“There I was on the banks of the river, a diversion from my stroll home from the tavern the morning drawing in, bathing the hilltops in its warming glow. Yet the clouds held a grey tone and how they lingered around the slopes…. those slopes which hold so much life, a foundation for trees, grass and ferns”
He had their attention, with open jaws they stared at the halfling in awe, his trousers just below the knee, and his boots so worn that his hairy feet were now the sole. A deep red shirt was below his waistcoat and a small dagger hung at his waist, despite his flamboyant style the halfling blended into the crowd. The tavern was full tonight, much busier than usual…. he had the room; everyone’s attention was on him just the way he liked it. The smell of spilled ale filled the air, a roaring fire in the corner where strangers in dark cloaks hid in their darkness, the taverns owner was tall, and round and his booming laugh could be heard over the constant chatter.
“I had grown tired of this town and certain people’s power over me, bound to the rules and regulations of this world. In my frustration I threw a stone, the ripples pushed across the wide river once again pulling my eyes towards those peaks cloaked in green of the ghost like trees silently observing the world below and yet the hills were all that conversed with me, what was under that skirt of cloud? They called to me from across the water… I had to know”
The halfling began to sing, solemn at first but growing, and soon those gaping jaws of wonder were broad smiles and laughter, as the audience found their feet. Dancing around the room spilling more ale over the floor adding to its stickiness. The halfling bewitched the instruments and they started to play and encouraging the crowd with his words. Then he too started to dance, his overly hairy feet keeping time with the drum and his arms flowing with the sound of the flute and guitar.
As he snapped his case closed at the end of the night, heavy footsteps behind caused him to reach for his knife… he had been here before. A small bag landed at his foot with a clink as the tavern owners voice said
“you did good tonight, I’m sure they will be back”
The halfling smirked opening the bag, but it would fade just as quickly as it appeared upon seeing its contents.
“not much in here tonight”
The owner sighed
“that’s why the king’s men were here… demanding more money, they say it is a small price to pay for the protection they give us”
“PROTECTION” the halfling was furious
“I’m sorry Lorcan, truly I am”
“here” Lorcan threw the little bag and the owner fumbled to catch it with a confused look on his face.
“but it is your payment”
“Ah you need it more, but for the sake of the gods hide it for yourself, but when the world is right again and Ryker is gone I may return seeking that payment my old friend… well I must be off I need my handsome sleep after all see you tonight”
He picked up his case and left the tavern, the owner shouting thanks as the door swung shut. He stepped into the darkened street and the cold of the late-night air, it seemed that the town had come into an unusual cold spell… he started walking his halfling feet making no noise as he began to whistle. Voices ahead caused him to freeze…
“you hear that?”
Lorcan became frantic as thoughts of guards filled his head, he quickly turned down an alley, in his panic he had become less than quiet, and the guards were drawn to the sound of his reckless feet and they were fast. As Lorcan ran past one of the houses he was grabbed from behind and hauled into a doorway hidden in the shadows. Wriggling and squirming against the muscular figure now holding him, he heard the guards when the figure softly spoke in his ear
“I’m not going to hurt you but if you don’t stop, we will both be in trouble”
A sense of calm filled the halfling, the guards clinking armour filling his ears, the coldness of the arm holding him mixed with the roughness of the stranger’s skin…. He sensed that there was something different about this stranger. When the guards were a safe distance the stranger placed the halfling on the ground, his giant claw like hand ruffling Lorcan’s hair.
“thanks” Lorcan said with a tut
The stranger chuckled
“you should be more careful little one”
“my name is Lorcan thank you very much and I made no comment on what you are” retorted the halfling
The stranger’s eyes narrowed, and he took a step towards the halfling pulling himself taller as he spoke,
“what am I exactly?”
“a stranger in the night who has saved me” but Lorcan was stubborn and no fear took over him as he stood his ground against the stranger.
“I meant no offence lit…. Lorcan. But you should be more careful with magic”
“ahh those guards were too drunk to notice what was really going on”
“but tales from a drunken guard will spread to a not so drunken one”
The stranger’s words made the halfling pause, then he reached into his bag and pulling out a small pouch he threw it to the stranger with a clink as a large hand caught it.
“for your troubles.”
“I thought you didn’t take the owners money” the stranger said with a suspicious look.
“I didn’t and have you been following me?”
“goodnight Lorcan” with that the stranger disappeared onto the rooftop of the houses and was gone.
Lorcan pulled his cloak tightly around him shielding the halfling from the cold air as he murmured to himself “show off”
He chose his path home carefully making his way to the outskirts of the town, checking his surroundings for and signs of life the halfling reached out his had and a small clink of a lock echoed around. He dashed into the open and a great light burst forth, and quickly disappeared and with it Lorcan.
