A Tale of Two Mercenaries

Discussion in 'ROLEPLAY GRAVEYARD' started by Saren, Dec 17, 2013.

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  1. A man, a burlap sack over his head, is unceremoniously plopped in front of a set of guards, if they could even be considered as such. While they possess shields, the apparel decorated with a black snake over a rolling, green hill, it was likely they'd simply stolen them off the backs of the real soldiers who'd worn them once.

    "What's this now?" asks the first man, peering down at the covered man. His hands are bound behind his back with an unforgiving and tight knot, and his voice is muffled as he tries to speak. There is a bloody hole in his trousers, showing off a hastily bandaged thigh.

    "It's the criminal, Jaksin Carvix. Wanted for the murder of seven girls, two men, and a young child. He's also a thief." A bag of shiny gems and golden coins clinks beside the man and a woman steps up beside her catch, black-blue hair waving in the wind.

    "Tha's the third one thi' week, Hale," the second man says, his words accented with the deep drawl native of Sunterin. "Where'd ya find 'im hangin' roun'?"

    "Itaine. He was planning on robbing the Lord of his treasure and one of his children." Her words are clipped and short, like she's just waiting to get her reward and go. The men exchange looks and the first one digs into his belt and tosses a small sack of coins at the woman. She unloops the string and peers inside, a scowl crossing her features at the sight. "Twenty-five gold pieces? He's worth much more than that," she snaps. Irritation writes itself along the lines of her face, aimed at the men for giving her only a quarter of what her quarry had been worth.

    "All we go', Miz Hale," the second man smirks, watching the woman's dark brown eyes turn almost black with anger. She rips the sack off of Jaksin's head, revealing him as the man she said he was. He spits in her direction, "Bested by a woman."

    The immediate response is her silver bow cracking against the back of his skull, the resounding whip of the string riding the air enough to pierce the ears of everyone around her. For good measure, the woman leans down and grabs a handful of the stolen goods, plopping each coin in slowly as she glares the two men, as if she is challenging them to fight her.

    "Ge' outta 'ere, woman," the second guard barks, frowning as she sends a cheeky smile in their direction and walks off, adjusting her bow on her back again. Being a female bounty hunter is hard enough, but it was made worse by men like the two watching her exit. It's unfortunate she had to resort to things like taking stolen goods just to sustain her appetite and poor drinking habits. It's even more unfortunate that she doesn't care.

    Night finds her perched on a bar stool with a mug of something dark, alcoholic, and frothy in front of her. "What's go' ya down, Zay-eera?" the barkeep inquires, leaning one elbow on the counter. The way he speaks her name makes her smirk, because she knows he was trying. One of the few friendly men in Sunterin, the barkeep, Jonson, always gave her alerts and new people to track down. He's one of the few people Zaira brings herself to trust.

    "It's Zaira," she corrects, pronouncing the middle of her name with a sharper sound. "Got paid less today... Again." The admission makes her drain her cup and swing the handle in Jonson's direction, silently requesting another.

    "They'll do tha' to ya, but ya'll find somethin', I am sure o' tha'." There's a twinkling eye as Jonson observes her taking out the amount she owes him for room and food. "Thank ya, Miz Hale. Oughta stop while yer ahead, ya know. Ya go' a fair sum with ya."

    "Settling down is boring, Jonson. Why would I want to turn out like you?" The mean joke has him bellowing as he swipes her coin with one hand and slaps her on the shoulder with the other.

    "Knew there wa' a reason I liked ya, girly," he rumbles before he fills her glass again. Zaira grips the handle and leans back to observe the other bar patrons. It's rowdy, chaotic and overall unsettling.

    Just the way she likes it.
     
  2. [​IMG]
    Hair: Dirty blond
    Eyes: Amber

    It feels like the clacking of boots has followed Arean around ever since he arrived in the wastes of dry desert sand to the southeast of the main continent. Eyes, unknown and unseen, are upon him with every step of his armor clad body. Even though the walls around him are thick with sandstone, Arean knows that someone wishes for his presence elsewhere. He has danced this dance before, whether it's in the Eastern Icelands or the Isle of Chardon, the knight heeds to the call. It's a sense of honor, a duty to the king of his own body, and he must answer. When survival hangs in the balance of a sharpened blade and the ability to wield it, how could he not? Gold, silver, copper? A payment of food is enough for him to be thankful for.

    Leading his horse behind him, the black mare huffing at the summertime heat, Arean finds a support beam to one of the many triangular awnings striping the ground in shade. Looking back at his warhorse, his one and only companion since the days of old, he pats the white genetic marking on his muzzle. He takes no care to the onlookers wrapped in their silken attire, their skin kissed by the sun to turn their skin a dark bronze. They might seem gentle enough, harmlessly staring to the newcomer and his expensive looking armor. The plate has been folded over and over upon itself, like Damascus steel, causing each and every beam of light from above to catch in the shades of gray steel. Every piece of plate has sparked against a foe, the dents and cracks worn with pride.

    "Psst," comes a voice from seems to be nowhere. As he looks to his left and to his right, needlessly checking the straps on his bags, he cannot find where this small voice is coming from. Arean pushes his dirty blonde hair from his eyes and looks to the rest of the small, ally sized marketplace. In comparison to what he had seen years prior, this would be considered a slum where the wooden boards of each stall are pinned together with rusty nails. The keepers of these shops are bug eyed and looking for any payment they can, selling junk to those who don't know any better. Arean's eyes squint through the picked up sand catching in the strong rays of the sun. "Psst! He wishes for your audience," echoes the voice, louder this time in what seems to be the air above Arean's head. His hand moves to the hilt of his great sword, the red leather wrapping frayed with time and lack of valuable upkeep.

    "Show yourself!" He calls aloud, his voice not brittle but full of purpose. Such actions cause a chatter among the passing masses, their bodies pushing together to avoid the tall stranger, his armor, and, most importantly, his blade. They might all speak the same language, with different dialects and accents, but their cultures stray as far as the moon does from the sun. "I won't stand here and be played by a fool!" He nearly pulls it from its sheathe when a hand comes to his shoulder, shaking gently so that he knows who it is. The heart inside his chest beats against his ribs, a dry throat left for him to speak through.

    "Remove your hand sir," he advises, hand still tightly on that battered blade's hilt, "or you might just lose it." Three fingers slip from his armor and Arean turns around to come face to face with a pair of blue eyes looking out from the slit of silk wrapped around his face. "You?" he questions with a hint of confusion, remembering that dark crimson color from a passing caravan three weeks prior to his arrival in the city of Ushtar. Before that brain behind those blue eyes can make this man speak, Arean elicits another question, "Why have you followed me here? Who are you? What have you--"

    "Not so many questions, Master Ibanell," the man practically whispers, his head bowing low in respect.

    "Master?" Arean's face hardens, "How do you know my last name? Answer me!" He reaches out to grab the man's brown vest but he is easily sidestepped.

    "A very special man wishes to meet you by the green fountain. Sunset. You won't leave empty handed." Before Arean has a moment to even speak, the seeming mirage of a man fades into the warm wind. He runs around Arean and by the time the heavy plated knight turns around, he is out of sight. Now he is left to confusion and time. He never turns down a job so wherever this green fountain is, he has the day to find it until the sun dips underneath the horizon.
     
