By Jaap-Peter Hazelhoff
Chapter 45 - Signs of Passing
Berdusk, 1371 DR, Eleint, 10th day, after breakfast
The atmosphere in the Stag is much different from when Matteo and Ditalidas remember the moment they step into the Running Stag. The interior resembles a warm autumn forest in the early morning. Soft light filtering through multicolored leaves. The patrons all seem to be in good spirits. At what seems to have become the group’s standard table, the two of them see their friends sitting. Nik, his yarting uncovered, has an awkward, almost embarrassed look on his face, staring at the table and, tugging at the scarf around his neck, looking like he wished he were elsewhere.
“Thank you.“ Nik says to Elisa, giving her a slightly shaky smile. He is obviously trying not to behave as if he has noticed her attention, and failing miserably. He looks like a priest in a whorehouse, embarrassed, fascinated and ashamed all at once. He, too, keeps glancing at her, but when their eyes accidentally meet he flushes bright red and stares at the table again, swallowing hard. Nik quickly takes a long drink of whatever Elisa brought him, gulping it down in a lame attempt to cover his discomfort.
Elisa gives Nik a wink when their eyes meet and she sees his face flush, giving him a lovely and charming smile, she continues her rounds, a little spring in her step.
Telsom, addressing the group, looks up from swirling the liquid in his glass. A flicker of recognition passes his face as he sees the two people enter. The halfling woman, who has been listening quietly to Nik’s performance, casually nibbling some of the food, has her attention to the swirling water in Telsom’s glass, thinking about his suggestion. Telsom’s glance goes unnoticed by Immerine and Marc, who had been sitting with their backs towards the door. Yet they feel a soft shape brushing against their legs as Friend passes between them from under the table and heads towards Ditalidas, tail wagging.
The woman at the door sure looks familiar. The long waterfall of black hair and the clear blue eyes indeed are familiar. It’s definitely the same woman, but her aura seems to differ completely; the well-know lady makes quite another impression. She’s dressed in a black riding suit. A cape in the same color hangs from her shoulders. On her back she carries a crossbow and a quiver with arrows. In her belt shimmer the hilts of two daggers with carvings on them. In her hand she holds a beautiful black quarterstaff with geometrical figures carved in it. As armed as she is and the glance of confidence in her eyes gives her a somewhat dangerous aura. Ditalidas kneels on the ground to greet Friend. With one hand she holds on to her staff while the other pets Friend over his head and behind his ears. “Hello little buddy. Good to see you.“ After she has greeted the dog she rises again and walks to the table were her friends are sitting.
Telsom rises from his chair, nodding his head to the couple as they enter the establishment. “Marc… your mistress is here.“ The paladin all but whispers. Ditalidas returns the nod. Marc looks down at the sudden disappearance of his dog, but gets distracted by Telsom’s movement and outing. Startled his eyes grow wide. Following Telsom’s glance and nod, Nik sees Matteo and Ditalidas. Seeing an escape from his current predicament, he practically leaps to his feet and hurries over to them, calling cheerfully “Matteo! Ditalidas! There you are!“
A half-smile turns up the corner of Matteo’s mouth at the rapidly approaching collection of ungainly limbs and desperate cheerfulness and he raises a hand as if to hold Nik back. “Good morning Nik…“ He replies dryly, “Making another escape?“ Sparing a moment to acknowledge Telsom’s nod, his eyes sweep over those present in the room before gesturing for Ditalidas to precede him towards the table. As Ditalidas moves past Matteo, she sends Nik a warm smile. “Hello Nik. Good to see you. I was hoping you would be here.“
Despite Ditalidas’ smile, at Matteo’s comment, the cheer vanishes from Nik’s gaunt face, replaced by something very close to fear. The fear is gone as quickly as it appears, and the tall bard sighs and gives Matteo a rueful, chagrined smile. “That obvious, is it?“ He says, sighing again and shaking his head slightly. With a self-mocking smirk, Nik continues “I’m very glad to see you both well, and not just for offering me an excuse to leave the table before I said or did something truly, amazingly stupid.“
Marc shakes his head like a wet dog; his curls dance around his head. First then he turns his head. When he sees that his mistress has indeed entered the Inn he lays the palm of his left hand on his stomach, closes his eyes and sighs… smilingly. He reopens his eyes and looks over his shoulder during the approach of the lady, taking a few deep breaths and eventually uttering a warm, “Ehm“.
