By Jaap-Peter Hazelhoff
Chapter 10 - Urban Jungle
Berdusk, 1371 DR, Eleint, 8th day, early evening
As the riders approach the barges, light glistens on a piece of metal that flies through the air and lands a few feet in front of the horses. The clattering of metal on cobblestones spooks the horses. One of the horses jumps to the side, nearly tossing its rider off. Blinking in astonishment at the halfling’s unique ‘welcome’, Portia says quietly, “You do realize these are public docks? Those people could be riding down to the next pier. Tossing your knife at them isn’t exactly a diplomatic thing to do, little one.”
“Especially when you throw the weapon at the watch.” Matteo replies over his shoulder. “Now restrain yourself. You do more harm than good.” Calathra smiles and says sarcastically, “So they are the watch? What better way to introduce a silly, smiling halfling then?” Catching Calathra’s comment, Matteo looks at her briefly before shaking his head and murmuring in halfling, “You do you people a grave injustice, misrepresenting them so.” Before turning his attention back to the approaching watch. Standing as a soldier at ease, straddle-legged with his hands on is back, Kalil casts a disapproving glance at the halfling. Although he says nothing, his look just screams out the message “What in heavens name are you doing?”
The rider of the spooked horse manages to get the horse under control though, as an officer draws his sword and rides forward, followed by a young man wearing a billowing red cloak. The officer’s men forming a protective barrier between the barges and the woman who has her hands full calming her horse. “Who dares to attack the guard!” The officer shouts. “Put down your weapons!” And he rides closer to the barges, his watch uniform clearly visible to everyone on board. Behind him two patrol members have loaded their crossbows, and aim them at the group of people on the barges. The man in the red cloak warns the officer: “Lieutenant. There is an evil about. I can sense it on the barge.”
Portia immediately sets her crossbow on the deck, leaving her mace there as well, her thin-lipped expression and angry eyes letting all know what she thinks of the situation. “Do it.” She says abruptly, not wanting any of the others losing it. Rising slowly to her feet, she waits, resigned to the coming confrontation and hoping Matteo might be able to talk their way out of it. She settles her buckler so that Kelemvor’s symbol is clearly visible.
After controlling the horse again the young woman stays behind the protective wall of men before her. Her hand has slipped to her dagger and she keeps an eye on the surroundings, trying to pierce trough the darkness and fog and hoping she’ll find nothing of importance there. Gripping his staff, a determined looking elf starts looking to his sides and back, searching for any sign of hidden enemies. Stepping forward up over the lip of the barge, Matteo leaps lightly onto the road before the riders. Performing a florid bow he winks at the lady, recognizing her as Ditalidas Jalarghar, in an exaggerated manner before turning to the watch officer. “You would be the assistance Captain Zaina sent then?” He asks.
A little amused smile appears around the corners of Ditalidas’ lips when she notices the wink Matteo send her. She bows her head in a greeting manner and says loud enough for him to hear: “Saer Ashgale. You are in… peculiar company.” Before she blinks out into the darkness and fog again, she looks thoughtful to the knife that lies still on the ground. She feels more at ease now, seeing a familiar face between the strangers at the dock.
“Saer Ashgale. Could you please explain the knife to me?” The officer, Lieutenant Aluar, says to Matteo, a calculating look on the man’s face. “I’m not pleased at being attacked in my city, and certainly not while escorting a Lady of Berdusk.” The two soldiers in the rear with their crossbows have not let their aim down. The light of the lanterns shines into the mists rising out of the harbor, giving the area a spooky feel. Sounds drift strangely through the mist, setting everyone’s nerves tight. Unnoticed by the others, Sara has made her way over to Duvarra and the sailors, who by now have stopped their game and are watching the passengers on the barge and the newly arrived guards warily.
Turning to Lieutenant Aluar with a grave expression on his face, Matteo nods briefly in recognition of his rank and replies, “I too am glad that the Lady Jalarghar is save and unharmed. I know her and would be grievously hurt should anything happen to her. The knife was thrown by one of my companions, someone new to the city and unfamiliar with the ways of humanity. We will endeavor to teach her our ways. Can you tell me whether Captain Zaina has returned to the guard barracks? She asked us to contact her soon with a view to performing a service for the guard and the city.”
Dismounting, the red-cloacked man walks towards the barge passing Matteo. “Indeed.” He says, “This one lacking familiarity with humanity is she the one with the taint of evil upon her soul?” Not waiting for an answer he walks onto the barge nodding to those around, looking for something or someone. The flickering lights of the harbor’s lanterns glistening of the clasps of his cloak, clasps which represent the symbol of the Princess of Passion: Sune.
“She might have returned to the castle, though I had expected her to remain in Memblar’s.” Lieutenant Aluar says, with a bit of a wondering expression on his face at Matteo’s words. “Could it be that your ‘service’ has anything to do with the murder that took place at Memblar’s?” Matteo, in an absentminded manner, strokes the nose of the officer’s horse. “She has left Memblar’s.” He replies in acknowledgement, “And yes, we have been asked to investigate the murder and those tied to it. Early indications point towards Darkhold and an alliance with the church of Velsharoon.” Smiling slightly up at the lieutenant Matteo adds, “Captain Zaina would prefer that the investigation does not take the appearance of an official one to avoid complications.” Turning towards Ditalidas, Matteo gives another brief nod of his head and says, “Good evening my lady. I am pleased to see that you did not come to any harm. May I enquire as to what you are doing out this evening?”
Listening to Matteo chat to the lady and the Lieutenant, Portia rolls her eyes. She also watches the leather-clad Sunite curiously. “I suppose I can retrieve my gear now?” She asks wryly, doing just that. Smiling down at the priestess of Kelemvor as she retrieves her gear Telsom makes idle conversation. “You and your gear would have been most helpful earlier in the day priestess. Undead and Velsharans a plenty have given us trouble on the road outside of town.” Portia pales at the mention of the Velsharans, her already fair complexion becoming ghostly white. “At the edge of town, you say?” She grips her mace anxiously. “Again we come across the signs of the blasphemers.” She fumbles at her belt, pulling the slip of paper out. “A man was abducted tonight, possibly murdered. Before he was attacked, he was able to hand this off to us.” She shows the man the paper. “He was also carrying a magical ring of a type that is quite common within my church, a ring I would not expect any but a Priest of Kelemvor to bear.” She shows him the ring on her hand.
“Matteo.” She calls, “did you hear him? They ran into some Velsharans at the very edge of town!” Talking to the watch lieutenant and Lady Jalarghar, Matteo turns at the sound of his name, waving to Portia in acknowledge that he has heard her call. A thought comes to Portia, chilling her slightly. Addressing the Sunite once more, she says, “They didn’t happen to be invisible, did they? Riding hard?” Almost as an embarrassed afterthough she adds, “I’m Portia by the way, Portia Coldspring.”
