“Ahem.” The small, discreet cough from her doorway drew Dirdre’s attention from the report she was listening to for the third time. The elf silenced the magic mouth spell with a single curt word. She sighed and ran a hand over tired eyes.
“Are you all right?” a female halfling with long blonde braids asked as she cautiously walked over to the desk, concern clear in her blue eyes.
“No, Mercy, I’m not.” Dirdre sighed again and rested her face in her hands. “Profits are down three percent in the Lower Ward and dammit, I don’t know how! If it were a case of fewer merchants, too few thieves in the area, I could handle it, but there’s no logical reason for profits to be down! Hells, everything else is going up.” She looked up and gave the halfling a pleading expression. “I’m guessing you didn’t just stop by to see how I’m doing. Please tell me you have good news.”
Mercy shrugged, putting a piece of blank paper on the elf’s desk. “Depends on your opinion of good.”
Dirdre stared down at the paper as if it were a rotting carcass. “Good is hearing that High Priest Myles Thieves-Blight was dishonorably kicked out of the watch and torn apart by rabid cockroaches then eaten by those zombies that always follow him around. How the hells did a priest of Xenon get to be unofficial head of the Watch?”
Mercy coughed. “Sorry, but no information yet. The instant that happens, though, you’ll be the first to know. But the message is from the Boss. You might want to read it some time this year.”
Reluctantly, Dirdre picked up the paper. As the magic registered that she really was herself, an image shimmered into existence on the parchment and hovering several inches over it in a three dimensional illusion. The image was of a piece of jewelry, an ornate silver necklace with a scarab pendent of black silver. A very fine and undoubtedly expensive piece.
“This is in Border Town,” a gender-less voice hissed. “I would like you to retrieve it at your convenience. Use whatever method you prefer to acquire it.” The voice and images disappeared.
Dirdre groaned and slumped forward, her forehead and the desk meeting with an unpleasant thunk. “You know,” she started in a calm, reasonable tone that the halfling knew very well that she was faking, “it’s things like these that make me wish I was back in the forest fighting orcs as an army scout instead of trying to make a thieves guild a success. Know what I mean?”
“No, not really. But I’m just an aide.”
Dirdre snorted. “‘Just’? Right.” Mercy had appeared at the door of the Guild House of the Black Razors – technically a warehouse and base for Sharpe’s Imports and Exports - one day mid-Sunpeak five years ago and demanded a job from the doorkeeper. Having no clue what to do with the formidable halfling, he had happily passed her onto Dirdre, who was equally clueless about what to do. Considering that Mercy had no talent, training, or inclination for thievery, the frustrated elf had passed her onto the Boss, the leader of the Razors. The next day, Dirdre had come into her office to find the usual clutter transformed into a neat, orderly room that actually made use of the bookshelves. Since then, with a few crash courses in the problems with lock picking and other nasty traps a high up such as Dirdre might have to face, Mercy had become an invaluable help. Several times since then the elf had hinted at and even outright tried to get Mercy a promotion, to where she would get better pay and prestige as aide to the leader of the Razors. But time and again Mercy had refused in favor of continuing to work for Dirdre.
“Yes, just. Although I don’t know how you managed without me,” the halfling muttered as she left.
Dirdre chuckled and shook her head. “Neither do I,” she whispered to the closed door. “Neither do I.”
Dirdre strolled down the street, once again wondering at the simple fact that she had actually been living here for nearly a decade. It didn’t seem nearly that long, but there was no discounting the fact that the buildings she remembered from her first awed trip had definitely grown. She turned to enter a small shack near one of the gates, her nose wrinkling at the musty, old smell inside. There were parts about civilization she could definitely do without.
The middle-aged human hunched over some scrap of paper or another looked up when she knocked on the desk. “Wha-,” he sputtered, not expecting to find anyone in his ‘office’.
She smiled sweetly - and completely insincerely - in his direction. “Simon,” she cooed. “I need your help.”
