"This is probably the place," Ramses said, leaning against a post across the street from the Golden Cock.
"It certainly appears to be the type of place he would go," Hugh agreed. "Let's just hope he's inside before we meet up with Medi and Luna. In a place like this, who knows what sort of trouble Mederei would find."
"It does seem to stalk her, doesn't it?"
Hugh pushed away from the railing to stalk across the street. "It's a family thing - they're all attractive to trouble."
"Don't you mean attracted to trouble."
"Not in the least ... Well, Brys might be, but he's in his twenties now, and an important member of the family, so he's had to curtail his attraction. Still, though. The lot of them are always followed by trouble."
Inside the Golden Cock, smoke curled around the tables, crept along the floorboards and oozed out into the street. The stench of stale urine, old beer, and sweat mingled with lavender plants at the window. A tinny piano, imbued with player magic, rattled in the corner, cranking out songs twenty years out of date while the mechanical singer swayed and vibrated to the music.
It looked like every other bar on the street.
Hugh motioned to the right, and Ramses went left to circle around the room. They were young enough to be given surprised glances, but in a town like this, no one bothered to ask about legality. If a minor was confident enough to enter a bar, than he was confident enough to be legal.
The shark they wanted played in the back of the room, swathed by smoke. He appeared bored, but his dark eyes shifted as he read each player in turn. He shifted the cards in his hand, and kept silent.
The deck of playing cards may or may not have been magical, but they were most likely jinxed to give him advantage. He would have another deck of cards on his person to enable him to utilize at a moment's notice.
A card glowed red on the table beside the shark. It could be a charm for good luck or a silencing spell to keep the noise down. Either way, with its location and obvious glow, it was unlikely the other players were blind to it.
An empty table nearby provided the perfect observational location, at least until Hugh was in position to attack. Being a demidrake, Hugh had the ability to practically disappear in a crowd. While always visible, his presence would be masked as though wearing a cloak of invisibility until the very last moment.
The shark shifted in his seat.
The card beside him brightened.
Something was wrong with that card.
"Damn," Ramses muttered. It was an alert card.
Jumping to his feet, Ramses shoved through the crowd of people to the table, just as Hugh reached it. The shark turned, shot a hand into the air, and clipped Hugh in the jaw sending him backwards into the wall.
"Ow, ow, ow," the shark muttered, shaking his hand in front of him. "What the gods' names are you?"
Hugh shook his head and yawned. "That hurt."
"You broke my hand."
"Did not." Hugh placed a hand on Monyyak's shoulder. "We're from the Fire Shadow Guild, and we're taking you back."
"Hardly." Monyyak dropped a card into his hand. "Light."
Blinding light filled the room. Men yelled as tables crashed to the floor.
Ramses covered his eyes with the edge of his hat from the bright light, blinked as Hugh staggered back into the wall. The demidrakes were fire dragons and immune to all effects of light. For Hugh to be affected by light was rare - in fact, the only known case of a demidrake having light blindness was a battle that took place twenty years in the past between a minor deity and a demidrake. Something else affected these cards.
Instinctively, Ramses reached to the side, and caught the edge of Monyyak's sleeve, but the shark yanked it away.
Shoving aside a reeling man, Ramses went after Monyyak, only to be stopped by three large men. Behind him, Hugh launched over the tables and landed in front of the shark.
Monyyak threw a punch; Hugh dodged it and sent Monyyak flying back into the wall.
At that point, the entire apprehension went down as the rest of the people started throwing punches, chairs, and whatever else was handy.
"Capture him!" Ramses yelled across the din of the bar brawl. He shoved a man into the wall, and gripped the weathered wood as he leaped on top of the stairs for better vantage. Splinters dug into his knee as he shoved both hands forward.
Earth shot upwards, propelling several man, including the target, into the air. Others screamed, but never stopped the brawl. One man threw his opponent into the hedge of earth, wood and paper. The target shook his head and scrambled towards the door, sending a magic card towards the earth mage. "Shower," he yelled.
Flower petals blinded Ramses from his target.
"Damn!" Ramses yelled waving his arms trying to clear away the leaves. "Hugh!"
"Can't help, Ramses!" The demidrake breathed fire at his opponent, pushing three more men back as well. "Kind of busy."
The card wizard laughed. "So long, losers!" He barreled to the door, but skidded, arms wind milling to catch his balance at the sight of Luna and Mederei blocking the entrance. The region was well-known for traveling wizards and mages to catch a breather, but neither girl appeared to be dangerous.
Both were near the same height as Monyyak, though Mederei was a hair taller. Luna propped on her right hand on her hip, her long raven hair brushing against the strip of skin betwixt her top and pants. "Looks like we didn't get the invitation, Medi," she drawled in the accent of the central portion of the kingdom.
"They always have all the fun, Luna," Mederei agreed.
"Shut up and stop him," Ramses ordered from the back of the bar.
Luna rolled her eyes and pointed her wand at the card mage. "You; your name."
It was unusual to see one of the wizards hanging about with mages, let alone two of them. Pulling out a card, he held it between middle and forefinger. "None of your business, Wizard."
Luna narrowed her gaze. "Bind, None of Your Business."
Ribbons of green wrapped around his arms and legs, twisting and tightening as he struggled. .
"Ha! You think you can stop me?!" A second card dropped into his hand. He touched the ribbon and activated the card, "Fray."
The ribbons disintegrated enough for him to break free and run forward, arms blocking his face as he shoved the women into the doors. He gripped Luna's arm, yanking her forward into the crowd. She landed hard against a table.