“A pleasure milady Coldspring, well it would be if not for this unpleasantness concerning Velsharans. Yes priestess, they were invisible at first, the evil upon them was strong and so I knew they were up to no good even before one of them dropped this symbol.” Reaching into a pouch at his belt Telsom withdraws a symbol Velsharoon. “When I hunt down the owners of this symbol I shall bury it with them. The riders did not pay us much heed, except for the lady Ditalidas that is, they seemed quite interested in her but in their hurry kept going instead of confronting us. I would have followed them but the lady and I were sharing my steed, I would not have been able to keep up with them.” Telsom looks down at his hand a shame seeming to hang on his shoulders as he gazes at the symbol. “Earlier in the day we rescued the lady from a small assault of undead. We managed to kill a third of their number, but the one controlling them was off in the woods and we had to flee before their greater numbers dragged us down. Our flight is… not something I am proud of though I am glad the lady is safe.” Telsom’s speech done he looks to Ditalidas making sure all is well with the group he returns his attention to the priestess and her companions. “There was an evil on the barge here but a few moments past, it is gone now however and hope you all are not insulted by my abrupt behavior.”
With a small smile Ditalidas looks at Matteo. “I could ask you the same, saer.” Her smile disappears as she continues. “To answer your question though, we were on our way to Memblar’s. The lieutenant here thought there might be some connection between what happened over at Memblar’s and what happened to me. I was attacked earlier this evening. If you indeed are charged with the investigation I’ll tell you all about it and will assist you in all possible ways, but if you don’t mind, I don’t like doing that on horseback at the docks.” She says with a significant look on the dark and misty surrounding. “This weather gives me the creeps… or maybe it’s just today’s events that make me feel this way.” She adds with an uneasy glance. Matteo looks directly at Lady Jalarghar for a moment before replying, “Then we shall have to find somewhere more accommodating. The Running Stag should be quiet enough at this hour for conversation as well as being well situated. If my lady would have no objections, we could retire there?” The smile she tosses him could have been a warm one if it wasn’t for the sadness lingering in her eyes, “Sounds perfect to me.”
While listening, Grim shakes his head slightly in what seems to be disbelief. “Velsharans, Undead, Evil, Murder…? What have I gotten my self into?” Softly muttering these words he takes another sad sigh and then turns towards Portia. “I am not very familiar with these Velsharans, but could it be that they have taken the body because they intend to raise it from its final rest? And if so, can they get information from what once was our friend? Oh, for those of you who have just arrived, my name is Grim. And yes, I also have sworn to bring this awful matter to a much happier ending… but something tells me that I might regret this” Grim starts another soft monologue about the injustice of him being dragged into a mystery involving lots of nasty dangerous things. Scratching his chin Telsom looks to Grim. “Why would a group such as the Velsharans act out in the open just to find a new addition to their league of undead? It doesn’t sit well. It would have been easier to grab someone on the road then to do so in a bustling city, usually the fiends work with more subtlety.”
“Though they might very well raise him, if he is dead, it was that second thing that’s more likely.” Portia grimaces with distaste. “The scum have no reservations about disturbing the dead, and if they have enough power, they could indeed wrest information from the fallen.” Her feeling toward the Velsharrans is even more evident in her right hand, which is unconsciously clenched in a white-knuckled fist. “Even thinking of them makes me feel sick.” Grim shudders slightly with a look of disgust on his face. “I for one would feel much better if we could find someplace safe to spend the night. I would also like another look at that piece of paper… I think that with some time and concentration I can discover its secrets. Tharkas’s last act was to slip this into trusted hands when he saw his death coming… it must be important!”
Calathra sighs and then says angrily “I say we’re in over our heads. I hate to resort to the guard, but what say you TallMan about all of us going to see if the High Lady can help us? I hear she’s with the Harpers and the others and perhaps their magicks can help us? I excuse myself for the bitter welcome.” Finishing her little speech the halfling puts her small hand in Kalil’s, shaking. She did not expect adventuring to be such a serious and deadly business.
Kalil still stands in the front of the boat, more or less just looking at the things happening around him. He clearly doesn’t know what to think of it all. But at least the riders react quite relaxed, and Matteo even seems to know the newcomers. He doesn’t physically respond until he feels the small hand of Calathra. As soon as he feels it, he jerks away his hands, as if the halfling frightened him. He looks down at the halfling and says, solemnly “First causing trouble and now run to me when you can’t cope with the consequences of your deed?”
Portia nods in agreement with Grim, and listens to Calathra bemusedly. Nodding toward Matteo, she says, “Um, you do realize that Matteo is an agent of the Berduskan government? He’s already been told to investigate the circumstances around the troubles that have been cropping up. Any requests for aid are likely to come right back to him.” Stepping lightly, Portia steps around Telsom and makes her way over to Matteo and the guard patrol. She nods politely to the lady Matteo is chatting with. Ditalidas is about to say something to Portia when she is suddenly distracted, and looks into the alley leading toward Memblar’s
Looking down at the halfling Telsom gives a wide smile, “Well you are a lovely thing aren’t you my dear.” Winking at the woman he leaves the barge going back to his steed he leans on it, listening to the conversation. Appraising the man called Matteo, he goes on to retrieve a brush from his saddle bag and gently goes over Terri’s flanks with it, taking a carrot out he passes it to her kissing her between the eyes as she goes to take it. “What would I do without you Teri?” He mutters patting his steed with love.
From his hiding place between the crates behind Memblar’s, Marc has been able to see the scene unfold in front of him. Moving cautiously, he moves a little closer to the edge of the crates, signalling Friend to stay. The rest of the discussion is lost on Marc, as one of the guards is approaching his hiding place. Yet the guard seems to walk by, again it seems Marc has outwitted the grown-ups. As he shifts his weight slightly, his right foot slips on the crate, making a scraping sound. The guard turns around and looks in Marc’s direction, “You there, young man, get down from those crates.“
Looking up Ditalidas sees a young man almost hidden in the shadows. Druth remains seated on his horse, a little while back, as he tries to understand what exactly is going on, with all these tales of ambushes, murders, and evil worshippers. Obviously, he still has much to learn, and the ‘locals’, i.e. Matteo, Portia and Ditalidas seems to know the most about it. When Portia approaches, he prepares himself to dismount and greet her, but stops when the guard shouts his warning to the newcomer.
