Campaign Logs

Twilight Dawn

By Jaap-Peter Hazelhoff

Chapter 74 - Strangers from Afar

Berdusk 1371 DR, Eleint, 13th day (The Maiming, Tyr), the early hours

More than a day-and-a-half has gone by as everyone finds themselves once more at the long table in the pleasant forest-like interior of the Running Stag. The previous day – as well as the evening before – was for many a day of learning – using either their heads or their bodies, and often even a combination of both. The room some of the group used a couple of days ago as a meeting room, had been once more commissioned. This time as a training room; theories about arcane and divine magic filled most of the day, though some minor performances of magic also take place.

Kevin demonstrated the use of a scroll – in this case the one that allows determining the nature and properties of a magical item; in this case the brilliant-cut black gem on a silver chain. As the young wizard cast his spell before the rapt audience, the scroll crumbled to dust after the casting causing some looks of concern. A quick explanation of Kevin ensured them that this is normal, and since he knows the spell, they could learn it from him. Of course, revealing the item’s nature came with it; the necklace provides additional proof against poisons.

More explanations follow by both Kevin as he teaches the entire group, as well as by Tarim who helps Immerine understand the details and intricacies of magic as he himself learned from Kevin. Towards the late afternoon, Kevin left the group to go and identify some of the items the group had recovered from the warehouse. With Tarim taking over the lessons in magic, the young wizard had some quiet time for himself to concentrate on the taxing work of identifying magical equipment.

In the secure vault where Mumadar led him, the Kevin had a difficult time selecting the items he would identify first. After long moments of dubbing, he chose the four wands, laying them on a small table next to the cup of wine, which was necessary for the casting along with some items mixed in there. Two of the wands appear almost identical in size and to Kevin’s eye; they most likely have the same function. So the young mage set about to identify the other items – a task that took him well past midnight – and afterwards straight to bed.

With small and sleepy eyes the young wizard sits at the table, the morning hours spent memorizing new spells. Next to him sits his apprentice and now a teacher in his own right, Tarim. Both friends are without their companions, both owl and tressym having found comfortable perches in the forest that makes up the inn’s interior.

Immerine and Emlyn sit across from the two wizards, and are engaged in a discussion about faith and the divine; sharing experiences and their respective paths to their faiths. A discussion, which Teryn, seated next to the halfling woman, follows with half an ear, the warrior having spent enough time at the Inner Chamber to know something about the ways of priests.

Leaning against a tree trunk – one of the pillars holding up the roof and the floor above – Telsom regards the whole scene, while his hand absently caresses the hilt of his rapier – once more returned to him courtesy of Lord Jalarghar. Sitting in front of the paladin, – a now visible Puddy on her shoulder – is Lord Ashwin Jalarghar’s daughter, Ditalidas.

Jezbodiah and Nik are sitting at the other end of the table, the bard looking much better than he did the past couple of days and playing some notes on his guitar. Jez’s familiar – Alanna the ferret – is once more playing in front of the half-elf, scampering around the cup of wine and chasing its own tail.

Sitting cross-legged on the floor and leaning against the wall of the inn, Skeen is quietly listening to Nik’s playing on the guitar and resting in reverie.

“Be careful Alanna. Don’t tip the chalice,” he says. Alanna stops chasing her tail for all but a moment. Looking at Jez, she squeaks and eeps. Within a few scant seconds, she goes back to chasing her tail again. In her haphazard playing, she bumps a half-full chalice and tips its red contents toward the table’s wooden surface. Nimble and dexterous with his hands, Jez grabs the tilting wine cup by its rim before it spills onto Nik and the elven woman called Skeen. “Told ya so,” he says to his familiar. “Don’t want you spilling fine whine on friends and strangers.”

It is that scene Matteo and Portia find when they enter the inn and make their way over to the table. Once the initial greetings, and in the case of Tarim, Skeen, Teryn and Kevin, introductions have been done both take their seats at the table. At first, the conversation is light and not yet related to the events of the prior days.

“Do you want something to eat or drink?” Matteo asks Portia, leaning slightly towards her in order to be heard over the other conversations taking place nearby. “On second thoughts, why don’t you come up to the bar with me and we’ll see what Mumadar has that we might be interested in?” Scraping back his chair, the young Sembian rises back up to his feet and makes his way to the bar, nodding at Telsom on his way.

The door to the inn opens once more, as it has done, and as doors in an inn are prone to do, letting in a three new guests. Two appear as likely visitors to the establishment, the third does not. A slender lady, dressed in leathers that have seen a good deal of traveling, twin swords and a large black wolf on her side seem definitely in the right setting that the Running Stag provides. The third, a sturdy dwarf appears a less likely visitor, red hair and beard braided together. Yet at a first glance, it is obvious the three know each other.

The chestnut haired hunter enters the tavern with confidence in her stride and ire of assurance within her evergreen eyes. A tavern like this did not faze her one bit, but knew that both of her companions would not take to this environment as she has. A calloused copper hand floats to the back of the head of the ebony wolf that dons her side while a soft smile giving some encouragement to the dwarf at the other.

The elf maiden coaxes both friends to an empty table while her almond shaped eyes continues to scan the occupants of the room to make herself aware of any familiar faces that might be friend or foe.

A table next to the group’s long table is unoccupied, and the three make their way over. Once seated their discussion appears to be on their recent arrival in Berdusk as part of a caravan’s escort, a caravan carrying tools and construction equipment from the North.

Taking a seat, the wolf takes its rest under the table and around its partner’s feet, but both gleaming green eyes stay awake to any approaching adventurers. “Don’t worry, my friend,” Luna smiles at Branith, “Let’s get some warm food and nice wine… of course ale for you.” A light giggle escapes the lips of the ranger that seems so uncharacteristic just by the look of her.

Warily eyeing the wolf, Skeen ensures there is plenty of distance between it and herself, not particularly wanting to a lupine snack. She stays quiet, indeed, as she has been most of the time she has been with the group, except for a few brief conversations here and there. She has been mostly a watchful eye in the shadows, marking several in the group as targets for her stalking, of a sort.

She finds herself almost wishing for something to happen and a corner of her mouth quirks up in a cynical smile.

The little fey looks up in alarm as the inn door opens, and in the twinkling of an eye, vanishes from sight once more, but remains seated on Ditalidas’ shoulder.

Immerine’s nostrils flare, as the trio comes closer. She watches the wolf, a small smile playing about her lips and then she looks over to Matteo and the smile disappears. Her attention returns to the wolf and she completely forgets about her conversation with Emlyn. She breathes in deeply through her nose seemingly inhaling the scents around her and closes her eyes. Several emotions play across her face, but the prevalent one is a sense of contentment.

Looking quite relaxed, Telsom looks like a very lazy, very content and pampered cat as he continues to finger the hilt of his blade, his head tilted to one side as he takes pleasure in observing the members of the group as they talk amongst their scattered groups in the inn. Having left his armor in his chamber, the paladin wears a yellow long-sleeved silk shirt untucked and for the most part unbuttoned exposing a large amount of flawless skin on his toned stomach and chest.

Wearing black leather pants that fit almost like a second skin it is amazing the paladin looks comfortable at all. But as the trio enters the inn he lets his eyes roam over them briefly, a slight curving of the corners of his lips showing his delight at the sight of the wolf as it enters the room and ends up under a table so close to the spot where he relaxes. Telsom is clearly at ease with both his provocative clothing, and the large predator so close to both himself and those he has come to care about.

Skeen’s eyes widen as she sees Telsom’s version of casual dress and she struggles not to laugh in her amusement. Her own clothing looks as if it is about to fall apart in comparison, but not nearly as artfully as Telsom’s reveals himself. Clean her blond curly hair shines in the light, her skin nearly translucent. Her too thin frame sits casually as she listens to Nik, but as always. There is an aura almost of wariness about her. The old scars marring her neck go more with the clothing than with the rest of her.