    #2 Vacyr, Dec 17, 2013
    Last edited: May 7, 2014
  3. After enjoying various bar brawls and chuckling at the mere sight of these men drunkenly trying to punch one another, and even whipping a few herself, Zaira begins the retreat to her room. However, a dark figure huddled in a corner stops her in her tracks. He appears familiar, if one shrouded in shadow could appear familiar. Perhaps she had worked for him at some point. As her head flips from side to side, checking to see if the shadowy man was perhaps there for someone else, Zaira deduces that she is indeed the one he wishes to speak with.

    "Do I know you?" she begins, but her question is met with silence. "...Can I help you with something?"

    "Yes." The voice is hoarse, like the speaker had spent too much time screaming. "My master wishes to hire you for a job."

    "What kind of job? I don't do just anything, you know." Arms cross over her chest as her eyes narrow at the figure before her. Taking shady jobs is risky, but it is also necessary, particularly for her line of work. It's the only reason she deigns to entertain the conversation, even in the dwindling crowd.

    "A... treasure hunt, if you will. My master requires a special artifact."

    "I don't treasure hunt, if you will," she counters, mocking his words with a smirk. Anyone who knows her also knows that she hunts criminals, not toys. With those words hanging in the air, Zaira turns on her heel, intending to walk back to her room and sleep. And find a different job. But the man's next words make her halt again.

    "My master is offering one hundred thousand gold pieces." The amount is enough to make Zaira's heart jump into her throat. That kind of money translates to an early retirement. She could live a free and posh life alone, swimming in gold she could never hope to spend in her one mere lifetime. It is that thought that causes her to retract her steps and replace herself before the shadowy man. "Is this a fair sum to you, Miss Hale?"

    Fair? Gods above, with that money... "Yes. Who is your master?"

    "Follow. You will know soon." He slinks out from the corner and pads through the main room in utter silence. He passes by with no one giving him a second glance, though the same could not be said for Zaira. She clenches her fists at her side while men, wasted on alcoholic beverages, try to grope her. However, she makes it through their reaches without killing anyone, but she's given another reason to dislike the male gender. So why is she following one down a dark path? Money, she thinks quickly to save herself the thoughts of wondering other things.

    The figure stops just outside the rickety, patched wall of Sunterin, and he regards her with a hidden face. "My master will be here shortly." As if on cue, a rather short and tubby man dressed in thick, flowing red robes appears before her. Each finger is adorned with rings, even his thumbs, and every set stone is different. However, all that comes from Zaira is a boisterous laugh.

    "This is your master? He looks like someone stepped on him during his growth stages," she says, clearly finding his entire get-up ridiculous as she turns to find the shadowy man to mock him for his choice of master. However, he is gone, with no trace of him ever being there to begin with. She recovers quickly enough to have a silver-tipped arrow set on the string of her bow as the tubby man conjures a fireball in one hand. Zaira's face has turned serious at the sight of magic, something she knows is uncommon, but dangerous. She thinks herself stupid for underestimating the small man. "What do they call you?"

    "I am Ranir."

    "That's it?"

    "I am Ranir with the one hundred thousand gold pieces you so desire." Zaira's gaze flattens at his words, but she lowers the bow and the flames in Ranir's palm dissipate. "As my faithful servant has told you, I'm looking for a very particular artifact. It is called the Betwixt, and it is guarded by the silver dragon, Vanexsum the Twisted. Mayhaps you've heard of this beast?" Zaira knows that this creature often eats whoever dares try to relieve it of its treasure, but she nods instead. "Good. Then you are well aware that this artifact is valuable and must be handled with care."

    "You are under the illusion that I'm taking this job."

    "You want the gold, don't you?" It truly was a tempting amount, but taking treasure from a dragon was like... well... taking from a dragon. Nearly impossible and often ending in death.

    "I do, but...."

    "But nothing. I know you have completed your most recent task and do not have another one lined up." How he knows such a thing, she does not ask. Magic is beyond her realm of understanding, because she possesses none. Her silence is taken as an affirmation, and she does not deny it. "Good. Vanexsum resides in the Pointpeak Mountain. The city, or what wishes to be a city, that is closest is Balvis. That is a three day ride from here. I will meet with you in the town of Capsin, for there is more information to be discussed about this task."

    Zaira looks to the darkened horizon, judging the distance. Capsin is a day south, and Balvis two days beyond that. And that is only if she runs into nothing but the wind. But bandits and criminals lurk in the wilderness, waiting to strike on those unsuspecting of traps. "Fine. I'll take the--" She turns to find Ranir gone, just like his servant had done. She huffs and tramps back to her room. "...Mages."
     
  4. Ushtar was known as the city of dreams before the collapse of the mighty Kingdoms. Arean never believed in such tales. A city in the middle of the desert, sprung there by underground springs and an oasis, could never hold such wonders. It was said, practically whispered in his ears by the wind itself, that if one were to make a wish upon the oasis, it was thought to come true. Throughout the city, in what Arean would consider the gutters of the streets, runs a small, clean river of water for all to drink from. Man and animal both take their hydration from such a maze of waterworks. It's an endless loop zig-zagging its way through each and every street but Arean is too proud, too worried, to drink from such contaminated water.

    The desert around them, yellow in the light of day and orange in the sunset, releases a sense of hopelessness that is combatted by those waters. It's a miracle that the glittering water as clear as the sky is not absorbed by the sand or stone that rests all around it. If the wells and springs were to run dry, this tiny swell of life would collapse before everyone's eyes and be no more. Arean would never wish that upon anyone, his sanctity of life far too high. For all his life he has been protecting people and even though the days of his glory are long passed, falling with the stones of the castle he adored so much, he will never change who he is. At least, not knowingly.

    So when the beggars come up to him, smelling of sweat, their faces covered in tears, he is one of the few who actually stops. He urges each and every one of their kind to stay at least a few feet away from him, he never likes close contact. But that doesn't mean he wishes for them to leave. "Follow me," is something that he would tell them, motioning with his hand to lead a few of them down the streets. Conversation is shallow, he tries as he might not to answer their questions too thoroughly for trust is hard to come by. Revealing something about himself would, in turn, make them believe that he actually cares for them. When he does, in a small sense of the word. He cares for their life, not their history nor their purpose in this world. If he can keep them alive, by buying a few loaves of bread and handing out large and fluffy chunks to each of the dirty hands, he will be content. A connection is the last thing on his mind.

    It's during one of these small tokens of kindness, the beggars all thanking him thoroughly before scurrying off with their portion, that he finds the green fountain. It's a beauteous piece of artwork. It's in the shape of a flower, the petals curving like an F clef to create a basket of water before the townspeople. Arean finds his jaw dropping, the chattering of the peasants before him simmering down to muffled syllables. Even from his position across the small town square, he can note the carved patterns, much like vines, stretching their way along each and every one of these petals. In the center of this upside-down dome, there is a long, spiraling pipe that releases smooth jets of water at every height level. Pushing through the crowed, Arean makes his way to the emerald green petals.

    Despite the life teeming around them, the marketplace full of people, he doesn't see anyone waiting for him. The light from the sun catches on the long pipe and the knight turns around to watch the sun. He still has an hour or so, he can guess, until it will be sunset. With a small groan, he keeps his mouth shut and moves, with his steed, over to one of the benches overlooking this fountain. So he sits and waits, politely watching those who pass by. He attempts not to stare but with such an array of personalities, he finds it hard not to. He leans back against the bench, hand not bothering to hold his blade for he trusts his reflexes and they haven't failed him yet.

