“Did you fucking hear me, Nordan?” asked the largest of them. He stood almost half a head taller than me and had arms like an ogre, muscles hardened by days of hard labour. Like most of Myrrhn’s slums, The Jetties were a harsh place, and many of those who lived here relieved stress with heavy drinking and the occasional brawl.
“I heard you well enough,” I answered. “You don’t appreciate my presence. What of it? I don’t like oafish half-wits who waste my time and breath with their pointless nonsense, but I did not not feel the need to tell you so. I have manners, you see.”
The people nearest us let out a cooing sound and scrambled to clear space as the young titan stepped forward. He stopped when I pulled back my coat and showed him my weapons. Silence descended on the The Broken Whale with all the swiftness of a winter gale. I met the brute’s gaze.
Before anyone could react, I removed my weapon belt, handing it over to the nearest waitress. Relief was written on her face as she took the deadly implements from me.
“Take care of those for me, please,” I said, handing her a silver coin. She nodded.
“Yer brave mister, but what if these were the only things standing between yourself and the beating o’ a lifetime?
I shrugged, removing my coat and then pulling my chainmail vest over my head and putting it down next to the weapons. Her eyes widened as she saw the scars and marks upon my body. Alone among the ascended, the Twiceborn scar. No one knows why.
“Tis safe to say I’ve had worse in my lifetime deary.” I said.
I noticed then that she had the most beautiful eyes, wide and round in surprise and blue as the ocean. I turned back to the brute.
“What shall I call you?”
“People here call me Bull”
“I am Ragnar Grimfang of Clan Shadow Wolf, an exile from the North, Care for a wager Bull?”
“First one on the ground loses. Loser buys the house a round of drinks.”
The whole place cheered like I was handing out gold coins and ambrosia. I smiled at the enthusiasm. In truth The Broken Whale reminded me of many a drinking house back home.
“Sound fair?” I asked.
“Yes,” said Bull, but his eyes betrayed the lie that I was looking for.
“On three then, count us in boys.”
Bull raised his fists. His stance wasn’t bad.
With surprising agility Bull stepped forward and threw a hook with his right hand. I stepped back, feeling the hand pass. and then aimed a boot at his knee. Tavern brawlers often think that kicking is somehow unfair, and are surprised when I do. Bull was an exception. He shifted so that my boot glance off his thigh and then made a grab for my foot. I kicked up again, and my foot connected with his chin. He barely moved. I nearly fell. Bull grinned and then came in swinging.
I ducked his first punch, blocked a hard right, and then hit with a fast uppercut. I felt my fist smash into his chin, but his head barely moved. He caught me then with a swift left that sent me staggering back, following up with a thunderous right that broke my nose. I stumbled, but I did not fall. He looked puzzled my this,
We came together again. He caught me with a body blow that took me off my feet. I caught his hand as he pulled it back and rammed my forehead into his nose. Bull grunted and took a wild swing as his eyes watered. Stepped around him and punched him in the kidney, hard. He went down on one knee, I grabbed the back of his head and smashed my knee into his face, and then did it again. On the third repetition he caught my blow and heaved me into the air. I broke his hold and threw a punch, hitting him in the shoulder. He landed a left jab on my chin and then threw a swift, powerful punch that I caught with my left hand. I then proceeded to slam my fist into Bulls face as hard as I could. Blood and spittle flew from his mouth and he toppled. The patrons cheered. I smiled. Unfortunately Bull caught himself and stood.
I considered smashing flagon on his thick skull, but that wouldn’t get me what I needed. There is a certain etiquette to these things, after all.
We circled. We were both more cautious now. Bull was a skilled brawler, moreso than I expected.I threw a punch, he blocked and then rocked me with a swift jab, I shook it off and jumped back to avoid a second jab. I felt the timbre of the ship behind me. Bull seized the opportunity and rushed, hoping to pin me.
This was a mistake. I dropped and lunged at his legs, snagging his foot and sending him tumbling. He hit the ground hard.
I looked over at the Barkeep. “Round of drinks on Bull.” Everyone cheered.
I walked over to Bull and offered my hand. He looked at me angrily. A round of drinks in a crowded pub would be a dear price for him. I smiled.
“I need information,” I said, showing him a gold coin. The gesture was lost amidst the chaos. “This is for listening. If you can tell me what I need or know someone who can, there is another just like it waiting.”
Bull snorted, smiled and allowed me to help him to his feet.