Avar waves off any apology and chuckles, " I am an aasimar. My kind have celestial blood." Avar kind of runs a hand across his face.
"Hence my complexion. But I am a strange looking human I suppose. I am Avar. It is my pleasure to meet you. If you wouldn't mind may I sit with you? Maybe buy a round ?"
Awkwardly intruding upon one, maybe two dinners has been enough for Kya this week. She hands her coin to Aphora plus one for Garren if he has not already and slips past to find her room. If Lady Alannah stays behind to strangle Avar, Kya will meet her at the pool when she is finished.
Alannah watches Avar move over to the halflings with a obvious 'what the fuck' expression, "You know what? He already threw an entire city into riots and chaos with his diplomacy, how about one of you try to keep him from petitioning the halfling tribes to join the empire or something else equally idiotic to screw this up? I'm going with Kya to the bath." With that, she huffs out of the room toward the sauna.
"That sounds very generous of you, Avar," replies Darragh, before the fussy halfling woman can cut in to stop him. Grinning, he nudges the halfling next to him, and adds, "Here, Paddick, move over a little bit so he can sit next to me."
Paddick obeys, looking a bit disgruntled.
Darragh either doesn't notice or affects not to; in any case, he's more interested in asking Avar, "How's ari sound? That's a real plainsman's drink. Have you ever tried it?"
Alannah - Blue 1
Avar - Blue 2
Chuul - Blue 3
Garren - Blue 4
Kya - Blue 5
Oskav - Blue 6
Aphora Barnsley - Green 1
Halflings - Gray 1 through 4, 6 and 8Paddick - Gray 5Darragh - Gray 7
Wæs se grimma gæst Grendel haten,mære mearcstapa, se þe moras heold
Whether he's perhaps doing as Alannah has asked or he's just thirsty, Chuul finds a chair not too far from Avar's new friends and takes out a book to read. He orders a simple drink when the opportunity presents itself.
With Alannah and Kya storming off and Chuul burying his face in a book, Garren considers whether he is up to the challenge of preventing Avar from creating an intertribal incident if that is what he plans. After a brief moment he decides that he is not and gives a meaningful look to Oskav. Moving closer, he joins the conversation. "Please do not worry about rudeness or giving insult. And I apologize in advance if we do the same. We are keenly interested in your culture, but I don't think any of us have had much interaction in the past. I hope you'll take everything we say in the best light knowing our intentions are good even if our tongues are clumsy, and we'll do the same."
Avar furrows his brow at Garren, confused. Not bothering to say anything Avar shuts down the salet and takes the offered seat
"I don't think I have ever tried Ari," Avar begins. "Please, tell me about it. The last time I drank something that I hadn't drank before I had to see a priest!"
Kya heads out with Lady Alannah, not losing much of her initial excitement. "I don't think he'll be able to get them to join the empire," she attempts to reassure Alannah.
"Ari," begins Darragh, "Is a spirituous liquor of the highest virtue." He's now speaking over the exasperated groans and sighs of his companions, "It drives away wicked spirits, and it awakens the imbiber to a higher awareness of his inner genius. Ari is our chief medicine against ailments of all kinds, be they spiritual, mental, or bodily; I recommend it to you for everything from low spirits to snakebite, against which case I always carry a small flask. And a small snake."
Here, Paddick breaks in, calling out something in Halfling. Since Avar has deactivated his helmet, the only thing that's really easy for any of the Bastards to understand is that he started out by calling for Aphora.
Garren finds himself sitting next to the halfling woman who's been trying to talk some sense into Darragh. Quietly, she replies to him, "Oh, well. I hope that you still feel so tolerant when you really get to know Darragh. He's a bit of a trial when he's in his cups. You can call me Afric, by the way. Dar's my brother, and Paddick's my first cousin once removed."
Halflings - Gray 1, 3 and 4, 6 and 8Afric - Gray 2Paddick - Gray 5Darragh - Gray 7
"Afric, it is a pleasure. I will admit, our standards for friendship are relatively modest. If he isn't actively trying to murder everyone we know, he's better than our current quarry. Garren by the way."
"So you drink medicine as a form of common drink? Where is it derived from?"
"My Common isn't so good for this kind of talk, friend Avar" confides Darragh. "It's like the dwarf drink. You call it whisky, I think. Except from horse milk. And it's more, uh, spiritual? Is that the word? We use it for prayers and things! Not many foreigners get to try it!"
