For Glory and Gold. [Redward & ChibaShigehito]
Smoke drifted in slow, lazy, mingling clouds above. Lapping against low wooden beams and loosely slanted boards, filling not only the air around Oara's head but the entire lower layer of the Weeping Dragon Tavern; wreathing the patrons in a thin layer of shifting haze. People conversed, some mumbling while others shouted over the dull roar. Tables were jostled and chairs scraped against the stone floor; tankards clanked and spilled along with the rolling of bones. It was, simply, another night in the 'poor district' of Wardd City; revelry in a dockside tavern, the salty and downtrodden easing the aches of their day with a frothing pint. In the low light of scattered oil lamps, she watched them; the lip of her chair pressed against a sturdy, if rough-hewn, support pillar. She noticed a few familiar, grizzled faces, mostly sailors she'd traded stories with in previous nights, but not the familiar face she had sought. With a huff, she lowered herself and the chair to a sitting position.
Her companion had yet to show his face, leaving the Half-Orc woman to hold their hard earned prize. Her hand slid easily into the deep pockets of her leather trousers, feeling the smooth curve of a perfectly cut gem. The image of it came to her mind; a stone of blood red, cut into a nearly perfect oval, mottled with errant flecks of black. Fingers wiggled and tapped against the surface, the distant, phantom ringing of golden coins tempting her ears. With a sigh, Oara Bloodgrin removed her hand from the depths of her pockets; following the motion with a flick of her wrist, smacking away the trailing, frayed edge of her indigo cloak.
Thunder clapped from outside, shaking the boards above her head slightly, the sound of fresh rain pouring down. From here, she could hear it smacking in fat drops against the nearby ocean; muffled beneath the sound of rain against clay tiles of the Weeping Dragon's roof. A few of the patrons paused in their motions, turning to look toward the closed, metal door of the tavern. She trailed their gazes, looking through the small open slat intended to allow the enforcers to bar entry to certain patrons. It was from there that the electric blue flash touched the room, fading away in an instant. A mighty storm had been on the horizon for nearly three days, she remembered hearing out on Wardd City's cobbled streets, and many of the sea laborers would be landlocked for a fortnight or so. Oara gave a slight grin, her slender lips twitching upward at the edges; just barely covering her tiny tusks.
With a sharp exhalation, she stood, taking time to push in her chair before approaching the bar. Tall, as she was her head remained close to the ceiling. Weaving between the scattered tables was a simple affair for her, avoided by molesting hands or salacious advances. Approaching the uneven, polished, oaken bar was even simpler; several seats before the rotund barkeep vacant and awaiting her. Straddling the tall stool, she lowered herself, with a certain awkward grace, making certain that the troublesome edge of her cloak wouldn't be caught under her ass. The Human watched her from beneath bushy, black brows, offering a wan, crooked smile.
"Still waitin', eh, Oara?"
She gave a snorting laugh, slapping her palm against the table. Relaxing, she retracted her hand and gave an emphatic shrug.
"You know me, Georke, always ahead."
The barkeep gave a knowing nod and pressed his knuckles against the bar, leaning forward, shifting his eyes from side to side before meeting the woman's.
"Aye, lass, I know, I know. What'll it be? Know ye didn't come over here for naught but a conversation."
He said the last part with a wink, his heavy, baggy lid dipping down over his left eye for just an instant.
She continued to stare at him, her own reddish-brown eyes meeting his plain brown; biting down on her lower lip lightly as she contemplated.
"A cup of Moon's Silver."
Georke seemed balked at the statement, his eyes widening in surprise for a moment before he made the motion to retrieve a dirty jar of what appeared to be cloudy water. It was one of the more expensive drinks that sat on the shelf and had been there since long before Oara even stepped foot in the place. A glass appeared in the man's hand, snatched from under the counter with serpentine speed. It made a light noise against the wood, followed by the sloshing flow of the thick alcohol. She watched as he filled the glass; light catching in the cloudy murk rumble as another peal of thunder lightly shook the counter. As Georke's fingers left the glass, Oara snatched it up and drained the contents without hesitation. With a grimace, she lowered it down; forcing the burn down her throat and into her empty stomach.
