Ow. Ow. Ow. Ow. Ouch. Ow.
This is why painkillers were invented. Damn it. Stop moving.
Flip the page.
It’s hot. Why can’t people invent air conditioning in this stupid world already? And the common room of an inn is not the best place to read in peace. But it beats sitting in my room and listening to drunk people banging down the hall or having sex.
This is why I hate people.
Okay. Focus. Ignore them. What does it say?
‘…The incursion of the Antinium hives into the southern region of the continent lead to the bloody decade-long war known as the First Incursion War, in which hundreds of thousands of Antinium soldiers established huge colonies across the southern plains, razing cities and forcing Gnoll tribes to retreat into the lower plains regions.
Initially, response from the northern cities and allied confederacies were slow to react to the Antinium sweeping through the plateaus and rugged mountainous regions of the continent, underestimating the dangers of an entrenched Antinium hive and the true numbers of the Antinium concealed beneath the earth. It was only after five cities were lost that—’
GYAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH! My foot!
Why, why, why did the stupid chair have to be right there? The pain!
Crap. Did I bust open the injury? Let me see.
It’s hard to scoot back from my table to peer underneath it, but I can see the heavy white gauze. It’s bloody, but no more than it was last time I checked. Wonderful.
And it still hurts. I’ve broken bones before but it never felt anything like this. But considering this injury—
One of the barmaids is looking at me. I stare right back at her and she turns away. I’m really not in the mood for attention. And thinking about the pain only wants to make me scream out loud. Half from the pain, half from searing rage. So. Back to the book.
Okay. Ignore the pain. What was that about Antinium? Are they still around? I flip through the pages.
Confederacy of states…hasty alliance…skip all that. Ah.
‘The tide of the war only changed after the discovery of the Antinium’s fatal weakness. Using their newfound tactics, the Southern Alliance used long-range mage spells to assault Antinium hives and deter attacking forces.
Several hives were destroyed entirely before an temporary truce was formed between the Antinium Queens or the Collective and the leaders of the city states. This peace was tenuous however and lasted for only four years when the Antinium attacked again, leading to the Second Incursion War…’
Weakness. They had a weakness? Must have missed that bit.
Let’s see. Where would that be? And why haven’t I seen these ant-people around? Well, they’re pariahs or outcasts to most societies, so I guess that’s why. But do they have any useful features or are they just bug-people?
Oh, here’s the weakness.
I pause with my finger on the passage as I hear a cheerful voice calling my name above the hubbub of the inn. Oh. Oh no. Not her again.
Ryoka Griffin was sitting in the middle of an inn. It was not an extraordinary inn—just one of the many inns located in the human city of Celum.
She was reading and scowling. Because she was talented, she could do both at the same time. She was also sitting by herself, occasionally eating from a cold plate left in front of her. A cold glass of juice beaded with condensation on the table in front of her. That at least she regularly drank from, which was necessary in the crowded heat of the inn.
“Hey there, Ryoka!”
A cheerful voice drowned out the ambient noise of conversation and drew every head towards the person that had entered the inn. Ryoka looked up from her book and spotted the girl making her way towards her. Her expression didn’t change, but her eye twitched once.
“Hey Ryoka, how are you doing?”
“I’m fine Garia.”
Garia Strongheart slid into an empty chair at the table and smiled cheerfully at Ryoka. Her cheerfulness was not reciprocated in kind. Ryoka just glanced up at Garia and went back to reading.
Undeterred, Garia flagged down a barmaid and requested one of the local drinks, a strong, semi-alcoholic beverage that was cool and flavorful at the same time. In Ryoka’s opinion, it was a shame that the flavor in question was beer.
“So, how are you doing? Is your leg feeling any better?”
Ryoka glanced up and glared.
Garia’s smiled faltered.
“Did you—did you go to see the [Healer] I told you about? She’s a good one. Works with us Runners all the time.”
“Couldn’t help. The bone’s too badly broken.”
“Oh. I’m sorry.”
“Not your fault.”
Ryoka had a talent for shutting down conversations. Garia stared at her, and tried to surreptitiously glance at her bandaged leg. She winced, and covered her wince by changing the subject.
“Is that a book?”
Ryoka glanced up from her book. She eyed Garia.
“What’s it about?”
“You mean, world history like you were asking me about the other day? Sorry I didn’t know more.”
