Chapter 4 - Back in Karkas
The weary band presses on as long as their aching bodies will respond before settling down for the evening. They tend to their wounds as best they can and set about the business of dinner, chewing more out of habit than any enjoyment of the tough journey bread and salted meat in their packs. There is little talk around the campfire that night; perhaps the flames remind them too much of the passing of one of their own, perhaps they are filled with thoughts of their own mortality.
Thankfully, the night is uneventful and they rise somewhat refreshed though some pains will take longer to fade than others. It is hard to say what thoughts run through each mind; the shining righteousness of evil vanquished, the dark caverns of self-loathing, the still waters of inner harmony, the bloody light of a new dawn, or the warm wind of change. Whatever they might be, they remain uniquely individual. Though fate has pushed them together they have not yet learned to lean on one another. In a way, their trust is as fragile as the light frost that covers the ground in the pre-dawn gloom.
The day passes with only a brief rest and a meager meal before they press on, anxious now to reach their destination. Their exertions are rewarded as the sun begins to sink in the west. From the heights they can see the frontier town beneath them; sizable but rustic. It is ringed with a palisade and a few watchtowers, with gates on each of it's four sides.
Declaring themselves at the gate, they are allowed passage into the town with little more than a gate tax and a few words of caution. The dusty street is relatively empty and lights shine from within several buildings. There is a large, inviting inn just down the street.
As he finishes his latest song, Nicos, looks up as a group of 5 make their way in through the door, letting in the chilly night air in for a moment. They are all travel-stained, and somewhat bloodied. Two of the newcomers are tall and burly men. Warriors by the look of them, and they share something more in their bearing, and the way that they walk.
As if they were trained by the same person Nicos muses.
The Third of the newcomers hold a stick out in front of him, and it is quickly apparent that he is blind. The forth and by far most eye catching member of the party is a short stature woman, who is completely bald! So stuck is Nicos by this sight that he almost misses the last of the newcomers. Seeming to find shadows to where there are none, this similarly short statured woman, and an extremely dark one at that. Immediately marking her as dangerous, and vowing never to turn his back on her, Nicos steps away from where he was performing.
Dangerous yes, but some times the more dangerous they are, the more fun they end up being
Walking towards them, the bard catches the elbow of one of the –less then completely covered up- barmaids and whispers something in her ear. With a wink at him, she moves towards the bar, while he continues to make his way across the half-full room. Deciding the best approach would be the blind man and the bald woman, he makes his way to them. Giving a small bow, he motions with his only arm at an empty seat.
”’ello, is this seat taken?”
It was dark already when they arrived in town.
The guardsman at the gate let them through with a glance and a wave, barely letting them pass before locking the gate for the night and hurrying back in the guard-room, out of the drizzle and the chilly wind.
The town was settling in for the night, not many where around; shadows behind tick window-panes spoke of families gathered around a meal or quietly talking in front of a fire.
Here and there hints of movement in corners and doorways: hunting cats, a merchant hurrying home from her shop, a young couple kissing...
Maeko followed Cadrius’ and Paladin’s lead, whispering guidance to Cadogan while Shade brought up the rear.
Her guides stopped in front of a building, from the lighted windows snatches of music and laughter could be heard, a inn of some sort, no doubt.
When Cadrius opened the door, a wave of heat and smells hit the nun like a physical blow, she almost staggered as the thick, sweetish odor of roasted meat, mixed with the tang of cheese made bile rise in her throath.
“ Is something wrong?” asked the blind mage, concern in his voice.
Maeko forced her stomach under control moving a few steps and breathing shallowly.
“ No, older brother, I just need few moments, I am not used to meat-smell”.
“ I see...” he answered.“ Could you, please find me a quiet place to seat?”
Quickly the group was settling in at a table. With a sort of amused surprise Cadrius noted that Maeko was shifting every so often on her seat.
She doesn’t seem to be used to chairs either
Noticing a one-armed man coming towards them, some sort of entertainer, probably, since he had been singing when they had entered, Maeko stands and positions herself near Cadogan. A flash in the man’s eyes tell her he has seen and understood her move, but he does not react.
Nonchalantly nodding towards an empty chair he asks:”’ello, is this seat taken?”
“ No, it is not” answers the nun, neutral.
From Across the Room
From across the room sits an Elf; silent; nursing a bottle of fine elven wine. Parties of townsfolk drink joyously throughout the tavern; but despite the festive surroundings the Elf remains silent barely lifting his head from the table. Not until a new party enters the Inn; a group adventurer's which look to have fared a battle or two along throughout their journey to town. The one armed entertainer Nicos makes himself known to the group; flamboyant and curtious.
Hehe....Nicos what can he be up to. Plaguing the poor girl no doubt..........cheeky fellow.
Rising from his seat the elf clad in earth tone; a pale brown cloak drapped around his tall; slender form makes his way over to the newcomers; the fine elven wine in hand. Long silverery grey hair flows down his back like the heavenly River Ocean of Elysium.