When there is a break in the conversation, Portia interjects, “It’s been suggested that we find a place where we can discuss this inside, or at least, off the docks. Also, Grim thinks he might be able to find whatever that slip of paper is hiding, and again, the docks aren’t the place for that either.“ She also takes that time to introduce herself to the lady and her other companion. At the sound of the guard’s challenge, Portia glances over, and is somewhat surprised at her own reaction, when she realizes she’s readied her crossbow to fire. Watching the scene unfold, she mutters, “Yep, time to get off the docks…“
Kalil leaves the boat and walks towards the riders; he is about to introduce himself to the riders, when he is being distracted by some action in the alley behind Memblar’s. At the top of the stack a young lad provokingly slowly makes himself visible. He appears to be a young country boy, simply dressed in dark rough material. Like jute: a sleeveless mock and nearly black trousers, held into place by a simple rope. He raises his arms, clearly showing his empty hands. A simple bow hangs over one of his shoulders though. The lad is slim, in a sinewy way, not at all tall, and carries a halo of curly brown hears around his bowed head. A kind of coat, made from dark gray fur, hangs loosely on his shoulders. On his left shoulder you can see a couple of scars, which have to be keepsakes to serious wounds.
As the boy looks down at the gathered warriors and guards, his big brown – sad looking – eyes can be seen. Fear and surprise can be seen on his face, mingled with acquiescence. He stands for a few seconds, but as the guard below him is frowning quite seriously, he shrugs his shoulders and rises his eyebrows and smiles lightly as if to say: “Ok, have it your way.“ then he jumps off the crates, landing skillfully on his feet, his hands just touching the ground for a brief second, then – in one smooth movement – rising again. As a true street kid he looks the guard straight in the eye, whispering “It’s a giant leap for man, a tiny step for mankind.“ The soldier quirks an eyebrow at the lad, and grabs him by the arm and leading the boy to Lieutenant Aluar. “Yeah, hold me firmly this time, “the youngster, apparently referring to an earlier meeting with the guard, with an daring smile staring the guard in the eyes, “I might outrun you again!“
Matteo watches the youth leap lightly down to the street intently, his face impassive, while waiting for Lieutenant Aluar to respond. “This one was sneaking about in the alley saer.“ The guard says looking at the lad and then back to the lieutenant, “He might have been around for a while.“ Lieutenant Aluar looking down from his horse to the young man still held by the guard asks. “Well lad, maybe you can tell me why you were sneaking about in that alley?“ As soon as she realizes her target is a young boy, Portia raises her aim, chilled at what might have happened.
Brought before the lieutenant the boy moderates, he looks at the sword in Aluar’s hand, takes a peek around at all those men in armor, realizing he might have bitten off more than he can chew. His smile subsides slowly and a glance of fear appears in his eyes. Before the boy can answer, a dog comes running out of the alley, and starts barking to the guard. The black and white shepherd’s dog barks and bares his teeth to the guard in an attempt to intimidate the guard. The guard, still holding on to the boy’s arm, tries to shoo the dog away, clearly not feeling entirely safe.
“Tell your companion to be quiet.“ Lieutenant Aluar says to the boy, “And please answer my question.“ The lieutenant tries to steady his voice, but the mirth that shows in his eyes at the guard’s predicament reaches his voice as well. It seems infectious as the rest of his patrol, except for the unfortunate guard; all have difficulty containing their mirth. The lad, just a bit encouraged by the appearance of the dog and the chemistry that evidently hangs in the air, but not at all at ease, takes out on the dog: “He! Down! Quiet!“ And as the dog promptly, be it slowly, obeys his command, he adds, “Down you! Quick now!“ At this time the dog already is lying quietly on the paving, her eyes still focused on the guard and her impressive teeth still clearly visible. The lieutenant sheathes his sword and after dismounting walks over to the lad, putting a hand on the boy’s shoulder, “Well lad, at least you can start by telling me your name.“ The boy, still a bit fearful, looks up at Aluar, and stammers, barely audible, “Ehm, I – I – Marc.“
Ditalidas turns her horse so she can give the boy a good look. Her eyes narrow when she notices the scars on his shoulder and the fear in his eyes. “Nobody here is going to do you any harm boy. I’ll see to that. Do you mind telling us who you are and what you were doing on those crates?“ She asks in a friendly tone. Continuing to dote attention on his horse Telsom gives the boy a small smile before continuing on with his work. Unobserved, he pays close attention to the lad, but by Sune’s grace, cannot find anything evil on the boy.
Immediately Marc ducks as if he has been hit, before he slowly rises again, apparently not realizing until now what was said. Astonished Ditalidas looks at the repertoire of reactions of the boy. Sadness crosses her face as she sees him ducking away as if she hit him personally. Marc’s brown eyes open wide in pleasant astonishment as he looks at the person who talked that friendly to him. He looks at lady Ditalidas for seconds and as he sees the pain beneath her smile a gleam comes in his eyes. At the same moment he blushes as if he has infringed her privacy and blushes deeply, as he looks away even red smudges can be seen, appearing at the sides of his neck. Then he suddenly tears loose his arm and in a clumsy yet graceful way he kneels on one knee, his forehead touching his other knee.
Feeling a little uncomfortable, Ditalidas looks around to the people standing around her, a slight blush coloring her cheeks. After another few seconds Marc cautiously lifts his head again. Again he looks her in the eyes, the gleam and blush still visible, before he states modestly “Your humble servant, Her Highness!“
A warm smile touches Ditalidas’ lips and a glimmer of that smile reaches her eyes. She gives him an encouraging nod. For a moment not knowing how to respond, she lets it pass and listens attentive to Marc’s story. Smiling at the young boy’s behavior and the puzzled look on Ditalidas’ face, Druth says, “Well, milady, it seems you have made yourself a new fan.“
Then Marc raises and turns to the Lieutenant again and says, more confident, “I’m Marc, Ursula’s son, a free civilian.“ He straitens his back as he speaks these words, “of the village Dryham, not too far from the city Dreights.“ As he continues he takes a better look at the folk around him. “And about what I was doing up there, Saer, Her Highness, I did nothing wrong, saer, I just sat there a while after a meal. A fairly deserved meal, saer, her highness, just sitting. I didn’t want to be of any nuisance, saer.“ As his eyes cross the halfling he stalls a moment, then he carries on. “Ehm, her highness, absolutely no nuisance at all, saer, so I kept my big feet out of the way, her highness, saer, of important people, saer, like this splendid princess, saer… ehm, her highness.“ He nods thankfully smiling at his protectress, before he falls silent and turns back at Aluar, modestly keeping his eyes down again.
Grim is still standing on the barge, arms folded across his chest looking at the scene unfolding before his eyes. Again a smile moves over his face as he shakes his head slightly. “Might as well join them to face this new danger.“ He says to himself, as he starts walking towards the rest of the group. He carefully examines the youth from top to toe. “A boy and his dog… hardly cause for alarm I would say.“ Turning his gaze from the guard to the youth, “excuse my easily frightened companions, they’ve had a very… how shall I call it… interesting day so far so they are a bit on edge.“ He then bends down a bit to look the dog straight in the eyes and tries to get it’s attention by making funny faces and weird sounds that animals are supposed to like.
