The pair finally reached Venitus’ home. He knocked on his own door, which surprised Stella.
She was even more surprised when a male voice answered. “Who is it?”
Venitus looked up and down the street before replying, “Ashion, is that you?”
The voice sounded startled. “Venitus. We didn’t expect you so soon. Were you successful?”
“Affirmative. Let us in.”
The ornate door swung open, and a young man greeted them. Stella looked him over, sizing him up. He was about a head taller than her with raven-black hair that covered his slightly pointed ears. She guessed he had some elf in him.
Ashion’s grey eyes met hers – a deep blue – and she could feel him doing the same. She wondered what he thought of her: torn black jeans over black loafers, a tight black cap sleeve shirt, and long flaming hair under a black beret. Her pale skin was smudged with soot from her last kill, and her elbow-length black leather gloves had several long gashes. Still, her eyes glittered as she stared back at him defiantly, seeming to say, I am here of my own free will, and I will leave whenever I choose.
Stella was the first to look away, but secretly she was anything but intimidated. If she got away – she corrected herself – when she got away, she could turn in at least two men. She ran over their descriptions in her head. Venitus, estimated to be 1.75 meters at the shoulder, with deep, vivid green eyes and shoulder-length blond hair, usually dressed in a loose grey robe with a black cloak. Ashion, about the same height, earlobe-length black hair and dark grey eyes, wearing black pants and a short black tunic with – again – a black cloak.
Stella hadn’t noticed that the two men had stopped talking. The sudden silence finally registered, and she looked up.
Venitus had left Ashion to escort her to - where? A prison cell? A dungeon, perhaps? Wherever they were headed, Ashion’s arm through hers felt anything but threatening.
In an attempt to find out more about her situation, she asked hesitantly, “Where are you taking me? Am I to be . . . tortured?” She worked to sound young and afraid.
He glanced at her. “You aren’t to know where you are, and no, you shan’t be tortured. And you can give up the act. I’ve seen you take out a pack of shapeshifters, so you’re definitely not afraid of confinement. Come on, they’re expecting you.” He pulled on her arm, making her stumble into him.
“Sorry.” Stella tried to step back, but Ashion caught her wrists and pulled her close.
He looked into her eyes intently, almost as if he was saying something. She realized he wanted her to telepathically contact him.
Carefully, fearing a trap, she entered his mind. His consciousness immediately linked with hers.
Sorry about everything. I can’t jump to other minds, just translate my thoughts for telepaths. I was stationed here to rescue you. If we’re careful, then we can get away easily. He smiled at her.
Stella kept searching, making sure there was no trace of a lie in his mind. To her relief, there wasn’t. She wasn’t entirely sure why, but there was something about Ashion that she wanted to trust, and it scared her. Trust doesn’t come easily to someone who has spent so much time doubting everything.
Ashion tugged on her arm again, and the two continued walking. Stella kept up her “terrified innocent” act for the cameras lining the hall, but underneath the facade she was seething. Whoever the young man worked for appeared to have heard of her, and wanted a skilled hunter in their employ. She guessed that their plan was to put her in their debt by rescuing her, then demanding her allegiance in return.
Eventually the odd pair came to a set of heavy doors but not before Astriella had slipped from “fear” to a mere sullen silence. She had communicated her suspicions to Ashion. Receiving silence as an answer, she dug into his mind for the truth. His memories ant thoughts clearly confirmed her apprehensions.
Ashion knocked once, then led Stella through the doors. She followed sulkily, still lost in her thoughts.
The secretary looked up. “Oh, it’s you. Go right in,” and he waved them through. Ashion nodded his thanks.
The room they entered was a veritable labyrinth of tunnels. Stella hoped that the half-elf had some dwarfish blood as well, or they would never get out. Although the tall man didn’t much look like he was related to the scruffy mountain-dwellers.
She quickly reconsidered her non-dwarf theory when Ashion stepped into a moonlit patch of tunnel. Abandoning all sense of dignity, the duo threw caution to the winds and ran out into the night.