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    The Silver Wolf: Ghosts Of The Past-Wood And Wine
    Posted on Mon, April 16, 2018 by LordCeb
    CruelSummerLord writes "“How long has he been carrying around this grudge against this supposed traitor?” Weimar said, a faraway look appearing in his bleary eyes. “How long has he been dwelling on what happened to his kin? How long has he been blaming himself, even when only a fool would consider him responsible? Gnomes have such long lifespans-how long do they keep such memories with them?”


    Chapter Eight

    Wood And Wine

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

    “Wonderful,” Revafour said with a satisfied sigh. “What kind of blend is it?

    “My own special kind,” Luna said with a smile. “It’s a blend of traditional Flanaess spices combined with some more exotic herbs. The trader claimed those herbs came from beyond the Baklunish West. He talked about vast tea fields and plantations, harvested by halfling farmers who’ve been doing so as long as the Oerth has existed.” 

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

    “Yes, but you surely know how often travelers’ tales turn out to be true?” Luna pointed out. “Besides, I studied the herbs myself and saw just how different they are from anything grown in the Flanaess. And if you don’t believe some mountebank merchant, surely you’d believe me?”

    “True enough,” Revafour said, returning her smile. “But I must ask-why are you keeping me company? Surely you’d want to be with the rest of the passengers?”

    The companions were sailing across the Nyr Dyv, the great inland sea at the centre of the Flanaess, on the Coast Dancer. Their destination was Dyvers, the merchant city to the west of Greyhawk. From there, they planned to travel overland through the Gnarley Forest to the village of Hommlet. After resupplying in Hommlet, the companions would continue on to the Greenway Valley in the Kron Hills, where Copper Crossing served as the gnomes’ capital. Airk said they would be able to get some information on what Kalrek might be planning in Copper Crossing. 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 was easy to find a ship willing to take them to Dyvers.

    The sailing journey gave the companions a well-deserved, if brief, rest. Revafour avoided socializing with the crew or any of the other passengers. Instead, he’d mostly stayed in the cabin he was sharing with Weimar, carving at a block of wood with his sculpting knife. Now he was taking a break, enjoying the meal Luna had brought for them to share.

    “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 said, shaking her head. “You know that, don’t you? That’s not the reason you’re asking, is it?”

    “You probably know the reason I asked,” Revafour said. “Tired of playing music for everyone else on this ship?”

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

    “I noticed your performance is more animated than the song requires,” Revafour said. “Is there a problem?”

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

    “Yes, to those who know you,” Revafour said, raising an eyebrow. “So, do you have a problem, one that you didn’t feel comfortable with some of the others?”

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

    “-we’ve known Airk for longer than you,” Revafour finished for her. “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 said, an amused smile crossing his face. “So you came to me,” he continued, his smile turning to a frown.

    “What would you have me do?” Luna said. “I’m concerned about-“

    “What could I have you do?” Revafour interrupted her. “Airk’s the only one who can deal with his problems. Why else are we going on this mad quest?”

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

    “For the same reason we all have, of course,” Revafour said. “Because Airk’s our friend. As to why he’s doing it, it’s obvious. He’s still struggling with something, and he needs to see it through.”

    Luna and Revafour ate in silence for a few minutes. Luna tried to think of something to say, but nothing came to mind.

    She was jolted back to reality by the door to Revafour’s cabin slamming shut. Turning around, she saw that Weimar had just arrived. He sat down at the table with them, his breath reeking of the grog he had paid some of the ship’s crew to share with him. Weimar moved like a sober man, his breath and reddened eyes the only visible signs of drink.

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

    “We’d have appreciated the knock,” Revafour said, none too pleased by the interruption.

    “Pardon me for having a right to enter the cabin,” Weimar said, his bloodshot eyes flashing. “What are you all doing here, then?”

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

    “Well enough, surprisingly,” Weimar said. “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 as Revafour frowned.

    “How long has he been carrying around this grudge against this supposed traitor?” Weimar said, a faraway look appearing in his bleary eyes. “How long has he been dwelling on what happened to his kin? How long has he been blaming himself, even when only a fool would consider him responsible? Gnomes have such long lifespans-how long do they keep such memories with them?”

