By Jaap-Peter Hazelhoff
Chapter 15 - Dark Streets and Dark Thoughts
Berdusk, 1371 DR, Eleint, 8th day, late evening
Shortly after Matteo leaves, and after listening for a bit to Kalil, Ditalidas and Mark, 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.
Portia is walking back toward the Crystal Mansion, taking the route along Steelsword Street. The night has draped its dark cloak over the city: the streetlights trying their best to bring light into the gloom. The mist from earlier in the evening has risen, forming a low layer of clouds, obscuring the light of Selûne and the stars. The cold night air is forming little clouds of her breaths; winter is on its way. Ascending the street to Clearspring Tor, Portia cannot shake the feeling of eyes following her movements since she left the Running Stag.
Tension was high during the meeting in the private room at the Running Stag. The events of the day have obviously effected some emotions. Slowly the members of the group depart as the night falls. Portia is making her way toward the Crystal Mansion, the temple of Kelemvor in Berdusk, while Matteo and Immerine are on their way up to the castle to see Captain Zaina. Grim and Calathra are sound asleep upstairs waiting for the light of a new day. Telsom and Ditalidas leave the Running Stag after Marc’s emotional outburst. Saddling up their horses the two of them ride of to the Jalarghar Spires to spend the night there. As everyone but Kalil has left the room, he sits a while by himself before heading up the stairs to his bedroom.
Druth invites Marc and Friend for a walk outside to get some fresh air. Coming from the warm interior of the Running Stag, the pair is greeted by cold air outside. The night carries a hint of early frost. The city is quiet, save for a few sounds, men working late at night at the docks, a few late night revelers on their way to bed. Friend, happy to be outside, prances around the pair, barking enthusiastically. As soon as Marc and Druth leave the building, Marc walks to a barrel, starts beating it with his fists, while uttering a long and loud scream. Then he stops and sighs deeply, twice.
Seeing Marc’s sudden emotional outburst, Druth says, “I had a feeling you needed that. Are you feeling better now?“ He comes near Friend and start playing with her, whispering something only the dog can hear. After that, he looks back at Marc and asks, “So, my heavy-hearted friend, what shall it be? A little night walk so you can show me the city, or should we go to our beds and wait for a new morning?“ Marc, his head bend down, looks up at the elf, breathing heavily, but decreasing in frequency. “Thank you.“ He answers the first question, “but no, I’m not feeling better. As a matter of facts I’m still worried sick… But, well… at least I’m getting back in control of myself…“ And with a petty smile he adds, “So it’s a start.“ Again there’s a deep sigh, “And yes, I surely would like a long walk… You see… I won’t be able to sleep anyway… can’t just wait.“ He looks Druth in the eyes gracefully and adds “Thank you!!“
“Tell me, young Marc, what’s going on? Why are you so troubled, and so worried about the Lady’s safety?” The elf asks, his almond shaped eyes regarding the young lad, “Would you be so kind as to share your thoughts with me?“ Marc smiles thankfully at Druth and says, “Nice of you to ask!“ Then they start walking. But after this first sentence Marc makes less sense, while he starts mourning fiercely, “It’s SO stupid! …Can’t she see!? …The risk alone! …Hasn’t she gone through enough already? …I, Ehm…“ And so he lingers on for moments. Marc walks next to Druth, looking Druth in the eyes from time to time and gesturing ceaselessly. Some two feet behind and next to him Friend follows them. Every time Marc and Druth stop, Friend starts sniffing around, but as soon as they move again he’s back at their feet. The stroll starts in Eastern direction.
The mourning goes on until they reach a crossing, from where one of the fierce wall-towers can be seen in the North. They go on Eastwards. About here there seems to come some sense in the words Marc utters, at least they line up in sentences now, “I can’t follow you, you rich people and adventurers! Making such incomprehensible decisions! You know. Absolutely senseless priorities…“ Marc looks at the sky and sighs, “I’ve met a few of you folks, and – to be honest – perhaps you’re not such a strange breed after all, but…“ Marc interrupts himself and stands still to look up again. Longer this time, more like half a moment. “Look at the stars! I gather we’ll have frost tonight.“ then Marc looks at Druth, “I’ve heard strange stories, but in fact none of them as crazy as this! …Imagine preferring to die above some dirt in the garden…“ The interruption, however, seemed to give some rest to Marcs’ worried mind and now he understands Druth doesn’t completely understand him.
Marc starts anew: “I’m talking too fast again, ain’t I?“ He takes a really deep breath and tries to explain his worries again, still emotional, but less confused. “There’s so much going on and so little to hold on to… To be honest, I don’t know what’s going on exactly… So, if you can, please fill me in on some points. For instance, what happened in Memblar’s Minstrelry? I don’t know much apart from what I saw myself… And I’m getting a closer picture, I think, of what happened to Ditalidas, but truly not the whole story… ehm, to name something, where did you came in?“ Once Marc started talking it is like a burst dike, a broad stream continues to flow, without rest, perhaps even without an end.
