The Rusty Dragon of Kalsgard

Even to the elves, Sandpoint seemed but a distant memory. The caravan had met many adversities on their trip to the Linnorm Kingdom, however morale was surprisingly high. For a brief time, the group savoured their stint as personal guests of the High Jarl, but something seemed a miss. The lap of luxury was far from comfortable for our seasoned adventurers.

During an untypically warm evening, Theibar strolled through the busy streets of the Jade Quarter, with his knightly escort in tail. So many familiar sounds and smells intoxicated Theibar’s senses, allowing him a few brief moments to indulge in fond memories of the Tian lands. It had been decades since his travels far north and even he was surprised at how well he could still speak and read the beautiful Tian language. His studies of the Minkai scroll had afforded him the opportunity to reclaim his Tian proficiencies, of which he was very grateful.

Theibar was unsure of what had actually brought him into the Jade Quarter. He had intended to take this sabbatical from the castle in order to clear his head. Since his resurrection in the Stone Quarter a few days prior, he had been plagued with conflicting thoughts. Death was not a concern for elves. Death was what humans worried about. His own death had never factored into Theibar’s perception of the world and he began to see life in a new light.

Perhaps it was Theibar’s new insights that encouraged his child-like need to toy with the guards sent to “protect” him.

“Protect me?” Theibar chuckled to himself as he slipped subtly out of sight of his trackers. “Try to hunt the hunter.” He thought, moving swiftly through the streets, turning down an inconspicuous alley. Silently, Theibar pressed hard against the alley wall, watching the guards rush back and forth in confusion. He was reminded of hunts with Shalelu in Sandpoint, and a sting of homesickness clenched within him. Moving along the alley wall, Theibar was surprised to stumble upon a small tavern, hidden from the street’s view. Intrigued by the soft murmurs from within side, Theibar pushed open the tavern door. For a brief moment, he swore he was back at the Rusty Dragon. The décor of the small Varisian-run tavern held an uncanny familiarity. Theibar smiled to himself and retreated back to the main street to re-join the king’s guards. Panicked and flushed, the guards approached to seize the elusive elf. Before they were able to speak, Theibar gestured for them to hold. “Bring my companions here.” He instructed and with that, he returned to the tavern to wait.

It was not long before Theibar’s companions had reached the tavern. Excitedly, they all poured inside, and halted in amazement. A large grin crept across Ameiko’s face.

“It’s just like home.” She exclaimed. “How did you find this place?” she asked, moving aside to allow everyone to clamber inside and inspect the tavern’s likeness.

“Luck.” Theibar replied, inflating his chest with pride.

“Or perhaps this is a gift from Desna.” Koya added, settling down at a nearby table.

Theibar gestured towards the bar, offering Ameiko the first drink. Eagerly she rushed across the room and vaulted the old wooden bar, stained with wine and mead. Theibar smiled to himself and turned to address the guards who had escorted his companions.

“Thank you, sir,” Theibar said and bowed. It instantly occurred to him that he had not expressed this gesture of respect in some time. The events that brought him to the crown of the world had taken a particularly cynical hold of him, and he had allowed his polite demeanour to slip. “Please, stay for a drink,” Theibar added and he turned to glance around the room.

Despite the cold chill of Kalsgard that lingered, never ceasing, there was a warm feeling of home. He smiled as his glaze met Luthien’s; she sat alongside her sister. This trip had brought the two all the more closer, something he knew both sisters desired. He nodded in her direction and turned his attention to Ameiko. He marvelled at what this journey would bring for her and her brother. He was reminded of the moments they had shared so far while trying to repress the thought of nearly losing her to the assassin several weeks earlier. Theibar watched as she poured a near ridiculous size mug of mead and handed it to her gnomish friend. Athebryn had also changed. Theibar was not sure if he had actually mellowed during this journey, or if it was his own tolerances of the gnome that had improved, allowing the tomfoolery to fade into the background of Theibar’s memory. There was no doubt that battle had changed his little friend. If he had not seen it with his own eyes, Theibar would never have thought that such an insane prankster would be capable to felling a troll. The gnome’s proficiencies with his rapier were frightening. Theibar chuckled as his focus was broken by Athebryn’s attempt to slay an olive with the very same rapier. Athebryn and Ameiko both let out a thunderous roar of laughter.

