AS.com :: Past Secrets

The night Snowhawk and Helaine left, a news broadcast came in over the radio in their hotel room, breaking into the music. They both stopped to listen if they would be named or described.

"We are saddened to report," Janus's voice began, tinny over the cheap speakers, "that our uncle, Ulmer Sinisusi, has passed away. We realize this means some large changes over the next weeks, and ask everyone to bear with us as his affairs are sorted out. We also ask for privacy at this time. Our uncle's legacy is not a pleasant one, but he still deserves the respect others afford to their dead."

A build in chatter and questions directed to Janus could be heard, then the radio announcer cut back in to say some half-hearted expression of sympathy, and then started the station's music again.

"That was sufficiently vague," Helaine commented.

Her cousin nodded. "He was the head of the Sinisusi family, and with them being at the head of the slave trade and the city, I guess they don't want to bring about a panic. It's not a symbol of strength to be murdered in your own room by a slave."

"He didn't mention us missing either."

"I figured that he wouldn't, not then anyway. Like I said when we got outside of the fence, I think they're going to be more concerned with the fallout from their uncle's death than us."

The younger mare nodded, then lay back on the bed, folding her hands across her stomach and crossed her legs at the fetlocks. She tapped her pale hooves together lightly, but soon had drifted to sleep.

Within the week, word had gotten out about the reason behind Ulmer's death, and while out shopping and looking for their next possible place to stay, Snow overheard a delphin and feln talking about their recent escape.

"Did you see the look on that asshole's face?" the small grey tabby cat grinned. Snow recognized him from the Boyce estate. "Right when you kicked him in the face like 'POW!'" He was bouncing, the tuft of darker grey fluff on his head even more animated.

A tall, dappled grey, draft delphin with white markings on her muzzle and fingers and a long, wavy platinum blonde mane and tail grinned at the feline then ruffled his head fur. "You got him in kicking position." This other former slave seemed familiar, but Snow couldn't place her or remember a name. She didn't usually forget faces.

The two moved on, the mare seeming much like a mother figure to the feln.

The following week, more stores of slaves attacking, and in some cases killing their masters, and burning estates were heard. Both in public places, where normally one would hide they were an escaped slave, and in radio reports from exasperated owners offering rewards and others cheering on the change in dynamic. There were also reports of former slaves saying their masters had released them peacefully, but as the days went on, there were fewer reports of this happening.

On top of the apparent rebellion happening, the city was becoming more and more deserted. Slavers fled to the port city of Di'aru, and many freed slaves started the journey further south to Juv. The former city, in Snow's experience was the real hub for the slave trade, though Ametiton was the home of the family behind it, and most of the people benefiting from it. Juv was not always welcoming of outsiders, for fear of slavers getting inside the cities walls. It was a city built and populated by many families who left Ametiton over two thousand years ago when the slavers were first becoming a problem.

It all left Snow uneasy. She had wanted to use the population of the city to hide in, at least for a time. With the remaining population in small pockets toward the center of the city, there were fewer faces to blend into and a greater chance of them being found out. However, living away from these groups was an even greater risk.

With her cousin's need to be social, the former was certainly the better option. But her own tendencies to not want to interact with others much, when given the choice, and not wanting to draw the potential future wrath of someone angry she had killed Ulmer on those not involved, made her shy away from that sort of situation. "Still," she said to herself as she trotted back to their current hotel, "I can't let Helaine suffer because of my hang-ups."

The weeks that passed saw still more freshly freed slaves. The numbers peeked around a month out from Ulmer's death, then began to taper off. More violence was reported, both against slavers and the now freed slaves, and Snow had to wonder what hellish ball she had set in motion.

At five weeks out, Helaine found a group of delphin and feln that she seemed to get along well with, so her and Snow began to travel with them. They had a nicely sized population in a neighborhood near the largest park in the city. Snowhawk was friendly with the others, but mostly kept to herself, still trying to come to terms with losing everything she once had. She would often go on errands for the group, both to contribute to them, and to try and distract herself.

She was returning from one of these errands, two weeks after finding the group, when she realized she was being followed. She distinctly heard boots behind her, but every time she turned to look, she couldn't find anyone. After this happening several more times over the following week, she packed her few belongings into a large pack late in the afternoon, then found her cousin with the others and pulled her aside.

"I think someone has found me out," she bluntly told Helaine.

