A large, for a small creature, riverfolk stood squared off against Draveth. His stance told Draveth that he’d been through many battles. The duel was to go until one of them gave up. Draveth stepped sideways around the marked-out circle. The snow and grass had been cleared from the spot, leaving only cold, hard earth.
The riverfolk followed Draveth step for step, brandishing his twin swords. He had to take longer strides, but he kept up.
“Boring!” The riverfolk shouted in riverish. “You’re supposed to fight! Fight!”
“They say get going!” Kreet shouted at Draveth.
“Fine.” Draveth muttered. “You want a fight? You’ll get a fight.” He walked forward and swung his claymore towards the riverfolk.
Seeing the blow coming the riverfolk parried with one of his swords and tried to hit Draveth’s midsection with his other. To his surprise Draveth had already moved to his side. He turned to face him. “Tricks no help. Only battle sense.” He attacked Draveth again, but Draveth was able to sweep both swords to the side.
Draveth changed his grip on his claymore and swung laterally, hoping to get the riverfolk in the side. The riverfolk half blocked the blow, taking only a small hit.
“You inexperienced, human.” The riverfolk grinned. “You lose.” He stabbed thrice in quick succession, one of the stabs pierced Draveth’s armor and grazed his side.
Draveth backed up and jabbed into the riverfolk’s left arm with his claymore. The riverfolk dropped his left sword and his arm hung limp at his side. “I have better reach, though.”
The riverfolk dodged under the sword and came up under Draveth’s guard. He jabbed upward with his sword, but it bounced off the armor. He stayed close to Draveth so he couldn’t bring his blade to bear. “I get close, cancel reach.”
Draveth brought his pommel down on the riverfolk’s head, or at least tried to. He ended up hitting the riverfold’s left shoulder again, agrivating the fresh wound.
“Smart human.” The riverfolk winced in pain and jabbed at Draveth again with his sword. This time Draveth interposed his chain mailed arm to block the brunt of the blow. The riverfolk growled in anger.
Bringing the pommel down again Draveth hit the riverfolk square in the center of his head. The riverfolk fell to the ground, dazed.
“Give. Give. Human win!” The riverfolk dropped his remaining sword and cradled his head in his right arm.
– – –
“There,” Krashaeletin said. “That arm should be fine in a couple of days.”
The riverfolk tested his left shoulder. “Sore, but work.”
“So,” Kreet said in riverfolk, “you said you would tell us what you know about Krash being captured.”
“Krash is the elf?” The riverfolk responded in riverish.
Kreet motioned to Krashaeletin. “He’s Krash, I’m Kreet, and the paladin you fought is Draveth.”
The riverfolk shook his head. “A paladin? That explains a lot.” He rubbed his shoulder again. “Another tribe captured your elf friend.”
“Why did you shoot at him when he went to get his quarterstaff?” Kreet put her hands on her hips and clicked her beak. “That doesn’t make me want to believe you.”
The riverfolk looked back at the nearby group. “Trest has a twitchy finger.”
Kreet sighed. “Fine, just tell us why you think they wanted him.”
“I don’t think they wanted him in particular. They just wanted a traveler.” The riverfolk nodded in Trest’s direction. “He shot because we were raided last night. He’s still a little shaken up.”
“Fine. Should we stay away from the water’s edge?” Kreet motioned at the river.
The riverfolk nodded. “That would be best. Also, watch out for sea srengaa. They’ve been forcing other tribes upriver and out of the ocean.”
Kreet glanced at Krashaeletin and Draveth. She switched back to common. “What do you two know about sea srengaa?”
Krashaeletin’s eyes went wide. “The Drowned Cursed? What about them?”
“Sea srengaa?” Draveth shook his head. “I don’t know about them, seems like Krash does, though.” He turned to Krashaeletin. “Anything we should know?”
“They were cursed by The Drowned. The elven goddess. I thought everyone knew about them. I guess I was wrong.” Krashaeletin sat down on the path. “They were originally a group of riverfolk like these.” He motioned at the riverfolk tribesmen. “They looked like halflings with gills in the same way. One day the tribe decided to attack and kill everyone in the riverfolk village The Drowned called home. They killed the warrior, the women, the infirm, and even the children.” He shook his head. “They attempted to kill her, but as you know the gods are immortal. In order to take vengeance on the tribe, she cursed them. They became known as the sea srengaa after a time. Many call them sea devils and they mostly reside in the depths of the ocean. They don’t resemble riverfolk anymore, except for once in a blue moon when they bear a child that looks like a riverfolk.”
Kreet shook her head and switched back to riverish. “Is there some offense against these sea srengaa? Can any of the tribes push them back to the ocean’s depths?”
The riverfolk shrugged. “Alone, no. If we could be united? Yes.”
“What?” Draveth saw a strange look in Kreet’s eyes.
“A change of plans,” Kreet said in common. “What do either of you know about sailing?”
“What are you thinking?” Krashaeletin asked.
“Let’s help the riverfolk defeat the sea srengaa.”
“If you want help, you need prove self first.” The riverfolk spoke up. “You defeat me, you must same to chieftains for unify.”
Draveth saw the conviction in Kreet’s eyes and stance. “Well, where do we begin?”
“In Riverdale. Some people owe me a favor. Maybe they’ll give me a riverboat for it.”
“I want to hear that story, sometime, Krash.” Draveth collected his pack.
“It’s actually rather boring. I healed some people. Those people offered me money and I said I’ll take a favor. I’m sure it won’t be a very nice riverboat, but any riverboat is better than none.”
“I go with.” The riverfolk chieftain hit his chest with a closed fist. “I say you beat chieftain in ritual. I Grefin. You call Grefin.”