The metal door slammed open, slapping the wood behind it. Shit. I didn't mean to open the door with so much force. The wind helped me. The stranger thought standing in the door way of the tavern watching the candles flicker from the wind and smoke rolling its way out through the doorway. He stood there for a second letting his eyes adjust, then closed the door behind him. He was hooded from a black cloth. A black face from the shadows of the hood. Each step he took you could hear the metal clank from his steel boots, and greaves. He had a steel breastplate, gauntlets, and bracers. Almost as if this stranger just came back from war. The stranger eventually reached the middle of the tavern, turning his body, looking for something or someone. He eventually turned his body towards a half orc woman, then proceeded to take steps towards her. There she is.
After the third cup, Oara had decided to nurse the next two. Currently on her fifth cup of Moon's Silver and about a third of the way through the jar, she had little control over the coming and goings of her words. She'd exchanged words with Georke and another man who had approached the bar. With raucous laughter, she had joked with them, enjoyed the atmosphere of the Weeping Dragon. She had also become rather fond of the burning in her stomach and the dizzy, dulled sensation that it imparted to her. The storm raged on outside, rain and thunder the only rhythm she could find to silently tap her foot to. She slumped down, elbows propped against the bar's counter, staring into the bottom of her cup. As she slipped into a reverie, a soft and gentle recollection of her younger days...there was a crash.
The heavy door flew open, awakening the nearby, sleeping bouncer; both he and Oara jumping simultaneously and turning to look. Eyes turned at the noise, who wasted only a few seconds on the hooded newcomer. Cold, damp air drifted in, the light taste of salt on the air; whipping around a familiar figure. Kurama stood, drenched and dripping rain, clad, as he ever seemed to be, in his battle gear. She knew it, by the first step he took. His weight was carefully placed, his gait familiar. She turned herself on the stool, Moon's Silver still in hand; draining it as he crossed the room. Without a word, he approached.
"Oh, yer finally here."
She motioned for him to sit, without meeting his eyes, hand slipping into her pocket once more. Oara gave a slight, tight lipped smile before spinning back around. With a knuckle, she thumped on the bar, sliding the empty glass toward the barkeep.
"What took you so long?"
Kurama put his hand on his hood and pulled it down showing his tan, scarred face from previous battle. He nodded his head in response to Oara's statment. He pushed the point of the great sword on his back away from the stool as he sat down, to avoid it getting stuck on the chair. When he was growing up he'd always try to sit down but the sword would always stop him mid air, making him lose his balance.
"Sorry, I went to kill some thugs before coming here for easy money." Saying that he smiled slightly. He loved battle, he loved war, nothing suited him better. Kurama wasn't usually the one for talking, mostly just thought to himself, keeping out of other people's lives.
Kurama looked at the barkeep, "Give me some ale." He never really cared for what kind, as long as it gave him something to drink. He put both his elbows on the bar counter and leaned forward, he found it more comfortable to sit like that sometimes.
Without turning to Kurama, she slugged him in the shoulder; laughing a little as she did. Truly, it was a terrible reason to leave someone waiting; but, so, too, did she realize that certain things took precedence over the whims of others. Georke slid a mug onto the counter and meandered away, disappearing through a doorway; pushing aside a layer of heavy cloth, offering a brief view into the kitchen. Oara retrieved her own glass, filled again with the murky brew she'd become fast friends with. Clutched, still, in her fingers, she lifted the glass up; finally turning to face the side of her quiet companion's head.
"I'll drink to that."
It was a poor jest, on her part, but one she figured would be well-received. Relief rolled over her as she turned her head back and drained the cup of its contents; placing the cup gently back on the table. She came to the realization that her own sword had been left behind, somewhere, though the details of the day had become hazy with the night that followed. Instinctively, she checked her hips; grasping the leather and bone handle of her curved dagger. The touch was soothing, reminding her that she had not come unprepared to face danger...should it appear before her. Tentatively, she withdrew her digits from the coarse pommel and slid the gem free of her pocket. Warm and smooth, it settled into the curl of her fist, the crimson jewel felt heavy; breath catching in her chest as her eyes fell on the slender crescents.
Oara cast a few glances around the room, ensuring that all eyes were preoccupied; then slid the gem onto the table, purely silent.
"A Bloodstone of Essashi. We found it, together, so it only seems fair that I tell what I intend to do with it."
She leaned close, whispering in his ear.
"Today, I spent more time at the Wizard's Guild. I learned a lot from them. This jewel is worth a fortune, to them...hell, to anyone, but that's not what I want to do. I can't sell it, not here, anyway. I want to find more of them and I want you to come with me."