Marc can’t help himself as he sees this fierce looking man act this lighthearted and laughs loudly. “Come on, Friend, say hello to this gentleman.“ He says to the dog. And the dog, which was still lying quietly, walks to the man and sits right in front of him, presenting her right paw. Seeing the unlikely ‘meeting’ of man and dog, Druth now laughs, as if to shake away all of the days’ unpleasantness turns to Telsom and says, “I told you, my friend, we will not be short of surprises in this town. Let’s just hope at least some of them will be pleasant, like this one.“
Giving Marc and the dog a last look she turns to Matteo. “Why don’t we go to The Running Stag? We can hear over there what he over heard and I think Marc here could appreciate a hot drink.“ Thinking aloud in a soft tone she continues: “Maybe we even can arrange him a place to sleep. If needed Agey even might have some room somewhere.“ Again she gives the boy a glance, looking if he overheard her and if he did, hoping she didn’t scare him off. “Yes I’d much prefer not to have to draw steel while staying within the city limits.“ Telsom looks to Druth as he says the words but then continues on with his horse until his companions decide to go to the Stag.
Ditalidas turns to Portia. “I’m sorry I got distracted. I didn’t mean to ignore you. Let’s just say that it’s been a harsh day. My name is Ditalidas Jalarghar. That man over there is Druth Symbaern.“ Ditalidas points Druth out with a nod in his direction. “And I believe you just met Telsom Torentshed. These two gentlemen saved my life today.“ She tosses both men a grateful smile. Portia waves away the apology. “It’s nothing. Telsom mentioned some undead…“
Suddenly brought back to reality by the mention of his name, Druth finally dismounts. Walking up to Portia he adds, “Well met. As the lady said, my name is Druth Symbaern.“ He then looks at the others and bows slightly to them. “Why don’t we all get warm and comfortable and discuss matters when we’re in The Running Stag.“ Adjusting a stirrup on his his horse, Druth comments with a gentle smile, “As always, you seem to be possessed of great wisdom. I agree.“
Climbing up onto Teri’s back Telsom lets out a small yawn while waiting to be taken to the tavern. Scratching the back of his neck he looks at those around him, smiles and then whisper’s into Teri’s ear. “Well my dear, it looks like we might have some companions and some fresh competition about. Not that I much care for competition, but alas I’m talking to a horse. But such a smart horse.“ The last is said as he massages the end of one of Teri’s ears.
Still looking at the newcomer Matteo purses his lips in consideration, his expression still impassive. Glancing back up at Lady Jalarghar he replies, “As you say. The Running Stag it is then. You should go on ahead my lady, my companions and I will be along shortly.“ Portia looks inquiringly at Matteo, the question on her face obvious. ‘Now what?’ Catching Portia’s look Matteo gives her a slight smile and replies, “Now we gather up this crew and head to the Running Stag for something warm to eat and drink. Some will require accommodations and these the Stag offers as well. It has the added benefit of being close to Lady Angruatil’s, the Jalargharspires, and the High Lady’s Castle. Over food and drink we can pool what information we have available before deciding how to proceed.“
“Best things I heard all day… I feel so hungry I could eat a whole dwa… ehm… horse.“ Giving the dog a final goodbye funny face Grim straightens himself follows the others towards the promise of warmth, food and a chance to get another look at that mysterious piece of paper. Kalil looks bemused at the approach of the young boy, maybe even more so when he sees the heart-warming meeting of Grim and the dog. Again he attempts to introduce himself to the Lady. He does so in a clearly foreign way. It becomes apparent though, he knows how to do it politely and according to the rules of the marvelous thing called etiquette. He bows to the Lady, “I’m honored to meet you, dear Lady. My name is Kalil of Gildenglade. I’m a traveler from ‘Zulla, the gem of Amn…“ When Kalil introduces himself Ditalidas gives him a polite nod. “I’m pleased to meet you.“
“I’m sold by the meaning of my friend Grim, a good meal and a warm fire would be platinum!“ Kalil says to all. He walks towards the boat to fetch his horse. This steed is a fine example of how Arabian horses should be. It is strong, yet elegant and seems to welcome its owner. “Calm, Corundum, there’s nothing to fear. I’ll take you off the boat and then I’ll take you for a ride.“ It seems the horse can’t wait to do so. On shore again, Kalil mounts Corundum and says to the other riders “Let’s go where ever you folks wanted to go!“ He reaches out a stretched hand to one of the people who are not on horses yet – except for Calathra. Ditalidas shivers for a moment in the cold air. “Yes I agree. I’d like to get to The Running Stag as soon as possible.“ When she turns to lieutenant, she sees Marc whispering to him.
Still a bit giggling Marc turns to Aluar and starts to talk only audible to him. Only the elegant Grim is close enough to hear them over. Marc says, his brown eyes sparkling with laughter, “Please saer. Don’t be too harsh on them, if you think they handled me too hard.“ He nods at the guard who ran him in just yet, “I’ve met him and his tall friend a couple of times now and they are… a bit… well, you know… You see, saer, in fact it’s me who is to blame. You see, saer… ehm… the last time I met them, just a few weeks back… well saer, he just shouldn’t have asked whether I paid for that apple, saer, I just had to deny it. Then it took those two half an hour or so to find out it was given to me by the greengrocer himself. “Marc’s eyes light up in a smile at this memory, “so, it’s quite understandable if he would be a little cross on me, saer. And for these bruises, saer, well, the laugh was worth it!“ He turns his head to take a peek at those guards, then, at normal volume, he adds, “Well saer, I think am free to go now?“ With a smile and a wink Lieutenant Aluar replies, “Of course you are.“
Looking down at the young man, Ditalidas says: “I was hoping you would join us to The Running Stag young man. I really like to hear from you what you overheard up there. I don’t want to find out you misinterpreted what is said here. You might go telling the weirdest stories to your friends and we don’t want to draw attention to ourselves at this moment. Unfounded rumors are the worst of attention we could wish right now. Would you be so kind to accept this invitation and join us for a hot drink?“
Marc looks up at the exalted lady, trying to value her meaning. Seeing her gentle smile, he cheers up and says loudly, “Well, her highness, I’m not used to this kind of events, but of course I won’t decline a good pint-a-bitter!“ He smiles warmly at her, his eyes still seriously observing the recognizable pain in a person so distant. Then his eyes twinkle a bit and he once again kneels briefly in a perhaps a little punctilious way, before giving her another warm look, adding “thank you, her highness, I’ll drink it at your well-being!“
Turning towards the guard’s officer, Ditalidas gives the man another thankful smile. “Lieutenant Aluar? If Captain Zaina didn’t want to be associated with this group, it might be wise to split up from here. I appreciated your escort. My sincere thanks for that.“ Ditalidas smiles at him, but it’s a sad smile full of pain. “I hope you will keep your promise and check on the scene I was attacked at, first thing in the morning.“
“Indeed I will milady, I will make sure a patrol will ride out at first light to investigate. We will be leaving you now. I have to report back to Captain Zaina.“ Lieutenant Aluar salutes to Ditalidas, and walks up to his horse, and mounts it. Looking at the group, he says, “My ladies, gentlemen. You should be able to get to the Running Stag safely. I expect there will be lodging available. If not in the Stag, then The Dancing Maiden is an alternative. It’s also close by, and almost always has rooms available.“ Stepping his horse to Matteo, the lieutenant leans toward the Sembian, “See what you can find out between all of you on what’s going on. I will see if I can arrange a means of contact, without compromising your ‘unofficial’ status.“
Marc listens to this conversation quietly. Then, after a short moment of looking around at all those impressive people apparently ready to go, he says, not at anyone in particular, “the Stag? That’s at the other end of town! Near the Woods-gate, isn’t it? You’d better get started then.“ He hesitates again before adding: “… Ehm… I’ll just collect my stuff, won’t be a moment!“ Then he swiftly turns and runs into the alley, softly whistling a cheerful tune. The dog follows his boss immediately.