The younger cousin's aqua eyes started to fill with tears, afraid Snow would tell her that they had to leave when she saw the near empty bag slung on her shoulder.

Before Helaine could say anything, Snow continued and explained, "You're not going anywhere. It's safer for you in the group."

"But what about you?" she asked, tears still threatening to fall.

"It's time for me to go. It's been two months at this point. You have a place to be, and I'll leave the money with you so you will be set for quite a while longer."

"Where are you going?"

The lavender mare shrugged. "I'll get by." She pulled her cousin close to her, hugging her tightly. "You have control of your future now. You have a strong group of friends, and you are stronger and have more skills than you realize. Don't be afraid to try things."

"You can't go," she cried, holding on to her cousin even tighter.

"I have to. I think someone is finally coming after me for what happened to Ulmer, and I can't put you and the others at risk. None of you had anything to do with it."

"It's safer if you stay here! We have more people!"

"I don't know that, and I can't risk you all getting hurt. And if I throw them off my trail, or take care of them, I'll come back." She pulled back from Helaine and rested a hand on her shoulder.

"Are you ever coming back?" the younger cousin cried.

Snow nodded, and smiled. "Of course. I'll be back when it's safe, I promise." She adjusted the bag on her shoulder, then turned and trotted away from her cousin, and into the empty streets.

Three hours later, she wandered the empty city streets, now littered with the results of the scavenging by the former slaves. She wondered how many would survive, as winter had already started. They had not had any snowfall yet, but it was only Em'bar, and growing ever colder. Two more months were between them and spring and the new year. As she looked around her at dimly lit city, she couldn't help but feel frustrated. "Spring would have been better," she told no one, figuring she should get further used to talking to herself. She wasn't planning on interacting with many others for a while. "What the hell happened to me?" she sighed.

She continued to walk through the growing dusk, wondering where she should stop for the night. Her coat was warm enough, but she didn't have much else for protection or warmth. As she meandered through the streets, her hoof falls louder than they would normally have been in a more populated city, she continued to weigh her options. Her thoughts were interrupted by the sound of some rubble falling from one of the destroyed buildings across the street from her, and she reflexively jumped toward the building she was closest to. When she looked up, she saw what building it was, and why it was one of the few non-slaver homes to be destroyed: it was the slave market. It looked like it had been hit with an explosive. The upper floor was missing a large chunk of the front left corner, and there seemed to have been smaller explosives used around the building. A fire had burned for sometime on the upper level, and scorched brick and smoldering roof supports told part of that story.

She glanced around her, looking up and down the street, then hurried across. She hadn't seen this building in over five years, not since she was purchased by Ulmer for what turned out to be Janus's late sixteenth birthday gift. She had been thirteen at the time.

She began to walk around the building, figuring she might be able to find some supplies inside.

The accelerated aging of delphin foals in their first fifteen or so years was widely exploited by the slavers. Many of the fillies, such as herself, had been recklessly thrown into breeding programs at the first signs of sexual maturity, despite their under-developed bodies. She had been found unfit for anything else, due to her tendency to attack her master and his underlings. She carried two foals to term during that time, though they had been ripped away from her at only a few days old. She had been allowed to name and begin to nurse them, but after that, she didn't know where they had been taken afterward. "Two boys," she whispered, then shook her head. Soon after the second one was taken away, she had been brought here. Something about her "quality" not being passed along to the two who survived, plus all the complications she suffered during pregnancy, led her then-owner to decide she wasn't worth keeping. She had assumed her boys had been brought here as well, and hoped they were either free or at least had not been in Ametiton when the uprising started.

She found an opening low in the damaged wall of the back of the building, and ducked inside.

She found herself in the "gallery" for displaying she slaves who were not to be auctioned. Auction slaves had been kept closer to the front of the building, so they were seen first when one entered. That was where Helaine had been taken a year earlier. She had apparently been auctioned for an unusually high price. Her cousin was even more timid then, and between that and her unusual coloration, she had the "honor" of being auctioned.

Janus once told her it was surprising to receive such a quality slave for his fifteenth birthday, especially as her coloration was close to his own. He described it as the only way his uncle showed them affection.

