Justice in Archenfel

Meliantha frowned at the poster. The spelling mildly irritated her – being raised in a temple gave one a considerable education – but as the small handful of coins in her pouch reminded her, it was a job or sleeping under a tree again.

As the weather smelled of rain, that was not something she felt like doing.

She pushed the door open, leaving the parchment behind. There might be others looking for work, after all.

Unlike most travelers on entering an inn, she didn’t pull back the hood, just walked in and let the door slam behind her.

The inn was dim and smoky, not well-ventilated, but at least it was warm. She walked through it, a space between tables leading to the bar at the far end, next to the fireplace. Half the men jumped as the door opened, and the other half were obviously merchants and their retainers, spending the night here instead of on the roads. A half sheep roasted over the fire, and her mouth watered a bit at the scent and the idea of a hot meal instead of jerked meat and dried peas.

One of the men at the tables reached for her from behind, and winced as her hand lashed out, slapping it hard, before it even got to her bottom. His friends mocked him, but she noticed none of them tried it. It might have been the four-foot-long blade across her back, or the jingling of the chainmail she wore, but that little stunt won her a bit of room. She noted this – unlike a lot of small towns out on the borders, they only needed one warning.

The innkeep regarded the woman – obviously strong, a blade midway between a longsword and a two-hander, hooded and gloved. “What’s yer drink, then?” he asked, voice rough from years of smoke and yelling.

“Small beer,” she said, and the bartender looked surprised at the raspy sound. “And some mutton.”

He eyed her briefly and nodded. “Two falcons.” She rummaged in her pouch and came up with two silver coins, passing them to the man. He checked them with a practiced eye, then slipped them into a slot behind the bar. While he did that, she shrugged off her pack and pulled out a tankard and a plate. The keep filled the tankard with the watery beer, then gestured at the fire. “Ma’ll get your food.”

“How much a room, or the floor?”

He eyed her a bit more. “Room’s another two falcons, floor’s a thumb and no complaining about it.” She rummaged, sighed quietly, and laid down a silver coin and ten copper.

“And what about the job outside?”

He snorted. “The sheriff‘ll be in soon, he’ll tell you all about it.” He went back to tending bar, and Meliantha got a large hunk of mutton for the money. She retired to a back table, and, her back to the room, removed her gloves and ate it.

She finished her meal quickly, licking her fingers clean – it had been a long time since she’d had real meat – and pulled them back on. The room had become quiet, and she thought of loosening the bindings on her sword (just in case) when the door slammed open, and a burly, uniformed man pushed in.

“Good,” he said, a sly tone in his voice, “volunteer militia. Welcome to the Archenfel Militia, you rabble.” Two men came in behind him, with crossbows nocked. “You’ve been drafted.” Then he noticed the person in the back. “Nice blade, but the militia uses clubs.” He smiled, cruelly. “You’ll have to surrender it until your term of service is over.”

“What’s the term, then?” a man dressed as a merchant asked.

“Oh,” the Sheriff said, “Until you can buy your way out. We pay two copper a day, you pay one copper a meal, and then you get two copper a battle hazard pay. And the pay-out’s two hundred lions, so… about never or until you die, I expect.”

As his exposition had gone on, Meliantha had stood, and walked towards the door.

“See? She’s surrendered to her fate al-” He hadn’t realized she’d drawn her blade, and the bastard sword flashed, cutting him down with a single blow between his ribs. The two crossbowmen took a step and died as well, one quickly as she took his throat, the one slowly as she opened his belly as far back as his spine.

Meliantha turned around, taking down her hood. The men blanched at the sight of her ash-grey skin, deep violet eyes, and long ears.

“You need a new sheriff,” she said, “this one’s broken.”

 

The resulting ruckus saw the corpses of the late sheriff and his two henchmen tossed in the graveyard, and Meliantha rewarded with a few gold dragons for getting rid of the leaders of bandits that had taken control of the town. The rest of the night was her finishing the job, and morning saw her leaving Archenfel, walking out through the woods in the rain that fell.

She’d taken care of the bandits, gotten herself some more arrows and some travelling supplies, but it was made quietly clear to her that it would be best if she moved along.

That, at least, was nothing new to her.

Posted by Meliantha Demonblood

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