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Chapter Twenty-Eight

" How does she know him?" Rune demanded, quietly, as he sat at a table with Rika, Kyra, and Tundra. Rika had been let out of her cell after Dazzle had made it known that she and Kyra were her friends and that if Rika was NOT released, there's be heck to pay. Rika, Kyra, and even Tundra had been offered many apologizes afterward. Along with free drinks, food, and equipment. Everyone was being so polite and cheerful to the group that it was a huge shock to them. Rune, Kyra, Rika, and Tundra sat at a table in the far corner of one of the caverns of the cliff, which had been made in to a bar. Around them, thieves were having a good time. Most were getting drunk while a few ( which were already drunk) began fighting each other for no good reason other than to see blood. And they didn't seem to care whether it was someone else's blood or their own. The group realized this when they saw one thief bite his own arm and stare, enthralled, as he bled all over the place. Rika shuttered, involuntarily, at such a thing.

" I'm afraid the only one who knows, and is more likely to tell us, is Dazzle. Where is she?" Kyra said.

" She's out talking with that monster she called Lord Odd Eye," Rika said. Rune frowned, slightly. He was about to make a rude comment when Dazzle walked in to the bar, Lord Odd Eye beside her. She saw the group and waved. Then, she made her way over to them. Lord Odd Eye followed her. He looked the group over with his one good eye.

" Dazzle, darling, why are you running around with such a rag tag bunch of nobodies?" he asked. Rune narrowed his eyes and glared at Lord Odd Eye. Tundra tried his best to resist a growl. Lord Odd Eye placed a grubby hand on Dazzle's shoulder. Dazzle stiffened and snorted.

" Don't let appearances fool. I've seen 'em in action. They have potential and I plan on bringin' it out," she said, carefully hiding the disgust in her voice.

" You are taking on students?" Lord Odd Eye asked, surprised. He narrowed his one good eye and stared at Dazzle. " That is not like you, girl. What is your real reason?" he asked, suddenly suspicious. Dazzle's mind worked fast.

" Well, I thought they may actually be good enough to join up with you and your merry men if I gave them proper training. I remember awhile ago that you said you wanted a magic user. I found two Espers!" she said as she pointed at Rune and Kyra. Rune and Kyra stared at her, shocked. " And the Numan is very fast and agile! You don't have many thieves like that!" Dazzle continued. Lord Odd Eye nodded as his eye made a better inspection. His eye turned to Tundra. " My pet," Dazzle said, without even having to hear the question. Tundra stiffened but kept quiet. Lord Odd Eye nodded.

" You have done well, sweet," he said. He turned to look at her with his one good eye. " But you still haven't told me why you did what you did! Surely you knew of... the Deal?" he asked. Dazzle flinched. She bit her lower lip, refusing to answer. " Oh well. It doesn't matter. You are here now and we can start planning for the future! Let's go, Dazzle dear!" Lord Odd Eye said. Dazzle followed him, purely disgusted. She glanced back at the group, then back to Lord Odd Eye. They both walked out of the cavern and disappeared from sight. Rune raised an eyebrow.

" I want to know what is going on between those two!" he growled. He noticed Rika yawn, which she tried to hide. " You girls should go back to the cavern you were given and get some rest," he said. Rika looked at him and nodded. Kyra also nodded. They both left the table and headed out of the cavern. Tundra leaped on Rune's shoulder.

" I am not sure what you are going to do but you must be careful, Mighty Lutz! Starting a fight here would be dangerous!" he meowed in to Rune's ear. Then, he followed after Rika and Kyra. Rune watched them leave, then stood up. He ambled his way over to the bar and ordered himself a drink. He took a few sips and paid attention to those around him. He watched as two thieves prepared to fight, both looking incredibly drunk. Bets were being made as drunken spectators placed Meseta in two different piles on a table. The right pile were bets made on a tall, fat thief with a scraggly beard and a nose ring. The left pile were bets made on a medium sized, muscular man with a tattoo of a buzzard on his right arm and a bloody bandanna around his head. Both wore gray, black, and red tunics with the sign of a skull with an eye patch. Rune smile and walked over. He looked over the two combatants and he placed some Meseta in the left pile. Then, he joined the spectators and waited. At first, the thieves were surprised. But, they soon got over this and returned their thoughts to the upcoming fight. Rune watches at the two thieves exchanged biting insults, then punches. He found it a rather interesting, yet barbaric, way to entertain. But he kept his mouth shut. After a few minutes, the fight ended. As Rune had known, the medium sized man won. The other combatant had been defeated by use of a chair, which the medium sized combatant had planned on using from square one. Which, Rune gathered, was against the rules. But no one cared. There had been plenty of violence and the spectators were happy. Even the loser, who was now unconscious on the floor. He was probably so drunk he'd forget all about the fight by morning. Rune shook his head. Figuring he'd get no information from this bunch, he turned to leave. He suddenly felt a strong, yet unstable, hand grab his shoulder. Rune, surprised, turned around. It was one of the thieves. A grizzled, slobbering one who obviously had twenty too many drinks. Rune held his breath, the foul odor almost unbearable. The thief smiled and nodded his head.

