Down and Out
In a secluded back room of the Narwhal tavern, a group of men and women sat about a long table, deep in serious discussion. Some appeared to be of the lower elements of society, though a few sported
rather expensive and stylish garb. The conversation among them became more heated, with voices raised and gestures made. Finally a sharp ound shot through the room as one of the group banged upon the table
and stood up abruptly. The others went quiet as they watched him, a lean young man with black hair and angry eyes who now scanned the faces of the gathering. He was not one of the well-dressed ones, his
cloak, tunic and breeches showing some wear, his face in need of a shave. His nose was slightly crooked, signifying it had been broken some time ago and not set properly. He didn't look like one who could
hold much standing with the crowd, and indeed he didn't. But still he confronted them with barely controlled animosity.
"Ye got no right to do this," he hissed. "No bloody right!" And he pounded the table again. One man with a well-manicured mustache and a costly cloak looked upon him in a bored manner. "We have every right. So stop wasting our time, Jerad...and get out of here. Our business is concluded." He dismissed the young man with a wave of his hand, and looked to another fellow nearby. "Zack, would you show him the door?"
Zack, who was tall and blond and a good deal more muscular, stood up and pushed Jerad away. And Jerad, undaunted, rounded on him. "Sod off, Zack!" he snarled savagely. Zack smirked back and folded his
big arms. "You know it's true. You're not fit to be in the guild anymore. It's time you faced it." Jerad grit his teeth, his eyes filled with hate, and his left hand suddenly lifted up in front of
him. The hand bore a brown leather gauntlet-type glove, though his right one was bare. The gloved hand hovered between the two men and Zack glanced down at it.
"How about YOU face it, Zack?" Jerad growled. "How about I rip yer damned throat out right now? Then I can gut ye like the swine ye are and then..." He was just getting warmed up, but Zack snickered and
stood his ground, confident that Jerad, however angry, would not dare to try anything now. "You know you're finished here, Jerad. Tough luck, but that's the breaks."
With a roar of rage, the slighter fellow lunged at his larger adversary, both hands swinging. The two came together and several fast blows were exchanged before the scuffle was broken up by the
others. The two fighters were held back firmly as they cursed at one another, each one sporting a red mark or two on the face that would soon darken into bruises. Zack pointed at Jerad accusingly. "You see? He's not only crippled, he's crazy!"
This made Jerad struggle even more madly against the hands that held him, but he had no hope to break loose. "I wanna see Hadrian!" he shouted. "Let me see Hadrian, damn it!!" But his captors were already
hustling him to the door and they shoved him out into the common room of the tavern.
Jerad Kincade glared at the door that had been slammed in his face, and he kicked it viciously. But he turned when he heard his name spoken by a voice he knew well. "Jer." A man in his fifties came up o him from a shadowed booth nearby and lay his hand on the young man's shoulder. "Jer... listen to me. Listen!" Jerad didn't want to listen, and he only wanted to speak of revenge. "It's Zack's fault!"
he blurted out. "He's been speaking against me! I'm gonna kill 'im!, Gunther! I'm..."
"No you're not, boyo." Gunther gave the shoulder a firm shake. "Look, there are facts we can't ignore. Not any more. Zack has a point." He looked Jerad in the eyes. "But you know he's not
the one who made the decision." Jer's gaze went hard as he looked at the older man, the one who had been his mentor these last six years. Gunther sighed and his hand squeezed the shoulder. "It's time to
consider another line of work, lad. I'm sorry."
"But Gun! I can still!..." But Gunther just shook his head. "No, Jerad. Look, you come see me in a few days after you've cooled down. I'll see what the guild can do to help you out. Even though you've managed to make yourself some enemies among them. But I'll talk to Hadrian. He won't soon forget what you did for us." Jerad jerked away angrily, making no further reply. Gunther took this as tacit
agreement and nodded to him before he turned and entered the room from which Jered had just been expelled.
Now Jerad let out a tight breath, feeling the worst of his rage burn away for a time as grim resignation took over. He really was outcast now, and he knew whatever charity the guild bestowed on him would not last long. He made his way through the crowd to a table, where he sat and rubbed at his sore face. He now planned to get quite drunk, or as drunk as he could afford. He ordered an ale from a barmaid who came by, a young, pretty thing she was too. She must be new at the tavern, Jerad thought, for he didn't recognize her and he rarely missed a pretty face.
A few months ago, he had been adept at attracting the beauties. Things would be somewhat different now, but still he felt moved to have a go at impressing her. A little company after hours would be welcome this night. He sat up and raked his right hand through his wild black mane, which did little to neaten it; and he smiled to the lass as gallantly as possible. "'Allo, darlin'." But she showed nothing but disdain for the young ruffian and merely delivered his drink, took his coin and walked off with no attempt at conversation.
Jerad watched her go, his smile vanishing as he gave up showing his more genteel side; it was a lie anyhow, and it wasn't going to get him anywhere today. He slumped back down in his chair, swigging his
ale, wondering where his next payoff was going to come from. After all, beating the hell out of former comrades might be fun, but there wasn't much profit in it. He glared at the glove on his left hand,
but dwelling on that only wakened the rage inside. He wasn't fit to be a thief anymore, they said. They might be right. But damn the lot of them anyhow, for it was hard to be told after all these years and
all that had happened, that you were no longer good enough.
Dark emerald eyes did not miss much of what had happened amongst the tavern dwellers and the lot within that were what the gypsy considered commoners to the tavern. A murmur of thanks and a
gracious smile were offered to the bar maid as she settled a mug of cider in the awaiting hand of the gypsy.
Even with spring having arrived the warmth of the fire still crackled and snapped happily within the hearth where the gypsy reposed on the warmed stones. She knew well enough that come the darker hours of the evening the night would be colder and the chill in the air could turn cruel.