The barbarian mage’s eyes flit to the opened door for a moment to take in the sight of the new arrivals. For an instant, he turns back to the conversation with Kevin and then he quickly snaps back to the doorway realizing something belatedly. For a moment or two, he stares outright at the elven woman and then gradually a half-disappointed / half-relieved look comes over his face and he seems to relax.

For a moment, his eyes meet hers and he holds the gaze for a mere second before shyly looking away. Nervously he begins to brush his hair yet again.

When the door opens, Kethron’s head snaps around with typical feline quickness, the tressym becomes still as he sees the wolf, but makes no move. Though feline in almost every respect, tressym are highly intelligent, and Kethron is no exception, showing no automatic fear at the sight of larger predators, even lupines. Kethron goes back to munching on the meat in the bowl before him, though he does keep an eye on the wolf; he might not be afraid, but the winged cat is hardly stupid.

Kevin also looks up, but while surprised at seeing what was obviously a wolf and not one of its domesticated cousins, he did not react in fear or even wariness. The city guard would never have allowed an animal, which might pose a high risk to walk so freely. Logically, this wolf was either tame, or – most likely – was a willing companion of the female elf he stayed so close to.

He did note Tarim’s strange reaction, though. Could he know these people? Kevin considered it briefly. The odds that anyone from the High Forest, or areas around it, would show up so soon after their own arrival, much less come to the same inn, were higher than the Spine of the World Mountains.

Of course, they might have chosen this place for the same reason Tarim and he had done – its interior was so much like a forest as to be almost the real thing. Tarim, in his first real city, had needed such a place to retreat too. Not that Kevin would be likely to say that aloud, no sense in hurting the barbarian’s pride. Moreover, as he continually reminded himself, he would have been just as lost in Tarim’s home environment.

Pausing on his way to the bar, Matteo stops as though just taking something in. Shaking his head, he turns to look at Nik and grins slightly, making his way over to the bard. “You are looking well Nik,” he says cheerfully. His grin widens and he adds, “Well, looking better anyway.” Leaning in closer he exchanges a few quietly whispered words before heading towards the bard.

As her almond shaped eyes scan the people in the room, Luna’s forest green orbs come to rest upon a man’s eyes, who hold them to his as if he knows her. The wood elf furrows her sun-kissed brow slightly in trying to place him in her memories such as her many travels or quests, but comes up short in all of them. It is only when the barbarian cuts off the connection, that the wild maiden wrinkles her nose and turns her attention back to the dwarf at her side.

“I hope that we can find work that is less undead,” Luna says plainly, as she looks to the barmaid to get her attention.

The black wolf lifts its head slightly with the feeling of all eyes upon it, but it is only at the scent of the winged cat when the large beast does quark his head sideways in interest. A large pink tongue hangs out of the white daggered mouth in happiness, but quickly closes and the massive head comes back to rest on the black paws in contentment of letting things be for now.

Drawing his attention back to the problem at hand, Kevin decided that the only sensible thing to do was ask Tarim. Touching his friend on the arm, he asked softly “What’s the matter? Something strange?”

Tarim is still watching the elven maiden from the corner of his eye; her gestures, movement and voice are all under his rather intense scrutiny while he continues ostensibly to brush his hair. When Kevin speaks Tarim starts a bit “Um well” the mage begins, somewhat embarrassed “she looks a lot like a girl I knew awhile back, it rather caught me by surprise. Was I that obvious?”

He puts the brush away and glances across to Immerine in her discussion with Portia. He had actually been quite interested in the exchange, and tried to follow it while talking to Kevin, but now has completely lost track of the thread of conversation.

The red-haired Kelemvorite nods as Saer Matteo suggests heading for the bar as the two enter. As both Matteo and Portia head for the bar and Matteo pauses to talk to Nik, Portia’s eyes narrow as she sees the little flying thing that had helped in the attack on the Bane Guards. She says nothing, for the little thing vanishes a moment later when a pair of adventurers enters with a wolf in tow. She blinks, and then nods in understanding.

Taking little notice of the newcomers, Portia approaches the bar, passing the others with a smile and a nod. The others can hardly fail to notice a new addition to her equipment – that of a rather large hand-and-a-half sword strapped diagonally across her back, its sturdy hilt projecting above her right shoulder. The large mace she had been carrying is missing also, replaced by, of all things, Tempest’s – a light mace with the head of a skull. The rest of her gear remains as it was the last time the group had seen her – black and bone white priestly vestments over blackened breastplate armor etched with the symbol of Kelemvor. A buckler on her left arm with the same symbol and a bone white amulet about her neck with the same symbol again, an adventurer’s pack on her back and a scroll organizer on her belt round out her equipment.

Walking up to the bar, she asks the maid there for whatever might be available for morningfeast, a pint of beer and, if he can find the time, Mumadar.

The gaunt bard watched the newcomers enter, his face going pale as the wolf enters. He wrenches his terrified gaze away from them before he can draw much attention, staring fixedly at the fine guitar in his hands.

When Matteo approaches, Nik forces the fear from his face and smiles eagerly at the other man. The Sembian’s whispered words bring the fear back into the bard’s dull eyes, and he swallows hard before nodding in reply. As Matteo moves away, Nik sets his guitar on the table and runs one long-fingered hand down his angular face. The old bitterness is back in his expression, the ease and calm he has shown for the past day gone in a flash. “Gods, I need a drink.” The tall man mutters sourly to himself. “I’m too sober for this.”

Then Nik gets to his feet, and the bitterness vanishes. Narrow shoulders square and back straight, the tall man saunters over to the newcomers, a genial smile on his gaunt face and his deep-set hazel eyes full of curiosity. “Greetings to you.” he says cheerfully, sweeping a graceful bow; his deep, resonant voice startling coming from such a frail-looking man. “I’m Andreus Nikolai Estoba Winterborne III, vagabond musician and professional nuisance.” He grins down at them from his towering six-and-a-half foot height, and winks mischievously. “Call me Nik. It’s easier to remember. So what brings you fine folks to Berdusk?”

As the hunter, the wolf and the red bearded dwarf enters the establishment, he scans them over and speaks. “More people to join our group. Something big must be happening soon.”

Next to the table and Jez are two backpacks. Secured tight to prevent unwanted intrusion and theft, Jez picks up Alanna and places her on his shoulder. Taking both backpacks, stuffed with obvious personal belongings and other gear, Jez proceeds towards the counter. “Uh Mumadar? Uh Saer, can I leave these behind the bar counter for now?” He asks. “Good morning Milady,” he bows his head to Portia.

The bright green eyes come to meet that of the bard’s as her soft tinted skinned face turns to meet the visitor’s with suspicion that has become part of her thought process now with strangers over her travels. Her full lips grow a bit of a smile as the hunter tries to put on a face of friendship, but her set jaw says something otherwise.

“Greetings, Saer Nik, I am Luna Rosewood, a forest warrior that hails from the trees of the High Forest,” the wood elf maiden begins as her hand turns to point to the beast that takes his rest at her feet, “and this is Areo, a life time friend and protector. As for my partner on my right, I will allow him to speak his name if he wishes.”

Her almond shaped eyes turn back to the tall bard that approached her a moment ago and stares within his hazel colored orbs as a warrior would do to any stranger that approaches them without reason. “As for our presence here, I believe that to find work and to offer our services,” Luna simple replies to him, “Are you in need of a huntress such as me?”

At the bar, one of barmaids sets the requested drinks on the bar, just as Mumadar appears from the kitchen-like area. “Fair morning to you all, may the sun warm you and the cool breezes bring you comfort. How may I help you?” Barely finished with his question, Jez approaches with his request for the two packs. “Put them there…” The scar-headed innkeeper says, as he gestures to an empty spot on the counter, “…I’ll have one of the lads stow them away safely.” Then he returns his attention to the priestess and the merchant.

Giving Jez a friendly nod, Matteo is happy to wait until the young man has finished stowing his gear away for taking up any of Mumadar’s time.