Immerine stands up and smiles down on Marc, “It seems our trip is unnecessary now.“ Immerine turns to Ditalidas, “I hope you fell better now, Lady. If you will excuse me I have a trip to take with Jezbodiah.“ Immerine sweeps past Matteo and Ditalidas and heads to the front door.
Nik’s chagrined look becomes confusion as Immerine goes past on her way out the door, and he watches her leave with an air of utter bewilderment. “NOW where is she going?“ He asks. “She just got here.“
Ditalidas nods at Immerine’s question. “Yes, I’m feeling much better. Thank you for asking.“ As Immerine passes her by, Ditalidas gently lays a hand on the woman’s arm to stop her in her movement. She looks Immerine in her eyes. “I’m am glad to see you. Are you all right? I was… worried about you.“ As she waits for Immerine to reply she lays a hand on Marc’s shoulder and squeezes it gently.
Immerine pauses as Ditalidas lays her hand on her arm. The witch’s gaze falls to the hand then to Ditalidas eyes, “I am fine. There is nothing for you to worry about. I am capable of keeping well. It is only when I get involved with others that danger seems to press.“
Matteo’s lips thin and he frowns in irritation. Shaking his head he steps away from Ditalidas and moves towards the table where to group were just sitting and gingerly seats himself.
At Immerine’s remark about their – to be abandoned – trip Marc gets distracted a moment, and answers absentminded “Yes, of course.“ In a way the sight of Immerine disappearing for the umpteenth time helps Marc to scramble himself together. He looks up at Ditalidas, his tension unwound, and he quickly stands up and turns to her. “Look, here you are! Gee…“ There’s a broad smile on his face while he gazes at her.
As Marc stands there, it’s clear something has changed in the young man’s externals as well. Perhaps not as dramatically as the lady’s, but still, he’s wearing a smock and trousers, as simple as yesterday’s, but these seem to be made for someone twice his size. The sleeves and legs have been rolled up to free his hands and feet. On the left shoulder of the worn out smock lies an old bloodstain and from the rope he uses as a belt proudly hangs a longsword. There’s no sign of his shepherd’s crook, but his bow hangs on his shoulder as always. Marc might consider a shave.
After a breath or two he looks down for a moment to Friend, who still is enthusiastically running and jumping around the new arrived lady, but then he looks the woman in the eyes, puts his right hand on her left upper arm and says, “And… how are YOU?“ His eyes scan her from top to toe. “You look… ehm… different… Hmm…“ He nods thoughtfully. “Better perhaps.“
For a moment he just stands there, then he puts his other hand on her other shoulder – slightly squeezing – sighs and continues, “I’m so glad you’re here… Gee… I mean… have you had breakfast yet…? There’s plenty of food here… What happened yesterday…? Scared me.“ He steps aside and releases a hand, gesturing at the chair he just sat on, “Won’t you sit down…? Ehm… I mean…“ Marc takes another deep breath and softly adds, “Glad you’re back!“ before sinking back onto Immerine’s chair, still broadly smiling.
While everyone gets reacquainted, and questions hang in the air as thick as flies, the front door opens again, and Jez steps in, shaking some of the rain from his hair and coat. Behind him a lead-gray sky is visible from which a steady cold rain falls down.
