Hildegard led the trio upstairs.
“Here you are,” she said. “The nicest rooms we have left.”
“We only need two,” Inés said, putting an arm around Serena. “And you don’t have to give us the best. There’s no need to put yourselves out so much for us. We’re just happy to be inside and have beds tonight.”
“It’s fine,” Hildegard said. “We don’t have many rooms left, honestly. So, don’t worry about it. While you three settle in I’ll grab you some food.”
She handed them a couple keys, keeping the third, and hurried off.
“She seems like a nice girl,” Serena stated.
Inés nodded. “She seems interested in us too. Her tail has been wagging like crazy.”
“You two, this way,” Sylvie beckoned for them to join her in one of the rooms.
“My, how bold,” Inés said. “I never would have expected that from you. Serena, are you okay with that?”
Serena felt her face flushed. “It’s not for that!” Sylvie declared. “I just need to talk with you two real quick.”
“Aww, too bad,” Inés teased. “Would’ve been a fun night.”
Sylvie glared at her.
The three went into the room and Sylvie closed the door.
“So, what’s up?” Inés asked.
“This situation seems awfully convenient,” Sylvie said. “I have trouble believing that these Esarosas have our best interests at heart.”
“You worry too much,” Inés said. “They’re a nice family.”
“I got that sense as well,” Serena agreed. “Mister Esarosa seems a lot like my own dad.”
“You two are too trusting,” Sylvie stated. “Remember what happened at Ghiana?”
“Hey, all of us got chained up there,” Inés reminded her. “And frankly, I think you’re letting that one incident make you paranoid.”
“Let’s just say, I don’t fancy being drugged and left as giant food again,” Sylvie stated.
“If I may,” Serena said. “I understand the concern. I don’t like being in danger either, especially when all I can do is rely on Inés’ strength. But I also don’t want to be suspicious of everyone we meet. Isn’t it better if we take sensible precautions but don’t get crazy over it?”
The three were interrupted by the sound of the door opening. “Sorry for the wait,” Hildegard said. She was carrying a tray with three bowls, three cups and a loaf of bread. “I brought you some of my mum’s special stew. It’s really good for you! I also brought some tea.” She put the tray down for them.
“Thank you,” Inés said. She took a bite. “That is good!”
Serena grabbed a bowl and tried it herself. “You’re right, it is!” She took a second bite. “What kind of meat is that?”
“It’s got beef, lamb and fish,” Hildegard stated. She sat down, observing Inés and Serena for a moment. “So, you two are a couple?”
“Not quite,” Inés said. “Serena is one of my girlfriends.”
“Oh, I see,” Hilde said. “So, why did you three become priestesses?”
“Well, ever since I was a girl I admired Athena’s priestesses,” Inés said. She sipped her tea. “I wanted to go on adventures, travel across the land and find beautiful girlfriends from far and wide.”
“In my family, it’s considered a great honour to serve the Gods,” Serena said. “I always wanted to be a priestess. When I got old enough I thought long and hard about who I wanted to serve and decided on Athena.”
“That’s really nice,” Hilde stated. She looked at Sylvie, expectantly.
“I was called,” Sylvie stated. “Athena herself appeared to me in a dream and told me to follow her.”
“Is it hard to be a priestess?” Hilde asked.
“I don’t know if it’s hard,” Inés said. “But it requires dedication. And each sect is a bit different. As warrior priestesses, we travel around righting wrongs, helping people and sharing Athena’s wisdom. Which means we have to stay in good shape and study a lot.”
“Are all of Athena’s priestesses like you three?” Hilde asked. “You know, interested in other women?”
“It’s not a requirement,” Sylvie said. “But it does help since we’re forbidden from any kind of romantic or sexual contact with men.” She glared at the young feralial. “How did you know I like other women, anyway?”
“You humans have a physical response when you’re around people you find attractive and it has a faint scent,” Hilde answered.
“You find me attractive?” Inés asked. “So it was like that!”
“Oh please,” Sylvie scoffed. “You might be physically good looking, but you aren’t my type in the slightest.” Inés laughed.
“Why are you so curious about priestesses, Miss Esarosa?” Serena asked. “Were you thinking about becoming one?”
“Well, maybe,” Hilde said. “It’s just… it’s not normal for feralials. It’s not that we don’t thank the Gods but we also don’t take our worship of them as seriously as humans or elves. I don’t know if my parents would understand. They…” She was interrupted by the sound of a loud howl followed quickly by a high-pitched yelp.
“That’s my dad!” Hilde shouted. She ran from the room, accidentally knocking over Sylvie’s untouched cup of tea with her tail.
Inés and Sylvie looked at one another and nodded. They followed after her. Serena took a big gulp of tea, checked her tonfa and followed after them.
They reached the stable pretty quickly. There were four bodies strewn around. Two humans, a troll and a vampire. Wolfgang was leaning against the stable wall, his side slashed open. Heidi was bent over the wound, trying her best to clean it.
“Priestesses,” Wolfgang gasped. “Your mounts are safe. Don’t worry. I managed to drive them back.”
“Don’t try to talk, Dear,” Heidi said. “It’s a nasty wound.”
Hilde sniffed the air. “There were thirteen of them. Mum, the others could…”
“If they come back here I’ll rip their throats out myself!” Heidi snarled.
“Which way did they go?” Inés asked.
“Don’t worry about that,” Heidi said. Her voice more measured. “You just rest up. I’ll make sure the stable’s guarded.”
“It’s not about that,” Inés said. “Your family has been kind to us. We can’t sit by and let a group of bandits get by with this.” She turned to Serena and Sylvie. “Right?”
“It is our duty as Athena’s warriors to mete out justice,” Sylvie agreed. “Dealing with these bandits is a part of that.”
“I’ll track them,” Hilde volunteered.
“Then it’s settled,” Inés stated. “Lead the way and leave the fighting to us.”