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The storm was progressively getting worse as Arwen was making her way through the woods on the southern tip of Sorengard. She hated the rain, hated the cold, and especially hated getting her hair wet. She was traveling to the small town of Rivendare from a ‘business’ trip, and that business usually meant meeting the tip of the sword strapped to her back. She was Arwen Aelthar, daughter of Alastor Aelthar, the King’s Hand. Her father met his untimely death many years ago to the inhabitants of the neighboring Elven kingdom of Aldarlan, which was approximated on the other side of a vast forest known as the Woods of Moore which separated the two kingdoms. Just thinking about it made Arwen clench her jaw, and ever since that day she vowed to slaughter any unworldly creature that crossed her path. She made her living by becoming a sellsword, but instead of going after rogue humans she went after varmints that didn’t belong to her human realm. Her services were lent to those in need of exterminating creatures ranging from kelpies, pucas, goblins, trolls, and anything else that wasn’t considered mortal. There were hundreds of these creatures and more all over the vast continent of Talemdor, and she’d be lying if she didn’t admit that she took great pleasure in putting an end to them. It was the least she could do after their kind murdered her father.
Arwen Pulled her hood closer around her auburn tinted hair, and tried to shield out as much of the rain as possible. Damn the rain. Damn being soaking wet. Her long thick hair was such a pain in the ass to dry and she just wanted out of this storm. She was almost to the Horse and Hoof tavern when she heard a low growl not far behind her, and she ducked behind a tree pulling out the sword from the sheath on her back. Another growl this time, but closer. She peered out from behind the tree and saw a pair of golden amber eyes and a maw full of teeth a few yards away. The wolf raised its head and sniffed the air. It knew she was there, and it wanted to hunt. Little did it know Arwen was the better hunter.
She crept to the other side of tree farthest away from the beast and waited. The wolf let out a long howl. Great, it brought some friends. She rolled to her right just as a massive paw scraped at her and caught the edge of her cloak. The wolf snarled and bared its massive yellow canines. Arwen lunged at it swinging her blade down hoping to strike, but the wolf was fast and dodged. She cursed and spun around as another came at her from her left. It let out a howl as she slashed at its shoulder slicing down to the bone before collapsing on the ground. One down two to go. She faced the other two wolves and they moved around in a circle. They were snarling and snapping and she growled back letting them know she wasn’t backing down. The one on the right lunged at her right as an arrow shot through the back of its head with the tip bulging out of one the eye sockets. She dodged to her left and swung as the last wolf lashed out a massive clawed paw that barely scraped her arm as she drove her blade through its side. The wolf yelped as she stuck her blade deeper piercing its heart. A laugh was heard as a figure appeared from behind the trees holding a bow with a quiver full of arrows on his back.
“Losing your touch? Three overgrown puppies are usually no match for you.” The man said as he flashed her a mocking smile.
“So dramatic of you to wait until at least one was dead.” So like Rylan to suddenly appear and interfere when she had everything under control, and she threw him a rather vulgar finger. “You should be at the tavern waiting for me. I was handling this perfectly fine before you interfered, Ry.”
Rylan chucked and put his hands on his hips. “You were taking too long, so I figured I’d go for a stroll. Heard a lot of howling so I figured it was you getting into trouble.”
“Well I had it under control, but thanks. Let’s get out of this rain before I die of cold and exhaustion.”
“I keep forgetting how incredibly stubborn you are. Alright this way, I already have a table saved for us.”
