A TC:BGV -- Story Class Trip / Evil in the Woods / Holiday
Beckett, Norn Male
Zoula, Norn Female
Indrii, Asura Female
Fel, Sylvari Male
Adair, Sylvari Male
Selphius, Asura Male
Cybele, Norn Female
Part 1 -- Class Trip
Yellow light spilled into a dark room of the inn above the tavern as Cybele the Keeper appeared bathed in golden light from the lanterns in the hallway. Beckett groaned on the bed but made no attempt to cover himself, a small human woman half clinging to his finely tuned Norn hulk.
“Put some cloths on hooker,” Cybele said with a trace amount of amusement at torturing her friend with an early morning wake up call.
“I’m not a hooker! I’m the tavern keeper’s daughter!” the naked woman clinging to Beckett said with a useless attempt to pull the blanket out from under Beckett’s weight to cover herself.
“I wasn’t talking to you.”
A smile played across Beckett’s face at the exchange between the two women, his eyes still closed. He gave the girl’s bare bottom a slap, “It would seem I’m late for work darlin’.”
“We have orders to go reconnoiter rumors of an enemy supply depot up North. Commodore Fel gave me leave to take thirty men; I figured I’d recruit you for some comic relief and fill the rest of my slots with skill.”
“Alright, alright. Where are my clothes?”
Beckett’s eyes opened and he began to look around. First his eyes settled on the course of his rousing, Cybele was already in her armor. The sight of the Norn woman in her black and orchid purple enameled plate was a stirring morning sight, and it was a cold hard morning. Cybele rolled her eyes and for the first time both Cybele and Beckett noticed movement across the room. Both looked over at a small Asura sitting on the dresser in a dirty white smock, or at least it looked like it was once white. He was holding up a pair of small purple shorts.
“Can I have these Beckett?” Commodore Selphius asked with childlike awe.
“Uh, I’ll get you’re your own pair.”
Selphius smiled and tossed the shorts over to Beckett. Cybele raised a questioning eyebrow.
Beckett’s normally snow white skin which usually gleamed with the bluish hew of a glacier it was so translucent suddenly flushed crimson, “They help keep everything secure so my armor doesn’t pinch what ought not to be pinched,” he explained rather sheepishly.
Beckett snapped back to Selphius, “Have you been there all night?”
“Most of it, I came just in time for the show. I got bored on Commodore Zoula’s ship, I was just sitting there tied up to the prow again when I asked one of my minions to untie me so I could come find you. I was going to see if you wanted to summon new demons with me when I saw you were otherwise occupied. So I stuck around until you were done but then you just fell asleep.”
Adair popped his head into the room, under Cybele’s arm as she was taking up most of the doorway, just as Beckett was slipping on his tight purple shorts. “Nice shorts,” Adair noted with a secret smile, “where can I get a pair?”
“Am I the only person in this organization that doesn’t get any privacy?” Beckett asked with exasperation.
“Adair, I’m glad you showed up. We’re going on a field trip,” Cybele said with a smile, letting him slip into the room.
A few hours later they departed through the Eastern gate of the town to cover their movements and did not turn north until they were well out of range of the town and any eyes that may have been watching.
Adair came riding back to the column with one of his men. He reigned up in front of Cybele, “They are encamped about two leagues ahead, off the road a ways. They are placed against a cliff with a small cave mouth. By my mount there are twenty, but I could not get an accurate number of those in the cave itself. There are two small wooden buildings no bigger than the tavern’s common room, both covered and housing supplies. From what I can tell most of them are unarmored workers, though there are a few guards standing watch.”
“Very well Adair, good work,” Cybele commended.
Adair bowed slightly and pulled his horse into formation next to Beckett.
Beckett squinted, looking out in the direction of the enemy depot, “We can play this several ways, what are your thoughts Cybele?”
“I’m favoring a night assault. Have Adair and his men keep an eye on our friends in the mean time. There was a copse of trees a little ways back, let’s set up camp there. Tell the men cold rations only; we don’t want a cooking fire and an errant breeze giving us away. Let’s get it done.”
Beckett saluted Cybele and began barking orders to the company. Adair leaned over his in saddle close to Beckett, “I can’t help but take this time to note that your exquisitely tight purple shorts seem to match your armor’s enamel. That is very fashionable of you Beckett.”
Beckett gave Adair a flat unfriendly look which elicited peals of laughter from the thief.