As Snowhawk had what they interpreted as an aggressive streak, and due to her apparent failure as a broodmare, she was simply sold. She remembered sitting on a lightly padded bench, wearing a locked halter on her face that had been chained to the wall behind her. An identification tag hung from the cheek piece of the halter. It had her name, and a unique number written neatly on it. Several slavers, men and women, walked past her. Some asked her to stand and they would examine her, but she was passed over, until the sales man walked by with Ulmer. He was in his human for, as was the custom when doing slave business. He was a tall man, with broad shoulders and short, greyed hair. The wolves' uncle had stopped to look at her, but the salesman tried to sway him in a different direction.

"That one is apparently highly aggressive," the sleazy salesman told him. "She's attacked several who worked for her owner. And him, as I heard!"

Ulmer however, simply replied "Oh?" quirking an eyebrow and turning towards her fully.

"She's not a very good breeder either."

"I don't breed slaves, as I've already told you," he sharply replied, then stepped toward her. "Stand, mare."

Snow had sighed and probably rolled her eyes. She had been through this before several times already, and the salesman had talked everyone else out of buying her. She slid off the bench, her hooves clicking on the wood floor beneath her. She smoothed her dress and stood straight, but didn't look at the floor as she had been instructed. She stared at everything but the floor and the two men before her, and found herself counting the tiles on the ceiling.

"How old are you?" Ulmer questioned.

She snapped her gaze forward at being directly addressed.

"She's thir--"

"I asked her, you nitwit." The salesman slinked back and away from the irritated man. "Well?" he impatiently reminded, waiting on her answer.

"Thirteen, Master."

"And you've been bred?"

"Twice, master. That survived anyway."

"Is your owner an idiot?" Snow remained silent, wanting to answer though. "Why have you attacked your masters?"

She lowered her head and looked off slightly. "I don't appreciate being abused."

"Can you read and write?"

"Quite well, Master."

Ulmer nodded slightly, then waved her back and turned to the salesman. "What is her price?"

"Are you sure, sir? We have many other fine slaves, especially coming up tonight in our auction."

As she leaned against the bench, she caught the glare Ulmer gave the other man for questioning his decision. "Are you an idiot too?"

"Seventy-five," he replied.

Ulmer's glare continued.

"Seventy?"

No reply.

"Sixty?"

"I didn't get where I am taking expensive risks. I have a plan for her, and she might not even fit. I can't sell her after that, and if she's as aggressive as you claim..." he explained, taking a step towards the other man.

"Thirty!" he cowered.

"Is that really your best? Do you think she's worth it, know the potential risk?"

"I can do twenty-five, cash! That's what her owner is asking!"

"Sales fees have gone up in a year," he said with a growl pulling a worn, leather, bi-fold wallet from his pocket and flipping it open. He pulled out two crisp bills from it. "Give me her key, and you get the cash."

"That's not how it wor--"

"You have some excessively bad customer service skills. The market used to be much more accommodating."

The salesman fumbled in his pocked for his keys, and pulled out a large ring of shiny bronze keys, each with a tag hanging from it. He flipped through the keys, then opened the ring and removed the one with her name and ID number on it.

Ulmer snatched the key from the cowering man's hand, and then handed him the two bills. The salesman looked as if he had some business to attend to, and nearly ran at full speed away.

Snow had to admit she was impressed with the old slaver. She had seen the salesman lie and cheat customers for hours to that point. She chuckled softly and lightly shook her head.

He approached her, reading the tag on her key. "Snowhawk. Where have I heard that name before?" He raised his hand to his chin, scratching at his greyed scruff as he thought. "Oh, right, I bought your cousin last year."

Her ears perked and she looked up, suddenly interested. "Helaine?!"

"Indeed. My older nephew has been taking very good care of her this past year."

She sank to the worn floorboards beneath her. "She's safe. Thank goodness."

He eyed her on her knees, then snapped at her. "Stand!"

She quickly rose, but fidgeted as she stood in front of him.

He closed the distance between them, then unlocked the halter from her head, and dropped it to the bench behind her.

"Sir?"

"You won't be running off, will you? Especially now that you know Helaine is at my home? Or I can always put the halter back on you and unlock the chain from the wall."

Snow shook her head. "No, I want to see my cousin."

"Very well." He pointed to a small stack of envelopes on a table near the bench she had been sitting on. "Take your file and then follow me."

He had led her out of the slave market that day, with her untethered, her records clutched tightly in her hands. She remembered that the walk to the estate was not far, though it may have seemed longer due to her excitement. He left her with a pair of slaves and tasked them with gathering her non-written information and filing the records she brought. The then took her to Helaine.

