The Quest for the Sword Of Justice! Part Three: The Barmaid and the Elf
This is now my NaNoWriMo 2016 project! I’ll be posting an update every day, all month long! At the end I’ll publish the whole thing as a book, if you’d prefer to read it all in one go.
The Rusted Axe was the only pub in all of Hillsvale, a small village that sat near the center of the King’s lands. The shadow of the walled fortress that was the castle and its surrounding city loomed in the distance on the horizon, as it did every morning. Living in Hillsvale meant living under the specter of wealth and success that was in constant view, just beyond reach.
It was a hardy village full of hardy people. For the most part.
Elena ran the Rusted Axe. She’d inherited it from her father. Her slender frame, long dark hair, and black eyes helped to hide the fire that always seethed within her. Anyone who tried to cross or underestimate her learned the error of their ways with haste. She fished around in her satchel, and found the big key that unlocked the front door of the pub. She put the key in the lock…and the door swung open before she turned it.
“Damn it. Not again,” muttered Elena under her breath. She quickly put the key back in her satchel and tossed it back over her back. She straightened her tunic, and the short sword slung in a sheath around her waste. In a calm, smooth motion, she opened the door and stepped inside, narrowing her eyes.
Three brigands sat at the bar inside. They were drinking Elena’s best ale.
“Hello boys,” said Elena, folding her arms and leaning on her left foot. “We aren’t open yet. You’ll have to come back in an hour.”
The one that seemed to be the leader raised an eyebrow and put down his pilfered drink. He stood up. “Well well well! There she is.” He drew his sword, walked over, and pointed it at Elena’s neck. She didn’t flinch. “We thought to take all your gold before you got here, but it seems you’ve got it hidden somewhere.”
“Of course,” said Elena. “There’s brigands nearby. Wouldn’t want them getting my money.”
The thief smiled. “Looks like we’ll be getting it now. Your plan didn’t work love.”
Elena rolled her eyes. “You men are all the same. You always draw your sword and point it at someone in a threatening manner. You’re too easy a target now.”
The brigand let out a huge laugh. “Oh ho! That’s a good one lass!” The other two men stood and smiled, drawing their swords. “I’m a target? I’m a target? I’ve got the drop on you, lady, so tell me where the gold is before I get to stabbing.”
“No, you’ve just shown me your hand, and what to dodge!” In one smooth motion, Elena crouched and twirled, unsheathing her short sword with her right hand. The point of the brigand’s blade sailed through the air that used to contain Elena’s head. Elena cut open the man’s knees, and he screamed, falling immediately to the floor.
She stood up, and shook the blood from her blade, pointing it straight at the floor. “Okay, who’s next?” The other two men stood, horrified, blades in their hand. “No volunteers? Fine.” Elena ran at the man closet to the bar. He swung his sword. It was no use. Elena deftly blocked the blow. She grabbed the mug the leader had put down on the bar and threw it at the man’s head, and he stumbled backwards.
The other man pressed forward. He lunged at Elena. She stepped to the side, and the point of his sword went into the side of the bar. Before he could remove it, Elena stabbed him clean through the back, and he fell immediately to the floor with a yell, his sword still hanging out of the side of the wooden counter.
The man who had been hit by the mug regained his footing. He glanced at his comrades on the floor, and held his sword forward with both hands. “You bitch! You’ll pay for this!”
“Not if I burn your bodies before the king’s guard shows up to collect disposal fees.”
Elena pulled a small dagger out of the back of her belt with her left hand. She threw it straight at the man’s face, and he dropped to the floor in a clanking heap. Elena sighed. “They never see that coming.” The leader was still rolling around on the floor in pain, grabbing his legs. “Be with you in a minute! Have to fetch my knife first, before I forget.” Elena pulled her dagger out of the man’s head, and placed it on the bar top.
The leader had squirmed around enough that he was now facing his two deceased comrades. He screamed a little. “You’re crazy, lady! We didn’t want any trouble, we just wanted your gold.”
“Anyone trying to take my gold is looking for trouble,” said Elena. “I’m not someone to be preyed upon. Now, to decide whether it’s worth keeping you alive to spread that message…Never seems to help honestly. Plus, you might never walk again.” Elena sauntered over to the leader and pointed her sword at his neck. “This is about how I’m supposed to do this, yes?”
“Go to hell!” shouted the brigand. He spat on the end of Elena’s sword.
“That doesn’t sound very pleasant, think I’ll pass.” Elena cocked her head and looked at the brigand. “Don’t recognize the mark on your tunics…guessing there’s not more of you coming?”
“No, just us. We work alone.”
Elena nodded. “Of course you do. None of the big gangs or thieves guilds would accept three men as incompetent as you lot. Bet you pray on old women and traveling merchants?” Elena put her foot on the man’s shoulder and gave him a little kick, spinning him to face towards the wall behind the bar. The wall was covered with shelves containing barrels, wine bottles, and a few loaves of old bread. “Sad thing is, I don’t even hide the money that well. You could have had it and been gone with your lives.”
