The Wyrm's Curse Ch. 03byFelix921©
It had been a mile through the woods to the southern trade road and two more up the wide dirt highway to the turn off which became Blanc Mar's Main Street. Kara had spent most of the latter two miles walking through the weeds and shrubs at the roadside. Horses were lovely animals, but she preferred walking when it was feasible. Raised in a forest village until she was eleven, she had never grown completely comfortable with cleared, horse trafficked roads either.
Standing before The Cloven Shield, Laurent's tavern, Kara paused to beat dust from her leathers and look over the few horses tethered outside. It was late afternoon and the tavern, like the rest of the little town, should be relatively quiet.
Blanc Mar had grown from a little village almost exclusively due to the combination of it's smithy and it's ability to trade with the dwarfs for iron. Currently the smithy was worked by it's owners; five blacksmiths, as well as an apprentice and a handful of helpers. More recently a couple jewelers had moved in, as well as an aging merchant who employed local women to run spindles and looms.
A few men from the village trapped or hunted when the season was right. Most traveled by horse or together in wagons up the trade road to other towns where they had found employment. The majority would not be back until sunset or later.
Kara recognized an old chestnut mare as belonging to one of the blacksmiths. They all liked to come down to The Cloven Shield, flirt with the barmaids, eat a good meal and get stumbling drunk on the rare occasions when they took time off from their work. She didn't recognize the other mounts.
Closing her eyes, Kara rolled her shoulders a couple times and hooked her thumbs into her belt. After counting to thirty she strode through the wide doorway into the tavern. Once inside she opened her eyes and looked around. There was only one window in the one big room, and that was thickly coated in lamp soot and pipe smoke residue. The light from the doorway and the few oil lamps burning served to make the dark corners darker.
Walking straight ahead to the near end of the bar, Kara tossed her seabag at the slight, dirty blond girl tending it.
"Mary, stow that for me until I'm ready to go."
Catching the girl off guard, the seabag struck her in the face and chest. She flailed in surprise before getting hold of the bag. Rolling it up and setting it behind the bar, she glared ineffectually at Kara's back, but said nothing.
Kara, meanwhile, had taken stock of the rooms contents. Chimney was not in evidence. Perhaps he was in the kitchen. Perhaps he was upstairs in his room. The blacksmith was sitting at a table near the far wall, his attention on his food. The only other occupants, three men playing cards, sat around a table near the center of the room.
Smirking darkly at her luck, Kara recognized one of the card players. The shaven headed fellow sitting with his back to her. If there had been any doubt in her mind it would quickly have been dispelled. The dimwit was laughing and carrying on loudly, probably drunk. His Heaven's-Gate accent was unmistakeable.
Before going to say hello, Kara lay a silver on the bar.
"Corn bread, roast chicken with roasted tomato and... a mug of Dragon's Blood." she spoke quietly to Mary.
That done, she sauntered over to stand behind her one time cohort. Leaning forward she placed her chin on his shoulder to whisper in his ear. She faked a seductive smile which had the two other men grinning and swapping knowing looks.
"Collen. I thought you might like your share of the haul from our mountain expedition." she whispered.
Cranking his head around enough to get a glimpse of her, Collen blinked. His eyes widened.
"You," and as her words found their way through the alcohol and general denseness, smiling, "What have you got for me?"
On cue Kara reached her left arm over his shoulder to hold her fist in front of him. He looked at it a moment, then held an open hand under it. Kara dropped two coppers into his palm.
Collen's brow furrowed.
"The hell is this?" he growled.
"It's for the ferryman." Kara whispered, still smiling.
Kara moved then, so quickly it was done before the other two card players could begin to react. Her left hand came up, jammed violently up under Collen's nose to force his head back. Her other hand flashed up, driving a four inch blade up into his neck just below the corner of the jaw and wrenching it toward the other side of his neck before pulling it free. In pulling it free Kara whipped it in a slashing arc which slung a spray of brilliant blood across the face of the fellow sitting across the table to her right.
The two men simply stared in stunned silence. Collen tried to speak, but choked and sputtered. He grasped Kara's left wrist to pull her hand from his face while trying to stanch the spurting wound with his other hand. Panic setting in, he pushed his chair back, fetching up against Kara, and tried clumsily to stand while still holding on to her.
