Darvydia woke as the first morning's light caressed her face. She cracked one eye open and peered at the bleak little room that she had rented. 'I really need to find more permanent home.' Opening her other eye, Darvydia stared at the weather-damaged ceiling. 'The forest canopy is a much more welcome sight first thing in the morning.' She rolled out of bed and poured some water into the wash basin from a large ceramic pitcher. After splashing her face several times, she arched her back, stretching out the kinks from a good night's rest.
Looking into the mirror, she grinned at the tousle-haired girl staring back at her. Darvydia located her wide-toothed comb and pulled it through the curls taming them into a semblance of order. Satisfied with her handiwork, Darvydia stooped to pick up her clothes. 'Hmm, still wet.' She had washed her tunic and leggings the night before; Darvydia had hoped that they would be dry by morning. 'Oh bother, this will not do at all.'
Darvydia rifled through her bag until she found a simple forest green, cotton, long sleeved dress and a pair of boots. The dress the fell to her calves and the boots laced up to her knees. She fastened a simple belt around her waist, from which she hung her pouch of money. On second thought, Darvydia removed two-thirds of the coins and placed them in the pouch with her debt stones. She fastened her cloak about her neck and deposited the debt stone pouch in an inner pocket of her cloak.
Attaching the lute to her belt by leather braided strap, Darvydia paused and turned to evaluate her image in the mirror once more. 'Yes, this will do nicely.' She whirled around and grabbed her staff before exiting the room. After locking the door, Darvydia bounded down the stairs to the common room of the inn.
She waved over a serving girl and purchased a slice of sweat bread and a small bag of fruit. Tucking the bread under her arm, she thanked and paid the girl a few coppers. Darvydia stepped into the street, pausing only to pay the innkeeper for a few more nights. A few of Stormpoint's citizens were bustling through the streets. Darvydia inhaled deeply, drawing in nature's sweet breath as it rustled her cloak.
Some merchants were hauling their carts down the dusty road towards the merchants' quarter. She followed their dusty trail through the merchants' quarter, pausing only briefly to window shop as she walked. Darvydia could taste the salt in the air as she approached the docks. 'It appears as if business starts early in a shipyard.' There were a good number of people bustling on and off docked ships.
"Out 'o tha wae miss." A burly man bumped into her while passing by, nearly knocking her from her feet. 'Well, that was a little rude.' Darvydia stumbled off of the dock and sat on a nearby, but out of the way rock to eat her breakfast. There were a wide variety of people walking the docks. 'This definitely is a major port for the surrounding kingdoms.'
Darvydia slipped her boots off and crept down an embankment. 'Ah....I have been inland too long.' She closed her eyes and inhaled deeply. Feeling in a whimsical mood, Darvydia unhooked her lute and started strumming a tune she learned in a tavern.
"Once upon a time,
there was a little man;
his name was Odon Shuwart.
He was born without a clan.
And when he went a calling,
The women did not swoon;
They just laughed at poor Odon.
And called him little loon.......
Poor Odon's a loon"
Darvydia trailed off in her singing.
((Posted as Connor Vellairt))
Connor had spent most of the day hauling crates off this boat and onto the next. Although his rugged stature barely betrayed that he was a man in his early forties, his patience for indecisive people did. Wiping the moisture off his dark brow, Connor heaved the crate up on his shoulder once more. His current benefactor was a wealthy tart living in the French Quarter. She had spent the past two hours changing her mind. The woman did not know if she was staying or going, wanted a ship going North or South, or what captain she could tolerate. 'If that woman doesn't decide which boat she is sailing off on, I am going to toss her and her crates in the water.' Connor finally decided for her, "Madame, this here is a fine ship that will serve you better than no other can.... if you will kindly pay me, I will be on my way."
The woman twisted her face in rage and hurled the bag of coins at Connor. He snatched the bag and tipped his hat to her. "Thankya Ma'am." Connor did not miss the tirade of insults that tumbled after his bounty.
As he left the docks, he heard a silvery voice singing an odd tune, very odd for a woman to be singing. Looking down the embankment, Connor noticed the young woman who was singing. She trailed off after the first verse. Possibly she did not know the rest of the words or perhaps she was just distracted. Connor called out. "Hey you! What are you doing down there?"
The woman looked up and smiled warmly. "Hello!" Her voice sang out as she gathered her boots, lute, and staff and started climbing up the embankment. "Nothing really." She reached the top and stopped a few paces from Connor. Juggling her things, she extended a more or less free hand that Connor grasped firmly in greeting. "I am Darvydia."
Connor eyed Darvydia closely. 'She's a winsome lass. A little on the lean side...a bit conservative ... hmm... a bit of elf in her too.' Grinning widely and rubbing the whiskers on his chin, Connor replied. "Hey... I am Connor Vellairt. Git your boots on and let's go have a drink, aye?"
