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XV. The naked sorceress

 

1.

We get to Vladimir’s and find it nearly empty. One table has four hill trolls playing poker, and there’s one tired-looking warrior in heavy chain mail sitting at the bar. Lali goes and sits next to him, while Gurth grabs the far table. Forced to choose, Fenric sits by Lali, Jan and Zelin and I go join Gurth, and Lucette and Glee sit at the next table over.

“We got to the front door,” says Gurth, “and she, Thyrssa I mean, either she was just about to go out and do her rounds, or she was just getting in, because she was in that hallway. The door was open a crack. We got a little concerned but Lali, guess what.”

“Threw open the door,” Lucette says.

“Effing cowards,” says Lali. “Beer me, bar man.”

“Of course,” says Vladimir, “but you throw a punch and you’re out in the hall in one second, you understand?”

“Threw open the door,” says Fenric, glaring at Lali, because he’s the bravest person I’ve ever met. I saw him try and pick up an armorer’s apprentice once last year. I couldn’t fault his taste, but the armorer’s apprentice was straight as a ruler, and the armorer was his dad, and each of them was twice Fenric’s weight.

“Naturally,” says Gurth, “there was Thyrssa. Fortunately she was more surprised than we were. Unfortunately, she can get her breath up to full heat in about five seconds.”

“If that,” says Fenric. “So Gurth grabs Lali and pulls her back, and we take off, and we almost get our butts burned off, and then the cave dragon wakes up and gets in the act, and—well, you can guess the rest.”

“And I get cussed out for my trouble,” says Gurth.

“You’re an effin’ coward,” says Lali.

“Maybe he’s effin’ sensible,” says Lucette.

“What the frick do you know,” says Lali.

“Yeah, you’re a frickin’ genius,” says Lucette.

“You want a piece of this? You little effin’ runt sorceress?”

“I think that last word was the one you want to remember, Amazon babe.”

“So the cave dragon comes out,” says Fenric, “and we accelerate, and to Lali’s credit she catches up with us, and then Thryrssa’s coming around the corner and the two dragons decide to exchange points of view, and that buys us time to get all the way to the top of the stairs. So I wouldn’t do anything right now but hunker down for a few hours, however long it takes for Her Blackness to sort of settle down again.”

“You seriously want to take me on,” says Lucette. I look over there. Lali is standing in front of her, her big hand on Lucette’s table. “You seriously think you want to go out in the hall and take me on. You think I can’t put you down before you even get your sword out of your shoulder sheath, which is such a cool way to carry a broadsword because, well, it’s like over your shoulder or something! That what you think?”

Lali gives her ten seconds of glare, then picks up her big hand off the table, shrugs and turns away. “Effin’ cowards,” she says. She gets to the bar, turns and says, “How we ever gonna get anything down here till we get brave enough to fight a stinkin’ dragon?”

“Vladimir, sir,” asks Fenric.

“Want another beer?” asks the barman. “Because I don’t really want to get involved in your dispute.”

“Just a bit of statistics. As in, how many warriors has Thyrssa eaten or fried to a crisp since she’s been in Odnorek’s old place?”

“How many?” Vladimir turns away, rummages his inbox or whatever, then comes up with a piece of paper. “It would be, at a minimum, 107 warriors and/or archers. 43 magical practitioners, 37 clerics, five druids, seven thieves and/or assassins, two mariners 14 bards and 26 of unknown classification. I don’t have it broken down in terms of eaten versus merely fried.”

“And how much of her treasure has been stolen, since she moved into that place and started accumulating?”

“Ah,” Vladimir laughs, “that would be zero.”

“Glee,” I say. “Got your ha’penny?”

Glee looks a little shy, but she reaches into her pants (she wears tight blue jeans with a loose tunic top and a darling little chain mail and leather cap) and comes out with the coin. Vladimir frowns at it, then grins and says, “That’s tied for the biggest theft ever from Thyrssa the Black.”

We all take this in. I find it all rather thought-provoking. After some seconds, Glee stands up, finishes her drink—an iced tea—and says, just a little nervously, “All right, I feel we need to reconnoiter, and I would like to do so myself. By myself. Don’t try to talk me out of it.”

None of us does. Quite the opposite. Lali downs her beer, straightens her belt and says, “If you’re going in by yourself, I’m going with you.”

 

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