Full Guild membership has paid its first dividend – a day off today.
We have not been upgraded to better -or for that matter, private- rooms. But we have more access to the Guild House, such as it is. The main floor has three large dormitory rooms, and smaller rooms for offices, a training hall, and a mess hall. The top floor is storage space. Xel’Xaran and Calum suspect that there are rooms in a hidden basement. There are often a lot of Guild members afoot, but the House is not crowded or even noisy with their presence.
No reason to stay in. Some of our group set out on their own errands. The rest of us went to a nearby tavern: Lunk, Dusty, Alex, Calum, and myself.
The bar was not busy, a few tables occupied and the mood generally inoffensive. No one looked our way when we came in. The most notable patrons in there when we arrived, were the monk, Dwarf, and female fighter that had also been chosen by our Guild at the recruitment. The Dwarf and the monk worked drinks and conversation at a table near the back. Their friend the fighter was with a man, at a table away from the center of attention.
Set ourselves in for a night of relaxation. Alex took a corner table by himself with some books he’d brought along, and disappeared into them. The Dwarf Calum and I took a table and ordered dinner. I may be rightly accused of “going native” if such a charge is leveled at me for chancing food in a backwater town tavern, and ignoring the very likelihood of severe food poisoning. It has been only just over a week, and I find I am not hesitant to touch surfaces in this town without burning them first. That alone should be cause for concern.
Lunk and Dusty sat down at a table near the middle of the tavern. They were in a loud and rowdy mood and they had not even started drinking yet. They wanted to be nearer the bar; by good fortune, this provided welcome distance from our table.
Drinks came. I glanced about the room as we drank, noted the patrons. The woman fighter drew my eye; she was much more attractive that I remembered from the recruitment night, though I had not paid her much attention then. Captivating eyes, sultry in a way not immediately obvious, alert, intelligent, red hair drawn back in a tight braid. She, as her dwarf and monk friends, also displayed the distinguishing Guild sashes we wore. Wonder what their group had gone through to earn full membership.
The woman’s gentleman companion, I had not seen before. He was well-dressed, broad-shouldered, charismatic. And he wore the colors and symbolic sash of a different Guild. His sash was a dark reddish tone, with a woven silver emblem shining in stark contrast. At once I was both surprised, and perhaps a bit alarmed. I do not know to what Guild he belongs, or its relation to our Guild, or what ethos exists to dictate fraternity between our side and theirs.
I was polite not to stare and wise not to call attention, as I briefly observed their conversation and the energy between them. Their words were low and lost to me under the sounds of the tavern’s evening patronage. Theirs was far more than professional interest.
Our food came, we ate, our ruined plates went away. Calum and I talked about many things. He is a pleasant fellow, robust in opinion, considerate in opposition. Not at all the picture of a Dwarf so often brought to mind. And polite enough to match his intake of drink to mine, so that I might not be walled out by a table of empty glasses before him.
In the natural pauses of conversation we would glance upon the inebriation and clamour of Lunk and Dusty; or the remote attachment to his surroundings of Alex. People came and went from the tavern over the evening. Beyond our conversation, the only interesting thing was the progression of what appeared to be a date of some sort at the other table.
The well-dressed man and his attractive companion drank red wine, and the glasses on their table must have been embarrassed to separate them. Their intentions were obvious; their body language was devious. One could take his fill of envy at the sight it, lulled into staring at the flux of what the Elf language calls forelsket. A rare sight, to happen upon two people so obviously caught up in each other, enchanted. There was a force of nature at work on these two. Certainly only a complete idiot would elbow into this kind of magic.
About then was when Dusty elbowed his way into this kind of magic.
I remember looking over at their table, when I was sure enough time had passed since the last time I stole a glance. To my amazement, I saw Dusty headed in their direction. In what could only be their direction. I was overcome with a horrible, gruesome, shuddering vision of what was about to happen. It was the crystal-clear vision of a priceless work of porcelain, nudged off the edge of a table and sent hurtling down to hard earth, no way to stop it.
Dusty swaggered over to the woman’s side of her table, this cheese-eating grin on his face, his hair a terrific mess. They didn’t notice him until he motioned the serving-maid for a pair of drinks, and literally leaned into the conversation and choked off the mood in one fell swoop.
My heart sank. Calum did a double-take, looking where I looked, seeing what I saw. A groan escaped him, trailing away to helpless silence. Lunk watched and drank. If I could have looked away, I would have captured Alex’s reaction and certainly added his disbelief to my own.
The woman said something to Dusty, something annoyed and dismissive. Dusty seemed to ignore it, his attention on the man, saying something to him before looking back to the woman for some reaction I could not even imagine.
At an instant, the well-dressed fellow had murder in his eyes. He glared at Dusty, silent, ready, and furious. He moved his wine glass aside, slowly and deliberately. No more obvious sign of impending horrifying violence, have I ever seen. Our goofy fighter friend was probably unaware of how close to death he was at that very moment.
Lunk saw it. He was on his feet swiftly, clear of his chair and the table, free to engage. Calum and I looked at each other, understood each other’s intent, and remained frozen in place for fear of escalating this encounter.
Thank Pelor, the portion of Dusty’s brain above the level of liquor in his skull, noticed his predicament when he looked back at the man. The man at the table had not gotten out of his chair, not said a word, done nothing but move his glass to safety and fix upon Dusty a look of unmitigated hatred.
Dusty now registered this, and that the room had fallen silent, watching. My associate is not burdened with wisdom on a good day; that moment at least he saw he was a twitch away from a fight he would not win in a thousand years of trying.
To his credit (and I am generous here) Dusty successfully bumbled his way out of being murdered on the spot. He laughed and flustered and withdrew, back to his table and drink in a fashion harmless enough to ensure he would live the night and at least the next day.
The mood of the tavern relaxed; people slumped back into their seats. I looked no further in the direction of the man and woman. I don’t know how their evening ended. Very soon we left, the five of us together. Departing was a really good idea.
Getting all this down before I pass out. Late and I’m the last one awake.
Journal of Dr. Marcus Grant
Healing Cleric of Pelor, Order of St-Jude Academy (Silabrek)
9th Day, town of Callia, territory of Ælim.