother Skyla is awake.” Turning to call out to their mother.

“What is all the fuss about? I have just overslept.” Skyla asked, confused by her sister’s reaction.

Jena turned to face Skyla again, concern showing on her face. “Skyla, you have been in a deep sleep for almost a year now.”

“What! No, it was just last night when I went to bed. Stop teasing me, Jena. It’s not funny, Skyla frowned; judging by Jena’s expression, it must be true she had lost the best part of a year. How could this be? Her mother came and made a fuss, shedding tears of joy and hugging Skyla so tight she could hardly breathe. It took a while for Skyla to get back on her feet and things to settle back into everyday life again. Skyla lived with her mother and sister on a farm on the outskirts of Maeridon city. Her routine consisted of helping to milk the few cows they owned, feeding the chickens, and doing other mundane chores. At twenty-eight, Skyla was older than Jena and had been the most responsible and hard-working of the two up until her time being bedridden. Now for some reason, she found her life drab and boring. The zest and enthusiasm for work on the farm had gone. She felt something was missing from her life. Her mother and sister noticed something had changed about Skyla. They both hoped all Skyla needed was a little more time to return to her old self. Skyla, however, couldn’t get over the dream she had before waking up. It seemed so real. She began to think that the Skyla in her dream was more like her true self.

Skyla snapped out of revelry as she finished cleaning out the chicken coop. She brushed back loose strands of her fair hair that came undone while working. “Have you done all your chores already?” She asked as Jena came to watch her.

Jena nodded and smiled, giving Skyla a suspicious look. “Yes, mother says soon as you are finished here, get washed up; dinner is ready.”

Skyla raised an eyebrow and gave Jena a curious look, “What are you up to? You are acting a bit weird.”

Jena smiled slyly. “Nothing much you will find out at dinner.”

Chapter 2

.“Really? I can have my own horse?” Skyla said surprised

Her mother smiled and nodded.“We will go to the city tomorrow, and you can pick a horse. Nothing too grand, though; your sister and I only managed to save up so much.”

Skyla hugged her mother and sister, expressing her gratitude and thanks. Having a horse of her own was something she had always wanted since childhood. She knew her mother would have made sacrifices to save up enough to buy a horse, and Jena, that surprised her even more. She didn’t think her sister cared that much. After breakfast, her mother got the pony and trap, and they all rode into the city.

Later at the stables, Skyla looked over the horses under the supervision of the stablemaster. She frowned, choosing a brown mare. “How much is the mare?”

“That’s the best one here, but from what your mother tells me, you can’t afford the mare; it’s forty shills. One of the others would be more suited for you.” The stablemaster said, glancing at Skyla’s mother, who nodded in agreement. Skyla sighed; most of the other horses were worn-out nags. She was about to choose one when she heard a commotion from the back of the stables and went to look.”

The stablemaster scowled, “Damned black, always causing trouble, won’t let anyone near him.”

Skyla approached the horse and tentatively reached a hand out to stroke his mane. The stablemaster looked surprised as the stallion seemed to calm down and let Skyla touch him. “Well, I’ll be. You must have a way with horses, missy.”

Skyla smiled, stroking the animal; she turned to the stablemaster. “Well, if he is so much trouble for you, perhaps you can let me have him.”

The stablemaster frowned, scratching his head doubtfully. “Well, I don’t know.”

“How much have we got, mother?” Skyla asked, turning to her mother.

Her mother looked concerned, eying the stallion nervously. “Thirty shills, but don’t you think this horse is too much to handle for you, Skyla? After all, as the stablemaster said, he is a bit wild.”

The stablemaster was still thinking it over. Both Skyla and Jena were eager for the stablemaster to say yes. He stroked his bearded chin coming to a decision, “Oh, alright, you can have him for thirty, and I’ll throw in the saddle and tack. I’ll be glad to get him off my hands. Bring him back if he causes you trouble, and I’ll find another horse for you.”

Skyla shook her head, smiling, “That won’t happen.”

The horse let Skyla lead him out with a nod of his head.

“What are you going to call him?” Jena asked.