A few hours after dark the company began readying their weapons, spells, and horses for battle. Soon after they were within sight of the supply camp, which seemed suspiciously quiet. Workers still milled about but they had an air of tension to them. Beckett looked keenly at them, “Something is wrong Cybele.”
He noted a weary expression on her face as well. “You feel it too?”
She nodded gravely.
“I don’t like this,” Adair commented to no one in particular.
“We have our orders; this supply camp must be destroyed or captured. It poses to big a threat to the fort and seaways if we allow it to stand.” Cybele half turned her head toward Beckett, “Begin your assault warmaster.”
With a series of nods and waves to squad commanders Beckett relayed quiet commanders among their company. A small clutch of archers took up positions by some trees close by but well within range of the camp. The warriors formed up on Cybele and Beckett. Adair and his two thieves melted into the shadows flitting like silent death into the camp itself preceding the assault forces. Two Copper and his engineers were quibbling over some machine they had between them, though they appeared unprepared Beckett knew well enough that engineers always had some dangerous energy that was easily confused with nervousness. Two elementalists stayed back a ways near the archers weaving intricate patterns in the air, Beckett could feel the static building around him as they wrested arcane energies from the fabric of the universe itself. The hair on the back of his neck stood on end. Cybele nodded. Beckett raised his war banner high, and then plunged it into the ground with a grunt.
The elementalists loosed sheets of fire that rolled forward over the ground scorching grass, small animals, and camp workers. The warriors began to charge, their polished weapons at the ready, war cries bellowing as they moved forward like a wall of metallic death. Suddenly a half a hundred fully armored combatants flooded out of the cave’s mouth. Beckett and Cybele swore in tandem. The archers began firing into the mass of men at their most choked point, the cave’s mouth.
Suddenly the engineers ran and dove to the ground. Beckett’s mouth dropped and he scrambled to the ground, pulling Cybele off her horse as well. Cybele gave a surprised yell when suddenly what looked like a catapult they engineers were working on exploded showering them with metal and wood splinters. Less than a heartbeat later the mouth of the cave was rattled with a series of loud explosions. It would appear the engineers filled the catapult with grenades of some sort but did not think to secure them, dropping a few among them when they launched the weapon. The engineers all wore mischievous smiles as they came to their feet. Beckett laughed and helped Cybele up.
“What was that?” she asked.
“Two Copper and his cronies just tried to kill everyone in the area. Looks like they took out more of the other side though,” Beckett said pointing to the mass of mangled bodies near the cave.
The warriors charged into the remaining forces and began to cut them down mercilessly. With the blow of a horn though their fortunes changed. From the north, down a clear road, came a group of mounted and armored men. Perhaps another thirty in total to join forces against the small band of Blood Vanguard.
Cybele turned to Beckett, “We have no choice, sound the retreat.” She took a jewel encrusted book from a pouch at her side and opened it, and began casting protective spells to limit the causalities they would receive as they made good their escape.
Beckett sighed and began giving the necessary orders for an organized retreat when suddenly ten demons came rushing out of the woods on either side of the road the reinforcements were charging down. The demons, their arms like serrated scythes, began cutting through armor, men, and horse with brutal efficiency.
“Belay that Beckett, continue the assault!”
Beckett screamed new orders to the men even as a small Asura in a filthy smock grabbed hold of his leg and began doing unseemly things to it.
Commodore Fel entered the room and wrinkled his nose at the familiar smell of dried blood, oil, spilled bile, and piss. The group sat around in their undergarments seeing to their weapons and armor. “You did well out there, with that supply depot out of the way we can breathe a lot easier when the fleet takes to sea again.”
“They knew we were coming,” Beckett said.
“Yes, but how?” Cybele asked, “We left through the East gate and didn’t turn north until we were well out of sight. Our scouts would have noticed if we were followed that far.”
It was Selphius who offered explanation. He was sitting on a table with his legs crossed playing with a few feet of someone’s intestines he had picked up from somewhere suddenly stopped, the intestines pulled taunt, “It was the tavern keep’s daughter.”
Everyone stopped dead in their tracks and looked at him confused. He snapped the intestines in mid air like a towel and giggled as bloody slim spattered across Beckett’s chest. Beckett sighed trying to control himself, “Are you going to explain that?”
“Oh sorry, didn’t mean to….”
