"Then you may do well when the goblins inevitably present a nuisance. That is good. Alannah does not discuss her family with me often, but I cannot believe she would want to attend your funeral."
Interjecting, Avar asks, "So a war has been declared then? Boromil, do you know if aid is being sent north per my request on behalf of the mayor?"
"There'll be no declaration of war, because there's no government or sovereign to declare it against," Boromil replies, after a moment's consideration. Reluctantly, he adds, "And it's possible that my regiment will be ordered into battle against some other foe. Woods End is the only one that makes sense, in that case, and even then it'd be a surprise. Cavalry isn't at its best in a druid-infested forest."
Wæs se grimma gæst Grendel haten,mære mearcstapa, se þe moras heold
Alannah appears in the doorway, her eyes lighting up with recognition when she sees Boromil. She approaches the trio, "There you are! I've got someone for you to meet that might be able to offer some help with your fool's errand that you've recently decided upon."
Boromil forces a smile, and replies, "Is that so? How thoughtful of you, sister! Please do introduce us."
Moving between the two, Alannah conducts a simple introduction, "Boromil, this is Marta, daughter of Padishar Meel. Marta, this is Boromil, my brother. Boromil is a recently commissioned colonel and will soon be raising a regiment to fight the goblins who threaten the valley."
She turns back to her brother, "Marta's family may be interested in assisting in the outfitting of your new regiment with arms and supplies. They are looking for an altruistic way they might be able to help Port Hope in these times of trouble and I think this would be an excellent opportunity. If anyone is going to properly management a regiment and see it make some difference, I think you and Jalen have a chance."
"An honor, Miss," Boromil offers an exaggerated bow, brandishing his costume spear like a monarch's scepter. "Alannah certainly has a way of collecting unexpected friends, but I shan't complain in this case. The better I can outfit my cavalry, the more likely they'll live to see the end of the war."
For her part, Marta seems to be reeling slightly. Even without knowing the particulars of whatever it is that Alannah has been up to, Chuul and Avar know the noblewoman-turned-adventuress well enough to imagine how exhausting she must be to people who aren't used to her many and varied eccentricities.
But good breeding tells, as she rallies, smiles in a way that doesn't look too forced, and answers Boromil, "Likewise, I'm sure, Colonel Alastar." Diplomatically, she continues, ignoring the fact that she's talking to the young man at a fancy dress party (and ignorant of the fact that he just finished asking Chuul and Avar to help with the pressing business of keeping an eye out for a woman he's trying to sleep with), "I'm sure you must be very busy with the responsibilities of your office. But perhaps you might call on us within the next few days to discuss the particulars with my father."
Alannah claps her hands together in a girlish display of delight, "Excellent!"
She glances at Chuul, "Oh, Marta, this is Master Chuul. He's one of our traveling companions and a cunning and skilled warrior. Chuul, this is Marta."
Nervously, Marta drops a somewhat awkward-looking curtsey, and offers a timid, "Good evening."
"Good evening yourself," offers Chuul, making a polite sort of half-bow while remaining seated. "It is nice to see that your networking is bearing good fruit, Alannah. I do worry for the entire valley if more people do not get more active very quickly."
Nervously, Marta asks, "I-I was just talking to Lady Alannah about that, and saying that maybe it would be a good idea for my father to underwrite the costs of recruiting some mercenaries. Maybe some . . . some orcs. He has business in the north, sometimes. But I don't know much about orcs. Or mercenaries. And Lady Alannah said you're both. Or at least you used to be. Or, I mean, obviously you're still an orc." She turns pink, and flounders on, determinedly, "That is, you . . . I mean, you look more, uh, orcy than the half-orcs I've met. And she says you're not really a mercenary anymore. And I'm going to stop talking."
Chuul looks genuinely amused, smiling for the first time tonight before actually chuckling. "I believe I like you," he reports.
"If what you are after is mercenaries, that is simple. Gold is their language. Orcs... well, they are a temperamental race, prone to outstanding acts of violence. They make great hirelings, so long as you can keep them focused, and provided you show them the level of respect they want. Orcs sometimes are not very bright, but they are bright enough to pick up on being looked down on."
If speaking such of his own race bothers Chuul, he doesn't show it. His amusement at Marta's awkward honesty still shows in his eyes, even behind his mask.