She prowled through the debris of the market now, searching for blankets, food, or any sort of other supplies, trying her best to ignore the bodies she occasionally came across. Some were beaten bloody, others were charred beyond recognition.

That sale had been a turning point in her life, but it also set off this chain of events she now found herself mired in. Now she was homeless, completely on her own, and without any sort of currency, or even enough to try and barter with. She hoped to change at least some of that here, and she did manage to find some foods that would be suitable for travel, and some warmer clothes she could use later. She also found that whoever worked in the cash room was skimming from the house's take. They had hidden a fair amount of cash under a false panel in a desk drawer, and were either unable to get to it, or forgot to take it when this place was attacked. It wasn't nearly what she had grabbed from the estate, but it might be enough to get her by for a little while.

Her scavenging was interrupted as she gathered food by the unwelcome sound of someone's boots on the floor nearby. From the weight of the footfalls, she guessed it was a man, but didn't want to stick around to find out. There was no telling if he was friend or foe, so best to assume the latter. She shoved a few more packages of snacks into her bag, then hefted it onto her shoulder and began to make her way back out of the building as quietly as she could.

She rounded a corner and tripped on a broken wooden chair, falling to the floor with a loud thud. She cursed and in trying to get away from the offending piece of furniture, she became entangled in it. She tried to extract her leg from the chair's remains, but it clattered loudly on the hardwood.

The sound of quick footfalls headed toward her was soon followed by a male voice calling out, "Who's there?!"

"Son of a bitch!" she quietly cursed again as she fought with the chair. She kicked it free and sent it sliding across the hall way she had just exited from, and then into the hallway across from her. The man didn't realize he now had a chair in his way and soon found himself tangled in it. She didn't have time to watch him fight with it, and began to run as she tried to stand, her hooves slipping on the smooth wood floor.

"Wait!" she heard him call out.

She did no such thing. She ducked into the sales room, where she had entered, then threw her pack through the hole then ducked through it herself. She picked the bag up, replacing it on her shoulder, then quickly trotted out of the alley and to the street.

"Hold on!" she heard the man's voice call out again.

She turned to see him trying to slip through the hole in the brick, but turned back around and now ran out to the street.

Night had fallen, and most of the streetlights had been broken by now, either by overly happy slaves, or owners trying to find better places to hide while they attempted to reclaim their property. Or to keep their former property from killing them, she thought. She darted through alleyways and across various streets, doubling back several times, and finally jumping up the grab the ladder of a fire escape. She lifted herself up and climbed to the roof of the building to look at the streets around. The building was smaller, only three floors, plus the ground floor, so it didn't offer the best vantage of the streets, but she would be able to watch from here to make sure her pursuer had been lost, and better determine where she wanted to go.

Though the sky was clear, and there were stars out, only a sliver of moon was visible. It didn't give her any advantages to vision, but the man wouldn't have any advantage either. Unless he is a really tall feln, she thought. They see much better in the dark than even the lupino. She shivered as the adrenaline began to wear off. She first pulled her coat around her tighter, then dug out the blanket from her pack. She strained her ears, listening for any footfalls, or voices. She heard nothing. Not even from the building below her. She must have found one of the parts of the city where no one remained. After two hours of watching and patrolling the rooftop, she was confident the man had given up. She folded her blanket and returned it to her pack, then walked to the fire escape she had climbed up. After another quick look around, she dropped it onto the landing below her and climbed down. The room behind the window that led to this level of the fire escape was completely dark. Nothing remained other than the heaviest furniture. She tested the window, but found it locked, and breaking the glass would defeat the purpose of being out of the elements. She tried both lower windows, but found them locked as well. Dropping to the ground, she tested the front and service doors as well, but those had also been locked.

"Yes, lock your windows and doors. Like that will stop the uprising," she frowned. "I wonder if the tenants mean to come back sometime. If they're alive." She had seen no signs of blood on the street near this building, so no one was killed here. She would have to find shelter somewhere else tonight.

She looked out of the alleyway, checking her surroundings before stepping back onto the sidewalk. She began walking again, the sharp echo of her hooves once more on the concrete. She knew the part of town she was nearing all too well. The Sinisusi estate was here. It was now Janus's, she guessed. Soon, she saw the back corner of the fence. One side ran into the woods, soon vanishing, the other along the outside edge of the sidewalk. She could see the section she pushed out two months earlier just ahead. It still jutted out onto the path before her. She stopped when she reached it. She could go back, right? If who ever had been wasn't from the Sinisusi estate, this would be the safest place. She placed her hand on the bar of the fence and stared into the gap before her.

