By Jaap-Peter Hazelhoff
Chapter 46 - Pieces of a Puzzle
Berdusk, 1371 DR, Eleint, 10th day, after breakfast
The blush mostly gone from her face, Elisa hurries over to the bar to get the ordered drinks. The atmosphere in the Running Stag has returned to a semblance of normalcy, though the mood swing definitely had its effect. All patrons seem to be in better spirits, having seemingly forgotten the weather conditions outside. Another guest plucks a guitar from the wall and starts playing a little tune. It doesn’t come close to Nik’s performance, but it provides a nice background sound.
“Nice.“ Jez says aloud, smiling. “I think many a Lliiran worshipper would love to sample that brand of liquor. Aye, the recipe alone would have Lliirans fighting amongst one another. Bet one swig of that Firewine and the festivities alone would be more interesting. They’d last all through the night and well into the next day.“
He turns and looks at Marc and says, “Saer Matteo says you have covered a sword that needs to be examined. Aye, my mother is good with clerical magic. You may want to try her first. It won’t cost you anything.“
Emlyn smiles. “Is she? And is she also a servant of your goddess?“ She turns to Nik. “Truly, you might find some comfort, even fellow souls with those that follow the way of Lliira, or possibly only walk it for a while. Then again…“ She looks back at Jez, with some amusement. “You must of course allow the artist to choose. I heard they are supposed to be troubled. Seems to have created a lot of geniuses, or at least help spread their tale.“ The last, semi-serious remark is to both.
“Why yes.“ Jez replies. “She is a caretaker of Lliira’s shrine in the city. Besides I have Nik figured out already.“ He says again with a charming smile. “For a virtuoso of his talent, he will do very well in the city with or, more so, without my choice. I can put a good word in for him at the shrine or with any of the Lliirans in Berdusk.“
Marc nods thankfully at the half-elf, swallows and says, while looking at his gathered friends for advice, “ehm… thank you saer… Ehm… well… I don’t know whether…“ Marc swallows again and leans forward to retrieve another biscuit. He looks at Matteo at the end of the table, “What do you think, saer?“ Awaiting an answer he makes the biscuit disappear somewhere beneath his nose.
While chewing, Marc lets his eyes dwell trough the room, his companions and the staff. Suddenly he chokes. He looks at Matteo again, eagerly pointing at the note before him. When he’s able to breath again he says between coughs, “Saer Matteo!?“ His eyes are bulging while his pointing finger shakes from excitement, “Look! Isn’t that the ring of the red haired priest you was talking about…? Ehm… Portia I mean?“
As Ditalidas takes her seat, Telsom takes one final look around the establishment and reclaims his chair. The holy warrior sits in silence, staring into the depths of his mug of water that he holds with both hands, a half smile on his face.
Reaching for one of the hot buttered biscuits before they all disappear, Matteo juggles it lightly in his hands as he replies. “The picture of the ring depicts the symbol of the Lord of the Dead, it does not necessarily mean it is Portia’s ring just as any depiction of the symbol of Sune does not necessarily refer to Telsom. It merely implies that someone with ties to Kelemvor wrote the note. I’ll take it with me and show it to Lord Sillisten when I see him.“
Taking a bite of his biscuit, Matteo chews for a moment in contemplation. After a few moments he looks back up and says, “In the meantime, it may not be a bad idea if no one ventures off alone. The Zhentarim had no qualms about attacking Lady Jalarghar, murdering Tharkas, and now abducting Portia. If it can be helped, I would rather not present them with another opportunity to stop our efforts.“
Blinking the blurriness from his eyes, Telsom looks from the cup in his hands to Matteo. “I’m sorry, how do we know that it is the Zhentarim that we are dealing with? Everything I have ever heard about the group has led to ties with Bane or his son, sometimes the dark sun, but never Velsharoon. Velsharans are definitely involved, we’ve found proof of that, but what proof do we have of the Zhentarim having an involvement?“
Swallowing his mouthful of hot biscuit, Matteo glances about to see if his drink is ready yet then replies, “Well, it is an educated guess, I admit. The note from Lord Sillisten last night stated that Portia had been abducted by the followers of Cyric, and we know Darkhold is the greatest concentration of followers of the Mad God in the region. The Captain of the Guard has warned of increased Zhent activity in the Vale of late, coinciding with the disturbances in trade that Tharkas and I were investigating. There was the threat made against me by the Zhents just after we started to involve ourselves in investigating Tharkas’s murder. We also know that one of those involved in Tharkas’s death, Lohgran, has occasional ties with Darkhold as well.“
“Zhents.“ Snorts Jez in disgust. “It may interest you that several caravans were seen traveling towards Darkhold within the past few days. I find this fact highly unusual as the caravans are at their lowest ebb this time of year.“ While the group is exchanging information they have gathered, Elisa returns with the drinks for Matteo and Ditalidas. She also places a fresh plate of hot buttered biscuits on the table near Matteo. Before she leaves to continue her duties, she casts a curious glance at Immerine’s hand next to Nik’s.
Trying to follow the discussion between Jez, Matteo and Telsom -still not certain whether he should let his sword be examined or by whom-, Marc soon loses interest, as he can’t figure out what they’re talking about. The ring might not be Portia’s; that much seems clear…
Reaching for one of the fresh biscuits, Marc’s attention soon is attracted by the interactions taking place around the tall bard. While nibbling the biscuit, which is indeed very hot, his big sad eyes silently jump from one speaker to another, discreetly watching Nik’s behavior.
Not hearing a reply from either Marc, Telsom or Matteo, Jez slouches back comfortably in his chair waiting for the conversation to begin a new turn.
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