By Jaap-Peter Hazelhoff
Chapter 13 - Dinner and Discussions
Berdusk, 1371 DR, Eleint, 8th day, evening
Everyone has gathered in the room Matteo has arranged with the innkeeper. Grim has brought forth the scrap of paper found in the pouch left by Tharkas. He suggests the paper holds a description of a ritual and that the writing itself could be magical. Immerine has volunteered to look at the piece of paper, and Matteo suggests Portia to look at it as well. Kalil react enthusiastically on the information from Grim and talks about a possible link between the scrap of paper and the jewel found in the same pouch, but suggest dinner and sleep before looking at the paper.
Elisa walks in carrying a tray. She hands out glasses of water to Immerine and Telsom, a Saerloonian Glowfire to Druth and Matteo and a Berduskan Dark to Ditalidas, as well as a plate with hot buttered biscuits. “Saer Ashgale, dinner should not be long. I’ll get the plates and bowls ready now.“ As soon as a waitress enters the room, Kalil orders a pint of stout and a decent meal. In the meanwhile he just listens to the conversation, maybe adding a few lines himself.
A man follows her, carrying two chairs into the room, and placing them at the table. He then leaves the room. Walking to Marc, she looks friendly at the boy, “Here you are. A pint of stout for you.“ She smiles at the boy as she gives him his stone mug. Ruffling his hair in an affectionate gesture before walking towards the exit she stops when Kalil orders a pint of stout as well. “Certainly Saer, I’ll be right back.“
Once the drinks and orders arrive Immerine sips her water waiting patiently for the invitation to be offered for her to join Portia. When it does not come from those at the table, she reaches for the paper watching Matteo as she takes it and keeps it always in sight on the table.
First she studies it carefully turning it over in her hands and observing the marks on its surface. Her eyes harden at what she is able to discover and her voice is harsh and her tone disgusted when she speaks, “This describes ritual for creation of an item or – items. Vile necromancy!“ Pausing for a moment, she reaches into a pouch and pulls forth a crystalline prism and places it carefully atop the paper. Turning her head to Kalil she says, “This is where I will invoke the spirit of my goddess.“ She touches the unicorn symbol around her neck. “I am hoping to add her vision to my own and open the remaining secrets on this paper.“ Once that is explained Immerine begins speaking in an odd, fluid tongue and her eyes take on a soft emerald glow. She then begins her review of the paper again.
Kalil, who is sitting next to Immerine, looks up to her. He smiles the way children smile when they are told a beautiful story. He looks intently at what the woman is doing, reading along in the process. Kalil really seems to find this display of efficient investigation quite amusing. Yet reading the document, he can tell that Immerine is right.
The piece of paper seems to hold parts of a ritual to create magical bracers. They seem to have something to do with necromantic effects. Parts of a spell included in the ritual are written on the paper. The spell can be identified as ‘Unholy Blight’. The spell and the ritual definitely reek of Evil. Part of the description reads as follows: “… greasy darkness, pure essence of our lord forms a cold cloying cloud, smiting the infidels. Imbued in the bracers this power will protect the wearer in the service of Velsharoon…“ Further more the document describes the use of bones in the creation ritual, bones of large creatures. An ancient magical term is used, a term which is also used to describe dragons.
Immerine spends a few moments examining and reexamining the paper. With each pass a look of disgust is mirrored in her eyes. Finally she shoves the paper back, “No more!“ She takes some of the water from her glass and pours it into her palm and uses it to wipe her eyes and lids. “That should be obliterated!“ She says harshly. Knowing the others are waiting for her to continue. She takes a deep breath.
Kalil, who has been reading the paper as well, nods to Immerine. “Wow, this really is like finding your pearl! Foreclose that, we cannot destroy this right away for…“ Kalil finds his words interrupted by Immerine. “That paper contains an evil ritual, including a despicable spell to be used in the creation of a set of bracers. It speaks of protecting those in Velsharoon’s service, smiting infidels and the use of bones – large ones – and an ancient magical term used that also describes dragons.“ Looking at Matteo she adds, “If your superiors require some proof of a Velsharan involvement in whatever is happening, you now have it.“
The look of disgust does not fade from the woman’s eyes. She reaches a trembling hand for her water and takes a large drink. “Another thing, the paper is not complete. It only contains a partial description of the spell and ritual. Destroy it as soon as you can.“ Her voice drops and she is silent.
Kalil takes the paper from Immerine and looks eagerly at it, again. “This is gold.“ Mumbles Kalil while he examines the text “Here’s a discovery we cannot ignore. It would be a shame to waste this opportunity.“ Without being aware of the others, Kalil mumbles on “So much to learn… Knowledge at our fingertips…“ When he is done reading, he looks up to Immerine again and says to her in a soft voice “Even from this evil source, we can learn something useful. It’s our duty to extract something constructive from this. Please grant me to study all this. When I’m done, I’m sold to destroy it.“ Kalil awaits Immerine’s answer, but adds, “The gem we should keep.“
“No!“ the quiet woman almost shouts her green eyes flash in anger and her voice brooks no argument. She continues in a tone of absolute underlying authority, “Do not believe you can learn from such sources and remain clean of their taint. That is arrogance, and arrogance I am familiar with each day in my homeland. Do you believe the Red Wizards began as a force of greed and reprehensible destruction? The ancient annals tell of a beginning when they were curious as you are now. Back in the days of the Imaskarii, we were not a split people. Now we are. Do not let this be the driving wedge between you and your companions.“
As Marc sees the tension between these two growing he stands up as Immerine’s ‘No’ resounds through the room and positions himself next to, but a bit behind, Immerine, leaving her in front position. While she speaks he just stands there, holding his crook with whitening knuckles and looking strained at Kalil, awaiting his reaction at what Immerine is saying.
She plucks the paper from the young Amnian’s hands and shoves it across the table to Matteo. “Kalil, this is not a kernel of knowledge worthy to you. If it is knowledge you seek I will help you achieve your goal, but not like this.“ She holds Kalil’s gaze.
Telsom, who had remained silent during the investigation of the note and attempting to break the tension, looks to Marc. “You were going to tell us something of interest weren’t you lad?“ Marc looks a bit disturbed over his shoulder at this interruption and says “About trust, you mean?“ – Sounding a little provoking, tight as he is in the interaction unfolding before him – Marc tries to share his attention between Kalil, Immerine and Telsom. Then, with a frown he just throws the words at Telsom “Do YOU trust this woman?“ And as Telsom doesn’t answer soon enough in his opinion, “Well, do you?!“ Marc refocuses at Kalil again. Telsom shakes his head ignoring the boy while he goes on to ask the question of Matteo.
Kalil, on his turn, holds Immerine’s face and he won’t blink. His face becomes harder, but just a little bit, when he says, “Dear Immerine, it is knowledge I’m after. Certain knowledge, Evil or necromancy is not among them. Still it’s not the Weave that’s evil, though those who use it can be. My intention is to study it, so one day I might be able to build more rewarding bracers. You charge Matteo to destroy the paper. By the same right, you could charge him to destroy the sword he uses to protect the Lady. That sword could cause a lot of suffering if it fell in the wrong hands… Still, in the hands of a smith, it could be an interesting study object…“
Marc’s strain is rising with the second now and he opens his mouth and takes a breath to address Kalil, but then decides not to. His big brown eyes have darkened and look close to black now. Friend senses the strain and, still sitting in front of Immerine, looks at Kalil too. Some way or another she just doesn’t look as much a pet as she used to.
Matteo has been watching proceedings and the debate between Immerine and Kalil closely, his face impassive. As Kalil finishes Matteo steps forward and says, “I do not care if the paper contains evil writing of foul practices or Lohgran’s shopping list. It is something that I have to show Captain Zaina. Kalil, hand me the piece of paper please. I promise you that I will not damage it.“ Kalil resigns with Matteo’s explanation,“Have you any idea what Captain Zaina will do with it? I would like to have it back or study it before you give it away. It won’t take me long, only a few hours.“ He looks expectantly at Matteo.