As she was raising her hoof to step through, a male voice called out to her, "Hey! Wait!"

She quickly looked at him, seeing the same figure as earlier. "Shit!" she cried out and turned to run again.

"I'm not one of them! Look!" he pleaded.

She stopped and looked back over her shoulder, still poised to run if needed. Indeed, he would have been one of the few delphin working for a slaver. She first looked at his hooves, and saw they were covered with rubber boots, which would have explained his lack of noise. A straight sword hung from his hip, and were it vertical to him, the sheath would end roughly at his hocks. It sat at an angle, though, jutting out slightly behind him. He was average height for a male delphin with a dark cream coat and a long, silvery-brown mane and tail. With the darker fur on his face and his hands, she guessed he was marked as a dun would be, though he was warmly dressed for the night. Splitting his long forelock was a horn very similar to her own, with an amethyst core and a silver spiral climbing up it. She looked at his amber eyes and was stuck with a feeling familiarity.

"I've met you before," she said, turning towards and stepping toward him. She was bent slightly forward with her hands clasped together in front of her chest. She looked up at him, and tried to remember.

He stayed still while she approached, leaving his hands open and visible.

She circled him once, she stopped in front of him and thought for a moment. "You were one of Bryce's slaves." When the answer came to her a moment later, she covered her mouth with her hands as she took in a short gasp. "You're the young Guardian! Legacy!"

He bowed slightly to her. "Of course you wouldn't forget someone."

"What are you doing here? I mean, how did you find me?"

"I never intended to," he said with a shrug. "I was looking for supplies and I thought someone was after me when I heard you get tangled up with that damn chair. Then I saw it was you, so I tried to get you to stop."

"You could have called out my name," she pointed out, folding her arms across her chest, "or at least said 'Hey, it's Legacy!'"

He gave a small, guilty chuckle and rubbed the back of his head. "I didn't think about that until I'd lost track of you. I didn't think you couldn't actually tell who I was. Then I was walking through here and I saw you again."

"Was that you following me a week ago?"

"No," he replied, shaking his head. "I hadn't seen you until tonight."

"Oh," she said, looking back at the fence next to her.

"You're not going back are you? I heard he released all his slaves."

"Someone has been following me for about two weeks now. If they're not from the estate, then this would be the safest place for me. And with winter here, I don't know if I'll be able to find enough to keep myself alive." She nodded back to the pack she carried. "This is all I have right now."

"Then, come with me. My place isn't much, but it's warm, dry, and there's more than enough food for winter."

"Oh, Legacy, I couldn't," she said, taking a step back.

"Please, Snowhawk. I don't want to live the rest of my life thinking you aren't free. At least come back for the night and you can go from there."

Snow opened her mouth to protest, but Legacy's pleading eyes silenced it before it came out. She dropped her head and sighed. "Fine. For the night."

Legacy gestured back towards the city, and the two walked off into the night.

*********

A human-formed Adian frowned as he watched Snowhawk through his binoculars. Janus would not be pleased that she had just walked off with this other delphin. He'd been following her for the past week, trying to get enough information on where she was so his brother could fetch her. Or however he was phrasing it. He sighed and ran his hand through his messy, short red hair, then looked at the watch on his wrist as it began to sound its alarm. It was midnight. Time to call Janus and tell him the bad news. He dug his phone from his pocket, trying not to lose his vehicle's keys in the process, and flipped the phone's cover open. He dialed his brother's number and waiting on him to answer the phone.

"Yes?" Janus answered, sounding far away.

"Are you in a damn hole?"

"You're on speaker so I can keep working on getting this shit in order. What did you find?"

"Good news, I found Snowhawk," he said in a sarcastic tone.

The older brother was quiet for a moment. "Since you're using that voice, what's the bad news?"

"She just walked off with some delphin male. She was right outside the fence, too.

Adian heard an even more distant "Son of a bitch!" after another moment of silence and something dully hit something less moveable. Maybe his brother's fist punching the table, or the wall. Several more curses followed, then the sound of the phone being picked up and a tone change as the speaker phone was switched off. "Find out where they're going," he said as evenly as he could, though the rage was still obviously there.

