Forgotten in shadow. Crushed beneath the middle city. Oppressed by the elites floating above them all. It’s home to all kinds of predators. Some lay quietly in wait, snatching any opportunity that stumbles into their path.

The large figure stepped into the alley ahead of the two women, silhouetted in the soft gas lamps of the city. “Ain’t no place for girls down here,” the man’s gruff voice echoed, cutting through the sounds of city life “especially ones as nice as you”. He leaned down to get a better look under the women’s hoods. His head swayed like a snake, eyeing the distance and size of its prey. “It’s a dangerous place round here. Why don’t you give us a better look at those pretty faces?” he continued drawing a long knife from his waistband. The chips and dents all too clear along the rust touched blade. The makeshift handle too small for his muscular grip.

One of the woman, who at this point in her story went by Cloud, lowered her hood. She took a slow moment to free her brown hair from under the cloak. Her hand drifted across her exposed neck, knowing all too well where the man’s gaze fell, tilting her head into her own touch. She took the opportunity to glance over her shoulder, before letting her hair fall down her back. Two more men had stepped into the other end of the alley.

“We’ve got a real nice one here, even better than I first thought,” the man’s voice echoed again along with his heavy strides on the cobblestones “we’ll show you why girls don’t come round these parts.” He forced back the other woman’s hood, who did not flinch in the slightest, and the piercing blue eyes of Daisy instantly met his. She made no effort to hide her smile with her hood still locked up in the man’s tight fist. Just brushed a stray strand of her sun bright blonde hair back behind her ear, letting her hand linger over the man’s arm.

“Then you should be afraid of the ones that do” Cloud’s calm response should have been a warning, but it went unacknowledged.

“I’m taking the blonde one,” he said loud enough for the other men to hear.

“Perfect” both woman said almost in unison sparking chaos in the alley. The women moved with such speed and elegance. An eruption of action with an unspoken plan between them.

Daisy clamped her hands down on the man’s arm. Filled her lungs with the damp air of the alleyway and exhaled slowly. As she did the man watched as the young woman’s eyes shifted in colour. Never breaking contact with his. The very depths of the ocean filled her once bright blue eyes. The veins in his arm ran black as ink, a stark contrast to Daisy’s pale hands, and a yell escaped his barrel chest. He pulled his arm away but Daisy let herself be pulled forward maintaining her grip on his wrist. As the black flowed beneath his skin up through his neck, his eyes glazed over and began to dart around the alley. She let go and stepped back. The man flicked his head in all directions, slashing his blade through the air, throwing wild punches with his free hand.

Cloud heard the sharp inhale of her friend and knew that poor bastard was in for one hell of a ride. She reached for the dagger tattoos on each of her forearms. Intricate designs in black ink on her dark skin. Circular runic script shifted and danced around the edges of the dagger designs as her hands came close. She pulled the daggers as if she drew it from beneath water. Her skin the water’s surface and the tattoos merely an image of what lay beneath. The handles came free, comfortable in her hands. The blades followed, polished steel emerging from the black inked tattoo. Her cloak billowed with her hiding her movement. One dagger flew down the alley, followed by the second in a single swift motion. Both men slumped.

There was no movement from the men down the alley. Not even a sound from them as she walked over. More like someone walking through a tavern to buy drinks than pulling daggers embedded in men. The only noise was the laboured attacks and rapid shallow breaths behind her. Then the clattering of metal on cobblestones, and whimpering. Finally the soft cries and pleas to a god that was nowhere to be seen. She pulled her knives from the men and wiped them clean on their clothes. As clean as was possible on sweat stained and oil covered clothes. She pressed one of the knives flat against her right forearm. Runes outlined it on her skin, and the dagger’s edges melted back into the fine lined tattoo. Impurities that remained on the blade, blood and oil, were left as small droplets on her skin. Cloud wiped her forearm on a crimson scarf tied to her belt. The tattoo lay clean on her skin once more.

Daisy perched on the edge of a box, the rotten wood strained even under her slight figure. Her feet dangled over the edge as she hummed the tune to on old sea song and examined the damaged petals of a black flower between her fingers. Twirling the flower like a dancer in a music box. With a gentle touch she pushed some of the petals back into place, straightening them out as much as she could.

The man on the other hand. Pressed himself as tight against the wall as possible. His boots scrapped at the cobblestones, kicking up a few loose stones. The wall behind him stopped his desperate escape. Eyes now clouded with black ink darting around. Finding things that were not there. Tears cutting clean lines through the grime of life on his face. His arms shielded his face. The man who filled the alley mere moments before, lay curled in the filth of the alley floor.

Some predators will lay in wait. Others, hunt in the places their prey feel most at home.

Cloud stood over him, “Where are they, Jaks?” her voice cold. Commanding. It was now her voice that echoed down the alley. Cutting through the sounds of the man’s shallow breaths. The cold point of her dagger lifted his chin. He looked up towards her, his clouded gaze tried to focus. He heard her now.