Chapter 2:

Chapter 2 - The bandit queen

PowerPlay! ~ The odd tale about awesome powers, quirky personalities and why they make for an awful mix.

Not again! Gods above, not again!

As the kitchen floor began to tremble stronger and stronger, the distressed creaking of the mound of dishes in the sink began to grow worse.

“Woah! Don’t give up on me! Keep it together!”

I shouted as the tremor assaulted the tingling formation of assorted tableware.
In my frantic reasoning, I rushed to hug the mound in hopes of helping it weather this sudden and unknown storm. A shadow, however, covered my head as the screeching sound of glass against glass had suddenly come to a halt.

In a cathartic moment of understanding, I raised my lifeless eyes to look up towards the heavens.

Gods, why me?Bookmark here

The sound of crashing glass echoed in the trembling Crossroads.Bookmark here

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Romon was sitting at the counter polishing his usual beer glasses, both his eyes closed in pensive meditation. The few patrons that had remained were now trying desperately to keep their drinks in their cups and the holy knights were trying to help them while exchanging worried looks.

Only a figure was as calm as Romon, looking intently at the glass of perfectly balanced goat milk in his right hand.
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“Do such tremors occur often in taverns such as these?”
Said the paladin named Nero, while looking intently at the unperturbed surface of the gravity defying liquid in his grasp.Bookmark here

“Can’t say that it’s an everyday thing, no.” said Romon, opening his golden reptile-like left eye towards the entrance.Bookmark here

The paladin whispered a few words to his drink, imbuing it with a faint blue glow.
When the glow dissipated a few seconds later, the milk had begun to softly steam.
“I never would have imagined the tavern experience to be so exciting.” said the paladin beaming with anticipation.Bookmark here

“Tch, most of us didn’t.” replied Romon, turning to look at the kitchen door.Bookmark here

“AAAAAAGH!!”Bookmark here

Romon shifted his gaze to the paladin calmly drinking his warm milk. Then his eyes trailed slowly over the heavy wooden doors, shutting off the ruckus outside.Bookmark here

“New guests, uh?”Bookmark here

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I finally opened the kitchen door.
I looked around and met the terrified faces of our patrons along with the confused looks of the holy knights. Finally, I painfully removed a piece of broken glass poking through my left arm’s skin and walked up to the counter were the two calm lunatics were having a conversation.
One of those lunatics, namely my employer, looked at me and at the door eloquently.Bookmark here

I removed another glass shard from my backside, showed him and crossed my arms.Bookmark here

He stared back unflinching.
I sighed.Bookmark here

“Fine, fine, I’m checking outside. But I expect a raise!”
I then stormed to the Inn doors, opened them with a sullen frown on my face, looked outside…Bookmark here

…then immediately closed the doors behind me.
I frantically looked at my employer’s face for confirmation.Bookmark here

Romon, took a deep breath.
“This time, boy. I smell trouble.”
Romon raised from his seat and slowly walked to the door.Bookmark here

He put his giant hand over my shoulder. “Try to remain… professional.”
He then threw the doors open over the hellish spectacle that awaited outside.Bookmark here

Another wall stretched over the Aurelia vale. Steaming and blazing in the horizon.
Wails and war cries echoed madly in the distance, as the rumble of the speeding mass grew less and less distant.Bookmark here

It was fire and brimstone, hell on earth.Bookmark here

Rows and rows of bandit outlaws, swarming like a tide of battering iron and vicious gall, crying for trouble and aiming straight for the Crossroads with a mad glint in their eyes.Bookmark here

“Boss, we’re screwed, right?”
Romon responded with a grunt, tightening the grip of his fists.Bookmark here

“Something’s off. They mean trouble, sure… but...”
“Uh?” I looked up at my boss’s face, confused.
Romon kept watching the horizon tinged in the afternoon light with a sharp gaze. Like a hunter studying its prey.Bookmark here

