“We’re between jobs, low on gold, ain’t got shit to eat or drink, and you’re going out to dinner?” Darsil’eit growled at Gax. She stood with one hand on her hip and one eyebrow arched. Her olive skin glistened from the humidity of the air in their tight quarters.
Gax ignored her for a moment, smoothing the wrinkles from his roughspun cotton shirt, which clung tightly to his muscular frame. It was his nicest shirt. Well, one of his only shirts, actually. He left his torso naked more often than not, save for when the seasons shifted and would have frozen the orc blood in his veins if not for layers of clothing and pelts. “We aren’t that low on coin…”
“We’re sharing a damn room in the shittiest inn this side of the mountains!” Dar shouted, her eyes wide and alive with fire and fury, her arms splayed wide to encompass the cramped box that barely managed a single cot.
Gax averted his surprised gaze to the wall then went back to lacing up his boots over his breeches.
He stood once finished and shambled toward the shoddy door out of their humble dwelling. “We’ve got a job in a few days, haven’t we? We’ll be fine until then.”
“You’re lucky we do,” she mumbled angrily. “I’d nail you to the wall by your pecker if we didn’t.” She shook her head. “Spending any damn coin at all right now. Ridiculous…”
Gax swung the door open, frowned when the entire slab of rickety wood came free of the wall, then turned and gently put it back in its place before hustling away from the inn and his furious companion. He emptied out into the brisk night air and turned promptly down the avenue that smelled of horse dung and wood-burning fires, taking care to avoid piles of animal droppings. He straightened his shirt about his neck, fastening the final button beneath his throat, ensured his sleeves were rolled to the same length on both forearms, displaying equal amounts of green flesh, and picked at his nails with a dagger while he walked. Then, he was standing before the Splintered Bow.
He took a deep breath, sighed, then pushed open the evenly painted and sturdy door. While this was no restaurant for nobles and lords, it was certainly regarded much more highly than the Smashed Helm. Men and women of many races sat in pairs and groups, enjoying private, if a little loud, conversation. Darts didn’t fly through the air haphazardly, nor did tankards and fists slam tables or faces. A few pieces of artwork even hung from the clean walls.
To say the least, Gax didn’t feel in his element. But this is where Elondruv wanted to meet, and he wouldn’t have denied her even if she had suggested Quartz in the upper district.
In short order, Gax found a table and requested a loaf of bread and assorted cheese be brought. He sat angled to the entrance, eyeing it sidelong in an attempt to appear only half interested in whoever may come through the door. Elondruv entered just as their food arrived, and Gax failed at any attempt to seem nonchalant; the girl who dropped off the plate of bread and cheese asked something of Gax, but he was too stupefied to react at all, so transfixed by Elondruv.
Her green skin was a shade lighter than his, more like puke that consisted mostly of pea soup rather than the tree moss of Gax’s. Her lower tusks jutting out of her mouth a half inch or so were a clean white, one of them decorated by a band of silver inlaid with ruby quartz. She wore a form-fitting leather and cloth outfit of burgundy and light brown, the V-shape of her blouse displaying the tops of her voluptuous breasts. Her hair lay in a thick braid down her back.
She smirked and sauntered over, pointing to the serving girl as she sat. Gax blinked several times and looked to the impatient human. “What?” he murmured.
“Ale or wine?” she said curtly.
Gax motioned toward Elondruv. “Ale,” she said.
“Same,” Gax muttered, and the serving girl was off.
It was slow going, at first. Gax was plenty content to allow Elondruv to do most of the talking, adding small snippets to the exchange on occasion. As time went on and they filled themselves with ale and food, he loosened up quite a bit and they quickly had each other smiling and laughing more often than not.
“So they took me, just a few years old, and tossed me—” The door swung inward suddenly, proceeded by a boisterous slew of laughter. An immediate quiet descended on the patrons within. The group who had entered, most of whom Gax knew from one tavern or another, seemed to collect themselves. They moved to the polished bar top, ignoring the distasteful looks thrown their way.
The establishment slowly returned to its previous state, murmurs and good-hearted conversation breathing life back into the room. Gax found himself lost in Elondruv’s tales concerning her upbringing and her time here in Durthlem.