Mederei pulled out her wand and aimed it at the man. "Levitate."
Hugh punched his opponent in the face and sprinted after the man. "Luna? Medi?"
"I'm fine," Luna said. "Ouch, ouch. That's going to leave a mark."
"Just dandy." The man floated in the air. He tapped a card to his forehead with, "Ground!" and dropped back to earth. "Whatever you wizards have, I can counter." He waved another card. "Speed."
Medi swore. "I don't like him."
Luna snapped her wand, emitting a stream of magical light creating a whip. The edge of the light cracked a breath from the man. On the second attempt, she captured him and yanked him off his feet as Mederei unfurled a piece of fabric and draped over him.
"Finally," Hugh muttered, reaching the man first. "We should raise our income for him."
"Fray." The smell of burnt magic wafted from the material. "Damn. Rot."
"They're not going to work," Mederei said, nudging the man's feet. "It's going to protect me from you." She opened her bag and pulled out a length of yarn. "Get him to his feet."
Ramses and Hugh yanked the man up. Hugh kept the mage's hands behind his back while Ramses frisked the man, pulling a packet of cards from the man's back pocket. "Wow," Ramses said. "Don't think I've ever seen this many cards. Either you're a weak man, or you like cards."
The man snorted. "So you got my cards; let me go."
"Almost," Hugh said.
Mederei wrapped her arms around the man's waist, knotting the string at his back then tying his wrists together in front of his body. "Now we're ready."
He laughed and shook his right arm, dropping a last card to his hand. "Transport."
The card disintegrated, but he remained.
"What the ...!"
Mederei sighed. "Cord is the same as the cloth, idiot."
"What is it?" The mage tugged on his bonds. "What sort of magic is this?"
"Magic magic," Mederei said, wiggling her fingers in front of him.
"Enough of that, Medi," Luna said. "I want my reward because rent is due in two days."
"Oh, fine. Maybe we should take him back to Hot Chicken so he can scrub some of the griddles?"
"Hot chick - chick-chicken?"
"Yeah, the place where you gave double the eggs. They've been frying them ever since you left," Hugh snarled. "We should make you clean up your mess."
"No time," Luna insisted. "Rent's due, and you know how the landlady gets when I don't pay on time!"
Hugh propelled Monyyak forward. "Be thankful her landlady's crazy."
Mederei picked up the cards. "Strange."
"What?" Ramses stopped beside her. The card in her hand had a strange circular symbol hovering above the card, like an additional magical element. He knelt to pick up more of the cards. Something that rare would be worth something to one of the other card mages.
"They're all like that," Mederei said. She held one card up to the light, most likely seeing something only her magic allowed her to see. "Hey, you, where did you get your cards?"
"Not telling you."
Hugh tightened his grip on the Monyyak and lifted him off the ground. "Tell the witch where you got them or else."
"Or else I turn you into a newt," Mederei answered.
"Really. That's like so stereotypical. Don't you have anything better?"
Mederei looked up. "Have you ever heard of the hwingledome?"
Monyyak shook his head.
"Ah, they eat newts, you see, but it takes them five hundred years to digest the newt so it lives in their stomach, while the hwingledome slowly burns off the flesh."
Monyyak struggled, but Hugh continued to hold him off the ground. "You might want to reconsider your actions. I'm in the mood to let her do her magic on you."
"Dae ... Dae cards."
"Dae cards? What are those?" Hugh glanced back at Mederei. “Any ideas?”
Mederei shuddered. "Dae cards can't exist."
Ramses placed a hand on her shoulder. "All right?"
"Sure they can as long as you can find a dae."
Mederei shuffled through the cards she and Ramses had. One, a black card without any marks save a line down the center, stopped her. "Dae card," she whispered. "Just where did you find a dae to activate this card."
"I healed one. You were in the town where the girl was blind right? She's a dae. Normal medicinal magic couldn't heal her. Sure sign she's a dae - the blindness only confirmed it."
"So you healed her?"
"Sure did." He wiggled in his tapestry. "This thing's heating up."
Mederei snorted. "You're being held by a demidrake, of course it's going to heat up. Idiot. We'd better fly."
"What's so special about the dae cards?" Luna asked as Hugh propelled Monyyak forward.
"It doubles the power of the cards by basically imbuing them with dae magic as well as wizard magic. The problem is, dae aren't as common. In fact, only one known dae kingdom is known to exist, and they only heal themselves since their magic and our magic are incompatible."
"The fae are compatible. Why not dae magic?"
Mederei shrugged. "I never understood." She looked ahead of them. "He has a lot to answer too, though. Using that sort of magic is illegal in Caergwlân."
Ramses chuckled. "Looks like we might have found a boatload of good then. What are you going to do with the cards?"
Mederei tucked the cards into the bag she carried with her. "Keep them so I can study them some more. Their magic's odd, so I need to study them."
Once in the air, Hugh asked, Are they going to cause you trouble?
"Probably not. I can see their magic, but I can't really use it."
Maybe you should send them to your cousin.
"Nope. She doesn't need to know everything that happens in the Forty Isles."
She probably already does.
"Maybe, but I'll leave it my own way." Mederei looked behind them. "Luna?"
"Fine," Luna grunted. "Just my back, but Aysel will fix me up."
Ramses moaned. "After she yells at us."
Mederei, Luna and Hugh all grimaced. "Maybe we should delay going home for a bit?"
Luna sighed. "Rent's due. I have to go home. My landlady's worse."