Campaign of the Month: June 2012
“Do all your family ’ave ’air like zees?” Brigitte asked, running a pale, slender-fingered hand along the side of Cian’s head. Her hazel eyes had flicked to his hairline repeatedly during their conversation, and the Cymbrian mercenary smiled slyly at the question.
“No, miss, not all. But my father does, and one of my uncles.” He caught her eyes and took her hand in his. It felt silken against the calluses on his own fingers. “Auburn hair isn’t terribly rare in Cymbria. Now, locks like yours on the other hand-” he ran a finger of his free hand over the curve of her ear, holding her gaze intently as he did- “bards sing songs in Cymbria of maidens with golden hair like yours.”
She blushed, and looked away with a shy smile. She didn’t take her hand away, though, and Cian started to think maybe Royan wasn’t so bad, after all.
Brigitte aside, he’d been thoroughly put off by the people of Juisse. The common folk had looked down their noses at him, sighing elaborately when he’d spoken in Freelandish and frequently refusing to deal with him in anything but Juissan, which of course he didn’t speak. They had all pointed him toward the “foreign quarter” like he was some kind of leper they wanted rid of, never mind the gold in his purse or the fact he’d just come back from making their merchants safe on the water.
The nobles, of course, were even worse. He’d only actually dealt directly with one of them so far, but the Capitaine he’d just worked for, holding the title “Sieur de Neuilly,” had made a lasting impression for the worse. A big talker, he’d been, with no sense of running a ship or fighting a battle. No stomach for it, either, as he’d been “indisposed” in his cabin during the shipboard actions in which Cian and the other mercenaries had earned their pay. The perfumed wig and the pancake makeup had seemed one man’s affectation until Cian had set foot ashore and seen that such was the normal day-to-day appearance of the Juissan nobleman. Watching two of the fellows bow and mince to each other in greeting was absurd to the point of disgust.
Cian had been happy to reach the foreign quarter and see signs in Freelandish. He’d been happier still to see Midrealmers and Ironmen in the streets, and delirious to stagger into the Green Mermaid to find rooms, other foreigners to blend in with, and the rapt attention of a beautiful blonde local girl who spoke Freelandish with an intoxicating accent. If his luck held, he’d not be sleeping alone.
A voice cut across the dimly-lit room, and Cian’s heart clenched in his chest. Freelandish spoken with a thick Espanish accent. His blue eyes darted to the sound, and he felt his body go cold at what he saw.
Diego Malajuarda, his black hair slicked back and his mustache oiled to a sheen in the candlelight. The sight brought back memories- the White Eagle, fire arrows falling like rain onto the deck from a midnight sky, seeing his friends killed, seeing Diego’s sharklike eyes before a cold, sharp pain in his guts and then darkness. He remembered waking up on shore, miraculously still alive. He remembered reaching his family’s home, hearing he’d been blamed for the sneak attack and branded an outlaw. That had been a year before, and he’d traveled to Juisse the long way ‘round, as a sailor and marine for a string of local potentates and merchant companies. From Byrundi to Chuul, and from Azulan to the Providences to Juisse, he’d earned a good living with his blade, but always running. Diego was always behind him, hunting, looking to finish the job he’d started in Carnavon Bay.
All this passed across Cian’s mind in a split second. Diego was calling for service, and hadn’t spotted him yet in the corner of the room. Cian thought of attacking him, but two more voices in Espanish called out, and Diego stood to greet them, embracing like old friends. All three wore blades.
Flight, then. He wore his armor and his father’s sash. His sword lay across the table, and he had kept enough cash on himself to replace his shield and the other gear up in his room. He hated the idea of running again, hated even more running without the money he had upstairs, but it couldn’t be helped.
“Kee-ahn?” Brigitte’s face held a little fear, now- Cian had let murder come into his eyes. “What ’appened?” She started to turn around to see what he’d been looking at. He stopped her as gently as he could, and kissed her. She responded enthusiastically, and Cian peeked over her shoulder to keep an eye on Diego. The Espaniard was speaking animatedly with his friends. Good.
Cian broke the kiss, and leaned in to whisper in Brigitte’s ear. “I think I’d like very much to tell you the rest of my story somewhere quieter. Do you know a good place?”
Her lips brushed his ear when she answered in the affirmative. As she led him through the back door away from his enemies and toward her home, Cian spoke a prayer of thanks to Aymara and Doran both.
Two Weeks Later
Cian thought it a terrible pity, not for the first time, that Brigitte’s father had gotten home a week early. Now the Cymbrian’s money was running out, he had no roof over his head, and he’d earned himself another enemy, though the Juissan was less likely to hunt him as ferociously as Diego. Even worse, it was raining. A cold, heavy curtain of water fell out of the leaden sky overhead, forcing him to duck under the eaves of a stable. A flyer affixed to the wall amongst any number of others caught his eye. Not least, it was partially written in Cymbric. He scanned it intently, and a grin crept across his face as he read the words “lucrative pay.”
He noted the address at which to enquire, and headed off with another prayer of thanks to Doran. Perhaps what others said about Cymbrians being lucky wasn’t so far from the truth. This “Artifact Project” looked worth investigating…