Year 3603, the Fifth Age, the seventy-seventh day of Autumn
What is life? A question which has plagued many and has yet to have an answer. Is it simply the result of a man and a woman conceiving a child? Or is something greater? Something more than just a series of moments gathered over the many years of one’s life? Is there some divine meaning to life? Can religious preaching of The Five really be the answer? As a Magi I cannot believe that. If The Five Gods were ever on M’Aierth it is my belief that they are long since dead. So in turn they cannot be the answer the question.
I wonder, are we all simply the result of a powerful Magi’s experiments? Men, Elves, Dwarves, Halflings, Sātor, Mōrgul, Yineth, and all others, simply an experiment and in fact a delusion of life? If this is so and we Men are like Yineth, then that would mean…
-My Blessed Life by Magi Siggr Stinfry
* * *
Year 3630, the Fifth Age, the twentieth day of Summer
“Nine hundred and ninety nine,” Legin grunted as he pulled himself up towards the trunk of the tree.
It was nearly midday and he had been working out all morning, going for a run around the Northern Hill just as Inüer brightened the eastern skies and then doing a myriad of exercises and routines. He was nearly finished now and with his legs wrapped around the trunk of an apple tree so that he was dangling upside down he finished his last repetition.
“One thousand,” Legin gasped as he touched his nose to the bark of the tree and collapsed backwards.
His abdominal muscles burned and he breathed heavily as hung upside down, but he was in a good mood. Although it had been quite boring around the prison since he had chosen not to escape and everyone was still getting used to the new reign of the compounds Quarters.
Both Aurora and Saiross had control of two Quarters and although they had agreed to cease hostility towards each other tension had been mounting. Aurora had based her seat of power in the North Quarter sending one of her closest followers to continue operations in the West Quarter, but Legin could tell that she had been concerned about Saiross making devious plans against her.
The yineth talked with Legin about this quite a lot over the many days past and he could tell that she was becoming impatient to take control of the whole compound. Legin had said he had a plan to make her the sole leader, but in truth he did not really know what to do next.
“If only Vythe were still here,” Legin mumbled as he thought about it and swung down from the tree.
“Can’t be helped,” Legin sighed as he began to stretch out his limbs, “Guess I’ll have to think of something soon before Aurora…”
Legin’s voice trailed away as he caught the sound of footsteps coming towards him and the rustle of the few bushes that sat around this part of the Northern Hill plateau. He had found this spot not long after returning to the compound, it was nicely sheltered from prying eyes and ears along the wall to the east of the Faction house and amid a few boulders, trees and shrubbery. He had even found a short sword and dagger at the base of the wall when he had first found this area which he had sold for a nice amount of coins.
The footsteps grew louder and the shrubs parted to reveal Aurora coming to see him. Although taken aback by the yineth’s unexpected arrival Legin held his composure and smiled. He was always happy to see Aurora, her delicate ears, amazing eyes, and her revealing gowns.
“Before Aurora what?” the yineth asked curiously as she sat down on one of the grey stones in the dell.
“What do you mean?” Legin asked curiously as he continued to stretch.
“Please, my hearing is twice as good as any Elf’s,” Aurora smiled back.
Legin scratched the back of his head in embarrassment, “So you heard what I was mumbling to myself.”
“That you never had a plan past this point,” Aurora nodded, still smiling.
Legin laughed awkwardly, “Well you just answered your initial question, and renders my mumblings moot.”
Aurora laughed pleasantly.
“You here by yourself?” Legin asked curiously as he glanced in the direction the Yineth had come. “No body guards?”
Aurora shrugged as she fixed a blonde strand of hair which was tickling her nose.
“That’s brave,” Legin continued, “Imagine if an assassin from Siaross knew of this?”
“They could not know,” Aurora shook her head, “I came through the secret tunnel from the vault under the Faction Building which Zairole had built. Not even my own guards know of my stroll out here. Besides, I feel twice as safe with you Legin than any of my guard.”
Legin nodded, “Why did you come out here? Just enjoying the morning?”