The man’s eyes quickly darted to check the exits, both knowing full well that if Dirdre had any inclination to kill him, he wouldn’t make it three paces, even though the elf was apparently unarmed. “Sh- Shade,” he whispered, swallowing and sweating visibly. “What – what brings you here? I’ve told you before, I’m not about to sell out.”
At least, not without a hefty fee, she mentally added. “I’m not here to ask you to.”
Instead of reassuring him, her statement only increased his nervousness, as well as her impatience with the human. “Then, ah, what can I help you with?”
“Border Town. Where is it, how long does it take to get there, and when’s the next caravan heading there or at least to the general area.”
Simon instantly pounced on the second most obvious, and completely wrong, conclusion. A mercenary glint came into his eyes. He leaned back and rubbed his hands. “Hitting a caravan, huh? Likely to get some good stuff from there. The information’s gonna – urk!” the human suddenly found himself pressed against the back of his chair, ‘Shade’s’ arm cutting off most of the air in his throat and a dagger point a breath away from his eye.
“Guess again,” the frighteningly emotionless voice stated behind the dagger hilt. “Now. It’s your job to give that information to any citizen that asks for it, for free. And I am a citizen of this city. Hells, I’ve been a citizen before you crawled into this position. Simple choice for you. I take your eye and the information, or you politely tell me what I want to know and keep the eye. Which’ll it be?” There was no doubt on the human’s or elf’s mind that she was entirely sincere and ready to mutilate the man.
“Several weeks north, out in the middle of nowhere. A small caravan’s going tomorrow at dawn,” he squeaked.
“There, now see how easy that was?” she said, dropping back into the sugar and spice and cyanide tone. At the human’s terrified nod of agreement, the dagger disappeared. “Good. Remember it next time someone asks you for information.” With that, Dirdre slipped out the door with barely a whisper of noise.
The elf strolled to the shipping yards with a casual, ground swallowing gait, scowling enough to frighten off anyone of sense. She truly hated dealing with scum like Simon. By Forenee’s Wreath, couldn’t the race get anyone trustworthy in any position of importance? Not that Simon was really that important, but he was the most accessible. And the most depraved, but that led to a never-ending circle.
“’Scuse me, miss, can ye spare a copper er two? I ‘aven’t ‘ad a bite in weeks!” Dirdre’s scowl melted away to a genuine smile at the grimy street urchin tugging on her belt. She had a soft spot for youngsters of any race, and employed a small army of them as messengers and spies. At only a few coppers and meals a week, combined with the fact that no one noticed children, it was a deal all the way around. Jake, who was looking up at her with a pleading expression that would have done a pampered, suddenly kicked dog credit, was one of the best pickpockets she’d ever met, and actually already a member of the Razors.
Mercy wants message he signed in the hand language among thieves.
“Well, then, I suppose a few coppers couldn’t hurt.” She flipped him a coin, actually a silver, and made a few gestures in Thieves’ Cant. Be leaving soon. Away few weeks. Behave!
Appearing overawed at her gift, he tugged at his forelock of greasy hair, signing back as he babbled thanks. Safe journey! Will not.
She chuckled and shook her head as he scampered off, probably to spend her silver.
She continued her walk to the shipping yards, entering the noisy crowd of people lifting, carrying, pulling and shoving animals, and generally scrambling around like giant ants. The elf darted around and past the general mass until she spotted a likely target; a dwarf holding several papers and scowling at a group of men unloading crates from a cart.
“Excuse me,” Dirdre practically screamed to be heard, “do you know where the caravan heading north tomorrow is?”
He directed her further into the crowd, sending her on her way with generous curses. Dirdre finally found an elf directing the loading of cages onto a wagon. She paused a moment to stare at the pink fuzzy creatures in the cages, then sauntered up to the elf. “Excuse me. You’re heading north tomorrow morning?”
“Yeah. What’s it to ya?”
She shrugged, pretending casualness. “I’m heading that way myself, and wondered if I could travel with a slightly larger group. Was hoping I could join as a guard or something.”