Taking a sip of her pint, the Kelemvorite leans against the bar – with a faint scrape as her armor presses against it – and returns Mumadar’s greeting.

“Master Mumadar,” Portia asks, “A couple days ago, after standing vigil for my fallen companion Tempest, I had, well, I guess you might call it a vision.” The redhead shrugs. “Not something that routinely happens to me, I assure you. Regardless, one of the symbols in it was that of a mill. I got the feeling that it was falling down, and possibly haunted.” Looking about the tavern, she continues with, “I discussed it with Lord Sillisten. We both feel that I need to investigate the area. I then had the thought that, if anyone in this town was likely to have heard rumors of a haunted sawmill, you, were a likely candidate. Tell me, have you heard anything of such a place?”

Portia winks at Jez as she finishes. “Should be fun, huh?”

“Thank you Saer.” Jez replies and nods courteously at Mumadar for his prompt service. As Portia speaks to Mumadar, Alanna makes herself comfortable by hanging over the half-elf's right shoulder, front paws down over his chest and tail and hind paws along his back. The humorous sight makes Jez look more or an outdoorsman than a citizen of Berdusk. Eyeing the snack bowl, Jez selects a few ripe grapes for himself and gives one to Alanna. Disgusted with the fruit, she squeaks her discontent loudly and with twin paws, she throws it back onto the bar. It bounces twice and rolls towards Mumadar.

“That is not a ball and you are picky this morning. Remember, you’re the one who ate grapes like a pig last night. Don’t complain to me if your tummy is sore.” Before Mumadar can clean Alanna’s small mess, Jez retrieves the lone fruit and places it back in the fruit bowl.

“Well… uh yes, it sounds like fun.” Jez unsure what to make of Portia’s eye gesture; he pulls up a seat next to her. “Uh, a pint please, when you have the time.” He takes Alanna off his shoulder and places her on the bar. The ferret stays close to Jez, but loses interest in the conversation. She takes the same grape Jez returned to the fruit bowl and begins to paw it back and forth, rolling it on the bar as she does so.

Skeen’s sharp little elven ears perk up as she hears Portia ask about a mill. Speaking in a low voice to whoever is around her she murmurs, “I’ve heard rumors of a mill. Back when I was in Scornubel.” She waits to see if Mumadar will provide them with any information and she moves carefully so she is not in range of the clumsy ferret.

Shifting slightly at the entrance of the trio, Teryn eyes the wolf, and then discretely looks around to gauge the reactions of the various animal companions. The ferret seems the most likely to Teryn to react being only as high as the table, but he also is concerned the owl and Tressym might not take well to the wolf. Glad to have finally ‘seen’ Puddy, he is not surprised when he disappears in reaction to the newcomers. Trying to reassure himself that, unless it was magically bound to the female much like the animals with the group, the city would not allowed it. Nevertheless, he watches warily until they sit without incident and he relaxes slightly, giving a glance to Jez, as the ferret seems unperturbed.

The tall bard’s cheerful grin grows fixed as Luna indicates the wolf at her feet. His eyes follow her hand automatically, filling with fear as he stares fixedly at the wolf. He wrenches his gaze away, staring into space somewhere to Luna’s left and swallowing hard. A thin sheen of sweat appears on his forehead and his narrow shoulders hunch slightly. Clearly, the tall gaunt man is terrified of the wolf, and he is struggling to keep from backing away.

After a few moments, Nik manages to wrestle down his fear. He looks down at his battered boots, embarrassed, and clears his throat nervously before turning back to the elf hunter. The bard offers her a wan grin, the faint ghost of his earlier welcoming smile. “Tell him I’m sorry.” He says softly to Luna, unable to meet her steady gaze. “I… ehm… heh…” Nik swallows hard again and tugs at the scarf around his neck. “I’m afraid of dogs, wolves and really most anything of the canine persuasion.” he mumbles finally, shame coloring his sharp cheekbones. The tall man gives Luna a lopsided, sardonic smile, the fear now just a shadow in his dull hazel eyes. “I was doing pretty well until I looked at him.” Nik adds wryly. The gaunt bard shrugs slightly, as if his now-contained fear is of no concern. “My problem, not yours.” he says dismissively.

Most of his earlier cheer back in his haggard face, Nik says, “Sadly, I’ve no money to be hiring anyone. I’ve only just come to town myself, and the only way I can afford to stay at this fine inn is through my small skill with a guitar. But, I happened to hear you and your companions have come with a caravan from the north. I was planning on heading north myself, and was just wondering where your caravan came from and if you had an easy trip here.” He raises one eyebrow and smirks in cynical appraisal of his lanky, scrawny physique. “As you can see, I’m not exactly built to roam dangerous roads.”

The wood elf huntress, with a bit of pity in her eyes, watches the tall and lanky bard squirm and emotionally struggle with the ‘impending’ danger he feels around Areo and her hard-set jaw relaxes slightly in order to offer him a bit of comfort and for the first time allows some kind of feeling show through her barrier. Her small, but strong frame leans forward as if to reach out and touch Nik, and give him words of comfort.

However, as the newcomer to her table reveals that he has overheard the conversation that Branith and she held, her face goes back to one of suspicion and wariness as questions now fly from his mouth about the caravan they were on and the place they had come from. Luna sits back in her chair and her fingertips play with the rose gold hilt at her side as she takes a moment to pause and place her words correctly in order not to be too vague, but also not pour out information to a person who puts on a somewhat friendly face.

“Master Nik, please forgive me for not answering your questions directly for you must understand my position as well,” the wood elf ranger began, “If you tell me where you are going, I might be able to help in your decision making of going or not in… your condition. I like not to reveal where I have been and such, to man who just overhears things that I say in a tavern, especially when it involves my former employer. Those things are personal to me and the man employed me. You understand, do you not?”

Her emerald eyes flash a warning to the vagabond traveler while her slight smile becomes disarming on her coppery visage as she continues to study him and the people within the tavern.

Nik visibly flinches from Luna’s apparent offense at his questions. His haggard face pales, and fear is bright in his sunken eyes. He swallows hard, tugging anxiously at his scarf. A quick glance at Areo betrays his concern that she might set the wolf on him.

Immerine chuckles deeply in the back of her throat. The noise comes out almost as a wolf’s bark, or maybe that was what the witch intended. This morning Immerine wears her hair loose and it falls past her waist in wavy ebony strands. Her emerald eyes glimmer with amusement as her attention now focuses on the elf accompanying the wolf. “You spoke of undead, lady. I heard you though you may not think I did. Have you been plagued by abominations of late?” Immerine stands and paces to Nik’s side. “My destiny is to heal the open sore on Bhalla. My journey has brought me here. So has yours. I am called Immerine.”

Skeen watches the interaction between Nik and the strangers with some interest, having no desire to go to the bar now and discuss the mill with Portia, though she watches for the woman to come back to a nearer place.

Luna, the wood elf studies the raven-haired woman carefully while weighing her words with her thoughts, before nodding her head in acknowledgement. “Greetings, Lady Immerine. As for the undead I spoke of it was in reference of the magic our saviors used to defend the caravan I was on and Branith and I do not take kindly to them.”

Luna once more wrinkles her nose in distaste as the memory seems to play within her mind and with a slight shake of her long brown hair, clears her mind of the event and the fight that took place, before returning her attention to the two visitors. “As for being destined to come here, I am afraid, my lady, that I don’t believe in such divine intervention for many reason that been laid out in my life. I come here in search for work and nothing more or less.”

Areo’s large head peeks from underneath the table and his emerald eyes peer at the ‘wolf’ woman. He whimpers slightly in a soft greeting as if he knows something about her.

The bard actually cringes at Immerine’s bark of laughter, head snapping around as if he expects to see another canine about to leap out at him. When he sees it is she, the tall man sighs, relief as plain on his face, as the fear was just a heartbeat ago. Nik runs one bony, long-fingered hand down his face, wiping away the fear-sweat beading his forehead. “Gods, Immerine.” he murmurs to her, embarrassment mingling with the relief in his dull hazel eyes. “You scared me half to death. I’m WAY too sober for this.”