“You never know with bandits. We’ll have to wait and see.” said the giant.
I gulped and set my resigned eyes on the chaotic mass rushing towards us.
The shift that had seemed so long, was now growing shorter by the minute.Bookmark here

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For a few minutes now, their long march had turned into a mad dash, wailing and crying the horde of bandits had turned their walk into a race.Bookmark here

The underboss knew this was her style.Bookmark here

Intimidation.Bookmark here

These brigands were the worst, the most despicable, unruly mass ever to assemble onto this earth. Their stampede wasn’t meant to turn heads, it made the fiercest of men squeal in horror at what might happen next. And what would happen would be utter chaos, violence and malice unbridled.Bookmark here

Only a person had the iron will to command this pure malevolence, only one person had the right to ride the tide and direct its ire on the object of her whim.
“That the place, chief?” The underboss asked his mistress, perching from his black horse, barded in spiked iron.Bookmark here

His mistress' answer was the sharpening of her gaze, the stirring of her massive salamander, goading it for more speed.Bookmark here

“Shoddy little hovel, gahahaha!” snorted the underboss, estimating his loot with eyes trained by countless raids.Bookmark here

His mistress’ axe swung in a terrible arc trailing for his throat.
A few oily strands of hair fluttered in the afternoon air, as dodging by ducking and embracing his galloping steed had saved the underboss’ life by sheer miracle.Bookmark here

“We are not here for loot, pig. You’ll keep your hands to yourself, if you don’t want me to take them as my trophy…. I am here to meet someone important.”Bookmark here

Talking about him again?
Thought the underboss to himself, but he did not voice his objections.
Best not to tempt his lady again, lest she deem strike more precisely next time.Bookmark here

“Today is finally the day…” whispered the bandit queen as she approached the final spurt.
Her massive salamander spewed fire, galloping at its max speed. The bandits shrieked in goading tones as they felt the fear of all those watching becoming palpably distinct.Bookmark here

Romon and Dust stood in front of a trembling crowd assembled by the Inn doors.Bookmark here

The distance was growing scarce, the ground would soon give way to stones, stones to the street, then to the Crossroads grounds.
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The bandits licked their weapon’s blades in anticipation for the chaos.
The mistress filled her lungs with the dusty air of the unstoppable iron stampede…Bookmark here

Then…Bookmark here

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The command bellowed throughout the vale as the debris and bellowing roar of the rushing mass assaulted the small group of people shivering in front of the building.Bookmark here

I coughed, waving my hands to try and drive away the dust. Blinded, I fumbled in the dark for Romon’s giant arm. Finding it still there were I left it, I sighed a somewhat frustrated groan of relief, before shifting my gaze to confront what was now before me.Bookmark here

Something coarse and still uncomfortably moist, then, hit my face.Bookmark here

“Ugh, what the hell is this thing!” I shouted reflexively.
“A fire salamander’s tongue. Quite a young specimen too….” Responded Romon without flinching, his eyes fixed on the salamander rider who was just now dismounting from her steed.Bookmark here

“…the younger they are, the more difficult they are to tame.” He continued sharply, his eyes studying this new visitor with the methodical precision of a predator.
“He’s a good pet.” Said the woman, challenging the old innkeeper’s gaze with pride.

Cleaning my own face from the gooey saliva of the giant lizard, I stared at the odd pair.
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She wasn’t as tall as him, but she certainly felt like it. She was quite the amazon in height to tell the truth, certainly taller than me, with bangs of spiky sandy-white hair covering what would look like a very beautiful and feminine face.
Where it not for the scars.

