Week #2 in our journey of this tandem story. If you missed it, HERE is week #1. As it was with last time, the blue text was written by me and the black text was written by Wendy Siefken.
A pair of unsavory figures made their way down the streets of Far Reach. Draped in dark cloaks they wanted to go unnoticed by anyone. They would rather the sun be down and the skies dark so that they could slink through the shadows.
"Foolish, this is. We travel by night, go unseen. Travel by day and too many eyes look upon us." The ratling lowered his hood to reveal his furry snout and tall ears.
The dark elf lowered his hood and glared at his companion, "That old wizard has offered ten thousand gold for this man, dead or alive. If we don't move now someone else will find him. You want the money?"
"Yes, yes, yes. Money good." the rat sneered at the elf.
"Then, tell me, where is he?" The elf asked with a bit of annoyance in his tone.
The ratling sniffed the air and looked around, he walked down another street and stopped, sniffed the air again, and then down another street. "This way, I think he moved."
"You think?" The elf, who had been silently following as inconspicuously as possible.
The rat glared at the elf again, "His scent, old memory. But, right, I am. He this way." the rat pointed a boney clawed finger down an alley.
"Let's hope you're right. We both have bounties on our heads in Far Reach and I want to be out of here as soon as possible." the dark elf put his hood back on his head and then unceremoniously yanked the hood back over his rat companions ears to hide him as well.
They slunk down the alley attempting to draw as little attention to themselves as possible. The vendors and patrons hardly noticed them, though few would have known the value of capturing either of them.
Little did they know that there was another person keeping up with them. Every time they stopped she stopped, and hid, every time they moved, she moved. She too was following a scent, theirs. The ratlings have incredible senses of smell, but so do their natural enemies, the cat people of the Tarra desert.
"Please, have a seat." Greta held out a hand for the two new comers to find a seat amongst the many available tables.
The dark elf smiled at her and slowly lowered his hood. "I am afraid we are not here to enjoy a meal. Just looking for someone."
Greta smiled as warmly as ever and started wiping off a recently used table, "And who might that be, young man?"
The elf walked toward her, distracting her while his companion sniffed around. "A man with an interesting tattoo."
Greta did not pause, stop smiling, or even flinch, but she knew exactly who he was talking about. "Oh, we have many patrons who have tattoos. You will have to be more specific."
The elf was not stupid, he could sense she was holding back, but he played along. "This tattoo is unlike any you have ever seen elsewhere. It is a map."
"A map you say. Fascinating. Sorry, no maps today. Perhaps you should try the docks." She gave him one last smile and then turned to leave.
The elf reached over and grabbed her by her collar and pulled her back. "Don't try to play me old woman. I am not afraid to hurt you."
"FINN! Found him....found him! Sat here, he did." The rat called out excitedly.
Finn turned the old lady around, "So, you haven't seen him?"
Now Greta was scared and her patrons were all starting to get up and step back. The elf pulled out a knife, a long serrated dark elf blade that was stained with someone else's blood already. "Perhaps this will help you remember. Now, TALK!"
Greta just about yelled for help when something flew right past her and hit the knife, knocking it clear out of his hand. Then he was hit in the side of the face by a sharp clawed hand. Greta was freed of his grasp when he jumped to counter strike against his assailant. But, he didn't get the opportunity. A bo staff was swiftly laid across his face and then at his knees. He was brought to the ground, out cold.
The petite feline girl stood there with her bo staff in one hand and a great big smile on her face. Her ears perked up and she turned at the same time that the rat tackled her and both went tumbling across the ground. When they stopped rolling, her staff was sent over the floor and the rat was planted on top of her, his knees holding her down. He made a terrible screeching sound and went for her face with his own claw; she caught it with her only free hand and then hissed with a harsh growl that showed an impressive array of fangs. He pulled up on his hand, which pulled her hand up as well. Once her hand was up far enough he did exactly what he planned and bit down into her arm with his big teeth. She screamed and struggled, but he had her pinned pretty good.
Out of nowhere the tip of a large scimitar slid right in front of the rats face. The rat could see his own reflection in the finely polished surface. As the blade moved, so did the rat, slowly getting up from the girl. Steffan stood there, in his bed clothes, pointing his weapon at the rat. "Hasn't anyone ever taught you, it’s not gentlemanly to bite a woman on the first date."
The rat attempted to use the element of surprise to launch an attack at the person he was after. But, Steffan was better and merely used the flat side of his sword to hit the rat in the face and send him sprawling across the ground. Now he too was out cold, lying on top of his traveling companion.
Steffan turned his attention back to the girl. "What are you doing here? I told you to stop following me back in Riverside."
