A pounding on his door roused the elf from his sleep. He turned just enough so his face wasn’t completely in his pillow and groaned, “Come back with a warrant.” The sheets and blanket were a bit scratchy, not the luxurious silk linens he was used to, but they had been warm enough for a cheap inn. Never mind the fact that leaving the bed meant the day was beginning, and that meant he would have to deal with her. Wretched drow. No sense of humor. Knocks on doors like a battering ram.
“I am the warrant, Silverleaf, come on. Up and at ‘em.” The knock came again, this time with an additional metallic clank. Was she going to break the door down with her gauntlets? “If you don’t get up now, you’ll have to get on the road hungry, and after yesterday, I think neither of us wants that.”
The elf groaned again and when he dragged his head to the edge of the pillow, the little kobold sharing his room stood beside his bed at eye level. “Please, Warren,” he blinked his large yellow eyes, vertical pupils wide like a happy cat, “Please, I really want breakfast. I smell sausage down there.” The kobold scratched his neck where patches of his scaly skin were shedding.
Warren rolled his eyes, and flung the covers off him as if he were flourishing a velvet cape at a formal banquet. “For you, dear Oba,” he swung his feet to the floor and rose with a dramatic stretch. “Brush, please,” Warren held out his hand and Oba delivered the silver handled brush from his things. The inn’s mirror was small, streaked with old stains that he didn’t want to think about, and the wash basin was chipped. Warren sighed and took his time arranging his chestnut waves. He scrubbed his face with the washcloth enough to feel a bit fresher, and as he was dusting his cheekbones with a bit of fine, shimmering powder, the damned drow knocked again.
“Are you bleaching your asshole in there, Mr. High Elf? What’s the hold up?”
Warren’s sister’s voice echoed in his head, Her speech and her manners are as delicate as everything we’ve ever heard of the Underdark. He huffed, shook his head, and put the last of his things in his pack, just so. With the little kobold on his heels, Warren threw the door open and was met with the drow’s surly scowl from behind the dark glasses perched on her face. She wore heavy plate armor, except for the helmet attached to her bag, and one gauntlet, which she had tucked under her arm. “Brit. A vision of sullen crudeness, as ever. I must say,” Warren leaned one forearm on the door frame and sneered, “I was starting to think your Underdark accent might be just a smidge charming, but certainly not at the unholy hour of…?” A gesture of his long fingers prompted her.
She had a toothpick in her mouth, which she maneuvered from one side to the other with her tongue, “Nine-thirty.”
Warren scoffed, “You could have let me sleep another hour.”
“Not if we want to make it to Brendeberg by sundown.” She knelt and tossed her long braid of white hair over her shoulder, smiling sweetly at the kobold, her voice much lighter. “Oba, honey, you gotta quit scratching your neck. When we get to Brendeberg tonight, we’ll get you a good soak and that’ll help. Now, can you get the last couple buckles on my armor? The ones I can’t reach?”
“Mm-hmm!” Oba nodded with high enthusiasm as he fastened the last two buckles on her back, then he took off down the stairs for the dining area, chattering about sausage.
Brit hefted her bag, which had Oba’s much smaller pack tied to it, and eyed Warren again. “I’m surprised you didn’t sneak out in the night.” Together, they followed Oba down the stairs.
Warren’s fingers alighted on the stair rail with the same grace as falling snow. “A fine, dashing gentleman like myself needs his rest,” his musical inflection pattern sounded like an actor, threatening to break into song at any moment. “Besides,” he exaggerated the pretense of sorrow in his voice, “Oba would have thrown a fit if I had left.”
The drow let her dark glasses slide down her nose and she peered over them at the elf, “Which is exactly why Oba shares a room with you.” She smiled wide, with teeth that were stark white against her dark grey-violet skin.
“You devious bitch,” he clicked his tongue and tossed his hair.
“Or we can all three share a room, your choice, any time.” Utterly humorless, as always.
“Let a man have his privacy, Brit!” In the dining area, they followed Oba to the table he’d picked. “Are all parole officers as insufferable as you?”
She muttered, “I hope so,” as she picked up a plate of sausage and bread for herself.
Warren placed an order for a mushroom omelette, a pot of tea, and a scone with jam and cream. It had only been a few days of traveling with Brit and Oba, but Warren was already considering whether prison would be that much worse than the pair of Underdark denizens watching his every move. Oba was sweet enough in his own way, but Brit was about as fun as a gelatinous cube.
“Brendeberg, you said?” Warren poured his tea and started slathering cream and jam on his scone. “What’s there?”
The drow flashed that stark smile again as she bit into her bread, speaking with her mouth full, “A community service opportunity for you.”
The elf rolled his eyes, “Can’t imagine what passes for community service by your standards.”
Oba gently touched Warren’s arm with a clawed hand, “Can I have a bit of your scone?” The little kobold was trying to imitate Warren’s accent—and not doing a bad job of it. “As a gentleman?”
Despite his irritation and inconvenience, Warren couldn’t make himself refuse the kobold, not when he was trying so hard to follow every one of Warren’s “gentleman lessons.” He cut half of his scone into two pieces, with more flair than anyone needed just to eat breakfast, and slid a piece onto Oba’s plate. “Of course, young sir, it would be my pleasure to share such a fine meal with you.” He glanced at Brit again, but her expression was imperceptible behind the glasses.
When they finished breakfast, Warren lifted his teacup in a toast, “Onward to Brendeberg. May fate find a way to separate us.” With that, he threw back his last sip of tea and stood, sauntering toward the door with Oba on his heels.
Brit threw a few silver coins on the table and caught up to them in long strides. “We’ll separate when your parole’s up,” she reminded him bluntly. “You wanna get rid of me, no thieving, scamming, or murdering. Don’t—”
“Don’t fuck it up, yes, I heard you the first forty times,” Warren scoffed and pulled out his dagger to balance the tip on his finger. “Lovely day to not make it forty-one.”
written piece and Oba illustration copyright K. Archer 2021