It was already well into the night when Han Alister caught sight of the demolished hut. Strangely, he felt a sense of longing for the structure as he made his way across into the Tamron Forest. Maybe it was because he had traveled nonstop for 2 days on his horse Ragger. Or maybe it reminded him of his past streetlord life. Is that a good thing? Han thought. Does that mean I actually had a past life worth remembering? Images of his burning stable home surfaced, and the charred bodies of his mam and sister inevitably followed. No. I will not let the past bring me down. But there it was, like a stone weighing down his heart, accompanying him wherever he went.
Sighing, Han dismounted Ragger and walked to the hut, his eagerness overriding his grief. After all, he did need some rest if he wanted to put up a fight against the Wizard Council. Another thing to worry about. Great.
As Han neared the hut, he heard a sharp cry and the voice of a male. His heart sank. The only residence within miles of here was alreadyclaimed by several people. And now, this one too? No way would he let them take over his only chance of rest. I will have to fight for it, he thought, his old streetlord instincts kicking in. I don't care if I die trying. It's not like I have anything to lose.
Holding onto the hilt of his knife, Han used his foot to gently push open the "door" of the hut. I've got to say something smart to avoid a fight, he thought, edging his way in along the tattered back wall. As he entered, he tried for a lazy tone, "Look, I an't got time to dance with you guys. Now scra-" He broke off midsentence.
In front of him was one of those scenes that people don't get to see every day. Or any day, in fact. A drunk-looking soldier dressed in bad-quality armor was holding an extremely tall girlie by the waist. Okay, so maybe they were walking out together. But what really took him by surprise was the knife in his hand, already edging into the girlie's throat. For a split second Han thought he was going to cleanly guide the blade through, but it didn't happen. The soldier laughed manically as the girlie's face scrunched up in fear, and he was clearly enjoying dragging on the time.
Before Han moved or said anything, he thought things through carefully. There would be no more time for reckless actions. It was either he tried to save the girl or not. What good would it do him if he did succeed in prying her from the soldier's grasp? He wasn't going to spend his efforts on nothing. Clinging onto this thought, and his past experiences with decision-making, Han turned around to leave. I will not get myself into any more trouble. It's not worth it.
Suddenly, the girlie uttered a sharp gasp as the knife pressed further into her throat. Han, who was almost outside of the hut, stopped dead in his tracks. Recognition flooded through him as he spun around abruptly on his heel, more out of curiosity than anything. Could it really be…?
Fiona Bayar. It was so painstakingly obvious that Han couldn't believe he missed it first time. She had the same long, silvery hair, the high cheekbones, and dark eyes. What was she doing here?
Again, Han hesitated before he moved. Fiona. Did the fact that she was in danger change anything? Han didn't think so. He had nothing to do with her, and desperately wanted nothing to do with her. But he couldn't just let her die this way, without any humiliation caused by him, Han Alister. It would be too easy to let the Bayars off like that, letting them die without any bringing any dishonor to the bloodline. No. He would not let that happen.
Han took two long strides towards the entangled pair, praying that none of them would hear his footsteps. When no one turned, Han grasped his amulet and extended his hand at the knife, now covered with a coat of blood. Han's stomach turned uneasily. Maybe she was already dead. Maybe he was just going to get himself killed for nothing. But then Fiona cried out again, and Han knew he had a chance. Muttering the incantation for "fly", he directed the magic stored in his amulet at the soldier's outstretched hand.
After a painful moment's pause, the knife flew violently out of the soldier's hand and lodged itself in the ceiling with an audible "clunk". Fiona's eyes snapped open, and took advantage of the soldier's momentary surprise by punching him in the face. Swiping furiously at his face, the soldier cried out and tried to grab at Fiona. But before he could even touch her, Han already had him by the neck with a knife in hand. "Leave," he commanded, his voice a low, fierce growl, "because in five seconds, I doubt you can, even if you wanted too." Startled by the sudden turn of events, the soldier quickly dislodged himself from Han's grip and scuttled out the door, leaving the room with an air of uncertain silence.
"Bloody Tamron soldier, didn't know who he was trying to kill," Fiona muttered, smoothing out her hair and snatching her shirt from off the floor. Suddenly she froze, incredulous, as if only just acknowledging Han's presence. "You. Alister."
"What about me, surprised to see me?" Han teased lightly, trying to keep the expression on his face blank.
Ignoring Han's jibe, Fiona went on, "I will not thank you for what you did, street rat. In fact, I would rather you didn't do it."
Han met her gaze steadily. "Don't call me street rat. And don't be ungrateful. Just because I saved you doesn't mean I can't kill you now." He twirled his knife for effect.
Fiona, who was just about to say something else, faltered. She seemed to shrink back into her body, retaining herself from retaliation. Han was taken aback by this gesture. When were any of the Bayars quiet and spooked-looking? To Han, it seemed just about never. Maybe he ought to be a little nicer, regardless of the fact that Fiona was a Bayar. After all, she was the nicer of the twins, not to mention a whole lot more attractive. "Look, I'm sorry. But I didn't save you just to get yelled at, or have you die again with that wound of yours."