The Sinner's Cove

Chapter II - The Sinner's Cove

Sturk was bored. In fact, one could safely say that Sturk had never experienced boredom this deep in his entire life, or at least for as long as he had worked in The Sinnerís Cove. Since his arrival in the homely little inn almost ten seasons past, every dull day like this one made him wonder why he still worked there. Tending bar in a common room reached its most boring level at times like these, when not a single person sat in the room, not a single person drowned themselves in the frothy ale he served in cracked mugs.
He had only himself for company since the last overnight guest broke his fast on sausage and eggs that they claimed "only a starving Ogre could eat" and left out the front door with barely a glance at Sturk. Sturk assumed that the infernal hot weather kept everyone away and devoutly hoped he would not be held responsible. Although The Sinner's Cove prided itself on having a cool cellar and even colder ale even that fact could not entice the overheated townsfolk of Two Sands to come and sit in a stifling room with only the slightest of breezes to cool them. Sturk, though he strove for it always, felt the light breeze only on occasion.
The very same heat caused more than one argument. In fact, arguments that normally would go no further than words flared into fisticuffs as well. The temperature generally cooled just enough once the sun set that the locals came in droves to quench their thirst for ale and violence. Sturk, mainly because of his lack of size and courage, would duck behind the bar and wait out the mayhem when it erupted. Then he would go in the back, grab the broom and pan, and clean up the mess left by whatever two men had a score to settle.
He may not be the smartest person around, he knew, but he certainly knew better than to get himself killed by two rabid drunks bent on smacking anyone nearby, especially small bartenders. He wished he could stop the fighting like Big Marte used to, but he did not have the tools necessary and he knew it. Big Marte could take normal sized brawlers and bodily haul them outside before they had managed to throw their second punch. He had saved many pieces of furniture that way. Unfortunately, the big man died from a knife he took in the ribs last Spring from an enraged Elf who thought Marte had stolen his purse.
Sturk missed the big, bearded doorkeeper more and more as days passed, for now the drunken brawls would go unchecked, unless one of the local constables happened by to break it up. Sturk dragged off broken pieces of benches and tables at least twice a night, now. Dengen, the nearest carpenter to the inn, made a small fortune keeping the common room supplied with cheap replacement furniture. Sturk sighed at his recollection of the last fight the evening before. He wished something would come along and break up the boredom he felt, even a barroom brawl. A small one.
Almost as if in answer to Sturk's request, the door leading outside swung open and a figure walked in, dressed in blue robes with a hood pulled over his brow to shield his face from the sun's rays. The tall figure stood in the doorway, backlit by the sun in such a way that Sturk could not make out his features. The person held what appeared like a clear glass staff that caught the sunlight from outside that passed through it and splintered it, sending rays carousing throughout the room. Colors danced and cavorted around the dusty tables and chairs, flitted around the half-lit lanterns on their cracked wooden support poles, and tickled the small plank stage with its chipped blue paint where the occasional musician would deem to play.
The entire spectacle mesmerized Sturk and he stared open-mouthed at the visions before him. Never in his life had he seen anything so lovely. Sturk had not traveled abroad much, granted, nor did he claim the title of smartest man in Two Sands, but he still had seen much in his years of tending bar. The vision before him put all other sights to shame. He thought he noticed a bit of movement from the stranger in the doorway, but he could not bring himself to remove his eyes from the dancing light show to reaffirm his peripheral vision.
Suddenly, the dazzling display of color vanished and Sturk grunted as if slapped in the face. He turned his head to search for the stranger and stunningly found the man's face less than half a hand from his own. Sturk gave a short yelp and jumped backwards, tripping over his own feet in the process and crashing into the bar behind him, sending a mug shattering on the floor. His eyes traveled from the broken shards of the mug to the stranger's smiling face.
The stranger chuckled and said, "Sorry to frighten you my good man. I just can't help myself sometimes, you know." He chuckled again and slapped a few copper coins on the bar's smoothly worn wood. "I'll have a glass of red wine, if you carry such an extravagance here."
Sturk took a deep swallow before nodding his head in response. He took the coppers from the bar without even looking at them and began to fumble about the bar for a wineglass, his mind racing. The stranger's voice, it had a strange type of metallic lilt to it! No, not even really metallic, more as if three voices spoke at the same time from inside a deep metal tunnel.
