Tales of The Lusty Mermaid

Nigel's arrival startled a shopkeeper sweeping the front steps of her store, who let out a small shriek before shaking her head and busying herself with something inside, already questioning what she had seen. His dark gaze surveyed the bustling streets of the port-side city he found himself in. This quarter seemed reasonably clean and well-kept, and most of the passerbys appeared to be well-to-do.

Nigel glanced down at himself, noting his clothing had shifted to match the style that appeared prevalent here - a style he had often worn before. He was dressed in white accented with black, with a brocade coat worn over a tapestry waistcoat, a ruffled shirt, and knee-length breeches. His long silver saber hung from the wide swordbelt at his waist.

He smoothed an errant lock of his straight black hair before stepping into the bustle of the crowd, walking with grace and purpose, though he did not know where he was going - not exactly anyway. He was seeking something. He was getting closer, he knew, for this was the shadow, but still it eluded him. So he walked on.

He caught it out of the corner of his eye; the movement from the docks to the street. A bright red plume perched jauntily in the band of a rakish black hat. The bright scarlet Captain's coat would have been difficult to miss even in the dark. Elaborate silver trim decorated hem, cuffs, and button rows. The woman wearing it as she snapped her swept hilt rapier back into the scabbard at her side was looking supremely irritated. She began stalking up the street, the heels of her high black boots making a sharp clicking sound against the cobblestones that could be heard despite the sounds of the street.

Her attire drew some disapproving looks from a few in the crowd - mostly women. More then one man seemed quite intrigued by the female sea captain. She ignored them all.

One look at the woman and Nigel knew it was she that had led him here. It wasn't her beauty or any of the other ways she stood out among the other residents of this shadow, it was something more primal than that - rooted in the Power that had brought him to this place. He considered his options as he watched her lithe, scarlet-clad form retreating up the street. She was strong-willed and fiery, that much was apparent, and though he had come here with the express purpose of crossing blades with her, he had no interest in seeing her come to harm - nor he for that matter..

Nothing better occurring to him in the short term, Nigel began walking in the same direction as she, staying a good distance behind as he did so. Best to see where she was headed with such a sour disposition, he thought.

Her stalking gait led her to the door of a fairly large two story structure. Judging by the sign over the doorway of a buxom and leering mermaid, it was a tavern or inn. It looked like a clean and popular destination that did not cater to the lower strata. Not that everyone around it looked on the up and up, but they were well heeled, if shady.

Nigel stopped across the street from the establishment, taking a few moments to examine it. He had been in many like it, and though it wasn't a place he would typically choose to frequent, he knew he could do much worse. He glanced up and down the street before crossing and pushing through the door.

Nigel did not hesitate at the threshold, instead he moved purposely through the tavern to the bar. He eyed the bottles on the top shelf for a moment before signaling the keep with his order, and turned to take in the tavern's occupants while he waited, attempting to locate the woman as he did so.

Right about the time the bottle was placed on the bar at his elbow, he spotted her sitting at a table in the corner, looking grumpy and lighting a nailsea glass pipe of swirled red and white glass. There was a ledger, a bottle, a mug and a white box of gleaming lacquer on the table in front of her.

Nigel examined the bottle's label closely, then apparently satisfied, pulled several coins in the local currency from a pouch and slid them to the barkeep - enough for the entire bottle and a generous tip. He opened it and poured himself a glass, considering the woman as he did so. He made no attempt to mask his interest, or the object of it, though he did not leer like a few of the other patrons.

Nigel seemed to come to a decision, and taking the bottle in one hand and his glass in the other, approached the woman's table. As he neared, he spoke in a rich voice, every word carefully enunciated. "Pardon me, milady, but you look as if you could use some company and idle chatter to
take your mind off your troubles for a bit. Would you mind if I joined you?" He wore a slight smile, his dark eyes glittering in the light as he indicated the chair opposite her.

She looked up at him as she exhaled a cloud of blue smoke. Her eyes assessed him and the blade at his hip. It was a long moment before she kicked the chair out from under the table. "Only if you stop with the 'milady' business. You and I both know I'm not."

Her voice was accented with something distantly Mediterranean. It was dark and smoky and made one think of sand and sea, Blood Orange trees and sensual guitars.

Nigel chuckled in reply as he gracefully took the offered chair and sat down. It had a pleasant sound, if a bit pretentious. "As you wish..", he nodded before offering her his hand. "Well met.. Captain? I am Nigel."

"Juliana," she provided before taking another puff from her pipe. She regarded him through the haze. "You are not from around here. What brings you to the Lusty Mermaid?"

A slight smile pulled at the corners of Nigel's lips as he returned her gaze, savoring the aroma from his cup before sipping at it. He answered her question with one of his own. "What makes you think this is not my home?", he asked, in that same rich tone - there was no challenge in it, curiosity if anything.