Nik swallows hard and looks back at Luna, a tentative, apologetic smile on his lips. “I didn’t mean to offend you.” He says to the huntress. “But as you see I’m not the only one in this inn with sharp ears.” His smile grows wider and more sardonic, and bitter amusement is sharp in his eyes as he adds, “Although I may very well be the only one in this inn who can measure his store of courage in a teaspoon.”

The tall bard seems content to let Immerine talk to Luna, but he stays where he is, clearly interested in what the two of them have to say.

With a bit of warmth returning into her evergreen orbs, Luna takes pity on such a frail man whom had taken a risk to come over to speak with her while the others had not until now. “Saer,” the hunter speaks quite gently in tone, “you have given me no offense in any shape or form, but in my line of work, one must be careful in strangers that approach me with questions of my whereabouts. For friendly fronts can lead to daggers in the back.”

Her full pink lips curls into a somewhat smile as she continues, “As for courage being measured in a teaspoon…I think you give yourself little credit since it was you who approached me and no one else with these questions and with one of your greatest fears at my feet. You should see courage within that and within yourself.”

Her fingertips leave the well-crafted hilt and relax upon the table in front of her, as the set of her jaw relaxes as well. Luna’s almond shaped eyes continue to concentrate on the pair in front of her, as the party that seems to have gathered in the tavern.

“Yes Nik, your courage would be better measured in a barrel, mind you a barrel with several holes in it.” Telsom says with one arched eyebrow and a slight tugging at the corner of his mouth.

At Telsom’s senseless barb, Immerine’s eyes tear from the wolf’s eyes and her head snaps around.

Brandishing daggers within her eyes, the hunter glares at the one who dresses as if he is out looking for some cheap maiden in the streets. “I don’t know what friends you keep, Saer Nik, whether he is joking with you or not, those words are quite biting and I now know why you say such things about yourself.”

Luna blinks her eyes hard as she rolls them away from the provocatively dressed man back to the pair in front of her and decides not to give any more attention to the man.

“Where coddling him doesn’t work to bring out his brave streak sometimes angering him works better.” Telsom says in response to the woman’s words, although it is clear from his tone of voice that he does not much care what the wilderness woman thinks of him.

Sucked in by the man with his response, Luna sighs heavily and turns her eyes fully on him and replies quite simply. “I do not pretend to know you or him or the seemingly odd relationship you two have with one another, but I see the little use for making him angry now since he taken the risk and used his courage to approach me with the very animal he fears.”

Taking a deep breath, Luna continues to try to remain matter of the fact in tone and not to allow any true feelings about what she feels about this subject, before she continues, “Saer, you probably care very little for my words or my views about the subject so I won’t waste your time with them. I just felt your words were a bit much for him to bear in the midst of strangers such as I and my friends when there was no need for them. Of course, that is my view and my view only.”

Telsom shrugs. “Nik and I have history…” With that, Telsom looks to Nik for a second and then back to the woman. “Alas I think my memory doesn’t serve me as well as Nik’s does about said history, but there is history there nonetheless.” Sucking on a tooth, Telsom runs a hand through his hair and continues. “I really don’t feel that I have to explain myself… well to anyone, but where I think you saw me attempting to hurt the man I simply intended to play off his own joke and possibly get a rise out of him.”

Looking at first Ditalidas and then Skeen, Telsom looks back to the woman. “You are right, you don’t know me. Don’t rush your judgment; first impressions tend to last with most people. I feel I somehow keep tending to leave people with bad first impressions of me since leaving Silverymoon and even more often since leaving Waterdeep. When I leave Berdusk I feel at this rate it might be with a threat for me not to return.”

“But at least you’ll leave looking good,” Skeen drawls. “I’m sure I could recommend a few places that would hire you.” She smiles slowly with a very wicked gleam in her knowledgeable eyes. Telsom raises an eyebrow, giving Skeen a playful smile and then mouths the words. “Thank you.”

Nodding her head towards him, which causes loose strands of chestnut colored hair fall about her shoulders, the wild elf maiden agrees, “I will not judge you now if you do the same for me.” Luna returns the quirked eyebrow and half-curved smile that Telsom did only moments ago to Nik, but with the addition of an amusing twinkle within her bright eyes.

“Most of those in my profession tend to go with their first instincts and impressions. I suppose I can make an exception.” Telsom says with a final nod to the woman before concentrating on the basket hilt of his weapon, running his fingers lovingly over the intricate designs and inlaid jewels.

Immerine raises a delicate ebony eyebrow and smirks at the paladin of Sune, “You must all forgive Telsom. He has the manners of a rutting pig, and left his sense of decorum in his own barrel, I do believe. Nik, pay the marked fop no mind, and neither will the rest of the world.” Her voice portrays a serious sense of control and a hint of amusement, but nothing reflects in her eyes.

“Make up your mind witch.” Telsom says smiling at the woman. “Between your lusting after Saer Ashgale and your belittling of our barbarian cultures, your head spins like a leaf in the wind.”

Tarim stands quickly and quietly at the paladin’s words, making his way towards Immerine and the elven woman, his face passively interested, his eyes cool. Immerine does as she suggested to the others and lets Telsom’s barbs float harmlessly to the floor. She continues her greetings to Areo considering the wolf to be far better company.

“Then you are in luck for my profession usually doesn’t allow the same thing, but I have made the exception for you as well,” Luna quickly fires back as she winks her left eye at him before returning her attention back to the woman whom now takes interest in Areo.

Turning her attention back to Luna, Immerine smiles in earnest, “I like you Lady Luna. And I appreciate your sense of company.” The witch changes her attention to the wolf and finally cannot resist the urge any more. She crouches down to eye level with the wolf to greet him properly. The full, open smile and look in her eyes is one of familiarity of a precious thing.

She makes small noises in her throat and very subtle movements in her face, almost speaking with her eyes and body.

“Thank you kindly, my lady,” Luna nods her head briefly to the ebony haired woman and watches with interest as she stoops to meet Areo.

The large wolf friend comes from underneath the table and looks directly into the eyes of the greeting woman. He return grumbles lowly and wags his tail in salutation to the newly found friend. It is only a moment later when the massive mouth opens up and allows the giant pink tongue to rake its wet trail across her face. Areo pants happily now which breaths warm breath upon Immerine’s visage.

An uncharacteristic giggle escapes the ranger’s lips as she watches the scene. “I think Areo has claimed you as a friend, Lady Immerine.”

Immerine unfolds her body, stretches back to humanity and trails her fingers in Areo’s coat at the base of his neck. “I have a very special bond with wolves, Lady Luna. I spent a great deal of time in a pack when I was a child.” The smile fades very slowly. “I am afraid I cannot offer you much in the way of work. However, Lord Ashgale may be able to drum up something. I understand he is looking for a new advisor, among other things.” Immerine points to Matteo. The smile is gone as her gaze falls on the black-clad man.

“Please just call me, Luna, for I am afraid there nothing about me that is ladylike,” the hunter’s states softening her rigid stance in the chair a bit towards the woman who continues to stroke Areo gently. “As for Areo, I am afraid he is not a child of pack for his pack was killed while he was a mere pup and he has followed me around ever since.”

Stepping from underneath the table, the wolf charge comes into full view once more for all those to see. His strong lined body is visible underneath his thick jet-black coat as the pink tongue still hanging out while his big green eyes seem to let of a glow of playfulness instead of the terror that most seem to have about his kind.

“As for work, I thank you for your guidance in that area. How might I find this Lord?” Luna inquires. Her interest in the question breaks when a leather-clad man joins the small duo in front of her and her eyes lift up to him.