As he fumbled to pour the wine, he remembered hearing ole' Crazy Crintch tell stories of men whose voices sounded exactly as this blue-robed stranger's did. The old man used to come in almost every night raving about the wild adventures of his younger days. At least, he did before dying of a wasting disease last Northhawk. The one story that Sturk enjoyed the most told of a troop of men that magically appeared in the very center of the Jungon Jungle. He could still hear the old man's words echoing through the room undisturbed by his often rapt audiences.
"The men had arrived to stop the invasion of the jungle by the Dwarven armies of the East," the old man had said, his reedy voice taking on an almost bardic air. "They soon found they were too late as they discovered the tribes that lived in the jungle already decimated by the vicious attacks of the Dwarven invaders. Everywhere they searched, they found only more death and slaughter that brought tears to their sorrowful eyes.
"Their leader, a powerful man with a voice like ringing metal, surveyed the extent of the damage, taking the time to look at each individual body in each village, as if assembling a list of grievances. Once the final villager was examined, he stood up to his full height, addressing the assemblage of mages that came with him to this place of slaughter. He spoke in a voice that brought dread to any and all who heard it.
"'This is a brutal travesty which cannot go unpunished', he said in his ringing voice, sounding more like a large gong behind struck than a true man. 'Rethrin Rendson has brought his wrath upon these people who meant him and his no harm. For that, retaliation must be made.'
"The man looked directly at each of the men in turn and received a nod of agreement from every one in response. In his lust for power, Rethrin Rendson, the king of the country of Aens, had ravaged the continent for many seasons. After encountering considerable resistance from the northern countries of Mer, however, he turned his attention to the jungles of the west and the peaceful people who lived therein. The assembled mages responded to the cries for help from these people, who found themselves nigh defenseless against the onslaught. They then decided the time had come to stop determined hordes of Dwarven raiders and to impart a lesson on Rethrin Rendson.
"Gathering together his cadre of magic-wielding warriors, the man used their assembled power to cast a devastating spell. Each man did his part, summoning, shaping, and redirecting the power of magic into their leader, who stood motionless until all the forces were channeled into him. Once the time came to release the power, he summoned down a thousand, nay, a million bolts of fire from the heavens themselves, weaving them together like an enormous tapestry.
"The fire rain soon coalesced into one point, in the heart of the forest on the spot where the mages stood. Their leader made one gesture, his arms outflung, and the fire scattered in every direction, streaking out with a relentless force that no obstacle could withstand. Trees turned to ash before they had a chance to burst into flame, rocks shattered and melted, and bodies vanished without a trace left behind. Soon, other than the mages themselves, not a single object existed where a lush jungle stood only minutes before. As far as a man could see, not a tree, not a building, not a body, and certainly not any of the Dwarven raiders that had lurked in the forest still existed.
"The honor of the jungle tribes was restored in the revenge brought upon their killers, the Dwarven armies of Rethrin Rendson were no more, their power shattered forever, and the Jungon Desert now stood where the Jungon Jungle used to lie. The leader of the mages gazed upon the devastation he had wrought with tears in his color-whirling eyes." Sturk usually had tears in his own eyes by the time Crazy Crintch finished his tale. Yes, that story of Crintch's was definitely Sturk's favorite.
Bringing himself back to the present and somehow managing to pour the glass of thin, red wine, Sturk turned to take a better look at the stranger. The tall person definitely had the traits of a Human. The facial features Sturk could see under the shade of the manís hood showed a distinct, bold nose accentuated by smooth, tightly stretched skin. Wisps of long, dark hair streaked with gray peeked from the edges of the man's hood. The stranger noticed Sturk's scrutiny and smiled a lop-sided grin, deepening the laughter lines that framed his mouth. All of these traits Sturk noticed, but did not remember, for all of his focus lay in his preoccupation with the stranger's eyes. They contained all the colors of the rainbows in the sunset and more. No, it was more than that, for they constantly changed color, the irises seeming to whirl around even as Sturk watched them.
This observation confirmed Sturk's suspicions and he asked the stranger in a voice he wished did not sound so thin and wavering, "Ye be a mage, are ye no? A wild mage iff'n I'm no guessin' right."
The stranger's eyes whirled a bit faster at hearing Sturk's question. He smiled as he answered, "I most certainly am. The name's Tersiano, Wild Mage Extraordinaire. Formerly into druidic concoctions and such, but I gave that all up a long time ago, you see."
Sturk certainly did not see, but he nodded his head regardless in response to this Tersiano fellow's strange words.
