Symihr pushed open the swinging half-door into the dimly lit inn's bar, he had a remarkably average build, with broad shoulders and a trim waist, uncalloused hands and close-cropped brown hair with a shadow of a beard on his jaw; it was obvious he hadn't had time to shave. His body was familiar with work, but never bothered building a close relationship with it. For the past three days he'd been at the docks of Kur'hran and just barely found time to himself.
Iren, his boss and a rather well known Hunter throughout Kashian, had been fuming since they came to port and found a messenger waiting for them. Their associates on Flumeri had managed to "lose" some valuable merchandise after they'd pulled into Roomir's westernmost port, Suh'hran.
Symihr sighed at what the news meant for him and the rest of the crew. Two years spent on Flumeri to secure a Shabenay lost because some fools weren't attentive enough to their charge. Certainly, there was a second Shabenay, but the job required two, not one. Iren had been confident in the security of his valuable prizes and hadn't bothered with a backup. The client was losing patience. His questions about the Shabenays' status became more frequent as the three-year deadline approached. Iren and his men didn't have the time to try and find another. Iren was one of the best Hunters currently on Kashian, but it would still take him too long to rout a Shabenay out of hiding to match the deadline.
Symihr glanced lazily around the room to find an empty table. He crossed the crowded room to a vacant seat nestled among several other larger tables and sat down heavily. Not long afterwards, a waitress singled him out and asked what he wanted. Symihr barely looked up to reply and notice she was Human. His head still ached from the latest reaming Iren had given the crew. After he mumbled his order, the waitress turned briskly and wove her way towards the bar. There was a minute alone for Symihr to contemplate Iren's last lecture before the soft thud of the mug against the table brought him out of his thoughts. He looked up, smiled weakly, and pulled the mug towards him.
"Rough day?" She questioned, as if it were a local greeting.
He laughed softly into his drink. "More than just a day, it's been nearly the whole week."
"Can't be much different than the other stories of botched shipments and soured luck that float around here," she shrugged and then smiled, "but of course, luck has a way of changing when you least expect it." With a sweet smile and an encouraging tilt of her head she bade him farewell and turned her attention to another table. Tray balanced carefully on her shoulder, she curved her way through the maze of tables and occupied chairs. Symihr's eyes followed her movements to the next customer she was serving a few tables away. She placed the drink, exchanged a few words in the same cheerful manner she had with Symihr then continued on to the next table. Despite the temptation, his eyes did not follow the waitress; instead they firmly fixed themselves upon the young Human woman sitting at the table.
There was something familiar about the girl that caught his attention. Something in his mind tried to connect her with a name he knew. For a moment, he wondered why he hadn't noticed her in his first glance around the room. She appeared to be the only other Human in the bar aside from himself and the waitress, which would have been enough to draw his attention at first. Granted, he hadn't paid much attention to anyone initially; too locked in his own thoughts to find to more than an empty table.
The warm drink trickled down his throat as he gulped it down. His eyes were fixed on her as he tried to pin a name to the face; she was slightly turned away from him so it was hard to distinguish any key facial features. Her hair was light brunette and cut just past her shoulders. It was tied loosely with a leather band, but a few wild strands had escaped to partially obscure the part of her face he could see. The clothes she wore were nothing remarkable, just a simple off-white cotton shirt, gloves, and non-descript jeans. The sword strapped to her back, however, was of interesting design and unusually large for someone her size. The hilt, which seemed made for much larger hands, was wrapped carefully with black leather. Curiosity aroused, he wondered if she was actually capable of wielding the massive blade. Just that moment she turned; she must have sensed him watching, for her eyes immediately caught his through the crowd.
Symihr clearly saw the two scars that ran parallel down the right side of her face and across her eye. Remarkably, considering the scars' course and depth, the eye was not blinded. Despite the drastic change in appearance brought on both by years and the newly acquired scars, the image of her face suddenly clicked in his mind. Immediately he rejected it, it couldn't be her. She was dead.
The girl's eyes widened in a split moment of panic and recognition, she turned her head back quickly and stared fiercely at her drink. Or maybe it is, he thought, watching her more intently now; rumors are sometimes blown out of proportion, but . . . he couldn't quite fathom her actually being alive, and at that, so far from Mehm. To his knowledge she had never traveled outside of Murn; this was Roomir, a continent half a world away. It was three years since word reached him of her being chased down by a mob had that included even her kinsmen. She had died that day. The same fate shared by many of the other shape-shifting Shabenay. The news of her death was fairly easy to swallow, but word of her being a Shabenay was another matter entirely. He eventually accepted both as truth, but was now forced to choke down something even harder to believe. She was three years dead. How could she have both escaped and survived the past three years? Was it by the grace of some demon the Shabenay worshiped?
There were too many "ifs" floating around Symihr's mind for his liking. Shaking his head, he attempted to sort out his jumbled and confused thoughts, then, convinced that thinking wouldn't give him answers or solve the dilemma he shared with Iren, he decided taking action was best. He downed the rest of his drink and pushed himself out of his seat. This was just the break he needed.
As he approached, the young woman tried not to look at him. She attempted to pay, leave the table, and slip out the door all at once. Symihr quickened his pace. She only made two steps from the table before his hand enclosed around her wrist.
She stopped short and turned to face him, eyes burning with agitation and voice filled with much the same. "Excuse me, sir, but what do you think you're doing?"
At a loss for words and excuses Symihr blurted: "Introducing myself." He attempted a friendly, polite grin, which didn't quite seem to have the desired effect.
Her lip curled in distaste; "I'd appreciate it if you'd let go of my wrist."
"Well, I can't do that until I know your name," he insisted, stepping closer. A small, nagging voice in the back of his mind whispered that he was not being wise and was making something of a fool of himself. Not only that but he was endangering life and limb, especially if this girl was a Shabenay.
The young woman stepped back, wrapping her left hand around the hilt of her sword. "I'd be obliged to remove your hand, sir, if you don't do so yourself."
"You still haven't told me your name." The nagging voice whispered that there was a better way to go about this. Symihr chose to ignore it.
"I'm warning you, sir, I'm not one to joke." Her left hand now had a firm grip on the sword's hilt; there was a short, soft hiss as the blade slid slowly against its sheath. She was tense, ready to draw the sword fully from the scabbard on her back.
An area started to clear around them, well out of range of the young woman's sword. Coins were passed back and forth. A fight was brewing, as it often did in this bar, and the usual betters weren't going to miss out. The Kierr bartender carefully moved the bottles under the counter for safekeeping and flicked an ear in annoyance. He eyed the two Humans with a look that could be translated to "not this again."
"Now don't do anything you might regret, lady. All I want is your name. Mine is Symihr." He still held her wrist, paying little mind to her threats, not thinking she was capable of carrying them out. The small, whispering voice said otherwise, but by now it was being firmly ignored.
"Symihr," she said firmly as the sword hissed again, "you are about to lose your hand. Let go!"
Symihr wondered and reflected on how wise he was being. The whispering conscience sighed with relief. There was no telling how much she, if this was indeed the girl he'd known, had changed in the three years since he had last seen her. Back then she could barely handle a long knife, let alone a sword, especially one as sizable as this. Well, it didn't take much skill to hack off a limb, now did it? He let go of her wrist. She snatched it back with a sneer and strode quickly out of the room. The gamblers sighed disappointment and retrieved their bids. Symihr ground his teeth and followed.