“It is particularly amazing how, given how little you can be compelled to walk anywhere, you manage to get enough mud on your boots to build a hut.”
The old halfling sat on a small bench at the doorway to the large pavilion tent. He had a knife with which he was carving the mud from a pair of boots that were nearly half his height. The owner of the boots was in a chair near the small stove, leafing through a book.
“So don’t clean them. I’m only going to wear them out there tomorrow.”
“Because that’s the image you should present – horrid boots, a shabby gray cloak, and your sword. Are you a Brevoyan nobleman or a murderous hobo?”
Ilya looked up over his book at Igor, his halfling servant. “Says the hin who lives with said hobo…in a tent.” The two of them resisted the urge to grin at one another and went back to what they were doing. That lasted about five minutes.
Igor was the first to notice. “Uh, Master Ilya…” but his voice died away as the sound of a slurred shout came through the door.
“You stupid whore. You’ve been playing with me all night and now you’re going to turn me away? Who in the nine hells do you think you are?”
Ilya stood up. “Best give me my boots.”
Grover Sarkisian was swaying slightly but his grip on Lily Teskerton’s arm was sturdy enough. Grover had watched her come on to every man in the camp and tonight was his turn and he wasn’t letting her go without getting a little special something.
“You’ll give over, you little trollop. You practically threw yourself at that overgrown bumpkin of a Warden. You can at least give me the time of day.”
Lily’s eyes narrowed and she hissed at him, “I wouldn’t cross the street to spit on you, you drunken sod.” She tried to pull away, but his grip held firm.
“Pity. Spit might clean him up a bit.” Ilya was staring at the two of them and it took Grover a moment to realize that the man speaking to him was armed.
“Hey…” he said slowly, “I don’t give a Hodag’s nut what you might have been up north. You ain’t nothing here and this ain’t your business. This ain’t Brevoy.”
“Indeed,” Ilya began moving purposefully toward the pair. “In Brevoy, I’d have you dragged into the street and whipped until you wailed that you would never put hands on a woman without her leave again. You will, however, take your hand off of her now or I will take your hand off of you. He stopped almost a meter and a half away and rested his hand, palm up, on the hilt of his sword, as though he were offering the man a gift.
Grover’s eyes kept sweeping back and forth between Ilya’s solemn expression and the hand resting on his sword. After an agonizing moment of calculating, He released Lily and swung his meaty fist at Ilya’s face. It stopped about four inches away. Ilya had jabbed the hilt of his sword into Grover’s gut, which knocked the wind out of him. Grover went down on his knees in the mud.
Ilya’s eyes flashed with anger. “Now, in Brevoy, you would have just forfeited your life, you little cretin.” He looked up at Lily, who stood frozen and a more than a little nervous. “Go home. You should not see what happens next.” She backpedaled away from the scene, her eyes getting wider.
Grover desperately attempted to suck in wind in order to voice a protest or a cry for help. Ilya cut him off. “Shut up. A man who can’t hold his liquor enough to keep hold of himself should stick to tea.” Ilya brought his knee up into Grover’s teeth, sending a spurt of blood across the mud. “Drag your carcass home and make no more trouble. Next time, I use the pointy end.”
Ilya pulled his freshly muddy boots back off at the doorway of his tent. Igor regarded him with a raised eyebrow. “You know that trying to keep the peace in the tent city will be a full-time job if you let it. Oh, and your knee is bleeding.”
Ilya looked down at where Grover’s teeth had cut him. “Eh, I’ll clean it. Jacek has enough trouble without having to deal with every little problem.” He dampened a cloth and started washing. “And now I have a tear in my pants as well. Oy.”
Igor picked up a boot and his knife. “Thank you again, Master Ilya, for this exciting career change.”