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Red Stained Snow

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Vex was doing what she loved doing the best- sitting in the balcony of a little hotel room, wearing a silk robe, smoking a cigarette and browsing through Tumblr on her phone. She smiled a little at a picture of a kitten tumbling through some grass, and hit the “reblog” button to post it to her page, before taking another drag from her cigarette and blowing the smoke out into the wind.

She heard the glass door slide open, and glanced over to see her brother, leaning against the side of the frame. His long, black hair framed his face, and she smiled at him.

“How did the meeting go?” She asked, taking one last drag from the cigarette before extinguishing it in the ashtray in front of her.

“Better than anticipated.” Vax gave her a small smile. “Come inside, we can discuss it a little more in depth.”

“Sounds fruitful.” Vex gave her brother a delighted smile, getting up from the plastic chair. It was starting to get uncomfortable anyways.

“Oh, it absolutely was.” Vax grinned, stepping back into the safety and security of the hotel room.

Vex followed after her brother, and the two of them sat down at the little desk together, Vax in the chair and Vex sitting on the edge of one of the beds.

Vax opened up a notebook and tore out a sheet of paper, and started writing while Vex waited, almost bouncing with anticipation.

If she had learned anything in their line of work, it was that words were almost more precious than gold, and that the wrong set of ears could mean the end of your life.

Vax slid the paper over to her, and Vex picked it up happily.

”This is massive. The person I met with was here on behalf of Uriel Tal’Dorei. He’s hiring both of us for a long term stake out and multiple assassinations. Four targets total, a million apiece.”

Vex gasped as she read the figure, and jotted down her reply underneath.

”Holy shit. This is huge, if we’re attracting the attention of the fucking President of Emon.”

“I know. Apparently these four are undermining his authority, and are a massive threat to the entire continent? I dunno, but I’m not turning down that fee, are you?”

“You don’t know me well enough if you think I am. I’ve killed for less.”

“I know you have, I have too.” Vax chuckled as he wrote down his response. ”They’re going to give us more details once we’re in Emon, and they gave us 200k as a front payment, and to get our asses there and get what we need to settle in. I accepted the job already, I figured you would be on board.”

“Brother, I am so on board, it isn’t even funny.” Vex replied, unable to stop the smile on her face.

The best way to get Vex to agree to a job, after all, was a massive pile of money.

”I thought so. I’ll make the arrangements if you get in touch with Artagan. We’re going to need new identities, ones that are pretty high up the social ladder. This job is definitely a political game.”

“You just don’t want to be the one to deal with the creepy fuck. Fine, it’s my turn anyways, you dealt with him during the last job.”

“Sounds good to me.” Vax replied, before folding up the paper and handing it over to her. “Would you mind?”

“Of course.” Vex smiled, taking the paper outside. She sat back down in the shitty plastic chair, pulling out her silver lighter.

She lit the corner of the paper, using the crawling flames to light another cigarette, and watched as the paper they had used burned away to ash, all evidence of their conversation destroyed.

No paper trail. No evidence. They walked away with no one else the wiser, and no one suspecting that the pair of twins killed for a living.

Vex took another drag off her cigarette, and went back to tumblr, opening up a message thread to one of her followers.

She found the most ridiculous caricature of a penis that she could, and sent it to the user “GarmeliesHat”

Her phone buzzed with a reply only a few moments later.

GarmeliesHat: ”You always know how to peak my interest, Bluebird.”

ALittleBluebird: “You’re an easy sell, Garmeli. Want to meet up for coffee tonight?”

GarmeliesHat: “If I had known you were in town, I would have dropped by to say hello! I’m sad you didn’t tell an old friend :(“

ALittleBluebird: “Our little Raven wanted to keep it low key.”

GarmeliesHat: “Just because I tried to strangle him last time we met doesn’t mean we aren’t still friends!”

ALittleBluebird: “He deserved it, sneaky fuck. Six sound good?”

GarmeliesHat: “Six sounds wonderful. See you there, Bluebird! Give Raven my love!”

ALittleBluebird: “I’m sure he’ll be so happy to hear from you.”

GarmeliesHat: “*blows kiss*”

Vex chuckled and leaned her head over. “Our friend says hello.” She called out.