The elf snorted. “A guard?” He spat to the side. “Pretty quiet up where we’re headed. Drivers double as guards. Don’t need to hire anyone else.”
I’ll be damned if I have to pay to ride with you. Hells, I’ll get a horse and go on my own if I have to! “Mind if I travel with you, then?”
He studied her for a moment, looking for signs that she couldn’t take care of herself on the road. He nodded at her pair of sheathed daggers. “Can you use those things?”
Dirdre shrugged again. “People say I’m passable.”
He grunted. “Might want to get a sword for the trip. Can’t stop you coming, but if you can’t keep up... too bad.”
“Understood.” Before he had time to change his mind, Dirdre melted back into the crowd. Whew. That did not go well. Eh, at least I won’t have to pay. And I could use a ‘quiet trip’ he promised. Some peace and quiet would be welcome.
With only a day left with the caravan, Dirdre was about ready to scream from boredom. The most exciting event the entire trip had been when one of the drivers had gotten too drunk and released one of the pink critters from its cage, presumably to play with it. The sight of ten grown men – all drunk to some degree – scrambling after the cute, if annoying animal like overgrown five year olds after a frog had been enough to leave Dirdre helpless on the ground with hysterical laughter. Even now, thought of it managed to pull a slight grin from the taciturn elf.
Screams and battle howls in orcish instantly pulled Dirdre from her daydreams. She raced to the back of the wagon she was stealing a ride from in time to see another driver get taken down by two orcs of the score attacking the caravan. Her lips pulled back into a snarl, inaudible in the sounds of battle, and she pulled around her sash, turning it just so, that it revealed a cache of daggers. She calmly pulled out two and threw them, taking down a pair of the monsters charging at her. Before many of the horde had time to blink, she had taken down several more pairs. Realizing their danger, and finding a lack of other targets, the monsters collectively turned their attention to her. Inwardly quailing at the sheer number of foes, she simply smiled death’s own grin and hurled another blade. Gods, I hope I have enough.
Several orcs made it past her rain of daggers to the foot of the wagon and started to take wild swings at her. She simply danced back and forth in a mad jig, still hurling dagger after dagger, taking down more of the ones staying away from her. She took several light hits, but ignored them and those that gave her the wounds in favor of the larger group. After all, only a few could attack her at any time. She’d long since gotten past fear of dying, it was now the thought of dying uselessly that bothered her.
“Oh, shit,” she whispered as the charging orcs suddenly stopped and began swaying back and forth, chanting. This can’t be good. Now choosing her targets and taking down a few of those close by, Dirdre was frantically trying to figure out what was going on and which were the key figures. When they finished their chant and scrambled away, the elf gave up. Definitely not good, she decided as the light breeze abruptly swelled. She studied the grasses around her, then sprinted for what she hoped was the limit of the wind that was rapidly growing. Her flight ended in a desperate leap and roll in the tall grasses. After squirming to what appeared to be a safe distance, Dirdre turned to watch what happened.
The wind continued to grow, but the orcs stayed and watched, so she did as well. Soon after the gales toppled the wagons, releasing a horde of small pink animals that scattered. Finally, the wind began to die down. The orcs spread out, most to pillage, while several small groups set out and worked their way through the grasses, searching for the missing elf.
With a vicious, maniacal grin, Dirdre slipped away through the grasses, just another shadow, towards a search party of orcs.
In the end, only three orcs escaped, but only one of her companions survived the ordeal. They limped into town a day later in the wagon they managed to salvage.
After getting her pay and giving her regards, Dirdre headed for the blacksmith’s to replace the daggers she’d been unable to salvage.
Since the caravan wouldn’t be heading any further to Border Town, she also picked up directions to the nearest horse dealer; a ‘crazy gypsy woman’ who lived at the edge of town. One of these days, I’d like to meet a normal horse dealer who owns a stable right in the middle of the stock yards like any sane being with any intelligence would set up.