“No Kalil.“ Matteo replies, “I do not know what she will do with it, even if she will do anything at all. But I will tell her you want to study it for a few hours, I promise.“
Seeing some of the tension drain from the room, Marc relaxes and he takes one step back. The tension at his face quite quickly disappears. Grim is sitting very relaxed in his chair and follows the heated discussion with an amused grin on his face. “The evil in that paper must be great indeed if even talking about it’s content can make us fight like enraged demons… I count myself lucky for not being able to read it myself!“ Pointing at the dog, “Look at that, even the dog remembers that its great-great-grandparents were bloodthirsty wolves!“
Silently Ditalidas follows the conversation. Her gaze flashing from one to the other as they speak. At Grim’s words she can’t help but laughing softly.
Turning to Matteo as he begins to speak Telsom listens intently. “Friend Matteo. I know that we are here to speak of the events of the past few days but what is your involvement in this? You seem to be the leader of this group.“ He motions to the majority of the table’s occupants with a sweep of his hand. “Do you work for the guard?“ Slipping the piece of paper into an inner pocket of his overcoat, Matteo turns to Portia and quietly asks, “Can I have the pouch and its contents please?“ Smiling wryly he then turns to Telsom and addresses the man. “I suppose I do. I was asked to investigate the disturbances to trade in the area. That now seems to be linked with the Velsharans, so I am now investigating them as well.“ Nodding, Telsom rises from the table and heads for the common room bringing his glass of water with him.
“You Merchant, you don’t know how to behave with ladies do you?“ Calathra says to Kalil, standing up, her fists put on her small hips. “First you play nice, and then you just act like my father’s mule. At least he mule would not bother with evil magic.“ She then turns to Matteo a worried look on her face, “We should destroy the paper. It might bring out more of those shadows that were chasing us.“
Ditalidas rises from her chair. “People please…“ She starts at a soft but clearly audible tone. “…Let’s not fight over a piece of paper. Matteo has it now, I’m confident it’s in good hands. Let us please sit down and finish this conversation. Some terrible things have happened. If we want to solve this mystery, we need to cooperate. We cannot solve a puzzle without all the pieces. I believe that every one of us carries a piece with him or her. I’d like to invite you all back at the table.“ She looks at Telsom’s back and after that at Immerine who’s rising from her chair. With pleading eyes she plays with a hem of her dress. Accidentally Ditalidas is casting a spell, allowing her whispered words to be heard only by Telsom and Immerine: “Please? I’d really like you to stay. I honestly believe I need you.“ Feeling a power flow through her veins, Ditalidas stiffens and blinks her eyes several times… a surprised look catches her eyes. “What… how…“ A blush colors her cheek, “Oh…“ Slowly she sits down, not sure what to do or say next.
Continuing his walk into the common room Telsom shakes his head slightly amused. Craning his eyes left, right, and then up and down Telsom’s eyebrows knit in mild confusion. As he kneels by the spring dipping a finger into the flowing water he mumbles. “Interesting… Little flower. What else can you do?“ Staring into the water a small smile comes to Telsom’s face. “They act like they’ve been touched by the Mad One.“ He says as he pushes his entire hand into the water before withdrawing it and running it through his hair, pushing the wet strands back to keep them from his eyes.
As she rises to leave, Immerine looks curiously at Ditalidas. Shifthing her gaze to the young Amnian, Immerine’s stare holds nothing but contempt. She quietly and calmly says, “You will never realize your ambition Kalil, if you continue on this path. Do not lecture me on the Weave or the tools of its use. I have seen better men than you fall and I have seen worse men than you rise. Yet the weave remains. Which side of it do you intend to be on? Knowledge without caution is foolishness, and so far you have proven yourself a fool.“ She stands and moves away from the man as if his presence disturbs her and steps towards Ditalidas.
At Immerine’s words, Druth frowns and says, “Wise words, storyteller. But might I suggest you listen more carefully to yourself?“ Nodding at Kalil, he continues, “It does not suit someone apparently so wise to speak lightly of ‘better’ or ‘worse’ men. You have just met this man, and yet you think you already know his full mettle. As you said, knowledge without caution is foolishness…“
“Thank you, Druth“, Kalil says nodding back and obvious not pleased with the way Immerine ended their discussion “Those were wise words.“
Rising to his feet Matteo says, “Before we go trading insults does anyone have anything else to add to our discussion? Anything else they want to bring forth to provide us with more clues or information?“
Ignoring both Kalil and Druth, Immerine leans and whispers into Ditalidas’ ear, “Forgive me Lady, I mean no offense. I cannot stay where I am not wanted.“ She then walks from the room without another glance for any of the group. When Telsom and Immerine have left the room, Druth takes another long sip at his wine. “It’s getting late. I don’t think we’ll be able to find anything more today.“ Turning to Matteo and Kalil, “If you two don’t mind, I’d like to have a look at that paper myself later. I might be able to do something.“
Marc, who just considered at this rate of activities he’d better retreat at his barrel and should try to get invisible again, is distracted by Ditalidas’ sudden unpleasant surprise. So he stops and looks at her with a concerned and alarmed look on his face. After standing there for a few seconds he utters: “Ehm… Her Highness…“ – He crouches beside her – “What’s up…? Are you alright?!“ When Marc crouches besides her, Ditalidas lays her hand on his shoulder and squeezes him gently. Almost invisible a shiver touches Marc as this happens, but at the same moment a promising gleam surfaces in his eyes. At this moment Friend approaches them, her head held low, jaunty wagging her tail. Ditalidas smiles reassuring, but she cannot hide the incertitude and a slightest of fear in her eyes.
Friend sits down in front of the princess, facing Marc. The alarm in Marc’s eyes quickly fades away, the concern, however, stays there. A slight smile brushes his cheeks. “I’m alright… I think. There is a power within me. It is strange, but yet it feels so familiar.“ For a moment she looks puzzled. “I think I just made it do something I really wanted, but I didn’t expect it to happen. It startled me for a moment, but I’m okay now.“ She looks at the others at the table, a little afraid for their reactions.
“Of course you can have it. No problem with that, I suggest you and I study it.“ Kalil replies to Druth, adding “Not at the same time of course, if you don’t want it. Then we should give the pouch to the captain, as evidence. I suggest we destroy the paper and sell and divide the rest as soon as we get back the pouch and its contents. The gem is worth a lot.“ Kalil turns his head to Matteo and asks him “Would you be so kind to give the paper to Druth? And do you know how long the captain will need the pouch? In other words, do you know when we get it back?“ He then casts a worried look at Ditalidas, asking, “Is there anything bothering you?“
“Actually…“ Matteo replies, “…I am thinking of departing to see the Captain now. It does not appear that anyone has anything further to add to our conversation.“ Stepping away from the table he adds, “Food should be here very shortly. Once you are finished, Mumadar can direct you to your rooms. Everything is already paid for so have no concerns on that regard.“
Now, Kalil too, notices Ditalidas. He says nothing. Kalil just looks at her, wondering what’s happening. Meanwhile Marc’s eyes keep glued at Ditalidas’ as he nods his head twice thoughtfully. Frowning, Marc’s left eyebrow moves half an inch, he squeezes close his left eye a bit. Friend examines the wordless conversation above her head and then leans relaxed against the shins of the princess.
Taking a small mouthful of his wine Matteo sighs, “1362. Passable…“ Looking up he says, “If no one wants me for anything else, I will be at the guard barracks. If the Captain has anything useful to add, I will come back and report it. Otherwise I will see you all early tomorrow morning.“
Ditalidas looks at Marc. “You didn’t tell you story yet, did you? I really like to hear your story now.“ Looking back up to Matteo, giving him a slightly accusing glance because he forgot about Marc, she adds. “And I think it might be handy to make some appointments before we part. Do we meet here again tomorrow, and if we do, at what time? But first I’d really like to hear Marc’s story. Maybe he has something to add, that’s important for the Captain to know.“ Smiling slightly, Matteo leans against the door and gives Ditalidas a quick wink.
