With a sigh, she squared her shoulders and led them downstairs. The eyes of hundreds of people followed them as they entered the common room. An obviously freshly scrubbed barmaid led them to a table without them having to ask.
“I love the music.” Trying to soothe the nervous maid as she leaned Shadowsliver’s naked blade against the table.
“Yes, Lady.” She said, bobbing an awkward curtsey. “Drinks? Food?”
“Please,” Callindra replied, inclining her head in what she hoped was a regal manner. Reed was obviously trying not to laugh. She pulled a handful of gold coins from a belt purse that shouldn’t have been able to fit her fist, let alone that many coins, and put them on the barmaid’s drinks tray. “Bring us some of whatever that heavenly roasting scent is, any vegetables you might have, some mead, some ale, and a round for the bar as well.”
This last pronouncement brought a ragged cheer from the patrons close enough to hear her. She smiled in what she hoped was a magnanimous way. The barmaid looked at the gold and glanced behind the bar. Hagar nodded, and she smiled, striding away to a chorus of calls for drinks.
When the food came, it was far better fare than they’d had in months, and the drinks were as good as any they’d tasted. The music continued, including some dance numbers, which added to the carnival atmosphere. A few people started to dance and soon first Reed, then the other men at the table were pulled onto the dance floor. Callindra sat, half wanting to join in and half relieved that she wouldn’t have to.
“If you put up your steel, I’d love a dance, Lady.” A man dressed in clothes that, although clean, had noticeable wear marks from where armor straps were usually cinched. He was extending a hand that had clear sword calluses on it.
“Ah, well, that’s not really possible,” Callindra said, feeling a bit out of place in her fine clothes. “We’re a bit joined, and I don’t have a sheath.”
His eyes followed the chain on the hilt to her right wrist with interest. “Why no sheath? That seems awkward.”
“That would be a long and dull story, why don’t you join me for a drink and tell me about yourself instead?” She poured him a tankard of something random and gestured to an open seat.
He looked at her with a raised eyebrow for a moment before sitting, his foot moving to kick the scabbard of his longsword aside as he sat. Callindra blinked; she hadn’t noticed that he was wearing a blade. It moved like it was a part of him.
“Lady Callindra!” Reed sat down, his face flushed from drink and the exertion of dancing. “Who’s yer friend?”
“Apologies, I fear I neglected to introduce myself.” She stood and offered her hand to the man, “I am Callindra Sol’Estin.”
“I know who you are.” He said, rising himself. “Perhaps we’ll meet again.” He spun and moved off into the crowd.
“Who the hell was that?” Reed asked, “He seemed like a rude bastard.”
“I don’t know.” Callindra said, “But I’m sure he’s going to be trouble. He was asking me to dance as a pretext to get me to leave my sword behind.”
“You’re talking even fancier with the fancy clothes on.” Reed grinned, “But you still get suspicious of anyone who tries to part you from that blade. I think you’re just getting jumpy, relax and have some fun.”
“I somehow doubt having fun would be seen as very ladylike,” Callindra said with a sigh, remembering Rrayu’s voice telling her about posture and poise. “I’m supposed to keep up appearances, you know.”
“You’re carrying a sword chained to your wrist.” Reed scoffed, “Nobody’s gonna think you’re much of a delicate flower.”
“I can tell you’re not a woman.” Callindra said, “We’re rarely taken as seriously as we should be, especially when we’re dressed in pretty clothes.”
Reed looked at her, a quizzical expression on his face. “Damn. You gotta point there. Your sword doesn’t look normal, and that chain looks a lot more delicate than it really is too. I guess most guys would probably think it was just for show.”
“Precisely, young master.” Callindra picked up her goblet of mead and looked at him over the rim before taking a sip. “Just as they likely misjudge you due to your age.”