Star Dreamer

Chapter III: Meeting Up in Helgastop - Part 2

And more of the fatherless, motherless, brotherless, sisterless horde...

[Keir]

Keir, looking at Daron with his bushy eyebrows raised and a mouthful of potatoes, reached for the proffered drawing. “Mmph?” he gulped, “Excuse me, for me?” At a casual glance he thought the artist had tried doing his portrait and was amused as it didn’t look anything like him. Then he looked deeper and his brow furrowed, the streaky hair, the wrinkles, and that nose… !

Frazzle! His gaze flickered from the drawing to Daron, the drawing, Pierre, the drawing and finally settled on Daron. “Excuse me, you’ve seen him ?!? When, where?” he asked, his eyes glowing with excitement. He was here, Frazzle was here! His heart pounded with undreamed of hope.

[Daron]

Daron signalled for Olga to bring her another mug of mead. Once it arrived, she nodded her thanks and took a large gulp to steady her nerves. Then she breathed deeply and looked Keir square in his very expressive dark eyes.

“You were thinking about…Frazzle…I ‘saw’ what he looked like from your thoughts.” She tentatively reached over and took one of his hands. “Faith, but I wish I could reassure you about him!” She gently stroked the silky brown hair in a gesture of comfort. “If it’s any help to you, I feel we’ll run into him-alive in the near future.”

Faith, but now I’ve put my neck in the noose this time!

Daron downed the rest of her mug in one throat-burning gulp.

[Keir]

Keir stared at Daron in disappointment and disbelief, momentarily oblivious to her touch. A mind crawler! he thought, feeling violated and snatching his hand away. Only the truly repentant look on her face kept his embarassment from changing to anger. Was that what their conversation had been about? He gave Pierre a look as if to ask You too?

A thousand thoughts milled in his head, Does she know everything I’m thinking?, Is she listening now? How can she be so certain he’s alive?, What did she mean by we?. He wanted to ask her those questions, needed to ask in fact, but wondered if she’d already heard them. Taking a deep breath, he calmed his raging emotions. “I… I thank you for this.” he stammered quietly. Turning to Pierre he added, “And I wished to thank you for your song… it… it touched me.”

[Daron]

Daron felt what was left of her self-confidence sink down to the toes of her dark brown suede boots. I’m keeping my mouth shut from now on! It’s caused me nothing but trouble! She turned her attention back to the paper and charcoals which had also gotten her into so much trouble. Tightly gripping the largest remaining shard, she began to sketch once more.

When she finished, tears were spilling unchecked down her cheeks. The image of a young man on horseback, his hair blowing in the wind, was there on the paper for all to see. He bore more than a passing resemblance to the artist. Now I know how they felt!

Conscious of their eyes upon her, she wiped her face on her sleeve.

“My brother, Dillon,” she whispered finally.

[Pierre]

“Oh,” he whispered. He hated this. Hated the awkward silence that had descended on group. Damnation, but there must be something that could be done. “I-he seems like a nice young man.” Somehow, it didn’t seem like enough.

[Rudolpho]

Rudolpho had had enough of skulking about the city and was thoroughly bored, not to mention hungry. He had had enough of the “usual” fare and decided to try his luck at one of the taverns. As he walked down one alley then another, he came across one of them called the Sea Wench. Good as any, he thought. He walked up to one of the windows and looked in. No one usually noticed him due to his diminutive height. Being short did have its advantages although he knew he would soon grow out of it. He saw a few people sitting around tables and figured that he could at least “make some conversation” if nothing else. He ran a hand through his thick, black, unkempt hair using the reflection in the window to help him. He then rearranged his shirt (which had a few to many worn spots for his liking and planned to do something about soon), made sure all his packs and pockets were in place, shined up the stud in his ear, and brushed off his pants (to no avail). There. That should to it.

Rudolpho walked straight up to the door, opened it, and walked into the Sea Wench confidently. He walked towards the bar as if he owned the place, stopped, ran back to the door, closed it, then resumed his proud walk. He surreptitiously checked out of the corner of his eye to see if anyone was looking. Ignoring anyone who was he walked over to the bar and jumped up onto one of the stools. “Hi there!”

[Daron]

Daron bravely smiled at Pierre. She prayed neither of the men could pick up on her thoughts. Even so, she felt they were painted on her face for all to see. “Yes, he is.” She forced herself to smile wider. “Dillon’s blessedly stubborn and wonderful. Were he to walk in here right now—”

Stop thinking those thoughts! I’ll see him again! I will! She continued speaking with a barely perceptible pause, “Faith, but I’m not sure if I’d shake or kiss him first! Brothers can be such a bother, you know.” She reached out to touch Pierre’s hand. “Though if I had a brother like you, Pierre,” Daron looked over at Keir. “or you, sir, I’d be honored. Truly.” Her jaw and cheeks soon hurt from the effort of so much smiling.

