Tavern brawls were typical, and the beat-up Andred pub was no exception. But he was just sitting at the counter, enjoying his ale, and the fight appeared to be only a little tussle.
Kaiser Evans glanced at the fighting men. What a pain, he thought, continuing with his drink. Perhaps he'd stay a little bit to see how this fight would end, and then either intervene or leave. As the scuffle continued, Kaiser heard the bartender grumble. "Can't bring this anywhere else every day," he muttered, his voice barely audible over the cheering and screaming.
Kaiser tilted his head, glancing again over his shoulder. "Do you know why they're fighting?" he asked, unsure on the cause of the fight. Perhaps if they needed it, he could… help them.
The bartender shrugged. "Something about a magic coin, hell if I know." He resumed polishing his glass. Behind Kaiser, one of the fighters hefted a chair and smashed it over his opponent's head.
His interest piqued, Kaiser turned around on his stool. "Magic coins, hm?" He stood up and walked over to the men fighting. "I will only ask you nicely to stop fighting once," he told them calmly with a smile.
"Don't you tell us what to do," one of the men said, swinging at Kaiser, obviously extremely drunk, evidenced by the fact his punch missed Kaiser by a wide margin and caused the man to fall flat on his face.
The other drunk stood dumb and wide-eyed. When he finally realized what had happened to his opponent, he raised his hands in the air and declared, "I won!" He stumbled to the unconscious belligerent and rummaged around in the man's shirt, extracting a broken gold piece. He grinned toothily, and looked at Kaiser. "My friend! This wouldn't have been possible if not for you! Celebrate the reward with me! Just follow me!" He pulled a similar piece from his pocket as he staggered toward the door.
Kaiser spared a glance at the guy on the ground, and then at the other one who was leaving. He supposed he should watch over the latter, and the prospect of a bit of magic attracted his attention. He flipped a gold coin to the bartender for his drink, and followed the other man outside. "So," he said. "Why is that gold piece important enough to fight for it?"
Grinning like an idiot, the drunk held the two pieces together. It appeared that there was a third piece missing. "One more piece and I get a fabulous treasure and a wish." He looked over at Kaiser. "And of course I don't mind splitting it with you, m'boy."
A fabulous treasure and a wish… suddenly, things seemed a bit more serious. Kaiser's mouth formed a thin line. His eyes scanned the pieces of gold. "What story lies behind such an interesting item?" he inquired.
"No idea!" the man grinned, bouncing a bit on the balls of his feet. "Just gotta find the third piece and bring them all together. Lucky me though, I know who's got the last piece." After giggling to himself, he turned again to Kaiser. "You look strong, friend. Real strong. My name is Karl. And if I'm going to share my winnings with someone, I'd at least like to know your name."
"Kaiser," the blademaster answered with a gentle smile. "And I would be glad to help you." He hoped to find the truth behind that coin… to do that, he had to get involved. If the chance to make a wish presented itself… a shadow crossed his face. He could think of a number of things to wish for... forgiveness, and a chance to reverse everything.
He'd returned to Andred for no reason. Or rather, perhaps he had reason. Maybe there was meaning behind the draw back to his homeland. For a wanderer with no destination, he found it hard to tell. Through the past few years of self-exile, he began to believe in the power of fate, an impersonal entity that couldn't decide whether or not he deserved peace or conflict. He wanted to discover this reason, the hope that typically escaped him. Now, that chance had appeared, and he wasn't about to turn away.
As he followed, he kept a close eye on Karl. When they got to the village gates, Karl turned to Kaiser. "The coin's with some farmer in a hamlet nearby," the man said, his speech more slurred than before. "But I…m' drunk… an' I dun wanna hurt him or somethin'…so you can get it, however you wanna… up to you… I'm just gonna sleep this off…" he stumbled forward as the town behind them disappeared. "It won' be that far from here." Karl found a tree just off the side of the path and leaned against it, dropping to the ground, a dazed grin on his face. "You go… I pass out… sounds nice…" his eyelids drooped and his body went slack as he snored lightly.
Kaiser's eyebrows lifted as he shrugged and went on his way. On second thought, perhaps he should have taken the coin pieces, since a drunken man was easy to rob and losing the other pieces would destroy the whole point. Placing his hands in the pockets of his cloak, Kaiser continued on the trail, which finally leveled out. Across the way he caught sight of what appeared to be a small settlement. Kaiser stepped forward and started towards the village. It can't be that hard, he thought to himself, it's only a farmer, after all. A small smile crossed his features.