Meanwhile, Afric is replying to Garren, "If there's someone trying to murder everyone you know, then should we even be speaking to you?"
The other halflings have gone back to talking among themselves in their own language.
A bit dubious, Avar silently tirns the salet back on and waits for the drinks.
"Spiritual? Hmmm. Is the horse milk mixed with another ingredient? Is there a custom to be followed before drinking or anything like that?"
Avar is genuinely curious and sounds like it.
"It's not because we know them. Or at least, not primarily. Have you heard of Berger Cole? He's depraved and enjoys suffering for it's own sake. We're trying to stop him. But if we weren't, he'd still create as much suffering as he could. We doubt he is solely responsible for stirring up trouble with the goblins in the valley, but he probably had a hand in it." Garren is amendable to trying the drink.
"We also believe he had a hand in killing my friend, Ryster Wyther," Avar offers interjecting himself into Garrens conversation.
"I am also interested in goblin raids as well. There is much going on that we're interested in. Lets drink and discuss!"
"No, I've never heard of this person," Afric tells Garren. "What is he? Aureshan? The name sounds Aureshan." She checks herself, and adds, "Sorry. Port Hoper. We forget that's what you like to be called nowadays."
"Oh, but we've heard about goblin raids, yeah," speaks up the halfling across the table from Avar, who hasn't been introduced yet. "Things are getting pretty bad on the eastern end of the steppe." He frowns glumly into his mug, and opines, "And these mercenaries aren't much help. They talk really nicely about being hired by allies who want to help us defend ourselves, but that's all it is. Talk. They're digging in here to wait for them to fight their way across the steppe. Must figure that we'll bleed 'em on the way, and thin out the horde." He sneers at that thought.
"I am sorry to hear that. Have the mercenaries been around here? Is your troop the only one taking up arms?"
Oskav pays the woman and finds a seat near enough to the rest of the party where he can make out what they're saying (and respond in kind if they address him) but far enough away that he and Baldr won't be disruptive. He watches the exchange between Avar and the locals with some interest, but isn't inclined to intervene even if the paladin really steps in it again.
Picking up on this sentiment, the raven croaks, "The Moonguard is better with kids, anyway."
"Men are the only animals that devote themselves, day in and day out, to making one another unhappy. It is an art like any other. Its virtuosi are called altruists." - H.L. Mencken
The halfling across from Avar replies, "Surely you saw their camp on your way in here. Or the smoke from their campfires, at least, if you came in from the south. Supposedly they call themselves the Horsekillers."
He looks like he's about to say more, when Aphora arrives bearing a tray with a decanter and a set of little cups. Trailing behind her comes a halfling that none of the Bastards have seen before; he's a sturdy fellow and he bears a huge-for-a-halfling platter that looks like it has been piled with rice, vegetables, some kind of unleavened bread, and the whole, cooked head of a pony.
Avar and Garren's companions slap the tabletop and cheer at the arrival of the food. Darragh immediately seizes a piece of the flatbread, and uses a spoon to gouge out one of the horse's eyes. Setting the globule upon the bread, he thrusts it at Avar and proclaims, "Here, here! Try it, I insist!" He puts the fingers of his free hand to his lips and makes an appreciative sucking noise. "The best part!"
Meanwhile, Alannah and Kya have found the sauna hot and ready for them. There's a thin curl of blue smoke coming up from its stove, and a bucket and dipper full of water are sitting outside the door, ready to be taken in and used to make steam.
Silently hoping that eating the food thrust before him doesn't swear fealty to the halflings, or something worse, Avar takes the food and eats it. If anything, the paladin figures it temprorarily keeps him from speaking about the Horsekillers.
"By borders and and boundaries, may Agon bless us!" With that Avar eats.
"You think someone's in there? Are we supposed to knock first?" Kya picks up the water bucket.
A knock on the sauna's door garners no response, and it proves to be empty.
Avar's gustation of the horse's eye prompts a loud cheer from every halfling at the table, and the one across from Avar says something to Darragh that startles Aphora into a peal of laughter. The woman masters herself quickly, and circulates around the halflings' table to lay out cups, one for each diner. The decanter is last, and she sets it and the final cup in front of Darragh, who immediately fills both his own cup and the one in front of Avar before he passes it down the table for the other halflings to help themselves.
Aphora heads over to Chuul and Oskav, and inquires, "Sirs, will you take plains food tonight, or would you prefer to wait briefly while we prepare something more familiar to foreign tastes?"
