This is probably the last we’ll see of Anya’s adventures in Mexico.
At least on the mainland. No body said anything about the COAST.
When she heard the familiar sound of someone picking up the phone, it was all Anya could do to keep herself from leaping through the phone.
“Hello?” her mother’s familiar voice asked, a mix of curiosity and hostility.
“Tell me what happened in Mexico.” Anya asked quickly, turning her back to the mostly empty street. There was silence on the other end of the line. “Mama, please,” Anya begged, “tell me what happened in Mexico.”
“Oh god,” she breathed, “you’ve met Markoth, haven’t you?”
“How does he know you?” Anya demanded. “Because he seems awfully confident that you and I are a lot alike.”
Her mother sighed heavily on the other end. “It… it was a long time ago,” she began finally, “before you were even born and long before I met your father. Your grandfather, my father, had made a name for himself as a hadesus trainer. It was a relatively new field to them, but it was a way of life for us.”
“Who is ‘us’?” Anya asked.
“Our tribe,” her mother clarified. “We lived along the border between the first and what was then the Second Kingdom. We had a lot of soldiers that would seek out our tribe for our skills working, trying to figure out what tricks my father would use to get the animals to behave.”
“There’s no trick to it.” Anya said quietly with sudden clarity, her father’s words suddenly becoming clear. “They’re just as smart as any human or serlael, but they work in partnerships.”
“Your father has taught you well,” she said with a bittersweet tone. “He learned that from my father.”
“How do you know Markoth?” Anya asked.
“He came from the south,” her mother continued, “seeking new instruments of war. When he discovered our tribe and our skills, he stayed, but we refused to teach him.”
“Was it the evil in his eyes?” Anya asked, almost playfully.
“Yes,” her mother said seriously. “Markoth eventually left our tribe, but with the warning that the next time he came back, it would be with guns. Months later, war broke out between the Second and Third Kingdoms. Fearing for our lives, the tribe split; I traveled north with some relatives, but I never saw my father again.” Anya noticed a man standing across the way from her, watching intently.
“I have to go,” Anya said slowly, “I’ll call you again when I can.” Anya placed the phone back in its cradle and stepped out of the phone booth. With Hidalgo following closely at her side, they casually made their way down the mostly empty street. The man followed along behind them, but kept his distance. “We need to split buddy,” Anya told Hidalgo, trying to keep her eyes on the street ahead of them. “Come find me later.” Seamlessly, Hidalgo broke away from Anya and disappeared down a nearby alleyway.
“That wasn’t a smart move,” Riga’s voice suddenly filled her ears. Anya nearly jumped out of her skin sending Riga into a giggling fit.
“What the hell is your probelm?” Anya demanded.
“I have an aversion to greeting people normally.” He said gleefully. “What are you doing here, chiquitita?”
“Trying to figure a way out.” She muttered, glancing over her shoulder. The stranger was still following her, keeping his distance.
“Oh, you too?”
“Down this way,” Riga said, suddenly pulling her off the street and down a dark alley, “it’s a short cut.” They wound their way through a maze of back roads, occasionally crossing through the main thoroughfares until they reached a dead end in a large drainage area.
“Some short cut.” Anya said bitterly.
“Huh,” Riga said curiously, inspecting the wall, “they must have done some remodeling since I was last here.”
“Indeed we did.” Behind them, Markoth stepped out of the shadows of the alleyway, several of his hadesus and serlael guards fanned out to surround them. “We’ve done a lot of thing since the last time you paid us a visit.” Riga smiled mischievously, but Markoth’s scarred face remained serious and unamused.
“Still insulted by that, I see.” Riga said.
“Here’s what I want you to do,” Markoth stepped into the sunlight, and casually strolled towards them, “pack up whatever little mischievous things you’ve laid around my city and I will let you leave in one piece.” The two serlael stood inches away from each other, and Anya instinctively backed up.
“And if I don’t?” Riga dared him. It was an almost effortless punch across Riga’s face, sending him to the cobblestone floor. “That was good!” Riga commended the older man with a laugh and a grunt of pain. “I’m actually bleeding!”
“Oh that wasn’t the threat.” Markoth corrected him, following the punch with a swift kick to Riga’s stomach. “That was payback from last time you decided to wreck my city.” Markoth turned his attention to Anya. “And you,” he said, adjusting his uniform, “where is your little dog?”
“He’s hiding,” Anya said confidently.
Markoth shook his head. “Tsk-tsk,” with a snap of his fingers, one of the guards unceremoniously dropped an unconscious Hidalgo into the light, a dart sticking out of his skin. “You shouldn’t let your pet wander alone in our fair city, Miss Kerran.” he admonished her. “You’re quite lucky one of our guards stumbled across him.” Hidalgo meowed groggily, but made no effort to stand up.
“What did you do to him?” Anya yelled angrily, rushing over to Hidalgo’s limp body.
“It’s what happens when animals become unruly.” Markoth explained plainly. “If you would like, I have a highly skilled veterinarian that can look after him.” Anya clutched her best friend close to her chest.
“Go with him, Anya.” Riga’s voice suddenly rang out. Looking over at the injured and still smiling Riga, he nodded towards the rooftops. “He’s a got sniper waiting up there. We wouldn’t make it out alive even if we tried.”