“Hello Marc, Immerine, I’ve returned.“ He nods his head to Saer Matteo, “Greetings Saer. I see the minstrel has kept the crowd entertained while I was away.“ Placing his cloak on the nearest coat rack or peg, he turns to the assembled group and continues to speak, “as Auril and Talos would have it, the weather kills any idea of traveling today. The roads are probably covered with mud and slush. We can not travel, unless of course someone can fetch a carriage.“
Immerine ignores the thin-lipped visage of Matteo and turns when Jez enters. Immerine cracks the door and looks outside at the weather. “It is not bad. You would let a little chill rain turn you back?“ “Normally, I wouldn’t.“ Jez says with a smile, “But Thunderwood’s Forays is in the North Western portion of Berdusk. I’d hate to see what the proprietor would say if we entered the establishment soggy and sloshing of water.“ He looks at Immerine and says, “but Thunderwood’s Foray is one of my favorite shops in Berdusk. I risk Auril’s icy wrath l for it. If you’re one to brave the weather, I shall lead.“
After the commotion has settled down a little, Emlyn turns to Ditalidas. “It is good to see you back on your feet, milady. Telsom and I had plans to visit you, but I’m glad to see it isn’t necessary.“ At Jez’s appearance, she raises her eyebrows. “Well, I cannot say I’m used to what you northerners pass for weather… you must live as goldfish in this time of year.“ As she sees Immerine getting ready to leave, another question appears to lie on her lips, but she refrains from it. Instead she turns back to Telsom, Matteo and Ditalidas. “Then again… I have no objections towards staying here, but then I would like to… know certain things. I’ve made a promise yesterday, but do not even fully know what I have thrown myself into.“ She shrugs. “And if I’m not the person to speak to, or this is not the place, well… that’s okay, but I know that some of you should be able to detect if my motives are untrustworthy in any way.“
“Lady Emlyn.“ Telsom says, “Even without the use of the powers granted me by Lady Firehair I believe I’d trust you with my life. Your thoughts and opinions are precious to me and I’m sure the others, you’d do yourself and us an injustice were you to hold back any feelings, thoughts or questions.“
The tall bard flinches as the door opens, watching with the wariness of a mouse peeking out of a hole. When Jez enters, Nik sighs, relief plain on his gaunt face. He shudders at the glimpse of the weather outside, hugging his long arms around his narrow chest. As Immerine and Jez discuss going out, Nik mutters “Mad. You adventuring types are all mad. It’s pissing down out there, and colder than a witch’s…“
He suddenly realizes he’s speaking aloud, and gives Immerine and Jez a wild-eyed, embarrassed glance. “Sorry.“ He mumbles, staring at the floor between his feet. Adding bitterly “Gods, I’m an idiot.“ He shoves his hands into his pockets and trudges back to the table, head down and shoulders slumped.
Marc bows his head and hides his face between his hands. Mirth is gleaming in his eyes while he prudently looks at Immerine. When Nik apologizes and calls himself an idiot, Marc nods at him and winks, barely capable to suppress laughing.
“Ignore him milady.“ The half-elf replies with impeccable manners. Jez then shoots an irritated glance at the slumping minstrel. Obviously the look upon his face is not complementing with his Lliiran beliefs.
Marc keeps his head low and peaks from behind his hands to assess Immerine’s state of mind briefly before ducking underneath the table, pretending Friend suddenly needs his attention. A sneezing sound emerges from below.
Turning back from the door Immerine pushes past Jez an irritated look on her face.
Shifting a little uncomfortably in his chair, Matteo frowns slightly in Jez’s direction before turning his back on the man to address Telsom. “What is young master Wisp still doing here? He delivered his message last night.“
“The young man seems eager to attach himself to certain members of our small group, it seems destined that he and I will not get along.“ Telsom shrugs his shoulders, “It matters little. You have my thanks for handing over such a fine suit of armor to me Saer Ashgale. I’ve heard of the… it’s previous owner’s unfortunate fate and have given up prayer to his name.“
“Actually, Jez is here to help me – SAER Ashgale.“ Immerine says as she heads straight for Nik.
