The smoke from the battle in the small village blew in our direction. I stared down the hill that Jerak foolishly charged. He was now long gone. Oh, crap! Did he just run down there by himself? Yes, he did. Bolam and I just stood there looking at each other. Seeing people in trouble and then seeing my new friend running down to help them caused guilt to run heavily through me.
I bit my lower lip and drew my two swords running down the hill after Jerak. The cowardly and logical side of me knew that it was really stupid, but I did it anyway. Bolam followed behind me, which I think he knew was stupid as well. We both ran behind a store for cover. We needed a moment to figure what to do next. We took a few heavy breaths and looked around. No one had spotted us- Good! No sign of Jerak- Bad!
“We should sneak inside and keep out of plain sight,” Bolam whispered.
I nodded and held my weapons close as Bolam slowly opened the back door of the building. I leaned in and peaked inside. It looked like a small back room that held a few barrels and crates of extra supplies. I held my breath and slowly walked inside the room. After taking a few steps into the room, from the corner of my eye, I saw a man kneeling. He appeared to be taking things from one of the crates and shoving them in a sack. I slowly walked toward him. I must have messed up or he just happened to be looking up at the wrong time, but at that moment I saw a man with a black mask.
The black mask covered his entire face and only had an opening for the eyes. It appeared to be made out of blackened leather. He stared at me and stood up. I could see he was pulling out his sword. I gritted my teeth and lunged at him with both of my short swords. I could feel them hitting bone and softer parts of his body. His body froze as well as mine. A sickening feeling went through me as he slowly fell to the ground. I felt my blades gliding through different parts of his body as he dropped. I stood there staring at his corpse and the blood still dripping from my short swords.
I couldn’t believe I had just killed someone. I mean, choguls and ghouls were at least monsters. My stomach was feeling a bit uneasy. This just felt so weird.
Bolam put his hand on my shoulder, “Come on let’s keep moving.”
I took a deep breath and moved toward the main section of the store. Something told me that I would have to kill more before the day was over.
The main room of the store held a few shelves of dry goods and tools. Bolam and I crouched down behind the large counter and peeked over. There were two more of them, looting and shoving all they could into sacks.
Bolam whispered to me, “You take the one on the left; I will handle the one on the right.”
I exhaled. I felt nervous but I nodded and somehow crawled toward the left-hand side of the counter. I glanced over at Bolam who was charging up some new spell. My heart was racing, but I held my short swords tightly and made my move.
The Shaden turned right before I slashed at him with my left hand. He let out one cry of pain and leaned forward at an angle. Without hesitation, I stabbed his back with my right sword. The other guy quickly took notice but fell back as a fireball nailed him. Neither of them had a chance to take out their weapons. It felt too easy. My body was still shaking from it all. I was completely unnerved, my pulse pounding rapidly.
Bolam walked over, “Help me move the bodies, I have a plan.”
Bolam and I dragged the two corpses behind the counter of the shop.
I wiped the sweat from my brow. “So what’s the plan?”
Bolam pulled off one of the masks, “Here put this on and put on his cloak as well.”
I wasn’t too wild about the idea of wearing something off a dead man, but at the time I really didn’t have a choice. I put on the mask. It reeked of sweat and the cloak was almost as bad.
Bolam smiled, “Good. Now, I will stay here and you go out and lure them inside. If we are lucky, we can take them out one by one.”
I raised a brow but couldn’t really think of a better plan.
I walked outside of the shop. I hoped the plan would work. There were several people running away in fear and a few men in black masks chasing them and causing total chaos.
One of them ran by. I waved at him and shouted, “Hey! Come help me for a minute!”
He stopped and jogged over. “Eh? Find anything good?”
I walked in and hoped he was foolish enough to follow. He took a few steps inside and spotted a bag nearly filled with loot.
“What is it?” he asked while bending down to check what was inside.
I pulled out a short sword and jammed it in his lower back. He made a sickening gurgling sound as I twisted the blade and pulled it back out again. I was cringing the whole time.
Bolam helped me drag the guy out with the other ones. He looked at me. “Are you alright?”
I lifted up my mask and took a few deep breaths. “I have never killed anyone before.”
Bolam patted me on the shoulder. “I know it is rough, but think of it this way. How many more innocents would suffer if you didn’t dispose of these?”
