Private Tales The Hunter and The Tiger

Sung Chei

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Sung Chei strode along the dirt road, his broad, conical straw hat kept the early afternoon sun out of his eyes and let him maintain full awareness of his surroundings. His loose garments gave him perfect flexibility for his foreign fighting style. In his hand he carried a Ji polearm, a halberd like weapon where there were two crescent blades on either side of the shaft at one end with a wavy spearhead protruding upward.

He walked calmly but quickly towards his destination, an infamous outlaw's den that had been causing trouble for weeks now. He was asked to put a stop to it.

It was around this time that he saw a horse drawn cart, there was a man sitting behind the horse. But what caught his attention was the woman, or rather she-elf, that was beside the cart, carrying twin winged maces.

(BTW, a mace always had studs, if it had blades or spikes it was technically called a morning star. Just a little nitpick, you don't have to call it that.)
 
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Sledge

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Long walk from Koninghaven.

Sledge had left her mount Mace stabled there. Wouldn't have, if the stablemaster didn't so happen to be an elf and if this bounty didn't require a more subtle approach. The look on the stablemaster's face when he saw Sledge walking up with a Moa Strider in tow. Worth a good chuckle. She tipped him extra for the trouble he was sure to have, though. Only fair.

The bounty. The Mistress of Koninghaven had one out for a man named Tobin Hemmerlind. Sledge never asked questions, and her contractors rarely gave their reasons outright. This was one of those times where the reason went unspoken. Better that way. Sledge couldn't imagine how knowing anybody's reason for offering coin for the killing or capture of a specific person would be in any way beneficial to her. Just business. Like pottery or shoemaking or tailoring, in its own fucked up way. Some people needed pots and shoes and clothes. Some people needed other people dead or returned.

That's the way it was. And it gave Sledge a semblance of purpose underlying her desire to go places and fight people. And the people with bounties on their heads were always the right people to fight. Not for any notion of good and evil and all that bullshit. Just a job that needed to get done. And she had no problem doing it.

She loved her work. Loved it. The thought of living a thousand years in the unbroken peace of Fal'Addas simply crafting pot after shoe after shirt and all over again was outright appalling, and frightened her more than death. At the very least if she got shot in the face with an arrow or some such it'd all be over in a snap. Prolonged serenity sounded to her like prolonged torture, then death. Fuck that.

That old, crazy orc she beat to death had the right damn idea. Life was meant to be a bonfire, not a hearthfire. And don't just let those flames burn themselves down to pathetic little embers. Go out while the fire was still hot, doing what you love to do. That old orc had a job that needed doing alright, and she was just the sledgehammer to drive that stake into the ground. Somebody would come along and do her the favor too, one day. Whether she asked for it or not.

Lots of time to think on these sorts of long walks. Nice afternoon. Nice and cool so she wouldn't sweat too much in her silken clothes and gambeson under her armor. The southernmost tip of the mountains of the Spine visible for a moment as she crested a hill and got an unobstructed view through the trees before she descended down the other side.

The Mistress of Koninghaven said that Tobin Hemmerlind had taken in with some bandits and outlaws and the like in some hideout in this area of the Reach. Didn't know much else, or didn't say it. That hideout could be a cave or a rundown fort or a ghost town or a bunch of tents for all Sledge knew.

So when she saw a merchant riding lonesome in a horse-drawn cart, the sort of man who looked like he probably had been the target of these bandits more than once, she tried flagging him down. She waved. He didn't wave back. Well that son of a bitch, she wanted to be nice this time.

Sledge drew her winged maces from the loops on her belt and kept walking toward him as he kept riding his cart toward her. Called out, "Hey! Cunt!"

He didn't say anything.

"Hey! You fucking cunt, I'm talking to you!"

She started jogging and the merchant looked about and seemed to be gauging how difficult it would be to turn his whole cart around on the dirt road. He started to give it a try, the horse lazily lumbering to his right and off the dirt road and its hooves on the forest floor. Almost enough clearance without trees and bushes interfering. Almost.

Sledge ran up and stood before the cart near the driver's seat. Glared up at the merchant. "Hey. Dick. What the hell is wrong with you? I just want to ask you some questions."

