A few days ago we arrived at Dun’s Hold, a city in the orkish nation of Cara Fahd. That’s where negotiations between the Dancing Tigers and Burning Teeth are to take place. According to Perlag, Dun was a retired adventurer who used his amassed fortune to establish an inn at major crossroads. Like any adventurer who survives to retire, he cultivated a healthy level of paranoia, which made him build the inn as a large single tower keep: Dun’s Hold, which became the foundation around which the eponymous city grew. These days it it features a wall with an eastern and western gate, a healthy population, drab orkish architecture, and a number of guilds. Given the assassins that were after Perlag, it was only prudent to rent out an entire floor of the Hold for our group. I chose a room with a troll-sized bed, for reasons that will become apparent.
The two orkish chiefs and their bannermen weren’t due for another week or two, so our company collectively decided to find means with which to advance to the Second Circle of our respective Disciplines. The quantity of gold and gems we’d found on the assasins was enough for each of us to pay our tutors and have some left over besides. With that in mind, that very night I dragged Elessar down to the Song’s Rest, the biggest and loudest public house in the city. It was fortunately only a very short way from Dun’s Hold, and I must say I found the place very much to my liking. There was good music, good drink, lots of friendly people, and no shortage of dancing partners. Mostly orks, it’s Cara Fahd after all, but damn if orks don’t know how to party.
I leapt up onto the dance floor and began to dance, quickly making quite an impression on most of the crowd. In no time at all everyone wanted to be my friend, which is only as it should be. Sadly Elessar declined to join me, and when I took a break I found him by the bar chatting with another Troubadour who wanted to see his skills. I wished my friend good luck as he went up on stage and I sat down to have a drink. I’m happy to say her rocked the house and the other Troubadour invited him to come back stage later. That left Elessar free to accompany as I pursued my own quarry.
Earlier I had spotted a handsome elf wearing swords at his side, strutting about like he owned the place, with a small crowd of fangirls trailing behind his every step. It was admittedly on account of the girls that I decided the elf was male; it can be so hard to tell sometimes. Why with his hair done right and a bit of voice practice Elessar could wear a ball gown I doubt anyone would know different! …I wonder how difficult it would be to talk him into that? Ah never mind. The point is that the elf was no doubt a Weaponsmaster and a good one, just the person I had come to find.
The elf had retreated to a corner booth of sorts with several of his fangirls. He hadn’t spared a glance in my direction, but I knew I had his notice. I’d made myself the most interesting girl in the establishment, I had everyone’s notice, and a womaniser of his calibre would surely seize an opportunity to make a pass at me. All I needed to do was give him one, and then I would have him right where I wanted. So with Elessar a few steps behind me, I let my eyes rest on the Weaponsmaster and approached his booth. I stopped just short of it, and a moment later the elf met my gaze and smiled like he’d been expecting me.
Such a damn charming smile he has, it almost disarmed me on the spot. I have to get him to teach me that trick. He came over to where I was standing and tried to sweet talk me into accompanying him to the bar for a drink. I just smiled and asked if he was a Swordmaster, which he was more than happy confirm. The elf then pointed at my blades and wondered if they were there for decoration. “They’re at my side because I know how to use them,” I told him, “I’m an Initiate Swordmaster and I’m looking for someone of higher circle worthy of teaching me. You look like you might be up to it.”
Now that really got his attention. He proceeded to brag that he was the best Swordmaster in Dun’s Hold, no, the best in all of Cara Fahd! Then he looked down on me with a smirk, “Unfortunately, you’ll have to settle for some lesser adept to train you.” It was a challenge, and I smirked back at him, ready to meet it. I’d made up my mind that he would be my tutor, and fully intended to keep up the persevere until he relented. What followed was a rather invigorating exchange of insults, and my wit proved a formidable match for his.
Sadly, a combination of sex and alcohol has made my memory fuzzy on the particulars of the exchange, even though it’s only been a few days. The reader shall have to be content with the parting words. On seeing he could not best me in a verbal contest, he then challenged me to a physical one: a duel in front of the Song’s Rest after dawn the next day. I accepted, but he foolishly tried to get the last word, “If the kitten wants to fight, she shouldn’t be surprised if she gets hurt.” I laughed and shot back, “And you shouldn’t be surprised when this kitten gives you a few scratches in return.” He left in a huff without further word. Stormbreaker wins! Flawless victory!