    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. Staring directly into Weimar’s glassy eyes, Revafour made no effort to disguise what he was feeling at the moment.

    “Are you accusing me of something?” Revafour said.

    “Not of anything bad,” Weimar said. Despite his drunkenness, he realized what it seemed like he was saying. “Who could blame someone for feeling that way, after everything they’ve been through? No, I’m just worried about what it might make Airk do.”

    Luna looked in concern from Weimar to Revafour. She reached out and grasped Revafour’s arm in an effort to calm him. To her immense relief, Revafour relaxed his clenched fists and took another sip of tea. There was a look of intense concentration on his face, one he kept as he turned to look at her.

    “You’re the only one here who’s only worried about Airk, aren’t you?” Revafour said as a half-smile crossed his face. He picked up his sculpting knife as he looked back down to the scene carved into the wood block before him.

     “This is what you’ve been doing all this time?” Weimar said, leaning forward to get a better look at the carving. “And here I thought you just painted…”

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

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

    Revafour’s carving was set out in several panels. It 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 lost much that it would never truly recover.

    “It recalls what things used to be like, before…” Luna said, trailing off as she looked at the panel.

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

    “…Before so much,” she said with a sigh.

    “And where do we go from here?” Weimar asked, his voice remarkably calm and clear.

    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 said to Amyalla, who returned his smile 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 said. “Does the same trick work on pirates?”

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

    “I would expect no less,” Amyalla said with a smile, picking up one of the kerchiefs she’d knitted to help pass the time on the ship. “And yet, such bravery deserves reward,” she continued, handing the kerchief to the bosun. “Pray take this as a token of my gratitude.”

    “Your ladyship does me no small favor,” the bosun said with a 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 revealed.

    Amyalla enjoyed the attention she was receiving from all the sailors, but she especially appreciated the bosun’s company. She admired the bosun for his quiet professionalism, and noted how he’d almost been downplaying his experience. There were several other passengers besides the companions on the Coast Dancer, and they were worried about the dangers of sea travel. The bosun put them at ease by showing the contingencies the ship had in place. He also kept his rough and tumble crew in line with firm discipline, although many of them were gentlemen of the sea.

    A few of the sailors were different, though. They made snide comments about Revafour, Ma’non’go and Airk, and Amyalla had to deal with them. She charmed several of the more open-minded sailors, adding to her natural skills with the flagons of high-class grog she bought them. From there, Amyalla just had to complain about the way her fellow adventurers were being treated by the bigoted sailors. Her new drinking companions were angry at seeing such a beautiful lass upset, and they quickly ‘persuaded’ their less than admirable mates to treat Amyalla’s companions with respect.

    It’s so much like last time, Amyalla 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, concern on the faces of him and several other sailors.  

    “No, it’s nothing at all,” Amyalla said, shaking her head. “Do you have any other stories to tell?”

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

    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?

     The Coast Dancer put in at Dyvers five days after its departure from Greyhawk. Dyvers was infamous for living up to its nickname of the ‘City of Shylocks’. It was known for being as greedy and grasping as Greyhawk, its most hated rival, and preferring to put Oeridian and Suel humans at the top of its social ladder. Dyvers was also known for what most people, even many residents of Dyvers itself, considered the preening arrogance of its nobility. For all of Greyhawk’s greed, it was wide open to the aspirations and goals of most races. Even if places like the Savant Tavern and the Guild of Mercenaries barred women and certain demihumans from entry and membership, most nonhumans found Greyhawk much more welcoming than Dyvers.

    The companions didn’t plan to stay long in Dyvers. They only intended to buy horses and supplies for the trip to Copper Crossing, a journey that would be a week and more overland. Unfortunately, by the time the Coast Dancer had docked and the city officials had inspected the ship, it was early evening and most of Dyvers’ shops were already closed. The companions booked rooms at the Fox and Hound Inn, known among travelers for its competitive prices and high-quality fare. They enjoyed a fine meal of roasted beef and spiced potatoes, although Revafour lamented that they didn’t serve any game fare. Now, Ma’non’go, Amyalla and Weimar were relaxing over drinks in the Fox and Hound’s common room, their fellow adventurers having gone to sleep. 

