Maruc nursed his glass of spring water. He closed his eyes and listened to the Elvin minstrels play, a rare treat for him. This sort of thing was usually reserved for the high ecclesiastics. It was haunting, ancient yet paradoxically timeless. And totally alien.
He had almost forgotten how uncomfortable his armour was. To be free of it was a blessing, but to be free of the need of it was a greater blessing. The village was homely and secure its great shadow passed. In the dark confusing tunnels he’d lost track of time and when they’d first arrived back at the village with the Elf maids, all he’d wanted to do was sleep. Now in his ceremonial vestment (which was the only clothing that he hadn’t worn that was smart, and more importantly clean), he reclined in an odd looking but marvelously comfortable beach wood chair. He waved away the offer of wine again and took a sip from his water. Before he had retired for the night last night he had performed his rites and the rites for Nicolai’s body which lay on a bier outside the village shrine.
The feast began with a thanksgiving ceremony performed by Siswa survivors. At the end of the ceremony, the group was rewarded with gold and gemstones. It was not an overly extravagant gift—the Elyan would need there treasures for their recovery from the recent tragedy and for their ongoing sustenance. It would provide the companions with enough wealth to re-equip and travel to Threshold. After the presentation of the gifts, the village maidens brought out a great assortment of food and drink.
“Here’s to you Nicolai.” He proffered his glass and drained the glass. “We shall take you home my friend. With honour.”
Feldard, seated nearby, was seeking the bottom of his tankard ale. The music of the elves, he found to be more annoying than enjoyable… but they were his hosts so he had enough good grace not to comment on it. He glanced over to the cleric hearing his toast and the dwarf was quick to raise his own drink in salute. The others joined in raised their glasses and joined him in solemn remembrance of their companion.
He hadn’t had much time to reflect on what he was doing and where they were going. He’d have to talk to Miklos about his theories on the Sons of Night and perhaps see if the Black Book offered further clues. As for his experiences under the Grey Temple, well were to start?
Halav, blessed be His name, had helped him with his fear of enclosed spaces. To be honest after the past few weeks if he had not travelled with Miklos his opinion of Magi and their craft would be severely dented. Almost all of their foes had been Thaumaturists of some type or other. Well overlooking the Rahib of course. Miklos had been badgering him earlier about wanting the return to the Temple to study. Maruc had admonished him for been so insensitive, but that was part of his nature and without his help the whole venture would have been in vain so he couldn’t be too harsh.
All had their part to play; Feldard; full of brash courage, Nicolai; escaping his past and proving his nobility with his life, Hasan; brave, faithful, noble, selfless and driven. He’d even intimated that he wished to join us in our quest to quash the Sons of Night. Blessed Halav giveth at need.
“…miles away.” said Miklos slightly unsteady on his feet. He’d spilt some wine down his tunic.
“Sorry?” Maruc replied.
“I said you seem miles away, old chap.” Miklos repeated.
“Oh, I was just thinking ‘what wonderful music’.”
“Liar.” laughed Miklos, “You were thinking what we were going to do after we’ve delivered Nicolai to Marta.”
“Is it that obvious? Or is that a new trick you’ve learnt?”
Miklos winked slowly. “Now that would be telling. Still, I’ve had no joy in convincing these excellent hosts to part with any elven mage-secrets so I’m thinking we’ll need to depart soon. Can’t have old Nic whiffing the place out you know.”
“Very thoughtful.” Maruc said ruefully. “You are right though. We’ll organize some supplies and head out tomorrow. Maybe we could borrow the bier until then? I’m sure they won’t mind.”
Feldard nodded his agreement to the cleric suggestion of leaving on the ’morrow. “I’ll be ready to leave.”
* * * * *
As the party left his village, Hasan watched the road ahead stonily. He thought back to Rahasia’s parting words, “I will wait for you.” Fingering the gold-filigreed wooden bracelet she gave him, a bracelet made from Radlebb maple by her father, a bracelet she had worn since they were just young elves of 35, Hasan wondered what the wait would require, from him and her. Even the company of the dwarf, Feldard, whose cheeriness was usually a comfort, was unwelcome.
It would be a long journey, for they would have to travel back to Specularum, and then follow the Duke’s Road into eastern Karameikos, and up to the north, where Threshold sat at the foot of the Black Peak Mountains. In Specularum, the group split up to re-supply and pursue their own interests. Miklos to study at the Mage’s Guild; Hasan to take in the overwhelming sights and sounds of the large human city; Maruc to pray at his church; and Feldard, to inquire about his missing bride-to-be.
It had seemed so long ago, even to a dwarf, since he had been distracted from his primary mission of finding Hernane. He seemed to be trapped in an endless cycle of adventure. Trouble seemed to find him at every turn.
He had just about given up hope of finding news of his bride, when by chance encounter at a tavern, he at last obtained some clue as to her whereabouts. Like most dwarves, Feldard did his best thinking when imbibing the finest ale. He located a suitable tavern, popular with dwarves for their importing of authentic Rockhome brews. As the drinks continued to flow, the dwarf opened up about his tale of woe to his brethren. A group of dwarven craftsmen hailing from the gnomish settlement of Highforge recognized the description of Feldard’s missing bride Hernane.
They were certain that a young, breathless dwarf by that name came into the town. They recalled that she had an adventuresome streak running through her, and that she was quite inquisitive about any rumors of excitement and intrigue in the area. When they had left, she seemed to have settled upon Highforge as a homebase for her activities.
“A dwarf like that doesn’t stay put in one place for very long though, so you best hurry there if you hope to find her” said one of the craftsmen. “A wanderer’s spirit is a very uncommon thing in a dwarf, but when one has it, there is usually little that can suppress it for very long.”
Feldard smiled at his good fortune. Highforge was along the route to Threshold—it would only a day’s trip from Kelvin. While telling Marta of her son Nicolai’s passing was certainly a priority, surely the group could spare some time to make the side journey.