Adrianna was a bit surprised they made it to the town before dark. Though she knew the trek was not long or arduous, they had gained a few children along the way, and none of them had a map with which to help them navigate. In any case, “town” was a bit generous of a name for their location. They had passed a mill, and the small cluster of buildings was surrounded by a set of gates, a big investment for such a small place. The men’s armor was far from quality. It was possible the town had been plagued by creatures and bandits, causing them to create their own band of relatively able-bodied guards to protect the women and children inside. But it was also possible these men were mercenaries, exploiting the town’s people. They might also be bandits themselves. The town could have been abandoned, and these men could be using it as a trap to make their targets overly accommodating.
Ethan stepped forward to talk to the men while Adrianna considered her options. If they demanded the groups’ weapons, she would take this for a robbery. Hell, they could be slavers. But they had children with no weapons…sort of, with them. If it were just her, she would have been making a few demands of her own. But in this group, it was better to just follow along. She looked over at the children while Ethan spoke, curious if either of them would step forward and speak colloquially with the guards. She had imagined at least the boy was from here. After all, how many small towns were around to just let their children run off into the wilderness?
The guards critiqued Ethan’s story, and Adrianna was hesitant to provide completely accurate information in his stead. If they were bandits, and they learned of weak people unable to defend themselves nearby, what would they do with that information? Could they go and take what little the survivors had? She could have stepped forward and interrupted the man with the actual numbers of survivors and insights, but the guards walked off to go check in with their foreman. Good. If they went inside and spoke to someone with a bit more authority, perhaps she would feel as if this was more than just a set-up to rob them.
Ethan seemed oblivious to the possibility that this was a big trap. He sat down, and let his guard down completely as they waited. Adrianna stayed standing, hand on the blunt weapon affixed to her waist. Perhaps it was coming from her previous company, but Adrianna tended to focus on the ways people could trick and deceive each other rather than ways in which people could be generous and kind.
When they were invited in, Adrianna wanted to hang back a bit, wait to see if men were going to jump out and attack them, but she caught sight of the group of playing children and relaxed…slightly. One of the buildings was supposed to be an inn with drinks, and while the shipwrecked group likely didn’t have much in the way of spending money, she sensed a bit of…desperation in the man’s voice at the suggestion to go. What had happened here that made them low on supplies, and in need of business? Perhaps they had been raided in the past. The buildings looked in disrepair, though more from neglect than purposeful damage.
She probably should have stayed to keep an eye on the children, but she really didn’t want to be responsible for them. The girl at least had been brought to town, just as she wanted, and would likely wander off anyway. As for the boy…well, Adrianna wasn’t sure who he was or what his plans were. “Well…I’m going to get a drink. Grab me when the foreman gets here.” Adrianna said to one of the crew members standing near Ethan.
“Great! I’ll come with!” The man said. It was the same one who had banged his leg earlier on the trip. Adrianna shrugged her shoulders and turned to go to the inn. She had preferred to go alone, but whatever. The guy, Shay, followed her to the rather deserted inn, and up to the bar area. The barkeep was an older man, a big ragged and unkempt. He was cleaning up some mugs from a group who had left sometime before when the pair walked in. The pair ordered and paid for drinks. When the man returned with the beverages, Adrianna struck up a conversation. “So, what’s been going on here? I’ve only just gotten here and things seem a little…bit troublesome.”
“Business’ been slow.” He said, his voice gravely and accompanied with a bit of a cough. How pleasant.
“What’s made it slow?” She asked.
“Can’t get lumber for the mill. Onna ‘counna tigers showing up in the area.”
So it was true. Adrianna had thought perhaps the Ydran was making that up, or wanting to make them rely on her further because of the threat of an animal attack. But there really were tigers in the area. “I’m not local, but I didn’t think tigers were a local animal.” Adrianna said.
“they ain’t.” The barkeep replied gruffly. “you gunna get food”? He asked.
Adrianna shook her head, and the man walked off, not eager to continue the conversation with the stranger.