The Heart of the Baenor (as it is currently called. It really needs a new title.) is my Camp NaNoWriMo project. I’m editing it and finishing it, because I stopped last July and it’s now about ten chapters short but the writing is a mess and I need to remind myself what’s happening, so I’m editing it up to that point and then I’ll finish it and edit that. So far it’s actually been pretty fun to edit (editing is a lot nicer when you don’t have to rewrite the whole thing from scratch. ;D) and I’m looking forward to making it as good as I can. Here’s a scene that introduces one of the two main characters. Enjoy!
Catessa stopped on top of one of the tallest buildings in the city and looked over her shoulder one last time for anyone who might have followed her. There was still no one. She made her way to the gutter, sliding down to land on a pile of trash and mud in the alleyway, the familiar sound of laughter and talking muffled through the building’s walls.
She walked around to the front of the tavern and stepped inside, savoring the raucous atmosphere and the sickly sweet smell of alcohol. This place was almost like home.
She made her way immediately to the counter and saw that someone was already in her usual seat. His face was turned away from her, but the light from the nearby fireplace gave his hair a familiar reddish tint.
“You’re in my seat,” Catessa said.
“I know,” he returned, spinning to face her with a smirk, resting his elbows on the counter behind him.
The young man moved to the next stool over and Catessa took her seat, now warm. “How long did you wait?” Catessa waved down the barmaid.
The barmaid came over.
“I’ll have my usual,” Catessa said, the barmaid left again.
Catessa slid the man’s mug down the bar to him and he caught it, lifting it to his lips and taking a drink.
“What’d you get?” the young man asked.
“I got what I went for. Why do you care? It was my job, not yours.”
He shrugged. “Just curious.”
The barmaid set a mug in front of Catessa and left again. Catessa took a sip of her ale before setting the mug back down and turning toward the young man. “Roth, you know I’m not going to tell you anything I don’t want to, so why are you still here?”
“Maybe I’d like to see if I can make you want to.” He leaned closer to her and she smirked, turning to face the main room.
She watched him out the corner of her eye. “Nice try.”
Roth shrugged. “It was worth a try.”
“Go on home.”
“Why? Do you have some secret business to deal with? A dead body you need help hiding?”
Catessa chuckled. “No.”
Roth drained his mug and set it on the counter along with a couple of copper coins. “I’ll see you back at the temple.”
Catessa nodded and watched him walk out of the tavern. He shot her a wink as he reached the door and she rolled her eyes in return. Once he was gone, she turned back toward the counter and flagged down the barmaid.
“Refill?” the girl asked.
“No, just a question. Is-”
The barmaid shook her head. “No, she’s still gone. Sorry.”
Catessa nodded, lips pursed. “Mm. Thanks. Do you have any idea when she’ll be back?”
The barmaid shook her head. “Your best bet is to just keep checking. She’s rather unpredictable. I’ll tell her you were looking whenever she gets back.”
Catessa absently sipped at her ale and turned toward the bard stage. There was usually an interesting story being told up there, but today it was the tale of Rosyn Celebar – one she’d heard a million times. The bard was one she’d seen only a few times, but that wasn’t enough to keep her interest.
Catessa turned her attention to the tavern’s patrons, looking for anyone she hadn’t seen before. That was a short list, considering how often she came, but there were a few, most of them younger faces likely just come of age. Half of them were slobbering drunk and the other half were staring at their mugs as if they’d be kicked out if they even took a sip. She smirked a bit, amused.
She turned the other direction, toward the fireplace, where the more interesting patrons tended to gather. Adventurers, bards, and anyone else with a story to tell would speak in hushed tones of long-ago wars and almost-wars, reminiscing of the old days and embellishing their own tales of adventure. Tonight, however, everyone’s attention was turned to the old bard telling Rosyn’s Ballad.
Catessa turned back to the old bard up front and he met her gaze with light gray eyes that seemed to stare straight through to her soul. She turned hastily back to the bar and took another swig of ale. Her soul was too dark to be seen.
The old bard completed his tale and his words took an altogether different tone. “Now, I have need of someone to go on a quest for me.”
Catessa felt his eyes on her, but refused to return his gaze.
“You there, at the bar, come here please.”
Catessa looked down the bar. There was no one else sitting there. “If you want to talk to me about a job,” she said, “we can talk business privately here at the bar.”
The bard came over and sat next to her. “Very well.”
Catessa set one elbow on the bar, facing the old man. His eyes still seemed to see deeper than she’d like as she met his gaze. “Why me?”
“Because I can tell you’re perfect for the position I need filled.”
“And how would you know?”
“You’re wearing nine daggers right now, you’ve already drawn a tenth in case my mission turns out to be a scam, and you know how to properly talk business.”
She considered his words a moment before speaking. “I’ll need to know particulars.”
“Of course. I’ll meet you here in the morning to discuss things.”
“Why not now? It seems better to tell me what all this entails and let me sleep on it than to wait unnecessarily and potentially lose my interest.”
The bard’s eyes glittered. “Let’s see if I lose your interest, then, shall we? Anytime before noon tomorrow I’ll be here.” He rose and headed up the stairs to the inn above.
Catessa drained her mug before heading out into the dark streets to head home. All was still in the city since it was past midnight, and only a few sporadic street lamps lit the street, most of them threatening to sputter out by now.
She started down the street, her feet making very little noise on the stone, instinctively moving from shadow to shadow.