"Obviously, we aren't forcing anyone to do the job," Varian stated, adding on to Cass's previous statement. "We are mercenaries by trade, free to pursue whatever jobs we wish. Cass and I are taking this job. The rest of you are free to accompany us if you so choose. But mark me," He stared at each of the mercenaries gathered around in the small inn, "This one looks like it'll be for the long haul and it won't be lacking in danger. There will probably be a few nasty surprises along the way."
Ava sat off to the side, sharpening her swords on the whetstone she had bought back in Dalenham. "What about Alys? We're not going to leave her here, are we?" While she was eager to carry on, she was concerned about the incapacitated teammate of hers lying in one of the bedrooms.
"If Alys is fit to go, and wants to go, then I have no qualms in taking her along. She proved herself well enough in our last job." Varian responded, taking a seat in his chair, and motioning for the barmaid to bring him a drink. She gave the Highman a glare, mostly because it appeared to other patrons that they had been drinking for free for almost a week, which was detrimental for business. She had grown tired of explaining that they had been paid for up until the end of the week, which was tomorrow.
"Whose talking about me?" Alys shuffled out from the hallway, kept upright by one of the healers who lead her over to a seat for her to sit down. She was notably thinner than she had been before, and a lot more paler looking as if she was ghost, although sever wounds would do that to you. Clutching a mug of thick, murky healing potion, her hands shook as if the mug weighed twice as much and it looked like it took all her effort just to drink from it. "Have we got a new mission?"
"Oi!" Varian yelled out loud, lifting his fresh mug and toasting to Alys. He wanted to mention how she had given them quite a scare for the injuries that she had received and the long duration she had been in a coma. He wanted to say that it was good seeing her up and about, but in the end, he decided against it. He figured that as their leader, he had to maintain a certain personal distance between himself and the others. Their line of work allowed for little in the area of friendships, and Varian wasn't eager to make friends only to have to end up dealing with the pain of burying them later. Alys had survived the last job, but there was no telling that any of them would survive the next. "Yes, we just received it. Long-term employment. Big payment, put mildly. Certainty of danger. We'll fill you in on the details later, but those that are joining up with us are heading to Palaven tomorrow. If you're fit to go. If you want to go, you're free to tag along."
Alys' heart skipped a beat and what little colour had returned to her face rapidly left at the mere mention of 'Palaven'. Her mind cast back to her history in Rowanion as her hands gripped the the mug harder. "We're...we're going to Rolsten?" she stuttered in confirmation. She wasn't in a state now to even lift a bow, much less draw it to strike, but the vow still played over in her mind. A free trip to Rolsten was all she needed; she would just have to gain all her strength on the way there before confronting the damned island that had taken her parents. "I'll go," she stated determinately, "I'll ride a horse until Yamcha, if I can't strike a target by then, I'll stay behind."
"If Alys is going, then I am too." Ava piped up, casting a weary glance over at the feeble Alys, the girl, even in her weakened state, was ready to charge into battle again. Even before the bandit fort, the two of them had happily fought side by side, looking out for one another and creating a bond between them. She wouldn't let Alys fight without her; someone needed to take care of the close combat.
Anlem sat towards the back of the tavern. He didn't say anything while this commotion went on around him, but only wrote in his book in silence as he had been doing the passed few days. The exchange between Alys and Varian was not particularly important to him so he put half his attention on the conversation and the rest on his prose. He looked up from his work when they finally finished, half wondering how girl in a coma could go from weak to determined and half of a mind already made up. Their chatter had given him time to think and consider and he was more than ready to state his answer.
"If that's two then I'll be three," he answered without hesitation.
"I'm sorry, who are you?" Alys asked meekly. The dwarf who had spoken had not been one of the few that had journeyed with them to the bandit keep in the first place, yet he seemed to be counting himself into their band of mercenaries, something Alys wasn't too happy about. Surely he must have heard of their tales already and was quick to jump on the bandwagon. Had their tales really made it that far and wide while she had been asleep for the entire six days?
"Mm?" Anlem turned his head to the injured girl which he learned through the conversation was named Alys. "Anlem Taegor," he answered politely, "a pleasure to meet you. I came here six days ago."
If Honest had heard correctly, the injured woman was an archer which could be a very useful person to have in a group. In a battle he was particularly wary of archers since they had a much greater range than he did, and it was nigh impossible to dodge or block an arrow from afar unless you spent more time looking at the sky than at your surroundings. And then you'd die anyway. He would much rather have an archer on his side than against him, although she probably wasn't quite as effective in close combat--leading to her earlier condition. The dwarf, on the other hand, was a writer-who-could-use-a-hammer. Having never seen him fight before, Honest wasn't too sure how well he would cope in a fight.
In any case, his answer was quite obvious. Even if he hadn't pledged himself to Cass he would probably have still agreed to go. Aligning himself to this group, with their increased notoriety, was bound to increase the amount of work they could do. And while work sometimes lead to death, every mercenary knew that a lack of work meant starvation.
"I go where Cass goes," he said easily.
"We didn't ask you," Cass said, giving Honest a sly smile. She was going to force him to come regardless if he wanted to or not. That is what servants do anyway. They follow their master without question.
"Good," Varian said with a nod. He turned to look back at the counter. "Now that we have that settled..." He whistled for one of the barmaids to approach. She walked over to the Highman with a smile, opposite to the other one who served them. Varian casually leaned back in his chair. "Have you got any Ormur Firewater?" He asked her, not looking over towards her when he spoke.
"Ah, I think we imported a few cases not a fortnight ago, so you may be in luck." She replied.
