The “Mercenary’s” Return

In The Pony

“YOU!” A familiar voice shouted at her from across the room.

So, the mercenary returns, Eruviel mused with a smirk. Retrieving her wine glass from the bar she turned, taking a thoughtful sip, and met the glare Threz sent her way with an arch of her brow.

You,” he spat as he hobbled across the room, brushing past the bard and taking a swing at her head with his crutch. “This is all your fault!”

Eruviel frowned slightly as she watched the knob of the crutch sail past, inches from her face. “What am I being blamed for, my friend?” Glancing down, a flicker of concern passed through her eyes as she surveyed the foot that he favored.

Threz growled and jabbed his crutch at her again. “Talking me into doing something stupid and heroic! That’s whats what!” He took a breath and looked around the room, before adding quietly. “Okay, so it’s not really your fault but still . . . I’m ticked.” He ordered a meal and drink and then waved her over as he limped off to a far table.

Eruviel stared after the man, lost for words. Unable to contain herself she burst out a merry laugh and followed after Threz. Shaking her head and smiling, Eruviel sat herself down on a bench across the table from him. Taking a drink of her cider she shot him a curious look. “So you were heroic and blame me? I would think that would be something you would want to take credit for yourself,” she said, grinning.

Threz gingerly propped his bad leg to one side. “My foot is broken,” he said matter-of-factly. “I had to lay in bed for three days in Trestlebridge after they fished me out of the river.” He shook his head and let out a deep sigh. “You didn’t even flinch when I almost knocked you over the head. The nerve . . . took all the rage right outta me.”

Doing her best to keep back a grin she said, “You are fortunate to have only broken a foot, my friend. And three days . . . you do recover rather quickly.” Eruviel swirled the liquid in her glass. “I did not think that you would actually strike me,” she added casually. Her eyes narrowed slightly, giving him a knowing look before continuing. “When did you return to Bree?”

“Got here earlier today,” said Threz quietly. “Nellie found some exceptional herbs to help me out and I made my way back as soon as that stubborn woman would let me climb on my horse.”

Eruviel nodded her head curtly. “She is a very kind woman, and very skilled at healing. Nellie did right to keep you here.” She then chuckled and raised her glass towards Threz. “You would have been more angry with me, and we cannot have that.” She knew all about the herbs . . . about his whole ordeal, actually. The healer in Trestlebridge, Nellie, had sent her a message as to Threz’s condition after overhearing the man quietly complaining about the elf. The medicine was from the Lady Cwendlwyn, originally meant to help dull the pain and aid in the healing of Eruviel’s own broken bones. Her ribs were mending swiftly enough that she sent half of the pouch of herbs north with her response. Threz had done the people of Trestlebridge a great service, so it was the least she could do for him. Watching him dig at his dinner she hoped that Nellie had indeed kept silent about the medicine and the letters.

Threz glared up at her, leaning forward. “So after you left Trestlebridge, I went and checked out the orc camp. Just to take a look and maybe pick off a good nine or ten of them. That was my plan. But I found some rope bridges that lead to a larger camp. Massive.” He lowered his voice. “There must have been at least a hundred. And they had . . . siege towers.” Threz rested his forehead in one hand. “If — if I’d been on a job, thinking business, I never would have been so stupid as to risk my life but . . . I just –I,” the man stammered, obviously frustrated. “I snuck in and set fire to some of the towers. Nearly got killed before I could jump into the river and escape.”

Eruviel ‘s smile vanished. “I had heard rumors of this. It seems as if their numbers increase every time a band of fighters or soldiers clean the camp out. Did you see how many siege towers?” She set her wine glass down and pursed her lips as she mulled over the new information.

Threz looked up at her. “Maybe five. And a ballista. I wasn’t thinking at the time. I panicked and thought they were going to be used against Bree. But that doesn’t make any sense. First off, they’d never get them across the trestlespan, they’re too big, and second, Bree is surrounded by a hedge. It’d be far easier to just burn it to the ground!” Threz shook his head as he leaned back in his seat. “Either they are bound for somewhere else, or there must be another route to Bree that I haven’t thought of. Something farther east perhaps.”

