A Quiet Evening in the Tavern
It was a quiet evening in the tavern. Only a few regulars and two of the town guard were quietly sipping their booze by the fire as a bard strummed her lyre quietly. It was a small tavern appropriate for a small village. At one end of the building was the barkeep tidying up, and in the center of the room was a fire surrounded by a few benches and a bearskin rug at the front. Not a lot of traffic, but the locals kept the place running just fine.
The doors burst open, interrupting the serene scene and in stumbled a samurai and a wealthy young elven woman with pink skin. Everyone jumped to their feet; the lounging guards were first up to help. The boy was cradling his arm and the young woman helped him sit down on the animal skin rug by the fire.
“What happened?” exclaimed one of the guards as he ran over, he was wearing light leather armor with no helmet. He had longer than average horns and a round face.
“Our caravan was attacked! Sam and I barely got away!” exclaimed Kichi.
“Get the Goteni,” said the other guard, and the pretty bard ran out the door. The two elves helped the grimacing Sam take off his armor and put it all in a pile next to him. They also helped him remove the green kimono he had underneath, leaving him wearing only cream colored pants and a flowy shirt. He screamed when they tried to take off the armor on his left hand. The barkeep grabbed a bottle of something strong and let Sam have a swig before they pulled the armor off his hand.
He yelled again and reached for the bottle when it was finally off. He winced as the burning liquid slid down his throat. Just as he caught his breath, a seemingly older elven man carrying a bag came rushing in. He was wearing a nightgown and had dark purple skin. The man filled the room with aromas of incense and medicine, this was the small town's goteni, a doctor and alchemist. He first went over to Sam and grasped his arm with care.
“You're alright. I'm here to help,” his voice was steady and reassuring.
“Please oh gods, tell me it's not broken,” Sam pleaded with the roof of the tavern.
The doctor took a moment and felt the arm Sam winced as pain shot through it with each gentle touch of the man.
“What happened to it son?” said the goteni as he continued to examine Sam’s injury.
“There was a woman, she had an odachi, I was trying to protect Kichi but she was so fast. She grabbed my arm and twisted it. It hurts, I don't know how she was that strong,” he said through struggled breaths.
“Alright. It doesn't feel broken but to be sure I’m gonna set the bone. Can you grab me a spoon Ruisu?” he said, motioning to the barkeep. The man cut the remaining layer of cloth away from Sam's arm. The bartender grabbed the spoon and handed it to him.
“Alright, you're going to need to bite down on this for me,” said the doctor, placing a wooden spoon in Sam's good hand.
Sam winced, took the spoon, and bit down. The doctor reached into his bag and pulled out a bottle with a slimy mixture. He took it and smeared the viscous contents onto Sam's arm. It was a puke green color and smelt like swamp grass and citrus. He tapped the paste at the top of Sam's arm and whispered some strange words, tapping again on the center of his forearm, the sludge took on a hazy glow, the third tap came the base of his wrist, and the goteni blew on it. The sludge hardened and Sam let out a muffled yell, biting down hard on the wooden spoon. The sludge had straightened the bone and muscles into place.
“There. That should set the sprain. I don't know who you are but you're going to need to take it easy for a few weeks and try to see another goteni to reapply the kyasuto in a week.” Sam spat out the spoon and the man wrapped his arm in white bandages, more to cover the sludge than anything else.
“Thank you, sir,” Sam said, taking a deep breath.
“Do you have any other injuries?” the man asked, Sam shook his head, “and how about you miss? Are you alright?” he said, turning to Kichi who had been sitting next to Sam trying to comfort him.
“I'm fine. I think I hit my head in the crash but nothing major,” she said, rubbing her forehead with her hand. There was a small cut just above her eyebrow.
“I see. Let me patch that up for you, and I've got something in here for headaches.” He said rummaging in his bag. He pulled out a small vile with a mixture of herbs. Kichi didn't know most of them but could recognize some brilliant orange petals that were from ‘Amber Hana,’ a beautiful flower that grew outside the temple to Emiko. They smell like citrus and rose and tasted sweet with a pleasant sour aftertaste.
“Oh is that Amber Hana? That makes the best tea.” Said Kichi pointing at the vile. Her distinct refined accent shone through her words. It was evident that this graceful young elven woman was out of place in the musty tavern. The man smiled at her.
“That's a perceptive eye you have. Here,” he said and gently took Kichi's hand in his, he took some of the mixtures and ground them into a powder in his fingers, he then spread some onto Kichi's fingertips.
“Just take a few good smells from that if your head starts hurting,” Kichi raised her fingers up to her nose and deeply breathed in. It was a delicate aroma that smelt flowery and pleasant but distinctly medical. Her headache was already doing better as she took several more deep breaths of the mixture.
“Thank you so much!” Kichi said to the man. Just as everyone began to calm and the dust settled, several men burst into the tavern. They were Samurai and had the royal guard insignia on their chests.
“Sam. We need to speak to you,” said the one in the center. Sam recognized him as a wealthy noble’s son who got promoted after his brother took a seat in court. Sam carefully stood up and glanced at Kichi. He nodded to her and walked over to speak to the group in private.
“Sam we are talking to you first out of courtesy. Tell us what in Noriko’s name happened at the caravan” said the noble’s son. He held his arms crossed and stared at Sam expectantly.
“The caravan was attacked–” Sam began before he was interrupted.
“We saw that. By who?”
“There was a group of them. The only one I got a good look at was a woman. It was dark and she was wearing a mask, but I didn't see any kind of insignia on her armor,” Sam said and he began examining the knots in the wood floor.
“Hrm...” The man took a moment to think. He turned to his compatriots and the one on the left nodded. “Sam,’ the man sighed, “there was also an attack on the Empress. An assassin got all the way to her chambers.”
“What? Is she okay? What happened?” Sam asked looking back at Kichi.
“She killed the man but there was a letter on the body,” said the noble's son.
“Look, it implicated the princess as the one who hired him,” said the man on the left. Sam didn't recognize him.
“Oh I see,” Sam looked back at his sword and shield on the ground.
“You can either let us do our job, then come home and get an honorable death or…” he took a deep breath, “you can run and get as far away from us as possible, the princess and her personal guard were taken in the caravan attack,” the man looked Sam deep in his eyes. Sam nodded quietly and turned around and walked towards Kichi. He grabbed his armor and did his best to put it back on over his injured arm, sheathing his sword and strapping his shield to his good arm.
“What's wrong Sam?” Kichi looked up at him with wide eyes.
“I'll explain later but,” he took a deep breath to steady himself. He had always promised himself one thing, he would never be a traitor, but, he couldn't let Kichi die.
“There was an attack on your mother, she's fine but, there was a letter that implicated you. These men are here to kill you unless we run. Now.”