Kurama rocked in his chair at the force of the punch. He didn't really react to the punch, he laid out his arm to catch the mug of ale that he'd ordered, then taking a sip. He watched the Half-Orc drink.
Is she drunk? He thought as he drank some at the same time she did. He watched as she'd grabbed her dagger. Kurama casually reached for his dagger on his hip that was away from the Half-Orc so she couldn't see. The dagger was longer than most. The handle was made of well molded steel metal. He didn't think she would try something to hurt Kurama but it didn't hurt to be careful. When she'd withdrew her hand from the dagger, Kurama casually brought his hand up and itched the elbow of his arm. He looked forward again and took another sip of his ale. A few moment's later the Half-Orc lay the gem onto the table, as she did Kurama rose an eyebrow, then listened to her. When Oara leaned in to whisper in his ear inched away a little then stopped. For some reason he didn't like people whispering in his ear. It was a weird feeling. Kurama listened closely as she talked, when she'd finished he turned his head.
"How much money do you need?" He took his cup from the table and sipped it again, "Greed get's people killed." He gave his new companion some advice as he'd seen it before many times before they met up. He didn't want to die cause of some fool's errand. Kurama didn't care for money, he cared for power, his strength, glory from battle.
Oara gave a quiet chuckle, pulling away from his ear.
"Enough to pay for my drinks, tonight. I've already got a lead on where the next stone is and we can be there, if we set out at sunrise, and assuming you have a horse, in about three days."
She took the gem from the table, sliding it into her palm, out of sight of those sitting behind at her back and then into her pocket. Kurama was right about greed being the death of many and that gave her pause for a moment. Oara stared at the table, just the table, for a long moment. Her eyes narrowed, forcing focus through the wavering of drunkenness. Green fingers traced the edge of an empty glass, the heat in her stomach a dull and distant thing, mahogany hued eyes staring without seeing. She became lost in for a short time before lifting her head.
"If this were about greed, I would've tossed this thing to the first person who made me an offer. It's not, not at all. This...this is about glory, the chance of a lifetime," her voice was low, but frantic, syllables tumbling over her lips as she became entangled in a story she had yet to tell, "if we find four more of these, we can unlock Essashi's tomb!" She leaned forward, pressing her hands against the bar, resolve restored and intensified. "Or, rather, The Essashi as they were known. A group of sorcerers said to be entombed with an artifact of immense power! No one has managed to open the vault since it was discovered; think about what could be inside! If not the treasure, think of the fight!" She was shaking, now, curling her hand to a fist. "Think of the glory! Each stone is guarded by a Demon, I just know it! The last one was, eh? Remember?" She allowed herself a long pause, smiling, redness touching her cheeks.
"Ok, ok. It is about greed, but not just about greed. I want a legacy, y'know? A statue in the Heroes' Plaza, people singing stories about me around a fire, drinking in my honor! I want my battles to have meant something!" With a sigh, she lowered herself to the bar, her chin supporting the entire weight of her head; ebon hair dropping to frame her face. "I know you probably don't share the idea, but I could really use your help. There's a reward in it, for you and I'm sure it'll be better than killing petty criminals for quick cash."
Kurama looked at a near by candle and watched its flame as he listened to the Half-Orc. There's other ways to obtain glory. He thought but he continued to listen to her with an open mind. After she had finished he let out a long breath. He turned to her.
"Are you sure this is what you want?" He didn't really know what else to say, but if she said yes, then he'll follower her. If she said no, he'd find other ways to obtain glory. Fighting for a kingdom? Fighting for himself? He didn't know, but he would figure it out. As he continued to think he watched Oara as well, waiting for a reaction. He took his fingers, that were almost muscular and wrapped them around the cup of ale. He gulped the rest of it down and put the cup back on the table, pushing it near the edge of the other side, so it'd be easier for the barkeep to clean it up.
Kurama didn't know if he cared for songs to be told around the fire, but he did care if they talked about his strength. He wanted that. He wanted to become strong, stronger than anything in this world. He clenched his fist with determination.
"Of course I'm sure. I was sure before I got here. Are you sure you want to help?"
She turned her eyes to him, meeting his gaze for the first time in a few moments.
Her question broke his concentration. He looked towards her, "Yeah. I'm ready." After having said that he smiled.