Scales of War

Aran Wildspeaker

Friend and Foe

A red sun rose to the East. “Bloodshed”, Faerün’s voice sounded in Aran’s head. “Yes”, he snarled; “Let’s hope it was the good kind”. “It never is, young druid”. It was no longer Faerun’s colective grunt. Aran stared at the white bear, recognising the voice. Quieter, softer, full of wisdom. Female. “It is, master. If it is to protect, and not to harm”. “Like you protected them, the orc and the dwarf you killed. Twice”. All of Faerun growled in amusement. “No!.. I… I’ve learned, master. I’ve joined them. In their life, and quest. Theirs is my own, now. I healed them, and we shared a meal together. We are a pack now, Katar.” The shifter’s confidence steadily built. He stood tall, and again peered through the inn window. “Blood.. Close by”. “The bar”, ressonated Faerun. Katar agreed. “We shall speak later”.

The old tavern was as loud as ever. No hint of danger that would ever be. Inside, it seemed like half the town had gathered. Something was clearly happening by the counter. First of all, the large mirror was broken (“Again”). Everyone else seemed to be looking at some point near it. And finally, when a half-elm came flying from the front rows and crashed at his feet with a loud clang, Aran could practically pinpoint the source of the disturbance.

A myriad of options rushed through Aran’s head. In a second, a mighty savannah lion stood in his place. One roar was enough to clear the back rows. Like a domino train, one by one, all of the patrons rushed to the entrance of the bar.

All but a handfull. Near a small table, four men argued with a fifth. The group of four became increasingly nervous, but one could not say it was for the lion that walked towards them. The solo one, on the other hand, was quite different. A glimmer in his eyes, like he was waiting for the fight to start. A beautiful silvered scale mail, uncommon in such parts of the world. Two ridiculously muscled arms: one hand hovering over a longsword, resting by his side; the other, a mailed, clawed fist, angrily pointing at one of the men. He was yelling something about gold. Aran smiled from under his lion shape. This fighter, this mercenary, had been conned out of his coin on the cards. Aran let out another roar. Only a few feet away from him, two of the men fell to the floor in fear. The other two helped them up, and scurried out of the bar. Meanwhile, Aran was getting punched to the side of the head by a spiked gauntlet.

Aran rolled over on the floor and shifted back. “Who are you”, the fighter spat, “and what are you doing here?”. “My business is my own, mercenary. You, on the other hand, are making quite a fuss in such a small town. Besides, I could ask you the same.” Aran swatted the dust of the furs of his vest, keeping calm. He wouldn’t shift for this. “Mercenary. Heh. Yes, that I am. I saw fires in this area, two days ago. How do I know it was not you, mage?”. Aran’s eyes shone red at the mention of mage. “I pity you, human. Hacking at heads all your life, you wouldn’t know a dog from the spirit of a bear.” The other’s eyebrows lowered, as if wondering if the half-elf mocked him. “Worry not, though. The fires are through. Some rogue goblins, that’s all. Brindol needs no mercenaries.”

The fact that the mercenary simply walked away was as odd as the way he did it. With a small bow at Aran and an extremely fake smile at the bar (that is, at the two or three people still in it), he spun in his heels and made for the door. Always standing tall, he kicked it open (he kicked it out, as it opened to the inside), and turned left.

Aran grabbed a chair and asked for a glass of milk. It’s not every day you get to pick a fight before breakfast.

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Aran

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