"Oh no," said the merchant. "Not again. Fool me once, ya see."

Sledge clenched her eyes shut and shook her head curtly. "No, no. Listen. I'm not going to rob you."

"That's what they always say."

"I'm sure they do. But I'm not a bandit. You hear me? I'm not. I'm--"

"Oh yeah? Then why you come runnin' up at me all afluster callin' me a cunt and such? You was tryna stop me and"--A realization--"By the gods you've stopped me."

"Relax."

"No can do, lady."

"Listen to me! I'm. Not--"

"Oh yeah? Then who's this then? One of your mates, is it? Come to help ya lift all the spoils?"

Sledge whirled around. Saw a man with a polearm coming. A man dressed like he was poor and destitute enough to resort to banditry and roadside robbery, that much seemed certain. Look at his clothes. Look at them. Sledge didn't care much for human tailoring and craftsmanship, but even by those standards.

Well. Win-win. Either she could beat the location of the den out of this outlaw, or impress the damn merchant into giving her a lead to follow up on.

She held her maces down by her legs, pointed out to her sides at angles. She snapped her head left and right. A nice, satisfying crack in her neck.

Met eyes with the approaching man. Said, "Alright. Let's go."

And Sledge started walking toward him. Tensing her body up. Readying her muscles to dodge.

Hopefully it'd be quick.



((No particularly sharp or spikey bits. Some points on the flanges, granted, but not tip-of-a-sword sharp. This is basically what I had in mind: ))
 

Sung Chei

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(Well, my bad, sorry. :oops:)

As the she-elf approached he grinned. Maces, they were unwieldy and clumsy to use. The short handles would make it easier for sure, but she was still at a speed disadvantage, this was only made worse by her armour. Whether it was made by elves or not it would still have its weight.

He wore no armour, so he would naturally be faster and more agile, and that would be the key. If she hit him once with those maces it would be over though, that was the downside of no armour.

He stood ready waiting for her to attack first.
 
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Sledge

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((You're fine, you're fine. Just wanted to clarify. The little details can make all the difference sometimes :) ))


She approached. He grinned.

And Sledge stopped some few paces from him. Stood. Waited. And waited. Furrowed her brow. Cocked her head to her right some. What was he waiting on? These sorts always just came rushing in, full of bad temper and bravado. Hell, even her fellow mercs in Blair Company tended to rush straight at their foes and attack them head-on, as if Leona was paying out a bonus to whomever drew first blood.

It started to feel awkward. Waiting there for him to attack first. She'd convinced herself that he'd do it, and committed herself mentally to her standard tactic. Dodge-dodge-strike. Usually took two dodges for her foe to get flustered and make a mistake and leave an opening. She really liked that tactic too. Had a nice cadence to it.

Now she had to unravel the knot of stubbornness in her mind and redo her whole strategy. Took a moment. At least the merchant had the good sense to keep his mouth shut back there. The last thing she needed was commentary, even if the merchant wasn't as elegant with his words as her brother.

Alright. Ready. Try something new.

Sledge sucked at her teeth. The first sound to break the silence between her and Hat Man.

"Gentleman, huh? Wouldn't have imagined. Tell me something. You letting me have the first strike because you think I'm a lady or--"

She lunged. Leveraging all of her natural quickness to the close the gap between them. Her right mace swung around in a wide, horizontal arc at him. A gut or chest hit tended to take the fight out of just about anybody.

Sure, her explosive movements would tire her out quickly. She was no dwarf and she knew it; her fight with the old orc was hell in that respect. Damn quick, yes, but not for long. All the more reason to fight as she did, in her mind. Couldn't use any spare endurance and energy if you were dead. Frontload and use it all as quickly as possible and end the fight before the fight ended you.
 
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Sung Chei

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The time in which they were both still he took the opportunity to observe her stance and build as well as the state of her arms and armour. She was a tall and athletic woman, taller than he was. She carried twin maces and wore lamellar armour, similar to that of his homeland. Her arms and armour were well made and well maintained, so she was probably the bandit chief or boss or whatever they called the one who barked orders at the others.