Theibar looked towards Sandru and Koya. The two sat at a nearby table. Sandru sunk deep in his chair with his hands resting behind his head. Theibar had grown fond of Sandru and the two had reached an understanding. Theibar had also grown appreciative of Koya, and the jokes that the troupe made regarding their relationship actually helped to bring Theibar and Koya closer together.

Lastly, Theibar looked upon Matsuro and Jinko (sp), both the newest additions to the caravan. Theibar was pleased with the relationship he had forged with Matsuro. It seemed that their appreciation for one another had only come as a result to spending time in each other’s company. Regardless the nature of how their friendship developed, Theibar was glad. Finally, Theibar narrowed his eyes at Jinko. He was not entirely sure about this shifty witch, but Jinko had demonstrated a willingness to come to Theibar’s aid more than once. Theibar knew that Jinko possessed the same motivation to pass over the crown of the world and they could definitely use another spellcaster in their midst. He also had faith in Shalelu’s trust in the gnome.

Theibar approached the bar as Ameiko offered him a drink. With a cheeky smile, Theibar threw his head back and consumed the mead in one fell swoop. Ameiko and Athebryn both looked on in astonishment at the Theibar’s vulgarity. With a sigh of satisfaction, Theibar slammed the mug onto the bar. Noticing the expression of his two companions, Theibar shrugged and reported “I was cold and the mead was warm.” All three laughed.

“Perhaps, considering our familiar surroundings, the two of you would like to recount our journey here?” Theibar requested to the two bards. Ameiko and Athebryn looked at one another and shouted with joy. Athebryn, already standing on the bar, ran to the very end and called for an audience. Ameiko took her samisen and began the strum. Over several rounds of wine and mead, Athebryn and Ameiko told of the dangerous journey from Sandpoint, through the Brinestump Marshes, through Ravenmoore, Riddleport and Brinewall Castle. The audience cheered and shouted with excitement. In all the joy and exaggeration, the bards were careful not to reveal Ameiko and Matsuro’s true heritage and purpose. It had been agreed amongst the group that ambiguity was for the best.

The evening grew late and as all the stories had been told, only the companions and several of the regular tavern patrons remained. Jinko, Sandru, Ameiko, Koya and even Maturo huddled around a small table in the corner. What had started as a few friendly card readings by Koya had now turned into a loud and competitive game of poker. Athebryn grew tired of badgering some of the patrons and joined Luthien, Shalelu and Theibar for a drink. As Athebryn climbed onto a chair next to Theibar, there was a roar of drunken laughter from the poker game that halted the elves’ current conversation.

“I think I understand now.” Theibar remarked to his table as he stared over at Ameiko. “I had never really considered that I would die. It isn’t for elves to be concerned with death, or gnomes, really. But if it wasn’t for the Minkai Seal, I would not be here and I would have left you all.” Theibar turned back to the table and smiled. “I don’t think humans are that scared of the idea of dying. I think they are more afraid of what they leave behind.”

“Or who they leave behind,” Luthien added, looking lovingly at her sister. Theibar knew that Luthien was scarred by the weregild. The concept of death had become very real to the four oldest members of the caravan.

“Well stop trying to die!” Athebryn mocked with a drunken grin.

“Wiser words were never spoken.” Shalelu joked, catching everyone off guard.

“Well then. There is nothing else to it,” Theibar explained, sitting up to attention. “We all stay alive long enough to get Ameiko to the throne. We keep each other safe and protected. None of us are immortal anymore. We cannot die because we need one another. Agreed?”

“Agreed!” the three echoed.

“To her majesty, the lady Ameiko!” Athebryn called, thrusting his mug into the air.

“To Ameiko!” the three elves explained.

“Ameiko, the empress of Minkai, who is currently strangling her brother.” Shalelu explained as the gestured towards the other group.

“I’m coming, my princess… Save some for me!” Athebryn screamed, tumbling off his chair and straight into Matsuro.

“Perhaps death is an easier option.” Theibar murmured, taking another sip of his drink and returning to his seat.

“Here, here!” The sisters explained in agreement.

The sound of a ringing bell signalled last-call as a series of guard entered the tavern to escort the companions back to the castle. As they all stood, the captain of the guards took in the portrait of the sorry band of misfits. Having been privy to the witness the weregild and knowing what the companions were seeking to achieve, the captain thought to himself “If anybody could overthrow the demonic dictators of Minkai, it might just be them.”

The Rusty Dragon of Kalsgard

Adelaide Jade Regent Wildhunt78 Pranachan