Tak and Juniper left The Pilgrim’s Rest and stepped out into the streets of Xylon. Neither were sure what time it was, but the sun was almost set and just a few lines of deep purple made its way past city walls and tall buildings.
“Well, which way should we go?” Juniper asked.
“Riffen find lady,” Tak said.
“You’re right. Riffen had set up to find Lillian. It’s very possible that he found her or is still out there searching.”
“Find lady. Find Riffen,” Tak said.
“That may be way easier said than done,” Juniper said. “This city is quite large and there a lot of people. I don’t even know where to start.”
“You track,” Tak said.
“Yeah I’m pretty good at tracking in a woods full of animals. But here in the city, there are way too many people. Too many footprints,”
“Small dragon fly,” Tak said.
“Tak,” Juniper quickly looked around but there was nobody in earshot. “Keep quiet about that. Plus Piakol is not with me at the moment. Him flying over the city could cause panic.”
“No more ideas,” Tak said with a frown.
“Riffen mentioned something about finding people using magic,” Juniper said. “We obviously can’t do that but I met a powerful mage who might be able to. Hopefully she doesn’t mind doing me another favor.”
“Use magic. Find Riffen.”
“I guess that’s our best bet, unless we just want to walk around the city and try to find him,” Juniper said.
“Well I do. Come on Tak. Let’s head towards The Wicked Scepter and see if Ms Zaffre has a way to find Riffen,” Juniper said and she led them both toward The Wicked Scepter.
“Man I can’t believe they left us here,” Sigthyme said as he took another sip of his ale.
“Yeah tell me about it,” Grace said.
She sat across the table from him and picked at what was left of some chicken bones on her plate.
Sigthyme looked over at her.
“This is the first time you’ve not been with Juniper for awhile, huh?”
Grace met his eyes and then her expression narrowed.
“Yeah I guess it is. Want to make a big deal about it?” She asked.
“No. No,” Sigthyme said holding up his hands. “Just making an observation.”
“Well stop doing that,” Grace said before going back to her chicken bones.
There was a brief moment of silence before Sigthyme spoke up again.
“I know what it’s like to have a good friend my side,” Sigthyme said. “Tak and I have been traveling together for awhile. It feels strange not to be sharing another ale with him.”
Grace looked up but didn’t say anything.
Sigthyme continued, “Tak and I make quite a pair of fighters. He is the large intimidating muscle while I’m more of the talker. The diplomat you might say.”
“I would not say that,” She said. “You are a liar.”
“A liar?” Sigthyme asked. “When have I lied to you?”
“Almost constantly,” Grace said. “Your whole persona is a lie. I can tell that there’s something…something going on with you.”
Sigthyme flashed a smile.
“I don’t know what you are talking about,” Sightyme said.
“You might have the others fooled, but I can see it. You have a darkness to you,” Grace said, but her words began to trail off. “Just like me.”
She hung her head.
Another brief moment of silence hung before them before Sigthyme spoke.
“Juniper told me you were rescued from a couple of slavers. That must have been really scary,” He said.
“Yeah, I’m thankful for Juniper. She saved my life. Without her, I don’t know where I’d be.”
Sigthyme thought back to Brother Haxiss and the sacrifice he made to save Sightyme’s life.
“Yeah I know what you mean,” He said.
Grace just nodded again and the silence between them grew. Grace went back to her chicken bones and Sigthyme picked up his ale again.
Soon thereafter the owner of The Pilgrim’s Rest, Eva, made her way back over to the table.
“Group seems a bit low. Where is everybody else?” She asked as she collected dirty dishes from the table.
“Our friend, Riffen never showed up even though we agreed to meet here,” Sigthyme said.
“They went out to find him,” Grace added.
“Quite strange,” Eva said. “Maybe he got lost in the big city or maybe…”
“Maybe what?” Grace asked.
“You never know,” Eva said. “People going missing would be quite an oddity around here, but in a big city like Xylon, it does happen.”
“Missing?” Grace asked.
“Oh don’t worry. Like I said. It’s quite rare. I’m sure your friend is fine,” Eva said calming down Grace.
“Riffen is quite a strong swordsman. He wouldn’t go down without a fight,” Sigthyme said doing his best to help.
“Yeah. Right,” Grace said. “I hadn’t even considered that as an option.”
“Sorry,” Eva said before moving on to the next table.
As time passed, the bar began to empty out. Patrons with full bellies either left to go home or up to rooms they had purchased for the night. Sigthyme and Grace continued to sit at the table waiting for their friends to get back. As they did, Sigthyme noticed that a few tables away, there was a Dwarven man with a heavy cloak obscuring most of his face that kept glancing over at their table. Once Sigthyme made eye contact and he quickly looked away.
Sigthyme leaned in and whispered to Grace.
“Don’t freak out, but I believe there’s someone who really interested in us,” Sigthyme said as he kept one eye on the suspicious individual.
Juniper and Tak began their journey toward The Wicked Scepter, following the path through the city which Juniper had walked only hours ago. This time, most of the streets were empty and darkness began to completely cover the entire city. Oil-burning lamps lit up the streets and small pinpricks of starlight shown down, but for the most part, the city was dark.
“Glad you’re here with me, Tak,” Juniper said.
“Why?” Tak asked.
