When she came to, Callindra saw the ceiling of an unfamiliar room with her right hand cramped on Brightfang’s hilt. She sat up; she was in a narrow room, lying on a bed with a rough straw tic. Sounds of others waking and moving about in nearby rooms reached her ears shortly before a familiar voice tickled her ears.
“Apprentice, I regret I was unable to see your triumphant return. Those Inquisitors were waiting for me and found you instead. Fear not, they will now believe you dead. Be careful, this town I have brought you to is unknown to you. The room in which you stay is mine and therefore yours as long as you want it. I will find you when it is safe, do not look for me.” With that Glarian’s voice faded and made her wonder where he was now.
Callindra stood, sheathing her sword and stretching as best she could in close quarters. Her stomach rumbled and she hitched her baldric off a spot that had rubbed while she slept awkwardly and made her way downstairs.
The common room was bustling with activity, serving wenches bringing tankards of beer, water and wine to patrons as well as platters of bread and sausages. She sat at the end of a table and a rounded young woman sauntered up almost immediately.
“Wha’ cn I get yeh then?” She asked.
“Beer, bread and sausage. And water if you please.” Callindra replied, conscious of her ragged appearance. “Is there a bath house near? I’m long overdue.”
“I’ll say.” The girl gave her a languid wink, wrinkling her nose, “Got un onsite. Yeh got in late las nigh? Stayin n Master Sol’Estin’s room?”
Callindra nodded, “Yes. Do you know when he’s expected?”
“We don’ know when he’ll come, but we allus know when he do. I’ll get yeh food n then summat cn show yeh to th baths.” She set a tankard of sharp ale on the table and made her way through the throng, handing out more beer as she went.
“Mind if I join you?” A man with a mass of blonde curls and an inviting smile asked, standing across the bench from her.
“Sure. I’m Callindra.” She took a drink of her ale, idly tightening the buckle of her baldric.
“Karath.” He replied, extending a hand, “You here for the trials then?”
“Yeah.” She had no idea what he was talking about, “You too?” She said, grabbing his forearm with a swordsman’s clasp.
“Oh, I’m smarter than that. Last year I came here with delusions of grandeur about the Duke’s Guard but soon discovered it was way too much sitting around and not enough actually doing anything.” He snagged a foaming tankard from a barmaid that passed by. “That’s why I’m a caravan guard. The work is relatively easy, the pay is good enough and you get to see the world.”
Oh, now she knew where she was, Duke Gladthorne’s Holding also known as Thornehold. He held a hiring faire every year, and due to the wide variety of swords for hire that showed up it had come to be called Blademeet. The Duke did generally skim the cream off the top of the pool of warriors, but there were plenty of others who showed up as well. Mercenary companies, wagoner’s, small town militias and even some of the local Lords began coming to fill their needs.
Gods and Demons, she was nearly three hundred leagues from home! How had she gotten here? Glarian apparently had some sway here, the room in which she stayed was his and the inn staff didn’t seem to be upset about someone staying in it.
“I did not mean to throw you off girl, try for the Griffins if you must.” Karath said, taking her silence for rebuke, “Seems to me like a place someone like you just wouldn’t fit in.”
“I’d sooner be in the Wolves.” She said, thinking of the elite raiding party the Duke kept for his most dangerous or discrete work.
“You? In the Wolves?” Karath threw his head back and laughed merrily, “Nay youngling, you’re far too green for them. Besides, the Duke’s men are too serious.”
Callindra bristled and only barely managed to keep her temper in check. Even so a gust of wind swirled her short, tangled hair and tugged at Karath’s cloak.
“I mean to make something of myself, not waste my life sitting on a wagon hoping for a bandit attack to break the monotony.”
“I’ve heard the same before, no harm in trying. If you change your mind, I’m with Raven Company. East side of the Market, you can’t miss the banner.” He tossed a few coins on the table for his ale and wove through the crowd to the door.
Callindra couldn’t help but notice the smoothness of his steps and as her eyes traveled over his slim form was almost shocked to see a heavy axe on his belt. He carried it so naturally she hadn’t even noticed it was there.
A serving girl set a thick clay plate down with a resounding thunk, it had a pair of thick sausages straining against their gut casings and three thick slabs of still warm bread slathered with butter. Realizing how famished she was, Callindra set to with a will. When she had finished, the girl who collected her empty dishes scooped the coin off the table as well.
“What do I owe you?” Callindra asked, realizing she didn’t have any coin.
“This’ll do. Karath done fer yeh.” She replied, “Bathhouse’s through th back, second left an all th way t th end.” She indicated a door with a jerk of her head and swept back through the crowded room.
It took Callindra a moment to understand that the girl meant Karath had paid for her meal. She shrugged uncomfortably, now she was going to have to find Raven Company just to pay him back once she found a way to earn some coin herself. She stood and bit her lip in consternation. The clothes she was wearing were rough and worn, obviously made by someone without proper tools or supplies. Her hair was matted and …
She took a deep breath, reminding herself that she was a warrior. Nobody would dare mock her appearance once they saw her skill with a blade. Squaring her shoulders, Callindra made her way to the bath house for a good soak and scrub.