The Adventures of Lisa and Watt:
The Troll and the White Hanky of Anti-doom
Chapter 1, part 2
Lisa watched the large young man saunter away from the guard barracks, leaving the red-faced captain sputtering impotently. He was either very brave or very stupid, she thought. Or both. It wasn't unusual for young men to be brave in the face of their own stupidity.
Maybe not stupid after all, she reconsidered when he dropped his saucy grin as soon as he was out of sight of the barracks. She'd spent a good portion of her life in a household full of cock-sure fighting men who thought they were better than everyone else because they knew how to handle a blade. None of them would have dropped the swagger or the smirk like this young giant had. They would have worn them to their doom without ever realizing they were loosing. It also wasn't lost on her that he had almost a full battle kit, lacking only a battle horse and long sword, and it was neither new nor in ill repair. Had be been a complete fool, it would have been one or the other. Something told her that he may just be the ticket she was looking for to get out of this city before anyone realized she was there. She scrambled to catch up to him.
"Hello," she said after he ignored her walking beside him for several paces. He looked down at her—he was very tall and she wasn't, even compared to normal sized people—and nodded once, though he said nothing and didn't shorten his very long strides.
Lisa gulped when she got a good look at his face. He was older than she had assumed, twenty-five at least, and so perfectly featured that should would have called him beautiful rather than hansom. She had assumed he would be no older than her eighteen years because of his boyish features, but up close she could see the beginnings of crow's feet at the corners of his dark brown eyes.
It wasn't only his sweet features that made him look young at first glance, though. His short black hair stuck up in the very front and he had no whiskers. Up close, she could see the faint hints of his beard coming in, which meant he had shaved before presenting himself to the captain of the city guard. His face was uniformly tanned, telling her that he likely kept his chin clean shaven in the Norman fashion. The style had fallen out of favor after Longshank’s death, so she found it curious that a young Cornish man would follow the defunct fashion.
"Do you always keep your chin free of whiskers?" she asked and then cringed at the boldness of her question. She had always had a hard time not saying the first thing that popped into her head. He didn't seem to take offense, though, just glanced down at her again.
"I'm a blacksmith by training," he replied.
"I've known many smiths who wear a beard," she remarked off-handedly.
"And how many of those beards were patchy and scorched from flying slag?" he asked with a condescending frown.
"Um," she said, startled. "All of them, not that you mention it."
"I don't care to have parts of my body catching on fire, so I keep the whiskers shaved off."
"So why you are trying to soldier if you are a blacksmith?" she asked, genuinely curious now.
"Do I know you?" the young man asked, sounding annoyed.
"Not yet," she conceded. "But I hope to change that. My name's Lisa, by the way. What's yours?"
"Watt," he grunted.
"Fine, don't tell me then," she huffed. He shook his head, the smirk creeping across his full, sensual mouth. Her older sister Maud would be drooling by now if she caught sight of that mouth. Then she'd be trying to come up with ways to coax him into kissing her, Lisa mused. Maud had quite the roving eye, which had gotten her into several compromising situations in the past. Lisa was much more reserved when it came to the male persuasion, though she could definitely see the appeal of this one.
"My name is Watt," he said with wry amusement.
"Oh! Like Walter only shorter!" Lisa nodded once to herself, pleased to have remembered that interesting trait of the common folk. They almost never used the formal versions of their names. Sometimes they didn't have formal names at all. Their parents would give them the truncated version at birth. She herself wasn't formally named Lisa, but rather Lisette. Her childhood nurse had called her Lisa when she was too small to realize why it annoyed her mother, so that's what she had been calling herself since making a run for it several months ago.
"Yes, like Walter," the very tall young man said, shaking his head.
"Well, Walter, why are you trying to make a living as a soldier if you are trained as a blacksmith?"
"Like Walter, but not actually Walter," he corrected. "My name is Watt, and I'm a third son of a village blacksmith, which means there's nothing for me to inherit other than the skills me da could teach. Given the choice between marrying my way into an established smithy or working in someone else's, most likely my brother's once he inherits, I chose to soldier, instead."
"That's not all that different from my situation," Lisa said with false casualness. "I have some talent with magic but my family wanted me to marry a man three times my age and spend my days popping out babies and keeping his house. So I left home to find myself a master mage to apprentice myself to."
"That's nice," Watt observed laconically, clearly not interested in her story. It wasn't a lie, though, even if it wasn't exactly the whole truth.
"This morning, my master turned me out," she continued doggedly. "He said he wasn't making enough money off my skills to pay for my room and board. He tossed back what was left of the coin I'd paid for my apprenticeship and told me to find some other career to study."
"I take it you aren't very good, then," Watt said as he looked around the market square.
"I'm very good at somethings," she shot back huffily. "For instance, I can tell you that you won't find anyone selling provisions. There's no food to be had. That's the real reason I was turned out. And by the sounds of it, that's the real reason Captain Jarack turned you away, too."
"Part of it, anyway," Watt said, sparing her a quick frown. "That didn't exactly require skill, only a bit of observation. There are no merchants selling their wears in the market square."
"You'd be surprised how much the efficient application of magic relies on keen observation," she shot back at him.
"No, I wouldn't," he said in a wry voice. "Most things in life turn out better if you are paying attention. Is there a point to your rambling story?"
"The point I was trying to make is that we both seem to have the same problem, no readily available work. The answer to that problem is clear," Lisa said. "We need to get across the river, which is being troubled by a troll. I can't cross with just my magic and you can't vanquish the troll by yourself."
"So what are you suggesting?" he asked, though it was clear he knew what her point was.
"You get me close enough to the troll to see what the situation is and I'll give you a spell that will enable you to defeat it."