"I'm worried about whether they'll remain loyal. I was talking to someone else about this idea, and he didn't like it much. But I couldn't tell if that was because he doesn't trust mercenaries, or because he doesn't trust orcs, or maybe both," Marta blurts. "I don't know why. He's from here, not Merethrone. I mean, I guess he is, from how he talks. But I don't know for sure. I know the Merethroners fight with orcs pretty frequently because, uh," she looks shifty for a moment, "because of my father's business. Do dwarves and orcs just naturally hate each other?"
But before Chuul or anyone else can answer her, she forges on, "Oh, sorry. That was a stupid question. You travel with Master Hruthsson and he's a dwarf. So it's not like with magpies and owls. Or maybe it is, and you're just very strange people."
She claps her hand over her mouth, blushing again, and offers a muffled, "Ah'm ffo ffforry!"
Meanwhile, Boromil seems vastly entertained.
Alannah smiles, "I think energic curiosity is much better than distrust and prejudice. Its best not to judge anyone on the merits of their race, but instead, look at the merits of the individual. For example, I can tell you that Oskav is nothing like dwarven stereotypes. I suspect he does not hold ill will toward the entirely of any race." She ponders that for a moment and shrugs, "I'm pretty sure he just sees us all as breathing, walking, soon-to-be corpses or something else equally morbid."
"Agreed," Avar offers dryly. "Merits of the individual should be considered first. But I suppose prejudice is inherent in some people."
The statement is finished with an exaggerated tip of his glass and nod towards Alannah.
"Marta? Is your father regularly open with the thought of paying for mercenaries?"
"Whatever kind of question is that?" Alannah interjects, "Besides, donating money for the payment of soldiers was my idea. Marta was just saying how her family was interested in assisting with the recent troubles but unfortunately were not as martially incline as some. I thought it was an excellent compromise."
"Oh I agree", Avar offers quickly.
"Certainly, you remember our friends to the north who need assistance as well? I was simply curious as to how deep the pockets went. Or is this benefit your family only?"
There is a bit of sharpness to the paladins tone.
"It seems that I am the only one still interested in helping those who we promised to help before we came here."
The aasimar is annoyed and it shows.
Chuul ignores most of the conversation, which is very easy considering how hard he begins laughing at Marta's faux pas. After a moment, his laughter winds down. "Yes, I like you very much," he says between chuckles. He sighs contentedly. "To your concerns, merceneries of any race are extremely loyal, so long as you keep paying them. The moment your money dries up, so does their loyalty. Individuals might vary, but mercenery companies rarely change sides in the middle of a contract. Even a good payout would not be worth it. With a reputation for that sort of thing, they would never get another contract."
“She is to help Jalen and my brother, who are both going north to help do exactly what we came for. Don’t flap your tongue if you don’t know the facts. You are making a habit of stating ignorant things in front of powerful people.”
Marta watches Avar and Alannah bickering, and her face clouds over with concern. "Should I step away to give you some privacy to discuss this?"
Avar waves his at Marta, "No Marta, you are fine. It's just that I still am adjusting to what the locals here consider ignorant versus curious."
The paladin finishes the sentence giving Alannah the stinky eyeball, "I apologize for making you feel uncomfortable." Avar offers a slight bow.
"It was quiet before you two showed up." Despite his grumbling, Chuul's tone is light, chiding rather than growling. He slips off his mask and lays it on the table absently. "You bicker like siblings. Or lovers."
"He wishes," takes a slightly lighter tone and Alannah replies.
"I wouldn't have to chide him if he thought before opening his mouth." Alannah seems to be totally obvious to any irony that she is making that statement about someone else.
For his part Avar just shakes his head and takes a sip of his drink. Figuring his time at the party is complete the paladin quietly separates himself from the group and goes back to his room at the inn.
As Avar departs, Boromil addresses Marta, "Miss Meel. If I may, I'll look forward to calling on you and your father to discuss how you might be able to contribute to the needs of my regiment. The day after tomorrow, perhaps? Since you know your father's schedule better than I, perhaps you'd advise me whether to come in the morning or the evening."
Marta blinks, having been watching Avar leave, and quickly replies, "If you come very early in the morning, just after breakfast, that's best. Otherwise I suggest waiting until the middle of the afternoon. My father stops for a nap after the midday meal, then wakes up and sees to business until supper time."
This advice earns Marta a smile, and a sweeping bow from Alannah's brother. "I'll show up early, then." As he straightens, he stops smiling and looks to Alannah, adding, "And I'll join you for breakfast tomorrow. Evidently we need to talk about something. You've been bouncing around all night like a gnome with an itchy bottom."
Alannah looks suddenly bored, "As you wish, brother. You know where I'll be."