Aurora smiled slightly and shook her head, “Enjoyment of the day is merely a bonus. I came to talk with you in fact.”
Legin raised an eyebrow and continued to stretch out his limbs to warm down from his workout.
“In truth I thought you indeed did have plan on how to proceed,” Aurora continued, “But it is not matter for now we can devise one together. It seems that the defeat of Argyle has sparked renewed vigor within Saiross and he is pushing hard to take control of more wealth and power within the prison. If we do not act soon he will overrun us both along with the whole prison.”
“Alright,” Legin agreed as he jumped to his feet and skipped over to the tree to grab an apple to eat before sitting down next to Aurora. “I sense you have an idea where to begin.”
“You need to have a bath Legin,” Aurora suddenly said and covered her nose.
Legin sniffed his armpits and shrugged, “I can’t smell anything.”
“Trust me,” Aurora coughed, “Go back to where you were sitting before please.”
“You’re so rude,” Legin huffed, but he obliged the yineth and sat back on the ground in front of her. “You were saying.”
“Thank you,” Aurora replied as she rubbed her nose, “Now, I control the North and West Quarters, Saiross the South and East. I have sent Tressel to keep control of the West Quarter while I remain here.”
“Why not Lilly?” Legin interrupted curiously.
“The Valenthōr. The wood elf Lilly?” Legin replied and Aurora gave him a curious look, “Never mind, continue.”
“Yes,” agreed the yineth, her eyes still regarding him curiously, “Siaross has done something similar in appointing Threndarr to control the East Quarter while he stays in the South.”
“So what we should do is get rid of Threndarr and put someone in place who is covertly on our side,” Legin interrupted with a smile.
Aurora seemed somewhat surprised, “Yes, I guess that would work.”
“It’ll definitely work,” Legin replied confidently, “It is one of Vythe’s strategies that he taught me. But you have to pick the right person, else it will fail.”
“Do you have anyone in mind?” the yineth asked curiously.
Legin stroked his hairless chin thoughtfully, “How about Kōrrin, the dwarf? He will favour another of the Elder Race over Saiross. And he is regarded as a hero from the battle South Quarter, not to mention others from the East Quarter secretly believe Kōrrin should have been chosen to lead instead of Threndarr.”
Aurora nodded slowly and a smile came to her face, “Perhaps I was wrong in thinking you had not planned anything.”
“I just made it up then to be honest,” laughed Legin.
“Even so,” said Aurora, “It is a sound plan, if we can make it work.”
Legin hopped to his feet, “Leave that to me,” Legin said confidently and punched himself gently in the chest. “I’ll go and talk to Kōrrin right now and sort it out.”
“I think you should have a bath first though,” Aurora laughed, and again Legin sniffed his armpits.
“Don’t be silly,” replied Legin, “Dwarves don’t bathe either so they will see me as another clan member.”
“No,” Aurora said seriously as she stood up and placed her hands on her hips, “Come with me, you are having a bath before you do anything.”
“Alright,” sighed Legin, “But only if you give me some lunch as well.”
A smile came to the yineth’s face as she nodded, “Agreed, now follow me.”
Feeling pleased with himself Legin followed Aurora from the area and back through the shrubs to a well concealed entrance to a tunnel which ran directly into the secret vault bellow the Faction House. The trek through dim corridors was short and soon Aurora led the way into the well-lit treasure trove, which was surprisingly fairly packed with chests of all different sizes.
“Do not even think about it Legin,” Aurora said darkly as Legin stopped to have a closer look at a pile of silver coins, “You steal from me and I shall place a bounty on your head so big that you will not even be able to hid in a hole in the East Quarter mines.”
“I wouldn’t dream of it,” Legin was quick to reply, “I was just looking, you don’t see many silver coins in this prison it’s all copper.”
Aurora did not reply and they continued up the narrow stairs, through the pantry and into the kitchen.
“You know I was thinking,” Legin remarked as they moved through the Faction House and up the stairs to Aurora’s private room. “You should place more security around Tressel in case Saiross tries something.”
