Level 22 ~ Taecendar cont’d

Taecendar rolled up to a quiet stop in the middle of the tough-guys’ camp. Then he heard the voices hoarse from too much drink and winced as he realized they had left lookouts semi-alert. He should’ve picked a direction and come down to the pass further away from their camp instead of sticking with his plan to make up his mind, on east or west, after getting to the pass. West. He should’ve gone west. Vixie always talked about the big cities in Landis; that was probably where she’d gone.

“Ey! You!” The hoarse voice of a hook-nosed weather-worn man stirred the others from their sleep as he drew a nicked heavy cleaver and stepped toward Taecendar.

“Oh! I’m so sorry!” Taecendar smiled apologetically and bowed to the man, spinning his staff around behind his back. “I tried to go over the cliff-face to avoid disturbing you, but I seem to have slipped.”

The metal and leather scraping of the men standing up and surrounding him was grating. These men didn’t take any better care of their equipment than themselves. Numbers and the strange protection of the Lost Dragon’s Pass were the only reason such a rag-tag bunch could still be alive after a night in the Viura Mountains. Monster-bait was the term the villagers had for men like this outside the pass.

“Well you’re a pretty one, aren’t you?” a man hunched nearly in half crooned sickeningly. “Got anything nice for us, pretty boy?”

Taecendar ran a hand back through his hair, “I’m afraid I don’t quite know what you mean…”

A large half-orc slammed his club into his own open hand with a snapping sound, “The king’s knights are all off to war, and the Church is crippled. We’re making this a toll road!”

Taecendar twirled his staff around to his other hand to scratch the back of his neck with it. If any of these men were real fighters they’d have some idea what he was capable of based on the way he did it. “Well, I’m afraid I’m a bit of a hunter. I don’t have any food or money with me.”

“Then you’re practice!” The hunched man crooned with a toothy grin.

Taecendar turned his staff sideways to stop both of the men who stepped to rush him from the sides. “Well that’s not very friendly! Can’t we negotiate?”

Yeah. These guys were clueless. Seen their share of fights and probably knew the gist of how to hurt people and maybe a little about avoiding being hurt… But by the time all of them had failed to take more than a couple steps toward him they really should’ve figured out they were out of their league. The hunched man flung both of his knives at Taecendar and already had new knives drawn with impressive alacrity.

“I’m not in the habit of giving lessons to brigands…” Taecendar knocked both knives up into the air with his staff, catching one point on the end of his staff and the other pommel to pommel with the one balanced on his staff. “Why don’t you try your hand at being a labor gang instead? I think it might go better for you.”

Nope, they still didn’t get it. Dang… And he’d really been hoping to avoid having to fight. Taecendar sighed as he began knocking the brigands out and throwing them into one another with his constantly whirling staff. Nobody even got close to him. Heck, the archers they had hidden behind the rocks couldn’t get past his spinning staff. Taecendar hated fighting, but nobody in Calon was monster-bait. Everybody could fight as well as they had to in order to live in the Viura Mountains, and Taecendar had mastered a defensive staff-style that only the best could hope to get through.

With a sigh, Taecendar set off down the pass toward Landis with his staff over his shoulders again. War, huh? Would Vixie have gotten involved in that? Probably not; she was adventurous but no killer. Safe bet she hadn’t gone to the Church though, that definitely wasn’t her style. He’d check port towns first; the trade and bustle of a port town would probably appeal to Vixie.

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