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Chapter: 78

A single pair of footsteps clattered against cobble stone. Glancing along the buildings, Charlie stared up wards as he looked for a sign for a store.

About an hour ago when the Chiefess made her macabre statement of love to Charlie.

"Afternoon your greatness," A man with slick brown hair and deep brown eyes said, lowing his head to the Chiefess.

The injured vice-captain was gone, taken away to get medical treatment for his lips and… well let’s say crouch area to avoid any unsightly imagery. Now this man stood before them, the red shield on his blue and green armour showed to them that he was the captain of this mercenary regiment. Using her hand to wipe the blood from her lips, the Chiefess only glanced over to him as he spoke.

"Her English isn’t the best, and at the moment I am acting as ambassador," Charlie said, steeping forward. Out the corner of his eye, he noticed he secretly licking up a bit of the blood.

"Ah, then I assume you are her…" he looked to the Chiefess, his stern face showing a bit of nervousness as he thought of the now slightly lipless vice-captain.

"Husband, and we are here on a trip to meet the people of the city, buy some basic supplies, and potentially make some deals," Charlie said with a warm smile in an effort to draw some contrast between him and the now dreaded Chiefess. What was the phrase he had heard merchants use? Two sides of the same coin, good merchant, and horrifying thug.  

"I see… so who shall I escort you around the city? It may be safer," he said, glancing to the Chiefess as he spoke. Nodding Charlie followed his gaze.

"Yeah, I think so as well. But to be honest I am not sure if you will be protecting her, or protecting people from her," Charlie said, putting on a nervous but slightly humorous tone to the try and show the man a sense of friendliness.

This seemed to work as the man, nodded with a slight grin.

"Yes, but first would you like to come inside for us to begin talking through some potential negotiations," the man said. For a moment Charlie only stared as he began to think.

Ok, he seemed to have brought the idea that they were just there to strengthen the relationship between them and the fifth region. Walking to the Chiefess, he looked to Nolkonoe who quickly walked to their side.

"I need the Chiefess to go with them and do her best to make it seem like she was interested in only the non-weapon stores and businesses. It would also be good if she tried to see if there were any places for sale, we want to make it look like we are there for the purpose of setting up good relations and maybe buying some property," Charlie whispered to the two as Klipesia snuck into the group to listen in to what they were saying.

"I think it would be best for Klipesia to act as the Chiefess’s translator while you and I go around doing whatever you have planned," Nolkonoe suggested.  Klipesia stared at her, a little confused to why she would be chosen to translate for the Chiefess, when her English itself was poor.

"It would be a very important role Klipesia," Charlie said, noticing the look of confusion on her face. For a moment she stared but nodded excitedly.

"I great wife of Chiefess, and honourable huntress, I best for role," Klipesia said proudly. Nolkonoe and Charlie only nodded as they allowed the Chiefess and a now smug Klipesia to walk towards the mercenaries.

"My self and some other natives shall be going around on our own, but I would be great if you were to take the Chiefess with you," Charlie said with a smile as the Chiefess walked past the man and into the city.

Leaping into action, the man chased after the Chiefess and Klipesia. Several more warriors followed after them, their presence putting all soldiers on edge. Still staring on at the group as they walked away, Charlie leaned over to Nolkonoe.

"You did that on purpose right?" he whispered.

"What did I do?" Nolkonoe responded, a small smirk forming on her lips.

"Send Klipesia as the translator because she will probably confusing the soldiers with her poor English, which in turn can buy us more time?" Nolkonoe’s cheeks became bright red as she tried to contain her laughter.

"Fucking hell, I hope that works. I also hope they don’t accidently start a war," Charlie muttered before beginning the gather the Vultures and other natives who had come to learn imperial trading. A handful more stayed back to guard the supplies, but then again just from how terrified the men seemed from the Desert Claimer, then It probably wouldn’t be that hard to defend the storage boxes.

Taking a few pouches of gold and crowned gold, Charlie, Nolkonoe and the Vultures began their journey through the city. A single pair of footsteps clattered against cobble stone. Glancing along the buildings, Charlie stared up wards as he looked for a sign for a store. Behind him, the natives walked, both their footsteps and they were quite.