“Our friend can fuck off.” Vax yelled back, and Vex chuckled, relaxing back into the chair and taking another puff off of the cigarette.

Another job. Another handful of lives to remove from the planet.

Her blood was already singing with the rush of it all.

***

Six pm didn’t find Vex walking into a coffeeshop. It found her slipping into a small, dingy little hovel, and letting herself be scanned for bugs.

Artagan was a paranoid fuck, but then again, so was she. She couldn’t blame him; what he did for a living was just as illegal as what she did.

Once the light beeped that told her the door was unlocked, she walked in.

A man with a large mane of curly red hair and red rimmed eyes looked up from where he was lounging on his couch. “Ah, Bluebird! So lovely to see your face again!” He grinned, getting up and moving to embrace her. Vex stiffened, but let it happened. She knew that there was no good in fighting his “affections”.

“You’ve been smoking again,” She murmured as he pulled away, coughing slightly. The man reeked of weed.

“I mean, don’t I always?” Artagan gave her a wide grin. “Helps me focus, give you the best quality work that I can. Speaking of, what can I do for you this fine day?”

“We need a whole set.” Vex told him. “IDs, passports, birth certficates, social media pages, and reputations.”

Artagan let out a low whistle. “For both of you? That’s going to cost a pretty penny, I hope you know that, darling Vex’ahlia.”

“For both of us.” Vex nodded. “And while I’m being hoping for the same two for one deal that our parents got, I was hoping that maybe we could reduce the costs down a little.”

Artagan grinned, eyeing her up and down in a lewd manner. “Well, I might be willing to discuss…” He murmured, lips curled into a grin that made a shiver go down Vex’s spine.

“Apart from that.” Vex retorted, leaning against the counter nearby.

Artagan pouted at her, and then hummed thoughtfully. “Where are the jobs taking you two this time?”

“Emon.” Vex replied. “High stakes, very political. We’re going to need everything you can give us to blend in.”

Artagan let out a low whistle. “How about this then? Normal asking price for everything is 10k per person. If you can get me that lovely little green hat that Tirelda loves to wear, I’ll knock it down to 8k apiece.”

“You always have the strangest requests.” Vex sighed, rolling her eyes. “But done. We’ll figure out a way to get the stupid hat.”

Artagan grinned and picked her up into a spinning hug. Vex huffed and dusted herself off when he set her down.

“I know at least seven different ways to kill you with my bare hands, you know.” She told him.

“I know.” Artagan laughed merrily. “But you won’t. Where would you be without my help, after all?”

Vex rolled her eyes. “Dead in a ditch, or locked in a high security prison. I know, I know.”

“Exactly.” Artagan clapped his hands together happily. “So, 16k total, and I’ll have you both completely new identities. What are you posing as this time? Siblings, friends, lovers?”

“No matter how much you hope, that last one will still never happen.” Vex said. “Siblings, but not twins. And make me the older one this time.”

“Ooh, Vax’ildan is going to be upset he didn’t come pay me a visit.” Artagan laughed. “All right, give me a few days and I’ll have everything all ready for you. I’ll send you a message when it’s all done!”

“You’re the best.” Vex winked, hoisting her purse over her shoulder. “I’ll see you soon, then.”

“No coffee?” Artagan pouted, and Vex laughed.

“Too much to do, darling. This is a big one, we’ve got to get the whole gang back together.” She winked, before walking out of the hovel and back into the streets.

Chapter Text

It took a few days as promised, but Artagan delivered their new identities once they were completed, in a disgustingly ugly carpet bag filled with flowers.

Vex pulled the IDs out of the hidden pockets, examining them. They were perfect, and she knew would pass any inspection. Artagan was good, and its why he was worth every penny they spent on him.

All of the IDs had her name as “Esmeralda Gaelle”, and Vax had “Emmett Gaelle.” Vex couldn’t help but snort as she handed her brother his end of the paperwork.

Vax groaned as he looked at it. “Of all the names he could use, he used Emmett?”

