Hi! to everyone who left a comment. I really appreciate the interest and the kind words. Instead of answering any specific questions, I'd rather let the story just play out. Hopefully, all will be revealed in time.
Again, thanks to everyone who left me a note. The next part follows below, and as before, comments are most definitely welcome!
"A Stone of Contention"
Part II - A Case of Pretty Theft
Swaglord did not have to wait long to find out who or what had attacked him. The face of a young woman soon appeared above him, followed immediately by a suitable neck and shoulders. They hovered over him for moment and then seemed to swoop down on him. He felt a sudden weight on his chest and realized she must be sitting on him.
He was still feeling a little groggy from his sudden impact on the ground but he soon recognized her for what she was. The tight leather jerkin, the distinctive thin, war ribbons braided into her dark, short-cropped hair, the small tattoo dagger behind her ear—she was clearly a member of one of the many thieving guilds, collectively known as the rogues.
And there was something else he noticed as she stared down at him, the smirk on her lips, the smile that was almost laughter dancing about her eyes, she was looking particularly pleased with herself. That rankled him, even in his semi-stupor. It was bad enough that he had let himself and his pony be captured so easily, but that look on her face…
“Get off me!” he barked. “Or by Jaguil’s beard I’ll—”
The rogue’s smirk quickly grew into a wide smile and then she threw her head back and laughed. As she did so her hair flew up allowing the dulcet rays of the waning sun to fall across her elegant cheek bones and slender neck. Despite his temper, Swaglord could not help thinking that under other circumstances he might not mind having one with such a pretty face as this sitting on his chest and smiling wickedly at him. But as it was…
“Stop that laughing! Stop it, I say!” He squirmed beneath her, trying to roll from side to side to throw her off, but the ropes were too tight and she easily maintained her seat. But she did stop laughing.
“Easy, knight! You buck like an old mare, did you know that? And here I thought you and your pony were so impressive before. The way you handled that Highlander—well, it gave me goose bumps.” And then she was laughing again.
Swaglord tried to calm himself. “Young lady, you are not funny… Look, whoever you are, I’m sure you did not ensnare me and my pony just to—“
“Just to compliment you?” She paused and then her smile vanished. “No. No, I did not.” She leaned toward him until Swaglord could feel her spicy breath on his chin. “Where is it?” she whispered.
“What?” He replied. “Where is what?”
She sat back quickly, drew one of her daggers and tapped the flat of it roughly against Swaglord’s cheek.
“Don’t be coy with me, knight. I’ll slice you up like butcher stew. You know what I’m talking about, that little yellow rock you were so taken with a few minutes ago—the heaven stone.”
Swaglord glanced away and strained against the ropes to turn his head. “I have no idea what—“
She stopped his lie with another dagger-slap to his chin.
“Really? she said, slapping him on each side of his face, a little harder now. “Don’t tell me you’re gonna to get all macho on me. In the first place,” She turned the tip of the dagger toward his neck and poked him gently, “you are in know position to bargain. “
“You wouldn’t dare!”
“Well, maybe I wouldn’t. Killing you, even for a heaven stone, might not go down too well with my guild. We don’t need another war with the Templars. On the other hand, there’s no one around right now. Who would know?”
“Quite a risk, though isn’t it?” Swaglord replied. ”If you were found out, well I wouldn’t want to be you when your good friends in the guild find out.” He paused and then showed a smirk of his own. “I hear they have daggers, too.”
“Hmph.” She snorted. “I’ll give you this much, knight, you don’t scare easily. “ She stood up and paced for a little while. When she came back and kneeled next to him, he thought she looked a little angry.
“Look. I took you down, knight. Where’s that legendary Templar honor? If I don’t kill you it’s not because I can’t. That heaven stone is rightfully mine. Hand it over.”
Swaglord cleared his throat. “I can’t hand you anything in my present circumstances.”
“Come on, hombre. I’m not playing with you. I’ll take the stone myself, just tell me where you hid it.”
Swaglord just smiled. “I already told you. I don’t know what you are talking about.”
“Oh!” She stood up again and stomped over toward her horse. Swaglord couldn’t see what she was doing but in a few seconds he heard her walk over toward his pony, and then his pony whinnied.
“What are you doing?”
“If you won’t give me what is rightfully mine, I’ll have to take some other plunder. This pony of yours isn’t much, but at least it will bring me a decent price at the market.”
“Rogue, get away from him. I’m warning you!”
The pony whinnied again. It sounded like she was tying her rope around it, and then she was back at her horse again and he heard the heavy hoof steps of the large charger stamping the ground as if straining against something heavy.
His pony whinnied again and he could tell it was very unhappy.
“Alright!” he said.
The sounded of hooves and whinnying continued as if the two animals were struggling.
“Alright, I said. Rogue! You can have it. The heaven stone, it’s yours. Just let my pony go.”
In what seemed like an instant she was kneeling beside him again.
“Well… quite the softy when it comes to your animal, aren’t you? You surprise me, knight.”
“We’re... well, we’ve been together a long time.”
The rogue raised an eyebrow. “I find it hard to believe that little pony could be old enough to have been with anyone for a long time, but it’s your animal. So, where is it?”
Swaglord frowned at her.
“Come on, hombre, we don’t want to keep your friend all tied up, do we?”
“My gauntlet. The left one. Under the cuff.”
The rogue slipped off her gloves and slid one hand between the ropes and into the sleeve of his gauntlet. She had to lean on him while she reached around toward his gauntlet and slowly work her slender fingers through the ropes. When she found the stone she held it up in front of him and smiled.
“That wasn’t so hard, was it?” She slipped the stone into a hidden pocket inside her vest, and then laid one hand on the metal of his breast plate, spreading her fingers and caressing it. “I’ll bet this armor is worth a pretty penny.”
“Don’t even think about it! Now let me up.”
“Not a chance,” she said, sliding off of him and walking back toward her horse.
“Thanks for the stone. Oh, and I’ll be taking your pony, too.”
“But you said—“
“You think I’d leave a valuable animal like that behind? My guild might not like me killing you or taking your holy armor and weapons, but they won’t get into a snit over your little friend. “
He heard her mount her horse, then he saw her towering over him as she rode up next to him, a mocking grin once again on her face.
“I’m sure you can wriggle free of the net, eventually. Though, perhaps not before some friendly highlander happens by, like before. They might help you, knight. Or they might decide to see what kind of an impression their club can make in your head.” She laughed.
“Hasta la vista, sucker. “
She turned the horse and started trotting away. He heard his pony’s loud whinny, imagined it struggling futilely against the rogue’s much larger animal, being dragging away. He had to stop her. Say something, he thought. Don’t let her get away.
“Rogue, wait! Wait... There’s more.”
He heard the horse stop.
“More?” she called.
That was it. “Riches… “ he yelled. “Riches, beyond your wildest dreams! You can have it. You can have it all!”
The sound of hoof steps came back toward him again, and then she was looking down at him like before.
“Riches?” she said.
But this time there was no mockery in her face. In its place was an expression of something that he had seen many times before, and knew only too well: greed.
Swaglord knew he had her.
To be continued…