“I was thinking the same thing,” Aurora smiled over her shoulder as they entered the room, “One of my girls shall be up shortly to pour you a bath. Once you have cleaned that smell off you we shall have lunch and discuss some more details about our plan. I will see you then.”
Legin nodded slightly and Aurora moved to leave the room but something caught her eye and she stopped her gaze lingering upon Legin’s right hand.
“That looks very much like an Anther crystal ring, Legin,” Aurora said with intrigue as she turned back towards him.
“It is,” Legin replied simply, holding his hand up to look closer at the ring. “I stole it from one of the guards during my sojourn in the barracks.”
“Are you grasping what this could mean, Legin?” Aurora said, excitement twinkling in her eyes.
“Of course I do,” Legin quickly replied, “But truthfully I’m not sure how effective it really could be. Wearing this ring I can feel my connection to the Fog strengthening, but I’m not sure if any type of active magicks would work in here. Have you ever seen one of the guards cast a spell whilst in the compound?”
Aurora shook her head thoughtfully, “They do use passive magicks though.”
“But how would that help?” Legin shrugged, and Aurora sighed and shook her head.
“We should both put some thought into it though,” Aurora remarked as she turned for the door, “In the meantime I do not think it would be wise to walk around wearing it, do you? One of my girls will be up soon.”
With that Aurora left the room and Legin silently agreed with Aurora’s suggestion and took off the Anther crystal ring and slipped it into his pouch.
As Aurora had said one of the whores working in the North Quarter under Aurora was there soon and prepared a bath for Legin.
“You know, Legin,” the woman remarked as she was leaving, “You are near on as famous as Vythe ever was. If you keep things up everyone will soon forget that Vythe was ever here. And that kind of fame opens many doors.”
The woman winked at him before exiting the room and closing the door behind her.
“It also attracts the dangerous kind of attention,” Legin said softly and a feeling of concern came over him.
But soon his concern had gone and he was lying back in the warm soapy water as he held the Anther crystal ring before his eyes. The dark gem was mounted on a silver band and the Fog shimmered deep within its depths.
“Will you even work if I use you in here?” Legin mumbled as he turned the ring over in his fingers. “You work for the guards, but like Aurora said they only use passive magicks whilst in the compound. What if I were to cast a spell at something? Would it work, or would the anti-magicks dome around the prison nullify it?”
A strange sensation washed over Legin as he gazed into the depths of the crystal the swirling rivers of Fog. It seemed as if the Fog was reaching out to him and pulling at something inside him. Legin’s breathing became rapid as his eyes widened, unable to look away.
The door to the room suddenly burst in breaking the strange sensation and causing Legin to drop the ring into the bath water.
“Pip? What in the Abyss is wrong with you?” Legin exclaimed as he jumped into a sitting position and began looking for the Anther crystal ring in the murky bath water.
“You won’t believe what happened,” Pip said excitedly as he sat in a chair across from the bath.
“Well?” Legin prompted and sighed as he found the ring in the bath.
“I just saw Lilly before,” Pip replied before pausing and causing Legin to look at his friend irritably.
“And she tried to kill you again?”
“No, we were just talking,” Pip shook his head, but the smile still remained, “And guess what?”
Legin sighed again, “What?”
“We are going to get some dinner together tonight,” Pip’s smile widened.
“Is that good?” Legin asked hesitantly.
“Yeah it’s good,” Pip was quick to reply.
“Well, good then,” Legin nodded slowly.
Pip nodded also and began to gaze at something on the ceiling with a smile on his face.
“Is that it?” Legin asked awkwardly, “Or was there another reason you burst in here and interrupted my bath?”
“No that was it,” Pip shook his head, still looking at the ceiling with a foolish grin on his face.
“Alright,” Legin nodded slowly, “Well, you see I’m about to get out and have some lunch with Aurora. So, are you going to stay here there while I dry and dress myself, or maybe perhaps you want to leave? Give me some privacy and all that?”
Pip jumped to his feet in surprise, “Yeah, I’ll talk to you later bro.”
