Michael woke up naked and disoriented, with his head groggy from too much drink. Next to him, the naked form of a woman stirred under the covers. Her voice sighed as she stretched and then settled back to sleep. He smiled to himself as he remembered that it wasn’t just too much drink he indulged in last night. But then he recalled why he awoke so suddenly. There were footsteps on the inn stairs, attempting to sneak up to his floor.
Whoever was creeping up wasn’t very good at stealth, Mike thought to himself. He quickly glanced around the room for his weapons. Nothing. In fact, he couldn’t even see his clothes anywhere either. Damn, he thought to himself, did I strip off in the common room again?
Determined to meet his assailant at the door, Michael slid from the bed as quietly as possible, naked as the day he was born. Tall and imposing, his figure was packed with muscle, and he carried himself with the confidence he took with him to every battle. He was, after all, a warlord, albeit a naked one at that moment.
The clumsy steps stopped just outside his door. Michael took a deep breath and pulled the door open as he reached out to grapple his attacker. Expecting a dagger-wielding assassin, Mike was surprised to find he’d grabbed a grubby unarmed man whom he didn’t recognize. The man’s eyes were wide in terror, and as Mike pulled him into the room, the stranger dropped a letter he carried to the floor. Seeing himself being accosted by a naked man, the stranger quickly broke himself free and pushed Mike away from him.
“Shove off, mate!” the accosted man hissed at him, “I don’t go that way!” The stranger glared at Mike as he fixed his clothes that the warlord had pulled askew. As he shook his head in annoyance, the stranger kicked the letter toward Michael.
“Odus, son of Ty asked me to deliver that to you.”
“Odus?” Michael responded, as his eyes lit up in excitement, “He’s here, in Arantide?” The warlord pushed past the delivery man and scanned the hallway. It was empty, save for several discarded pieces of his clothes. That solves that mystery, Mike thought to himself.
“No,” the stranger replied as he left the room, looking Mike up and down, “He was in town several days ago looking for you. Did you miss that whole debacle at the reading of Hallomak Stromm’s will?” Mike had no knowledge of it. He may have been over-indulging again; in fact, he wasn’t even sure of what day it actually was at the time.
“Wait!” Michael called after the man as he descended the stairs, “Why didn’t you deliver it sooner?”
“I was drunk.” The stranger replied as he shrugged and wandered out of the inn. Mike stared down at the common room and realized that the rest of his clothes were scattered about down there. Shit, he thought to himself, I did get naked in public again. He headed back into the room and closed the door before he picked up the letter. There was a sharp intake of breath behind him when he bent over to grab it off the floor.
“Yummy.” The woman behind him murmured seductively. Mike turned as he read the note, and at the same time, he struggled to remember her name. Jezzabel? Jewel? He was pretty sure it started with a ‘J’. The note was brief and to the point, written in Odus‘ hand: ‘Head to Gardmore, as soon as possible. I could use your help.’
“Are you coming back to bed?” the woman asked playfully, as Mike thought about Odus. Friends since childhood, they may as well have been brothers. He’d heard the bard’s name being spoken in powerful circles lately, and he’d been meaning to catch up with his old friend, and now Odus was asking for him. Mike smiled and glanced at the light leaking through the shutters. He figured it was very early in the morning. I should probably get going, the warlord thought, Odus has already been waiting too long if this letter is late.
“If you make me wait much longer,” the woman whispered behind him, “I’ll have to start without you.”