Arwen sheathed her sword and followed Rylan out of the woods and onto the muddy road. The scratch on her arm wasn’t bad enough to warrant immediate attention, but now she needed a new leather tunic. They didn’t follow the road long until they came upon a large two story building on the border of the small town of Rivendare. A wooden sign was hanging over the front door reading, “The Horse and Hoof”. Laughter was heard from inside, and light was pouring out of the windows. Rylan opened the door and she followed inside pulling back her hood finally letting her mess of shining auburn hair free. Men of all sorts were drinking, singing, gambling, and trying to swoon the tavern girls for something besides ale. She followed Rylan to a back corner and pulled off her soaking wet cloak before sitting down. They both laid their weapons down on the far side of the table as a sign they didn’t want to be bothered, and Rylan whistled to the barmaid holding up two fingers indicating he intended to drink. Arwen brushed her damp locks from her face and grabbed the ends of her hair into her hands hoping to wring out the rest of the rain water.
“I haven’t seen you in two weeks and you look like hell. I’m guessing the offer you got from that baron was good as well as the coin?” Rylan smirked and folded his arms across his chests glaring at her. She felt like death and just wanted to go to bed, but knowing her old friend she knew better then to try and avoid him for he would pester her until she ripped her hair out.
“Yes actually, it was. The beasts that were killing his livestock turned out to be a few goblins. Poison spears aren’t exactly fun, but it was worth it for what he was paying me. You should have seen his face when I dropped the sack of heads at his feet. He threw me the bag of coins and ordered me gone before he got sick.” Arwen smirked and curled her hair in her fingers.
“So I take it business is doing well?” The barmaid showed up and put two mugs of apple ale on the table and took the two coppers from Rylan plus an extra as he winked at her. She walked off with an ear to ear grin.
“I wouldn’t exactly call it a business. I do however enjoy it. These rich bastards have a pest control problem, I clean it up, and I get another hot meal and a warm bed.” Her hair was as dry as it was going to get, and half satisfied she tossed the rest of her locks behind her head. Stupid, stupid rain.
Arwen took a long sip from her mug and slouched back against her chair. She doesn’t drink often, but after weeks of killing and traveling her body ached for a little relaxation. Rylan also took a long slurp of his ale leaving a trail of foam on his upper lip. His shoulder length mousy brown hair was a mess, and she kept forgetting her childhood friend was a man now. She found him attractive, but not in the wanting to bed him type of way. After all she’s known Rylan as long as she could remember. His father, Thalas Ravenoak, and her father, Alastor Aelthar, were both loyal to the King and called home in the town of Windhelm on the northern border of Sorengard. Rylan used to chase her with wooden swords and she would chase back and rumble and tumble until one of them wounded up with a black eye. He was her childhood friend, and always acted like a big brother. Arwen’s mother died during childbirth so she would always stay with Rylan and his mother whenever their fathers were away on business. They both lost their fathers when elves from the bordering kingdom of Alderlan ambushed them on a mission for the king when they were just eight years old. Rylan’s mother ended up dying of sickness a few years after, and then they were on their own. Arwen took one of her father’s swords, Rylan fancied his father’s bow, and they headed out into the world and have been traveling together ever since.
“I don’t know about you but I’m getting pretty bored with killing in order to make a living.” Rylan yawned and plumped his empty mug down on the table.
“You know that’s not realistic. Eventually you would run out of gold, and then what would you do? Become a trader? You aren’t exactly good at anything except using that bow of yours, and there are enough fur and pelt traders throughout the realm.” Arwen lowered her head and let out a sigh. She knew he was growing tired of being on the move. He always talked of a home and settling down, retiring from his bow. They were only twenty and have more tales then one man could count.
“I really hate that you’re always right. Why are woman like that? Even if it’s not realistic right now, it is what I want at least someday. I know you’re ruthless with that sword of yours, but one day you’re going to be old and withered and realized all you’ve done your whole life is shed blood.” Rylan stood up and grabbed his bow and quivers. “I’m going to bed, our rooms are at the top of the stairs and all the way down at your right. See you in the morning.” He muttered something else under his breath and hurried off. Good riddance. She knows he meant well, but he needs to stop acting like he knows what’s best for her. If he wants to settle down in a cottage with a stick of happiness shoved up his ass then let him. That’s not the life she wants, or what she will ever have.