“I think he’s trying to apologize for strangling you? Maybe?” Vex offered, pulling out the sheaves of paperwork to start looking them over. Artagan had been thorough; their new identities came with fully fleshed out social media profiles. Facebooks, Twitters, Tumblrs, even Instagrams, with friends and followers that looked like they were years old. Linked-In profiles with connections that ran with the upper classes from all around the world, Whitestone, Emon, Vasselheim, Marquet. The detail that Artagan poured into them was incredible.

Vex whistled softly as she looked through the phone that had been provided with all the information for her to use. “He really outdid himself this time.”

“He did.” Vax agreed, though he shook his head. “Emmett… really?”

“You take that up with him, I’m happy with Esmeralda.” Vex replied, filling up the wallet she would use. “Now all that’s left is to get the plane tickets and hotel room, right?”

“Right,” Vax agreed, and Vex held up a finger as a note caught her eye as she thumbed through her paperwork.

”Here’s your apartment, I took the liberty of obtaining it for you. It’s a nice little place in the Cloudtop, two bedroom and a good balcony view. No extra charge, consider it a treat for being such loyal friends ;) <3 Garmelie.”

“Scratch the hotel.” Vex told her brother, showing him the note with the two keys taped to it.

Vax stared at it for a moment before sighing, shaking his head. “Okay, maybe that’s enough to cover the whole “Emmett” thing.”

“I think you’ll make a great Emmett.” Vex grinned, booping her brother’s nose with her finger.

Vax stuck his tongue out to lick the digit, and Vex squealed, pulling it away. “Gross!”

“Your own fault for sticking your finger there.” Vax stuck his tongue out at her. “Did you get in touch with Pike and Grog?”

“I did, they’re coming in from Vasselheim. And give me a paper.” She made grabby hands towards the notebook until Vax handed her a sheet so she could write.

“According to Pike, Uriel’s man contacted them too, to help us. Apparently the Tal’Dorei’s know our group, because they’ve been hired on as well.”

Vax lifted his eyebrows. “I was going to tell you, he got to Kiki too. And maybe Scanlan, though I haven’t heard back from him.”

“I bet you this is massive. I can’t see the fucking President of Emon hiring not just two assassins, but an entire team, to take our just four people.”

“We’ll be able to do more research and figure out more once we hit Emon.” Vax pointed out.

”True, but it also concerns me slightly. How does he know who we work with, and know who to hire?” Vex replied. ”It means someone other than us knows our group, and while that’s profitable sometimes, it’s mostly dangerous. It means they know who to target to cripple us.”

Vax frowned slightly at the realization. ”Well, we can look into that too, when we get to Emon. We’re going to have a lot of digging to do.”

“Well, we’ll have our team, and we won’t even have to pay them ourselves this time.” Vex pointed out.

”Always about the money, aren’t you sister?”

“You say that like you don’t know me.” Vex winked at him, before taking the paper and folding it. “I’ll take a quick smoke break, and see if I can’t check in with Burt.”

“Those cigarettes are going to kill you, you know.” Vax replied.

“Something’s going to kill me one of these days, and I’ll be lucky if it is the cigarettes.” Vex chuckled, before getting up and heading out to the balcony to do her job and destroy the conversation.

***

The flight was long and boring. As expected, Artagan’s IDs weren’t even glanced at twice in the airport, and that Thursday found the twins emerging from a taxi into the sunny, busy streets of the Cloudtop District in Emon.

Vex glanced around, eyes scanning casually over the people, just observing them. She didn’t see any red flags that set off alarm bells that they were being watched or followed, so she stroke confidently into the building, Vax following behind her.

“Excuse me, who are you?” The doorman asked, getting up from his seat.

Vex laughed and tossed her braid over her shoulder, playing every part the spoiled heiress that Artagan had set her up to be. “Oh, darling, you must be new here.” She gave him a wink, before walking right by him.

“Hey, I can’t just let you in!” He protested, but Vax sneered at him.

“If you must deign to know, we live in 17B. We’ve just come back from a very long vacation, and just want to get home. I’m certain you understand that feeling… well, you would if you traveled more, I’m certain.” Vax gave a pointed look to the uniform the man was wearing.

“17B has been empty for months, no one lives there.” The doorman protested.

“It’s been empty because we’ve been on vacation.” Vax drawled, slowly and clearly like he was speaking to a small child.