Only the stares of curious town folk and mutters of curiosity gave any life to this part of the town. Some Children pointed and muttered, but their mothers would quickly hustle them away. Every now and then, some men would see them and stop to gawk at their beauty, but many were smacked or beaten by their female counter parts back into place. But then again, even some women stared at him with jealousy or wonder.

It seemed natives were a rare sight in this place.

In their silence, it seemed to be only their eyes that spoke as they stared curiously at the small shops and large houses that lined the street. Nolkonoe came to a sudden stop, almost bumping into the back of Charlie. His eyes stared along the wall of the building next to them. He seemed transfixed on something. The shop had a large sign outside, offering baked goods and foods.

"Are you hungry? We could get something to eat, and it would look good in case there are any spies watching us. They would think we are just trying out some of the local foods," Nolkonoe said, also wanting to try the interesting looking foods advertised in the large window of the shop.

"Yeah, yeah sure," Charlie said, his eyes sill lingering towards a small area just next to the door, but not on it. A mechanical cog, and at it’s centre was an owl, its eyes shut, and a contempt look on its face.

Glancing back down the street, he looked to the other shops. On the same area of wall, just next to the door, there was the same symbol. But there was a slight difference. The owl and cog were red, and the eyes were wide open. A look of hate seemed to emanate from the eyes of the owl.

"Can I have some money? I’ll pay and you can all decide what you want," Charlie explained, thinking the markings were odd, but maybe it was just a way of showing which stores were open… but then again a few with the red markings seemed to be open and with plenty of customers.

Maybe these shops were just opening, it was Salan (Sunday). Most people were expected to work for nine hours six days a week, so on Salan, it was finally a time for them to rest. So, when Salan came, the majority of people woke up around midday, so the shops opening now would make sense. Glancing back down to the mark on the bakery, he didn’t think it looked to be a gang symbol. But then again, he wasn’t aware of what the local gangs were like.

Sighing, Charlie decided it best to simply get inside, buy the food, and ask all and any questions later. Walking forward, he committed to entering the store. Placing his hand onto the iron doorknob, he opened it and allowed himself inside. The luxury scent of baked goods hung in the air, and a soft warmth seemed to welcome him inside.

Entering, he heard the door swing shut, the ring of the bell signalling his arrival. Turning, he saw that Nolkonoe had not followed him. Stepping back, he opened the door. Fear flooded over the face of Nolkonoe, as he opened the door wider, the fear turned to hate. These eyes, the same eyes he had seen when ever she stared at Mr Green Water.

"Are…Are you alright," Charlie muttered, stuttering as he saw the look spread to the older of the Vultures and Forgers behind them. The young ones just seemed as confused as Charlie.

"That scent. Its faint, but its there," Nolkonoe whispered, hesitating to move as she moved her hand around to her side, to her grass skirt. For a second Charlie wasn’t sure what she was doing, but as he saw the glint of a dragon bone knife, he knew what was happening. Diving forward, he wrapped his hands around hers.

"Hey, hey, hey, what the fuck are you doing?" Charlie said in a frustrated mutter.

"That thing! It will fucking kill us!" Nolkonoe said, trying to take her knife from her belt.

Wrapping an arm around her shoulders, he pulled her to his chest. Using one hand to keep her still and having the other on her knife, he knew she was stronger, but he wanted to at least try and conceal her knife form the small pockets that dotted around the street.

"Why, what is it that you smell," Charlie whispered swiftly to Nolkonoe as he saw the older of the women also reaching for their knives.

"Can I help you?" a soft, feminine voice came from the doorway. Turning, Charlie only stared for a moment at the woman.

"Ummm sir? Can I help you?" the woman said, her voice a little more nervous. That wasn’t real, was it? Squinting his eyes, Charlie nodded to her.

"Yes Mrs, I’m fine," he said, studying her skin and ears. Skin a grey as gun powder, ears in the shape of knives. This woman was a Night Elf, "Sorry, my friend here isn’t feeling well, please ignore her," Charlie said as he took the bag of money from Nolkonoe and entered the shop.