Beckett cut him off, “I mean explain your accusation.”
“Well, you see, I was sitting on the dresser in your room while you were…”
“Skip ahead Selphius,” Cybele interjected.
“Right, so no shit, there I was, when Cybele entered the room and Beckett was still as bare as the day be was born with the tavern keeper’s daughter all sorts of naked on sleeping on him. Cybele and she exchanged some pleasantries and then she told Beckett they were going scouting up north. I was supposed to be back at the ship so Zoula wouldn’t know I escaped again, but what you guys were doing sounded more fun.”
They all looked at him in amazement and began to laugh.
“We should probably make an example of the tavern keep and his daughter,” Fel said, anger rising in his voice.
“No need,” Selphius said.
Again, the group looked at him. He dangled the intestine before them with a sly grin, “Already took care of it.”
Part Two -- Evil in the Woods
He lay on his bedroll with his hands folded behind his head next to a fire that had long since burned down to coals, a layer of ash spread thick across the top. Sleep would not find him this night, his mind a fire with memories of the past. His companions passed into slumber hours ago, except for Adair who stood his turn at watch somewhere in the darkness. He traced constellations across the star spattered sky, he spotted the fair maid and the farmer boy who fell in love with her, two star crossed lovers doomed from the start. She was the daughter of nobility and he was a mere peasant. A chance meeting and love at first sight was a simple enough twist of fate to doom them both to immortal poems but it was the gods who lifted them to the heavens to play out their tragedy. There was one such poem, he vaguely recalled, that told tale of the moon carrying messages between them as she crossed the sky.
He heard the frozen grass’ muffled crunch under foot. He sighed and pushed himself up to see Adair coming back into the camp.
“Is it my watch?” Beckett asked Adair.
“That it is my friend. Hey, mind if I use your bedroll? Yours is still warm and it will save me the trouble of unrolling and warming mine.”
“Go ahead. Sleep well; there should be a few hours yet before dawn.”
Beckett strapped on his sword belt and grabbed his axe, sliding it smoothly into its holster, and dramatically flared his cloak around shoulders – he knew Adair would enjoy the theatrics. He counted out the seven people in camp almost absently. He left his cold armor with his pack and ventured off into the early morning blackness.
As Beckett passed from sight into the void beyond to take up watch, Adair got cozy in Beckett’s sleeping roll, smelling deep of the cloth which still carried Beckett’s warm scent. He smiled and fell into an easy sleep.
With the break of dawn Beckett came back into the camp, catching the smell of bacon and burned bread. “Who let Cybele cook breakfast, again?” he asked chidingly as he dropped his sword and axe with his gear. She stuck her tongue out at him.
“How much time do we have before the rendezvous?” Beckett asked Adair.
“Probably another two hours before the prisoner is delivered.”
“I’m going to take a bath in the brook, keep an eye out.” He said, grabbing his toiletry kit and heading off into a tree line.
Stripping down he stretched his body in the morning sunlight to shake off his weariness from another night of not sleeping. This would be a long day and he could not afford to be tired, the cold mountain water would wake him up. He stepped off a rock into an area just deep enough to submerge himself. Surfacing he let out a gasp as the cold water shocked his system in alertness. Running his hands through his wet, snow white hair to get it out of his eyes he smiled. He grabbed his bar of soap from the rock where he had left it and went to work washing the stink of his armor off him.
A few minutes later he sat atop the rock naked, drying in the cool morning air. Adair emerged from the tree line to join him.
“Never a minute’s peace.” Beckett complained with an exaggerated eye roll.
“Mind if I wash up?”
“Go right ahead, water is rather chill though.”
“I don’t mind. Can I borrow your soap?”
Beckett tossed him the bar and Adair began to strip down. A few moments later Cybele slide from the trees and came silently up behind Beckett.
“Oh very impressive Beckett.” Cybele commented, her hand going to her mouth in mock awe.
“The water is cold.” Beckett said with an injured voice.
“Let’s see what effect it has on you Cyb!” Adair said, lunging out of the water to grab her by her thin white travel worn surcoat. With a great splash the Norn woman landed on Adair, also submerging him. Beckett laughed heartily as the two flailed about trying to dunk and counter dunk one another.
Zoula and one of Beckett’s soldiers emerged from the woods just then. “Uh, warmaster, Commodore Zoula has arrived with her column,” the shoulder said haltingly.