“Brother, I want to get home!” Vex whined, bouncing slightly next to the elevator. “Hurry up!”

“I’m coming Sister, this doorman is just being difficult.” Vax rolled his eyes. “If you’ll excuse us…” he walked by the doorman and plugged in the code to the elevator, acting like he had done it a thousand times.

The doorman still eyed them warily, but let them pass. The elevator doors opened, and Vex flounced inside as Vax followed her with their bags.

“I can’t believe that doorman was so bitchy.” Vex complained, not dropping the act even though they were in the supposed privacy of the elevator. They hadn’t had the time to scour it yet; for all the twins knew, there were cameras and microphones on them.

Part of doing an act this big meant playing the part, even when you think you weren’t being watched.

“Esmeralda, dear, he was just doing his job.” Vax replied, leaning over to pat her shoulder. “Don’t fault the help for trying to protect others like us.”

Vex pouted at him, “If you insist, brother.”

The elevator opened, and the twins made their way to their new apartment. Vax opened the door, and they were greeted by a quaint little area. The walls were white and smooth, with brightly colored paintings giving a splash of color against the otherwise bland surface.

There was a plush leather couch and a large flat screened television mounted on the wall, and Vex twirled around, letting out a happy sigh as she collapsed onto it. “Ooh, this couch is comfortable.”

“I bet it is.” Vax chuckled, setting the bags down before giving her a slight nod.

Vex returned it, relaxing for just a moment more before getting up to start combing through the apartment, looking for cameras or microphones that might have been placed. She doubted it; the safehouses Artagan gave them tended to be clean, but Vex always stood firm behind the mantra “better safe than sorry”

Sorry, for them, would mean their lives.

It took a few hours, but the twins were thorough. They opened every drawer, checked every cushion and pillow, examined every light and smoke detector. Vex finally let herself relax fully once they had come to the conclusion that the apartment was completely clean.

“All right, now I can seriously enjoy this couch.” She commented, flopping back onto it and stretching out luxuriously. “Mm, whenever we retire, remind me to purchase a couch like this. I’m in love with it.”

“You mean “if”,” Vax chuckled, settling into one of the armchairs.

“Look at you, being all Debbie Downer.” Vex stuck her tongue out at him. “Have at least a little hope for the future.”

“Says the person who knows she’ll be lucky if her smoking habit kills her first.” Vax retorted, and Vex laughed.

“That was one of my darker moods, I will admit.” Vex replied, pulling out her actual phone to start scrolling through her personal tumblr. “But now’s the time to relax.”

“Mhm.” Vax agreed, grabbing the remote to flip the television on, and start looking through the channels. “Tomorrow’s when the work begins.”

“Indeed.” Vex agreed, allowing herself to relax. Tomorrow, they would meet with everyone who was in town, go out for a daytime bar crawl, as was tradition, before convening at Grog and Pike’s safehouse to meet with Uriel’s representative for more information on their targets, so they could begin planning and strategizing.
But for right now, watching some cooking show while browsing Tumblr seemed like a great plan.

Chapter Text

The next morning found the twins dressing in the designer clothes that were waiting for them in the closets of their respective bedrooms, (Vex shuddered at the thought that Artagan knew her size. That wasn’t exactly something she needed to know in her life.) and made their way out towards the bar in Emon.

It was a ramshackle little place called The Laughing Lamia, off in the seedier part of town, but Vex felt like she was walking into the closest thing she could call home as they entered the bar.

“Hello!” The barkeeper, an elderly man with a balding head, called out. “What can I get for you both?” He asked as the twins leaned against the bar.

“Mm, I dunno.” Vex hummed thoughtfully. “Bartender’s choice, I’m thinking. I’m rather in the mood for something glorious.” She winked at the bartender.

The bartender nodded, still cleaning the glass he had been working on when they had walked inside. “Well, if that’s the kind of fare you’re looking for, the VIP area is more your style.” He told them. “Go on through.”

“Thank you, darling.” Vex smiled, and Vax left a few dollars on the counter before they made their way to the back door that read “Employees only.”

