She found him away from the ale stores for once. The rain hammered on the stone outside, making her quiet steps even more silent against their pattering backdrop. The lantern lighting his face cast deep shadows in his scars and wrinkles. His eyes, though focused on the oilcoth and blade in his hand, were somewhere else. Kerillian watched him work, practiced hands methodically sweeping over both sides of the blade. There was a word inlaid on the hilt, above the laurelled-skull hilt. It was a name.
"Never could knock, eh?" Kruber's voice cut through Kerillian's musing. She stiffened, surprised he had noticed her. He sniffed, taking a short draught from his cup before nodding. "Aye, that's elves for you. Well, come on then. 'Ave a seat with ol' Kruber."
She sat across from him, removing her hood and cowl. She watched him continue working, but his focus was now genuine. She could read it in the twitch of his fingers, the pulling of the skin on his face. "What were you thinking of, just now?" She pulled her own flask from her side, taking a measured sip.
Kruber sighed, looking at the engraving on the blade. "Y'know," he started, then sighed again.
"What? Not keen to share with an elf?"
Kruber stopped working then, a storm brewing behind his face. He looked Kerillian in the eyes but said nothing.
"You'll share with the others, but not me. Why is that? What's the rift 'tween us?" Kerillian leaned forward, a sneer on her face. "I'm not put off by your silly emotions and grudges. In Athel Loren-"
"Alright. Enough." Though soft, Kruber's words suceeded in silencing Kerillian. "You always put your hackles up before I've even said anything."
"That's because everything you say is riddled with immaturity and insult."
Kruber sighed again. His face appeared to sink, appearing smaller in the light. Kerillian narrowed her eyes, watching. He reached for his mug, taking a good gulp. His hands shook slightly, the bags under his eyes more apparent. Every inch the tired old soldier. Every inch… vulnerable.
"Just promise me you'll listen, eh? Just once?" Kruber's words shocked Kerillian. "Let me 'ave my say before you go back to ripping into me with your 'mayfly this' and 'mayfly that'." Kruber held up the sword in the light, his eyes on the engraving. He opened his mouth, then closed it. He blinked rapidly, before sniffling. He rubbed his nose with his sleeve. Kerillian just sat and stared.
"I've never used this sword on our missions." Kruber's voice was calm, steady, a voice Kerillian hadn't quite heard from his before. "It belonged to a mate of mine back when I… we served in the Talabecland army." He tapped the engraving on the blade, holding it out for Kerillian to see. "This was his da's sword, given to 'im when he made seargent. When da got too old to fight, he gave it to his son."
Kerillian tilted her head to read the engraving. Her eyes widened ever so slightly. She read the name on the blade, barely audible over the rain."Ubrecht?"
Kruber nodded, gently lowering the sword and continuing to polish it. "Aye. He was a good lad, he was. Stood with me 'gainst greenskins and beastmen, always watching my back. I'd have a lot more scars if he hadn't been there." Kerillian said nothing, keeping her eyes on the blade.
Kruber took another pull from his mug. He smiled softly then, his moustache crinkling. "He became a mercenary with me, y'know. When I first started. We travelled the Empire together. It was a good few years." Kerillian's eyes shot up, her mouth forming a thin line. Kruber kept polishing. "Yea, Ubrecht was a good one. He asked me to look after his blade when he joined me, should anything happen to him."
Kerillian nodded, taking a slow pull from her flask. "It's been, what? 12 years?"
"Aye. Give or take. A blink of the eye to you, but to me…" Kruber sniffed, clearing his throat.
They sat in silence for a few minutes, Kruber steadily working. Kerillian nodded. "I remember my kin talking about it. The foolish men who had wandered in the way of their hunt. He had been there that day, hadn't he? Part of the bait my kin used to take Gorf Darkstrider's horned ugly head."
Kruber shook his head. "Don't get all soft on me now, Kerillian. It's not like you."
Kerillian scowled. "Why don't you hate me? How could you look me in the eyes? I would and have gutted men for drawing a blade against my kin. And your friend died to elven arrows, not beastmen blades."
Kruber stopped, looking her in the eyes. "We fight now for the world as we know it," He said softly. "You've watched me back, saved me from a few scars yourself. You're with us, not your kin. We're the Ubersreik five, elf. And though I wish i could have a shot at those elves, times have changed. You didn't kill my mate. You're watching out for me like he did. And if that's what it taked to save the bloody world, then so be it." He took a shuddering breath. "I miss Ubrecht to hell and back, but that's over and done with. No need for a grudge, not amongst us. You're one of my mates now, and though you might hate us for who we are, I'm happy I have you at my side."
The rain pattered away as Kerillian stood up, leaving her flask on the table. Kruber went back to polishing. Kerillian stopped in the doorway for a moment, turning back to look at Kruber. "I'm… Sorry, Kruber." She turned away before meeting Kruber's eyes, hurrying back into the keep.
Kruber finished his ale, holding the sword in the lantern light. The name UBRECHT stood out amongst the polished sheen. Nodding, kruber gently sheathed the sword. "There," he whispered, eyes glistening. "That wasn't so hard, eh Kruber?" Then he doused the lantern, lifted himself up and made his own way back into the darkness of the keep..
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