Always eager to meet new people, Darvydia had scrambled up the embankment to greet the interloper who had called out to her. Standing a few paces from the dock man, Darvydia reshuffled her possessions to liberate a hand to extend in greeting. His warm, callused hand temporarily swallowed her small palm in a firm handshake. A grin sprawled across the man's chiseled features as he stared at her intently.
Darvydia studied the man standing before her carefully. The rugged, burly, unshaven man towered over her by at least a foot, making Darvydia feel very much like a child. His loose fitting brown breeches were stained with grease and his sleeveless shirt torn and smudged with dirt. A tattoo of a dragon wound itself around his arm engulfing its own tail. His eyes were dark with long black lashes. 'Why are men always blessed with beautiful eyelashes? Hmm... The eyes are the windows to our souls... His eyes show no malice.'
"Hey... I am Connor Vellairt. Git your boots on and let's go have a drink, aye?" Connor's rich baritone voice resonated through her soul. His abrupt invitation had taken her aback. 'Was that a friendly invitation or was that a friendly invitation.' His forwardness had caught Darvydia off guard and she was temporarily speechless. Connor removed the band confining his jet black, wavy, shoulder length hair, allowing it to fall freely about his face, and folded his arms across his brawny chest. Darvydia twisted half of her face into a smile and then proceeded to slip her boots on. She glanced at him unobtrusively. 'He looks so statuesque standing there. I wonder what kind of life he lives, what adventures he has experienced.'
Curiosity won over better judgment; she decided to join him for a drink "Happy to." Darvydia replied with feigned cheeriness. 'Put on a good face now... he can't possibly be as arrogant as he appears to be. This may just be an interesting little adventure.'
"There's a pub, right up the road thar." Connor gestured vaguely in the direction to the right of the docks. "I don't think that a gal like you would care too much for The Raven, so we'll go to Cailin's Place." He swaggered off in the general direction of the pub, without a glance back to see if she followed. Darvydia followed a few paces behind. Jogging to catch up with his long stride, Darvydia matched his pace. They shortly reached a dilapidated building with a wooden sign swinging over the door. The sign, precariously hung, had the words "Cailin's Place" scrawled in red letters and a crude drawing of a boat. Connor guided her inside and indicated that she should sit at an open table.
The room was relatively crowded with a wide variety of people. There were elves, half-elves, humans, orcs, ogres, and pirates. 'I imagine there is a wealth of tales in this room. There are certainly a plethora of races living in Stormpoint.' Darvydia found an empty table along the wall opposite to the bar. 'This looks like a popular dock hangout.' Connor was talking avidly to a stout, grizzled looking ogre at the bar. Shortly, Connor and the ogre joined Darvydia with a couple mugs of ale.
"Aye thar, Darvydia... this is a friend o' mine I'd like ya to meet." Connor and the Ogre sat at the little table opposite to Darvydia. "This is Ivar." Ivar did not appear to be interested in exchanging greetings. He turned to Connor and proceeded to continue what was obviously the center of a conversation.
Darvydia watched the peculiar ogre pour out his heart to Connor. 'My he is a large beast... he has to be 12 feet tall.' She allowed a mirthful smile to creep across her face. Ivar shifted somewhat uncomfortably in his little chair and pulled another chair over as added support for his robust girth. His hairy knees rising above the edge of the table looked like a long weave carpet. 'What could he have possibly done to Connor?.. To be groveling like that is just uncivilized.' Ivar was blubbering into his ale about owing Connor a debt for wrongly accusing him of something. 'I will have to ask Connor what this is all about later.'
Ivar looked as if he was going to fall apart any moment. He was staring aimlessly into his mug of ale. A nervous sweat had broken out across his brow and his shoulders were hunched over in surrender. "Be still man, we'll discuss it later." Connor cuffed the large man on the arm. "Drink, friends!" He slid a mug of ale across the table to Darvydia. "To new friends, aye?" Darvydia awarded the men a smile brimming with enthusiasm and lifted the mug to her lips taking a long slow draught of the liquid.
She took her lute off her belt and started strumming a soft and soothing tune. 'This should relax Ivar a little.' The tone of her music always had an effect on people. 'My music always has a soothing effect on ogres... taming the massive beast within.' Ivar settled back in his chair with a look of contentment that conquered the grisly countenance. Connor sat back and slung one arm over the back of the chair. A mirthful grin appeared on his face.
Darvydia decided to gamble with her newly founded circle of serenity. "Now Ivar, I am sure you have plenty of interesting stories... What brought you to Stormpoint?"
