Chapter 21Mature

Under a curtain of heavy rain and rumbling afternoon clouds, the bustle of the harbor had mostly died. A few vigilant or slave driven workers still remained, running around left and right aboard a few crafts as they struggled to bring in delicate merchandise or tie down goods already onboard.  The rest of the district stood in a grey wet emptiness. The majority of the usual inhabitants taking shelter in the nearest drinking holes.

Davrou sat on a small rickety bench in a grungy alley littered with junk and smelling of spilt oil, ignoring the snores of a homeless man sleeping in a small cave of metal and wooden scraps. Large droplets pattered onto the new grey leather and steel chain duster He picked up at the curiosity shop. His left hand thumbed at his amulets as the rune dagger, his other acquisition, slowly rotated in the other hand letting him admire the detail of Odin’s loyal twin wolves, Geri a Freki. Greedy and Ravenous, those names rung truer than anything else to him. They were what Davrou had lacked and his brother never understood. Without such qualities you were nothing more than Fodder to the world. Memories of finding his brother rigid corpse laying in a puddle next to the Arena under a similar storm swam to the surface. Pale, almost blue skin frozen to the touch, the smell of almonds heavy on his breath. Thaelon’s expressionless gaze still haunted him. His brother was too honorable, too naïve for the world, Davrou had always known that, yet, he deluded himself in thinking that was fine, even right. Thaelon’s murder was his failure, it was the seed for those essential hungers. Davrou was ready to do anything for himself and more importantly for his vengeance. No matter how long it took, he will find the ones responsible. He would find the coin and the power, to wipe out that entire bloody village if need be.

The images of an angry golden haired woman, with a dark glare and brilliant azure eyes suddenly slipped through his ponderings, bringing a small grin. She had a similar look in her expression, a hardened determination. She assuredly had her own demons to slay. Davrou shook his head, doubting she was greedy enough for the task. The wolves’ dagger in his possession was proof of that. It strength would have been lost on her in any case, like the odd proprietor, she would not have seen passed the blade’s aesthetics. Maybe the weapon was meant for the most Ravenous, he mused spinning the blade so the handle rested in his palm. Concentrating on the intersecting tringles etched onto the flat of the blade, and the mirrored glyphs just above the hilt, Davrou felt its strength slumbering.

“Valknut, Ansuz” he read the runes, instantly feeling the hum of resonance from the relic.

 He could not help but think Odin’s must favor his goals, if the all-father blessed him with a true blade of the god’s own marks. Not that he understood its properties yet.

A nearby thunder clap roused him from his pensive state, back to the present situation. The rain was welcomed cover, after constantly looking over his shoulder, expecting to feel cold steel or hot lead suddenly burying itself in his back, it gave him time to rest. But Davrou had pressing business with one of the airships that he could afford to neglect. With the rain receding gradually, his eyes followed the men of the Winds Wave, an aged and massive freight ship, brimming with cargo, all but ready for voyage. The crew worked their way across the deck managing the sails and making sure all was secure and ready. The sound of the ship’s massive old blustering steam engine rattling to life informed him that it was time to go. He slipped the dagger into its sheath, strapped around his fore arm to match the other and filled with a strong necrotic toxin. Drawing nearer His vision strained for any signs of movement, he had to time his sprint carefully to get onto the vessel without being seen. Steam erupted from the flanks of the ship creating more than enough camouflage and demanding that he hurry before it began to rise. Davrou broke into a flat out run, ignoring the bouncing bottle of Spirit and Loki’s extract bumping against his thigh, his head had a greater chance of rolling with each passing day and he didn’t want to offer Valhalla anymore opportunities.