The thought left Rona shivering lightly in her clothing, hands smoothing against the midnight blue skirt she wore, multi-colored ribbons at her wrists puddling into her lap as a molten rainbow as her eyes lifted to rest on the man who seemed to invoke scorn and disdain within the gathered tavern goers.
Brows furrowed in thought a sip of her cider was taken as she contemplated the one that's rage seemed as unpredictable as a wild fire and the next moment as subdued as the calm before the storm. It was something the woman could relate to. The cider was set aside, her fiddle lifted in nimble fingers and set beneath her chin as she set to playing a melody that even in its melancholic cry seemed tinged with a fragment of hope. Perhaps such would help the anger subside and bring the man to peace. If only for understanding that some were left in the very same condition of life. Outcasts indeed...
At first he didn't even notice the music that drifted about the tavern, for Jerad sat in a self-absorbed state of isolation. Here he could focus on plans for the future in between recurring bouts of burning resentment. But despite that, the wandering tendrils of melody infiltrated the periphery of his thoughts and he began a gentle tapping of the edge of his tankard against the table. Still he was not too aware of this, as the soft percussion followed the gentle strains of the strings. But eventually he opened his ears fully to the sad, sweet song and acknowledged the emotional chord it struck in him.
He wasn't one to give in to soft emotions though, not totally; but he had an interest in music, or he used to. After sinking into a reverie on the lost joys of the past, he turned his head to see who was plying the bow so adeptly. And once he cast eyes on the gypsy lass, he could scarce look away. True, she was by far the most beautiful to look upon in this pit of an alehouse. But her music had caught him before her image had, and he could almost fool himself that he had more virtue than he knew he possessed.
Nevertheless, he rose from his chair and sauntered over towards the hearth, trying to appear casual and failing at it. Mug in hand, he stood near and gazed into the flames a while, then glanced sidelong to see the red light dance upon the gleaming curves of polished wood and the bow in motion, sliding over the strings. He also saw the fire spark in the eye of the woman who played.
Jerad nodded to her with a comment that didn't do justice to her artistry. "That's nice." Oh, that was smooth. He grimaced slightly at his idiotic approach, took a glug from his mug and tried again. "I mean... errr... we don't often get yer sort in here." Brief pause while he rethought that. "That is...a musician of yer high calibre, miss. A rare find indeed." He now took a swift look about the booths and tables near the hearth, before looking back to the gypsy. "With a troupe, are ye? They here as well?"
She was not one to respond as the melody had taken her, awakened and stirred her own emotions... feeding into the song as the notes wrapped around her, licking and teasing the air as if they were alive. The closer his presence was to the gypsy the more the music seemed to touch upon his emotions, reverting to trace upon his memories... feeding them with life and energy as if the music itself was... magic. The violin was silenced then, her beloved Ghostwood sang out its final notes of the haunting sonata before hushed as her eyes fully opened to settle on the man that now shared the space at the hearth.
Gracious enough she tucked her legs beneath her as she put the fiddle aside in its case. "Ah appreciate your kind words sirre." Dark embers of her voice came as soft and as haunting as the music that she played, though her smile brought a spark of energy and warmth to aid the words with a glimpse of her subdued nature. Spirit warmed by the thought of company, the haunted look in her eyes all but diminished, leaving the dark flame in her eyes to smolder with a kinship of warmth.
A shake of head as her smile warmed a fragment as he stumbled over words, a crinkle to her eyes as her hand pushed back a wild strand of dark hair. "Yana... ah... de not realle come 'ere often... de men... have a way about dem dat is ne pleasant."
Chin jerked in the direction of the door that he was dismissed from, rolling her shoulders in a shrug. "As fer ah troupe... ah 'ave none... ah fer de mos' part... travel alone."
Memories lingered in her eyes like shadows before she was shaking her head and dismissing them with the realization of her manners. "Och..." Stumbling up to her feet she chuckled softly at her own sudden lack of grace, standing before him if only to stick out her hand in offering of greeting... the ribbons at her wrists shivering and trempling with the quick motion. "Pardon mora manners...ah am Rona."
Those dark eyes lifted to him and she smiled politely, row of teeth lightly nibbling on her bottom lip, as those night emerald eyes searched his. Thoughtful as she looked from the door he was dismissed from to where he stood now "Seems ye have los' your troupe te..."
He found that when the music drifted away, along with
the feelings it inspired , he missed it in some vague
way he could not name. Its absence left a void,
allowing the tumult of the tavern to once again
intrude, but he kept his attention on the lass with
He wasn't expecting much to come of this, so the warm welcome he received almost took him off guard. But he recovered his controlled demeanor, then actually began to relax in this girl's company. Her gracious greeting, like her music had before, did wonders to soothe his stormy disposition. For the time being, he could pretend that his life hadn't all gone to hell.
He liked that look in her eye, as if she didn't scrutinize him at once and judge him unworthy. It didn't take women too long to do that these days. "Yeah, the blokes here can be slimy, rotten..." He paused to find a term that wasn't too offensive to a lady's ears. "... snakes." He didn't mention that he knew how to be a snake himself.
Jerad watched her carefully as she rose up to offer more formal introductions, and he set his mug on the mantel and briefly clasped his fingers about hers, then released the slender hand with a quick bow of his head. "Honored to meet ye, of course. I'm Jerad." Only belatedly did he think to smile as he looked into her fascinating green eyes. The hue, the emotions and secrets contained there were alluring, as was her voice and accent.
But he was acting like a complete fool and he knew it and he hated it. And he was reminded of the reason he was so out of kilter when Rona indicated the door. And like a flash, his anger was back in place. He glared at the door that shut him out before he turned back to Rona with a swift denial. "Naw, naw," he muttered with a terse shake of his head. "Naw, that's... ye see, we was just..." He was not going to admit the truth of what had happened, even though it was apparently common knowledge. "Just havin' a bit of a wrangle. It'll get sorted out."
