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The atmosphere was lively at the World’s End Tavern that night, with minstrels playing about the fire and a roaring game of poker around one of the bigger tables. As such, it nearly went unnoticed when a lone stranger came in with their hood held close, letting in the wind and rain that the heavy doors held at bay. With few words, the stranger ordered a mug of ale at the bar, and slunk to an unoccupied booth in the back corner of the tavern.

Near unnoticed, but not completely so. At the bar, Turgis Balborkanon, captain of the Iron Hawks for the kingdom of Kalmar, nudged his bar mate in the ribs. With a jerk of his head, he gestured towards the stranger in the back. The man beside him glanced over, taking in the stranger. As one, they both got up from their stools and headed over toward the back table.

Walking alongside each other, the two men appeared very dissimilar. Turgis’s companion wore plain clothes, no different than many of the men in the tavern, however his golden hair, fair skin and piercing blue eyes marked him as different. He looked to be about 19 years old, with boyish good looks and charm that made many caused many of the barmaids to have small “accidents” when he walked by. On the other hand, the captain had quite the opposite effect on the young barmaids, many of them suddenly became quite interested in where they were walking. He was older, with dark hair, and he had a dark shadow of stubble, which sharply highlighted a small white scar near his the corner of his mouth. It gave him the illusion of a permanent scowl, which didn’t extend up to his bright green eyes. Both men carried themselves with a similar gait, however. The walk of a soldier, used to carrying the weight of armour and weapons, though neither wore those trappings now. The two men sat down across the table from the stranger.

“Hello, good sir, do you mind if we sit with you?” The young man asked, belatedly. The stranger sighed, and pushed back her hood.

“I don’t suppose there’s any stopping you, is there?” She asked, wryly. The woman’s appearance startled the two men. She had deep, grey eyes, and her hair fell over her shoulder in a single, long braid. Her hair appeared to be black, but woven into the braid was a dozen different colours of hair, sometimes braided into smaller braids, other times bound or twisted with coloured threads. Blondes, browns and reds streaked through the braid, with small darts of blue and green threads between them. But more shockingly was the scar burst pattern on her cheek, standing out as bold scars against her pale skin. The marks appeared deliberate, beginning around her left eye where they showed clearly in red and fading to paler scars that continued down the side of her face, shining in the firelight. Beneath her deep green cloak, she wore simple leather armour, with a small hunting knife bound to her belt with a leather strap. The older man chuckled.

“No, probably not. I’d like to introduce myself. I am Turgis Balborkanon, captain of the Iron Hawks for the kingdom of Kalmar, and my companion here is Prince Lucien, sometimes called the Protector of the Light in his father’s kingdom of Avesta. The two of us were hoping you could settle a debate between us.” The woman’s eyes narrowed.

“Are you two not sworn enemies? What has brought you to be drinking buddies at World’s End?” Lucien gave a half shrug.

“It is a neutral zone, after all. The druids strip anyone entering the city of weapons and armour.”

“More of a truce zone, in actual fact. But Lucien and I used to be buddies, before his father decided to raid Anniseburg and kicked off this war.” Turgis sipped his ale while Lucien scowled.

“Perhaps if the people of Anniseburg hadn’t decided to infiltrate the city of Nora and defile their dead with necromancy and witchcraft, my father would not have seen reason to invade Kalmar!” Lucien ranted, “Not to mention the countless “incidents” with “bandits” our merchants and travellers had encountered crossing the Spinetail mountain pass, which was supposed to be protected by the Iron Hawks themselves!” Turgis waved off the boy impatiently.

“At any rate, this is an old debate, and not the one that brings us here. We couldn’t help but notice you seemed to enter under a dark storm cloud than the one brewing outside. We hoped that you might share your tale with us, Miss…?” Turgis trailed off, hoping to coax a name from the strange woman.

“Not a Miss.” The woman replied. “Keita. Keita Tennerose. And I’ll share my tale with you, though it is a long one…”

To Be Continued

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Post Notes:  This story was written with the intention of using and playing with various tropes, while working on world creation.  The following guidelines were given.

Required Tropes:

  1. Character: Villain Protagonist[1]

A La Carte (Choose One or More):

  1. Setting: The Neutral Zone[2]
  2. Plot: The Seven Basic Plots[3]
  3. Motif: Arc Words[4]
  4. Scenes: Nonviolent Initial Confrontation[5]
  5. Ending: Storming the Castle[6]

Forbidden Tropes:

  1. Heel-Face Turn[8] and Face-Heel Turn[9]
  2. Start of Darkness[10]
  3. ANY of these listed Twist Endings

In the end, I used the following:

Villain Protagonist – Keita was meant to be the villain Protagonist, and this story will likely turn to follow her more closely, but for now, Turgis is filling this role.

Neutral Zone – This was less the Neutral Zone, and more it’s contrast, the Truce Zone.

Non-Violent Initial Confrontation – Played very straight, not only was this a non-violent initial confrontation from a story point of view, it was implied that Lucien and Turgis’s first interactions were non-confrontational as well.

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