Remembering the dream that still troubled her, Skyla knew what she would call him. “Dusker his name is Dusker.”

Summer passed quickly. Skyla went riding with Dusker whenever she had any free time. The horse still wouldn’t let anyone touch him but Skyla. He occasionally let Jena ride him as long as Skyla was there and gave her permission. On a warm late summer evening, Skyla decided to take a walk for a change. She wandered far into the woods, much further than she realised, as she admired the wildflowers blooming amongst the trees. A patch of meadow orchids caught her attention, and she bent to smell the fragrance. As she stood up again, she was startled to see a stranger watching her a short distance away. He was silver-haired and wearing what looked like a monk’s habit, all in grey. Skyla at first felt alarmed at seeing a stranger watching her. His features betrayed no sign of menace, nor did he move towards her. “Hello,” Skyla said with an edginess in her voice.

The man sighed with a stern expression, “Your time here is near its end, Skyla Larion.” He turned, disappearing into the woods

For a moment, Skyla was speechless before finding her voice. “Wait, How do you know my name? What do you mean my time here is near an end?” The man stopped half-turning; he merely stared at her before continuing on. Skyla felt confused. Forsaking all caution, she chased after the man going deeper into the woods. She got the odd glimpse of him but could never catch up. Stumbling, Skyla fell into a hole, landing on her side and groaning in pain. She got to her feet, brushed the dirt from her clothes, and peered into the gloom. It appeared to be an old bear pit, not too deep but steep-sided, making it difficult to get out. Skyla looked around for anything that might aid her in climbing out. At one end, half buried under leaves and debris, something glowed faintly. Curious, Skyla began scratching in the dirt, removing the debris from the object until she finally uncovered a sword. Skyla had a strange impression the sword sang to her. She took the sword and felt a sudden oneness with it. Using the blade, she managed to climb out. The stranger stood before her again, watching her. Seeing the sword in her hand, he nodded in satisfaction. “You are now complete. You must leave all behind before the second rising of the moon. Or all you know and love will die. All will be consumed in chaos.”

Skyla stared at the man, uncomprehending and shaking her head. “What? What do you mean? I don’t understand.”

Her vision swam; she stood on a hillside looking down on her farm, now a smoking ruin. Her mother and sister lay dead on the cold ground, raped and butchered. Further away, she could see Maeridon burning and hear the sounds of battle—the desperate shouts and cries of despair. Skyla returned to herself, staring at the man, only half comprehending what she had envisioned. “What is this? Will this come to pass? Is this some future vision?” Skyla shook her head, not wanting to believe the vision. Maybe the man was bewitching her with trickery or sorcery.

The man scowled as if reading her mind. “All this will come to pass if you stay. Only you can stop it.”

Skyla gaped disbelievingly at the man. “Me, how? If what you say is true, how can I, one mere woman, stop it,” she paused, holding the sword in her hand. “With this, how am I supposed to stop what you showed me coming to pass.”

The stranger was silent a moment before speaking in an icy tone. “ You are more than what you think you are. Your training is complete, and the sword you hold is balance itself. A living entity is attuned to you. Only you can wield it. Only you can return balance to the world.”

Skyla frowned. The sword hummed in her hand as if affirming what the stranger said. It was an odd sensation, both comforting and reassuring. “What do you mean my training is complete?” Skyla asked.

“You know what I mean. Your dream time. You must leave soon. Heed my words.” With that, the man vanished. Skyla stood silent for several moments, trying to make sense of things. It seemed unbelievable, yet troubling. Skyla found her way back to the main trail leading to the farm going through the events leading up to now in her head. Dusker and the sword all were in her dream. The vision the stranger showed her seemed so real. She didn’t want to believe it, but it couldn’t be a coincidence that what she had dreamt was coming to pass and who was the strange man that appeared and disappeared at will.”Is he a seer? A sorcerer?” Skyla didn’t know the answer to that question, and because she didn’t know the answer, she didn’t trust the stranger. But what if the vision came true? It was growing dark as Skyla neared the farm. She spotted Jena coming along the trail, searching for her.

