Star Dreamer

Chapter III: Meeting Up in Helgastop - Part 3

In which everybody and his mother sees the thief pickpocket the drunk

[Daron’s Table]


The waitress nodded in acknowledgment at Pierre, who had performed at the Sea Wench before, and at the strange little man in the other seat, as she set the milk and stew before Daron and Rudolpho. “Y’all need anything else, just wave me down.” She half-expected the boy would be asking for even more food, judging by the way he had wolfed down everything set before him so far.

Khanndie turned to the next table and made change for the customers there, and dodged another grope by Stan as she made her way back to the bar. “Keep yer hands to yerself,” she told him again, readjusting her short skirt. The “uniform” certainly helped increase the tips, but the louts like Stan sure could be a bother.

[Laurelyn’s Table]


He grinned and flipped of his jester hat with a flourish. “If you would be so kind, fair lady.” There, perched on the top of his balding head was a pink rose. He reached up with his free hand, and passed it to Olga, and replaced his hat with a discordant ringing.

Jacques hoped the rose would work. It’d been hell having it itching up there all the way from the stables….


“Thank you. However,” she continued. “A rose does not keep a business in action.” She took in his clothing. “Our regular entertainer is unable to perform tonight. If that outfit is more than decorative, do you think you would mind a performance? Of course, you would recieve a meal, with drink and dessert, and a night’s sleep.”

[Daron’s Table]


Daron’s cheeks reddened a little, both from Pierre’s compliment and from the realization that she hadn’t properly introduced herself to her dining companions.

“Forgive my earlier lack of manners, please.” She regarded each of the table’s occupants in turn as she spoke, “My name is Daron Innes. And, as some of you already know…” She winced a little at that remark. “I’m an artist.”


His plate empty, Keir nursed his remaining ale and wondered if he’d ever get any service without yelling or thumping someone. “This certainly seems like a popular place.” he muttered to no-one in particular. He’d swallowed hurriedly when the waitress was here but she had dashed off before he could order.


Rudolpho had heard Keir’s grumble and had noticed the man’s plate was empty. “Hey Khanndie! Can you bring my friend some more food please?” When he turned around to shout the question he noticed the new people who had entered the bar and Stan being troublesome and trying to grope his new waitress friend again. Time to do something about that. I bet he wouldn’t be able to buy any more drinks if he didn’t have any money. He saw Khanndie bringing the food and drink and saw his opportunity. He hopped off the seat and said “excuse me but I… have to go to the bathroom. Rudolpho headed toward Stan’s direction as he made a great show of looking for an adjoining privy (knowing there was none).

He did not forget to tip his head in a self important air about him as he looked. He turned his head and tripped “by accident”, falling into Stan’s table, and knocking his drink into his lap. “I’m terribly sorry sir” he said as Stan jumped up (as he expected him to) and tried to wipe the drink off. Rudolpho quickly spotted the money pouch and freed it from its restraints in a way that no one would notice…hopefully. He quickly emptied the contents into a pocket and replace the sack before Stan sat down again.

Apologizing profusely once again Rudolpho left the bar for a moment, long enough for it to seem as if he had used the privy, then walked into the Inn and back to the table. “Sorry I took so long!”


Keir shook his head and frowned. Having watched Rudolpho’s little adventure he checked his own money purse, not that there was much there worth protecting but it was all he had. “Time wasn’t all you took was it?” he asked in a disapproving tone.


Daron quickly finished the delicious stew and drank her milk. She didn’t care too much for the beverage generally, but she didn’t want another meade yet. She wasn’t used to drinking much, anyway.

Once again, she felt the “urge” to draw. Sighing resignedly, she picked up her artist’s tools and began another portrait.

This time, it was of a young woman, dark haired and pretty. Large hoop earrings dangled from her ears. She bore a strong resemblance to Rudolpho. The expression was stern, yet kind.

Finished, Daron showed it to Rudolpho. “I think you should see this,” she stated simply.

[At the bar]


Thomis took in the occupants of the common room quickly as he entered behind Laurelyn. The storyteller was right, the Sea Wench was busy that night, with most of the tables occupied. The clientele here, though, was less … varied … than that to be found in a League city, consisting mostly of farmers and laborers of one sort or another. In fact, only Jacques and another customer – a short fellow – really stood out among the crowd.

