As Athena and Doris faced off and Zoey struggled to keep her laughter in check, the scene was drawing almost everyone's attention. The adventurers outside the checkpoint and the mercenaries inside all tried to get a vantage spot on what was going on. Meanwhile, Athena still had a confident grin on her face as she faced Doris, who for some reason was now flexing his arms, which were suddenly very shiny… did he apply oil when Zoey wasn't looking?
Zoey had guessed at this point that Doris was the leader of the Flame Scorpions. If he wasn't, then Zoey did not want to see whoever was. This fellow was quite big enough as it was. Before the situation escalated any further, two more high profile people showed up on the scene.
The first was a grimy, scruffy looking man that was hunched over and walked with a strange sideways shuffle. His armor was painted crimson and the helmet he wore sported a large shark fin on top, presumably marking him as a member of the Sand Sharks. His weapon of choice was a crossbow strapped to his back and some serrated daggers on his thighs.
Right after he showed up appeared a woman who could only be the leader of the Siren Vultures. She was a middle aged woman that waltzed in with a sultry walk that seemed to catch the eyes of everyone around, plus she was dressed in quite revealing clothing made from shiny feathers that seemed to alternate between green and blue in the light. Her head was topped by a headdress that was also made from the feathers and her entire outfit seemed to be designed to draw attention. She carried a staff that was adorned with a large amount of feathers and shiny ornaments that reflected the light.
Naturally each of the leaders was followed by a number of their cadre. Doris was backed up by a collection of burly Vekt and humans that were similarly buff, but not as big as their leader, all sporting big weapons like Doris. The Sand Shark leader was followed by a similar mix of human and Vekt outfitted in crimson, with most carrying a variety of ranged and close quarter weapons. The Siren Vultures were the odd ones out, primarily because all their members were female Vekt and human. All of them were clothed and equipped similar to their leader, with a variety of shiny feathers and baubles drawing attention to the large amount of skin being shown. Zoey thought they were being rather bold with their display judging from the hungry looks they were getting from the crowd. Although, they seemed to have the strength to compete with the other to merc groups, so maybe their display was earned.
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Either way, Zoey only knew from Athena that the three mercenary companies were evenly matched for the most part, and now all three of the leaders and their cadre were standing between Athena and the dungeon portal. Zoey found it interesting to see the variety of expressions on display from the leaders. Doris was the easiest to read with unconcealed eagerness to fight written all over his face. What Zoey had initially mistaken for hostility and anger was actually a simple desire for battle and excitement for an opponent he deemed worthy of attention.
The Sand Shark leader's face was constantly warping between a look of pure hatred and hunger as he stared at Athena. Clearly they had some history as well like Athena had said, and theirs was probably an ugly history. Zoey couldn't wait to ask Athena for the juicy details.
The leader of the Siren Vultures had a comparably calm look on her face. In fact, you could barely see any emotion showing at all, but Zoey's keen eyes spotted a deep envy lurking in the depths of the woman's eyes as she looked at Athena.
They all seemed to have some vice associated with Athena, who faced all of them with her carefree grin while leaning on her staff as if she did this every day. Zoey felt that individually, the leaders of the merc companies were stronger than the man in black had been, but not by much. Together though Zoey had no confidence in beating them on her own. She was impressed that Athena was easily handling the pressure of facing all of them at once.
Doris was was the first to break the stalemate, "Hey! You two can get lost. This is my fight!" He angrily growled at the other two mercenary leaders.
The Sand Shark leader sneered at Doris, "Yeah, just like last time you'll get your ass kicked by her."
"I don't want to hear that from you Loxon, you little shit! Learn to fight like a real man, then you can open your mouth!" Doris retorted loudly to the Sand Shark leader, who Zoey now knew was called Loxon.
"Ha!" Loxon barked a laugh at Doris, "Did you manage to get my crossbow bolt out of your ass? I remember it going in pretty deep!"
The leader of the Siren Vultures ignored the two squabbling next to her and spoke to Athena directly, "Athena, have you considered my offer? If you join my Siren Vultures, I can guarantee you free access to the dungeon plus all the benefits I mentioned before." The woman smiled benevolently as she finished.
Her words instantly drew hostile glares from Loxon and Doris and stopped them from going at each other then and there. Neither of them wanted Athena to go to the other's company, but in this situation the Sirens had the statistical advantage as they were a company of only women. Of course, they all forgot one important thing, and that was Athena herself.
Athena's rich laughter ringing out drew all the attention back to her. She grinned and twirled her staff with one hand, then planted it firmly on the ground with a hard thump. Once the dust settled, she spoke, "Serena, Loxon, Doris... did all of you forget what happened last time?"
Zoey noticed that all the adventurers and mercs that were around them stepped back and appeared slightly nervous when Athena finished her sentence. Interesting reaction. Whatever happened last time must have been quite the show!
Zoey couldn't wait to see what happened next!