He also watched her stance, and it was the preparatory change in her stance and what that change was that told him what she was up to. Her legs tensed and so did her arm, and her torso changed its position, telling him what she was about to do before she did it.

He reacted just as quickly, and moved with practiced speed that matched her own. He brought the bladed end of his weapon up to throw the blow over him. Following the movement he threw the butt end of his weapon up into her face. Then this was followed by a jump spinning roundhouse kick to her face. Immediately after landing he spun low to sweep her legs out from under her.
 
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Sledge

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Her right mace gone.

Her right orbital fractured.

Her nose smashed.

And her feet gone out from under her.

Just like that.

It felt like the ground had punched her first, and then all of those things happened all at once when she was staring straight up at the sky. What the fuck went wrong? She'd trusted in her quickness for years. True, it was underhanded that she attacked without finishing her sentence, but they weren't friends and it was a fair enough play since he yielded the first strike to her.

First strike. First attempt, more like.

The Hat Man bandit had smacked her mace so hard it had been ripped from the grasp of her thumb. She didn't even know what the hell hit her above the eye but she remembered the boot to the face. Nothing said hello like a goddamn boot. She could feel the blood streaming down from her nose and from a cut on her bottom lip and, yeah, a little gash above her eye too, running down into it.

Son of a bitch. There were arguments for wearing a helm and there were arguments for not wearing one. She preferred her hearing and vision unobstructed, her head without the additional weight. But unencumbered senses didn't pay off if she didn't dodge, and she didn't dodge. Expected to catch the Hat Man by surprise. Look how that turned out.

Sledge rolled backward to make some space and sprang up and onto her feet and stumbled a bit with an unbalanced dizziness. Damn it was going to make dodging even harder.

She turned her head and spat blood from her mouth and tossed her left hand mace into her right hand.

"You got a nice pair of legs on you, huh? You make time between robberies to run up and down mountains or something?"

Sledge scowled and made like she was going to charge again. Which, granted she was, but she remembered something Leona liked to do. Damn if that woman didn't like throwing weapons. Not actual axes or knives made for that purpose. Literally throwing her weapon. She had a secondary, sure, which Sledge didn't right now, but she just needed to catch the Hat Man offguard, and maybe this would do it.

Sledge flung her mace at the Hat Man. Charged in after the flying weapon. If she could just tackle the bastard and get him down on the ground. Couldn't do any flashy and flowy moves down in the dirt and with a face full of punches.
 
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Sung Chei

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Her words gave him a slight pause. Did she just say "between robberies"? Was she calling him a bandit? No, he was sure that she was one. But then again, almost no bandits could afford her arms and armour, he knew that they were purchased because the armour was tailored to her body.

But he didn't have time to ponder it though, the mace flew at his head, and a nasty little bugger it was. He rolled backwards to get under the mace and put some distance from the woman to recover. As soon as he stood up, he turned into a back kick, it would likely hit her square in the chest with the full strength of his turn, his hips and legs plus her own momentum.
 
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Sledge

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So he dodged the mace.

All was well that ended well, because he rolled and was on the ground and all she needed to do was collapse onto him and let the ground and pound begin and this could all--

Be over.

Before Sledge knew it, the Hat Man kicked her again. God damn it. Her armor and the gambeson underneath dispersed and softened the blow to an extent, but running full speed into a tree wasn't exactly fucking pleasant, and that's what it felt like. The pressure knocked the wind out of her, and her head whiplashed from the sudden stop and reversal of direction.

She stumbled back, her legs moving quickly but ultimately in a futile effort to keep herself upright and down she went. Collapsing down onto the dirt and gasping desperately for breath that her tensed and constricting chest muscles wouldn't allow in.

While the mace she had thrown was a good distance down the road, she'd fallen near enough to the mace the Hat Man had knocked from her hands with his polearm. She scrambled and crawled over to it and clutched it and stood and something didn't settle right in her skull and a wave of vertigo overcame her and she fell back down again onto her back.

No. Get the fuck up. This isn't over. Not until you can't stand and you can't fight anymore.

Sledge pushed herself up to her feet, expending more energy than was wise, and righted herself by placing a hand on the merchant's cart until balance found her again and she could stand under her own power.

