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The Silver Wolf: Ghosts Of The Past, Part Five
Posted on Fri, October 16, 2015 by LordCeb
CruelSummerLord writes "

“…an’ when that turtle bit down on the barrel, it blew up real good,” the sailor grinned to Amyalla, who only smiled back as she took a sip of wine. “See, that’s the secret to dealin’ with most of these sea bastards-the stupid ones run like dogs when they’re burned by flamin’ oil. Even the smart ones don’t think of stayin’ round too long after that, if’n you’re lucky…”



 “Well, how is it?” Luna asked Revafour eagerly as he sipped at the tea.

“Wonderful,” Revafour sighed eagerly. “What kind of blend is it?”

“My own special kind,” Luna smiled. “It’s a blend of traditional Flanaess spices combined with some of the more exotic herbs that the traders say come from the Baklunish West, and farther yet even. Apparently there are vast tea fields and plantations in those lands, harvested by halfling farmers who are said to have been doing so as long as the Oerth itself has existed.”

“Travelers’ tales,” Revafour shook his head, as he took another sip.

“Yes, but surely we know how often travelers’ tales turn out to have much more than a grain of truth to them?” Luna smiled. “Besides, my own studies of these herbs show just how different they are from anything produced in the Flanaess. And if you don’t believe the tales of mountebank merchants, hopefully you might believe me?” Luna grinned.

“True enough,” Revafour smiled back. “But I must ask-why are you keeping me company? Surely you’d want to be with the rest of the passengers?” he asked.

The adventurers had returned to Greyhawk to book passage on a ship to Dyvers, the mercantile city to the west of Greyhawk. From there, it would only be a couple of weeks, at most, of travel southwest until they came to the Kron Hills and the gnome city of Copper Crossing, where Airk had said they would be able to get some information on what Kalrek might be planning. With the wealth the adventurers had acquired from their destroying the hag coven at the Bearded Lord’s Hollow and their campaigns against the trolls and spriggans raiding the communities of the Cairn Hills, it had not proven difficult for them to find a ship willing to take them.

Now, sailing west across the Nyr Dyv as passengers on the Coast Dancer, the Company of the Silver Wolf had been enjoying a well-deserved, if brief, respite. Unlike most of his companions, Revafour had largely avoided socializing with the crew or any of the other passengers. Instead, for the past three days he’d mostly stayed in the cabin he was sharing with Weimar, carving at a block of wood with his sculpting knife. Luna had brought him a meal, and they were now sharing it, Revafour taking a break from his work.

“Why’d you come to join me?” Revafour asked, before taking a bite of the stew the ship’s cook had prepared. “You don’t care for large crowds much either?”

“Not particularly,” Luna shook her head, “but you know that, don’t you? That’s not the reason you’re asking, is it?”

“You probably know the reason, I asked, I’m sure,” Revafour replied, more solemnly this time. “Have you tired of your music already?”

“…I needed a break,” Luna said unconvincingly. “Besides, if there’s any more singing to be done, Seline can do it, I’m sure.”

“And yet, you’re more animated when you perform than the song requires, I’d think,” Revafour reminded her. “Is there a problem?”

“…Am I that obvious?” Luna asked, slight dismay in her voice.

“Yes, to those who know you,” Revafour replied, raising an eyebrow. “Now, am I to take it that there is indeed a problem, one that you did not feel comfortable discussing with some of the others?”

“…I was hoping to speak to you or Amyalla,” Luna replied, “because-“

“It’s about Airk, of course,” Revafour nodded. “We’ve known him for longer than you have. You’re concerned about him still?”

“How can I not be?” Luna said, a flustered look crossing her face. “I wanted to ask Amyalla, but…” she trailed off, flushing in embarrassment.

“She’s been getting to know many of the sailors,” Revafour continued after taking another bite of stew. “So you came to me,” he frowned.

“What would you have me do?” Luna shot back, annoyed by Revafour’s tone. “I’m concerned about-“

“What could I have you do?” Revafour interrupted her. “This is something only Airk can truly come to terms with. Why else would we be going on this mad quest?”

“You think it’s mad?” Luna asked in surprise. “Then why-“

“I’ve come for the same reason you and the others have, of course,” Revafour explained, as if it should be obvious. “Because Airk is our friend. But it’s entirely likely that he’s still struggling with something, something that he feels the need to see through to the end.”

They ate in silence for a few minutes, Luna trying to think of something to say, but having a hard time thinking of anything to counter Revafour’s logic. It was only the slamming door that brought her back to her senses, as Weimar strode in and sat down at the table, his breath reeking of the grog he had paid several of the ship’s crew to share with him and some of the other passengers. Despite the redness of his eyes, he was still remarkably agile, the only signs of drink visible on his face and his other movements those of a perfectly sober man.

“And here I thought sailors were supposed to be jolly types,” Weimar slurred, folding his arms in disgust. “You beat them at a drinking contest, and they cut you off…”

“A knock would have been appreciated,” Revafour said harshly, none too pleased by the interruption. “Perhaps it would have been better for you to lose the contest, as well…”

“Pardon me for wanting to enter the cabin that I’ve just as much right to be in,” Weimar shot back, his bloodshot eyes flashing. “What are you all doing here, then?”

“How’s Airk?” Luna asked before Revafour could answer.

“Well enough, surprisingly,” Weimar replied. “He actually seems more at ease on a ship than he did on land. And here I thought most gnomes didn’t like the sea. I wonder, though, how much of it is an act…”

“An act?” Luna asked in concern, as Revafour frowned again.

“How long has he been carrying this around, his grudge against this supposed traitor?” Weimar wondered, a faraway look appearing in his eyes once again. “How long has he been dwelling on what was done to his people? How long has he blamed himself for all this, even when only a fool would consider him responsible for it all? How long do such memories stay with someone, particularly when their lifespan is so much longer than ours?”

