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It was a bright, sharp winter’s day, and the rags they had left the castle in did not keep the cold wind away from their skin. They walked quickly, putting the castle behind them as quickly as possible.

“Right,” Herrin said to Tryls. “Your debts are forgiven, off you go, I’ve got things to do.”

He set off before Tryls could reply, moving into the dirty back streets and alleys of the town and taking turn after twisting turn to lose the elf. Eventually, with Tryls nowhere to be seen, he came to a nondescript door. He knocked seven times, timing it carefully, then pushed the door open and stepped into the dark room beyond.

“You’re late.”

He opened his arms wide to embrace the dark haired woman who had greeted him.

“Mirra, my love, I was unavoidably delayed by our lord’s hospitality.”

She shoved him away, her fingers dropping to the sheathed knives at her side and her eyes narrowing. “And you brought company?”

Herrin turned, confused, to see Tryls stepping out of the shadows, his hands raised to show that he was unarmed.

“I told you, my friend, I can’t go anywhere until my debt to you is paid.”

“Oh great,” Mirra said, relaxing. “You got yourself a hanger on.”

Herrin shrugged. “Well, I couldn’t just leave him in there. The catering is dreadful.”

Mirra made her way to the bar and took a large tankard off the shelf. Herrin followed, leaning on the bar to admire the muscles in her arm as she pulled his pint.

“What’s your friend having?”

Tryls, warming himself by the fire, looked over. “I… have no money to buy a drink,” he said, his skin darkening with embarrassment.

Mirra shrugged. “Herrin hasn’t paid for a drink in five years, don’t see why I should expect anything different from his friends. Here, this should warm you.”

She took a bottle of honey-coloured liquor down and poured a small glass. Tryls came over to the bar and took it, sipping it carefully.

“Delicious,” he said with a small bow. “You have my thanks.”

Herrin winked as he lifted his pint. “Careful around this one,” he said to Mirra. “Next thing you know he’ll be saying he’s got to follow you around until he pays you back.”

She laughed. “Alfars always pay their debts, unlike some, which to my mind makes them much better customers than the likes of you. Now, I guess I’d better find something less odourous for the pair of you to wear, before the guards track you down from the stink alone.”

She left by a back door and Herrin turned to look at Tryls. “Really is no getting rid of you, is there?”

Tryls smiled and lifted his glass. “Get yourself into deathly trouble a couple of times and let me save you, then I’m gone.”

“Oh right.” Herrin lifted his glass to the elf’s. “Easy as that. Cheers.”

© Kari Fay

(Author’s Note: The story of Herrin & Tryls continues…)

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