Not a very noisy group - yet, anyway - the rowdiest set being three who looked to be regulars, with one large red-faced man who seemed intent to make the other waitress dodge and weave through the tables to avoid him. “I’m going to go to the bar,” he said quietly to Laurelyn, leaving Jacques and the puppy to charm Olga to make his own way across the room. “Do you carry any brandy?” Thomis asked the bartender hopefully. For some reason, he felt a taste for brandy. Perhaps it was that Mesani I’Se always had asked for brandy when they were traveling.


M’eyeke reached for the brandy he kept stocked behind the bar as he replied “Damn straight”. He poured the brandy into one of the prepared glasses and set it in front of the man who stood before him. He looked at the man, considered him, then filled the glass slightly fuller than he should for the money. He then corked at the bottle and grinned at the man. “You sir, if you don’t mind me saying, look like you need it.”

[Laurelyn’s Table]


Laurelyn sat back – relaxing after the long ride. She was hungry, but she also was ready for a hot bath and a soft bed. She hoped the beds were soft at the Sea Wench – she knew it was a lot to hope for a feather mattress, as opposed to straw. She watched Thomis head for the bar, and wondered what he needed. From what she had seen Thomis wasn’t much for liquor. While he was gone she watched Jacques trying to woo the waitress.

On the floor the Pup squirmed around in the backpack.


Jacques turned back to Olga. He’d been momentarily distracted by a slight disturbance at the far end of the room, where some young lad had relieved one of the patrons of his money. It had been well enough done, but Jacques had had enough experience – on both ends – of such a trick to spot it.

“Well,” he replied with a mischievous grin to Olga, “that rather depends on what sort of foolery you’d be wanting. It’s too late in the evening for jokes, and I’m too saddle sore to do much tumbling.”

He snapped his fingers, and another sharp crack rang out, followed by a wisp of dry grey smoke.

“How about a little magic show for the kiddies?” He nodded towards the table the boy had come from – and where it appeared there was something of a collection of young people.

[Daron’s Table]


Rudolpho’s eyes twinkled but he remained straight faced as only the Gypsies could. “Yes sir, I relieved myself as well.” He ate a bit and watched the assortment of new people at the Inn and all the goings on. He noticed Daron drawing and assumed she was drawing him. That had, after all, been the conditions of his meal. He tried to keep still for her as she drew. All the mischief drained out of his face when Daron showed him the picture she had drawn. “I thought….you said you were 
going to draw…me.” His voice trailed off at the end. He looked at Daron and back again at the picture. He then glanced at the others at the table and noticed they were watching his reaction. “Excuse me, ummm..i have to go get… I have to go.” Rudolpho tried hard not to cry, but the tears had begun to come unbidden to his eyes. He got out of the chair, ran towards the door bumping into Khanndie on the way out. As looked up at her briefly but did not apologise as he rushed out. He ran into the alley behind the Sea Wench and sat down. He never even noticed the tears falling on his shirt from his eyes and being absorbed by the material.


M’eyeke saw Rudolpho out of the corner of his eye running for the door. He looked at Khanndie and her undoubtedly suprised expression that seemed to say “what happened”. M’eyeke shrugged. “Maybe he had to go to the bathroom again? You on break?”


Daron upset her chair in her haste to get up and follow Rudolpho. “Hell and damnation!” she cried. “Excuse me, please – I must – I’ll be back!”

Daron left the Sea Wench in such haste she left her possessions behind. Her search for Rudolpho soon bore fruit. She scuffed her feet deliberately so he could know that someone was there. The sight of his tear-streaked face as he looked up made tears appear in her eyes as well.

“I’m sorry, Rudolpho. I didn’t mean to upset you, honest.” She sat next to him—not too close, for fear that she would spook him into leaving before she finished her explanation. “I ‘saw’ that woman in your thoughts.” She continued on, hoping he wouldn’t run off, “I wish I didn’t have this ‘gift’!” I promise, I will do your portrait. I didn’t lie to you. And I’m sorry I upset you. Truly.”

Daron wanted to hug Rudolpho. But she knew, from experience with her favorite cousin Brendan {about the same age, too, as this one!} he might think such affection was “unmanly”.

She took a chance and gave him a reassuring pat on his thin shoulder anyway.

Daron realized with a start that she’d left everything behind in the Sea Wench. Including her money pouch.

“I forgot my things! And I’ll need at least some of them to do your portrait.” She decided to take another chance. “I’ve got another shirt like this one in my sack. You can have it if you come in with me…” She met his teary brown eyes with resolve. “That is, if my things are still there when we go back in. Consider it…partial payment for the hurt I caused you. What do you say? Is it a deal?”


