Props to Chase Gosingtian (Lysandros) for initiating this thread at the group’s Facebook page. Thanks also to Nil (Findar) and Rex (Isaac Kross) for participating. Here’s the complete manuscript so far.
This takes place a day after the events of Episode 10.
Lysandros stepped out from the Targos militia hospital with renewed vigor. He had spent most of the morning blessing the injured soldiers in the name of the god of justice, indulging them their worries and assuaging their fears as he did. Most mortals could only dream of seeing Frost Giants and their ilk, but these soldiers, worse, met them on the battlefield. Sometimes, the fear of losing your hometown can be so debilitating especially when you find yourself wielding a mere piece of steel against the stuff of your childhood nightmares.
As he walked toward the The Salty Dog, he peered around and observed the comings and goings of the civilians. The snow around them, white and immaculate, was marred with dirt where they stepped. He took comfort in the knowledge that the evening’s weather would cover up the day’s tarnished skin, though the thought that he would not know whether his next step would chance upon covered blood discomforted him.
He was not alone in his thoughts a moment longer as the sounds of merriment from the tavern reached his ears. It was the tragic sort of joy, he thought, as if forced by the fear that this day would be their last. If it would be, at least they would be none the wiser. Upon entering, he immediately saw the dwarven cleric of their party, Findar.
Findar raised an eyebrow at the sight of the Paladin and waved his lit pipe beckoningly. “Pull a chair, boy,” he said, once billows of fragrant smoke left his bearded mouth. With the same hand and motion, he proceeded to pick up his stein and downed a gargantuan gulp of the tavern’s ale. “It’s not every day that we can enjoy the local flavor, eh? Not nowadays, at least.” He signed to the barmaid for two more tankards, the one on his hand now emptied to the drop.
The dwarf was practically alone, observing the merrymakers from a round wooden corner table. The rowdy drunk men had all but started a fight; Findar thought that this was a good sign. Targos seemed normal. A little chaos here and there was the law and order around the North. We’re neighbors with barbarians, Findar thought. When he was in the mountains, this sort of behavior was frowned upon as a waste of time and strength, things the dwarves valued more than the treasures Dumathoin sows beneath the earth. But here, Findar allowed them more compromise. These above-grounders had seen so much strife already, and in their short lives, they probably would not live to see any better, he contemplated. They had paid for freedom with suffering and blood.
“We aren’t at all different,” Findar muttered, to no one in particular.
”It’s not every day that we can enjoy the local flavor, eh?” said Findar, as Lysandros joined him at his table. He noted that Findar seems to have sunk in pretty well into his chair, suggesting that he has been there for quite some time, although he chalked it up as a natural dwarven look. Lysandros simply grinned and nodded in reply, debating the harm of a pint in the middle of the day and if it might weaken his senses in the event that trouble would come.
He raised a finger to the barmaid that Findar had called to signal that he would take one mug as well. He assumed that the two tankards that the dwarf had ordered would just be for himself.
“We aren’t at all different,” thought the dwarf out loud, though Lysandros did not catch half of it as he was ordering his drink. He folded his hands before him on the table and nodded to his companion as if noting the start of their conversation.
“Ever since I joined the party, I’ve been hearing you all called as the ‘Company of Targos’. The soldiers themselves talk fondly of you all, in the way that men who have fought together do,” he said.
“And now it seems that a stranger or two has been forced into your group. Made to be the measure of your valor, at that,” he continued, referring to himself and Morissey. His voice trailed to reach out for the cleric’s thoughts.
”Company of Targos? Hah!” Findar exclaimed, “we lay claim to no such moniker. But if that’s what they call us, let them have their hand on poetry, eh, and sing silly songs of this “Company of Targos”.” He bellowed a hearty laugh as he clunked the tankard of ale down to the aged hardwood table. Taking another swig, he started again.
“I’d rather we be called the Company of Trouble, for that’s what always follows us whenever we’re together. It’s hard to believe we’re all still alive, and none worse for the wear for a clerical resurrection.” Findar fidgeted with his holy symbol as he went on speaking. “I’m glad to have never been once called to do one, you know.”