He nodded, like he didn't know the sorting out involved him moving on. And he quickly strove to change the subject. "Say, can I buy ye a drink, Rona? Or dinner, had yer dinner yet? The mutton's fair fresh here this week." He took up his tankard again and gestured to a nearby empty table with his gloved hand. "And ye can tell me why a lady like yerself ever travels alone. Ain't safe a'tall, ye know."
She watched him thoughtfully, her expression blank and polite even as she was well aware of the lies that were thick on his tongue. Fingers twisted and played idly with the ribbons at her throat as she
listened at his explanation before nodding in subdued agreement.
"Yana... thin's de have a way of sortin' out."
There was that warm smile of reassurance as she looked to him, a crinkle of mirth in her eyes as even still he seemed a bit uncertain of his own place within the world now. Needless to say, the gypsy well knew that feeling. Sighing softly she was withdrawn from her thoughts with his polite offer.
Softly, caution touched her eyes as her shoulders tensed. There were times were gifts were offered and expectations were made in circumstance for payback. The ribbons at her throat and wrists that
hid the scars where she once had worn shackles were proof of that alone. She grimaced at the thought before recovering quickly. After all, it wasn't best to linger in the fear of the past. Besides the slight rumble of her stomach offered well enough excuse that she had not eaten in days.
A warm laugh escaped her as her smile flashed at her lips and met in her eyes like lightning. Grinning warmly at the offer she was nodding vigorously.
"Yana... thank ye Jerad, dinne would be lovely." Gods knew if she was in the presence with Silver she'd either be teased shamelessly for this event or she'd be remarking that the woman ate like a packhorse. Such was the price of starvation when winter had faded into spring.
Plucking up her mug she gestured at a table before shrugging off his concern.
"Eh... ah've traveled alone tha majority of mora leva..." My life. And that she had... not by choice but that was her long road. "De camps are ne te far from 'ere... and ah believe ah should be well
Bemused she sat down and looked up at him, smiling around the lip of her mug. "Ye offerin' yer services as ah protector tae ah thievin' gypsy now?"
A crinkle in her eyes, that dark flame of her spirit preluded to the deep mischief embedded in the depths of Rona's personality as she waited for his response and for the serving girl to bring the delicious promise of dinner.
The lady's moment of hesitation was noted, so Jerad was mildly surprised at her acceptance. He took his seat, his left hand now hidden from view under the table. The gypsy knew what she was about, of couse she did. Jerad did not mistake her for a woman unaccustomed to the hard roads and the scant comforts to be found among strangers.
But still she surprised him again with her question, for it had never crossed his thoughts. "Ahhh..." he stammered stupidly, turning the idea over quickly in his mind. Protector? She was just teasing him, wasn't she? A variety of emotions flashed across his rough features, confusion, suspicion, resentment...and then a tiny spark of hope, almost instantly doused in darkness again. Before he could forge a proper reply, the barmaid came upon them and Jerad looked up at her, almost grateful for the extra time her arrival bought him.
"Right...errr.. dinner, if ye please. Two plates of mutton and taters." But even as he said it, he realized his mistake and he amended the order before the wench got away. "Naw, hold on... one mutton. And just stew fer me. I ain't too hungry." The barmaid gave him a long look, glanced to Rona, then just shrugged and went off to get the food.
Now Jerad addressed the query put to him, leaning his forearm on the table. "Thievin' gypsy, are ye? Eh, that's intrestin'." He smiled slightly. "I guess fiddlin' ain't bringin' in much gold at the moment. Well now..." He glanced around the tavern and looked back to Rona. "If yer thinkin' ye want a fella along on yer travels, I reckon I'd be up fer the job." He looked at her steadily, his face taking on a grim earnestness as he readied himself to hear laughter as a reply. The barmaid now returned with the dinners, sliding a platter of meat and vegetables before the lady and a bowl of rather watery stew before Jerad. The maid swiped up the coins set aside for her, then turned and walked off.
"Not se much of a thief realle... de onle thin' ah realle took was ah horse."
The comment left her grinning from ear to ear before she sombered. "Deserved te be taken though... the previous owner... barely fed him...and bea' 'im often... se 'e deserved whut happened."
She watched his reactions to her offer, it wasn't so much teasing or joking that had offered the companionship. Needless to say this didn't seem a place where the man would be able to stay the night, and truth be told the gypsy figured that the man would rather have a purpose for travel then merely leaving with a gypsy. For as common as the gypsy was, she was insightful... and the last thing the man needed to worry about was his pride.
"Yana. Ah protector den." She smiled warmly up at him, her dark eyes crinkling before she chuckled. "May 'elp brin' dis road te be shorter...saves talkin' te a horse and a raven all day."
The plate of food and stew dunked down before them she set to plucking and tearing apart the mutton into chunky strips of meat. "De ye know dat person over der, dey've been starin' at ye since ye were in de room."
Murmured nonchalantly. Soon as Jerad turned to look where she was pointing she was quickly tossing half of the stripped meat and half of the potatoes into the watery stew. With him turning back around he'd find her eating as if nothing had changed. Course there was no one where she'd been pointing.
"Se ye seem from 'ere and not from 'ere." Conversationally enough as she took a sip from her warmed cider, regarding him once again as she nimbly ate through her meal.
"Ah, so ye rescued the poor critter, did ye?" he said about the stolen horse. "Nice of ye." He quietly considered some other issues related to horses as he swirled the thin soup about in his bowl. Then he was distracted by more immediate matters...being watched. "What?" and he turned quickly, his chair squeeking against the floor as he moved, his body tense, hand reaching to the dagger at his belt. He checked to see who it might be who had found him of interest. He had a few faces in mind, but there was no-one there when he looked. He searched about the other tables nearby but nobody seemed to be paying him any mind.