I nodded and felt slightly better. “Thank you, Bolam.”
Bolam smiled, “There are two kinds of people, those that help and those that ruin. Don’t pity those that choose to ruin.”
Bolam was right. These were not humans but vile beings that just happened to look human.
The second time I walked out to lure one of them in, I didn’t see anyone. I walked back in and shrugged my shoulders. Bolam whispered loudly, “When you get one inside make him follow you away from the front door and I’ll get him.”
I nodded and grabbed a sack of loot. It seemed like a good idea to pull the sack out into full view. Whenever one of the humans passed by, I could just claim that there was another sack inside and couldn’t carry both. A few moments went by and, even though I could hear the chaos, there was no one close enough to get their attention. I sat down the sack and sighed until I heard some kid screaming.
To the right of the store ran a young boy screaming as he was being chased by two Shadens. It was only a blur, but I could tell that kid was in major trouble. I took out my swords and chased after them. I ran to the side of the store that shared an alleyway with another small building. I barely saw the two run around the corner. The kid was still screaming. When I made it around the corner, I saw the kid on the ground holding a small crossbow. Behind him were a couple of barrels and crates. It looked like he was cornered. The two Shadens slowly advanced on him.
“Put down that crossbow and we won’t hurt you,” one of them spoke calmly.
The other chuckled, “Yeah, put it down or we will cut you up!”
They both laughed. It seemed that the kid was too scared to fire his crossbow. I clenched my teeth and ran toward them. I jammed both short swords in the back of one of the Shadens. He let out a brief scream and fell. The other one turned. He knew that I wasn’t one of them. He lifted his sword and came swinging at me.
Our swords clashed as I parried his blow. I swung my sword at him to counter, he blocked that. He leaned forward and slashed at me. I parried again with my left sword, but he was more powerful than a chogul and my left hand was jarred by the force. This had left me open, but I moved in my right blade he was forced to block it. By the time my left sword came into range, he moved with a thrust. I jumped back and hit the wall behind me but, thankfully, didn’t get run through.
I made a wild hit as I dodged him and made a shallow slash at his face. I drew only enough blood to anger him. He leaned back, ready for another attack. My left blade thrust toward him but only struck his hilt. My left sword locked with his. I held on as tightly as I could, but he was much stronger.
He was using both his hands and I was slowly losing my grip. The Shaden grunted loudly and knocked the short sword out of my hand. He lifted his blade. I could see satisfaction in his eyes until my blade sunk into his throat.
I knew there would be major blood flow from that part of his body but I was still surprised at just how much sprayed out on me. He dropped his sword and barely covered his neck before dropping onto the ground. That was intense!
That was a real fight and I could feel a boost to my ego. The other guys didn’t really have a chance to fight back, but this guy… wow! I was actually better than him! My victory celebration was cut short as I heard a snapping sound and felt an intense burst of pain in my right thigh.
“Sorry! I didn’t mean to!” the young boy apologized.
My leg gave out and I dropped to my knees. A few tears came out of my eyes and I could see a bolt sticking out of my leg. I cringed and pulled off my mask to get some air. The boy stood there with an unloaded crossbow and shock on his face. I grunted then forced myself to smile.
“It… is . . . fine.”
The boy dropped his crossbow. “I am so sorry sir!”
I barely touched the bolt and felt a bit more pain from the slightest touch. Yes, this really hurt!
My wound was bleeding quite a bit. I really didn’t know how to safely remove a crossbow bolt without doing more damage. I wasn’t sure if I could tolerate the pain of it. Thankfully, I learned basic first aid when I was a boy scout and applied pressure outside the wound to help halt the blood flow. I leaned back against the wall and looked at the kid. He looked concerned but something else took his attention. I turned my head. Just down the alley stood a freaking huge minotaur!
Holy crap! That guy was huge! The minotaur had short black fur and wore armor made with plates of iron. In his hand he carried two war hammers and looked like he knew how to use them. The minotaur stared down the alley at us.
He roared, “You dare face the Shadens? I, the great Torkuhl, will tear you apart!”
I turned my head, “Hey kid! Go get…help…”
The kid had already run off. I was so screwed. I couldn’t move my leg and this massive thing was walking over to end me really quick. If I wasn’t going to die from blood loss, it would be from this guy.