"Do not trust this one my lady; he has enraptured many a woman within town before tonight."
Says the elf jokingly with a smile; his deep blue eyes fixed on the baldish girl baring Nicos' introduction.
"But where are my manners; my name is Laronar Infini. Do you mind if I sit with you all for a drink. I have a bottle of fine elvish wine if you care to share it with me." Motioning for a seat.
Cadrius nods wearily and answers the unasked question put forth by the party. This inn would do, at least for tonight anyway. The lacerations, bruises, and other assorted injuries fill the fallen paladin with a dull ache. All he wants is a hot bath and a soft bed to sleep on. He reaches up and rubs one worn hand against the rough stubble on his cheek, a shave would be nice too.
He is initially buffeted by the noise and heat as he makes his way into the Inn, Paladin a step behind him. For a brief moment the light, the laughter, and the general merriment sickens him. He frowns and shakes it off, he had been on the road too long, on the run too long.
As he moves across the room his eyes are hard like wrought iron. He gazes back and forth, marking any that might bring them trouble, and he knows that Shade, and quite likely Paladin, are doing the same thing. It is an Inn in a frontier town and it would undoubtedly attract all sorts of seedy characters. For a moment he rues the desctruction of his blade and the loss of his armor. He had given Paladin his plate mail back the night before, feeling awkward thanking the man for its protection and apologizing for breaking his greatsword. He is unarmored and the only protection he carries is the dagger in his belt, and the large club dropped by the gnoll warrior he had fought. Hopefully the runes and symbols carved in the massive club would discourage any would-be thugs, brigands, or thieves.
Several men in one corner laugh and guffaw at one's dirty joke. These were rough men, frontier men, and were Cadrius five years younger he might have been appalled at the atmosphere, but now the dirt and crude behavior only stir vague feelings of distaste.
He moves to an empty table in the back and moves to sit down before suddenly stopping and taking a step back. He reaches out and pulls out three of the chairs, one for Maeko, one for Shade, and one for the blind man Cadogan. He is embarassed by his action but courtesy is the stronger of the two and he mutters something about bringing a bit of decency to this place before taking his seat with his back to the wall.
His eyes flick from the entertainer to the elf and back again and they narrow ever so slightly as they speak, forming a familiar tone. Two thieves working in conjunction to scam the weary travelers? It is a common enough ploy and the fallen paladin is instantly on guard.
"No, I do not think we wish company," Cadrius says warily as he folds his arms over his chest, "but I do thank you for your offer."
Yes it looks as if they are tired; perhaps it is best they are left alone for tonight; best not push anything.
"Very well sir; sorry for bothering you all. It looks as if you have all experienced some hardship along your journey I'll leave you all to enjoy the rest of the night."
Laronar nods to the party of hardened travellers and then to Nicos. Returning to his table and his wine; filling a glass and nursing it just as before.
She had scouted ahead of the others for most of the day, glad that she didn't need to speak with them. As the sun began it's descent toward the western mountains they had spied the sizable frontier town and had pushed hard to get there before nightfall. As they approached the gates, Shade had dropped back and let the warriors do the talking.
Once inside, the inn was the obvious destination and she found herself relishing the thought of a bath. She needed cleansing. Despite her desire for a few well-earned creature comforts, she finds herself dropping a few paces behind the others as they near the noise and light. Her heart is suddenly heavy and she has a sudden desire to slip off; her eyes scan the street and she spots a darkened alley. Something didn't seem quite right about it and she scrutinizes it further but detects nothing amiss. Her companions don't seem to notice anything and when she looks back there she thinks she can see the shadowy figure of a tall, slim man. The image is gone before her eyes can focus, though. Disturbed, she shakes her head as if to clear it and quickens her pace, catching the others as they open the door to the inn.
They have barely had time to adjust to the light and noise when a one armed entertainer starts heading there way. Her mind is spinning with thoughts of the stranger and she is numbed by her long silence and the sudden bustle of activity around her. So out of sorts is she that she sits without thinking when Cadrius offers her a seat, a courtesy that normally would have brought a stinging word or two to her lips. Before she is even settled, the entertainer is joined by an elf and Cadrius dismisses them.
A drink first, and then to see about a bath.
Glancing at the now departing elf Nicos grimaces. "I've been in this town for too long. I'm starting to get a reputation."
Returning his attention to the bald-woman, he pointedly ignores Cadirus, but remains standing.
"There is something I would like to ask you, and I fear if I pass up on this opportunity it will bother me, and my performances for the rest of the night will suffer as a result." Taking a breath he glances at the rest of her group. "The question relates to your hair style ... or rather lack there-of. I'm a moderately widely travelled soul, but I have only once encountered style like that one a woman. Before I make a fool of myself by talking too much, I don’t suppose you could enlighten me as to where you picked up such a distinctive style.”
((I don’t know if this helps any, but diplomacy: 19 [rolled 10, +9 skill modifier]))
The one-armed performer intrigues Maeko, as does the other man's comment, is it possible that the man is really trying to attract her attention?
