Gustav the Minstrel (aka Davy White)
Falco the Ratcatcher (aka Michael Morgan)
Aldor Irelgen the Barber Surgeon (aka Ferrin the Mighty)
Enlith the Elven Mystic (aka Mandy)
Aeghan the Elven Waywatcher (aka Fred)
He says it is them with the little dog in the distance. I say we will await any innkeeper’s word. He says our coin falls like water through my fingers, with all these bribes I’ve placed throughout town. I say if all humans are as greed-touched as they seem, they can drown on what we have in our coin pouches. It does not matter how we find him, only that Athos is found. He keeps a goshawk’s gaze on the group entering a building none-too-far from our watching point, and I turn my gaze inward to where what is, was, and could be flitters just out of view.
Metaphorically anchoring myself to the now, I open up myself to what is often unseen by tossing a handful of etched stones at my feet. Their answers remain unchanged, just as cryptic as the last dozen times I’ve attempted a Seeing; Kin. Watcher. Shame. Shadows.
Kin; a thieving raven who flew too far from the nest with something which was not his. Sometimes the stones hide their meanings behind symbolism and riddles, but this one is all too easy to read — Athos. It is my duty and bane to find him and reclaim what was taken from our kind, before a hallowed treasure becomes a nightmare unleashed upon an unsuspecting people.
Kind; another with a meaning that comes easily to me. With the predatory presence of a hunter and talons made of flint and steel, it can only mean Aeghan. Waywatcher. Stalker. Protector. Executioner. I know there is an arrow in his quiver meant only for me, yet I need his skills and abilities to help me find Athos. I am a sparrow toying with a hungry goshawk, and know it is only a matter of time before his talons pierce my flesh.
Shame; this one mocks me time and time again. Is this a past-telling stone, speaking of what has already been born by my family with Athos’ betrayal? Or does it speak of what is coming? Is it my own shame and failure mocking me— or warning me? I wanted Athos to fail in his task, for I knew myself to be a better guardian. Is his folly only to be a harbinger of my own pride wrought downfall? If- no, when -he is found, will I be a better guardian?
Shadows; an absence of warmth, light, and order. I can sense it nearby, but cannot orientate myself on any one direction. It. He. They. There is a difference to the silence, like a dampening, leading me to believe something has changed. Perhaps it is all the confusion brought on by human feet stomping and clomping over the area’s natural energy. Mayhaps it is the abundance of buildings, each one comprised of dead wood and stone, blocking out my innate ability to find what we are seeking.
I sense when Aeghan shifts his weight, and know we are about to move from the rooftop we’ve been perched upon. After gathering up my stones, I follow him off the roof and through a maze of streets and buildings. We are like grosbeaks flying among starlings, our plumes standing out against the dull drab hues of their feathers. Wherever we go, we garner stares and whispers at our backs, making it easy for an innkeeper’s runner to find and deliver us a message. Our quarry has settled down at a local watering hole, and we waste no time heading off to find them.
Every inn and tavern looks the same to me, with their dim and dark interiors cut off from wind and sky. Each place has its own peculiar odour, but the one we find ourselves in seems to be the most pungent of all. Jostling bodies and jovial patrons makes it difficult to effectively scope out the room, but one thing is immediately obvious — Athos is not here. The innkeeper stumbles over his tongue, nervous enough to be constantly tugging at his horrific hat, as he informs me that, though lacking an elf, the others he was paid to keep an eye out for were recently seen.
We’re quickly accosted by a man with gilded lips and honeyed words, who offers a litany of services both common and bizarre. Finding little information on our prey from the “barber” before us, we turn our attention to a gathering at a table. Fate coupled with plenty enough coin has brought us to Athos’ most recent traveling companions; a mongrel band of humans.
They are evasive on my kin’s whereabouts, withholding as much as they give up freely. They are a difficult lot to read, so foreign in the way they think and react to my probing questions. I keep reminding myself how humans are like a candle lit from both ends, they burn bright and furiously fast before becoming a fading wisp of smoke
These are the first humans to take only a casual interest in the golden reward I have to offer, instead wishing to trade one deed for another. My decision to agree is fueled more by curiosity than necessity. We have tracked Athos’ this far, yet, I wonder what will become of these men who shared my kin’s tainted space for a short while. Will fate treat kindly with them? Or have their nightmares only just begun?
With our bargain sealed, the motley group rolls out their task with words, names, and places sounding guttural and harsh on the lips. This is an ugly language they speak, taking away from the details in their plight. We learn of a man, poisoned, and a place below with an altar that was but wasn’t. There was a demon, perhaps one slain by my kin’s hand? That part is unclear. We learn of more men with ugly names, in harsh-sounding places, before hurrying on to a meeting place a short distance away.
While we wait in a place smelling far better than the last, I take the time to appraise my companions.
There is the Barber, with words flowing as easily as water skims off a duck’s back. He is well known to others about this city, and seems to strut about like a preening blue jay enamoured with his own feathers.
I sensed Aeghan’s respect budge marginally when he learned of the Skraven Slayer’s deeds; though I cannot tell how much is truth and how much is fancy. This one has the subtly of a trumpeting elk with the way he lifts his antlers and casts an eye my way. It is amusing and horrifying at the same time.
Last, there is Irongut. This one is bluster built over a frame of common sense. Though he ruffles easily, he’s twice as quick to recover than most. He is an unknown seed to me, and so I will watch to see what hue of bloom he will grow into.
These humans do not linger long in any one place, as it seems we are always on the move. We spend time in the company of one who stinks of simple greed— or, it could be the “meal” spread out before us. Venison’s delicacy is too easily ruined, and we eat what should only be used to bait vermin with. Questions, lies, and looks go round and around the table, until our comrades seem satisfied with what is or isn’t said.
Our comrades must not trust this newcomer, as we find ourselves following him back to where he was found originally. We mingle about, with the others in our group who are bickering amongst themselves about fault and mistakes….
To be continued…
by Enlith the Elven Mystic (aka Mandy)