"Whatever, it keeps me away from that damn paperwork."

"Do not lose her, Adian. Find out who this asshole is and what's going on."

"On it," he responded, hanging up on his brother, and stuffing his phone back in his pocket as he left his surveillance spot.

He caught up to the pair quickly, then followed them from some distance back. At one point, they stopped and the male pointed down a side street and they turned down there. When Adian followed them, he first almost panicked as they had vanished, then he noticed a small alcove with stairs leading down below grade. There was a low window, and a sign above it announcing it was a bar. He crouched low to look in, and found his view mostly obscured by a curtain, but could see the pair of delphin inside, and found easily enough as they seemed to be the only ones in the bar. They were seated not at the bar, but a table near the back. Snow was positioned so she could see anyone who came in the front door. The bartender, a small lupino female with light brown fur, marked with white, and shoulder length dark brown hair walked over to them.

Adian moved away from the window, he couldn't enter the bar with Snow looking at the door. She'd see him and that would be it. It had been hard enough to keep himself hidden from her earlier in the week, and she nearly caught him on several occasions. He sighed and grumbled, then began to look around to try and figure out a plan. It was about this point that he wished he could change his appearance beyond his wolf and human forms. Both of those forms were well known to her, and seeing either, especially a human, would be suspicious.

The chocolate-furred wolf stalked around the building, and found a door that opened to the alley propped open. A light plume of steam rose from the doorway. He looked in to see a kitchen, and since this seemed to be the only business left open that had need of such, he assumed it was for the bar. The lights were on, several large pots were being kept warm on the stove and a bit of smoke rose from a forgotten bit of meat on the griddle's surface. It was relatively small and he figured it would have only accommodated one or two cooks at any time. It was possible this place was more restaurant than bar at some point in its past. Most bars were not so well equipped to prepare food. He stuck his head in, greeted by the kitchen's heat but no one else. A quick glance told him it was currently empty, so he crouched down and quickly snuck to the far wall, to a door that looked like it would lead behind the bar's main dining area.

His hunch paid off, and the door led to a small dry storage area, which he ducked into. There was a light overhead, but he left it off for now. Some light from the bar was streaming in through what may have once been part of a ventilation system, though now it was a hole in the wall, covered on one side with an ornamental brass grate. Two walls were covered in shelves that held various cans and boxes of foods and drink items that didn't need refrigeration until they were closer to being consumed by customers. Another wall was stacked with boxes of bulk products, such as disposable towels and napkins, and some shipping packages of some of the same food items on the shelves. In the corner closest and most accessible to the door were cleaning supplies, being kept well away from potentially contaminating any of the consumable products, but easy enough to reach if needed.

The grate-covered-hole was overhead, but he could still make out their conversation. Most of it was the expected chit-chat about likes and dislikes, history with their respective owners, and general "getting to know you" type of talk. Then he heard the male delphin, Legacy, as he understood, talking about the slave uprising.

"This has been really crazy! I can't believe that this... uprising has gotten so far."

Snowhawk chuckled nervously. "Yeah, almost like people were sick of generally being treated like shit."

"Your owner was that wolf's nephew, right? How'd that all go down there?"

"Well," she began, "This is I guess my fault."

"What do you mean?"

There was a long pause, and Adian could hear the sound of plates being sat on a table. Another minute passed, and she finally said, "I killed Ulmer."

"What?!" Legacy replied, sounding genuinely shocked at this news. "What happened?"

Adian found it strange that she hadn't already covered this.

"I don't really even know. I got in an argument, I think, with Janus, then the next thing I clearly remember was me over Ulmer's body, covered in the wolf's blood, and my hand on a shard of glass imbedded into his throat. I took off after that. I grabbed some cash and my cousin, and we ran."

"But, you've freed so many!"

"And how many more have died? Not even the slavers, but their slaves? I've heard, and seen, what's happened. Sure, some slavers got the hint and released their slaves, but others," she stopped, and Adian heard a heavy sigh. "I didn't want that. Ulmer was an asshole, sure, but that's not the way to go about changing things. Not the best, anyway."

"Well, it worked," he responded, presumably trying to reassure her.

She gave another small chuckle, though it sounded less nervous. "True. Now we just have to hope that it doesn't go further down the drain."

