By Jaap-Peter Hazelhoff
Chapter 18 - Cold Water
Berdusk, 1371 DR, Eleint, 9th day, early in the morning
With barely the first light of day penetrating the shutters of the Running Stag, the realization hits that the morning air is cold. It must have been freezing last night. The night has been quiet and peaceful, though some might have had some strange dreams. The water in the jug on the table feels like liquid ice, but it helps getting awake. After washing and dressing, one by one the group gathers back in the private room. Javroun has arranged the room more orderly. Everyone has a place to sit at the table. The smell of fresh baked bread hangs in the air, making it easy to guess what’s in the covered baskets on the table. Two other baskets hold various fruits, and there is a plate with boiled eggs. A pitcher of milk, a small stove with a teapot and a jug of wine are available as drinks. It seems like everyone is complete except for Ditalidas, Telsom and Matteo. They will probably arrive shortly.
Immerine is in the common room and watches as the rag-tag group from the night before gathers again in the private room. The smells coming from the room make her stomach growl and make her wish she weren’t so stubborn. Still, she waits for Matteo before approaching the group again.
Calathra wakes up, feeling good. She fixes herself, combs her hair and leaves for the taproom, deciding to leave the backpacks in the room until her new friends decide to leave. Getting to the taproom she sees Immerine. She greets her with a nod and smiles. She glances at the table and then up at Immerine again asking: “Good morning Tallwoman. I hope you slept well. I hear you are from Rashemen. That is truly a far-away land. Close to Kara-Tur or something? Anyway, I hope you’re not a witch. I hear that there are some immensely powerful girls there, skinning squirrels for not obeying them and slaying anyone who enters a grove of trees. I hope you’re a good witch, human. I am but a halfling seeking thrills but I would still want to know if there’s more of your laws to know what not to do.“
“Fair morning, Calathra. I have a name if you choose to use it – I am called Immerine. As for skinning squirrels, what possible use could I have for their skin and pelt? Yes, we kill intruders in our lands, but not out of hand as you may think. Certain places are sacred to the wychlaran. Any who are not of our coven or invited there will die, and not always by our hands. Rashemen is a land that can take care of itself. I am a warrior and a leader to my people, as well as a teacher and a spiritual guide. Yes, you Outlanders call me a Witch. Our laws are simple, the word of a Witch is law, and to disobey is death. Outlanders are granted one mistake and one only. It is harsh, but we live in danger – always perched on the edge of a knife. If it is thrills you seek Rashemen is not the place for you.“ Immerine watches the door hoping Matteo enters soon as she shifts uncomfortably.
As the door to the room opens Immerine looks that was and catches sight of Kalil before it shuts again. She drops her head and looks at her hands. She mouths a few words softly to herself. “I am not accomplished in the Weave yet – but I shall try.“ Turning back to the halfling Immerine says, “I should not keep you from your breakfast. Javroun has placed a wonderful meal in the room. The others will know where to find us, shall we go?“ Immerine stands and indicates the direction of the meeting room from last night.
Flattered, Calathra agrees and waits for Immerine to take the lead into the private room. Calathra uses the moment to fix some of the braids she tied her hair in. In the mean time, Javroun walks into the private room carrying a large tray. He sets the tray down on the table and distributes plates and mugs. He then removes the cloths from the breadbaskets. “What would you like to drink saer?“ Javroun asks Kalil. “Tea, milk or wine?“
After having served Kalil, Javroun makes his way around the table serving Grim, Druth and Marc their drinks. “Enjoy your breakfast saers. If you need more bread, fruit or something to drink, I will be in the common room.“ With that he picks up the empty tray and leaves the room. Marc holds his mug of hot chocolate with both hands and looks thankfully at Javroun over its rim. He’s shivering a bit and his lips are a little purple.
While Kalil sips his milk, he sits silently as the others converse. He seems to be unwilling to talk, although he answers occasional questions politely, but with as few words as he possibly can. Kalil enjoys his breakfast, but seems to be in thought. Sensing Kalil’s unwillingness to talk, Druth limits himself to a “Good morning.“ He engages the others in light conversation, and enjoys his meal.
Talk at the table is low; sleep or lack of sleep has everyone down to only a little small talk. Marc is still shivering a little, as if he’s cold, yet the temperature in the room is comfortable. Not before long, Calathra and Immerine join Marc, Kalil, Grim and Druth in the room.
Walking to Kalil, Calathra smiles, sits in his lap, puts her hands behind his head and says: “Whatever got you in that deep a thought, TallMan? Friend Kalil, I say it’s not wise to think so hard in the morning *before* breakfast. As someone once told me, everything in its right time.“ Smiling at Calathra, he adds, “This goes for you as well, my curious young lady.“ While Kalil is trying to formulate an answer, Matteo steps into the room.
Turning to Matteo, Druth says “Good morning. I hope you had a good night of rest. Would you care joining us for breakfast?“ Dressed predominantly in black, Matteo pauses in the doorway, raising a dark eyebrow in surprise at the sight of Calathra sitting in Kalil’s lap. Shaking his head slightly he turns towards Druth as the elf addresses him. “Thank you Druth, I think I might.“ Crossing the room he helps himself to a little breakfast and slumps down into a chair, more than just a little tired. Smiling wryly he adds, “Unfortunately I had little sleep and what I had was not… settled.“
As Calathra and Immerine have entered the private room Marc looks from one to the other and back a few times. Briefly a puzzled look crosses his face, before he friendly greets them both. After a moment or so Marc stands up, takes a piece of bread and – while eating – starts walking up and down the room restlessly.
Looking around once again, Matteo makes a half-hearted effort at eating. “I see Telsom and the Lady Jalarghar are not here yet. If no one minds I’ll wait until they arrive before informing you of what transpired at the guard barracks last night.“ Marc nods.
Immerine stands near the wall. She is deep in thought and watches Kalil closely. She is pleased no one has acknowledged her presence. Her hand absently traces a path up and down the smooth length of the staff she holds. She does not take breakfast and she does not sit. Another yawn escapes Grim’s mouth before he starts drinking a cup of tea.
After finishing his tea Grim looks around the room with a bit more interest. Some food quickly follows the same path the tea went and after a few moments it looks like Grim has finally arrived both physically and mentally in the land of the awake.
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