Rush Of Blood To The Head, part 6.5.
Esmeltaran is a city of medium size and of an interesting shape – it is stretched out like a snake, encircling at least the third of the lake. Brisk and refreshed we go around the lake and soon the first luxurious villas open up to our view. Soon we turn off from the shore to continue our way through the narrow, paved streets as walking on the thick, white sand is quite grueling. Besides, Edwin is getting rather vocal about his needs to find a suitable inn as quickly as possible.
“Here’s one, I see it now! Lemme see… ‘The Broken… Harp’” Imoen points towards a brown three-storied building.
“Yes, that will do nicely,” Edwin mutters and turns straight towards the inn, but is stopped unceremoniously by Jaheira. “What is it now?” our wizard is not amused, “do not tempt your fate, druid. I am in no mood to tolerate your foolishness.”
“Any other inn, Edwin, but not this one,” Jaheira replies sternly, “this is a meeting place for Harper enemies. I guess it does not matter much as I am no longer a Harper, but still I will not tolerate anyone speaking ill of them. Besides, someone might recognize me from my days as an active Harper and that could create… problems.”
“In that case we will definitely look for another inn,” I agree much to Edwin’s dismay, “Jaheira’s well being is more important to me than your personal hygiene, Eddie. You really should have taken a swim back there…”
Edwin only snorts and we continue on our way looking for an inn that Jaheira would find suitable. Having scanned another section of the city, Viconia is the first to spot the next inn – a white two-storied mansion, its facade neatly decorated with exotic figurines from pink marble.
“‘Days Of Eleint’… I think this should be appropriate - it looks to be a tavern of high quality. We can afford a bit of luxury, Theodur, am I right?” Viconia asks.
“No. Any other inn, except for this,” Jaheira growls, turns around and walks in the opposite direction.
“What now? What is wrong with her - is she having her… days?” Edwin exclaims, exasperated.
“Eddie, Jaheira lost her family during the Ten Black Days… you have to understand that she does not want to be reminded of that in such fashion,” I try to explain it to our wizard, but he seems rather excited.
“Of course… and if the next inn will be called ‘Faithful Wife’, what then? Will she turn down that one as well?” Edwin barks out mockingly, but quickly jumps a few paces back to avoid my fist heading in the direction of his nose. Imoen immediately grabs me by the shoulders and Viconia jumps on Edwin to keep us separated.
“Edwin, you should know better than to taunt him like that. There are just some subjects with Theo that are better left untouched – you will do well to learn that quickly,” Viconia explains as she turns Edwin around and leads him in the direction that Jaheira left moments ago.
“Bro, ignore him – he is just irritated and doesn’t really mean what he says,” Imoen tries to calm me down, but it is pointless as my anger has already left me, “but I sure hope that we find another inn soon and Jaheira better like it…”
Quiet summer forenoon and Keldorn is once again happily stretching his slightly rusty limbs in the comfortable hammock – however his thoughts are not very sunny at this moment. Nalia’s fate weighs heavily on his mind – the girl, while being a capable mage, able to defend herself, seems to be still too naïve and trustful. Letting her travel alone to Athkatla is something that Keldorn does not wish to do, especially knowing that most likely Nalia would end up where most young women without any means of subsistence end up – on the street.
On the other hand, Keldorn knows that keeping her here would create some inconveniences in a long term, besides Nalia is quite determined to leave soon in any case. He looks at his elder daughter, deeply enraptured in the conversation with their guest – those two have formed a friendship quickly and Nalia’s tales of her adventuring days are keeping Leona away from any mischief.
Then a thought, a possible solution crosses Keldorn’s mind – however, the loud arguing coming from the street distracts it…
“We have been marching around for a couple of hours and yet I see no inns. Druid, I issue a warning to you – if we don’t come across a tavern during the next half an hour, there will be a fireball heading right towards your face,” an angry, piercing male voice startles Keldorn.
“Edwin, calm down. I told you that I have been here before and this place has many inns and taverns. It is just a matter of time and patience, a virtue that you sadly do not possess,” the thick accented female voice is unmistakable and Keldorn instinctively rushes towards the street forgetting that he is in the hammock. As a result he lands on the ground, entangled in the cloth.
“Indeed, Edwin. And stop threatening Jaheira, I am already very displeased with your behavior,” Keldorn recognizes this voice too, as he slowly picks himself up from the ground and quickly heads towards the street accompanied by the giggles of the two girls, still amused by his clumsy fall.
