With his share of the gold in his pouch, Tradden headed back out into the town. The young fighter’s muscles were still aching from the exertions of the recent days and weeks, but he was in curiously high spirits — so different from his last overnight stay in the town.
As he walked around the worn pathways of the circular town he stopped to chat at the townsfolk, working here and there, often just a friendly doff of an imaginary hat. The townsfolk reacted to the smiling, slightly over-dressed youngster in a variety of ways, as often was the case with Tradden, but every raised pair of eyes and hurried excuse about having something to do, was matched by a clasped hand and a warm conversation.
From this Tradden learned nothing of particular note about the plight of the town, but did garner a good understanding about how the people felt — the adventurous and brave spirit that had lead them here, the initial elation at having established such a fine town and the gathering emotional dark clouds as the populace, such as it was, realised that there were dark forces out there that threatened every one of them.
If anything, Tradden was able to bolster the confidence of a good many, telling his tales of the bravery and daring-do of the group (but mostly of his own), and about how many goblins and kobolds had already fallen to their combined might. After all, how many could there be out there?
He had been going to seek out the local smithy to see about getting his armour repaired — he vaguely recalled someone referring to a ’Caldring’. Likely a chap in the mould of the set template of weaponsmith that whatever school they went to turned out — well built, fat in fact, with thick, greasy hair spilling down from a monk-like bald pate, but with arms that could punch down doors. Eye patches were seemingly optional.
He was just rounding a corner of one wooden shack which jutted out onto the path, when he noticed that one of his nails was somewhat cracked. Holding it up to the bright azure sky to see how best to trim it, he completely failed to see a row of makeshift buckets and containers, and the subsequent crash and thunder of the resulting trip and fall could be heard as far away as the west gate.
The guard standing watch on the tower there didn’t even turn to see what the sound was.
‘Tch, Islanders!’ he muttered to himself.
At this point, everything was dark for Tradden. He opened his eyes. It was still dark. Scrambling to his knees, which he could now feel were wet through his stylish lilac leggings (which had been all the rage the previous season in Deepingwald), he reached up to try and pull whatever it was that was stuck on his head. It felt for all the world like a metal bucket!
His hearing was also slightly off, because all he could hear was a high pitched wailing sound. Fortunately the sound was slightly muffled due to the cold metal pressing on either side of his head. Tradden was starting to get a bit worried about the whole thing.
‘Erm,’ was all he managed before he suddenly felt one firm hand on his shoulder, and suddenly, the world became a lot brighter.
Squinting to regain his vision in the bright light as he refocused, a vision appeared before him. At first he thought it was Celestia, but in fact another elf now stood in front of him holding the bucket at her side. Tradden had difficulty seeing her in any great detail as he was still knelt down, and as he looked up at her the sun was directly behind her hair, giving her a halo of bright yellow, which only accentuated the golden auburn of her hair, which was mostly tied back, but was also hanging down in wisps from the places where it had come away from the plain metal band that held it back. The overall effect was only slightly spoiled by what Tradden could only describe as ‘black bits’ in her hair, that seemed almost burned on here and there. Her skin seemed dark for an elf — it had a smudgy, slightly grease like complexion to it. One eyebrow was raised as she looked the young human up and down.
‘You should be more careful,’ she said simply, and walked away before Tradden had even had chance to think about saying anything.
He watched her lithe, well toned form disappear into a nearby doorway.
‘Who was that?’ he said to no-one in particular. It was at that point that he realised that the shrieking noise had never gone away, and was in fact now louder than ever. Looking to his right to see what it was, he was presented with an angry hag, who for some reason was thrusting a damp handful of pathetic looking flowers in his face.
Ignoring her, he stood up and looked around as he dusted himself off. It appeared that he had walked around the corner and blundered into this old woman’s flower stall, flattening it in the process.
‘Ah,’ he said, and tried to remonstrate with the old dear.
A small crowd of people were starting to congregate to watch the proceedings, the old woman now buzzing around like a fly trying to put her stall back together whilst constantly harassing the fop-esque and now mostly wet young man. Tradden tried to sooth her with some jolly banter, but to no effect.
Stopping to think, he then quietly said to her, ‘Would it help if I bought some flowers?’
This had the desired effect, as the old woman stopped in her tracks. She fished about in the detritus that was the remains of her stall, and thrust a rather sad looking bouquet at Tradden.