“Skyla, where have you been? Mother and I were worried sick about you,” Jena said, relieved to see her.

“Oh, I went for a walk and got lost in the forest.” Skyla thought it best not to mention anything about the stranger or what he told her.

Jena frowned, staring at Skyla, “Why are you holding a piece of driftwood in your hand?”

Skyla looked down at the sword, which gave her a tingling jolt up her arm. “Oh, erm, well, I fell into a hole and used this to help me get out.”So the sword could camouflage itself to others! That, more than anything else, convinced her everything the stranger said and the vision must be true. That night, Skyla lay awake thinking of how she would explain why she needed to leave to her mother. The next day, she still couldn’t think of any way to tell her mother. In the end, she decided not to and left during the night, packing her belongings in a travel bag and taking what coin she had plus a little of the housekeeping. She left a note saying she was sorry and hoped to return soon but needed to get away for a while. She saddled Dusker and headed for the city.

Chapter 3

.Skyla avoided the usual places that her mother and sister visited when in the city, Finally finding an inn still open down a narrow side street. Paying for one night, she gratefully collapsed on the small cot, exhausted. She slept fitfully, waking the following day as if she hadn’t slept. After a light breakfast, she wandered aimlessly about the city, unsure what to do or where to go. Skyla got work here and there to earn some coin. She slept in an inn when she could afford it. The further she explored the city, the more surprised she was by how vast and sprawling it was. She slowly became aware of a growing change in the city and the mood of the people. There was an underlying tension among the populace and an almost palpable fear that Skyla sensed but couldn’t pinpoint. The streets suddenly emptied as soon as it got dark. People hurried home to stay behind locked doors.

After a hard day’s work helping at a grain storehouse. Skyla headed to a nearby inn. Being frugal with money, she had saved enough coins to be able to stay at an inn most nights and still have some to spare. Skyla was on foot as the inn was only a short distance from the storehouse. It had rained most of the day. The streets were wet and wet and dark. This part of the city was poorly lit, with few street lamps dimly lighting the area and casting long shadows. Skyla heard shouts for help and a scuffle coming from an adjoining street. Investigating, she saw a man and woman in the process of being robbed by four armed men. She stepped between the couple and the robbers. “Give back what you stole and leave them be if you know what is good for you.” She drew the sword, which now appeared like an ordinary-looking shortsword; gripping it firmly in her hand felt comforting. Skyla wondered how she could seem so calm while facing armed men.

The leader of the robbers looked over Skyla casually, taking special note of the sword she held.“You’re a fighter, I see. No need to get uppity now, girl. It’s four against one. Be on your way, and pretend you didn’t see anything. be better for all concerned.”

Skyla stared back cooly. “I can’t do that, sorry.”

The leader sighed, drawing his sword as did his comrades. “Your funeral.”

Images flashed before Skyla’s eyes what she learned while in a dream state came to her. Instinctively, she moved so fast that the leader had no time to react before being disarmed. Not wanting to kill unless necessary, she turned to disarm the other three, leaving them with a few cuts and bruises. They stared in disbelief at Skyla. “Now give back what you took,” She demanded. Still in shock, the leader begrudgingly handed Skyla the jewellery and coin they had stolen. “Now, be off with you,” She said, waving her sword. The robbers glared at Skyla as they left, mumbling curses.

Skyla handed over the stolen jewellery and coin to the couple. Still trembling in fear, they stared in awe at Skyla, gratefully thanking her. “Have you far to go?. I can see you safely home in case those thugs decide to return. The couple nodded eagerly as Skyla walked with them. Skyla refused the offer to the couple’s home for drinks, so they gave her some coins as a reward before she left.

For several days Skyla worked by day and patrolled the streets by night. Robbery assaults and murder were increasing in the city, and nobody seemed to be doing anything to stop it. Skyla didn’t know what else she could do. She helped and saved a few people here and there, but it had little effect. The change and tensions within the city since arriving were growing stronger by the day. Skyla thought it seemed like something or someone was behind it all, but what? Or Whom? “I have no idea where to start looking.” She shrugged her shoulders, sighing as she headed to the inn. Her stomach grumbled loudly. “I’m starved. I could eat a horse right now.” Skyla said out loud, drawing the odd glance from passersby.

