“Ah— Hey! Bo’lii!” I cry out. “Cut me a little deep, don’t you think?”
I crane my head up and around from the wicker mat I’m lying prone on to stare right into the eyes of the vastaya kneeling over me. I can feel the blood sliding down my back.
“How about you be a little more careful?” I add.
Bo’lii pulls his qua’lo and mulee away from my shoulder, the tools of a tattoo artist, like a hammer and chisel, made from serpent bone. Some use other animals or metal, but the serpent bones are just hollow enough to give the ink the fine line that a master like Bo’lii demands in his work. A little more of my blood drips off the mulee and onto my back. He smiles, dabs it with a swatch of old linen and shakes his head. Then he holds up his hands and shrugs, as if to ask, You want me to stop?
The words don’t come. Noxian soldiers took most of his tongue long before I began coming here, but I know him well enough to know what a look can say. His work is more than a fair trade for a little discomfort.
And the blood? I can take a little blood. A lot, if it’s not my own.
“Just clean it up a little, okay? I don’t think we have much time,” I tell him.
Bo’lii begins tapping the mulee with the qua’lo and adding the ink. He has the best inks, rich colors made from crushed Raikkon wild berries and the enchanted flower petals found only on the southern faces of the Vlonqo cliffs. He is a master, and I am honored to be his canvas.
I started coming to Weh’le not long after I stopped listening to Shen. All those years in the Kinkou Order “treading carefully”? No. Shen was wrong about that. About me.
Restraint has never been my thing.
I turn back around on the mat and rest my chin on top of my hands. Keeping my eyes trained on the door that leads into Bo’lii’s tavern. His place is clean, but the air hangs heavy with guilt. The tavern is home to a collection of thieves, rogues, and bad decisions. People come to Bo’lii’s to arrange a way out of Weh’le. Out of Ionia. Because getting into Weh’le is hard… but getting out is even harder.
Weh’le is a phantom port, a hidden coastal village, protected by the mystical properties of Ionia. Unlike Fae’lor, she doesn’t welcome outsiders, and you won’t find her on the maps. Should Weh’le appear at all, it is always on her own terms, daring people into doing very dumb things.
Most approach from the sea, dreaming of riches, discovery or maybe just a new start, only to have their hopes dashed in an instant. First, the shoreline that once called to them vanishes behind a dense wall of cobalt fog crackling with arcane power. The sea rises and falls violently before unleashing torrents of crushing waves. As the survivors cling to their splintered vessel, the fog pulls back for the briefest of moments, allowing them one look at the flickering lanterns of Weh’le cruelly saying goodbye just before the water pulls them down to the bottom of the Breathless Bay.
I can’t do anything about those people. Not my people. Not my problem.
Bo’lii stops tapping. I’m here for someone else entirely.
I feel my satchel against my thigh. It puts me at ease, although I would rather have it on me. From there, I could fire three kunai into three hearts on instinct. Three kills without a thought. Where it is now, I’d have to think a little.
I look up just in time to see the man come through the front door. He is flanked by three guards in their battle dress.
“Well, that makes it easy… I wonder which one I’m supposed to kill?” I mock.
Bo’lii laughs. He can still do that, even without a tongue. It sounds a little weird, but it’s real. He shakes his head again, and does that thing he always does. With a series of hand movements and head nods he tells me to try and do my business outside this time, after they leave his establishment.
“You know I can’t promise that,” I say as I check my satchel, and turn towards the din of the tavern.
I pause at the doorway and turn back to him.
“I’ll do what I can,” I say, before lifting the mask over my face. I don’t mind them seeing me, but if they saw me laughing at them, I think it would be just too much.
The guy with the guards is my people—a high councilman from Puboe, a place not far from the Kinkou Order. But, like many, he sold out his people to the invaders for gold and safe passage to Weh’le, and beyond. So now he is my problem.
But this is as far as he will get. Sure, I could’ve taken him out in his sleep at the inn, or when they made camp along the road to Weh’le, but where’s the fun in that? I want him to taste the salt air. I want him to feel a sense of relief before the end comes. But I also want the others to see him pay for his crimes, and know that this will not stand.
Actions have consequences.
I approach without a sound. His hands are shaking as he raises a mug of ale to his lips. His guards stand in his defense when they notice me. I’m impressed.
“Nice to see manners around here for a change,” I say with a smile they cannot see.
“What’s your business, girl?” One of them asks through a plate of pitted and tarnished steel.
“Him,” I say pointing with my kama. It glistens with hues of the magic it was forged in. “He’s my business right now.”
The guards draw their weapons, but even before they can step towards me, they disappear in a thick ring of blinding smoke. The kunai begin to fly, hitting their targets with a satisfying flesh and bone THUNK.
One. Two. Three.
I send two more kunai in that direction. A clang of metal, followed by the THUCK-THUCK of them ricocheting into the walls.
“Aw, you’re gonna bleed!” I call out, flinging a single shuriken from my hip, and flipping across the room, following in its wake.
I break through the smoke to see the last guard splayed out on the ground next to the door. The three prongs are lodged deep in his windpipe—I can see his chest rising and falling ever so slightly. I grab him by the collar, raise him up, just to be sure.
“Almost…” I whisper.
At that moment, I hear a gurgling behind me. I turn to see the councilman through the receding smoke, bleeding out on the floor. His eyes are open, darting back and forth across the tavern, wondering what just happened.
He looks so peaceful now.