"Give me six mugs," He ordered, before looking over the others. He wouldn't have expected any of them to have heard of it unless they would have visited the country at some point. It was very popular among the Highmen nation, but also in some nothern parts of Ethora and Eveamoor. In Vanaheim, there were three main celebratory drinks customarily performed in toasts: Haegard Whiskey was for the dead. Vanaeras Wine was for celebrations. Ormur Firewater was for luck. "Here, if you have the stomach for it," Varian declared, as the barmaid brought six mugs of the potent Highman liquor, appearing like crystal clear water. "I'd expect the real dragons amongst us to still be standing after this." He uttered, raising his mug in the air to be met by the remaining five mercenaries.
Honest regarded the mug quizzically. He hadn't had a lot of alcohol in the last week, and he'd definitely never had anything so clear. From Varian's words the drink was very strong, but it couldn't be that bad if it looked like they'd just fetched it from a well. He clinked his mug against Varian's, a tradition he'd never actually partaken in before, and then took a large sip. The burn that followed the liquor down surprised him and he was immediately more relaxed.
After his toast, Anlem also took a look at his mug. He'd never had a taste of anything from Vanaheim and certainly nothing with a color like this--clear, yes, but nothing so pristine. He took a heavy gulp and immediately regretted it afterwards, coughing from the drink's heavy burn. In hindsight, he realized that anything with the name "Firewater" wasn't going to be friendly to the throat and that he probably shouldn't have done that. He wondered for a moment if the burn was worth it, but as the drink's affect washed over him he concluded that it was.
Alys gingerly reached for the mug, hand shaking badly enough for the drink to spill all over the floor before it even reached her mouth. Out of nowhere, one of the healers swiped the drink from in front of Alys and took it up to the bar, exchanging it for another mug of the stagnant "medicine" water she was currently drinking. Obviously she was not allowed to drink alcohol, so sourly accepted the new mug of "medicine" water, raising it to Varian's mug before taking a large gulp of the thick liquid.
"What's this about dragons?" She asked quizically after the warm liquid slid down her throat.
"Something the locals gave us," Varian replied, taking a large, satisfying gulp of the burning liquid. The aftertaste alone stung in his mouth. The drink itself burned as if someone lit a match in his mouth. It indeed was Highmen liquor, and Varian missed it sorely, burning sensation and all. He slammed the mug satisfyingly onto the table and let out a deep sigh as he continued to speak to Alys "We've gotten quite renown from the last job, as you can imagine, our client being Albert Castell. The locals started calling us the Dragons of Dalenham, and the name somehow managed to stick."
"The what?!?!" Alys blurted out, almost losing her mouthful of medicine, "the Dragons of Dalenham? I mean come on, a fairy tale from a cesspool? You've got to be joking Varian, at least they could have called us something cool like 'Mercs of Aerion' or 'The Syndicate'." She shook her head dissatisfactionally, taking another large gulp. Firstly they had picked up these two nobodies while she was asleep, and now they had given themselves a name? It was ludicrous as if the whole world had suddenly turned upside down while she was knocked out.
"We're not the only mercenaries in Aerion," Honest pointed out bemusedly as he took a sip from his cup. "That could get confusing." A part of him quailed at the thought of confronting someone--however minutely--who obviously had seniority in the group, but that part was definitely getting quieter the more he drank.
"I didn't make the bloody name!" Varian boomed, picking up the potent liquor and taking another swig of it, letting the burning sensation pass through his insides. He suddenly felt a warming sensation pass over his entire body. He was feeling the effects of the combination of the Firewater and his previous drinks. "As I said to Cass before, the people will make their trivial names, and at this point, there's nothing we can do to dissuade them otherwise. Like it or not, that's what Aerion now calls us. I say, if it gives us clients, f*ck the details."
"I don't quite mind the name," Anlem commented. "True, they could have picked something better than Dalenham, but I think it has a bit of a charm to it."
Varian shrugged, taking another gulp of the burning liquor, the aftertaste potently remaining in his mouth. "Whatever works for you," He commented, then placed his mug down, and figured now was a better chance to find out more about the newcomers. "I don't suppose anyone of you are from Palaven, are you? You don't seem like the type. Where do you hail from?" He asked, though he supposed Anlem was most likely from the mountains of Mindirion, and Honest from Eveamoor. That's what he seemed to think fit the bill.
"I actually come from a little farm to the south," Honest explained happily with another sip of his drink. For all he knew, that was true. He thought he remembered days of toil underneath a burning sun; the smell of cracked dirt and water too precious for him to drink. But he also remembered oceans and the sting of salt water on his wounds, and the suffocating cold-dark-damp of mines, and the clashing of swords in battle, and about three hundred different versions of his family.
"I come from Falke," Anlem answered after Honest. "Though by the way I left, I don't think my family would accept me saying that."
"What, did you murder someone or something?" Varian asked bluntly. "I have no qualms with a murderer. Murder is just killing without the knowledge of payment."
"Oh, no. It was much more tame than that--a bit boring actually." Anlem took another drink of the Firewater which seemed to burn more fiercely than the last time. "I cared more about writing than fighting--a big thing in my family--and it didn't exactly go so well. They took it a bit like Cass did at the beginning, but then they started to look at me a little contemptuously so I left." He shrugged as he finished, not seeming all too affected by his family's decision.
Varian shrugged, also taking a sip of the burning liquid. He felt the heat emit from his mouth as he exhaled. "I suppose what's in the past should stay buried there. What exactly do you write about?"
"Anything I see. I haven't found anything to focus on. Well, until I ran into you all, that is." Anlem answered. "I figured I'd write about our adventures now. We might as well give this living legend a story, right?"
"Heh..." Varian snorted, looking down at his mug, which was now almost done. He felt the warmth of the liquid flow through his body, but most notably at his throat and mouth. He shook his head at Anlem's living legend comment. Is that really where this was headed, or were they thinking too much of themselves now?
"Might as well..."