At the mention of a story to be told Grim sits up from his relaxed position, “Ah! The story of my little friend, I almost forgot all about that. I must say that I am quite curious how and perhaps why our paths connected today.“ For a moment Grim’s mind seems to wander off, as if he suddenly remembers something. “Of course I also wish to know when and where we will meet again tomorrow.“ Grim looks expectantly at Marc.
Marc looks at Grim and then at Ditalidas before he starts answering: “Well… Ehm… Somewhat after sundown we…“ Marc points at Friend, who is sitting against the princess’ legs, “…entered Berdusk again, and… well we could do with a decent meal.“ He starts to like this situation and seems to grow an inch, “So we went towards… Ehm…“ He interrupts himself, “Just a moment!“
He pads gently on the princess’ hand, which was still at his shoulder, stands up, walks two steps towards his barrel, drops his crook down there, fetches his mug and returns to the side of the lady. He keeps standing this time, real close to the princess, then with a theatrical gesture he takes a large drink from his mug and sighs emphatically “Aaah, I needed that!“ He looks at the people left in the room, looking proud. “Were where we? …Ehm, Kim! Well, we went to Kim, at the rear of Memblar’s. Why pay if someone’s eager to give it for free? Well we sat down at…“ The volume of his words sinks until they’re not audible as he realizes he might be just a tiny bit too detailed. He takes another sip, looks again at the princess and continues, trying to be less extensive.
“Well, this guy Lohgran appeared with three other men, on horses. Two of these men I’ve seen before with this Lohgran-bloke a couple of times before, dressed up as ship-folk, well I remember I said to Friend… Ehm, just what I saw I guess?“ He takes another swig, “I didn’t know the other one, but he has to be a nasty one… anyway, ehm… this fourth man was dressed in a long cloak… Ehm, brownish I think… yes brown it was. You know, with a hood. I couldn’t see his face at all… kinda spooky he was…“
Marc takes another sip, “Well, this bloke stayed outside, while Lohgran and these would-be-bargemen went inside, Lohgran from the other side and the other two using the back-entrance as I did. Then this weird thing happened… Ah, no I’ll stay with the facts. …Isn’t it a fact? …Dunno. I’ll skip it. …Ehm… well, after a moment or so the three of them come running out and this cloaked guy does some strange things with his hands and half-sings something sounding like a magic spell, I don’t know whether… well it had to be a spell, hadn’t it? The door completely transformed or something and… well, it was no door anymore!“ Marc stops to take a breath and as he has ceased speaking he takes another swig.
“Keep listening.“ He adds, “It’s going to be even weirder than this!“ He waits a second before continuing, “…these other men mounted… ehm, forgot to mention these men carried a corpse or something, that’s why I think this could be these murderers you were talking about. Ehm… Someone did mention Memblar’s, didn’t you? Well, anyway, they had some kind of powder, they threw it in the air, and as it came down like snow they just… disappeared! Really, and I hadn’t been drinking!“ An association pops up and he takes a final sip. “Well, then these four horses ran of, just as if the men hadn’t vanished, but in fact they did… well I don’t know where these men went, but the horses took of towards the Castle or something.“ He pauses again, tries to take a sip, but sees his mug is empty. A brief frown appears and just as quickly disappears.
“Then another man comes running around the corner, but I think it must have been Matteo, he said he was and looked like him… Ehm, just left the room, well, anyway, he looks at the disappearing horses for a second and returns in the alley again. After that the guards came “
“Marc.“ Matteo says from near the door, “You said that after Lohgran and the other two entered Memblar’s something weird happened. What exactly? And when the door transformed, what did it transform into, part of the wall? Or something else?“ At the prospect of hearing more about the obvious magical activities, Kalil listens intently. He is completely concentrated on Marc’s answer.
Marc seems to glow at this much attention and he is eager to exploit this situation. “Ehm, Saer! Did I say that? Well, I probably did, didn’t I?“ He’s talking a bit louder now as he’s addressing Matteo, who is standing at the door, which is the other side of the room. Marc coughs, as he has heard grown-ups do before telling important things, and says, “I could do with another drink, Saer.“
He tries to concentrate on Matteo again, “Ehm, you were asking… Ah! That! Well, as these three men had entered the room the one left, you know, with the cloak-thing, he… ehm. Perhaps not that, but as we… ehm… he!“ Startled he looks around, “…Oh, there you are!“ He says when he discovers Friend, who hasn’t moved since Marc started his maiden-speech, “Good! …Well, we were hiding a bit behind some crates at the back of Memblar’s. I could see them, between two crates, but as we were in the dark and they weren’t they couldn’t have seen us. And we were as silent as a dead animal… Ehm… As a couple of dead animals? …Anyway… Invisible, we’re good at that, but somehow he just… no… Ehm… Well…“ Marc looks down, a bit embarrassed. Then he pulls himself together and looks at Matteo again, “… good. Well, it was as if something or someone entered my mind, there you are! Very awkward! Just for a second, but still. And! …At the same time this man looked me straight in the eyes. And he couldn’t, we were in the dark, but still he did!“ Marc pauses for a second or two, while his tension declines “Well, in fact that’s all there is to it.“
Marc looks at his empty mug and looks for a place to sit down, doesn’t find an appropriate seat and starts lowering himself to crouch again. Marc when suddenly he looks surprised as a belch sounds from his mouth. “…Ehm… Sorry! …Didn’t mean…“ Contritely he looks down at the princess, “Sorry her highness! …Must have been something I ate!“
Then he remembers something and says to Matteo, “As for the door… Yes… Well, it didn’t transform into something else, but it ceased to be a door… Ehm, how shall I put it? …Just like… someone sawed backwards very quickly… Ehm… the door and its frame became one piece of wood.“ He stops abruptly, thinking, “Well… something like that, anyway.“ Marc continues to stand there, hesitating.
Portia has remained silent and observant during the whole debate around the paper, though a cold anger can be seen in her eyes. She waits till Marc has finished his story. “Matteo, I definitely think the Velsharans should be included in your investigation. I’m more and more convinced that there is a connection between the disruption in trade you were asked to investigate and the activities of the Velsharans or their undead minions.“ Druth leans back in his chair, slowly sipping from his wine. The elf seems deep in thought.
Looking at Kalil, Portia says, “I would like to see the paper, along with that gem handed to my superiors at the Crystal Mansion. I would like to leave up to them to judge if it would be safe to further study this… this… foul ritual.“ Druth turns his almond shaped eyes toward Portia, “I have no problem with that milady. There is no rush to look at the document. Tomorrow there will be time enough.“
As Matteo rises, Portia hands him the pouch and the remaining contents. “We’ll meet here tomorrow then? I will return to the Crystal Mansion tonight. I may be able to find something in the records there that will shed some light on the subject. Will you be showing the captain the paper tonight?“ Accepting the pouch and tucking it behind his belt, Matteo replies. “Yes… very shortly. She will have some say in what happens to it, though your wishes have been noted, just as have others.“
A silent tinkle sounds as Marc touches his pocket, then he asks Matteo in a convincing tone, “Saer, would you ask Elisa to bring me another stout, please?“ As he has nothing to add he kneels down, looking at Ditalidas’ face for confirmation. Seeing the look in his eyes Ditalidas casts him a reassuring smile. “Thank you for sharing your story with us.“
“Are you sure you want another stout?“ Matteo asks the young lad before addressing the group as a whole. “If no one has anything else to add, I suggest we all meet here one hour after sunrise tomorrow morning. Then we can decide how we will go about our investigations.“
“But saer…“ Marc answers with an astonished voice, “Didn’t you hear the princes requesting us all to sit down and, so to speak, put our pieces together?“ Marc looks back and forth between Ditalidas and Matteo. “It’s okay Marc. It’s late and I think we shared a lot of information already. I guess the rest will have to wait until tomorrow.“ Looking first to Matteo then to the door Ditalidas continuous, “I don’t know if we can make it here at that time. Telsom wants to go to the spot where I was attacked. I’m planning on going with him.“ Suddenly realizing Marc’s words, she looks at him slightly puzzled. “Ehm… Marc, I think we should talk about me being a princess sometime soon.“
Frowning slightly, Matteo nods. “I think I will have a talk with Telsom before I leave. It will not unduly delay his pursuit of justice for the two of you to wait one hour, but we need to coordinate our activities more efficiently than simply having individuals run off to pursue personal interest. Telsom is a paladin of Lady Firehair. He has obligations and responsibilities to maintain and protect law and society. An organized response is more likely to achieve those ends. Those duties outweigh his personal interests. Or at least they should. I would ask that you and he come here in the morning to meet with the rest of us before departing to the scene.“
The smell of fresh baked pastries, roasted meat and delicate herbs teases the nostrils of everyone gathered in the room shortly before Mumadar walks in, carrying a huge plate with assorted food fresh pastries, various fruits and vegetables. The same man seen before follows him. The man is also carrying a tray with a roasted piglet, complete with a red apple. From the cupboard at the back, Mumadar takes several plates, and serves them around the table. Folding his hands before him, Mumadar bows slightly, “Honored guests, please enjoy this humble meal. If there is anything else needed, Javroun here…“ Mumadar gestures at the other man “… will take your orders and see that you are satisfied.“ Mumadar bows again and leaves the room. Javroun takes up a position near the door.
