‘White, Green, Blue herbs…’
‘Helmets, Breastplates, Leggings! Iron, copper…’
‘Only the best weaponry! Axes, maces, swords, knives, shields, bows…’
‘Leather boots, fur coats, anything you need for the winter…’
Hundreds of merchants trying to sell their best wares, drowning each other in a competition of whoever could shout the loudest. Every three months, merchants from all around Nourtin, Sarahi and even Arolia would set up shop in the centre of Paiurej in order to gain as much money as they could. Of course, there would be other kinds of services provided. Mercenaries and Bodyguards were hired, bounties claimed and new prices set on the heads of wrongdoers and wealthy people alike.
Iruka had attended many of these events, and, like every other time, she hadn’t found any interesting bounties, except for one. It was for an extreme amount of Gold. She was excited about it because the order came from High Commander Gazuvius. That meant that the man that another two people were tracking down must be one **** of an opponent. Finally, I can have some fun.
Except for that though, the shops had nothing special. Her Glaive and armour with fur on the inside were the best pieces of equipment that she could find. One problem was that the food was relatively more expensive there than in Viondril or any other country close to it. Luckily, she still had food left for three days from her latest expedition. She learned that using her weapon as a long walking cane was helpful. And ******. She did enjoy showing off her skills and weapons, except for the hidden ones. Also, it was easier to use if need be in case someone was brave or foolish enough to test her might and blade.
Being bored, all she could think about is the weather. It’s so hot here, in the South. I hope Destiny will guide me to the North soon. That didn’t mean kicking pebbles and watching as the evergreen grass gets squashed under her feet was something she was used to doing.
Normally, in the North, one doesn’t have the luxury of throwing away time, because every minute wasted is a minute not foraging and potentially finding food. Being from the middle of Saudin, her family was poor and she was always sent out to hunt for animals and set traps. She has grown to be quite the survivor. And a strict instructor.
As the day was coming to an end, she overheard quite the commotion next to an inn. Interesting, a fight.
She saw an imposingly tall man, surrounded by four men that seemed younger than him. Looking closer, Iruka noticed his bruised face. He’s more experienced than he seems. He wielded an axe that wasn’t as long as her Glaive, but the blade was larger. Even though it seemed like it hadn’t been polished in some time, Iruka could only guess any weapon in the hands of that man could be dangerous. Analyzing the man’s body, she realized that a hit from a swing would mean getting chopped in two. Now, how is this going to turn out? Is a massacre about to let loose? I must be careful to be on his side, though I wouldn’t mind testing his abilities.
The men wore green jackets and pants with leather boots that were all worn out. Due to her doing the same thing, Iruka could notice knives hidden in their shoes and at the back of their pants. It was clear, though, that they were mere thieves. Now, Iruka felt the ever so slight need to join, eager to join. She hadn’t give an beating in some time, after all.
‘I’d say you’d better stop before you do somethin’ you’ll regret.’
‘What do ya mean, you freak?’ said one of the bandits.
‘Yeah, we don’t want your kind ‘ere!’
‘Leave before you want a beatin’, monster!
A distinct aura of panic filled the hearts of the spectators, as the imposing man turned to face the last thief. His somewhat friendly expression now displayed pure, frightening, killing intent. His jaw muscles were contracted, his right eye twitching from anger. This is gonna be good.
‘What. Did. You. Say?’
The bandit’s face turned pale. He couldn’t muster the strength to talk back, not even close to wanting to fight. This could also have been said about his friends that were stuck in place. Iruka couldn’t help but sneak a giggle. Everyone had heard it, but at the same time no one wanted to turn away from the action.
‘N-n-n-n-n… nothing, Sir.’
The giant leaned over him, like a knife that could fall onto his head at any time. ‘If I ever see you round ‘ere again, I’ll cut your heads off. Give me all you’ve got.’
After a short silence, another bandit said ‘We…we can’t. We’ll die of hunger!’
‘Did I ******* stutter?’ thundered the warrior. ‘Give me every last coin or I’ll throw your bodies into the river!’ Iruka might have felt the slight need to hide behind something for protection if she were scared. She never was.
‘Do what he says! He’ll kill you!’ a woman screamed.
The thieves gathered in one place and emptied their pockets. There was no shortage of gold.