As quickly as he had barged in Pip left and Legin shook his head in bewilderment before drying and dressing himself and headed down stairs for lunch. A wide smile came to Legin’s face as he entered the dining room to see Aurora waiting for him along with a large spread of food laid out, which caused his stomach to growl hungrily.
“Damn it,” Arell swore in pain.
“What is it?” Vhindr exclaimed, “Ynik Scopion? Vaddr snake?”
“What?” Arell asked back in surprise, “No, I pricked my finger on the point of this scrimshaw star. It’s really quite sharp.”
“Is that all,” Vhindr shook his head and continued to saddle his horse, “For a Captain of the guard you act as if you have never hurt yourself before.”
“I didn’t expect it is all,” Arell replied indignantly, “I was putting pressure on the star points to see how strong it was.”
“You could have just asked me,” Vhindr replied dryly, “That type of scrimshaw is harder than coral and takes decades to degrade.”
“Do you know everything?” Arell asked sarcastically as she placed the necklace back into a pouch.
“That would be impossible,” Vhindr replied seriously.
“Right,” Arell smirked as she began gathering her things around the campsite and preparing her own horse for the next ride. “Anyway, what was the scorpion and snake you mentioned?”
“Ynik Scorpion and Vaddr Snake,” Vhindr replied, “They are two of the deadliest animals in all of Essinendeür, although very rare.”
“Why did you think I was bitten by one?”
“Well, this region south of the Lake Ire on the Morrow Plains, just east of Vhasden forest, is the only place they are found,” Vhindr shrugged as he waved away the magickal fire that had been burning low.
“What?” Arell said with concern and she glanced nervously about the ground.
“Although once bitten the poison can be stopped, the chances of one surviving after being bitten is very slim,” Vhindr continued, “Their venom is so potent that most are dead within seconds of being attacked. Quite painful too, I hear.”
“Very funny,” Arell said with annoyance and glared at Vhindr, “You are enjoying telling me this aren’t you?”
Vhindr hid his smile and swung up into the saddle of his horse.
“You really are a city girl,” Vhindr remarked as Arell also mounted her horse.
“Is it a crime to be raised within the snake and scorpion free walls of Pentra?” Arell asked indignantly.
“Depends on how you look at it I guess,” Vhindr shrugged, “Come on let us be off, we should reach Ulteross by nightfall.”
Arell agreed and the two off them urged the horses onwards and back to the road which ran straight southwards.
Upon setting out from Pentra the two of them had taken a long time going along the rugged coastline and to the many small fishing villages which were built on the cliffs. Vhindr had made a point to do this so he may inquire as to whether there were young women who had gone missing within the last year. But it seemed that missing people were a common trait in small towns and not just young women either. They heard tales of fishermen vanishing out of the blue, of a ghostly young woman who danced along the cliffs edge during a mist luring fools onto the rocks below. There were quite a few people who claimed their children had been stolen away by monsters, of maidens vanishing in the night, of young men going for a walk and never returning.
But out of all the stories of people going missing only a few grabbed Vhindr’s interest and prompted further questions. And so it was now that many days had passed and he and Arell were soon to come upon the town of Ulteross, but still he had no answers.
The only productive thing to come from this travel was the knowledge he had gained about Arell and the friendship which had grown between them. At first the guard Captain of Pentra had seemed very out of her element, she was clearly not used to travelling by horse through the land and definitely uncomfortable with sleeping outdoors and beside a fire. But as the days had drifted by she seemed to begin to enjoy herself despite the rain which constantly poured on the Morrow Plains.
Even now as Vhindr and Arell rode on the southern reaches of the Plains a light rain fell around them, but further to the south Vhindr could see blue skies. The road was muddy under the hooves of the horses and as the day drifted by so did the forest of Vhasden to the west. By afternoon the rain had stopped and the rarely used road was solid underfoot. Stopping only briefly for lunch, they made better time than Vhindr had expected, and by late afternoon the large town of Ulteross was before them.