Turning again to face Rona, he shrugged, settled again in his seat and picked up his spoon. He was not aware that he had been neatly duped and that his meal was now a good deal heartier. He stirred the stew again and discovered the chunks of good stuff at the bottom, and was pleased it was better than it had at first appeared. He scooped from his bowl and ate as he continued the conversation.
"I did some travelin' about when I was younger. Then settled here to make my livin' and I did fine well at my trade." He took a quick glance to Rona. "But I'm ready to move on now and see some more of the world. And if I can help a pretty lady while doing it, all the better." He smiled, as if he believed this 'damsel in distress' story. But whether or not she really needed him, he still intended to take the job seriously.
"If nothin' else, I'll be company, like ye say. So, where exactly ye plannin' on gettin' to? Wherever 'tis, I best lay in some travel supplies afore we go. I ain't been on the road in some while. But I'm lookin' forward to it." He finished up his meal and shoved his bowl aside, figuring at some point there would come a time for more honesty. But he was sure that time wasn't now.
"Some time one's leva seems bette when not kept in one place."
A thoughtful shrug to match the words as she finished up her meal, those night emerald eyes settling on him as he looked at her. Neither one of them truly could be blamed for not giving complete trust at this moment, though it was half lie and half truth that she offered. She did miss the company on her travels.
"Ah'm goin' te de gypsy camps in Stormpoint." Smoothing a strand of hair behind her ear she arched her brow as a plan or perhaps it was only a thought came to mind. Just the mere notion had her grinning from ear to ear, the dark music of her laughter escaping her swiftly at the nature of her idea. Eyes narrowed in scrutiny as she looked him over, taking in his appearance and hair. It might just work.
"Mm... may seem an off-kilter question te be askin'... but de you dance Jerad?" She could only imagine what his reaction would be to that, but if she could pass him off as a gypsy he'd have a place to stay until his own path came back up to greet him in Stormpoint.
"Gypsy camps, ahhh," Jerad replied with a nod. But he peered at her quizzically when she laughed, though it was not at all an unpleasant sound. Rona was looking him over now, and he wondered what she saw and what she thought of it. He didn't smile back at her, only staring as
she came out with her question.
"Dance?" His eyes narrowed slightly. "Do I dance? Heh." Then he smiled and shook his head. "Naw, I ain't what ye would call a dancer. And aye, I do find it an odd question." He allowed a bit of a chuckle, though it vanished quickly. Now he rose from his seat, prepared to leave the tavern. "Why ye wanna know, and why's it so amusin'?"
Rona was not the only one amused, for Zack had come sauntering up with a grin on his face. He laughed scornfully and Jerad shot him a venomous glare. But it was Rona who the big blond fellow spoke to. "Oh, don't believe him, miss. He's led many a merry dance with the ladies here, once upon a time. " He leered at her with an arched brow. "If you know what I mean."
Anger rising, Jerad advanced on him, intent on putting an end to this bloke's interference. "Had enough outta you, Zack," he muttered, his hand again drifting towards his sheathed blade. He was focused on his current enemy and didn't notice the others at the sidelines, but several of Zack's friends watched now from the shadows, ready to get involved.
Sitting in a far corner of the tavern and wearing face that wasn't her own, a lithe woman clad in nondescript leathers and a calf-length cloak watched the scene unfold through a curtain of dark blonde hair. She sighed inwardly as the man named Jerad and several of the tavern's "patrons" readied themselves for what looked like a second round, and fought the urge to roll her eyes. The fact that Jerad's hand was snaking towards his blade suggested that it might be a bit rougher than their previous go, and though the gypsy woman looked like she could take care of herself, the ranger really didn't like it when "extras" got involved.
She'd been watching the thief since he arrived at the tavern some time back. He hadn't been the purpose of her mission. Rather, she'd been sent to determined what this particular remnant of the Ravenclaw guild was up to, though she wasn't sure why she bothered. Since the disappearance of their leader and the deadly strike from their rival some years back, most of the Claws barely eked out a living within the city. Her "superior" wondered why their rival allowed even this measure of existence. Sherrill knew, but didn't bother to share. Soren was an idiot who discarded any thought that wasn't his own. The truth was, the other guild wanted the Claws to survive -- not to thrive -- but to survive, to limp and gasp along and to draw the attention of the Watch and the Rangers away from their own activity. The fact that she was there, in the Narwhal, watching and waiting, proved that it was working.
Within what they considered their own territory, the Claws were boisterous, and she'd learned a few things of interest even in the common room of the tavern, but the young man's expulsion from the back room and apparently from the guild as well was the true gem of the evening. He was angry, bitter, and resentful. And in the ranger's experience, such people often talked ... not always right away, and not to always just anyone. The gypsy, Rona, had thus been another stroke of good luck. Jerad seemed willing to talk to her, and though the conversation started out simply enough, it might evolve to the point where he spilled at least a few more names if nothing more. The fact that they moved to a table rather than stayed at the bar only made listening to their conversation easier, though the Rona's sudden statement to Jerad that someone had been watching him nearly made her choke over the bitter swill she was drinking until she realized that the gypsy was indicating someone in the opposite direction. She really hadn't wanted to get directly involved.
Now, however, that might change. The expelled thief and the gypsy were clearly out numbered and in the proverbial "belly of the beast." She herself was alone inside, but could summon a few extra blades lurking outside if the need arose. Letting one hand drop towards the hilt of own blade, tucked with the folds of the cloak, and the other wrap about the handle of her empty tankard, she rose and casually began to make her way to the bar with an expression suggesting that she was tired of waiting for the serving girl to return. It had the dual advantages of allowing her to get to her feet and move closer to the pair in case things took the turn it appeared they were headed towards. Somedays, she really hated her job.