Ryoka shook her head.
“The history of the cities.”
“Oh. Is it, um, interesting?”
It was fascinating. Ryoka was no history buff, but it was amazing what being transported to another world did for her interest in mundane things like economics and politics.
“It must be nice, being able to read.”
The envy in Garia’s tone made Ryoka look up at last.
Garia turned red.
“Not so much. I can do signs and math but – I mean, most folk can’t read too well. Not books or anything fancy like that. Fals can read, though. I’ve seen him reading books.”
Ryoka raised her eyebrows.
“Good for him.”
Again, Garia was forced to continue a mostly one-sided conversation.
“Where’d you get the book?”
“I bought it in the market. Didn’t cost much.”
“Really? I thought most books were several gold coins – at least.”
“Some sell for silver. Either way, it’s fine.”
Ryoka scowled as she chomped on another lukewarm slice of ham. The lack of any library in this city meant she had to buy any books she wanted to read, and some were annoyingly expensive. But she wasn’t about to get into a discussion of economics with Garia and fuel the conversation.
The problem was, Garia was more than capable of finding topics of interest by herself. The other girl stared at the pile of books on the table.
“Are you going to read all of these, then?”
“What, all of them?”
“Not like I have anything else to do.”
Ryoka deliberately turned a page.
I really wish she’d go away. Or do I? At least she’s keeping drunk guys from hitting on me.
I hate this. I hate her, I hate this inn, and I hate this entire world. If I could burn it down to the ground I’d—
Probably not. At least, she’s not the one I hate. So maybe destroy all the world except for a few people.
But the pain. And boredom, let’s not forget. It’s a sad day when Garia’s daily visit is the most interesting thing that happens to me.
It’s been one week since my ‘accident’. Another week of this and I might seriously snap. But my leg—
Damn it all. If I could kill every damned Street Runner in the world I would in an instant. Even if I had to stare into their eyes as I choked them to death. I will have vengeance, I swear it.
But until then, how the hell do I heal my leg? How, how, how? If it’s really beyond most normal magics—
Ask Garia. She might know of a better way, even if her first idea failed. Worth a shot, and I hope I have enough money for whatever I need. Crap, she’s been talking and I have no idea what she said. Better wing it.
Huh. That’s a crowd coming in right now. Hope they don’t want to share the table. They look familiar, though.
Who’s that? Another Runn—
Kill her. Stab her. Break her bones. Don’t do it. Do it. Hurt her. Smash her stupid face in. Kill. Killkillkillkillkillkillkillkillkillkillkillkillkillkillkillkillkillkillkillkillkill—
Garia realized Ryoka hadn’t heard her question the third time she repeated it. The other young woman had frozen in place, staring at something over Garia’s shoulder. Garia turned, looked, and knew there was about to be trouble.
Ryoka shoved her chair back and swung up onto her good leg. Persua smirked at her.
“Oh, Ryoka? I didn’t see you there. Fancy meeting you in this inn. How are you doing?”
It was hard getting her leg out from under the table. But when she did, Ryoka stood up on her good leg and lunged for Persua faster than anyone would have guessed. She never made it, though.
Garia grabbed Ryoka by the shoulder and gently pulled her back. Despite Ryoka’s attempts to shake her off, she refused to let go and dragged Ryoka back from the smirking Persua and her gaggle of Street Runners.
“No, calm down Ryoka. If you start a fight you’ll be the one in trouble.”
The expression on Ryoka’s face suggested she was fine with that, but Garia could count. There were at least eight Street Runners behind Persua, and they looked ready to cause trouble. One-handed, she pulled Ryoka back and made her sit back down.
That should have been hard to do, even to an injured Ryoka, but Garia was stronger than she looked. And she looked like a farm girl capable of lifting bales of hay with one hand.
As she pinned Ryoka to her chair, Garia moved so she was between her friend and Persua.
“Why don’t we all settle down? Persua, you and your friends can go have a drink somewhere else, okay?”
Persua spread her hands innocently and ratcheted up her pitch another octave in innocent protest.
“I don’t understand what you mean Garia. I’m just saying hi to Ryoka who’s had a little accident. Can’t you understand that? Or are things going too fast for you to keep up with?”
Now it was Garia’s turn to flush, but she didn’t rise to the bait.
“You’ve had your fun, but I think you should leave, Persua.”
