Sturk was bored again. This was getting to be a common occurrence for him, unfortunately. He thought his luck might have changed earlier, as the night had showed some definite signs of promise when that woman bard had begun to play, though now she was no longer occupying the stage. A bard playing lively tunes always made the place more pleasant to be around, even when one was stuck there working, as Sturk was. Not to mention the fact that a chorus of good drinking songs would inspire the patrons to give up their hard earned silver on ale and wine. Which was, by the way, all that The Sinner's Cove really had to serve.
Sturk really thought that Cassell, the owner of the inn, should get a better selection of drinks for the bar, but he sure was not going to mention that to him. The last time he suggested something to the man, when he said that they needed to get some attractive wenches in the place to bring in more drinkers, Cassell backhanded Sturk so hard it had sent him flying into a rack of dishes on the wall. Cassell was not a small man, in fact he was downright huge, with a flat, anvil-like face and arms as big around as Sturk's leg. Doubly worse was the fact that the only thing bigger than Cassell's temper was his enormous gut that hung low over his belt as he stalked about the kitchen. Cassell had just glared at Sturk lying in a pile of broken dishes and said, "Doncha t'ink ah know dat? Ya feelth ridd'n varmint!" Cassell had removed his toothpick from his mouth and indicated the pile of broken plates on the floor around Sturk. "Yur gonna pay f'r dis outta yur wages, iff'n ah dinna take it outta yur hide."
The very next day The Sinner's Cove had its first ever serving wench, Deenia. Sturk knew Cassell had listened to his idea, and even implemented it, but it had cost the small barkeep a price he was not going to pay again. What had made it worthwhile was Deenia. From the first moment the new barmaid had walked in the rattled old door with her hair all disheveled and her slightly plump body swaying with each step, Sturk had fallen madly in love with her. Unfortunately, she had never returned the favor.
Such trivial things as that did not bother Sturk, as he knew that eventually she would come around. She had to, for this was true love and that was how all of the stories he had heard through his childhood worked. Sturk could still picture his mother telling him of the tales of magic, adventure and romance as she sat, knitting in her rocking chair by the fire. The hero always got the lady at the end in those nighttime tales, and Sturk knew in his heart that he, too, was a hero and things would be no different for him.
Sturk watched Deenia walk around from table to table, deftly avoiding the hands of the drunken men as they tried to grab her around her waist and make her sit on their knees. She did it all with a smile fixed on her face, and a quick word about how there were other tables to serve, but Sturk knew exactly how angry it made her when that happened.
Sturk was just starting to think about the idea of getting some real work done behind the bar when a woman in white robes walked in the door. She stumbled as if exhausted, heading for the table where the wild mage with the wonderful staff and his friends were sitting. He thought about offering her his assistance, but she passed by too quickly for him to help, so he went back to looking for something entertaining to do.
After washing the same glass about fifteen times he noticed two of the mage's party had broken off and were standing really close to each other. It was the comely archer and the big guy who has such talent balancing mugs of ale. It looked as if they could not keep their hands off each other. Finally something interesting to watch! He leaned over the bar to get a better view, and was just beginning to grow bored with their petting when the Half-elf near them gave a shout and a light flashed from the table behind them. Sturk squeaked as he clapped his hands over his eyes. This sudden motion upset his balance and caused him to fall backwards into a large pile of wine glasses.
He lay there for a few moments, trying to get the spots out of his vision, before he noticed the glass laying all around him. Oh no! This was coming out of his pay for sure! Cassell was going make good on his threat to hang Sturk out on the balcony for the pixies to torment at night. Over the bar he heard the people in the common room yelling at each other, stumbling over chairs, and complaining that they could not see. He even heard a few of them promising never to drink again. He eased himself out of the pile of shards, amazed that he had received no cuts or bruises, and he peeked over the top of the bar towards the table where the light had come from. There was a man, sitting cross-legged and floating over the table. How wonderful! Now this was interesting! Sturk crawled around to the edge of the bar for a closer view.
Scintara stared wide-eyed at the fantastical creature that had appeared out of nowhere and was now floating over the top of the gemstone. She was known for her fast reflexes, so when Quillion had shouted his warning she had ducked behind a chair as fast as she could, and therefore was spared from the intense flash of light that had rendered half the common room blind and reeling. She remained crouched down behind the chair, watching the creature speak to Tersiano. A rule of thumb that a person of her profession followed was to never reveal oneself, no matter how ugly the clothes are of the person you are watching. Well that was not really the rule to the letter, but it applied in the situation she was in now, so she had officially made it one of her own.