She walked over to the bottom right barrel and pulled off the front of it. Inside were two small cloth bags of gold. “No one ever thinks to look back here. Always go for the drinks first. Quite sloppy.” Elena got distracted looking at the blade of her sword. It had intricate elvish lettering carved into the side of it. She thought she saw it glowing ever so slightly, even in the dim light of the bar. Her father had given her the blade.
“So, you’re just going to let me bleed out ‘ere on the floor then, are you?” shouted the brigand.
“Oh! Right, where are my manners?” Elena stabbed the man in the face, finishing him off.
She placed her sword on the bar top next to her dagger, then went to inspect the sword still sticking out of the front of the counter. She pulled it out and gave it a few swings, then inspected the blade more closely. “Bah, rubbish!,” she said to no one. She tossed the blade on the floor with a clang, then leapt over the top of the bar and started looking around the shelves underneath it. She found a mostly-clean rag, an started to wipe the blood off her weapons.
A few moments later, the door of the bar opened. An elf woman with short-cropped red hair stepped in, and almost tripped over the brigand leader’s body. “‘Oly ‘Ells! What happened ‘ere?”
Elena didn’t look up from her sword-polishing. “Morning Willow, we had a spot of trouble with some brigands, but I took care of it.”
“Oi can see that! What a mess, this. Have to burn the bodies b — “
“Before the king’s men come, I know. It’s Thursday, shouldn’t be any guards in for a drink till the evening.”
Willow bent down and started picking through the clothes of the leader. “Have anything good on ‘em?”
Elena shrugged. “Haven’t had time to search them yet. Cleaning up my weapons.”
The elf emerged from her search with a small pouch. She poured through it, found a few small coins, and a rolled up piece of parchment. She opened the parchment, and out spilled a pink crystal. “What you make of this Elena?”
Elena looked up for the first time. She scrunched her face a little. “Dunno. Looks like a rock.”
“Oh, you’re no good at this,” said Willow. She walked over to the bar’s lone window at the back side of the room and held the rock up to the light. It sparkled with all sorts of colors.
“Can’t imagine it’s worth much,” said Elena. “They were terrible thieves.”
“Well,” said Willow, “I think it quite nice. Can I keep it miss?”
“Only if you help me move the bodies out back,” said Elena. She held her newly cleaned sword up, smiled, and put it back in the sheath. She started on the dagger.
Willow’s eyes lit up and she smiled. “I were gonna do that anyway!” She quickly shoved the shiny crystal into a small pouch on the front of her belt. She noticed the discarded sword on top of the man near the bar, and quickly picked up the blade as if it were nothing but air. “Can I keep this miss?”
Elena raised an eyebrow. “Have you been practicing the moves I’ve been teaching you?”
Willow nodded. “Every day miss ‘Lena, no matter what me dad says.”
Elena narrowed her eyes. “Well…I was planning to give you a nicer one down the road, but I suppose it’ll make for better practice than the wooden one.”
“Yiss! I’ll take good care of it, I promise!” Willlow excitedly leapt into the air. Her long ears bounced a little when she hit the floor.
“Just make sure you put it away before any customers get here, can’t have you looking scary, it would ruin everything.”
“Right miss, oi understand!” Willow put the sword down on the end of the bar. She walked over to the brigand leader, gave his body one more quick look for anything of value, then heaved him onto her right shoulder with one arm, without so much as a grunt. She picked up the man in the center of her room with her left arm and put him over her left shoulder. “Put them out near the meat shed?” asked Willow.
Elena nodded, and Willow went bounding out the back door of the bar. Elena smiled. She never grew tired of seeing Willow demonstrate her strength. Elves were hated and shunned throughout most of the human kingdoms, and as a result most never learned of their many abilities. Their incredible strength was legendary once, many years in the past, and they were the most able of warriors. Most human pubs relied on large imposing men as bouncers, but Elena would take Willow over ten large bruisers.
Willow could stop a giant with her little finger.
Brutus and Barry the Goat finished their long wander, and came upon the village of Hillsvale. Brutus made his home here, in a small shack on the outskirts of the village. The King had repeatedly offered him quarters inside the castle, but he’d always refused. As Brutus often did his job well and was an imposing sort of man, The King agreed to his strange request to live amongst the commoners.
In truth, Brutus had grown up in the small beleaguered village, and had a hard time thinking of any other place as home. The short walk to the castle every morning and night also gave him time to think each day.
On the way to the village, Brutus noticed a small plume of smoke rising up from the direction of the Rusted Axe pub, and smiled to himself. “Elena must be burning bodies again, better go ‘ave a drink in a bit and see what happened.” He turned to his new goat friend. “Plus, we’ll be able to get you some carrots or something, some real goat foods, eh?”
Barry made a goat sound in reply. Brutus thought he detected a smile too. He nodded at the goat. “Good.”
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