Nodding at the lieutenant Matteo replies, “Very well, I will come to the castle after we have pooled information to update Captain Zaina and see if she has no further information of use. If you want a means of contact, start negotiations with Lady Angruatil for the purchase of fine cloth for new watch uniforms. Personal correspondence can be slipped in with official with no one the wiser.“
“Good suggestion, I’ll see what I can do. Till Swords Part.“ Lieutenant Aluar salutes all of you, and rides off with the rest of the patrol, which had mounted their horses in the mean time. The one guard giving another frowning look at Marc.
Calathra the halfling sighs and speaks up to Kalil, “Forget me, Kalil – I will allow you not to look down upon me. So much for presents Merchant!“ Calathra raises her voice to speak to the others “I may be small – in – size and have no mount but I believe I deserve not the treatment you’re giving me, TallMan. I’ll be staying in the Dancing Maiden until someone, you oh – so – noble Ditelidas or anyone except Kalil the merchant. Feel free to drop my and explain the whole situation to me. I saw death, gore and waterfalls of confusing talk about some priests of this human fate or other. I know not what it has to do with anything in this human establishment – where are the Harpers? What is going on? What am I expected to do? Till swords part.“ Calathra adds preparing to leave for the Dancing Maiden, wherever it may be.
Matteo turns his impassive features to Calathra as she speaks and as she finishes he crosses over to her as she gathers her belongings and readies to leave. Squatting down before her to make eye contact he quietly asks in halfling, “Calathra, what treatment have you received that is so different from that the rest of us have received?“ Calathra grins and adds: “Why saer, none at all. And I am special – this is my adventure! No one will take it away from me!“
Still speaking in halfling, Matteo grins slightly and asks, “Then why do you wish to stay at the Maiden by yourself? Why not accompany us to the Stag? That way you stay in the center of all that happens and will not miss any of the adventure. Come with us Calathra.“ Calathra rolls her eyes and said “And you guarantee to explain it all to me and to treat me as you would an ordinary human lass, Matteo?“
Matteo looks at Calathra for a moment before replying (still in halfling), “I promise to treat you just as I would treat any other person Calathra. With the respect you deserve and earn. I cannot promise to explain everything, for I do not understand everything at present. But what I can do, I will. Is that fair enough?“ Calathra bites her lower lip and whispers in halfling “You better start explaining right away, Tallman. I suggest the two of us leave for the Dancing Maiden where you will help me, will you not, Matteo? If so, then there is a matter of my bags too – I’m too weak to carry them for myself, so…“
“Calathra…“ Matteo replies gently, “I am not going to the Maiden. I am going to the Stag with the others. We need to pool all the information we have in order to find out what is happening. We cannot do that if some of us go to the Maiden and some go to the Stag. I cannot explain everything if I do not gather the information first. But I can help you with your bags if you accompany us.“ Calathra shrugs and answers: “I’ll let it be so then, Matteo. Take good care of those bags and I will wait to hear the story, human.“
Marc, now carrying a shepherd’s staff, and the dog return from the alley. He stops near the head of Ditalidas’ horse, staring at the halfling and Matteo, listening at incomprehensible words. His eyebrows are frowned. Puzzled he caresses the nose of the horse. Marc suddenly shakes his head, like a dog that had a swim. “It’s not a girl, it’s a halfling woman! Of course!“ He whispers exited, slamming his right fist into his left hand. Then he gives the horse his full attention for a moment. Looking at its backward pointed ears, he speaks tenderly, still softly caressing the nose. The horse slowly comes at ease a bit.
“Thank you, Calathra.“ Matteo whispers softly before standing and returning to the Lady Jalarghar. Giving her a slight bow he says, “My lady, if you would be so good as to gather your companions and proceed to the Stag we will meet you there shortly. Ask the innkeep to set aside all his rooms until we can determine how many we will need and order in some hot dinner from one of the nearby restaurants or taverns.“ Looking back over at those gathered on the docks and the barge Matteo adds quietly, “It should not take us too long to get there.“
From atop her horse, Ditalidas nods. “We’ll see you there.“ Then she looks at her companion. “Whenever you wish to depart I am prepared Ditalidas.“ The paladin says to the lady with a hint of excitement in his voice. “I’m ready.“ She says giving Telsom a small smile, “Would one of you be so kind to take the boy with you?“ She asks, addressing both Telsom and Druth. “I would hate to see him missing his drink.“ Her gaze indicates that the drink is not the only reason why she wants to take him along. After that she gently spurs her horse in The Running Stag’s direction. Slowly she rides on, waiting for the others to catch up with her.
Looking at Ditalidas, Druth says, “I’m not quite sure about what you have in mind, milady.“ He looks as if he was about to say something, but then changes hid mind: “But then it’s not my place to speculate about anyone’s thoughts…“ Turning to Marc, he adds, “So, young one, shall we go?“ He then mounts and waits for the boy, adding “Nice dog, by the way. How do you call it?“
“Yeah, a nice dog! I call him `Friend’. That’s what she is.“ Marc seeing that eventually people are beginning to move, answers Druth, saying, “I’m alright as I am. I think I can see more of your companions without horses, so I think I’ll just walk with them.“ He pauses to think. “… Or… If you folks don’t ride too fast I can try to keep up running…“ He pauses again “… On the other hand, I won’t decline a ride either.“
“So let’s go.“ Druth says as he lends a hand to help the boy up. “Oooh“ Marc releases a little groan as he climbs the horse, “I… Ehm… yes, very right! Thank you!“ He’s a bit anxious about the height and looks down to the ground and his dog. They both seem to be fine and Marc kinda relaxes.
As the group prepares to head for the Running Stag, Ditalidas, Telsom, Kalil and Druth with Marc ride ahead on their horses. Matteo, Grim, Portia and Calathra are following on foot. Matteo is carrying the surprisingly heavy backpacks for the halfling. Grinning slightly as he hefts Calathra’s surprisingly heavy baggage, Matteo says to Telsom, “If you could take some of this it would be appreciated.“ The paladin nudges his horse over and takes the bags from Matteo, then he urges Teri along to catch up with the others who are approaching the Handspan Bridge.
