Leaning on the bar, I said, “You surprised me with that dazzling smile.”

“Oh no ye don’t, darlin’,” she said, smiling despite her protest. “Ol’ Chrissy’s been around long enough to ken a scoundrel when she sees one.”

“A scoundrel?” I protested, feigning indignation.

Pointing an accusing, thick finger and jabbing it toward me, she said, “Aye, that’s right. You’ve broken many hearts in yer recent past. I can tell.”

Shrugging, I said, “I hope not.”

“Now that, I’m sure is true,” she responded. “Now tell me. What did you name those darlin’ kittens?”

“Er,” I turned to Jerry, who shrugged. “No names.” I smiled again. “We left that honor for you.”

Chrissy let out a bellowing laugh. “Oh, ye are such a liar.” She moved over to some mugs. “Now what can I get ye, darlin’s.”

“I’ll take a mug of your best ale, and whatever dinner you’re serving this evening,” Fred said.

“Me too,” Jerry chimed in.

Fred grabbed the mug she proffered. “This scoundrel found us on the road and helped us rid the gorge of some goblins. His name is Elohel, by the way.” He turned toward me. “Hey Elohel, can I get you some ale and dinner?”

“Sure, but no ale, I’ll take some tea if you have it,” I responded, then sat next to him at the bar. “You’re very charitable, Fred. Thank you!”

“You’re welcome. I like helping people, but I especially like helping people that can help me. I knew when I saw the bow on your back that you could probably help us. Now I know that our dwarf is slow to trust people, but I’ve got a real knack for it.” At this point, Fred ran out of breath and paused briefly to suck in some air. “I don’t just give stuff to anybody; they have to have a vibe about them.” He finished with a deep-throated laugh.

He was one of those talkers who could go on and on before needing to come up for air. I’ve met a few, so I tuned him out a bit.

I had finally made it to Nicodranas, and now I had to figure out what I could do here. The group I came in with already accepted me to travel with them on a job here and there, but I wanted to make Nicodranas my home. I knew eventually I would have to live somewhere other than at an inn, but I had never bought a house before and had no idea where to start. Nor did I have the funds for it. My coin bag had enough gold to keep me at the inn for some time, especially with Fred’s contribution.

Running through an inventory in my head of what I might need to help Jerry, Fred, and the dwarf, I decided that I needed to use some of my gold to purchase some supplies, like some armor. Probably a supply of dry rations for the road, as well.

However, the most important order of business, I realized, was getting to know people, and building some connections.

I was just about to jump out of my seat to go wander around the city when Chrissy slipped through the kitchen doors and dropped a plate of roast in front of me. “Here ye go, darlin’s.” She had two more plates balanced on her arm and deftly passed those out to Jerry and Fred. The food smelled absolutely delicious, so I delayed my exploration to dine with my new friends.

Fred finally stopped talking in favor of the food. “I think I’m going to go explore the city after this,” I said, between bites of food.

Jerry lit up. “You need to see Bearty Bahts. She carries everything!”

“That sounds perfect. Will you show me?” I asked.

“Yes,” he said, while biting into a chunk of beef.

I had almost finished as much as I could of my roast when we heard several screams mingled with shouts and shuffling feet, followed by a monstrous snarl. I leapt out of my seat, and charged to the door, Jerry and Fred on my heels. I reached the streets to observe a corpse charging closer from down the road.

Michael C. Sahd, author of The Unfettered Child and Assassin Marked

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes:

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>