The chronicles of the Cursed Eight
Accipiter G. Goshawk
Welcome to a new Chapter in the Chronicles of the Cursed Eight!
We find our party where we left them after the Episode 2.2: Rewards and tidings…
“Isn’t twenty gold a little steep for a simple healing potion?” Nala asked, eyeing the small kenku suspiciously.
“Robin fair! Robin has best prices! Small surplus is foundation tax!” he squawked defensively.
“Robin building business, need funds. And publicity! One day, Robin’s Things will be everywhere and Robin will be rich!” he declaimed loudly, stepping on to an empty chair and spreading his feathery arms wide.
“Robin’s…Things?” Shainarra asked, barely supressing a note of disgust in her voice as the small creature scrabbled through its pack. Objects of every shape and size tumbled out. A quick inspection revealed them to be either broken or spoiled, but the would-be merchant handled them like priceless treasures.
“Publicity, hmm?” mused Zal’tat, as he downed his first tankard of beer. “Well my little friend, you are in luck! It just so happens that we are on our way to Dereillon: we could certainly advertise your business. You would have to give us a little discount though…maybe give my red-haired friend some of his money back,” he said pointing at Grell with a wink.
For a second Robin was silent. Then his eyes grew very large.
“You…speak of…Robin’s Things?” he whispered.
“With great pleasure! We are always willing to help fine business…birds such as yourself. –Siloqui groaned– A discount then?”
A quick rustle of feathers later and Robin had produced a small handful of gold coins which he absent-mindedly passed to Grell.
“Now you publicize?” he asked the gnome, an edge of menace lining his barely concealed hope.
“Have no fear: I will cry the name of your business from the highest towers of the sacred city myself,” Zal’tat declared, placing one hand over his chest. Behind his third mug of ale, Thorin rolled his eyes.
As the small crow-creature began to dance for joy, the old dwarf’s eyes roamed around the bar.
The Purple Bear was by no means the liveliest of establishments he had visited, but now that evening had fallen it was beginning to fill up. Farmers had started trailing in, looking for an easy distraction after a day toiling in the field. A few merchants seemed to have booked a room for the night and were now treating themselves to the chef’s infamous Turnip Surprise.
A loud roar exploded from the far corner of the tavern, immediately drawing Thorin’s attention.
A small group of burly humans. Too well-fed to be farmers. Mercenaries, he thought to himself.
He smiled and downing the last of his ale, calmly made his way towards them.
“Good evening lads. Anyone up for a game?”
He threw a small bag of coin on the table, immediately capturing the group’s attention.
“What are the rules, dwarf?” asked a small reedy fellow, probably the brains of the outfit.
“Three rounds, first to drop loses. We’ll be drinking Krâz. Ten gold each, twenty to the winner.”
A small murmur of appreciation travelled around the small table.
“I’ll drink with the dwarf,” growled one of the larger brutes. Slowly, he counted out his money and then slammed it down on the table, prompting a happy laugh from Thorin.
“Barkeep! Six cups of dwarven Krâz and remember to shake the bottle before you serve it!”
On the other side of the room, Siloqui had finally pushed her own untouched tankard towards the centre of the table and was now eyeing her turnip salad worriedly.
Suddenly a small movement caught her attention. Pretending to survey the other patrons of the tavern, she turned her head in time to see a small hand inch towards the straps of Zal’tat’s bag. She dove forward like a hawk, catching the thief by the left arm at the same time as Shainarra grabbed the right.
“What the..?” exclaimed Zal’tat twisting away from the over-excited Robin to stare at the two elves and their prisoner. A small boy was hanging limply in their grasp, his still-outstretched fingers giving a clear indication of his intention.
“Stealing is wrong,” stated Siloqui severely, eliciting a comical look from the pink-haired elf at her side.
“I-I’m sorry…I was just…I was hungry. My family is poor…Please don’t cut off my hand.”
Immediately Zal’tat jumped up and freed the would-be thief. Then he knelt down and poured almost the entirety of his money pouch into the young boy’s hands.
“You need this far more than I do. Go, take it your family. But first, promise me that you will never, ever steal again.”
The boy nodded dumbly and then scampered out of the door.
“I can’t tell if you are a saint or an idiot,” said Shainarra, returning to her seat and shooting a glance at the corner of the tavern where Thorin had just downed his second cup and was looking a little queasy.
“Everyone deserves a chance,” answered the gnome, sipping from his third tankard. “Stealing is no way to make a living.”
“I disagree. It’s no way to make a living if you are bad at it,” answered the elf, flashing Zal’tat a sardonic smile. The gnome shrugged.
