Hello once more, fellow adventurers, and welcome to another week of Hyrkanian Insight, in this first day of a brand new year. As I don’t think many of us will have a head for much thinking I thought I’d entertain you with a little story of how this woman spent the last night of the year and the strange circumstances in which she awoke the next morning…
Now, before we proceed, I ask you to kindly bear with me during this attempt at storytelling.
Atop one of the highest buildings overlooking the docks and the Common District across the river, sat a small woman with raven black hair and a piercing gaze, sweeping the sights ahead and below. With her back against a wall and knees propped against her chest, she stared, reflecting over the past year of which last night was precisely that day. It hadn’t been such a bad year after all; admittedly she had been captured at the beginning of the year causing her little adventuring party to separate as she was dragged away to be sold as a slave in the dreaded Tortage, home of pirates and all sort of outlaws. At first the prospect seemed not appealing at all, but after a few days of traveling it proved not so bad and she even found the experience entertaining: not every day is one fed and cared for, travelling for free and having the opportunity to meet a lot of new people. She didn’t care that some of them looked at her as some sort of property that could be acquired. She knew in her heart that she’d never be a slave, her captivity was only temporarily.
A gust of wind ruffled her hair making some locks fall over her face. With a distracted gesture she moved them out of the way, her attention caught by some loud voices down in the street (undoubtedly some cheerful commoners celebrating.) The diminishing light let her know that there were just few hours left before the next year started. She shifted in her sitting spot, wondering whether she’d find the Cimmerian in the city tonight; though being honest with herself, she wasn’t sure she’d want to meet him tonight as their encounters were unpredictable and could end either with them drunk or fighting savagely for some reason or another. Sometimes even both.
Many other events had happened along the course of that year; but even in the loneliness of that spot, she refused to let them creep into her mind. Shunting the memories to the back of her head, she pulled herself to a standing position, stretching her arms and back lazily, taking a deep breath and letting the air out of her lungs slowly before approaching the edge of the roof. With uncanny agility she descend, using the heavy plants covering the walls of the building, then landing softly in an alley not far from a main street, where she joined those scattered villagers hurrying to some party or maybe the Green Man Tavern. Her steps carried her towards the Noble District where she knew the purses would be heavier and their owners less careful than on a normal day. Walking through the shadows cast by buildings she silently crossed the gates without problem, avoiding the guards patrolling the area as she headed to the Armsman Tavern. Not that she was known, but the less attention she attracted the better; by experience she knew that what isn’t seen, can’t be reported.
Little did she imagine what she would encounter upon her arrival at the Armsman. Despite the closed door and windows, a loud noise could be heard from outside as she approached; voices, shouts, laughter and what seemed like crashing furniture. A wild party must be going on, the woman with the short black hair thought. Without hesitation, her hand rested on the door handle to open it and enter. Out of instinct she ducked an empty flying beer mug and the sight that greeted her was not at all what she had expected in the Noble District. Regardless, after the first moment of surprise, a wicked grin spread over her face as she sneaked along the wall, avoiding the fright that seemed to have involved almost all the customers present at the moment.
With the practice of years her nimble fingers freed some extra weight from unwary patrons, immediatly secreting away her gains under her belt. Soon enough she felt satisfied enough to settle at a table at the very back of the main room and order some wine, watching the ongoing brawl from a relatively safe position. A towering shape appeared to her left and leaned over her table, showing a calm indifference to the surrounding chaos. All her senses became alert immediately, as she raised her hazel brown eyes towards the man. She recognized him immediately, his faint lopsided smile ever present, his eyes lowered towards her. Her hand (that already was grabbing the hilt of one of the daggers hanging in their sheaths at her sides) relaxed slightly, not moving from there though.
– I thought I might find you here, maybe. Care sharing a drink?
Her head tilted slightly to one side as she watched him appraisingly once more, her eyes taking in every detail. A smile curved her lips as the man sat without even a word after gesturing for a mug. The black haired woman wasn’t sure how he managed to be seen by the serving wench, who appeared a few minutes later with a large mug of bear, foam spilling down along the tankard. For a while they both stood there, sipping from their drinks, looking at each other in silence and keeping an eye on the comings and goings of the tavern. After the first drink came a second and a third, and soon enough both of them lost count of how many drinks they had had, chatting over this and that. Everything became a blur and at some point they both stood up and left.
Little did she remember when she awoke some hours later to the strangest sight she ever had witnessed, and for all the gold in Aquilonia she was unable to recall how or why she had ended up in such a place. Where, by Bel’s fingers, was she? A nasty pain shot inside her head and she grabbed both sides with her hands, muttering a curse under her breath; but all she managed was to liedown again, closing her eyes and quickly falling fast asleep. It was just a bad dream. She was sure, she’d wake up in a random room in the tavern again…
(To be continued…?)
(Disclaimer: I couldn’t resist using the image of the tavern brawl (above) for, in my opinion, it is one of the best concept art pieces I’ve seen from any game yet. Since the first day I played Age of Conan I loved it)