Part 11 of two hunters. Enjoy!
The familiar and gaudy interior of the Gilded Peanut brought peace to Nell. Though fresh memories of Culvir’s blatant disregard for her words of caution soured the reunion. Sonnie’s response would have been terrifying but that mattered little. He hadn’t noticed. Culvir’s disguise had been flawless.
The Lady Tusche that had taken his place stood before the door to Culvir’s room. The resemblance between Culvir fully dressed and the woman had been uncanny, but that made sense. He wasn’t particularly tall or muscular, so it wouldn’t be that hard to find a woman that could match his height and build.
“Here? My, his tastes must have changed since I last saw him.” Lady Tusche pushed the door open, rounding the corner to Culvir’s room.
Culvir sat in bed, hands folded at his lap, and a small pile of peanut shells on his dresser. His eyes shifted from Nell to Lady Tusche and wore a serious expression.
“Thanks for making it here so quickly.” Culvir slipped off the bed.
“My pleasure, things were pretty slow for me anyway. ” Tusche took in her surroundings: the exotic looking plants, the throw rugs made from long haired beasts, and the heart shaped bed. “Didn’t realize you had such plans for me though.”
“I can see how you’d misunderstand… but no. It’s just where the vampires had settled under.” Culvir grimaced.
“Damned biters never had a sense of taste.” Her voice dropped its regal edge.
“If you don’t mind.” Nell crossed her arms. “I’d like you to come clean with who you are.”
“Oh. Right.” Tusche unbuckled her rapier and tossed it aside. “Where’s my babies?”
“In the closet.” Culvir tapped his side.
“Jamgled Gotleg,” she said, resting a fist on one hip, “Pleasures all yours.”
“Gotleg.” Nell perked at the name, “I’ve heard of you, you’re in the Association.”
“If you’re our back up, why would you come in disguise?”
“You don’t know about Lady Tusche huh? No suprise there. You can’t exactly fill out the dress.” Jam laughed.
Nell narrowed her eyes at that.
“She’s a real person. I think.” Jam paced around the room, fidgeting with the decor. “But we use her to sneak in operatives and maintain the element of surprise. Culvir told me you bagged yourself a lord. That means more trouble is coming hot on the heels.”
“Jamgled is particularly talented at solving vampire problems directly,” Culvir said, fixing a glare on her. “But subtlety isn’t her strong point. It’s a shame considering she can be convincing when she applies herself.”
“Buttering me up? You know you can save yourself the trouble–”
“Long story short. She’s the woman for the job.” Culvir cleared his throat.
“That aside. You disobeyed me.” Nell jabbed a finger at Culvir. “If you think Sonnie wouldn’t kill you for pushing him. You’re wrong.”
“I know very well. But I didn’t go anywhere. In order to get Jamgled here, Lady Tusche had to make an appearance. She’s notorious for travelling incospiciously and making a pest of herself.”
“Snooping.” Nell walked over to the discarded rapier , examining it. The red jewel at the hilt had been the same. Shaped by magic and capable of containing it. Wisp would be drawn to such thing, it could even refuel him when she was unavailable.
“So you’re Nell huh?” Jam said, wearing a coy smile. “Culvir wrote your name seven times in his report. You must have left a good impression on Captain Sourpuss.”
“Nell is currently ahead of me in terms of hunts. She’s a talented mage.” Culvir rubbed his chest.
“I know that. Okiir told me.”
“It was also on page thirty one of the report I sent you.” Culvir narrowed his eyes.
“Like I’m gonna read all that. I got the abridged version from our fearless leader.”
“Thirty one?” Nell frowned.
“Out of seventy,” Jam said with a flick of her hand.
“Sorry I took so long. Batreese had a bunch of questions for me.” Nikidas came into the room, carrying a tray of food.
“You have enough for me right?” Jam poited a thumb at herself.
“Yeah. Of course. I apprenticed at a restaurant so I’m good with portions.” Nikidas wore a proud smile.
“Aren’t you forgetting something?” Culvir clenched his teeth.
“No way. I gave em to the venerable Lady Tusche.”
Culvir’s eyes turned to Jam.
“What? I’m not a pack mule. I threw that crap away. It’s bad for you.” Jam leaned close to him. “Wanna punish me for it?”
“I’ll pass.” Culvir pushed her away, careful to place his hand on her shoulder.
“You two seem to have a history,” Nell said.
“Yes well,” He said, speaking in a cautious tone, “We’ve worked together–”
“Played together too. Don’t let Culvir fool you. His talent goes beyond carving up the undead.”
“Wait? We’re talking about the same guy here right?” Nikidas butted in.
“I’ll leave out the juicy details to protect the innocence of children present.”
“For gods’ sake. I’m not a kid.” Nikidas hissed. “I’m twenty. Grown as any of you.”
“Don’t mind her. She has a pirate’s mouth to match her pirate map of a face.” Culvir straightened, trying to gauge Nell’s reaction to Jam’s outburst.
Not that it matters, the past is the past. And due to circumstances he’s welcome to chase after whatever girl he likes.