"Listen," Sledge said. Taking a second to grit her teeth and wipe some blood leaking down into her eye away. "That uh...that polearm is weighing you down. Ah...ah shit." She stole a few more breaths and wiped her bottom lip with the back of her gauntlet. Blood across the metal. Her strained words, "You got a mean kick. Anybody beside me...tell you that?"

"I could tell 'im that, but why would I, you're both a couple of bandits, you are," said the merchant.

"Shut the fuck up," Sledge said.

She started lurching toward the Hat Man again. Her left hand pressed to the center of her plated chest, the other holding her reacquired weapon. She didn't need to do any acting. She was hurt. The Hat Man had to have some elven blood in him. Fastest damn human she'd come across. Without question. One of the reasons why her favored combat tactic worked so well against non-elves or similarly gifted species.

She could do it. She could do it and she could do it her way. If he just took the damn bait and that vertigo didn't come back and blood didn't run down into her eye at the wrong moment.

Walk slow, look hurt, explode with what she had left when he came at her. Finish the damn fight already.
 
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Sung Chei

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"I'm impressed that you can still get up."

It was the first time he spoke to her. He had his ji off to his right held along his forearm. But he wasn't defending this time.

This time, he came to her. And when he was just close enough to hit her with his ji, he attacked. His motions were fluid and swift, and they were also random. Up, across, sweep, thrust, across and up, down, thrust. He continued his assault until she fell to the ground, either by force or from exhaustion.
 
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Sledge

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"Hmm."

She was impressed by his hammer-like foot, he was impressed that she could still stand. Talk about being on the wrong side of that exchange.

At least he was coming at her now. Would have been more awkward now to face off with him again, what with her face busted as it was. Could have made for a little respite if he had absolutely refused to engage. A chance to catch her breath would've been nice, but the high of battle would've ebbed away and the pain from her eye, her nose, her lip, and her chest would've become more pronounced. A give and take.

Didn't matter. He took the bait. Blood in the water, as it was said. Irresistible. And a fair tactic in battle. In a way, it was like bashing someone's overconfidence or zeal instead of their skull. Of course, that came next if the tactic was successful.

Problem. That polearm had some reach.

She dodged an upward strike. A snappy movement of her head and body. A slight bend of the knees and a duck under the horizontal strike. A backstep to avoid the sweep. Her motions quick but jerky. Full stop into full speed back into full stop. Only just enough space necessary to clear her body of the strikes.

But the Hat Man wasn't getting flustered. Wasn't letting up. He had a relentless discipline.

The thrust poked her breastplate. A little. She got flustered. A misjudging on the distance necessary to dodge.

She tried to hop around the polearm after the thrust. Half-half chance. And she choose the wrong side, or the Hat Man reacted just that quickly. A strike across and up. Hitting her breastplate and sliding up her chest and up the neckguards of her pauldrons, the metal of the polearm obliquely smacking the bottom of her chin as she tried arching her head back to avoid it. Teeth hitting teeth in her mouth, almost biting her tongue. More blood dripping from her chin now.

The vertigo was coming back. The ghost-feel of the Hat Man's boot on her face. A pounding and a throbbing in her skull, only made worse by her manner of dodging. She hopped back, inadvertently dodging a downward slash, working now against her own tactic. Polearms were easy. Usually. Big strike, dodge that, get past the killing end, and once inside the reach of the weapon pummel the wielder. But it didn't work out like that. Not this time.

A thrust. She tried swatting the weapon down and away with her mace. Already past the reach of her arm and her own weapon. A hard jab to her gut, stopped by her armor but it was like being punched while drunk. All the wrong things got rattled.

She doubled over. Grabbing the shaft of the polearm with her free hand. Not as part of any tactic or technique, just simply to steady herself against her own inevitable forward fall. Not even down to her knees first. Just down and flat on her left side, her hand slipping from the polearm once her body collided with the dirt road.

An exhausted roll over onto her back. Glazed eyes looking up at the Hat Man. Upside-down, from her perspective.

A cough and a wheeze from the impact she'd suffered from the thrust and the ground.