"You must be quite a man of the world to know a wild mage when you see one," continued Tersiano, his lop-sided grin never slipping. "Tell me, how did you come to know what my obvious features portended?"
Sturk stared back at the wild mage's eyes for a moment before his mind began to grasp Tersiano's words. Portended? What did that mean?
The wild mage seemed to recognize Sturk's obvious struggle with an answer and clarified himself with a slight sigh. "Where have you heard of wild mages before?" he asked directly.
"Uh, an old gaffer used ta come in and tell us all stories of the past battles," stammered Sturk. "One of the stories was of a man lookin' just like ye, an' leadin' a group of others what that destroyed the Jungon Jungle."
The wild mage stood up fully from leaning on the bar and tapped his lips with his index finger, still grinning at Sturk. Sturk felt positively out of sorts talking to this smiling man and could think of nothing better to do than place the wineglass on the bar in front of the blue-robed mage.
"Ah, that would have to be the all-so-high-and-mighty Thekson Windsheer. More than likely the most powerful wild mage who ever walked the planet my good man." Tersiano's eyes whirled mysteriously as he continued, "You know, barkeep, that wild mages are notoriously unpredictable in nature. In fact, it is one of my favorite things about practicing the art. No one still living knows whether Thekson created the Jungon Desert in revenge and honor for the deaths of the jungle folk, or if he simply decided that the world needed a change in climate."
Sturk pondered the wild mage's words for a moment, comparing them to the tales he had heard from ole' Crintch. Perhaps the mage told the truth, perhaps Sturk's favorite tale of honor and revenge was nothing more than the ramblings of a crazy old codger.
Tersiano reached for the glass of wine in front of him and raised it to eye level, swirling the thin liquid around the interior and studying it appraisingly. "Yes," he commented, "we wild mages are extremely unpredictable all right."
The wild mage took a swallow of the wine and frowned menacingly, staring back into the glass. Sturk's nervousness grew as he saw the expression on Tersiano's face. He quickly busied himself, looking for something constructive to do and so remove himself from the wild mage's eyes. He thought he caught sight of the man smiling again as he stared at his wine, but did not want to risk looking at him directly to make certain.
"Old boy," bellowed the wild mage with such force that Sturk gave a jump and slowly turned to face him, "I'm going to be waiting here for some friends of mine to arrive. I'm here a bit early, as I usually am, and I'd like to reserve a table for all of us to sit at."
Sturk blinked for a moment, attempting to make sense of the rapid speech of the mage through the metallic lilt to his voice. "Um, sure. How many did ye say were comin'?" he finally stammered out.
"Well, I didn't exactly say, but there will be eleven or so. Maybe less, perhaps more, depending on the amount of people they have pursuing them." The wild mage chuckled at his words.
Sturk, scratching his head, pointed over to a table in the far corner of the common room. "Ye can use that one over there if ye like," he said, "It's the biggest one we have." Sturk hoped the table sat far enough away from the entrance that the mage would not scare away any patrons.
Tersiano moved towards the table Sturk indicated, calling over his shoulder, "Thank you very much, my good man."
Sturk watched the wild mage move the table and gather the nearby chairs, arranging them all such that they sat near no others in the room. The stranger who called himself Tersiano then sat down in the chair farthest from the stage, set his feet on the table, and sipped his red wine, watching the door with his multi-colored eyes. Even in the fading light of the evening, Sturk could still make out those eyes.
Sturk looked again wistfully at the glass-looking staff leaning against the chair the wild mage sat in, his mind still filled with the memory of the visions of light dancing about the otherwise dreary room. He wished he had a way to make that show of lights whenever he wanted. What a great way to alleviate the boredom of the day.
Shaking his head to clear it of such fancies, Sturk grabbed the warm tinderbox from behind the bar and proceeded to light the lanterns on their support poles around the room. He hesitated, giving the wild mage a shameful glance, before reaching for the chair he needed to stand on to reach the lanterns. Sturk felt sure the wild mage never needed to stand on a chair to light a lantern. He sighed forlornly as he pulled the chair close and clambored onto it, doing his best to ignore the Tersianoís unsettling stare. He had to get the lanterns lit before the darkness descended and the crowd rolled in to stink up the place.

The darkness had settled on Two Sands a couple hours past and the fabled night life that had the city's name famously spread to the far corners of Mer had begun. Everywhere one looked, revelers staggered down the winding streets, occasionally bumping into trees, always in search of the next, better tavern or common room. People of all races on Mer would pack the various taverns to the rafters as the night progressed.