Kya steps inside and looks around. "Lady Alannah, I'm kinda, um...a little confused about why we're here...I mean, Winterhome. Something about the chief having a necklace that you want? Is it one of those magical ones that's gonna help us track down the werewolf, or is it just really valuable like one with diamonds or something?"
She pulls the silver ribbon out of her hair which falls just past her shoulders in an unruly mess of curls that likely hasn't seen a brush in weeks.
"That... looks remarkably good," says Chuul as he eyes the halflings' dinner. He sounds impressed. "I would be grateful if you have anything resembling that, madam."
"Your portion would use meat from the animal's shoulder," replies Aphora. "That party asked for the head specifically, and it's been a good thirty years since we've butchered a horse with more than one. So I can't honor a second request for horse head." With a completely straight face, she adds, "I think the texture of the shoulder meat is better, anyway. But roasted head is very traditional."
As far as Kya can tell, the inside of the sauna is quite clean. It's all some kind of reddish wood. There's a heavy iron stove in the middle of the room, with a sort of basin full of rocks on its top. And there's a lamp inside, currently extinguished. She guesses it's there because the sauna doesn't have any windows to admit light.
It's also REALLY hot inside.
Alannah goes about prepping the sauna as they did when they visited last. When Kya asks about the necklace, Alannah turns to study the girl for a moment before starting to answer. "The answer to that question is much more complicated than you would think, as it requires a short history lesson to fully grasp the significance of why we are here. But here we have time and some privacy, so you want to hear the story, now is a good time to tell it."
Kya grimaces. Clearly a history lesson and a complicated story were not what she was expecting.
"Uhhh...ok, since it's a good time to tell it," she attempts to hide the reluctance in her tone.
"Hey" she brightens up, "unless you wanna talk about something else, like...maybe how you started traveling with these guys in the first place, or whatever you wanna talk about, I mean if you don't feel like talking about the necklace that is."
She watches Alannah set up the room and in general follows her lead.
"The shoulder sounds good," says Chuul. "I thank you for it."
Alannah shrugs, looking a bit relieved as she follows Kya's lead and changes the subject, "Oh, that one. That one was easy. I was traveling and looking for a family heirloom with a group of mercenaries. One night we were attacked while camping by vampires. Everyone was killed but me... and I guess Georgie who was supposedly 'scouting' and never came back. I caught up to him much later, but that's a different story. The next morning I was heading to Golden Sheaves and ended up meet Chuul and the rest on the road. They killed the vampires and we've been traveling together since."
"Hmmm,"Kya absorbs the story. "So did you ever find the, uh...your family's...heirloom?" A perplexed look crosses her face. "That's something important, right?"
Alannah nods, "Yes, it was nearby in the ruins that the vampires were using as a lair. Perhaps ironically, it was also part of a necklace. But either through time or abuse, I think it was broken beyond repair. It doesn't matter, now I have a new quest."
Oskav echoes Chuul's sentiments. "Meat is meat and the road is long, madam. We will gladly partake from whatever you offer us."
"I didn't want you to feel slighted by a lack of eyeballs, sirs," replies Aphora, her expression very grave.
Meanwhile, decanter has made a round of the halflings' table, and Darragh bawls, "To new friends!" His entire company downs a shot of the contents, watching Avar and Garren to see whether they do so. It burns like fire, and obviously is some kind of distilled liquor. Despite having been distilled, it still tastes and smells a bit milky, and there's a slightly rancid undertone to it.
Garren suspects that if he drinks enough of it, he'll stop noticing.
Darragh barely waits for Avar to catch his breath after the shot of ari before he presents the aasimar with a second eyeball, exclaiming, "You like it, I can tell! Have the other, too. It's good luck to get both!" He presses the slick orbule upon the paladin with great fervor.
"What's your new quest?" Kya asks Alannah. "Is it the same as Chuul and Moonguard Baur's, to destroy Berger Cole, or something more...complicated?"
Alannah stiffles a chuckle at the question, "Oh no, I share their quest. Cole murdered a friend of mine too and has been an all around thorn in the side of all who live in the valley. He needs to be destroyed. But I was also out to have an adventure, find new things, and seek out magic and artifacts. I don't enjoy sleeping on the ground every night, but I do find I enjoy traveling around."
Avar pauses for a breath and silently wonders if this night is quickly going in the wrong direction. Figuring he is committed he takes the food and rumbles a merry, "To new friends and to good luck!"
The aasimar gulps down the food.
