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i can smell the rain

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Shortly after the Scions’ first encounter with Leviathan, Roe had found herself tasked with a simple delivery on behalf of the Admiral: delivering a letter of introduction to a man waiting at Limsa Lominsa’s docks. The plan was, as Roe understood it, to connect Yugiri with a fraternity of sorts that operated in secrecy out of Limsa’s underbelly (with the Admiral’s blessing), and who could be trusted, apparently, to train her in their particular method of combat in exchange for her particular expertise. Thancred, apparently an alumnus of this particular organization, had assured them that Yugiri’s skills would be welcomed there—shortly before he was flattened beneath an avalanche of teasing from Y’shtola and Minfilia about his somewhat checkered past (as was, and still remains, a time-honored Scion tradition). And the contact at the docks had greeted them amiably enough, taking care to emphasize that the fraternity’s shadowy nature was simply a matter of practicality, and nothing untoward.

Thus, once Yugiri had made her introductions, Roe set the sea breeze at her back—smell of rotting fish and all—and departed again for Mor Dhona. The shadowy fraternity was quickly pushed from her mind (as they would like it, no doubt): Minfilia had need of her in the Rising Stones to debrief on what had happened with Leviathan and the Sahagin, and the ever-expanding Ascian threat promised chaos in the coming days. Roe got back to work.

Until several weeks later, when a job went wrong.

It didn’t even have the decency to be a difficult job; just another side gig from when she was last in Limsa that she’d picked up on her downtime, as she often did to kill time and line her pockets a bit. A Yellowjacket who’d found her nursing her ale in the Drowning Wench had earnestly entreated her to help them raid some small time smuggler’s den tucked away in Raincatcher Gully that the Yellowjackets hadn’t been able to clear. Her task was simply to fight her way through the compound, if needed, and apprehend the ringleader to drag his sorry ass back to town for the Yellowjackets to take care of. Of course Roe had said yes, as she always did. She could be forgiven for assuming it wouldn’t be anything too hard to handle on her own.

At least, that’s how she attempted to reassure herself once she came back to her senses, having quite suddenly found herself face down on the forest floor, in the rain, with a throbbing headache and a mouthful of mud.

Groaning, she slowly pushes herself to a sitting position, as gingerly as she can manage. Her vision lurches wildly. She shakes her head in an attempt to clear it (and immediately regrets it, as her brain seems to do a barrel roll in protest), hawks up a gob of mud and blood-streaked spit into the dirt—classy as always, she imagines Y’shtola chastise—and tries to recall how she got here.

The smuggler’s cronies weren’t anything to write home about; most of them fled once they saw her coming, and the ones who stayed didn’t last long. Their boss put on a brave face and tried to threaten her, then quickly changed tack and tried to plead for his freedom when he saw how spattered her clothes were with the blood of his (now former) employees. But she had scarcely managed to get a word in edgewise before she was knocked silly by something. She thinks she must have gotten clonked upside the head by the pommel of someone’s blade, judging by the rapidly swelling goose egg on her scalp.

They certainly weren’t trying to kill her—if they were, she wouldn’t have woken up. But she knows the smugglers were all gone by the time she reached their boss. So what happened?

Above the sound of the rain Roe hears the vegetation at her side rustle quietly and she freezes, the hair on the back of her neck prickling. She tenses, preparing to spring to her feet, and hopes against hope that her sense of balance isn’t too scrambled. It’s probably just a coeurl or something, but she’s already been ambushed once today. 

“Who’s there?” she asks. “I’ll warn you, I’ve got a nasty headache, and I’m not in the mood for any funny business.”

To her mild surprise, it’s not a coeurl—although the woman who emerges does move with a certain catlike grace. She’s tall—just about six feet by the look of her—and very handsome, copper-headed with waves just grazing her shoulders. She wears the simple leather vest and loose-fitting cotton shirt that’s common to Limsan sailors, but her shirt hangs open far past what Roe thinks would necessarily be recommended for jungle hiking. Her skin is much paler than Roe’s and covered in freckles, her face (and sizable breasts, Roe tries very hard not to note) splashed with a rosy flush. In her hands are a length of rope and a rather large dagger—Roe suspects the splotch of blood on its pommel probably used to be inside Roe’s head.

She’s beautiful; statuesque, even. But Roe gets the feeling she’s the type of woman to be underestimated at one’s own peril. Almost unconsciously, she clenches her fists.

“Awake already, eh?” the woman says as she ducks beneath a sodden low-hanging tree branch. Her voice is honeyed, a thick Limsan brogue. She clicks her tongue disapprovingly. “Reckoned I still had me a few more ticks afore you started stirrin’. You’re awful quick.”

Roe feels a little flare of indignation at the condescension in her voice. “I get that a lot,” she grunts.

“Quick tongue, too. I like that.” She grins and steps forward, leveling her blade at Roe’s throat. “Now beggin’ your pardons, dove,” she says, “but I’m afraid I need you to put your hands up for me. Would you kindly?”

Roe slowly raises her hands, as instructed. “You do know I could kill you right now if I wanted,” she retorts. Probably not smart, but her head hurts, the Gully is extremely humid, and she’s feeling cranky.

The woman smiles. The word “hawkish” comes to mind when looking at her face; her nose is long and straight, her jaw sharp and strong, and her warm brown eyes glitter with a keen intelligence. “I’m sure you could, sweetheart,” she croons. “But I’m not here to kill you. I’m hopin’ you’ll agree it’s best for both of us if we put our stabbers down and go our separate ways.”

She waves her dagger in the direction of the smuggler’s hideout. “This job was supposed to be ours, y’see. Couldn’t have some cull cloyin’ the gil out from under us—even if she was workin’ on order of the Jackets. And the Captain’d slit my throat if I let some pretty dove like you get her guts all over my stabbers.” She thoughtfully taps at her chin with the aforementioned blade. “We’ll have to have a word with the poor swad what blew the gab on us, too, I suppose.”

