Chapter 4: Determination

Start from the beginning

"Wow," Lydia quipped. "I thought we'd be in those woods for like, forever."

"Stop whining. We've shaved a full two days off our trip here by following that trail."

"Yeah, I know... but I've got leaves all in my hair now!"

Gil grunted, but chose not to respond, instead heading towards the dirt road that led into the wall-side town. The town was lively, though evening was drawing near, and the numerous bars and taverns within the town bustled with light and life. Gil approached one he judged to be respectable looking, 

"Room for two, please," Gil grunted at the innkeeper.

"You and your, uh, lady friend new here?" the older man responded, slipping a damp rag he'd been using to wipe the counter top into his belt.

"No, we've done our share of adventuring around these parts, don't worry," Gil responded, sliding several small coins across the counter. "Also, she's not... whatever you're thinking. We're just comrades, that's all."

"Oh, darling, don't be so shy!" Lydia butted into the conversation, a smirk on her face. "Don't mind him, sir, he's always like this."

"I can handle negotiations well enough on my own, Lydia, without you trying to make things more complicated."

"Aww, you're so cute when you're flustered!" she exclaimed, patting his head.

"You seem to have mistaken flustered for the dark, black flames of unbridled rage..." Gil muttered under his breath.

"Uh-huh..." the innkeeper was still watching them, an amused expression on his face. "Well, whatever your circumstances, room costs the same. I'll not inquire any further into your business, if it's all the same to you." He scooped the coins off the counter, inspected them, then slipped them into a purse on his belt. "Room seven is yours for the night," he said, handing them a key. "Checkout is before noonday tomorrow."

"Thank you very much." Gil took the key from the innkeeper and climbed the stairs to the upper level of the tavern.

"Hey, hey. Gil."

"Lydia, I assume what you're going to ask is if you can go and drink with the rest of the rowdy crew down there. I assume you also know that my answer has been, and will always be, that you can do whatever you want, as long as it's on your own dime, and you are fit to travel in the morning."

Lydia sighed. "You're boring, Gil. I was gonna invite you to join me tonight! Come on, let's party it up!"

Gil stopped in front of a door with a seven roughly carved into it, and turned to face Lydia. "For the last time, I don't drink, and I don't like talking to people, especially ones I don't know, and don't need to know. If you'll excuse me, though, I do have armor that needs maintenance, and several blades that need sharpening. So, if you'll excuse me..." and with that, Gil unlocked the door, slipped inside, and firmly closed it behind him.

Outside the door, Lydia cradled her face in both hands. "I swear, Gil, this is why nobody sticks around you for long. If only you tried a bit harder, I'm sure people would understand how amazing you are..." she let her hand softly rest on the door for a moment. Then, taking a deep breath, let out an exasperated sigh. "It's not like I'll always be around to take care of you, you know?" she muttered softly, before turning and trudging back down the stairs into the bar.

Slamming a fist down on the counter, she raised her voice to the bartender. "Gimme the biggest mug of ale you can muster! And be ready to keep them coming!"

All around the common room of the bar, heads turned her way, grizzled adventurers one after another having their attention drawn to this strange woman. One man stood up, his filthy leather armor showing the hard wear and weathering of an experienced warrior. "You've got a stomach on ya then, missy?" he chuckled, scratching at his nose.

Lydia, however, met his gaze with a condescending sneer. "That's right, and I'm willing to wager I can outdrink any of you sissies, any day of the week!"

A cacophony of murmurs ran through the packed common room, and several more adventurers rose to their feet with grins blossoming across their scarred faces. "Well then, lass," the first one said, pulling a stool up to the bar. "You've got yourself a wager!"


Back in the room, Gil had removed several cloths and a whetstone from his pack, and was in the process of unbuckling his bracers. He unsheathed the sturdy knife from his belt, then reached into his boots, pulling a smaller blade from each of them. More knives appeared, from sheathes fitted on the underside of his bracers, and several from various places beneath his tunic. Arranging them all in a neat line, he picked up the smallest of the twelve knives and began to work it across the surface of the whetstone, bringing the blade back up to a razor sheen.

Gil slowly worked through each knife in the dimming evening light that streamed through the window. The room was small, humble even, providing only the barest of amenities necessary. Two beds with straw mattresses, a small table, and a set of wooden chairs. Taking up most of the floor of the room, Gil methodically sharpened, oiled, and waxed each blade with the same care and precision a professional blacksmith might give his wares.

Finally, he finished rubbing wax into the robust belt knife and slid it back into its sheath. With a sigh, he glanced around the room, his gaze finally coming to a rest on the sheathed longsword leaning against the wall in the corner of the room. Delicately, he scooped it, sheath and all, into his arms, then sat down on one of the beds. Gingerly, he unfastened the clasp that held the blade firmly in the sheath, then bared a small amount of the blade.

Sparkling silvery-white, the single cutting edge of the sword seemed to wink back at him in the dim light of the room. The dark black metal of the rest of the sword made the white of the blade stand out even more. Gil inspected the sword for a moment more, then slid it back into the sheath, doing the clasp back up. He groaned, flopping back onto the stiff mattress and gazing at the wooden ceiling.

"What am I even doing anymore?" as the question left his lips, he closed his eyes. The stress of the journey, the toll of the fast-paced march he had pushed over the last few days, was starting to take its toll on him. Gently, his breathing slowed, and Gil quickly fell asleep, his weapon still cradled in his arms. He didn't stir, even when the cacophony in the bar below grew from loud chatter and laughter into shouts and breaking glass. Nor did he stir when, a while later, Lydia stumbled into the room, stripped her outer layer of leathers off, and flopped down into the other bed, swiftly slipping into a snoring slumber.

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