A tall elf was outside the brightly colored wagon, ruining her plans to have a subtle look around before talking with the horse dealer. Since Dirdre doubted the gypsy woman was a tall, dark haired male elf with golden, glowing eyes, that meant the horse seller had another customer.
“Good afternoon,” he said grandly, eyes flaring brighter gold as he gave her a slight bow.
“Afternoon,” she replied with a nod.
The arrival of the gypsy averted further conversation. Dirdre was more than willing to let the other elf handle the negotiations of price. The end result was painfully high, but if the horses were half of what the old woman was promising, it should be worth it. The instant haggling was concluded and the gypsy had a much heavier purse, Dirdre grabbed her horse and left.
Dirdre settled back with a sigh. It was good to be back on the road. As much as she enjoyed her duties as Second, she felt most at home out of the city. Everything from the fading scent of the ground squirrel she’d roasted for dinner to the quiet noises from the horse was familiar, comfortable.
Sounds of an approaching horse and rider found her crouched away from the fire, dagger glittering in the light of the flames. The intruder finally walked into the light; it was the elf she’d met earlier at the gypsy’s wagon. He nodded to her, settled his horse, then sat close enough to the fire to easily pick from the rabbit she’d planned to roast for tomorrow’s meals. He was silent the entire time.
That’s it? No name, no excuses, nothing? I don’t mind, but a little politeness would be appreciated! Not even a simple request to share the fire. Humph. Fine. Struggling to keep her composure, Dirdre curled up in her blankets. “You have first watch,” she told the stranger. Even as she dropped off into light sleep, her hand rested on an unsheathed dagger. No reason to take trust too far.
It wasn’t until the long ride the next day that the taciturn mage finally revealed his name to her; Zerathul. While he wasn’t exactly talkative, his presence was welcome.
A shuddering boom jerked Dirdre from sleep. She jerked upright, staring wildly around. Zerathul wasn’t in sight, while a thoroughly irritated giant striding towards the camp most obviously was. SHIT! By habit, she grabbed her bandolier of daggers as she leapt up and away from the dying fire. She didn’t think it would do any good, but she’d survived this long by preparing for a fight whenever, wherever.
“I think – Augh! Calm down, it’s me!” The sudden voice behind her had startled the elf into a spin, drawing a dagger at lightning speed and preparing to plunge it into the speaker. At the last second, she’d registered the voice as Zerathul’s, stopping herself just short of skewering him. Then she blinked and stared as she realized she couldn’t see him.
Damn mages. “Don’t do that! Do you want to wind up dead?”
“As I was saying, that’s an illusion.”
“The giant,” his disembodied voice continued, “isn’t real. Someone’s trying to scare us.”
“So they must be around here, right?”
“Yes. In the meantime, it’s best to fight fire with fire. Ignore anything really unusual.”
But you only get more fire that way... and just what do you define as ‘really unusual’? She nodded, then headed off around the camp, fading into the shadows with practiced ease. If anyone was around, they’d soon regret it.
The appearance of a giant humanoid formed of clouds and swirling winds made her, and the giant, pause, but she continued her stealthy search while the giant roared challenge to the new arrival.
On the far side of the camp, squeaky chuckles warned Dirdre of the culprit’s presence. She risked a look, staring in amazement at the small, elf-like man dressed in green and chortling in glee at the illusionary battle. A leprechaun? Ye gods. Before she had time to consider what to do with the creature if she actually succeeded, she pounced. Miraculously, she managed to capture the leprechaun. He squawked in surprise and the giant disappeared. A second later, the elemental followed it. Zerathul quickly materialized behind her. He gave her a questioning look, and she showed him her prize.
“Please! Let me go and I’ll give ye three wishes!” the small man yelped.
Dirdre could see Zerathul’s interested look, but shook her head. “No need.” If you don’t work for what you get, it’s not worth it. And I remember Father’s tales of wishes gone bad. They only bring ill. And nothing could bring them back, not even a wish... “All I want is a good night’s rest, and that is accomplished by releasing you – ” she suited actions to words – “and politely asking you to leave.”
