Chapter 2 - Part 2

Chapter 2 - Part 2

A Chapter by Gaelan_Hamilton
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Saul and Casren share a drink in the Notched Blade whilst Baelir attempts to persuade Nok the Dwarf to join their party.

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Saul led Casren inside the Notched Blade, a tavern all too dear to him. He had spent many nights within its walls, the quiet atmosphere ideal for putting one’s feet up after the stress of a difficult shift. It was huge and dimly lit, the few candles dotted around the place cast shadows into the private booths perfect for the customers who required some solitude rather than company. At the center of the room stretched a large table for larger groups, with smaller ones clustered around it.

  Currently, there were only a few patrons requiring service, so they could pretty much sit wherever they pleased. Saul and Casren agreed that due to the delicacy of the subject they would be discussing, one of the booths would be preferable. Leading the way, Saul headed to the one furthest away from the other customers as possible, weaving his way between the narrow spaces between tables as best he could with his cumbersome armour. One gap was just too small however, and he tripped on a chair leg, bumping into an occupied table and sending their drink flying from the table.

“Oh I’m so sorry!” apologised Saul, picking the now empty flagon up from the puddle it had created.

“Grrrreh!” grunted the owner of the drink in a drunken slur, waving his arm in Saul’s general direction. Saul hoped that this was a pardon for his clumsiness, and took his leave before the man had a chance to say something actually audible.

  Once they were settled in their booth with worn leather seats and the table sticky from some earlier spillage, the young barmaid Armeliah came over to take their order. She was a pleasant young lady - always had a smile ready for Saul when he came, not to mention that she was easy on the eye �" and Saul was always pleased to see her when she was working. He didn’t doubt that she would be fine with Casren’s presence.

“What can I get you?” Armeliah asked sweetly, “Oh, wait, are you-?”

“The prince? Yes and I would appreciate your discretion over his presence Armeliah,” Saul hushed, not wanting the others to hear.

“Of course, I understand. Tell you what, first round’s on the house,” Armeliah offered in a quiet voice.

“Thank you for your kindness but are you sure? You aren’t exactly busy tonight,” Casren said.

“Nah, don’t worry about it, this is just a quiet spell, there’ll be plenty of folk in later. Besides, the Enndosius’ have been nothing but good to me my entire life. Might as well return the favour. Now what will it be?”

  They ordered two pints of ale and tipped her a gold piece for her generosity. After a minute or two, she brought them their drinks before returning to the bar.

“Nice girl,” commented Casren.

“Yeah she is. She’s part of the reason I come here to be honest. That and the cheap drinks,” Saul chuckled.

“Every little helps I suppose. Now, I think you’ve evaded giving me an answer long enough. Will you come with us?” Casren asked seriously, peering at him over his drink.

“Casren I…I just don’t know. This is a lot to take in very quickly. I love my work here, I get to do a lot of good, help a lot of people and what’s more I’m good at it. But out there, dealing with who knows what? I don’t know how much help I’ll be.”

  Remaining silent, Casren leaned back in his seat, staring into his drink. He swirled the contents, staring at the brown whirlpool within. Clearly this was not the answer he had been looking for, and being the man he was Saul knew he wouldn’t voice his displeasure. Persuasion was Casren’s forte, not outright confrontation. He would sit there and concoct some cunning scheme to make Saul change his mind, and whilst that was all well and good, it lacked strength, or boldness. Not every situation could be talked out of, and Saul prayed that Casren wouldn’t have to find that out the hard way.

“Saul, the truth is I need you. I need a friend with me on this. There is so much I don’t know and understand about what we are going to have to do, and I need to be certain at least that I have a friend at my back. Right now that’s all I have to be sure of �" that with you with me I’ll have the support and friendship I need to keep on going, no matter what.”

  Damn but the man knows how to play with words, Saul thought to himself. It wasn’t just a good sword he had needed �" it was the company of a friend, someone who could assure him that he had what it took to keep on going. Perhaps Saul would be useful to him, perhaps not, but he knew that he couldn’t abandon his friend just because of a disturbance in his faith and the unfamiliarity of what awaited them outside the shelter of Patharis’ walls.

“All right. I’m in,” Saul agreed.

The look of worry on Casren’s face finally lifted. He finally had his ally. “Thank you Saul. You have no idea what this means to me.”

“Well I’m rather hoping I have at least a rough idea based on what you just said. Very persuading,” Saul raised his tankard to Casren before slugging at its contents.

“Yes of course, I just can’t express how grateful I am of your consent.”

“You can start by catching Armeliah’s eye; I need another drink and a trip to the lavatory,” Saul said, rising to his feet.

“Finished already?” Casren asked with surprise.

“I’ve always been a faster drinker than you. Be back in five.” Saul turned from the table and walked towards the bathroom past the drunken man from earlier, this time being careful not to spill another of his drinks. He looked on the verge of unconsciousness, so deeply under alcohol’s influence that his head rolled uncontrollably on his shoulders and his eyes rolled in their sockets as he tried to stay awake.

