Lowgarden, Southeast of Etzos Prime
Continued from here
They didn't want to go down the stairs. Better to wait for him to come to them, always. Defenders always have the advantage, and they even had the higher ground, like they were in some castle facing down besiegers. They had food and water in their rooms. Not much, but enough for a trial, maybe the night following it. Someone was bound to come up before then. From what Rory could make out, it was just one man. One man against three seasoned sellswords.
Turner didn't count. He was management, not muscle. It was their job to flex for him, and his place to supply the coin. Rory... well, Rory wasn't a fighter. Corner him like a rat and he'd bite like one, but that was hardly a good use of his talents. So, it was three against one... but only if the fucker walked up those stairs.
According to Rory, he wasn't. He was just waiting. Downstairs.
"Fuck this." Turner eventually lost his patience, as was bound to happen. Standing at the end of his bed, fully-clothed and with a short sword in his hand. The giant Gladee at his side, Rory seated against the wall, massaging his skull. "Quint? Eril? Get down there."
The two men outside in the hallway, braced by the bedroom doorway and the one across the hall respectively, shared a black look. They didn't like that idea. Always better to wait. Let the enemy make the first move. Eril licked his lips and turned the dirk in his hand over a few times.
"Mister Turner, we should wait. He's gotta come up some time-"
"We don't have all night."
"Beggin' yer pardon, sir," Quint chimed in from across the hall, Rharne accent shining through despite his poor diction. "But we sorta' do. Food, water, even a place to sleep. We can stay here all night an' all day, no worries."
"I gotta be here all night?!"
For a beat, all eyes were on the outraged, pouting figure at the very head of the bed. Cross-legged, cross-armed, cross-faced, like some life-sized carved doll of an ancient, vengeful goddess. She was all soft skin and smooth curves in the right places, with hard eyes that said every one of them came with a well-chosen price. Turner like Maureen. She was tidy and pretty and experienced. But now a few breaks and a bath were turning into a day or two, holed up with smelly men, with more smelly men waiting below to do them murder, and that wasn't going to fly.
"Damon, I ain't staying here all day an' then some. I have places to go-"
"I don't care if you have other men waiting, Maury," Turner snapped without turning all the way around. His eyes were still fixed on the hallway, smoldering and glaring at the empty space, and the restlessness the absence represented. "I care about acting like we're afraid of this bastard."
"It's not afraid, acting it or otherwise." Gladee contributed his part, too. Voice deep as an ocean trench. "It's smart. It's patient. It's-"
All good advice, but with the wrong words. Turner's sword lashed out and buried itself in the bed post nearest to it. He bared his teeth and yanked it out with a grunt, gouging a hefty chunk out onto the floor as he did.
"Patience? I'm done with fucking patience! Seven arcs, I was patient. Now I'm two trials from home and I have to wait longer? Because of one man?!" He spat onto the floor in front of him, as if the puddle of spittle would somehow challenge a man who could neither see nor comprehend him. "Hardly an auspicious return. Quint, Eril, get down there and bring me this cunt's balls." He paused, clearly doing some quick math and inventory, before adding, "Hundred gold ones to each of ya, for the trouble."
Another look. Less black. More golden. Then one many shrugged and the other nodded, and they moved towards the stairs. Covering each other as they went, close enough that any attack on one would leave the attacker open to the counter from the other. Descending slow. Molasses across a flat board slow. Past the painted walls and the carpeted stairs. Down into the foyer of the lodging house, a grandiose term and yet Old Thorne made it accurate. He'd knocked down walls and banged rooms together, made the front of the building one big cavernous room. His desk was at on end, facing the front door, and he was still behind it, a fresh frown on his face-
"Wh... What are you two-"
Quint made a "quiet" gesture, backed up by a stare as hard as the head of the hatchet he carried. The hotel owner's face ran the gamut from curious to angered to afraid and then just... blank. He backed up from the desk and kept backing up until he was in the little office. The two sellswords ignored him as he closed the door, keeping their heads moving and their field of vision open. Into those same alcoves. Any patches of shadow. Back up the stair. Outside windows...
"Don't see anything."
"Me neither," Eril agreed as the two of them stepped into the middle of the narrow little foyer. "But that don't mean he ain't-"
The wooden board creaking was almost like a bone snapping in front of them. At once Eril stopped talking and both of them faced the front door. Still nothing moved beyond it. More long trills. Long breaths, coming out slow, seeping from out of noses since their mouths were pressed hard together. In almost matching combat stances, empty hand forward to ward and balance, weapons cocked and pulled back, ready to cut to ribbons... who, exactly?
Eril was about to ask that, when there was a glint at the corner of the window in the doorway. A sliver of silver that was there for a moment, long enough for him to cock his head, and then vanishing. His mouth opened again and a sound that wasn't quite a word blurted out before-
-a small, compact little man in filthy breeches and a clean shirt swept through the door-
-and the two sellswords readied themselves for a charge as their nemesis finally revealed himself-
-only to stop, as his arm came up and leveled a crossbow-