The brown leather-clad mage watches from a slightly discreet distance from the wolf, his “student” and the elven hunter. With a mastery of the elvish language seldom heard in humans, he bows and offers a greeting in a soft even voice. “Saesa omentien lle Luna, amin naa Tarim Ravenmane.” A gentle smile accompanies Tarim's words, as the barbarian leans lightly on his ever-present staff. His eyes regard her carefully, but his expression is genuinely warm and welcoming.

With a nod of her head of understanding, the wild eyed maiden replies, <Saesa omentien lle Tarim Ravenmane.> Her elvish is not quite fluid or even musical as many of her kind would be which would suggest something about the woman sitting in front of him.

If Tarim is surprised by her lack of skill in, what one might assume is her native tongue, he doesn’t show it Instead he shifts his grip on the carven staff in his hands and asks, “Did you mention the High Forest, Luna? I used to call the places under the eaves of the Grandfather Tree my home. It’s passing rare that we would both wander so far, isn’t it.” The mage’s eyes show some flicker of the pain he feels at the mention of his home but not that the average person would notice.

Her face perks up at the mention of another that has come from the same trees that she was born under and raised within. “Aye, I know of your home and the place you speak of for I was not raised too far from where you call home. My father and I traveled in the forest as guides to all those who needed one and I guess that is what makes me travel now so far from it. A need to adventure.”

For a moment she ponders the memories of her aging father she left in the forest to explore the world for her own personal knowledge of the mysteries of her own life. Her heart aches slightly as wood elf places a brave face on and continues. “Aye, it is indeed rare for two people of such a place to meet in a tavern like this. What bring you here or shall I say what brings you all here since it looks to like you are all together?”

At the bar, Mumadar looks over briefly to the group seated at the long table and the two recent arrivals and the black wolf that accompanied them, before returning his attention to the priestess of Kelemvor. “A haunted mill you say? Hmm…”

As if from nowhere a coin appears in the dark-skinned man’s hand, and he promptly starts flipping it over and rolling it over his knuckles. “There are several mills in the area, using either the Chionthar or some of its subsidiary rivers and streams as power. It is likely that some of them have fallen into disrepair and might be haunted.”

“I think the best chances are to find these on the west bank side of the Chionthar. There’s several streams and smaller rivers coming in from the plains. Several small hamlets dot the landscape, though I don’t think that the hamlets have haunted mills. They’d probably be a bit more outlying.”

“On the Chionthar’s east bank, towards Qheldin’s Mask, there are two or three lumber mills, but none of these are haunted as far as I know. Let me think a bit longer on the matter, I might yet know more than currently comes to the surface of my mind.”

Jezbodiah turns to the Kelemvorite priestess, “Uh, I’d like to apologize for the remark I made in the sewers yesterday, uh, about your legs. Ehm, given the situation it was disrespectful considering where we were, and what was happening. My name’s Jezbodiah Wisp. Did you mention something about a mill? Maybe I can help find it.” His tone of his voice is genuine and sincere.

Portia purses her lips in thought as the innkeeper tells her what he knows, and nods her thanks. As the man turns away, she sighs in disappointment. When Jez offers his apologies, the slight Kelemvorite priestess actually grins with delight. “Oh, Master Jez, you shouldn’t apologize for that. After all, what’s true is true, and I do have nice legs…”

Jezbodiah throws his head back and laughs loud enough for the patrons of the Running Stag to hear. “Lliira smile upon ye, my lady. As battered and beaten as I am I needed that.”

At the young man’s offer of assistance in finding the mill, Portia’s eyes light with interest. “I’d be most grateful if you would. I can’t shake the feeling that this place is important. Whether it bears on what is plaguing the Berduskan traders, I can’t be sure, but I know there’s something that I need to take care of there.”

Looking at Matteo and then at Jez, and waiting until Matteo has his order, she says, “Well, gentlemen, should we return to the others?” Nodding toward where the rest of the group is sitting, she adds, “It looks like they’ve managed to snag some would-be adventurers there, wouldn’t you say, Saer Matteo? Think they’d like to volunteer?” She grins, though a bit wanly, remembering others she has met over the last tenday that are no longer with her…

Nursing his Saerloonian glowfire, Matteo purses his lips as he regards the newcomers. “You know,” he says quietly, “some day Darkhold will simply send spies or assassins dressed as woodsmen to this inn and someone will unthinkingly invite them to help us out.” Turning to look away from the large group, he addresses Mumadar. “Don’t suppose I could have some of those hot biscuits of yours, could I? Been a while since I’ve had anything to eat.”

Skeen rises gracefully back to her feet and with a nod at those nearby and slight shake of her head at the scantily clad paladin, moves toward the bar. Unable to restrain her curiosity any longer, she walks up close to Portia and says softly, “I’ve heard tales of such a mill.”

In a louder tone, well, loud for her, she asks, “More cider please?” Skeen’s curiosity has always gotten her into trouble. She did not see any reason to break the trend.

Eyes suddenly intent and her pint of beer forgotten, the Kelemvorite priestess says eagerly, “you have? Can you tell me where?”

Skeen’s own eyes widen in surprise. For a flicker of an instant she almost asks how much the information is worth, then thinks, ‘An excited Kelemvorite and no one dead, amazing.’ “Rumor has it in a triangle formed by the river Chionthar, south of Qheldin’s Mask, and North-west of Berdusk. On the west bank of the river.”

“Can we invite the elf maiden too?” Jezbodiah asks, “I see she’s lurking on the periphery of our conversation. I believe she was discovered at the warehouse yesterday and I have yet to introduce myself to the others. Beside we have yet to discover what the wands and scrolls. Call me curious, cell me daring and dangerous, but I’ve taken a great interest in magic.”

“Hardly a maiden,” mutters Skeen softly, mostly to herself.

Back at the table, the discussion continues, “I was brought here by Mystra...” Tarim says with conviction in reply to Luna’s question to what brought everyone together, “ help Immerine learn ways of The Art. I also intend to help these fine folks find out why things are amiss here in Berdusk.” He begins to explain, “I was walking the streets and saw their battle with a winged creature called a Darkenbeast. I hurried to lend what little help I could as did my mentor Kevin Janis over there and that gentleman Teryn – the mage points them out as he speaks – they helped as well. Actually I think Teryn did most of the work and got most of the harm for his trouble too.”

After seeing such a thing within the city and hearing of how they had battled undead as well… I have decided to help them as much as I am able.

“Then your goddess and these people are served well by the passing of the knowledge and the aid you gave them.” Luna returns to the barbarian mage with a slight nod of her head with some conviction, “I believe the passing of knowledge to anyone willing to learn is a well suited honor to those who are teacher and student alike. My father taught me the ways of the forest and I in return will teach anyone who would like to learn the same.”

Immerine waits until Luna and Tarim finish speaking before saying anything. “Lord Ashgale is that man over at the bar dressed completely in black. As for another reason why Tarim is here, I have asked him to teach me magic. Nik, my tall gangly friend here, is with us because he popped in on us one day on a hillside and has been an invaluable ally in defeating the undead, which seem to be drawn here. I am here because it is the city from my dreams and my quest has led me to this place. You seem to be a lady of the land; surely you can feel the cries against nature.” Immerine’s lip quivers a little as she speaks about the reason for being in Berdusk.

“But I should not keep you from speaking with Matteo.” She half turns toward the bar, sees Telsom and sticks out her tongue then shouts, “Matteo! Would you please grace us with your presence, your Lordship?” The tone in her voice indicates exactly what she thinks of ‘his lordship’.

Telsom sighs as he had chosen that exact moment to look up from admiring his returned sword. Catching the witch’s eye and seeing her tongue stuck out he immediately goes back to studying his sword. “Just when I think I’ve got them figured out…” He mutters.

With the closing of her almond shaped eyes, the ranger takes a moment to reflect on the words of Immerine about nature and the shifts within it. Maybe it was her trying to play ignorant about the various signs she saw or the use of the excuse that maybe she was reading them wrong, but now that a stranger has brought it out in the open makes Luna realize she can no longer plead ignorant or naive. “Aye, you are correct that there have been some shifts in the nature that calls for my attention,” the leather-clad hunter replies, but omits the fact she has not heeded them out of sheer denial.

