There were times when doing what needed to be done meant strange partners and uncomfortable partnerships. He trekked alongside what had once been a highway, chewing over those thoughts. Some people, he’d never have to deal with again: Ardell and Delaney had gone over to the Nedetakaei and, while he would miss Del, he wouldn’t miss the partnership of them.
Baram had died. Ib was off somewhere hunting with Eris, speaking of strange partnerships. The Thornes… He hadn’t seen them in decades. He knocked on a tree for luck at that. Most of the baddies from Addergoole were gone, one way or the other, and yet here he was, weeks from home, looking for one of the baddest.
“You made it.”
And the big bad wolf had found him. He nodded acknowledgement at Rozen. “I told you I would.”
“Things get in the way, sometimes.” His tone said: for other people. Not for me.
“They move,” he shrugged in response. “So, you got my message.”
“I did. Safe haven for the likes of us?”
“Not everyone is as strong as you are. Some of them need protection.”
“From humans.” The disdain was thick; Aviv boggled, again, that this monster was still among the Shenera Endraae.
“From mobs,” he agreed mildly. “From humans.”
“And you’re the guy to provide that.”
“My team can provide that, yes,” he agreed. Stay mellow. He’d learned that lesson a long time ago, when he was far weaker than he was now.
“So what do you need from me?”
“Your hunting range is out of our current zone. Keep an eye out. Send them our way if they need it. Provide safe passage through your territory to those who just want to keep moving.”
“And what’s in it for me?”
This was the hard part. This is where you made deals with devils. “What do you want?”
“What do you want?”
He loved it when it came down to that. Then you got to set the terms of the engagement.
Truth be told, however, Aviv’s plan wasn’t all that bad of one. Not everyone had been gifted by a Change as nice as his, and the hatred the humans had for them was as broad and unthinking as any predjudice. Little things like Mea, like Dita, they had never done anything to deserve the mob hatred.
He smiled, letting the squiddy boy squirm on the hook a little bit. “Ah, now, that’s the question. Everyone wants something, right?” Though he really didn’t want for much. He had a nice set-up here. “So what I want is a hand with a little hunting.” Come down and play on my level, Saint Squid. You’ve never been as good as you thought you were.
Aviv was frowning; good. “Regine’s going to catch you at this eventually, Rozen. You can’t keep farming these people like your own personal crop of entertainment. It’s practically Nedetakaei.”
“Practically, but not. I abide by the terms of our arrangement,” he answered smoothly. “And as for Regine, she never fusses for all that long. She needs me guarding her flank too dearly.”
“Mmfg. So, what help do you need?” Seemed Regine wasn’t the only one that needed him to watch her back.
“They send me girls. But if they truss them up and send them like some sort of sacrifice, everyone cries and the girl doesn’t stop yelling for months. If I track them down in the forest and snatch them… it goes smoother.” And he’d never really liked the screaming.
“So if you kidnap them, they take it better than if their parents sell them?” Aviv frowned cynically. “You know, that makes a sick sort of sense. And you want me to help?”
“Hell, you know you’re good at it. Scare them a little. They’ll run right into my arms.”
This also takes part before Retirement
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