Roe blinks. She’s not certain if it’s a result of the head trauma, but this woman is using words Roe’s never heard in her life. It takes her a second to put her meaning together.

“So you’re with the Yellowjackets?” she asks.

“In a manner of speakin’.” The woman’s face minutely twists into an expression of distaste. “The gist of it is we’re on the same side. And so are you.”

“So you’re not going to kill me.”

“‘Fraid not.” She grins again—wolfish, showing lots of teeth. “Why, did you have your hopes up?”

“Not particularly, to be honest.” 

“Oh, good. I’d hate to disappoint.” The woman stands with her dagger still leveled at Roe’s neck, but her posture is relaxed, and her other hand rests easily on her hip. Her copper hair flutters a little as a light breeze stirs the humid jungle air. “Do I have your word that you’ll give up this job?”

“Yeah, sure.” Roe huffs in annoyance. “This is way more trouble than it’s worth.”

“Perfect. Another testimonial to add to my list.” The woman winks. “My thanks for the endorsement.”

A brief silence descends, in which the woman’s dagger does not waver. And in spite of the blade still pointed at her throat, Roe’s curiosity is beginning to get the better of her.

“So assuming you’re not a Yellowjacket,” Roe starts (“definitely not,” the woman interjects, wrinkling her nose), “are you with… uh, them?”

The woman cocks her head. Roe falters as she suddenly realizes she doesn’t remember the name of the fraternity. Maybe she never learned it in the first place. “You know,” she continues, optimistically. “Them. From Limsa.”

The woman snorts out a laugh. “You askin’ if I’m a pirate? I assume you’re aware that ain’t legal these days, sweetheart. Not for lack of tryin’ on my part, I assure you.”

“No, I know that,” Roe says. “If you don’t know what I’m talking about, then, um—” A thin sheen of sweat has begun to grow on her upper lip. “Do you know someone named Yugiri?”

And the woman chuckles. “I do. Awful skilled with her stabbers, that one, and quick as anything. A real beauty, too.”

“You’ve seen her face?”

“And other things, besides.”

Her implication is clear. And the smile on her face is downright lecherous.

“Oh,” Roe replies, intelligently.

“Now, these ain’t the kind of things I’d share with a girl I just met, mind, no matter how handsome she is. But perhaps…” Her eyes rove up and down Roe’s figure, very obviously scoping out her curves. “Hmm. Yes. Perhaps we’ll find a chance to change that someday.” 

A bead of sweat rolls down her back, and Roe is suddenly extremely aware of how warm it is in Raincatcher Gully.

Mercifully, rather than watch Roe continue to fumble over her own tongue, the woman returns to her earlier train of thought. “But yes, I am with them, as you say. And if you like,” she says, stepping toward Roe with a smirk that drips with implication, “you can read this little encounter as us sendin’ our regards.”

Then quick as a flash she’s behind her, her hands wrapped tight around Roe’s wrists, and she firmly wrenches Roe’s arms up against her back.

“Ow— hey, what are you doing?”

“Just slowin’ you down.” Roe can hear her smiling as she tightly ties Roe’s wrists together with the rope she was holding. “I won’t be slittin’ your throat, dove, don’t worry. You’re far too useful, and you’re a friend of Yugiri’s besides. And the Admiral’d have my head on a platter if I hurt a hair on your head.”

“You already did that,” Roe mutters, somewhat pathetically. “I’m concussed, remember.”

“Oh, you’ll survive, I’m certain,” the woman quips, and she lightly pats Roe on the cheek as one might a completely non-threatening puppy. “Now, do us a favor: stay put for a bit ‘til your head stops spinnin’, and then be on your way. Don’t let me catch you on my tail afore I make it out of the jungle with my cargo, and we’ll be square. And no tattlin’, if you’d be so kind, or I’ll have to do you much worse than a knock to the skull.”

She leans in, lowering her mouth to Roe’s ear, and Roe feels the cool steel of her knife press against the small of her back as her breath puffs against the side of Roe’s throat. “T’would be a shame to ruin that handsome face,” she purrs.

Roe swallows hard, and her stomach lurches in a way that is not entirely unwelcome. “I can’t say I would have particularly relished punching your face in either,” she mumbles.

“Flatterer.” The woman gives the bonds around Roe’s wrists an experimental tug. They hold firm. “Did a colt job on these binds for you—you should be able to get yourself free ‘n hop the twig with enough wrigglin’, assumin’ you don’t break your wrists tryin’.”

“How thoughtful of you,” Roe mutters grumpily. She attempts to wrench her wrists free of the rope—they do not move.

“Ah-ah, not yet, dove. Remember, give me a few ticks afore you go. Can’t be lettin’ you trail me back homeward.” She steps back into Roe’s field of view. Her footfalls are so light, Roe scarcely hears the leaves beneath her feet. “You understand, I’d wager—nothin’ personal.”

“Aren’t going to tell me your name?” Roe asks, already knowing the answer.

“Oh, of course not.” She laughs and pecks Roe on the cheek. “Where’s the fun in that?”

Roe flushes. “Well. I had to try.”

“Naturally.” She steps backward, still leveling her dagger at Roe’s throat, with a roguish smile. “Until next time, sweetheart,” she says.

And with a rustle of leaves she vanishes back into the jungle, like she was never there in the first place. Roe is left sitting in the mud with her hands tied behind her back, with nothing to show for the encounter but a spinning head, a thumping heart, and a red blotch of lipstick on her cheek.

She thinks she’s going to have a few pointed questions for Thancred next time she sees him.