He instantly recognizes Theodur, Jaheira and that irritating drow in the group of five people. The other two are strangers – one of them is a… pink-haired roguish girl who is jumping around the group like an excited puppy and the other is a young human male wearing robes of the… Thayvian Red Wizards!
“Theodur! Theodur! Hold on, lad!” I hear a voice that somehow sounds familiar and we all turn around to look at the man approaching us hastily. I have to confess that at first I don’t recognize who this middle aged man is, I have only seen Keldorn when he was wearing his full plate and helmet.
“Keldorn? Is that you?” I overcome the moment of surprise, “what are you doing here? Enjoying your retirement?”
“That I am lad,” Keldorn replies, “but come on in, I would gladly welcome you and your friends in my estate. And there is someone here who will be extremely glad to see you again.”
“See me again?” I ask perplexed, following Keldorn through the small gate leading into his garden. I shoot a questioning look towards Jaheira, but she looks equally puzzled as I. My mouth drops wide open as I see Nalia marching towards me across the freshly mowed lawn, though instead of a happy hug of reunion, I receive a harsh slap on my cheek…
“Why… why did you not come looking for me, Theodur? I was locked up for at least a month… and where is Yoshimo? What happened to him and who are these people?” Nalia showers us with questions, but while the initial reaction was caused by anger, now she looks more worried than angry.
“Perhaps we can go inside and then Theodur can tell us about his adventures of late,” Keldorn suggests and I happily agree. Even Edwin seems to have calmed down a notch and has seemingly forgotten about his needs for a clean and nice inn.
“So, that’s the short summary of our sad tale – my sister and I both lack our souls and we need to get them back as soon as possible,” I finish my story amidst Keldorn’s snort of disgust and Nalia’s condolences.
“I understand why you were in such hurry… and you probably would never think of looking for me here,” Nalia sighs, “Roenalls bought the mansion secretly so the purchase does not show up in any registries. Was it not for Keldorn, I would have been stuck up there for ages…”
“Girl, Theodur did something to alleviate your situation,” Viconia speaks, “he bargained with the Shadow Thieves for them to kill that slime who called himself your husband.”
“I can’t say that I approve of such act, it would have been much more sensible to settle this dispute in a legal manner,” Keldorn says sternly, but after looking at Nalia, he adds, “but knowing what the young lady underwent during her capture… I am sure that the young Roenall deserved no better fate than that.”
“What… what about Yoshi? Is he… is he dead?” Nalia asks barely oppressing the tears. Immediately I feel Jaheira’s body stiffening, she is sitting alongside me in a large armchair – due to the lack of seats we have been forced to squeeze a bit tighter and she is almost sitting in my lap despite her finding such position quite humiliating.
“I am sorry, Nalia. He died… we… we were ambushed and overwhelmed. He fought bravely, but there was nothing we could do. His passing was easy, he did not suffer,” I lie, as I do not want to make Nalia even more upset than she already is. Luckily Jaheira soon relaxes and does not raise any objections about these white lies. Nalia takes a little time to weep quietly, before we can resume our conversation.
“Theodur… Theodur, will you take me with you?” Nalia looks at me as she has finished crying, her eyes still red, “There is nothing here for me to do…”
“Do not be so hasty, young Nalia,” Keldorn interrupts her, “I have a little proposition for you that we should discuss before you make any rash decisions. But in the end it will require that both of us travel to Athkatla and since that is Theodur’s destination as well, we might as well accompany him. Now, before we make any further plans, I realize that you are looking for a place to rest? Or does our young friend Edwin has a strange habit of pronouncing the word ‘tavern’ every five minutes without any reason?”
“I have a very good reason for that, old man. And address me once again as ‘young friend’ and I will force you to eat those words. Literally,” Edwin snorts.
“Yes, well, in that case would you allow me to recommend you the finest inn in the town? The Golden Sands Inn is just down the street and the neighborhood is very quiet – you will be able to rest undisturbed.”
“I believe in that case we will head over there immediately. Will you be ready to leave tomorrow morning, Keldorn?” I ask.
“Yes, I think so. I will have to convince Lady Maria first and that might prove… dangerous,” Keldorn chuckles.
“Well… I wish you luck with that, Keldorn. We shall be going then and will see you both again in the morning,” I speak and gently tap on Jaheira’s bottom in order to get her moving. Her response is an elbow in my stomach and I leave Keldorn’s estate clutching my belly and fighting hard to recover my breath.
Rush Of Blood To The Head, part 6.5.
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