Her thoughts are temporary broken when Immerine screams across the room to get the Lordship over to where they are sitting.

Immerine sees the conflicting images pass across the ranger’s face, “Some times we do not hear, because we are thinking too loudly. Khelliara – Mielikki I mean – will understand,” Immerine touches the unicorn symbol around her own neck and smiles at Luna again.

“I am afraid I don’t understand Mielikki many times nor do I think she understands me at others as well. Our relationship has stranded on many events and I believe not to be in her favor as my life goes on. So, I hardly think she speaks to me or leads me here as some of you believe,” the forest green elf reveals to the ebony haired woman with a bit of hint of view of life according to her.

“It is one thing…” the usually quiet Teryn chimes in and addresses the paladin “…to jest among friends where you can say almost anything and not offend, but it is quite another to attempt the same when those same friends are conversing with strangers. Under such circumstances it is just plain rude and uncouth especially considering he…” waving a hand at the tall bard “…seems quite taken with the young lass. Context is important.” A stern look aimed at Telsom.

The tall bard looks distinctly uncomfortable as everyone jumps to his defense at Telsom’s quip. Staring at his broken-down boots and tugging nervously at the scarf around his neck, Nik mumbles “But he’s right, you know. Especially about my temper.” The gaunt man looks up, giving his defenders a wry, crooked smile. “He was polite enough not to mention that it’s a whiskey barrel I keep my courage in, however.”

Nik glances at Immerine, and for a moment, his eyes fill with shame. He looks away quickly, the sardonic humor back in his haggard face. Nik shrugs his narrow shoulders in dismissal of Telsom’s comment. “It doesn’t matter, really. I know what I am. And if I joke about it myself, I can’t very well be getting offended when some one else does, now, can I?”

He watches Luna’s big wolf as Areo comes out from under the table, but with his friends around him – and Luna’s own kinder demeanor – to reassure him Nik looks more wary than terrified. He looks up from Areo at Teryn’s comment, confusion and then bemused comprehension on his careworn face. “You mistake me, Teryn.” Nik says, flashing his old manic grin. “While Luna is an extremely attractive young woman, she’s really not my type.” He gives Luna a small bow, “And I’m quite sure I’m not her type either.”

Telsom slowly turns his head to look at Nik. “Nik, do you see both the slight jest and the compliment I gave you? Or, have you decided like the others, that I was horribly out of place and should be flogged? I’ll admit it’s quite touching to see so many friends and strangers alike, standing up for your honor, being the man that you are though I’d assume that this really wouldn’t come as an insult.”

Nik looks back at Teryn, and his eyes are suddenly haunted, full of pain and longing. “The light of my life is out of my reach forever, Teryn.” The bard says softly. “And no woman can ever replace her.” Nik scowls, and adds bitterly. “Whoever said ‘It’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all’ was full of shit.”

Nik’s haunted look reflected back from Teryn’s eyes as the bard explains his loss. Either Teryn is good at empathy or he has suffered his own loss fairly recently. “I’m sorry for your loss. I just meant that here we are in a tavern and a…pardon me if I embarrass you Luna… beautiful woman enters and no sooner than she sits down you engage in conversation with her. I’m pretty sure everyone here had the same thought as to why you did that.” Winking, the young warrior finishes with a grin and a shrug.

Nik sighs and the pain in his eyes turns back into the wry amusement. He gives Luna a wink and tells her “Immerine exaggerated a bit when she called me ‘an invaluable ally’ unless you consider getting skewered like a suckling pig and bleeding all over the place a great help.” His sunken eyes are alight with actual humor now as he adds, “Although I did let Emlyn get some practice at healing, so I suppose I was some help after all.”

The tall man grins down at Immerine, his rather jovial mood making him seem years younger. “Matteo better hire them.” Nik tells Immerine brightly. “Since I’ve met you folks I’ve learned I could really use a bodyguard. Or two. Three is even better.”

“You can borrow one of mine, I seem to have them hanging about like spades,” Immerine smiles and winks at the jocular bard.

The tall bard shakes his head in bewilderment at the near-confrontation between Telsom and Teryn. Strangely, none of the old bitterness is evident in his sunken eyes as he looks from Telsom to Teryn, then to Luna and finally Immerine. “I appreciate the way you all jumped to my defense. I really do. It means a lot to me.” The gaunt man straightens up from his habitual slight stoop, and his gaze is steady, clear and even resolute. “But Telsom is right. I’m a man grown. Even if I seem more like a whipped dog sometimes, I really am capable of fighting my own battles. Or running away from them, as the case may be. But before you all break into duels over my rather questionable honor, please let me decide if I’ve truly been insulted.”

Nik smiles at Immerine, and she can see the gratitude behind the determination in his eyes. Clearly, whatever passed between them in the stables the other day has made quite the impression on the tall bard. It may be nothing more than the simple fact that Nik has not touched a drop of alcohol since that conversation, but the man certainly seems to have gained some measure of confidence in him.

The lopsided grin still on his face, Nik chuckles softly. “My own sense of humor is rather wry and skewed.” the tall man explains, “And my perpetual sarcasm is frequently the cause of misunderstandings.” One eyebrow raised in amused appraisal, the bard adds, “If flogging is the punishment for joking about my shortcomings then I fear the stripes I already bear will be multiplied tenfold.”

He smiles at them all, seeming at truly at ease with them for the first time. “Let’s not be fighting amongst ourselves, please. Especially not over me. Clearly there will be plenty of real foes to fight, if things continue in the same way they began.”

“Nik… if you actually needed defending I would be… well if not the first then at least one of the first to raise my sword in your defense. In this case it was my intention to get you riled up so you would forget to be scared, not to anger everyone in this taproom.” Telsom says. A grin finding its way onto his face, even with the smile, the sincerity of his words seen on his face,

“Thank you kindly, Master Nik, for that fair compliment of my beauty, but you do not have to embellish things about me for I know what I am and accept it.” The wood elf explains as her emerald eyes become a bit cool to the present discussion about love and what is an acceptable maiden to most people, “I am no lady nor do I make excuses for not being one. In my life, there is no place for such things and most men often need that to be one of the characteristics within the woman he chooses to be either lover or mate. Often people see me as complicated or hard to understand, because my sex dictates who I should be and how I should act. I fear that nature forgot to put that within me when I born and brought up, but it is who I am now.”

Her evergreen eyes portrays her true emotions on how she really feels about herself as the waiver slightly, before becoming controlled and fixed once more.

“Master Nik, please accept my humblest sympathies for your past love for love lost is a great crime that anyone has to endure, but know that I believe that lovers and mates should not be replaced, but remembered for who they are and what they stood for in your life. However, allow love to happen again when you feel the time is right for it doesn’t have to replace her… for love is different each time you experience it. No one should look for an equal to the past, because that can never happen, but always allow something new to enter your life and grow.” The wild elf speaks in a soft tone as to give some comfort to heartbroken man.

Fixing her gaze once more back at the paladin, Luna only give a soft smile that betrays the look of that Telsom has gained some respect back within the woodland elf’s book.

At Immerine’s shout across the room Matteo turns, a slight frown marring the smooth skin of his forehead. Not willing to shout back, he waves his hand in a gesture clearly intended to signal that he will be over just as soon as he has finished whatever it is that he is currently doing.

When Skeen mentions the triangle, Mumadar stop, a frown appearing on his face, “Now that does sound familiar…”

“It does…” Jez chimes in, “…the ghastly harpist!” Excitement shines in the half-elf’s eyes. “The tale about a musician – maybe even a Lliiran worshipper – who got so depressed that his songs took on a magic of their own. All joy went from his life and he fled to be alone. Legend has it that he moved somewhere north and west of Berdusk, in the triangle you just mentioned…” Jezbodiah looks at Skeen, a wide smile on his youthful face, enthusiastically he continues, “…according to the tales his music made the willows weep truly, their tears forming a small river that flows into the Chionthar.”

