“Excuse me, Miss.” A woman taps Myla lightly on the shoulder. “Would you mind holding onto this for a few moments?”
The woman wears a lavender cloak with gold trim, and holds out a woven basket containing something wrapped in a pale cloth. “I’ll be right back,” she says with a kind smile.
Myla takes the basket and nods her head. The woman turns on her heels and pulls a hood over her dark hair, weaving her way through the crowded market. Myla goes back to shopping, but makes sure to stay within sight of where the woman left her.
Her own basket now full with bread, meat, and cheese, Myla searches the stalls for the woman. Seeing no sign of her yet, she treats herself to some candied nuts. She’s sure it won’t be long now.
Further down the street, in the direction the woman went, she hears a commotion. A group armed with polished swords and dressed in black cloaks rushes through the crowd. People scurry out of the way, some jostling stalls in their haste. Vendors shout as they try to protect their wares.
As quickly as they came, they turn down a side street and disappear. Chatter fills their wake. It is rare for someone to be armed in the market, and a sure sign of trouble.
Myla spins, searching the street for the woman. Anxiety fills up her chest, making her breaths shallow. With one last glance behind her, she heads towards her home, keeping an eye out for the woman the whole way.
Once she is home, she sits the basket on her bed. It feels wrong to snoop, but the woman left Myla with the basket and no way to find her. Maybe there will be a clue to her location inside. She pulls back the cloth to find a large purple gemstone in a silver setting. It must be worth quite a bit of money. Feeling even more confused, she lifts the necklace by the chain and lets it dangle in front of her.
It’s not a transparent stone; the inside is foggy, leaving it dull even in the light from the window. For a moment the fog seems to shift inside the stone, but she blinks and it’s still. Why would the woman entrust such an item to a stranger?
Zynia spits blood onto the hard earth and laughs through her dark hair. The Black Cloaks surround her, but she knows her plan has worked. And the longer she fights, the better chance the girl has of losing them. She only hopes the girl left the market at the first sign of trouble.
She unclasps her cloak and lets it fall to the ground, revealing daggers beneath. The first one to find her had gotten in a punch to her jaw after she had disarmed him. Now he lay motionless in some alleyway, but the fight had given the rest the chance to catch up.
She lets fly a dagger in an overhand throw before another fighter can approach her. Spinning, she lets the momentum carry an underhanded toss into the gut of an oncoming Black Cloak. She slides two more daggers from her thighs. One strikes the chest of an attacker, and he drops. The other goes wide as the intended target swings for her head.
She ducks and rolls, coming up with two more daggers that were strapped to her ankles. She grips them in her fists, knowing she is in a close range fight now. Popping up before the attacker can fully raise his sword, she strikes downward, stabbing the wrist of his sword arm. The weapon falls, and she takes the chance to thrust her other dagger under his chin.
Zynia pulls her dagger free, hand slippery with blood. As she turns, she feels a crack to her skull. Blackness sweeps in.
The necklace burns a hole in Myla’s pocket all through lunch. The moment the chores are done, she bounds out of the house, yelling behind her that she’ll be at Alainn’s until dinner. She finds her best friend hanging clothes on the line to dry.
“Something strange happened at the market today,” Myla says.
Alainn’s eyes glitter. She’s always one for a good tale, or gossip, if the former is lacking. “Well, go on,” Alainn probes.
Myla recounts the tale of the woman and the necklace, pulling out the amulet at the end. Alainn steps closer and examines it.
“A woman just left this with you?”
“I think she was being pursued. I don’t know what to do now. I have no way to find her,” Myla says.
“Maybe she will come looking for it. We can go back to the market in a day or two to search for her, if she doesn’t come round. Until then, do what she asks and hold onto it for her.”
Myla places the necklace back in her pocket. She doesn’t have a better plan.
“Don’t you think it would be safer around your neck?” Alainn asks with a look of mischief.
Myla laughs. “I think it would be very conspicuous if I showed up for dinner with a jewel around my neck.”
“Oh, you don’t have to wear it to dinner. Just try it on!”
“I guess no one will know…”
Myla takes out the necklace and slips it gently over her head. The moment it falls to rest on her chest, the pendant lets out a pulse of light. Myla lifts the gem to stare at it. Her eyes flick to Alainn.
“Did you see that?”
“It’s magic,” Alainn practically squeals.
Zynia wakes with a throbbing head in a small stone cell with a thick door of wood and iron. Chains rattle as she sits up. A guard at the door hears the sound and slides open a slit in the door to peer at her. He shouts to someone she cannot see that the prisoner is awake. A couple of minutes later, she hears footsteps marching down the hall.
The door opens, and a Black Cloak walks in. Two others station themselves just inside the door. The man closest to her wastes no time.
“I suppose there’s no way you will tell me the location of the society, so I’ll settle for the location of the gemstone…in exchange for your life.”
“You mean you didn’t find it?” she taunts him.
“We know you don’t have the object with you. We searched everything in your possession with a detector.” His eyes dart to her crumpled cloak in the corner of the cell. He walks closer and kneels in front of her. “Tell me where it is.”
Zynia rises to her feet, for a moment looking down at the man before he stands to face her. She resists the urge to headbutt him, knowing if she fights now it will be a waste of strength. Instead, she smiles a devilish grin.
