Hunt - Chapter Twenty-Two
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21 Arodus, 4692 AR; Valor Sword Inn, Kenabres
21 Arodus, 4692 AR; Valor Sword Inn, Kenabres
Shadowshine let out a small huff of breath as Shayliss pulled him to a stop. As she predicted, there are even fewer demons prowling around the streets of the ruined city, but she still ran into some trouble reaching the building she now sat in front of. It managed to remain standing, even though physics and logic would dictate it be all over the street at this point. Massive holes had been blown out of the first floor and some of the second. What was not destroyed had deep gashes, scratches, and burn marks. No matter where one looked, they would find ash in layers.
Shayliss was not optimistic as she dismounted the black haired horse. She patted his side more to reassure herself than him, readjusted her equipment for the fiftieth time since she left Defender's Heart, and walked forward. Each echo of her steps made her heart beat heavily and sweat started pouring down her face. There were two hopes that kept her moving forward. One, that what she was looking for survived the attacks and two, that no-one else found it. Not only was it important to her, but it would be embarrassing if anyone else found it and knew it was hers.
She crossed over the threshold of the Valor Sword Inn and a blast of rotten and burned smells slammed up her nose. The sudden change of air quality caused her to cough out loudly. She was afraid that her coughs would alert others to her presence, but they were drowned out by raucous laughter from the second floor. Despite her need to continue coughing, Shayliss froze in place.
"Look at this!" A gruff male voice called out, hint of laughter still in his voice, "Ain't this a beaut!"
"Ooooh." A deeper than normal feminine voice glided down from the second floor as well, "She looks good."
"I'd certainly have some fun with that. Look at the sketch-work! Not only is the woman great to look at, but the drawing is perfect as well."
Heat not caused by the burned building around her pulsed from her cheeks. All of her fears came true. Two people had found her bag. While that meant it survived the attacks, it also meant that she would have to barge into the room, practically announce herself as its owner, and demand it back. That will not end well for her, no matter if she got out of it unscathed.
A shock of apprehension and fear shot through her body, paralyzing her. Should she just get out? Come back another time and hope that they leave the bag there? But it has her precious stuff in it. She has to get that back. Her indecision was shattered when she heard very interested grunts from above.
"Oh wow." The male whistled, "This guy went all out in his sketches. Look at those curves!"
After a few moments of silence, the female responded, "You want to keep it?"
"Damn right I do!"
Shayliss sucked in a breath. She knew exactly what they were looking at. The heat in her cheeks flared even more and her brain nearly shut down from the embarrassment. Her first instinct was to just bolt. There was no way she could show her face after what they just saw. But then something else shoved aside her embarrassment: anger.
How dare they take her stuff and paw through it? Did they have any sort of decency? She was about to show them the errors of their ways.
Pulling her longsword and grappling hook out, she carefully made her way to the central stairs of the inn that led up to the second floor. While she tried her best to keep quiet, the damage the building sustained made it hard to do, especially when some of the stairs threatened to disintegrate under her feet. Thankfully, though, the two bandits were too busy staring at her stuff to notice.
Stopping to take a calming breath right outside the door of her room, she then spun around and aimed her longsword at the two forms she found inside, "Don't move!" It was meant to be a loud bark of command. Yet, it came out as a squeak of embarrassment as she saw the papers they were holding.
Both forms shot up to their feet and drew their weapons. The left form was a tall, female half-elf. Her long, rounded ears were covered by medium-length blonde hair that looked ragged and tangled. Her leather armor hung loose on her body and Shayliss could see her skin doing the same. The spear in her hands was rusted and could break apart at the slightest touch.
The right form was a stout dwarf holding a warhammer and shield. His black hair was pulled back in a ponytail poking out from underneath a battered metal helm. Matching the helm, his full plate had many dents, scratches and gashes as if he fought off a horde. If he was in the city during the attack, then it would be no surprise.
Despite the pair's condition, they had a glint in their eyes that spoke of their experience. Shayliss was suddenly apprehensive about fighting them.
"Who are you?" The half-elf asked with suspicion.
There was no way Shayliss could answer truthfully, so she tried to growl, "I said don't move!"
The dwarf suddenly smiled, "Ah. Meldi, I think we found our artist."
