An Unexpected Arrival
[Evening at the Dragon Inn]
The main room of the Dragon Inn was a very convivial place the last night of the Festival. Sammel and his entourage would be leaving the next morning, so they, with Melyda, were all seated at a large table, eating, drinking, talking, and laughing.
"You *will* send word when the wedding is, right?" Melyda said to Sammel with a mock-threatening tone.
"Absotively posilutely," he replied, clinking his mug against hers. "I wish it could be soon, but I know my parents--and Sarra's--will insist on an engagement period and an elaborate wedding. Ah, well," he finished with a sigh and a grin, "I know she'll be worth the wait."
Melyda nodded, taking a sip of ale from her mug. She peered beyond Sammel to give a smile and a wink to Chaer. She owed them, and others, a lot; she hated to think what would have happened if she'd been stuck in Kieraan's hands for too long. She was going to miss them terribly, but her future was here in Montfort, and she was looking forward to it.
The door to the Inn opened again. Melyda paid little attention to it, but Sammel cast a glance that way. Suddenly, he leaped to his feet--and onto the chair. "Sarra!" he cried, waving enthusiastically, his face and voice full of surprise and happiness.
Sarra entered the Dragon Inn, her traveling companions following behind her, and her dark green eyes scanned quickly through the crowd, then sparkled happily as she spotted Sammel waving from across the room. She broke into a wide smile as she started to quickly work her way through the crowded inn. Forgetting about her dusty travelling clothes and muddy boots, she pushed back a few stray curls of hair as she almost ran around the tables and chairs.
Sammel jumped off his chair just as Sarra reached him, and she leapt into his arms. He spun her around, holding her tightly, as she laughed. When he put her down, she gave him one more hug before pulling back and looking him over.
"Sammel, it is so good to see you! It seems like we've been traveling just *forever* to get here." Sarra squeezed his hand tightly before turning to his dinner companions. She smiled and inclined her head slightly to Chaer, saying, "Chaer, it is good to see you well too. We traveled fast because we had to find you both, and..."
Sarra's voice broke off suddenly as she noticed the woman sitting at the table. Her eyes looked back to Sammel questioningly, before turning back to her. "Melyda?"
Melyda stood by her seat for a moment, watching the enthusiastic reunion. Finally, she stepped forward with a smile. "Sarra, it's wonderful to see you--it's been such a long time." She finally realized Sarra's surprise and leveled her gaze at Sammel. "Let me guess--you didn't tell her." At Sammel's sheepish look, she rolled her eyes heavenward. She grabbed an arm of each and gently shoved them toward the door that led up to the rooms. "You two talk. Now. Privately." She grinned as they disappeared through the door. He deserved *some* trouble from Sarra for not telling her the whole truth, but it was would be better in private.
Chaer had been surprised and glad to see Sarra, knowing now what Sammel's true feelings were. But when he saw who accompanied her, all other considerations faded away.
"Channi," he whispered, his eyes devouring her. She was one of his race, the Delphines--humans with dolphin characteristics. She was hairless, as he was, and had rubbery-looking skin and thick webbing between her fingers. She also had the quick movements of their people as she darted through the crowd to get to his seat, her loose tunic and breeches rippling with each step. Humans might have considered her quite alien, but to Chaer, she was absolutely beautiful. A powerful wave of longing and homesickness washed through him as she knelt down by his seat, talking rapidly.
Melyda watched as Chaer and the Delphine girl conversed. They were talking in their native language, a series of clicks and whistles that were very reminiscent of a true dolphin's sounds. She became concerned, however, as Chaer's face changed from pleasure and astonishment to concern, and finally to sorrow. "What's wrong?" she asked softly, leaning across the table.
Chaer looked up at her, misery clear in his eyes. "Should wait for Sammel to come back," he replied. "He must hear." He bowed his head and hid his face in his hands, while the girl put her arm around him, sharing his keen sorrow.