Like the other fishing towns on the edge of the Gornl Sea it was situated upon the edge of the cliff with a small wooden wall running its circumference. But Ulteross was a lot larger than the other villages and would have housed over five thousand within its salty walls. Above the wooden walls Vhindr could see the tall rooftops of the many houses and the even taller spire of the Temple of The Five.
“Welcome to Ulteross travelers,” hailed one of the two guards at the town’s gates, “What’s your business?”
“We…” Arell began, but Vhindr cut in.
“We are just travelling,” Vhindr said loudly, “Out to see the wonders of the wide world. Tell me my good man, what is the best place to rest within these safe walls?”
“You wanna head to the ‘Salty Princess’,” smiled the second guard.
“No they don’t, idiot,” snapped the first guard, “Can’t you see he already has a girl, a shame really, but what would he want at a brothel? What would most people, to be honest? Don’t mind my idiot brother. Head to ‘Ulteross Tavern’, it’s not the most imaginative name but it’s the best place here, and there meals are to die for.”
Vhindr smiled, “Thank you kindly. One more thing, if you have a moment. We found this necklace on the road.”
Vhindr motioned for Arell to hand him the dead woman’s necklace, which she was quick to do.
“Don’t suppose you know who it belongs to?” Vhindr asked as he lent down to show the guard.
The guard shook his head, “It is very beautiful, but I don’t have a clue. Although it looks like one of the pieces the Mōrgul Cat makes, you should ask him.”
“Is he here?” Arell asked curiously.
The guard nodded, “Luck is with you, he heads off on the morrow. You’ll find their camp along the wall to the west.”
“Not within the walls?” Vhindr raised an eyebrow.
“Better for us, better for them,” the second guard shrugged.
“Quiet you,” the first guard snapped, “Racism is ripe all about the realms, sadly even in my lovely town. But my brother is right, and they prefer it out on the plains.”
“Thank you kindly,” Vhindr nodded and handed him several gold coins which caused the man’s eyes to widen.
With a nod to Arell, Vhindr kicked his horse off towards the west and very quickly they both came upon the Mōrgul camp. Reining his mount to a halt Vhindr dropped from the saddle and walked calmly into the circle of skin tents and stopped in the center and waited. Arell followed his lead, but it was clear she was uncertain why they were just standing around and waiting.
“What are we...?” Arell began, but Vhindr cut her off.
“Quiet.” Vhindr snapped harshly, “We are being courteous.”
Several minutes passed and many of the Mōrgul Cats casually walked by without regarding them. Vhindr had always been intrigued by the Cats of the Morrow Plains, they all had very thick fur like hair which was often decorated with braids and gold rings and amid their unusually coloured hair their cat like ears stuck out. But apart from their ears, the vertical slit pupils of their eyes and prominent canine teeth the Mōrgul were very humanoid. Just like the Yineth if you looked at Mōrgul from the neck down they looked exactly like a human, although their nails were harder and grew like claws.
Just as Arell seemed as if she were about to ask him another question a Mōrgul Cat approached them. This one seemed the oldest in the clan, his fury hair more white than dark grey, and the wrinkles around his bright blue eyes showed his wisdom.
“Fring’derr greets you to his camp,” the Mōrgul spoke calmly and nodded his head. “He also thanks you for your politeness.”
Vhindr smiled and nodded back.
“What may Fring’derr do for thee?” the Mōrgul asked, the braids of his mutton chops shivering with each word.
“Would you kindly have a look at this scrimshaw carving for us?” Vhindr asked and handed Fring’derr the star carving.
“Fring’derr carved this piece many moos ago,” the Mōrgul said after looking only briefly at the necklace. “But he sold it to someone who is not the one handing it to him.”
“Can you recall who you sold it to?” Vhindr was quick to ask.
“Indeed Fring’derr can,” nodded the Mōrgul, “A young girl of Ulteross she was, Fring’derr recalls that she went by the name of Fay Mereen and that her family live in Ulteross still.”
A smile came to Vhindr’s face, “Your words bring me great relief Fring’derr, thank you.”
“May Fring’derr ask as to the fate of Fay Mereen, and why she no longer has the carving Fring’derr made for her?” the Mōrgul cat asked curiously as he handed the necklace back to Vhindr.