He looked away from Lysandros, and as the lonely underdwelling dwarves sometimes do, he rambled on.
“We already lost one, you see. Fine lad he was, one of them dream-headed bards. He was with us when the horde of the Ice Queen besieged this very town. He lived to tell the tale of that day. To tell of the, tsch,” he almost spat. “The Company Of Targos.”
Looking matter-of-factly, and not the least bit perturbed, “Oddly enough, he departed the mortal coil when he went his separate way. Hah! Trouble only curses us enough just so we die after we leave each other.”
“Now, you sir, are no longer a stranger,” Findar said, reaching out a hand to Lysandros, as if to invite him to partake of, well, trouble.
Lysandros was pleased with the dwarf’s humility, for in each time that their party was called the “Company of Targos”, he could not see himself in it. He felt that he wasn’t worthy to be considered as part of that group because he did not participate in the Targos battle. It was something that was not shameful to him, but regrettable.
Trouble, at least, was something he could relate well to, and Morissey, too. Lysandros looked at Findar’s large hands and gripped it as best as he could.
The barmaiden arrived with Findar’s two tankards of ale and Lysandros’ mug. As she set them down on their table, she snickered silently at the size of their drinks. Lysandros shrugged and took a small sip from his mug as if drinking wine. At the rate of the dwarf’s drinking, he thought it well to ration lest he be forced another drink beyond his personal code.
“And now we have another bard with us,” he said. “Isaac.”
Lysandros peered sidewards at the window as he spoke, wary. “It is to my shame that I think him suspect despite your warm welcome of me and my friend. He had poisoned the Asabi that you thought to set free in the Phaerimm underground, and took pleasure in watching them squirm to their deaths. Had Daemon not slit their throats I would have done it myself,” he said.
“That he is another bard who shares your fallen friend’s flame red hair – perhaps Bane has a sense of humor.”
Lysandros drank much from his mug as if to cleanse his throat of the words he had just uttered.
”That spoony bard Isaac – I cannot seem to fully trust the man, even when he’s spilled blood alongside my own,” declared Findar. He continued after a gulp of ale. “But you know, lad, I’m more worried about Frost.”
Findar searched the room with his beady eyes, minding his beard as he swiveled his head once, then twice, to see around the tavern. He didn’t know if Lysandros shared his sentiment about the ranger, nor did he care if the observant paladin knew why he was eyeing the place for signs of their forlorn fried.
“I had wished to talk to you about him,” the dwarf began, “about that vision revealed by the Seer of Silverymoon. Before that blasted trip to the Shadow.” The exasperation in his voice just barely escaped the dwarf’s normally boisterous demeanor. “Before this thrice-damned journey to nowhere!”
Findar slammed his stein down on the hardwood table.
“I’ve seen anger and hate take so many good souls, and I would be loathe to see his thrown away on a mad quest for revenge. I’d sooner slay him myself before that happens,” he said, without blinking nor hesitating. “Though I would not begrudge him his chance for redemption, I just hope he does not dig his own grave, my friend.
“I thought being with the Harpers would do him well. Had a feeling about his kempt rage, yes, I did. Chaos lies in his mind; a mind battered by his past, and by his inability to move forward.”
”Spoony, Master Dwarf is but an understatement.” came a familiar voice behind Findar. Isaac approached the two with his usual grin plastered on his face.
“Dreamy, hopeless romantics, desperate weavers of Sune’s songs…” He landed a friendly slap on the dwarf’s back as he passed him by, nodding at the Paladin before sitting down and joining them at the table. “Our sense of fascination forces us to fall in love with everything that is beautiful and wonderful, an element that is important to every bard since to us, inspiration, is a weapon.”
“You called, sirs?” The barmaid was once again at their table.