The minotaur took a few more steps and stopped, “Eh? Who might you be?”
I saw that he wasn’t looking at me but someone beyond my field of vision. It was Jerak!
Jerak stood there in a confidant pose and smiled, “Fool! I am Jerak… oh hey, Blake!”
Jerak waved a little and saw my wound, “Oh man! You got shot!”
The minotaur grunted, “I will break you both!”
Jerak took a few steps and with a cocky grin taunted, “Oh? You really think you can take me on?”
The minotaur snorted, “You are not even worth my time, puny one!”
Jerak raised his eyebrow, “I guess those horns go deep into your brain! If you knew who I was, you would be running now!”
The minotaur snarled, “Fool, why would the mighty Torkuhl be afraid of some human weakling?!”
Jerak paused for a moment and appeared to be searching for a snappy comeback. He pointed his mace at him, “Well… uh you have a dumb name!”
After the exchange of bad insults and boasts, Jerak and Torkuhl charged each other. Torkuhl swung both of his war hammers and hit nothing but air. Jerak jumped out of the way and countered but, to Jerak’s surprise, the minotaur was more agile than he looked. Torkuhl leaned out of the mace’s range. He swung with one hammer but Jerak ducked. Then came the other hammer. Jerak blocked it with his buckler but the sheer force caused Jerak to fall on his back.
Torkuhl was clearly too seasoned to let such an opportunity go to waste. Jerak soon saw the bottom of one of Torkuhl’s large hooves. I saw a brief look of surprise from Jerak as he quickly rolled away. The sound of the hoof slamming into the ground demonstrated Torkuhl’s power. He could surely crush Jerak. Torkuhl grunted and tried again. Jerak was already in a rolling stance and had little trouble dodging. I sat watching the large minotaur stomping away as if performing some crude dance as Jerak rolled back and forth for dear life.
I had to do something! Jerak didn’t look like he could last much longer. I knew that I was next in line for a beat down. The pain in my leg surged erased any hope of walking away to get help. Wait a minute… the crossbow! The crossbow was still lying there and with any luck there would be a few bolts lying next to it. I bit my lower lip and bore with the pain as I leaned over and grabbed the crossbow and a few bolts. Now there was some hope.
It didn’t take too long to figure out how to load it, but I was afraid that the bolts wouldn’t do any damage to something as massive as Torkuhl. I loaded the crossbow and aimed. I was already feeling light-headed from blood loss and I knew it would impair my aim. I lined up what I hoped were the sights on the crossbow and aimed at the base of his neck. I squeezed the trigger and heard the snap. The bolt went flying past Torkuhl’s head. Aw, Crap!
Torkuhl paused briefly. He clearly noticed I had tried to shoot him. He looked at me and bared his teeth. Oh, crap! The only thing I accomplished was making him angry. The bright side was that Jerak took that moment to get back on his feet. Torkuhl turned and barely blocked Jerak’s attack. The two pressed their weapons together until Torkuhl grunted and sent Jerak reeling back. I reached for another crossbow bolt.
Jerak charged at Torkuhl. The minotaur waited and prepared to counter. To Torkuhl’s surprise and mine, Jerak stopped half-way and turned to go around Torkuhl. Jerak moved around and slammed his mace right into Torkuhl’s side. The minotaur grunted and made a wild swing at Jerak. That caused the monster some pain, but it didn’t stop him.
The fight was now facing away from me. I had trouble telling what was really happening but I could see Jerak moving side to side and the minotaur’s arms flailing about. I struggled to sit up. I pressed the pressure point on my thigh above the wound and with my other hand lifted the crossbow. Let’s see, I aimed at the base of the neck and the bolt shot off to the left. I might have been able to figure out how to aim at this thing but keeping the crossbow steady was a challenge.
Jerak moved around the minotaur and got hit by a war hammer. He ran back toward me and took several deep breaths. The two of them stopped for a few seconds to catch their breath and stared down at each other.
Jerak smiled, “I will defeat you in my next move!”
Torkuhl leaned his head back and scoffed, “Oh? You think you even have a chance?”
Jerak pointed his mace at the minotaur and ran toward him.