Vex pushed the door open, and they walked inside, tapping in the keycode to open another door, that lead to an elevator. The twins stepped inside, and Vax pulled one of his daggers from underneath his shirt, starting to play with it in his fingers.

Vex didn’t scold him like she normally would; considering this was one of the few places in the entire world where she felt safe enough that they could be themselves.

The elevator opened, showing off a large, extravagant room. The lighting was dim, but it was bright enough to see the purple and gold fabrics draped over the walls.

There was another, smaller bar in here, this one stocked with more expensive liquors than the one upstairs. A man with a goatee and long, dark hair was there, mixing drinks for a smaller man that was perched on one of the barstools.

Both pairs of eyes darted up as the twins walked in, and both broke into large, happy smiles.

“Vax’ildan! Vex’ahlia!” Gilmore called out, moving around the bar to sweep Vax up into a large embrace. Vax laughed and returned the hug.

“You two haven’t come to visit in ages!” Gilmore grinned, setting Vax down and going to give Vex a hug as well. “What kept you two away?”

“Work, as always.” Vex chuckled, patting Gilmore’s back before pulling away.

“Well of course, but I still expect a visit from my favorite twins every now and then! It’s a crime to keep me waiting, you know.”

“Since when have we cared about the rules?” Vex asked with a wink, and a hearty belly laugh erupted from the dark skinned man as he dipped back behind the bar.

“If it gets you money, then you don’t care at all.” The smaller man, long brown hair tied into a ponytail, chuckled.

“Hey Scan-man.” Vax ruffled his hair before taking a seat next to him. “How’s business?”

“Oh, you know. The usual.” Scanlan replied, taking the drink that Gilmore gave him and taking a sip of the blue concoction. “Kaylie’s running it while I’m here. This is a big one, huh?”

“It’s got to be, considering they hired all of us.” Vex commented, taking a seat next to her brother.

“All of us?” Scanlan asked, raising his eyebrows. “Really?”

“Really.” Vex nodded.

“Sounds like you guys have a massive job on your hands this go around.” Gilmore commented, sliding down Vex’s drink. She didn’t even have to ask him for it; he knew what she liked.

Vex picked up the strawberry daiquiri and took a sip. “I honestly think this is the biggest job yet.”

The elevator doors opened, and Vex glanced over her shoulder as a red-haired woman in a green sundress walked in, grinning widely. “Hi!” She waved, a little awkwardly, before going to give Vax a massive hug.

Vax smiled softly as he hugged her back, pressing a light kiss to her lips as they pulled apart. “Hey Kiki, it’s been too long.”

“It has been.” Keyleth agreed, her cheeks flushed but a happy smile on her face as she looked at Vax. “So, you’re all here because of the job too?”

“We are.” Vax confirmed. “Our contact is meeting us here in a little bit, to discuss the particulars.”

Keyleth nodded. “That’s what I was told as well. Oh, I’m excited guys!” She grinned, taking a seat at the bar as well.

“We are too. The entire gang here. You know we’re gonna kick ass.” Scanlan grinned, sipping on his glass of wine.

It wasn’t too much longer before the elevator opened once more, revealing a rather unlikely pair. Standing tall, bald, and tattooed with rippling muscles was one Grog Strongjaw. His eyes twinkled with delight as he looked at the rest of them, grin visible even through the bushy beard. “You all started the party without us!”

“Wouldn’t dream of it, big man.” Vax smiled. “Hey Pickle.”

“Hey Stringbean.” The woman by the man’s side smiled. She was tiny in comparison, feet shorter than Grog, with messy white blonde hair up in a bun, and a large scar slashed across her left eye from a job gone wrong many years prior. Despite that, she was still their angel, their medic and their backup muscle when need be.

No one suspected one of Sarenrae’s daughters to be so vicious, after all, and she was strongest of their group, second only to Grog himself.

Gilmore grinned, and slid two large steins of beer down to the pair. “It’s been a long time since you’ve all been in one place.”

“Not since Kraghammer.” Vex agreed.

“That was a job.” Scanlan let out a low whistle.

“Definitely.” Vax agreed. “I still can’t believe we all made it out alive.”

“But we did, and now we’re here.” Keyleth nodded, raising her glass. “A toast to the future!”