Hasty. Keir thought as he watched Daron race off after Rudolpho. He could never understand why Big Folk were always in such a rush. No patience at all. He eyed Daron’s abandoned belongings protectively. Once he realised her mind crawling was limited and, apparently unintentional, his feelings had softened. {Poor crazed child, it’s little wonder she’s mad.} He glanced suspiciously at the occupants of the next table but they didn’t appear to be thieves, except possibly the garishly dressed and 
belled short man. He didn’t know why anyone that short would want to attract even more attention, no self-respecting person would ever dress thus. Still, as much as it should offend him, he found himself smiling at the flamboyant display.


Rudolpho wiped his tears on a sleeve as Daron approached him. He had hoped they wouldn’t think to look for him here. He had wanted to get his reaction under control. “You should… sorry about who and what you are.” He snuffled. “That’s what..she always used to say.” The young boy paused and then explained. “She was my mother. She ‘traveled on’ not too long ago along with my father. They said the horse spoked and ran off the side of the cliff. I have been on my own ever since.” He sneaked a glance into Daron eyes. “You don’t have to give me your shirt. You probably didn’t mean it like you say.” He Scrubbed at his eyes one last time. “You really should keep a better eye on your stuff.”


Daron looked Rudolpho square in his expressive brown eyes. “I was worried about you. Things can be replaced. People can’t.” One confidence deserves another, Pa used to say.. “Faith, but I understand that all too well…” She wiped her eyes on the rough green wool of her sleeve. “I lost my parents a year ago. My mother was killed; my father died of a broken heart. And I don’t know where my brother Dillon is, if he’s still alive, or…”

Please, let Dillon be all right! she silently prayed. She snuffled and wiped her runny nose on her sleeve. “And I said what I meant and meant what I said. You can have the other shirt. Don’t think I have anything else that’ll fit you, yet. But I’ll see what I can do; I’m pretty handy with a needle…” She held out a hand smudged with charcoal to him. “Friends?”


Rudolpho looked up at her. He had not had anyone want to befriend him so quickly. Mostly they just shooed him away. She looked like she meant it though, and who knew this might lead to some new adventures. He extended a small hand. “Friends. I’m sorry about your parents too. I’m pretty good with clothes and that sort of thing too,” he said, smiling enigmatically. “Are you looking for your brother then?”


Daron firmly shook hands with Rudolpho. She swallowed carefully before speaking, “Yes, I am. Not to be rude, but could we please go back inside? I need to see if my stuff’s still safe.” And my money, too. “You look fine, in case you’re wondering … come along then. If my money’s still there, I’ll treat you to something completely gooey and sweet.” Like you are, young man…though you try so hard to hide it… “Okay?”


“Sure, let’s go. I don’t think you need to treat me to anything sweet though. I had the cookies and I am kinda full. Besides, I have some money too.” The mischievous look returned to his face and his eyes once again twinkled not with tears, but with an inner light that came from his people. When they approached the door Rudolpho opened it and stopped waiting for Daron to proceed before him.

[Inside the Inn]


By this time, Thomis had tested the brandy that the bartender had set before him, and nodded in satisfaction. “You are right, I do need it.” Unconsciously, he traced the scar across the bridge of his nose, and half-smiled at the thought of how he had gotten it. One glass would be more than enough, though – Thomis Parch had never been one to over-imbibe. He half-turned back to consider the common room, taking in the rather large dog snoozing in the corner, and the way the waitress dodged and weaved through the tables.

“He come back in yet?” Khanndie asked as she dropped her tray back onto the bar-top. When Rudolpho had scurried out the door, she almost had pushed her way through the exit after him, but the artist woman – Daron? – had beaten her to it. She could go only so far in “adopting” strays, and ducking out of the tavern hadn’t seemed like a good idea.

“Brandy?” she commented to the strange man at the bar, taking in his short-cropped graying dark hair and brown eyes. And that scar. Something about the even way he returned her gaze made Khanndie decide he wasn’t one to try to jolly along too much. “Make sure you get some of the stew,” she added, lifting her tray again after M’eyeke had loaded it down again with more drinks and bowls and turning to make another pass around the room.

Thomis nodded again at the bartender in thanks, making sure to leave a good tip, and made his own way back to Laurelyn’s table. Just as he pulled his chair out and sat down, the large fellow named Stan in the corner let out a bellow and pushed his own seat away from his table. “Might be a bit of trouble,” Thomis murmured to Laurelyn, as the rather drunken man stood, swaying, and started to pat down his vest and trousers while half-incoherently mumbling something about how his money had to be somewhere if it wasn’t in his money-pouch.


