Bad news! I left my purse, therefore my iPod, at choir! D: So until Tuesday, I can't even start on chapter 13. So enjoy this, it's gonna be a little while...

Also, big, one-time surprise for this chapter! :) Hope you like it!

Chapter 12

Erik's POV

I was done! Done with that IMPOSSIBLE woman! Who did she think she was? Oh that's right, a gypsy. A gypsy?! How did I not see it before? The knives, the mask, the over abundance of black leather, it made sense! Kind of.

During the "conversation", I had done my very best to not strangle her. True, in some cases she was right for responding as she did. I'll give her that. And I didn't always give an answer in the greatest tact. Though I do not consider her right.

But the worst part, was that I had argued at all! I mean, arguing about a dress? What had possessed me to do that? I should have just let her go, what did I care if she wore the dress or not? And yet... Something about her compelled me to speak, and in the strangest way I was unashamed for yelling at her. I am of a greater control than this. I'm above it. The only one I argue with is Nadir. Anyone else is corrected or killed; I don't waste words on them. But for once I didn't hide how I felt, or feel concerned about having a sobbing girl on my hands.

On further reflection though, I realised that instead of a sobbing woman, I got Lady Death. In the moments after I made my statement about "looking like a gypsy", she had seemed to transform into the pure personification of wintery death. I could almost see the light bending around her! Still, it was better that she had a back-bone than having her dissolve into an emotional mess on the floor, by far.

"Erik! What happened in there? Did you open a window? It got very cold in here a little after you entered. PLUS I heard yelling. Is everything okay?" I looked over to Nadir sitting at the breakfast table, reading his newspaper.

"Oh nothing. We just argued a bit. Things got complicated, I said something that angered her, she turned into a demon for a good while and then she just confessed about being a gypsy. Nothing worth repeating." Nadir's jaw hung open in what I will assume was a high density of shock.

"By Allah! Is she still alive?! Oh the poor girl! Erik, what did you do to her? You better not have hurt her-"

I shot him a look, shutting him up. "Really Nadir? I'd think you'd have better respect of me than to assume that I'd simply killed her." I suddenly felt very tired, and concerned too. This had gone too far out of hand for my tastes, and everything I did seemed to make the situation worse.

"I'm going out Nadir. Just for a quick repose in nature, nothing more. Continue with breakfast, the girl with probably be out to eat soon. Feed her, get some answers, and get her on her way home. That is, if she has one."
Cold, I know. But frankly I just wanted this awkwardness to leave. And to do that, the girl would have to leave.

And I won't lie, the main reason I wanted her gone was because she was a gypsy. I won't apologize for being biased; I had my reasons! If it wasn't because of the catastrophe relating to my unfortunate birth, it was from the very lifestyle and reputation allotted to the gypsies. They were thieving, murdering, low-life urchins. They are the ignorant, heartless mass who pollute the earth. It was true, every word she had said. Being born a gypsy was a cruel fate indeed, though hardly crueler than mine.

A fate crueler than mine...

Nadir's POV

Erik truly scared me at times. I know that he is a good, trustworthy friend, but sometimes his scars get the better of him. There are some things that not even the salty sea can wash away, and Erik's past was one of those things.

I sighed, and went back to my paper. The plan was simple: Erik had wanted me to find out more about the girl. I am naturally better for the job, since not only is my nature better for it, but because Erik -though he would never admit it- is too embarrassed to interrogate a girl. Even on a casual level! It's undeniable: his social skills could use some buffing up. But that was besides the point. The old plan was to get her to come along, the new plan -according to Erik's point of view- was to get her out of our lives. Or HIS life, more appropriately.

I looked up as I heard the door creak open. An elegant looking girl stepped out, looking for all the world as cooly mannered as a cat. She was wearing the dress, minus what appeared to be most of the petticoats and the corset. The blue ribboned sunhat in her hand was dropped quite disdainfully on the floor, as she gracefully floated to the breakfast table.

"Good morning, Master Khan." She greeted me surely. Then she sat carefully at the table before taking a sip from a glass of water sitting at her spot.

Puzzled, I asked: "How do you know my last name?" I knew Erik never used it; he never used last names for people among his close acquaintance. So how did she know?

"One of the maids mentioned giving my clothes to a 'Master Khan'. Since it is a name unbefitting to that other man, I simply assumed it belonged to you." She made her deduction offhandedly before reaching carefully for a biscuit from one of the platters closest to her.

I was shocked. This was the hellcat Erik had told me about? This pretty and intelligent young woman was the wild and vicious gypsy? I couldn't believe it. I was determined not to. But then again, Erik never lied; it was one of his better traits. I know he could if he needed to, but he never seemed to feel it was necessary. So I have always trusted that his word was true. So what about this girl? She acted as if she was raised in this society, her manners thus far were impeccable. Was this the behaviour of a rough, uncultured gypsy? Surely not.