As Kaiser approached the town, he realized that a number of people were out tending their fields. The village itself was very small, but that didn't seem to be a problem for those who lived there. Agriculture did indeed appear to be the main source of trade and income in this place. He could make his way into the town and look around, or he could visit some of the farmers individually. Of course, if he waited, he might be able to catch the general flow as the farmers returned to their houses.
Kaiser slowly walked toward the town, nearing one of the farmers on the road. "Excuse me," he called out with a smile. "I'm sorry to interrupt your work, but I'd like to ask you a few questions." The task at hand didn't look like it would be difficult, but it might seem a bit strange to anyone except the one who had the relic that he would be asking for a coin piece.
"Of course, son," the farmer replied, his tone genial. "How can I help you?"
"This may sound odd, but I'm looking for a farmer that has a piece of a coin." Shifting his feet, he continued. "It's said the coin has magical powers, but there is the possibility it also carries a powerful curse." It wasn't a lie, exactly; magical items like that usually had a curse on them. "I'd like to talk to said farmer, if at all possible."
The farmer tilted his head. "A coin, eh? Well, I haven't seen any, but you might want to ask that man over there." He lifted his gloved, dirty hand and pointed at a house across the path. "If anyone would have a coin, it'd be him. He's a hoarder; gets his hands on anything he can find, especially if it looks valuable."
Kaiser nodded. "Thank you kindly for your time," he said, and with a small bow turned towards the house. A hoarder, he thought. That could take some time. The blademaster arrived at the house and knocked at the door. "Excuse me, sir, could I have some words with you?"
There was a loud crash from behind the door, and someone swore loudly. "I'm coming!" a voice grumbled, and in an unnecessarily noisy manner, the door was unlocked and a bearded face poked out. "Whaddya want?" he demanded of Kaiser, his eyes slightly unfocused.
"Sorry for interrupting your day, but I'm looking for a certain, probably cursed item that you may have in your possession," Kaiser started again, trying to win the man's attention. "I'd like to talk to you about it if at all possible." He tried to crane his neck over the man's shoulder and see inside, but the farmer's shoulders were broad and blocked his vision.
"Lookin' for an item, are yeh?" the man grunted, scratching his chin. "What kind of item?"
"From my understanding, it's a piece of a coin," Kaiser answered.
A moment of silence followed Kaiser's reply, as the farmer stared at his visitor. "That kind of coin, eh?" The irritation left his voice, and he was suddenly serious. "You'd best come inside." He closed the door momentarily and unlocked the last three chains. After opening it for Kaiser, he beckoned the traveler inside.
The small house was in complete disarray. Chairs were strewn across the floor, and one of the table legs was broken. Smashed glass littered the ground, requiring them to tread carefully. The middle-aged man righted a chair for himself and for Kaiser, and gestured for his guest to take a seat.
"What's your name, boy?" the man asked, regarding Kaiser with some suspicion. "And why are you looking for this coin?"
Kaiser bowed and sat down as requested. "My name is Kaiser Evans," the blademaster replied. "I am a traveler on a mission to repay the sins of my past." He looked at the man. "During the last part of said travel I heard tell of a magic coin divided into several pieces. From what I heard and saw in the town before coming here, there is a possibility that the coin is cursed." Staring at the man for a few seconds, Kaiser carried on. "Sadly, I wasn't able to examine the other two pieces of the coin, since the owner isn't in his right frame of mind. If possible, I would like to take a look at the last shard, to see if it does indeed carry a curse, and if worst comes to worst, avoid any deaths that could be caused if the owner of the two pieces attempts to get the last one." He took a breath and continued. "My only intention is to avoid any kind of conflict, and in the case of a curse, dispel it or find a way to avoid harming innocents."
The older man sighed, sagging back in his chair. "If you'd come a bit sooner, you might have been able to catch the criminal who did this." He waved his hand at the room around them. "I used to have the coin piece, but I don't anymore— the thief who destroyed my house stole it from me. I assume you know the myth about the wishes?"
"I have heard of said wishes, but there is always a price to pay for them." Kaiser looked away for an instant, a shadow flickering in his eyes, and turned back to the man. "Could you give me a description of the thief or any other kind of information?" Judging by the state of the place, the thief was willing to cause damage in his search.