Eyeing the meal hungrily, Portia swallows, and then turns to Matteo. “I’ll follow your lead on this Matteo. I was directed to help you as best I could.“ Noticing Portia’s look at the foot Ditalidas grins for a moment. “Why don’t you just eat? They brought it here for that purpose.“ Looking at Matteo she adds, “I thought you were hungry too. Why don’t you sit down and eat something first?“
Smiling briefly at Ditalidas, Matteo wraps a few slices of meat in a piece of bread while replying to Portia. “You might as well take the Lady Jalarghar’s advice and have something to eat. I didn’t purchase it so that it would go to waste. As far as following my lead, all I have to say at the moment is return here in the morning. We will determine which actions need to be pursued and hopefully those best suited to doing them will do so.“
Nodding, Portia settles down at the table once more, reaching for some of the food. “I’ll be here…“ The cleric of Kelemvor takes her fill of the meal, and listens to the others for a bit.
Marc looks surprised at the food being served for a few seconds. Then he looks at Ditalidas, swallows and stands up. There’s a disappointed look in his eyes as he takes a step backwards to make a third genuflection, be it bunglingly compared to the ones he made at the pier. As he lifts his head from his knee again he looks at Ditalidas with moist eyes and says softly, “I understand you won’t need my services anymore, her highness?“
Without waiting for an answer, he stands up again and walks to the corner. He fetches his crook and his smock and returns with the latter over his shoulder. Dragging his crook he walks past Ditalidas again, where he hesitates. He looks her in the eyes for the last time and, with trembling voice, he says to her: “Thank you, her highness. Ehm…“ A single tear starts rolling down his left cheek. With a little more certainty he adds “And… Ehm… Remember: you WILL win!“ With bent head and shoulders he calls Friend with a squeaky voice while slowly walking towards the door.
Surprise flashes over Ditalidas’ face. Then she looks straight at Marc. “Marc?“ She says softly but clearly audible. “Please, won’t you sit down again?“ She looks at Javroun. “Would you be so kind to pour that young man another stout? That is… if the young man wants to return at the table.“ She looks at Marc and tosses him a smile. “I never meant to send you away. I was only saying we had to talk about that subject soon.“
Inclining his head gravely, Javroun replies in a somber tone, “Certainly My Lady. If the young saer will return to the table I will obtain another stout for him.“
As Marc hears his name he stops and turns his head, listening with all his heart to what this highborn lady has to say. Slowly the words and the expression on her face dawn on him. He straightens his back briefly, and then he collapses a bit, blushing deeply. After that he erects again, still blushing up to his ears, and walks back in the direction of the seat where Immerine sat a few moments ago. While looking at the floor expressly he mumbles in Ditalidas’ direction: “Ehm… Well… Ehm… Sorry! I… ehm… sort of misunderstood you, her highness! …Ehm… Not your fault of course …Nope! …It’s… well… it’s just me, her highness. …You know, my grandpa used to tell me… well, never mind!“ He looks at Javroun and asks, pointing at that seat, “Ehm, Saer, can I sit here?“ Javroun nods his head and with a friendly smile says, “Certainly young saer.“
Marc secretly looks at Ditalidas now and again, but mainly keeps his head bent down deeply, unintentionally giving a good look at his red neck and ears. Ditalidas gives Marc a reassuring smile. “Don’t worry about it Marc. There’s no harm done.“ Marc smiles thankfully at the lady and walks to the back wall, where he drapes his smock again and stands his crook against the wall. When he returns at Immerine’s seat he is looking much better already. As soon as he is seated, he uses a slip of his fur to dry his face. He smiles at lady once more, before looking at the ones left in this room, but the piglet in front of him surely has caught his attention too… He sniffs quite clearly.
Javroun returns with a freshly poured stout brimming with a thick head on a silvered serving tray. “Here you go, young saer.“ Marc looks with big eyes at the arriving man, accepts the drink, and says, “Thank you, Saer!“ Again he looks around and sniffs again, saying, “Well, that piglet really smells fine!“ As no one reacts, a frown crosses his face very briefly when a thought crosses his mind. Then he stands up and takes a knife from the cord around his neck. He cleans it by wiping it against his trousers and starts cutting a leg from the roasted animal, saying, “Anyone a piece…? Ehm… Calathra? Can I pull you a leg? …you, Saer Druth? A paw? They really look good! …Or do you prefer a slice of its breast…? Or a slice fried apple? …Ehm… Would any of YOU leave this animal uselessly killed, Saer Grim? …Perhaps you, her Highness?“ Marc looks in the eyes of the one he speaks to, as he tries to offer each of them a part of the roasted pork.
“No thank you Marc. I’m really not hungry right now. Besides, I have my biscuits.“ She says with a small smile. Slightly amused by Marc’s efforts at being sociable, Druth smiles and says, “Thank you, young boy, but like the lady, I will pass.“
Looking at the young boy, Kalil smiles and says politely “Well yes, thank you Marc. I might have some. I’ll sit next to you. I would like to talk with you.“ While Marc is serving the food around the table, Kalil asks the young man, “Where did you say you were from?“
As Marc has served everyone interested with pork and a witticism, he cuts off a leg for himself, looking with eager eyes at this food. He starts by cutting his bit in two. Then he selects the best part and drops it on the floor, where his dog starts eating at once almost as greedy as his little boss. Clearly visible above the – relatively – giant portion of meat are Marc’s big brown eyes. Though the sadness is more obvious with the traces of his recent fit of weeping, there’s an obvious delight in his eyes while he looks at each of the gathered friends. Between two bites he compliments Javroun with the excellent cooking.
Proceeding to answer Kalil’s question, Marc is sometimes hardly understandable speaking with his mouth full as he continues eating, “…well, saer Kalil – it IS Kalil, isn’t it? – In fact I’m not. …Ehm …At least I think I’m not… I’m not very sure about that though. …Been in a boat for a full week to get here… So, I guess… I’m from Dryham… a proud hamlet.“ Marc interrupts his answer to take a pull from his mug, then continues “…It’s a winter’s day walk from the city of Dreights in… Ehm… Slimlandshire …Been in and around Berdusk since the Time of Flowers… but I think I’ll be moving on… Ehm… And you Saer? …Not from here too, I suppose?“
Kalil smiles at the boy, who acts younger than he actually can be. “You pronounce my name right, boy.“ He says to Marc. He juggles with his next words for a time and finally concludes, “You might want to think before you ramble about. I mean to say: you could actually speak in sentences. It would do you a lot of good, I think.“ Kalil pauses for a while, enjoying his meal. “Not from here, right. Hmmm… As for myself? No. I come from a faraway land called Amn. It’s a beautiful country, rich too. People are very different compared to this place. People here are more open minded, you know. Well…“ Kalil takes a short break here before he continues “…about certain questions that is.“ He looks at Marc, smiles and devotes himself to his meal again.