Suddenly I felt her eyes on me, almost as if they were peering into my very thoughts. She smiled mischievously, "You're wondering why a common ruffian has such good manners as me, I must presume? Well, contrary to popular belief, I know quite well what is considered 'proper' in this era, and I am quite capable of acting accordingly."

I raised my eyebrows, "You do, do you? Well then, I can guess that my friend's description of you was indeed accurate?" Her face darkened a bit before she replied.

"That would depend on what he said about me. I won't lie to you, Monsieur. I am a gypsy, and there was a reason you found me in the state you did. But I am not the dirty waif that everyone expects me to be. So to answer your question, yes. It was accurate. About as accurate if I said he was a domineering, vile, hateful freak who takes pleasure in mocking others' pain and past."

Point taken. She had a very straight forward way of stating things. "Very much like Erik..." I mused to myself. Probably why their first meeting didn't go so well. They both had sharp tongues and quick wits, and both were filled with passion. It was like expecting two tigers to get along when both have claws and jaws.

She looked sad for a moment, so sad it made the room seem duller, the light darker. Then she looked at me and said gently, "I don't think it would be fair to judge your friend on what happened between us. He has a good heart, if he was willing to save me when I was hurt and alone. But still, I am not willing to excuse his conduct. Not yet. Not after what he said." Before I could even question her on what exactly Erik said, a delighted squeal came from her parted lips as she gazed upon the contents of a newly uncovered tray.

"Is that... German Chocolate CAKE?!" The happiness was dripping from every syllable in that simple sentence. I chuckled as she eyed it with the hunger of... Well, a woman deprived of sweets and carbs for too long!

"Go for it!" I told her with an approving nod, "Eat as much as you want. I'm not one for that intense level of sweet." She looked at me for a moment in shocked confusion. She probably did not understand how someone could not like the dessert she was obviously so fond of. But she quickly digressed and launched herself whole-heartedly into consuming the poor ravished cake. It was a bit... Overwhelming to see how passionately she savored each chocolatey sensation. So much so that I respectfully turned my head to the side for a bit, giving her and the cake some privacy.

At the end she opened her eyes wide in shock, "Oh! I'm so sorry! I know I can get a bit carried... No, a LOT carried away when I eat that particular dessert. I apologize for any disturbing things you may have seen." I just smiled and shook my head in amusement.

"Ah, not to worry! It's good knowing that you've regained your appetite. And besides, you are not even half as bad as one person I know when they get their hands on that same dessert." She smiled, I smiled. And I decided right then and there that I liked her. She was fiery and sharp, and yet she still could be light and happy. And yes, she could be very dark. But her person was one I enjoyed. One I wished we could have around. But, Erik had said no. And there was, unfortunately, no actual reason to have her stay. Sad, but how things were. So I went and started asking her questions that might help us place her correctly.

"So, tell me a little about yourself. What is your name?"

She pursed her lips, appearing to be in deep thought for a moment. Before replying: "I am Rhiannon. And unfortunately I do not possess a last name." Common enough.

"How old are you? Do you happen to live nearby?"

"Well, I am twenty. But as for where I live... Nowhere. Not anymore." She sounded like she was holding something back. Something important. Something that could help bring more of the situation to light.

"Please, Mademoiselle Rhiannon. I know you barely know me, and you have no real reason to trust me. But in order to help you -which I can assure you is my goal- I must know more about you." She still looked unconvinced, though I don't blame her. She probably had a very dark secret, and if what I assumed was correct: she would sooner pierce herself with her own blade than reveal it. But I needed to know. Then an idea hit me.

"Well, If that's how you would like it fine. We can simply drop you off with the authorities at the next town. They will surely help you with whatever issues you have." I poured some coffee for her and myself as she stared at me with a shocked expression. I ignored it and proceeded to drink from my coffee cup.

Silence hung heavy in the air. I hated having to put her in such a hard position, but sometimes in order to get the best, you need to do the worst. Finally she looked me dead in the eye. Her gaze was sharp and cold, and I knew that whatever came out of her mouth next would be dead serious.

"I'll tell you. But let me make one thing perfectly clear to you: and that is who you are dealing with. You are about to make a deal with someone who takes her line of work VERY seriously. ANYTHING goes wrong, and I will make it a personal matter to put you under. DEEP under. I will wake in the morning, and feel nothing. In turn, rest assured knowing that you can lay your head even on the executioner's block, and be as safe as a babe in a basket. Because you will be a concern of mine, and I take good care of things I am concerned about." She leaned back in her seat, crossing her arms across her chest.

"Despite how it appears, I am a woman of morals. Keep your word, I'll more than keep mine. Break it... And I will break you."

And with that she simply eyed me, watching me like a cat watches a bird. Seeing if I would take flight, or put my life in with hers. Both of us would be at risk. And yet... I couldn't say no. For some reason, even as she sat there, toying with whatever my fate would be, under it all I saw the heart of an honorable person, who valued loyalty and honesty. In a way, it reminded me of how I saw Erik. Even in his worst of moods, I could see the man I knew he was. Maybe that was my talent: seeing the best in very dangerous people.

