Hard on the trail

Continued from...


Melandra still felt it worth the attempt, but the Duke had proven unwilling to part with his half of the tusk, and had not been all together pleased that she’d put forth the request. So the tusk remained behind in the Keep, along with the undisclosed details of the Duke's abstruse agenda. But our duelist never left a contest empty-handed and even now a half-hollow bottle of the Duke’s fine brandy sloshed at her side as she sought out the company of Friar Balvaris. The busy brick-blocked boulevards and crowded crosscuts alike were carrying people and their business along from here to there. At times manoeuvring among the wagons of lumber reminded Melandra of her visits to any number of port cities, lending a familiarity to Ostiarium that her short time on these shores would otherwise not maintain.

Melandra Avalloc was never entirely who or what she presented herself to be. She wouldn’t kill in cold blood, but that did very little to keep her enemies alive when it came time for them to die. Not that she had much call to duel of late. Oh she was still quick as a whip and sharp as a tack, but between her lessons to the offspring of Ostiarium's honourable elite and the discreet comings and goings for the Duke’s business and amusements, there hadn’t been time for formal duels. And those affairs were largely verboten on the far-reaching island of Arcadia, as ever they had been.

She took a respectable swig; a serious drinker yes, but a drunkard no - another critical distinction that worked to her advantage when her true assets were undervalued. Scoundrel and cheat would have been harsh words to describe Melandra; inaccurate descriptions of her true nature. But those unfamiliar with the woman and using such words could be easily excused for their miscalculation. She may still insist upon a crippling joust to defend her honour resulting in blood drawn at the very least, but the miscalculation would have been well and truly excusable. At any rate, being a duelist was equal parts getting her opponents to engage in sword fights in the first place, surviving said sword fights herself to see another day, and avoiding sword fights altogether. Ego aside, it was easier to endure a spot of shame than a skewer through the guts. And from there it was all about damage control; maintaining a favourable reputation to go out before her and playing to the room. Oh and there was no substitute for being savvy sick skilled with the sword. In Melandra's case - two. She could teach technique and fundamentals until her hair went silver, but no amount of practice or tutelage could instill in another the natural aptitude for dual wielding blades; not with the proficiency and finesse for which she was known. You either had the kernel of that ability in you somewhere or you didn’t.

The fast talking, hip swaying, storytelling, hero laying - those were all pieces of artistry very much learned en voyage.

She spotted the good Friar, took another swash of brandy and quickly stashed the bottle behind a downbeat shrubbery. "Friar Balvaris," she called out, "I thirst of your well known propensity for stiff direction and unyielding application of the holy rod. May I beseech a meager allotment of your lastingness behind closed doors?"

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