After two more long days of travel, the roads that Anica led them all down eventually came to a semblance of civilization. Cato wouldn’t normally be so lenient with the term, as a collection of wooden buildings, docks, and boats wasn’t really much to look at, but they had chairs. And a chair was a wonderful thing to sit in after their trek through the wilderness. It wasn’t even a particularly comfortable chair, either, but it was enough.

Currently, Cato and his brother sat at a table in the ramshackle wooden building that was meant to be the local tavern. To be honest, Cato didn’t particularly care what it was. The roof was about as nice as the chair, and he wasn’t about to complain about the drink, either.

Kyros rested his elbows on the table, looking down at the wood as if he didn’t trust it to hold his weight. Around them, a few of the locals went about their business, oddly uncaring for the four exhausted strangers that had wandered into their small town hours before. Normally, Cato would have assumed that the docks would have made the locals used to strangers, but there had been only a single ship docked since their arrival and everyone was noticeably avoiding it.

Cato found himself watching everyone around him somewhat carefully. There was no way those creatures weren’t going to try to find them, and at this point, he was suspicious of everyone. It seemed safer that way. But being overly paranoid wasn’t in Cato’s nature, so he found himself glaring down at his drink in frustration whenever someone caught him staring at them.

“Should we go try to find them?” Kyros seemed to be asking the table the question, rather than his brother.

Cato shrugged, “If they can get lost in this place, I’m fairly certain we have other things to worry about.”

Anica and Pel had wandered off hours ago to attempt to book them passage on that lone ship at the docks. Cato wasn’t completely sure what they were going to bargain with, as the four of them had very little, but he also hadn’t been curious enough to tag along. Besides, they all had figured the town was safe enough that they wouldn’t all need to stay within sight of the book for fear of monsters watching in the shadows.

Glancing over his shoulder again, Cato wondered if that had been such a good idea. Behind him, sitting at what amounted to a bar in this place, was a figure that had been making him nervous for at least half an hour. Most of the locals were human, and wore the kinds of dirtied clothes that fit the general rundown feeling of the entire port, but neither applied to this man.

The dark haired man was, without a doubt, an Elf. That made two that Cato had seen in the past week, which was about the same number he’d seen in the past year before life had gotten strange. But it was the clothes that had Cato’s attention. This Elf was dressed far too well. Sure, his cloak and boots were covered in mud, but the tunic fit him perfectly and the material of it all looked like it would have cost enough gold to buy this town a few times over. Not to mention that greens, even dulled greens, did not seem a popular color amongst the locals.

Cato turned back and found Kyros looking past him to the Elf. Catching his brother’s eye, Cato said quietly, “Think he’s from that ship?”

“Sure isn’t local,” Kyros looked prepared to make some sarcastic comment, but went silent.

Before Cato could ask him what was going on, he heard a familiar sound and turned to see the Elf was on his feet now, the tankard that had been in his hand now bouncing off the far wall just over the head of the large, balding man behind the bar. The bartender laughed, “Thin skin, eh, pointy-ear?”

The Elf stood there, unmoving, for a few moments before turning and storming towards the door and grumbling over his shoulder, “The drink’s not nearly strong enough to listen to your talk.”

Then, the inevitable happened. A pair of very angry looking men positioned themselves between the Elf and the exit. Both of the men carried knives. The one on the left growled, “You’re not leaving until you empty those pockets of the rest of your gold, point-ear.”

Cato sighed. Some things about small, isolated towns never seemed to change.

But the Elf didn’t seem fazed by the threats, nor the fact that most of the rest of the people in the bar were now brandishing weapons of various kinds. Instead, he just took a careful step back and shifted his weight so that a pair of swords could be easily seen on his belt, “You idiots insult me to get me to leave then try to rob me on the way out. Is this entire town full of morons?”

And there it was, the final necessary provocation.

Without waiting a second, the two men went after the Elf. While he sidestepped both knives with surprising ease, he didn’t take into account that his two opponents were faster than they looked. Before the Elf was able to do anything else, he took a hard right cross straight to the face. The Elf tumbled back straight for the table that Cato and his brother sat at.

Cato didn’t think, which was just another in a long line of mistakes in the past week. Instead, he was on his feet in seconds, reacting and catching the Elf before he crashed through the table and likely was stabbed by half the patrons in the tavern.

Everyone in the room froze. As Cato helped the Elf back to his feet, the other man gave him a curious look, “Thanks, mate, but I can–”

“Look at this stranger, helping out the point-ear!” the bartender laughed.

The two knife-wielding men stood back a moment, considering the situation. The left one pointed his blade at Cato, “You stay out of this, stranger!”

“And wait until you two corner me when I want to leave?” Cato’s mouth was doing it’s own thing without his permission, another thing to add to the list of bad decisions, “It’s only fair to even out the numbers anyway.”

The Elf drew one of his swords and directed a glare at the bartender, “See? I told you I make friends easy if you just give me a chance.”

Cato, deciding it was just time to go all in, removed his short sword from its place on his belt and soon found himself standing next to the Elf, “That your ship on the docks, uh…?”

“Kieran,” the Elf grinned proudly and nodded, his eyes focused on the two armed men nearest them, “And yes it is. You looking to get out of this town?”

“The sooner the better, Kieran,” Cato glanced behind him to see that his brother was on his feet, weapon drawn, and also being surrounded by the other angry, clearly insane members of the small town.

Before anything else could be said, the patrons all dove at them as one.