On a stormy morning, a tall broad figure with only one arm entered Deer’s Hide tavern. Rain drained off her hooded cloak as she stood in the doorway.
“Hello sir,” the barkeep called from across the room, “We’re normally not open at this hour but I won’t send you back out into the rain. Hang your cloak up and I’ll be with you in a moment.”
“Thank you. I’m not a sir.” She pulled her cloak off and hung it on the wall next to another. It trailed onto the ground next to the barkeep’s cloak which did not. “My name is Annie. I’m supposed to meet a man here today.”
Several days ago
A man pulled a chair to her table and sat down with his drink. Annie took another drink from her mug, a hearty swallow that would put most men down but merely softened the buzz in her mind. After a moment, the man said, “Hello, I find myself need of a woman of your talents.”
“And what talents would those be?” she asked.
“I need an orgeslayer.”
“You’ve come to the wrong place,” Annie said the obvious lie hoping he would take the hint and leave.
“I think not.”
She considered the man before her. Short, stocky build mostly hidden under a cloak. A nice cloak. No rings on his hands but there was grease under his nails. Ragged nails, bitten or torn off. A craftsman of some sort but not rich. “There are no ogreslayers here,” she said loud enough for the barmaid to hear. Annie watched as she pulled a crossbow from underneath the bar and stood ready to use it.
“I can equip you. Armor and a weapon arm. And I can pay you,” the man said leaning over the table.
“I’m retired and don’t need money that badly. Find someone else to fight orges for you.”
“It’s not orges I need you to fight. I need a good fighter and you come recommended.”
“There are hundreds of mercenaries you could hire just as good.”
“I could get you an arm. Not a weapon arm. Something you could use every day.” she considered his offer. He pressed on, “And potions.”
“Potions?” she asked.
“Maybe something stronger than what the local witch can offer you.” He held his hand out. “Not strong enough to break the military grade enchantments but maybe strong enough to bend them.”
She weighed what he wanted against what he was offering.
“Well, if you decide to take me up on my offer come to the Deer’s Hide tavern in Berdla in eleven days.” He dropped a small bag on the table that landed with a thump and clink of coins. “Consider this an advance for traveling expenses.” He finished his drink and stood up. “It was a pleasure meeting you, ma’am.” On his way out he dropped a couple of gold coins on the bar.
“Annie?” The barkeep squinted up at her and shrugged. “Pardon me, ma’am. What’s this man’s name? Maybe I’ve heard of him.”
“He never said. He just said he’d be here today. I might be early. Can I have a table in the back to wait for him? Is there anything to eat?”
“You’re just going to wait here all day?”
“Well, I have some jerky to offer you right now or stew will be on for lunch soon.”
“Stew sounds great. I’ve been eating jerky for the last few days on the road.” Annie reached into her coin purse and pulled out several gold coins. She offered them to the barkeep.
“This is … This is too much.”
“Consider it an advance for my supper and drinks.” She walked to an isolated table in the corner, looked at the chairs, and turned back to the barkeep. “Do you have a bench I can sit on?”
Author note: The next few stories will bring the main characters together and the titular Dragon’s Hoard will be revealed.