    "Spectacular, isn't it?" Ranir asks, sitting down next to Arean and without much question, the knight lets him. A man who is doused in such fine jewels, his fingers littered with rings and necklaces heavy enough to bring down a bull. "But what could make it even more desirable, Arean, is if you had one hundred thousand gold pieces, wouldn't it? Then you could buy every peasant in this place their share of food. But…" he smirks, "You don't need the money now, do you? A guard like yourself. You have your living expenses." But before Arean can speak, he holds up a hand and the knight's mouth closes immediately. "Ride to the city of Capsin and there you will receive the next step. I think, if I consider you a warrior, you will be pleased with what I have for you there."

    "I'll do what you ask," Arean breathes, "But first you have to tell me what you're--"

    "I don't have to tell you anything, Arean. I'll send for you again when the time is right. Until then."

    Before he can even speak, the man vanishes before his eyes. So this will be his last night in Ushtar and tomorrow he takes the four day ride to Capsin. Hopefully he won't have to wait on the stubby man for long.
     
    #4 Vacyr, Dec 18, 2013
    Last edited: Dec 18, 2013
  5. "Mages," she huffs, reminiscent of her first encounter with Ranir. Her horse, a gangly, long-legged gray colt, huffs in agreement, though he knows not what he agrees to.

    This time, however, she repeats the word while standing in the middle of the throng of commonfolk in Capsin. One city to still remain fairly upscale in terms of trading goods and their quality, Capsin always has people coming, going, and staying. It has an overflow like a drunken man's cup: too much. Mercantile chaos springs about as men and women sell their wares to travelers, often unsuccessfully. Zaira walks along the side of the main street, sometimes coming too close to the salesmen beside her. Zaira doesn't trust men to sell her anything, and if they do, it's at a higher than normal price because she is both a woman and a traveler. Despite this, a spool of thick twine catches her eye. She remembers that her bow requires a new string, as the old one is fraying on one end after it snagged on a tree branch.

    She buys the spool for a fixed price, not willing to haggle with the man in front of her. It's not worth it in her eyes. He would have only driven the price higher and made it even less worthy for her eye. Tucking the spool in a pocket attached to a strap on her thigh, Zaira is so focused on fixing the pocket that she nearly rams into a man who wasn't fixated on her. He is yelling at something in front of him, and Zaira suddenly notices the sounds of metal scraping on metal. She pushes through the crowd to find a makeshift pit carved into the ground. It's not deep or wide, but two men clash together in a sword fight. They wear minimal armor, which seems counter-intuitive, given their fight is more deadly than the onlookers portray.

    Still, Zaira remains rooted, eyes darting to follow the men. Eventually, a winner is declared when the man with the two handed sword catches and flips the sword of his adversary, the blade twirling and glinting before it slams into the ground. Bets are paid, and Zaira slips away to avoid any men catching her in their celebration or rage, depending on who he might have bet on.

    As she travels around, she searches for the tubby mage, Ranir, but there is no sign of him. She has looked all morning, but no one has seen a jewelry-laden man with enough fat to roll him down a hill. She does not wish to wait. The prospect of such a large reward keeps her waiting, though impatiently. She returns to the inn where she's tied her horse, whom she has aptly named Legs, but he does not notice her approach because he's fixed on pulling up a piece of tough, dry grass from the ground.

    "You and me both struggling to find food, I see." Legs looks up and snorts, making Zaira smile and drag her fingernails on his head. "I'll get you something soon," she promises the animal, untying the loose knot and pulling her steed to the backside of the inn where a large, community stable houses several horses. Putting Legs in a stall, Zaira finds the stable boy and tosses him a coin. "Find something good for him," she commands to the young child before she walks to the entrance of the inn. It is as if the street goers have simply moved into one place, and she sidles through the throng to find her room.

    Waiting is not a game she enjoys playing, but she can do little until Ranir shows himself. Part of her believes he is simply toying with her, so why does she remain?

    ...Money, she reminds herself again as she lounges in the chair perched in the corner. Money that is taking its time to show up.
     
  6. Ranir is not the first to greet Arean when he rides through the gates, his armor coated with drying sand and various vegetation. This surprise is ordinary for a Master never truly reveals himself until the most opportune times are upon their schedule. Thinking nothing of it, Arean takes a pleasant stroll through Capsin with as little trouble as possible. Finding the quiet sector of the city, if there was such a place, would be a figment of the imagination. Wherever Arean lead his steed, there would always be a chattering. Men with guards, women with their children, it didn't matter but eventually the buzz of the city fades into the back of this dirty-blonde haired knight. It's a skill he obtained while standing watch, in the days of old. It's rather easy and a skill that once learned, is never forgotten. The talk of his inner thoughts is easy to cloud such inconsistent chatter.

    But as the day passes onwards, Arean stops by the Crows Head Tavern and decides that spending a night in a comfortable bed instead of a rug on the floor with a half stuffed pillow, could really do him in. But as he turns his steed to walk around the back of the tavern, a shrouded figure blocks his path. He appeared and held out his hand, signaling for Arean to stop. Swallowing, the knight ceases all movement and waits for the purple lined robes to speak. Arean's hand moves to his blade, a subtle movement but one that could mean the difference between life and death. These cities are always dangerous.

    "Sir Arean Ibanell, you are heading to the wrong inn. My master wishes for you to reside in the other quarter of town. Rest today. I am sure that tomorrow, while you wait," he motions over to a hole down by the end of the long street they're about to step off of, "there are many forms of entertainment that can be … suitable to your needs. Master Ranir recommends that you try your luck in the pits. They'll be able to give you the money you need for the supplies that lies ahead in your journey."

    "And when will I see your master?" Arean asks, his tone crisp and directive but he remains calm, knowing full well what those pits in the ground are. They're always caked with blood and ungodly sights. "I don't wish to waste my time."

    "Do not worry about your precious time. You'll get plenty of that on your journey," the man speaks before stepping backwards into the dim of the alley. "For now. Simply rest and make yourself useful." There is a small sound, as if a match were being lit right before Arean and the man is gone. He vanished much like Ranir did.

    Sucking in a breath, Arean does as he is told, knowing that the last thing a mercenary must do is upset their master. The one with the heavy bag of silver and gold coins is, after all, the man who calls all the shots. It won't be until the evening that Arean will see Ranir. Until then, he wakes, eats, and dresses in only linen pants and his boots. He knows there will be no need for any other garments. Today, he will try his luck with the pits and if he isn't killed, he will get the chance to meet the Master once more and find out his true mission.

    He walks into the very same tavern that Zaria resides while she is out back telling the stable boy to give her horse the necessities. He doesn't bother to stop, his skin hot and itchy from a day in the sunlight. Even one who bronzes as he does can still feel the wrath of a burn from the ball of fire in the sky. It won't be until that evening that he comes downstairs for dinner, clad in a blue long-sleeved tunic, black pants, and his usual scuffed brown boots. Around his hip is his belt and sleeping snugly in its place is his one-handed sword. A falchion blade that was given to him as a gift before departing from Ushtar. The job had been done and his last Master wished him to keep his good fortune rolling in. But those Masters, the ones who actually care about their clients, are hard to come by.