Marc smiles sourly, not forgotten the lady yet, and replies Kalil at once, “You know, my grandfather used to say exactly the same. …Yes! …Yes, and my mother teased me with it sometimes…“ A gleam appears in his eyes with the arrival of a pleasant memory, “…teased me a lot, actually… Ehm, as you said! Open minded! That’s the difference! …between grandpa and mum, I mean… part of it anyway. …Hmm… Amn…“ Marc looks at the ceiling, “…don’t think I know it… What do you mean by rich, anyway… Oh!! I’m doing it again, ain’t I?“ Marc smiles disarmingly at the man with the weird headdress.
Marc pauses a moment to see the last bit of his chunk disappear in the dog’s mouth and the dog disappearing to snuggle down against the legs of Ditalidas again. Marc looks at her for a moment, slowly shaking his head again. Then he nods at the lady, pointing at the dog with his eyes, with a tiny smile. Then turns to Kalil again, saying, “My mother said I was thinking to fast; while grandfather said I didn’t think at all. They couldn’t both be right, could they? Wh…“ Marc is barly able to stop and swallow another loose, half-finished sentence and bows forward to take his mug and a sip, smiling a bit again. “Which questions?“ He asks.
Kalil smiles at the boy when he looks up from his food. His eyes betray some warm feelings, possibly even recognition. “Which questions you ask? Some to murder I would say.“ Kalil’s expression becomes dull and he looses himself in thoughts for a moment “Some to magic. Although not all of them as I noticed… I’ve seen no real distinction between the social classes.“ Kalil says while he nods towards lady Ditalidas “Maybe even to other things. I’m here for only one day and I’ve witnessed more than should be witnessed on one day. Later this evening, I need some time for myself. There’s a lot to catch up with.“
Suddenly Kalil hears himself talking, and keeps silent for a few moments. “You are right, boy. Your grandfather and your mother couldn’t have been right. Not at the same moment, anyway. But I value your mother’s words more than those of your granddaddy. Thinking fast is good. Speaking before your turn, that’s the bad thing… Do you have plans for the next days, or for that matter, for your life?“
“Plans?“ Marc answers, “I will become a magician, saer, a great one, some day.“ He rapidly adds “But only to do good to people!“ As Kalil’s words cycle through his mind Marc pauses and tilts his head a little, a slight frown on his face. Then he suddenly speaks up, sounding a bit irritated: “You said Murder? And open minded on murder? You’re puzzling me, Saer! Never noticed anything what could give anyone that idea. You should see Lieutenant Aluar’s face when things like that happen! Furious is the word and not just with killings, no!“ He stops a second to think, then continues in a more friendly tone “Berdusk is harsh, sure, but open minded is not the phrase I’d choose.“
Marc looks at Kalil expressly, to catch every little detail of his reaction as he continues, “I do wonder about you folk, though! …Heard some of you tell some friends were killed… killed brutally today, yet none of you shed a single tear! I can’t get that, saer.“ Marc pauses again, but keeps focused on Kalil’s face.
“You must understand, dear Marc“ Kalil says with a sad look in his eyes “Tharkas was not exactly my friend. We traveled with him for a while. Must admit I liked the man…“ After these words Kalil falls silent, the sad look in his eyes spreads across his entire face. “…It was more a companion than a friend. Still I’m shocked that he got killed. That really hurts me, even when I’m not showing it. I say we must do everything possible to save the honor of Tharkas and his family. I say we hunt down these murderers!“ Kalil started in a low voice, but the last statements were made with a passion not to be misunderstood.
“But you yourself, saer, you puzzle me even more… Look! You’re witnessing what the princess…“ Marc nods in the direction of Ditalidas. “…is going trough; what evil does to people.“ Marc’s face turns angry at this thought. He shakes his head once more and during this pause one might see his lips form the words ‘Growling Goblins’ again.
The look on Marc’s face grows more intense with every sentence as he continues, “Apart from that, you heard the wise words of the black haired lady, Immerine, and… Ehm… well, I agree she seemed to judge you prematurely, but then again, even you must admit she IS right, isn’t she…? Why on earth would someone risk becoming part of these dark forces, risk causing… this?“ He points at the lady with a nod of the head again, “You must agree there’s no gain worth these costs… or…? Or don’t you?“
“Your princess, dear Marc, is just flesh and blood. Like yourself, and all other people, regardless of sex, race or faith. Lady Ditalidas shows her passion and grieve. That’s good, to some extend. Sometimes it’s better to keep things to yourself, sometimes it’s better to show it. That’s a decision that has to be made individually. The lady has chosen, respect that choice. Respect others if they choose otherwise.“
Kalil looks inquiringly at Marc, as if he saw some spark of fire behind him. “The lady Immerine is wrong, my dear. Her fear is too become evil by studying it. Actually she might be right in that respect. But I did – and do! – Not propose to study evil. I want to study the source, the magic. I agree that the source might be used to do evil. But it can be used for good too. It only pays proper respect to the Weave if you study all facets of it, not just those you want to use – either for good or for bad. I do believe we should study all magic, regardless of what you can do with it. Immerine told about people becoming crazy and such. That’s just because they don’t understand what they’re doing. In order to stay sane one should examine the Weave-time and again!“
Marc falls silent for quite a while, a puzzled look on his face. He looks around to see if one of the others will react on – or contribute to – this conversation and says to Kalil, “Saer, I don’t know. What you’re saying doesn’t sound too bad, but then again…“ He frowns deeper and whispers as he questions himself “… What’s the difference between studying evil and studying a bit of evil?!…?“ Then he continues at normal voice “… Well, Saer, I just don’t know… Even taking the risk you MIGHT go wrong is a giant risk, for its consequences alone, even if the changes it’ll happen are small… I’ll think it over… sometime.“ He still looks puzzled, but a smile crosses his face as he adds, “Please, saer… do the same!“
Kalil looks at the young boy, his eyes showing tenderness and amusement. “No young Marc, you’re not listening. I’ve never said I’d like to study ‘a bit of evil’. Consider it like this. If you imagine a pitchfork, nothing wrong with a pitchfork, right? The fork can be used to pick up hay or something. Sounds pretty useful or ‘good’ if you want to. Now consider the farmer. He uses the pitchfork. Let’s say a brigand threatens his house. The farmer decides to kill the brigand with the pitchfork. Killing is often considered to be ‘evil’. But what if the farmer is protecting his poor wife and three small children who were threatened by the brigand? That would probably be considered ‘good’. Still, in all three cases, the pitchfork is just a pitchfork. It’s the actions of the farmer, and his reasons for using it, that contributes to the concept of ‘good’ or ‘evil’.“
Kalil waits a moment for his words to sink in. “Now consider magic. Like the pitchfork, it’s just a thing, but a special thing. It’s like a natural law, like gravity. It lives, has its place in our world, and actually shapes parts of our world. In a sense, it is our world. The pitchfork is just a simple tool. Magic is deeper, has more edges to it and has many more secrets and mysteries. But essentially it’s just a tool. Nothing ‘good’ or ‘evil’ about it. Just like the pitchfork. It’s those who use magic who are good or evil. Not the magic itself. Types of magic commonly associated with evil casters are just another type of magic. Remember, the magic is not evil, only it’s users can be. But even the magic commonly associated with evil can be used for good purposes. Again, remember the pitchfork used for killing the brigand in order to save the wife and kids. Therefore, it’s not evil to study any kind of magic. Instead, it’s a proper thing to do. Conclusion: It’s not the magic that’s evil. It’s the caster. Therefore we should study all kinds of magic.“ Kalil holds his breath for a few seconds, looking at Marc to see if his lecture has any effect.