The flutter of a cloak came into his line of sight too late to avoid; he crashed into the cloak’s owner with a hard thud, their heads bumping together as they tumbled to the ground.  Collecting his sense, Davrou sprung to his feet, sliding his hands into wet sleeves near his blades, leaving them concealed but easily accessible. The salamander blade was already damaged but still good enough to use, the oil based flames wouldn’t be smothered by water. His gaze fell to the stranger rising, hoping it was a bumbling sailor rather than any one he’d have to kill. The familiar sight of ruffled lace with an Auburn corset and matching boot, all now partially soaked and spattered with dirt, told him it was neither. A scowl of recognition said she remembered him too.

 “You again” Davrou stated incredulously with an undertone of frustration at the woman from the oddity shop. Why was this woman here?

"How very assuming of you. You do realize you are the imposing force in this situation, don't you” she retorted fixing him with a fierce glower, a remarkable feat such pleasant features.

Davrou matched her stare, scanning her expression for any signs of deception. As far as he could tell, other than the piercing brilliance of her eyes, she showed no lethal hostility and was genuinely upset. Good, he thought, abruptly turning back to the airship which was now pulling away from the dock, a group of sailors watching their little argument from the deck.  She had shown at the best time to ruin everything.

 “Cursed Interfering Woman.” He declared, relaxing his arms and walking off before more people came.

“I still haven’t heard an apology.” She called after him stubbornly following behind.

Davrou turned quick, already tired of her, and gave an exaggerated bow “I profusely beg your pardon? Would you like me to give a more remorseful expression? A deeper bow? Or was that satisfactory for you” He could she face red in indignation.

"Didn't your mother teach you any manners, you pretentious bastard? I should make you kiss the bottom of my boots and wipe the mud off of them with your jacket!"

Her response was colorful and admittedly more entertaining than he expected but lingering in the open was doing him no favors.

He gave her a hint of a grin "Manner weren’t a great concern in my past, but I see you weren't taught much either. I’ll just leave you to your anger." He told her politely, giving her his back as he abandoned the conversation.

"Heed my advice comrade; this is not a place that takes kindly to daytime drunks.” He warned in irritation.

The comment halted his steps, stopping the bottle of alcohol from swing against him, He cared not what others thought of his action, but he Gidderak’s same weakness, that drunken puppet chief was always an eyesore. He faced her once more.

“Watch your tongue…I am not yet such a disgrace.” He answered with a tone icier than he intended.

Taking no heed from his reaction, "From what I could see you couldn't be any more of a disgrace." She remarked coolly ending the conversation of her own terms.

He collected himself after that comment, deciding to prove her wrong. Stepping around to cut her off he casually pushed in catching her unguarded lips, enjoying the gentle pressure of the touch, he almost forgot himself tugging at her lower lips just before he was shoved a few steps back. She was stronger than she looked, he noted. It made her more appealing.

“See? That was more disgrace, and as you can tell not a drop of alcohol involved.” He pointed out while she was still in shock, her fingers brushing her mouth in confusion. The slap that followed would have been vicious, having the full swing of her arm behind it, thankfully he expected it. He turning his cheek to absorb some of the damage but still accepted most of the hit. Davrou could still see her fuming with anger as he slipped out into the main street grinning at his small victory. Everything he did in this city seemed to come back and bite him in the end but that was well worth the outcome. Yet her last words still hung over him. She hadn’t seen a true disgrace, he knew. Not one wallowing in arrogance, oblivious to everything around him as it fell apart, perfectly content in his stupor. It was a revolting sight

The thoughts of his past weighed on him more than the rain but he had to push them away. With the Wind’s Wave gone there weren’t any other ships setting off for a few days. Days he didn’t have, and returning through the main gate would undoubtable be suicide.

As he contemplated, the smell of a decent meal made his stomach rumble.  That was a problem he could solve. He walked into the little pub that a bit overcrowded from the weather and ordered a plate of whatever that smell was, which turned out to be thick mashed potatoes and some well fried poultry. It was a satisfying meal. He leaned back, making sure the hood and coat, gave his face sufficient cover, and after a sixth scan of the crowd was still satisfied that no one paid him any mind. Something else however, did seem to call their curiosity.  A giant of a man had entered the pub his massive framed wrapped in a well fitted custom suit that looked out of place in the simple pub. Wild intensely Crimson hair decorated his scalp accented by his small beard. The absurdly large sword on his back would have been almost comical if he didn’t carry it with such ease. A thick wadding of bandage obviously wrapping his left shoulder under the elegant clothing. Whoever the stranger was, he looked like a problematic man and Davrou already had more than enough. He dropped a few coins on the table and headed for the door. As he passed, the man conversation with a couple sailors reached his ear.