    "I'll take dinner at the far table," Arean calls over the shoulder of a man at the bar, catching the bartenders attention before he does so. When the blonde haired man looks at him and nods, Arean moves to the more reserved portion of the bar. Sitting by one of the lanterns hanging from the wall, the stop of his head is illuminated, leaving the rest to the shadows work. Now he waits for Ranir. Little does he know, Ranir will have her when he joins Arean's table.
     
  7. Four days she's spent in Capsin, and she feels stir-crazy. It's evident in her motions and her attitude. She's gradually growing snappy with everyone around her, and the only thing that has sated her thus far has been a set of targets used to train what soldiers may have been there. She watches the fights and tends to her horse, but she doesn't leave. She has even been so crazy as to speak to Legs, and responding as if he's given her a reply.

    When Ranir appears, Zaira is out shooting. She's dressed in warmer clothing: long, brown leather pants tucked under her boots and a sleeveless brown tunic with an open neck. Her sleeves are compensated by a small vest that holds two small shoulder pads made of dull metal. The fingerless gloves are always armored with silver knuckle guards, a precaution when using a weapon that often backlashes. Her long hair is pulled up in a high pony tail, the strands kept from her eyes so it does not waver her aim.

    It is dark with evening, but it doesn't stop her arrow's aim. The silver bow quivers with each quick release of her arrows, but she doesn't halt until her back quiver has been emptied. It holds a total of eighteen arrows, while a smaller quiver strapped to her leg holds an additional six. Her arsenal is small but deadly, and she knows it. As does everyone who encounters her.

    But Ranir holds no such assumptions of her. He shows himself beside the target, and the action causes Zaira to aim for him rather than the straw-stuffed stand. "Oh... It's you," she says, but her tone holds nothing but irritation.

    "Yes, it is me. It is time to talk about our agreement."

    "I was prepared to talk when I arrived. Why has it taken four days?"

    "I was waiting."

    "Waiting for what?" Zaira realizes that she hasn't lowered the bow, and this question only makes her pull farther on the string. She's aware that Ranir's presence may be an illusion, but loosing the arrow on him would satisfy her nonetheless.

    "Waiting," he repeats. "Now, come with me. We have much to discuss." For the first time, Ranir actually walks, and Zaira almost laughs in spite of herself. She should not consider it walking. She finds it more like waddling, like a young child might do when learning to use their legs. She retrieves her arrows, putting them in their place before her long strides catch up to the man. They make their way to a table in the corner, but Zaira finds it is not empty. There is a man lounging, and while Ranir keeps moving to sit in the opposite seat, Zaira halts at the head of the table.

    "What is this?" she demands, crossing her arms and waving at the man up and down. She takes one second to look him over. She finds he's handsome, with shoulder length, dark blonde hair. He is dressed neatly enough, and he is armed, something she can respect. However, her anger overtakes such a feeling, and she glares at the smug mage looking back at her.

    "This is what we need to discuss," he answers, glancing at Arean.

    "No, there is nothing to discuss. You did not say I would be working with a man. In fact, you did not say I would be working with anyone at all." She realizes Ranir is ignoring her, and she fights the urge to whip him across the back of his head, as she might have done with a lesser man.

    "Master Ibanell, how do you feel about having a woman on your journey with you?"

    "My being a woman has nothing to do with this, mage," she snaps before she lets Arean speak.

    "Well, you did point out that he was a man."

    Zaira huffs and she looks away for a moment, but it is clear she is awaiting Arean's response and how to react, whether it be with mild respect or an arrow to the head. Ranir turns back to Arean, one eyebrow cocked, allowing him to finally answer the question without any interruptions from the female bounty hunter.
     
  8. As the night draws onward and Ranir retrieves Zaria from the shooting ranges, Arean receives his dinner. Keeping an eye out on the rest of the customers, he notices a range in cultures. This place is more than just a small hub in the middle of nowhere, people came to see the sights and goods it offers. Tall ones, short ones, angry ones, and drunk ones. Oh yes. There are a lot of that last batch right here in this very establishment. He tries not to stare, but when the rowdy customers are making a fool of themselves, it's hard not to. He grins when a cluster of men all start to sing, their pitches quite off and their tune is enough to kill the hearing once and for all. The knight picks out a small, leather bound book and places it on the table, four fingers drumming to what the beat of the music should be. For now, he dips into his memories as he stares off into the distance.

    The bar, coated in strong maple wood, becomes nonexistent to the theatre of his mind. Soon it's not the drunks he is hearing singing but the wildly beautiful strings of his King's quartet. All at once, he is back in the castle of his home. It's thick stone walls could have held off any attack, as long as one such strike didnt come from those who were already inside her. Arean's face twists into a frown, his nose smelling the burning wood from the outlying village. His chest tightens as if he were breathing in that smoky air. The man can almost taste the ash on his tongue. It isn't until the serving girl, dressed in a barmaids corset and lovely white dress, places a dented tin plate in front of him that Arean comes back to reality.

    "You alright there, handsome?" This maid is asking him and the knight, a bit flustered at first at the thought of him letting down his guard so much, can only nod to her and smile.

    After thanking her for the meal, he plucks the three pronged fork from the side of the plate and inspects the meal before him. A large, charred chunk of pork has been thrown in some spices along with green beans and what seems to be a mashed potato-like substance at the far corner of the rounded plate. Shrugging, Arean knows that this meal is better than the ones he has had thus far. He can smell the sweetness of it all, his stomach growling in response. To his disappointment, he only draws a single bite of the reddened meat into his mouth when two shadows stretch along his table. Arean looks up and starts to chew his food, leaning against the L-shaped booths wall. It isn't until the toughness of the pork is pushed down into his stomach that the knight speaks.

    "How can I possibly answer that question," Arean asks, leaning forward and cupping one hand over the other on the worn surface of the table, "when you have given me nothing on what this journey is." There is a short, one sided smile at Ranir, the knight awaiting their true mission. "Although," he adds, finally looking towards the woman clad in shoulder pads. His eyes keep on her for a while, a quite inspection cutting grooves in his mind so that he may remember her. "I have never worked with someone before. But the idea," he pauses, looking from the jeweled one to the fiery woman before he makes his decision final, "is an open one in my mind." A finger comes upwards, stopping Ranir from answering just yet. "And where are your manners?" He questions the mage, his lips flatlining for a moment in disappointment.

    The knight, being well aware of where his falchion sword is against his hip, slides to the end of the short booth and stands up. Arean's attention is now upon Zaria, a small hint of a smile on his lips. He knows that if this is what Master Ranir wishes, Arean will have to play his part too. "If you expect us to work together, sir, then you must at least introduce us first." Now his full attention flips from the rounded mage to a more prized work. Despite the rowdy customers in the other sections of the bar, Arean finds enough space to bow before her and hold out his hand for hers. "My name is Arean Ibanell," he starts and if she extends her hand for him, he will take it and bow his head once more before standing up straight, "And it would please me if you would join us and speak civilly about this possibility. You are still free to decline. I will not force you to do something that you do not wish to. But you must remember there is, after all, a mighty reward that hangs in the balance of this meeting."

    Holding his arm out for her to take his seat, Arean's back straightens up as much as he can. The fighting from the day has made knots in his lower back, arms, and shoulders. But looking through all the soreness, he pulls up a chair and sits between Zaria and Ranir. The small stool is hardly comfortable. It squeaks underneath his weight whenever he seems to breathe. But in this environment, the squeaking of a four legged stool will only bother the sitter and hardly be heard by anyone else.
     
