The tension in the air lingered as Eirikr left the inn. She watched him as he strode away, a considering, neutral expression carefully fixed on her face. For a brief moment she thought she saw a shadow follow after her friend, and she thought about making pursuit but not all the tension left with him. There were still a number of patrons in the inn and if any of them had been watching every move she made would be scrutinized.
Sitting back in her chair Eruviel twisted her mouth as she watched the door of the inn for another minute, drinking slowly from her ale. Licking the moisture from her lips she glanced around with a casual air. No one looked her way at the moment. Downing the last of her drink she rose to make her way towards the innkeeper. Carefully winding around the filled tables she silently thanked Eirikr for choosing this inn. The few looks she got were just that; no off-colored comments or drunken hands were directed her way.
Leaning against the bar she made small talk with the owner as she ordered a meal to take up to her room. She rented two rooms, in fact, and paid handsomely that he keep her presence there a secret. An elf maiden on her own simply cannot be too careful in such troubled times.
Taking her things with her she made her way up the stairwell, finding the first room. She would check the second in mid-morning, when any drunks or cut-throats would be sleeping. A narrow bed stood against one wall of the small chamber. Two chairs and a small table filled the middle of the floor between the bed and a small fireplace and in the empty corner stood a wash basin filled with steaming water. Nodding once in approval she glanced down the hall one last time before closing the door behind her.
– – – – – – –
The hour was late . . . or was it early? Eruviel wasn’t sure, but the horizon gleamed pink and gold in the growing morning light when a nearly inaudible scratching sound pulled her from her dream. It was a particularly peaceful vision and she was loath to leave it, but the lock on the inside of her door turned slowly with the faintest click.
Her undone hair swayed behind her as she silently rose from the bed, her pointed ears somehow more obvious as they jutted out through her wavy brunette locks. Wrapping a sheet around her she secured the corner of the cloth under her arm and drew her sword from where it rested on the table. There was no time to get dressed, but the element of surprise was indeed hers. Gliding over to the door as it slowly pushed open she stopped it’s progression with her bare heel and stuck the tip of her steel blade into the darkness of the corridor. An inch beyond a man’s throat swallowed.
“You have the wrong room,” she said cooly.
“I don’t think I do,” replied the stranger. He shoved against the door and, deciding she preferred not to have her foot pinched, she pivoted back as he stepped in, only to have her blade once again at his throat.
“You will leave my quarters, sir. How dare you intrude upon a lady, especially at such an hour,” she hissed in offense, forcing the hooded man to take a step back.
The man’s body tensed, and she could make out the outline of his gawking eyes beneath his hood. After a moment he seemed to regain his composure some and clenched his fists. “Who was the man you spoke with tonight?”
“I spoke with many men tonight,” she said flatly, painting a frown of confusion over her brow.
“The one who sat with you earlier in the common room,” the intruder grunted in frustration, advancing a step.
Eruviel relaxed her shoulders slightly, her brow furrowing. “I don’t know who he was,” she responded with a faint scoff.
“You bought him a drink and touched his shoulder,” he grumbled as he batted her blade away with a gloved hand.
“I merely have an empathetic nature,” she spat, ducking under his hand as he lunged to grab her. Stepping inside his reach in the blink of an eye she drove the pommel of her sword into his gut, forcing him back out into the hall. “I should beat the life out of you for intruding on my privacy. I cannot believe an elf maiden would be treated with such disrespect,” she huffed with the tone of injured pride.
The man clutched at his stomach for a moment, not having had time to brace for the blow. “What did he talk ta you about?”
“Why is it any of your business?” she demanded with a haughty sniff. “And who are you to barge into my room and ask me about a man I don’t know?”
A cruel smile played over his mouth and he drew back his hood to reveal an angular, lightly tanned, scarred face. “That’s my business, elf,” he spat as he moved for her again, his main hand moving to his side to draw a knife as he missed grabbing the sheet around her by inches. “I’ll get my information one way or another!”
“He wanted to hire me as a sell-sword,” she responded in an irritated tone as she moved. Switching her sword to her left hand she parried his attack and dove for him, slamming her fist across his face. The man staggered back, falling against the wooden wall of the hallway. She raised a hand to clutch his jaw as he stared at her in shock. “When I refused he quickly left, as you obviously saw,” she said accusingly.
She saw the fight drain out of him as she stood in the doorway with the most noble air she could muster, her free hand catching the sheet before it could fall. “Now if you will just wait a moment –” she did not finish her words, letting her slamming of the door speak for itself. Throwing on her clothes she snagged up her sword belt, returning the blade to it’s sheath. Opening the door once again the man had just folded his hands over his chest, obviously brooding as she stepped into the hall and locked he door.
“What a bunch of worthless –”
“It is your own fault,” she huffed, interrupting him as she made a show of buckling her belt around her waist.
“You gotta know something,” he muttered as he watched her, his eyes traveling up and down her form several times. Eruviel could see he was at odds with what to do with her. She’d better make up his mind for him.
“I do,” she said airily as she walked down the hall, him close at her heels. “He looked like all the rest of you humans but had much better manners.”
The rugged man stopped on the steps, squinting down at her in frustration. “You’ve caused me a lot of trouble, and that’s all I get,” he said quietly, a threat darkening his tone.
Turning she looked up at him with an amused smirk. “You, heruamin, did that yourself. You could have asked me for my apparent wealth of information in a hundred better ways than what you choose.” He opened his mouth to protest and she quickly cut him off. “But, since you have broken into my room, attacked me, threatened me, and seen me in the most, on my part, undesirably vulnerable state, I do believe you owe me.”
The man arched a scarred brow at her before shrugging in defeat. “What ya want?”
Resting her left hand comfortably on the handle of her sword she smiled back up at him. “You will buy me breakfast and show me around town,” she said pleasantly.
“Now listen here, lady!” The man barked, reaching out to grab her shoulder.
Whirling around she smacked his hand away and glared up at him. “I will not listen! You have offended me in one the greatest ways possible and wasted my precious time. So unless you have something better to do at such an ungodly hour of the morning you will happily oblige me.” It was times like these she was glad for the edge being an elf gave her.
His jaw ticking, the man nodded curtly, finally slipping his knife back under the folds of his jacket. Brushing past her he trudged begrudgingly down the rest of the steps to the common room. “C’mon, then, lady. Let’s get ya somethin to eat.”