The three stopped in their tracks and turned to look at Commodore Zoula with sheepish grins. Beckett launched to his feet and snapped a crisp salute to Zoula, then raised his hand in salute as well while the other two misfits climbed out of the water.
“Care for a swim Commodore?”
“No thank you Beckett, I think I’ll pass. Please find some clothes before you stab someone with that thing. I’ll be back in your camp, join me presently.”
Walking through the woods to camp Beckett could not help but notice Zoula’s ample attributes for the first time. She was wearing a gleaming robe of blue and white that outlined her waist and hips perfectly. To his credit he tried to banish the images that sprang to mind of his hands firmly placed upon those hips joining them to his. Thankfully Adair was there to draw attention elsewhere.
“My, my, you look a bit cold Cybele. Would you like me to warm those up for you?” Adair asked with a wry smile.
Beckett turned just in time to see what Adair meant before Cybele covered her now transparent white surcoat with one arm across her chest. Beckett grinned at Cybele, to which she scoffed and offered them both a glare that spoke of pain.
Back at camp most things were packed up and ready once more for the road. The three companions finished putting on their armor while Commodore Zoula debriefed them on her transport of their prisoner so far, and briefed them on what to expect now that possession of this cargo is being given over.
Selphius sat bound by rope and small chain atop a horse. He was talking to himself, or at least that is what it appeared he was doing.
“Please do not let him loose at anytime. It took us hours to find and catch him last time he saw his way free.” Zoula said with a hint of aggravation.
“Your will, Commodore.” Beckett said with a salute, “and might I also add that you are looking absolutely radiant today.”
Zoula raised an eyebrow and Cybele cocked her head to the side quizzically. Adair even showed mild surprise at the uncharacteristic comment.
A short while later Zoula has departed back to the North and the band now in possession of Selphius headed South to investigate reports of dark Sylvari magic.
“Stick with witty turned phrases Beckett. Compliments don’t really suit you.” Cybele said in a flat tone.
“It did seem rather unnatural, didn’t it?” Adair added.
“I thought it was very nice.” Selphius said, struggling with his bonds.”
“Save it Commodore Selphius, we’re not going to turn you loose until the appointed hour. We can’t have you running off when we need you most.” Cybele said in a bit of a harder tone than she realized.
Selphius pouted and went back to struggling.
“I don’t know what came over me. It just came out,” Beckett said quietly, “why did I say that?” he continued saying, to himself more than the others.
They arrived shortly after sunset at the appointed staging area. They readied their gear and weapons with silent efficiency. After a small meal they untied Selphius as Adair crept back into the group from his surveillance of the enemy encampment and began going over the plan with fresh intelligence.
They set to work.
Adair had already slipped into the enemy camp, no doubt lurking in some shadow somewhere waiting for an opportunity to stab someone in the back with his enchanted daggers. Selphius had disappeared to gods only know where, hopefully he was still in the area and his attention hadn’t wandered off the task at hand. Beckett and his men began to work their way forward, doing their best to keep their armor from clanging as they closed on the camp. Cybele and another Guardian, a Sylvari, began castings to protect their people before beginning their own enchantments before engaging in battle themselves.
Kneeling behind thick foliage Beckett and his men looked on as the small group of Sylvari were engaged in a ritual that appeared to involve blood rites. On the ground in the middle of a circle with lines traced through in intricate designs lie a naked girl, she looked to be no older than twenty and tears streamed openly down her face as she pled for her life. Beckett grew enraged at the sight. Her arms and legs staked wide, two black robed Sylvari hovering over her, one with plum paint tracing lines on the girl’s skin and the other with a jeweled knife. A ring of twenty Sylvari, also clad in black robes, stood around the three in the center, chanting while tracing ruins in the air. The air shimmered and a globe of blue transparent power surrounded the group, the air sizzled with static electricity.
The hair on the back of Beckett’s neck stood on end and he knew it was time.
Cybele gave a great battle cry and lept over the bush Beckett crouched behind. Her brutal looking sword in her hands glowed bright blue as it came crashing down on the sphere surrounding the Sylvari magicians. The globed seemed to harden and become substantial, and then cracks began to form. It suddenly shattered, sprinkling blue shards of energy throughout the clearing. Beckett and his men gave great shouts that promised death as they charged into circle.