Their conversation returned to the generic type of "getting to know you" that was just a step or two above talking about the weather, so Adian figured he would wait until they were getting close to leaving before he left his hiding place. He did find it odd that he never heard the bartender speaking to them, though he would hear them asking her questions and placing orders.

After another hour, he heard Legacy ask for their bill, and went to the door to see if anyone was near. The storage room door was solid, so he could only slowly crack it open and listen for any movement beyond what he could see through the small opening between the door and frame. He couldn't hear or see anything, so he crept out, looking around his surroundings, and into the bar's small kitchen. He was nearly to the alley door when he was pelted with several fruits. He turned around to see the fuming bartender with a basket of lemons and limes in one hand and a ripened lime in her other. "I'm leaving, please don't--"

She chucked the lime at him, beaning him in the forehead.

"Gah!" he yelled and scampered out the door, feeling another lemon or lime hit his back. He slammed the door behind him, and ran down the alley and to the street. He stopped before he got too far from the bar's entrance, and looked behind him, then shook his head in disbelief. She attacked him with fruit, and didn't call for help either before or after chucking citrus at his head. He crept back to watch the door, waiting on the two delphin to leave the bar.

After another ten minutes or so, he had been more interested in making sure that the citrus-wielding bartender was nowhere to be seen, and that Snowhawk didn't sneak away, the two equines emerged from the bar, and turned back to walk to the main street. After he saw which direction they turned, Adian carefully snuck through the side street, and continued to follow them.

Their trek was a mostly straight one to the building Legacy apparently lived in. The longer they walked without changing up their direction, the more uneasy Snowhawk seemed to become. Adian couldn't exactly blame her, she was being followed, and not varying their path certainly made his job easier. Either the male delphin was confident the area was safe, or he was not very good at the whole "hiding" thing. In either case, he watched them go into the building, then waited to see if any lights came on. On the street side, the lights behind the windows on the fourth floor flickered on, and Adian could see Legacy's shadow walk to the window, then pull open the curtain. Snow briefly appeared, and the two were talking about something, then they turned away and the curtain fell closed again.

The wolf walked to the front of the building, and gave a light tug on the door. He found it locked. The keypad next to the entrance was presumably the way in. He quickly scouted around the building, making note of fire escapes and an exit into the alleys on either side of the building. Those were locked with keypads as well. None of the numbers seemed more worn than others, and the keypads all seemed fairly new in general.

He had to wonder if there was significance to that and the location of this building, as it was near the former home of the Delphin Empire. Something about the male delphin seemed off in his conversation. He began to walk away from the building, and once again dug into his pocket to call his brother and report.

*********

Snowhawk turned away from the window in Legacy's apartment, glancing around the room. This room opened into a small kitchen, where the entrance was, and then a door on the opposite wall led to a short hallway, with a closet on one side and presumably a shower on the other. and the bedroom at the end. His furnishings were sparse, one couch in a shade of green that seemed years outdated and a mismatched arm chair sat in the middle of the room, then a low table sat in front of them. She had dumped her bag on the chair, and it looked like it may slide off at any point. The table had a few recent newspapers, which was perhaps a good sign of some facets of the city recovering. There was a short, dinged-up bookshelf, only populated with a few books, and a cheap radio perched on top of it. Over all, the room was clean, even cozy, but she was still a bit unnerved by the reminders of a couple months before. "I guess you can settle down a bit more when you don't feel like you're being chased," she commented.

"That's how it's been for you the past two months, isn't it?" he inquired, stepping away from the window and dropping the curtain.

She half turned back toward him, and nodded. "Yeah, kinda hard to rest when you feel like there's always at least one set of eyes on you." She walked to the arm chair to adjust her bag, and absently fiddled with some of her belongings.

"Why don't you go on to sleep. You can take my bed, it's more comfortable than the couch. This building is one of the most secure left, that's why I picked it. And, the bedroom door locks from the inside."

She gave a small smile and bowed her head. "I appreciate that."

"There's a bathroom just outside of the bedroom, so if you wanted to shower, you're more than welcome to. There are towels in the closet across from it."

Snow closed her eyes and bowed her head to him slightly. "Thank you. A not-rushed bath would also be a welcome break." She hefted her bag to her shoulder, then turned toward the bed room.

As she headed toward the bedroom, Legacy walked to the radio, and turned it on, tuning it to a station which played soft, relaxing music.