Darragh has his cup filled again pretty much before Avar swallows the eyeball, and the decanter is making the rounds of the table. Thankfully, he and the other halflings take a moment to help themselves to food and take a few bites, sparing the paladin from having to demonstrate his friendship and goodwill any further.
After a moment, Afric asks Garren, "So, this Berger Cole. You're looking for him here, on the plains? Is that right? Is he a Big Person like you?"
Kya nods understanding. "After what he did in Mooreville he's more like a spear through the side than a thorn I guess. But I know what you mean about traveling and adventure. I've been to all sorts of places and slept on all kinds of ground." She pauses briefly to dry her face and looks to the door.
"Maybe we should go to the cold pool now and then come back. I'm getting kinda dizzy."
Alannah grins and jumps up, voice and expression shifting into girlish excitement, "Oh, of course! Going back and forth is the fun part. It's both invigoration and relaxing at the same time. You're going to like it."
Garren tips back the shot with the others, and there is a noticeable flush to his cheeks as he answers the halfling. "He has been here, but he is hiding in the feywild at the moment. The geography of that land is strange, so he is far but not far, and we think there are reasons he will return in due course."
Nonplussed, Afric replies, "I don't think I understand why you're here, then."
"Alright, let's go!" Kya springs up and follows Alannah to the cold pool to check it out.
"Hey! Have you ever been to visit Emerald Hollow?"
"There are a few things we think we can do to draw him out. And we have something he wants."
Afric grunts, sounding a bit dour, but doesn't pursue the matter further with Garren. Instead, she catches a large chunk of the horse's jaw meat in a pinch of flatbread, and stuffs her mouth. Fortunately for Garren, he doesn't have to sit there and go hungry while people stuff their faces full of meat because there's plenty of the flatbread for him to eat—it turns out that this is the "nan" they were talking about, and that it's both chewy and also nicely flaky.
At the other end of the table, Darragh is about to press a third shot of ari upon Avar. Despite the other halflings' groaning when Darragh gave his little speech about the virtues of the stuff, they're partaking readily enough, and between that and the meal, they aren't really talking much.
But Darragh is. Without any hint of self-consciousness about prying directly into your business, he demands of Avar, "What are you doing here? Trading for ponies? Hunting, maybe for saiga? Oh, or maybe you're here to chase plains women!" He sounds delighted, rather than offended, by this possibility.
"I am here to help track down items. With the help of my comrades," Avar waves towards Chuul, Oskav, and Garren.
"We're also tracking one Berger Cole. As I said, I think he had a hand in murdering my friend. I also would like help, if I can against the goblins. While in Port Hope we learned that efforts are being made to take up arms."
"Oh, you're serious about that?" Darragh grins, and adds, "Your stories are so vague that I thought maybe you were really here to chase plains women. It's very strange! Your people nearly always lie about it when they come in search of our beauties." He tops up Avar's cup of ari—again—fills his own, and raises his drink. "Drink, and tell me more about this Cole person. Maybe I know him. I know everyone on the plain. It's true! Ask anybody. So tell me."
Avar obliges and drains his cup.
Sucking in wind to cool the burn the paladin offers, "I honestly don't know much. Chuul," Avar nods to the half-orc, "knows the most about Cole."
Avar finishes the statement looking at Chuul and then Garren. Pausing a breath to stare at the cup in his hand Avar continues, meeting Darraghs eyes.
"I finished my enlistment to the Empire. My errant friend, and brief brother in arms, Ryster, contacted me periodically about his adventures here in the Valley. On his final letter I received he wrote that he had met up with an honest band of adventurers and that I would fit in well and that I should join him."
Avar chuckles to himself as he finishes the sentence.
"So I came. And upon arriving I learned of his death." Avar visibly checks himself and quickly regains his composure.
"So thats twice I couldn't be there for him. We were always just so far apart. Him here in the valley and I in various places throughout the Empire. When I was informed that Cole may have had a hand in Rysters death I decided to stay and help where I can."
"But we do have the night to chase plainswomen!" Garren raises a glass of the Ari to his new companions.
If Darragh was going to say something serious in reply to Avar's explanation, Garren's interrupt drives it out of his mind. The halfling bellows, "Yes! And then someday my kinsmen and I will come with you to the city, and you will return the favor by helping us to chase tall women! Many tall women! We'll climb them like trees!"
A cheer from everyone (with the exception of Afric) meets this proclamation. Afric downs her ari like a trooper, however.