Sitting behind Druth, Marc looks at the back of the man’s head. Then realization dawns as he thinks, ‘An elf! I’m sitting against an elf! What would grandpa say to that!’ Sensing Marc’s curiosity and amazement, Druth laughs heartily, and can’t stop himself from thinking about his own words earlier to Telsom; ‘We won’t be short of surprises today…’
“What had you been saying to the horse young master?“ Druth asks his passenger. “Well I could see the horse was tense… very tense!“ Marc says, “A bit… well how shall I say… Unhappy to say the least. So I tried to calm her down a bit, of course. You would have done the same probably, had you seen it first. It’s a nice horse, keen to work, but quite obedient and basically calm. I like them that way, don’t you?“ Making a small pause, as if to absorb what Marc just told him, Druth says “Hmmm… I see. Yes, unfortunately you’re right, I’m not that gifted with animals, which is a shame, since they are wonderful creatures. But I am really interested in what you sensed about the horse. Yet that can wait, I think. Please, young one, tell me more about you.“ Marc waits a little, as if thinking about the question, then replies. “Well Saer… this might not be the right moment and actually there isn’t that much to tell… well maybe there is…“ Marc falls silent for a while as if in thought. When the hooves of the horses clatter on the bridge, he starts to sing.
When the horses have pass the bridge, Marc starts singing, at first quite silently and with trembling voice, but very soon he sings lustily, as his bright soprano voice resounds in Berdusk’s streets. He sings the silly light-hearted children’s song ‘The five footed horse.’ In this song the first four verses tell how this horse, with its obvious clumsiness, encounters all sorts of hilarious events. The refrain, with its weird rhythm; ‘Clickerthyclick – Clack; Clickertyclick – Clock’ is in a way even more amusing. At the fifth verse, as children’s song tend to; the tides take a turn when this horse’s special feature saves the day for his boss.
While singing Marc’s brown eyes – gleaming enthusiastically – peek charily at the lady from time to time from behind Druth’s back. For a moment Ditalidas’ eyes brighten. A small smile touches her lips as she remembers the song from long ago. Softly she hums the tune and sings some of the words softly. Noticing Marc peeking, she throws him a wink. But after that her attention drifts off and she is again lost in her own thoughts.
From the bridge the riders go on to the Minstrelride. The changing of the guard at the Temple of Helm draws some of their attention, but they ride on towards Castle Hill and the Stag. As they have passed the temple, Kalil notices a small and slender tower, almost Calishite in design, which has the symbol of Azuth prominently displayed on it in some sort of magical lighting.
Kalil looks astonished towards the slender tower. He rides his mount up to Telsom and asks him in a sincere voice “Dear Telsom. You’re a paladin, right? You should know what is morally acceptable. What is your opinion about that tower?“ Kalil points at the small and slender tower, and adds “Why is the symbol of Azuth there, visible for all? I mean, why hasn’t it been removed or something?“ Kalil seems tensed and eager to hear the answer.
A look of confusion crosses Telsom’s face for an instant before understanding comes to his features. “Wizards and Sorcerers are welcomed with open arms in these regions my friend. My faith has me look on everything with curiosity; I’m always looking for beauty within and without. To my eyes the tower is a beautiful piece of architecture the symbol of Azuth held prominently reminds me that his faith tries to curb the use of destructive magic while devoting much time to the use of constructive magic. Destructive magic destroys so many beautiful things, so it warms my heart to know that there are other gods at work in preserving beauty than Lady Firehair. Azuth does have dealings with Velsharoon though, I wonder if the people in that tower would have any information on activities concerning our Velsharans.“ Scratching his chin as he looks at the tower he returns his attention to Kalil. “I can understand why the symbol may be of some insult to you. Each region, each city has its own set of laws, beliefs and ways of living. A traveler by nature and occupation I must try to do right by all those individual beliefs whenever I find myself in their jurisdiction, unfortunately that cannot always be so. When in doubt I rely on my faith to guide me through, the only one I really need answer to is Sune after all is said and done.“ Come let’s go to the Stag where we can forget about differences and celebrate things we all have in common.
During the explanation, Kalil’s face seems to brighten up. Smiling in a content manner, he says, “So those who practice the art are welcomed in these parts without any prejudice? For me, Amnian, that’s somewhat hard to understand. I’m in favor of it though.“ He laughs aloud, and continues “I am sold you understood me wrong. The tower or the symbol by no means insults me. On the contrary, I’m pleased to see them. You seek solace in Lady Firehair; I seek my comfort in the High One and the Lady of Mysteries.“ Kalil pauses and looks at the others, and then concludes, “Maybe you are right. Maybe we should forget our differences and seek common ground. On the other hand, the very fact we’re different may just be our greatest asset. It would be a pity to waste such a fine opportunity. I suggest we all get to know each other better and share our information. That way, we will be better equipped to investigate the murder of Tharkas.“
Happy that the tower or what it stands for doesn’t insult the man, Telsom smiles at him. “Sune completes me.“ He says staring down at his steed and patting her head lovingly. “Isn’t that right Teri?“ For a moment Kalil is deep in thought, then he says, “Anybody is completed by something or someone“, Kalil returns. Pensively, he adds “It just takes something different for each person, I guess…“
“I agree my friend.“ Telsom says, “Unfortunately some people take their entire lives to find what it is that completes them. Quite often it is something that has been hiding right under their noses and they’ve just never taken the time to look. Lady Firehair spoke to me one night when I was but a child, I was lucky for at that moment I knew exactly what would complete my life.“ Smiling first at his steed and then at Kalil he continues. “I am the first of a new order of knights of the Temple of Beauty in Waterdeep. I hail from Silverymoon but have lived primarily at the temple for the past few years. It is my duty to find the devoted of Sune and bring them into our order should that be their wish.“
“So, your are a knight? I’ve heard a lot of stories about that lot.“ Kalil answers jokingly to Telsom’s introduction. “I’m afraid my story is a somewhat less exiting. I’m the son of a gem cutter, learned his trade and am now abroad for traveling seemed like a good plan, it just might bring me some opportunities I wouldn’t have at home…“ Kalil pauses for a moment, seemingly reflecting some thoughts. Then he adds, “I’m sure this journey will give me more possibilities to do what I want than staying home. Definitely.“
Telsom says nothing, smiling and looking to the road ahead. Winking at the man Telsom calls ahead to Ditalidas. “Milady are we close to the establishment?“ Apparently Ditalidas was far away, lost in thoughts. Startled she looks around to see who addressed her. She turns to Telsom: “ehm, what? Oh, no, not far. We’re almost there.“ The sadness in her eyes gives Telsom a clear guess of what she was thinking of. Her gaze turns back to the cobblestone road riding on in silence until they arrive at The Running Stag or when she’s addressed.
