Clumsily, I rubbed the sleep from my eyes and rolled out of the 'Five coppers a Night' bed. Stifling a curse, I fell heavily on the hard stone floor. A sigh of relief escaped my mouth when a glance over the side of the scratchy straw mattress confirmed the barmaid was sleeping undisturbed.
Mary? May? The girl's name eluded me amongst the mess of slurred thoughts which swam uncomfortably through my throbbing head. As I hurriedly dressed into my trousers and tunic, I took a lasting look at the young woman who had shared my bed during the night’s drunken slumber. She was not your average bar-slut, who throws herself at every other passing traveller in the hope of a larger than average tip. This girl was beautiful, in every sense of the word. As memories materialised, I realised she had simply been vulnerable, and lonely. Of course, I, the perfect, smiling, smooth talking traveller had swept her off her feet, and appeared as the answer to all her problems. If she only knew the flawed, haunted individual I was. Out of habit, I tested the edge of my Arcation gladius before buckling it to my left hip, and leaving the room. I could not look back.
"How was she Mackie?" Tomas' question reached me before I had even realised it was him, standing on the edge of the last rotting stair. I ignored the question, more concerned about the fact I had been so wrapped up in my drink addled brain that I had failed to realise the presence of my large companion standing in front of me. I would have been dead by then if it had been one of the Laiku's men. When I failed to reply, Tomas asked again, but even less pleasantly, "Mackie - that beauty you fucked last night - was she any good?" He had a childish grin on his face, "She played it all innocent, but I bet she was a right bitch in the sack!"
"Shut up Tommy!" I growled, more aggressively than I'd intended. He was only joking, and I did not expect him to be patron saint of women's virtue, nineteen year old boys rarely are, but the way he spoke about her had angered me deeply. Partly because she had been, different, than the others, and even more so because I was so furious at myself for treating her the way I had. "Come on Tommy" I sighed apologetically, "Let’s get out of here".
I strode forward as my head began to clear, and heaved open the heavy, oak door with a loud creak. My insides turned cold as I saw six armed men racing through the busy streets towards the Inn entrance. I thought of running but I knew we'd never get away in time. I drew my gladius purposefully and dragged out the throwing knife from its strap on my boot. Tomas had his face set grim, but I noticed the blood wrath beginning to manifest in his fiery green eyes. Adrenaline began to pump to my limbs and I shook myself, preparing for the fight to come. It was oddly relieving to set my mind on the sweet simplicity of a fight. Months as desperate fugitives had been weighing heavily on both Tomas and I, and our frustration came to the fore. "Let's send these bastards back to their twat of an Emperor!" Roared Tomas, wielding his battleaxe eagerly.
"Hold at the entrance Tom, we can't afford to get surrounded!" I warned and waited for his grunt of agreement before focussing on the nearest of the black cloaked assassins. With as much speed as I could muster, I swept my throwing arm up from my side and sent the small blade spinning towards my target. Blood sprayed in an arc as it took the man in the jugular. Satisfied, I turned to the remaining five, who were advancing slowly now, ignoring the frightened screams of the crowds as they melted from the street, leaving an eerie silence. When the last civilian had left, the attackers swept forward, and we rose our weapons and met them with a joint bellow of defiance.