"Mercenary," the wives muttered in disgust.
"Rogue," the young girls scoffed, though they followed him with their eyes and blushed whenever he laid his eyes on them.
"I wouldn't trust him to watch your back," the men in the local taverns confessed. "The two-faced scoundrel would probably run ya through the guts if he was paid well enough."
Of course, no one would've said this to his face. He was just too dangerous-looking to be caught staring at for too long. And that was just the way he liked it. He hated people poking about in his business. And yes, if someone did provoke him long and hard enough, he would run them through with his blade.
And since everyone had been giving him a wide berth ever since he set foot in this accursed village, when a young girl accidentally bumped into him with a bucket full of water, he didn't know how to react.
"Oh, I'm so sorry," the girl murmured, looking up with wide eyes. She was a pretty sight, with long, silky black hair that flowed down her back and equally as dark eyes. She couldn't have been more than 15 or 16 years old. Zake took a step back, slightly annoyed at this child getting in his way.
The girl eyed him curiously, cocking her head to the side with her hair falling over one shoulder, and setting down the bucket. "You're not from here, are you?"
"No, I'm just passing through," Zake replied, adjusting his blue headband. He was very aware of every minute detail on this girl, like how her eyes widened the more she stared at him and a strange teardrop marking on her pale forehead.
"Where do you come from?" she persisted.
"I come and go as I please," he answered, frowning at the girl's curiosity. "I have no place to call home, no man to call friend, and no task is impossible for me."
"And what exactly are your tasks?"
"Anything, if the price is right."
"You're a mercenary," the girl concluded, looking slightly disappointed.
"You could call me that."
Mikaela pursed her lips thoughtfully. "What is your name?"
"Zake Fireblade," he replied, watching in satisfaction as her eyes darted briefly to the immense sword halfway hidden by his cloak. "And what do they call you?" he asked.
"Mikaela, daughter of Vincent the farmer," was her answer, and she bobbed a quick curtsy. "My father owns the big farmhouse in that direction." She indicated the direction of her house. She again picked up her bucket of water and turned to leave.
Zake breathed an inward sigh of relief to be rid of this pesky, persistent girl. However, she turned to ask another question.
"Have you been to many places in your travels?"
"From the eastern coast to as far inland as the thickly wooded areas where the elves have hidden themselves away from men."