Skyla sat at a table, eagerly eating the stew before her. She scraped the dish clean, then dropped her spoon on the empty plate with a clatter. “A jar of mead, innkeeper, if you please.” She called, waving a hand in the air. The Innkeeper poured the mead, brought it over, and stared at Skyla curiously. “What? Have something on my face?” She asked, staring back at the Innkeeper.

“Not exactly.” The Innkeeper began hesitantly. “There is a rumour about a vigilante helping folk get home safely at night. You’re out most nights. Maybe you’ve come across the vigilante.”

Skyla shook her head, taking a long sip of the mead. “Can’t say I have.” She said, putting the glass down. Keeping her expression neutral

“They say it’s a woman. The vigilante.”The Innkeeper gave Skyla a pointed look

“A woman vigilante. If it’s true good luck to her, she must be insane!”


The following morning Sergeant Robare Valsto of the city watch was summoned to the mayor’s office. The mayor was in a heated conversation with the commander of the army. Sergeant Valsto was a veteran. A commoner who worked his way up through the ranks. He was always calm and rarely broke into a sweat while performing his duties as he stood waiting for his superiors to address him. Valsto already had a good idea of what it was about.

“Ah, there you are, sergeant,” The mayor stood straight, looking up to address the sergeant and folding his hands behind his back. “We are just discussing what to do about the situation in the city. I presume you know about this rumour of a vigilante?”

“Yes, your honour.”

“Erm, the commander here wants to send the army to return law and order and catch this vigilante. I think sending in the army is too extreme and may cause panic among the populace. What is your view on all this?”

Valsto looked from the mayor to the commander before speaking in a measured voice..“I agree with you, your honour. It would only cause panic and maybe incite rebellion in some quarters.”

The mayor nodded and gave the commander a frosty glance. “If you, as leader of the watch, can catch this vigilante quickly and restore order, I’m sure the army won’t be needed. I can give you all the extra men and supplies that can be spared to accomplish this task.”

The sergeant frowned, “How quickly, exactly, your honour?”

“The commander interceded, giving Valsto a stern look. “You have a week. Two at best before I send in the army.” With that, he stormed out.

The mayor gave Valsto an apologetic look, “Hum, Well, You heard the commander. You can come to me for whatever you need in the meantime. That is all good luck, sergeant.”

Chapter Four

.Skyla wrapped her cloak tight around, pulling the hood up as she walked back to the inn. Snow began to fall from a steel grey sky. The first snowfall of the winter. Some believed seeing the first snowfall was a sign of good fortune. Skyla thought it a silly superstition and a sign of more snow coming. She felt a blast of warm air on her face as she opened the inn door. Closing the door behind she stood a moment, scanning the room. The Innkeeper gave Skyla a meaningful look and glanced towards a table near the log fire in the centre of the far wall to the right. Skyla followed the Innkeeper’s gaze lowering her hood at the same time. Her eyes widened a little, recognising the person at the table warming her hands by the fire. Almost simultaneously, the person looked up, seeing Skyla with an expression of relief mixed with apprehension.

Skyla sighed, casually walking over to the table and sitting opposite; she spoke in a low voice. “What are you doing here, Jena? How did you find me?”

Jena looked weary as she regarded Skyla. “It wasn’t easy. I have been coming to the city for days when I have had the time.” Jena reached into a bag taking out a well-read poster with a drawing depicting the vigilante with “Wanted” written at the bottom. “It was this that finally led me here. It’s you, not a very good likeness. Only someone close to you, like family, could spot the resemblance. You are the vigilante, aren’t you?”

Skyla quickly glanced around the room to see if anyone was looking their way. She leaned across the table, staring intently at Jena. “Keep your voice down, Jena. You want everyone to know.”

