I can't remember much of the past few days. I merely know that I awakened near a tavern. The smells of honeybread filled my nostrils as I was taken to a time that reminded me of my mother's home baked pie. Clearly, I am in a new land. I chuckle as I think of what I'd had to do to get here. The smell of blood continued to hang in the air as I laughed a little louder. What was this new place and why had I been transported here? My head hadn't cleared from the ringing. That damned alchemist had surely messed up the concoction. Regardless, my need to egress from my father's domain had been great. If only he could know what I do now, I'd surely kill him with shame.
But even I'm not that cruel to twist the knife so deep. Better for him to know I were scouting for our queen than my true motives.
But first, a spot of tea for a rousing headache.
I did my best to ignore the plight of a man that already had too much. What tavern would literally run out of ale at so early in the night? I hailed down on of the serving wenches, interested only in sleep in the night.
"Ye be a funny one. An' yer coins be a sad lot. Ye'll need 4 of em ta make up fer our own."
My eye twitched. How in the nine hells was a bar wench going to tell me the exchange rate? It was insulting. I'd been in four different lands, and my best negotiations were at the most 2 to whatever their coin was. A smile creeped upon my face as I looked at her while my face got closer to hers. I ran a hand in her hair as a dagger appeared out of my leather.
"I must admit. You are a charming one. But I must ask, where do you keep your gold, hmm?" Her face looked on in terror, not quite knowing the situation with the dagger, but fixated on it nonetheless. "I believe... The going rate in this land is 2?"
A hand crept onto my shoulder. "It's whatever she says it is. I keep the rest."
I looked at the hand, calming the need to fight. There was power to that hand, I could feel it. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the girl calm down just a bit at the sight. There were only a few people that could do that...
"I see. So were you the one to have her call me out in the first place?" It would have been a fairly standard greeting if I didn't think about who could have snuck up on me.
"Only as the situation was allowed." He'd given the right answer.
"Until the end."
I'd been muted except to the king himself. There was only one land known for a truly "pragmatic" king. Kalladen. Curse the nine gods. Might as well use it for what it's worth.
"I'll need a place to stay."
"This tavern will be the base. You have been employed to assist in this quest. The pay will be fairly handsome should you prove even one-tenth of your loyalty. Also, don't ever threaten one of my subjects again."
I laughed silently. "The king knows me too well. Clin, at your service."
"Spare the fake names. I only need you to do what's needed."
I didn't know which was worse. Being tricked by a higher assassin, or going on a quest reluctantly. I did scoff. "No damned scouts to work with?"
"Dumbass Donkeys will do. You seemed to fit the description."
I looked at him, ignoring the girl. I assessed him and the chances of the antidote to this particular poison of the mouth being on his body. He was a king, with extra defenses and what seemed to be at least 5 people behind him.
"Fine, I'm in. But I'm not going anywhere until I get some rest. Unbeknownst to the people that live on hills, I had a project that didn't work quite so well."
He looked me over, seeing my condition for the first time. My face was bleeding from a scar on the right cheek. The alchemist had cut it to finish the ritual to send me here. I had no tattoos since I had been a youngling to my organization. I needed to prove myself. Though I towered over the king, he radiated an aura that told me any attacks would have been futile. Tall and scrawny, I'd be great for running. Looking around the tavern, it became apparent why he picked me out. I was one of the tallest people and had actually branded a weapon to a barmaid. I really needed to control my temper...
I noticed a boot was cut down the center. Something about the spell had gone awry, leaving me with bruises and who-knows-how far I was away from home.
It seems I needed this job more than I cared to admit.
"We go in the morning"
With that he walked backwards, not taking his eyes off me. Damn king is sometimes too smart for his own damn good...
A scruffy bearded man walked up behind the king. "And you brought me here knowing there was NO F____ ale within the last few horse's paces?!" Almost instantly, a hand shot up to the man's face as if he were in agony.
The king merely rubbed his eyelids and slowly shook his head. "F____ druids."
I tilted my head to the side. Odd company of the king. He didn't seem like he was all there. Most druids I had known (before jumping onto their backs from the trees) didn't seem to be quite as animated as our friend here. And when the hell did druids like to drink?
"But I NEED, my MEAD!" He caused quite the scene that day. I slowly pulled out a knife, not knowing what he'd do. But if he ran at me...
"Look, we get some in the morning. We talk to the tender, see when the shipments---"
"I killed him already! Do you not UNDERSTAND that?! How the H___ can you call yourself a tavern when you have NOTHING here?! I fixed the problem, I'm burning this place to the ground!"
People began to get up to leave as the King motioned for them to calm down. "He ain't burning anything." I began to smell a scent of wood burning that wasn't there before. The king turned around. "Look, we need this place so we can kill those damn druids. Remember how they were killing the trees? Remember how they scorched the earth to the east?"
The druid's eyes narrowed. The earth in trouble, he was on their case.
"Them first, then we can have you commune with nature."
I shook my head. "We'll need a few things first. Supplies must be short"
The king rolled his eyes. "No s___, we're short on stuff. You try traveling with the Earth Mother with an itchy trigger finger and whoever else thinks they can fit into this dysfunctional family." I almost felt pity for him. Almost. Then I remembered he was the only one that could hear me.
"Who the hell are you talking to?" The druid asked.
"Our new scout."
He sized me up pretty quickly. "A little scrawny for a warrior"
"He's built to run"
"No second weapon"
"Needs his free hand for throwing"
"Can't be a real man with a sword?"