Marc nods silently A little less silent he replies after a few instances, “You’re right. Saer. I – ehm… I already knew magic is not bad by itself. I just told you I’d become a magician, didn’t I?“ He sighs, opens his mouth, closes it again and then reopens it, sounding just a little bit weary, “Still, if I’d study agricultural tools I wouldn’t start with studying a killing farmer.“ Marc smiles cheerfully “I know my bit of pitchforks already.“ His smile increases as he shows Kalil his palms. “Look here! This callus didn’t jump on, I’ve had a serious course in pitch forking this summer…“ He looks at the table, then briefly back at Kalil again, “But seriously… Can’t we change the subject, Saer? I said I’d think about it, and I will, but preferably not now. It’s an interesting evening thus far, but… well, it’s complicated enough already as it is…“ Then Marc looks back at the table again, mumbling, “Hmm, let’s have another bite!“
Marc takes a swig of his stout and uses his knife to cut of another piece of pork. He cuts it in two again and then looks at Friend, who still is lying with the exalted woman. He smiles at the two and says, “Ehm, her highness, you said you’d something to say ‘bout your background… you know, being a princess and such… Ehm… now?“ at the last word he underlines the question by lifting his eyebrows shortly.
While Ditalidas listens to Kalil’s explanation, she scratches Friend behind her ears and shakes her head slightly. Friend turns her head to look at Ditalidas’ face. Her eyes are remarkably bright and blue and of course sad-looking. Strange enough there seems to be something like understanding in her look…
“Maybe you shouldn’t compare magic with something as innocent as a fork. I think it would be very foolish to underestimate the power that magic can have over the human, or intelligent, mind. Magic is like fire, drink it too deeply and it’ll consume you and it will destroy your common sense… after that, will you be able to make the choice of good and bad?“ Ditalidas smiles apologetic, “But what do I know of magic.“ After that she turns to Marc. “To answer your question Marc, I’m not a princess. You don’t need to call me Highness or something like that. I don’t know what gave you the impression, but I’m not the daughter of a king and living in a castle. And even if I was, Kalil is right, we are all of flesh and blood, all alike.“ For a moment she looks at Marc before she continues: “I hope you don’t mind to serve a lady who is not more than the daughter of a merchant.“
Seeing Marc settle back in and eating something Matteo smiles briefly, the expression lighting up his eyes. Turning back to Ditalidas he quietly asks, “Will you return here an hour after dawn before heading out of the city with Telsom? If you are waiting overnight one hour should not to be too much to ask. It may even prove beneficial. The Captain may have something to say later that could prove helpful. Portia might return with aid from the Temple of Kelemvor… and her knowledge of the undead will certainly be useful to you. I know you wish to see matters resolved, but a little consideration and patience at the beginning can save much time and frustration later on. Will you return here, my lady?“
“If I could, I would have gone there right away. You must understand that there is a possibility my mothers body was among those monsters.“ Tears moisten Ditalidas’ eyes. Exactly at that point Marc stiffens and silences. In fact his eyes seem to pop out as he looks at this lady, trying to grasp what she’s going through. He’s so much aghast his chunk falls on the floor, where Friend shows his velocity and snatches it, this in great contrast with Marc’s immobility, his mouth still open.
Ditalidas tries to swallow them away, but one tear escapes her and runs down her cheek. “Though I’m inclined to agree with you, and though something tells me there will be nothing there anymore when we arrive in the morning, a deep feeling within me urges me to go there as soon as possible …to see if she’s still there…“ She sighs before she continues. “Can’t we compromise? I have two other options. We could gather an hour later so I can follow my urging feeling. We even may return with valuable information. Or we could gather at dawn, an hour earlier. I really like to go there as soon as possible.“ She looks at him, waiting for his answer.
The first sign of Marc’s return is the closing of his mouth. Still looking compassionately at the lady, he very slowly shakes his head, whispering, “Gush! …But…! Growling Goblins! …Woman, what have they done to you! I mean…“ Quicker than previously he decides to shut up.
The sympathy on Portia’s face is evident. She looks at Matteo, her expression clearly indicating she is hoping he agrees. “I have no qualms about meeting earlier…“ Marc can’t help whispering another “Growling Goblins!“
“Of course,“ Matteo replies quietly, “Dawn it is.“ Turning back to the others in the room Matteo raises his voice a little and says, “There has been a slight change of plans. We will be meeting here, in this room, at dawn tomorrow.“ Stepping towards the door he murmurs quietly to Ditalidas and Portia, “Now I had better get to the Captain.“ Bowing slightly he says, “Ladies.“ And he leaves the room.
With an incensed undertone, Kalil speaks to Matteo as he leaves the room. “Bye Matteo. A good night to you too…“ Shortly after Matteo leaves, and after listening for a bit to Kalil, Ditalidas and Marc, Portia rises. “Farewell.“ She says, heading for the door. “I’ll see what if anything I can find at the Crystal Mansion. See you all in the morning.“ She heads for the door.
Grim finishes his meal while pretending to be interested in the conversation, politely hiding some impressive yawns behind his hand. He excuses himself and wanders off in search of a bed.
Having taken the pork leg Marc offered her, the halfling eats well and considerably fast, seeming as if her fingers and teeth are everywhere. She goes into thinking all the while Kalil talks to Marc. Politely putting the rest of the pork back on the dish, she takes a handkerchief and gently cleans her lips and small hands. Putting the handkerchief back into her pocket she looks at Kalil and then at Marc and utters: “When you’re done Tallman, sit on the chair next to you. Kalil will have to excuse us for the moment, I’m afraid. I have an advice…“ – her voice breaks into whisper, hopefully to be heard by Marc only “…about approaching a certain Tallwoman you seem fond of.“
Marc is surprised at this sudden action of the halfling. But he’s really flabbergasted about what she says. He stares at her for seconds, his eyes wide open and breathing noticeably. Then he utters, stammering, “F – Frey?! B – but… How on earth do you know about Frey?!…? I… Ehm…“ He slowly calms down and his eyes come back to normal proportions as he continues more thoughtfully, “… but, well, I think I’ve got over that by now.“
In a very soft voice, as if he’s only speaking to himself he adds “…Sort of…“ Then he shifts his position a little and says, still looking at Calathra, “You make me very curious, girl“ He realizes he’s making the same mistake he made earlier and modestly looks down, trying to correct his error.“…Ehm, no… woman…“ But – as his eyes are pointed downwards a little – at this very word he realizes he’s gazing at her chest. For a brief moment Marc is startled. Then he quickly looks away, blushing deeply. The next moment he looks Calathra in the eyes again, and continues still blushing a bit, “Ehm, Calathra, sorry. …Ehm… you were saying?“
Whispering for no one to hear except Marc, Calathra says: “I know nothing of any Frey. I was speaking about th tallwoman Ditalidas. It seems obvious you like her. As she said, she is no princess but an ordinary Tallwoman. Do not be so shy when speaking to a Tallwoman. You are too polite, I see she likes you, treat her normally and maybe you two can get love each other. That is all I wanted to say, and no, I know nothing about Frey. I’m just a halfling.“
Marc looks puzzled at this surprising creature. Then he answers, quietly as well, “I’ve been too polite? Well, thanks for telling me, Calathra! …Still…“ He lifts his hands a little, frowning, apparently puzzled, “Yes, I think I do like this woman. Then again, that’s all there is to it, as far as I’m concerned.“ As this seems to be cleared out, the puzzled look disappears from Marc’s face. His look wanders through the room for a few moments, then he addresses the halfling again, still in soft voice, “Then, how should I address her? …Ma’am, I suppose …or Mrs. Something? By her first name even? Then again I didn’t catch her first name.“ Marc looks questioning at the halfling woman
Marc looks puzzled as he and the halfling woman talk a while in a soft voice. Then he smiles at Calathra and says, “Nice lending me a hand.“ He turns back to Ditalidas and says, “Ehm, no I don’t mind at all.“ With a friendly smile he adds, “In fact it suites me better this way, I guess.“ He looks down for a few seconds before admitting, “Something’s puzzling me and. Only now you turn out to be a mere peddler’s daughter I dare asking…“ His smile shrivels up as he cautiously speaks to her “Sorry, but I overheard parts of the conversations, and… well the way it sounded doesn’t sound good to me. Not good at all. Correct me if I’m wrong, but you had some unpleasant encounter? You were attacked? And there were undead involved? One of which…“ He shakes his head quietly in disapproval.
