Rat King

No Honor among Thieves

oward the rooftop despite his injury. But, unfortunately, three figures arrived at the same time.

Rat crouched slightly, his weapons held low. ”My mates turned me in for the bounty? ”

The leader of the men nodded. ”You must have been careless, cast-off. ”

Rat noted the groups positioning, two of them had already moved to flank him. So the only viable option would be a three-story drop to the street below. ”Cast-off? Im no cast-off. ”

”No? Then roll up your sleeves for me. If you check out, Ill let you go. ”

Rat nodded and pocketed his weapons, two long nails that he salvaged from a burned-down building. He rolled up his left sleeve, stopping a few steps from the man before raising his arm. ”See? No fur patches. ”

The man leaned closer, his eyes narrowing in anger. ”Those little bastards must have conned us. Round them up! ”

”Wait. ” A womans voice spoke from the edge of the roof, soft and smooth like the purring of a cat.

Rat felt the hair on the back of his neck stand up. Living on the street had tuned his senses beyond what could be considered normal, yet she appeared behind him without notice. He turned toward the woman, well aware that the man hed been speaking to was closing in. ”I passed your test. May I go? ”

The woman was dressed in black like the others. She wore a hooded mask that hid everything except her bright green eyes. ”Roll up the other sleeve also. ”

”Matrea? ” The guards voice echoed his confusion; it was common knowledge that the corruption was always on the left forearm.

Rat flinched when the mans strong arm gripped his shoulder. ”Whats after that? My pants, maybe? You some sort of degenerate? ”

”Watch your mouth, street-rat! ” The man slapped the back of the youths head. The shaggy head flinched forward before slamming back into the guards face with a sickening crunch.

With no choice, Rat charged toward the edge of the building. He would have made it, but his injury slowed him, and the woman called Matrea cut him off.

e being troublesome, ” twin daggers appeared in her hands. Although her tone sounded amused, her black-steel blades waved a complex pattern in front of her.

”Sybasi fighter? ” Rat muttered a curse, just when he thought it couldn get any worse…

”Surrender peacefully and I promise you won die on this roof. Does that sound good? ”

”Very good, ” Rat agreed. However, if you toss me over the edge, I won die on this roof. ”

Matrea grinned behind her mask; under other circumstances, shed find the kid interesting. ”Be smart, y… ”

Her words were cut off when he flashed forward, striking at her abdomen. With the roof at her back, Matrea was forced to block with her dagger.

Rat faked a second stab before stomping on her foot and ducking under an impressively fast counterstrike. Unfortunately, his step forward teetered him on the edge of the roof. Instead of panicking, he pivoted on one foot and clutched her wrist while leaning backward.

Matreas eyes widened in surprise; dropping the dagger in her hand, she attempted to twist free of the youths grip. Unexpectedly, he released her and then stabbed her face with the nail he still retained. Only a reflexive twist of her head saved her from a life spent half-blind. The point of the nail dug into the soft flesh near the corner of her eye.

The fight that spanned a half-dozen attacks and counters lasted only a few seconds. Then, Rat slipped off the edge of the building while Matrea was able to keep her footing and take a step back.

The woman stared at the empty space where the kid had been standing. ”I didn want this to happen. ”

”Little bastard had it coming! ” Her guard approached, sword drawn as he scanned the area. ”We should bring the body back. Just in case. ”

”No. ” Matrea surprised him by pulling back her hood and mask. Then, ignoring the blood that ran freely down the side of her face, she glanced around the area for her dropped dagger. ”The two of us got our asses kicked by a street rat. Im going to forget it happened. ”

”I didn get my ass kicked. ”

Matrea shook her head slightly and headed toward the roofs stairs. ”Your broken nose says otherwise. ” She didn voice the question foremost on her mind. Where did a street rat learn Sybasi knife fighting? ”

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