“It saddens me to tell you that she is dead,” Vhindr replied solemnly, “Here body washed ashore in Pentra and is the reason I am here now.”
Sorrow came to Fring’derr’s feature and he sighed heavily, “Fring’derr is saddened to hear this.”
Vhindr nodded, “I thank you for your knowledge Fring’derr. Safe travels on the morrow.”
“And to you traveler,” Fring’derr nodded and walked casually back to his tent.
With a sense of renewed determination to find who killed the young woman Fay Mereen, Vhindr led Arell from the Mōrgul camp and back towards the gates into Ulteross.
“Anything you want handsome man, just come and see me,” the guard Vhindr had given the coins to greeted them as they passed into the town, “The names Kimbro.”
“I certainly shall,” Vhindr called over his shoulder as he and Arell walked their horses through the streets of the town and towards the ‘Ulteross Tavern’.
It was coming on evening by the time they arrived at the tavern and rented some stables for their horses before heading inside. Through the doors of ‘Ulteross Tavern’ it appeared as your typical pub with a bar top along the wall with stools before it, a dozen tables and chairs positioned around the place and many cubicles by the windows. A fire burned at one end and at the other a young lady played a sweet tune on a violin. A flight of stairs could be seen next to the bar where the rooms for rent were located and many patrons were already ordering their drinks for them and their friends.
“A bottle of your good wine, two glasses and two traveler's meals, thank you good man,” Vhindr said to the barman who nodded dismissively and took the coins from Vhindr.
“I have a few gold coins too if your are interested,” Vhindr remarked this time grabbing the barman’s full attention.
“What do you want?” the man asked curiously.
“I am looking for a girl,” Vhindr replied, and the man scoffed.
“Head to the ‘Salty Princess’ if you want that,” the barman shook his head and moved to head off, but Vhindr grabbed him firmly by the arm.
“That is not what I mean,” clarified Vhindr, “I met a girl named Fay Mereen from this town. I am asking if you know if she is still here?”
“Now there is a name I have not heard in ages,” the man smiled slightly and shook his head as he lent on the bar.
“You know her?”
“Knew her would be a better way of putting it,” the man clarified, “She died near on a year ago.”
“I see,” Vhindr said sadly, “I am sorry to hear that. It is like I was only talking to her the other day.”
Arell shot Vhindr a curiously look but did not say anything.
“Well it would be more accurate to say she went missing near on a year ago,” the barman said as he scratched the back of his head, “But you know what it’s like, when people go missing for more than a several days. Like as not they are dead, or run off to some other town.”
“But you do not think she simply ran off,” Vhindr stated and the man nodded and shrugged.
“Fay was not the kind to run off to another town,” the man shook his head and straightened up as he began to clean a mug. “She loved it here, she was close with her family and she had a sweetheart in town.
“Besides,” the barman continued, “Her father looked all over for her as did her lover. Found nothing. So everyone accepted that she was dead, all except that lover of hers, Berron. He’s still looking.”
“That Berron’s a fool if you ask me,” an old fisherman called from down the bar, “And if you ask Tsall here, Berron killed Fay and dumped her body in the Gornl Sea.”
“Shut your mouth you old fool,” the barman snapped, “You should know better than eavesdropping on private conversations.”
“Ease up Tavothe,” Tsall laughed with his friend, “It was a jest, come on pour us another beer.”
“Give me a moment,” Tavothe shook his head and sighed, “Forgive Tsall and Carl travelers, find a seat and I shall bring your food and drinks soon.”
“Thank you for the information Tavothe,” Vhindr nodded and handed the barman several gold coins.
“Sir, but this is more than I ask for your meal,” Tavothe began and tried to hand back most of the coins but Vhindr stopped him.
“I know,” Vhindr smiled, “As I said thank you for telling me of Fay’s fate.”
With that Vhindr motioned for Arell to accompany him to one of the booths by a window where a cool breeze was drifting in from the ocean.
“Interesting what they said about the lover, Berron,” Arell remarked as they both sat down.
