Fresh Scars

“What do you think of this rope? An excellent weave, I think. Silk. Very light. I’m tired of lugging around that heavy stuff all the time.”

He turned around from where he stood in front of a wall of climbing gear. Ropes of hemp and silk, pitons, picks, hammers. He looked at the orc woman across the room and smiled. She looked away from him and went back to examining the piecemeal armour on the counter.

“Do you think it’s worth the extra silver?” he said, “I’ve never been totally sold on it but maybe hemp is a false economy. You’ve got to have rope haven’t you? I mean, it’s practically part of the contract. All adventurers applying herein must bring their own rope!” He laughed, hollowly. “But, if we make it big next time I don’t want to be weighed down by rope when I could be filling my pack with jewels. It just doesn’t make sense, does it? No, I’m doing it. Silk rope it is.”

“Good for you,” she said, without looking up.

“I thank you for your approval,” he said, smiling at her, and walked to the counter.

She held an armguard of reinforced leather in her hands. It was a well-made piece. Tough but with sufficient give to allow a warrior freedom in her movements. She looked down at her own battered leather armour. It was scarred from sword blows across much of the breastplate and left shoulder. She reached her hand down to the damage on her right side. She ran her fingers along three long gouges that ripped across the armour. The claws that had done the damage had not broken through to her skin but the cuts were deep.

She put the armguard down on the counter and walked to the door. She stood in the sun and looked around her as people bustled by. It was a busy street for a small town. She walked slowly against the tide of movement and leaned against the wall of a building with a mortar and pestle sign hanging above the door. She looked up to the sky and breathed deeply. A passing human woman looked up as she exhaled with an audible sigh.

“Clear off,” she said to the passing woman who quickly moved on.

He walked out of the store, tying the rope to the side of his pack as he came. He looked around the street for some moments before seeing her.

“There you are. I wondered where you’d got to. Didn’t see anything useful?”

“You know I hate shopping.”

“But sometimes it must be endured. And I’m pleased with what I’ve bought. Could save my life this.”

“Is that right?” She stared at him. Her eyes fixed and hard. He looked away and down, his hand reaching for the pommel of the sword at his belt.

“Come on,” she said, “It’s hot. Let’s find somewhere for a drink.”

He looked at the sun, still low in the sky, as he followed her down the street.

The tavern was small and backed onto the river. She dropped her pack and unbuckled her axe, letting it fall onto the grass beside her. She sat down in a wooden chair that looked over the bank and stared at the thin stand of trees on the other side.

“What are we drinking?” he asked as he walked over to the door.

“Ales, I suppose. What do they have?”

He returned carrying two jugs. He handed one to her and they clashed them together, the brown ale splashing over the side.

“A local brew, I’m informed. Made with a touch of aniseed. I’ve never tried it but it’s worth a go.”

“It’s always worth a go, isn’t it?”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“You know.”

“I’m afraid I don’t.”

She said nothing and took a long drink.

“If you’re suggesting it was my fault, then,” he paused, “Well. I don’t know.”

“No. You don’t know. You didn’t know then either, did you? You always rush in without thinking.”

He set his jug down and walked towards the bank. He tumbled a stone into the river with his boot.

“I don’t think that’s fair.”

“Fairness doesn’t come into it.”

She drained her jug and stood up. “Another ale?”

“I suppose so.”

“Two more ales,” she called into the tavern.

“Where will we go next?” he asked, turning back from the bank and taking another jug from the barman.

“We need to inform his family.”

“Oh. Yes.”

“The truth.”

“Of course.”

They both drank deeply and looked at one another.

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