Who does he think I am? A flower-girl?
She is aware of her companions' tension, the man's last question, though, seems honestly curious, he really has no idea what her attire means.
I am as foreign to them as they are to me...
" This is way of my order" she answers, in her slightly hesitating, musical accent.
" I am nun, my temple is far away, how did you came to met one like me?"
Did he really? let see the answer
The man half smiles at Maeko.
”Then I am not quite a complete fool yet. I grew up in a monastery quite a distance from here. Though I doubt it is as distant as your home.”
Taking an empty seat from a near by table and sitting on it, Nicos begins working at the neck of it.
“When I was about 9 summers old, we received a visitor from a distant monastery.”
Shaking his head slightly Nicos pauses a moment to collect his thoughts.
“I don’t remember where she came from, for it was a long time ago, and I was just a young boy. One thing that did stick in my mind – but so far back in it that I thought I had forgotten it, until just then when you entered the room – was that her head was completely bald”
Finally working his tunic over his left shoulder he revealed a tattoo of a bird’s claw. Bringing up his tunic over his shoulder, he turns to Maeko again.
“I don’t suppose you've heard of the Brotherhood of The Raven’s Claw?”
((It is very obvious that Nicos is no-longer a monk))
" There are many Ways..." Nicos can clearly hear the capital 'W' in the girl's answer, " I don't know much more than the name of the Brotherhood of the Raven's Claw, but one courtesy deserves another".
The girl rolls up her wide sleeves, revealing two symbols on the inside of her forearms: a serpentine dragon on the right and a long tailed bird on the left, they are not tattoed, but seem branded on her flesh.
Leaning over to get a closer look at the brands, Nicos frowns.
"I wish I could say that I recognize them, however they are beyond my experience." Turning the frown into a smile he continues. " Not that I ever was particularly knowledgeable about other orders".
"Something you said has tweaked my curiosity again, you mentions ways .."
Holding out a hand, Nicos stops Maeko from answering.
"Ah what am I doing, you people are obviously fresh from the road and" Looking at their blood stained clothing " other things. May I shout you all to a meal as a way of compensating for my introduce." With a meaningful look at Maeko he states, "They make a very good vegetable stew here. Plus if you would abide me more, I would very much like to speak to you later. You are one of the more interesting people I have met recently"
((Maeko Clean out your PM iinbox :fun: ))
Maeko glances to her companions, then, with a slight smile:
" Thank you, I would be glad to speak with you".
Cadogan sits Idle as Maeko passes a conversation with the newcomer named 'Nicos' Cadogan listens as they speak of their past and Nico's apparent failure or choosing to leave an order known as the Raven's Claw.
Cadogan speaks up.
"Since neither of you know me." Cadogan address' Maeko by tugging on her clothing and Nico by nodding in his direction. "I feel it is my duty to fill you in - after all you both have shared your past with myself." Cadogan pauses for a moment and both Nico and Maeko feel the need to lean close to make sure the blind man is not sleeping.
"I originally arived in this very city, it seems like so long ago. I believe Cadrius is the only person in our troop who will remember." Cadogan mentions the fallen paladin and Cadrius glances his way for a second to see if anyone was addressing him. "Shortly after I arrived, a call to arms went up. Some Orc's had apparently attacked the city and shortly after breached the Palisade. Myself, Cadrius and several others went to action to fight the intruders."
Cadogan reaches up and gives his Raven a scratch under the beak before he continues his tale.
"Unfortunately, when we did repell the intrudes a Wyvern attacked, or so I am told." Cadogan tries cheap humour belittling his blindness but continues. "The creature caused some problems but it was eventually repelled as well, however I was badly wounded in the fighting and despite the medical and magical aid on hand needed to recover. This is when Cadrius and the rest disappear from my tale." He mentions in a quiet whisper towards Maeko.
"After my encounter I was approched by a man he had seen the fighting. After some very stern questions he asked me if I had strong ties to religion, I answered honestly - that is to say, while I do not deny the existance of deities or the divine I have had little experience or need to be religious." Cadogan again turns to Maeko and whispers.
"Naturally I praise the Sister God's of Sorcery, Magic and Wizardry but I do little to apease or worship them on a daily basis." Cadogan turns back to Nico and continues.
"The man was a Arcanist of The Triplets." Cadogan mentions the name and Nico jerks back, he had heard of religious order before. It was a semi-priesthood of tallented wizards and sorcerers who believe in this dark time where magic is feared more then reveared they should be the light and educated and lead people to the truth that magic is a neutral element.
"A Senior member I am told." Cadogan continues distracting Nico's away from his thoughts. "Either way, once I had recovered he returned for me. We traveled away from the city for some time before eventually we arrived at our destination. Over the next few days my magical powers were tested, my mind was tested, and my body was tested - all with my permission no less. It was a hard time but I was willing to put up with the pain for the answers which followed." Cadogan adds a suspencful pause for dramatics.