Luna frowned at that, more worried than ever for their gnomish friend. Revafour, on the other hand, merely slammed his fist on the table, as he felt a surge of anger rise up within him as well. Staring directly into Weimar’s glassy eyes, Revafour made no effort to disguise what he was feeling at the moment.

“Is that supposed to be an accusation?” he demanded.

“Not of anything bad,” Weimar replied, realizing in spite of his drunkenness what it seemed like he was saying. “Who could blame someone for feeling that way, after the wrongs done to them? Their feelings are entirely justified. No, my friend, I’m more concerned about what it might drive them to do. Airk’s already driven to pursue this Kalrek bastard, but who knows what else it might drive him to do?”

Luna looked in concern from Weimar to Revafour, reaching out and grasping Revafour’s arm in an effort to calm him. To her immense relief, Revafour seemed to be doing just that, relaxing his clenched fists and taking another sip of tea. She also noticed just how much Weimar’s words seemed to have affected Revafour, a look of intense concentration on his face, before looking back to her.

“You’re the only one solely motivated by concern for Airk here, aren’t you?” the large man asked, a half-smile crossing his face. His eyes came back down to the scene carved into the wood block before him, even as he picked up his sculpting knife again.

“So this is what you’ve been doing all this time,” Weimar observed as he stood up and leaned forward to get a better look at the carving. “And here I thought all you did was paint pictures…”

“It passes the time,” Revafour replied, turning the knife over in his hand.

“I’ve tried sculpting myself,” Weimar replied, running his fingers admiringly along the lines Revafour had already etched into the picture, “but damned if I could ever create something so lovely.”

Set out in several panels, Revafour’s wood carving depicted a kingdom founded in brotherhood, later sundered by a brutal, bloody war. The kingdom struggled to recover from its loss, weighed down by the memory of past betrayals, having already lost much that it would never truly recover.

“It recalls what things used to be like, before…” Luna trailed off, as she turned to look at the panel herself.

She looked into Revafour’s eyes, and then into Weimar’s.

“…Before so much,” she sighed.

“And where do we go from here?” Weimar asked once again, his voice remarkably calm and clear, free of the slurring that had marked it before.

Now Revafour was the one who found himself without an answer, looking intently at what he had created without fully realizing it. 

***

“…an’ when that turtle bit down on the barrel, it blew up real good,” the sailor grinned to Amyalla, who only smiled back as she took a sip of wine. “See, that’s the secret to dealin’ with most of these sea bastards-the stupid ones run like dogs when they’re burned by flamin’ oil. Even the smart ones don’t think of stayin’ round too long after that, if’n you’re lucky…”

“How interesting,” Amyalla finally said. “Does the same trick work on pirates?”

“Afraid not,” another sailor, who’d identified himself as the bosun, shook his head. “All it makes ‘em more interested in is putting a ballista up your arse,” he shook his head. “Not that we’ll be lettin’ a pretty little behind such as yours suffer such a fate!” he continued in a gallant tone.

“I wouldn’t think of it,” Amyalla smiled, picking up one of the kerchiefs she’d knitted to help pass the time on the ship. “And yet, such bravery and foresight deserves reward,” she continued, handing the kerchief to the bosun. “Pray take this as a token of my memory and esteem.”

“Your ladyship does me no small favor,” the bosun replied with a solemn bow. “In thirty years plying these waters, rarely, if ever, have I seen a more lovely flower than yourself.”

Amyalla merely smiled coquettishly, her eyes saying more to the bosun than her voice had revealed.

The halfling was enjoying herself immensely. She enjoyed the attention she was receiving, of course, and she admired the bosun for his quiet professionalism. If anything, he’d been downplaying his experience, considering how she’d watched him put several of the more anxious passengers at ease about the dangers of lake monsters, clearly explaining the contingencies the Coast Dancer had in place for dealing with them. He’d also alluded to the abilities that some of their passengers possessed, likely referring to Amyalla and her friends or possibly some other great warriors or wizards, who could help defend the vessel. He also maintained a firm discipline with most of his crew, although most of these men, rough and tumble as they were, were indeed gentlemen of the sea.

Those that weren’t, notably the ones who’d made snide comments about Revafour, Ma’non’go and Airk, had been “persuaded” by their fellows to treat the passengers more appropriately. Charming her admirers was easy, of course, particularly when they’d had several flagons of the higher-class grog she’d purchased for them. Once that was done, all she’d had to do was complain about the way her fellow adventurers were being treated and her new friends would straighten things out with their less than admirable mates. 

It’s so much like last time, the halfling mused, back when I exposed Kivern as the philandering son of a whore that he was.

No, that’s not right, she continued. This time I haven’t had to resort to stealing Kivern’s letters, planting suspicious evidence in the homes of the men whose wives and daughters he was seducing, or charm his mistresses’ servants into providing me what I needed…

“Is something wrong, my lady?” the bosun asked, as several of the other sailors began to show concern.

“No, it’s nothing at all,” Amyalla shook her head. “Please, continue with your most interesting stories.”

“I’m afraid I must return to my duties, as must the rest of the boys,” the bosun shook his head, nodding at his men to follow him as he stood up. “Your company’s been a pleasure, my dear, and I hope that we might be able to converse once more before the voyage ends.”

What a pity, Amyalla thought as the bosun led his men away. What would it be like, forging a life alongside you? Surely your wife, if indeed you have one, is a fortunate woman.

And yet, it simply cannot be…

…I’ve found what I’ve been searching for, or so I’ve said.

And yet, why do I still feel unfulfilled? 

"
 
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