Persua gave Garia and Ryoka a sickly sweet fake smile.
“But as a fellow City Runner, I want to let Ryoka know how terribly sorry I am that she got in the way of that runaway cart. If only she’d listened to her fellow runners. We were all trying to warn her, you know. But that’s Ryoka for you. She just doesn’t listen now, does she?”
Garia could feel Ryoka’s shoulder trembling under her hand. It was getting harder to hold her down, and that was before Persua ‘accidentally’ mentioned how horrible it had been that no one was able to help Ryoka until she dragged herself to the nearest guardhouse for help.
What might have happened next was anyone’s guess. Persua was still gloating, oblivious to the trouble, but Garia could see Ryoka glancing at a sharp knife sitting on her plate. The Street Runners behind Persua were numerous, but they were getting unfriendly looks from other inn patrons who might just relish a bar fight if it meant getting rid of unwanted strangers.
Garia was debating the merits of getting stabbed and preventing a fight, versus witnessing Persua’s death, regardless of whatever consequences it entailed.
But then the door opened again, and a hush fell over the room. Where the Street Runners had entered into the noise and chaos of the inn, the next group that entered brought silence with them.
Casual inn-goers of the variety of merchants, farmers, shopkeepers and so on scrambled out of the way as a huge, armored Minotaur strode into the room. He had a massive steel battleaxe strapped to his back, and he was followed by five more adventurers: three mages and two more warriors all armed to the teeth.
The Horns of Hammerad looked around and spotted Ryoka and Garia on the other side of the inn. Their leader immediately made a beeline for the two, walking in an open space of his own. No one wanted to get in the way of the Minotaur’s path.
Persua was still mocking Ryoka and Garia, oblivious to the newcomers in the inn. The Street Runners behind her were nervously eying the approaching adventurers, but they didn’t move from their spot.
The Minotaur named Calruz stopped in front of the Street Runners and glared down at them. Persua turned and let out a high pitched scream as she saw his face. He jerked one thumb and pointed.
“You. Runners. Out of the way.”
The Street Runners exchanged one glance and then shifted out of the way. Calruz snorted in contempt and brushed by them as they edged away.
Persua made a disgusted face and pinched at her nose as he passed by. But when one of the female mages glared at her, she shrank back as well. There was an unspoken difference in power between the Runners and the Adventurers, and once they realized the Horns of Hammerad had business with Ryoka, they decided to leave the inn quickly.
Garia gaped as the six adventurers stood in front of the table. They were all wearing armor, or robes of high-quality cloth. The two warriors standing behind Calruz wore shining chainmail, and the mages carried glowing staves and a wand that gave off ethereal fiery sparks.
That last bit was especially concerning to the innkeeper who nervously eyed the wand, but he didn’t make any vocal objections. The tall, mustached human warrior standing next to Calruz nodded at Ryoka and gave her a friendly smile.
“Ryoka Griffin? We’re part of the adventuring party, the Horns of Hammerad. You bailed us out of a tough situation last week. Do you mind if we sit?”
Ryoka stared up at the adventuring party. She didn’t appear overly impressed.
“You’re blocking my light.”
The vice-captain blinked. He exchanged glances with the other warrior while the mages frowned, but the Minotaur laughed.
“Hah! Spirited! It is good to see that in a Human at last!”
He stuck out a massive, gauntleted hand.
“I am Calruz of the Beriad. I lead the Horns of Hammerad, an adventuring party in these parts. I am in your debt Ryoka Griffen. May we sit?”
Ryoka blinked in the face of this direct approach. She paused and then reluctantly nodded, shaking Calruz’s hand.
Immediately, the Horns of Hammerad pulled up chairs and another table to sit next to Ryoka and Garia. Calruz had to sit perched in his chair which creaked ominously beneath him, but seemed happy enough.
Once all the adventurers were seated, a barmaid approached and they ordered drinks and food. Ryoka wasn’t hungry, and Garia, awestruck by the company, was too shy to eat.
In between the barmaids bustling around and delivering drinks and food, the vice-captain leaned forwards and addressed Ryoka.
“We owe you a debt of gratitude for that delivery you did for us a week ago. Without it, we’d all have been killed by that damned Lich. Thanks to you though, we managed to kill it and recover a lot of magical artifacts. Ceria’s got a new set of mage robes she owes all to you.”