"It was shortly after this I was asked to join but three conditions." Cadogan pulls down his neck hole on his brown tunic revealing a mark on his skin, not a tattoo but something more magical. A Circle of brilliance of which three women stand, each casting spells, one forward, one left, and one right. Cadogan continues...
"Those conditions where thus;
1. I was to be educated religiously on the neutrality of magic and what this neutrality means.
2. My education was to continue even after I departed from the Halls of the Arcanists.
3. I was to teach all those who were unknowing or unlearned the truth about this, Magic is not to be feared or reveared alone. The person whom uses the magic should be, Magic is a tool. Admittedly a potent one, but a tool none-the-less." Cadogan pauses to make sure he still has an avid audience.
"The last is most challenging because it can of course be dangerious, there can be fanatics are in every kind of people from any profession." Cadogan speaks, and from a table near the trio a burly man stands up with two of his companions and approches the table.
"I 'ere you'd one o' those fiddle-benders!" Says the middle man. "Ya know 'here I's come from fiddle-benders arn'a looked upon nicely!" The man thumps his fist on the table before lowering himself to Cadogan's eyes and looking with confusion as the mage stares blankly ahead with white pupils. He raises his hand and Maeko's heart leaps but the man just waves his hand infront of Cadogan's face, Shirvel snaps at the man's hand with his beak but the man withdraws it just in time.
"Pardon?" Cadogan replies to the man.
"Oh, a smarties boy 'ey?" One of the other men mention as they stand next to their apparent leader.
"Let it be known sorceriousss one. I don'a take kindly to yer kind, I will see yer again but you won'a know it." He leans close and whispers. "'Cause you'll be choakin' on yer own blood." The man picks up a cup of water and throws it in Cadogan's face, the two men to either side laugh and the three man turn to depart.
Maeko and Nico's almost leap out of their seats, but Cadogan promptly puts a foot ontop of each of their shoes.
"Understand now?" Cadogan questions them, drying his face with a frown.
Eyes narrowing as the ruffian struts towards the exit of the Inn, Nicos speaks softly.
"His name is Cletus, not a particularly bright fellow, and a general bully to boot. He has a well known vendetta against magic users, his wife and baby daughter were killed a few months ago when a young mage, had a mishap while doing what ever it is mages do."
Taking his eyes of the departing mans back; he looks over at the rest of the people sitting at the tabel.
"It took out a city block, only the mage survived. Still I’m surprised that he tried anything with your burly friends over there. A blind mage, one-armed minstrel and a small woman I can see him confronting, but," Nicos shrugs and gets up. "With them around I would expect him to take a more sinister route, say a knife in an alleyway." Leaning down towards the Blind-man, he drops his voice. "His sort of prejudice is moderately wide spread, but few hold onto it with such vigour. Plus you never know who can effect a spell or two"
With a wink at Maeko, and a nod at the rest of the people at the table he makes his way over to the bar to arrange for their food.
((a pointed reminder. That was what Nicos thought about Cletus, he could of been wrong ;) ))
Cadrius inclines his head, acknowledging the elf's courtesy, and looks for a barmaid to flag down. However he quickly notices that the musician refuses to leave. Irritation slowly bubbles and rises inside the fallen paladin, and a slight color touches his cheeks.
He asks of Maeko's hairstyle, what business is it of his? Cadrius begins drumming his fingers lightly along the massive club at his side. Not only does he ignore Cadrius' request, but he proceedes to throw etiquette out the window in asking about the nun. Only one grace keeps the fallen paladin from rising and demonstrating proper manners to the entertainer: Maeko's response. She does not seem to take offense and answers the questions openly. Very well, if she is unbothered by the man's presence then Cadrius will merely ignore the man. And he does so, focusing his attention elsewhere until Cadogan begins to speak.
He leans back in his chair, feigning disinterest while listening attentively. At the mention of the wyvern Cadrius nods, verifying the man's account.
"Indeed, it was strange to see the beast."
He frowns at the mention of the man. Who was an Arcane Triplet? Could it have been Whonan and his sisters? No, there were four of them and none really looked to be the identical of any other. Odd.
His fingers that had been drumming upon the club suddenly wrap around the handle, clenched in anger. His knuckles turn white as the man waves his hand in front of Cadogan's face. The water is the final straw and while Maeko and Nicos are restrained Cadrius is not. The three burly men turn and walk away two laughing and clapping their hands on Water Thrower's back.
"Excuse me a moment," he says, rising to his feet and crossing the room.
A cold anger sweeps into the fallen paladin like a gust of winter wind through an open window. He gently places a hand on a nearby barmaid, moving her aside as he strides across the room and out the front door. He is unarmed, save for the dagger in his belt. The massive club would only have served to turn what might be a peacable encounter into a violent one. However going outside alone against three men might end up violent anyway.
His breath comes out in slow gouts of steam as he steps outside into the night air. He makes out the dim forms of the three men only fifty paces ahead of him. Cadrius lengthens his stride as he attempts to overtake them.
The three men take a leisurely route, making lewd references about barmaids at the inn and exchanging crude jokes in vain attempts at humor. Cadrius' lip curls in disgust. They owe Cadogan an apology and he is out to make sure that he gets it.
