She adjusted the cloak around her tighter as she carefully walked out of the bar. The sound of music and laughter faded causing a small bittersweet smile to tug at her lips. Once, she might have called the Beer Forge a home away from home. Now, it was a place of painful memories. Well, not all of them were painful, she thought to herself, replaying the last exchange that she had within the walls of the bar. Haley felt touched that Rosie cared enough about her to talk to her. Her heart lifted slightly as the goblin bard attempted to get her to stay in Cinderhaven but Haley knew it was not meant to be.
Between the five people that were hunting her for trying to do her duty and what had happened with Mari… this town was no longer safe for her. Adjusting the pack she carried, Haley sighed as she looked at the sky. When she came to Cinderhaven, there’d been hope that she would be able to help people and keep them safe. Instead, she’d murdered a woman who’d been fighting against a tyrant by holding a group of people hostage (One of them being Mari, Gods...why did it hurt just to think her name) and pretending to murder them in order to draw the tyrant out. While many told her it was self defense, the small voice in the back of her mind told her that she would forever be a murderer, tainted with blood that she could never wash away. It didn’t help that she was a part of the rebellion, trying to work towards Cinderhaven being free. She could feel the eyes of those who were once apart of it as well, judging her for daring to commit such an act against one of their fellow members. Clenching her fist, she narrowly avoided hitting another person as they walked by
And while she would’ve confined in her best friend about this, Mari had made it clear that their friendship meant very little to her with her recent actions. Hayley gritted her teeth and stubbornly rubbed at her eyes as she walked, hating how the dust from the streets was causing her eyes to water. The former guardswoman was happy that Mari had found love with Nathan. More than anything, she wanted the druid to be happy and even if it wasn’t with her, she was happy that Mari had someone. Haley wouldn’t deny that it felt like someone twisted a knife in her gut every time she saw them together and being happy. It was hard to not struggle with jealousy as she saw Nathan holding Mari’s hand, whispering to her about something and causing the druid to laugh. Fuck, she wanted so badly to go over and punch his noble arrogant face for… she growled and kicked the dirt as she walked.
Truth was, she knew that Nathan could give Mari a far better life than anything she could. One where the druid would be well taken care of and wanted for nothing. The hurt came not from the fact that it was Nathan who was with Mari but the fact it wasn’t her. It also didn’t help that the druid hadn’t revealed that she died and was then brought back through magic into a totally different body. The fact that her friend hadn’t come to her and told her that what happened told Haley all she needed to know about where she stood with the once human, now Tabaxi druid. Clutching her pack tighter, she continued to walk out of the city, not stopping to spare a glance behind her.
Logically she told herself that leaving was in order to protect herself against those who wanted revenge. In reality, she was running from the promise of physical dangers (that could easily be dealt with by asking for help from other members of the former resistance) and the emotional turmoil she didn’t want to face. Haley squared her shoulders and looked towards the road ahead. It was a simple road, one that had seen many travelers come down it over the years. She’d take it and hopefully, where ever it would lead would be far enough away from everything that was haunting her.
Haley stepped forward and began to hum softly to herself. A faint smile tugged at her lips when she realized it was the song that Rosie had been playing. As she was going to continue to hum it, a voice sang out softly from up ahead.
“ I dreamed a dream the other night
Lowlands, lowlands away me love!
My love she came, dressed all in white
Lowlands away ” The accented voice was slightly off key but yet, the song was enough to intrigue her. Picking up her pace, she came to a woman sitting in a tree, a booted leg dangling over the branch that was her perch. What struck Hailey most was how outlandish this woman appeared. A bright waistcoat covered some sort of corset top of a deep maroon color while tawny hair was unbound but with several bobbles and braids throughout it, only held back by a single blue scarf. Her attention was drawn to the strange woman’s waist, noting several scarves wrapped around it with a coin belt of some sort. Yet, her eye could make out the scimitars that the woman also carried around her waist. Haley felt her cheeks flush as the woman made eye contact and winked at her.
“ I dreamed my love came in my sleep
Lowlands, lowlands away me love!
Her cheeks were wet, her eyes did weep
Lowlands away” The woman trailed off before sighing, lightly touching a ring that was bound to a chain around her neck. A moment later, she turned her attention fully to Haley
“Hello friend, coming or going?” Hailey looked at the woman confused, not understanding where such a question came from. The woman chuckled before gracefully leaping off the branch and landing with a soft tinkling sound. Straightening, she smiled at Haley. It was then the former guardswoman noticed that the woman’s eyes were...something was different about them. She knew they were blue but something was unsettling about them. Perhaps it had to do with the scar that nearly ran through her right eye. Or it was how there was one across the bridge of the woman's nose and one that ran from her left cheek to her neck, Haley had seen scars like that before. Someone with scars like often knew their way around weapons and fights or was rather dangerous. Most of the time, it was both
“I...going. You?” The woman gave her a small smile before chuckling.
