There was a knock at the door upstairs, muffled through the walls, and Esteban came down a minute later with an envelope in hand.
“Uh, there’s a letter for you.” He handed it to Drew, who dangled it suspicously.
Drew mused, “I wonder if it’s poisoned?”
Brug, the half-orc with a stick of jerky in his mouth, reached for it. “I’m good at this stuff. Leave it to me to-” but he was cut off by the stocky arm of a rather dwarvish-looking man across the cheap plank table. The envelope was snatched out of Drew’s fingers before Brug could take it, and the stocky man tore it open. “It’s from your cousin.” he spat.
Drew squinted at him. “You’re… that was pretty reckless, Merik.” he said. Merik shrugged indifferently, and spun the paper to Drew, who missed it, and had to pick it off the floor.
Esteban asked, “Well, what, uh, what does it say?”
Drew looked it over carefully before reading it. Brug shook in his chair, and stood up, leaning over the table. “Let me see it!” and reached for it.
Drew held it away. “You can’t read anyway! Knock it off.”
Brug sat down but continued to fidget.
Drew finished reading. “Says we have work if we want it. It’s from my cousin. Says there’s a good ‘harvest’ this year. Must be a pilgrimage, maybe.”
Merik snorted. “Whatever. If it’ll keep my belly full I don’t really care. Let’s do it.”
Drew twirled a twig between his fingers on the table. “Doesn’t add up.”
Esteban said, “Well, if you have work you’d better get out of my mom’s basement. You’ve already cleared out our cupboards, and you know she’s sick. Come on, man.”
Drew pursed his lips. “Right. Let’s get a few coins together here and head South.”
Merik scowled. “We’d have enough coin, scrip and anything else we’d need if you could just keep a lid on your purse.”
“It’s a man-bag, shorty, and just you remember who paid for lunch yesterday.” Drew folded up the letter and shoved it into his tunic.
Merik stood up and slapped both hands on the table. “You paid for it with MY MONEY.”
Drew smirked, “See? You admit it. I paid for it. I did.”
Merik felt his collar becoming hotter and tighter as blood seemed to boil in his veins.
Drew knew he’d have to diffuse the situation. He said, “Fine fine. I’ll pay you back the moment we make some money. Esteban, get us some grub for the road.”
Esteban stammered, “Uh, I don’t uh… don’t have any more food. Like I said.”
A muffled yet grating voice clattered down the stairs. “Are your friends still in there? Tell them I said they have to go!”
Esteban looked pale. Drew sighed, got up, and snorted, “Thanks for everything you’ve done, good buddy. Pal.” and slapped Esteban on the back as he passed him, ascending the stairs to the main floor of the house. Brug was close on Drew’s heels and looked at Esteban apologetically. Merik gritted his teeth and walked up the stairs with his eyes closed, feeling his way up. He managed to close out the world just long enough for the rage to pass.
The moment Drew opened the front door he knew he’d screwed up.
By the porch, which led directly onto the cobblestone street, stood a man in what looked to be a lightweight suit of plated armor, shining even on this overcast afternoon. He smiled, his imperfect teeth marring his otherwise handsome, if bald, face. “Are you Drew?” he asked.
Drew hesitated, “Yes?”
The man bowed deeply. “Then please, allow me to introduce you… to my sword!”
In an instant, a radiant, oversized broadsword appeared in his hands, and he was somehow leaping in the air before Drew could respond. The blade nicked Drew’s leg on the downswing. “Where did you get that?!” Drew demanded. “Brug! Merik! help me out here! Kill this Vecker!”
Brug scrambled out the door, swung over the banister, and swatted the back of the bald man’s head with a blunt object, having taken advantage of the man’s slowed swing. Drew gasped, “Is that a spoon?” Brug ducked the massive broadsword. “I grabbed it from the kitchen!”
The bald man shrieked, “Shut it! Why do you defend this sinner?” and lurched for Drew again. Merik had shuffled out of the house, and walked casually down the front steps to the street, taking up a defensive position with his shield and sword. Seeing the reckless swinging of the man in front of him, who appeared to be some sort of holy man, he saw an opportunity and jabbed forward, cutting into the man’s side. The man shimmered out of vision, and reappeared a few steps away.
“Don’t you know who I am?” howled the holy man.
Drew sneered, “Uh, I slept with your mom? Are you my son?”
“Bahamut damn you!” the man retorted, swung wildly at Drew, and missed entirely, much to Drew’s relief, which lasted half of a second when the man teleported behind him, reached his arm around Drew’s throat, and pulled him across the knee, slamming him into the ground face-first. Drew coughed blood into the dust. Brug twirled the ladle in his hand and slammed it with all the fury a half-orc can muster, knocking the avenger to his knees, breaking the ladle at the handle.
“Damn.” Brug grimaced. The wind was picking up.
Across the street one of the neighbors, an alchemist, came out of his front door nonchalantly, caught notice of the mayhem occurring at the porch across the way, muttered, “Oh, HELL no.” then went back into his narrow, towering apartment, locking the door with a heavy CLICK.
Back across the street, Brug searched through his own pockets and finally found his small mace. The avenger got back to his feet and wedged his sword into Drew’s leg, only to take the flat side of Marik’s own blade across the chin. Brug motioned to Marik frantically, trying to communicate a plan for a quick attack, and leaped as he noticed a sweeping kick dart out from the avenger. Drew mumbled, “Whuuutrrr you waaaiting forrr kill emmm…”
Marik and Brug nodded to each other, and swung down hard, simultaneously, crushing the bleeding avenger to the ground. He croaked out a brief squeal, choked, and stopped moving entirely.
Marik sighed, not so much in relief as in exasperation. Brug tried to help Drew to his feet, and was shoved away rudely by Drew. “Korddammit! How the Vecna am I supposed to do this on my own, huh?”
Brug stammered, “But I was-”
Marik reached out and slapped his face. “A ladle. A LADLE.”
Drew got up to a knee and gasped out, “What were you going to do? SERVE him?”
Brug stopped shaking and started to smile a little as he said, “I think I served him up pretty good.”
Marik and Drew paused in their chiding, noticing that for once Brug had stood up for himself, and started laughing with him, and then all three were laughing. They felt slightly awkward, with that odd feeling that one is being watched. They looked to the window and saw Esteban clutching his hair, as pale as whitewash, mouth agape in horror at what he had just seen.