Inside the rotting tavern, we found ourselves a couple barstools that resembled chopping stumps. I’ve pulled corpses from the fray of combat with less dagger-holes in them. We sat ourselves down amongst a gnome and a child who sat eating breakfast at the bar.
The child didn’t turn its head or speak, and from the side of its head alone, I could not say whether it was a boy or girl.
The gnome was a clean and well-kempt. In all manners evident he appeared to be a perfect gentleman. He looked over at me and my hooded… whatever he was, and gave us a little nod.
“Mistress will be back in just a minute. Just drawing the little one’s bath.” He said in a peppy, nasally voice.
My hooded friend lifted up his arms, clad with brown leather bracers, and pulled his forest-green hood back to resemble his face, but still left it resting on the top of his head. I could see now, some long blond hair slipping out. His face was friendly, smiling, and stubble suggested that he hadn’t shaved in at least a few days.
His warmly replied “No problem little friend, we’re in no hur-“
“’—Little!’ What do you know of ‘little’ giant? I happen to be the tallest gnome in all of Trondelag.” He stood on the bar stool, but his stubby fists and his waist, and stared the two of us down most intently.”
The mistress came strolling down the stairs, “Calm yourself Fiodor. These two lost dogs aren’t worth your time.” She walked behind the bar, bent forward to collect something from a lower bar-shelf and came back up producing an unmarked bottle of some dark liquid.
“Dogs?” My companion rebutted, “We are courteous men, whom—“
“—Dogs.” She said. “You’re a dog Markus, and your shiny friend here is a shiny dog.”
My confusion must have manifested upon my face in some form.
She took notice while she poured two small clay mugs with the liquid. “Oh, you don’t know do you? Well, this one” she nodded at Markus “is no good.”
Markus hoped up on the edge of his stool. “Look woman, I just saved the man’s life!”
She slid the two mugs forward. Markus grabbed his and slumped back on his stool. “Markus, you’re a dog, and as much as I hate to say it, a very handsome dog.” She reached out and pinched his chin. “Sometimes even a nobel dog. But a dog is a dog, and I will not forget what you’ve done. Chara, come on little one, time for your bath.” The youngster picked out a little potato out of its breakfast bowl, popped it in its mouth, slid down, and followed its mother up the stairs.
The gnome took another glare and scuttled off into the backroom mumbling something ill-phrased to himself.
By that time Markus had just drained his mug of vile. “Gonna finish that?” He pointed at mine.
“What is this?”
“I thought you said you liked rum?”
“I haven’t said a word this entire time.”
“Right, so you haven’t. But you are now, so that’s good. Mind if I?” he wrapped a finger around the handle of mug and slowly slid it to him, as if he was being sneaky. “There we go… Like I was saying earlier, I saved you. Well, she had a lot to do with it I suppose. And then there were the druids who summoned that fog… But I—I was the one who found you in the alley. Ah, ha! See, where would you be without me?”
I slunk my head down into my palms and tried to process the cataclysm that was consuming my life. What was all my service for? All for nothing. They will find me. “They will kill me and Merette will see me die disgraced.” I spoke my mind mistakenly.
“Merette, little clergy girl, about yay big?” he gestured the height with his hand. “She’s the one who saved ya.”
He had two more drinks, stole the bottle from behind the counter and we hit the streets. We walked down old roads which I have never seen; he told me we were heading to the old sacred grove.