Isaac smiled, stood up and pulled a leather pouch heavy with gold from his belt. “One Tanagyr’s Stout, and a round of drinks for everyone in this Tavern.” he gave the pouch to the surprised barmaid. “Oh! that’s too gracious of you, sire”
“Perhaps.” Isaac smiled, pulled the barmaid’s hand closer and whispered something in her ear, her face suddenly turned as crimson as the bard’s hair. “You jest sir Kross!” She giggled and began to walk away.
“And oh, Margarette!” Isaac called out, “If they asked who the drinks are from, tell them to not bother but rather just enjoy themselves.”
The bard returned to his chair only after he had a good look at the young barmaid’s “delightful” behind.
”But you know, lad, I’m more worried about Frost,” said Findar.
Lysandros closed his eyes and nodded.
“I wrote him a letter. I told him not to pursue the road of vengeance, but of justice. The road for others, for freedom, and not the dead end path for oneself.”
Lysandros sipped from his mug and took the chance to observe Findar as the dwarf looked around for the ranger, and thought that perhaps the beard, the drinking, and the brash mannerisms were all there to cover a soft, caring side. He thought to ask the dwarf what he did before all this trouble, and indeed, it was his real purpose in meeting him here, but the chance has passed with the conversation.
Findar expressed his disdain and slammed his stein down on the hardwood table, speaking more of his worries.
“I thought being with the Harpers would do him well. Had a feeling about his kempt rage, yes, I did. Chaos lies in his mind; a mind battered by his past, and by his inability to move forward,” he said.
Lysandros folded his hands on the table as Findar spoke, nodding as the words came to him.
“Only time will tell, Findar. We can only afford to be there for him, and hope that everything that we have done before Daemon’s blade reaches Tazrae’s throat is enough. I believe that we cannot stop him from killing her… but I believe that we can lead him to end her evil existence for the right reasons.
It was just then that the bard Isaac arrived, patting Findar at the back as he announced his arrival. Lysandros did not feel delighted at his arrival. When Isaac acknowledged him with a nod, he simply nodded in return. “Just so,” he thought.
As Isaac moved to assume a position at their table, Lysandros nudged a chair’s leg towards the bard to accommodate him. He did not think to delay the inevitable.
He shrugged at Findar as the bard flirted with the barmaid, rolling his eyes as the bard stared at the woman’s rear. He thought to talk him down from his misbehavior but stifled his tongue. It would be futile in a tavern such as this. His continued presence here would mean that he condones such actions.
“I think I’ve taken my day’s share of drink. Excuse me,” he told Findar. “I’ll be out looking for Daemon.”
Lysandros pushed his chair in the way it was before he came, took his mug, propped it on the bar for the barmaids’ ease, and left.
Please.” Isaac called out to Lysandros without looking at the paladin. “The night is still young, I’m sure the Ranger can wait, it won’t hurt to finish your mug of ale, unless of course my presence turned it a shade more bitter.”
The bard’s smile did not fade, “I really had no plans of joining this company of yours tonight. Honestly…” He turned towards the direction of the barmaid, “…I’d rather spend my evening knowing what miss Margarette does when she’s not serving her patrons.”
“But you see.” his tone turned serious as he looked at Lysandros, “That little bit about what you said to Findar here, about me taking pleasure in watching those Asabis squirm to death.” He pushed the Paladin’s chair back out, “Well, I believe that entitles me to defend myself from that little tribunal of a conversation that the both of you had just shared.” The bard nodded gently at the chair, the smile also returned.
“Also, I just shelled out 50 gold to brighten this moody tavern, we might as well enjoy that too.” Added the grinning one eyed bard.
”Oh? Pray tell your reasons for eavesdropping,” replied Lysandros, stopping just before leaving the tavern. There was an audible clunk as he set his mug on the bar top, surprising one of the barmaids.
Lysandros approached Isaac. “You’ve already fully inserted yourself into our conversation, and our table at that. You spare no detail, don’t you, bard?”
Find another table, you stray dog,” Findar declared to Isaac. He took another gulp from his seemingly never-ending supply of ale, without so much as a look of acknowledgment for the bard.