"The accent," she smiled. "That, and I am sure I would have remembered you. Especially in this crowd. "

He returned the smile with a broader version of the one he had been wearing. Glancing about them for emphasis, he nodded in agreement, "Good point, my…- Juliana.. I am a traveler - passing through, and was in need of refreshment…" He did not bother with a lie, though the truth he offered was incomplete, "You caught my eye on the street, and seeing you enter here it seemed like the perfect place to get it."

Nigel paused for another drink as he gauged her reaction, "And what of you, Juliana? Do you call this place home?"

She eyed him a moment before nodding. "Yes. Not this town, but I'm in my home country at the moment. I am merely here on business." She picked up her drink and studied over the rim. Then she smiled and leaned forward. "What was it that caught your eye, exactly?"

She has that look; the one that says he has a limited number of correct answers available to him if he doesn't want to be wearing her drink.

Nigel did not hesitate in his reply as he leaned in a bit closer. "The fact that you are.. interesting.." He gestured dismissively in the general direction of the bar. "I have traveled - extensively, and I can tell you their like are a dime a dozen. But someone like you - a strong woman making her own way in the world - someone.." He searched for the right word, not finding it he settled, "..special, worthy of sitting down and having a conversation with.. That is rare indeed." He raised his cup to her in a silent toast before sipping from it once more.

"I do what I can," she replied modestly. She continued her scrutiny while propping her chin on her fist. "And what of you? What is it you do besides travel the land in search of interesting people?"

He chuckled at that, marveling at the novelty of her unabashed appraisal. As they talked he noted the way she held herself, the shape and position of her fingers as she gripped her cup, the tone of her forearm as she made her fist - and a great many other trivial details. He was not seeking an advantage in what he hoped would be their upcoming contest, but so much of his life had been devoted to the pursuit of swordplay that such behavior had become second nature to him - he could not stop if he wanted to. He shrugged, "Well I do love travel and new experiences.. I settle from time to time when a place catches my fancy, but rarely for overly long. As far as 'do', I suppose you would say I'm a swordsman by trade. An interest we share, I believe.." He nodded at the rapier at her hip, "That is a fine weapon you have there."

"Graci," Juliana said as she ran her fingertip around the lip of her mug. If she noticed his examination, she didn't let on, and while there was much to examine she didn't let many tells surface at all - if she had them. Her hands had the familiar calluses of someone who knew what to do with a sword, but there were a few more that had nothing to do with swordsmanship. "It was my father's. He was a privateer in Her Majesty's fleet."

Nigel's eyebrows raised slightly, and he nodded. "Then I'm sure there is quite a tale behind the blade's origins.. And you? Have you followed in his footsteps?"

"I inherited his ship as well as his sword," she replied with a nonchalant shrug as she leaned back again. "A body does what they have to do to get by." She looked around the room and frowned slightly, as if something was bothering her. Then she gives her attention to Nigel.

"Have you eaten yet?"

Nigel casually checked in the direction of her gaze before replying. "I have not, though I must confess I have little desire to sample the fare they are likely serving here. You know this city - what say we go to her finest restaurant? I'm buying.." He smiled before polishing off the last of his glass.

There didn't seem to be anything out of the ordinary going on, but she smiled and tapped the ash from her pipe on her boot heel. "Oh, the only thing I would recommend here is the fish. But as I just got into port after several months at sea, fish is the last thing I want."

Juliana packed her pipe in the white box and slipped it, along with her other things, back into her coat. "There is a place a bit further into town that serves the best steak anywhere, and a delightful red." She drained her mug and tossed a few coins on the table as she stood.

Nigel nodded as he rose as well, his dark eyes scanning the bar briefly before returning their focus to her. He left his nearly full bottle behind as he moved to accompany her, "It sounds like just the place - on both accounts. Lead the way.." He smiled - the unspoken 'milady' almost hanging in the air between them, "..Juliana."

She laughed and sauntered out from the table and towards the door with the scarlet coat billowing around her. The lady captain drew more then a few appreciative looks - and one or two not so friendly. She appeared not to notice as they stepped out back into the street.

"So. Nigel," Julian said while putting her hat back on at a cocky angle. "Are you staying in town for awhile, or just passing through?"

Nigel followed close behind, scanning the street briefly as he moved abreast of her outside. Apparently satisfied he replied, "To be honest I am not entirely certain.. I tend to enjoy the journey as much or more than my destination." He smiled at her, "And you, Juliana? You have been away for some time - do you plan on being home for long?"

"Until the sea calls me to return," she answered with a look towards the great ocean. "But the weather turns cooler and no one wants to be at sea in winter."

[Game called before completion]


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