With that finished, Elessar went backstage and I to the dance floor. Or at least I tried to, some of the witnesses to the exchange rushed to inform me that I’d been challenged by Yan Sunset, Swordmaster par excellence. They talked as if I had made a mistake, as if I should be intimidated, or at least concerned. Their words had the opposite effect, they confirmed that I had gotten exactly what I wanted, which only heightened my joy and excitement. In my confidence I laughed at them and continued on, intending to tire myself out a little before heading to bed.
At this point I find it more amusing to skip straight to the next morning, when a knock on the door found me back at my room in the Hold. I was comfortably sharing the bed with a pretty human woman, and an unusually handsome orkish man. See what I meant about troll-sized beds? I roused myself and opened the door to find the room service breakfast I’d ordered the prior night. Soon as I brought it inside and shut the door, the other woman shrieked in surprise at her bed mate, waking him up. He was understandably rather upset to be greeted by the words, “I slept with an ork!?” and sourly replied to her, “Yeah, and good morning to you too.”
I sighed and said the obvious, “Honey, you were blind drunk and horny in an orkish city. Not waking up next to an ork was the least likely outcome. Besides, there were two of us and I wanted him able to walk in the morning.” She didn’t have anything to say to that, but our friend, having found his pants, could not resist observing, “I liked her better drunk, then she couldn’t get enough ork.” Surprisingly that actually made her blush, and I offered her some tea, which she declined. “As you wish,” I told her, “but know that if you find yourself with child, it’s not mine.” Her blush deepened as she grabbed the cup, “Oh that kind of tea.” Yes! That kind of tea! By the passions woman, you’re just lucky I felt like giving a damn.
I finished getting dressed, took breakfast, put on my armour, and arrived in front of the Song’s Rest as the sun began to peek over the city wall. My opponent was already waiting for me, his clothes and armour bearing the colours of the sunset: reds, yellows, and oranges. I must admit it was very striking, especially after realizing that it would be rather hard to tell if I’d made him bleed or not. Not that I could complain, given I favour reds myself for that same reason. I had my own harness, blades, and shield, with my veil and helmet leaving only my eyes visible. Yan Sunset didn’t seem at all surprised to see me, but he informed me that many gamblers were going to be disappointed. They were sure I would have made myself scarce by now. I had to laugh at that, just as I’d laughed at them the prior night.
With both of girded in arms at the appointed place and time, there was nothing more to wait for. We immediately began to circle each other, and his tongue struck the first blow when he asked if I veiled myself because of a hideous scar, or only to hide my resemblance to my mother. That got under my skin, and I adopted a more aggressive and unbalanced stance. My own barbed reply struck the second blow, I said that an unveiled face is a sign of respect, and he wasn’t on the road to earning it. His face twitched and I knew I got him. I then attempted an offline pass to improve my positioning and force an opening, but he intercepted me before I’d barely begun to move. I made a good parry attempt, but my blade was too far forward, allowing him to strike the third blow and open a visible gash on my sword arm.
Since I could not hide the injury, our duel ended there, before I could even take my first swing. Yan smiled and graciously handed me a handkerchief to press on my wound. He complimented me on my counter-taunt and invited me inside the Song’s Rest so we could chat, drink, and relax before beginning my training. It seems the sharpness of my wit alone proved sufficient for him to tutor me. This is good considering both my footwork and bladework were a bit lacking that morning, but I will improve. He finally asked my name once we settled inside. I cannot quite describe the look on his face when I asked him his in return, but it was priceless.
A day or two afterwards I received a note at breakfast from Sunset. Apparently a merchant had come to him searching for a bodyguard, and he was kind enough to recommend me; by which I mean the job sounded too boring to take himself, whereas I’m in no position to refuse coin for my skills. Why was it that I swore off gambling again? My finances don’t seem to be doing any better for it… Oh right, it’s because I was beaten unconscious and sold into slavery over a gambling debt. Still got that score to settle back in Urupa. Going to be a while, but we Ashurans have a long memory for grievances.