  9. "I have none," Ranir replies pointedly, watching the interaction between Zaira and Arean. Zaira's gaze is one of very slight interest, although frustration is clearly the winning factor in her mind. Arean is taller than her as he stands, but somehow, his height is not a factor as he actually bows to her. What kind of man has shown her such respect? None, as far as she remembers, except for a rare few. It is that thought that makes her take his hand and give a firm shake, as if she is trying to prove her strength to this male. "Zaira Hale," she replies after he's done with his side of the conversation. She's well aware of the reward placed on the artifact, and while the prospect of working with a man, however respectful he was, was still daunting. However, she gives him a curt nod to show she's heard.

    "I know," she says, but her glare settles on Ranir, losing the small touch of interest to be replaced with irritation. She slides into the seat offered, her gaze not wavering from the chubby man across from her. He is the source of her problems, and she has no qualms about showing it. "Now that you've told us how much we will be receiving and what we will be fight--"

    Ranir holds his hand up to quiet her, and her mouth closes. It's not out of courtesy for the man. It's because she's shocked that he even interrupts her with such a motion. One hand curls under the table, clutching an arrow in between her fingers. She sorely wants to stab this man, but she runs the risk of burning the establishment down should he react in the way she expects. With a greater amount of self-control than she thinks possible to muster, Zaira releases the arrow, noticing the slightest of smug smiles on this mage's face. She looks away for a moment, waiting for Ranir to speak before she can glare at him once more.

    "Master Ibanell, I have told our fair friend here--" Zaira snorts at the word choice, "--about what you will surely encounter on your way, but you should be informed as well. The artifact in question is known as the Betwixt, and it is guarded by Vanexsum the Twisted, a very large and unkind dragon. He resides in Pointpeak Mountain, and it is a long ride from here to there. Undoubtedly, you will encounter more than just a dragon on your journey. Danger lurks everywhere. But, as you say, there is a hefty reward for the both of you. Despite these prospects, are you willing to undertake this journey?"

    "What's so special about this... Betwixt anyhow? You haven't told us why it's special to you," Zaira says, purposefully lacing her fingers together to resist the urge to plunge an arrow into Ranir's fat torso.

    "That is for me to know and for you to retrieve."

    "We are not dogs. We do not--" This time, an audible grumble of discontent rises in her throat as he raises his hand.

    "I believe you should allow your new partner to speak." He gives her a smile, which silently angers her further, but she does not interrupt again. Not yet.
     
  10. Arean tries as he might to keep all of his more personal emotions out of the mix between Zaria and Ranir. Throughout his years of wondering, he has found out that upsetting the man who is willing to pay is always the one who subtracts from the reward. By this rate, Zaria will cost him the whole lot of gold. So it's while the two bicker, he reaches across the table to remove his food from in front of, or near Zaria while her hand is underneath the table. Knowing this game all too well, he half expects the woman to launch herself up and over the table to stab their commissioner in the eye. He chuckles as he slices off another piece of pork and gently starts to chew with his focus down on the plate. He has seen it happen before - hell, it's almost happened to him!

    When Ranir addresses him, he looks up but keeps his fork and knife in his hands. There is a quick glance to Zaria, his expression keeping neutral. Before he answers, he tilts his head to the side, hearing and feeling small pops erupt down its side like firecrackers. "Ah," he breathes, leaning his head to the other side so that it may too feel the relief soothe his stiff neck. That pit had taken its toll on him to say the least. Underneath his brawny, cloth covered exterior, lies a battleground of black and blue. No soldier can, no matter how hard he or she may try, survive those holes in the ground without a few marks to take with him. Arean has his patched wounds to show his hard work. The knight straightens in his seat, a quick jolt of pain zig zagging up his side. Looking down to his waist, he sees no signs of blood seeping through his bandages.

    "Thank you," he mutters before Ranir reveals the toils of their mission, "But that is hardly something to be worried about," he adds rather bluntly. "This whole world is chaotic and I am sure that Ms. Zale and myself have both been to hell and back in retrieving such trinkets." Arean nods at Zaria before leaning forward on the table, his eyes narrowing gently, "But I do wonder, Magus," he licks his lips, the pork taste still residing there, "Why you pick two to complete this task? Are you near certain that this… this," he waves his hand in the air, trying to think of the word, "Betwixt artifact is worth our lives? If it comes down to that, I am certain."

    His hand comes down gently on the table, tapping the table near Zaria's side, "She is right, Master," his fingers curl back to his designated area, "I will not risk my life for some artifact when I do not know at least something of its nature. We might as well be looking for the sunken ship of Karrah. And," he raises a finger quite sternly, "you act as though Ms. Hale has already agreed to our mission together. Understand, if you will, that we must see maps that you must provide, goods you will pay and pack for us, and our weapons sharpened and gear repaired if we're going to be risking so much for something we don't know anything about. And that is even if she agrees."

    His attention turns swiftly to the huntress, a small smile playing at the side of his lip. "Is there any other terms that you might wish to add if we are to… collectively retrieve this artifact?" Another quick and sharp pain ignites in his side as he turns to Zaria, his teeth clenching underneath a shut mouth. Such a motion makes his jaw tighten but he is pick to press his knife-less hand to the point of origin. It may dull the throbbing of the jagged slice but every little bit counts. But for the life of him, he makes it seem like an itch, his hand coming back up to the table and his face light and practically smiling once more.
     
  11. Zaira nods once at Arean's statement. He's intelligent enough to persist about the artifact and its qualities. It's almost enough to distract her from the fact that his finger hits the table close to her arm. She almost recoils until she watches his digit slide back to where it was before. He seems to have no interest in her outside of a partner, both a startling and welcome change for Zaira. On top of that, he directed a question to her and not Ranir. Her mouth twitches into a half-smile and her eyes soften for just a fraction of a second. However, the expression is quick, and she trains her gaze back on the fat magic user across from her, still debating on whether or not he needed a good, near-fatal injury to help him with his ways.

    "No, I believe you have said everything that needs to be said about this journey. Unless Ranir," she resists the urge to call him a name related to his portliness, "deigns to inform us on what this magic Betwixt does." Zaira's periphreal vision catches the last of Arean's 'itch,' but she thinks little of it. He hides his injuries well, or his shirt is scratchy and uncomfortable. Zaira knows when it is not her place to say something. Not because she is a woman and knows her place, but because pointing out weaknesses isn't smart. Arean is far from weak in her eyes, at least at a first glance.

    She's wrapped up in her thoughts, though her gaze gives nothing. But she almost misses Ranir's words because of it. "It is an ancient and powerful artifact. I'm a... collector, of sorts. I wish to research this artifact and learn its properties. It is guarded by a vile dragon, so there must be something particularly special about it." Zaira is both pleased and annoyed to see Ranir answering Arean's questions and not her own. Perhaps it's the standoffish tone of her voice or the underlying thought of stabbing the tubby fellow that puts him off. His words irk her. There is no reason to believe or disbelieve his claim, but his expression reveals nothing of his true thoughts or nature, and she is forced to take his word as truth. For now.

    "Of course, I will provide you with the means to travel and the other requirements you have listed. After all, I expect you both to return in one piece, and with my artifact. Your payment will be waiting for you in Balvis when you return."