Shayliss could feel her heart sink to the soles of her feet. At that, the dwarf's smile widened even more, "Yepper. Now, don't feel embarrassed, girl."
The heat continued to pulse in Shayliss's cheeks, "Who said anything about-"
Meldi cut her off, "Don't try to deny it." The half-elf's ears twitched in amusement along with her mouth, "It'll save you a lot of trouble."
Shayliss gritted her teeth in annoyance. Those two were having way too much fun at her expense and it was not pleasant.
"Now, don't get angry at us, girly." The dwarf held his hands up, "We only found the bag. You were the one that left it out in the open."
Her teeth ground together even harder. The temptation to bash in the dwarf's face was a great one. Seeing that, he lowered his hands but kept his smile, "There is no shame in embracing your... let's say 'wild side' every once in a while. Gods know I do." A small snort from the half-elf widened the dwarf's smile farther than humanly possible, "Besides, the artwork is wonderful. Exquisite line work and proportions. So, I have a proposal."
Shayliss blinked at that. It was a one-eighty from what she was expecting. So, instead of going on the offensive, like she probably should have, she asked, "Proposal?"
The half-elf nodded, "Yep. In the right hands, these could sell for a lot of coin. So, we will take them and not harm you."
The curiosity turned right back to anger, "Excuse me?"
Meldi's eyebrows lower, "Did you not hear me? I said that we won't be return-"
She was interrupted by a grappling hook slamming claws-first into her face. The force of the impact sent her off of her feet and crashing through a weak spot in the flooring. Sounds of cracking wood and breaking supports blasted from below and the dwarf stared at Shayliss who was pulling back her hook.
Shayliss gave him a pleasant smile, "Want to say that again?"
The dwarf growled and charged shield forward. Shayliss leapt to the side, still in the hallway, allowing the dwarf to hit the wall behind her. As he pulled hard to dislodge his shield from the wall, she flicked her grappling hook again. The metal claws opened this time and latched around the dwarf's shield arm.
With a yell, he threw his arm backward trying to send Shayliss off of her feet. Because of the enhancements on her grappling hook, though, all he did was pull the rope taut. With quick inspiration, she decided to just let go. The dwarf cried out as he was flung from his feet and landed onto his back. Surprisingly, despite the weight of his armor, he managed to bounce back up to his feet before charging back at her.
This time, Shayliss did not have her grappling hook to work with, so she ducked the mace swing that came next. At the diagonal swing, she arced up her blade to knock it back from the base of the mace's head. Wood splintered from the impact and Shayliss had a hard time yanking her weapon back out. That gave the dwarf time to reposition himself with his shield out front.
He held his ground as Shayliss swiped twice. Metal impacted metal and Shayliss let out a growl. There was no way she was going to get through this. There had to be something. As she defended herself, she looked around her surroundings, trying to find anything that would help. However, the dwarf saw this and fought even harder. Shayliss lost more and more focus on her surroundings as the mace swung down harder and harder at her. Each blow would have been a fatal one, or at least one that would break bones, if she let it. And she was no longer able to defend herself completely. Some of the force of the impacts broke through and left bruises on her skin, even under the armor.
In order to keep anything from landing on her, Shayliss started to step backward, making sure she grabbed the grappling hook from the ground. Wood creaked with each step and threatened to break under her. Which gave her an idea.
As she moved down the burned and destroyed hallway, she paid attention to the sounds she was hearing under her feet. They were different, sometimes normal creaking sounds, some louder cracks and some hardly anything at all. She was trying to listen for a series of loud cracks, the sign of a weakened floor. After a minute, she finally found it. She then stepped back a few more times and did her best to hold her ground.
It did not take too long. The strain of combat, demonic attacks and weight of the dwarf's armor was too much for the floor. Wood shattered and the dwarf suddenly leaned toward his left as his foot broke through. Granted, he only had a moment of hesitation and surprise, but that moment was enough for Shayliss to lunge forward and thrust her blade into his chest. It was not a fatal blow, but it was enough to give them the message of 'don't screw with me.'
The dwarf understood the message and dropped his weapon. When she saw that he no longer could fight back, she sighed, sheathed her weapon, and ran around him. She had not heard anything from the half-elf, so she assumed that the fall knocked her out. Seeing that all opposition was dealt with, she grabbed her bag, made sure all of her belongings were in it, and left.