The woman’s body, whose skin color was a natural tanned brown, was muscular and covered in scrapes. A testament to the many battles she must have had endured and survived. This contrasted strongly with the naiveté her young features suggested, as she did look to be a bit younger than I was.Bookmark here

A bit younger…Bookmark here

“What is it old man, not gonna let me inside? I’m in the mood for drinking today.” She hissed at Romon.
“You got the gold?” replied my boss, with a tone that left no room for refusal.
“Chief, let’s gut the bastard and be off with his ale!” shouted a stocky eyepatch wearing man, probably her second in command.Bookmark here

SILENCE…!” The girl’s overpowering rage washed over all present, echoing almost demonically in the afternoon wind and causing most of the patrons to cower behind the innkeep for protection.
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Then after a few seconds of struggle, she regained control of her emotions and spoke.
“…I’m in a good mood. We’ll pay.”Bookmark here

Something’s wrong with this girl.
She looks unstable and I can’t help the goosebumps when I look into those red eyes of hers.

Romon too squared the warrior in front of him top to bottom, stroking his beard for many long and tense seconds…

He then filled his lungs with air, closed his hands in a fist and then…Bookmark here

…promptly relaxed all of his muscles into a smile.
“All right, then come on in…” said the now completely docile old man.

I knew it.

“BOSS!” I screamed, gripping his giant arm with both hands.
“What is it, boy?” He asked dumbfounded.
“Are you seriously going to let them in?!” I shouted, knowing full well where this was going.
“Yes. Why shouldn’t I?” He answered puzzled.

I took a quick look around me.
The bandits gloated and laughed maniacally, while licking their comically large weapons.
The patrons were looking at me with imploring eyes as most of them had already fainted, even some of the knights were visibly shaken and chanting fear alleviating prayers with all their might.

I looked back at my employer’s confused elderly eyes.

“Come on old man, pour me something strong.” Said the fierce bandit queen, while stepping through the inn doors.
“Coming right up, miss.” The old man broke free of my feeble hold and proceeded inside, followed by a small horde of bellowing bandit followers.

I proceeded to smash my head against the door frame in frustration.

“AAAAAAAH! Why was he only concerned about them having enough to pay the tab!”
The old man was a veritable monster when it came to hunting and adventuring. His senses were sharply super human and his physical prowess could easily leave a great dragon in dire straits.

And yet…
When it came to keeping an inn he only grasped the bare minimum!

He certainly noticed the trouble the bandits represented, physically at least. But the effect they might have on the patrons or his reputation flew right past his adventuring head.Bookmark here

“What are you doing out here?” Enrietta had just come out of the door and was now looking at me with a mix of confusion and condescension.
“Aaaaagh! Your father just invited a horde of psycho bandits into our inn!!!” I gripped both her shoulders, while showering her with my frustration.
“W-what are you doing…!?” bewildered and surprised by my gesture, she tightened her hands on my hands, twisting them with a strength far superior to mine.

“G-gah! Gah! I’m sorry, I’m sorry, let me go…!!!” she released her steely grip and looked at me with the eyes of a frail maiden.
“My, you always act so rashly…” she sighed embarrassedly.
“Me?! It’s you and your father risking my life every day! You just don’t know what common sense is! First the knights, now the bandits…”Bookmark here

Wait.Bookmark here

Enrietta noticed my face growing rapidly paler and paler.
“What’s the matter?”
“The bandits… the girl barely controlling her emotions…”Bookmark here

I gulpedBookmark here

“…and the knights… holy protectors of the weak…”
Cold sweat trickled down my back.
“…bane of all outlaws...”Bookmark here

Ignoring the questions of the confused Enrietta, I dashed inside the inn, hoping to avert what in my head was quickly becoming the absolute worst scenario possible.
I stepped inside ready to shout something at Romon, but the shout died in my throat as soon as I saw the scene unfolding before me.Bookmark here

I was too late…Bookmark here

The bandit queen was standing at the counter, looking down at a familiar armored figure.
Slowly, she growled words as sharp as a blade.
“Hey… that’s my seat.”
The man calmly put down his now empty glass.
“There’s nothing like a good glass of warm goat milk…”
The paladin opened his black eyes and slowly shifted his gaze to the warrior girl at his side.
“…right, Jezebell Graham?!”Bookmark here

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Wait, they know each other?!Bookmark here

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Taylor Victoria
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