(No breaks, not even for Christmas! I hope all of my readers have a warm, happy holiday!)
Feeling out of place, Varlaine pulled himself to one side of the room and away from the open door. He cast glances to it, feeling perturbed by the claustrophobic feeling of the loothouse they were in but even moreso at having an open door to his back. Eryn followed, jaw set in a firm frown while Naz removed the contents of the bag she was searching through and placed them out on the wooden floor: Next to the gauntlets, the older woman placed first one pair of hinged metal plates, and then another. Following that, an ornate wooden jewelry box, weathered and the size of a small loaf of bread, and then a trio of leatherbound books, before pulling out the biggest item, a large and polished silver breastplate. The bag deflated after it was removed, and Naz seemed satisfied enough to look up at the pair of them.
“Is that what we came for? You to get your stuff back?” Eryn complained. She had her arms crossed close to her chest, and Varlaine could almost feel the palpable tension in the air around her. The rider seemed to be demanding a response from Naz, but the mercenary was quiet for a moment, looking over her things and taking stock. “Hey, are you listening to me?”
The latter comment’s bite made Varlaine cringe, even if it was directed away from him. Naz didn’t look too impressed, either, but she stayed on her knees and began to remove the borrowed gear she’d worn in. Careful, practiced fingers undid her gauntlets’ cinches and placed them aside with as much speed and comfort as Varlaine would have with buttoning up an undercoat.
Once she’d shed the metal gloves, she reached for the greaves that adorned her feet and pulled the leather ties that held them tight, loosening them up. The dented, scratched guards were on the floor before she finally elected to respond to Eryn’s question. “No. We’re going to take what we can use from here. Then we’re going to return to the town these goods came from.” She spoke slowly, clearly. Her throat worked as she thought over her next phrase, giving Eryn time to suck in a breath and respond, but Naz cut her off by standing up to start undoing her stolen, just-oversized chestpiece.
“Then we’re going to tell them how to get to their belongings. We will ask for what they can spare, and then we will be on our way south.” A solid plan, at least from what Varlaine could expect. He was surprised the woman had managed a plan at all, considering how briefly they’d been together and how willingly Naz had agreed to go traveling with a pair of youths.
“That sounds agreeable.” He nodded, which silenced Eryn’s concerns. The light spilling in from the open doorway was beginning to take on a creamy orange hue, which may have also contributed to a little more willingness to compromise on all parts; it would be dark soon, and the lot of them would be needing to find refuge and rest. It had been a long day, and Varlaine’s muscles ached for a warm bed; he could not imagine how Naz must be feeling, after the combat she’d faced. “Do you plan to rest here?”
“I think that would be best. It’ll be dark, but shelter is shelter.” A shrug from Naz, who was armorless in the dusk light, dressed only in plainclothes beneath: simple, stained brown linens, something that likely came from up north, closer to the border of Lor’tsun. Varlaine knew that they wore less cotton and silk up there from the few times he’d sat in with his father on meetings with ambassadors.
“What about food?” Eryn questioned. “The prince and I are starving.”
“Those barrels have preserved meat and fruits. We passed a stream while we were coming this way; I will fetch water.” Naz picked up the blade from the ground, her sword, and set about strapping it in at her waist. Her armor left on the floor, she paused for a moment and looked over the pair of them. “Eat up. We won’t be able to carry much when we leave and what we have on the road will be less than fulfilling.” And without a word of warning, she was moving to exit the shack; her legs carried her out into the open, starting to search for a bucket to carry water with. Varlaine watched her go with a little bit of fear in his chest, while Eryn crossed the room to search through the barrels. She produced a large, cooked and salted pork loin, grimacing as she held it up.
“Here, dinner.” She told Varlaine. He bowed his head in appreciation and followed after her to take it, and the meat was slick and grainy with salt in his hands. It smelled a little too old, but also better than anything Cassius had managed to hunt and Eryn had managed to scorch in their scant campfires since they’d left, and so he held his breath and took a bite out of the meat. The pork was slimy, and unpleasant to chew, but his jaw worked on it until it was processed enough to swallow down. Then, with a frown, Varlaine took another bite.