One of the female mages nodded and gestured at her clothing. She was wearing a dark blue set of robes embroidered with glowing golden sigils around the hem and edges of the rich cloth.
It seemed foolish to bring such expensive clothing into an inn, but Ryoka noticed that when Calruz accidentally splattered the dress while reaching for a tankard, the liquid simply ran down the cloth and onto the ground. She was immediately impressed and wondered how much the magical cloth cost.
Garia looked around the table, wide-eyed.
“I just heard that Ryoka was doing a delivery to the Ruins. Was it that helpful?”
One of the warriors snorted.
“Delivery? Hah! She charged right past the Lich that had us pinned down and dropped the potions off right in the center of the battlefield! He was casting fireballs and lightning around her, but she even drew his fire as she left—gave us a chance to regroup!”
Ryoka shifted uncomfortably as Garia gaped at her. The problem with being in an inn was that other people were listening. Already she could tell patrons on the other tables were listening in on their conversation. She shrugged.
“Just doing my job.”
“Your job? No other Runner would have pulled off a feat like that. You saved our lives.”
She was having a hard time meeting the earnest vice-captain’s eyes. Ryoka shrugged and picked at her ham as he continued.
“Without the potions the best we could have hoped for would be a retreat where we didn’t lose too many of our party. In the worst-case scenario we’d have lost over half of our group and that’s if the Lich didn’t follow us.”
“Instead, we managed to break that damn skeleton’s head in. The treasure we recovered more than made up for the expedition. And while the rest of our group is still healing from the battle, we’re here to repay the debt we owe.”
Ryoka raised her eyebrows. Minotaurs. Honor? They didn’t seem to go together, but either Calruz was an exception, or Minotaurs had quite a strong sense of right and wrong.
The vice-captain cleared his throat awkwardly.
“We expected to meet you again, since we heard you were a popular Runner around here. But when we heard about your injury, we decided to drop by.”
Garia looked surprised. It was a long way from the Ruins of Albez to Celum for someone who wasn’t a Runner.
“You came all the way here just to do that?”
Calruz nodded impatiently.
“Of course. What does distance matter? But let us introduce ourselves properly.”
He poked the female mage at his side and she jumped and glared at the Minotaur. The mage nodded to Ryoka and Garia. She was wearing a hat indoors which was presumably bad manners, but as she removed it they realized why.
Her ears were slightly pointed, and although she appeared human, this mage seemed subtly different from her companions. Ryoka noticed her skin was—rather than being paler, appeared subtly more vibrant. It was as if her body was simply realer and move vivid than the rest of the world. In her, it was a slight thing, but grew more noticeable the longer Ryoka stared.
Her eyes tracked down to the young woman’s face. Again, her features were beautiful, but not simply aesthetically. They possessed another dimension she couldn’t explain that added to the exotic nature of the mage’s face. Ryoka saw that her eyes were pale yellow, but made no comment.
The mage stuck out one hand and Ryoka took it. She wasn’t an elf. But she wasn’t human either.
“I’m Garia Strongheart. Pleased to meet you.”
The rest of the company introduced themselves, but Ryoka was still thinking about Ceria. She shook hands mechanically, impassively nodding as the vice-captain expressed his admiration of how she’d saved them. She’d already forgotten his name.
“Enough of this.”
Calruz snapped impatiently as soon as the introductions were done. He pointed down towards Ryoka’s leg as it stuck out awkwardly.
“We didn’t come here to chat. We’re honor-bound to repay our debt, which is why we’re here. And you’re injured. How’d that happen?”
“Got run over by a cart.”
The adventurers looked at Ryoka in frank disbelief.
“Getting run over by a cart I’d believe of normal people, but a Runner? I thought you lot were fast on your feet.”
Ryoka shrugged unhelpfully and stared at her plate. Uncertainly, Garia cleared her throat.
“It wasn’t—exactly an accident.”
She turned red as the Horns of Hammerad focused their attention on her. Calruz tapped a finger on the table.
“Well, I don’t know how to say it, but Ryoka sort of broke an unspoken rule in the Runner’s Guild. She did this delivery and made a lot of folks mad—”
“—And they decided to run her over with a cart?”
The vice-captain stared incredulously at Garia.
“Are you serious?”
“Most of us didn’t know anything about it until it happened. But some of the Street Runners and City Runners – they’re part of a group that enforces the rules. I mean, they’re not real rules but we all obey them.”