Only in Two Sands could the various races of the continent meet, carouse, and drink together to forget their worries and troubles for a short time, barely giving a thought to the racial distrust that filled the rest of the world. Around the common room tables, one could find a game of dice with Elves, Dwarves, Humans, Halflings, Fairies, Orcs, and even Goblins, though Goblins tended to keep to themselves. Though not bad people, they had a reputation as a naturally untrusting race.
This night, the common room of The Sinner's Cove proved to be no exception. As they normally did this time of night, the majority of the men in Two Sands would take leave of their wives, families, and homes for a few hours and spend that time in the company of like-minded people. However, the Half-Elf standing in the deeper shadow of a house in the trees did not fit in that category. Quillion watched the carouse-seekers drift back and forth among the trees, a few even stopping at the swinging doors of The Sinner's Cove common room. The majority of these people, after a moment, would turn and walk away with a look of disdain on their face. Quillion chuckled softly at their reactions. Apparently The Sinner's Cove had not changed much in the years since he last drank there.
He moved slightly from his position against the giant fir trunk that he leaned against, wincing as his sore shoulder gave him pain at the movement. He really wished it he had found a better way to escape the Czak Myar without performing that dangerous maneuver that both injured him and cost him his horse. The trek from the Snake River took him much longer than he wished, and as such, he did not arrive in time to greet everyone as he intended. He wanted to get a feel for the place before he stepped inside, for one never knew who might have seen some of the messages he sent to the companions telling them to meet him here this night. He refused to walk blindly into a trap. His late arrival made the task more difficult with the higher number of people milling about, but he would do it nonetheless.
He simply stood and watched the bustle of people in the Two Sands night. He took a deep breath of the familiar night air, letting it trigger his memories. The same night air in which he had spent many long, but lovely nights in the arms of some of the finest women in his life, one of whom more than likely waited for him in that very inn. It seemed strange, after so many years, to return to the city of his birth, where he had formed the companions and set off on so many adventures.
He had spent the last year or so of his travels away from the companions in Gypsyroam, located on the eastern coast of Mer, researching the military tactics of the greatest battle leaders in the past wars on the planet. Gypsyroam contained within its walls the finest and largest library in the world, full of volumes of compelling tales and chronicles from battles long since fought. Their scope ranged from the early times when mankind fought with soft metals and rocks and barely had the refinement to write about the battles afterwards, to around three hundred years ago, when the great hero Vormeastion regained control of Hogun Wrath from the hordes of Mirdas Morgal in a brutal, two year siege.
Those tales of Vormeastion's heroics particularly captured Quillion's interest as they happened not only most recently of all the wars, but because each one spoke of such ruthless efficiency in routing the armies of D'Akimar Isle in combat. The dusty tomes in the halls of history told tales of Vormeastion marshaling broken and fleeing forces and turning tides of battles long thought lost. Some of the historians give the man almost the entire credit for driving back the host from Mirdas Morgal and their dread leader, the undying Lord Sortinst.
After searching many volumes of historical chronicles, Quillion found a record depicting the last fight at Hogun Wrath and how Vormeastion used tactics deemed "most unusual" to force the army from the city walls. Try as he might, Quillion never found a further explanation of what "most unusual" described. Then, with the remaining Mirdas Morgal troops fleeing to their fleet of warships and turning back to their own homeland, Vormeastion apparently fought an unseen opponent on the beaches outside Hogun Wrath. No one could say for certain whether he won the battle or not, but soon after, he rode away without a parting word to anyone, never to be seen again.
The world without Vormeastion then settled into an uneasy peace for the next three hundred years, a peace that Quillion felt would end soon. The tension among the city-states of the North increased almost daily according to the tales Quillion heard, primarily due to reported troop stirrings on D'Akimar Isle. Quillion felt in his bones that the growing rumors of possible war in the north would soon escalate into an actual war, perhaps too soon.
Due to the lack of any real battles beyond a few territorial skirmishes in the last three centuries, there no longer lived any people versed in true military tactics. Only unpracticed theory passed down from previous generations still existed to train soldiers in the arts of war. Quillion became aware of this lack of knowledge shortly after the companions went their separate ways during a chance happening upon some of the "elite" troops of Hogun Wrath. Even without any true military knowledge himself, Quillion knew immediately the squadron he had witnessed fell far below any standard previously held. He thought perhaps they were simply an untrained pack of raw recruits, but soon learned otherwise as a closer examination revealed the high rank bars each soldier wore on their breast plate.