The creature that called itself Thimellan had extended its hand to Tersiano, appearing to be a tad miffed that it had not been shaken immediately and he was kept waiting. Tersiano simply looked at the creature for a moment, the same way, Scintara imagined, a mouse looks at the cheese in a mouse trap before it walks in. The bait was simply too good to resist, even when the mouse knew that its neck was going to be on the chopping block. Tersiano, with that same pained look on his face, hesitantly reached out and clasped hands with Thimellan. A huge smile crossed Thimellan's face as he vigorously shook Tersiano's hand. In fact, he shook so vigorously that a few of Tersiano's spell components spilled from his pouches and littered themselves along the floor. At any other time Scintara would have been tempted to use her considerable thieving talents to snatch a handful of the rare gems, bags of powder, and small vials falling to the floor. If for no other reason than to irritate Tersiano by handing them back to him the day after he had been looking for them. There was no temptation this time, however, as she was wholly captivated by this small creature in front of her.
Scintara saw the others begin to recover their vision and stumble their way back towards the table, blinking their eyes rapidly. She could also see the crowd behind them squinting their eyes and casting baleful looks in the direction of the group. Tersiano quickly removed his hand from Thimellan's and pointed towards Quillion, "So, you're looking for Quillion are you? Well my fine accoutered friend, there's just the man you are looking for."
Thimellan gave a quick bow to Tersiano, unfolded his legs, and set his feet on the table. He then jumped two strides in the air, his head just narrowly missing the ceiling, and landed back on the table, directly in front of Quillion. Malaryn had his sword drawn by that point and Ephirea had an arrow nocked in her bow ready to be drawn. Thimellan ignored them and stuck out his hand towards Quillion. "How you doin' Quilly? Name's Thimellan. Just happy as I could possibly be to make your acquaintance."
Quillion, learning from Tersiano's mishap, grabbed his pouch with his left hand as he grasped Thimellan's with his right. "Salutations, friend." Although Scintara could see Quillion was braced for the worst, Thimellan just shook his hand calmly and smiled. When Quillion removed his hand, however, Scintara saw a huge pink smear covering his palm. Quillion saw it immediately as well and scowled at Thimellan, who was oblivious to the Half-elf's look because he had fallen to the table in a fit of laughter. In fact, he was rolling around so much, he had knocked the gemstone from the table, as well as a few ale mugs. Scintara wasted no time in retrieving the gem and stuffing it in her pouch. The way she saw things, she did not feel that dreamy urge radiating from the diamond any more, so she assumed that it was safe to purloin.
She raised her head cautiously back above the table top to see Quillion attempting to wipe his hand off on a rag, but to no avail. Thimellan stopped his hysterical laughter long enough to watch him through teary eyes. He said in a choked voice, "I wouldn't worry about that. It should easily wear off in a hundred years or so." At that he resumed his laughter even louder, clutching his sides as he rolled back and forth.
Scintara looked around the table at the rest of the companions, who were trying, somewhat unsuccessfully, to stifle their snickers of laughter. Lysinthia raised one of her frost daggers up and said to Quillion, "You know, I could just kill him now and get it over with."
Quillion considered for a moment before shaking his head, "No. We don't know what he is, what he's doing here, or what he wants from me. So we'd better not just yet." He looked again at his bright pink stained hand, frowning. Scintara almost burst into laughter when she heard him say, "Don't let completely go of that idea, though."
Quillion decided to give this little trickster with bad taste in colors a moment or two to compose himself, but Thimellan was showing no signs that his laughter would abate anytime soon. A crowd of the common room patrons was starting to gather around the companions, and the majority of those nearest were severely intoxicated and irate about their earlier blinding. That more than likely meant they were looking for a fight. Malaryn positioned himself in the way of the people who were trying to see what was going on and he was quickly joined by Ephirea, Aramari and Preosha.
The human and the Half-orc who were leading the gang of drunken fools were looking at the four companions blocking their way with disdain. Surveying the situation, Quillion knew that if a fight broke out, those two idiots would be the first to die. He needed to find a way to make sure that fight never occurred. He quickly gave Dealyon and Tersiano a silent signal, nodding his head in the direction of the crowd. The druid and mage nodded their heads in response and walked suddenly and swiftly in between the companions and the onlooking patrons.
The combination of light and dark between the two was quite imposing for the bar crowd. Tersiano's blue robes and whirling eyes were quite a load for a drunken soul to handle. The effect was enhanced by the dark cloaked druid's silent walk that made him appear to glide across the floor in his robes. Quillion's trained eye had seen Dealyon whisper to himself as he moved past, and now a wind was starting to form underneath the two, causing their cloaks to billow and flap impressively. The effect caused the crowd, with the exception of the two leaders, to back away nervously. Those nearest to Dealyon moving as far back as possible away from the druid's unsettling presence.
Tersiano made a grandiose gesture and his metallic sounding voice rung softly, "Is there a problem, my good man?" His whirling eyes focused on the human leader, pinning him in place with their intensity. The human stammered for a moment, attempting to respond with words his brain could not quite get a handle on. Finally, the combination of the fear building up inside him, the abundance of ale in his belly, and the uneasily whirling eyes of Tersiano left the poor soul only one option. He quickly turned and leaned over a chair next to him, emptying his stomach of whatever foul concoctions he had eaten that day onto the floor. Tersiano's lips twitched in combined amusement and revulsion.
