Arden felt the gazes of the denizens of Abokir port as he disembarked from the clipper. He knew he always made an impression on people. He would never be unnoticed; he was almost two strides high and had black skin, which was a rarity on the Ceniac Island. His gold trimmed white malgum metal armor also made a big impression. He had adopted what some might call a big personality to accompany the big impression he made. He always greeted people with a broad smile. He drank heavily and sang loudly, so that no one would ever suspect that his mission was covert.
Abokir was not the bustling port he had encountered on his previous visit, as a child, when he had accompanied his master, Netsem. Netsem had been summoned by Bestich and had never returned. Arden learned that Bestich had harvested Netsem’s magic. That memory made his return to Abokir poignant. He could feel the icor chamber around his neck; a gift from Netsem.
He scanned the street until he saw a building with a picture of a mug of ale above a bed. “Ah!” he exclaimed. He rubbed his hands together and strode purposefully towards the inn.
The inn was a beautiful example of a northern drinking establishment. As Arden entered he noted the impacted stone floors sloped down from the bar towards the entrance so that it could be easily sluiced. There were not many customers inside. Times were hard. He saw them eye him up as he entered, just as he eyed them up. None of them looked particularly threatening, so he walked to the bar.
There were three barrels on a ledge behind the barkeep; two were tapped quarter casks and the third was an untapped rundlet. “Tap me that rundlet barkeep. I’ll take it to a table, along with some mutton and you can rustle me up some girls.”
The barkeep seemed like he was about to object until Arden placed four gold coins on the bar. “Are there no musicians in town!” he shouted.
A few hours later the drinking establishment was lively. Musicians were playing, men were drinking from Arden’s barrel, and he had girls on either side of him. Arden knew he was making the impression he needed to make. He sang songs loudly and out of tune; he paid the girls without taking their services. Finally, when dawn was peaking through the windows, he threw a gold piece at the barkeep, bade farewell in a slurred manner. Everyone wished him well, and he left.
The walk out of town was not arduous despite his affected stagger. He could sense he was being followed and he tried not to smile. The edge of town was marked by the start of dense woods with a small path that he knew led up the peninsular.
A hundred yards past the edge of town three men step out and blocked the path. He looked behind him and saw three more men.
Every town has them. This town is about to have six less.
“Just hand over the purse stranger,” said one of the men ahead.
“My name is Arden,” he said without slurring. “You would not be thieves, would you? Heisters, muggers, bandits, robbers, goons and purloiners of purses fat and scrawny.”
One of the men behind him snickered. “Let’s just kill the fancy man. I want that armor, looks expensive.”
“Kill me?” said Arden, as if he was offended by the idea. “Have I not given you beer all evening. Poured gold into your town and given you a much-needed break. That bar was hopping with people having a good time.”
One of the men in front of Arden had a crossbow, the others had short swords drawn. Arden saw the man aim the crossbow at his head and fire.
The bolt was headed right between his eyes but bounced off the icor shield. Arden threw back his leather cape and drew his long sword. With one lunge and a swipe it cut the heads off those in front him and then he turned to those behind. Two of them attacked and were sliced in half before they could get their swords in range. The last man was running back towards town when the point of dagger emerged from his throat.
Arden examined his kills. “For you, my master,” he said.
He wiped his sword and then sheathed it. He took a deep breath, smelling the air and sighed. His head tilted to one side as he saw the man with the dagger in his throat twitch.
“Sorry, you can’t keep my favorite dagger,” he said and walked over pulling it out. He held the dagger up to the starlight and saw the blood dripping from the grooved blade. “Tut, tut,” he muttered. He tasted the blood. A blue light flickered in his eyes.