He comes around the corner and sees them only a short distance ahead. This street is smaller and almost totally devoid of other travelers. The night is overcast but still cold and the crisp smell of fall fills Cadrius' nose.
"Excuse me," he says in a flat voice. The men continue on their way, speaking their rough speech.
"Excuse me," he says again, louder this time with a trace of anger threaded through his bass voice.
The men cease their laughing and turn around. Their eyes assessing Cadrius before he can speak again.
"What're you? A practice dummy?" one asks, the dried blood readily apparent on Cadrius' clothing and skin. The other two chuckle at the remark.
"You insulted a friend of mine back there," he says, "you owe him an apology."
"What? Yer friends with that sorceriousss one? Bugger off," Water Thrower says and is met with grunts of approval from his cronies.
Cadrius walks forward until he's face to face with the men.
"Whether you like him or not matters little to me, but what you did was unacceptable. Come back and apologize...now."
Water Thrower responds by puffing up his chest and jabbing one finger at Cadrius.
"Ah said bugger off or we'll make yer night miserable," says Water Thrower, the grunts come again only louder and full of malice.
"Last chance," Cadrius whispers, a jet of steam comes out of his mouth as he keeps his breathing under rigid control.
The cronies exchange a look of nervousness between each other but this goes by unnoticed by Water Thrower. He shoves Cadrius with both his arms, driving the fallen paladin back several steps.
"That's it, yer in fer a worl' o' hurt," he says advancing menacingly. His two lackies hesitate a moment before following suit.
"Fine by me," Cadrius says with a grin that's devoid of mirth.
Water Thrower balls his fists and throws a clumsy roundhouse at Cadrius. He ducks to the side and launches a counter attack. His fist slams into the man's stomach, knocking the wind out of Water Thrower and dropping him to his knees.
The other two's momentary caution is dispelled and they both rush Cadrius swinging. He dodges the first and pushes the man roughly to the side, but this momentary action costs him. The second man connects with Cadrius' face, hitting him in the eye. His head snaps to the side under the force of the blow. He turns and lashes out with his fist, striking the man in the side of the temple and dropping him to the ground.
Cadrius turns again looking for Water Thrower when the other lackey grabs him from behind, his arms entwining Cadrius' before locking themselves behind his neck. Cadrius struggles but is held in place as Water Thrower gets to his feet and punches him in the stomach.
Pain explodes in his midsection as he suddenly finds himself breathless. Anger instantly flares up and envelopes his hurt, turning it into fuel for the fire of rage. He slams one elbow into the man's stomach. His leg snaps forward and it catches Water Thrower in the groin, causing him to groan and drop to the ground.
I am not one of them anymore, I do not have to play fair.
He moves forward again, kicking Water Thrower in the stomach. The man rolls with the kick and curls up into a ball. The sound of a blade being drawn keeps Cadrius from following with another brutal kick.
He spins around to see both of the lackeys on their feet with long knives in their hands. His hand flies to the dagger at his belt and answers in kind and holds the blade point down in front of his body with his left arm drawn back in a fist. He inclines his head once, signaling them to come.
They rush in again in the same manner as before. The first one swinging high and missing. The second one thrusts, aiming for Cadrius' midsection. He twists his body and grabs the man's forarm with his left hand as he jams his dagger into his throat. The man gurgles once as he falls to the ground, his lifesblood pouring out of him.
The other stares in shock at his fallen friend and hesitates for a moment. Cadrius does not, he launches a number of brutal slashes that causes the man to backpedal parrying frantically. Cadrius feints to the left and the man falls for it. He brings his dagger up short and drives it into the man's stomach, twisting it once before yanking it out and letting the man drop to the ground.
His breath is coming in and out rapidly, his muscles twitch and flex as adrenaline flow through them. He spins about to see Water Thrower getting to his feet and beginning to run away.
Cadrius sprints after him down a nearby alley. Water Thrower gasps for air as he flees down the alley, the fallen paladin mere steps behind him.
"Please," he begs as he runs, "mercy!"
But there is none in Cadrius as he launches himself the final few feet between him and the man. His arms encircle Water Thrower and they come down in a heap. They struggle briefly but Cadrius overpowers the man and draws the dagger in one quick, neat sweep across the man's throat.
Water Thrower's eyes widen in surprise and terror. He gasps for breath and attempts to speak, but finds no voice. Cadrius gets to his feet and looks down at the man, his face an expression of melancholy.
"I am sorry for what we have both done," he says, his only apology for his actions, but he does take the man's hand and sits with him while he dies. He might be a uncouth and ignorant man, but he does not deserve to die alone in an alley. Cadrius stays long after the light has died in the man's eyes and still clasps his hand. The other hand reaches foreward and closes Water Thrower's eyelids. With a long and ragged sigh he pulls two copper pieces and places them over the dead man's eyes.
He wipes the blood from his blade but does not clean his hands. Chances are it wouldn't come off even if he tried.