As instructed I arrived at the Song’s Rest before dinner and dressed to kill. There the merchant offered me 40 silver pieces for one night of escorting him to a soiree hosted by the Major for the city’s movers and shakers. Not bad at all, especially after I managed to sweet talk him into a 5 sp bonus. It was mostly a pleasant evening, though being a bodyguard isn’t half as fun as actually being among the invited. Three others of the group were there: Seraph somehow obtained an invitation, Elessar was providing entertainment, and Karghul security.
I learned later that while we were enjoying ourselves, Di’oq, Varan, and Fehl were most definitely not. Especially Di’oq, who had the misfortune of being given a message to hand to the judge. Groups of bandits harassed him through the city, one of them even stealing his coin purse and taunting him with its jingle. Even after getting some of the other Warriors from the guild to form a flying column, the bandits wouldn’t let up. They stacked carts, crates, and furniture to block roads, attacked at range and up close with rocks, sticks, and bladed weapons. At one point he and the other warriors were even forced to wade into the main sewer, which was then set alight with an oil lamp.
Varan and Fehl had been tasked by the Magic Guild to guard the money changers, since most of them had gone to our little soiree. Apparently just as Di’oq and his fellow warriors were passing by their position, a crowd of orks set a bunch of straw carts on fire, scaring the oxen pulling the carts, creating a fiery stampede of burning hay and panicked bovines. Would have been quite a sight to see, no doubt. The two magicians were able to recover Di’oq’s coin purse, and with the help of the warriors and the city guard forced the bandits to retreat.
On finally getting the note to the Judge, it turned out to be information stating that the Bluebird, the leader of the Thieves guild was present at the Mayor’s party in disguise. Information that they deemed to be true given the lengths the Thieves Guild had gone to in order to prevent its delivery. This detail will prove important shortly. For now, it suffices to say that the Judge took Di’oq, Varan, and Fehl along with a large portion of the city guard to raid the party, arrest everyone present, and examine them one by one until they found the Bluebird. Also, apparently he doesn’t like the Mayor and might have been looking forward to crashing her party.
As soon as I heard a commotion at the front of the building, I immediately tapped my moneyed charge on the shoulder and told him it was time to go, directing him toward the back. Well the guard thought of that too, and a phalanx of armed men had us surrounded as soon as we stepped outside. The merchant informed me that they were the city guard and advice that we surrender. I shrugged, put my hands up in the air, and suggested we take it back inside.
I arrived at the main table just in time to see Di’oq covered in shit and looking like hell, bellowing how much he was hoping someone would resist arrest. Once I gathered that they were looking for a disguised Adept, I tried to prove my identity by reminding my favourite troll of the conversation we had the morning after we were freed from the slavers. He was unconvinced, as he put it, “Yeah I remember, but so do you, and that means the Bluebird could have tortured it out of you!” I chuckled and replied, “Damn Di’oq, you must have had a really shitty day.” He said nothing, but dear reader, know that if looks could kill his glare would have immolated me on the spot. That’s the price of victory.
About an hour later everyone was being led off toward the jail house in chains, when one of the guardsmen came running to the Judge with an urgent message: The money changers had been robbed! Now there’s a hilarious punchline. The the entire thing, the whole affair, it had all been a rouse to distract the guards from the real objective! That’s some panache right there, I was quite impressed. When I talked to him later Nethan grumbled that the heist is the only half-way impressive thing they’ve accomplished, that most of the thieves in the city are incompetent small timers. I’m sure the local citizenry prefers it that way, but he’s as disappointed as I would have been to find no bravado in the local Weaponsmasters.
Apparently Seraph got to share a cell with the mayor, which I’m told went very well considering the circumstances. Me, I spent that night locked up with the merchant I was guarding. Unfortunately I seem to have done too good of a job on making a good impression on my charge. We passed the time with conversation of the sort that’s only interesting because the alternative is staring at drab stone walls. I could tell he was into me, but things managed to avoid getting too awkward right up until he asked for my hand in marriage. I laughed until my sides hurt, and then I laughed some more, probably woke up the entire cell block. I might have been too hard on him, but really, had I wanted to settle down and marry money, I would have just stayed home and married a far larger pile of money.