The minotaur waited, but for some reason Jerak ran toward the back of the building next to him. To my surprise, Jerak jumped at the wall and did some acrobatic move repelling off the wall to get high enough while still holding the mace with both hands. He was now at an ideal height and looked like he would swing downward straight into Torkuhl’s skull.
Holy crap! He was going to do it! Jerak was freaking awesome! Apparently, Jerak misjudged the distance between him and Torkuhl. He fell short by a few inches then fell flat on the ground.
Torkuhl laughed and kicked Jerak. Jerak let out a painful cough and rolled forward from the impact. Torkuhl took a few steps and placed his hoof right on top of Jerak.
“Nice try! You’re still no match for me!” Torkuhl taunted as he lifted his hoof and aimed it straight at Jerak’s face. Jerak appeared to have the wind knocked out of him and was not able to react in time. I lifted the crossbow with both hands but didn’t have time to aim.
The crossbow snapped and I saw Torkuhl lean back yelling in pain. Yes! I hit him! He leaned forward to display a bolt sticking out of his right eye! I cringed at the sight of it but was pleased with my luck. In a fit of rage and pain he staggered back and pulled out the bolt. That made me cringe even more. There was a bit of flesh still attached to the bolt and I could tell it was his eye! The minotaur covered his wound and, with his only eye, glared at me.
Torkuhl took a step but then a war cry a short distance away filled the air. He turned his head in the direction of the sound and grunted loudly.
“Gah! I will get my revenge!” he yelled as he ran away. A moment later, Jerak picked himself up and caught a glimpse of Torkuhl before he disappeared. Jerak seemed a bit out of it and gave me a grin. I started to feel really dizzy and remembered I needed to keep pressure on my wound.
A few men arrived on horseback and, from the look of their armor, they were part of Halatross. Bolam came following behind them. Jerak stood up and brushed some dirt off his clothes.
“Jerak! There you are!” Bolam called out.
Jerak smiled, “Where were you? Blake and I defeated a minotaur!”
I laughed, “I got a bull’s eye!”
I kept laughing at my own pun until dizziness overcame me and I found myself falling over. I must have blacked out before hitting the ground.
I woke up in the back of a small wagon. My head was spinning and my leg still throbbed with pain. I looked down and saw a large bandage over my wound.
“Well… the bleeding shouldn’t be a problem anymore. We must be mindful of infection,”
An old man in common clothing said.
“Oh, hey! How are you doing?” Jerak asked when he saw that I was awake.
I could see Jerak and the old man standing there using a wagon as an operating table. Bolam was standing a short distance away talking to one of the Halatross guards.
“Hey…!” I really couldn’t think of what else to say at the moment.
The old man walked over and smiled, “My grandson told me you saved his life… and that he was sorry he shot you.”
I laughed, “Oh really?”
Jerak chimed in, “Wait, a kid shot you in the leg?”
The old man chuckled, “I am glad you are alright. To show my gratitude, I will treat you and your friends to some good food and rest until you are able to walk.”
One of the Halatross guards walked over to me. He looked over at Jerak and me and gave us a friendly nod.
“I heard you men have been causing some trouble with the Shadens.”
He handed me a small note. I had no clue what was written on it.
He smiled, “When you come to Halatross just show that note to the bounty office and you guys will get your reward for a job well done.” He flashed us a smile and walked away.
Jerak grabbed the note and read it, “Hey! Not bad! Man if I knew the bounty price on Shadens was this much, I would have hunted them long ago!”
He handed me back the note and I just laughed.
Evening fell and we found ourselves sitting at a large wooden table in the old man’s house. The boy’s parents were there to greet us and eat with us. The food was exceptional! We had some game bird with fried potatoes, roasted vegetables, fresh bread, and gravy. It was the best meal I had had in a long time!
We told our hosts about our trip to the bog. We didn’t mention anything about my helmet or the fact that I was from another world. Jerak started to brag about the ogre that he fought.
After our meal, cots were set up for us in the main room.
Bolam walked over, “Thank you for the meal, but I must head back to Halatros”
Jerak laid out a blanket over his cot, “Wait… you’re not staying?”
Bolam shook his head, “I am sorry, but it is really important for me to finish my work and head back to Vunash.”
I was already lying on my cot, “I am sorry to see you go.”