Stepping to the left Kara kicked the chair out of the way. Unfortunately, turning about and stumbling, Collen grabbed the first thing that presented itself; Kara. Short as he was, he was heavy and she was born down under his weight and inertia. Blood spattering in her face, Kara gave a silent snarl, spitting and trying to blink it from her eyes.
Collen got one hand around her neck, but his strength was ebbing like the strength of the spurts from his neck. Kara knew he was dying, but fought her right hand free from between them and drew another knife, having lost grip of the first in their collision. She tried to concentrate on what she was doing. With what force she could muster she drove the knife into his lower back, repeatedly, hopefully at kidney height.
Finally, the bleeding at his neck slowed to a stream, eyes glazed, Collen gradually collapsed onto her.
Mary had disappeared from behind the bar. One of the two men took this opportunity to grab his money from the table and exit the tavern at speed. The other watched him, then glanced back down at the bloody, bloody body on the floor. Just then the blacksmith brushed past him.
Moving with an air of nonchalance that said here was nothing out of the ordinary, the burly, bearded fellow wedged the toe of a boot like a battering ram in between the two bodies and grunted. Collen rolled obligingly off of Kara. She ceased huffing and cursing. Surprised, she scuttled backward on her elbows, knife in hand. The smith waited, letting her glance about suspiciously for a moment, before leaning down to offer a massive hand. Taking it, Kara was pulled easily to her feet.
At this point the last card player gave them a wide berth on his way to the door.
Kara and the smith regarded each other for a few moments. The metal worker raised an eyebrow, then smiled and fished in a pocket. He produced a cotton handkerchief and handed it to her. She took it, retrieved her lost knife and cleaned off both bloodied blades. Only after sheathing them did she bother to mop at her face and chest.
"Blouse is ruined. That'll never come out." she commented absently. The sleeves and collar of her blouse outside her leather doublet were almost completely soaked with blood.
"Personal, or business?" the smith nudged Collen with the toe of his boot.
"An excuse. Mostly I just didn't like him much." Kara replied.
He nodded. She offered him the bloodied handkerchief back. He held up a hand, shaking his head. Kara shrugged, dropped it on Collen's chest.
"Thanks for the hand." Kara added as she squatted next to the body to loot any valuables she could find.
"Can't abide a man forcin' himself on a woman. 'Specially a dead one." he chuckled.
"Uh, right." Kara spared him a dubious glance.
"Come by the smithy sometime and ask for Karzno. We can work out a design and I'll make you a quality knife for a good price." he spoke over his shoulder as he walked to the door. Finishing, he turned, nodded, and departed.
Kara cocked her head to one side, realizing he must have noticed her empty sheath. Pretty observant, but she supposed in his line of work you noticed arms and armor.
Having claimed a coin pouch and a plain silver ring, Kara stood again. She was standing there, hands on hips, considering the mess when Mary returned from the back where the kitchen was located.
Mary apparently hadn't overheard the scuffle. She came around the bar carrying Kara's meal and drink, but stopped short when she beheld Kara's handiwork. Kara's first thought was that she hoped the girl didn't faint or throw up.
Mary was made of sterner stuff than that, it turned out. Getting over her initial surprise, she showed no hesitation in reprimanding Kara utilizing a good many colorful expressions.
Kara did get to enjoy her meal, but only after placating Mary with several coppers and an almost sincere apology. She especially savored the strong, cinnamon-spiced rum.
Two hours later Kara was on a wagon moving North. Her plan, vague at this early stage, was to take the pay-wagon up to Hernsburg, then North-East on a return coach to the city of Tollenville. Unless Mirielle had pulled up stakes and moved in the last couple years, (unlikely), she would still be in the same old pine log house her family had kept for several generations. It sat amidst a stand of spruce on five acres of land roughly halfway between the center of the city and the outskirts. At the time her ancestors bought it, before Tollenville grew into a moderate size city, the land had been at the outskirts.
Before catching the pay-wagon out of Blanc Mar, Kara had stopped by the market and the trading post. A week's worth of traveling rations and a full wine skin had gone into her seabag. In addition she purchased a long leather water bladder on a sling which held at least three liters and a light traveling cloak, which she now wore.