“My apologies good saer.“ Jez replies to Telsom. “I’m afraid my earlier comment was uncalled for. But I’m afraid you missed the bards dunking last night. Acting the bit of a horse’s ass, as he is right now.“ He shrugs his shoulders and says, “Who would think the elderly woman could move so quickly.“
Turning to Saer Ashgale, he says, “It seems I’ve come across some information concerning your activities here in Berdusk, something involving the Church of Kelemvor. I do not know what it means but, well I’d rather show it to you.“ Jez stuffs his hand into his pocket and retrieves a folded piece of paper. Opening it, he soon hands it to Saer Ashgale.
Nik reaches the table, and offers the occupants a wan, rueful smile. His expression is bleak, and his eyes are dark and bitter. He retrieves his guitar from where it is leaning against the table, and says softly “I myself seem to cause more trouble than I’m worth.“ The faint, apologetic smile pulls at his mouth again as he stands there, eyes still fixed on the floor. He tugs at the gaudy scarf around his neck, and says haltingly “I’m… I’m used to being… alone.“ The bitterness in his eyes is harsh in his voice as he clears his throat and continues “I move from place to place to place, never staying anywhere for long. I don’t have any friends.“ He sighs and adds “And I seem to have lost the knack of making friends. If I ever had it at all, that is. But I seem to be damn good at making enemies. I can’t seem to get along with young Jez, and I fear I’ve gravely offended Immerine.“ He gives the floor a rueful grin and adds “I thought I’d better flee before she turns me into a toad.“
The tall bard looks up from the scuffed toes of his worn and broken-down boots, but he still avoids the eyes of those at the table. “I’ll understand if you good folk wish me to quit meddling in your affairs. I’m not exactly… suited… for a life such as yours.“ He sighs and shakes his head. “No matter how I would wish it.“ A thud sounds from the table and shortly after that Marc’s head reappears, slightly blushing. Rubbing the back of his head Marc looks up at the musician.
Arriving behind Nik, Immerine speaks in clear tones; “I would not change you into a toad, my dear man. It would be a dire waste of such a beautiful voice. You are not the only one in this auspicious group who is used to being alone and doing his thing. Nor are you alone in alienating people, I believe Matteo holds that record.“ Immerine shoots Matteo a sly smile and continues speaking to Nik.
Telsom winces slightly at Immerine’s words and then looks to Matteo with a half smile and whispers conspiratorially. “I do it too.“
“None of us get along with young Jez and that is because none of us has tried. He is irritating but he is also willing to help if you can get beyond his words. I have learned a great deal from you people over the past few days, even if you think I have not. I would have left you all to your own means and not returned to Berdusk when I rode off yesterday. However, something changed my plans and I have learned that it is more useful to have friends than not. I have also learned not to judge too quickly or too harshly. You have not offended me minstrel. If you had, be sure that you will know about it.“
Nik finally looks directly at the assembled companions. His eyes are bitter and haunted, his apologetic smile more than a little pathetic. He seems about to say something else, but his eyes fall on Telsom and he visibly flinches and looks away quickly. Heaving a deep sigh, the bard turns away. Spotting Elisa in the crowd, he calls to her “Elisa, dear, I think I need something to drink. Something with plenty of alcohol.“
Marc gazes sympathetically at the slim fellow. Then he takes a biscuit from the table with one hand and reaches with his other to Nik’s. He grasps the hand, squeezing it softly while slowly shaking his head, “Please sit down with us.“ He says muffled, “Or…“ Marc raises his eyebrows, “Sing us another song“. Balmy he pulls the bard’s hand down to emphasize the invitation.
Confusion furrowing his brow and pushing aside the bitterness in his eyes, Nik looks down at Marc as the lad grabs his hand and prevents him from walking off. Oddly enough, Nik doesn’t pull away from Marc, even though it has been obvious that the bard is uncomfortable with unexpected physical contact. He just stares at the lad’s smaller hand tugging at his own, his confusion growing.
“What a wonderful idea. It would be a shame if you left just now Nik. Marc is quite taken with your skills – and, I know for a fact he has something he would like to ask you about.“ Immerine’s green eyes sparkle as she smiles, then winks at Marc. Marc straitens his back, takes a bite off the biscuit and looks for Elisa in the crowd. When their eyes meet he gestures her not to hurry fulfilling the artist’s latest order. Elisa reacting on Nik’s call looks a little surprised, yet when she sees Marc gesturing, she gives the lad a confirmative wink and resumes serving drinks at another table.