Ivar's tranquility bubble popped. He sank in his seat with a heavy sigh and chewed on his knuckle pensively. Darvydia nearly told him to disregard her request when he leaned forward, elbows on the table, thick woolly fingers lacing his hands tightly together. "I's be thinking that you's being alright Darvydia, so's I's going to tell you 'bout my comings to Stormpoint." Holding his head high and his chest heaving, Ivar began his story.
"I's being a young ogre when I's be leaving me home. Elders frowned at Ivar and be saying 'You's not being ready for the leaving, Ivar.' But Ivar being proud, thinking elders just old poops not knowings the knowings of the leavings anymore. And so I's be leaving across the snowy mountains. I's not be knowing what I's be looking for...I's just be leaving...Later, I's just being lost.
"One day Ivar be seeing little shack on big ice lake. I's being so tired and hungry, so's I's be going, slipping and sliding, crossing big ice lake, mostly Ivar be sliding on belly or bottom...When I's be getting to little shack, I's be knocking softly... no answer...I's be knocking hard... Giving up, I's be opening door, going inside, and shutting door.
"I's be living in shack for two weeks and nobody be coming home. Then one day, Ivar be waking up outside the shack. This being very strange. I's be going to get back into shack and the door is being locked. "Who there?" A crackley woman's voice be calling. "I's Ivar." I's be saying. The door be opening and a troll witch be standing there.
""Be off!" She cackled. I's just be standing there. "Be off!" She's be standing with big hands on big hips. Then she be doing something very strange with big hands, looking like she be having seizure.
"Something be grabbing Ivar around middle. Then Ivar's being in big wet mouth with many sharp teeth... I's ok, big mouth being gentle. Up and up I's be going... into the air and above clouds. Thwap, thwap, thwap... I's be hearing big leathery wings. We's be crossing over high mountains; then we's be landing and big mouth be leaving go of Ivar.
"I's be looking up at creature having big mouth... silver dragon... Dragon snorted and be pushing Ivar away from mountains. Dragon be turning and turned into witch troll. Dragon-witch be yelling, 'Be off, I say!' And she's be walking away into woods.
"And I's be finding road that be leading to Stormpoint. I's be wanting to join the watch, but I's being no good for watch.... I's not being in Ogrekvanian army." Ivar hung is head with that last statement.
'Poor big oaf.' Darvydia reached over and rubbed his arm. "That was a great story, Ivar. Thank you for sharing with us." Ivar looked up and smiled at Darvydia.
((posted as Connor Veillart))
Connor was starting to regret having invited Ivar to sit with him and Darvydia. His invitation was mostly to soothe the savage beast, he hardly expected the man to accept. When the ogre sat down, he barely acknowledged Darvydia's existence. She gracefully integrated herself into the circlet of conversation by asking Ivar about his coming to Stormpoint. Connor was hardly interested in learning more about the large blubbering beast, but for the sake of diplomacy he held his tongue.
During Ivar's story, the pub had slowly cleared out except for a few lonely and very drunk patrons. Connor was only half interested in the poor chap's tale so he spent his time observing the reactions of Darvydia. 'My, she's an animated gal.' He watched approval, astonishment, mirth, and dismay cross her features as Ivar droned on in his thick northern accent about his travels to Stormpoint. Amazingly, Darvydia either feigned interest well or she fed upon his story like a hog at a feast; she was perched on the end of her seat listening intently. Occasionally, she would reach over to console the big blubbering beast during his incredulous tale. 'I wonder how she will wind this tale into her ditties.'
Connor had nearly reached the end of his patience when Ivar finished his story. Darvydia reached over and rubbed his arm. "That was a great story, Ivar. Thank you for sharing with us." Ivar looked up and smiled at her. Connor grunted agreement in the ogre's direction, 'Yea, great big mounds of fictitious dribble.'
The mood at the table was getting entirely too somber for Connor to tolerate further. Although he was hoping to get to know Darvydia better, his plan was foiled by Ivar's presence. Looking around, he noticed that there was only a handful of people milling around, too drunk for any decent conversation. It was past noon and the lunchtime patrons had wandered off to continue their siesta in the corner of some dark alley or warehouse.
Connor smacked the table, "Well Ivar, that was a mighty interestin' tale." Standing up he extended his hand to Ivar in a hearty handshake, "Sorry chap, I have to git back ta work now." Turning to Darvydia, he noticed a shocked and poorly concealed look of disappointment. He took her hand and kissed it gently, "Darlin', it's been a pleasure. Hope to see ya again down at the docks." Darvydia smiled and promised a visit soon.
Leaving the odd pair at the table, Connor swaggered out of the pub and into the street. He really did not need to get back to work that day, but he never really was the "sensitive" type and did not believe that he could somberly take any more of the ogre's blubbering. And the city was not that large that he could not find Darvydia again. Whistling, he strolled down the wharf in search of a new meal ticket.
