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tepping out from under the green mottled canopy, the elven girl took a deep breath, surveying the city spread out in the valley below. She could turn back now, head back to the relative safety of her colony, or she could take the road below her… another tentative step forward. She knew that if she turned away now, she would never leave, and the elders would keep her enclosed in a controlling fist for the rest of her life. She started walking again, each step bolder than the last. She had made her decision.

orrin’s gaze wandered from his reflection in his polished gauntlet to the wavering one in his mug of ale. He was young, brave, and utterly alone. When he began his flight from the demons of his ill-chosen actions, he didn’t know where he was going, or what he would do when he got there. Somehow, in his wanderings, he had ended up here- a second-class tavern where the drinks were watery and the food bland. He sighed, running over in his mind the dreams of glory and grandeur he associated with being a knight. One of the drunks at the bar lolled his head to the side, and almost dropped from his precarious perch on the stool. Being surrounded by this lot of semi-conscious miscreants was a far cry from the all but forgotten thrill of sliding his ax through plate and mail, flesh and bone. He had sold his thoroughbred war-horse to a wealthy merchant in the last town, making enough of a profit that he could sustain himself until he could find good, honest work. He wouldn’t let himself resort to stealing and other street tactics to stay alive; it was against his principles. Principles, he snorted. I wonder where those will get me when I’ve barely enough coin for a midday meal.

he door of the tavern opened, and no one bothered to look up, including the proprietor. The scum that frequented places like this were of no interest to Corrin or to much of the other scum- too poor to tempt a cutpurse, and unsavoury enough to frighten off a potential drinking partner. He kept his head buried in both his thoughts and his mug, until a lilting, feminine voice broke through his reverie.

“I don’t suppose you could direct me to lodgings where the rats aren’t two feet long?” Corrin turned on his stool to get a better look at who was speaking. The smoke swirling about the ceiling was pulled out into the dim streets by the cold draft let in from the open door. It swung shut, and tendrils puffed out and curled around the figure standing in the middle of the common room. A slim elven girl was attempting to coax one of the drunkards into giving her some information about the city’s layout. The man was inattentive, or rather, to what she was saying. He seemed to be finding a great deal to look at, though. Seeing her in here in the city struck Corrin as odd, both because of her race and the way she was dressed. He studied her closely, without lifting his face from his mug overmuch. Corrin had learned to mind his business, and blend in, if the need arose. He had never encountered one of the elven in the seedier parts of the cities he'd been in before, and certainly not one that looked like this. She stood tall, wearing nothing but a belted tunic and soft leather ankle boots. The greyish-green colour of both would have helped her melt completely into the foliage, had she still been in the forest. In the wavering candlelight of the tavern, they contrasted with the molten fire of her hair, which hung to just below her shoulders. Blue eyes like sunlight on ice stared back defiantly at the leering men around her. She is pretty, he thought, Maybe beautiful, in a hardened sort of way. his brow creased in a frown. Didn’t she know how scandalous she looked? It doesn’t matter how well muscled her legs are, a woman should know her place and dress as such. As if hearing his thoughts, she half turned and glared in his general direction, hands on her hips.

“I do not wish to be here, and I only want a name of somewhere I may go.” Her speech broke off in a rather undignified yelp as the man she had originally addressed provided her with a pinch on the bottom. With the fluid grace of one accustomed to fighting, she turned on the man. The drunk alternated his dazed stare up at her from his landing place on the floor to the wrist that was bent at an odd angle. Corrin decided that his earlier thoughts had underestimated her. She’s beautiful, but like a weapon is…the decorative etchings hide a razor sharp blade. He watched with unconcealed and growing interest as two of the poor fellow’s companions stepped forward from the bar. The girl smiled sardonically and shook her head.

enses honed by years of hunting in the silent forests of her homeland, Gaerielle whirled around to face the two assailants. She swept the feet out from under one of them, and used her momentum to drive an elbow hard into the other’s stomach. The first man scrambled back, and many of the other customers rose. She stepped back, away from the fallen men, trying to ease her way towards the door again. Seeing a fellow being assaulted by a young woman was enough motivation for patrons, and, rising from their well-worn seats, they all swaggered over, convinced that they would be the one to teach the hussy a lesson. This is not good, she thought. Mow many can I damage before I’m overtaken? Ten, perhaps eleven, depending on how drunk they really are. She glanced around at the men advancing on her, and one of the few who made no threatening moves caught her eye. He was seated at the bar, and he watched the proceedings calmly, sizing up both the inebriated men and herself alike. He wore new armour, unadorned except for a burnished gold striking eagle across the breastplate. Strapped across his back was a long hafted ax, its keen edged half-moon blade balanced by a wicked looking spike. She met dark eyes under a stray lock of brown hair, and she shivered slightly. She could see what looked like anger flashing there, and combined with that weapon and his obvious strength, she hoped it wasn’t directed at her. He looked as though even if the armour he wore had been years old, there still would be no dents or scratches to mar its surface. Giving up on trying to read the human's facial expressions, she took a deep breath and turned away as he rose from his stool and waded into the fray, losing himself in the shifting mass of enraged bodies.

he fighting was beginning to collapse in on itself, with the patrons as likely to take swings at each other then at her. It still made for a great many fists, though, and she winced, and spat out blood from her bitten tongue as one caught her across her chin. Stumbling back, she waited until he advanced on her again and drove her fist into his gut, pushing hard off the ground with her legs. He crumpled over on top of her with a low groan; she grabbed his head and kneed him savagely in the face. She knew she wouldn’t escape this fight unscathed, but she wiped the pessimistic thoughts from her minds as she swung around to slam the heel of her hand into a man’s nose. At least I know I gave much better than I got. A satisfying gurgle told her she had been on target, and she shook drops of his blood from her hand, partially to get the feeling back; repeated blows were taking their toll, and her arms began to tingle and go pink. Rounding on the next attacker, she looked up to see him raise a wooden stool above his head and swing it with a fury that both surprised and scared her. She tensed, and jerked violently sideways so her shoulder faced forward; trying to prepare for a blow she knew would nigh well end this fight.

orrin had had enough of this senseless violence. It didn’t matter how strangely dressed this girl was, she was most definitely in distress. He backhanded three men out of his way, and pushed towards where he had last seen her. The entire tavern had erupted now, and he ducked as a man flew in his direction from the top of a table, taking a punch to his side in the process. Stepping sideways as the man grated off layers of skin along the polished silver edges of his armour, he let himself be mildly impressed with the way she was defending herself- but he could see that with no one at her back, she was lost. He drove his foot hard into someone’s chest, sending him back through the crowd of yelling, biting, intoxicated men. He pushed through to find a man savagely wielding a stool, preparing to put more than a small dent in her. She turned to crouch in a defensive position, apparently hoping she would be able to get up after the blow. Snatching the man’s arm in mid swing, he used the momentum to flip him onto his back, and he grabbed the stool by the bottom rung and threw it hard out into the crowd. He followed with a brutal kick to the man’s ribs; his side caved in as it met with Corrin’s steel boot tip. The girl sprang to her feet, and she looked him up and down once with an apprehensive glare. After seconds that felt like hours of judgement, she nodded to herself, shot him a wry grin, and turned her back on him, facing a new opponent. He figured this meant she accepted and appreciated his help, so he turned around as well, and hoped she’d guard his back as he was hers.