Disclaimer: I don't own Bree, the elves, Middle Earth. . . a lot, really. But I DO own Tera! She's mine! And so is her horse. And the rubies are mine as well! But anyhow, read and ppllleeeeaaassee, I'm begging you, review!

(Ya, um, changing it around a bit. I don't think there are hobbits living in Bree anyway

. . . oops. . .)

It was dark that night. The storm crashed down on the little village of Bree, swallowing road and pavement alike in its wrath. It raged on, tearing at the wood and brick of the many roofs, driving men and women and children to flee for their homes, flee from the thunder and lightning and torrent rains. And the streets were empty, waist-high in water and rising, rendering anyone so foolish as to dare to challenge the storm a battered, unconscious, and possibly drowned rag doll.

Except Tera didn't cross by road. In fact, she very seldom did.

Balanced lightly the heavily sleeted roof's edge, she scanned the windows-the roads held no threat- of the opposite house. Very few ever worked in rain this heavy, for squelching boots and sodden trails made hiding all too deadly. But rain was Tera's ally, and working with it her specialty. And besides, she very seldom robbed houses.

There was no one, the room beyond unlit by any candle flame. She gave a little half-smile, feeling the familiar surge of power as her muscles coiled, then released, launching her to the roof of the house.

The rain would drag her down, and she knew it. She instinctively added more power to the leap, landing in a crouch at the edge of the slippery bricks. Tera swung down, locking her legs around the balcony fence before swinging herself upside down to grab onto something lower. It was in this was that she made her way down to a fighter's crouch just seven feet above the door.

She waited.

Patience was key to her success. And it was something she had trained herself in for an infinity of time. It was easier to her than to most, for in spite of her temper, her spirit was that of a panther's, filled with a deadly patience, and a swift, silent death.

And that was who she was, she thought with another quirk of her lips.

Swift, and silent, a bringer of death.

A gust of warm air preceded the faint sound of wood against wood in warning her of the opening door. She tensed automatically, reveling in the surge of adrenaline and power coursing through her. She was a hunter. She was supremacy and strength, stealth and silence. And to this man, her prey, she was death.

The man. Rakish of the merchant's guild. Short and thin, or at least thin for a hobbit, with a weedy face and a dark goatee. A little perpetual sneer pasted on his face.

Yes, that was him. And he fit the description beautifully.

Tera allowed herself a small grin, a predatory raising of harsh lips over clenched teeth. She crept closer.

He's got no wife or child- none would want him when he's screaming and stomping around. Kill him whichever way you want. I don't care. He's opposed me far too long. And bring me the key to his laboratory. I will send my men to free those animals later.

Tera cared not for the man's –Rakish's- attitude; he was soon to be gone, and so she would never find out. Ironically, it was Rakish who had offered her a job to assassinate the one now hiring her, and for a similar reason: the animals. He'd wanted her to. . . halt. . . the attempts to close his laboratory from animal testing. They were his animals, were they not? It didn't matter if he destroyed ten or a hundred. He'd paid, and he had the right.

Of course, that hadn't sat extremely well with Tera. And that was ironic, that one so careless with the lives of her own kind be so opposed to the destruction of 'lesser beings'. So when Thaire had offered her money to eliminate Rakish, even though the pay was by far less, there was no hesitation on Tera's part.


She slowly, softly, withdrew her blade. She could still remember the first time she'd set eyes upon it. She could still remember the frail woman with a heart Tera didn't deserve, willing to give her anything to see vengeance made for her dead son, master of both weaponry and armor. Tera had taken, of course, the best.

"This blade is of midnight and darkness, sprinkled with moonlight and stardust. It is magic, made by my Reafe and granted the power of the shadows by one far from here. As are the armor and the rapiers. Take them. I have no use for them. I never want to see them again."

She had never asked who the 'one far from here' was, but from then on, the night had been her ally, and the darkness her friend. The blades and armor would not let her be seen easily. Even as she hid the ebony armor, intricately crafted with millions of millimeter long links, absorbed, matched, and radiated darkness. Even by her sharp eyes –cat's eyes, her brother used to call them- the withdrawn blade could not be seen.

Rakish stalked away from the door. One step, two steps, then his back was turned to his predator. Turned to the silently coiling shadow behind him.

Tera waited, just a hairsbreadth of a moment, before diving down from her perch. She pounced, felt the rush of wind and surge of power, felt, rather than heard, the excited hum of her withdrawn dagger.

The little man never stood a chance.

Two feet planted themselves on his back, enough to land a man, and certainly a little one like this. He fell without a cry. A blade across his throat silenced him for life.

And then it was over.

Tera paused, taking a moment to savor the rush of the hunt. The headiness that had accompanied a kill was, although addictive, very dangerous, and so soon gotten rid of. No. She would keep her wits around her.

Swiftly, she crouched beside the now-dead man. His purse was hung around his neck, underneath ornately decorated clothing. Tera didn't hesitate in cutting both string and cloth. Gold, silver, the laboratory key, and oh my. . .

Rubies. Two darkly flaming gemstones gleamed at her, and she felt larceny tug at her heart. Oh, she knew the value of gold, especially as much as there was here, but the fire-stones danced their color in the dim light carried from the house. They were beautiful. Oh wow, they were beautiful.

But the light from the house reminded Tera of the precarious situation she was in. She deftly pocketed the purse, and, with a second's thought, snatched the other, the one shown to the public eye, hanging from his belt. It was maybe not as heavy as the first, but heavy still enough to talk of a small fortune. She leaped up the rafters again, ready to launch herself back into the rain, and then settled back to think.

She looked longingly at the house. Oh, she never was a house robber, and she was soaked from the rain, but. . .

Maybe there were more gemstones.

Oh, Tera knew it was foolish, risky even, but gemstones always held a weakened passage to her heart. Not to sell, oh no, never, but seeing them gleam and glimmer in all arrays of color never failed to strike a chord in Tera's heart. Rubies and diamonds mixed, unbiased, with sapphires and amethysts. As long as they were beautiful they were cherished.

Damn it, she swore to herself as her discipline crumbled, he's dead, anyway. He's not going to need anything more.

She kept her boots- they were waterproof, anyway, and only needed a quick wipe on the doormat, but discarded her soaking cloak. Her hair was damp, even from under the hood, but not wet enough to drip. And if her breeches were drenched, that hardly mattered. Water would accumulate in her boots, if anything, and it mattered now if she gave a soft, squelching sound; the one who would catch her, if any, was quite, decidedly, dead.

Striding into the house, she quickly unlit all the candles. She would had no one wonder why the dark shadow of Rakish and suddenly molded into someone else's. Tera hurriedly rummaged through drawers, knowing with a thief's certainty where to check, and where not to.

She did not regret that visit.

It was not often that Tera had to snap herself out of a state of greed.

The gold she ignored; she had quite enough to live comfortably, successful as she was. But the gems. . .

There were very many gems.

Diamonds, emeralds, fire opals, crystals in myriads of color. Tera filled pouches, pockets, and purses, and then carried the rest of her pick (which was enough to lay heavy in her arms), to empty into her cloak. A real smile, something almost human, rather than purely feline huntress, appeared for an instant on her lips.

And it was then that she saw the elf.