Silverbolt enters the tournament and unwelcome guest arrive to kidnap Clara
The Vexed woods, hidden Camp.
The soft bleating of the Ibex awoke the imp known as Zinjo. He scratched his scaly skin and stretched out his muscular arms. Today was going to be an auspicious day, today he and his merry band of thieves would kidnap Lady Clara and ransom her. Zinjo wasn't worried about the guards or the competitors.
The plan was simple, wait until the finals to strike. The guards would be busy dealing with the masses to see them coming. Most of the competitors didn't get involved with local affairs, and entering the tournament often led to serious injury. Get in, Get the girl, Get out, a fool could do it.
Zinjo flapped his tiny wings as he washed his Halloween mask of a face. He could hear the coins clinking already. Jinjin and Roust were still fast asleep, snoring through their fangs, making odd whistling noises. The pair never meant to be criminals. Jinjin came from a prominent Ferri family, and Roust used to deliver mead to the local taverns.
The young men met at tavern. It was love at first sight, or at least Jinjin said as much. When Jinjin's parents found out about the relationship, they banished him from their home. Roust joined him without a second thought. As the young imps bodyguard, the parents blamed Zinjo, which led to his banishment.
If everything went well, this would be the last job. Zinjo pet the shaggy black Ibex with red eyes, "Are you ready to sow some chaos, Crackedhoof?"
A fierce noise emitted from the shaggy mountain goat while it pawed the ground.
"Tell your friends to prepare," Zinjo said. He handed a carrot to his mount.
In the bushes watching, a large looming figure watched the pair with hate in its eyes. It wanted revenge. However, six against one didn't sound like good odds. It would have to follow them and find the proper moment.
Vexdale Town square
Lady Clara sashayed up to Silverbolt and gave Constance a gentle shove out of the way, "I want it understood you remain free by my grace." She inched closer to him. She smelled like grandma perfume. Her lips were ruby-colored, matching her hair. "I find your defiance attractive and exciting."
"Wow, you have no regard for personal space, do you?" Silverbolt asked. Constance saw this shot him a strange look. "Listen, I need to find a blacksmith and acquire some new equipment. It was nice to meet you, and I will see you at the tournament."
"Have a good day, my lady," Constance said. There was venom in her voice.
Clara pulled an elaborate fan from a drawstring purse and tapped it against her open palm, "Are you two betrothed?"
Silverbolt had a rough idea of what it meant. He could have sworn he saw it mentioned in a movie once. He went to speak, but Constance cut him off.
"Yes, as a matter of fact, we are," She said. There was a hint of satisfaction in her voice.
Clara studied them for a few minutes in disbelief, "Is that so? Where is the engagement ring?" Her eyes were victorious.
There was only one thing left for Silverbolt to do, make it worse. "I entered the tournament to win the money for the ring."
"Oh, that explains a lot. You two are living in a romance epic, aren't you? Care to sweeten the pot with a friendly wager?"
Silverbolt didn't think it was a good idea to bet with a noble. "Constance, I don't..."
"Name your terms," Constance said.
"You must believe there is a champion lurking inside your betrothed," Clara said.
Constance tapped her foot irritably, "Are you going to name your terms?"
"If Silverbolt wins, I promise to pay for the wedding of your dreams. It will include a honeymoon to an exotic location. We could have it here to end the ceremony."
Constance didn't hesitate, "If he loses?"
Clara put up her hand, "If he loses, then he must come and live with me. He will have to denounce your engagement and will be forbidden to see you again." Her eyes were alight with cruel glee.
Silverbolt went white and looked over at Constance nervously. "Please say no. Please say no." He muttered under his breath.
"You are on," Constance said. She clenched her fists, and her face grew hard and determined.
"I will draw up the paperwork. It will be waiting for you at the signup booth." Clara shivered with excitement. "In all my years, I have never hoped for a contestant to lose," She said, walking away demurely.
Silverbolt stalked off towards the blacksmiths leaving Constance behind. If she couldn't figure out why he was mad, she didn't deserve to marry him..."What am I thinking? There has to be a way out of this."
"Silverbolt, wait up," Constance shouted in a panic.
He didn't see a reason to acknowledge her. If this was her way of getting back him for the risks he took, the punishment did not fit the crime.
She caught up to him and tried to stop him and wound up getting dragged along, "I am sorry."
"What the hell was that? Did you get permission to bet my life away?" He was barely hanging onto his anger, and Constance could tell, or her facial expression said as much.
"If it wasn't for your plan..."
"In case you weren't paying attention, my plan worked. My plan furthered the mission. I have come to rely on your opinion to help me make informed decisions. I thought you were above this."
"Yes," Constance paused. Silverbolt deserved a better explanation. "I let her get to me, and everything we worked for could be for naught," she said.