Crossing his arms, the man sniffed. "He was about your height, wore a mask, and had silver hair." His eyebrows met in the middle as he scrutinized Kaiser. "You seem like a good character," he expressed aloud. "Listen; if you find that man and bring him to justice, you can have that coin piece."
Kaiser stood. "Sounds interesting," he commented, and as he prepared to leave, added, "are you sure about letting me keep that coin piece?"
"Absolutely," the man replied, putting his fingers together. "I possessed that coin piece for many years, but it is worthless to me at this point of my life…" there was something not being said, but the farmer did not appear to want to talk about it. He nodded to Kaiser. "Best of luck," he said.
"Very well. Do you know where the thief was headed?" Kaiser asked as he headed for the door. He would probably end up asking some farmers, but Karl drifted to the forefront of his mind and he groaned internally. But I'd better go with my 'friend' before anything else happens…
"He ran away fairly quickly, but I think he fled to the north, that's where crooks tend to gather, anyway. At least, if it were me, that's where I'd start looking. I would, but… I've got a house to clean up and my form isn't what it used to be." He heaved another sigh and waved Kaiser out.
Kaiser then left, first making the journey to Karl to see if he was okay and to grab the other coin pieces. "Karl, Karl, are you alright?" He knelt down beside Karl and waited for the man's answer.
It took some time, but Karl did finally stir, and blearily looked up at Kaiser. "Didja get tha' coin?" he asked, his words slurred.
"Kind of… but I would like to have the other two pieces with me. A drunk man is easy to rob, after all." Kaiser looked at Karl, thinking personally that the man wasn't even close to standing. "I will be back here with the three pieces in a few minutes, maybe hours. I'm not sure. But you have the word of this swordmaster that you will get your coin back," he said with a smile.
"As long…as you bring it back…" he sluggishly reached into his pocket and handed Kaiser the two pieces. "If you don't, I'll fin' ou' why…" And he slumped against the tree again, snoring rather loudly.
With the coin shards already in his power, Kaiser turned to the path to the north. The old man told me that thieves and similar people usually gathered here to hide. Means I'll probably have to fight. His hand brushed the hilt of his sword, and his lips quirked up momentarily. He would have to be ready.
As Kaiser headed for the north, as he'd been directed, the surroundings kept getting sketchier. This was not a road to be traveled late at night. Late afternoon was on the border of turning into evening, and the sun traveled lower in the sky. The end of the road was barely in sight, but something felt wrong. Kaiser's ears opened, and the hair on the back of his neck pricked up. He felt distinctly that he was being watched…
He suddenly stopped in the middle of the road. "Whoever is there, I recommend that you not disturb me and instead share with me the location of the last coin," he said, his voice serious.
There was a moment of silence, before something dashed at him from the side. A glint of gold flashed in his peripheral vision as a weapon jabbed out at him. Kaiser quickly moved aside, dodging to avoid the incoming attack, and placed his hand on the hilt of his katana. "I will give you three opportunities to stop. That was one."
Apparently his attacker took no heed to the warning, or wanted to get the best out of his three tries, because he struck again. By the steps he took he was either really lightweight, very agile, or both. Considering the quick and precise strikes, he was no novice with a sword either.
"I was never good at math anyway," Kaiser spoke, his eyes narrowing. With a cold face, he unsheathed his sword. Implementing his keen senses and agility, he did his best to avoid the strikes and hit the enemy on the back of the head with the hilt of his katana, wanting to knock them unconscious but not kill them.
The opponent swung his arms up, bringing his weapon to meet Kaiser's sword. This time, the assailant pivoted on his heel, moving deftly under his arm, and faced Kaiser, revealing part of the face and eyes.
From the facial features, it wasn't a "he" at all, but a "she." She appeared to be human, but the aura surrounding her was not, and neither were her fierce purple eyes, the only feature not covered by the black mask. Without a single pause in her movement, she aimed a sharp jab at Kaiser's side.
Kaiser did the only thing he thought would not kill the girl. He ducked to avoid the jab and tried to headbutt her in the stomach, ready to use his sword to disarm her.
The masked girl saw his position change and anticipated accordingly. While she could not completely avoid the headbutt, she did move aside slightly, causing his head to barely brush her gut. With that, she adjusted her blade in her hand and took advantage of his awkward position, aiming to bring the hilt of her sword down on his neck.