Sarra walked through the hallway and into the room Sammel indicated as his own. She walked around the room slowly as he closed the door behind them. Sarra bit her lip slightly, looking troubled. Her heart was torn between her love for Sammel and the idea that he had not told her why he was here...a reason that seemed to have something to do with Melyda, whom he had had a crush on for years.
Finally, Sarra sat down in a chair, facing Sammel as he still stood by the door. She looked up at him, her eyes questioning. "Is she why you came to Montfort?"
"Well, partly." Sammel sat down on the bed, leaned forward, and took her hand in his. "That kiss of ours at the party...it led to a lot of soul-searching on my part. I finally decided that the only way I could know where my heart truly lay was to see Melyda again. I finally got her brother to tell me where she was heading, and so I came here." He sighed. "Perhaps I should have told you, but I didn't want you worrying for weeks about it.
"And now that I've seen her, I have no more doubts." He smiled and brought her hand up. "You are my one, true love." He bent over and kissed her hand, then looked at her intently, his blue eyes shining with love and concern.
With her cheeks developing a deep blush, Sarra looked deep into Sammel's eyes. "Oh Sammel, why didn't you just tell me?" she asked as she cupped his head gently in her hands. "Hearing that you needed time to think, to decide...even to see Melyda..." Sarra paused a moment, sighing softly before continuing. "Well, it would have hurt, but I would've let you go."
Sammel nodded, accepting the rebuke. He laid his hand softly on her cheek. "You're right. I should have trusted you--and myself. I'm sorry." He leaned in and kissed her gently, lovingly. But a sudden thought pulled him back before things developed much further than that.
"What's brought you here to Montfort, Sarra? And who is that with you?"
After melting from Sammel's kiss, she mentally shook herself back to their journey. "Her name is Channi, from Chaer's community in the south. She came to our town searching for Chaer, and since we knew he traveled to join you here, this became her destination. And...since you were here, I invited myself along!" Sarra finished with a sly smile. "You know Father, he tried to send some of his Guards instead...but I joined up with them just outside town, and sent one back with a message that I had left town with them," Sarra grinned mischievously, "...'under his authorization', of course."
"But," she said as she rose to her feet, pulling Sammel up as well, "you are right. There is a reason we tracked you and Chaer down, but you must hear it from Channi. Come, let us join the others."
Sarra walked with Sammel to the door, stopping and turning to face him just before she opened it. "One more thing, Sammel Tyndar..." she said with a mischievous gleam in her eye, "if you *ever* keep secrets like this from me again, I'll take pleasure in telling you exactly what you can do with your trade policies!"
Sammel chuckled as they left his room and quickly went downstairs. He could hardly believe how lucky he was to have such a friend and partner for the rest of his life. Her intelligence, her humor, her irreverence--they were just a few of the things he loved about her, and they'd be of inestimable help when it came time for him to assume the lordship of Tyndar. He gave her another quick kiss just before they re-entered the main room of the inn.
His buoyant mood disappeared, however, as he saw the tableau at their table. Chaer and the Delphine girl--Channi, he remembered--were huddled together at the corner of the table, grief an almost visible cloud around them. Melyda sat nearby, concern plain on her face. "Chaer, what is it?" he asked as he quickly pulled a seat over to them and sat. Channi looked up at him, her large gray eyes somber. "You Sammel?" she asked. When he nodded, she continued, "then I tell you why I come. Have already told Sarra, and just told Chaer.
"You know we live near human fishing town, have much contact with them?"
Sammel nodded. "Chaer's told me about the trade and festivals you share with them."
She nodded back, bobbing her head like a dolphin would. "Few months ago, pirates come, attack village. But not to loot and go--they *stay.* They make base there. Village is very isolated--those who survive attack can't send for help."
"Is it a part of some kingdom?" Melyda asked. "Wouldn't their king have learned about it by now?"
"Villagers answer to lord, who answers to king," Channi replied. "Lord knows, but doesn't *care*--so long as he gets tithe on time, and some loot from pirates." Melyda grimaced at this example of greed and irresponsibility. "When we learn about attack, we come to try to help. They attack us too, drive us away. Five of us die...Ichon die."