Having grown bored with the inn’s centerpiece Telsom quietly returned to the room leaning against the door jamb as Marc began to speak. Marc continues more careful, “And now it seems you intend to go back there…? In the darkest hours of the night? …Nearly alone?“ He looks investigating her face for a few seconds before he call out, “Why?!“ His face looks more mature as he talks this seriously: “What could you possibly win by going there now? If you’ll get pasts the gates at this hour, that is.“
He pauses, trying to find the right words – he did listen to Kalil – “I’m no expert on these matters, that’s for sure, but why go now? Look: if you won’t find her you’ll know as much as you know already. And what if you do find her? You could get hurt more, in one or many ways.“ He shakes his head again, looking really worried, “No, ma’am, don’t like this idea at all!“ He looks at the others present one by one, saying “And none of you even considered withholding her?!“
He turns back at the merchant’s daughter and pleads worriedly, “Please, ma’am! If you don’t literally have to go now, don’t!“ The anxiety in his look and the sadness in his eyes grow as he softly and cautiously adds, “But if you must, make absolutely sure you bring the right and sufficient protectors with you. Swords alone probably won’t do. Please!“
A little surprised and not able to figure out were he got the idea she wanted to get to the spot right away, Ditalidas blinks at Marc. Before she’s able to open her mouth however Telsom starts to speak. Sighing when Marc has finished Telsom begins to speak. “Young one, unless plans have changed nobody was going to visit the site of the Lady’s attack until dawn.“ Surprised Marc looks over his shoulder to check who’s suddenly speaking, but in a moments notice he returns his attention to Ditalidas, awaiting her reply. A little startled by his voice Ditalidas turns to look at Telsom. A smile flashes over her face as she sees him standing at the door.
“It is getting rather late though and as soon as the lady has finished her meal, and answered any questions I plan to get her home and to bed. Some sleep I’m sure will help to ward off some of the stress today has brought upon her.“ Turning to Calathra, Telsom winks at the halfling. “I’ll have the stable boy take good care of your luggage milady. A few gold coins lining his pockets will ensure their safety I’m sure.“ Telsom waits in the doorway while staring at Marc a small, but friendly smile on his face.
Calathra nods and then replies: “I have no money, Telsom. I’m but a poor halfling but I hope you will settle the score for me. You will not be without a reward, though.“ In what seems to be less then a second agile Calathra stands up, brings the stool to Telsom, stands on it and kisses him on the cheek.
Again the halflings speedy actions attract Marc’s interest. The sudden kiss even brings about a brief blush on his cheeks while he quickly looks away.
Calathra smiles to Telsom, then in what seems like a blur of movements jumps down, brings the stool to the table and says: “I agree with Marc. There should be no separating.“
Telsom gives a slight chuckle when the halfling kisses him and then retreats. “Ah, I see you read my mind milady, for indeed I intended to line the boy’s pockets. Your payment however pleasant was not necessary…“ Telsom’s words are interrupted by a slight chuckle before he continues. “They are most welcomed though.“ Calathra nods all the while not turning her head to look at Telsom and says: “There’s more where that came from but I am a lady, knight. Rest easy“
Ditalidas smiles at the actions of the halfling and she gives Telsom a wink before she turns to Marc. “Telsom is right, I’m going nowhere tonight accept for home this evening. If I wanted to go to the spot tonight I would have been there already.“ for a moment she looks attentive at Marc. “Where do you sleep at night Marc?“
Marc sighs and his shoulders decline as his tension decreases. He smiles with new light in his eyes and answers “Good!“ He sighs again, be it less explicit. “I knew, but… I just wasn’t sure enough. And… I agree with him too.“ He nods to point at Telsom. But as his head’s turned that way he replies at Telsom’s smile with another. “You’re right, Saer.“ He says more loudly, to be sure Telsom will be able to hear it, with a gleam of a giggle in his eyes as he reminds the halfling’s action. As he turns his head back, his eyes cross Calathra’s and Marc can’t help a cheeky smile emerging on his face, so he nods at her friendly as he continues turning his head.
Then Marc looks back at the lady, a bit surprised at her question, “Ehm… well… Actually we sleep anywhere. This time of year I prefer to sleep under a roof, if I can find such a place.“ Marc shrugs his shoulders once, “You know. A stable or such… But if not… well, it isn’t freezing yet, is it?“ And as all the signs seem to point out that the gathering is coming to an end, Marc reaches for his mug and takes another sip. While he’s drinking tiny wrinkles appear in his forehead. He scratches the back of his head with one eye closed, pauses a second and turns to Ditalidas, takes a breath as if to say something, but in the same motion he turns his head forward again and starts staring at the mug in his hand for a few moments.
Telsom watches the exchange between Ditalidas and Marc with mild interest. “If you have many more beer young saer I might have to carry you up to a room.“ Raising a hand to his mouth Telsom tries to suppress a yawn, unfortunately he fails. “My apologies.“ He says to no one in particular as he wipes his eyes.
“I don’t think it’ll freeze, but you don’t need to sleep outside if you don’t want to. I might be able to arrange a place to sleep for you. It probably won’t be much, but it’s warm and there’ll be breakfast in the morning.“ She looks down at Friend and gives the dog a hug.
Javroun has entered the room and steps up to the table, “Was everything fine? Can I get you something else to drink?“ He looks around at the people assembled. “No? Well I’ll let you think on it while I’ll have the table cleaned.“ He picks up several plates and utensils. Just before he starts to clear the table, he looks in the general direction of Druth and Kalil. “Oh, Saer Ashgale wanted me to remind you that the rooms have been reserved and paid for.“ He looks at Ditalidas, “That is of course for those who don’t have a place to stay in Berdusk Milady.“
“Oh perfect. Then that’s being arranged. Is breakfast also paid for? If not, I’ll arrange payment in the morning.“ Ditalidas smiles at Javroun. Javroun carries the remainder of the meal back to the common room, before reappearing to carry out the rest of the meal. Elisa, who also helps to clear and clean the table, follows him. As Elisa enters Marc lifts his left hand in a greeting gesture – he’s holding the mug in his right hand – and smiles briefly at her.
Ditalidas rises from her chair, along the way scratching Friend behind her ear for another brief moment. “I’m tired. I guess it’s time to go home.“ For a moment she looks at her biscuits and wine that still stands untouched on the table before her. Then she shrugs and gracefully slides to the door and Telsom. There she turns and says: “I’ll see you all first thing in the morning. I hope we can keep it short than. I want to leave for the spot as soon as possible.“ She turns to Marc. “Marc, if you want you can stay at the Stag here. I guess Javroun will show you your room. I hope you’ll sleep well. Why don’t you take another stout before you get some sleep.“ The latter she adds with a wink. After that she looks at Druth. “You are welcome to come along, but if you want to stay here for another while, that’s no problem. Ruldan knows who you are and will guide you to your room as soon as you arrive at Jalargharspires.“ Finally she looks at Telsom. “Are you ready to go? Or do you want to stay here for another moment?“ A twinkle in her eyes tells Telsom that she doesn’t believe for a moment he has the desire to stay any longer. She tosses him a warm smile and a quick wink.
Brought back from his reverie by Ditalidas words, Druth says, “Please, go on, I think I’ll stay just a bit more. Anyway, it has been a long day, I won’t be long.“
A smile comes to Telsom’s face as he looks at Ditalidas. “I believe now would be a good time to depart milady.“ He says, and then turns to the others in the room. “It’s been a pleasure to meet all of you. If I don’t see you again tomorrow then I wish you good luck in all your ventures.“ Turning to Ditalidas he offers her his arm. “Milady?“ He says softly.