“Perhaps,” Vhindr nodded slightly as he looked out the window.
“I did not think you would lie so much in an investigation, Vhindr,” Arell said quietly as she leaned over the table.
Vhindr shrugged, “Perhaps it is lying. But people generally say more when you say what they expect to hear. If you go around stating that you are investigating a murder they will not say much at all as they are afraid that what they do say will get someone else into trouble. Those old sea dogs would not have said a word if they knew the real reason why we are here.”
Arell looked thoughtful and slowly nodded her head, “I see can see what you mean, but it doesn’t seem right to lie like that.”
“I did not lie,” Vhindr replied, “I just did not tell them the whole truth.”
Again Arell nodded her head but did not say anymore on the matter and Tavothe then arrived with the meal Vhindr had ordered.
“Tell me my good man,” Vhindr said to the barkeeper, “My companion and I shall be staying a while and I was wondering if you rent any of your rooms on a long term basis? Would this be adequate to pay?”
Vhindr handed Tavothe a pouch of gold coins which caused the barman’s eyes to widen in surprise once he looked inside.
“I’m sure I can work something out,” the man stumbled over a few words before a sudden thought came to him, “But tell me, how did you meet Fay?”
“My Lord Father and I came through here some time ago when he was heading to the Sect of Artāre in Vhasden,” Vhindr replied simply, “He is quite the religious man and made a healthy donation to the Sect. In truth I am relieved he has not sent any of my sisters to become mothers of Helwyr.”
Tavothe shivered visibly, “Many women from here volunteer to mother Helwyr. Don’t understand it to be honest.”
“Do you see many Helwyr in Ulteross?” Arell asked curiously.
“Yeah we do,” Tavothe nodded, “All the green bloods come here before heading out into the realms looking for their first hunt. Usually get quite drunk too. Don’t blame them either, I wouldn’t fancy the thought that the next day could very well be my last. Well, you two enjoy your meal and speak to me before you want to head to bed.”
“Thank you,” Arell smiled pleasantly and the barman left them.
Vhindr poured himself and Arell a glass of wine and took sip before starting on his meal.
“You just lied about your father, didn’t you?” Arell remarked as she also began eating.
Vhindr shot a slight smile to his companion, “Yes, how did you know?”
Arell smiled widely, “To be honest I did a bit of research on you when I found out that my grandfather Edin Starak had asked you to investigate the death of Fay. The Varrintine’s are not known for their religious devotion, but you are all known for your magickal talents which mean if any of you really wanted to go to the Sect of Artāre you would teleport and not ride through Ulteross. You are also from a family of seven sons and only one sister.”
Vhindr lent back in his seat and smiled as he took another sip of wine, “Six sons, actually.”
“Of course, your brother Vythe is dead,” Arell gasped with embarrassment, “Sorry, I didn’t mean…”
“It is alright, Arell,” Vhindr said sadly, “He died a long time ago. That wound may never heal, but it has become numb. Which I am not sure is a good thing.”
Silence seemed to creep around them then and they both finished their meal without saying any more. But as they continued to drink the wine the conversation once again picked up and they spent the evening talking about the case and other things. Eventually the wine bottle was finished and Vhindr ordered another one and as the night grew late and the patrons slowly began to leave that bottle also run dry.
“Last drop,” Vhindr said as he emptied the bottle into his and Arell’s glasses, “Not a bad drop either.”
“It is a bit dry,” Arell replied with a smile, “I prefer more fruity wines.”
Vhindr smiled, “So, Arell, you are beginning to become more observant and perceptive from your time in my company.”
“Thanks,” Arell cut in sarcastically.
“Time to put your skills to the test,” a glimmer came Vhindr’s dark eyes.
“Alright,” nodded Arell confidently, “What kind of test do you have in mind?”
“The barman, Tavothe,” Vhindr said seriously, “Tell me about him.”
Arell seemed hesitant and she stammered over a few words as she looked at Tavothe who was cleaning the bar top while he talked with some of the remaining patrons.