And a weak grin.

"My turn...kick you in the face first...see how it goes then..."

A laugh and a cough. She dragged her finger across her neck.

"See you...on the other side."
 
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Sung Chei

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"I have no intention of killing you. You're a decent fighter, and certainly not numbered among the outlaws I'm seeking. T
Your armour, it fits you, so it was made for you, no bandit or highwayman could afford such a thing, especially with such quality. Who are you and why are you out here?"

He stood calmly, his ji held at his side like a walking stick, he had no aggressive stance, and he didn't appear ready to strike.
 
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Sledge

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Mercy.

That was unexpected. Not something she saw often. In Blair Company or otherwise. The old orc would've been pissed. Good thing she wasn't the old orc.

She turned her head to one side and spit and blood and saliva landed in the dirt and she turned her head back again. The Hat Man still upside-down from her perspective. Standing relaxed and content and calm. Wasn't that nice.

Decent fighter. That was a fair way to the say it. Given who was standing tall and pretty and whose entire face ached and burned and was altogether fucked up and whose head rocked like a skiff in a storm and whose stomach felt punished and ready to eject her breakfast next to that blood and spit in the dirt.

Yeah. Decent. Fair. Maybe a little too generous on his part, but fair.

In regard to her armor, she said, "Yeah. Custom. Expensive as fuck." She gasped and blew some blood from her cracked lip from her mouth. "For all the good it did me."

A cough and laugh and a cough. "How much...that stick cost? Oh, and your boot? Just...ah, just curious."

She closed her eyes and winced. Goddamn, that wound above her eye hurt like hell. And she could feel a looseness there. A tiny bit of bone sliding against bone that definitely shouldn't've been happening at all. Ideally.

"Name's Sledge. Don't tell me...you're after the bounty too. The one on Hemmerlind?"

At least that damn merchant had the good sense to keep his trap shut. For now.
 
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Sung Chei

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"I'm after the whole group. Exterminate them, those are my instructions. And this stick as you call it was a gift from my father when I came of age." He says walking around her and offering her his hand.

"My name is Sung Chei, I'd say it's a pleasure, but that hardly seems appropriate given the circumstances. If I may, allow me to treat your injuries."
 
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Sledge

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"Fair warning," Sledge said. "You pick me up, I'm going to fall into you. Ready?"

She took his hand. Up she went. And the world in her head splashed and crashed against her skull and her knees buckled as the dizziness became too much. Despite her efforts otherwise, she stumbled into Sung, as she said she would. She was taller than him, but it worked out. His right shoulder was like an nice solid ledge. She braced herself for a moment, before her hand slipped and slid down his back, the side of her face then touching the side of his face. A smear of her blood on him.

She grit her teeth and kept her wobbly legs steady as she could, straightening her back and bringing her left hand up again to his shoulder. Braced. Held it. Gripped Sung's hand tighter. The dizziness settling. Settling. Her legs and stomach holding. And~~~...good.

Sledge clenched her eyes and winced and opened them again. "See. And I didn't do that on purpose. Your father gave you one hell of a gift. I ought to know. He give you those boots too?"

"Oi," said the merchant.

"Shut it," Sledge said.

"Oi," said the merchant again. "I don't knows what you two is doin', but if you aim to rob me, I could just give you all I have and be on me way. I been through this before, I have."

Sledge exhaled. Eyed Sung. Flicked her eyes toward the merchant and eyed Sung again. "If you could kick him in the face too, I'd really appreciate it."
 
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Sung Chei

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He caught her firmly but not without difficulty. Since she was bigger than he was, and she wore armour, she was undoubtedly heavier than he was. He managed to support her without fail, and he wasn't really bothered by the blood.

"The thought had crossed my mind. But I have a better idea. We can use him as bait. There's nobody else out here except for the bandits we're both after. So how about this. We let this poor sucker go on his merry way, tail him, and if the bandits kill him well, no serious loss. I can also help you with taking out those bandits. But before anything, I should see to your wounds."
 
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Sledge

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Bait.

Sledge grinned at Sung. "I like the way you think."