Marc sees it all and remains quiet until now. He stands up and raises his voice as he calls “Ehm… Wait!“ He quickly rises from his chair, putting down his mug rapidly and starts walking quickly towards the door. “Ehm… Please wait.“ He adds, emphasizing the ‘please’ he forgot earlier. Friend swiftly follows the young man through the room like his shadow.
Calathra nods and smiles to the paladin, then yawns, looking at the table she utters, “Now would be the time for a halfling to get some rest. Which one of you will show me the way to my room? I am so tired; I can’t even take my backpacks to the room. Tallmen?“
The moment Marc reaches the doorway he looks at Telsom and says to him, “Ehm… Saer! I can lend you a hand saddling the horses if you like…“ Then he turns to the lady and says, “Excuse me, ma’am. Thanks for your generous offer… Breakfast an’ all… but… ehm… I feel I have to decline your offer.“ He pauses for half a second, straightens his back and says, “In times like this the place of a servant is next to his boss!“ He looks at Telsom again, “Hope you’ll excuse me, saer.“ Marc takes a deep breath and addresses Ditalidas again with a serious look in his eyes, “I’ve got an advice and a request, ma’am. Ehm… please listen…“ He steps closer to her, puts one hand on her shoulder as he leans towards the woman and whispers in her ear.
Before Marc moves in to whisper words to Ditalidas, Telsom answers him. “I’ve no need of help saddling the horses. Although the offer is appreciated I will decline.“ As Marc begins to speak to Ditalidas, Telsom lets out a small sigh. “Mistress, keep me sane.“ He says, shaking his head and staring at the ceiling.
Marc steps closer to Ditalidas, putting his hand on her shoulder while bending to whisper in her ear: “I know I can’t possibly understand what you’re going through, ma’am, but… well…“ He pauses as if he’s looking for the right words, his sad brown eyes glued to those of Ditalidas, “Well, my mother was great in comforting people, famous even, and I know she would have given you the advice I wanna give you now.“ His eyes show a wet glance, “I don’t think it’s a good idea for you to sleep alone tonight! I think a night watch is advisable.“ He hesitates for a second, while his eyes swiftly look at Telsom and back, “I don’t know how close you and Telsom are… but of course a sister or the neighbor’s wife, well… anyone you can trust, I guess preferably female, will do. Just to be there if you rouse in the midst of the night.“
He looks away a moment, thinking, then cautiously looks back at her and says humbly, “And… and… I would consider it a big honor if Friend and I could sleep on your doorstep… We’re both light sleepers…“ He shrugs his shoulders, “Just in case.“
For a moment Ditalidas looks surprised at Marc, but mirth sneaks into her eyes as she listens to Marc’s whispers and a smile appears at Telsom’s reaction. She runs her hand trough Marc’s hair. “You are a very nice young man and I appreciate your concern. But I cannot take you with me.“
“I’ll have your backpacks brought up to your room Milady“ Javroun nods politely to Calathra. Elisa will show you to your room. Javroun looks at Ditalidas and Telsom. “Do you want me to have Elisa show the young man his room Milady?“ Javroun asks and gestures at Marc. Marc keeps looking intensely at the lady; he lifts his right hand in an absent-minded wave at Javroun, shaking his head slowly.
Ditalidas look up to Javroun and smiles “That is for the young man to decide. But if I were him I would take that offer.“ She turns back to Marc. “I strongly suggest you take that bed and…“ She looks at him with a critical look “… a bath. I cannot allow my servant to walk around like this. I’ll see to it that you get some new clothes tomorrow. Maybe, just maybe, after that, I can introduce you at the house. But until then…“ She shakes her head and looks apologizing at Marc.
Marc looks the lady in the eye and stammers frowning and clearly disappointed, “but… but…“ At first Marc just bends backward an inch, then he answers politely with his dark brown voice, “If you say so, ma’am… so be it.“ His Adam’s apple goes up and down once, “I won’t argue, but I surely disagree.“ Marc starts to turn away to hide his moistening eyes, but turns back, looks her in the eyes with a concerned look and says, “But, please promise me one thing, ma’am! Be back here at dawn… and… in one piece.“ He touches her cheek briefly with the back of his fingers, and then he turns and takes a small step towards Telsom. Marc, with straightened back, looks quite mature as he addresses the man with authority in his voice – be it just a bit too loudly – “Saer! Please be extremely alert tonight! I’ll hold you responsible personally if anything might happen to her!“
With sadness in her eyes Ditalidas looks at the disappointed Marc. For a moment she regrets her words, but than she remembers the reasons why she can’t take him along and says nothing.
Angrily he walks back to his seat. He remains standing there with his back to the doorway. His hand shakes as he slowly takes his mug from the table. He just stands there, trembling, for three or four seconds. Then he suddenly turns to face the couple at the doorway, looking very furious at them. With a loud and trembling voice he calls out: “Go then! …GO!!“
As he shouts this last syllable he flings his mug through the room. Somewhere high above and behind where Calathra sat earlier, the mug smashes against the wall with a loud bang; the mugs’ fragments increase the noise when they clash on the floor. Slowly a large stain of moisture descends down the wall. The dog reacts strongly at Marc’s outburst and flattens herself against the floor. As Marc sees this happen, he kneels down besides her and bends across her, softly speaking a few inaudible things to the animal. His back and shoulders shudder.
Marc’s sudden change of attitude startles Ditalidas for a moment but than a hurt look appears in her eyes. She lays her hand on her stomach as if the mug hit her there instead of the wall. “I’m sorry Marc.“ She says softly but loud enough for him to hear. As tears start filling her eyes she turns around, her dress sweeping around her feet at the abruptness of the movement, and leaves the room without another word. In the hallway she rests her back at the wall and with a quick move she, almost angry, wipes the tears from her face. She can’t understand Marc’s reaction and why it hurts so badly. “I’ll be right with you.“ Telsom calls over his shoulder to the lady as he storms across the room to Marc.
Stopping before the boy, with a scowl on his face and his brows furrowed, Telsom points a finger at the boy and speaks with rage barely controlled in both his visage and words. “The woman, it seems, will come to more harm in your presence than out of it. Should you ever, ever bring her to tears again by being impolite and mean to her then we shall have words boy! If you are to be in her or my presence then you will cease the commands and the melodrama. This is your only warning. The wrath of a paladin of any religion is not something you’d want to bring down on your head.“ Finished with his tirade Telsom turns from the boy and leaves for the stable without saying another word.
Druth watches silently as Ditalidas moves away. With a last sip from his goblet, he says, “I think I’m going for a little walk outside.“ He then turns to Marc, “Would you care to come with me? I think we might both need some fresh air…“ He stands up and walks to the door, adding, “Oh, and bring Friend with you, of course.“
After a few seconds Marc, still dazzled, looks up at Druth. Though his eyes are bloodshot and his cheeks really wet he still looks angry as he stammers gaspingly, “ehm… I…“ – sob – “This lady…“ – sob – “… what will…“ – sob – “… become…“ – sob, pause, another sob, “You’re right…“ – sob – “I will…“ Marc stands up clumsily, wipes his cheeks untidily and walks sobbing towards the door. On his way he walks against Kalil’s chair, as tears trouble his vision. Marc mumbles an excuse and walks on. Of course Friend follows him like a shadow without needing a single word.
When everybody has left the room, Kalil stays a little longer; he has something to think about. Afterwards, he goes up to his room, and locks his door and double-checks it to make sure it won’t open unless he wants it to. In his room, Kalil takes his books and studies them. He’s experimenting with the intricate mathematics of the Weave, trying to further his knowledge about the Identify spell and his Animate Rope spell. Besides that, he casts Detect Magic, just to visualize and explore the Weave itself… After his studies, he goes to bed. In bed, he spends a good while thinking about the things that happened today, and whether they were good or bad for his future… Kalil succeeds in furthering his knowledge in the arcane before going to sleep. In his sleep however, he has a recurring image in his dreams. He doesn’t remember the dreams themselves the next morning, only the image: A pair of emerald green eyes looking at him, scrutinizing his dream actions.
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