Garia jumped as the mug in Calruz’s hand cracked and shattered in his grip. He angrily shoved the glass pieces aside and gritted his teeth.
“What pathetic, cowardly lot. I’d challenge them all to an honor duel in a moment if I had cause.”
Ceria shook her head as she put her hat back on.
“We don’t recognize duels under the law, and they’d run away if you looked at them sideways in any case. It sounds like there’s quite a lot of politics in the Runner’s Guild – and dangerous politics at that if this is what happens to people who disobey.”
The other adventurers murmured and grunted in disgust.
“Money grubbing backstabbers.”
“Barely worth the coin we spend to hire them. And for the rates they charge, I could buy a new sword!”
Garia looked like she wanted to object to the insults, but she didn’t dare. Ryoka was interested.
“You don’t like Runners?”
One of the warriors shook his head.
“You we like. And your friend here doesn’t seem bad. But the rest of your lot are worthless pieces of waste as far as we’re concerned.”
“We’re not all bad.”
Garia protested weakly. The vice-captain and the mages shook their heads.
“You don’t understand, uh, Miss Garia was it? Most Runners don’t do deliveries to battlefields, and some of the ones that do only deliver after the battle ends. We could be in serious trouble, but your people won’t approach until all the monsters are gone. And even then, we have to pay triple—sometimes five times as much just for deliveries to areas we’ve already cleared.”
“Besides, Runners are only concerned about their pay, not anything else. They won’t stop to help even in emergencies unless we pay them. Even adventurers have more integrity than that.”
The Horns of Hammerad grumbled, but at least their ire wasn’t directed directly towards Garia and Ryoka. Ceria eyed the dispirited Garia and cleared her throat.
“That’s not to say all Runners are bad. I know a lot of you deliver goods quickly and for reasonable rates. It’s just that there are quite a few bad Runners in your Guilds, especially the ones that we have to deal with.”
She nodded at Ryoka.
“Case in point, your leg.”
Calruz snorted angrily as he grabbed another mug from a scared barmaid.
“This is intolerable. A good Runner shouldn’t be crippled. You. Mages. Can’t one of you lot heal her leg?”
Ceria eyed Ryoka’s leg as as the other mages shook their heads.
“None of us know advanced healing magic, Calruz. Besides, that looks like a complicated break.”
“So? What about a healing potion?”
The mages all made a face. The male mage holding the sparking wand shook his head.
“Oh, sure. If you want to fuse the bone back together that might work. But healing in that way is only good for quick fixes. I’ve seen fighters come back with bones attached the wrong way round, or off-center.”
“Is it just a broken bone?”
Ryoka shook her head and grimaced.
“Bone’s shattered. Splinters are in the flesh.”
All the people sitting at the table – and in earshot of the conversation – winced. Ceria however just nodded to herself and put a finger to her lips.
“I thought so. If they were trying to hurt you, they had to injure you badly enough that you wouldn’t be able to recover so easily.”
“Why don’t healing potions work? They fix people with stab wounds up in seconds. Why not bones?”
“Healing potions just accelerate the body’s natural healing. But this is far too complicated for a potion to fix. In situations like this, time or magic is the only solution.”
Ceria looked at Ryoka.
“What you need is a high-level [Healer]…no, better yet a [Cleric].”
Garia looked confused. Ryoka was confused, but her expression didn’t change outwardly.
“What’s the difference? I thought they were both the same.”
Again, all the mages shook their heads. The female mage who owned the staff with the glowing orb whose name Ryoka had forgot answered.
“[Healers] just use herbs and minor spells to treat injuries. That’s fine, but if you want to heal this leg within the year, you need a real magic practiced by a mage. And a high-level one at that.”
“And how much would that cost?”
The female mage hesitated. Ceria looked glum as she answered for her.
“Something like that…that would cost at least a few hundred gold coins. And that’s only if you could find a high-level healer. And they’re very rare.”
Deathly silence fell over the table. Calruz was grimacing darkly, and the vice-captain reluctantly shook his head at him.
Ryoka pushed her chair back and stood up. She paused and winced as her bad foot touched the ground, but then began limping towards the stairwell. Garia, distressed, called out.
“Where are you going, Ryoka?”
The other girl didn’t look around.
“Sleep. I’m tired.”