The Sylvari, after a stunned moment that very well may have cost them their lives, began casting devastating spells at the attackers. The man next to Beckett fell to his knees, his flesh melting in his armor. Beckett’s axe came around in a backhand motion to lop off the head of the Sylvari that had his staff pointed at the now dying man.
Adair flitted like a shadow through the outer ring of Sylvari as they began to clump together, two bodies dropping as the smokey image of Adair made its way toward the sacrificial girl.
Cybele cut one robed figure from shoulder to hip, the body pausing but a moment before sliding in two to the ground. She stabbed her cruel blade into the earth and raised her arms. Lowering them quickly a wave of blue energy spread outward knocking back several Sylvari and energizing her troops.
Adair made it to the center as the knife was being raised to plunge into the girl’s breast. With two flashes both black robes figures toppled over, their throats neatly slit. Adair began to untie the girl, pushing one of the dead bodies off her. Blood from the throat of the Sylvari ran down her chest in a small rivulet to her belly, down her pelvis and into a mound of dark downy hair, another rivulet pool in the bowl of her delicate alabaster throat. She took ragged gasps in between sobs. Adair tried to calm the girl. Suddenly her body convulse, her back arched impossibly high and her bonds burst into flame, vanishing in a wisps of smoke. Adair jumped back as the girl’s naked form rose into the air, the blood that had once seemed but a small amount somehow began to spread out covering her entire body. Her bones began to crack and deform. Her hands and feet began to form into what looked like claws, her eye teeth grew into fangs and her shoulder blades began to pop out of place, the skin ripping as bone tipped wings sprouted and unfurled. Her jaw unhinged and came forward with her nose to form something like a beak, and finally her ears tilted back, the cartilage sagging in her lobes. Adair looked into her now black eyes, black pools of seething hate.
The last of the black robed figures were being put down, the enormity of this new problem giving pause to all to consider their next step.
Green and black light, if light can be black, swirled on the ground below the monstrosity that was once a scared young girl. The thing shrieked and began to struggle as the light spiraled upward attempting to engulf it. The creature’s wings beat hard, pulling it upward, struggling out of the ethereal bonds that eek to claim it.
Selphius stood atop of rock perhaps fifty feet above the group below, starring now in awe at the arcane struggle. His small arms uplifted formed a green chain between them. As he moved his hands further apart the chain grew. He flung one hand toward the hideous thing below, the other hand firmly holding the other end of the chain. The one end flew true, wrapping itself around the still slender neck. Its wale’s broke, choked off by the chain. Selphius yell in a booming unnatural voice, “Adair, slip your enchanted dagger into its heart!”
Adair wasted no time. In the space of half a heart beat one of his daggers slipped between the beast’s ribs and into its heart. With a small cry it slumped forward. Selphius released his magical hold on the creature and disappeared into the darkness. The body of the beast fell to the ground, retaking its human form. The naked young girl lay in the fetal position on the ground, covered in blood and lifeless. Adair knelt beside her, gently closing her eyes as the others approached. Cybele laid a hand on his shoulder.
Selphius slowly walked out of the tree line and up to the group, his face lined with sadness. A tear rolled down Beckett’s cheek from one of his violet eyes. Adair looked up at them, his orange eyes filled with confusion, sorrow, and anger.
“There was no way for you to know Adair, you are blameless,” Selphius said in a comforting tone.
“What was it?” Cybele asked in a low voice.
“It was some sort of bastardized harpie called forth by blood magic. Not to be callus but it would have made an excellent pet, but it didn’t feel proper,” Selphius said with a bit of clinical regret.
The group stacked the bodies and burned them in almost complete silence and began going about the task of preparing to move on in a dazed routine. No one spoke, they all felt the lingering evil, and they would travel through the night to put as much distance as possible between here and themselves as they could. By day break they were entering a small village, travel worn, weary, and sad. Their mission had been accomplished. They located and eliminated another threat to the stability of the region, this one more serious a threat to all rather than just the Bloodgale. A band of highway men operating without a license from the pirate council or a group of competitor pirates held up in a keep was the norm. The occasional skirmish with an ‘official government body’ sure, those happened all the time. But this, this was different. And they still had their own dead to honor this evening after some much needed rest.