 “I am in the market for a proper crew for my Ship, if any of you gentlemen are interested. We’re a bounty crew so the initial pay will be decent the rest will be dependent on your skill.” He told them in an overly formal manner.

The term gentlemen must have confused them. They looked like that wanted to laugh but, with the odd hulk of a man watching, they wouldn’t want it to be taken as an insult. The offer could be what Davrou needed. Maybe he was wrong, the man might be more helpful than he first judged.

“There are vacancies for several ship hands and we still need and artillery men and medics if you have the qualification or know others who do.”

Davrou grimaced, healing others was nothing but a bother. It was also, also a position in greater demand, for fools that make their careers looking for problems.  Davrou walked up to the man reaching out and squeezing down of his should before he turned.  He did not flinch or give any outward show of injury but Davrou felt the involuntary tensing of muscle from the pain.

 “I take it, you need some more urgently than others?” he asked removing his hand.

The giant gave his a questioning look. “And you are?”  He asked unperturbed.

“Davrou Grimslan, and I can take care of that arm.”  Davrou offered bluntly, he wasn’t much with guile and had confidence he talents would be enough.

 Keeping the man between him and most of the patrons, he gestured to his satchel.  

“Outside would probably be more sanitary,” he add looking at the packed little bar.

 The sharply dressed swordsman looked him over maybe pondering how he notices the injury, then gave a curt not leading the way out to a table in front of the building. The rain was still going with signs of dying.  Davrou open his pack and began rummaging.

 “You don’t have the look of a healer” he noted watching Davrou.

“You’re not exactly one to talk, and I’ve had more training then most in the art. You should remove your arm, unless you don’t mind your suited getting cut apart.”

 The man obliged removing the coat and pulling out his arm to show a mural of tattoos covering every section of exposed skin. It was a strange contrast to his personality, much like everything else about him. Davrou undid the novice bandaging and barely had to examine the wound to know how serious it was, the burn was heavily infected and a pair of puss filled holes said he had shrapnel still embedded.

“You must be touched in the head if you went this long without treatment.” Davrou stated frankly.

 He took a small needle and sterilizing it with an oil lighter and dipped it into a bottle of clear liquid.  The Then he punctured both sides of the wound at the top.

“This will numb your arm” he explained, repeating the process 3 more times.

When the warrior lost all sensation, Davrou began the actually treatment, deftly using a small knife to reopen the wound and squeezing out all the pus. Swapping away the think fluid and used a few small pinches of a powder to disinfect the area. Another needle probed the deeper wound for the shrapnel.  Within 15 minutes, Davrou removed three mangled metal shard, packed the wound with a grounded paste to kill the infection and had it sewn up and rebandaged.

“The arm with be numb for a couple more hours but, keep the coat off so the wound can breathe.” he said, scribbling on a piece of paper as his patient examined the work.

“Simon Labrov, Good to meet you Sir Grimslan.”  Simon said, extending his hand, apparently satisfied with the job.

Davrou took the hand.

 “Likewise.” He answered handing Simon the paper.

“What is this?” the swordsman asked as he read its contents.

“My fee for keeping your arms from rotting off. You can add it to my hiring fee.” Davrou answered with a smirk.

Simon looked almost entertained by the comment. With a nod he agreed.

“Very well then, let’s take you to meet the Captain.”

