By Jaap-Peter Hazelhoff
Chapter 69 - Sidestepping
Berdusk 1371 DR, Eleint, 11th day (Penultimate Thunder: Hoar), afternoon
Shortly after the red-haired Kelemvorite left, Telsom makes his way carefully to the door. Despite the amount of alcohol in his blood, he is still able to walk relatively steadily. As soon as he steps outside, the cool afternoon air sobers him down somewhat.
The courtyard is empty, though there are some voices coming from the stables across. Silently, the door behind the paladin opens, and the lithe figure of Skeen slips outside, unnoticed by Telsom.
Smacking his lips once more, Telsom looks at his empty hand and wishes immediately he’d smuggled a bottle of wine out of the Stag. Spying the Jalarghar Spires over the smaller buildings in the city, the paladin immediately heads off there first planning to retrieve his grand father’s sword.
Skeen stays in the shadows, one eyebrow raised. She is tired, but she is even more curious. It’s the kind of curiosity that usually gets her in trouble and, foolishly, she never seems to acknowledge that. ‘I wonder what you’re getting me into tonight, Erevan.’ Skeen thinks to herself. Though as drunk as she believes Telsom to be, trailing him unnoticed should be easy. Glad of her own simple arms, she shakes her head. There will be trouble. She can almost taste it.
It doesn’t take long for Telsom to have the gates of the Jalarghar Spires in sight. Slightly shivering against the cool afternoon air, the slightly sobered-up paladin makes his way to the gates and the guard posted there.
Skeen swears under her breath at the sight. She looks for a way she might be able to sneak in, assuming he makes it in. She knows they’d never let her in there.
“Good afternoon.” Telsom says as he approaches the guard. “Telsom Torentshed here to retrieve a possession of mine brought here by the city guard. A family heirloom, the guardsman I spoke to said he brought my rapier here.” Telsom stands back a bit, not wanting to assault the man with breath thick with wine.
“Well met Saer. One moment please.” The guard steps back into the little shack that offers them some protection from the elements when on watch, and he rings a bell. A couple of heartbeats later, the sound of boots on gravel can be heard and not long after two more guards appear.
“A gentleman by the name of…” The first guard starts reporting when his superior holds up his hand, stalling the guard in mid-sentence. “Yes I know. Please Saer Torentshed, follow me and I’ll announce you arrival to Lord Ashwin. He’ll be pleased to see the rescuer of the young Lady Jalarghar.”
Opening a small gate set within the larger iron gate, the guard guides the paladin of Sune in. Then he proceeds leading the way up the steps and into the mansion. Unseen to the guards and Telsom, Skeen lurks in the shadows nearby, trying to decide whether to risk an entry or not.
The thought of having to sit down with Lord Jalarghar normally wouldn’t bother the paladin, but in his current condition Telsom cringes inwardly. Nodding to the guard at the gate, Telsom follows the man’s superior hoping to retrieve his weapon, settle matters with Ditalidas’ father and then be on his way quickly. Thoughts of the serious nature of the conversation to come, curbed his drunken behavior but his mind remains clouded from wine, his eyes glassy.
Worried that his intoxicated state might upset Ditalidas’ father, Telsom at first doesn’t notice the rosy smell as he crosses the doorstep. Then he hears a soft purring sound in his head, the sound only a woman can make and he feels as if he receives a kiss on his forehead.
Eyebrows rising in surprise, the paladin feels a warm gentle tingling move from his forehead throughout his system, banishing the lethargy and toxins of the alcohol. Feeling himself once more the Telsom finds himself in the grand foyer of the Jalarghar Spires, Lord Ashwin Jalarghar descending from the marble staircase flowed by a cushion bearing servant.
“Well met again Saer Torentshed, and welcome once more in my house. May Sune and Helm bless you and yours.” Ditalidas’ father greets the waiting paladin. From a corner of his eye, Telsom sees a familiar item. The servant following Lord Ashwin is bearing his heirloom sword on a velvet cushion, the blade shining as if new.