Part Two – Holiday ((/queue Madonna song))
The only one in the group that seemed to be back to normal was Commodore Selphius. Happy as a clam he sat atop his horse muttering to himself and giggling every so often. They had not bothered with tying him up this time, they were all tired and he would only manage to escape again anyway. They arrived at a village shortly after dawn the next morning and found a small inn to in which they could take a much needed rest. After stabling their mounts and giving strict instructions they were to be rubbed down, fed, and given fresh hay they group made their way into the common room of the inn. The lady of the house greeted them warmly; fresh water and a plate of meats and cheese awaited them. Her emerald dress of soft cotton and velvet flowed about her while she showed them to their respective rooms on the floors above. They were also dually informed the baths out back would be filled with hot water shortly for them to soak and wash off the dust of the road. She said this with a wrinkle of her nose and a wry smile. She was middle aged but still a lovely woman, her face lined around the corners of her eyes and mouth from a lifetime of a cheery smiling disposition. After their baths she would them supper waiting for them, her husband already in the kitchens preparing them a meal, the smells of which set their bellies to grumbling.
The cares of the group slowly melted away as they stripped off their armor and unburdened themselves with the weight they carried, body and mind.
Beckett sat in an ornate brass tub soaking in steaming hot water, his shoulders slouched forward in exhaustion and his mind wandering far away, trying in vain to forget the horrors that befell that young girl. He heard footsteps behind him; the inn keeper’s wife had offered him a back massage to ease his cares while he soaked. “The shoulder blades have knots under them tough as a rawhide bone ma’am. And thank you for this, I cannot tell you how much I need it.”
Soft strong hands went to work kneading the kinks out of his powerfully muscled back, sometimes tracing the purple tribal tattoos that lined his back and shoulders, moving his long wet hair out of the way as necessary. Beckett moaned with pleasurable pain as the practiced hands worked their magic.
One of the magical hands began to creep lower and around Beckett’s side. Cybele walked into the bathhouse just then, her white surcoat freshly laundered and glowing as the morning light flooded in around her in the doorway.
“Am I interrupting something?” Cybele asked with a hint of amusement.
Beckett gave a chuckle, “No Cyb, slip on in, I’m sure the lady would be kind enough to work on you as well.”
“So Adair is the lady when you two are together? I rather thought with your affinity for purple…” she let the question hang.
Beckett leapt from the tub and out from under Adair’s hands, “You!”
“Cybele you ruined my fun,” Adair said with a pout, his orange eyes playful.
Beckett eased himself back into the tub thinking how these two always seem to be around when he has no clothes on and wondered what he had to do to get some privacy. Cybele pulled her surcoat over her head leaving the mouths of both Beckett and Adair hanging wide open. She snapped her surcoat like a wet towel catching Beckett below his belly button.
“Stop gawking you apes. Months in the field together, it’s nothing you haven’t seen,” Cybele scolded as she lowered herself into a nearby bath with a sigh that spoke volumes.
“It’s not your womanly charms we are starring at Cyb, we can’t even see them through the ungodly amount of dirt and blood you have caked on you. What were you doing, rolling around in the mud and dead bodies when we weren’t looking? How did you get so much of it under your armor and underclothes?” Beckett asked with some astonishment.
“Need a back rub, you big beautiful woman?” Adair asked with an angelic smile.
“No, quite alright Adair, I was rather enjoying the show.”
Beckett leveled a fist at Adair, “Don’t even think about it.” Adair raised his hands in mock surrender.
The Sylvari thief grinned and began to walk out of the bathhouse when he paused for a moment, his hands catching the wood on each side of the doorjamb to stop his momentum. He leaned back a little with a smirk and began spewing his words quickly, “You BOTH may want to consider using a razor while you’re in here. You guys could braid that stuff at this point! Want me to see if I can find you a scythe from the shed?” He rolled his eyes, “Norn,” and disappeared.
Dinner was roast ham with a honey glaze and spiced potatoes with garden fresh vegetables and mulled wine to wash it all down. The group seemed in better spirits and even Selphius was talking to people instead of himself and his ghosts for a change. After a mug of mulled wine Selphius did try to mate with his empty mug, insisting he could refill it myself magically.
They all slept in feather beds that evening, falling into peaceful child like sleep. Something about this house set people at ease. It had cozy clean rooms, warm glowing fires, and the inn keeper and his wife were bright smiling folk that went out of their way to make sure their guests slipped free from all that troubled them. A chill woke while it was still dark, and seeing such went to roll over in the comfortable bed to resume his dreams of wine and women. A squeak popped his eyes wide, however; and he jumped out of bed reaching for his sword.