‘800 Gold, that’s how much you value life. I value yours less than one. Say your prayers and hope I won’t hunt and cut you down.’
‘Please, have mercy,’ one of them cried
There was silence, the man’s cold eyes staring down at the bandit, like a wolf would look at a sheep. Iruka could’ve sworn she saw a twitch at a corner of his mouth. There was another twitch, wasn’t missed by anyone else as few gasps were heard from the crowd.
‘Maybe…’ the warrior began, ‘maybe I should do better just by handin’ yer ***** to ye right here, right now.’ He pulled out his axe from behind. ‘How ‘bout it, eh lads?’
The bandits started running in Iruka’s direction. She made sure to trip one of them, causing the spectators to laugh. I must know more about this man…. and maybe get a bit of that gold. While walking towards him, she heard another man shout:
‘Friend! Friend! What happened?’
He looked like an elder with a liking towards weird clothing.
‘Think you’ll be able to explain all this commotion? What do you think you’re doing?’
Looking as though the giant snapped out of some sort of trance, he answered, rubbing the back of his head.
‘I’m… sorry. They deserved it. They tried to steal, I had to step in.’
A lady approached him as well. She was young, older than Iruka but younger than the men. This man… He looks incredibly like the description we were given of the one we are in charge of killing.
‘T-Thank you, good sir. I don’t know how to repay you…’
‘Don’t thank me. Here,’ the man gave her some gold. ‘Two hundred pieces should be enough.’
‘Yes, yes, very much so. You two seem so different, may I ask if you are travelling together?’
Wait, no. That’s my spot.
‘Yes, but we can’t risk bringing you along,’ said the older man.
‘But I owe my life to him,’ the woman said, pointing at the warrior. ‘It’s his choice, not yours.’
‘He’s right. Look at her, she’s too frail and young to come on adventures,’ Iruka said, joining the conversation uninvited. ‘I, on the other hand, am looking for someone and would greatly appreciate some company.’
The warrior and the older man looked at each other. After analyzing her from head to toe, they shrugged.
‘Who are you?’ the warrior asked.
‘My name is Iruka. I am a strong and skilled fighter. I can take any foe of ours without a problem.’
The older man whispered something in his friend’s ear, startling him.
‘We’ll allow it, but not without payment,’ the warrior said.
‘No problem. After I’ve found what I’m looking for you shall be rewarded with 500 Gold a head. Sounds good?’
‘600. And you help with the pay for food and shelter.’
Iruka rolled her eyes. ‘Fineee.’ She extended her hand.
The warrior shook it. ‘Deal.’ He turned around to the younger lady.
‘What’s your name?’
‘Don’t you have some parents or something you gotta take care of?’
‘No… I live by myself, that’s why I needed your help.’
The warrior welcomed the other girl to join them, with an air of uncertainty.
‘So, what do I call you?’
The older man turned to his friend and raised an eyebrow.
‘You can call me Shambler,’ he answered. ‘My friend’s name is Ratin.’ The older man bowed. ‘Happy to meet you, Iruka. You too, Neveah.’
‘Where do we go now?’ she asked.
‘We were thinking of heading east, to Viondril.’
‘What’s your objective there?’
‘Oh, it’s not there,’ Ratin said. ‘We met up in Ulrag, went south, going at the edge of Sarathi, just out of Arolia and now we’re here. And as for our objective, we’re searching for something. How about you?’
‘Well, I technically should go somewhere, but I’m noticing you’re planning on going to lots of places or something, so I’ll just tag along and stop when we get there. Also, what a coincidence. I too am looking for something. Well… someone. Someone important to me.’
‘Oh, ye found love?’ Iruka heard Shambler say with a small chuckle. ‘Anyway, we should have found a blacksmith for my axe, but we spent the whole day… searching for bounties.’
‘I’m good at fixing weapons, so I might be able to help.’
‘I’d appreciate that. We need to get moving though. I wouldn’t want to be caught by enemies in the middle o’ the night in the city.’
The others agreed. She looked at the red sky. It spread like fire in a forest over the sky, in the same way that a spark was reignited within her. The spark that would fuel her burning love for battle. It had been too long since she had met a worthy opponent. Her Destiny had spoken and it made it clear that it was finally time.
I will be prepared. I will claim that bounty.