I found work where and when I could. This time I had landed a simple yet demanding job making food deliveries in the relatively small town of Port’s Edge. The quiet chef and his surly mentor had been desperate for a food runner since their last had been laid off due to frequent tardiness and shorting orders; even so, they were reluctant to hire a vagabond for a job what was “integral to the continued health and productivity of half the village.” They were less reluctant when I agreed to work for nothing more than two meals a day.
The Mentor had decided it was best for me to familiarize myself with the stops I would be making. I sat in the passenger seat of her sputtering buggy as we bounced and stuttered down the cobbled streets. I did not see any other vehicles on the roads; most people seemed to be content with either walking or riding bikes.
“Gas ain’t cheap, and I need this ol’ girl for when I’m in a real hurry so you’ll be walking the food.” She explained above the rattling of her vehicles and the jingle jangling of her many baubles.
“Ain’t no problem by me, ma’am. I prefer my own two feet, anyhow.”
She turned her gaze on me curiously, “what is it you say you do again?”
“Hard jobs what need doing, ma’am. I let the Spirits guide me where I am needed.”
Her gaze turned skeptical, “right. Well, just remember what we agreed: two meals.” I simply nodded in response. “Where’re you placin’ yer head for the night?”
I shrugged, “hadn’t figured that out yet, ma’am.”
She twisted her mouth, “we’ll see if Norman’ll take ya. He runs a pub out of his home and lets people stay there if’n they’re too fuzzed to make it home.”
Norman’s was a modest home, two stories with a sign hanging outside advertising it simply as a respite. Bells clattering against a hard door preceded our entry. We were greeted by a young girl humming to herself and happily doodling from a high stool sitting behind a podium. Beyond her, beyond the short corridor, the house opened up to a cozy interior with a bar and kitchen at the center.
“Welcome to the Tired Dog,” she chimed as she looked up. Her freckled face carried a bucked smile which only grew wider when she noticed, “auntie Kells!” and launched off of her stool to approach the portly woman.
The Mentor embraced the girl half her height. “Hello, kitten.” After which the girl took a step back and composed herself. She put on a practiced tone.
“Table for two?” She looked between us but her eyes lingered on me.
“Just the bar,” The Mentor responded, “we ain’t dinin’, I just need to talk to your pa.”
The girl nodded her head and made her way back to her stool, her eyes trailing us the entire way.
The bar was busy but not overly packed. We pulled up stools and waited patiently before a man stopped in front of us, his walrus mustache covered his lips.
“Shit.” He glowered as soon as he noticed us. His eyes rested on the Mentor. “What happened?”
“Nothing happened,” she rolled her eyes. “I was wondering if you’d bed up a new employee of mine.”
Norman turned his gaze on me and rose his eyebrows before he spoke again. “I ain’t about to trust a drifter in my home, Kel. No offense, ser. We’ve got enough problems with idiots and savages runnin’ around as it it.”
A yelp exploded from the entry corridor. Half the pub jumped to their feet and Norman was in the doorway in an instant with the Mentor and myself closely behind.
“What’s this I hear, Normy? We ain’t welcome no more?”
A handful of highwaymen stood in the entry, all draped in furs and leathers and light armoring. One of them had the girl gripped by the scruff of her neck. He held her up and far. She thrashed to no avail.
“The Warchief is getting awfully sick of you peasants pretending you –”
I had all the reason I needed. I closed my eyes and I felt everything around me shift. When I opened my eyes again the world was shed in an ethereal nimbus.
I took slow steps forward, passing through those in front of me, until I came to the man and the girl he held. I slammed my palm against his exposed elbow, snapping his arm. Freeing the girl. I carried her from his hands to the ground and lay her there safe from danger. I stood, between them, the bandits and the town, and scowled. Another shift. Time returned.
The man fell to the ground, his hollers echoed over the silent crowd. Befuddled, his comrades collected him and retreated. I turned back to those I had defended only to meet mixed and twisted faces.
The shaken voice of Norman broke the silence, “th-thank you.”