Gearing Up

Gregor leaned across the table, pushing his tankard aside and spilling beer as he showed off his new vambraces. Gems studded the dark metal, fey light flickering within their depths.

            “How about that, huh? Bracers of strength. All the better to wield my new sword.”

            The fighter reached under the table, and then placed upon it a massive, two-handed sword, bereft of scabbard. The blade shone like a clear night sky; twinkling glimmers, like stars, glittered in scattered isolation across the black steel.

            “It’s called Night Kisser, and it ate up nearly all of my stipend. It doesn’t matter though, with these bracers and this sword I’m going to be unstoppable.” He leaned back, crossing his arms and looking at his companions around the table. “What about you two?”

            Kerrin smirked and pulled two short swords from her side. She set them upon the table, then reached to her scalp and untied a ruddy bandana. It joined the swords. She then leaned down and unclasped a metal anklet, adding it to the rest. She paused, eyeing the others briefly before pulling a small crossbow from where it hid on the small of her back. She raised an eyebrow at Gregor.

            “Swords of blocking and piercing, respectively. Bandana of perception. Anklet of agility. And an arcane crossbow.” She raised an eye at Gregor. “I’ll take you and your two magic items on any time, old man.”

            “Bah, I’m hardly your senior, Kerrin. And it’s not the quantity of items that will decide our battle, but the quality of them and the skills of those wielding them.”

            Kerrin smiled but didn’t say anything. After a moment, Lorensk cleared his throat. When he had the others’ attention, he lifted a trench shovel and set it upon the table. Next to it, he laid a coil of rope, and a strange looking dagger—no bigger than a cheese knife. He then unclasped his nondescript cloak and pulled a dim ring from his finger, setting both upon the table.

            “Here we have the fabulous shovel of digging, an endless coil of the coarsest rope, the infamous dagger of whittling, an ever-boring cloak of disguise, and a cantrip grade ring of illusion—who’s only real limitation is one’s own imagination. See my versatile arsenal, mighty warriors, and tremble before me.”

            Kerrin laughed. “You have the strangest mind, my crafty friend. If I’d not seen your work before, then seeing what you’ve bought would have me believing you the biggest fool this side of the dragon-spine mountains. As it is, I do hope you saved enough of your stipend to purchase an actual weapon.”

            Lorensk smiled, spreading his hands expansively. “What need have I of weapons when I have such industrious tools as these? My will is their command and victory is my will. So, fear not dear friends, Lorensk shall fare far better than yourselves, for whom he harbors great concern upon seeing such impetuous expenditures for sake of pomp and posture. Crafty Kerrin, as Dull Gregor has unintentionally noted, did indeed make the better choices. Yet, Lorensk can’t help but wonder and worry at his dear friends’ most evident and disturbing fixation upon violence, both taken and given. Alas, Lorensk has known these two warriors long enough to accept that they shan’t ever feel the blissful embrace of peace within the tumultuous battlegrounds of their minds. It is so, yet still, Lorensk calls them both friend.”

            Kerrin had burst into deep belly laughs before Lorensk was halfway done speaking. Gregor’s face had grown redder by the word and when the monologue ended, he shot to his feet, kicking his chair back and leaning both hands upon the table as he loomed over Lorensk.

            “Keep talking, fool, and I’ll show what violence my mind holds.” Gregor’s eyes were dilated, his breathing heavy. A vein pulsed angrily along the corner of his forehead.

            “Dearest and loveliest of friends, you do yourself harm. Here, sit. Let Lorensk, in all his eloquent compassion, retrieve a fresh and refreshing beverage to cool and calm the temptations of your temper.” Lorensk rose as he spoke, deftly dancing away from Gregor’s reaching grasp, and sauntered up to the bar.

            Gregor turned to Kerrin after the other man had left. “Are you serious about this guy?”

            Kerrin took a moment in answering, looking away from her brother as she considered her reply. When she spoke, it was with a quiet, serious tone. “I was on a job with him. There were thirty or so enemy soldiers hiding out in a forest and only ten of us. Our mission was to find them and flush them out.” She paused, a distant look on her face. “While the rest of us were debating strategies, Lorensk simply disappeared. Two hours later he walked out of the woods and told us the job was done. Of course, we didn’t believe a word of it. Not until the screams started. There were other sounds as well. The cries of wild animals mixed with the shouts of soldiers and the roaring crashes of falling trees. Eventually, all that sound was drowned out by a fire that spread from the forest’s far edge. It turned the whole place to ash. Don’t let him fool you with his nonsense, brother; that man is incredibly capable and completely ruthless. Trust me, he’ll make himself useful.”

            Gregor grunted but didn’t argue. He stared across the bar at this odd new ally of theirs. Lorensk was holding two mugs behind his back with one hand and waving the other in wild complaint at the bar keep. The warrior sighed, righted his chair, and sat back down to wait. He trusted his sister, but her story had only made him more suspicious of the man who was to be their third in this grand endeavor.