His grin widened. "I wouldn't say great, but it's certainly better than roast rat."
His smile died at her question. "That...is a long story. But I suppose we've got time."
"I'm a mercenary. Used to be the commander of an outfit out of Jasper, actually, the Kaliuda Seventy-Seven. About two months ago, we got hired to deal with a rather prolific bandit group that had been hitting trade near Kolirum-Massar. They were pretty big, so I gathered together the entire company, all seventy-six, and we headed out."
He paused, taking a draw from his wineskin and staring into the fire.
"Ranesbeth had tracked them from one of the sites of their deeds, a large caravan that had gotten attacked and burned. We were coming through the trees, we could see the torches in the distance...and then we were surrounded. Arrows started flying. I got lucky, when my second got hit he pulled me down. By the time I was on my feet, they were all around us and the fight was going. The Company was outnumbered two to one."
He sighed, paused for a long moment. Two months ago? It feels like yesterday.
"The fight was brutal, and I only survived because I got lucky again. One of them rushed me with a mace, caught me a clout on the head. Serves me right for not wearing a helmet, I guess."
He idly stroked the ragged scars concealed by his hair.
"I went down, stunned. But if nothing else, my men were well trained. We broke those bandits. Of maybe a hundred fifty, we killed almost all, except their leader and a handful of henchmen. I haven't heard from them or their leader, Magnus Cromgar, since.
When I came to, there were less than fifteen survivors of my Seventy-Seven, and they had no interest in following me anymore. The Company was broken, they said. We didn't have the gold to rebuild it, and we couldn't even collect the bounty on Cromgar's head. They looted the dead and we went our separate ways. I managed to get to Kolirum-Massar, get my head stitched back together. Since then, I've been doing odd jobs, doing what I can to keep a room at the local inn, trying to stay sane."
He laughed, although it didn't sound mirthful. "Enough about me. What about you? You always follow people along the Massar-Jasper trade road?"