    "You are still under the assumption that I am choosing to take this job."

    "You aren't impressed with Master Ibanell? I'm sure he'd make a fine companion. Plus, there is the reward, as always." Ranir's eyes sparkled with mischief at the reward yet again.

    Always with the money, she thinks, but after a second of hesitating, she nods her head. She can work with a man if it means retiring and drinking to her heart's content after one massive bounty is out of the way. "When will you provide us with these materials? I should think that you would wish us to leave as soon as possible."

    "I will have them delivered here by the morning." It was the first question of Zaira's that Ranir responded to outright with a straightforward answer. Maybe it was because she has finally agreed to take the job. She seems to know that Ranir already had an idea that she would, but it does not make her like the man. The conniving tub of a man would be skewered at the end of her arrow if he tried anything, and they all seem to know that. "Are you satisfied? If so, our business is done."
     
  12. ((From my phone))

    "So you have no idea what the power of this artifact does until you can study it," Arean reflects quietly as if he were talking to himself. The hand that was near Zaria's arm removes itself from such a direct spot so that he may scratch his chin. The dark stubble there curves all the way up the sides of his face and upper lip. He doesn't itch for long, just another small movement to equal the one against his side. "So how is it, Master, that you have come across such," he looks over his shoulder at the oblivious crowed singing and laughing behind them, "a source of magic from... The past?" His gaze narrows, not liking the idea of them handling such an object. "You must understand this," he leans forward more, "if we are caught with this magic totem, or whatever it is, we will be knocking on your door with the blame."

    Taking a glance in Zaria's direction, Arean chews his inner lip before speaking again to the clanking of Ranir's necklaces as he too leans forward. "Because I don't know about Ms. Zale but I will not be taking the fall for you no matter how many gold pieces that might be involved." There is a firm nod, showing that he will not be moved on this decision. "People in these broken lands aren't really... Forgiving for what magic users have done to us. All of us. I am sure that since you're a mage, you will be keeping a close eye on us. But no amount of your power will stop me for finding you if the worst shall happen."

    Ranir doesn't show any change in his expression once Arean starts to speak. The smile on his face shows that he knew the knight would do such a thing. He may have his honor, yes, but at heart Ranir's knows that even the men who claim such courage all have their fears. "Master Ibanell," he tisks gently, trying to calm the warrior down, "you must not make the mistake of worrying about such matters. Leave your mind upon the quest itself and I am certain to be looking over you both. But with your skills and her," a ringed finger moves to stretch over the top of his head, adjusting his hair, "talents... You should be more worried about arriving at your destination and leaving with your life rather than other travelers. Keep away from the villages and you both will be just fine." That shake of a smile coils on his lips, out stretching both his arms to them. Arean takes a second to glance at Zaria, suddenly aware of what their Master is asking of them. He must spend his days with a woman but at least she makes the effort to look like she knows what she is doing.

    "If you agree to these terms, Ms. Hale, I see no problems with risking both our heads for this Mage to find his artifact. He has good pay and the adventure will be worth our while. My philosophy," he draws his gaze to her, "is that this world is going to kill us no matter what we wish to do. I would rather die knowing that I'm working towards something instead of simply wasting away my days drinking and eating my belly full." A quick look towards Ranir makes him chuckle. "Well, if you have nothing else for us, you are dismissed Master. We, I am certain,will not disappoint you."

    Looking back down to his plate of barely touched food, Arean forces himself not to frown. Taking in a deep breath, he starts to cut another slice of pork, shoving a few small string beans through the prongs on the edge of his fork. "Ms. Hale," he asks, the smile coming back in another neutral tone, "you're free to join me for the rest of my cold meal or else I'll see you for breakfast and when we have our supplies we can talk about a route we wish to take." Rolling his shoulders back, he slides his plate over to where Ranir has been sitting, sliding into the booth opposite of her, "How does that sound?"
     
  13. Zaira doesn't like the way Ranir speaks of her 'talents,' but she remains silent. Arean is aware of how to handle the situation, and he gets more information from Ranir than she could have ever hoped. So when he addresses her directly again, she only nods. The tense muscles in her neck from her withheld anger are visible, but no one makes mention of it. Once Ranir leaves by disappearing into a crowd and simply vanishing, Zaira makes a move to leave. However, Arean's voice stops her, and she looks across the small table at him. Her eyes follow his movements, and she waits for him to settle before she answers.

    "I believe that I have some questions for you." She readjusts her position, almost as if she's trying to relax. Her fingers unlace and she rubs the back of her neck. Arean's presence is still far too close for comfort, but she has a feeling she should know him before she travels on this strange treasure hunting quest with him. One finger taps the table in thought, the silver knuckle guards shaking loosely with the motion. It's clear that she is a little discomforted by his proximity, but she does her best to hide it. Anger made her bold, but with Ranir's departure, Zaira is deflated.

    "Did you earn that sword or did you steal it off the hip of a dead knight?" It is a legitimate question, but her brusque tone doesn't make the inquiry come off as such. "Because I have come into contact with several men posing as mercenaries, bounty hunters, what have you, and they cannot even hold a sword properly. I don't think the fat man would have hired you if you were simply posing, but I feel as if the question should be asked anyway."
     
  14. ((From my phone))

    "Ask any question that your heart desires an answer for and I shall do my best to answer you," Arean looks down to his food, each item too cold to offer to her. Even if it had been warm, he finds himself doubting that she would wish for the meal he has half eaten. "Hm," he thinks aloud before looking past the seated patrons and to the bar, "But before I answer any of your questions, Ms. Hale, I would like to know if you require any beverage or food. The pickings here are," he motions to his plate, "better than you will find them in any other place." The forced smile flashes again at her, Arean trying his utmost best to be a partner she won't want to gut by the end of their first meeting. People think of him having no backbone, the way he reaches out to others before the likeliness of saving himself. But rest assured, even the kind ones have their flaws.

    He notices the way her arms draw back against her chest and he leans as far back against the dark warped wood of the tall bench. "You are a smart woman to ask such a question, Ms. Zale. I too have met those who are all talk and no show, if you understand what I'm saying," his gaze turns back to her, awaiting a response about eating or drinking with him. He allows her to take her time to decide but he figures that she will want to be safe in her own room as soon as possible. He reminds himself that it's not because of him but rather it's the notion of sharing time with another living being. He too is skeptical to trust her but the only way to find out for sure is to test boundaries and he is certain that they will have plenty of fights once they're safe from the sanctuary of city life.

    "But I assure you that I can wield this blade as well as you can shoot those arrows. We are both at the same line, Ms, for we are certain of Ranir's judgement of our skills because he wants that artifact as much as we want our lives or that promise of gold. Mercenary work, at least for me, helps keep me sane or else I fear the toils of this world would break me as it has broken so many men and women." Taking in a deep breath, he holds up a hand to her, "I'm only going to prove that this sword is indeed mine." When she returns his nod, he unleashes the falchion blade from his side and hands the slightly curved blade over to her.