Interesting day so far. Wild, compared to yesterday. Just leaving Koninghaven and walking from sunrise to sunset yesterday. But today. Wake up, little breakfast, more walking, meet the idiot merchant, 'meet' Sung and his foot, ass kicked, all good, new plan, free help, lemme tend your wounds.

There really were no run-of-the-mill bounties.

"Yeah," Sledge said. "Hope you're as good at doctoring as you are at fighting. Heh. Imagine a mage enchanting your foot with healing magic. Kick my face back into shape."

She laughed and turned her head away from Sung and spat into the dirt some blood and spit and looked at him again and gestured her head carefully toward the merchant's stalled wagon.

"Let me, ah," she winced, "let me have a seat if you're going to do that. Help me over and let me sit on the ground and prop myself up against that back wheel there."

Then, to the merchant, she said, "Hey. You."

"Wot?"

"You got any healing stuff in that wagon of yours? Don't worry, I'll pay you."

The merchant squinted his eyes. "You're gonna pay me to rob me?"

Sledge sighed. "You're a fuckin' idiot."
 
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Sung shook his head in annoyance. "You know, I'm reconsidering your request for me to kick him. But I've got some medical supplies of my own, I'd be a fool not to. While we're getting there, other than your face where are you hurt? Did my weapon penetrate your armour anywhere? If so, you need to take it off for me to treat it."

He let her lean on his shoulder while she hobbled over to the merchant's cart. He set her against the back wheel and removed from one of his belt pouches clean bandages and some supplies for cleaning injuries as well as a needle and thread for stitching the more serious wounds.
 
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Sledge

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"Heh. Call me a fool then."

She didn't have any medical supplies of her own. Not that she'd be any good with them, if they were more complicated than 'drink this' or 'wrap this around the part that hurts'. That'd be something to look into, now that she was solo. First aid. She used to just rely on the Company medic, and then after she got better and better at learning to dodge and strike effectively and to end fights quickly she just relied on not getting hit and therefore not needing the supplies, her custom armor being a great supplement to when she fucked up. Less shit to buy and carry. Great for travel convenience and expenses, sure, but when it failed spectacularly, as now? A sour wine to drink.

Damn, she had a craving for a smoke now, thinking of vices.

Should've taken her traveling pack, even though she left Mace in Koninghaven. She imagined the bounty being quick. A stroll through the countryside, the outlaws' den being more or less obvious despite not knowing exactly where or what it was, a quiet night extraction of Hemmerlind, a nice little stroll back and a nice little scrap if the bandits sent out a search party for him, done.

Overconfidence. Again.

Food and water weren't a problem. But smokes were. Should've taken her damn pack, alright.

Sledge sat down on the road and rested her back against the wagon wheel. Slowly and carefully done. Best not to upset the delicate balance in her head.

"Got anything to treat a broken bone? Salve or something?" She hovered a finger above the gash crowning her right eye. "Well. Broken is a bit strong. Cracked for sure."

"Oi, I probably do," said the merchant. "I've the best wares around, I do. Is why the brigands like you always harass me, I'd wager."

Some side-eye up at the merchant. Sledge said, "Do you like being robbed?"

"...No?"

Sledge sighed and patted her stomach with a hand. Found a small inward dent with her finger where the polearm thrust had caught her. Felt it for a second and looked down at it. She didn't feel a puncture in her gut, but the rush of battle had deluded her before. And she didn't see a puncture in the elven metal, so it seemed fine. At least her armor worked as intended, if not her combat technique.

To Sung, she said, "It's good. No puncture. I don't know about bruising yet but I'll live."
 

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"Good. I don't think that I broke anything. I think that your face is probably the biggest problem right now. I'll fix it up as best I can and let nature do the rest." He says, taking a clean white cloth and cleaning out her cuts and scrapes on her face, before bandaging them up again.

After a short while he had her all fixed up and ready for recovery. He helped her stand and brought her back away from the road. He set her down in the grass and waited for the idiot merchant to move along, why he hadn't already was a mystery to him.
 
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The bandages would have to do. Maybe get a salve or a potion or even better a full-on healer for the fracture back at Koninghaven. Grin and bear it for now.