  On his way past, Saul accidentally caught the man’s eyes. He smiled politely, hoping to evade a conversation with the man. For a moment, he looked as if he was going to say something, before his head swayed back and thumped onto the table, the alcohol finally overwhelming him. Chuckling at the man’s stupor, Saul headed over to Armeliah, deciding it was a good idea to inform her of the man’s state.

“I think that guy over there’s had enough to drink Armeliah, he’s collapsed in his seat,” Saul, still grinning over the encounter.

“Oh dear. How will I get him to his room?” Armeliah fretted.

“I can lend you a hand later if needs be.”

“Could you? I’d really appreciate it. Lifting men isn’t exactly my strong suit.”

“Who is that guy anyway? I don’t recognise him if he’s a guardman.”

“No, he’s not. To be honest I’m not really sure who he is. He showed up about a month ago; said he’d pay double for a room if I kept the drinks coming and didn’t ask any questions. Normally I’d have sent him on his way, I’d be breaking the Notched Blade’s policy by letting a civilian stay, but he had such a look of sadness about him…I just couldn’t turn him away. Wherever he’s come from, it spat him out as a broken man, you mark my words,” said Armeliah, looking over to the man with sympathy.

“I see. Well get him a drink on me for when he comes around, least I can do for knocking that one over earlier.”

“Will do,” acknowledged Armeliah, before returning to work.

  Saul urgently needed to pee now, his bladder sung for release, so he headed straight for the bathrooms. As he pushed the door to the men’s room open, he heard a crashing from behind him. Turning to investigate the cause, he saw that the front door had been smashed open so forcefully that it had come off its hinges, and a small group of armed men had entered. Their leader, a scruffy looking man with a nasty scar drawn down the left side of his face scanned the room, his face scrunched up in spite. Finally, he looked to have spotted his target, pointing with his sword at someone out of Saul’s current field of vision. Saul turned to find that he was pointing at the drunken man. The thug’s lips curled into a snarl as he rasped, “Oi! Bard! You owe me…”

 

  Moments passed without Baelir hearing any sort of response from inside Nok’s house. He glanced round at Abareth and said, “Hmm, maybe he’s in the loo?” Rolling his eyes, Abareth shoved Baelir to the side and hammered on the door with a balled fist.

“Open up Dwarf! We know you’re in there!” yelled Abareth, still smashing his fist into the door.

“Give him a minute! He’s only got little legs!”

“Maybe you’ve got time to stand around here all night, but I don’t,” growled Abareth.

“Ah. Fair point. Continue your door abuse. Keep in mind however that doors have feelings too.”

Ceasing in his pounding, Abareth snapped his head around and glared intensely at Baelir, who grinned back broadly in response. He was so easy to annoy.

  Finally, they could hear movement from inside. There was a click as the door was unlocked, then it swung open, and a four foot tall Dwarf identical to the one on the sign stood in the open doorway, clearly aggravated by Abareth’s impatience. As his gaze shifted to Baelir, he seemed to relax a bit, but only slightly.

“Baelir! What’re you doing slamming on my door at this hour? I’m closed for today and fine you know it,” grunted Nok.

“Blame my broody companion here, I would never dream of such vandalism,” said Baelir with exaggerated innocence.

“Aye, I’m sure. Well out with it, what do you want?” huffed Nok, growing tired of the rude call.

“I come to offer you a job my Dwarven friend! A small group of us are embarking on an epic quest beyond the Glass Forest and require some advice on how to accomplish such a challenging feat,” Baelir declared dramatically, before slinking back into his whimsical tone. “Unfortunately this grumpy sod is coming along so I’ll totally get it if you don’t fancy coming along.”

Abareth frowned furiously at Baelir, but chose to remain silent for the time being.

“Oh yeah? Where’re you headed?” asked Nok, intrigued by the offer.

“We cannot disclose that information in public. What we need right now is your assurance that you can instruct us on how to pass through the Forest unharmed,” stated Abareth.

“Well I’m not sure about unharmed but I certainly know how to get you through pretty much intact, but why should I tell you? ‘Specially if you’re not telling me what this is for,” Nok shrugged, unimpressed with Abareth’s evasiveness.

“Gold my friend - gold, glory and fame is what awaits you if you assist us,” Baelir told him.

“You can cut it with the hard-sell, 'oh mighty Prince Baelir', I know better than most what’s out there, and how likely I am to get killed if I help you. If you want my help, yes gold is part of my price, but so is full disclosure of information. I don’t wanna end up getting into something I’m not prepared for just ‘cause you were worried I might blab or refuse to help. If I can do it, I’m in, if not, I’ll at least give you some pointers on where to get started and my word that I won’t tell others what you’re doing. So come on, what’re you up to Baelir?” insisted Nok.