    It's a beauteous weapon crafted from the steel in the belly of the mountains and decorated quite plainly. It's pommel is a simple counterbalance to the blade with no important or magnificent artwork in the small diamond. The steel, folded over itself twice leaves a small design of line patterns down the length of the blade. Her hilt is wrapped in a purple leather and is tight in binding. There is an inscription etched into the crosspiece and it reads:

    This blade yields for Arean Ibanell, one of the few to survive the fires
    - The Surelloanak
     
    #14 Vacyr, Dec 20, 2013
    Last edited: Dec 22, 2013
  15. Eating sounds like a grand prospect, and drinking an even grander one. However, with a quick shake of her head, Zaira denies both. "I'll be fine." She's much more interested in hearing about his life, and how well she would get along with the respectful man. She notices that he too moves away, possibly knowing her aversion to closeness. It's a reason to... dislike him less, but not to trust him. Not yet. There is too much at stake even before their journey even begins, so she has to test him in her own way.

    He understands her question, and it pleases her. He's smart, and he voices that same compliment to her, but she can find no voice to thank him with. Her brow knits together in thought, though there were angry feelings as Arean mentions Ranir's name. She doesn't like the tubby mage, and it's clearly written on her face. She's aware that she had done little to hide that fact to Ranir himself, but despite that, he had still granted both of them the job.

    Zaira distracts herself as his hands move toward his hip. Her fingers twitch in anticipation, but he's only reaching for the sword to let her know he does in fact claim ownership. He hands the purple hilt to her, and there's a gentle firmness in her grip as she pulls it from him. The dark brown eyes have lost their irritation to be replaced with curiosity, for weapons have a way of working themselves into Zaira's heart. Her finger slides along the blunt edge of the blade, finding that it still holds a sharpness to it. It doesn't cut her, but she can appreciate the fine edge. She lets the sharp side cut along her knuckle guard, seeing the thin nick in the metal.

    "A fine blade," she says, ready to hand it back to him until she notices the inscription. The curious eyes narrow to read the fine print, and her mouth moves as she speaks it out loud, though her voice is soft. "Who is the... Surelloanak?" she asks, pronouncing the title slow, the word clearly foreign to her tongue. "What fires have you survived?" The desire to know more about his life seems to have overtaken her initial fear of him, but she knows to be cautious. She hopes that he does as well, though she also hopes he can tell her at least some information about his blade. She turns the hilt back to him, allowing him to take his weapon back. Her own silver bow is strung across her back, and though she leans against the wall, it doesn't creak as it bends to conform to her position.
     
  16. "I did not ask if you would be fine, Ms. Hale," he whispers, not in a mocking tone but just one of clarity, "I did ask if you required food or drink but if you wish for none, I am sure you don't mind if I drink, do you?" With two of his fingers, he calls over one of the barmaids to order himself a dark lager. The woman from before, with large grape colored eyes, nods before filling another patrons mug with the golden brown liquid. Arean takes no more time than is needed to look at the other woman, something that a lot of men have trouble doing when some outfits can be more revealing than necessary. "Ah, well," he shrugs, taking life as easily as it may show itself before them, "my offer holds until it may be of service to you, Ms. Hale."

    With a nod of his head, he takes the blade back and gently chews on the questions that she has asked him. Arean doesn't mean for himself to utter a small chuckle when he sees Zaria's eyes search over his blade. A woman with such experience… it should be an honor to serve with her. Zaria has handled his falchion with a hint of recognition, being sure to check the sharpness as well as perhaps the balance of the blade as well. She might know more than she admits and the thought makes Arean smile very quickly before looking down towards his food plate. Scooping up some of the cloudy mashed potatoes, he eats quietly and waits until the barmaid comes so that he may order his drink. "Last chance?" Arean asks, the smile pasted to his face before the woman before him collectively makes her final decision upon the matter of food and some warm or cold beverage.

    "But, as expected," he addresses to Zaria but turns to the barmaid, their eyes meeting, "Ah, yes, thank you," his head bows as a large mug is placed before him, foam dribbling over the folded rim. "Here is something for you, my dear," he stops the maid from walking away to bus the other tables by grabbing her arm quite gently. She gives a small little yelp and her hand is thrown against her mouth but Arean lets go immediately. "I apologize, here, take this." He turns her hand in his and places an unknown amount of money in it, folding back up her hand. "And keep that for yourself, I'll pay the tab before I move myself upstairs for bed. Be well."

    When his eyes move back to Zaria, he straightens up against the back of the bench. "Yes, she is a beautiful piece of work made from the mountains. I do not know which range so I cannot tell you too much about the forging of her steel." He clenches his teeth for a moment when she mentions Surelloanak's name. A hand comes up to run through the thin strands of hair on his scalp. It's a tough subject and he closes his eyes for a moment, feeling the safety of the blade that his master had told him it would provide. After sucking in a deep, deep, breath, Arean opens his hues and stares directly at her, not wishing for his new partner to think him a liar. The eyes tell too many tales that the throat cannot speak of.

    "The Surelloanak is a man who I really cannot speak about. Not now," he glances to his left before clearing his throat and settling his gaze on her again, "if you can understand that. It's not that I don't wish to tell you, no," he shakes his head, his brows narrowing as he thinks of how to explain such a touchy subject, "but I will when we're on the road together. Promise. Now, the fires. That I can tell you all about. Tell me, Ms. Hale, have you ever heard of the scarred regions of the heartlands?"
     
  17. Zaira does not relent on her decision to eat or drink, and she does not say it is because wariness gnaws at her belly. That feeling is enough to overcome the discomfort of hunger. When the barmaid shows herself, Zaira gives one quick shake of her head, declining the unspoken offer from her and the spoken offer from Arean. The yelp from the poor girl makes Zaira flinch. The female mercenary does not often find herself caught off-guard, but she knows the fearful sound when she hears it. She has made such a noise before, and being reminded of why the barmaid feels that way makes Zaira turn her head. She waits until the girl has retreated before she allows herself to remember the questions she has placed upon Arean.

    She watches the way he responds to her questions, and her gaze turns hard for a moment as he says that he cannot speak of the man whose name is written on the hilt of the blade. However, he is quick to ensure that it is only due to their location, and she manages a nod. He switches the subject to the fires, another topic she is curious about.

    "I know that they are dangerous." Every location since the Blood Sickness is dangerous, but she speaks truth about the heartlands regardless. "Many fear to tread on those lands, for they fear creatures lurk in every nook and cranny, waiting to spring upon those unexpected to feast on their flesh." She knows that bandits waited around every corner on every path outside every city, but that some regions are far more dangerous and dark than others.

    After her answer, she realizes something. "You have not yet asked me about my own skill. Most men would have asked about my ability to handle my weapon, or they would assume I cannot use it at all and it is simply for show." A flash of an unknown emotion crosses her eyes, but it is gone as quickly as it comes. It's clear it's an inviting statement, but not until after he speaks of his trials by fire.
     
  18. "I do not have many men or women hold my blade so you should consider yourself one of the lucky ones," he licks his lips and smiles before scooping a delicate spoonful of mashed potatoes into his mouth. He thoughtfully chews, smiling across the table at her before finishing and speaking once more. His gaze moves from the lamplight above her head to Zaria's face. The knight does his best not to look her square in the eye but knows that he cannot keep his eyes too far away. "I am sure that you would feel the same handing out your bow to anyone who happens to stir up a conversation with you." There is another small smile before he focuses on the questions about the fire.