[Khanndie]

The waitress had noticed the boy from the corner of her eye as he sauntered into the tavern, and noticed again as he scurried back to close the door before resuming his leisurely, “I am so grown-up” approach to the bar. Ordinarily, she might have said something to Olga, or to the bartender, but things were a bit busy that night; now that Pierre had finished his first performance and sat at a back table with that girl and the halfing, the customers were getting 
restless again. So Khanndie moved from table to table taking orders and picking up empty glasses for several minutes. When she returned to drop her tray onto the top of the bar with a loud clatter, she leaned one arm on the bar and planted the other hand on her hip. “What’ll it be, honey,” she said in a soft drawl, “a glass of warm milk and some cookies?”

[Rudolpho]

Rudolpho had been watching the goings on in the bar, and had begun to wonder how this place worked. Was he supposed to step back behind the bar and serve himself. That might be fun and would be awfully nice of the bartender to make him feel at home like that. Just when he was about to hop off the stool and go behind the bar, the tall good looking woman stepped up to the bar beside him. She had an interesting accent and by looking at her he felt that she was a nice woman. “You have cookies and milk here? That would be great!” He contemplated a minute then asked with aslight almost suspicious tone to his voice, “How much does it cost?” He would have to see how much he had managed to scrounge lately.

[M’eyeke]

M’eyeke stood behind the bar with a rag in his hand shining up some glasses. He had watched the kid walk in and knew that he could not possibly pay for anything here just by looking at him. His clothes were worn through in patches and he looked like he had not bathed in awhile. Subsequently he continued to shine up the glasses nonchalantly. That is until Khanndie walked up and began talking to him. Looks like we just gave out some free cookies and milk to another charity case, he thought to himself.

[Khanndie]

Khanndie looked the boy up and down from head to toe, and shot once glance in M’eyeke’s direction with a “what?” expression on her face. “Depends on what it’s worth to you,” she answered, slipping behind the bar to search out the offered fare. As she put it together from the stash she kept available, she added for M’eyeke’s benefit, “I’m on break,” then slid the plate across the bar to the boy. After a moment, she added an apple and a chunk of bread to go along with it. “Might want to save the dessert for last.”

[Rudolpho]

The boy ignored M’eyeke’s grunt of “Thought so” and began to shove cookies into his mouth at an almost alarming rate. He wasn’t sure if they were going to think better of the offer and decide to take them away from him. If they were, he was determined to have as many of them inside him as he could. He looked up at the waitress before him with renewed suspicion. He began to ask the waitress a question but it sounded more like “Mmmrph..frm..mmm” Realizing that he couldn’t ask anything with a mouth full of cookies, he nearly drained the glass of milk, looking at it sorrowfully when he realized how much of it he had drunk.

“What do you mean how much is it worth to me? What do you want for it?” He looked at the bread and apple then back at Khanndie. “You must be a mother. My mother used to say things like that.” He looked at his plate for a moment then shook his head much like a dog would shake off water and took a bite of the apple. He waited to see what the nice waitress who was probably going to refill his glass of milk would reply.

[Daron]

Daron glanced over at the bar. She saw a young man-boy, really, her mind corrected-stand there talking to the bartender and one of the barmaids. He was good looking, she thought with a genuine smile this time.

[Khanndie]

Khanndie, still behind the bar, leaned both arms on it to watch the boy. The neckline of her blouse dipped down even further, and she automatically adjusted it. Before she could even start to answer his questions, one of the rowdier regulars in the near corner guffawed drunkenly and made some half-incomprehensible comment about how he wished the waitress were his mother. “Hey,” she snapped back, standing straight again to put both hands on her hips this time, “there’re children in here, Stan. If you’re goin’ to act like that tonight, you can take it down the street to the Bawd.”

[Daron]

Faith, but it looks like he hasn’t had a meal in a lifetime, though! Judging by the way he’s going after those cookies, anyway...

She surreptitiously checked her money pouch. The amount of gold coins within settled the matter for her. “Excuse me, please,” Daron told Keir and Pierre. “I’ll be right back.” She walked over to the bar. “Young man, I have a favor to ask of you. I’d like to do your portrait. In return, I’ll stake you to another meal-on me, lad. What do you say?”

