Tabitha and the girls left in a flash. Tired and terrified, they rode south and disappeared over the horizon just as the sun was beginning to set. Left alone in the Mandrake Inn, the three stashed their traveling gear and set to evaluating the town for resources.
Exiting out of the inn and past the stables they could see a few more ramshackle homes to the north and fields further beyond. A large pointed temple in the middle sat silent stoic. “Probably to Avaya,” Rustiver had said. “Goddess of the Harvest.” Closer but to the south was a fortified barracks and then a lodge with a mangled fence.
“If they’re coming again tonight, we’ll need traps.” Jerold stated flatly.
“Could help to thin the numbers,” Rustiver agreed. “I’d like to see what’s inside the barracks, though.”
The group moved toward the stone and mortar structure. Above, the parapets seemed deserted and the cold stone paid them little attention. They circled to the south-facing entrance and called out a “hullo!”
A diminutive head poked over the side. Encased in a helm many sizes too big, the young boy study the three for a moment.
“Who are you?” he asked brusquely despite the voice break of puberty.
“My dear boy,” Rustiver stepped forward. “I am a former adjudicator of Eston, a meter of law and justice in the land. I’ve come on a quest to this town and now plan to aid it against these bandits that plague you so.”
“I didn’t hear a name.”
“Rustiver,” he exhaled his irritation.
The boy disappeared back over the wall and a long silent followed. As they were turning to leave the portcullis budged and a small void was created.
“Alright, then. One at a time,” shouted from inside.
Rustiver looked at the Jerold and smiled. Jerold sighed and squeezed into the opening. Rustiver entered behind and lastly a extremely paranoid Aelen.
Hallick Adelache stood inside the barracks. A grizzled veteran of war, he had seen more than his share of violence. A savage adversary he was known to have a powerful swing but he had been originally assigned to Berylbrown as a cushy career end. Before [i]they[/i] came, before the pillaging, roving, ruthless bastards squeezed the life from the town.
His large red beard jutted out from his armor like an outcropping of a mountain. His board shoulders and chest carried a heavy cuirass and a two-handed sword planted before him, ready to be swung at a moment’s notice.
Yet, Hallick felt a tinge of fear when Jerold fully entered. Jerold and Hallick locked eyes for a moment and the two measured each other. Rustiver entered in and Hallick sneered at his obvious privilege. Neither did the hyvalim Aelen do much to assuage his contempt.
“Yeah? What’s this about then?” Hallick nearly shouting.
“We came here on a quest. We’re looking for a young girl taken by the bandits.” Rustiver explained to the large man.
“Lots of people around here lookin’ for someone,” Hallick returned.
“We killed Snake and his boys,” Aelen shot back.
“Yeah? Anyone of them get away?”
“That’s the stupidest thing you could have done.” Hallick admonished.
“They’re due back tonight, we’re trying to gather resources to help defend the town.” Rustiver began.
“Oh, you’ve doomed us all and you want to talk about helping?” Hallick roared. “Things weren’t great before you showed up but you’ve managed to ruin everything very quickly. Why don’t you get the fuck out of here and we’ll manage our own defense.”
Jerold looked at Hallick and his hand twinged. The two locked eyes again but Aelen cleared his throat.
“It’s not worth it,” he added before turning and leaving.
Jerold returned an indifferent look to Hallick and departed behind the elf. Rustiver sneered and cursed under his breathe; then, left to join the others.
“Friendly bunch,” Rustiver said as they regrouped.
Jerold’s eyes caught hold of the fences of the lodger and started to move purposefully toward it.
“I want to see what’s in there,” he spoke absently. Aelen spied further in the fenced areas were shackles and chains that looked like apparatus for holding slaves, though a bit smaller than human-sized he thought.
Jerold thundered on the door. “Anybody home?”
“…no, go away,” came a gruff voice.
The slave chains flashed in Jerold’s mind and he kicked viciously at the door.
Rustiver had split from the two and selected a room upstairs. Closing the door behind him he knelt in the middle of the floor and placed his holy book in front of him. He placed one of his palms flap on top and began to pray to Iustia.
Without the sharp eye or knife of Tabitha nearby, Aelen set to sneering at the accumulated debris. Human craftsmanship never withstood the ages and all the hyvalim could find was corroborating evidence to that notion. As he walked through the mess he would tepidly kick this piece or that. Flimsy chairs and tables were crafted from gorgeous, strong wood; wood worked to death by human ineptitude.
Even before Tabitha had left Jerold had began a desperate search for more hajjak. He had tasted what was as close to home and family as he had in a long time and he was determined to find any more. But now that the firebrand woman was gone, he loudly smashed as much as he could.
Time passed slowly. Rustiver eventually rejoined the group but they spoke little to each other. Each acted very busy and focused on their preoccupations, but each also kept the threat of tonight’s retaliation in the back of their mind.
“I suppose we could discuss watch,” Rustiver said as he stretched.