    Ma’non’go was bemused by the difference between his two drinking companions. Amyalla only had a couple of glasses of light, sweet wine, working on her knitting in between answering Weimar’s gregarious comments. Weimar himself made two trips to the privy in between knocking back generous amounts of mead and rambling about everything from various local legends to his exploits as a former scout in the Keoish army. Ma’non’go drank two flagons worth of beer, but his vision was remarkably clear compared to Weimar’s.

    Amyalla uses her charms as much as her lockpicks or her stealth, Ma’non’go thought to himself. How many of her ilk are content simply to pick pockets, without actively enlisting help in their exploits?

    Weimar uses a shield instead of the two-swords style so many warriors with such wilderness training employ. I’ve never seen him use the natural magic that such rangers are often taught. Maybe he doesn’t have the power for it yet…assuming he could even keep his hands from shaking long enough to cast it?

    There’s so much more to them than there seems at first glance. I’m all too familiar with what that’s like…

    Ma’non’go tried to repress the memories of X’tandelexamenka and Hepmonaland that came flooding back to him, memories he did not care to dwell on.

    Besides, it wasn’t fair to compare Amyalla and Weimar to his treacherous false friends.

     “…and that’s the trick to getting the snapper-saw plant’s fruit,” Weimar was saying. “Trigger the leaves with a tossed stone or a stick, and then you can hack at the leaves to get at the fruit. Won’t permanently hurt the plant-the leaves grow back. Just be careful when-“

    Weimar was interrupted by the sound of raised voices over by the bar, and the companions turned to see what was happening. Several rough-looking men at a table were laughing hysterically at a young barmaid, dripping with the beer she’d spilled all over herself after one of the men groped her. Several of the men stood up, their faces clearly showing how much they’d had to drink, and they surrounded the barmaid. The barkeep yelled angrily at the men, but they just laughed and spat in his direction before turning back to the barmaid.

    “You’d best be saying yes to a worthy man’s offer,” one of the men said, smiling lasciviously. He was clearly the band’s leader by the way the others deferred to him. “Or are you just leading us on to get more silver?”

    “Sounds like she seeks to earn more than she’s worth,” one of the other men said. “Perhaps we ought to teach her a lesson in ladylike conduct?”

    Three other large men, clearly the bar’s bouncers, emerged from the back room at the barkeep’s call, and they attacked the ruffians. The rest of the patrons cheered at the melee, eagerly placing bets on who might win the fight.  

    His eyes flaring, Weimar immediately stood up, and finished what little mead was left in his mug. Tossing the empty mug at one of the ruffians, Weimar struck the large man in the back of the head, knocking the ruffian senseless. Several of his friends turned around, glaring angrily at Weimar, who strode forward fearlessly.

    “Best to stay out of thing that don’t concern you, lad,” one of the ruffians said, dropping the unconscious bouncer he’d just knocked out.

    “Big words coming from men who likely wouldn’t even be able to pleasure that young lady you’re harassing, assuming you were worthy of being with her,” Weimar said with a scowl. “I’ve always found that the more people like you boast about your prowess, the smaller your protrusions actually are. I’m sure you all know that about each other already, considering how little success you’ve likely had with anyone else…”

    Infuriated, the thugs not already beating the bouncers charged at Weimar. Weimar didn’t seem the least impressed, picking up a chair and smashing it across the face of the first ruffian to close in on him. As the man collapsed, his mouth and nose suddenly gushing blood, Weimar swung the chair in the other direction, striking another ruffian. The second man staggered back, and Weimar drove the chair straight down on his head, breaking it into pieces. The man fell like a sack of grain, but the two remaining ruffians attacked Weimar at the same time. One of the men grabbed Weimar from behind, holding his arms. The other man began punching Weimar, raising painful welts on his face as he struggled to free himself.

    Ma’non’go moved to help Weimar, but he was stopped by Amyalla, who grabbed his hand as he stood up.

    “He can handle himself, of course,” Amyalla pointed out to Ma’non’go before he could even sign a protest.