“Oh, Nik… if you truly desire something with a lot of alcohol in it.“ Immerine shuffles in a pouch then pulls out a small flask, “I suggest you take a belt of this. It might clear your head and put more fire in your veins than several bottles of the stuff you Outlanders call drink.“ Immerine offers the flask to Nik.
The bard has been staring at Marc, the confusion in his face mingling with wonder and a little bit of disbelief. Nik looks from Marc to Immerine, swallowing hard. He gently pulls his hand from Marc’s, and reaches for the flask Immerine offers him. The bony, large-knuckled hand trembles as he takes it, and shining past the confusion in his eyes is an almost pathetic gratitude. “T-thank you…“ He says to her softly. “I… you’re… so you’re not… not mad at me? Really?“
He looks at the others at the table with the confused, slightly disbelieving look dropping years from his craggy face. The tall, gaunt bard looks like an awkward boy who has just been invited to sit with the most popular kids in the school – kids he fully expected to bully and ridicule him. A small, timid smile touches his lips. It doesn’t take much imagination to see that the tall man did not have a happy childhood filled with friends, and that the ease and poise he sometimes shows may be even more of an act than it appears.
Jez waits for Immerine to hand Nik the flask, and then he speaks. “Actually I’d rather take you to the Lliiran shrine later today or tomorrow in a more sober state. I caught the tail end of your performance. Rather wonderful and in flawless key. I’m sure the dancers, the merrymakers, and the priests will all find usefulness for your skills in Berdusk. You may actually make more coin than you would if you stayed behind the table.“
Nik flinches as Jez speaks, fear mingling with the confusion in his eyes. He doesn’t answer Jez, clutching Immerine’s flask to his chest possessively. Eyeing the flask just handed to Nik, Matteo replies, “I think we may have more for Nik to do than busking, Master Wisp.“ Glancing around at everyone still standing, he asks, “Won’t you all have a seat? We should at least discuss any plans we may have for the day.“
“Busking?“ Jez replies looking somewhat hurt as he takes a seat. “You mean like dancing or parading in the streets in this weather. I think you’re mistaken about my intentions. The temple of Milil and the shrine of Lliira periodically exchange performers and musicians. I was merely suggesting that Nik, being a talented minstrel could find steady employment if the need should ever arise.“
Elisa finished serving the table walks with the empty tray past the table where the whole group as gathered. She smiles at Telsom, seeing the handsome paladin still standing, waiting for lady Jalarghar to be seated. Her gaze quickly passes over to Nik and Immerine, a frown briefly marking her freckled face beneath the red curls. Then she realizes that the newcomers haven’t had any drinks. “Milady?“ She asks Ditalidas, “Can I get you anything to drink?“
Elisa waits for a reply before shifting her attention to the seated Matteo, “And you milord?“ “Vilhon cider, if you have it Elisa.“ Matteo replies, “Heated and with a touch of cloves. Some of those biscuits might be a good idea as well.“
Sitting down slowly (in a seat not next to Jez or Telsom) and avoiding everyone’s eyes, Nik uncorks the flask and takes a long drink. A slight shiver and a startled blink is all the more the bard reacts to the strong drink. Looking at Jez with a spark of challenge in his eyes, Nik takes only that one drink, closes the flask and hands it back to Immerine. “Thank you.“ He says softly to her, a bit of his old roguish humor in his eyes as he adds, “I think.“
“And why would this ‘horse’s ass’ want you to find work for me?“ Nik asks Jez, his former shy awkwardness gone, replaced instead by a cold annoyance. “Did it ever occur to you that perhaps I don’t want steady employment?“
Nik smiles at Matteo and Ditalidas, with the calm slightly distant confidence that he seems to wear like a coat of armor. “Anyway, I have promised to help these fine folk with their mystery, and they haven’t yet called me an ass. Even if I might deserve it.“ He turns his smile on Elisa, some of the awkwardness back in his eyes, and says, “I think I’ll have some water, instead, if you don’t mind. Or maybe some of what Matteo is having, that sounds rather good.“
Immerine remains standing and holds her flask loosely in her right hand. She stares off beyond the table, a queer expression on her face. After a few moments she looks at the gathering and realizes she is one of the last standing. “I am not angry with you Nik.“ Immerine says quietly as she takes a seat near the minstrel.