”Your Tanagyr’s Stout Sir Isaac.” The barmaid Margarette carefully placed the wooden tankard infront of the bard, it was filled to the brim with pitch black liquid, the smell of malt eminating from its froth. “M’lords.” She nodded at the three before retreating back to her duties.
Isaac picked the tankard, smelled its contents, then took a long swig.
“Eaves dropping?” The bard finally spoke, “…perhaps.” As if out of nowhere a stick of rolled paper appeared between Isaac’s fingers, his skills in prestidigitation allowed him to pullout little things from his sleeves, just like the match that he used to light the roll of dried Mertoran Leaf. A mild bitter biting scent filled the table and its surroundings.
“None of you trust me, I take that.” he leaned towards the table, smoke slithering out of the corners of his mouth. “I trust none of you either, especially after what I saw back there in the Phaerim cave.” He smiled.
“I believe I have overused my welcome here.” He stood up, carrying his stout. “If there was even one to begin with.”
“But before I take my leave.” He pulled something out from his belt, it was a rusty dagger, its blade dark from dried blood. The dagger gave a metallic clank as it hit the wooden table.
“That is an Asabi blade that I picked up from when I helped one of Amenrath’s raiding party. I found that inside an Asabi Flayer’s tent.” He stared at the blade. “The flayer used that to skin captured Bedine children.” A tint of anger flowed with his words, slowly the smile faded.
“Back in the cave, when you were all busy spitting at each other on which moral road to take, I took it to my hands to take care of the Asabi prisoners. Your moral ethics blinded you both from the possibles and outcomes of your actions.” He spat his words with controlled anger. “Perhaps none of you care because you were able to get what you came for. But me? I cannot risk an Asabi ambush while travelling with weakened children and women of the Bedine tribe. That is the best that I can for them, for what they did for me.” his thoughts went to Yrini.
“I am a bard, Paladin. I do not have the prowess in battle like what you and the dwarf here has. In order to survive and protect those around me, I must base my actions to what is logical, rather than what is morally right.” he turned his back, took a long drag at his cigarette, “Dont misread my light demeanor.”
“I had written numerous songs about death, and most of them, I personally caused.”
“Good night gentlemen.”
With those words he walked away from the table and disappeared in the crowd.
Lysandros could not believe what he had just heard. This bard seemed to be lecturing him about morality.
“Oh, so you’re the hero, aren’t you bard? You think you have leave to do whatever you want? You come here, force us with your company, and provoke us, calling us, what, ‘cowards’? ‘Fools’? Let it be known that while you were busy indulging yourself in worldly pleasures in your woman’s tent, some of us were dealing with the reality of war. Some of us here lost loved ones, some of us here were betrayed,” Lysandros said. “Your manner is, quite frankly, insulting.”
Where was this bard’s bravado coming from? Was it naivety? A coping mechanism? Lysandros wondered. Like as not, lunch had already been soured, and much of his patience was now like thick blood sunk deep into his fists – the absence of which would have led him to slap the man in the face. He touched his forehead and breathed to calm himself. He decided to no longer pursue this line of argument, this judgment on the man’s character. It would not be right.
He looked at Findar, though, thinking if his patience was as deep as his penchance for drink.
Jasmine comes around to serving a few tankards of ale and of course, The Salty Dog’s special dish, Chicken Meat Sausage, to the table where Lysandros and Findar were seated.
“The usual, kind sirs. Courtesy of your new friend” she whiffs out a smile and turns around. The natural fragrant of her long, brown hair leaving a pleasant trail.
Oblivious to this, the Paladin and the Cleric were deep in their own thoughts. Neither one interested in the merry laughter nor the influx of more militia into The Salty Dog.
The towering Thorin Seeker also makes an entrance, the clanks and croaks of his fine plate armor announcing his presence as he made his way inside. The Battlepriest of Tempus spies Findar and Lysandros.
“Why so serious?” he asked.