Once the sun began to set, the crowd dispersed from the dungeon entrance. Johan stretched out his arms and groaned loudly as he walked out of the mine.
"Man, I'm tired." He complained loudly.
Behind him, Hamish and Henry roared in laughter as they slapped the younger man on the back, knocking him over.
"Boyo, you've been working for so long and you're still feeling tired after a short work day? You need more practice." Hamish spoke down to him as he pulled Johan up.
Henry nodded his head, "I agree; with the celebration earlier today we didn't have to wake up early to begin mining. What do you have to complain about?"
Johan sighed and shook his head, "I don't know; it's just weird being back in the mines after so long. I mean, we've been building houses, digging graves, and repairing the walls. It's different being in the sun compared to working under torchlight."
Henry shook his head and laughed, "Hard work is hard work boy, you'll figure that out eventually. Come on, let's get to the tavern before it really picks up and we have to stand."
The three of them hurried through Iron Town and into Tent City. They made their way to their favorite tavern.
"Oh good, we're still early," Hamish sighed in relief, "Be at peace my poor stomach."
"Since you think with your stomach, it's no surprise you talk with it." Johan jabbed to the amusement of Henry. Hamish rolled his eyes as they took a seat at a table.
A little girl ran up to them and smiled joyfully, "Mr. Hamish, Mr. Henry, and Mr. Johan; welcome to the tavern!"
Hamish turned and winked at the little girl, "Well hi there little Milly; how are you doing today?"
Milly clapped happily, "Poppa is still teaching me how to run the tavern, but he says I'm a natural. He's been really supportive of me since I saved us from that zombie."
The three grown men winced at the monster name.
"Are you sure you're alright Milly? That must have been scary to meet a zombie inside the town." Johan ventured.
Milly shook her head, "No, I was really brave. Thanks to the nice red-haired lady who gave me some throwing knives, I made sure the zombie didn't get Poppa. Just between us," she leaned and began to whisper, "I used to ask him for throwing knives, and Poppa didn't approve so I had to practice in secret; but he made me my own practice room after my knife got the zombie. He says he's renaming the tavern The Knifed Zombie."
Henry and Johan laughed as Hamish patted the little girl on the head, "Aiy, you're a strong one little Missy. How old are you again?"
Missy thrust out her chest in triumph, "I'm 13, soon to 14. Poppa said he needs to sharpen his blades for when the boys start to come over."
Hamish stared down at her, "Oh, already that old? It's too bad your body is still that of a little child."
Missy blushed and punched Hamish in the arm, "Meanie; I'll tell Poppa to bill your tab early."
"No! Forgiveness my lady!"
Johan and Henry were hitting the table now as they laughed their hearts.
The bartender came over to them with a grin as he watched Hamish beg the little girl, "Ho, what is this; the great Hamish on his hands and knees for my daughter? Looks like I'll be needing my old sword sooner than later."
Hamish rolled his eyes and got up to shake the other man's hand, "How ya doing Fred? We haven't been over because of the wood working." His words held a hint of an apology.
Fred waved him off, "No worries; the merchants paid me and the others to make the food you guys ate while working. How's the mining?"
"Slow," Hamish admitted as he took his seat again, "The walls close up faster now that we have less people to work the stone. It makes it more likely to find veins, but it takes longer to get to them. Still, the boss doesn't appear as much in comparison."
Fred nodded as he grabbed a seat the next table over. Henry raised an eyebrow.
"Don't you have customers to feed Fred?" He asked.
Fred shook his head, "It's been slow enough I can take some time to talk to old friends. How about you youngin, you doing good?" He addressed Johan.
Johan shrugged, "Getting back to being used to the torchlight, but I'm good."
Missy pulled on her father's shirt, "Poppa, can I go practice my knife throwing?"
Fred smiled as he tousled her head while she giggled, "Of course sweetie; Be careful."
The four of them watched Missy scurry away into the kitchen. Fred sighed when she was gone.
"I still can't get over how fast she's growing up."
Henry turned to Fred, "You sure you should be letting her practice with throwing knives?"
Fred shrugged with a small smile, "You should have seen her when that skeleton burst into the tavern . . ."
"She said it was a zombie?" Johan spoke up.
Fred hesitated, then nodded, "Right; that's right because I though it was strange a zombie was here rather than a skeleton. No skeletons at all in the tavern. As it turned out, it was some dead villager we didn't know." He turned his head to look at the door Missy disappeared into, "I was throwing myself in front of my girl, but Missy ran out from behind me and threw the knives at the damn thing without a moment's thought. Lucky those knives had a small enchantment on them; the zombie just dropped after getting hit once."
"Did she act weird after the fight?" Johan asked gently.
Fred chuckled and shook his head, "Nope. I still see some men throwing up from the memories of that final fight, but Missy just got her knives back and began to clean them. When I asked her how she felt, she told me it wasn't scary because losing me was scarier."
Henry sighed, "Yeah, the girl is strong indeed. I had the shakes fighting the army of undead; it's sad a little girl beats me in bravery."
"Is that normal though, to be at that age and face zombies without a moment's fear?" Johan spoke up.
The other three men shook their heads, "No, but . . ." Fred was at a loss for words.
Hamish turned to Johan, "What are you thinking boy? I admit it's strange little Missy got the zombie, but maybe it was the blood telling her head to act. Wouldn't be the first time someone did something amazing when the rush of fighting is running through you."
"I know, but it's just too weird to me. Maybe I'm just overthinking it." Johan admitted to himself.
Hamish shrugged and turned back to Fred, "Hey, Missy said she got the knives from a red-head right? As an apology? You should call Fiora over to thank her for the gift."
Fred's face turned confused, "What are talking about? Fiora didn't give her the knives."
"But she's the only fire-haired in town, besides the guild master on a bad day." The four chuckled at the joke.
Fred shook his head, "To be honest, I never saw the lady herself, but Missy said she had red hair. It happened sometime before the dungeon invasion though, I think."
"Strange . . ." Henry thought out loud, "Well, no matter. Can we get three rounds and three house specials."
Fred grinned, "Coming right up boys."
Missy smiled happily as she skipped over to her target, removing her 6 knives. She caressed them softly as she walked back to her starting point.
"And a one, and a two, and a THREE!" She threw the knives at the same time. Even though they were thrown haphazardly, all the knives curved and hit the targets right in the center.
Retrieving them once again, Missy sat down and began to oil and sharpen them. She hummed to herself as the knives glittered in the light, casting a strange, red glow onto her eyes. She giggled happily as she held each knife up to the candle and nodded in satisfaction.
"All good to go." She placed the knives onto the floor around her in a circle.
"Now, how did she tell me to recharge their magic?" She murmured to herself, "Right, the chant."
Sitting cross-legged in the circle, Missy began to chant. The words were strange, not at all in the common tongue. A red glow appeared, flowing into the knives from the circle. As her eyes were closed, Missy didn't notice a small bit of red climb up her body into her mouth.
When she was finished, Missy opened her eyes and stored the knives away back in their case. As she placed the case back on the shelf, she patted the skeleton head which sat next to it on the shelf.
"I'll be sure to practice tomorrow too! Be sure to watch me Mr. Bubbles."
For just a moment, the skeleton's eye socket held the same red as Missy.