A sad smile crosses the paladin’s face and he urges Teri up alongside Ditalidas’ steed. “Milady I’m sorry that I could not have spared you the pain you are feeling now.“ Urging his horse even closer to hers he reaches over and takes her hand. Leaning in close Telsom whispers softly to the lady. “Milady the ride may be short but I’d be honored if you would share Teri with me for the rest of the ride to the stag, it might do you some good, and ease your troubled soul.“ Giving her a small smile he continues. “You can pass me your reigns and then come right over, I’ll assist you.“
Ditalidas looks up into Telsom’s eyes. After giving him a small, sad smile and a nod she whispers: “I would really like that.“ She hands him her reigns and accepts his help. When she sits in front of him she lays her head against his shoulder. She sighs deeply before she continuous in a soft tone: “There was nothing you could have done to prevent what happened today. I’m just very glad Druth and you were there in time. I guess there’s something I should learn from all this. I only wish I knew what and why.“
Leaning forward and Telsom kisses Ditalidas’ forehead. When his lips touch her forehead Ditalidas closes her eyes for a moment and sighs deeply. His comforting gesture makes it harder to keep her tears at bay.
Telsom wets his lips before speaking softly to her. “Milady, although I have no doubts in Sune, I am starting to doubt my own sense of logic. As I followed the flower petal to you I had assumed it to be the work of my mistress. Since then I’ve come to a change of mind, tell me precious one, did your mother believe in any particular faith? The human body is merely a vessel, the true being is one of spiritual-ness, when we have passed on to the afterlife our bodies will become one with the earth as we move on to be with our loved ones at the sides of our chosen deities. I believe in this with all my heart. When I pass on my form will turn to dust, preferably I will have been laid to rest in a pasture or garden where my remains shall change into something else, something that will nurture things and allow them to grow to their intended state, something of beauty.
My point is that although I will pass on my soul will not wilt. It will travel to my goddess’ side so that I might serve her in the afterlife as I serve her now. What you fought today was not your mother, but merely a corrupted version of her vessel. I believe your mother, knowing what others were directing her vessel to do sent out a plea to Druth and I allowing us to arrive in time to save you. The real thanks should go to your beloved mother precious one, for her love for you will never die, she shall watch over you until the day that you are rejoined.“ Resting his head upon the lady’s Telsom kisses her once more this time on the crown of her head. “Today’s events were traumatic, and although my words right now might seem strange and impossible to you at the moment, I hope that you will think on them in the days to come. When the truth of them sinks in you will be stronger for them, your faith in yourself, your deity, and others unshakable.“
With a surprised look on her face Ditalidas looks up to Telsom. “A petal? You mean you really followed a petal that led to me? Is that why you asked about the rose?“ For a moment she looks to the cobble stoned street again. “Do you really think the petal could have been my mother?“ Again she looks up at him with tear-filled eyes, in their depths glances hope. She desperately wants to believe what he told her but doubt still lingers in her heart. Slowly she brings up her hand to his cheek only softly touching him. “I will thank you. I surely will.“ After that she turns her attention back to the surroundings. “Here it is. The Running Stag“ She points out to a large building on the left only a few meters away.
Unconcerned by the arrival at their destination Telsom rests his head atop Ditalidas’. Chuckling softly he speaks in a hushed tone to her. “I am a paladin milady. My words can be taken as the truth for I shall never utter a word that isn’t true. I know for a fact that it wasn’t your mother that attacked you this afternoon, a shell and only that. Someone went to a great deal of work to torment you precious one, that someone shall feel my wraith.“ As the boy runs forward offering to take the animals Telsom releases Ditalidas’ reigns wrapping that arm around her tenderly. “Time will heal your wounds, don’t let today’s events fester and drag you down, you’ve a long life ahead of you that will be full of many joys… remember the joys.“ Helping the lady down, Telsom quickly dismounts and passes his reigns to the boy. “Here lad.“ He says, “And this is for your troubles and quick service.“ Reaching into his pouch he withdraws two gold coins and passes them to the boy while smiling at him. Turning back to Ditalidas he leads the lady into the establishment.
The horses draw near to a collection of buildings that makes up ‘The Running Stag’ inn. While dismounting, a young lad rushes up. “Milady, Saers, can I take care of your horses? I’ll put them in the stable around the back.“ With a proud look on his eyes Marc says, just a bit too loud, to the lad: “Hey, Marc!“ The lad looks at the horse Druth is riding, a surprised look in his eyes as he sees Marc sitting behind the sun elf. “Ehm… Hi Marc.“ He looks a bit unsure, as if he doesn’t know what to think of the situation. Then he is distracted as Telsom hands the lad the reins for Ditalidas’ horse. After he gently lowers Ditalidas, he dismounts and hands over the reins of Teri as well. “I’ll be right back for the other horses Saer. You can leave them hitched to the post.“ And he walks of with the two horses, throwing one more look in Marc’s direction, and shaking his head.
A wooden sign with a painted running stag hangs out from the wall, next to the door form under which sounds emanate of people talking and drinking. Two decorative lanterns illuminate a sign on the door. “No druidic duels today / The Management“ Underneath, someone has scrawled: “Not even a little one?“
Before entering the inn Telsom takes a moment to read the sign and gives a small chuckle before entering the establishment. He leads a somewhat sad looking Ditalidas to the door, followed by Marc and his dog Friend, and behind them Druth and Kalil. When the door opens, it is as if it leads to a forest bathed in moonlight. Sturdy, vine wrapped tree trunks seem to hold the roof, which is obscured by thick foliage overhead. A small rock formation is located in the center, a tinkling spring cascades from it into a small pond. At the far end, a hearth is burning, providing comfortable warmth. Logs and natural wood constructions function as chairs and tables. Several patrons can be seen, some of them clearly city folk, others would not seem out of place in the middle of a normal forest.
A curly redheaded serving girl guides a veiled lady, with raven black hair bound in a single braid, through the taproom, to a chair and table close to the hearth. A somewhat larger table at one of the sides, not far from the hearth is virtually empty, and seems like a good place to sit. Holding a tray with foaming mugs of ale, a bald headed and dark-skinned man walks by and looks towards the newcomers: “Well met and a good evening to you. Enjoy the hospitality of the Stag tonight. Please take a seat, I’ll be right with you to take your orders.“
Immediately the paladin scans the crowd for anyone who might present a danger to the lady at his side and his newfound companions. Moving over to the table Ditalidas at his side, Telsom pulls a chair away from the table and ushers her into it, before pushing it back into place and taking a chair at her side. Looking up at Telsom Ditalidas gives him a thankful smile.
Silently Marc walks behind his new friends into this establishment, peeking around, giving a cautious smile as his eyes meet Druth’s. Standing in doubt behind Telsom for a few seconds, Marc suddenly walks away towards the door where staff enters and leaves all the time, probably the kitchen door. Friend, heavily breathing, faithfully follows him.