As the night is cold Marc steps out briskly as he continues, “Anyway… Listen. It’s clear someone or something has gone through a lot of effort to attack the lady. Not just to attack anybody, or to get some gold or what, no it’s expressly aimed at her. And – you know – it’s prepared, not some emotional outburst.“ Marc is counting something on his fingers. It’s not very clear what though. “Somebody evil, that’s clear too. Now the lady is hurt, be it unbroken… So we can’t assume this mean person got what he wanted. So, we must take in account there will be another attack. A worse attack would make sense.“ Marc looks unpleased with this thought. “And what would WE do if we’ve hit an opponent? Give him change to recover before hitting again? I surely wouldn’t! …So… I’d expect an attack soon, probably during this night. If I were a crook I’d…“ Marc stops and looks at his hands, “Hey! I’ve forgotten my crook!“ He scratches his head for a second, “O yes, put it against the wall. Well, I’ll collect it later.“ He smiles and walks on, “Where was I? …O yes, if I was a villain I’d made an ambush and wait for her coming home tonight.“ Marc looks earnestly at Druth again and adds desperately, “Now can you see why I’m worried?!“
After a few seconds Marc continues his story, a little less agitated, “I considered this and gave the woman some advice. Apart from that I offered to sleep on her doorstep. Then what happens? She declines my offer, just because… guess what! …Well, you heard it probably… because she thinks I need a bath! …A bath! …Her life is at steak and all she cares about is some dust on her doormat… She’d prefer shedding her noble blood to some honest street dirt making her threshold filthy!“ One can see Marcs’ agitation increase again “…You’re so… so… inimitable!“ Marc shakes his head, “Imagine…“ He fiercely interrupts himself, “No! …I don’t want to imagine that!“ The light of a street lantern glitters in his moist eyes while Marc sniffs his nose and clenches his fists again. “See? All I could do was press the point Telsom should be alert and protect her… but I think that pressure didn’t work out either.“ Again they turn right and see the Evensong Tower at their left as they’re on their way to round the castle.
Desperation sounds in his voice while he asks, “How can one possible do right with you people?! …Ehm…“ He suddenly seems to realize he’s accusing the friendly elf next to him of something and ads, a bit modestly, “Sorry, don’t mean you personally… Besides, this might have more to do with me than it has with these people I’m complaining about… But, honestly, I can’t make much sense of it.“ He is silent for a few seconds. Then an awkward smile tickles around the corners of his mouth, “And now the only one who could possibly DO something to protect her, he declared me to be their enemy and he will look in the wrong direction! Ha! This stupid honor-thing! …No! No, it’s not funny. Not funny at all!“ He turns and stops in front of Druth, facing him. He points his big dark eyes at the elf and asks, “Seriously, what can we do to protect this woman, or to diminish the damage at least? …And for this Telsom-bloke, is he any good? …You look as if you’ve handled trouble before. What can we do?!“ While still panting a little, Marc just stands there, waiting for the sun elf to respond, blocking his way.
When Marc has said goodbye to Druth he enters the building and looks for Elisa or Javroun. He finds Elisa at the door between the main room and the corridor to the private room and kitchen. Smiling he greets her. Then he refers to the lady’s remark and asks for a bath. Elisa answers that a bath is of course no problem. And, as it’s getting late and therefore a bit quiet she leads him towards the kitchen were she fills a large kettle with water and puts it on a stove. While the water’s getting warmer she prepares the bath and collects a towel. During this time she and Marc are friendly teasing each other a bit. When the kettle starts boiling she asks Marc to undress – still teasingly – but Marc does that only until he’s just wearing his trousers. By this time Elisa has mixed an amount of hot water from the kettle with the cold in the tub and tested the water temperature. She decently leaves the room to give Marc an opportunity to undress completely. When Marc is naked and steps in the tub he finds out its cold. He fetches a sponge, puts it in an appropriate place and calls Elisa, who is hiding just around the corner. Elisa comes forward, laughing teasingly and adds more hot water. Marc splatters some water in her direction as she leaves.
Marc washes himself using soap and sponge, humming at first but soon he sings loudly. As the water grows cold Marc steps out, dries himself and huddles on his trousers, holding the other clothes and things on an arm he returns to the doorway of the public room. Before he gets there he meets Elisa again, who says something teasing about Marc being clean and then walks with him to show his room. On the stairs she walks in front of him, giving him a nice view on her behind. At the door there’s another tease and a wink and some smiles. Then Marc closes his door and hears Elisa walk down the stairs again.
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