“I met someone at the market and had them take it far away. You’ll never find it now. Not even I know where it’s gone.”
The man turns to the other Black Cloaks. “Send everyone we can spare to search the market and the surrounding towns.”
“Should we kill her now? She’s of no use if she doesn’t know where the jewel is,” one of the other men asks.
“No, we keep her until we find it. Then, we kill her.”
For three days, Myla and Alainn tried to unlock the magic of the amulet. But since that initial, unmistakable glow, nothing had happened. Myla was beginning to think they imagined it.
She is just finishing dinner with her family, when someone pounds on the door. Her father opens it to find Alainn standing there, looking breathless.
“I need to speak with Myla, if that’s alright,” Alainn asks.
Myla’s father turns to her. “Be back before dark.”
As soon as the door shuts behind them, Alainn turns to her. “You have the necklace with you?”
“Yes, it’s right-”
“We need to go.” Alainn grabs her hand and pulls her through the backyard.
“Alainn, what is going on?”
“I’ll explain in a moment. We need to hide first.”
Neither of them speak as Alainn hurries them into the woods and finds a spot behind some boulders.
“This should be far enough,” Alainn finally says. “People are looking for the necklace. A group dressed in black cloaks showed up and searched my house. They had some type of staff that seemed to be able to detect it. As soon as they left my house, I ran to find you.”
“Those must be the people I saw chasing the woman in the market. What do we do?”
“We’ll just hide out here until they finish searching the town. It will be fine,” Alainn comforts her.
They stay in the woods until dark, and then creep back towards Myla’s house. Myla gasps when they get within sight of her house. Alainn pulls her behind a tree.
“Why are they still here, surrounding my house?” Myla asks.
“They must know,” Alainn whispers. “Come on, we can’t let them spot us.”
Numb with shock, Myla follows her back through the woods. How could this happen? How did they know she had the necklace?
This time, they don’t stop at the rock outcropping. They pick their way further into the woods until they find a cave a few miles out. Myla sinks to the ground and puts her head in her hands. She yanks the necklace out of her pocket and stares at it.
“I wish I knew what this stupid thing is that’s causing my home to be under siege,” Myla says.
The jewel begins to hum and lets out a flash of light. A book plops down on the ground next to Myla, along with a lantern. It’s an old leather bound book with yellowing pages that smell musty. She flips open the cover to see a title page that simply reads “History and Rules of the Society”. She begins to read.
“Well, what does it say?” Alainn asks after a moment of silence.
“It’s about an ancient society that protects…” Myla pauses to examine the gemstone closer, “genies.”
Alainn snatches the stone from her hand. She squints at it. “I don’t see any genie in here.”
“It did just grant my wish though,” Myla says. “The book says I get three wishes, and no one can take the genie from me,” she grabs the necklace back, “until I use them all.”
Alainn stands and starts pacing. “You can wish for anything. No wonder those people want to find the necklace.” She spins to face Myla. “What are you going to wish for?”
“I don’t know. I only get two more wishes. I’ll need to choose carefully.”
“Why couldn’t I find the genie? I’d wish for a fortune and a handsome husband and…”
“My family might be in trouble, Alainn,” Myla interrupts. “I need to make sure we’re all ok. After that, you can have the bloody genie for all I care.”
Alainn sits back down next to Myla. “You’re right. I’m sorry. We’ll figure out how to help them. Does the book say anything else useful?”
“Well, it seems like the woman who left me with the necklace must be a part of this society, but it doesn’t tell me how to find her. It says that no one can wish to find the society, or its members, for the safety of the society and the genies.” Myla moves the book closer to the lantern. “I’ll keep reading.”
Alainn curls up on the ground to rest. It’s not long before Myla’s eyelids get heavy. She rereads the same paragraph five times, before she finally sets the book aside and turns off the lantern. Maybe sleep will clear her head.
Myla wakes when rough hands hoist her from the ground. She screams, and a hand clamps over her mouth. Alainn wakes, only to be grabbed as well. They are dragged from the cave, hands tied, and thrown upon horseback. Black cloaked riders hold them firmly in the saddle, as they gallop into the darkness.
Zynia fumbles with the ornate clasp on her cloak, which doubles as a lock-picking tool. She dislodges the pieces she needs and sets to work on the chains binding her. She’s free in moments and wraps the cloak around her, making sure to cover her hands and feet.
When the guard enters, it looks as if she’s sleeping on the floor. He sits a plate of food by the door and nudges her with his foot. Zynia leg swipes the guard and jumps atop him before he can cry out. She bangs his head onto the stone floor, knocking him out.
Zynia takes the guard’s knife, but leaves the sword. It’s too large for her. She opens the door and peeks her head out. The guard at the end of the corridor is facing away from her. She weighs the knife in her hand before launching it down the hall. It strikes true.
She bolts down the hall and yanks the knife from the guard’s body, before arming herself with his knife. Creeping through the corridors, she hears voices ahead. She looks through a doorway and spots the exit, along with three Black Cloaks.
Zynia takes a steadying breath.
She throws the first knife as she runs into the room. The second leaves her hand just before she ducks into a roll, dodging the swing of a sword. As she comes up, she pulls the first knife free from the guard’s body. She spins, only taking a split second to lock onto her target, and it’s over.
Zynia slides five knives into the straps on her clothing and walks out of the dungeon.
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-Clever & WTF