Instantly, the vice-captain stood up.
“In that case allow me to help you up the stairs.”
Ryoka eyed the stairwell and looked back at him.
“I’ve got it.”
“I insist. Please, let me—”
The vice-captain hesitated. He was looking from the steep stairwell to Ryoka’s splinted and bandaged leg. She set her jaw stubbornly.
“I don’t need help.”
Ryoka brushed off his hands and began dragging herself up the stairs. She had a method for it; she walked backwards up the stairs so she didn’t have to move her bad leg more than necessary. It was awkward and cumbersome, but the look in her eyes dared anyone to give her a hand.
Crestfallen, the vice-captain returned to the table and sat down. The other warrior patted him on the back. Garia awkwardly apologized.
“Sorry. She’s just—unfriendly.”
“I like her.”
Everyone looked at Calruz. The Minotaur was watching Ryoka with approval as she swung herself up the stairs.
“She reminds me of females of my kind. Fiery. The ones who would stab any male that offends. Much better than the simpering human ones I keep meeting.”
He stood up. The vice-captain eyed him worriedly. Ceria leaned forwards and poked Calruz hard in the back.
“Calruz. I wouldn’t bother her. Human females aren’t like Minotaur females.”
He snorted dismissively.
“Bah. All that’s needed is courage and spirit to win her over.”
He knocked his chair back and walked over to the stairwell. The vice-captain looked like he wanted to say something, but lost the initiative. Calruz called over his shoulder.
“Don’t wait for me. I’ll find you at the Guild later.”
The remaining adventurers watched Calruz ascending the stairs and muttered amongst themselves.
“Should we stop him?”
“If we do, it’ll be a fight. You know what happens when he loses his temper.”
“Another destroyed inn? We’ll lose all the money we just earned!”
The vice-captain’s eyes narrowed. He drained his mug and stood up.
“This is unacceptable. I’m going up there.”
Ceria grabbed him by the shoulder.
“Calm down Gerial.”
He glared at her.
“You’re letting him go? Are you mad?”
She shook her head.
“Calruz isn’t an idiot. He knows the law. He’ll go if he isn’t wanted, but that’s not what I meant. Ryoka Griffin can take care of herself. Or don’t you remember why we’re here?”
He hesitated, but then everyone downstairs heard Calruz’s unmistakable bass rumble. From downstairs, Garia could hear Ryoka’s annoyed voice. She hadn’t known Ryoka long, but Garia knew her well enough to guess what she was saying.
Garia started biting at her nails as Calruz’s voice rose and he made what sounded like an attempted joke. Ryoka snapped something but he kept talking.
Uncertainly, Garia stood up. None of the adventurers stopped her as she walked to the stairs and looked up. Both human and minotaur were standing outside her room, arguing. Well, Ryoka was arguing, while Calruz was…flirting.
Which was a mistake, Garia knew. She heard Ryoka’s voice as she snapped at Calruz.
He said something in reply, and she pushed at him. Since he was wearing armor and outweighed her by at least two hundred pounds he didn’t move. Calruz captured Ryoka’s hand in his own. Garia saw Ryoka’s eyes narrow.
The patrons of the inn downstairs clearly heard the crack, and the bellow of pain from Calruz. From her position on the stairs, Garia saw and heard Ryoka punch the Minotaur in the face and then saw the Calruz’s form overbalance on the top of the stairs. She watched in slow motion as the massive figure of the Minotaur reeled back from the blow. He grabbed at the wall, but the wood splintered as it broke under his weight.
If. If Calruz hadn’t insisted on wearing plate armor. If Ryoka hadn’t hit him quite as hard. If the inn was newer and wasn’t so old. But there were no ifs. Calruz toppled down the stairs in a terrific crash of metal on wood, splintering the stairwell, and smashing the floorboards on the ground where he landed.
Everyone stared at the fallen Minotaur as he stared up at the ceiling. Half of the inn’s patrons were already making for the doors, while the other half waited for the ensuing bloodbath.
At the top of the stairs Ryoka raised her middle finger, flipped the prone Minotaur off, and then limped into her room. The door slammed behind her.
Calruz blinked up as the remaining pieces of the stairwell fell down around him and the innkeeper screamed in horror. He stared bemusedly up at Garia and the rest of his adventuring party. Then he grinned.
“Strong. I like her quite a lot.”