"Oh, err, well that’s quite normal around here," the elven woman said, raising her hand and making a waving gesture.

"Thank you," Charlie said, glancing out the window to see the group had migrated to the other side of the street.

"By any chance, without sounding rude, what brings you to this part of the empire?" Charlie said, turning to see the young elf woman moving to stand behind a wooden counter. Well, I say young, but being an elf, it was hard to judge her age.

"Oh, I was brought here as a child, that’s it really," there was a slightly tense tone to her voice. Picking up on this, Charlie thought it best to not push further.

"Sorry, it’s just that you’re the first elf I have ever met, the majority are just in stories or discussions at large merchant meetings," Charlie said, trying to move on in the conversation.

"It’s fine, I understand I am not exactly… Normal around here. But I can make a mean pastry!" she said happily, clapping her hands together as she closed her eyes and beamed an innocent smile at him.

Squinting his eyes, Charlie could swear there was almost a beam of light coming from her smile.

"Yeah cool," Charlie said, turning away and watching the pasties. He wanted to talk further, but he felt as if the situation was getting rather awkward. So many questions ran through his mind, why was Nolkonoe being this way? Why was a dark elf here… and most importantly, why was she like this?

Elves originated from the southern and western realm. There were many types, but the dark elves were one of the most infamous. Famously they were brutal, human-eating creatures… now he thought of it, this described the Desert Ghosts more than this Dark Elf.

"Can I give you a recommendation sir?" The voice of the girl perked up from behind him.

"Sure!" Charlie said, a little startled as he leapt out of his lazy and startled mind. Darting to his side, a large grin came over her face as she picked up a pasty in the shape of the letter C.

"These are great! We also do ones with different pastry and with cheese, and some stuff on the inside!" She said excitedly as she offered it out to him. Taking out a gold coin, he past it to her.

"Do you have change?" shaking her head, she pushed the coin against his chest.

"This is your first time, taste it and then tell me," Her smile relaxed him, and her words brought an odd warmth to his hearted.

"Thank you," Charlie said, staring at the pastry. Placing the coin back, he took it from her hands and continued to examine it. Tearing off a small part, he ate it. A flood of cheese and the soft pasty filled his mouth. Warmth and fluffiness overtook all other thoughts in hid mind as he enjoyed the taste.

"Oh wow!" Charlie muttered through a mouthful as he allowed the taste of cheese to fill his mouth.

"Thank you so much," he said, finishing the mouthful before taking another bite.

Within seconds the pastry was devoured, and a sense of joy and nostalgia took over him. It felt like an eternity ago, but he remembered the days when the house maids would whisk him away from the torment of his family and take him into town. Generously, they would buy all kinds of exotic foods for him, but the one that stood out the most were the local pastries.

"Are you ok sir?" the girl asked, a look of concern on her face. For a second Charlie stared at her, trying to understand why she seemed so upset.

"Was it bad? Is that why you are crying?" Wood crashed against stone, and the doorknob cracked in half as the door to the shop swung open. In the doorway stood Nolkonoe, her knife drawn, and a glare of anger in her eyes which fixed onto the elf girl.

"What did you do to him?" She with a snarl as she began to approach.

Before the girl could defend herself, Nolkonoe was at her throat, pressing the dragon bone blade against her neck. Glancing outside for help, Charlie saw the others had already cleared the street.

Throwing himself forward, Charlie wrapped his hand around Nolkonoe’s hand.

"WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU ARE DOING!" Charlie yelled at Nolkonoe. For a moment she was taken aback by his sudden burst of anger.

"She attacked you right? This fucking monster!" Nolkonoe spat as she glared towards the terrified elf.

"Nolkonoe, lower your weapon, she isn’t a threat," Turning her glare to Charlie, she snarled before lowering her blade. Grabbing his wrist, she dragged him from the store and began to swiftly stomp up the road. As he was forced away, he managed to give the girl a wave and mouth the words "thanks."

Storming away, Nolkonoe began to swear to herself as she walked. Why was one here, why one of those foil creatures. The same creatures who slaughtered the ones she loved.

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