Bolam handed me a small pouch, “Here is your payment, it has been great to travel with you two… If you guys ever return to Vunash, feel free to see me at the mage school.”
Jerak smiled, “Alright! We just might have to bug you!”
Bolam nodded at me. I felt a bit sad to see him leave. “Hope your leg gets better soon Blake… well you know what I mean.”
I smiled and waved, “Goodbye, Bolam. See you later.”
After Bolam left, Jerak and I laid in our cots, chatting about Bolam and the things we had done. The cots weren’t that bad; they even brought us some really fluffy pillows! I could hardly stay awake after resting my head on them.
“So Blake, what are you going to do once we get back to Halatross?”
I flipped my pillow over to get the cool side. “I really don’t know.”
I looked at the pouch that Bolam had given me. I didn’t feel like checking inside to see how much I was paid.
I sighed, “What do you have in mind Jerak?”
Jerak smiled, “I don’t know yet. But we have some time to figure it out.”
I slept so well regardless of the pain in my right thigh. There was no need to stay up and worry about something lurking in the shadows. Halatross’ guards kept a patrol in the area which made me feel really safe.
We awoke in the morning to a breakfast of fresh fruit and fried ham. The old man was still very thankful. I really didn’t want to abuse his hospitality. I offered to help out, but was refused because of my leg.
“Don’t want that wound to start bleeding again. It would be easier for me if you rest it,” he would tell me.
Jerak however, helped by hauling things for him. I was left on my cot, totally bored.
At that moment, I remembered I still had the piece of paper with the alphabet from this world and mine that Bolam helped me with so I could learn to read his language. Working on this alphabet was not my idea of fun. I always had trouble staying focused in school, but there was nothing else to do. When lunch time came, I put away my piece of paper and joined them.
Jerak walked in, “Hey, Blake! Has your leg healed up yet?”
The old man walked in from behind laughing, “It will take him awhile before he can even use a crutch.”
Jerak turned toward the man, “Naw! Blake is a fast healer… er… wait.” Jerak realized that he might have said too much about my ability to heal faster than most people. Thankfully the old man didn’t catch on and we had our meal. We ate bread and some bland soup but I was thankful.
The old man shared that he was a veterinarian and that he also fixed up people. He went on and on about his work to the point that Jerak and I zoned out. I smiled and pretended to be interested. I could tell that he enjoyed the conversation more than I did. I had to elbow Jerak so he wouldn’t nod off.
Afterward, the old man checked my leg for infection. I feared he would notice my rapid healing. There were no signs of infection, which was good. I wasn’t sure if that should even be a concern in my case.
Two days had passed as I spent the time sleeping, eating and still trying to understand the language. Being stranded did help me study but, man, I was so bored. I tried to feel productive by doing some pushups but I didn’t get very far with that. Jerak was growing tired of helping out. My leg actually started to feel better after a short while.
I still hadn’t attempted to really walk. It was painful, but I was able to limp around some. I really didn’t want to stick around too much longer. Eventually, I would have to explain why I was able to heal so fast. I was also sick of hearing the same story about how the old man rescued a boar and gave it to his son to raise. I was thinking I might just sprint out of there.
There wasn’t a great deal of progress in my understanding of their written language. I knew I needed to practice writing the letters again and again, but I didn’t have access to writing tools. I also hadn’t seen much in the way of books. The old man carried some, but they were stashed away in his room. I didn’t want to ask about them for fear that it might remind him of another boring story. I did, however, manage to memorize several letters from the new alphabet. It was a work in progress.
I slept for most of the day when I didn’t feel like studying and, by nightfall, I couldn’t fall asleep. Jerak was pretty tired and didn’t say much before passing out for the night. The night sky was well lit with both of the moons out but still too dark to read my translation guide. I sat up staring out of the window and couldn’t help feeling home sick. I tried to bottle it up since there was nothing I could do about it. I just couldn’t help but feel a bit sad at times. I took a few deep breaths and decided to try to keep my mind off such things by seeing how well my leg had healed.
The moment I put any weight on it, pain would surge through my injured leg. It wasn’t unbearable but would sure prevent me from using it too much. I took a few slow steps.My guess was that I might actually be able to walk in a couple more days without any problems. I gingerly lowered myself to the floor and I did a few pushups with my bad leg resting behind my working one. It would have been impressive if I was strong enough to do more than a few, but I kept going until my arms gave out.