Connor's abrupt exit caught Darvydia off guard. She was puzzled as to why Connor asked her to accompany him to the pub and then invited this "friend" that he apparently did not know to join them in a drink. Although, Darvydia did not doubt that under happier circumstances Ivar might be a delightful person, she found it increasingly difficult to maintain a cheery attitude around the somber ogre.
During Ivar's monologue, Connor looked tremendously bored and verged on impatience. 'I wish he would not stare at me so.' Darvydia concealed her dismay of his apparent voyeurism. Instead she focused on Ivar and his story. 'Although not eloquent in prose, he does tell an interesting tale... I wonder how I can use this?' At the closing of Ivar's epic, Connor clumsily made is excuses for a speedy escape. Faced with the prospect of consoling the miserable ogre alone, Darvydia was not much in the mood to stay within the dank, dark pub surrounded by strangers. She smiled gently at Ivar. "Friend, this is not the place you should be drowning your sorrows."
"I's being ok. I's be going home now. I's be having something to do." Ivar stood and slumped out of the pub, leaving Darvydia sitting alone.
Looking around at the remaining patrons, Darvydia suddenly lost interest in speaking to anyone else in the pub. The remaining lot looked somewhat sordid and very drunk. 'They look to be mercenaries... if they are dealing up something, it may be best that I leave now.' Pushing her chair in behind her, Darvydia gathered her staff and lute and started making her way towards the door of the pub. The barkeeper closed the distance between them, meeting her at the door, and clasped a heavy hand on her shoulder. Looking up with some trepidation, her small voice sang, "Yes? May I help you sir?"
The big man laughed, "Hello, I am Cailin. Yes, I believe you may help me. Would you be interested in singing in my pub evenings... no set schedule of course."
Not entirely sure how long her current coinage would last her, Darvydia agreed enthusiastically. She introduced herself and promised to return soon. Leaving Cailin's Place, Darvydia skipped happily down the road. 'This is turning out to be a great day.'
Wandering down Merchant's Row, Darvydia shuffled her feet, kicking up dust in her wake. Clouds laden with water obscured the sun overhead and a chill set upon the air. She paused as she passed a small shop with thick bowed windows. 'Hmm... a toy shop.' Darvydia bent close, peering through the distorted glass. The store looked like a child's version of utopia. Marionettes, dolls, balls, and other childhood delights adorned the walls and shelves of the store. 'Maybe one day, I will pay the bent old shop woman a visit.'
Smiling to herself, Darvydia proceeded down Merchants' Row into the center of town. She looked once more at the oddity of a church proudly standing in a town awash with vampires. 'I wonder how many parishioners this church boasts.' Approaching the steps, Darvydia paused to admire the stained glass artwork that adorned the building. 'Is the minister a missionary in a sea of heathens... or was he beckoned here by some unknown force?'
Slowly, she pulled the front door open and slipped into the dimly-lit chapel. Darvydia had visited churches before during her visits to the human lands. It was smaller than some places of worship, but larger than most chapels that she had seen. The minister was at the altar with his back turned to the room. Silently, Darvydia sat on one of the back corner pews and waited for the man to turn.
The priest had not heard the woman enter, and he was oblivious to her as she sat waiting in a back corner pew.
He had other things on his mind. Though he had been, for the past hour or so, trying to recite the mid-day prayer office, he had been entirely unable to focus his attention as he had been trained. Instead, images and thoughts of the past days kept intruding. He thought of the poor girl plagued with some strange burden that drove her to madness and lust for destruction. He thought of the demon, or whatever he was, who seemed to manipulate the city as if it were his own personal puppet theatre. He thought of the change in regents, wondering if the city would ever have stable governance. He thought of the mysterious elven woman. He thought of the guilds. The thoughts came....in no order....only with a force and repetitiveness that made his prayers perfunctory, if that.
Finally, with a sigh, the priest simply crossed himself, mumbled a barely audible "amen," and closed his prayer book. He genuflected before the altar, and turned to walk out of the chancel and back to the rectory, hoping the unseen sexton would have prepared something refreshing for a mid-day meal.
It was then....as he was turning to go out the North transept, that he noticed the figure sitting in the back. He stopped, peered at her for a moment to see if he recognized the features, and then said simply, "Peace be with you, daughter. Can I be of assistance?"
"Peace be with you, daughter. Can I be of assistance?"
Darvydia stood less gracefully than she originally planned, sending her staff clattering to the floor between the pews. Her face suddenly flushed with embarrassment as the priest approached her. "Not really, sir." She smiled sheepishly, "I am very sorry to have disturbed your meditations. This church is similar to those frequented by my father's family. Beautiful places of power... I just love to hear the resonant sounds of voices and music within these buildings. But I was mostly curious to see why a man of human faith was afloat within a sea of heathens and vampires."
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