Jack smiled as he awoke, the crisp, unfiltered sun playing across the room, illuminating his bedmates and the sumptuous furnishings of a very comfortable room. It refracted through a crystal tumbler half full of expensive scotch and painted rainbows on the blond hair of the girl on his left. He kissed her shoulder gently, making her roll away slightly and freeing his arm. He stretched, yawned and slipped from beneath the sheets, climbing deftly over the brunette between him and the wash-stand. He whispered a gentle shush to her as she rolled over and smiled at him.
Splashing magically fresh water on his face he glanced in the mirror at the rough beard he’d cultivated to hide his face. It hadn’t worked anyway so he reached into his bag and fished out his grooming kit. As he began to trim and tidy himself he let his mind wander over the last day or two. These ‘Dragonslayers’ were an interesting lot. He wasn’t quite sure what to make of them but he strongly suspected that they were his kind of people.
Jayca had seemed like an obvious mark at first, so naïve and pretentious, and he’d been convinced for a while that Esther and Catrain were playing him for a long con, but there seemed to be some amount of genuine friendship there. What he’d at first read as disguised bitterness seemed more now like playful joshing among people who knew their relationship was solid. What Jack couldn’t figure out was why such an obvious fop was travelling with such ‘interesting’ characters. There was something he was keeping back and it wasn’t just the true extent of his magical abilities.
Hanneke seemed like a more obvious companion, corn-fed, stoic, just. There must be a hell of a story for why a wannabe knight would risk her honour to travel with such a devious lot. As Jack applied shaving cream to his cheeks and neck he resolved to get her hearing fixed so she could tell him. She seemed good natured at least, and Esther and Malachi thrived in her company, so he felt he didn’t need to fear her for the time being.
Malachi, now there was a strange one. Who ever heard of a Halfling cleric? Jack was loosely aware they had some pauper gods they prayed to, mostly for food and freedom, but he’d never thought that it might be formalised enough to warrant clergy, no matter how secretive. Jack’s razor paused for a moment, wondering if Malachi had simply been bluffing about truth spells. He chuckled. It didn’t matter, he’d been bluffing about being vulnerable to them. Still, there was a tinge of bitterness to the little fellow that worried him. He seemed hurt and it was hard to see someone so brave filled with resentment.
Esther, on the other hand, seemed to revel in her position in the unseen underclass. She had nimble fingers, the manacles had shown that much, and a nimble everything else too for that matter, given her acrobatics. He’d rarely seen such a skilled thief, much less one with the brains to keep herself out of Stellen’s grasp. Pretty too. He hoped he hadn’t offended her by using Jayca as bait the previous night. It was pretty clear from her occasional reproachful glances that she’d have happily taken one of the young ladies yawning in the bed behind him if he’d not been there. He made a mental note as he bleached the roots around his hairline to do something nice for her.
Catrain too. He at least owed that girl a drink. Tall willowy one, not his usual taste but undoubtedly well refined and beautiful, even for a bard. He’d happily have spent the night listening to her sing if he hadn’t found more fulfilling pursuits. She seemed a bit guarded and nervous, which was unfortunate, but he was sure she would come around. He certainly hoped that she would teach him some of those fascinating dance manoeuvres at some point.
He brushed his hair and straightened his clothes before beginning to pack his holdall. He glanced to the girls, one pouting and the other smiling as he got ready to leave. They’d make great students, he was sure. They seemed like wonderful girls from what little they’d talked and he sincerely intended to put in a good word for them with somebody if he could manage it. Providing nobody recognised him and blew him to ash with fireballs of course.
For a moment he considered ducking out the back window and taking his chances with the road rather than chancing the college. But these Dragonslayers, they were such an interesting group, such a proficient crew… they were too good an opportunity to turn down if he could manage to ingratiate himself. He didn’t know what they were up to yet, or if they were even on the job, but he knew he could help and that they’d grant him a level of protection, and right now that was everything he wanted in the world.
He smiled at the girls. “I’ll see you downstairs for breakfast. I just need to make plans with the rest of my party first. Then perhaps we can see you the rest of the way to the college. I’m sure having Jayca introduce you would put you in good stead from the very first moment!” He slung his bag and headed downstairs, humming a song from the night before and smiling. This was going to be a good day.