    Arean closes his eyes and props his folded arms on the table in front of the half finished plate. "The reason I have not asked you any questions about your own skill is because I believe that you have already proved all you can at this moment in time." The hand runs through his dark blonde hair again, removing any strands from in front of his eyes or face. He reveals a clean, square shaped jaw covered in small patches of stubble that stray thin near his lips and around his cheeks. "Even with that said, I believe that a woman who dresses as you do with your," he takes a moment to think over what he is going to say before he opens his mouth, "tighter clothing that allows nothing to get caught in your path while you string your bow and pull back on the string."

    "When that time comes," he lowers his gaze to the table, picturing the events in his own minds eye, "I am sure that you will show me what you're made of. But our first meeting and especially one in this bar here is hardly the place to be shown your arrow skills. No one would needlessly spend gold on finger rivets like you have on your hands nor the twin quivers. Their bow wouldn't be kept as clean as yours is nor change their strings as often as you do. I hardly see yours fraying. You even have a leather band across your forearm so the string doesn't rub against your arm and leave marks. That means you can quickly and, hopefully, precisely fire your arrows."

    Shrugging, he licks his lips, simply telling her how he sees her. "And I am sure that as we spend our time together, I will ask more questions about you. But for now," he looks up at the orange light flickering against the top of her head, the dark hair there pulled backwards. "But I haven't answered your questions on the fire." There is a nod of his head as he swiftly changes the subject. "There used to be a thriving Kingdom in those heartlands before the diseases caused all this damn chaos of our world. I lived there when it used to be a plush grasslands instead of the barren wasteland it is now. Bandits, yes, but there used to be the careful care of a King's care. That was before the fire."

    He swallows and gently chews on his lip before answering completely. "When magic was kept from the people, the peasants and lower classes of this Kingdom became angry. The citizens thought that the only way to get the monarchy to listen would be to…" he trails off, his eyes focused on one scratch on the worn gray surface of the old table, "light the entire town up in flames. These radical few doused the entire aristocratic section of town and set her blazing. They claimed that they only wanted the rich to live like they did, in poverty and despair, but the fires couldn't be controlled. They thought the stone walls separating the districts would keep the flames steady but they soon licked every inch of my home."

    When his eyes look to hers again, they aren't sad. Arean has had many years to climb over this fault of his people and he has surpassed such feelings. At least as much as he lets Zaria know. He opens his mouth to speak more but shuts it, "And now, Ms. Hale, let me ask you where you hail from."
     
  19. Zaira watches him as he speaks. Observing one when they spill words is always an intelligent way to gather information, or to tell if one speaks a lie. However, Zaira sees nothing in his eyes or the way he holds his hands or his head. And then he speaks about her, how she carries herself. Her eyes narrows he gets into her choice of attire, but he is ginger about the matter and focuses on other things. Arean is very unlike most men, so she does not attack him for making such a comment. Other men might have simply focused on that, but they both know he is to be her partner.

    Partners are no good when they are dead.

    Zaira leans against the wall behind her, listening to his tale. It wasn't terribly uncommon to hear about rebellions during the Blood Sickness, but the tale of the fire was terrible. Sorrow flicked in her gaze, but she did not dwell on it. Arean was keeping up his story, and so she would keep up with it. Truth, it is a sad tale, but she knows how hard the life of the impoverished is. After all, she reigns from such a state.

    Arean has the same thing on his mind, and he inquires about her previous life. Her hands lace in front of her on the table, leaning heavily on the furniture. Her dark eyes dart to the bar patrons, but no one is paying attention to their conversation. "I am not from anywhere noble. A small fishing village on the Croxi River outside of Itaine. We had merchants who we would trade our fish for other goods for. We did not know some of their food was contaminated. Half of our village died within a week. We had no mages to heal us until one stopped by. This man tried to charge us a large sum to heal those who were still dying, my father among them. No one could pay. Not even if we had pooled our resources together. The mage left and my father died."

    It is clear that Zaira has not thought on her past, for there is a slight choke in her words as her father's death passes through her lips. Wiping the back of her hand across her mouth with a shake in her fingers, she continues. "My mother and I left, along with some others who had not eaten the sick food. We meant to go to Itaine, to seek shelter. Bandits attacked on our route, and we were scattered. My mother and I were cornered, and I slipped away while they were beating her. Now I only return to Itaine to catch criminals like the men who killed my mother."

    Zaira glances down at her hands, the tightly clasped fingers refusing to tremble with her story. "That is why I do what I do. I capture bandits and other deplorable men so they do not suffer the same fate." Her eyes hold truth, for she has no reason to lie to this man she will be working with. "If you will pardon me, I'm going to rest. Ranir is giving us what we need tomorrow, and I'd like to be well enough to hold my own against the fat man." She slides from the table, clearly willing to go whether he excuses her or not.
     
  20. ((From my phone))

    "Well, the last thing I want to do is come off as an arrogant man," Arean breathes to himself as he stays leaning forward, his arms on the table. "Let me inform you that I did not live in the aristocratic parts of my Kingdom. I worked as a guard in the castle." Arean closes his eyes and tells her just as much as she needs to know right now. It's not a lie, Arean tries his best not to lie to those people he has a good feeling about, but it's just not all the truth. "So when the fires blazed, all I tried to do was my duty and when all was gone, I left." The man shrugs the knots of his shoulders, "and ever since that day, I have spent my times just trying to help this broken world."

    He listens to Zaria's words, trying not to cut her off or slip in his own words like other men might. Arean simply eats the last of his meal quite quietly while she explains her own small tidbit of life. While he eats, he makes it certain that their eyes meet and he has no other intentions but to hear her words. So then that's why she has such a hot spot for Ranir. Mages were the reason her father died and our Master is... But Arean smiles, this time his lips curve upwards more out of sympathy instead of true happiness.

    "Your life has been a rough road, Ms. Hale," Arean reflects, his voice quiet but not because he is afraid to speak but rather he doesn't know what to say. His hand reaches out over his plate as if he were about to hold her hand but then he immediately blinks. Coming to his senses, he pulls back his fingers and curls them underneath the table against his legs. "I would start to ask questions but I..." He bites down on his tongue for a second, "I can see that you are ... That this is a touchy topic for you. Ms. Hale." He brings his tankard to his lips and takes a long drink from it.

    "We don't have to talk about this, Ms. Zale," he shakes his head, not quite understanding why this woman he had just met is telling him so many details of her life, "This is not an easy subject but you are a strong warrior, Ms. Hale, I am sure. I may not know you but I..." But Arean tilts his head a little when Zaria reveals why she is a mercenary and he bows his head in respect for what Zaria is doing. When she stands and slips from the bar, he doesn't speak another word of protest. The tall man half stands, his legs still underneath the table as he bows his whole chest to her, his head lowering too. "I think it would be a wise decision to revisit this conversation when we know one another more."

    The honest man now shows itself in those light brown eyes, "I would rather talk to you about your mother and your father when, perhaps, we know one another more. Until that point, Ms. Hale, I must hold my tongue out of fear of saying the wrong thing." He smiles and lets her move upstairs, "Sleep well and I'll see you tomorrow. Until then."

    It takes him another hour to finish his tankard and make his way back up to his own room. For a first night in a long time, he simply sleeps and gets up early. Giving Zaria the time she needs, he washes up, shaves his beard, and starts to pack his things. Then once he had everything settled, he finds out where her room is and moves to knock on the door. Three strong raps come to the door until he patiently waits for her to answer.
     
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