“Thank ye, lass. Not many big people would act the same. If I can return the favor someday...”
Ack! That’s something I don’t need. “Not necessary. I thank you for the offer, but there’s no need.”
“Nevertheless....” He disappeared in a haze of sparkles, leaving Dirdre with the impression of someone whispering in her ear; “call if ye ever want to redeem it.”
“Are you crazy?” Zerathul shouted. “Three wishes, and you gave them up?!”
She shrugged, pretending nonchalance. “You want the wishes, you go catch him. I’m going back to sleep.”
In the end, the mage decided not to.
Dirdre paced around her cell for what was much past the hundredth time, cursing her captors under her breath. Bad enough she was kidnapped from the camp in the dead of night, but the bastards had taken all her equipment, including her flute. She wasn’t sure of the time in her windowless cell, but she was fairly certain it was at least three days since her abduction, four since the encounter with the leprechaun. She’d been treated fairly well, if roughly; food appeared in the cell while she slept and she’d been able to keep her clothes, but inactivity and lack of anything to do but pace was driving her slowly insane.
She snarled and kicked the wall half-heartedly on her next pass. “Gods damn it, what I wouldn’t give to get out of here! When I get my hands on....” Her voice trailed off as a glowing portal grew in the wall.
Well THAT was convenient. She hesitated, then shrugged. Can’t be worse than where I am now. And if it kills me.... She shrugged again and leapt through.
Sunlight slammed into her eyes with the force of a hammer blow. Dirdre gasped and winced, blocking the sun with a hand. The reassuring weight of her pack shifted suddenly on her back. What?
She turned around and retreated to the shade of a building. In between the sunspots, she could make out a quiet city at the other end of the alley she was hiding in. the elf slid off her pack and checked it over carefully. All her equipment was there, including her flute. Out of preoccupied habit, most of her mind on the problem of how she got from there to here (wherever that was), she pulled the flute out and played an experimental scale.
“Finally decided to call upon me, lassie? Very well. You have two wishes left,” the leprechaun she’d encountered before stated, appearing before her.
By now Dirdre was near the end of her ability to be surprised. I doubt there could be much left today that’ll shock me. All right, might as well get this done with. Something small and insignificant that isn’t likely to get me killed. Well, as the Boss says, ‘knowledge is power’. “If it’s not too much trouble, I'd like to know two things.”
“And what would those two things be, lassie?”
“First, why did Taylor betray me?” maybe I’ll finally find out WHY. I never knew a man so honorable could do.... that.
“I can't tell you that without a wish, my brown-haired lassie.”
“Then I wish to know why Taylor betrayed me. Please.” May be a wish, but no need to be rude.
“He was planning on gaining the orcs’ trust, then betraying them later at a more important time,” he rattled off in a clinical, emotionless tone. “And your next wish?”
Dirdre barely heard the question. Any thought of being beyond emotion faded in a wave of amazement, guilt, and pure shock. Beliefs and a foundation of smug righteousness built up over nearly twenty years disappeared in the space of a single sentence. He wasn’t with them? All the time, he was planning on turning on them? Oh gods. Oh no. What’d I do. He was my friend, and I killed him. He TRUSTED me. I could’ve helped him, there was time before the attack, I could’ve gotten a healer in time but he told me to go, he didn’t even bother to tell me the truth he just told me to go I KILLED him and he told me to save them –
“Ye seem stunned, lassie. Surprised ya, did it?”
“I.... I didn't know. Oh gods, I didn't know. Is... is there any way you could help me....” She trailed off, unable to voice the mad ideas whirling in her mind. Even she was uncertain what she was asking, mind swiftly returning to the single thought that she had killed a man who deserved so much more.
The leprechaun apparently saw her confusion. “Take all the time in the world, lassie. Ye have to be careful with these things... Are ye sure ye want him back?”
“I... I really don't know. I mean - all this time I thought - I don't know.” I have to do something!
He snorted and rolled his eyes. “If I had a feyling for each time someone makes a wish when they aren't thinking clearly....”