I continued to do pushups over the next few days a little at a time thoughout the day. I was worried thatI would really get out of shape lying around for so long. I bumped my leg the wrong way and fell flat on my face-okay, bed time.
The next day I slept in and missed breakfast. My leg was feeling a bit better and I could walk but running and jumping were not yet a consideration. I began to wonder if I recovered from blood loss faster, too. Anyway, I decided that we should venture back into Halatross before I healed too much and before I had to listen to another boring story. The latest tale was about a goat that stole someone’s pie. I told Jerak about my plans and he was more excited than I was. It was hard to explain to the old man but I made up an excuse that I had some very important arrangement with someone in Halatross. He was reluctant to let me go, but he gave me a crude crutch and wished me well.
I never understood which side the crutch went on but was just glad to be outside and on my way back to Halatross. Jerak let out a loud sigh of relief as we got out of that small farming community.
“They are nice people, but they are so boring!” Jerak complained.
I chuckled, “A bit.”
Jerak shook his head, “If I had to hear that boar story one more time, I would not have stopped the Shadens if they returned.”
I laughed, “That’s mean, man.”
Jerak laughed, “Yeah… maybe the old man could bore them to death!”
I chuckled, “He might even cause that minotaur to retreat!”
Our food stocks were running low when we reached the gates of Halatross. We really didn’t plan on refilling them, but couldn’t really ask to take any more food from the old man and his family. I kept my helmet deep in my pack. I was sure if Bolam knew what the helmet was, someone else would figure it out as well.
“The bounty office is just two blocks north. Come, Blake!” Jerak said in an excited tone.
He jogged off before realizing that I was unable to walk that fast. I still hadn’t figured out which side the crutch went on. I thought it might be the opposite of the wounded leg. I really didn’t know.
“So what are you going to do with your money?” Jerak asked me.
I shrugged and nearly dropped my crutch.
“I don’t know. I don’t even know how much things cost here.”
Jerak chuckled, “Ah, we should be getting a good chunk of coin. Maybe you should get some better clothes.”
I looked down and saw that my shorts and t-shirt were still covered in blood stains. I hated to get rid of them since they were the only clothing from my world.
I gave Jerak a nod, “Yeah, it might be better to blend in.”
The bounty office was a small stone building with barred windows. Guards and other sorts hung around outside. It probably helped that there was a barracks right across from it. I felt pretty safe even though I got a few strange looks due to my clothing. The fact that I was wounded and had blood stains all over me didn’t help either.
The man behind the big desk inside the bounty office looked at me like I barely survived some war. I handed him the little note and smiled at him. The officer grabbed it and smiled back.
“Looks like you been through a lot.”
Jerak looked at the officer and then at my shirt, “Oh, that’s not his blood.”
I tried to figure out how much we made including what Bolam gave me and what I found: two silver and fourteen copper. Jerak got his own reward from the bounty on the ogre and he felt happy about it. I did see that the coins came in different grades. The lowest was One Copper, which was a thin piece of copper that sometimes didn’t even have an engraving on it. There were some thicker copper coins that did have engravings and some numbers indicating the amount. I wasn’t sure how much a silver was worth in copper.
Jerak said it is one hundred copper per silver coin and there are even gold coins that are worth a lot.
I felt pretty satisfied with the weight in my coin pouch. Out in a new world with some money to spend was a pretty good feeling. I already had two cool short swords that looked like they cost more than what I had earned and some of the basics for living. It felt strange to brush my teeth without toothpaste but it was better than nothing. The only things I figured I really needed were food, clothes and maybe a bed roll. It would be nice to sleep on the ground without feeling every tiny rock digging into my back.
Jerak led me off toward the market district where tons of people were wandering around shopping or working. Jerak elbowed me and pointed out an attractive woman. Before I could even take my first step, he had already jogged over and started talking with her. I couldn’t hear what he was saying with the noise of the busy street, but she slapped him in the face. For some reason, Jerak walked back with a smile. I may not be an expert with women, but I knew a slap in the face couldn’t be considered a victory.