"Yana de camps... if you could dance... den we could pass you off as a gyp until you found your own road."
Murmured softly as she rose to her feet upon him doing the same. It seemed it was time to leave. Such suited the gypsy just fine because she wasn't one for four walls for long. Fingers twisted thoughtfully in the ribbons that fell in a ripple from her throat , weaving the ends through her fingertips as she murmured a few choice words in Romanian.
Drawing a ribbon that glistened like gunmetal within darkness from the bunch she bumped her hip against Jerad and worked swift at braiding the ribbon around his bicep. Smiling faintly she shrugged if he was to ask over it "See... lookin' like one alreade."
Her warm smile briefly faltered to smolder into ash and shadows as her eyes darkened with the sudden approach of another stranger. Empathetic as she was, that twist of energy within the core of her soul left her ever aware of Jerad's own tension. Jaw clenched she lifted her chin in defiance, emerald eyes smoldering at the exchange and the implications.
A few choice words might have escaped her if not for the sudden promise of a possible brawl as Jerad interrupted the possibility of an outburst from the gypsy. Stepping back she swallowed thickly, eyes widened as she touched at his arm briefly.
"Jerad... mebbe we should be goin before it be gettin' te dark."
Though her expression never changed inwardly she winced. Outside the fierce shrieking cries from her raven near echoed in her mind as a bell of warning. Tension started to twist through her muscles as she looked at her fiddle case and indiscreetly the swiftest way out.
Jerad was going to discuss further the gypsy's ribbon and the plan she had in mind, but that would have to wait. More pressing business was before them now. Of course, Jerad did have the option of trying to defuse the situation...in other words, back down and leave quietly. He was aware that Rona was suggesting a prudent retreat from the scene, and that would have been wise; but it was not in Jerad's nature, not where Zack was concerned. Here was an opportunity for a little revenge. It seemed the senior guild members were still in council and not here to break up the fight, and that suited Jerad fine.
"I know yer to blame, Zack," he said in a malevolent snarl. "And I'm gonna get even with ye." And he did what he knew Zack was waiting for: Jerad drew his blade first. Zack, not much impressed, merely whipped out his own, a hefty dagger that glittered in the firelight. "Right, Jerad. You ought to take the girl's advice and hurry along. Could get real dark sooner than you think." He grinned as his cohorts began to gather in closer, slipping their own weapons to hand as they came. Jerad saw the vehement as the circle of enemies closed in and realized the odds were very much against him. Ah well. If he was going down, he was at least going to give them a good skirmish.
He looked to the gypsy lass now and smiled faintly to her. "Rona, nice meetin' ye, but ye best go on yer way. I expect this gonna get kinda ugly." He jerked his head towards the door, an obvious signal to skedaddle and keep out of trouble that didn't concern her. Then he looked to his main adversary again. "Come on then." Jerad adjusted the haft in his fingers, watching as Zack circled closer, looking for an opening. Jerad lunged first though, and Zack barely slipped aside, avoiding the first strike. He chuckled, then shook his head. "I'd like to draw this out, Jerad. But we don't have much time." And the other fellows crowded nearer, ready to make quick work of their former guild member.
And during this, the woman ranger went almost unnoticed, the men pushing past her as they jostled for a good position at the upcoming kill. Rona, on the other hand, garnered some attention as two of the mob turned to her instead of joining in the slaughter. With one fellow looming to either side, they made it difficult for the lady to leave. "Good evening, missy. Damn, but ain't you a lovely bit of crumpet?" one chortled. The other added, "Jerad's busy, but don't worry. We won't let you get lonely."
The lady Captain sat in the back, amongst the shadows tonight. Alongside her, sipping on their own drinks were Jonah, a scraggly member of her crew, and Miguel, who definitly had the looks of a sailor and the lean muscles to show. Somewhere, amongst the patrons was the First Mate, a rather large tree of a man, but where he was standing was yet to be revealed.
The Captain raised her glass to her lips and eyed the room over the rim. It had been quite a day and she was in no mood for any company. Though the gypsy playing the violin knew Silver was in the room, the two didn't seem to glance at each other. A feeling was all they needed, and Silver was sure she was eminating a "dont bother me" aura.
She grinned slightly as the wiry man attempted to make small talk with the gypsy and chuckled as the gypsy took the bait. Perhaps this evening was looking somewhat brighter than the day had. Silver sighed and leaned back in her chair, the wood creaking in protest.
Jerad, whose name she had heard in whispers, had suddenly found a few enemies. Silver frowned and leaned forward again, the two crewmates shifting in their chairs. It was then that other patrons decided to join in the fun. No longer unable to watch as two cornered Rona, the Lady Captain rose and made it across the room in few steps.
"Bit of crumpet? Are you serious?" She shook her head and eyed the sword at her side, a dagger already drawn in her fingers. She knew Rona could well take care of herself, but still, it might be a little fun to take out some of her pent up anger. "I think ye best be on yer way, and while r at it, you might want to find a new line to use on women."
Silver's crew lazily swaggered around the room, keeping their gazes steady on the men who were ready to fight. She grinned at Rona, flipping the dagger among her fingers. "Well, you sure know how to find the fun, aye?"
The ranger wasn't surprised when Jerad made the first move, though she had hoped that he'd show a bit more restraint given his knowledge of the tavern and its denizens. She also wasn't surprised when the vultures who'd been eying the pair circled closer, weapons at the ready. Their ilk rarely submitted to a contest of chosen, and they weren't above a well-placed knife in the back of an occupied opponent. In their blood-soaked hunger, two of them pushed past the ranger, giving her ample excuse to act with minimum suspicion.
