Dulcet Unicorn, Western Arcade, Marrowshire
4 Bells, Payday, 17th of Postharvest, Year 1126
Clothing torn and body aching, RoseA stumbled up the steps to the Dulcet Unicorn with the assistance of Master Skyweir. Exhausted didn’t begin to capture how she felt. Every iota of energy, mental, physical, and spiritual, was used up. She’d probably feel less pummeled after being run over by a rhinotaur. She felt terrible, but genuinely glad to be alive.
The worst and best day of her entire life. Never had she been more terrified, but she had been able to see, closer than she wanted—epic battle. Not a sissy, exaggerated, aggrandized, shadow of a real fight, but someone of legendary power handing down an arse-walloping that would burn in her memory for a long time. Her only regret was not being able to witness it from a lot further away. Wait until the other bards got a load of the new riffs, they could eat her stockings.
Skyweir pulled her over to the water barrel stationed by the pub doors, staggering the last few steps and catching himself against it. Even with his immense skill and physical training, he wasn’t completely impervious. “Here you are, Milady,” he said, the strain showing in his voice. “I apologize for not being able to spare you some of those lumps.”
“I—” she gasped. “I—It’s—okay.” She scooped a handful of water up to her lips. It tasted horrible, but right now, any liquid would do. She didn’t have the energy to be snippy. It became clear early into their difficulties that on his own, Skyweir could easily have evaded most to the pursuit. He had been a gentleman though, and stayed with her the whole way without so much as word or a sigh of protest. Her roadies could learn a lot from his example.
Skyweir plunged his whole head into the barrel, palming double hand-fulls of water over his face and down his chest. The liquid steamed on his skin.
She scooped some water up and splashed her face. She glanced around the town environs. It didn’t look like much. More spread out than she imagined it would be. She had heard that the majority of the town was actually underground.
Exhaustion demanded respite. In the corner of the pub’s covered patio, a bench sat in deepest shadow of the building. She made for it, setting her lute aside, she slumped backward toward the slats.
To her surprise, she made contact with another body already reclining in the corner.
“Oh sorry, I didn’t see you there,” she apologized.
She turned to focus on the person she had disturbed and flinched at the figure’s wraith-like appearance. Dark colored infiltration togs covered the person’s entire body except for a narrow patch around the eyes. The high quality felted cuirass, greaves, wrist ties, and boots had all been precisely tailored and textured to provide near invisibility even in shade.
The person focused on her with faintly glowing amber-colored eyes, and brushed away a few strands of her hair with a gloved hand.
She shifted to put space between them.
Finished dousing himself at the water barrel, Skyweir came around the corner and eased onto the slats next to RoseA.
She noticed the shadow stiffened, hand twitching toward something she couldn’t see. The person relaxed after an instant, obviously noting Skyweir’s posture.
“Quite an adventure,” Skyweir remarked. “Far more than I expected.”
“A disaster,” RoseA murmured. “I’m in tatters and all my things are in Trundhelm. I have to do a concert!”
Skyweir looked around. “I rather doubt there will be concert tonight. Did you see the guards?” He pointed off the patio up the hill to the large temple where a couple dozen men and women in armor were milling about. “This place is practically under siege.”
She sighed. “I hope the owner understands that.”
“Kas will understand,” Skyweir said with a dismissive gesture. “He’s a stickler for contracts, but he’s reasonable.”
“You know him?” RoseA asked.
Skyweir nodded. He glanced over to the shadowy figure they were sharing the bench with. The person had not moved. If not for the blinking of his eyes, she would have thought him unconscious.
RoseA heard the squeak of the pub doors behind her. “We’re already late getting back,” a masculine voice said as boots clunked on wood. “Your mother will skin me alive if we take much longer.”
“Meh. Her bark is worse than her bite,” a female voice answered, getting closer. “We’ll be fine… oh!” A dark-haired woman in a gold-trimmed frill-front blouse lurched to a stop at the corner. “Master Skyweir!”
The monk leaned back on the bench openly admiring the woman who appeared to be a little younger than RoseA. She was definitely no peasant and knew how to dress to impress. RoseA didn’t doubt for a heartbeat that she was the subject of a great deal of envy.
Skyweir shook a finger at dark-haired girl. “Miss Elderbranch, your mother’s bite is not something I’d be quick to dismiss.”
Another figure appeared at the woman’s back. He was tall, with red-tinged skin. Gold eyes looked out a handsome clean-shaven, somewhat androgynous, face. One unusual feature stood out immediately; horns. A tiefling, an attractive one, and even more unusual from the emblem on his tabard—a sunnite. Priests of the love cult were rare, and a tiefling priest— perhaps the only one in all of Sharikaar.