“Culvir! What’s wrong with you? You don’t talk to a lady like that.”
“You’re right. But Jamgled is no lady.” Culvir donned a smirk. ” If she had a shred of common sense and decency to match her skill, she wouldn’t have a face that looks like tree bark.”
“But…” Nikidas looked back at Jam confused.
“One look at her ugly mug and you’ll probably run for the hills.” Culvir shook his head.
“Oh right. Forgot I had this thing on.” Jam reached up, peeling away her false face and wig. Scars decorated her face, come simple nicks, while others healed into a scale like texture. Her nose laid flat against her face from being broken, possibly several times over. Her square shaped face and narrow eyes made it clear she hadn’t been a glamorous woman in the first place.
Her natural hair was cut at shoulder length, impossible to discern if it had been a terrible barber or a sword.
Nell and Nikidas flinched in unison.
“See?” Culvir took his plate of food, picking at it.
“It’s not… that bad. So she suffered an injury or twenty. She’s still a lov…” Nikidas swallowed his words, “…fine looking woman.”
“Ha. You’re cute kid.” Jam picked up her plate and sat on the corner of Culvir’s bed.
“How did you get all those wounds?” Nell approached the other woman her eyes settled on Nell’s neck.”
“Fighting. Though I don’t need to ask how you got yours. I know you’re ambrosia.” Jam stuffed a forkful of food in her mouth. “Suhks ta bhe ooo.”
“Culvir’s report, I assume.”
“Page two.” Culvir nodded. “Even if Okiir didn’t know. He needed to, especially since it could mean fraternization with vampires.”
“You didn’t trust me?” Nell’s temper flared and she rounded on Culvir. “After everything we did?”
“Easy now. He’s just doing his job.” Nikidas stepped between them, offering her a plate. His eyes settled on hers, staring.
Nell took the plate and sat in a corner of the room.
“This one I got from the day I joined the association.” Jam pointed at a particularly deep scar that went from her chin to her shoulder. “I’m a mercenary by trade, a vampire took over my favorite haunt up north. I had no idea what I was getting myself into.”
“Someone not like Culvir bailed me out.” She pointed her fork at him. ” I had never fought a vampire before, not too many of em’ up north. I joined a year later.”
“Why’d you wait a year?” Nikidas raised a brow.
“Because.” Jam took another bite. “Dhey’re phicky aas fuud.”
“The Associations has high standards.” Culvir pushed aside his plate, his food untouched. “I actually offered the recommendation that she be allowed in. Just because she’s a hard headed, reckless buffoon, she has a natural knack for killing the undead.”
“Sounds like Culvir has an eye for talent.” Nell said with a sour expresion, trying mask it with another bite of food.
“…and a complete and utter disregard for treating women well.” Nikidas muttered, settling into eating his own plate.
“Ok, kid, why don’t you scurry away so the adults can talk business. ” Jame shooed him with a dismissive flick of her wrist. “We don’t want to offend your delicate feelings.
“I’m not a kid!” Nikidas dropped a bitefull of food back onto his plate. ” I want to join the association as well. Just pretend I’m not here.”
“You alright with that, Culvir, Nell?”
Both of them nodded.
“Fair enough.” Jam peeled her top over her head without a second thought, baring her breasts. She tossed aside Lady Tusche’s blouse and any undergarments underneath.
Nell fell silent, eating her food. Nikidas stirred his food with irritation ignorant of her state of undress. Nell felt prudent to clear her throat as Jam began to unfasten her belt.
Nikidas turned to Nell, smiling at the texture of the roast, then turned his eyes back to Jam. Bits of half chewed roast sprayed in front of him.
“What are you doing?!” Nikidas flushed deep red, turning his eyes downward.
“Not like Culvir hasn’t seen it before, and Nell’s a chick. No skin off my nose.” Jam said, “And you said, pretend I’m not here.”
“But that’s different!”
“Is it? Aww… did da wittle boy never see boobies before?” Jam grinned.
“No! I mean. I have! But I…” Nikidas grimaced.
“What? Do they look funny or something?” Jam looked down, palming her ‘goods’.
“No they’re fine. I mean… It’s not like I looked. I just mean… I didn’t see anything out of the ordinary.” Nikidas raised a hand. “Just get dressed already.”
“Please.” Nell said taking another, deliberate bite. “Some men don’t prefer such excessive displays.”
Though Nell noticed Culvir didn’t exactly blush or avert his eyes. Perhaps that shows his preferences.
“Fine, fine… geez. Spoilsports.” Jam walked to the room. Only then did Culvir turn his gaze to Nikidas.
“Nothing Culvir hasn’t seen, eh?” Nell frowned.
“It’s complicated.”Culvir waved off the concern.
“You haven’t touched your food,” Nell said.
“I’m not hungry. And it hurts to–”
“Stop being a baby, and eat. Now.” Nell pointed a fork at him.
“Fine.” Culvir picked up his plate, scowling.
Nikidas’ blush softened. He ate slow and deliberate. It’s too bad Culvir couldn’t be more like Nikidas, a perfect gentleman.