  Giving up with his former tactic, Baelir asked that they went inside to fill in Nok with the task they were charged with. As they hadn’t discussed which God they would be visiting first, they left the exact locations out of the description, and instead stuck to only what he needed to know. Rather than being shocked by the fact that the planet’s population was about to be wiped out, Nok seemed fascinated by the tale, hanging on Baelir and Abareth’s every word.

  When they had finished, Nok nodded, thinking over the situation and what he could do for them. “Yeah…I think I can be of use to you, depending on numbers. How many are you planning on taking with you?” Nok asked.

“Including you there’ll be around five of us if Casren convinces Saul to come, hopefully a few more if we find the right people,” said Baelir.

“Good, small numbers are what we need. There can be no more than ten people in the party, but fewer would be preferable. Quick and silent movement is key out there, and a large group would only endanger us.”

“Got it, I’ll tell Casren later. Know of any folk that can lend a hand?” asked Baelir.

“I may have a contact from the *Dwarven mountains who could secure us some horses and travelling supplies once we are outside the Forest. Shouldn’t be too difficult but it’ll take at least a week before I will hear back from them.”

“Sounds great. You could use one of the sarongulls if that helps speed things along?”

“Sarongulls would be helpful yes. I’ll look over my maps and plan out a route once you’ve decided where you’re headed to first, just be sure to keep me informed.”

“Will do. Speak to you soon Nok. Sorry for Abareth’s door brutality earlier, we really need to house train him better.”

“Hrmph, yes, well I hope you make a better traveller than you do a messenger or you’ll be torn to shreds the moment you step outside Patharis,” Nok grunted at Abareth.

“I can assure you I will be prepared,” snarled Abareth.

“We’ll see,” said Nok, “Now bugger off out of here, I need some sleep.”

  Baelir and Abareth took their leave; Nok locking the door behind them. He had to admit, Baelir was surprised by how easy it had been to get Nok on board. Perhaps other people had requested his aid in leaving Patharis, so he wasn’t unfamiliar with how to deal with traversing the Forest with others. Maybe, just maybe, the Glass Forest wasn’t as dangerous as they were led to believe then? Somehow, he doubted it �" there was no way the Gods would give them this task as punishment for whatever nonsense they had made up if it was easy. Still, it was something to consider.

“Well, that went well. Dinner and bed for you mate, before you start getting grouchy…er,” joked Baelir, turning towards the castle.

  A force slammed into his stomach and pushed him up against the nearest wall, pinning him to it helplessly. Abareth had thrown him against the wall, possibly with the aid of magic, and was now leaning into his face, rage consuming him as he blazed with anger. He lifted the hand not holding Baelir and fire began to lick around his fingertips.

“You think me funny boy? You think it acceptable to mock me whenever you see fit? I could turn you to ash at the merest thought. Do not underestimate me or what I am capable of when pushed far enough,” the mage growled, the flames intensifying, fueled by his rage.

“B-but you �" ah - need me alive,” Baelir gasped, breathless from the pressure Abareth was forcing against him.

“Yes, yes I do, but not necessarily untouched, I can do so much more than just kill you Baelir, I can make you wish you were dead. Do. Not. Test. Me.” He released his grip on him and then clenched his flaming hand to extinguish it with a small ‘puff’. An edgy silence arose between them, neither one of them sure how to proceed. They simply stood, studying each other, trying to pry out any real understanding of what they were thinking. One thing was clear, breaking the silence was to lose whatever passive-aggressive battle they were waging, and neither side was going to back down. So instead, they stared. Time wore on and both parties sensed that neither would back down, so instead Abareth turned, still silent, and walked back in the direction of the castle.

  Baelir had no idea how to respond to Abareth’s departure, he just stood there, glaring madly at the spot where he had been standing, the stomach turning mixture of fear and unfulfilled expectation rendering him stupefied. The mage had openly threatened him. He had put aside all devotion to his task of safeguarding the message and wishes of the Gods because Baelir had made a few jokes at his expense. Would he really sacrifice everything just because he had been offended? What mattered to him more: his commitment, or his integrity? And how far would he be willing to go to protect what he cared most about? Baelir, frankly, did not want to find out.

  At somewhat of a loose end, Baelir shuffled back in the direction of where he left Casren, hoping that he would be able to find him.

“At least he can’t burn me to a crisp,” Baelir mumbled to himself.

 



© 2014 Gaelan_Hamilton


Author's Note

Gaelan_Hamilton
*Going to come up with a cooler name for the mountains later. Alternatively I'm open to suggestions

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Added on January 28, 2014
Last Updated on January 28, 2014
Tags: fantasy, mage, magic, wizard, adventure, royalty, elves, dwarves, halflings, gods, swords, bards


Author

Gaelan_Hamilton
Gaelan_Hamilton

Ayr, Scotland, United Kingdom



About
I'm an aspiring writer from Scotland currently studying Professional Writing Skills at college in Glasgow. As part of the course and also in my free time I write a lot of poetry, short stories and .. more..

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A Chapter by Gaelan_Hamilton