Silverbolt sighed, "I will give you points for being honest. Why did you say yes?"
"I don't want to talk about it right now. You need new equipment. It is the least I can do for you." Constance looked miserable.
"Fine," Silverbolt said. "Let's go find a smith."
The Broken Bear Forge was a disaster zone. The smith smelled like urine and alcohol. A brief inspection of the items on display did not encourage them to buy anything. The smith seemed more interested in his drink than making money anyway. They asked a couple of locals who suggested the Hawks Nest on the other side of town.
The Hawks Nest Forge turned out to be quite impressive. Decorative displays featured flawlessly crafted items. The smell of Charcoal and steel only added to the appeal of the clean shop. A catalog with special orders was no less impressive. Whoever owned the shop was not only skilled but business savvy.
"Can I help you?" a baritone voice asked. Silverbolt and Constance turned and saw a short, muscled, hairless man. He shot them a bright smile and walked over to a barrel to was the soot from his arms. Intelligent eyes looked at the pair, and an excited grin crept across the smith's face. "You saved me the trouble of finding you."
"Why would you be looking for Silverbolt?" Constance asked.
The smith extended a clean hand out, "The name is Jules Hawk. The tournament can make or break a warrior's reputation. The same goes for those who smith."
Silverbolt understood, "What's your pitch?"
"I outfit you with my best equipment, and you tell people where you got it. Win the tournament, give me special thanks..."
"Why should we trust you? You could be working for another champion or Lady Clara," Constance said.
Silverbolt glared at her, "Butt out. You have done enough damage for a day. I want to hear what he has to say." Silverbolt was still angry with her.
Jules had a nostalgic look on his face, "Reminds me of Patience and me when we were young. Littlest things would set us off, and we would storm off in opposite directions. Then we would realize how much better..."
"Moving along, what do you have for me?" Silverbolt did not want to talk about his feelings.
Jules pulled out a large wooden case. His lips pursed and whistled amid the jingle jangle of his keys. "I promise you Silverbolt what I have is guaranteed to set the world on its ear," He said. A large sinewy hand reached into the box and pulled out a pair of exquisitely crafted gauntlets and a pair of beakers containing a silvery ooze.
Constance studied the beaker up close and then backed up in shock, "Is it alive?"
"They are a metallic slime called quicksilvers. Quicksilvers are rare, hard to catch, but useful. Before I go any further, can you expel energy from your body?"
"I can conduct electricity through objects," Silverbolt said.
"Excellent. Quicksilvers feed on energy. Once energized, they can change their shape." Jules pointed to the gauntlets, "They live near rare ore deposits, which is why the gloves before you are hematite and mithril mix. A spell will bind the quicksilvers to the gauntlets, allowing you to shape them into any weapon you desire."
Constance was impressed, "How will the quicksilver know what shape to take?"
"A telepathy rune. Runes are more reliable than enchantments and require far less power too."
"I assume the creatures are capable of changing their density?" Silverbolt asked.
"You assume correctly. A solidified quicksilver is twice the strength of steel."
Silverbolt liked the sound of it. However, some things look better on paper than in reality. "Can I give them a test?"
Jules looked stunned, "Unfortunately, the moment you put the gauntlets on the quicksilvers will only respond to you. I have yet to find a reason for this. I use mine for work."
"How about the armor?" Constance asked.
Jules clapped his hands, "I have something that will make your current set look like rags on a homeless person." He turned the chest around.
The breastplate looked like someone made an impression of a high-end bulletproof vest, and then poured molten metal over it. An armored pair of pants and boots filled out the rest of the set. "How do you get the glassy finish?"
Jules gave a sheepish smile, "Its probably the hematite." He set the armor down. "You'll probably want a mask, I assume?"
"Can you make it better than this one?"
"What are you looking for?"
"I don't know, surprise me."
"I will see what I have in the backroom," Jules said.
The pair were left to contend with awkward silence. Constance kept rocking back and forth on the ball of her feet as if she wanted to say something. She kept shooting Silverbolt pained looks.
"Constance, I am not going to be mad forever," He said.
"What about having to marry me?" she asked.
"We have Ms. Reynard to help us with that, and I could do worse than you. I want you to find out what Lady Clara wants most. Maybe we can work out a deal."
Constance's face softened, and her eyes were grateful, "Thank you."
"You're my friend, Constance. I know you will come through for me, or at least give it your best effort." Silverbolt said.
Slender arms embraced Silverbolt, and the familiar scent of Constance surrounded him.
Jules came back and admired the scene in front of him, "I see you two love birds are on the mend." he paused, "Not to be pushy, but will you accept my generous offer. Remember, all you have to do is point people in my direction."
"We have a deal," Silverbolt said. "As for the mask, can you paint some lightning on it?"
"You will be the belle of the ball," Jules said happily.