“Damn straight” he replied to the man’s admission that he needed the drink. He nodded to the man as he left him the tip although he had not expected one. The man did not seem to be in the mood to talk so he left him alone. M’eyeke’s attention was soon attracted to the commotion Stan was making. “Hey! Keep it down over there Stan. You probably drank away the rest of your money as always. Why dontcha go home to your wife and kids and leave the rest of the patrons in peace?” He jerked his head at the door slightly to Khanndie when Rudolpho and Daron re-entered the bar.


“I think you’re right,” Laurelyn whispered back, “But at least it’s more normal.” She reached under the table to lift the Pup’s backpack up – in case the drunken gentleman got more rowdy. Just as she lifted the pack she muttered, “Sweet….” Laurelyn could feel the shift of the Pup’s weight and had the sinking suspicion what the portended.

The Pup fell out the opening it had been working on and with a delighted “yip!” scrambled out of reach of Laurelyn’s swift grasp.

“The Pup’s loose,” Laurelyn declared to Thomis and Jacques, barely avoiding banging her head on the underside of the table as she straightened.


Rudolpho followed Daron into the bar in time to see Stan stand. He had realized that his money pouch was now empty. He smiled a little as the bar tender made an appropriate rationalization for where the money had gone. Now, unless they would put drinks on a tab for him, the drunk would have to go home. Rudolpho frowned when M’eyeke metioned he had a wife and kids. He should not be acting this way if he had a family at home. Rudolpho hung close to Daron anyway. Since he was younger, if push came to shove, he would be defended by the older people here. Sometimes things just have a way of working out.


Daron was touched by Rudolpho’s courteous gesture. Unusual in someone his age. Brendan was more likely to slam the door in your face! Faith, but that speaks well of Rudolpho’s mother. She raised him well… She smiled warmly at him. “Thank you for holding the door, Rudolpho.” She leaned over and whispered in the boy’s ear, “I saw what you did earlier. I’m not saying I approve but that lout deserved it.” An equally mischievous look lit her face and eyes, making her appear much younger than her nineteen winters. “Come along, then…”

As Daron entered the Sea Wench, she hoped Keir and Pierre were still inside, so she could apologize to them for her hasty departure. Honorbound to keep her promise to Rudolpho, she silently prayed for her belongings to still be where she left them. If they weren’t … well, she would figure out what to do then.

No use borrowing trouble! she thought, -You’ve got enough of that already!_

Then an expression of mixed pain and fear crossed Daron’s face. She pulled Rudolpho aside before they could go in further.

“Please, give me the money you took now! Don’t argue!” she whispered urgently. “I’ll give it back after Stan leaves. Please!”


A round-bellied, flopping-earred pup ran past and dexterously tangled itself around Stan’s unsteady legs before dashing under a nearby table.


Rudolpho blinked. He put on his best surprised face. I must be slipping if she saw me. Guess I have to try harder next time. “What money?” he whispered back. “I just helped him when he fell before. He is awfully drunk you know.” He noticed the puppy dashing under Stan’s legs. Seeing it for a great distraction Rudolpho pointed at the puppy. “Uh-Oh!”


Daron recognized Rudolpho’s attempt to divert attention from the subject at hand all too well. Brendan had tried that one often, especially when he’d spoiled one of her pictures. Sighing, she looked at Rudolpho with as much authority as she could muster, despite her growing fear that Stan would soon realize that he had his money before Rudolpho bumped into him, and not afterwards.

“You didn’t have a coin or two to your name when you first came in here; that’s the impression you gave, anyway,” she added hastily, hoping he wouldn’t think she picked up on that thought, too. She was just very good at noticing details about people, and how they acted, which came from having artistic talent. Nothing more. “You bump into that lout Stan, making sure you get all tangled up with him. He discovers his money’s missing. And now you have this look like the cat swallowing the canary, saying you have ‘some money too’. Faith, but what am I supposed to think?” She sighed again. “I hope he thinks he’s drunk up his money, for our sake!”


The young boy was not used to taking orders from people, especially not in this tone. Before he could stop himself he found himself answering back. “I can take care of myself. Don’t you worry. I won’t let you get in trouble over anything. Let him chase me if he can. I’ve faced worse than him. Besides he is too drunk to know which way is up.” He realized his chin was jutting out and his voice was rising. Calm down. She worries about you and doesn’t know any better.