"Your brother?" Melyda breathed softly to Chaer. "Oh, I'm so sorry."
Sammel put his hand on Chaer's shoulder, trying to let that touch convey his sorrow and sympathy. Chaer finally lifted his tear-streaked face from his hands. He didn't smile, but he did nod at Sammel and Melyda, accepting their condolences.
"Hasn't *anyone* been able to find help?" Melyda asked Channi, who shook her head. "Villagers must work for pirates, are guarded closely," she replied. "Chirra and Rinich swim to kingdom's big-big port, try to tell people." She ducked her head with embarrassment. "We always keep to ourselves before, except for small village. Others not know about us. People in port call them monsters, try to attack them. They can't send word to king, have to come back."
Sammel winced. "Your people and the villagers are well and truly stuck, aren't they? Is that when you decided to come after Chaer?"
"Yes. He need-need to know. And I hope-pray he find friends who can help us." She looked around at them, her appeal shining clearly in her eyes.
"He has, indeed," Sammel said emphatically. "I'll do anything I can."
"So will I," Melyda added.
"But your store," Sammel began.
"It can wait," Melyda said. "I'm a podsister now, and you've told me often enough the responsibilities being a member of the pod brings. Besides, when we come back, I can go on a book-buying tour and replenish my stock." She grinned, not letting herself think 'if' instead of 'when.'
Chaer straightened up and took Sammel's and Melyda's hands in his. "I thank you both," he said quietly but fervently. "You good-good friends. I hope-pray you not come with me to much-much danger, though."
"The danger doesn't matter," Sammel replied, and then sighed. "We should go to Tyndar first, though, so we can try to convince my father to let us have a ship or two. We certainly can't do this alone. At least it's on our way to the territory of Chaer's people."
Sarra, frowning softly as she heard the narrative again, spoke up. "Lord Tyndar will need to be sought out, and soon. When I found Channi near the edge of our town, she looked extremely disoriented and unsure of where to go; her contact with humans appears to have been very limited up to this point." Sarra looked towards Channi for conformation, and Channi nodded in agreement. "I figured that she must have been there to see Chaer," Sarra said, motioning in his direction, "so I started talking to her, to tell her that he had left on a journey.
"When she told me why she had come to Tyndar, I took her directly to your father, Sammel. I knew that where you were, Chaer would be, and Lord Tyndar could help us find you. Knowing the connection between you and Chaer, he sent us here, to Montfort, to find you both."
Sarra gestured towards where Channi sat, listening and nodding in agreement with the tale. "We did not explain the situation to Lord Tyndar, however...he only knows of our urgency to find you. Plus, the Lord's court can be a bit intimidating for one not used to humans, so Channi and I left quickly. He is, however, anxious for you to return, Sammel, and discuss this matter with him."
Her eyes looking from person to person, a hint of urgency crept into Sarra's voice as she continued. "Hopefully when we return, Lord Tyndar can assist us. From what Channi told me, we will need a great deal help in this fight."
Her eyes rested on Melyda. "And the assistance already offered is much appreciated... and accepted," Sarra said as she bowed her head slightly and smiled at Melyda, hoping to convey the message that she understood about her and Sammel, and all was well on that front.
Melyda smiled back at Sarra, glad to see that things had been straightened out between the three of them. She turned her attention back to Sammel. "Do you think we should try to recruit anyone from here before we go?" she asked.
"Hmmm...that might not be a bad idea. There could well be fighting on land as well as sea." He looked around the inn's main room, considering those who had gathered there to spend what they'd earned during the Festival. "I'm not sure anyone here's sober enough to listen," he said with a wry smile, "but it's worth a try."
He stood up on his seat again, grabbed an empty plate, and loudly clashed it with his knife. When the commotion of conversation had died down a little, he spoke, projecting his voice strongly.
"Attention please, ladies and gentlemen. A friend of mine has learned of pirate trouble in his village, and I am putting together an expedition to eradicate this scum. Is there anyone here who would like to join us?"