Arwen let you a long yawn and was about to stand up to head upstairs when the door to the tavern slammed open. Every soul inside grew quiet as three men in black and silver armor paraded in, the rain giving their armor a polished gleam. Two of them were god awful tall and pointed their noses so high up you could probably peer inside their nostrils. The one in the middle had a plump wrinkled face and a scar on his right cheek. The King’s men were a long way from the capital of Whitewall. The plump guard with the scar quickly scanned over the room and laid his eyes directly on her. He and the other two men started walking towards her and anyone in the remote radius scurried away.
“Are you Arwen Aelthar?” The plump guard approached her and gave a look that meant he would rather be anywhere but here and looked particularly bored.
“It depends on who’s asking.”
Arwen slouched back and crossed her arms on her chest and showed no emotion on her face. What could they possibly want? She hasn’t stolen from anyone recently, at least that she could remember. Maybe the baron who hired her said she stole from him. After all who would believe a girl in all black leather and a sword over a man with a title? “King Veris has commanded a royal summons for you. You are to come with us and report to the capital at once.”
“And how do you know I’m Arwen Aelthar?” The King has summoned her? She hasn’t seen his lordship since the piss-poor excuse of a funeral he threw for her father.
“You’re not exactly unknown in these parts. A young skinny lass with red hair all dressed in black isn’t hard to find, especially with those piercing green eyes." The plump guard was trying rather hard not to grow agitated with her, and she found it amusing. A royal summons sounds intriguing and she would decline, but if she refused it would probably cost her her head, and she was rather fond of her red mane.
“It seems I don’t have a choice. When do we leave? I’ve just done a bit of traveling and this is the first place with a bed I’ve been in four weeks.” She didn’t want to leave right away, besides she just met back up with Rylan and if she disappeared in the middle of the night without a word he would probably kill her.
“We have horses so we will leave immediately and hope to reach the capital within a week if we don’t stop for breaks. I know how you women are and a piss once an hour will not be allowed, so I suggest you use the privy before we go.” Not even a couple of hours off the road and she’s already being commanded to head right back on it.
“Alright. Let me piss so that I don’t bother you once an hour once we leave. I’ll need some food for the road since all I’ve had was ale.” Bastards. At least she could get away with making smart remarks, and she had to leave a message for Rylan. The two guards stared her down as she got up from the table and strapped her sword to her back, and went up the stairs to the guest rooms.
Once she was up the stairs she proceeded to her friend’s room thanks to his instructions before he stomped off, and noticed a woman came out of one of the bedrooms at the end of the hall, the barmaid. So that’s why Rylan gave her that extra copper earlier, sly fox. The barmaid was brushing down her skirts and her cheeks were bright red as she bumped into her. “Oh sorry, excuse me miss, a guest needed extra linens.” The barmaid was avoiding eye contact but Arwen noticed the smile creeping up the corners of her mouth and the small hint of a blush. “I see you and my brother were getting well acquainted. Do you mind giving him a message from me in the morning?” She never referred to Rylan as her brother, but she didn’t want to make it seem like they were close in front of this girl who obviously fancied him. “Why of course miss, what would you like me to tell him?” “Tell him his sister had to leave immediately for Whitewall. He will know where to find me.” Arwen gave the barmaid a gold coin to perk up her spirits a bit and to make sure her message was delivered. She probably would otherwise since she has her own reasons for venturing into his room. “By the gods, thank you miss! I’ll be sure to tell Sir Rylan in the morning. Thank you!” Sir Rylan? Arwen scoffed, making a mental note to punch him in the face for that the next time she saw him. “No, thank you. Good evening.” And with that Arwen strolled down the stairs to meet back up with the guards.
“I’m ready. Let’s get this over with.” The plump guard nodded and she followed him and the other two out of the tavern and back into the miserable rain. As soon as the door was closed the laughter inside resumed, and Arwen longed for the luxury of a warm bed.