They were larger, but she had the twin advantages of surprise and training. Donning a look of disgust at their brashness, she sent them both to the ground in crumpled heaps -- dislocating the blade arm of one, and the knee of the other. As expected, it drew some of the attention and few of the blades her way, and she pulled her own curved blade from its scabbard in response.
By this time, another figure had joined the fray. Tall, blonde, and well-tanned, the ranger knew her by reputation as one of the captains who made frequent visits to the city of storms. She appeared inclined to aid the gypsy, and Sherrill was more than willing to allow her the task. In fact, the presence of captain and crew might mean that she wouldn't need to summon help from outside, allowing her to remain an unknown participant in what she could pass off as a private fight turned bar brawl.
Content for the moment, she parried the blows and blades that came her way, dealing a few deep gashes and dropping another man to the ground in a stemmed flow of crimson. She had no interest in killing any of the Claws unless it became necessarily, but she was ever-mindful of the door that led to the tavern's back room and steered to keep both it and the rogue named Jerad in clear sight. His attack on another Claw meant there was no going back. By drawing his blade and seeking its strike he'd severed all ties with the guild, making him, perhaps, even more valuable than before.
"Ila mora...more den fun it seems..."
A sigh as dark eyes seemed strangely darker... before they brightened like twin jewels within the set of her face. Silver would well know it
as the awakening of that dark flame of energy that wrought through the gypsy's spirit in a blessing and curse of magic.
The ribbon well enough was bespelled with protection for Jerad, and as considered now a friend she wasn't one to leave another behind. That was not her way. Fingers curled into fists as her eyes flashed.
The two thugs who were interested in Rona were quite distracted from their own sorry version of wooing, as well as from the ongoing battle. Now they took on threatening expressions as another female got involved. She was pretty too, but with way too much sass. The bigger lout tossed a few choice insults at her as he reached for his own weapon: a shortsword, poorly maintained but with enough weight and edge left to serve. At least the guildsman thought he looked fearsome enough with that in his hand, and he expected the uppity wench to act accordingly. "You want some of this, sweetie?" he guffawed lewdly. "Come get it. I got enough for you too."
His companion however had looked back to Rona and he noticed what the other fellow had not. The odd light in the gypsy's eyes. "Uhhh... Bill?" he muttered, moving off a bit. "Something weird's goin' on with this lady..." But Bill was full of himself and ignoring any warnings that came his way. He thrust his sword at the blonde woman with a rough laugh.
Meanwhile the ranger was in the middle of her own melee. Several more men came at her after she had downed a few of their comrades, but they found her a very able opponent. Curses filled the air as the wounded and the wary took note of this. Most of the gang had by now left Zack and Jerad to their own devices, gradually moving to surround the woman ranger, the men armed with a glittering array of edged weapons.
Jerad did notice that the crush about him was very much lessened and he got glimpses of the other action going on. But he was still deep in his personal dispute with Zack and now maybe he could finish it once and for all. The diversions the others provided were certainly to his advantage; and he didn't know it, but the ribbon bound about his arm was aiding him as well. As he parried with Zack, not many of the bigger guy's strikes hit home, and those that did were but scratches. Being the more agile of the two, Jer was beginning to get the upper hand. He laughed and drove in harder at Zack, who now was realizing he wasn't doing so well and wasn't getting the backup he was counting on.
So he turned the odds back his way and went for another weapon. He kept the dagger in one hand, and with the other drew a length of iron chain that hung at his belt. The chain was attached to a wooden handle forming a simple flail, and he flicked this into the air, the chain rattling as it coiled about.
The chain came whipping at Jerad and he was forced to retreat a few steps as the flail arced past him. Zack came after him though, and Jerad lifted his left arm before him to intercept the chain. The iron links thudded against his arm with force. Three, four strikes of the flail he took on the arm and shoulder, keeping his limb raised to protect his head. His dagger was fairly useless now but there was another tactic he could use.
As Zack drew the chain back for another pass, Jerad quickly shifted his gloved hand in order to take the leather in his teeth and pull it free. That done, he dropped the glove and lunged forward into the line of the whirling chain.
It was now seen that his left arm was adorned with a metal gauntlet buckled firmly on, a thing such as an armoured knight might wear. Similar, at any rate, but instead of jointed steel fingers at the end, there were two shining hooks. They were not very large, but were strong and nimble and subtlely curved. And now that these talons were free from their leather sheath, Jerad could regain control.
As the flail came at him again, he let the chain strike his lifted arm, and now it made a sharp clang as iron struck steel. But this time he was planning to do more than deflect the blow. With a deft twist of his arm, he caused the chain to wrap about it. With his hooks inserted in the links, he gave a mighty yank and pulled the flail from his enemy's grasp. Zack, thrown off balance, was in an ill position to defend himself, and in a flash, Jerad was at him. He knocked the other's dagger from his hand and bashed him back against the wall. Their faces just inches apart now, Jerad glared at him, his dagger at Zack's gut and his hooks at his throat.
Zack kept still, breathing heavily, sweat breaking out on his brow, and Jerad grinned at him viciously. "That's right, Zack. I think this is one Claw ye ain't gonna ferget." With the steel talons poised to swipe across the jugular, Jerad was a moment away from killing him, not heeding much else right now in his desire for vengeance.
The air was crisp, the seasons still in transition from autumn to spring. The lone figure leaned lazily against the side of the tavern, fingers drumming lightly on her crossed arms. To any passerby or citizen, it looked normal, as if she was awaiting an arrival of a friend. To those other watching eyes posted throughout the city and nearby the tavern, it was another matter entirely.