Lost in thoughts for a moment Ditalidas stares at the table. When she looks up again she turns to Telsom. “I cannot help wondering why this all happened. Was this a plot to attack my father trough me? He thinks not. You suggested he might have troubles with the Velsharans. I asked him, but he says he’s not aware of such. I have no clue what so ever why anybody would try to get me out of the way.“ For a moment she falls silent, than she shakes her head. “No, she couldn’t be that bad. I won’t believe that.“ She says softy to herself.
“Your stepmother?“ Telsom asks; a small scowl on his face. “Tomorrow after you have rissen you should introduce the two of us, I’ll be able to search her soul and should she be a monster than I shall know it.“ Scratching his chin he continues. “I asked you earlier whether your mother followed any particular religion or not. Do you know if she did?“ Reaching down, Telsom adjusts his rapier so that it is easily accessible despite the confines the chair presents. After he is happy with his seated position he reaches for a chain resting on his chest and, pulling it in front of his face where he gazed on it fondly turning the medallion over and over in his fingers.
At the mention of ‘search her soul’, Druth feels obviously uncomfortable. He looks blankly at Telsom’s face, then at Ditalidas, as if to judge her reaction. He seems about to ask something, but suddenly turns to Kalil, trying to change the conversation. “Well, I don’t think we have been formally introduced. I’m Druth Symbaern, from Evermeet, though it has been quite a long time since I last was there. I came to Berdusk in search of a particular person, but that may wait, since we seem to have more important stuff in here. What about you, my friend? You said you are from Amn, that’s right? What brings you to this place?“
Eager to chat with Druth, Kalil replies “Good business, Druth Symbaern from Evermeet. My name is Kalil of Gildenglade. I come from the city of Zulla, and indeed I’m Amnian. What brings me here? Well, let’s say it’s both something dubbed adventure and my red ink… But I’ve seen a lot around here in these strange lands. And I’ve seen a few things that might be very interesting. Have you noticed the minaret with Azuth’s symbol on it? I was surprised wizardry was so openly exposed. This would be a grave offensive in Amn. Have you guys no problems with wizards running around doing all kind of ore and evil things?“
“Well met, friend Kalil. Of course we do have problems with wizards running around and making a nuisance of themselves, as much as we have sword-fighters and crossbow-bearers that do the same. You just met some, if I am not mistaken, and I am sorry for the loss of your friend. I just don’t see it as a reason to ban or persecute all wizards. You know, the Art is nothing more than a tool, a very powerful one indeed, but a tool nonetheless. And just like the sword, it’s not good or evil in itself. It all depends on which use you put it to. But then, each land has its rules, and we must learn to respect these rules if we are to live in a modicum of civilization.“ He then looks at Telsom, while continuing to speak to Kalil. “We must not forget these rules are usually made to protect individuals, especially those who need.“ Turning back to Kalil, Druth goes on, “But I’ve heard that in Waterdeep they have a special watch made up of wizards, and their duty is to protect the city and its citizens from rogue spellcasters. This may be a good idea for you to take back to your land, when you return.“ He then stops, sighs heavily, and adds in a low tone, almost as if speaking to himself, “Of course, such a thing would never be necessary in Evermeet.“
Ditalidas looks at the medallion Telsom is playing with. “My mother’s religion… Maybe your assumption that the petal was a sign of your goddess wasn’t as far besides the truth as you think. You see, you have the symbol of her faith right there in your hands.“ She looks at the table on which she is thoughtlessly drawing invisible symbols. “As for my stepmother, if you accept my invitation to stay in the guest rooms of Jalargharspires for a while, you’ll meet her soon enough.“ From the corners of her eyes, through her eyelashes she looks at him, scanning his face for his reaction.
Smiling Telsom uncovers the amulet that he had been holding between cupped hands. “Actually precious one, this is the symbol of the Torentshed family. Many other knights carry a symbol of their god on a chain. I prefer to keep Lady Firehair’s emblem on more durable locales.“ He points to one shoulder plate and then the other and then reaches behind his neck unclasping his chain. “My mother gave me this the day I left father’s manor.“ Sadness crosses his face for but a moment before his smile returns. “Father is a good man, but he never understood my willingness to serve a deity, he’s primarily concerned with commerce and less so on gods and goddesses. Reaching over and taking Ditalidas’ hand he places the chain in her palm, that and my blade are the two things I’ve taken from my home. My grandfather died wielding this blade and left it to me. I haven’t seen either of my parents in years, the chain is all I have to remember them, memories have faded I’m afraid.“ Squeezing her hand his smile widens, “If it does not inconvenience you or your family then I would love to stay in your home for as long as it pleases you.“
“Oh, I’m sorry. I assumed it was your holy symbol.“ A deep blush colors Ditalidas’ cheeks. For a moment it looks as if she doesn’t know what to say next. Than she continuous: “What a shame that your memories have faded. Maybe you should go and see them once. I am so very glad I have a locket with my mother’s picture in it. That way my memory of her will never fade…“ She takes the locket that adorned her breast, in her hand and polishes its surface with her thumb. For a moment she sighs. “Not that there’s much to remember, she disappeared when I was real young.“ She pauses for a moment and tosses him a smile. “If it would have been inconvenient to have you around, I wouldn’t have invited you.“ She turns to Druth and is about to say something when she notices he is conversing with Kalil. She decides not to interrupt and turns back to Telsom. She shrugs her shoulder. “I’ll ask him later.“
Chuckling Telsom looks first to Druth and Kalil and then to the doorway. “If you wait to long, you might be inviting an entire party of adventurers into your father’s home.“ Taking his medallion he clasps the chain back around his neck and then looks around the room. “It truly is a magnificent establishment, it’s understandable while the proprietor would not want battle within its confines, for much would be trampled and ruined.“
The red haired serving girl comes from behind the bar with a glass, and fills it with water from the spring. Walking towards the hearth, she sees Marc and his dog going in the direction of the kitchen. “Looks like your dog is thirsty, I’ll get you a bowl of water in a moment.“ She says with a friendly smile, and walks on to the veiled lady. “Yes she reall… Ehm… Thank you!“ Marc mumbles thankfully as his moist eyes follow the waitress, who didn’t stop for talking.
After having given the lady her glass, the girl comes back to Marc. “Come, follow me.“ And she leads Marc to the bar. Reaching behind the bar she gets a wooden bowl, and hands it to Marc. “Here you are lad. You can fill it with the water from the spring.“ And she points to the rock formation. Marc says, “Thank you again.“ giving the maid a cordial smile while accepting the bowl. He walks with the bowl to the well – Friend still eagerly following – and plunges the bowl in, holding it with one hand. Then he continues to walk towards the table, the now full and dripping bowl in his hand. As he puts the basin on the ground Friend starts drinking as if she hasn’t drunk for ages. Marc mumbles something friendly to the dog and while bashfully standing behind Telsom.
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