Davrou lifted an eyebrow at that, the Warrior did not look like one to take orders, well accept for the manservant uniform. Simon was already walking before Davrou could make the comment though. He followed the man assuming they were making their way to the harbor, but just before they entered the port section of the city he took a left toward a dense forested section of the cliff face. Davrou was out of idea and just prayed he wasn’t walking in to a trap.  Even more so when he explained the ship was inside a small cave.  The entryway was difficult to spot in the low light, so all Davrou could do was follow the man in front of him. He felt the tension growing inside him with every step almost certain he was being set up, his hand slid into the bag gripping one of the pistols he took from the tavern while the other rested on his long sword for comfort. He continued to follow Simon through twisting catacombs. Past, urns and crypts lined with the dead.  After a final passage the ship finally came into view instantly striking Davrou with awe.

As an airship, it looked smaller and sleeker then the others he’d seen, it lacked a balloon and any signs that it needed one, but none of that meant anything to Davrou. He could only she the runes the hundreds of glyphs and symbols aligned across the ship face, decorating its sails and masts. He’d never seen such a thing before, never thought it possible, but he sensed their strength, somehow, those marking were fused to the ship. A construction of the new technologies and the old way magic. Davrou’s feet walked moved toward the ship on their own, he wanted to know more about it, the way of the runes were all but lost. Davrou could read them, but even he only knew a few spells, the knowledge to incorporate the words into such a large vessel shouldn’t exist.

The sudden impact off a spearing burying itself into a beam of wood, startled Davrou into a low stance, sword half drawn. But Simon put a hand on his shoulder to stop him. “At ease Davrou. That is your new captain.” The big man told him as a man stalked up and wrenching the spear free. His face hidden behind a steel mask his body completely hidden under a Dark cloak.

“He looks upset.” Davrou commented.

“Just training.” Simon answered. “I’ll go introduce you. You’ll be summoned shortly after.” He left before Davrou could respond again.

Davrou stood watching the two discuss his hiring.  When the Masked Captain looked over at him. He could have sworn his grasp on the javelin hardened. Davrou had a quick flash of the projectile piercing his chest, but the captain remained still, listening to Simon’s evaluation as he revealed the treated wound. The conversation concluded quickly with Simon gesturing him to come forward.

“Your hiring and terms are accepted under the condition that you provide a form of collateral.”

Davrou cast both men a suspicious look.

 “Aren’t you the ones looking for a medic? Why would I agree to such a request?”

“It’s an odd request, but I have already done the same. Simply speaking, what is to stop you from leaving whenever you please, after you have been given your advance?” Simon relayed the captains concerns.

“My word.” he lied without hesitation.

 He had already planned on leaving as soon as the opportunity presented itself, though maybe he’s stay a while longer to examine the runes. Davrou turned to the silent masked man. He was almost a head shorter than Davrou with a small frame to match. It was hard to imagine he was the one in charge. The Javelin was still in his hand, marked with more runes, the old way appeared almost common in Valhalla. Davrou met the little man’s eyes, but they were veiled in the mask’s shadow, he could barely read anything behind the plain metallic countenance. Davrou conceded first, he had no better options.

“Take the sword then” he offered scornfully, undoing the belt. But the suggestion was rejected.

“What more can I give you beside by main weapon?” he demanded

“An item you put real value in.”  Simon said forthright

Davrou held his tongue, the muscled giant was more observant than he thought. He released a long breath and pulled back his wrist, revealing the Odin dagger. Roughly pulling it off sheath and all. He’d take it back and much more before he left the ship.

“Careful not to cut yourself,” he said sarcastically, “you won’t be able to stop the bleeding”

The Captain stepped forward taking the weapon calmly without looking away, his eyes looked familiar as he stepped closer. A second later his small fist slammed into Davrou’s jaw knocking him to the floor. Looked up clutching his sword to find the mask gone, above him stood the same woman from earlier, and without a word she left holding his Dagger. Davrou glance at Simon, Unsure what the his role in the scheme was, but the swordsman looked as surprised as he was.

“Curse this City was all Davrou could think to say.













The End

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