“Ah,” Skyweir said. “Where miss Elderbranch goes, how could master Silverstone not follow?”
The tiefling blinked. “Master Skyweir, you look injured, have you been in a battle?”
The monk looked down at the numerous cuts and bruises on his arms, most of which he received protecting RoseA. “Well, several actually. I was escorting this young lady into town.” He gestured to RoseA. “RoseA Donna Prima,” he said, swinging a hand to the tiefling. “Rose this is Brysys Silverstone, a stalwart member of the staff at the Temple of the Morning Mist.” He nodded toward Brysys’ companion. “Another contributor at the shrine, Miss Naomi Elderbranch.”
Naomi nodded to RoseA.
“As I understand it,” Skyweir said. “Rose is an entertainer. She was coming through town on tour, but the recent incursion appears to have put something of a kink in her plans.”
“It’s put a kink in everyone’s plans,” Brysys said. He made a sweeping bow. “Pleased to meet you Lady Prima.”
RoseA nodded to him. Handsome and with good manners. She focused her attention on Naomi. “Miss Elderbranch, you seem to be one who knows good tailoring. Would you perchance know a good shop in town where I can get my things mended? As you can see, after the trip over I’m simply a dreadful sight!”
“You should worry about your wounds first,” Skyweir said.
“Pssh,” RoseA shooed away his admonishment.
Brysys was frowning. “Master Skyweir, is this other person a companion of yours?”
Skyweir looked over at the silent shadow. “I confess he is not. However, since it was his bench first, I felt accosting him would be unfair.”
Brysys bowed. “Sir, am I to take it you are new in town?”
Addressed directly, the shadow straightened. It was hard to tell from the little bit of his skin revealed whether he wore black face paint or his skin was indeed dark. He spoke in shallow monotone voice, and gestured to the pub. “I am a guest of Master Windsbane.” It was difficult for RoseA to place the accent. It sounded vaguely elven. The person rose from the bench with a sinewy undulation like a snake rising out of a basket. “I represent—business—interests.” His gaze focused on Skyweir, not quite meeting his eyes. “Master, by some chance is Desiray Illkaren or Damrosil Terranath an acquaintance?”
Skyweir raised an eyebrow. “Aye, both.”
The figure nodded. “As I thought. There is a matter that may be of interest to you.”
The monk pressed his hands together. “Sir, before I agree to any meeting, I would know who I am dealing with.”
The dark figure made a slight incline of his head. “Fayde,” he said. “Fayde Grimfury.”
Skyweir inclined his head. “Mister Grimfury, I await your convenience.”
Fayde put his thumbs in his sash. “I am curious, what from out there so troubled the master?”
“Trolls, salamanders, gnolls, and ogres…” Skyweir said, ticking off on his fingers.
Fayde’s eyes narrowed. “All at once?”
“Fortunately not,” Skyweir answered. “I did find them unusually aggressive, considering it was just the two of us. They stayed engaged far beyond what was reasonable.”
“Interesting,” Brysys said. “Master Skyweir, there is a meeting tonight in Yggdrasil hall. Can you be troubled to attend and describe what you experienced? I fear there may be something important if their behavior was as you say.”
“Indeed,” the monk agreed. “I will attend. The information should be shared.”
He turned to RoseA. “Will you be attending the city meeting?”
“Master Silverstone, when is it?”
“Around three bells hence,” the tiefling answered.
Naomi stepped forward. “Attend,” she said to RoseA. “Come home with me, you can clean up and rest a bit before hand.”
RoseA hesitated, normally it would be out of the question. She was in this town without her luggage, low on funds, and her clothes in tatters. She sized up the younger woman, noting the manicured nails, perfumed skin, jewelry and fine clothing. It might be old fashioned, but right now a patron was what she needed. Perhaps the mother she overheard being talked about was an admirer of music.
RoseA smiled. “Thank you, yes, I accept your offer.” She nodded.
Naomi grinned. “Bry, take us home.”
The tiefling smiled. He bowed and held out a hand to RoseA, and helped her to stand.
Skyweir rose from his seat. “It seems you are in good hands, Milady. I bid you well.”
RoseA bowed to him. “My thanks, perhaps we shall share a drink in the future.”
“I look forward to it.” He turned to Fayde. “Good day.”
Fayde just inclined his head.
With that, they all went their separate ways.