“Well it’s dark. We’re an unfamiliar city. It’s just good to have someone strong beside me,” Juniper aid.
“You strong,” Tak said. “Strong warrior.”
“Oh, thanks Tak.”
They kept moving, but Juniper felt a chill run up her spine. By the time they had made it to a now closed market, Juniper placed a hand on Tak’s arm.
“Wait,” She said looking around.
From what she could tell, there was no one but them in the marketplace, but some reason she felt like she was being watched.
“Danger?” Tak asked.
“Maybe,” Juniper said.
She continued to quickly scan the area.
Tak reached up and pulled the warhammer off his back. Even though Juniper knew it was usually discouraged to draw weapons within the city limits, she followed suit and grabbed her bow, loading an arrow.
“We don’t want any trouble,” Juniper yelled out.
“Trouble!” Tak yelled.
For a moment they just stood, staring out at empty streets, but there was a break in the silence. With a quick flash, a person emerged from the direction they came, moving at incredible speed. They lept forward and landed a few feet from them.
“Who are…” Junpier began to ask, but her words were cut short.
The individual kicked out her leg and swept under Juniper’s legs, knocking her to the ground. She slammed into the rocky street and the air was knocked out of her.
“Protect!” Tak yelled swinging his hammer.
The attacker ducked as the hammer swung over their head, doing no damage.
“Too slow,” A female voice sneered.
The attacked then focused on Tak. She punched him twice in the stomach doing minimal damage, but Tak felt his muscles lock up.
“Help,” Tak said unable to move.
“Get away from him,” Juniper said.
She got back onto her feet and took a few steps backwards while knocking her bow with an arrow. Juniper attacked by unleashing the arrow, but the attacker moved fast. There was a flash of a hand and she snatched the arrow out of the air. Juniper was shocked.
“You are really making it too easy,” The woman said before snapping the arrow in half. Then she ran forward, quickly making up the distance between her and Juniper. She unleashed another attack with her fists, striking Juniper twice. She had never been in a close-range fist fight and she was losing bad.
Tak eventually shook off the affect of the punches and swung his hammer again. This time it struck the attacker in the back as she wasn’t looking at she was slammed into Juniper. The attacker kept on rolling and used the momentum to get herself to her feet.
“So you do hit hard, with that huh?” The woman asked glaring at Tak. “No matter. I’ll show you what my fists can do.”
Again, Juniper picked herself off the ground.
“We don’t know who you are, but we don’t want to fight you,” Juniper said. “Stop fighting us.”
“The Boss wants both of you,” The woman said. “You, he’ll probably kill but he’ll make a great team member. We could use muscle like him.”
“Fight you!” Tak yelled.
He charged forward and the woman smiled as she raised her fists. Tak began to swing down his warhammer when there another voice rang out.
“Stop! All three of you!” A new woman, dressed in a flowing, rainbow dress, ran out into the marketplace.
She wove her hands through the air producing a number of arcane symbols and Junniper, Tak, and the attacker all froze in place, held there by magic.
“You are restrained by the authority granted to The Robinhearts,” A man dressed in all black wielding a shield and sword followed suit by standing next to the girl. “Do not resist or we will strike you down.”
Grace freaked out and immediatley began to look around the room.
“Someone is interested in us? What do you mean? Where?” Grace asked.
“Calm down. Act natural,” Sigthyme said. “We don’t want to draw any more attention to ourselves. Dwarven man behind you to your right. He keeps looking over at us. He’s not very sneaky.”
“Well what does he want?” Grace asked. “You don’t think he knows about me, do you?”
“I don’t know,” Sigthyme said. “But don’t worry. I’ll protect you.”
“I can protect myself,” Grace said placing a hand on the hilt of her dagger.
“Just let me help you, ok? Temporary truce?” Sigthyme said.
Grace met his eyes and could tell there was a small bit of worry and sincerity in his eyes.
“Fine,” Grace said. “But don’t get me killed.”
Sigthyme stood up from the table and Grace followed him. They carefully made their way toward the stairway up to the rooms, but as they walked, the Dwarven man moved.
“Excuse me, Sir. Don’t I know you from somewhere?” The Dwarf asked tapping Sigthyme on his shoulder.
“Sorry. But I don’t think so. I just one of those faces,” Sigthyme said while giving a quick smile.
“No I definitely know you from somewhere,” The Dwarf said. “Didn’t I see you over by The Wicked Scepter?”
“Actually we are new to town,” Grace blurted out.
“Right. Just passing through, now if you excuse us,” Sigthyme said.
The Dwarf placed a hand on Sigthyme’s shoulder.
“I’m pretty sure we are friends,” The Dwarven man said.
This time, when he spoke, his words seemed to have a weight to them. For a split second, Sigthyme almost believed that he and this man were best of friends.
“Hands off, freak,” Grace said.
She pulled back her fist and then punched the Dwarf across his face. He stumbled backwards knocking himself into an empty table before falling to the floor.
Sigthyme shook his head.
“He tried to charm us,” Sigthyme said.
“You should not have done that,” The Dwarf said as he used the table to get to his feet. His hands swirled with red, arcane energy. “Now I’ll have to kill you.”
Header Photo Credit to Home Brew Lesbian on Tumblr https://homebrewlesbian.tumblr.com/post/185914949086/redtallin-a-very-fun-commission-of-an-elven-monk