    Following Amyalla’s pointing finger, Ma’non’go saw Weimar kick the ruffian punching him in the chest. Crying out in pain, the ruffian stumbled back, tripping over another thug’s unconscious body and knocking himself senseless as his head hit the floor. The thug holding Weimar relaxed his grip in surprise, and Weimar quickly slipped free. Turning around, Weimar smashed the thug in the face with a vicious punch, before driving another punch into his stomach. As the thug doubled over in pain, Weimar kicked him in the face, sending him flying back to collapse. 

    The two remaining bouncers and the barkeep were holding their own against the remaining ruffians, but one of the bouncers was suddenly knocked senseless by a chair wielded by one of the ruffians. The remaining bouncer braced himself for the thug’s next attack, but he was surprised to see Weimar snatch the chair out of the thug’s grip. Turning around, the thug was surprised to see Weimar smash him into the face with the chair. The thug fell senseless as Weimar attacked the last three thugs fighting the remaining bouncer and the barkeep. Weimar struck down two of the thugs, breaking his chair into pieces from the second blow. The last ruffian turned to face Weimar, but the remaining bouncer punched him in the back of the head, knocking him out cold.

    Ma’non’go’s mouth fell open as he watched the brawl, before he looked back at Amyalla questioningly.

     “Dyvers’ laws don’t allow for exceptions when someone gets into a bar brawl for a noble reason,” Amyalla said. “The only people who aren’t arrested for it in this city are innkeepers and their employees. Just look,” she continued as the city watch barged into the inn. Armed with swords and dressed in ring mail armor, they began rounding up the unconscious ruffians, along with the dazed and drunk Weimar. The watchmen ignored the protests of the bouncer and the barkeep at Weimar’s arrest, dragging him away along with the ruffians.

    “If Weimar hadn’t been three sheets to the wind when that little incident took place, I could have pointed out the exact same thing to him,” Amyalla said, as a dismayed look crossed Ma’non’go’s face. “He deserves praise for going to help that young woman, but the watch would have had things well in hand. We’re in a better part of the city, one where the Gentry of Dyvers doesn’t tolerate too much out of place behavior.”

    So…Ma’non’go signed.

    “Let him spend a night in the cells,” Amyalla said with a smile. “Maybe he’ll learn something from this, although I doubt it.”

    Weimar woke up with a splitting headache. At first he attributed it to a typical hangover, but then he cursed as he felt the pain from the bruises he’d suffered in the brawl. Rolling over and sitting up, was surprised to see himself not in a soft bed at the Fox And Hound Inn, but on a cot in a jail cell. It was then that he began to vaguely remember last night, including how he’d been arrested after the brawl.

    Suddenly, he heard banging on the cell door, which didn’t do his headache much good. Cursing as he looked at the cell door, he was surprised to see Amyalla on the other side, a dagger in her hand.

    “You had a restful night, I hope?” the halfling asked with a mocking smirk.

    “I was…arrested,” Weimar said, still holding his head. “Why did-“

    “Because the Dyvers city watch will arrest anyone who’s involved in a fight, even if it’s for noble reasons,” Amyalla said. “Besides, you didn’t even need to get involved anyway. The Dyvers watchmen of are known for being professionals.”

    “…Where are the others?” Weimar asked. “Are they trying to free-“

    “Of course not,” Amyalla said, rolling her eyes. “Luna and Seline are preparing their magic, and Revafour, Ma’non’go and Airk are out gathering supplies. We’re going to join them once I pay the fifty silver wagons you owe in fines,” she finished with a grin.

    “And you just let them arrest me?” Weimar said, wincing as he stood up and walked over to the cell door.

    “I could have warned you if you weren’t so drunk last night,” Amyalla said, as a watch sergeant came to open the cell door. “You could stand to learn a lesson anyway.”

     “Oh? And what’s that?” Weimar said as he came out of the cell.

    “The next time your loins make you try to save a distressed damsel, don’t be so stupid about it,” Amyalla said with a smirk, as the watch sergeant led her and Weimar to where they were keeping Weimar’s belongings.

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