And of course a clean new blouse. In a mischievous mood she had near given the man working the garment shop an episode. Having checked that the shop was otherwise empty and having paid, Kara had turned away from the fellow and stripped to the waist right there. Pulling all her leathers back on over the new blouse and adjusting them, she had grinned over a shoulder at the wide eyed clerk, winked, and departed.
Slouching in the rocking bed of the wagon amongst crates of iron tools and sacks of clothing bound for the little market in Hernsburg, Kara wondered at her own behavior. Not that she cared two coppers about 'proper' behavior, but she wasn't normally the type to be seized by such adolescent whims. She suspected it was some sort of side effect from whatever the wyrm, Copper, had done to her.
In an attempt to take her mind off things, Kara passed some time sharpening her knives. Eventually, growing drowsy, she rearranged the sacks of clothing and her sea bag to make herself more comfortable and drifted off to sleep.
There were a few brief stops the next day, but otherwise the wagon rolled on through the day.
In late afternoon Kara noted the fork where they kept to the right, baring North East, being on their way to Hernsburg. The left fork led almost due North, eventually to the Ironflanks where a few days before she had accidentally met her first dragon.
It was late that after midnight when the wagon finally trundled into Hernsburg. The driver stopped at a hostelry, pulling the wagon under a wide outside awning running the length of the stables. The horses were unharnessed and rubbed down before being led into stalls inside to be watered and fed.
The driver spoke to Kara before walking off on foot bound for the nearest Inn. He suggested if Kara didn't feel like paying for a room she was welcome to pass the night in the wagon. He would roust her before he took the wagon to market in the morning if she wasn't already up. Kara took him up on the offer and spent another night curled amongst the sacks of clothes.
Though she had grown accustomed to the rattling, bumping movement of the wagon, she slept surprisingly well and woke to cock's crowing somewhere in town. Rising in good humor and ready to stretch her legs, Kara collected her seabag and waterskin and strode out into the orange light and long shadows of dawn.
Passing through the market in the town square, Kara found a handful of sellers at their booths. She bought a croissant smeared with sweetened butter. Munching contentedly and enjoying the cool morning air she made her way to the coach station.
She sat on her seabag outside the station and finished her breakfast. It was nearly half an hour before a clerk arrived to open the place up. Kara smiled to herself. Nothing unusual here in the country, but in Tollenville or any of the larger cities to the north, coaches would already have been on the move. There, time was money. Out here, the coaches weren't so busy, or profitable.
Kara bought a ride to Tollenville, one way. The clerk, an officious twig of a man, informed her that her coach would be leaving in an hour. There would be a stop at a way-station around noon where she would change coaches and continue on to her destination.
The ride to the way-station was pleasant enough. Kara had the interior of the coach to herself. She was glad to be able to keep her gear inside with her. It always made her a little itchy, stowing her things on top or in a storage compartment in the rear. Perhaps that was partly a byproduct of having been a thief herself. More than that, though, she just liked being able to lay hands on things at will.
As it turned out, there was another passenger joining her when she switched to the next coach. A young woman, well dressed in a moderately lace-frilled dress and traveling boots.
The girl introduced herself as Victoria Linworth. Kara recognized her accent and the girl confirmed that she was indeed from Heaven's-Gate, here to meet a suitor. She was the only child of a reasonably successful Heaven's-Gate merchant; the suitor similarly the child of a merchant, but here in Lessane. Kara nodded, giving her first name and good naturedly accepting the unsolicited conversation.
Explanations done with, the two sat, diagonally across from each other, in silence for the better part of an hour. Finally, grown bored of watching the trees along the side of the road, the girl looked to Kara again.
"Begging your pardon, miss, but you don't look like a housewife. Does your work take you to Tollenville?"
Kara raised her hands from her lap to shrug off her new cloak. She smiled faintly.
"My work takes me lots of places."
Victoria's eyes took in Kara's leathers and the five knives that were visible. Her mouth opened but nothing came out.
An idea occured to Kara and she warmed to it. Drawing two of her knives and flipping them in her hands, she held them out to the girl, handle-first. The girl's eyes got really wide then.
"Go ahead, see how they feel."
Enjoying herself, Kara passed the next few hours with Victoria talking about her past occupations. She explained how to hold a knife and the basics of knife fighting. Dispelled some misconceptions most people had on the subject. Described many of the creatively named techniques employed by the common street thief. Recounted some close calls and exciting misadventures.