She managed a strangled bark of laughter. “Then now isn't a good time. Sorry. I don't mean to be rude, but I never imagined.... But I need to fix this somehow.” Whatever it takes. I need to make things right!
“Well, he might be in a better place, for all you know. That dagger certainly isn't, though.” His rough chuckle managed to cut through the fog of guilt.
“Why, it's right here in town, if you know where to look for it.” He smiled slightly.
Dirdre absently ran a hand through her hair as she worried at this new complication. With her thinking, the leprechaun looked around idly, whistling a little elvish ditty.
Finally she made up her mind. It won’t make things right, but I need to start somewhere. “Then could you tell me where it is? Or do I need to wish for it?”
“Hmmmm. Well, someone in this town that knows you knows where it is. Beyond that, you'll need a wish. Why you want that dreadful thing is beyond me, though. Let it rot dow –.” He forced himself to stop, shooting her a sly glance.
“ ‘That dreadful thing’ ?” she repeated. How...?
He waggled a finger at her with a mock scowl. “Ye won’t be getting’ any more free information outta me, lassie. There are all sorts of precedents, and I can only use it to lure you into making a hastily worded wish. Like mentioning the ward guarding the dagger.”
All right, have to work this in, can I get it? Should I just wish for it or.... As her attention wandered, the leprechaun turned to idly stare at a small butterfly fluttering by.
Manners, gods dammit, you do NOT want him annoyed at you! “Um, I’m sorry, am I keeping you from something important?” She managed to keep the sarcasm out of her voice.
“Oh, no. I'm used to indecisive wish-makers,” he said, idly waving away the thought, a gesture which transformed the butterfly into a startled looking rabbit that hopped away.
She stared at the retreating beast for a second, blinked, and shook her head. “Ah. You have my sympathy.”
He shrugged. “Eh. One does what one can to pass the time. Any further thoughts on the wish?”
“I still need to make this right somehow,” she stated quietly. “I just don’t know the ‘how’ part.”
“Eh. Information is always a dull wish to grant. There is much less room to improvise and have fun. Ye could just ask for, oh, I don't know, lots of treasure or something.”
She grinned bitterly, mind still mostly away. “I’m sorry to ruin your fun, but what would I do with all that treasure? Other than fight off every would-be thief until one of them gets me in my sleep. And my loyalties are going in a different direction right now....” Gods, Taylor, I’m sorry!
“Too true. Of course, knowledge of the future is always a fun wish to grant,” he countered. “Or you could ask to, say, be the best thief ever. Or perhaps a certain magical power ye'd like...?”
Not today, not ever. “No, but thank you for the offer.” I can’t just let this go! “All right, I think I'm ready.”
She instantly had his attention. “And what will your wish be, lassie?”
She took a deep breath and absently readjusted her bracers. “I wish to know the dangers involved in attempting to regain the dagger.”
He actually looked slightly impressed, but more amused than not. “Ah. Interesting. Well, one would have to face quite a few monsters down in the sewers, and the magical ward around it doesn't let things out. Also – oh wait, that isn't involved in regaining the dagger. Never mind.”
“Ah. Well, thank you for your time and... help.” Such as it is. Riddles and halves of hints....
“My pleasure, lassie. And, might I say, good luck in getting back that dagger, for whatever reason ye want it.” He shuddered and disappeared in a dash of fairy magic.
Dirdre slumped against the wall, staring listlessly out into the street. Oh gods. What do I do now?
“Hello,” a deep male voice said.
She raised her eyes to see a tall, rather sickly, yet handsome human with black hair and glowing blue eyes of a mage. Unaware that she was staring at him blankly, she managed to collect herself somewhat. “Uh, ahem. Hi.”
He looked at her for another long second, then down at himself as if to check he was still human. When she didn’t react to his clowning, he coughed. “So... how about them... gnomes? Pretty something, doncha think?”
She still couldn’t raise enough energy to show emotion. “Er, I suppose.”
He finally decided to use the direct approach. “Are you okay? You look kind of unnerved.”
