"Oh, hello," said the man behind the counter. "To what do I owe to ple-"
Aomidori slammed her hands down on the counter. "What do you know about the White Raven?"
The man flinched but said, "Calm down honey! Is there anything you want to buy?"
Shii pointed at some children's clothes. It was a nice tunic with some pants and a pair of small boots. "Can I have that, Aomi?" she asked.
Aomidoir sighed and nodded. "Yes, you've ruined your last set," she said, referring to the ragged cloth. "How did you destroy it in a week?"
Shii smiled but said nothing.
The man counted the 20 gold pieces Aomidori had set on the tabletop, grinned, and then folded the clothes into Shii's hands. "There's a room back there where you can change," he said.
Anwil watched Aomidori and Shii ducked into the back room. Aomidori stared at him as he turned back to the counter and started pointing at things to buy. When the two emerged from the room, he had slipped several things into his knapsack.
"So, what can you tell us?" Anwil asked.
The man pulled out a worn map and a quill and quickly made a circle motion with the ink. He handed it to Aomidori, who said, squinting to read, "So, they're in Heykla?" The man shook his head and made a motion with his hand.
"Yes." said the man. "Have a nice day."
They walked down the cobblestone path towards the gate of the village. Anwil had a firm hand on his knapsack and bow, and Shii was skipping in her brand new attire. Aomidori looked indifferent.
"Can you tell me about yourself?" asked Shii, curiously, to Anwil. Her arms swung as she kicked her knees up.
"I'm apart of the finest hunting duo in this kingdom," said Anwil. "You'll come across some enemies, for sure. Lowbrow bandits and the like, I just," he brought up his bow, leveling it with a nearby treetop, " act like they're prey..." he released his arrow, "and shoot them down."
There was a shrill squeak, and from between the branches, a squirrel collapsed onto the ground. The arrow went right through it's small head, blood welling from the wound.
Aomidori stared, impressed. Anwil walked to the furry ginger animal and tucked its body into his sack. "And I can get you food," he added. "Besides being a walking travel guide."
"I can hunt," said Aomidori offensively.
"Then let's see it," said Anwil.
Aomidori shot daggers at him with her eyes. Anwil smiled at Shii, and they followed Aomidori out of the town gate and into the surrounding forest, the ocean to their back. She crouched and shifted her position so she could hold her bow, hidden in the bushes surrounding the little sandy path winding around the town. As she pulled it back, a large buck leaped pass. In a sort of desperate attempt, she released her arrow, hitting the deer in the chest.
Anwil shook his head, brought up his bow, and hit the deer dead center in the head as it ran past. It fell, tripping over it's own hooves mid-stride, and hit the undergrowth and fallen leaves, dead.
"I'm guessing you're more squeamish than hunter," said Anwil. "See? You need me for that as well."
"Quit pointing out my flaws," said Aomidori. She walked up to the deer, slid a dagger from her belt, and began hacking off the skin. As she separated the stringy tissue and muscle from the underside of the pelt, Anwil sat down and carved out the organs, tossing them wetly to the side.
Shii squirmed when he turned to her. "Please stop," she said. "That looks like it hurts!"
Aomidori smiled. "He's dead, sweetie."
Shii blinked hard. "I hate it when you do that to animals. Thank goodness you never do it to the people who go after us."
Anwil glanced up swiftly, gathering up all the heavy, lopsided organs and heaving them into the river behind Aomidori. "What? You kill people?"
Aomidori shrugged. "What else am I supposed to do?"
Anwil shook his head. Taking a shaky breath, he looked up again from his work. "I'll just take this to Gredar," he said. "He can tan it and make some weapons out of the bones. C'mon, help me out."
Aomidori reluctantly aided Anwil as he dragged the large animal to the town gate a few yards away. Anwil waved to Gredar, who bounded over like he had some long-lost spring in his old bones, and the elderly man beckoned over some youngsters to help him.
"Good job, Anwil!" said Gredar. "Mind of we use the meat for tonight?"
"Sure. But I may want to use the pelt."
Gredar smiled. "Oh, sure. Okay, boys. Take it down to my house and we'll work on it together in a few minutes." he turned back to Anwil. "Be careful, okay? That Liyau girl is sorta sketchy to me."
The red-haired elf smiled uneasily. He stroked his sword-handle gently. "I know."
Gredar waved. "May the 12 grant you safe passage!"
Anwil stuck his tongue out, pulling the gates closed with a snap.