Despite looking every inch the proper young lady, Victoria listened raptly. Before long her eyes danced with such life that Kara fancied she might ask to be brought along to join Kara as a sort of squire. It was only reluctantly that the girl allowed Kara to at least temporarily end the conversation in order to indulge in a nap.
Dark, echoing corridors. An unnerving feeling of disorientation. Little heat-silhouettes along either edge of the hall on the floor. Rats.
Rats, lined up and watching her go by. Where the hell am I, she felt more than thought.
Through a doorway and into a vast chamber. Suddenly the disorientation vanished. All at once she knew where she was.
And there was the great reptilian beast. It shimmered and faded, replaced by it's pale, nude humanoid form padding up to Kara. It wasted no time in pressing Kara back against the cold stone wall and leaning in to ravage her mouth.
Kara moaned, returning the kiss. Taking her hands from the dragoness' shoulders to begin undressing, she blinked in surprise. Somehow she was as naked as Copper. Her surprise was short-lived. All coherent thought abandoned her as her lover gently but firmly pulled her down onto a shifting mound of coins.
Victoria looked over, drawn from her daydreams by Kara moaning quietly in her sleep. As she watched, Kara's restless shifting included some undeniably suggestive hip movements accompanied by equally suggestive noises. Despite being somewhat less innocent than she looked, Victoria was still compelled to bring a hand up to cover her mouth. Out of habit she further adhered to the unspoken code of mostly-proper ladies by turning her head and watching Kara out of the corner of her eye.
The girl sat a bit longer, trying to imagine what kind of worldly debauchery left a woman with the kind of dreams Kara must have been having. Feeling her pulse quicken and a certain warmth rising unbidden in her, she decided it might be best to rouse Kara.
Just as she leaned across, intending to lay a hand on Kara's shoulder, the thick leather plates at the front of the half elf's skirt shifted. Victoria flinched away, shrinking back against the padded seat back. She watched in alarm as one of those lengths of leather slowly rose.
Had a rat or some other critter somehow managed to sneak into Kara's lap, the girl wondered. It wasn't waking her, whatever it was.
Victoria swallowed hard and leaned across, hesitating with one hand poised to lift aside Kara's skirt. She swallowed hard and steeled herself against her nerves. She didn't want to go into hysterics, screaming and carrying on like a spoiled city tart at the sight of a mouse.
Victoria drew back slightly in anticipation when she lifted the skirt aside. Then she moved closer. When her mind finally grasped what she was seeing she froze in disbelief.
It wasn't a rat.
Victoria had led a somewhat sheltered youth, but at nineteen she had rolled in the hay a few times. The crotch of Kara's tights was tented and Victoria had little doubt as to what was straining against the fabric.
She had heard jokes about men dressing up as ladies, but this was something else.
A very faint, pheromone-laden musk reached her nostrils. She felt that warmth rising and spreading through her again. Her pulse and breathing quickened.
Practically in a trance, Victoria drew the top seam of Kara's tights up and over to release what indeed turned out to be a prominent erection. Her eyes traveled slowly down, following the seam of the tights as she slid it down the length of Kara's cock.
Just then Kara gave another quiet moan and shifted her hips forward. Victoria blinked when Kara's deeply tanned member tensed, bobbing. As it ceased moving the girl touched a fingertip to the underside, near the base and ran it slowly up to where the foreskin was pulled back to the rim of the swollen head.
She watched in wonder as a tiny bead of precum welled up before her eyes. On impulse she dipped her face forward to lick up the dot of salty fluid. Even with such a slight touch, she could feel that Kara was quite warm to the touch.
Victoria felt herself growing wet. Bending to the will of the lust building in her, she moaned and pressed her face into Kara's lap. Bracing one hand on a soft tanned thigh, she kissed and sucked at the underside of Kara's throbbing cock. She whimpered and murmured lustily, feeling the throbbing and twitching against her mouth.
Her other hand she worked up along her own thigh, beneath her dress and slip. She gave up after a moment wrestling futilely with her ridiculous full-body undergarments. She settled for rubbing herself through the now quite damp frills. Squirming under her own hand she eagerly took the head of Kara's cock past her wet lips to suck and lick.