Jena’s eyes went a little wide then she lowered her head. “What are you doing here?” Jena paused, shaking her head in disbelief. I don’t understand you, A vigilante. How? Why? I have never seen you even use a sword before.”

Skyla sighed, “It’s hard to explain. I...”

“Forget it. I don’t want to know.”Jena interrupted with a rise in her voice. “Can’t you just come home now? Mother has cried nearly every day since you left. Every night she waits for your return standing on the porch staring off into the distance.

Skyla felt a lump in her throat, swallowing hard as she fought to hold back tears that threatened to overwhelm her. She grabbed Jena’s hands across the table with an anguished look “Jena, I can’t. There is something here I must do first.”

Jena pulled her hands away. Sitting back, she stared scornfully at Skyla. “Something you must do! Get yourself killed. Arrested and sent to prison, is that it?”

Skyla shook her head vigorously, “Please, Jena. By now, you must have noticed the change in the city also. There is a growing evil—the increase in crime, murders, thefts and the like. Someone is behind it. Before I go home, I must find and stop whoever it is.”

Jena stared wide-eyed at Skyla. “What? Stop crime you? Listen to yourself. In any case, that’s the city watch’s job, not yours.”

Skyla sat back in her chair with a heavy heart. She reached for her belt bag handing Jena coins. “here, take this. It’s what I took, plus some extra. Go home, Jena; tell mother you found me and that I’m okay and will come home when I can. No need to mention anything else. It will only worry her more. Don’t come looking for me here again; it is not safe. Know I’m doing what I have to do to keep mother and you safe.”

Jena took the coin slumping back in her chair with a sigh of resignation. She gave a nod of her head. “Okay, Skyla, be careful. There is more of the city guard than usual, and they are looking for you. I don’t understand why you are doing this. You have changed so much that I don’t know you anymore.”

Skyla watched Jena leave, bowing her head low, letting the tears flow and wiping them away on her sleeve. A tankard of mead appeared on the table in front of her. Skyla looked up at the Innkeeper. She nodded gratefully, picking it up and taking a long draft. “Thanks.”

“Someone, you know?” The Innkeeper ventured

“You could say that.”

The Innkeeper nodded, “I see. Must have been someone you care about, then? Did you have a falling out?

Skyla sniffed, wiping away more tears. “Not really. We just said our goodbyes is all.”

The Innkeeper nodded sympathetically, turning to leave. He stopped turning to face Skyla again. “Rumour has it they may send the army soon to restore order,” he paused. “Watch yourself if you are out and about after dark. The night watch isn’t too fussy about who they catch. Anyone could be mistakenly dragged in for questioning.” He turned and left Skyla alone.

Skyla watched the Innkeeper as he made his way back to the bar. A small smile momentarily crossed her teary face. She took another sip of mead. Unspoken between herself and the Innkeeper was that he knew who she was, and she knew that he knew. The Innkeeper often gave vague hints, Skyla always responding with a blank look, neither admitting nor denying what they both knew. Skyla chewed her bottom lip, thinking over what the Innkeeper had said. A startling realisation came to her.

The following morning Skyla scouted the streets and alleyways, keeping a low profile. She spotted the city watch travelling in groups of three, asking questions of the locals. Both Jena and the Innkeeper were right. There was far more than usual city watch about. She needed to find whatever or whoever the evil was before the army could be sent in. If she was to stop what she believed might happen otherwise. She needed rest and food by midday as her stomach groaned in protest. Skyla headed back to the inn, relishing thoughts of having some of the Innkeeper’s spicy stew. The inn was busier than usual Skyla found an empty table near the far wall, where she could watch most of the inn’s customers. The Innkeeper spotted her; it wasn’t long before he set a bowl of stew before her.

“Seems busier than usual. “ Skyla said, nodding her thanks picking up the wooden spoon, and eagerly digging into the stew.

“Yep, word has gotten out about my spicy stew,” The Innkeeper paused, grinning. “Now, no one can stay away.”

Skyla smiled, “It sure is the best stew around, no doubt.”

“Want your usual drink?” Skyla nodded, whoofing down another spoonful of stew.