The Half-orc facing Dealyon was going to have no such problem, Quillion knew. Orcs were known throughout Mer as a race, in general, that could drink raw lamp oil and not feel its effects. Quillion was willing to bet that this half-breed had inherited that particular trait from his Orcen parent. The Half-orc snarled disgustedly when his companion lost his breakfast on the floor, and turned to stare Dealyon in the face. His beady red eyes narrowed as his vision tried to penetrate the darkness under the druid's hood to see his face. Quillion admired the steadiness in the Half-orc's voice that few could muster with Dealyon staring at them as he growled, "Surely you not think trick wind and dark face scare Merko! Merko no scared of you, brown robe." Merko's chest puffed out with false confidence and he jabbed a finger towards Dealyon. He clenched his right fist and his knuckles cracked menacingly, slamming his left into his chest.
Dealyon, in a low voice, simply said, "Of course not." He then pulled back the hood of his cloak slightly revealing his shadowed eyes. Quillion saw the snarl on Merko's ugly face wipe away, only to be replaced by an expression of abject terror. Dealyon held the Half-orc in thrall for a couple of seconds before saying, "Remove yourself from my presence. Now!" He waved his hand in dismissal.
Merko turned to flee as fast as he could, sprinting three steps before colliding head-first into a thick, wooden support beam. The impact was strong enough to cause a stack of mugs on the shelf attached to the beam, to topple over and crash down to the floor. The Half-orc slid down the pole slowly and collapsed face first in a heap on the dingy, beer-puddled floor.
Dealyon turned and looked menacingly at the patrons who were still watching the spectacle and they immediately moved back to their chairs. They sat down swiftly and buried their faces in their ales. Dealyon's face was stony, but Quillion knew from the glint in his eye that the normally reserved druid was really enjoying this. Dealyon waited for the crowd to settle, then knelt beside the form of the Half-orc. Moments later, he returned to the table, looking at Quillion. "The creature will be fine, though I am certain that he shall wake in the morning with a headache to rival the Gods."
Quillion smiled, "Good enough for me. As long as we don't have to explain the smelly thing's death to the magistrate."
The companions seated themselves back at the table, arranging their positions so that they could all see both the brightly colored Thimellan who was lying on the table, and the suddenly and amazingly uninterested crowd of patrons. Thimellan had been watching all of the goings on with interest, and Quillion now leaned forward towards the small being. He spoke in as ominous a voice as possible, "Now let's get back to where we were shall we? Why are you here?"
Thimellan's eyebrows rose as high as they could go and his eyes grew wide as he looked about at the faces of the companions staring at him. "Who me? Oh golly, I'm just here to find you guys so I can save your lives. That's all."
"And just how you expect to do that, little fella?", said Preosha. "Lead us through a fog bank with those glowing clothes?"
Thimellan was unpreturbed by Preosha's remark as he hopped to one foot and did a pirouette on the table. "Of course not, short stuff. Even I know you never walk in a fog if you can help it, especially at night"
Quillion was about to ask another question of the whimsical being when Thimellan practically sang out, "I'm tired of talking about me. You bunch of lizard-lumps are boring. I'm going to go sit over there." Thimellan pointed to the bar corner where Sturk was still crouched down and watching the tableau with an open mouth. He then snapped his finger and disappeared, reappearing suddenly next to the startled barkeep. He immediately started to natter on to the bedraggled man about his drab choice in clothing.
Lysinthia asked Quillion, "Do you want me to go and get him?" She flourished one of her normal throwing daggers in her hand menacingly.
Quillion responded, "No. I don't think we could keep him here even if we wanted to, and I for one don't really want to." He turned away from the bar, where Thimellan was now complaining to Sturk about the appalling lack of real color in the wood grain of the bar, and faced the companions.
"Do any of you sense anything about him?" He looked pointedly at Aramari, Dealyon, and Tersiano. Only Tersiano responded with something other than a shaking head. "I can't quite get firm idea of his power, but I do know I've never seen anything like him."
Quillion asked, "What do you mean?"
Tersiano thought to himself before replying, "Well, he seems to be tapping directly into a font of magical power, the same as I, and all wild mages, do. The main difference is that where we are forced to use words, gestures and materials items to shape and focus the power that we tap, this creature is accomplishing that with only his thoughts. Unfortunately, as I said before, there's no defining his range of power. He could be only a dabbler fumbling his way through the world or he could be a true sorcerer with a range limited only by his imagination."
Quillion really did not like this news, not at all. He was never one to have a variable around. Often when it came time to rely upon it, there was nothing solid to count on. He resignedly shrugged his shoulders and said, "Ah well, there's nothing we can do about it now."
He took a long drink from his mug, set it back on the table with a satisfied sigh, and then lowered his voice to where it could not be heard outside the range of the table. "Now let's talk about why I asked you to meet here tonight."
© 1998   C.A. Lutke