When Matteo speaks she listens, but runs her finger across the embossed symbol (twin wolves facing one another, tails entwined) on the surface of the silvered flask. She murmurs softly, “I-kirjain muistaa.“ Her emerald eyes rise from her study of the flask and settle on Matteo. She waits for the others to speak about their plans.
Jez ponders the bard’s words all to briefly but waits for Immerine to finish. Shrugging his shoulders, he looks at Nik and says, “Yes, it did bard. But if it’s your judgment to turn away a bag of coins, then so be it.“ What ever the Nik says in reply will fall only upon Jez’s deaf ears.
Since Saer Matteo did not accept Jez’s note, the young half-elf merely lays the note down on the table before him and ponders the meaning of its words and symbol. “If you don’t mind, Master Wisp?“ Matteo murmurs, raising an eyebrow as he reaches for the note to scan its contents.
“Sure.“ Jez chirps. He folds the paper in half and slides it across the table to Saer Matteo. “Mind explaining what the Church of Kelemvor is doing here in Berdusk? It obvious from my introduction with them yesterday that they’re not in the city to unveil a new mausoleum.“
“No, they are not opening a new mausoleum.“ Matteo replies wryly, “Lord Sillisten already has a very good one, I’m told.“ Turning to glance towards the bar, Matteo’s eyes fall on Immerine’s direct gaze and he pauses for a moment. Blinking, he tears his eyes away and shakes his head. The sound of teeth grinding against each other can almost be heard across the table. Fingering the note for a moment, he replies, “I imagine the clergy of Kelemvor are doing pretty much the same thing the clergy of all the other recognized religions are doing; administering to those that fall within their purview, recruiting new followers, raising revenue, that sort of thing. However, I doubt that is really the answer you want, Master Wisp. One of our companions, Portia, was a follower of the death god. She has been abducted. Lord Sillisten was going to perform certain divinations in an effort to locate her through the night, I promised to drop in this morning to see what he may have turned up.“
“Other than that, I need to drop into the Guard Barracks again to redirect certain finances.“ With a wink to Telsom he adds, “It seems a certain dashing young knight has made an impression at the Jalarghar household and secured some funding from Lord Jalarghar, who has since been kind enough to extend that support to all our efforts. Therefore, I have to place the City’s funding I had secured on hold. Other than that, I need to procure some new armor and a new weapon. We have some writings to take to Twilight Hall to be deciphered as well, not to mention a certain sword Marc has picked up that we should have magically examined. Does anyone have anything else they need done, besides general re-supplying and purchases?“
Marc pats Friends head another time while the awkward situation turns for the better and looks to listen at the noblemen. With his mouth still filled he doesn’t answer Matteo directly, but he nods and put a finger up, chewing at increased speed.
Emlyn has watched the various conversations calmly, merely raising her eyebrows at the sparring and stare-downs of Matteo and Immerine, not understanding. At the mention of alienating people from themselves, she has to offer them is a comforting smile in the directions of Immerine and Telsom as well as Nik.