“Indeed young master Wisp, indeed!” Mumadar says as he now remembers the tale, the tugging in his mind explained by the input from the elven maid and the young half-elf. “Moreover, there is a version of that tale where the musician moves into an old mill – though the tale doesn’t specify whether it is water- or wind powered mill.”

“Sounds quite depressing.” Skeen comments, “Did he have any riches? I tend to like the old tales that speak of lost treasure.” She grins unrepentantly at those around the bar.

Portia rolls her eyes and grins at Skeen’s jest, but does not dignify it with an answer. Instead, she looks at the others and says urgently, “In the vision Kelemvor sent me, I got the distinct impression of a yearning for release. It’s possible this ‘Ghastly Harpist’ only wishes to be freed from the restraints that are holding it here.” Then, Portia has another thought, one that dampens her enthusiasm. “I also got the impression of hate and defilement. It’s likely that there’s more to the place than a simple lost soul.”

Turning back to Mumadar and including Jez in her query by glancing his way, she asks, “Is it possible for you to draw up a map that would get me to this Mill? Or at least, into the general area?”

The smile suddenly leaves Jezbodiah’s face. He frowns and says, “His music was his treasure. If he’s a worshipper of Lliira, I won’t allow his grave desecrated by anyone. It’s a matter of duty and honor.” Turning to Portia, he says, “I think I can, but if there’s something wrong with the saw mill I’ll need to look into the history of the area first. I’ll need to consult a sage, or even my own parents. I believe the halfling wanted to ask my parents some questions a few days ago. Looking to Portia, he says, “Uh oh, I hear a fight coming on, never a dull moment with this group.

Telsom is addressing Teryn, though still in his relaxed pose against a tree trunk. “My jest was actually a compliment if you think about it… but I’d rather you not. Stay out of it. Nik is a big boy and more than capable of defending himself; if he has been slighted then I shall make reparations. I have sat before queens who weren’t as touchy as some of you. Unless of course you want to make it a formal challenge, if that is not the case then I recommend you step off. You are making matters worse, making a mountain out of an anthill as it is.” Smiling at Teryn, his eyes cold as ice, Telsom lazily cocks his head to the side. “Speaking about a man, any man being taken with or smitten with a lady in front of said man, said woman, and a crowd full of people is by far a much bigger slight. Especially where that poor man hasn’t had a chance to say those things himself yet. You do yourself and our good Nik shame by attempting to intervene on his behalf, quit tripping over your tongue and let those better suited for speaking do so.”

Continuing to smile, Telsom’s eyes seem to drain of color, it’s clear he’s more than willing to fight over the matter if it comes down to it, the paladin’s smile slowly fades however so one might think he’d rather avoid it if possible.

Seemingly unperturbed by the challenge, Teryn maintains a smile on his face. “Normally I’d agree with you but that dull look in your eyes indicated to me I needed to elucidate… excuse me, make it clear” the last three words said as one might when speaking to someone who is just learning the language. “Once you tossed out your leaky barrel comment, it just didn’t matter what else was said the harm was done and people coming to his defense could only build up his character in the eyes of strangers. As for your challenge, I leave it up to you whether we step outside but I’d rather you saved that energy for a common foe, and then maybe we will see who the better warrior is.” Teryn crosses his fingers behind his head and leans back in his chair, looking very relaxed.

“Do you think you’ve got what it takes?” Telsom says as the ice returns to his eyes and lingers in his words. The man’s smile widens in anticipation as he waits for the man’s response.

“If need be” a very relaxed Teryn answers.

The wood elf watches from afar the incident from just a moment ago which was thought to be solved now escalate once more between the two men. Luna feeling compelled to intervene since part of the quarrel was part of her doing.

“Saer,” the brown haired hunter states as she stands to face Teryn, “I do not wish to duel over a simple rub that was escalated by my words or that of others. I believe Master Nik has explained that the certain words that this man expressed did not harm him in any way and Saer Telsom cleansed himself by stating he would be one of the first to defend the fair bard if he ever found himself in trouble. I for one am satisfied by the remark and hold no ill will against him.”

Her strong frame bound in green and brown leather armor bows slightly to Teryn as a gesture of friendship, “Please saer. Allow this to pass and the harsh words between you sheathed for I wish not to start something between friends. A stranger’s words should not come between others.”

A surprised look on his face, Teryn uncrosses his fingers and brings one hand down to his thigh and waves the other towards Telsom “Dear lady… if you don’t mind my using that term, you are a lady in my eyes until your behavior indicates otherwise… I was merely answering Telsom’s question. I was not offensive nor do I believe I was challenging in my answer. I have no ill-will or animosity to anyone here, including Telsom.” Who knows, with elven ears about and an invisible Puddy, he adds leaning forward to Luna to whisper hoping only she can hear “I think he and I have just come to an understanding.” In explanation, he adds, “It’s a guy thing.”

Telsom nearly doubles over as he watches first the hunter move in on his behalf and then Teryn’s words to her. “Hunter.” Telsom says with a smile on his face, laughter in his eyes and voice. “I’m touched, but I think you’ve nothing to fear at the moment as far as the two of us dueling in the streets. As moronic as it might be, its man’s first instinct to lash out at that, which could possibly be, presently or in the future, competition. Two alpha wolves…”

Teryn looks at Telsom and chuckles “Surely she knows about wolves?” he glances at Areo and looks back at Telsom, his laughter building into a full-fledged laugh as the tension of the moment passes. He reaches out to clasp hands with Telsom like an old friend. “Sorry Luna, I’m not laughing at you, just the situation you helped defuse. Thank you!” He stands and bows respectfully.

When Telsom and Nik get into their conversation of ‘am I really insulted’, Immerine’s eyes flick back and forth between them. She bites her lip and finally looks straight at the paladin again. “Telsom, I am many things; brusque, rude, and impatient among them. However, I am learning. Some things I am learning quickly and others take some beating to get through to me. It is not my wont to apologize. However, I do feel my tongue lashed at you far too quickly. I should save some barbs for later in the day rather than starting the morn off wrong.” She scrunches her face into and impish smile and blows the paladin a kiss before turning around and completely ignoring him again as if nothing ever happened.

Seeing that Immerine seems to have the situation well in hand and that the Luna has at least enough conversation as she can readily handle, the mage executes a sort of half-nod / half-bow to Luna and makes his way back to his seat at the table.

With a slight nod of her head, Luna returns to her seat without much of a word and reaches out to stroke Areo gently behind the ears before finally adding, “I am glad the situation is no longer.”


The slight elven woman looks in turn at Jezbodiah, Portia and Matteo. “You’re welcome,” Skeen murmurs dryly, and returns to her former seat, once she has her cider. As she passed by Telsom, she says softly. “Do they just ignore anyone or is it just me?”

“At least they’re not pelting you with rotten vegetables… be thankful for that.” Telsom says smiling warmly at the elven woman.

“There is that,” Skeen answers. “And, of course, you all did save my life, well, most of you at any rate. Did you know they’re interested in some haunted mill? Evidently Kelemvor sent the one young lady a dream of sorts.”

“Something truly foul is about in this area.” Telsom says as he regards the woman. “My Lady has seen fit to grace me several times in the past few days. More now than she ever had before since I have come into her service. If two higher powers are involved in this the stakes must be high.”

“I was really hoping you weren’t going to say that,” Skeen replies. “Every time the higher powers get involved in my life to any extent, I get screwed.”

Then she turns towards Luna. Skeen allows an amused smile to cross her own face. “I am called Skeen, Luna. Forgive me for addressing you directly, but I already feel you are one of the family, as it were.” The tall moon elf nods at the forest elf, then looks at both Teryn and Telsom in amusement. “It seems the inn is full of wolves this day.”