“I had everything under control!” she said as she got up from the floor holding her arm. Gingerly Steffan assisted her up and walked her over to the seat he had occupied earlier in the evening. Though she had a cut on the side of her head from when she fell, Greta brought over some warm water and bandages for Steffan to use on the new arrival. With a sigh he saw the shape Greta was in and also had her sit while he attended to the two women’s wounds.
“Greta you could have just told them what they wanted to know. I can handle anything they decide to throw at me.” He said with a gentle smile playing across his lips.
“I wouldn’t tell those two scoundrels a damned thing! I don’t care how big or tough they think they are, I don’t betray my friends.” Greta said with a shaking voice.
Just then Gramps walked in and saw his wife with a bandage on her head. “What in tarnation is going on here?” Quickly he hurried over to her to check her over and hug her. “Steffan, who did this to her?”
With a quick jerk of Steffans thumb pointing to the two piled in a corner. Fire raged in Gramps eyes as he moved quickly to throw those bums out. For a wiry old man he was surprisingly strong as he hefted first one of the thugs out and threw them into the street and then the second. He then disappeared outside after them where muffled sounds of blows could be heard from the street.
“Amara, I told you to go home. I don’t want you to get hurt.” Steffan gruffly said as he gently bandaged her arm.
She winced in pain but refused to make a sound to let him know just how much it hurt. “I’m going to change your mind. You need me you just don’t know it yet. I can fight and handle myself very well.”
“Yes that is very evident right now.” He said as he tightened the bandage on the wound.
Amara put her hand on his arm to stop him and that is when she saw it. A small portion of the map on his arm changed. Since the room was almost deserted no one else saw it but Amara. “Look I am too far away from home for you to send me back now. I might as well come with you.” She said.
With a heavy sigh he stood up and looked at the floor. “I have to get supplies in the morning. It will be several months before we are anywhere near your home and I can’t have you out here fighting off those that are following me. At least with me I can keep a better eye on you, Greta would you please bring a mat up for her to sleep on in my room.”
“Oh no, I won’t have any of those shenanigans in my establishment! I will sleep up there between you two!” Greta said as she pushed her husband to the back of the Inn to get the mat for her and Amara to sleep on.
Steffans jaw almost hit the floor as the meaning of her words finally sunk in. “I, we, I!” throwing his hands up in the air Steffan stomped back up the stairs to his room. Amara and Greta followed along behind. It was all Amara could do to stifle the giggle that perpetually kept trying to escape as she watched Steffan huff and grump around the room and Greta made a fuss to position herself on the mat between her and the hulking man up on the bed.
“Good night,” Greta said sweetly before blowing out the wick on the lamp.
The next day Amara and Steffan headed out to the shops to gather the supplies they would need while out on a run. Surprisingly Amara needed very little supplies and what she did get she paid with her own money. Without saying a word, Steffan got what he needed for repairs on the boat that happened while out and also more straps to replace some worn ones used to tie down the cargo. Though the ship sailed on the air currents it could still get rocked back and forth and straps would often get worn and break. Losing a load is not a good way to continue to get work if that is your only way of making money. Soon they were headed back to the Inn to get one more good meal before they left for the high winds. Once more Greta brought over large bowls of stew with fresh baked bread smeared with creamy butter. Both Steffan and Amara relished every bite of the delicious meal knowing that it would be a long time before they got to eat this way again. Greta talked with all of her customers who came in and made sure to scold those who got too rambunctious or tried to any funny business. Today a large man sat in the corner and glared at anyone who tried to start anything.
“Who is that?” Amara asked in a side whisper to Steffan.
“That is Greta’s grandson, Renkle, but everyone calls him Tiny if you could believe, who heard about what happened last night and has decided no one will be making that mistake again.” He said scraping the last of his stew out of his bowl.
“Hey ole lady, I want a more of that crappy stew you are trying to force down us!” a young buck decided to yell out trying to impress his friends. He hadn’t seen the large hulking man in the corner and let out a high pitched scream as he was picked up from his seat and sent sailing out the door. The hulking man quietly went back to his stool in the corner and sat back down. Not a pin drop could be heard in the restaurant as everyone instantly settled down and ate their stew quietly.
Soon Greta came back over to Steffan and Amara and shook her head to them. “I still don’t like the idea of you two being on a ship all alone and no one to protect her virtue.” Greta said.
Amara almost choked on her drink when she heard the last words spoken. Steffan patted her back with a smug smile on her face. “I will do my best to be sure her virtue stays intact.” He said which caused even more coughing spasms to come from Amara who thought to herself, “I’m going to die before I even set foot on his ship!”