[Khanndie]

Well, that settled it – as M’eyeke had suspected, the food had been given free of charge, but if someone was going to pay for it… Khanndie glanced over at the bartender again with a slight smile, as if to say she didn’t want to hear any comments about her charity cases, and picked up her tray to start her circle of the tables again. At Stan’s table, she could be seen to slap the inebriated man with a towel when he decided to risk a grope, and to snarl something that left him with a properly chastised expression on his face when she moved on.

[Rudolpho]

Rudolpho turned to the woman who had just approached the bar and had spoken to him. His mouth and the front of his shirt were covered with crumbs, but he was smiling as he happily munched on another cookie. I haven’t had cookies in a long time. I could get used to this…but I won’t. He now fixed his incredulous look on the woman who had just offered to pay for his meal. “You want me to do you a favor and will pay for my meal. And the favor is you want to draw my picture? Something that most other artists charge people to do?” He seemed confused by the idea. “What’s the catch?

[M’eyeke]

He continued to shine the glasses and place them on the shelf behind the bar as he watched the events unfold before him. He was hopeful the kid would accept the offer and would be able to pay for his food. If he didn’t, well, M’eyeke had known he would probably not get paid for the fare anyway. “Damn straight kid. Sounds like a good offer to me.” It wouldn’t hurt to encourage the boy. M’eyeke noticed that Stan was up to his old tricks again, but knew that Khanndie could handle him and herself just fine. If Stan got too insistant M’eyeke could always show him the door.

[Rudolpho]

Rudolpho also watched how Stan was behaving towards the nice lady named Khanndie who had offered him the cookies to begin with. His eyes narrowed imperceptibly as he decided what he would have to do about that man later. He turned his attention back to the second kind woman who was now offering to pay for his meal. I should have visited this place a long time ago.

[Daron]

Daron met Rudolpho’s gaze. “No catch.” She turned her attention to M’eyeke. “This should cover his meal.” Four thin gold coins found their way to the bartender. “Plus get me and the lad here some of that marvelous-smelling stew you have today, and some milk for each of us. Please have Khanndie bring them over to my table, thank you.” She looked back at Rudolpho. “So, it’s a deal, then?” She smiled at him, her green eyes twinkling, and put an arm about his thin shoulders.

Faith, but I don’t know if I have enough gold to keep him fed properly! Though, by all that’s holy, I’ll sure give it a try…

“Well, come along and bring your food with you, then, now there’s a good lad. My name’s Daron. What’s yours?”

[Rudolpho]

Uh oh. Her eyes are twinkling. She seems like she is being honest but I think I’ll keep an eye on her anyway. Rudolpho allowed himself to be led to the table. As he walked with Daron to the table he gently picked a fallen hair from her head off her shirt. He then quickly pocketed it and began to talk.

“Well..O.K. My name is Rudolpho. Are you an artist? Do you stay in town a lot. I don’t think there is such a good market for art here. Maybe you should consider taking your stuff on the road. Gee, that’s a nice shirt. Where did you get it? I have seen them selling those down by the Wagon Wheel Inn. Is that where you got it?” Rudolpho would have continued with his litany of comments and questions had he not seen the two men sitting at the table. “Oh! Hi there gentlemen. My name is Rudolpho.”

[Pierre]

Pierre smiled gently. “Greetings, Rudolpho. I am Pierre.”

[Keir]

Keir looked up while absently dabbing up the last few drops of gravy with a buttered roll. “Well met master Rudolpho, I am Keir, Keir Ti’Kar.” He was astounded at how informal Big Folk were and chided himself for nearly falling into it himself. Dropping the roll he held his hands out, palms up, in greeting.

[Rudolpho]

Rudolpho saw the diminutive man (at least by older people’s standards), who sat at the table eating. The man greeted him kindly. That’s better than a lot of people do. “Hello there Keir. Nice ta meet ya.” Unsure what the upheld palms meant Rudolpho copied the gesture, shrugged, then took one the man’s hands and shook them.

[Keir]

A polite young man at least, Keir thought as he awkwardly withdrew his hands after the shake and bowed his head. But mischievious eyes. He had seen that look before in youngsters and it usually meant they were up to something. He went back to finishing his meal, wondering if he could afford seconds.

[At Laurelyn’s table]

[Laurelyn]

Laurelyn was blessing the fact that the Pup had quieted – she wasn’t sure how the innkeeper of The Sea Wench would feel about a puppy. She pushed the door open and led the way into a crowded common room.

“Looks like they’re having a busy night,” she commented, looking around the number of occupied tables.

[Daron’s Table]

[Pierre]

Pierre’s face paled as he caught sight of the woman silhoutted in the doorway. But -gracious! How could it be? Then she moved so that she was in color, and he relaxed. No, that was not Ana. She had the same height and structure, and he could easily see how a blackened image of her would remind him of his sister.