He stands and slowly walks back to the inn, the wounds from the previous days suddenly voicing themselves again. He could already feel one eye puffing up from where he had been hit. Was it worth it? To take three lives over a minor offense? No, they had threatened the blind man and Cadrius would not let another under his protection fall due to his own carelessness.
Again the inn seems offensive as he enters it, like it has an overabundance of vitality. He frowns and drops five gold pieces on the counter in front of the barkeeper before stooping to grab backpack and club, and heading up the stairs. He does not speak to the rest of the party, does not explain his black eye, and does not try to hide the blood caked on his hands.
The room is dark and quiet, away from the majority of the inn's bustle. Cadrius welcomes the gentle lamp and cherishes his relative seclusion. The room is a spacious one, and it very well should be for the amount he had given. A maid raps gently on his door, asking if there is anything that he needs. He has warm water brought up for his bath and a mirror and razor to shave with.
A few minutes later he is relaxing amidst the scented water holding a razor in one hand and the mirror in the other. He does not wince as the razor causes a shallow cut on his neck but instead watches, fascinated, as the blood trickles down his throat, across his chest and then dispersing into the water.
It takes some time for the blood to leave his hands.
The elf Laronar watches on shockingly at the encounter with the 3 uncouth's and the blindman sitting at the table with Nicos and his new prospect.
The burly man seated with the group rises from his seat and follows the trio out of the Inn. A scowl on his face and a look that would make a lion cower.
Hmm.......this will not end well; for either company I would imagine.
Laronar makes his way up to the bar to where Nicos stands ordering dinner.
"Nicos be careful, if that man should return he shall have no patience for you. I doubt things will end peacebly with that man and the trio of roughians."
Laronar seats himself next to Nicos on a wooden stool by the well lit bar. A look of concern upon his face Laronar, slouching over the wooden bar. It would not have been five minutes before the man who pursued the trio returned to the Inn. Hands bloodied he paces off upstairs in deep thought, a look of concern riddled his face. Making no attempt to talk to his companions who now sit puzzled, silent, and wondering what to do now.
"There is a seat at my table if you wish to join my Nicos, perhaps they would rather be alone for the remainder of the evening."
Placing his hand upon Nicos shoulder Laronar lingers at the bar for a while.
The past few days had been little more than a blur for the paladin. Flight from the priest's magically-endowed bloodhounds, taking trails through the forest that he only knew because of a less-than-honorable childhood. Frenzied, panicked battle against foes whose motives were unknown to him. A funeral pyre built for one whom he had made a vow to protect. Two full days of weary, exhausted trudging through the last vestige of the woods, with very little in the way of supplies. All to arrive at a smelly, noisy, damp beer-hall in a small, walled-in village that probably didn't even have a mark on most travelers' maps.
He had no money, no skills that could command a wage apart from unskilled, manual labor, and only one weapon for self-defense: the warhammer he'd stolen off the gate-guard when he'd fled the city.
He'd paid little attention to their surroundings on the journey into the village. He'd practically ignored everyone else in the group, except to note their comings and goings. Somehow, he'd even managed to get past the militia guarding the town's gate without having to provide them with a name. Not that he had one to claim, nor could he have given one if prompted.
He was too busy.
During the funeral for the fallen, love-struck minstrel, his Sight had spontaneously manifested, washing everything in his vision with a faint, red haze. It had taken every ounce of willpower to simply go through the motions of traveling with the others. The Sight made it difficult to make out details when he willed it to come forth; now that it was active on its own, it was all he could do to focus on anything else.
He could never explain the Sight to someone who had not experienced it firsthand. It would be like trying to tell Cadogan, the blind wizard, what it would be like to read a book. He'd tried to explain it once before, and gave up in frustration; he had no frame of reference. There was no way to accurately convey what the Sight told him.
During the trek out of the woods, the Sight showed him where the animals routinely hunted, and what areas they had marked as their territory. When they got to the palisade wall surrounding the village, all he saw was a barricade of willpower, extending well above the confines of the wooden barrier. The guards exuded purpose, and the potential for violence in the name of defense.
The taproom spoke volumes to the paladin's Sight, and he did not like what it had to say. This was not some festhall, where people gathered to send the day off with a fond farewell, enjoying the company of people they genuinely wished the best of. No, this building was something far worse. People gathered here, naturally, but their intentions were different: they joined together to plan thefts, or murder, or revenge. They wandered around the establishment, seeking people to prey on. Some simply watched the goings-on, keeping tabs on someone for the amusement -- or protection -- of someone else.
In the background of the paladin's mind, he registered the normal sights and smells...
The watery vegetable stew the barmaid put in front of him and the gobbet of spit the cook had placed in the stew an hour previously, which somehow made its way mostly into the bowl in front of him.
The way the barmaid lingered for a moment, giving the paladin an appraising glance looking for loosely-held coins, or a belt-pouch that could be removed while providing a distraction.
The three men at the table at his right, discussing something about expanding the lumberyard and in secret code-phrases and gestures over the cards, planning on the theft of a local merchant's vacation home.