Bright side, her nose wasn't broken. Bloodied like hell, but not broken. And the cut on her lip wasn't so bad and had bled all it was going to bleed. Nice and tidy after Sung cleaned it. That and all the rest of the blood on her face and under her chin.

One bandage above her right eye. Another under her chin. Held in place by a bit of sticky sap. Sung knew what he was doing. Generous of him. He didn't owe her shit, but helped out anyway. If anything, she owed him.

She accepted his help and stood and walked off the road with him and took a comfortable seat in the grass. Even after resting for a bit, she still felt punchdrunk. Kickdrunk? Hmm. Not the same ring to it. Still felt punchdrunk. And even after that went away in an hour or so, she still wouldn't be fighting at full capacity. But there'd be no time for bitching until the job was done. Then she could get further treatment and a few days' rest and a nice hot bath and a damn smoke.

The merchant looked at them. Those bovine eyes of his. "So I'm just free to go then?"

"Yes," Sledge said.

"And you're not gonna rob me?"

"Yes."

"Yes you're gonna rob or yes you're not--"

"Get the fuck out of here!"

The merchant blinked. "Oh. Very well then. On my way, I am."

And he directed the horse properly back onto the road and started on his way.

Sledge sighed. Glanced over to Sung. Said, "Hey. Sung. Sorry. For being an asshole. You know, assuming. All I needed to do was at least ask. And I didn't. That's my fault."
 

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"Don't worry about it. I made the same assumption about you so I'm just as guilty as you are. The least I can do is help you. After all our goals are aligned and we both have essentially the same contract, so it's only natural. Besides, I owe you for kicking your ass." He says to her with a grin.

They watched the merchant go, and waited a little bit before following him from a distance. Until eventually, the cries of an armed but untrained rabble reached their ears.
 
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Sledge

Bounty Hunter
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Maybe bringing Mace along would've been good. What the hell kind of bandit would be riding a Moa Strider? Or any mount, for that matter. Too much spending of their ill-gotten gains on booze and women and all manners of vice. The smart ones invested in better armor and weapons. The even smarter ones knew how to stockpile their spoils and get out and start a new life when the time was right. But they were few and far between.

Point being, Sung might not have assumed she was a bandit if she'd be riding a giant bird.

Rough start, but they got along fine now. Nothing broke the ice of meeting new people like a few well-placed punches. Or kicks, in Sung's case. Work out your differences up front, have a scrap, shake it off, exchange grins, hey you're not so bad, hey neither are you, go get a drink or a smoke or have a fuck or whatever else, and call it a day. Everything upfront and forthright. No hard feelings or any lingering bullshit.

"Huh. Funny you should say that. Owing me," Sledge said. "Way I figured it, I owed you. You drink, Sung? Smoke? How about this? I don't know if this little town called Koninghaven is on your way back to your contractor, but if it is, you buy me something, I buy you something. Wine or beer or a packet of sweetsmokes, whatever. We do that and we call it even."

* * * * *​

Right on time.

Sledge had some difficulty walking at first, but the little rest they had while waiting for the idiot merchant to go on his way helped. Soreness and dull pain, plenty to bitch about, but she sucked it up and made the effort to walk on her own. Did her some good, moving at a relaxed pace. Her lightheadedness had mostly gone and her stomach, while surely turning an awful shade of blue and purple right now under her armor, didn't ache so bad now.

Of course, there were the battle cries of the rabble ahead, and the promise of combat soon to be had. That merchant might have been dumb as a rock but he wasn't kidding, was he? He was a big, fat, juicy target for brigands. She could already hear his bovine voice carrying across the wind and down the road back to her ears, likely asking the same stupid questions he had with her.

Some five or six or seven brigands coming out of the woods. Surrounding the merchant's wagon. Hard to tell for sure at this distance. Maybe more laying in wait behind the trees.

Sledge grinned. Glanced to Sung.

"Kick one in the face for me."

And she drew her maces from the loops on her belt and ran as fast as her injured body and mindfulness of conserving energy would allow.
 

Sung Chei

The Mist
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He chuckled darkly before charging in right after her. His ji at the ready, he charged into the circle of seven or eight bandits. And as per her request, his first strike, was a kick to the face, a flying side kick to be specific. One down, six or seven to go.