"Very well. I swear that I will do whatever in my power to assist you. You see, Madame, you are not the only one here with a secret. Come to think of it, I seem to be becoming a keeper of secrets! But unless you give me permission, the particulars will stay between you, me, and Mr. Carrier." She looked at me thoughtfully for a moment.

"Carrier? Is that the name of the other man? I will assume it is. And I'll guess if I would want the first name, I'd have to go right to Monsieur Carrier himself?" She caught on quick.

"Yes, and yes. Now, if you would, your tale has become one I am most anxious to hear."

For a while she just sat there. Drinking her coffee and eating food from the various dishes. Then, she began.

"I will start, by revealing what it is I do. I am a mercenary. An assassin, if you will. Hired by any with a coin purse large enough to blot out the blood spilled. Or, if no blood is required, we acquire items or in rare cases, even people. But for the most part, my job has been to follow orders from my leader, Jacob." A dark shadow passed over her features as she said the name.

"In particular, we had been 'wrapping up' a job the night it happened. Me and a few of my closest colleagues were assigned the task of coming along to ensure a smooth transaction. The job had been to acquire a ring. A signet ring, belonging to a diplomat from Italy."

My eyes opened a bit, for recently throughout the world of traders gossip, it had been said such an item had been stolen. So now I was being told the exact origins of the rumor. "Go on, I do recall such an incident being mentioned. Now, this ring was to be sold to the highest bidder in some black market?"

She snorted in amusement. "No, we don't mess with wholesale. We go directly to those who mean business, and will pay a pretty penny for the right item. Often enough it's specialty merchandise: things that you can't normally buy, even with a king's ransom."

"I see... continue." This was getting interesting, and more dangerous by the moment. I could almost see my treason against the law getting larger and larger.

"That night, it was a routine drop off. Or at least that's what it was supposed to be. Generally, the buyer will come with a few 'peacekeepers' to ensure his interests are protected. We make the trade, receiving the other half of our pay. According to Jacob though, the guy who set up the deal wasn't the one who was ordering it. He had a right-hand who was doing that, and that night there were more 'peacekeepers' then I've ever seen it one place. And they were dressed oddly too, wearing green and black uniforms."

Pain seemed to shoot through her eyes as she relived the event in her mind's eye. She must have been seeing things she hadn't noticed before, and the revelations probably made it worse. "Mademoiselle, are you alright?"

"Hmm? Oh, yes. Sorry, just thinking. Anyway... I'll cut it to you straight: It was a set-up. All my friends were killed and Jacob himself was the man in the loop. He even tried to kill me himself. How's that for bad luck? The man you trust and look up to, almost as a father, betrays you. Ha! Sounds like a bad novel. But anyway, I escaped, didn't even know what was happening before my horse threw me and galloped off. They guys pursuing me followed my horse and left me in the ditch, where I thought I would die. Apparently not!"

She turned her face towards me again. "Thank you for saving me by the way. No one else would have I can assure you."

"On the contrary, I wasn't the one who even saw you. Monsieur Carrier was. He was the one who insisted bringing you along, and he was the one who figured out you were alive in the first place. If anyone, you should be grateful to him. I just sat there wringing my hands and worrying."

She smiled sadly, "I'm sure you are being unfair to yourself; you must have been a large help."

I thought back to me and Erik's little 'disagreement' over gender change. Of course, I didn't say anything about it.

"Well," She stood up. "That's really all there is to tell. Now: Jacob is probably waiting for my head, and I've no one left in this world. To tell the truth, I had almost hoped to die in that hell-hole. Apparently fate has a different plan..." Grabbing a few things from the table, she turned towards her door. When she got there, before going in she turned and threw me a grateful smile.

I sat at the table, pondering everything I had just heard. One thing was sure though: this girl was NOT going to be leaving us anytime soon. And I had one or two things to talk to Erik about...

Dun, dun, DUUUUN! Okay! I hope you enjoyed that, because it will probably be the last time I go to Nadir for a point of view. You know the saying, and if you don't, too bad! :) Besides, I don't need another excuse to keep Nadir alive. I MAY need to kill him... 3:}

And in the next chapter, will Erik allow Rhiannon to stay? Even I don't know. It is up to Erik himself. So you guys better hope Nadir has some darn good reasoning up his sleeve, or Rhiannon may be taking a different path. (I never said that she WAS going with them. Ha-Ha-HA!)

By the way, check out my new story, "Dance of Death". It's a story based on Edgar Allan Poe's short story "Masquerade of the Red Death". :) It's good, or so my adoring fan Dowie has told me. (She's my real-life friend, and so gets the special privilege of telling me how good I am first-hand. :D My ego barely fits through the door from her generous contributions!)

Review, it puts Erik in a better mood. ;)