Characters in this post
View character profile for: Lafayette Le Renard
View character profile for: Kalena Valade
View character profile for: Solandriel the Gatherer
View character profile for: Gerda of Hilfengarde
Now You're Gonna Pay
Joint Post by Rosmary and Nim
Solandriel was feeling hopeful as he walked back into the sun with his new companion. That this outrageous plan of Gerda's had panned out so well was nothing short of remarkable. How Gerda had learned that he'd be able to find a human who had lived over a century ago in this city was a mystery to him. Didn't most humans have a life expectancy of only sixty years or so? How did this woman get through over a century without aging? Something strange was certainly afoot, but he wasn't about to look a gift horse in the mouth.
"So, to you and your partner's place?" Solandriel asked, eliciting a nod of confirmation from the coolly competent Kalena. "After you," he gestured, letting her take the lead.
They did not get far when something prickled his sixth sense, and he instinctively looked behind him… right into the hazel eyes of the grey-cloaked thug that he had travelled to town with. A sharp pang of fear rushed through him. The woman was of medium height, but strongly built with massive shoulders and arms, and thick hands that could crush his throat in a moment. She emerged from the shadows of one of the buildings along the empty backstreet they were traversing and stalked towards them, her footsteps heavy on the cobblestones.
“Solandriel,” the thug said, with quiet menace. “You gave me the slip earlier, but I finally found you. Who is your lady friend?”
The elf froze, his face panicked. “I-I can explain,” he sputtered, though he did not know how he would.
Kalena mentally cursed at having allowed someone to get the drop on her. Obviously Solandriel had not shaken his tail as well as he had assumed. She thought fast and coming to a decision, made her voice harsh and nasty. “Did the two of you really think you could sneak out of Osilon without paying off your debts?”
“Debts?” The burly mercenary looked to the elf with a questioning frown.
“Uh... yeah, our debts. We owe her money. A lot of it,” Solandriel said, catching on. “I've been paying her back in weekly installments, but I missed making my payment today because I needed the money to buy the ingredients you all wanted...”
The woman looked unfazed. “Did you get what is needed?”
“Well, no. I won't have enough money left to buy it all after I pay her off,” Solandriel explained, not having to fake his nervousness.
The mercenary let out a gruff sigh and turned dismissively to Kalena. “He'll pay you when he has enough coin to spare.”
“No, the money is due today... right now!” Kalena said, playing out her role as a no-nonsense Karavossian loan collector. “You and your husband had better pay up, or I'll take it out of your hides.”
“Husband? You think I'm married to him?”
Kalena shrugged. “They say there is someone for everyone... but it's obvious that Solandriel is easily pleased.”
The woman's lips twisted in a snarl. “You're starting to annoy me. Get out of my sight before I lose my temper.”
“What? Are you actually threatening me?” Kalena took a step forward, getting in the mercenary's face. “Was that a threat? Because if it was—”
The larger, stronger woman had enough of this and drawing back a well-muscled arm, let loose a punch that would have jarred a full-grown auroch. The knuckles of her gloved fist shot devastatingly through the air where Kalena's head ought to have been...
...but she was not there anymore. In a swift, but unhurried movement, she easily sidestepped the blow and at the same time launched a kick into the side of the woman's knee. The strike was precisely timed and aimed, sending the mercenary pitching to the ground, her face splashing into the dirty gutter.
“Oh, you're dead,” the woman spat, wiping the fetid grime from her mouth and nose.
“If you don't pay me what I'm owed,” Kalena replied dangerously, “I'll make you both wish you were...”
The mercenary clambered to her feet and drew a steel broadsword from her back, however scarcely had the blade cleared the sheathe when Kalena sprang forward and her leg and boot cut through the air once again, striking the woman a stunning blow on the wrist, which sent the big sword clanging away across the cobblestones.
“You dare draw a blade on me? Do you even know how to use it?” Kalena gave a mocking, condescending laugh that enraged and astonished the mercenary.
“We better just pay her,” Solandriel advised. “It's only eight gold pieces.”
“Shut your mouth, elf!” the mercenary roared at him.
The woman's pride was up now and nostrils flaring, she rose and assumed a fighting posture, feet wide apart, both fists raised.
A grin spread across Kalena's face, her sage-green eyes filled with the confident gleam of an apex predator atop the food chain. “You ought to stick to potion-making and leave the fighting to the professionals.”
The seasoned mercenary's wild hazel eyes flashed at this and she rushed at Kalena, throwing another terrific punch. The woman who reminded her vaguely of Adisla Styliane, was actually quite an able fighter; Kalena twisted aside with only a split second to spare, and the blow whizzed harmlessly past.