The newly-minted officer bows in turn to the rest of the party's members, offers a cheerful farewell, and departs—possibly in search of the wolf-costumed elf woman, or possibly for home, bed, and a busy day. It's late night, now, and if he's going to be up early to pester his sister and raise a body of soldiers, he's going to need his rest.
"So, orcs to help Jalen, mysterious meetings with your brother... your evening has been productive then?" Chuul asks Alannah. "Should I inquire about any other happenings?"
"Jalen is getting a small army to fight in the north, we have a quest to find a famous sword, we've saved a young woman from a lecherous lordling. And apparently, my family has a few new enemies I'll need to watch out for. Oh, and Avar is an ass and Oksav has been tolerable." She pauses as she finishes recounting the items, "I think that's about it. Parties can be very productive for getting things done. Sometimes more so that tromping out in the wilderness. If only we could kill a werewolf or two, the night would be complete."
Marta's eyes are like saucers, but she doesn't make so much as a peep.
Chuul double blinks quickly, obviously surprised by Alannah's almost positive (by comparison) description of Oskav. At the mention of a werewolf, his brown drops a hair, darkening his face a bit. "That werewolf piece of shit," he mumbles. He has the grace to look... well, not ashamed, but aware that he's used hard language in the presence of someone with a soft disposition. "I take it you are our damsel in distress?" he directs to Marta.
Alannah intercedes before Marta can say anything, "I'm going to cast a quick divination in the library and then turn in for the night since my brother is going to insist on pestering me in the morning. On a totally unrelated note, can you ensure that Marta makes it safely to her carriage when she's ready to leave?"
She turns to Marta, gesturing to Chuul, "Chuul is an honorable person. You are safe with him, I've traveled with him for a while now and he's been nothing but a perfect gentleman. If you should need anything further, find me or send word to my brother."
Marta seems bolstered by Alannah's farewell. But Garren is still right there, so she has relatively little reason to fret even without the noblewoman's reassurances. Uncertainly, she tells the orc, "I think Lady Alannah makes it sound more, uh, dramatic than it is. I mean, I was in distress, but I don't know if I count as a damsel. My father's an untitled merchant, when you get down to it. But she was very kind in intervening in an awkward situation, and suggested several ways that I might be able to avoid future trouble."
"That sounds like her," says Chuul. Whether her rescue or her potential dramatization of the situation, Chuul does not specify. "Her methods are more... cultured than my own might be."
Chuul seems to consider for a moment before speaking further. "If you require a chaperone or escort, I am happy to oblige. You seem pleasant company. But I do not know what kind of rumors you might have to contend with should you been seen associating with the orc" (he puts a comically ominous emphasis on his words). Though I suppose it might not be so bad if you are serious about hiring orcish mercenaries in the near future."
"If a certain lordling thought an orc had an eye on you, he might be a little more reticent if only because orcs are not known for abiding by social conventions."
"Between the public nature of this ball and Moonguard Baur's presence, I think my reputation is safe for the moment even if you are a terrible lothario and Lady Alannah has been taken in by your unexpectedly refined manners, Master Chuul," replies the young woman, composedly. She adds, to Garren, "I would like to think so, but I'm concerned that he'd just take it as the pretext for the start of a campaign to besmirch my reputation. Lord Wæmunding wouldn't have me so frightened if he weren't so obviously the sort of person who'd sooner wreck a thing that he wants to possess than allow someone else to have it."
"This Lord Wæmunding sounds delightful," says Chuul darkly. "Do you believe he might try to lay hands on you tonight?"
Marta pauses to consider the question, then replies, sounding truthful, "No. I don't think anything will happen tonight."
"A shame," comments Chuul offhandedly. "It might have solved your problems."
"Maybe so," allows Marta, "but I don't like the idea of killing him over our problems. Not that he isn't awful." After a moment, the girl adds, sounding deeply puzzled, "You're all being so nice about this. Especially Lady Alannah."
"I think she is uniquely qualified to understand the expectation to support a noble family's interests which in no way aligns with her personal desires. I expect she considers you a form of kindred spirit and hopes you'll find your own happiness the way she has."
"Well, I'm glad she decided to step in, whatever her motives. I've been worried for awhile, and although I don't think my problems are solved, I think they're more manageable now than they have been for quite some time," the girl replies, "and I hope my father is sensible and decides to assist her brother. Master Trogar's suggestions sounded very reasonable to me."
"I imagine Alannah will find a great deal of satisfaction in knowing she has helped you," says Chuul. "She does not like people controlling others. It is something of a peeve of hers."