The Innkeeper left shortly, returning with a tankard of mead as Skyla scrapped her plate clean. The inn door opened, and two men entered. The Innkeeper froze and glanced at Skyla. “That’s the captain of the watch.” He whispered, turning his head briefly towards the two men.

Chapter 5

Skyla followed the innkeeper’s gaze. Both men wore the crest of the watch. The shorter of the two also had a captain’s pip. He was of medium height with a tanned face, fair hair and deep blue eyes. His nose was misshapen and must have been broken in the past. Skyla noted his uniform was immaculate, as was his fellow watchman’s. The innkeeper tapped Skyla on the shoulder and hurried back to the bar. Skyla watched the two men go to the bar just as the innkeeper arrived. Keeping her head down, Sklya watched as the two spoke briefly with the innkeeper. They bought a drink and surveyed the inn’s occupants. Still holding his glass, the captain came in Skyla’s direction, casually glancing at the customers and finally stopped at Skyla’s table. “Mind if I sit here?” he asked; narrowing his eyes, he gave her a curious look.

Skyla pulled her hair down to cover her face as she looked up at him. “Suit yourself.”

“Thanks. My name is sergeant Robare Valsto. I’m...”

“The captain of the watch, I know.”

“Ah, you are well informed, and you are?”

“I’m just an ordinary citizen minding her own business,” I’m not really that well-informed. The crest and pip gave it away. Skyla said sarcastically, letting a little anger creep into her tone.

Valsto nodded, pausing momentarily, noting the hint of animosity in her voice. He took a sip of his ale as he studied her more closely. “By your tone, you don’t seem to like the watch that much.”

Skyla met his eyes for the first time and forced a smile. “Whatever gave you that idea?”

Valsto smiled back cocking his head to one side.”Mmm, maybe I’m wrong just a feeling. Anyway, I suppose you know why I’m here. If you know anything that might help us find and apprehend the vigilante. I’m sure you’ve heard that the vigilante is a woman; as a member of the opposite sex, maybe you’ve heard something?”

Skyla gave him a cheeky grin that startled him.”As a member of the opposite sex, you say. What makes you think I would tell you even if I knew? You should be grateful she is doing your job for you.” Once again, Skyla was not quite able to control her frustration. She stood abruptly, “Excuse me, I have things to do.” Skyla left, heading to her room. Valsto watched her go. “She is a feisty one, for sure. I wonder? No, she is too straightforward.” He mused; he was taking a liking to her. Yet his instincts were telling him she was suspicious.

Skyla went to her room, packed her belongings, and left quietly through the window, dropping down to the alley below. She silently fetched Dusker from the stables behind the inn and led him away. “Looks like we will have to find another place to stay, boy.” She said, patting the horse’s forelocks. Dusker bobbed his head as if understanding what she said. Skyla found a barn to sleep in for the night. In the morning, she found a safe place to leave Dusker and wandered deeper into the sordid and lawless side of the city. Late evening Skyla roamed the streets. Her breath came in clouds of steam in the frigid air, and snow crunched under her feet; she was about to turn back and find shelter when a familiar face appeared out of the shadows.

“I see you haven’t learnt your lesson and mended your ways,” Skyla said, calmly recognising the robber who had been the first she had stopped since arriving in the city.

The robber put his hands up in a gesture of goodwill. “Easy now, girl. I know I’m no match for you.”

“So that being said, why are you here? Make it quick. The night is bitter, and I was about to look for a place to rest my head.”

“Well, maybe I can help you there. We know the watch is after you, and you are running out of options.”

“We?” Skyla’s pulse quickened. Maybe, at last, she was about to find the cause behind what troubled the city.

The man smiled nervously. “My boss wants to meet you and come to an agreement if you are willing.”

Skyla frowned, thinking it might be a trap. Well... I am a bit desperate right now. All right, I will at least meet with this boss of yours. Lead on.”

The thief nodded, relaxing with a sigh of relief. “Good, I’m glad we didn’t need to come to blows this time. Follow me.” He turned, leading the way through darkened, narrow streets.

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