“You're telegraphing your punches,” she commented goadingly. “As I said, a total amateur.”
Letting out a growl of fury, the mercenary proceeded to unleash a savage whirlwind of expert strikes. Kalena's features were alight with enjoyment as she swivelled back and forth at the hips, blocking and evading every punch and kick with catlike elegance. Even though she was currently retired for the second time in her life, regular sword and hand-to-hand combat sparring sessions with Lafayette had kept her phenomenal skills sharp and in tip-tip condition.
The mercenary feinted and swung a left at Kalena's face; she ducked it and sent a snapping front kick into the woman's hard abdomen; the mercenary absorbed the blow with a grunt and bull-rushed her; she spun out of the way and slammed an elbow into the woman's neck who stumbled off-balance; Kalena swept out a long leg, striking her opponent's ankles and sending the woman somersaulting head over heels to the ground with a bone-jarring impact.
“Now, for the last time, where is my money?” Kalena demanded, continuing the charade.
The mercenary gingerly picked herself up, breathing heavily, the wind knocked from her. “You're good,” she said, a grudging respect in her tone.
“And you're outmatched,” Kalena replied. She stretched the muscles of her lean torso, adopting a showy martial arts stance. “I have fought werebears one-on-one. They're strong and fast beyond belief, and I slew them with my bare hands.”
“Really?” Solandriel asked, impressed.
“Well, I may exaggerate a little,” Kalena admitted, and then added, “but only a little.”
The mercenary suddenly drew a wicked knife, whirled around and thrust it at Kalena in hopes of taking her by surprise. The former elite assassin reacted instantaneously; she dodged, rebalanced, and launched a roundhouse, knocking the blade from the woman's hand. “This is getting rather tedious,” she said, growing bored of the very one-sided fight.
Done playing, Kalena lowered her kicking leg at an angle and spun around with a powerful spinning back-kick, the heel of her boot smashing into the woman's skull. The blow hurled the mercenary against a nearby wall. There was a sickening, thudding crack and the woman collapsed to the ground, out cold.
Solandriel grimaced. “I think you might have killed her...”
“I hope not,” Kalena said, kneeling down and checking the woman's pulse. “She wasn't worth killing.”
The mercenary was alive but likely had a minor concussion. Kalena took the woman's coin pouch, pulled the strings and withdrew exactly eight gold pieces. The shiny coins were Sarnian money and looked newly produced from the High Church's mint. “You're paid up for this week,” she said wryly over her shoulder, transferring the coins to her own purse.
Solandriel laughed a stress-relieving laugh. “You're not taking it all?” he asked, noticing the mercenary's purse was still full as she replaced it on the woman's belt.
“Hmm? No, that would be ill-mannered.” Kalena stood and turned to the elf with a smug smile. She was feeling inordinately pleased with herself and proud to still be able to live up to her badass reputation, or at least the one she used to have. “Come on. Let's...”
Her voice trailed off as she felt something strike her in the back of the neck. She reached up and discovered a small blow dart stuck in her flesh just above her collar. She pulled it out swiftly, but knew it was too late.
Perhaps she was losing her edge, after all.
Knowing the direction the dart had come from without having to look, Kalena threw herself under the overhanging eave of a nearby building.
“There is another of those thugs above us,” Solandriel announced unnecessarily, running up beside her. “He must have been watching. If he gets back to the warehouse telling them I got help to rescue Gerda...”
“You don't think they bought our act?” Kalena asked, disappointed.
He shrugged. “There is no way to know how much he overheard.”
“That's true,” she said. “Well, let's get him then!”
The elf looked confused. “Huh?”
“I mean I'll get him and you stay here,” Kalena amended, forgetting she wasn't with Lafayette or one of her other old allies.
Tensing her muscles, she dashed across the street, her legs starting to wobble from the toxin delivered into her bloodstream by the dart.
Solandriel watched his new friend chase after the other thug until both disappeared. Gerda had been right about what a terrifyingly formidable individual Kalena was. The glint of an object at his feet caught his eye, and he spotted the dart that she had discarded. With a sinking feeling in his gut, he picked up the missile and examined it, smelling the poison. If he had just gotten her killed… it was honestly amazing how quickly a plan could fall apart. This was like Maelwin's crazy kidnapping plot all over again.
As he was worrying, he heard some commotion nearby and saw a city watchman talking to some street urchins who were excitedly pointing in his direction. Oh no, he thought. He glanced down at the bloodied and unconscious woman lying in his close proximity, put two and two together, and concluded this day was about to get even worse.
The guard approached with a hand on a sword hilt. Solandriel threw up his own hands, dropping the dart, and exclaimed, "Look, I don't know what they told you, but it's not what it looks like…"