“He has been doing this job for many years,” Arell shrugged and Vhindr looked at her with boredom marked clearly upon his face. “He has been married to the cook for several years and likely owns this tavern.”
“Is that it?” Vhindr asked with a sigh, “Perhaps you have not learned that much.”
“No, wait,” objected Arell and she looked about the place for a few seconds and concentrated harder on Tavothe. “His family has owned this tavern for many years and it has passed down to him.”
“Better,” Vhindr nodded.
“Seeing his wife does not look like she has had kids I would say that they have not actually been married that long,” Arell continued, “But the way they interact suggested that it has likely been more than five years which means they either cannot have kids or they don’t want kids. How was that?”
“Alright,” Vhindr nodded, “But still disappointing.”
Arell narrowed her brown eyes at Vhindr and pouted angrily.
“You tell me about him then,” Arell huffed and took a sip of her wine.
Vhindr smiled slightly, “This tavern has clearly been handed down through the generations, by the fact of its obvious age and the family tree carving above the bar, which is clearest evidence we can see. He has been together with his wife for more than five years like you said, but they are in fact expecting their first child.”
“What?” Arell exclaimed in surprise.
“See how they both place their hands on her stomach when holding each other and whispering sweet nothings,” Vhindr nodded towards the couple doing just that, “Indication of an expecting child. The reason why they have not had a child before now is because Tavothe was an adventurer before he took control of the tavern. You can see the memorabilia of his travels hanging around the bar. And before you say that they could be anyone’s, why would you put someone else’s effects around your bar. And no they are not family heirlooms for they have barely any age to them. Beside you can see the markings on the walls where he has taken down old pictures to put them up.”
Arell looked around at the different items hanging on the walls, some were basic traveller’s gear while others were a sword and re-curve bow.
“I would also wager that Tavothe was quite skilled with that sword and bow too,” Vhindr continued, “See how he walks with subconscious precision in balance? Not to mention he has the build of someone who still practices their swordplay daily. He is also a man of good breeding as evidence through the way he speaks and his stock of quality liquor.”
Vhindr finished and Arell scoffed and shook her head before finishing her glass of wine.
“I think I need some sleep,” Arell said as she rubbed a hand across her face.
“What? No remark to my skills of observation?” Vhindr asked, seeming wounded.
“Like you need an ego boost,” Arell was quick to say and Vhindr laughed.
“It is still nice to get a boost every now and then,” Vhindr smiled and finished his wine as he got to his feet.
Together they left the window booth and headed over to the stairs where Tavothe met them.
“I have prepared a Room One for you,” the barman smiled, “It’s my best room in fact, with a large bath, double bed and private balcony. I am sure you will enjoy it.”
“Double bed?” Arell asked with concern, “Not separate beds?”
“It is the only room I could organise,” Tavothe replied slowly, “And I thought the two of you were together.”
“We are not,” Arell was quick to clarify.
“But thank you Tavothe,” Vhindr cut in, “We will work something out, even if it means I am sleeping on the floor.”
“The room has a lounge by the fire,” Tavothe offered and Vhindr smiled.
“Perfect,” said Vhindr, “Thank you and goodnight, my man.”
Arell seemed as if she was going to protest some more but Vhindr pushed her up the stairs and to room number one.
“I cannot believe this,” Arell huffed as they entered the nicely furnished and decorated room, “I am a woman, I need my own room, my own bath.”
“Well get used to it rich girl,” Vhindr joked, “You are far from the big city here.”
“I suppose I could teleport back and forth between here and Pentra,” Arell mused and as she sat on the comfortable bed.
“Please do,” Vhindr smiled as he lied down on the lounge at the opposite end of the room to the bed, “That way I can sleep in the bed.”
“I was being serious,” Arell glared at Vhindr.
“Well do what you must,” Vhindr replied as he made himself comfortable and closed his eyes, “Whatever you do get some sleep for I will be talking with Fay Mereen’s parents first thing tomorrow morning whether you are here or not.”
Vhindr left it at that and smiled subtly as he heard the rustle of sheets as Arell slid into the double bed.