“I think what you did was really nice, Mr. Spindlefoot,” said Kathra. Passing a hand over Siloqui’s plate, she muttered a few words, causing a small mound of golden berries to appear. The plains-elf immediately shoved her plate of turnips aside and tucked in, treating the dwarven druid to a rare but dazzling smile.
A few tables away, a third cup hit the wooden surface with bang. Grinning wildly, Thorin looked up at his opponent.
“Well, how are you feeling?”
“I…” began the colossus. Then, his face turned an odd shade of green. He keeled over backwards, hitting the ground with an earth-shaking thud.
Thorin’s smile grew even wider as he moved his arms in a wide arc and collected all the coin on the table.
“Well lads, I’d like to thank you for your contribution to this evening’s fun. Now, if you’ll excuse me…”
“Hold it, dwarf!” snarled the thin weasely fellow, motioning to his companions. “I think you cheated! That booze was probably only meant for dwarves! Maybe even poisonous for us humans!”
“Is there a problem gentlemen?” Thorin asked softly, casually bringing his hands up towards his face, as if to comb a stray hair into place.
“You bet there is! You cheated! Now give us our money back. And yours! As…compensation,” the other added, a clever expression creeping across his face.
A tense silence fell over the tavern. Siloqui noticed the barkeep quietly hiding a few bottles under the bar.
“Lads, I’m really sorry you think I cheated you. But I won fair and square and there is no way-”
He dodged the first punch easily and executed a quick sidestep that put him out of the range of the smaller man’s wild swings. With almost clinical precision, he leapt up onto a chair and grabbing one of his attackers by the shoulders, proceeded to treat him to a debilitating head-butt. As his first opponent keeled over, the dwarf rolled to the side and smashed his elbow into groin of the largest member of the group, who hit the ground howling loudly.
“Are we done here?” the dwarf asked, addressing the now pale weasely human.
“I-ehm-yes, yes of course. Sorry for the…ahem, misunderstanding, master dwarf.”
“Good evening, lads,” Thorin proclaimed while moving back to his party’s table, the soft clink of gold accompanying his footsteps.
“That was…showy,” mumbled Zal’tat, slurring his words a little. He blinked a moment, noticing a small group moving towards them.
“That’s the gnome, father,” murmured the child that had so recently been on the receiving end of the reductive sorcerer’s generosity.
Zal’tat looked up into a weathered face, perched between gratitude and doubt.
“I wanted to thank you myself sir…you are very kind,” the boy’s father murmured meekly.
“No-No problem shir, farmer shir,” he said boisterously. A thoughtful expression descended on his features.
“Hey, hey you. Can I…can I have a moment with your shon a moment? I promish it’s about hish future,”
“Listen shonny,” began Zal’tat, grabbing the child by the hand “have you ever taken the time to…to think? About the future?”
The boy shook his head, his expression one of confusion.
“Well, you undershtand, there are many many alternatives to…to robbery! Have you ever thought of finding a real job? Like…as a…a attorney?”
“What’s a…attorney?” whispered Siloqui to Kathra.
“Some kind of law-maker, I think,” answered the druid, looking worriedly at the very drunk gnome.
“You know, you could come and work for me! I’d make sure you were taken care of, educated…the whole enshemble!”
Nala choked back a laugh as the father’s face turned from mildly confused to horrified.
“I thank you for your help sir gnome, but my son is not for sale! Nor are any other members of my family!” he exclaimed, quickly ushering the boy into the night.
Zal’tat stared at the door dumbly for a second. Then he turned to Nala.
“I think there musht have been shome short of mishunder…mishunder…shome confushion.”
Behind him, Shainarra was doubled over, silent peals of laughter racking her frame.
“I think they must have thought you were trying to…ahem, buy the boy,” said Thorin, a note of disapproval creeping into his voice.
“What?! Me?! I jusht…I jusht wanted to help!” exclaimed the gnome, getting unsteadily to his feet. Slowly, he wobbled out into the streets of Mekliat. He looked to the left and then to the right, finally settling on a north-westerly direction.
“Shouldn’t someone go with him?” asked Kathra.
“He’ll be fine,” said Shainarra. “I’m turning in for the night,” she said, moving towards the rickety flight of stairs.
“I think I’ll do the same,” said Thorin.
One by one the party found their way to their beds and were soon lost in the realm of sleep.
In a field not far off, Zal’tat snored under the leaves of a rather large turnip, oblivious to time, cold or the slow march of destiny.-
The story continues in episode 2.4…