Penelope brushed her short brown bangs out of her face then turned around to face the small cache of archers that had followed her into battle and smiled. Not a single archer had been lost, far better than her rival Jessica who had lost over 200 in her last battle. Proudly she marched her troop into the city through the enormous stone towers that stood guard over her city. Several workers rushed out to meet them and unload the food that had carried back from their raid of a nearby swamp, and their captive. Penelope leaped down from her horse as a groom came forward to lead him back to the stable.
"Well, well, what do we have here…" The mayor, Augustine, stepped out from the townhall and walked toward them. The stranger's head was bent, her bright red hair hid her face, but Spencer grasped her by the chin and lifted her face, forcing her dark eyes to look into his bright blue ones. "Well, well, bring her to the inn. We have several recruits waiting, but if they should prove wanting, we just might keep her." He turned and looked at Penelope, "Eat, rest but stay ready, you will be leaving again shortly."
"Again?" She stared at the mayor aghast.
"Unless you happen to be carrying a dozen medals under your cloak yes- again!"
"And the others?"
"Have already come and gone. Well, run along." He gestured impatiently to her. The hills aren't going to raid themselves." Penelope resisted a scowl as she darted off up the crowded main road and towards the inn. Several archers nodded in salute as she passed the barracks but she hurried onward and with a sigh of relief slipped inside the stone feasting hall. Her footsteps echoed off the flag stones floor. Augustine had been the telling truth, the other heroes had already been and gone.
Margarie the inn keeper hurried forward to greet Penelope, "Ah, welcome home Miss Penelope, you are a bit behind the others so it will be a moment while I warm your dinner."
Penelope nodded and attempted to smile as she tiredly slid onto the wooden bench.
"Hello?" A voice called out from the entrance and Penelope spun around to look as a tall man entered. To Penelope his face seemed all angles and points, high distinct cheeks, a perfect straight line for a nose, and a chin that jutted aggressively forward from a square jaw. He wore a leather band studded with metal around his forehead. Penelope was on her feet in an instant, her dagger in her hand.
"What are you doing in here? This hall is reserved for the heroes of this city only."
The man smiled coldly, "Well, then I have come to the right place. I am this city's newest hero."
Penelope regarded him for a moment before she resheathed her dagger, "Very well then." She sat down.
"I am Spencer of Thuringia." The man offered, holding a hand with long fingers.
"I am Penelope, of Saxony."
"You have traveled a great distance."
Penelope shrugged, "I've been around awhile."
"And yet you are very young." Penelope flushed deeply, "I am not so young and in battle the enemy does not usually ask how many years I have seen."
"But we are not in battle, so I could not help but be curious…"
"We are not yet in battle…" Penelope muttered, mostly to herself.
"Ah Penelope, I see you've met our newest!" The Mayour Augustine coud never walk, he always walked into every room as if there was an attentive waiting audiance.
"Yes, we've met." Penelope said shortly.
"Excellent, excellent." Augustine rubbed his fat hands together. Once his hands had known the grip of a sword but those days were long past. "Well Spencer, eat hearty and prepare yourself for battle!" He smiled broadly at them both as Margarie came back carrying two large wooden bowls filled with broth and hearty chunks of meat.
"Me own recipe," She grinned broadly at Spencer and winked at him. Penelope turned away, slightly disgusted and began to eat her own soup with gusto. As soon as she was done, she escaped to her tiny room in the inn to sleep and prepare for the next battle.
A/N: If anyone reads this and likes it I'll write a 2nd chapter