"Why do they always have to speak after sunset?" an unnamed figure thought. "As a fellow magic-user myself, I must help him. Plus, this could be the mission the High Priest was telling me, so I can get my own church and place of worship. If not, then I have failed him...but it is forbidden to speak after sunset. There are no spells I can cast to make myself heard, unless I speak...actions do speak louder than words."
Out of the darkness, a small ball of light appeared in the stranger's hand, lighting part of his face and body, looking as if he was saying, "I believe I can be of some assistance."
His face was nearly human, mostly oriental, however his bright green eyes and brown hair told a different story. As the figure stood up with the ball of light still in his hand, his 5'10", 185 lb. frame came into the natural light of the Inn. There, his story begins to unfold. On the side of his head, the pointed ears of his elven blood stood out. The ball then disappeared from his hand, which, like the other, was adorned by a ring.
Adorning his rather boxy and large half-elven body is a finely elven cloak (to match his elven boots). With the cloak draped totally behind him, a finely crafted elven chain mail can be seen covering his body. All that are familiar with metallurgy and metalsmithing, recognize that the metal is not steel (!), but an unusually stronger and lighter metal (called adamantite). His visible weapons include two hand axes, a hammer and a finely crafted dragon head shaped dagger, all are magical and "sheathed". Furthermore, around his waist, he also wears a small leather container, with a wand in it. Around his neck is a finely, crafted, skull amulet. Also, sharing its master's neck is a silver charm of a lightning bolt, flashing in the light as he walked. Those who can sense it can feel the natural flow of magic surrounding him as he passes by.
He then bows to the man, and holds up his hands as though he were in prayer, with the silver lightning bolt hanging from his hands. Then, with a smile on his face, he pointed to his weapons, and nodded. Finally, a smirk adorns his face as he holds up his hand and instantly a light wispy yet warm magical fire engulfs it. The smirk turned into a smile and again nodded, and the fire disappeared leaving his hand unharmed.
The half-elf then bowed down for the man's acceptance into the party, and waited for a reply.
Sammel watched the half-elf's show with some bemusement. He didn't understand why the man didn't say anything, but his intention seemed clear enough. He looked back at Melyda and Sarra, who shrugged and nodded, and Chaer, who seemed intrigued with the newcomer. "I'll take that as a yes," Sammel finally said, "and we welcome your help." He looked around the crowded room. "Is there anyone else looking for an adventure?"
"Is there anyone else looking for an adventure?" Sammel repeated.
Wren Hazeroth stumbled through the door of the inn just at that time. "Adventure?" he thought out loud. The wild-haired man began making his way toward Sammel, absentmindedly running a hand through his brown hair, which seemed to refuse any attempt at control. Magic school wasn't turning out the way Wren had planned. No matter, he had survived quite well so far by his wits.
"I will gladly join and help you. That is, if you're leaving town pretty soon, say, tomorrow?" he grinned widely. He had left quite a small disaster back at the laboratory of one of the local mages, which explained why his hair refused to settle down.
Sarra carefully looked over the newcomer, chuckling inwardly at his disheveled appearance. She hoped the skills he brought to the group would be more helpful than his hairbrush appeared to be. Looking over towards the silent one, her brow creased as she fell deep into thought. His magic was quite apparent, and he could probably indeed be useful as well...she just wondered about why he did not or could not speak.
Looking back towards Sammel and Chaer, she nodded. "Yes, I think the sooner we leave, the better. Each day the pirates rob and destroy the village more." Sarra nods towards Chaer and Channi, the sorrow clear on their faces, as she shakes her head sympathetically. "We should indeed hurry."
At a table not far a way a dark-haired girl sat chewing on her lip, mulling over a decision. By a series twisting and turning events she had followed the Bards into Montfort for their festival, and had ended up spending most of that time with her grandmother's kin, the Seula Muintirr, otherwise known as selkies. Or, to put it precisely, she had spent the time with three selkie healers learning how to adapt to her grandmother's "blessing."