"This coming from someone with the smallest dagger in the world?"
"And why the hell DOESN'T HE TALK?!"
All the while I stared at him. The guy had his gut. Judging from the ale intake, he was probably inebriated most of the time. The only question I had was what he did with the natural look. Although he wasn't much to look at, there was much more to the story than what I was getting from anyone else.
"That's easily fixed." His nails came up towards me, causing me to instinctively go for my dagger. A small rake pierced the skin as I put the dagger right next to his throat. He didn't flinch at all. A small chuckle escaped his lips, rubbing slightly against the dagger and causing a small trickle. "The little boy isn't afraid like most other scouts. I guess he'll have to do, unlike the last one."
I tilted my head to the side as I wiped part of my blood away from the scratch. "Next time I tell someone to get away from a damn Kraken's den, I hope they listen because I am not in the mood to save them from their own stupidity." The king moved into the main room. "I'm going to check on our other members. Both of you, sleep now. I won't be waking anyone up for tomorrow and you don't want to stay here past midday. The keep is --"
We both stared at the disheveled one. Almost as if to say "What?", he answered. "Yeah, I killed him for having no damn ale, remember?"
The king rubbed his eyes. Wearily he muttered something about "taking care of it later" as he left us two alone.
I didn't have much to say. He eyed me and all I could do was watch.
"Put down your toy, boy. I don't have time for idle threats that you can't possibly back up. If I had wanted you dead, I'd have done so three candlemarks ago" I watched his jugular like a lion watched a gazelle just before the strike. It would have been so easy but it seemed we had other things to worry about rather than our own petty squabbles.
I put the knife away from his vein, giving him a twirl before tucking it in my side pouch.
"Since this is to be a one sided conversation, it'd do you well to meet the others, boy"
The frustrating thing about this entire affair was the very fact that I couldn't tell him NOT to call me a child. He walked out of the room, walking with an aura of a person that wasn't to be trifled with. I followed, perhaps a little intrigued as to where the confidence came from.
Before we entered the tavern, I could hear the rowdiness. A fight had broken out yet again and the tavern keep wasn't in any place to stop it. The smell of mead and ale wafted to my nostrils as the faint smell of copper tried to intrude. Maybe I was imagining the smell of blood...
When I entered the room, I watched a man with shoulder length hair standing in the corner, his hawk gaze sweeping the area for extremely rowdy trouble, not worried about the small brawl in one corner. A serving girl tried to entice him with her dance. With a simple wave of his hand, she tried to pout. One look from his stare caused her to stagger back as if he had hit her physically. When she left, he casually went back to sweeping the room.
The hawkman saw the druid. "Nexus" A grin escaped the lips of the druid. Nexus... I'd heard that name before even in my lands. But from what?
"Meet the Scout"
We looked at each other. He was taller than I, dressed in a doublet, which made him stand out. The small shield around his back and the two weapons on his pouch in the front ensured no funny business. I couldn't help but notice the pouch full of gold on his left side, closest to the shield. If he ever died, I wanted the dagger and that pouch, shields be damned. The necklace he'd had wasn't as ornate as his dagger, but it implied that he'd worked hard for his pretties. He wanted people to know that he could kill with them as well.
"He doesn't speak" He didn't have the baritone of Nexus, but his voice carried the weight of the king. Obviously, this was one of his best knights. "Does he have an important mission?"
I noted the question. It seemed that in this land, Muting someone was a prerequisite to being able to travel long distances in the convey of the King.
Nexus let out a laugh that nearly stopped the one sided stomping of a poor man in the corner. "You expect him to tell me of something that isn't mission important?"
Sebastian half smiled. "Perhaps we'll understand this better later on." Nexus shook his head. It seems we'll have to give this young one a name. He can't give us one other than boy right now."
I shook my head. I may be silenced, but I'll be damned if I didn't know a few things. I sat and wrote down my one of many names.
"Jay, as in the bird?" Nexus laughed. "What kind of man is scared of a bird?" I eyed him, blinking twice. I had been wearing red while in the experimentation room. It allowed my enemy's blood to go unnoticed when a few mere droplets spilled from their cervical vertebraes. No matter how clean the entry, blood does make a mess. Usually it's a beautiful sight, but only when the evidence isn't around to convict you. Sure I may fly in the night faster than armed guards, but a few nights of terror in a city always made the blood pump before moving towards the next target.
Nexus had no idea. I merely smiled. I knew I had a lot of malice in it, but I didn't care. The possibilities that lay behind a victim with simply a dagger and a heel toe step couldn't match that sheer look of surprise on their face as they realized you were the last thing they ever expected to see. He looked at me yet again as he laughed realizing I had merely shrugged off his taunt. "It seems this little bird has a lot more secrets than I expected."
Sebastian merely shook his head. "Welcome to the team." He looked at me as a professional knight, going over a written testimony. "Tomorrow we start to head out to take on whatever has been killing the local populace. It seems that recently a parchment of some sort was found and we need to figure out the location of the enemy." He began to walk out of the tavern, healing the busted man's face that had been pounded on not one half mark ago.
"Eh, no more fun to be had with a mute. See you early, pup."
I was left in the bar to my thoughts. I decided against ordering anything. Of course I knew Scout hand signals. what concerned me was the scar I kept on my left hand. In my lands, that was a sure sign of a thief. I was more than that, but didn't want to risk too many people knowing who I was.
How would I get back home, I thought as I retreated to my own room. Perhaps this quest knew the answers I needed.