Valeriano quickly crossed the Gray District, and before long he was standing in front of the simple, rundown shack that served as the headquarters of the Dusthawks. He glanced up and down the street for a moment, one hand resting on the hilt of Rosa, before striding to the door. He reached up and quickly knocked three times, although as he did he wondered if he might be the first to arrive.
There was an air of silence that persisted shortly after, but soon enough a shuffling was heard echoing against the closed door from a stir within the house. Briefly, silence fell once again, before finally the door creaked open enough for a beady eye to gaze out. After recognizing the face of the rapier-wielding warrior, Valrel swiftly opened the door to allow the man inside.
“Valeriano! Surprised to see you here so quickly,” the Dusthawk dawdled on his way back to the counter, pausing to drag a chair from beside the hearth along with him. “Pardon the mess, if you will; been gettin’ things in order before we begin.”
Valeriano smiled widely as Valrel pulled open the door, following after him as the leader of the Dusthawks as he moved further inside the dimly lit shack. As he stepped inside, Valeriano glanced around at the rundown interior, lit only by a crackling fire, and a short candle burning by a pile of parchments in the corner. Turning back to Valrel, Valeriano smiled again.
“I was in the area, Valrel, and I thought it would be rude not to make an appearance! Mind if I ask just what it is you’ve called us here for?”
“Ah, now I wouldn’t want to spoil the surprise!” The disheveled figure eased himself into the seat as he glanced at the various sheets cluttering the counter in front of him. Shrugging, he pulled the few aside that he had plans of reciting before piling the rest back into his bag, setting it behind the counter with nonchalance.
“Though, if you wouldn’t mind my asking, what are your feelings on our current… Status?” Valrel cleared his throat as he spoke, gazing up from time to time to observe the almost dignified figure that stood before him. It was strange, he thought, that such a man of stature would acquaint himself with the likes of criminals, but that was of little matter to Valrel now.
Valeriano pulled a chair from one of the clustered corners of the shack, setting it down by the fire and lounging into it as he held his hands out absentmindedly, looking across the room towards where Valrel was sorting through the piles of parchment.
“It’s hard to say, Valrel. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t surprised to see the talon after all this time, but the Dusthawks are still legends in these parts. And I’m never going to complain about a chance to keep being a legend.”
The Dusthawk leader let out a light chuckle as he listened, satisfied finally with how he sorted the few pages he set aside. “Ah, that’s right, a legend…” his voice trailed off as he lost himself in thought before finally meeting the sellsword’s gaze.
“I suppose one thing I can admit, Valeriano -- with what I’ve been keepin’ up my sleeves these past few years, you can bet a hundred Tarn that ‘legend’ won’t be doin’ us much justice soon enough,” Valrel leaned back in his chair, lifting his hands behind his head as he stretched out his tense muscles. He didn’t want to reveal too much, but he was getting restless, regardless.
Valeriano couldn’t hide his excitement as Valrel continued, leaning forwards as a grin spread across his handsome face.
“Enough teasing, Valrel. Out with it man!”
In time with Valeriano’s last word came three humble knocks at the Nest’s western entrance. Galinai paced back and forth before the threshold as he waited for his passage to be granted. Removing the hood of his cloak, the young courier took this small moment to fix the minutiae of his appearance. He touched a hand to his cheek, the minor scrape now clotted, and another hand combed through his lightly tousled hair. As he adjusted the brooch on his cloak, Gal pondered the reason for this clarion call. In his short stint with the Dusthawks, this was only his second.
Sabina rounded the corner and almost collided with Galinai, managing to sidestep at the last second, blinking up at him from under her eyelashes, squinting against the light. Even here, in the darkness of the surface world, she was almost blinded by the moonlight and general light pollution of a city filled with hundreds of thousands of people. An arm snapped out to catch hold of the door frame as she smiled at the courier.
“Hello Galinai, been a while.”
Gal jumped a bit, broken from a brief trance. Curtly, he replied, “Aye, g’d eve, Sabina.”
Sitting up with the first knock at the door, Valrel smiled at Valeriano as he shuffled his way over to the entryway to see who the new arrival was. This time there was significantly less hesitation in his proceedings, as the presence of the sellsword gave him a sense of security.
“Ah, Gal! Sabina! Not the pair I was expecting to see. Come in, come in!” The door was opened wide for the two of them to step inside, before swiftly being closed and latched to keep out the chill of the night.
Sabina grinned and ducked her way into the room, glad that only the fire and a couple of candles had been lit. It was still rather bright but at least she could block it out a little bit by sitting in a corner. She tossed a pleasant “Hello!’ to the room and then swiftly darted over to sit down in the deepest shadow she could find.
Galinai followed suit more timidly, slipping out of the evening and into the warm glow of the Nest. “Eve, Master Valrel,” Gal said, bowing politely before their leader. “‘ve post fer you.” He shoveled a hand into his beaten cloth satchel and procured the wax-sealed envelope which he had received just shortly before. He presented it to Valrel with both hands, still bent at the waist out of respect.
“Careful you don’t start kissin’ my boots, Gal; I’d be one to gettin’ used to it,” Valrel plucked the missive from Galinai with a smile. “But thank you, nonetheless.” He sauntered over once again to his seat beside the counter, placing the envelope into his satchel directly on top. Whatever it was, he didn’t want to stress over its details until after the night’s meeting was over.
“Yessir.” Galinai simply nodded in response as Valrel took hold of the letter and thanked him. He gave a very faint upturn of the lips, which was quickly suppressed into a thin line again as Valrel paced away. The boy in turn strode to the other end of the Nest, and he perched along the wall closest to the crackling hearth, his brown eyes disappearing again in the chartreuse glow.
Valeriano frowned slightly at the interruption, but his annoyance quickly faded as Sabina Vala Calista stepped through the doorway. He raised an eyebrow in appreciation. She was far from the redheads that haunted his dreams, but he couldn’t help but admire her good looks regardless. Watching her move to sit in the corner of the room, Valeriano barely heard the conversation between Valrel and Galinai as he rose from his feet and strode over, dragging his chair behind him. Setting the chair down beside where Sabina had taken up perch, he slid down into his chair, flashing her his best charming smile.
“It’s good to see you again, Sabina. Still married?”
“Hello Val,” Sabina returned the smile, enjoying as most women did the handsome face before her. “I am, it seems we are still doomed to be but two little hawks passing in the wind.” She laughed. The two had some chemistry, there was no denying that, but she was devoted to Ty and her relationship with Valeriano had been contained to light flirtation and the odd inappropriate joke.
“Still out there making friends with your long steel?”
Valeriano’s face was a picture of woe as he held a hand up to his face in mock despair.
“Poets will write of such doomed love.”
As she continued, the smile returned to his face, mischief dancing in his dark eyes for an instant.
“You know me too well, Sabina.”
With that he leant back, managing to tear his attention away from the fine figure beside him as he turned back to watch Valrel, suddenly remembering the promised adventure.