Stephan quaffed deeply from his flagon. Setting the sturdy vessel down with a thud, he focused on Miklos feeling the first tendrils of alcohol reach his brain.
“Aye, Miklos, we don’t talk enough, you and me. Let me buy the next round while we wait. I’d like to hear about your upbringing. Da!”, he yelled and gestured to the lanky wait boy who made his way over to their table. While securing another set of drinks, he maintained his verbal thought stream with Miklos.
The mage smiled in reverie. “Specularum was a fine city to go to college in. My eldest brother is heir to my family’s fortune so I got a retainer and training in whatever I chose. To be honest I wanted to stay a student for as long as possible and mage-craft was the longest course and offered a wide range of well paid jobs at the end whatever level you got out. Sneaking out after hours to the local taverns, rag week, freshers fairs, life was great!”
“I remember seeing some magecraft as a lad. It really excited me but the folks in my neck of the woods frowned on that sort of thing. But a friend of mine did end up going away one day with some old man. Folks said he was off to learn the arcane ways; traveling with the old man, who must have been some sort of wizard. I never heard anything of him. Tovin, was his name. I wonder how he’s getting on….?”
“Not Tubby-Tovin? Hah! He was apprentice to Sage Devere San-Grost.” Miklos shook his head at Stephans quizzical look. “No. No you mistake me Tovin was as thin as a willow stick, hence the name. Ironic? Hah! This passes for college humour.” It completely passed Miklos that anyone did not have fun during their childhood. His upbringing was somewhat sheltered.
Stephan drank pensively.
“And you, Miklos, did you travel around with some old wizard as a youth?”
“Sponsorship? No not me.” he rejoined, “There were those that required, ahh, help in that respect. Altruistic magi sometime go out in search of promising lads. Few make it through because they have to work whilst they study and its tough enough without having to hold down a job. Ahh look Lucius has returned, laden with goods!”
Arriving back at the inn, Ludo dumped a quiver of arrows on the floor at Stephan’s feet and pushed his feet off a chair, he stated “come on you lush, its time we met up with the others to do our duty. We should head over to Marta’s home. She will want to know what happened to Nicolai, as will Nicolai’s sister.
As they walked through the narrow streets, feet slipping occasionally on the slick cobble stones, Ludos mind wandered Golthat must know they were in town and yet they had not heard or seen him. Tomorrow, Ludo thought to himself he would seek out the magic carpet owner that Golthar had used, at the very least this person might have some information, possible they could be in league with Golthar, so some caution would have to be used.
Ludo looked back he could sense that they were being followed, but he wasn’t sure.
* * * * *
Feldard regarded the tenement, nodding. “Thank you lad. Here’s yer payment with a bonus.” He handed he the boy two coins.
“Maruc, tell me you have some experience breaking news of death to families. I fear I’d be much too blunt. Nicolai deserves better, ” the dwarf commented as they headed to the bottom level of the building. After moments pause the dwarf rapped on the door.
Hasan watched from a distance. The boy raced off, having bit the coins and found them true. Then, Maruc rapped on the door. The elf reached for his bow, and cursed, finding nothing. He watched.
“Sadly yes.” I have seconded at funerals. “Sympathy and understanding and a brief tale spoken sincerely.”
Maruc took in the dwelling and took a deep breath and straightened his clean formal dress tabbard. He knocked on the door smartly and stood back. The curtain to the side moved and after a few moments a young woman answered the door. She appeared wary and innocent but there was something about her that felt hard edged. She also had a familiar air to her, like deja vu. Maruc spoke softly. “My name is Maruc, priest of Halav and this is Feldard. We seek Marta Filandov. We have important news of a personal nature. Is she here?”
The woman’s gaze swept the pair as she appraised them. “Who is it?” an older woman’s voice tied but proud called from a back room. “Strangers, mum.” She said, a confident lyrical tone. “They want to talk to you.”
“Hang on love I’m coming.” a sound of pouring water and a flushed middle aged woman appeared behind her daughter drying her hands. “Priest eh? and a Dwarf. I paid Mister Hacker fair and square so you can…”
“Mr.s Filandov,” Maruc cut in, “We have news of your son. It would be better if we went inside. Such matter are not for the street.”
Her eyes hunted the street for a moment and the colour drained from her face. “Whats happened to my Nic? What have you done with him?”
The cleric told the old woman of his travels with her son, and eventually the tale of his tragic, but heroic end.
“…and when we entered the chamber of the last sanctuary of the elven witches Nicolai, with no thought to his own safety sort the thwart the magic being hurled at our party. Where it not for the stalwart resistance to evil wizardry possessed of my friend Feldard here I would not be able to tell you of your sons noble sacrifice. His actions freed many slaves and rid the land of a terrible evil. Lord Hasan, one of our party was a member of the Elven village freed of their curse. Your son died a selfless hero. His soul was commended to Halav in our Church in Specularum an cremated as is our custom. Here are his remains.” Maruc’s head dropped as he paused in thought and respect. Marta had remained in shocked silence with her daughter stone still beside her on the low bench in the warm front room. Motes of dust caught the beams of light through the curtains. The only noise came from the small grate that spat and crackled. The younger woman sobbed and buried her head in her mothers embrace. Marta rocked her slowly and stroked her head absently like a babe in arms.
“You have my deepest sympathy Mrs Filandov.”
“His last wish was that he want you to know that he did not … die a thief.”
A solitary tear rolled down Marta’s cheek. She said nothing as she and her daughter accepted the urn containing Nicolai’s ashes.
Maruc looked sideways at Feldard and nodded. A certain relief at leaving crossed the dwarf’s face and Maruc stood up. “If there is anything we can do to ease your pain simply ask. Either way we have Nicolai’s share of what we came by on our travels. It is not ours to keep but has been held in trust for you.” Maruc placed a heavy sack of coins and gems on the table. Nicolai’s share of their treasure. “We are staying at Ye Juggling Orc Inne if you wish to get us a message. Fare you well.” Maruc turned to leave.
“Wait… hero you said.” Marta whispered. “Not a thief….no, not a thief.”
* * * * *
Stephan merrily followed Ludo through the winding lanes of Threshold. The townsfolk were busy with late afternoon chores. He noticed, as he, Miklos and Ludo progressed further into the town, that the gutters and streets were more becoming more filthy. The buildings were “decorated” with the obvious signs of poor maintenance.
A dirty street urchin rushed past the trio. The lad zigged and zagged so gleefully amongst the citizens of Threshold, and so near to his own person, that his first reaction was to check that he still had his purse. He did. Then, a realization washed over him.
“Wasn’t that the lad that Feldard sent off?”
It was not long before they joined Feldard outside of the house belonging to the mother of their departed friend. Maruc returned and joined the others. Their grim task was finally complete.