However, when they had received word of the Claws meeting here tonight, a few extra precautions had to be taken. Kaden shifted her weight, moving toward the street. So far so good, she thought, but you could never be too careful. She dropped her hand to her waist before pushing back a strand of hair, a signal to those she passed that all seemed calm at the moment.
And that tranquility almost came crashing down on her. Kaden barely ducked out of the way as a body came crashing through the window and out into the street below. She signaled those unseen eyes before taking the steps two at a time and bursting through the door and into the melee inside.
She quickly scanned the room, mentally counting the occupants. The woman captain had a gypsy with her by the hearth and the two seem perfectly adept at dealing with the four men around them as one slumped to the ground. The Claws were situated within the same area, and those patrons not wishing for any bodily harm were ducking out of the way or attempting to push past her to get into the street.
Kaden drew the dagger at her hip and plunged headlong into the room, her target across the tavern and easily adept at fighting. Kaden quickly noted Sherrill only had one blade drawn but her thoughts were cut short as a fist came into view. Moments before she could lose her nose, the Ranger ducked and shot up with a right hook into the man's jaw. With quick side step she slammed her elbow into his back as he crumpled the floor in a groaning heap. This was so much better than training. The young Ranger grinned to herself as she dodged another incoming blow.
Moments later, the Rangers had fanned out into the tavern,the uniformed officers moving in easy precision throughout the room. Those who weren't already on their way out began to rethink their strategies as they attempted to slip past any and all uniformed officers.
Kaden, locked in a battle with a man nearly thrice her size, managed to relieve the fingers from squeezing her neck as she sent a booted foot into his stomach. The moment she felt his fingers loosen she twisted, rolling off the table he had her pinned against. The large man grimaced, reaching out a thick hand again toward the young woman.
Kaden waited, calculating the moment in her head and as he got close enough, she reached out grasping his wrist and digging her fingers into the precise pressure points on his wrist that made him yelp out in pain. She quickly lodged her dagger into his hand, pinning him to the table.
She marched directly across the room toward Sherrill and the Claws, looking from Sherrill toward the two men on the floor. The larger of the two was pinned, hooks at his neck and a dagger at his stomach. With an arched brow she addressed the one with the weapons.
"Apparently he's not interested. If you're done dancing, there are some folks ready to cut in."
"Ah donne bloody like this Silv's"
A murmur came from the gypsy as she pressed her back against Silver's...it seemed the position was one well known even as she eyed the remaining trio that circled them with an almost annoyed expression. It was so easy to rid the trio if only for the circumstance of being insulted and flirted with like some doxy trollup.
Rona was nearly smoldering with the weary awareness that most men had not changed, and that her justful nature wasn't always such to be appreciated. One thing the gypsy was not was a fragile butterfly, which
anymore seemed the common mistake that so many liked to make. With some the fragility assumption was accepted for she couldn't control all circumstances.
Such was this very circumstance, it was a wild beast of uncertainty that played with her thoughts at this hour. To use the magic seemed to be an overzealous resolution to the problem. A growl of frustration and the
gypsy pushed away from Silver in the same moment the woman seemed to mimic her actions. Both in the same stance and time landing firm and true to the jaws of their assailants--a kick out to lash across thighs at least to give the duo of women some breathing room.
A cry with a sharp whistle and the random opening of the door brought the dark raven flying in. Wings outstretched and claws and beak set for a maiming, the bird was directed with unspoken communication towards Jerad. The bird took its direction well and scratched and pecked at the face and eyes of Jerad's attackers before flying back and alighting back to Jerad's shoulder with a vicious snap of wings and clack of beak. The distraction gave just enough time for Rona to grab a mug of mead and swing it at their final opponent's head.
Silver just looked at Rona with a smirk as the gypsy shrugged, somewhat of a sheepish look though hair hid any other expression on the dark caramel features of the woman. The Captain was just setting to laugh as
the gypsy moved back to her side, a murmur to the woman.
"I donne like dis Silvs... we need te get Jerad out of here before dis gets worse."
A nibble of lip... after all, even though he had promised her protection... the gypsy wasn't one to just accept such without feeling a need to reciprocate it. To her, he needed sanctuary, and such was not a thing that Rona could deny.
Sherrill watched with mixed amounts of relief and dread as Kaden entered the room -- the former because the arrival of the rest of the Rangers would likely forestall further bloodshed, the latter because Kaden still had a knack for causing more trouble than she cured. To her credit, however, she'd handled this fairly well. She'd shown no recognition towards her, the fight was breaking up, and with any luck Jerad would desist in his immediate desire to gut the man he called Zack. If he didn't, Kaden and crew would have to take him, and little good would come of that.
Casting a closer glance at the strange appendage attached to Jerad's arm, Sherrill's eyes narrowed into temporarily blue lines of thought. Was this what prompted his "retirement" from the Claws? It seemed likely. The Claws were short-term oriented, focusing on fast jobs with quick payoffs. It often meant a high degree of risk and required a good deal of swiftness and luck. The loss of a hand could very well be seen as an untenable liability.
She grimaced inwardly, reminded again how much she disliked having to waste her time on the Claws. But as much as she hated Soren, she couldn't afford to disregard his orders ...... at least, not all of them. Besides, he might have inadvertently have stumbled onto something this time, much in the same way that even a fool might trip over a hidden trove. Thus decided, she brushed a stray lock of hair behind a slightly pointed ear, signaling to Kaden to let Jerad go, even if he tried to run . . . especially if he tried to run. They'd get nothing from him if they took him now. In her experience, the longer he was on his own, the longer he had to stew, the more likely he was to talk.
