“I’m not bloody well going to send that message. She’s not happy with me.” Eli crossed his arms over his chest and scowled forbiddingly.
Wynter nudged Shadowmist around a particularly choppy part of the road with barely more than a touch of her knees. Her voice was a lilting drawl. “She’s not so happy wit’ any of us.”
“Well, I can’t read or write.” Bryn tugged the bracer that had never fit quite right after the ghoulish inhabitants of the house had mangled it.
Wynter glanced at Freyja, who just shrugged and quirked a brow. Wynter sighed. “Fine. I will do it.”
“The streets are clear, Sir. We seem to have got rid of them all.” Lieutenant North saluted and winced. He leaned against a chair and he wasn’t rebuked. He was not the only wounded.
“Good.” The statement was delivered matter-of-factly by the Captain of Sandpoint. The wearied Quinn Ameiko glanced up as the door to the barracks opened with a protesting squeak. Relief she didn’t know she had poured into her soul.
“You are all alive.” She pressed a hand to her temple. “What happened out there?”
“Ye are goin’ to want to close off the roads to the area. That place is bad.” Wynter’s voice travelled over the hum of noise in the room. And conversations quieted as the witch filled in the Captain on the events of the day.
“I will want to report to the General. Have ye a messenger we can use?”
The Captain nodded. “I will send a messenger to the Rusty Dragon.”
“My thanks.” Wynter nodded, and joined the rest of the group as they trouped wearily to the tavern.
The noise in the room dulled a little as the Shadowguard entered the tavern room of the Rusty Dragon. The barkeep gestured that their ale would be incoming, and directed them to the table that had become their own. A wench was send back for Calyth Suto.
Calyth approached with her hands deftly carrying the tankards. She lowered them down to the scarred, sticky tabletop.
“Enjoy.” She straightened. “There is a woman waiting for you all in the private dining room. She says there is no rush, but…” She glanced back. “I wouldn’t want to keep her waiting.”
“What does she look like?” Eli asked warily.
Wynter glanced quickly at Freyja. The half orc shifted uneasily.
“Elf. Got her hair in braids.”
They relaxed. Not a half angel with a demon arm. That kind of thing stands out. If the braids are the first thing a person thinks on…
“We will be right there.” Eli rose and picked up his tankard.
Bryn grumbled. “Interruptin’ good drinking time.”
The elven woman sat at the far end of the feast table, her feet propped on the chair opposite. She glanced up as the Shadowguard entered. An unpleasant smile curved her lips.
“So you finally decided to join me.” It wasn’t a question.
“Who are you?” Wynter asked flatly.
“Amirah Khaliyah. I have been sent here by the General. I can help you find Nualia.”
Wynter glanced at the grim faced Eli.
“What? What’s going on?” Bryn took a deep swig of her ale.
“Got some proof of what you are saying?” Wynter asked the newcomer.
Amirah tossed the parchment sealed with the General’s insignia onto the table. A pale brow was risen in query.
“That’s not…proof,” Eli muttered, scanning the document. But the penmanship was familiar.
“Where is Nualia?” Wynter said.
“In the Thornwastes. Accompanying a group of Scyrax tribespeople south.”
“What interest is it of yours?”
Amirah’s fingertips drummed in annoyance over the table. “You can ask the General next time you see her.”
“That isn’t what I asked.” Wynter propped her hands on her hips, her tone quiet and smooth.
Amirah pierced Eli with bright blue eyes. “Will you question the General’s order, Eli?”
He flinched. “No. That’s fine.”
Wynter frowned. “That was NOT what I asked. What interest is it of yours?”
Amirah stood slowly, drawing to her full height. She was thin, but all of it muscle. Bands of bronze bound her arms and layers of clothing spoke of desert climes. “I will protect my people. If your Nualia joins the Scyrax, my people will die. Erin sent me because she believed that you could help me.”
Eli slammed down his empty tankard. “We will see you in the morning.”
“I’m ready to go now.” Amirah folded her arms across her chest.
Wynter blinked at Eli’s sudden motion, but kept her composure. “We are tired and wounded. We had to kill a ghast this evening and it was difficult. We need to rest.”
Amirah stared down at the scarred surface of the table and shifted in annoyance. “Fine. In the morning then.”
Eli stalked out first, brushing past Bryn.
“Hey. What’s going…” Bryn scowled as Eli kept walking. “Fine.”
Wynter scribbled her signature on the bottom of the letter to the General.
“Can I buy you a drink?”
The witch glanced up into the bruised face of Captain Quinn Ameiko and smiled. “Sure.”
Quinn murmured an order to a passing barmaid and took up a seat. “I came to pick up the message for the General.”
“You…did?” Wynter was surprised.
“My people are exhausted and I confess, I wanted to get out of there and have some normal conversation that doesn’t revolve around Sandpoint for a while.”
The barmaid returned with two tankards of ale and a plate of meat, cheese and bread. Quinn pushed the platter between them.
“You can have some if you like.”
Wynter smiled her thanks. “We have to head for the Thornwastes in the morning.”
Quinn schooled her features into impassivity. “I wish you well in your journey, Sergeant.”
Wynter selected a cube of cheese and tossed it into her mouth. “Oh, I’m sure we will be just fine.”
“I did not realise you…all of you, would be gone so soon.”
“Part of the job.” Wynter shrugged.
“Safe travels then.”
The desert yawned before them. The heat beating like waves against the skin. Freyja tugged the hood of her robes over her head and wrinkled her nose. “Well hell, was hoping to never see this place again.”