A great shout of drunken revelry burst from the group. The barkeep hollered at them to quiet down. They proceeded to throw obscene gestures his way and laugh all the louder.
Tension suffused the air. The barkeep abruptly told the rowdy gang of drunkards to leave, and they didn’t take too kindly to that. The bouncer at the door moved toward the group as the barkeep swung around the bar. The group cast back and forth, seemingly itching for a confrontation, their confidence bolstered by the ale they’d consumed thus far.
One of the drunkards, named Burton, suddenly grabbed the barkeep before the bouncer could reach them, and ran him backward before tossing him away. The barkeep stumbled then slammed into Gax’s table and reeled over it. In the process, the food and drink on the table splattered on Gax and Elondruv. Gax felt mortified as he watched Elondruv wipe ale from her eyes. His embarrassment quickly gave way to anger, and he turned and pushed up from his table.
“Oh, hey Gax,” Burton said cheerily, as though he hadn’t just ruined Gax’s evening.
Before Gax could lunge toward the imbecile, a truly wondrous thing happened. Elondruv appeared, charging toward the inebriated idiot. She carried a large turkey leg like a short club and smashed it over the man’s skull, a smile plastered to her face.
Time slowed in that moment. Gax found himself mesmerized by the sight of this beautiful orc pummeling a man with a roasted leg of meat and bone, reveling in the incidence as much as she obviously was. Burton floundered away from her, the blows failing to cause devastating harm, but certainly smarting his face and arms.
After a few whacks, Elondruv seemed to tire of humiliating the human. She cast the leg aside, the bone cracked in half, then stepped beyond the man and slammed her arm into his chest. He pitched backward, caught his legs on her own, then crashed down onto his back with a loud thud. His eyes swam and he groaned.
The rest of the group looked on incredulously as the bouncer ushered them out of the establishment. Their laughter started up as soon as they left, Burton’s name hollered several times.
“I’m so sorry,” said the barkeep as he stood up, his clothing disheveled and smattered with food and drink. “Please, the food and ale are free.”
The bouncer returned and roughly grabbed Burton by the back of his coat and drug his limp form to the door then tossed him out to the street. More laughter abounded.
“It’s fine,” Elondruv responded. “It was fun beating him with a leg of turkey.”
“It was even more enjoyable watching,” said the barkeep as he began to pick up plates and food from the floor.
Elondruv nodded then looked at Gax and must have noticed the admiration twinkling in his eyes. She seemed to suddenly develop a sense of shyness. She snagged a square of cloth from the table and wiped at her neck and arms.
After a short time, they left The Splintered Bow and were strolling along the streets, busy with night revelers.
“Where are you staying?” Elondruv asked abruptly after the two had shared a laugh at Burton’s expense.
“A shithole inn for the time being. Dar and I are between jobs.”
“It must be odd having an elf companion, no less a woman, to share rooms and adventures with all the time.”
Gax raised a shoulder and eyebrow simultaneously. “It isn’t so bad. We tend to make a good pair and are good at keeping to ourselves when it’s necessary.”
“Do you and her, you know?” Elondruv’s eyes widened and she chewed her bottom lip.
Gax stared at her quizically.
“Have sex,” she added innocently.
“Gods no!” Gax shouted. “I couldn’t even imagine…” He shook his head violently. “We’re partners and friends, is all.”
Elondruv blushed and smiled wide, looking to the ground.
A silent moment passed where Gax debated whether or not to say what was in his mind. He relented. “Why do you ask?”
Elondruv looked to Gax with a passion burning in her eyes. “I was kind of hoping you could show me your battleaxe. I wouldn’t mind holding it.”
Gax nearly choked and tripped over himself. He felt his cheeks burn hotly, but still managed to say, “I’d love for you to hold my battleaxe.”
Elondruv moved a bit closer and Gax risked putting an arm around her waist, which she allowed graciously, squeezing even closer to him as they made their way back to his small room. Dar would have to wait outside for a bit, he thought. She certainly wouldn’t be happy about it, but she’d also rather put a dagger through her eye before sticking around to watch. Gax put his coin on her throwing a fit before going somewhere far away from their room.
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