Watching the incoming attack, Kaiser used his empty hand to grab one of the kunais from his cloak and twisted his body, using it to block the blade. The block was successful; his enemy did not suspect a hidden weapon and her blade stopped before reaching him. She struggled to free the blade, but instead of dwelling on it for too long, she swiftly brought her leg up to knee him in the stomach.
His fighting instincts now completely engaged, Kaiser quickly raised his knee to meet hers, and tried to whack her in the face with his elbow. "Can't we just stop this and talk, damn it?!" he exclaimed angrily, while preparing his next move just in case.
"What is there to talk about?" she snapped, blocking his elbow with her open palm. Her voice carried a slight but exotic accent. "Hand over those coin pieces, now."
Kaiser looked back at the girl. "That answers my first question." He took a more relaxed stance. "I don't see why you want this coin so much. Do you know the full story behind it?" He wanted to lighten the mood, especially since he judged the fight between them might go on for a while– her close combat and swordfighting skills matched his.
The girl realized he didn't want to fight, and took a step backward. Her stance, however, remained tense. "I know everything about treasure," she replied tersely, her eyes sparking. "I am a treasure hunter. Now, you have something I want."
Kaiser tilted his head to the side. "Then you are willing to pay the price for this treasure?" Looking at this situation so far, fighting would only waste energy. Maybe he could find a way for the both of them to be happy.
"There's always a way around it," she commented with a smirk. "If you know the way to go. How much do you know about the coin pieces?" Slowly, she sheathed the unique golden sword, and the handle gleamed, gilded with very valuable jewels encrusted at the top of the hilt. Upon further inspection, there were many such jewels strewn across her outfit. Someone was fond of shiny and valuable items.
Smiling, Kaiser shrugged. "I know enough to be here, trying to take the curse of the coin away. I would gladly let you keep it. If you only want treasures, this old coin isn't what you want." He slipped back into his relaxed, easygoing nature, meeting her glance with a calm smile in his eyes.
"If you knew enough about the coin pieces, you'd know what happens when you get all three. I don't just want the treasure," she informed him. Raising her hand, she removed the black mask, revealing finely shaped features and dark olive skin. Dark, wavy red hair spilled past her shoulders, and her eyes had a strangely reptilian look to them. "Dragons are famous for their treasure-hoarding. Dragonborns have the same characteristic, but any wish from three old coins outdoes a chest of gold any day."
Kaiser was surprised. He had never seen a female Dragonborn like this. Had she said nothing, he wouldn't have guessed her race. Dragonborns usually were taller, had tails and scales, and definitely weren't as well endowed as the woman standing before him. "Still, I'm sorry, but I can't let you have these pieces. I'm sure we can reach an agreement." Personally he knew she wouldn't back down like that, and the only agreement they could reach was her decapitating him.
He was right. "What kind of agreement can be beneficial to me if I don't get that coin?" she inquired, her eyes narrowing, her hand straying dangerously near her sword again.
"I'm a blademaster and I get into, let's call them quests for lack of a better word, pretty often. Great parts of them usually end up with hefty treasure as a reward." He offered a friendly smile. "But I can't accept them for myself, since it goes against my beliefs. Why don't you come with me sometime? All those treasures will be yours to keep." His voice became warmer. "After all, a beautiful young girl like you should enjoy a life full of rewards."
The Dragonborn scrutinized him shrewdly for a moment, one eyebrow higher than the other. "What kind of 'beliefs' stop you from accepting treasure?" she wondered, as though this were a concept she could not wrap her head around. Then, she stood up straight and nodded to him. "Fine," she said, shrugging her shoulders. "I'm Daenai," she told him, offering her hand to shake.
"I am Kaiser Evans, and it will be a pleasure to travel with you," he answered, taking her hand and kissing it, as a gentleman.
A slight grin passed over her features as she slid her hand from his. "So, where are you heading, Evans?"
"Right now, I'm following fate, if that makes any sense to you," he said. He was actually letting fate decide a great part of his travel, since he didn't have a place, or a person, to go back to. The thought sparked the familiar pain in his shoulder. His hand flitted up to it, but he passed it off as brushing something from his cloak.
