Smooth talkers abound among the Hunters of the Horn, and the smoothest of them all is Jedar called Blackcoat. But here we meet a Hunter of a different kind...
Ahi sat at a table near the door of the common room, sipping her drink, and ignoring the man who had boldly taken a seat opposite her. From time to time, a sentence of his reached her ear.
"Are you by chance looking for a companion on the Hunt?" He smiled at her charmingly. She took another sip of her drink.
"After all, it's a dangerous undertaking, for one woman alone. Or one man for that matter." He paused, apparently waiting for her to respond.
"I'm not saying a woman can't cope just as well as a man. Of course not. That would be ridiculous." His smile this time was ingratiating, and had just as little effect.
Abruptly the door slammed open, and a tall man in black strode through. As people glanced up, the strange man held out his hand. A coin glittered in it – then vanished – then appeared again, spinning in his fingers. He tossed it up – it hit the ceiling and fell back down, landing directly before the startled innkeeper.
"Ale," he ordered with a grin.
There was some scattered applause. The man in black bowed as he collected his drink. Looking around the room, his eyes fell on Ahi and on the young man who was still trying to flirt with her. He looked bemused for a moment, before walking over to them. "Excuse me – you do know there's someone talking to you, don't you?"
"You're not a very talkative person, are you?"
This time she gave him a sardonic look that said clearly You noticed.
He chuckled and sat down. "You're a fellow Hunter, I take it. All the towns seem full of us nowadays. Jedar is my name – Jedar Blackcoat."
She nodded, and waited. He looked expectant.
"Traditionally, that's your cue to tell me your name."
Another shrug. Ahi was beginning to enjoy herself.
"Are you playing some kind of game, or do you always talk this little?"
"Which question was that the answer to?"
"Are you having fun?"
"I thought so. Excuse me a moment." Jedar drained his tankard and went over to the counter. He and the innkeeper spoke rapidly, occasionally glancing over at her. It seemed fairly obvious what they were talking about, and she laughed, low in her throat and so soft as to be almost inaudible. This Jedar was a smooth talker, all right, but she didn't feel like talking to him today.
He came back. "The innkeeper says your name is Ahi. That's the Old Tongue for 'Hawk', isn't it?"
"Is that your real name? No, never mind," he interrupted himself, "I know you're not going to answer me. Well, Hawk, do you know what?"
She raised an eyebrow.
"I made a wager with the innkeeper about you. Would you like to know what it was?"
She raised the other eyebrow.
"I wagered that I could get you to say at least three words to me this evening." Jedar grinned. "What do you say to that, Hawk?"
She smiled back at him. Opened her mouth. And spoke.
Author's note: No, it isn't purely original. The 'You lose' story actually happened, the person in question being the US president Calvin Coolidge, nicknamed 'Silent Cal.' There's another tale I like about Silent Cal's verbal economy: when asked what a minister had said in his sermon about sin, Cal replied 'He said he was against it.'