Valar, where do they all come from? Her eyes drawing back to the present she nodded her head in agreement. “I presume those would most likely be used against Esteldin, though I do not doubt that the fighters there already know of the threat.” She looks up with a frown. “If Bree were to be attacked it would most likely come from the south or east. The advantage at this point in time is that Bree-land is swarming with soldiers and fighters wielding thirsty blades.” Looking around the busy common room she took note of those who wore blades, who didn’t, and those who she felt certain had them hidden on their person.

Threz bobbed his head thoughtfully, “I do not yet know Estilden, but you do not seem worried abou-” He breaks off and slams a fist on the table. “But that’s not the point! The point is, that . . . that . . . this isn’t my war. I’m not getting involved unless I’m paid to!” He crosses his arms and looks away. “If I’d been thinking about that I wouldn’t have wound up in that river, and broken my foot going over that waterfall!”

Eruviel quietly assessed the man for a moment. He reminded her of dozens of men, good warriors every one of them, who failed to turn a cold shoulder. So much for being a mercenary, she thought kindly, her face calm and unchanged. He has not been hardened so much by the world to simply take advantage of others misfortune. I do hope it stays that way. “And what were you thinking, Threz?” she asked, reaching to pick her glass back up.

Threz put his head down on the table for a moment. “I’m thinking that until my foot heals I’ll be relegated to jobs like catching turtles for some cook on the other side of town or something like that,” he said with dismay. “How do you do it Eruviel?” he asked. “You’ve been here healing for weeks! How do you pass the time!? Of course . . . you are an elf. I guess you are blessed with greater patience than I.”

Her mouth curved up with a sympathetic smile. “Some times I question the capacity of my patience. What do I do? I have friends to drink and laugh with, I have a roommate that I worked to keep alive in spite of my wounds . . . . I sneak out of town when I know my healer is not present,” she then smirked, “and the last few days I have taken very long naps.” Oh, blessed sleep!

It was Threz’s turn to frown. “Friends would be nice to help pass the time, I guess. Although, suppose they ask me to help them with something for free — ah, well, I reckon for friends only it would be worth it . . . .”

Eruviel ‘s mouth widened and she tossed her head back, letting out an amused laugh. “That is the thing about friends, they should never cost anything. It is a free and equal exchange of camaraderie and respect.” She then wrinkled her nose slightly at the man, her eyes sparking with amusement. “I do hope this conversation is free of charge.”

Threz smiled a little mischievously. “It is. I didn’t think to charge you before passing on the info regarding the towers . . . my loss I suppose.” He looks around. “Guess you are right. I haven’t had a friend since I left the Dale-lands. Before then actually. Those what didn’t die fighting orc raids left to join an army or explore the world. Guess I was the last one out the door.”

Eruviel nodded. “I can understand that.” She smiled encouragingly over the rim of her glass. “Though, you did step out of the door. Many never make it that far.”

‘”And look where it landed me! Limping around Bree with a broken foot!”‘

“That broken foot is simply a welcoming gift!” she chuckled.

Threz’s face turned serious for a second. “From now on I’m only going to participate in this war if it’s a paid job. Or for a friend. But I never said that last part!”

Eruviel nodded, feigning innocence. “You never said what?”

Threz took a deep swig from his mug and set it down hard, “Darn right!”

Eruviel raised her glass only to find it empty. Glancing to it with disapproval she looked to Threz and rose from her seat. “Pardon me for a moment.” Walking to the bar she stopped beside Forthogar who stood enjoying his own mug of cider. For a moment she wished she were not preoccupied. She had missed Forth’s company in the midst of the past weeks turmoil. Waiting for Barliman to refill her wine glass she noted his combed hair, and that he looked a little less world-weary than he had before. Making tentative plans to meet up later she gave him one more warm smile before walking back to the table. The poor, injured Threz still sat on his bench, though he appeared to be falling asleep over his dinner plate.

Glancing around the room as she sat back down she wondered where Anya found herself that night — anticipating another merry eve before the hearth at home, laughing with Eirikr and speaking of a more hopeful tomorrow.

(This conversation was taken from in-game RP and edited for tense and exposition.)

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