As Skrie headed up the stairs, a woman appeared at the top.
“I have to thank you for losing my lead for me,” the half-elf said, sarcasm dripping from every word. “I’ve been tracking her for over a week and you show. Now she’s gone. The way I see it, you owe me.”
Skrie looked at the woman and realized it was the same one she saw searching the wagon the previous night.
“Owe you what?” replied Skrie. “If you can’t keep track of your quarry, maybe you aren’t that good. I don’t see we owe you anything.”
“If your horc hadn’t run off with her in the wagon and you all chasing her down, I would be on her trail right now. All I want to know is where she was when you left her. Which way was she going?”
“We’re not doing your job for you. If you want to find her trail, go track her yourself. Last we saw, she was running through the woods someplace north of here.”
“Good enough,” the woman nodded. She walked down the stairs, past the halfling and toward the stables.
Meeting in their room, they discussed their needs and options and headed back to town. First, they headed to the leather worker, a man named Jarak, to repair Skrie’s boots. While there, Skrie and Malusk talked to him about building a saddle/harness so Skrie could ride on Malusk’s shoulder. They worked out a plan, and Jarak told them to come back the next day.
Next, they headed to the blacksmith, where he showed Malusk a preliminary version of his helmet with the visor. The blacksmith made some adjustments and notes and told them he would have it complete in the morning. Skrie and Garrick picked up their throwing knives, checking the heft and balance on the pells behind the forge.
Knowing they were heading to Irewick the next day, the group purchased supplies for the trip. They headed back to the inn, finding the tavern room mostly empty. A few miners were in the corner discussing their plan before their evening shift began. Merchants and farmers were having an ale before heading back to their families for the night. The bounty hunter still sat at his regular table, alone.
“Marko,” said a miner as the group was leaving. “Are ye leaving us soon? I’m looking forward to more of your tales.”
“No, not yet,” replied the man. “I’ll be in town another day or two if ye want to stop by later.”
Wanting to know more about him, Skrie disguised herself as an older halfling woman in dark armor, then approached the bounty hunter.
“I hear you’re bragging about being a bounty hunter.”
“I’ve done that work for a time or two. Just telling the locals the stories they want to hear.”
“Oh, all talk and no real work, I see.”
“No, no. Just telling what will keep my mug filled. I’d tell them I was a dragon hunter if they wanted to hear about that.”
“So, you’re a bard, telling stories for ale and food.”
“Bard! Ha! Prissy little things prick their finger on a string and go crying to mommy. I tell what I know. I done bounties a few years off and on, when the work is honest for honest people. So what about you? Never seen a Hin folk into the bounties. What you hunt, pixies, gnomes, rabbits?”
Skrie pulls out a dagger and juggles it around on her fingers.
“Cute trick. Can you do more than make them dance?”
She tosses the dagger at the wooden door frame and the knife sticks in the center.
“Hey!” Dayne yelled. “None of that in here. You could’a ‘urt somebody.”
“That’s pretty good against a door. What happens when a big horc or human comes rushing up on ya?”
“That’s when you big folk keep ‘em distracted while I stick ‘em from behind.”
“So what you looking for? I’ve been here a few days, just resting up. Will move off soon.”
“Looking for work. Thought you might have a lead on some bounty and want help.”
“I’m looking to get a crew together. My last crew decided they had enough of life on the road. They made some coin and are looking for something different now. So I’m… recruiting, you could say. But, I don’t have any bounties yet. May have to head to Irewick, or as far as Moongulf. Some woman was in here a day or so ago, passing around a poster of a horc. Told her I hadn’t seen him. She seemed to think he was staying here. There was one horc around a while back, but everybody said that wasn’t him. Then there was some trouble this morning. Those two over there,” pointing at Malusk and Garrick, “know more about what is going on. That human, and a young Hin, went flying out of here after somebody. They came back a bit later, all wore out. Come to think of it, haven’t seen that woman since either. Good riddance, as far as I’m concerned. She was working on a bounty from Freyglen province. Bunch of warlords and bandits themselves, if you ask me. Stiffed some friends of mine before. I won’t work for them. Word is they’re hiring a Black Finger clan or something. Bandits killing bandits is just good for everybody, in my opinion.”
Skrie heard enough from this conman.
“Thanks for the information,” she said as she walked toward the door.
“Hey,” yelled Marko after her. “What’s your name, if I need ya?”
Skrie pulled her dagger from the door and kept walking. Going around back and dropping her disguise, she walked to their apartment. The party spent the rest of the day preparing for their journey to Irewick to rendezvous with Geordo.
The next morning, Malusk and Skrie went to Master Jarak’s shop to finish fitting the leather harness. The leatherworker showed the half-orc how to strap the harness around his body. Then he made sure the seat pad didn’t interfere with the half-orc’s ability to use his shield. Finally, Skrie climbed onto Malusk’s shoulder and buckled her part of the harness into place. She had enough mobility to duck behind the half-orc’s shield and stretch up to fire her crossbow over the top. After paying for the makeshift saddle, the pair headed to the blacksmith for the rest of Malusk’s armor.
It was late morning by the time they returned to the inn. Garrick and Theren were waiting for them at their usual table in the common room. Felice brought an ale and a meal to Marko, who hadn’t looked like he’d moved since taking his seat before Skrie and Malusk had gone into Suncall. Dayne brought another lunch order out and delivered it to the group of miners that had come in for their midday meal.
“‘Ello,” said Della. “Cook has the special almost ready.”
“That sounds perfect, Miss Della,” said Malusk, showing off his shiny new tusk covers.
“Those look…” the girl hesitated, “impressive.” She gave Malusk a big grin. “I’ll have your stew out in a moment,” she said as she turned toward the kitchen.
Skrie waved Felice down.
“We’re off to our next adventure this afternoon, Mistress Felice,” she said. “We’ll get our gear after we eat, then say our farewells.”
Dayne came up then.
“We’ll miss ye’s,” said the big man.
“It were a pleasure, Master Dayne,” said Malusk. “Ye was right ‘ospitable to us.”
The proprietors left them to eat their meal in peace when Della brought out the trenchers.
To read from the beginning: Exploring Everine