Chapter 3: Primiad

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Longspear winced as van Joss slung the female Primiad roughly against a wall.  As she cried out, the male stepped forward with a snarl, his weapon half drawn.  The cloaked operative immediately turned and pointed him.

"Stay your hand, sir.  Or I will turn you both back over to the cats right now!" he grated in the Primiad language.  "That is, if I don't kill you myself."

"It is all right, captain," the female gasped, looking at the male Primiad with a pleading expression on her face from where she had slid down the wall to sit on the ground.  "He didn't harm me."

"But I will, if you don't tell me what I want to know right now!" van Joss hissed tightly, rounding on the female to drop onto his haunches and lean towards her menacingly.

The small party had left the public house only to march straight to the closest alley where van Joss began his interrogation.  The sudden move to whip the female Primiad against the wall had caught Longspear entirely off guard.  But, now that she was in it, she had to make the best of it.  Her poniard abruptly appeared in her hand as she stepped close to the male.

Catching sight of Longspear's movement out of the corner of his eye, van Joss silently commended the Gideon agent.  She wasn't as slow as she first appeared!  Then he was returning his full attention to the female in front of him.

"Now, you will tell me why you and your minion are here, princess."

Both Primiad gasped at that, stunned that the cloaked figure had recognized her.

"But, how, . . .?" she began before van Joss reached out to take her by the throat.  This time, when the male made to draw his sword, he abruptly felt the prick of Longspear's poniard just above his kidney.  A quick glance back confirmed that the second cloaked figure was close enough to kill him with a single thrust before he could get his weapon clear of its sheath.  With a grimace of frustration, he took his hand from his sword's hilt.

"You mistake your position, princess," van Joss hissed, giving the female a shake.  "You don't ask the questions here.  Understood?"

"Yes," the female husked.

"Who are you?" the male demanded in a low voice.  "Agents of the Empire?  Seeking to slaughter the rest of the king's house?"  That earned him a sharp jab from Longspear's poniard.  As he gasped in pain, van Joss glanced over at him.

"Shut up," he barked.  "Your turn to sing will come soon enough, lackey."  He turned back to the female and gave her another shake.  "Tell me."

He could feel her swallow against the palm of his hand as she sought her voice.

"We flee the tyranny of the Empire," she said finally.  "The Emperor has gone mad and slaughters any Primiad ruler that will not fall in with his plans to conquer the world."  The princess's eyes flickered wildly with fear as they gazed into the darkness within van Joss's cowl.

"How is this so?" van Joss hissed.  "The Rising Star House has always been allied with the Emperor's Morning Sun House.  King Selissis supported the Emperor quite strongly."

The female's eyes flew wide at van Joss's familiarity.

"My, my father and Emperor Ran had a falling out two years ago," she revealed in a husky whisper.

"Aye," the male confirmed grimly.  "Right after the dark priest Wormwood appeared out of the wilderness with claims that he had had a vision from the Maker, which told him to take hold of the Empire and command them to fall upon the unclean and destroy them."  He glanced over his shoulder at Longspear, half expecting a jab.

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