He cut up across the chest of one, the spearhead of his ji tearing through his flesh and splintering his bones. The next was pommelled in the chest with his ji, then his head lopped off. Then a third followed, his intestines spilling from his gut.
 
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Sledge

Bounty Hunter
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Bastard never saw it coming.

Seven of them. And all seven were so thrilled with their 'easy' haul on the idiot merchant's wagonload of goods, some even climbing up on the side of the wagon and rifling through the canvas and sheets and opening crates, that they never noticed Sung or Sledge until it was too late.

Sung pulled ahead. And delivered a kind of kick Sledge had never even seen before, right as the brigand whirled about in surprise, as if he were presenting his face for a duly appointed beating. This Sung lad. A bonafide kick-wizard.

Sung had one side of the wagon covered. Sledge took the other.

A brigand jumped off the side of the wagon; one of those earlier grabbers. Didn't get his axe out in time. Sledge whipped her mace around and bashed his head into wagon wood. A godawful mess as his head caved in and splattered about the wood.

Heh. Felt good to actually hit something.

Next up. Flail man. Spicy. He came at her with a yell and a charge and swung overhead. She pivoted her whole body back and around ninety-degrees on the heel of her right foot, keeping her head straight. The heavy whoosh of air as the ball of the flail only just missed. Now she was inside his reach. A hard push into the side of the wagon. Knocked the air right out of him. A snappy swing with her left mace and his jaw popped off and flew and skidded along the dirt and the man slid down limply.

The idiot merchant was talking the whole time. Saying, "Oi, I told ya I did. More brigands I seen down the road yonder, I said. Mighty tough ones. They's gonna come and and take all me goods. Real shame no one listens to me. He's just a simple merchant, they say, wot does he know? Bugger all..."

Sledge turned and faced the third man on her side. He was tossing his hatchet back and forth. Grinning like a madman. Saying, "You ready? Huh? You want some of this, bitch? You want some? Huh!?"

Not coming at her. Oh good. They did need one alive. Before they got carried away.

And Sledge had a trick for it. If she fucked up, Sung had her back. Might as well give it a go.

She kept her eyes on the hatchet. Focused on it. Narrowed her vision and her attention to just the hatchet. The rhythm to which the man tossed it back and forth helped, actually. And she felt her magic connect with it. Wrap around it like a silent and invisible hand.

A little flick of her finger. A distortion in the air around the hatchet, currently airborne and in the midst of a toss between the man's hand. And the weapon swung up as if a ghost were wielding it and smacked the man square in the mouth with the blunt end.

The man stumbled back, holding his bloodied mouth with both hands. The hatchet fell straight down once Sledge released her magical hold on it. And she dashed forward and tackled the man down to the dirt road and straddled him across the waist. Didn't need to pin his arms. He was still holding his mouth. Probably had a tooth or two knocked loose.

"Hey. Dick," Sledge said to him. "It's your lucky day."
 

Sung Chei

The Mist
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Sung finished up his half without too much difficulty. They weren't done, but the remaining criminals were nervous enough to stay away from him. So he took the opportunity to glance over and check on the injured Sledge. Seeing her straddling a man's pelvis made him roll his eyes.

"Now's not the time. I'll find you a male prostitute when we get back to civilization, but until then keep your clothes on!" He called with a smirk. It was mostly a tease, to see how she'd react.

Before she could respond he moved on to the rest of the bandits. There were three in total, one using twin axes, the other a spear and the last one used a claymore sword. Oh this would be fun.

The one with twin axes didn't last long, his axes weren't long enough so he was stabbed in the gut. His next enemy used the spear, removing the reach advantage he had, but he had more motions available for him to use, so the guy said goodbye to his head. Then came the guy with the man-high Claymore.

He swung at Sung horizontally at the hip, he flipped over it, pushing off of the claymore's blade, then he brought his heel down on the man's head, and hard. A loud and sickening crunch could be heard from where Sledge straddled the outlaw as Sung both broke the man's neck, and put a spiderweb crack in his skull.

"I think that does it."
 
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