After staring at the woman who’d cleared their problem out for a few moments, Varlaine shook his head. Now was not the time to be gaping. He motioned with a hand after the retreating bandit, and Eryn followed his pointing for a moment before shaking her head. The rider’s arms were still crossed firmly over the thin metal plate over her chest, and she was quick to return her stare to the redhead between them. Distrust clouded her eyes and dragged her lips down into a frown.
“Are you two injured?” The question that came from the armored, older woman was hoarse, rough, like someone who had been days without water. It shocked Varlaine for a moment; he had thought perhaps she was masking her voice, but it seemed now like it was natural to her. The prince shook his head in response.
“No… erm, thanks to you. I mean, thank you.” He answered lamely. She watched him for a moment, with steel-gray eyes, judging silently before nodding. ‘Laine felt his cheeks heat up in humiliation. At the end of the encounter, he felt useless; Eryn had at least dealt with the leader, and this woman, whoever she was, had really dealt with everything. When she seemed satisfied with her look over him, she turned her eyes to Eryn, who was visibly less impressed than he was.
“Who are you?” The cyan-haired griffon rider demanded. Her tone was sharp, interrogatory, and made Varlaine flinch. The swordswoman she was challenging did not seem perturbed, tilting her head just slightly at the question and turning her attention to the bandit Cass had put down.
“Naz. Mercenary.” Short responses, curt and to the point, while she stepped forward. Cassius pulled back a pace, leaving the body under his claws where it lay; with a boot, the woman turned him over and grimaced, before rolling him over again to lay facedown. Varlaine chose not to look too long, but appreciated that the sight was probably nicer that way.
Eryn, however, seemed less than grateful. “That’s funny. Those guys called you Henrik, right before you stabbed the lot of them in the back. Who’s Henrik?” She pointed out. Her ornate, expensive axe was lifted to rest over a shoulder, perhaps to display her lack of fear, but the show of power didn’t seem to shake Naz any. The middle-aged woman frowned at the girl on her griffon’s back.
“I imagine this armor belongs to him.” A noncommittal shrug, looking around once more, taking stock of the bloody dirt around them. Her eyes came to rest on the motionless, spear wielding man Varlaine had incapacitated with an icicle, and her brow narrowed. “Ran a carving knife through his throat. Took his gear to go after his comrades.” Her head turned and Varlaine got another look at her hair: red, but faded, a color that was practically nonexistent in Revengard and something of a rarity in anyone who wasn’t from the northern country of Lor’tsun. She cleared her throat, snapping him out of his musings to inform Eryn that she wasn’t intimidated. “Do you have more questions? Because you left one alive.”
Eryn’s discontent with that answer showed in a glance to Varlaine, one that he returned with a shake of his head. While he was just as confused as she was, Naz did not seem like an enemy. She’d saved their lives and demanded nothing in return so far, and appeared to have bigger things in mind—as he watched and tried to piece things together, she marched her way over to the downed bandit. One boot planted in the middle of his back, and with both hands she pulled the icicle free; as she did, he cried out in pain, the ice coming away bloody before it was tossed away. The foot on his back rolled him over, very much alive, very much terrified.
“You. Tell me where your hideout is.” Naz knelt down at his side, one hand sliding his spear out of reach while the other grabbed onto his collar. Then she curled fingers into a metal-plated fist and pulled it back, causing him to flinch. A swift punch to the nose got another cry of pain. Varlaine looked away, while Eryn shouted a complaint.
“Let him up! He’s unarmed.” The rider complained. Her feet kicked over the side of her enormous leather saddle, and then she dropped to the ground, stumbling towards the pair. Naz turned her head to glare, then, but did not strike again.
“Girl, if you had any idea what these men have done…” The woman’s scratchy voice reprimanded, but Eryn didn’t back down. Varlaine was quick to hop off of his horse, feet hitting the ground just as clumsily as his traveling companion but moving to separate her from Naz even as he steadied the dirt beneath him.
“Could you please explain what’s going on?” He asked. Naz turned her stare to him, but then softened and stood back up. As she rose, she rooted her foot on the man’s stomach once more, and dusted herself off.
“There’s a farming village an hour’s journey west. These men hit it hard a few mornings ago.” She explained, lifting her foot and then dropping it back down. The bandit, who couldn’t have been much older than Eryn, yelped at the pressure but didn’t fight it any. “Dozen or two dead. Took everything valuable. Burned most of the rest.” Another stomp, then.
Eryn protested, then. “You’ve gotten your retribution. There’s no honor in hurting the defenseless.” She finally closed the gap enough to put hands on Naz’s arm, tugging her back. While the older woman could have fought back, she humored the rider, taking a step away and letting the bandit recover.
“I’m not going to hurt him, if he tells me what I want to know. I’m going to kill him. Quick, clean.” Naz responded. Varlaine could see Eryn’s blood boiling just beneath the surface of her skin. She grew stiff as the spear that laid abandoned next to her, pulling on Naz’ arm once more.
“No, you’re going to turn him loose after he tells you what you want to know.”
Surprised by Eryn’s stubbornness, Naz stared her down for a moment—and was met with a challenging glare back. Then, she shrugged one shoulder. “Fine. It’s on your head, though.” Her boot lifted from the man’s chest, and he lifted both hands to clutch at the spot that was surely bruised. ‘Laine wondered if Naz had cracked a rib.