Rudolpho sighed and the glint returned to his eyes. “He should be home with his family. If he doesn’t have money to drink he has to go home.” Rudolpho turned to go back to the table. “Act natural. Looks can be deceiving you know.” He grinned and walked back to the table with his previous sense of self importance.


Jacques groaned audibly as the pup whipped out of its safe pack and galloped across the room. The drunk over where the animal was heading was already in a bad enough state. The prospect of the animal tripping him and making things even worse brought Jacques to his feet – bells ringing.

The magic show was definitely off.

“Come here, fiend!” he called across the tavern. “Heel boy!”

The puppy paid no attention and yapped happily to itself as it snuffled at a wonderful new smell it had discovered under the table.


Daron sighed. She stuffed her hands into her pants pockets to disguise their trembling and walked as calmly as she could back to her table. She noticed with relief that, not only were Keir and Pierre still sitting there, her possessions were where she left them. She retrieved her sack near her upturned chair, set the chair back in place, and sat down.

“Gentlemen, I am truly sorry for my hasty exit a few moments ago!” She indicated Rudolpho with a shrug. “He reminds me of my favorite cousin, Brendan.” She leaned towards Keir. “Besides, he needs someone to look after him,” she confided.

Straightening up and rummaging through the sack, Daron soon found what she was looking for.

“Here you go, Rudolpho,” she grinned. “As I promised.” She handed the twin to her green wool shirt over to the boy. “If you’ll give me a minute to settle back, I’ll do that portrait of you I promised.”


Rudolpho smiled sweetly as Daron likened him to her cousin which quickly changed to a half frown of protest. “I do not. I can take care of myself.” Realizing he was about to take the shirt he added, “But I do accept presents.” He turned to Daron. “Thank you for the shirt. It is very kind of you to share your supplies.” He shrugged on the shirt which was big in the body and the sleeves were half again as long as his arms. He tucked the shirt in and rolled up the sleeves. “Fits great.” He smiled. I’ll have to “alter” this later.

His attention was caught by the antics of the puppy and the people trying to capture him. “If you folks will excuse my constant disappearances, I should probably help those people get their puppy back.” He turned and started walking towards the table under which the puppy had ducked while reaching into a pocket. He took out one of the cookies which he had managed to “save for later” and broke it in half. Rudolpho made noises that sounded like a half bark half growl to the dog. Come here. Why are you running around like that? Want a cookie? Rudopho waited for the puppy to respond.


The Oath-bound had simply set his brandy aside as Laurelyn had scrambled after the puppy and Jacques had stood up to call the animal back to him. The pup tangled itself in Stan’s legs, sending the large man stumbling backwards with a yelp of surprise as if he had just been attacked by a dark fiend from the depths of hell. Somehow, the drunk managed to catch his balance, and resumed the search of his clothing while the young boy knelt under the table making strange noises to the puppy.


Keir raised his bushy eyebrows at Daron, then shook his head chuckling. He wasn’t certain who needed more looking after, the young purse-snatcher, Daron or the wayward puppy. He’d been too startled to act when it scurried past but had his forked staff ready should it come by again. More than one farmer’s dog had found itself pinned to the ground when it thought it had easy prey to chase and the move was now automatic. It didn’t hurt them of course, except their pride, and once they gave up any hope of escape and began whimpering he’d let them go. Some needed a swift swat for encouragement but usually they ran, tail between legs.


“Melber’ll kill me,” Stan mumbled, patting down his pockets randomly, with no real system to his search. “Oh man, Melber’ll kill me, I drunk it all down.” He collapsed against the bar, sliding down to the floor to fix an unfocused stare on the boy wooing the small dog. “Two days er wages, all gone.” The big man might have been about to cry, his eyes were so red; or he might have been about to pass out.

It was the latter. Stan’s head tilted forward, and with a solid <thump> he slumped over to one side.


Rudolpho paused in his effort to entice the young pup and looked up at Stan with a mix of different emotions on his face. He felt somewhat sorry for the man having lost two days wages (if it really was two days wages) so quickly. It seemed though that he was well on his way to doing that anyway. And what was he doing here if he could be putting that money to better uses. I wonder if I should put the money back. Rudolpho slipped his hand in his pocket and silently surveyed its contents. It did not seem to him that it was heavy enough to constitute two days worth of wages. In fact, it was almost gone as it was. Any sympathy Rudolpho felt for the drunken slob evaporated like the alcohol he had just swallowed.

Rudolpho resumed enticing the pup until he came close enough to be scooped up. He triumphantly stood up and returned the pup to Laurelyn. “I think this little guy belongs to you. He seems to like cookies.”



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