“And the money that will be lining our pockets afterwards!” Vex added with a sly smirk, and together they all downed their drinks.

They all chatted for a little while, catching up on jobs and where their stomping grounds had moved to, when the elevator door opened.

Vex glanced over, and her heart dropped when she saw the man striding into the bar like he owned the place. She immediately drew the pistol holstered at her thigh and turned and pointed it at the man, who stopped immediately, raising an eyebrow cooly at her.

“What are you doing here, De Rolo?” Vex hissed at the white haired man.

“For the same reason you are, I suppose.” De Rolo replied cooly, his ice blue eyes staring coldly at her. “Hired for a job.”

“Who the fuck would hire you?” Vex hissed, cocking the safety off.

“Now now, stop throwing a hissy fit, Vex’ahlia.” Another voice came from behind De Rolo, stepping to the side. A short man, bald and with some scarring on the side of his cheek. Assum, one of Uriel Tal’Dorei’s trusted bodyguards. “He’s here to play, just as you are.”

“Vax and I are the best snipers in the world.” Vex replied, not moving her pistol a single millimeter. “We don’t need a third.”

“Percival’s track record begs to differ, and we’re in need of your other talents for this job.” Assum replied cooly, moving forwards and putting a hand on her wrists, forcing the pistol down. “Play nice.”

Vex scoffed, but put the safety back on and put the pistol back into its holster, though she still didn’t keep her eyes off of Percival. He just gave her a cool smile, and moved to sit next to her at the bar.

“What can I get you?” Gilmore asked, voice friendly but clearly false as he looked between the two of them.

“Whiskey. Straight.” Percival replied, taking the shot and downing it once it was in his hand, before he smiled as he leaned against the bar. “Missed you too, Vex’ahlia.”

“Can it.” Vex retorted, before skulling the rest of her drink.

“All right, now that everyone’s here, we can start talking business.” Assum moved around the other side of the bar, so he could face all of them. He pulled out a sheaf of paper from the inside of his jacket and put it in front of Vax, who took the papers and started leafing through them.

“These are the targets.” Assum said. “Five in total. The biggest one is Thordak Spodium.” Assum gestured to the packet, while Vax pulled a picture of a middle aged gentleman with fiery red hair and a black goatee, who was staring almost menacingly at the camera. “He’s the one in charge of the entire operation, dubbed the Chroma Conclave. They’re trying to arrange a coup to take down Uriel and the entire Council, and take control of the continent themselves.”

“Sounds like a lofty plan.” Scanlan hummed, looking over Vax’s shoulders as he leafed through the documents.

“One that they’ll succeed in if we don’t deal with them first.” Assum nodded. “The next is his right hand man, Raishan Mendax.” Assum pulled out a picture of a woman, with sharp features and long black hair. There was some splotches on the side of her face and down her neck. “From what our sources tell us, she’s the real brains of the operation. For her head, and Thordak’s, Uriel is offering two million apiece.”

Vex let out a low whistle. “For each of us?” she asked.

“For every person at this bar.” Assum nodded. “The other three aren’t nearly as valuable, and are one million apiece for their deaths. General Kreig Brymscythe, Umbrasyil Devoratrix, and Vorugal Vendandi.” One by one, each picture shown. A handsome man in military outfits, decorated with a moustache and a sly smile. An older man with leathery skin and sunken eyes. And the youngest man of them all, no older than his mid twenties, with shoulder length brown hair and a feral smile on his face.

“That last one doesn’t look so bad.” Grog said as he stared at the pictures.

“Don’t let looks fool you.” Assum replied. “He’s the deadliest of all of them. He has at least a hundred kills under his belt, and hasn’t so much as been charged for a single one.”

“Amateur.” Vex scoffed, and Percival let out a chuckle next to her that earned him a glare.

“Regardless, he’s a hunter.” Assum replied. “That packet that Vax’ildan is holding contains everything we know so far on their habits, and on their scheme. Do stop them before Uriel’s head rolls. And Vex’ahlia? Percival? Learn to play nice.” Assum nodded his head at each of them. “Good day. You know how to get a hold of me.”

Assum gave Gilmore a salute before walking back to the elevator, the doors closing behind him.