The creaking of the ship as it gently rocked made Evalyn uneasy at first. She was accustomed to sleeping lightly, keeping an ear out for such sounds, and now she attempted to tune out those would-be warnings. Soon, there would be the rolling nature of the ship to add to her discomfort. And yet, she was eager for the ship to depart.
The morning fog fled the sun’s touch, and the docks teemed with townspeople again. Evalyn stood on the top deck, left hand resting on her short sword’s pommel, waiting for the remaining two members of their new gang. The elf stood with her, occasionally commenting in an attempt to goad her into conversation, but she ignored him for the most part. He was prattling on now about the beauty of nature or some such. She watched as burly men (now there was some beauty of nature) loaded supply crates onto their ship, many of the crates those purchased by her new employer the previous day.
As if summoned by her thoughts and announced by great clanking as loud as any king’s trumpeters, up came Jack from the bowels of the ship, strapping his long sword to his hip. Unforn followed from a distance hauling an unhappy Turchak.
“Are you ready?” Evalyn asked Jack.
“Of course.” His voice betrayed nothing other than excitement. He seemed to fidget but not from nerves, she guessed. He practically bounced on the balls of his feet; she imagined he would be jumping if his armor was suddenly removed and chuckled at the thought.
“What’s going on? Why are you laughing?” Trev asked, glancing back and forth between Evalyn and Jack.
“Jack has a duel in about an hour or so,” Unforn answered, placing Turchak on the deck. The wolf perked up after standing in open air.
“Oh. And I assume we can leave after that?”
Evalyn stared at Turchak and then pointedly at the elf. “Hey, aren’t you a druid?”
“Uh, yeah. Why?”
“This guy isn’t a druid and has a wolf. You’re telling me you don’t have an animal?”
Jack laughed and said, “Yeah, what kind of druid are you?”
“Oh, I didn’t know you wanted to meet my friend,” he replied and then made a loud, shrill cry. A hawk swooped down and landed on his staff, tilting its head back and forth to take everyone in.
On closer inspection, Evalyn noted he was a ferruginous hawk, and memories of her father flooded in unbidden. She shook her head to clear it. “What’s his name?”
The druid made a noise, a combination of clicks and shrieks. The bird stood taller, and Trev grinned proudly. Birdbrained elf.
“Sorry I asked,” she replied, rubbing her ear as if pained. Trev didn’t seem to notice or care as he presumably conversed with his hawk. “Shall we?” she asked, turning to Jack.
They wormed their way through the crowd to the less infested streets. After wandering many alleyways, they found the plaza as the sun reached its zenith. As they approached, so too did Marus and his seconds. Evalyn noted his helm was indeed quite impressive.
“Good to see at least one of Ern’s followers has a spine. My men did not believe you would show your face,” Marus’ deep voice rang through the suddenly silent space. The tension was nearly tangible, and Evalyn was happy she wasn’t the fool about to duel the imposing man some thirty feet away; a mile would be too close for comfort.
“Yes, we all know you talk big, but let’s see how well you fight,” Jack bellowed back, drawing his blade and readying his shield. Marus appeared to attempt a smile though the result was more of a disdainful grimace. He dawned his helm and likewise prepared himself.
Evalyn barely heard the crunch of rock on rock through the clatter of the metal clad men approaching one another when three Darkblades burst forth from an alley, instantly the center of everyone’s attention. They quickly took stock and drew their weapons upon the sight of her.
“You are interrupting a fight of honor. Stand down,” Marus growled, clearly irritated by the intrusion.
“These people have been harassing my companions quite stubbornly. I doubt they’ll stop now,” Jack responded. As if to confirm his point, two additional Darkblades tried to slip in and would have succeeded had the area not been so scrutinized. Evalyn drew her short sword and stretched her offhand to check the dart up her sleeve.
“Give us the woman and we’ll cause you no more trouble,” the closest one demanded, voice muffled by the mask each of them now wore. Jack and Marus exchanged incredulous glances. Without saying a word, they both changed their stances to face the new threat.
The Darkblades quickly caught on, and the late comers moved to flank. Anticipating their maneuver, Evalyn flung her dart at one and missed, but he became hesitant to continue his movement. She hadn’t waited to see how fared her aim and launched into her attack on the nearest foe. Her blow connected but only seemed to focus her would-be victim as his armor blocked any damage from getting through. She was vaguely aware that Unforn and Turchak had entered the fray and that Trev had most certainly not, choosing instead to back away and observe. She could hardly blame him.
The two paladins made short work of all that opposed them, and she herself took out a couple with some well placed backstabs. The battle ended within a few minutes, every Darkblade dead on the street. Evalyn sighed. I wanted to avoid this, but you were all so persistent. Look where your greed and ambition got you, she thought as she sifted through their pockets. Only five gold among you?! Shouldn’t have paid that guard so much, you morons.
“Uh, Evalyn?” Jack asked. She looked up and noticed Marus’ disgust and Jack’s feigned indifference. Trev had rejoined them and looked surprised and concerned.
“You’re pretty quick to go pilfering the dead. . .”
“Oh. Well, it isn’t exactly ‘pilfering’ now, is it. Does ownership really exceed death?”
“Nope!” Unforn happily proclaimed, and she turned her attention his way to see him systematically stripping their deceased assailants and placing their armor, weapons, and various other items in a heap.
She turned back to the paladins and said, “And you’re giving me a hard time.”
Marus, disgruntled, rumbled, “You fought well, for one of Ern’s. We need not duel today, but the next time I see you, perhaps then we will cross swords.”
“I look forward to it,” Jack replied as Marus tromped away.
All but the diligent Unforn watched his exit, and when he and his were out of sight, Trev quietly inquired, “So now that your fighting thing is done, what’s next on today’s list?”
“A visit to some armor and weapon merchants, obviously,” Unforn answered.