Sunday, 30 Rova
ohra exited the catacombs through the glassworks with the rest of the Band and was surprised and astounded by the throng of onlookers gathered there. Apparently, news of the Band’s return to the catacombs beneath the city had spread quickly. Despite being daylight-born, the sudden glare of a cloudless blue sky forced Kohra to raise the hood of her tunic.
As the band began to wind its way through the gathered crowd, Kohra could hear snatches of whispered conversation;
“Look, there’s Lady Caran.” Whispered one young girl to a friend, seemingly in awe. “I heard she killed thirty goblins and rescued the pretty woodsman only using those scarves!”
“Hmph.” An older matron snorted quietly as Kohra passed. “A pretty girl lie tha’ ought be married n’ makin’ babies at ‘er age. ‘Specially with those hip o’ hers, they was made for….gulp.”
A yellow eyed glare from Kohra quickly quieted the hag.
Once past the on looking crowd of towns’ folk, Kohra bid the Band farewell and headed to Wren’s home. As usual, her friend was waiting for her outside the door, delicious smells emanating from a pot over the hearth.
“You don’t seem to much worse for wear.” Wren lilted as she squinted at Kohra. “Come, let me see to those wounds.”
“I’m fine, Wren. These few scratches will heal well enough on their own. But thank you for your concern.” Replied Kohra. “I’m afraid I’ve not too much time, my dear. I wish to check in on Amieko and help her around the Dragon if she needs it.”
“You’re going back aren’t you.” It wasn’t a question.
Will I ever get used to Wren knowing my thoughts and plans before I do?
Kohra asked herself.
“We need to finish exploring the branches of the catacombs.”
“That doesn’t mean you should go alone, Kohra. Each of you is important to the success of this endeavor.”
“So you’ve told me a few times.” Kohra said, smiling warmly at her friend, “I’ll be fine. Trust me.”
“The last time you told me to trust you, Kohra, we ended up dangling from the old church steeple in the middle of the night.”
The two friends then spoke of more serious matters regarding the most recent sojourn into the catacombs beneath the city. Once she finished her story, Kohra bid her friend farewell and returned to the Rusty Dragon to check on Amieko and refresh prior to her return to the tunnels.
As Kohra opened the door to the Dragon, she was immediately greeted by raised cups and looks of admiration from the patrons. A few gave her glances ranging from appreciative to downright lustful, the later had learned the hard way that their eyes where the only bits of their anatomy that would enjoy her.
Ameiko Kaijitsu was sitting at the bar with her serving girl Bethana, discussing preparations for the evening crowd. They looked up, smiles forming on their faces as Kohra approached.
“Beth, please get our Bander friend something to drink.” Ameiko asked, her voice somewhat raspy. She spent the evening crying I bet.
“Of course ma’am.” Bethana answered, her voice lilting musically through the noises of the common room. She returned shortly with watered wine then went to see to the few patrons still eating their breakfasts.
“Welcome back my friend,” Ameiko raised her cup to Kohra, “You’ve been back to the underbelly of Sandpoint. I can’t wait to hear all about it.” She leaned forward expectantly to hear Kohra’s story.
Kohra beamed at Ameiko, the moniker of friend warming her more than expected. “I’m more than happy to share my tale, but I must first ask; how are you holding up? I know you weren’t too close, but the loss of your father and brother within a day…” her voice trailed off as she looked worriedly at her friend.
Ameiko sighed and took a long drink from her cup. “I’ve mixed feelings actually,” she rasped. “My father was not a kind man, and Tsuto wasn’t much better. They were tough to deal with, but father was good for the town.” She paused briefly, exhaling a long deep sigh. “I’m going to have to go back to the house soon to settle things there. I can’t imagine ever living there again though, not after this and especially not after my mother…”
Kohra leaned forward and placed a comforting hand on Ameiko’s forearm, “He never struck me as an award winning father, but perhaps he was better than nothing at all. My father too was slain quite gruesomely, I can empathize with what you’re going through. If you need help with your getting things settled at your house, please don’t hesitate to ask.”
“Thank you.” Amieko replied, relief evident in her voice, “That means so much to me. I have many friends here in town, but none I would want to ask to do that with me.”
“I’m here when you need me. I’m not going anywhere anytime soon. This town gave me shelter when I needed it and I plan to repay it.” With that, Kohra began regale Ameiko with the latest adventure of the Red Band. As the story progressed, Kohra found the performer in her coming out as the story unfolded in an almost bardic fashion. Eventually, she realized the common room was quiet and still, all eyes on her as the story reached its conclusion. The patrons all nodded in appreciation and thanked her for the story.
Slightly flushed from the excitement of storytelling, Kohra took her leave to refresh herself and rest before returning to the catacombs that evening.
Kohra finished her preparations for the evening’s spelunking just after sunset. As she descended the stairs, the smells emanating from the kitchen reminded her she hadn’t eaten since her morning visit with Wren. After enjoying a quick repast, Kohra departed, the Dragon amid disappointed cries from the patrons, her walk suggestive and captivating. “I’m sorry gentlemen, I will dance again tomorrow, but for now, my duties to the Band take precedence.”