Ana is in my thoughts too much, he told himself. She would have liked me to be happy.

[Laurelyn’s Table]

[Olga]

“Hello, hello!” Olga boomed out. She went up to the newcomers. “Welcome to the Wench. Sit, you will be well treated.” She leaned down and scratched the pup’s ears. “This little one looks like he could use a steak.”

[Laurelyn]

Laurelyn smiled and said, “Thanks!” As she had feared – the Pup had made itself known – by sticking its nose and part of its head out of an opening it had been working on. But at least the staff seemed friendly to animals.

She followed Olga to a table and asked, while she slipped the backpack from her shoulders and set it on the floor by her chair, “What’s on the menu? And do you have rooms available?”

[Olga]

Olga smiled to herself. She enjoyed conversing with the customers, “We have the normal meat, potatoes, vegetables. Our freshwater seafood is second to none, and for dessert we have several cakes and pies. And, of course we have rooms. This really isn’t tourist season. Shall I put you down for any?”

[Laurelyn]

“Three,” Laurelyn said, “But I’ll wait for a minute on the food – could I have a mulled cider?” She had a sneaking suspicion that Jacques had no funds, but he might be able to get food and room for a performance. If it looked unlikely she’d fund him this time around. Normally she’d barter a night’s lodging for a performance, but she was too tired this evening to try.

She was comfortably funded and still had a healthy portion of her original travel funds. To most coin was coin, but somehow it made a difference to Laurelyn these days.

She watched Olga head back to the bar.

[At the bar]

[M’eyeke]

M’eyeke waited until Khanndie returned from one of her rounds and nodded his head at the puppy. “Are we gonna give it a free steak too?” He turned around and brought down some of the clean glasses in preparation for the drinks that the newcomers might order.

[Khanndie]

“Nah, I figured maybe a drumstick for the puppy,” she snapped back, “though Olga looks like she might toss in a steak for it.” Loaded her tray back up with the milk and two bowls of stew that the artist had ordered and headed back across the open floor.

[Olga]

Olga turned to the others. “A free steak is nothing we can’t afford.” She smiled at them. “After all, we’ve been giving Killer free food since he was a puppy.” She gestured to a large Saint Bernard, who certainly lived up to his name. After all, three times a day he would wake up, turn around, and go back to sleep. Certainly there was a chance he had stepped on one or two ants in that time and killed them. “And,” she reminded them. “I do have seniority over you.”

[Daron’s Table]

[Rudolpho]

“Hi, Pierre nice to meet you. Have you know Daron long? I just met her. She paid for my meal but you probably know that since you were just watching the whole thing although I don’t know if you heard the whole thing but I could repeat it for you. Oh look, new people came in and they have a puppy too. I wonder if I should talk to it. Nah maybe later. So you come here often?”

[Pierre]

Pierre smiled. This young man certainly was talkative. “I am afraid that today, too, is the first day I have met Daron. I will agree with you, though. She is a wonderful person.” He cleared his throat. “I must admit to being a regular here. I live right in town and often I will come to play my lute and perchance sing a song or two.”

[Laurelyn’s Table]

[Jacques]

Coming in a little after Laurelyn, Jacques was in time to see another woman fussing over the animal. He sighed. That was undoubtedly the problem he’d been having with women – he didn’t have much in the way of fur, floppy ears, or a wet nose. Well, not often a wet nose anyway.

He scratched at a bushy white eyebrow, and wandered over to the table, bells ringing faintly with each step. Well there was certainly a crowd, though whether anyone would actually pay for a spot of juggling, fire-eating, or whatever else he could coax of his weary bones was debatable.

Pulling up a chair instead, he spun it sideways to the table and sat leaning against the chair back to keep himself from falling asleep.

“Better watch that animal, miss,” he said to Olga. “He’s a trained attack animal. We try to keep him hungry so he’ll do his job. So I’ll have his steak instead. And if you’ve got any decent lager, a couple of bottles would be a good start.”

[Laurelyn]

Laurelyn nodded to Jacques and said “thank you” as Olga returned with her mulled cider.

[Olga]


Olga placed her arms across her ample frame. “Trained attack animal?” Doubt showed in her voice. “I seriously doubt that, sir.” She quickly became business. “So, you’d like a steak and ale, hmmm? Have you the means of payment?”

[Jacques]

Shuddering, Jacques shook his head – making the bells ring furiously. “No, no. Not ale. Lager. Or, if you don’t have any decent lager, anything likely to make me unconscious after the fifth drink will be fine,” he said quickly.

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