The Dragonborn girl noticed his movement but made no mention of it. "Being quite familiar with fate myself, I understand," she said drily, and shrugged. "As for my destination… I heard from a contact of mine that the three coin pieces had come up again in Andred. So, I traveled up here. Besides, it's been a while since I've come up with a good hunt." She crossed her arms and regarded him momentarily before saying, "you want to break the curse, not achieve the three wishes. You're interesting, indeed." She looked up at the sky and added, "it's late evening… if we're lucky we might be able to reach the thief's village by nightfall."
"Sounds like a plan," Kaiser answered. "But first, there is someone I must go talk to." He had to explain the coin to Karl, and if necessary, use force.
Daenai blinked curiously at him. "Is this person the reason you came north?" she asked, motioning that they continue down the path and discuss at the same time.
"Not exactly… just one of my tests," he answered when walking back to his drunk "friend".
"Tests, hm?" she followed him silently until they reached Karl, who seemed to have regained some of his sobriety, though still retained a dreamy stare and bloodshot eyes. Daenai took one glance at him and let out a derisive snort.
Karl's head lifted and he looked at the both of them. "Ah, you're back," he observed with a stifled hiccup. "Did you get it, then?"
Kaiser narrowed his eyes. "Yes, I have the coin," he said, his voice uncharacteristically hard. "But sadly, I can't give it to you yet." His aura grew colder. "Tell me why you want the coin." He paid full attention to the man, searching for any clue that he might be lying.
"For the same reason everyone else does," he replied, sounding slightly more sober, but still obviously a bit tipsy. "The wishes, Kaiser m'boy." He unsteadily got to his feet, leaning on the tree for support. He held out his hand to Kaiser. "Now, the coins. The deal, boy."
Beside Kaiser, Daenai shifted slightly and tensed.
"I will ask you again," Kaiser repeated, his tone chilly. "What are your wishes?" It was a demand, not a question. The blademaster stepped closer to Karl, looking down on the man with an unspoken warning in his eyes. He was ready to use violence if necessary, to…help… him make the right choice.
Karl's eyes widened. "How's that any of your business?" he snapped. "That's a rather probing question." His expression was a bit threatening now.
"I suppose our fellowship is over, then." Kaiser turned and began to walk away. He was ready to counter in case Karl tried anything funny.
He heard a growl behind him. Karl had begun to advance, and Daenai clearly didn't approve of the motion, her lips curling over slightly sharper canines. Karl's eyes carried an almost animalistic light. "Give me the coins," he demanded, reaching to his belt and revealing a dagger. "Now."
Kaiser's nostrils flared. "You never answered my question, you just tried to avoid it." The blademaster continued to show his back to the man, but his aura was different, ready to move and disable his opponent if the need arose. "I will ask again. If your answer isn't one I like, I will leave. If you try to use force, I will defeat you and leave. If you try anything funny, I will 'answer' and leave."
Karl's hand clenched around the dagger. "And I told you, that's my personal business. Now you can hand over the treasure or I'll kill you right now."
Daenai hissed softly. If Kaiser didn't deal with Karl, she most certainly would. Patience didn't seem to be the Dragonborn's strong suit.
"You are a semi-drunk man, with a single dagger, and you plan to face a blademaster by yourself." After saying this, Kaiser began walking away. "If the reasons you have are worth dying for, you ought to share them instead of playing this dangerous game with me."
"I don't know, boy, are eternal life and wealth worth dying for?" Karl asked, his voice tight and low.
"Some might think so," Daenai commented in a harsh growl. Her hand caressed her sword, as though she longed to slit his throat. "The question is, who's fool enough to actually die for it?"
Karl's upper lip curled over his browned, stained teeth. "Like a Dragonborn such as yourself can preach about selfish wealth," he snorted, shooting a venomous glare at her. Daenai let out a low growl like an angered cat, and drew her sword. He took a step backwards, but the look he directed at Kaiser was full of frustration and resentment. "You'd better watch yourself boy," he snarled, pointing the dagger at him. "Because our business is not finished here." With that, he turned and stalked away from them, out of view.
After Karl had drifted completely out of sight, Kaiser turned to Daenai. "Well, looks like everything here is finished. Not like something like this will come back to bite us in the future." He gave her a smile and turned to walk in the direction of their next destination.
Daenai merely shrugged. "Perhaps you'd best not tempt your best friend fate," she suggested wryly, and followed him.