I passed the near empty bottle to the short, stocky man to my left. He quickly downed the rest of the contents as a stream of ale poured down his light brown beard. The rest of us laughed at his antics. Beside him sat a tall, thin man whose blonde hair shone with the light escaping from the crackling fire. To the right of me, my gaze fell upon a darker frame, almost a mere shadow lost in the night's cover.
"So old man," the blonde man spoke to the bearded fellow. "Why are you here?"
"For the drink of course!" He laughed raising the now empty bottle to the stars.
"Of course, Gruff," the blonde replied. "But why are you training to be a member of the Royal Army?"
"For the chance to see some real action. These dinky mercenary bands are nothing but two-bit thugs. I want to fight in battles that bards will sing of for years to come!" Gruff exclaimed boldly yet slurred, his breath reeking of ale. He turned to the tall blonde beside him. "You, Ramos?"
"For the prestige that comes with the title. To know that I actually accomplished something... Lezin?"
The man in the shadows piped up. "To avenge the death of my family, and protect those who are defenseless."
Gruff and Ramos nodded, then turning their attention to me.
"Me?" I chuckled. A chorus of giggling ascended from the brush. Three girls walked towards the fire. A tall red haired woman with her hair pulled back with a black ribbon grinned to me.
"You guys at the bottle again?" She laughed in her bold voice as she glanced around at the drunken men before her. The two poets behind her giggled girlishly.
"You're helpless!" She grinned. "Get to sleep! You better not be sick for drills tomorrow morning!" She raised a hand for farewell as she turned, shaking her head. The two poets curtsied to me.
"Goodnight Fenor," they spoke in unison before looking at each other and giggling. They chased after the other woman who was now far ahead of them. I looked back to my comrades with a grin on my lips.
"That's why I'm here."
Apparently my trainers didn't agree with my reasoning. I was kicked from the program for showing up to practice once or twice slightly intoxicated. Needless to say, I packed up my belongings and left to explore bigger and better things. I mean, even if I did become a soldier for the Royal Army, they'd probably stick me guarding the castle's kitchen door to keep from rats coming in.
My journeys took me as far as I could on what little gold I had. One morning I was walking down a road through a hilly forest when I came upon a tiny golden rabbit bounding towards me.
"Why hello there, little fellow." I spoke, chuckling at the rabbit. It hopped up beside my foot and looked up to me with little sparkling eyes.
"What are you do--" but before I could finish my sentence, the little bunny reached over and took a bite of my boot. Yelping at teeth piercing my shoe, I jumped back from the rabbit. The little thing maliciously jumped back towards my feet for another attack. Looking directly above me, I leaped up to grab a tree branch, pulling my legs up out of the rabbit's reach.
"Alright, you little devil..." I muttered, scrambling to unsheathe my sword while swinging from the branch. The flaxen ball of death snarled up at me with fangs seeming to appear out of nowhere. Kicking my feet backwards, I dropped to the ground no more than a wingspan away, striking the rabbit's head with the flat of my short sword. Giving a sigh of relief at the now motionless heap of bunny, I began to sheath my blade, but no more than half way through the hellish little rodent jolted up to shake its head.
"Wha..." I could barely get out before it started at me again. I hobbled quickly over to a large rock, falling behind it. I sat with my back on the cold stone, sword between my parted legs. Closing my eyes, I slowly turned my head to the left, then the right. Not hearing sound from either side of the rock, I opened my eyes and quickly raised my blade skyward. In that very second, the rabbit pounced over the rock at my head, but met with my sword instead. Panting heavily after slaying my foe, my sword dropped to the ground beside me. A figure drew out of the shadows. It was a man in a black robes with long black hair pulled behind him.
"Not bad..." He spoke to me, as I pulled myself to my feet using the boulder to aid me.
"I'd hate to see what the dragons look like around here." I grunted, sheathing my sword. The man looked to me with a grin on his face.
"I could use someone who knows his way around a sword. Interested?"
"I guess I need the work." I said standing up to limp over to him. "Just no more rabbits, okay?"
The man laughed, reaching to assist me. He had no idea just how much work I would be...