Luna smiles softly to the moon elf as she greets her, “Greetings Skeen, and thank you kindly for the sweet compliment as me being part of your group. I fear that still has to be decided. As for the wolves, I believe the others might be a bit more dangerous than the real thing.” Quirking an eyebrow, her glance floats first to Teryn and then Telsom.

“You are almost certainly right. Though I admit I have not known any of these folk long now has it been decided that I am one of the group either. On the other hand, I tend to go where I will.” Skeen considers for a moment. “Which is probably how I get into so much trouble. That and Erevan loves me.”

“Were I to choose a totem animal I’m sure I’d be a tiger.” Telsom says as he looks to Skeen. “I think the analogy seemed fitting. Wouldn’t you agree?”

“Cats are vain and concerned mainly with their own pleasure,” Skeen thinks about it. “I’m sure that comparison would work.”

Kethron looks up at this – or rather, down, as he has just found a comfortable perch on a tree branch over Telsom’s head. His eyes are wide, a sure sign of feline irritation. He looks at Skeen in a calculating manner, then flicks his ears scornfully and settles back on his tree branch. Perhaps an opportunity for suitable revenge will present itself…

Turning to Teryn, Telsom rises and accepts the man’s arm, clasping the other man’s forearm in a warrior’s handshake. “I’m afraid between the blows to my ego and those to my soul the other day in the warehouse I lacked the common courtesy to introduce myself to you and the others. For that I’m sorry, welcome to the asylum. Formally my name is Telsom Torentshed, my friends simply call me Telsom without any Lords, Sirs or Saers… my aunt calls me Tel… since she’s a queen I let her get away with it but tend to frown when others call me that.”

“I am Teryn, as you know and I accept your apology and look forward to fighting with you…” Pausing for a heartbeat his mouth wide open to show he isn’t finished, he adds “…side-by-side.” A wide smile and a chuckle follow the paladin’s words.

Spying the cat as he moves to sit back down, Telsom looks at the tressym for a few moments admiring its beauty before reclining once more. “Anyone have plans for the day?” The paladin asks as he shifts his weight, becoming more comfortable and showing more skin than he had before from the slight movement.

Luna’s comments about ladyhood and love bring the bitterness back into the tall bard’s eyes. His narrow shoulders slump back into his habitual slight stoop and a dismissive shrug is his only answer. His lips twist in the old cynical, self-mocking grin, but the posturing of Telsom and Teryn quickly brings the amusement back into his sunken hazel eyes.

When Luna skillfully defuses the situation, a small approving smile lightens Nik’s craggy face. He regards Luna with undisguised respect; his sunken eyes reveal how impressed he is. Then Telsom’s question draws the bard’s attention from the huntress.

“You know…” He tells Telsom. “…Before I met you folks the only agenda I’ve had, was to stay as drunk as possible. I’d play just enough to keep a roof over my head and the strongest alcohol I could find in my glass. When I wore out my repertoire or ran out of credit, I moved on.” Nik shrugs, looking pensive. “I’m not quite sure sobriety is all it’s cracked up to be, but it does offer me rather more choices as to how to spend my waking hours. Perhaps I can help identify those items that came the other day, if Kevin hasn’t gotten to them all.”

A sly smile crosses Nik’s gaunt face and he says, “I certainly hope you and Teryn aren’t going to take this ‘alpha wolf’ thing any further. Don’t wolves and tigers piss on everything to mark their territory? I’m quite sure Mumadar would frown on that.”

After listening to Nik ask his question, Teryn rubs his chin and goes, “Hmmm.” While giving a sideways look to Telsom with a questioning look on his face, he then speaks rapidly, “You get the door I’ll get the bar” then makes like he is about to jump out of his chair and run but actually fakes the motions and remains seated. He turns to smile widely at Nik.

Looking up from her attention upon Areo’s scratching, the wild maiden replies to the bard inquiries, “A wolf would never mark a place where he eats or sleeps, but of course that is well mannered wolves.” Her eyes go a bit lighthearted with the last few words before looking at the others in the room.

Immerine listens, as the conversations get a bit wild and shakes her head. She tries to find a quiet spot to sit and relax near the water. She looks up where the familiars have taken refuge and smiles softly, her thoughts obviously not on the inn at this moment.

Telsom smiles at Teryn, but the smile slowly fades as he watches Ditalidas with one eyebrow arched, concern etched on his face.

The dark creature of the woods leaves the loving scratching of Luna and seeks out Immerine. Upon arriving at where the ebony haired maiden has taken her rest and lost in her thoughts, Areo just simply drops his large head into her lap and looks up at her with knowing green eyes while wagging his massive tail.

Luna does not need to look to know where her friend was going, for she knows Areo and the newfound friend would want some time to get to know each other better. Therefore, the wood elf turns her attention to Nik whom continues to stand, while glancing towards Teryn, whom seems to intrigue her a bit.

“Please sit Master Nik and take your rest for there is no need to continue to stand.” The leather-clad huntress suggests as she motions to an open chair and then glancing towards Teryn’s way. “Please tell me both what brought you two here for you know what brought me.”

“I live here” the warrior offers. “If you mean why am I here with this group? That was by happenstance.” He clears his throat and continues, “I was sent to check out a disturbance in the city and found myself on a rooftop fighting a winged creature not unlike a dragon in appearance. A ‘darkenbeast’ I’m told by those more knowledgeable. That was all of two days ago and I’m still here to offer my services in finding out whom or what is behind this sort of creature being in my home town.”

Skeen nods. “Rumor on the streets has it that a dragon demolished an entire warehouse. Heard that yesterday.” Taking a sip from his cup, Teryn turns to Skeen “Since you were there I hope you quelled that misconception. It damaged the building, yes, but did not demolish it. That kind of rumor unchecked could cause more damage than the reality.”

Skeen laughs softly. “Do I look like the kind of person any normal citizen would believe? If I had tried to quash it, it would have only grown in importance. Besides, the people I heard talking about it likely wouldn’t be glad if I interrupted them. And, I don’t really like to be noticed in a town where I was being given to a guy that hasn’t been caught yet, know what I mean?”

“Wasn’t no rumor,” replies Jez remorsefully to Skeen. “I was atop of the warehouse when it happened. I was trying to remove some slats in the ventilation duct when the creature flew forth from it. I got distracted and the creature sunk its maw into my shoulder blade. I have the scar to prove it.”

“By the way, what is a darkenbeast,” he inquires. “I’ve never heard of them.”

Skeen looks at Jez oddly. “Yes, I was there too. I was merely passing knowledge I’d gotten from townsfolk.” She shrugs.

“The warehouse was damaged, as were you and I, but I’d hardly call it demolished” Teryn corrects the rogue sorcerer. “As for a darkenbeast, Kevin can explain it better, but the thing transformed back into a rat” he holds his hands a few inches apart to indicate the size “on the end of my sword when it died.”

Immerine looks down at the wolf and smiles at him. “Both orphans aren’t we. I ran with wolves and you ran with the two-legged creatures. You should come outside and meet Qwenta. He is my best friend and I think he would like you. I raised him from a foal.” She looks Areo in the eyes and scratches behind his ears and under his chin. Immerine looks over to where everyone else gathers and sighs deeply. “I suppose I shouldn’t run off so soon. I am sure they will want to make grand plans of some sort.”

Areo grumbles slightly as if he knew what Immerine said, his tail continues to the tumble the tavern floor. As the newfound friend looks to see what the others are doing, the black wolf gently takes the sleeve of Immerine and gently pulls her up in hopes to lead her back to Luna’s table.

Immerine chuckles at the wolf, “Alright I’ll go back to where the others are. Just don’t expect me to talk to them. They prefer me silent to insulting.” As the young witch gets up and walks along with the black wolf towards the table where Luna and the quiet dwarf – Branith – sit, the innkeeper of the Running Stag appears back from the staff’s private quarters.

The content of Twilight Dawn are the property and copyright of J P Hazelhoff, and are not to be published or redistributed without permission.

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