After that day outside of Hogun Wrath, Quillion decided to dedicate himself to the study of war, diving into any battle lore he could find in preparation for the storm he knew would soon strike. He soon picked up a saying in an unused language while researching through tomes of long-gone historians, "The dead teach the living." He used to murmur that to himself sometimes on long nights inside of dark, empty libraries through search after seemingly fruitless search.
Over those many months of searching for clues leading to any records of military tactics from the past and gathering their precious knowledge to himself, Quillion learned as much as he possibly could about battle, death, and the ruthlessness of war. However, on occasion, his search for military lore revealed knowledge of things other than the finer details of men killing men, knowledge he had not expected. One of the snippets of information he found stunned him to the core of his being. This information formed the primary reason he had called the companions together for this night. A task needed doing and he only trusted his friends to help him.
Quillion edged off the pole he leaned on, angrily shaking his head. He needed to stop wasting time and get inside. Everyone would be waiting on him. Just before he took his first step towards the inn, however, he froze in place, his skin prickling. Someone watched him. He could feel it. The Half-Elf did not actually hear or see anything untoward, but his honed instincts told him that someone nearby had entirely too much interest in him for his liking. He learned many years ago to listen to this particular instinct when it spoke of warning.
He smoothly edged back into the shadows, deeper than where he previously stood, and watched for the watcher. He made certain he remained perfectly still, one hand on the pommel of his sword breaker and the other gathering the loose leather straps from his pack, preventing them from stirring in the faint breeze. His examination of the street revealed nothing out of the ordinary. No one within his view seemed to care about a Half-Elf standing in almost pitch-black shadows. Quillion would not doubt that a Half-Elf in the shadows occurred often enough in Two Sands that no one considered it strange.
Quillion felt the presence behind him a split second before a hand slipped around his mouth. He heard a breathy voice whisper in his ear. "Don't move half-breed." Quickly, Quillion sidestepped and grabbed the hand over his mouth. He dropped his right leg back and flipped his assailant over his right shoulder to the gravel-strewn dirt. He felt the body struggle to regain its feet and he stopped the struggles by using his free hand to draw his boot knife and hold it in his attacker's face, ready to strike at even the slightest twinge. All he could see of his attacker's face was a bit of white flesh on a cheek peeking through a mass of long, curly hair. He did, however, hear a feminine laughter issuing from behind the dark mane. He recognized that throaty giggle. Scintara!
"You really should see the look on your face," Scintara said through her laughter. "To think I always thought you were too cautious to be that surprised."
"Bloody Tartarus, Scin'," he growled, taking his knife and stashing it away in its sheath on the inside of his boot. "You're going to end up getting killed doing this. You're lucky I recognized you." Quillion stood up fully, staring down at the diminutive thief lying unconcernedly on the pathway. "Here, let me help you up."
"I was wondering when you'd get around to that. You did throw me here, after all," Scintara quipped, accepting Quillion's offered hand.
"Maybe that will teach you to stop sneaking up on people all the time," Quillion replied sarcastically.
"Don't count on it," the thief responded, eyeing Quillion up and down appraisingly. "The years have been good to you. I'll dust you off if you dust me off."
"That's not really fair, since you're the only one that's dusty," chuckled Quillion.
Scintara gave a quick sniff before beating the dirt from her black leather breeches. "Never pass up a good thing is what you always used to say." She looked at him askance for a moment before continuing, "I guess we left that behind a long time ago, didn't we, Pointy?"
Quillion simply nodded his head and gestured magnanimously for Scintara to precede him towards the inn. "Shall we?"
Scintara laughed and shook her head, grabbing his arm and leading them both towards The Sinner's Cove. Quillion much preferred to have the quick-fingered thief in front of him than behind him. Not only did it afford him a decidedly better view, but also he could not bring himself to entirely trust her, despite their former closeness and the many years he had traveled in her company. Scintara was possibly the finest thief in Windsong, not to mention one of the most reckless ones. There did not exist a single bit of plunder in the country that she could not pilfer, and do so with ease. She had used that slight, agile body of hers to squeeze through windows, scale walls, leap through trees, and whatever daredevil stunts her current job required of her.