“I’ve been having a real bad day.” You can’t even begin to imagine. Please, just go away.
“Sorry to hear that. Anything I could do?” He actually seemed to be concerned.
“I doubt it.” Only if you can raise the dead or turn back time. The rabbit reappeared, hopping slowly around the corner, taking its time to browse the few weeds living along the walls. Habit told her to simply tell the man off, snarl and threaten him, teach him to mind his own business, but her newly gained knowledge of Taylor kept that instinct on a tight leash. He’s only trying to be kind. Return the favor. Don’t make the same mistake twice. She cleared her throat and tried to come back in contact with the real world. “You aren't looking so well yourself.”
At that point the rabbit turned back into a butterfly and flew off. The human stared at it. “Hey! Did you see that?”
“Unfortunately. Like I said, it’s been a bad day.”
“Tell me about it? Unless it'd be too painful.”
“I....” ‘Sometimes, you just have to make a leap of faith and let the gods do what they will’. She shrugged. “What the hell. Care to hit a tavern? I feel the sudden need to get roaring drunk.”
“Sure! That's always fun.”
She finally managed a real, if small, chuckle. “I wouldn't know. Now seems like a good time to experiment.”
He grinned at her. “I'll pay for the drinks. Come on.” He set off at a decent pace.
“By the way, my name’s Dirdre,” she finally said.
“Ah, I'm Gladiel. Nice to meet ya.” They shook hands in front of The Skittering Lizard, a small tavern with 5 tables and a bar across the door. The large human bouncer glared at them, but let them pass. There was only one other patron, who appeare to be a human, dressed in wizard garb, but without the glowing prismatic eyes. A small ferret curled around his shoulder.
“So, what’ll it be today?” the barkeep asked as they strolled to the bar.
“Something strong,” Dirdre replied. Something for oblivion tonight.
“One Dwarvish Mead it is. And for you?” He nodded towards Gladiel.
“Dwarvish Mead eh? I'll have some too.”
“Alrighty.” With that the man headed to a back room.
Gladiel pulled out a seat, then moved to the next over and sat, motioning Dirdre to the first seat. She stared at it for a second, unused to the courtesy as well as it coming from a human, then forced herself to get over it and sat down. “Thank you,” she said softly.
“You’re welcome.” The barkeep came back, preventing the need for further conversation, with two mugs of a frothy, yellow liquor, which smelled quite flammable. She silently and gratefully took hers, while her companion took his with apparent great relish. “Mmmm, I like a good drink that is potentially explosive.” She actually laughed. It appeared to be quite true, not that she wanted to find out. “How much?”
“The drinks are 5 coppers apiece, if you two would be wanting a room, it is a silver a night.”
Excuse me?!? She found her hand was already on a dagger hilt, which she forced herself to let go of. “The room will not be necessary,” she snarled, handing over the copper.
“Whatever meets your pleasure,” he said, taking the five coppers and putting them in a pocket.
She took a chug, watching Gladiel dig through his money pouch, then swayed slightly as the force of the drink hit her. “Whoo!” She coughed slightly. “That’s strong all right.”
Gladiel grinned, shrugged, and handed the barkeep a gold piece. “Keep the change, just want a drink.”
“Yes sir!” the man chirped as he greedily took the money.
He took a drink and swayed. “Wow.. it's like a party in my head and I'm not invited. So, do you know anything about that shape-changing lepus that was around earlier?”
Her laughter quickly died. She studied the contents of her mug, barely looking up when the guy at the table suddenly spilled his drink, shattering the mug. She sighed. “You know that old saying, be careful what you wish for?”
“Doesn't come close to reality. It’s worse.”
“Hmm... what do you mean?”
“I killed someone,” she whispered.
He gave her an odd look. “Oh, I'm uh....sorry.... Was it an accident?”
Dirdre laughed bitterly. “You could say that. He .... he was a friend.” Gladiel winced. “It was a long time ago. I thought I was right, but....” She sighed. “I don't know what to think now.”
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