The trio of thugs who came boldly up to the table, threatening the blind wizard and planning on bribing the innkeeper to learn which room he rents, so that they can slip into his room near dawn and murder him while he sleeps.
The fallen paladin, always a beacon in his Sight before, seemed to have blended in with the general air of the establishment -- until he came in from the outside, having followed the three thugs. To the paladin's surprise, the haze of malice and ill-intent seems to have lifted somewhat from Cadrius when he returned, almost as if he had atoned somewhat.
The change in Cadrius's aura does nothing to shake the paladin from his apparent reverie. He simply sits at the table throughout the conversations, watching everything somewhat blankly and failing to notice casual attempts to gain his attention.
As Cadrius enters the Inn a black bird flutters past him and in the door way. A Quick glance confirms Cadrius' thoughts as the Bird flies straight for Cadogan and lands on the mans shoulder.
The bird burrying its beak behind Cadogan's ear, and suddenly the blindman looks deeply saddend but does nothing but stroke his bird and give it a crumb of bread as a reward for a job well done.
"I believe I will retire early." Cadogan speaks to Miss Maeko, the women notices Cadogan is upset and displeased with something. "There is no need to help me." He stands and moves slowly towards where he remembered the Bar to be, arriving some 30 seconds later at the short walk across the room. He speaks to the man behind the counter before digging into his pouch. Feeling the weight and size of several coins he finally places 5 gold pieces on the counter and is given a key before being shown up the stairs and giving a little shove down the hallway towards the rooms where he continues to walk by himself suprisingly well - untill he nearly walks into a low beam, if Shirvel wasn't there the man surely would have crowned himself.
Arriving at the bar, Nicos leans over and alls the attention of the bar keep.
"Shamus, the group over there. Add their meal to my Tab, send them over some of the side of the beef you have cooking, some of the vegetable stew, and one of the loafs. That ought to be enough. Oh and send over two pitches, one of ale, the other fruit juice."
Contemplating how much this meal is going to cost him, Nicos quickly shakes off such thoughts.
Something tells me they carry many tales with them, and the price for such a thing is well above that of one meal
His musings are interrupted by a semi-familiar figure, the elf that interrupted him before when he first approached Maeko.
Switching to Elvan he answers the stranger.
"I know you not elf, and I care not for your constant interrupting of matters that do not concern you."
Looking past his Elvan head, Nicos sees Cadirus leaving the Inn, and drops back to common.
"Now if you excuse me, I have a show to perform"
Moving over to where there is a clear corner set apart for his performance, Nicos begins tapping his foot in a rhythm. Once this has gone on for a count of ten, he starts singing softly in Elven, a song about how two lovers, over came incredible odds to be together, but just as it seems that will live happily-ever-after, tragedy strikes, and one of them is struck down by a random accident. As the song lowers to a half, it speaks of how it became promised that they will become re-united again, and the still living lover awaits that day forever.
Finishing his song, Nicos looks about the room; pleased with the result he has wrought. Very few of the room’s occupants speak Elvish, but even those who don’t were touched but the song in some small way, though most do well at hiding it behind a show of gruffness or ignoring him.
((Creative licence for the crowds reaction, and a result over 20 ;) ))
Why does no one wish to talk to me, it is as if they try to avoid me. Why though, I am not rude, cruel, overbearing or arrogant. Hmm......fine.
Laronar pays his bill and heads outside with a look of disdain. Bottle of wine in hand, Laronar walks the down the street amost inhaling the drink; taking a huge mouthful, whiping the excess from his jaw. Laronar heads down the street showing obvious signs of intoxication. Turning the corner Laronar stumbles upon a grizzely display.
Two bodies lay bloodied, a hint of another around the next corner.
The 3 low lifes that insulted the blind man.............the man with the bloodied hands...............did he do ths?
Laronar drops the bottle of wine, hitting the ground with a dull thud. Laronar falls to his knees looking at the corpses, contemplating what could have happened.
The insult delt to the blind man did not deserve such a punishment, regardless of its severity. Or could this have been a run of the mill mugging gone awry? That man could have just stumbled upon the bodies afterwoods.........unlikely though.
Continuing to stare blankly in contemplation, the shine of torches can be seen radiating off the wall near-by.
Laronar lumbering to his feat attempts to run but fumbles, falling near one of the deceased. Covered in dirt Laronar makes a swecond attempt at escape before the guard discover the ghastly scene. This time making it around the next corner, hiding behind the stone wall just in time not to be discovered by the guard. Laronar looks down by his feat, the third corpse, the leader of the trio. His death looked most gruesome, a large pool of blood surrounding the body. Horror overwhlems Laronar as whinces before heading off speadilly down the lane.
The echo of yelling can be heard far behind him, as the guards discover the gruesome scene. Laronar dares not look back, he makes his way back to the bar via back avenues.