“Neither. I’ve yet to visit Cinderhaven. It wasn’t very popular to those like me until recently and now I am waiting here.” She said with a slight flourish of her hands. Haley frowned and tilted her head, trying to process why she was struggling to read this woman.
“Those like you?” She questioned causing the woman to chuckle.
“ Ah, adventuring guilds. I am… connected to one of them. One of my bosses would like a report of what is in Cinderhaven.” Haley hummed softly before shrugging and spoke.
“Depends on what you want.” The former guardswoman adjusted her pack once more as the woman let out another chuckle, reminding Haley of a fox she heard once in the forests around her hometown.
“Hmm, wise words. And you, traveller, what is that you want?” Hailey studied the woman, noticing more that while she looked human, there was almost a glow surrounding her. It reminded her of the times she saw bards practicing their magic in Cinderhaven now that there was no restriction. Frowning, her hand reached for her sword as the woman sighed.
“There’s no need for that. I am not wanting to attack you. Perhaps if I showed you my true form, would that ease your discomfort?” The woman asked, holding her hands up to show that her intentions were peaceful. Hailey eased her hand away from the sword as a warm glow surrounded the woman. She felt her eyes widen a little as where once was a human looking woman, now stood a bipedal fox woman with the same hair and orangish-tan fur covering her. Blue eyes glittered mischievously as she chuckled. What was puzzling to Haley is that the scars on the woman's face remained as if fur refused to grow back in those spots.
“A rather neat trick, no? I’m surprised you saw through it so quickly. So many fail to, you my dear, are rather extraordinary.”The woman said with a smile and leaned against the tree. Haley felt a smile tug at her lips before she said the first thing that popped into her head.
“Who are you?” She waited a moment as the mysterious woman scratched her chin with an impish grin.
“Most call me a good time. But I suppose if you want a name, I’m known as Ms. Fennec to many. Captain Fennec, if you’re feeling really formal.” Ms. Fennec said as her ears twitched and caused Haley to be momentarily distracted by the sheer number of piercings in them.
“Right Ms. Fennec….” Before she could say more, the fox woman interrupted.
“You know my name, and what name should I call you? Or do you prefer gorgeous?” The impish grin was back across Ms. Fennec’s face as Haley felt her cheeks flush slightly.
“I’m Haley. “ Ms. Fennec nodded before dramatically taking a bow.
“A pleasure to meet you Haley. However, you have yet to answer my question.” Hailey frowned and reached towards her sword again, trying to make sense of this baffling creature in front of her. Was it some sort of demon that was going to eat her soul or was it trying to rob her.
“Which question was that?” Haley noticed that Ms. Fennec stiffened slightly as the former city guard moved towards her sword. The fox creature tilted her head before thinking over the questions that she'd asked .
“Ah, yes, what do you want, Haley?” Ms. Fennec asked again and waited for a reply as Hailey poundered an answer. What did she want? Truly, if you asked her month ago, she would’ve said to be close to her friends and help rebuild Cinderhaven. Now, it was unclear. Without thinking, she answered.
“A new start.” The former guardswoman was surprised at the compassionate smile that was aimed her way as Ms. Fennec continued to lean against the tree.
“Well, just so happens, I know of a good place to start over. They pay well too if you need work. Plus, most of them are rather good people should I say so myself.” Ms. Fennec pointed out with a toothy grin.
“And what is this place called?” Haley asked, feeling that sounded too good to be true.
“Don’t argue with Ms. Fennec.” Haley snorted at the answer.
“I’m being serious.” The guardswoman shot back.
“So am I. It wasn’t my idea to name it that. I blame all of them.” Ms. Fennec’s hand waved behind her off in some direction. “It started as a joke but they ran with it.” Haley let out a small chuckle at the annoyance radiating off the other woman before turning serious.
“You’re really serious.”
“I am. It’s not often I recruit someone in person like this but I have a good feeling about you.” Ms. Fennec said, holding out a hand to her. “You can work for us as long as you like and leave anytime you like. There’s food, coin, and good drink along with a roof over your head. If a ship’s more your speed, I have one of those too.” Haley blinked for a few moments, weighing the offer.
While she had enough gold squirrelled away for a few months, she knew that she’d need work and lodging to survive.
“You said you had a ship?” Maybe it would take her far enough to escape the past. Ms. Fennec’s eyes lit up with pride.
“Best ship you’ve ever sailed on and she needs a few more crew hands.” Ms. Fennec told her with her hand still outstretched. Thinking for a few moments longer, she carefully took Ms. Fennec’s hand and nodded.
“You have yourself a deal.” The fox woman smiled as they shook before suddenly moving, wrapping an arm around Haley’s shoulders as she guided her down the road.
“Excellent, I have a feeling The Fox’s Howl is in much better hands now than it was this morning.” Ms. Fennec said with a smile before humming. “And one more thing, dear, do call me Fen.” Hailey felt herself smile and nod.
“Alright, Fen.” The former guardswoman felt her heart lift a little and for the first time in awhile, she allowed herself to feel a small spark of hope as she continued down the path towards something new.