Giving the older man a warm smile and a small bow, the paladin straightens his eyes focusing clearly on the man. “As usual it is a pleasure to visit your fair house.” Nodding to the cushion bearing man behind Lord Ashwin, Telsom continues the warm friendly smile remaining on his face. “Though I visit you tonight for selfish reasons, I also bring word of your daughter. She is with the others at the Running Stag and is well. The investigation has brought us thicker into the midst of the worshipers of foul gods, and the weapons at their disposal have proven to be powerful. Twin skeletal warriors, and a creature some of the more arcane oriented people on the scene called a darkenbeast assaulted us. All three were disposed of, but several of us were wounded and we suffered one casualty.”
The smile drains from his face as he remembers the half-orc’s fate, Telsom can’t help but blame himself for the demise of the brave Kelemvorite. “I’m not sure of how much you’ve already heard, but I plan to keep you advised of any new developments especially those that concern your daughter. I will protect her to the best of my ability, if my life is what is required to keep her safe then that is a cost I am willing to pay.” Reaching up, Telsom combs a hand through his hair. “I imagine your daughter will be returning shortly, the young woman is rather cross with me, but my pledge remains the same.”
Skeen remains outside, wondering if the paladin will emerge from another point and silently cursing him and her own quirky sense of curiosity.
A gentle smile appears on the Lord’s face. “Ah yes, my sometimes willful daughter.” The smile is short lived however, “Those are some dire tidings you bring Saer. And that within our fair city. Outrageous, the brutality.” Lord Ashwin seems genuinely affronted by the thought of evil acting within Berdusk. “I belief you mentioned Velsharans before, on your previous visit. They have become quite bold in their actions, if they are behind this whole mystery. I must confer with Tathlosar Brimmerbold, the Helmites must be warned.”
Telsom nods at Lord Ashwin’s words. “The party investigating this that I am aiding has gone through a great deal of changes in the short time that we have been investigating the matter. As we come and go we find new clues, some which have led to Zhentarim, others which could lead to Velsharoon. It would seem that it is Velsharan activity to me, but then again something seems amiss. I think there is no small amount of misdirection being applied against us. Whoever it is they have to be stopped regardless of what their affiliation might be. The events of the day have been rather trying, I think that the majority of those investigating these occurrences will be taking the rest of the day as a reprieve. Ashgale is off discussing matters with his superiors, I think that we will know more when next he comes to us.”
Looking to his blade, Telsom returns his gaze to Lord Jalarghar. “May I?” he asks, as he motions towards the blade that the elder man’s servant is carrying.
“I understood from my daughter that the sword is a family heirloom, and a fine blade it is.” Lord Ashwin says holding the blade in one hand – his left – and admiring the blade, turning it so the light reflects of it. “I hope you’ll forgive me for having tampered with it, but as a token of gratitude, I had the blade enchanted by the temple of Helm. Whenever the need arises, the weapon can offer you some protection against your enemies, enhancing your chances to survive any combat.” Taking a last look at the blade, Lord Jalarghar rests the blade in his right hand and opening up his left he stretches out his arms towards Telsom, offering the blade back.
“You’ve done much more than is needed, I’m unworthy of such a boon.” Telsom says admiring the blade. “You honor me, and I will always remember this Lord Jalarghar.” Telsom says as he takes the blade carefully from the older man’s hands.
Sighing as if a great weight has been lifted from his shoulders, Telsom brings the blade to his mouth kissing it gently. “I know you have many matters to look into with what I have brought to your attention. I of course will continue to bring such matters to you whenever more information is found. By your leave?” he says as he slips the antique blade through his belt.
“Trust me, I will.” Lord Ashwin says, and there is finality in his voice, the attack on his daughter has upset him greatly, especially after the death of his first wife. “Whatever means are at my disposal, I will seek out who or what is behind all this!”
“Behind what my dear?” A feminine voice sounds from up stairs. A grand lady makes her way down the stairs with the grace of someone highborn. Blonde hair done in an elaborate headpiece, and wearing an exquisite velvet gown, she glides more than she is walking as she descends the marble staircase. Emerald green eyes look first at Lord Ashwin, and then at the half-dressed paladin. Raising and eyebrow she says, “And who is this my dear?” It is obvious that Lady Jalarghar is making an entrance on the scene.
“Milady.” Lord Ashwin says, looking slightly surprised but masking it just as quickly. “Let me introduce you to Saer Telsom Torentshed. Devoted warrior of Sune, and the savior of our daughter.”