“These lands are alien to me, yet the people seldom are- wherever they come from. There is always kindness, compassion and friendship somewhere to be found… its people that have invented it after all.“ Emlyn clears her throat, and looks around, a bit helpless, from the note to Jez to Ditalidas. “But I fear I am completely alienated from all that is going on here…“ She shoots Immerine and Matteo a quick look. “Not that I want to know *everything*, but, well, a little more information couldn’t hurt.“
She smiles slightly at Matteo. “And to answer *your* question… I have everything I need, but as I said, I hadn’t counted on this, ehm, snowing. Like I said, I may need to buy a cloak or something.“ With a smile, Emlyn adds: “My lord Ilmater may be the great god of suffering, I do not think he needs a servant with a cold.“
Ditalidas sits down on the chair Marc offered her. She smiles at the stuttering boy. “I’m alright Marc. I’m not sure what happened. It could be my newfound power, but it’s also possible that I just haven’t eaten enough. Since the attack the day before yesterday I haven’t eaten… Well… until this morning that is…“ She is distracted by the commotion around Nik. Still with most of her attention at Nik she notices the halfling’s helpless look. She tosses the small woman a comforting smile, but as Emlyn turns to Matteo Ditalidas turns back to face Nik again. She looks disapproving at the flask in his hands. “Our soon to be drunk again bard here promised me he would look into something for me. I don’t know if he is willing to keep his promise… or better yet… if he’s able too.“ She glances up to Immerine with a worried glance. “Don’t tell me it’s a potent liquor that will wipe him under the table. I was really hoping he could help.”
Nik looks at Ditalidas, a bit of hurt surprise in his face at her disapproval. He is about to say something in his defense when Immerine explains what he just drank.
By the time he finished eating his biscuit Marc’s attention has drifted towards the small woman. He nods when she mentions friendship and such to be found and smiles at her last remark. At Ditalidas’ reply to his earlier question, Marc turns to her. A thin smile appears on his face as the lady talks about her eating habits. He’s just about to say something as Ditalidas addresses Nik.
While Marc continues to listen at the ongoing conversation he turns his attention to another biscuit and puts the subject of his attention into his mouth, progressing his digestion with another swig of beer. Another biscuit falls intently on the floor where Friend hides the traces of this event.
Immerine looks away from Matteo to Ditalidas. “Yes. It is extremely potent liquor, lady. But I can assure you; it will not cloud our friend’s mind. If anything it will send a raging fire through his veins and give him unusual clarity of thought. My people use this liquid in celebration, ceremonies and in preparation for battle. The secret of its making is held among my sisterhood and I have learned it is a very valuable commodity in these lands. Valuable not only for its fiery taste, but also for its inability to cloud thought when imbibed. Quite unlike most of your alcoholic beverages.“
Immerine returns her gaze to Matteo, “Your lordship, the only tasks I was about this day were attending Jez as he helped me shop for replacements and repairs to my clothing and armor. It seems I cannot wear what I have since the activities I was engaged in last night ruined most of what I own. If you need me, I will be here for whatever you and these fine people decide to do.“
“Oh, dear…“ The bard murmurs, giving Immerine a look of shock mingled with no little amount of fear. He leans his guitar against the table beside him, and looks at his hands. They tremble slightly, and he lays them flat on the table, forcing them to be still. “Just what I needed.“ He whispers to himself, horror marking his gaunt face. “Something to make me lose my temper…“ He glances up at Immerine and Ditalidas, forcing the fear from his face and replacing it -with mixed success- with an attempt at his old manic humor. “What good is an alcohol that won’t make me drunk?“ He asks flippantly, adding, “Some drink to remember, some drink to forget.“ Ignoring the conversations going on around him, Nik stares at his hands, which are still pressed flat against the table. He watches them with mingled horror and suspicion, as if they might break into violence of their own accord.
Immerine watches the bard carefully. She slips one of her hands next to his on the table, “The jihuld will not evoke a berserker rage in you. It takes more than a mere fire wine to cause such. And, you have no idea the strength of what you just drank. You may prefer being drunk.“ She watches the bard’s hands as he does.
Elisa, distracted by Nik, is about to walk away when she blushes as she realizes she hasn’t waited for Lady Jalarghar’s answer. “I’m terribly sorry milady. I forgot all about your drink. What would you like?“ Ditalidas smiles at Elisa. “It’s no problem. I’ll have a glass of water. Thank you.“
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