“I’ll bet they do!” guffawed one over-weight and loathsome customer. Ameiko, standing nearby, struck him with blinding speed blood spewing from his, now, broken nose.
The man clutched his hands to his ruined face as his compatriots laughed uproariously at him. Kohra smiled thankfully at Ameiko, receiving a wink and a nod in return. As Kohra turned once again to leave, Ameiko grabbed the offender and began escorting him in the direction of the privy.
A short time later, Kohra, moving with unconscious quiet, reached the entrance to the underbelly of Sandpoint. She drew up short as she noticed a figure squatting near the entrance. She paused to observe the apparent guard. She almost immediately recognized the handsome young man as Mikel, a new recruit to the town guard and sometime visitor to the Dragon. He appeared to be oblivious to her presence, staring intently at a wickedly curved glaive lain across his thighs. The blade glinted black with swirling silver scroll-work.
she thought to herself. She quickly pulled herself away from thoughts about his thighs. Odd weapon for a town guard though
. After a few more moments admiring the handsome young recruit, Kohra stepped lightly out of the shadows.
Mikel flowed swiftly to his feet, twirling the glaive effortlessly and leveling it at her bosom, as her foot purposely scraped the ground. He recognized her at once as a Bander, his eyes widening. “Lady Kohra!” He exclaimed, lowering his weapon smartly. “Forgive me, I didn’t know it was you!”
“It’s okay….Mikel, isn’t it? I think I’ve seen you at the Dragon.”
The young man blushed a deep crimson. “Aye m’lady, I’ve been there and seen you dance. You’re incredibly gifted.”
“Thank you, that’s very kind of you.” Kohra’s voice taking on a deeper more sultry tone. “but you know, I’m no landed noble for you to call me Lady. Kohra is my name and I’m rather fond of hearing it.”
Impossibly, Mikel’s blush deepened even more. “Eheh….yes m’la…..Kohra.”
“Has everything been quiet, Mikel.”
“Oh yes ma’am. There’s been nary a bump or scrape until you arrived. If I may m’la…Kohra, why are you here? Is everything okay?”
“Everything is just fine. But I’m here to finish scouting the last corridor down there. It’s generally easier if I go it alone, my friends aren’t the most quiet sort.” Kohra peered up at Mikel, a warm smile on her face.
Mikel nodded, trying hard to keep his composure. “Ahem, er um, would you like me to accompany you?”
“I would love for you to accompany me. But you’re needed more here. If I miss anything down there it’s immensely important that you’re here to keep it from reaching the town.”
Mikel stood a little taller at her apparent acknowledgment off the importance of his post, “Yes ma’am. I’ll not let anything past!”
Kohra patted him affectionately on the chest._ Nice chest…._ “I know you won’t.”
Mikel finally allowed his eyes to wander, as Kohra turned and began to descend the stairs into the underbelly.
The next few hours past slowly for Mikel. He found himself beginning to worry about the attractive adventurer and dancer. He could still feel her hand on his chest….
“Mikel? Would you mind helping me a moment?” The dancer’s voice lit the night in his mind as it called from the dark tunnel.
“Miss Kohra?” he asked. “You’ve returned safely.” He could see her curvy silhouette holding a hand out for him to grasp.
“Indeed I have.” She replied as he grasped her hand and drew her out of the tunnel. As she stepped into the light she stumbled and slightly fell into his chest. His arms came up instinctively to catch her and he found himself holding her close staring wide eyed down at her. The smile he saw shining up at him from her pale face lit the darkness off his mind even more.
“You can let me go now.” teased Kohra.
Mikel’s face once again blazed red when he realized how long he had been holding her to him and immediately let her go.
“Ahem” he coughed, “Did you have any success down there?”
“You could say that I guess. The tunnel eventually empties through a secret door about 400 feet outside the north wall, near the beach. I imagine this is where the smugglers used to dock to unload their goods and bring them into town. There was only a single goblin though.”
Mikel found himself suddenly worried for the welfare of this dancer he hardly knew, “A goblin?! What happened to it?!”
“Umm…” she answered nonchalantly, “the last I saw of it, it was missing an arm and the water was smashing what was left of him against the rocks below the cave.”
“I wish I could’ve been there!”
The dancer smiled warmly up at him, “I wish you could’ve too. Turns out it was rather lonely down there. I seem to have become accustomed to traveling with a group rather quickly.”
Mikel grinned down at the dancer, “If you need a companion in the future, you can certainly send word and I will be there for you.”
The dancer placed a hand on hip and smiled coyly, “I absolutely will. But you’ll have to excuse me Mikel, I must pay my friend Zenovia a visit and get myself cleaned up. Please, come see me at the Dragon tomorrow night, I’ll make sure to give you special show.”
With that final statement the dancer swayed seductively into the night.
For several long moments, Mikel stared into the dark after her, the image of her silhouette and the musical tones of her voice burned into his thoughts. Her presence seems to sweep the darkness away or at least keep it at bay
, he thought. The Dark Glaive seemed to vibrate in his hand at that thought.