Edging his way along the wall to the side of the Inn Laronar is sure to make noise as to not be discovered. Guards rush by, making great haste towards the crime scene. Laronar slips back into the bar stealthly, the light shines bright blinding him momentarily. He is pale, as if he had seen a ghost, beads of sweat run down his forehead, eyes aghast.
Laronar heads up stairs, making sure to slip the barkeep 5 gold for the room.
Her back to the wall, Shade watches her companions and this night's patrons through narrowly slitted eyes. The entertainer Nicos seemed an honest sort of rogue. The other one, Laronar, almost gets a smile from her as he stalks away from Cadrius' dismissal.
Any mirth quickly drains away as Cadogan speaks; magic was something she learned to respect but never trust. She lets the legs of her chair drop to the floor and rests her hands on the hilts of her blades as the three bullies come forward, but thugs like that were too stupid to take the warning. When Cadrius follows them out she waits for three heartbeats, then rises and moves to the bar.
Yell if you bite off more than you can chew.
She orders a strong Cordavan stirh and, with two of her bright silver coins, asks the bartender to leave her the half-filled bottle. She takes a healthy swallow and feels the potent alcohol burn it's way down her throat. It promptly starts a warm glow in her stomach and as a second drink finds its way to its new home, she watches Nicos take the stage. His song inevitably reminds her of Itches and his betrothed and her mouth twists bitterly.
She watches Laronar, two seats down, as his eyes flicker between Nicos and the door. After the song he gets up, takes his bottle of wine, and heads out the door. He looks like a man ready to get drunk, and she almost grabs his shoulder as he walks by. She could use a drinking partner right about now. Something in his eyes, though, makes her think he's looking for trouble and she didn't feel like any trouble tonight.
Her fingertips are starting to numb; a combination of strong drink and an empty stomach, and she puts her back to the bar and looks at her companions. Maeko, Cadogan, and Paladin all rest at their table, steaming food even now arriving. Paladin has been awfully quiet of late, not that she minds. He made her uneasy, especially now that he'd gone so quiet; there was something in his eyes that made her think he could see right through her.
She calls the bartender over and confers about a room and a bath. Pulling out five coins, she hands them over and heads upstairs, bottle in tow. Outside in an alley, two men are dead and two men are slowly dying, though in different ways.
Watching as his crown thins out, some leaving to make their way home, others upstairs, and yet others to find other entertainments , Nicos considers what to do next.
In a sparse environment like this, perhaps a more personal approach is necessary
Muttering under his breath, Nicos casts a simple catrip, then descends and mixes with the people.
Performing many simple "magic" tricks, such as making a coin appear out of someone's ear, or taking his thumb apart, the Bard works his way around the room, talking and joking with the people as much as amazing them with his tricks. With a slight concentration, the Bard, makes puffs of smoke and the like appear to enhance his performance.
Slowly, as the night wears on, he makes he way around to the table now occupied by Paladin and Maeko.
The room Shade finds herself in is large for an inn, with it's own copper tub already filled with steaming water. Putting her bottle down on the rough wooden table, she takes a moment to examine her surroundings. The bed was covered with a straw pallet but that was fresh and relatively comfortable. A large chest sat at the bed's foot and was stocked with towels, cleansing sand, soap and other essentials. An empty armoire of sturdy, if plain, craftsmanship was obviously intended for her own things. There was nothing else remarkable in the room; its single window was shuttered and barred. All and all it was a comfortable if plain lodging.
She dims the lantern until it is but an ember in the dark and lights a couple of candles instead, her gaze lingering on the window beside the sconce. Old habits did not die easily; she unbars it, letting a cold wind wash in, and stares at the street below. Darkness, broken by the streamers of light from the few establishments still open. The alley below her opened on both ends and the building itself didn't look to be a difficult climb. Good for escape, should the need arise, but just as easy for someone to enter. Frowning, she closes and bars the shutters once more, stripping her armor and clothing as she makes her way back to the bottle. She snatches it up and, making sure the leave her swords within easy reach, climbs into the tub.
She sinks down, immersed in the steaming water, letting the heat soak into her. Her mind drifts, partly from weariness, partly from the warmth, partly from the strong drink. Shadows from the candles flicker and dance on the walls and her half closed eyes fancy they can see rough shapes there; gnolls they looked like to her. They roll, then, like a wave and a wall of cold air hits her at the same time, causing her skin to prickle. She leaps up, shedding water, and scans the room but everything looks normal. After a long minute the cold begins to dissipate and she starts to feel rather foolish. Taking another drink from the bottle she is now brandishing, she settles back in the tub and starts the difficult process of scrubbing a week's worth of dirt and blood from her body.
People start leaving, either for their rooms or their homes, or other sorts of 'entertainements', judging from the comments of some.
Maeko sits besides a thoughtful Paladin, quietly studying the inn; for all its 'alieness' it shares a common athmosphere with every inn she has ever seen.
...as if I was an abitual costumer... thinks the nun, inwardly smiling at her own thoughts.
Her mind is drifting a bit, with the haziness of a full stomach and weariness when she notices Nicos approaching the table
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