Then, against all probability, a small dark shadow darted in through the tavern's now gaping door. A bird? No, not just a bird, a raven. Generally, such a creature served as harbinger to one she'd rather avoid. This time, such was not the case. This bird was different in a way she couldn't pinpoint, but could certainly feel. Something was missing. It wasn't the shopkeeper's bird, and the ranger breathed a small sigh of relief with the realization. The bird, however, did prove useful despite her momentary alarm, sweeping into the grip between Jerad and Zack and attacking the latter with savage ferocity, giving Kaden an adequate excuse for distraction -- if she would take it. For her part, Sherrill used the disruption to take a few furtive steps towards the door, her action clearing a path for any that wished to follow.
Jerad had not much cared for the arrival of the raven, even though it had come to help him. He was convinced he didn't need the help of any bird. But several of his foes now bore the marks of the avian's attack, Zack included. Jerad was ready to deal the final strike, but now he saw he had other company. He glanced over to Kaden, and his eyes narrowed. A Ranger. Terrific. He kept his weapons where they were as he gave a quick scan of the room. More Rangers. Beautiful. They were everywhere, swarming about the place like roaches. Suffice to say, Jerad was not overfond of any member of law-enforcement, and now he was just not in the mood to deal with it.
But he had to deal, there was no other choice if he wanted to leave the Narwhal as a free man. And to that end, he had to give up his claim on Zack. "Heeeey," he said cordially enough to the young Ranger near him, giving a falsely cheerful grin. He then turned the grin on the nervous Zack. "Just a li'l friendly sparring, right?" Jer suggested. He stepped away from Zack and released him, letting his adversary move away from the wall. Zack rubbed his neck where there were two red dots in the skin. But he looked relieved and managed to nod to the Ranger, backing up Jerad's story. "Yeah, yeah... no problem here."
Jerad glanced to the raven on his shoulder, wondering where it had come from, as he slipped his dagger to its sheath and tucked his armpiece under the edge of his cloak. Hopefully the skirmish would be considered over and the Rangers would just move along. Yeah, right. Whatever happened, Jerad hoped Gunther would not be caught up in it. Maybe the others had escaped the council room by the back door, if they had had enough warning.
Zack continued to make a gradual retreat and Jerad had to let him go, but he cast him a warning glance before he turned back to Kaden. "So, what brings ye lot here on this chilly eve?" he asked in a friendly tone. "I don't recommend the ale, but some of the wines ain't half bad." He gave a direct look to Kaden, meanwhile making his own slow sidelong retreat. He also glanced to the floor a couple times, trying to locate his glove. But the place was a shambles of overturned tables and broken chairs, so he gave up on it.
The rest of the Claws involved in the brawl were doing their best now to appear calm, nurse their wounds and get out of the tavern. But Jerad still didn't trust that Zack would not cause him some more mischief if given the chance. Jerad tried to steer away from any nearby Rangers, moving now towards Rona, judging that his best bet lay in teaming up with her as they had planned before. Good thing she had not fled the tavern after all. "Still here, are ye?" he said to her as he came up. He peered down at a mead-soaked lout who lay unconscious on the floor with a bloody brow, and several others nearby who looked the worse for wear. Jer grinned back at Rona and her partner in battle, the sword-bearing woman with her.
"Looks like ye two ladies know fine well how to defend yerselves," he aid. But he looked around at the roomful of Rangers and Ravenclaws, and back at the gypsy. He wondering if she had taken note of his particular deficiency, now concealed under his cloak, and if she had changed her mind about him. "But if yer still wantin' me to come along with ye, I'm ready to go."
It seemed the fight was starting to wane off. Still Rona could not shake off the sensation of unease as she regarded those gathered and a few that took their leave. Eyes narrowed with suspect at those that had suddenly appeared and seemed to know each other weren't just stopping by for a drink with friends. Their emotions seemed to prove Rona's growing belief that they had other reasons to be present in the tavern that night. With the fight seemingly resolved, the gypsy took to lean against the captain as she watched with vibrant eyes the resolution to the fight.
Lips pursed thoughtfully even as she spared a glance at her friend, a light murmur to Silver. Something did not set right with the gypsy. Upon the slight quirk of Silver's brow the gypsy just shook her head. They would speak later of this.
While seemingly calm, the gypsy was ever restless to be out of the tavern and away from the suspicious eyes of those new and gathered. The seeming law that suddenly inhabited the tavern were not pleasant to be aware of. Lips licked, she shifted her gaze to rest on Jerad. Smoldering depths swept over his form, taking in his supposed deformity. Such never would disturb the gypsy because she had come to learn that what one might call a curse or deformity was sometimes a blessing... and othertimes an unknown gift. She didn't get the feeling that Jerad felt the same about it as their eyes met and locked ... though she understood well enough the price that life could lay on the heads of those chosen for such differences.
Whatever she saw in his eyes, or perhaps what he saw in hers, was enough to bring that dark flame to a flickering smolder before the energy in her eyes was finally diminished. She was not ashamed of his
differences, nor was she ashamed of her own. Even as he approached her and Silver, her mood eased for she saw the shock in his eyes and the expression of understanding as Bey left his shoulder and descended upon her own.
All this time Silver chuckled to herself and nudged the gypsy with a quick grin. The smile was reciprocated by the enigmatic expression that the gypsy was practically infamous for. After all even gypsy's were prone to have their secrets.
Upon Jerad's suggestion the gypsy nodded in agreement. "Yana... it is best we ge now afore we are dismissed in chains." A flicker of amusement jumped like a match struck in her eyes... mirth, a dancing fire in emeralds, haunting and hypnotic before it was tucked away to leave only the placid beauty of the woman's jewel hued eyes.
Chuckling to herself for whatever reason, Silver nudged the pair towards the door. They left in a trio and while perhaps known or unbeknownst to Jerad, both women kept to his sides in case anything got out of hand.
Gods forgive those that did not understand the gypsy's belief in sworn vows and protection... such was well signified by the knotted ribbon about Jerad's forearm that perhaps even now graced him with safety.
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