Jerak and I walked into a few shops and I bought myself a bed roll and some clothing. The store had all sorts of clothing including some upper class stuff but the prices and the styles didn’t appeal to me. So I bought some plain common clothing. Dark brown pants and a green shirt since the blue was a bit too small for me. Not exactly a large variety compared to a clothing store at home but I never was one to really care about clothing.
We went to two more shops until I found a pair of boots that fit me perfectly. Jerak approached another woman who slapped him in the face like the first. I thought I really should eavesdrop to hear what he says so I’d know to do the opposite. I’m shy around girls and clueless when it comes to knowing if one likes me or not. There is also the cultural gap and right then I felt too intimidated to approach a girl from this new world. There was also the aging factor to consider. Maybe an elf girl, but do elf girls even like humans? I mean, I was not exactly a normal human but I didn’t think I would even have a chance with any of those girls. Jerak came back with a red mark on his face and a grin.
Jerak and I walked to a leather place because he wanted the straps on his buckler fixed. I saw a nice belt with several loops to tie a bunch of pouches on. The new pants I bought were nice and thick enough not to get damaged easily but there were no pockets. I ended up buying the belt and a large pouch to put my things in. There was a nice heavy leather cloak that would be perfect for rainy or colder weather but my funds were already limited. I really shouldn’t spend all my money without getting some food and some hope for more income.
Jerak and I had our dinner at some place that made awesome barbeque. I started to worry about how much money I had left but at least I looked like a normal person. The strange blood-stained clothing hadn’t helped me blend in. Jerak spoke with a mouth full of food, “So Blake, what should we do after this?”
I swallowed a bite of tough meat, “I really don’t know, I guess we can go to the mage place for a job.” Jerak shrugged, “Yeah, that might be fine. But boring jobs won’t get you known.”
I raised an eyebrow, “What do you mean?” Jerak swallowed his food and smiled.
“Just doing normal errands isn’t much to be proud of. Sure doing good honest work is all good and well for some, but for a hero like me who is born to travel and do so much more!” Jerak said proudly. He stood up and grinned, “It is my destiny to change the world!” I just stared at him and, after a while, I just shrugged, “So how about finding a job that will take us somewhere else?” Jerak lowered his posture and sighed, “Yeah, that will be fine.”
After our meal, we walked toward the mage place. Sadly, Bolam had already left to Vunash but the same middle aged woman was there and happy to offer me another job. She took out several applications which Jerak quickly checked through. He walked away muttering to himself, “Too boring, too boring, too complicated, too boring, sounds stupid, oh, here is one!” He walked back, slapped the applications down and handed her the one he picked. I had a bad feeling it is the most reckless thing on that list.
“Oh? This one is mostly given to us by the bounty office. So you want to help get rid of some choguls?” she asked.
Jerak nodded, “Of course! We are able fighters. Choguls are no match for us!” I sighed but was at least thankful it wasn’t like taking on some ogre or a band of thieves.
The old woman wrote something on the application and handed it to us, “Please take this to the bounty office and they should fill you in on what is needed.” Jerak grabbed the piece of paper and walked out. I slowly followed him.
It was already dark out, but the street lanterns were lit. Night life was a bit different, not as noisy as at home. There were still people out closing shops or going out for a good time. I was surprised when I saw Jerak walk past a few women. At least one of them was good-looking but Jerak seemed too preoccupied with reaching the bounty office to notice. I took a second look but found that Jerak was well ahead of me. It sucks trying to catch up with a wounded leg.
The office was still open but, as far as I knew, it could have been one of those places that never closes. Jerak walked in and I finally caught up and followed inside. There were a few other people inside so we waited until it was our turn in line. “We are here to help with this problem” Jerak said cheerfully as he set down the paper on the desk. The officer grabbed it and took his time reading through it. He looked back at us, “Yes, the lumber company up north is having trouble with choguls. Are you fellows able to travel?”
Jerak grins, “Of course!” I held my crutch tightly and just sighed.
“Good, then I will fill in the directions of the lumber company in Golashe for you,” the officer explained while scribbling something on the form. He got out of his seat to look for something.
I used this time to whisper to Jerak, “Um, where is Golashe?”
Jerak whispered back, “Don’t worry- it isn’t that far.” The officer took out a stamp and presses it on the form and handed it back to us. Jerak thanked the man and we walked back out.
“I guess the mages keep interesting jobs as well” Jerak said cheerfully.