“Milady.” Telsom says with a low bow, his eyes following the woman’s every movement, “I’ve heard nothing but good things in regards to you. A pleasure to meet you.” Rising from the bow, Telsom smoothes his untucked and nearly unbuttoned shirt, his face remaining cool and collected. “Please forgive me for keeping your husband this long. A family heirloom found its way out of my possession and by Sune’s grace it found its way into your husband’s hands.”
“The gods have surely graced you Lord Jalarghar. The only thing more brilliant and stunning than the kinds words spoken of you and your fine estate are the undeniably beautiful women in your life. You truly must be one of the most envied people in this fair city.”
Lady Jalarghar inclines her head slightly, acknowledging Telsom’s greeting, “You honor us with your praise Saer. Thank you.” She smiles, yet the smile does seem to be superficial, and it doesn’t reach her eyes. The green orbs seem more intend in studying the young man before her, and Telsom has the strange feeling that he is being measured as some sort of prize bull at a fair.
“Ahum, well, yes, thank you indeed.” Lord Ashwin’s stumbles a little over his words, clearly pleased by the praise of the Sunite paladin. “And ehm… thanks you again.” It appears that Lord Ashwin Jalarghar is dismissing the paladin, as he hooks his arm in his wife’s, “A fair day to you Saer Torentshed.”
Behind the paladin, a very dignified looking servant – Telsom remembers him from a previous visit – coughs politely, ready to take the paladin to the front door.
Used to such looks from men and women alike, Telsom doesn’t flinch under the lady’s scrutiny. “Health and good fortune.” he says with a slight nod of his head to the two, his eyes lingering for a moment on the lady’s eyes before turning on his heel smiling at the servant and motioning for him to lead the way.
Skeen, getting bored – and a little cold – is about to leave her hiding spot to go back for warmer places, when the front door of the building in which Telsom disappeared opens, and the paladin steps out. Even from this distance the eleven woman’s keen eyes notice that Telsom behaves and appears more sober than he went in. An observation being strengthened when the paladin takes his leave and walks down towards the gate and after greeting the guard walks steadily and surely in the general direction of Skeen.
Skeen smirks, though doesn’t try to move or get out of Telsom’s way. Instead, she just stands there and watches him, wondering what magical potion sobered him up so quickly. The paladin passes the elven woman without apparently noticing her, as he makes his way through town. Skeen observes however a shining sword – a rapier – stuck in his belt, a piece of equipment she clearly remembers him not having on their way in. Also there’s a satisfied, almost complacent smile on the charming man’s face.
Whistling, Telsom moves on hoping to find this Ruby Shawl that he has heard about from several different people since he came to Berdusk.
Skeen follows at a leisurely pace, less worried that the paladin will fall on his face than before, though not really worried about him spotting her either. She is beginning to feel the full affect of the days before her and still tired and sore and unable to get quite warm enough, she figures she’ll escort him to the facility, then head back for some much needed rest.
It’s a decent walk, partially uphill, passing under the walls of the castle. Telsom has to stop twice to ask for directions, yet finally he finds himself outside the ruby shawl. The place looks not too bad from the outside, but the sounds of drunken and boisterous revelry comes out of every crack in the building – even this early in the afternoon.
Up on a balcony two scantily clad ladies are watching Telsom with interest as the hang over the balcony, showing ample cleavage. And as the door opens briefly to let a drunken patron out, the sounds of revelry increase momentarily in volume and the smell of beer, smoke and sweat pours out into the street.
Blowing the two women a kiss, Telsom makes for the door wetting his lips as he moves inside.
Skeen watches for a moment then shakes her head. She has no wish to enter a brothel, no matter how high class. It was one of those experiences in life she simply chooses not to repeat. Looking around carefully to see if she can spot anyone that might have had special interest in either the paladin or herself, she then makes her way cautiously back to the inn, thinking of a bit more food and then sleep.
Telsom enters the establishment with a lightness in his step and hunger in his eye, but as he enters the establishment his heart ceases to look forward to such trivial things for this particular evening. With a quick look around the main room, he gives a polite smile to any looking in his direction and then turns on his heel and he too is heading back to the Stag, muttering under his breath.
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