They started on their way. Shii looked up at the sky and pointed at a large figure flying by. "Is that a bird?"
"No, it's a dragon," said Anwil. "They're common around here."
"But this is near the sea," said Aomidori gruffly.
"Yes, but some dragons come here because flying over the ocean is much faster than flying over land." said Anwil. "That's the theory, anyway. Aren't we heading to Hekyla? We're going the wrong way."
"We're going east. That's the right way." snapped Aomidori.
"Wouldn't it be faster to take a ship there?" asked Shii.
"Ships are expensive," said Aomidori.
They walked on the path for a few minutes in silence. Then Anwil piped up.
"So," he said. "Tell me about you two."
Shii smiled. "Aomi's really cool," she said. "She used to be an assassin before her father died protecting me," she added. "So she had to take his job!" Shii glanced at Aomidori. "But she doesn't like to talk about that."
Anwil shivered. "So that's why she looks like someone's hired hitman every time she looks at me."
"Hmm?" Aomidori said sweetly, voice like venom. "I would rather talk about you."
"Anwil Quar. Used to be a bodyguard. That's all, really." Anwil said shortly. "Anyway, this is a professional relationship, there's no need for us to share anything. Our common goal is to get to the gang and be done with each other."
"There's no relationship," said Aomidori.
"How are you so sure?' Anwil said, mainly just to get her goat.
She ignored him. "Who thinks we should set up camp?"
"We can keep going," said Anwil. "There's a small town not far from here, and they'll have an inn. That way bandits can't rob us blind when we sleep." he pulled the squirrel from his sack and skinned it as they walked.
Behind them, the sun kept getting dimmer and dimmer as it hid behind the trees.
The inn was lively during the day, but by the time the three had reached it, it was night and the activity had slowed to a drunken halt. When they arrived, Anwil ordered a drink from the beautiful bartender, but couldn't drink it because Aomidori smashed it and said,
"Don't drink alcohol around Shii!"
The bartender chuckled and said, "Your wife's a feisty one."
"We're not married." said Anwil grumpily, detesting the idea.
Recognition flashed across her face and she laughed, tucking her blonde hair back. "You two have a job together or something? Wandering adventurers?"
"Yes," said Anwil. "You have any rooms open?"
"I have 2 open, is that enough?"
"Yes. I'll take one and her and the kid will take the other." he shifted the gold to her, and she smiled and handed him the keys. "Just one night."
"Okay. Say, do I recognize you?"
Anwil shrugged. "I don't know. Have there been lots of elves about these parts lately?" he asked slyly.
"No, but there's been quite a few red heads. Hm." she slid her arms down on the counter so she could look in his eyes. Hers were green. "Anyway! The kid's real cute. But that woman, she looks like a cold-hearted murderer."
"From what I know, that's what she is." said Anwil.
The woman laughed. "I'm not joking! You know, I have seen her."
"Yeah. I've seen someone like her at night sometimes, wielding a knife. But I may just be paranoid. Is 100 gold for the night okay with you, love?"
Anwil nodded. "Hey!" he shouted at Aomidori. "I got you a room."
She ignored him and countuined talking to Shii. After a minute she walked over to the bartender. "Grey," she said to her, as if she recognized her.
"Snowyl," said the blonde.
"Snowyl?" said Anwil.
"It's her real name," said Shii. "Aomidori is her middle name." the girl was shaking, as if something bad was going to happen. Anwil could feel her trembling shoulders as his fingers swept from adjusting his hood to the hilt of his dagger.
"So, got anything new? Any information?" asked Aomidori.
"Hmmm, yes. The family of your victim just offered a million gold for your capture." Grey tilted her head and her blonde hair shifted from her shoulders. "Would you mind walking with me to see a town knight?" she purred, referring to the city guards.
Aomidori's face was slack for a moment. Then she cracked a smile and her and Grey started laughing. This went on for a moment, before Grey stopped mid-laugh to glance around the inn Then her smile became brighter and her eyes widen. Standing up straight, she yelled:
Aomidori glanced around, and a moment of alarm flashed across her face.
"KILL THE GIRL AND CAPTURE THE LIYAU!"
Several men and a few women rose from the chairs scattered around the main room of the inn. They withdrew weapons, or swung magic staffs, fixating intently on the three at the front of the inn.
Aomidori pushed Shii behind her back, and stared at Anwil, something animalistic and fiery swirling in her pale eyes.
"You better know how to fight!" she hissed, grinning.