I scratched the back of my head, “I think they carry normal jobs, too.”
Jerak shrugged, “Doesn’t matter, it should be a good job!”
I sighed, “I don’t know if I am fit for fighting choguls or travel.”
Jerak laughed, “Aw, come on! I saw you take on those ghouls, and Bolam told me you handled the Shadens pretty well! You might not be at my level yet, but you have potential!” Not sure that really helped boost my ego.
Jerak and I looked for a cheap inn to stay for the night. The main room served as a tavern where a bunch of guys sat around and drank. I handed the innkeeper some money and got a key and was told my room was down the hall. Jerak wandered off to get himself something to drink, but I wasn’t interested. I wandered down the hall. What room was it? I looked at the key and saw a tiny piece of wood tied to it with the engraving of some numbers. I knew I should have asked Bolam to teach me about the numbers.
Thankfully, I was able to match the engraving on the key to those on the door. The key was large and simplified. It would be easy to figure how to pick the lock. The room itself was modest, but we did pay for a cheap room. There were two simple wooden beds and a low table in the middle with a lantern on it. The walls were of simple wood with no frills or decorations. All I cared about was getting a full night’s sleep.
It felt pretty good to let my legs rest. I checked the bandage to see if walking around so much had caused more bleeding, but barely anything noticeable. My armpits were sore from using the crutch all day. I had switched back and forth not quite sure which side I should use the crutch on. We were heading towards Golashe in the morning. I wondered what that place was like. Jerak didn’t say anything about it, but I hoped it would be a nice, easy trip over there. I knew we were going to fight some choguls but, for some reason, they didn’t scare me so much compared to the other things I’d seen.
I nearly fell asleep before Jerak stumbled into the room. He was obviously drunk and staggered around. “Hey, you missed some fun!” he said loudly. I opened an eye, “Ah- okay.” I was too tired to even care. Jerak sat on his bed and removed olne boot before giving up and falling over to a deep slumber. I waited to see if he would get back up, but when he started to snore I figured he was out for the night.
Morning dawned and I felt refreshed. That bed was actually more comfortable than the cot I had slept on before. My leg felt considerably better. There was a little pain but I thought I could get away from using the crutch. I sat up and stretched and saw Jerak sound asleep in the same position as last night. I really did’t want to wake him up in case he got angry. After a while, he got up and seemed more tired than last night. I figured he would be suffering from a hangover and just gave him a wave and portrayed the role of a mute. He waved back and grumbled as he put his boot on. He looked around and appeared frustrated. I pointed to his other leg, “Um, that one is already on.” He looked over at his other boot a bit puzzled, “Wha? How did that get there?” I refrained from laughing.
The inn offered free tea for their customers. I’d never really been a tea drinker. It smelled really good but didn’t taste as good as I thought it would. Jerak added some honey to his and drank it like it was going to revive him. Honey made it taste better. Jerak sat at table in the main room, trying to get his brain working again. I was just happy that I walked all the way in without needing the crutch. I kept it with me just to be safe.
After our tea, we walked out of the inn and were almost blinded by the brightness of the day. I let out a big yawn and let my eyes adjust to the morning light. Jerak stuck his pinky in his ear and let out a big sigh. He pulled his finger out and wiped it on his pants, “Do we have what we need?”
I sat down my pack and looked inside, “I have a few days’ worth of food. Will that be enough?” Jerak smiled, “Plenty! Golashe is just a few days north and it won’t be a problem to find something to snack on along the way.”
We walked toward the north gate of Halatross. The traffic of wagons and wandering people really kept the town busy. The gate house was wide open and the guards stood there without any concern. Being a guard might be a bit boring, but it would be a stable job. I didn’t think Jerak would want a job like that, and I wasn’t sure standing around watching people walk by would be a a job for me either.
I stopped after passing the north gate. I saw a large mountain range toward the west but the road up north looked flat with only a few sparse hills and trees. Jerak pointed his mace northward and proudly spoke, “To Golashe! Land of the dwarves!”
I turned and looked at him, “Land of the dwarves?”
Jerak smiled, “Yes, let’s hope it will be filled with adventure!”
I didn’t know if I should be more concerned about visiting a dwarven town or the fact that my traveling companion seemed really eccentric.