" Yew izza allright fella! Yew'z gonna like it 'roud here! Yew'll fit in!" he said, booze strong on his breath. Rune resisted the urge to gag.

" No need to throw insults!" he thought, thoroughly disgusted. The thief smiled even wider.

" Yew came in wit' Dazzle, didn't yew? Yew hear da newz?" the thief asked, his drunken voice slurred. Rune shook his head. " Dazzle'z gettin' hitched to Lord Odd Eye!"

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" Where is everyone?" Hahn asked, annoyed. He glanced around the Gumbious Temple. He had been to the Climate Control Center, the Esper Mansion, even to Myst Vale. He had found no one. This was the last place to look. He walked through the hall, looking about. He had been informed that a silly hyena and a priest with a horrible sense of humor were in the temple somewhere. Hahn figured it must be Yakkara and Raja. As Hahn walked around, he fiddled the shard piece in his hand. " Yakkara!! Where are you? Are you here?" Hahn called out.

" No! I'm not! I'm there!" Yakkara called, his voice coming from the kitchen. Hahn rolled his eyes and made his way towards the kitchen. Inside, he found Yakkara and Raja devouring enough shortcake to feed an army. B'jak watched them, interested. Hahn raised an eyebrow and looked at them.

" Where is everyone?" Hahn asked. Yakkara looked up. He got a glazed look to his eyes and he remained like this for a while. Then, he snapped back to life.

" Rune, Dazzle, Kyra, Rika, and the kitty cat are at the Thieves' Lair.... Chaz, Wren, and Daystar are in the....," a string of Ancient Esper words flowed from Yakkara's mouth. Seeing the confusion on the faces around him, he cleared his throat. " Or roughly translated to Palman, the Catacombs. Demi and Gryz are in the satellites.... Fenrir and Nan are fighting at Termi," Yakkara said. Then he continued to devour his shortcake.

" Thieves' Lair?" B'jak asked, startled.

" Catacombs?" Raja asked, surprised.

" Termi??" Hahn asked, shocked. " But... but how did...?" Yakkara smiled.

" I'm an Ancient Esper, remember? Sheesh, you have short memories!" Yakkara asked, casually. It was no big deal to him. Hahn shook his head, trying to clear his thoughts.

" Okay.... I found an Elsydeon Shard! What am I to do with it?" Hahn asked.

" Is it edible?" Yakkara asked, grinning widely as his eyes shined eagerly. Hahn frowned and shook his head. Yakkara pouted and poked at his shortcake.

" I hope they come back soon... I'm not sure whether Yakkara was JOKING or not... he just may actually EAT it!" Hahn whispered.

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" Where are we?" Chaz asked as he sat on the ground of the dank tunnel, his back propped against the wall. It seemed as though he and the other escapees had been walking for hours. The Ancient Espers who had helped in the escape insisted on going as far as they could, as fast as they could, but did not deny the tired escapees breaks when they needed them. At the moment, the escapees were resting on the ground while their rescuers passed around food and water. " I have never hear of this place before... where are we?" Chaz asked as he munched on some bread. Daystar looked at Chaz. She answered in Ancient Esper, her words causing all the escapees to look at her with wide eyes. Daystar realized what she did and shook her head.

" It means, roughly, the Catacombs. These tunnels were built long ago by my people," she said. She turned to Farsight. " Why do they fear our language so much?" she asked. Farsight snorted.

" It was again used as a tool of intimidation," he said. Daystar sighed.

" Not again.....," she moaned. She looked about. " I assure you. None of the Ancient Espers before you wish to cause you harm! Our language is like any other language! It used to be considered a beautiful language....," she said. She looked at her feet, sadly. Strider approached her and placed a paw on her shoulder.

" Come. We must hurry and get to the camp. There, we can rest as much as we want. I'll also order a feast for you all," he said, his melodic voice echoing through the tunnel. He smiled, his eyes shining, at a small Motavian child that was huddled against his mother. " You need some fattening up! You're so skinny! Wouldn't you like to eat and eat and eat candy and pies until you feel as though you are about to burst? I sure would!" he said as he playfully tickled the child's belly. The child giggled and spoke something in Motavian. Smiling, Strider answered in the same language. The child laughed and hugged the white tiger. Strider then ushered the people to continue on their way. " We don't have that much farther to go!" he assured them. The small child held his arms out wide, as in an invitation to be picked up. Strider obliged, picking up the small child and giving him a piggy back ride. Then, he lead the way down the tunnel. Daystar smiled at Strider. She began to follow after him when she felt a hand on her shoulder. She turned and saw Chaz.

" I want to ask you something... It's been on my mind since my... 'interview' with your.... with King Levitain..," he said. Daystar felt a knot in her throat.

" What is it you wish to ask?" she managed to squeak out.

" I was told that you defended me as a baby from King Levitain...," Chaz said, choosing his words carefully. " Do you know.... what happened to my parents?" he asked. Daystar felt her stomach churn.

" I will not lie to you, Chaz. Yes... I do. I know what happened to them," she whispered. Chaz gripped her shoulder.

" Please... would you tell me about it?" he asked. Daystar sighed and nodded.

" It all started when I heard a rumor from a.... dear friend...."

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