The trait that made her a companion to be wary of however, manifested itself in the fact she was also a notorious pickpocket and would rob a person of all their worldly goods just to prove she had the skill. She rarely kept any items she purloined for long, preferring instead to wait until her victim noticed the itemís disappearance before giving it back and basking in the glow of recognition. She had long been a random personality among the companions, good to have on their side, but always getting them into trouble as well. Quillion secretly admired the freedom Scintara enjoyed due to her personality. She came close to Tersiano in having the most unpredictable personality, but anyone would be hard pressed to surpass the wild mage in having a chaotic nature.
The two companions reached the top of the stairs leading to The Sinners Cove, Quillion wearing a smile he could not suppress and noticing the same on the black-clad thief. It felt good to be back again. Scintara reached out and opened the door, but then stopped in mid stride, causing Quillion to bump into her from behind. The curly-haired thief turned and looked over her shoulder at him with an impish grin.
"Oh, so you decided to dust me off after all?" she asked. After Quillion grumbled back a reply he did not care to voice aloud, her smile deepened and she continued, "You might need this too, grumpy guy."
She tossed him his own coin purse over her shoulder, and he snatched it out of the air, frowning in puzzlement. He opened the purse slightly and half-pretended to examine the contents, eyeing Scintara with a mock suspicion. She responded by showing an overwrought indignation that quickly melted away.
"You are an evil little pixie, you know that?" he asked, stuffing the pouch into the folds of his tunic. Scintara nodded her head quickly in agreement and then zipped into the common room. Quillion stared for a moment at the empty space in the door frame previously occupied by his friend. By the Gods! How does she move so quickly?
The Half-Elf reassured himself that his coin purse still resided in his tunic, not that it did him much good, and strode through the doorway to the inn. He stopped about four hands inside on the splintered hardwood plank floor and scanned the crowd for any signs of the companions. Of Scintara, he could find no sign, but he expected that.
The overwhelming wash onto his senses after the quiet darkness of the street outside made it difficult for the Half-Elf to distinguish anything at all. People of all types filled the place, and their smell almost overpowered him. He had heard upon entering Two Sands of the lack of wash water due to the drought, but surely the owner of the inn could put in some windows or air vents to curtail the stench. For a Half-Elf who relied on his keen senses, including smell, to locate enemies or prey in a forest, the odor of unwashed bodies was nauseating.
The Half-Elf's eyes roamed across the room, finally coming to rest at the bar where he saw an enormous man walking carefully towards the back of the room, his back turned to Quillion. A mass of short, but thick brown hair topped his head, but remained plastered down by a mug of ale resting on it. The man's arms held at least eight more identical mugs brimming over with foam. The man walked cautiously, but still kicked anyone out of the way who came close enough to disturb his perilous balancing act. Even through all his years of traveling the world, Quillion had only met one person who could accomplish that feat. Malaryn.
Jostling through the crowd of people milling near the door in vain hopes of catching a stray breeze, Quillion ignored the occasional poke in his ribs from a random elbow and crept closer to the smith. Once behind him, he reached up and tapped Malaryn lightly on the shoulder. The big man turned his whole body as one unit very carefully, his face a mirror of the irritation he felt at having to interrupt his journey. However, once he faced the Half-Elf, his eyes opened wide in recognition and he stood up to his full height, exclaiming, "Quillion!"
The ale mugs Malaryn carried wobbled and the smith quickly dropped his height to compensate, causing the mug on his head to slide forward. Quillion reached out and caught the mug before it fell more than a hand or two, catching the stray liquid in the container with a swoop. He smiled at Malaryn, who had resumed his precarious balancing act and said, "It's good to see you made it, Mal. Thanks for the ale."
Quillion reached up and clinked his mug against one of the mugs on Malaryn's shoulders. "To your health," he declared in toast. "Where are the others?" he asked, laughing as Malaryn attempted to right the wobbly mug.
"They're over by the back wall," replied the smith, his eyes showing concentration despite the large smile on his face. "Except for Lysinthia, who's up on stage, as usual."
Quillion looked towards the back wall, over the heads of some Half-Orcs playing chop, and saw the familiar faces of his former traveling friends. Thank the Gods, they all made it! Gesturing for Malaryn to lead on, Quillion followed him to the table across the room, to where the first gathering of the companions in years would take place.

©   1998   C.A. Lutke

Storm Clouds Gathering Hero`s Return, chapters 1 through ten The Companions