She had grown up in a fishing village and knew both the sea and the life, and also knew what the threat of pirates meant. Of course her teacher, Master Regglis, had introduced her to quite a few during the course of the many interviews he had done - in hopes of mapping the seas of Ifreann.
Finally she pushed up her glasses, tried to smooth down her mass of wavy black hair, and stood up. Quietly she made her way to the group and said, "I'd be willing to help."
Chaer smiled at the newcomer, though he couldn't quite keep his puzzlement from showing. She wasn't a Delphine, but she definitely had an aura of the sea about her, as someone who would be very much at home in the ocean. He pondered it a moment, then suddenly remembered something a human friend had told him about. 'A Selkie?' he wondered. If she was, she could be of great help.
Sammel also smiled at the girl, though he wondered what help she could bring. Still, he wasn't one to judge a person solely on appearance. Neither Melyda nor Sarra looked like much more than lords' daughters, but he knew their worth.
"Welcome," he said to her. "We'll be glad of your help." He looked around at the three volunteers. "I can get a room for you here at the Inn, if you need one. And let me know if you need a horse. We'll be travelling quickly to reach Tyndar as soon as possible."
The silent half-elf stood and stared at the wild-hair young man, and a small smile grew on his face.
"Tomorrow?" the man thought to himself, "It's all right; I can be ready by then, after my daily prayer."
Then he turned around upon hearing the voice of a woman saying she'd "be willing to help."
"Two, possibly three women," the half-elf thought to himself, "I guess I will be sleeping away from the group during the nights. Well, if I have to, I have to."
The man sighed and smiled at the group's new male and female companions.
"It is going to be an interesting adventure," the man thought as a causal smile crossed his face.
The dark-haired young woman looked at Sammel, and said, "I am staying out at the Paevel Ranch and need to let some friends know where I'm going, but I will make sure to be in before first light. Though I will need a horse."
She pushed her glasses back up her nose and said, "Oh, and I guess I should introduce myself - my name is Fontaine Cowene."
"Sammel Tyndar," he replied, shaking her hand. He introduced her to the others, making Sarra blush as he referred to her as his "soon-to-be fiancée." He looked around the Inn's barroom again, hoping to get one or two more volunteers--it was better to have too many people than too few for something like this, and he wasn't entirely sure how much help he'd get from his father.
By way of introduction Wren simply said, "Wren, at your service." He shook everybody's hand in turn, shaking the ladies' hands a little bit longer than necessary. When he got around to greet Chaer and Channi, he was slightly taken aback by their foreign appearance. However, Wren guessed there was much sorrow behind their strained smiles.
At first glance or last, Wren's appearance didn't quite inspire much confidence. Beside his short mud brown hair which stood up on end every which way, he possessed a pair of dark eyes underneath a high forehead and black eyebrows. Wren had a wide lopsided disarming smile. He wasn't quite as tall as the half-elf and definitely nowhere near as stocky. Wren was wearing a long-sleeved beige wool shirt with flaring cuffs and over it a faded maroon vest. A gray sash wrapped his waist and brown britches scuffed at the knees covered his legs. Closer inspection would have revealed a bulge in the sash where a dagger was hidden.
Giving Sammel an apologetic look, Wren said, "Um, I don't know how to ride a horse. Could I just ride with someone?"
The silent half-elf shook his head "no" at the man named Sammel's question about needing a horse and room for the night, while he shook Wren's hand.
"...Could I just ride with someone?" the wild-haired man named Wren also questioned, casually the silent mystery man put his hand on Wren's shoulder and pointed to himself.
"I can feel some potential with this one," the half-elf thought to himself, "However, it seems as though he lacks the discipline...No matter in helping him only if he wants to be helped...If he wants to be something else let be something else...However, Raiden could help him...Hmmmmm...Ah, no bother, it is getting late and I must sleep for tomorrow, but first I must wait to see if anyone else will join us."
The rather tall and stocky sylvan half-elf looked around the Inn and waited to see if anyone else would like to join their party.
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