In the morning tales of Lorcan had spread through the town, growing with each retelling of them, that night would see the tavern even more full of individuals drinking ale and waiting the marvellous storyteller and his tricks. When Lorcan finally made his appearance, he was greeted with cheers and one man lifted him and carried him to the stage. Tonight, Lorcan was wearing a cap with a large pheasant feather stuck in the rim, he bowed
“I thought I might at least get a drink first, but if it is a story you want who am I to disappoint….”
The man who lifted him to the stage slid a tankard of ale across the stage to the halflings hairy feet.
“why thank you sir… now where to begin tonight…. I know…. There is a tale I heard of a dragonborn, his skin whiter than snow they say he comes from a fishing village and that he has great power. So great that he destroyed that village with his magic”
The crowd was his once more, he began to sing and just like the night before it grew, and the larger crowd shook the taverns walls as they danced. Lorcan never missed a beat and once again he bewitched those instruments into life…. it was at that moment that the man who carried him to the stage and slipped him the ale smashed a bottle on the bar and his booming voice could be heard over the noise.
Silence followed and the guards sprung to there feet some had disguised themselves are civilians and now revealed themselves to the crowd. The speaker was the lead guard and he was furious.
“we have rules you know”
“I thought they were guidelines” though he looked calm the halfling was frantically looking for an escape, but the guards it seems had covered all the windows.
“this isn’t funny”
“oh, I know that’s why I didn’t laugh”
“you have broken the law and you will be punished”
“fine, what is your price? 10? 20? 30 gold? I have it here in my pack… actually you can have it all, it was yours to begin with anyway”
The lead guard was shocked for a moment
“you little thief”
“HEY, there is no need for name calling that is rude and hurtful”
The crowd snorted back laughter at the exchange for no one ever stood up to the king’s guard
“the punishment for magic is…. death”
“WOW, wow, wow lets talk about this really guys it’s not like I’m breaking down the castle gates and bewitching the king”
“your right, that would be too easy. Let’s feed parts of you to the hounds….”
“death you say? I like it come on then let’s not dally on the matter”
The guards had come behind the halfling and seized him, gagging his mouth to stop him speaking magic. The halfling was brave but he was no match for two men twice his size, they forced him to his knees in front of their master a cruel smirk on his face as he drew his sword.
The door of the tavern blew open and a swirling storm of cold filled the room, a blizzard blocking their view as the lead guard was knocked off his feet. Rough hands picked the halfling up and ran into the night, when they were a safe distance from the tavern Lorcan was placed on the ground, ungagged and unbound. The halfling struggled to catch his breathe as he looked up at the tall figure in front of him.
“oh apologies, thank you for saving me back there”
“it seems you don’t take heed of warnings”
“I do, I just enjoy the excitement of pushing limits”
“well you have certainly done that Lorcan, now I should get going before this place is crawling with guards and so should you”
“wait…. I have somewhere we could at least rest away from the town until tomorrow night”
“you are an unusual fellow Lorcan…. But we?”
The halfling smirked “well I’m safer with you and you need me for tonight so yeah we”
“lead the way then before I change my mind”
The halfling lead the stranger through the town, but the journey was a slow one every turn they found guards. In frustration the stranger lifted Lorcan and scrambled onto the roofs, placing the halfling onto his back and whispering
“Point the way”
Lorcan pointed straight ahead, they made it out of the town with a few close calls, but they were safe.
“just up this hill my friend”
“I only see a cave”
“best get a shuffle on then” the halfling said with a smirk
When they reached the cave Lorcan reached his hand out, a bright light filling the cave and then it was gone.
The stranger now stood in a wooden hallway with low rounded ceilings, it was warmly lit and throughout the hallway round doors could be seen on each side, he had to stoop down to keep from banging his head. Lorcan could be heard bustling away in some distant room
“Lorcan…. Lorcan, where are we?”
The halfling yelled from a room
“ah well this is my house…. or it was…. I’m not sure which really if I’m honest”
“I think you better explain it to me”
The stranger had located the halfling who was darting between rooms cooking and preparing a bed, the stranger was so busy staring at him in wonder that he did not notice the low beam hitting his head with a thump. The halfling sprang to action grabbing a cold cloth out of instinct and rushing to give it to the stranger
“oh my, my, my…. apologies my friend, when I made this place this morning, I didn’t anticipate visitors of your size”
“made it? How?”
“why don’t we discuss this over dinner, Targa”