Selphius threw back the covers and looked accusingly at Beckett, “You rolled onto me!”
“Well pardon me, but what the hell are you doing in my bed and not your own?”
“I thought you could use our company.”
It was just then that Beckett noticed the red headed inn keeper’s daughter from that destroyed town also lying, half transparent where he had just been lying. A chill rna through him again. Beckett pointed at the door, “Out!” Selphius muttered to himself walking out the door, dragging his pillow on the floor behind him. “You too, Bernadette!” Beckett said to the ghostly apparition.
The wafting smells of bacon and syrup woke Beckett well after sunrise. Checking under his covers for any stow-a-ways Beckett rose from bed and stretched. Just then there was a perfunctory knock at the door and before Beckett could say a word the door opened. Cybele stood in the door frame dressed in a white tunic and light brown britches.
She rolled her eyes, “Honestly, do you ever wear clothes?”
“It’s customary to wait for an answer after knocking.”
“Friends should not stand on ceremony Beckett. Breakfast is ready, you coming?”
“Offering your assistance?” Beckett shot back with a grin.
“Cute, Beckett real cute. You’ll have to give yourself a hand there.”
“Now who’s being cute?”
Adair popped his head into the room, his hungry orange eyes breakfasting on Beckett, “Oh! Good morning Beckett. What are we doing Did you need a hand Beckett?”
“Never you mind. I am getting dressed, you two are leaving.” Beckett began pulling on his trousers, muttering to himself about requesting a reassignment.
“I’m shocked to find your bed empty; I would have sworn I would find the inn keeper’s wife…and possibly the inn keeper as well,” Adair said with exaggerated disappointment.
“That would be more your area of expertise I believe,” Beckett retorted as the two left the room, not bothering to close the door.
“Don’t be childish Beckett,” Adair called from down the hall, “I’m just more worldly than you!”
After a hearty breakfast the three went for a short walk around town, their weapons handy but their armor left with the rest of their gear. They strolled casually, chatting lightly and breathing deep of the fresh morning air which smelled of dark pines with a hint of manure. Their trained took in everything absent thought – every building, every farmer and child, the wells, the carts, the number of people in each part of town they passed. They did not expect any trouble; it was merely part of their nature to do so. And it should also be noted that this place made one of such light heart that even Adair refrained, without effort, from his customary pick pocketing.
On their way back to the inn they caught sight of a small dust cloud on the edge of town, just down Main Street. “Right on time,” Adair noted. “At least we got here early and got some rest,” Beckett added.
Selvar and Owyn reigned up outside the inn and dismounted, they wore their plain earth colored traveling clothes, their weapons and armor strapped to the horses. The two exchanged a quizzical look at the scene they rode up on. Cybele sat on the porch in a rocking chair with a piece of hay in her mouth and her feet up on the ochre railing, looking like a practiced rancher. The inn keeper’s wife stood in the street wringing her hands in worry. It seemed like every child in town was running around in patternless circles in the street in front of the inn, their high pitch laughs chiming like thousands of little bells adding to the absurdity. Beckett was crawling out of a second floor window onto a small roof that ran across the front of the three floor inn. Adair was on the roof above holding the end of a rope that was attached to Beckett’s left ankle. Seliphus danced about on the little second floor roof naked, making rude gestures at everyone and wiggling various things that ought not to be wiggled.
“Howdy,” Cybele said to the two through her piece of hay.
“What in the duce is going on here?” Selvar asked.
“Well ya see, we wus a walkin’ around the town all peaceful like. When we uh cum back to this here inn the good Commodore up yonder was uh mishavin’,” Cybele explained in a yokle manner. Selvar blinked, Owyn’s eyebrows knitted.
“Zoula and Fel will be here shortly. Anything we can do to help?” Owyn asked politely.
“’Preciate yer askin’, but me thinks ol’ Beckett has um things purty much hunder controls,” Cybele drolled on pointing up at Beckett, “Why don’t youz make yourself comfy like and enjoy this here show we got goin’,” she continued.
“Why are you talking like that?” Owyn inquired.
“Well there was a local farmer we were talking to before and I was quite taken with the dialect. It has a charming rhythm to it,” Cybele began to lapse back into her new accent, “doncha jus’ think now?”
Selphius ran, leapt, landed on Beckett’s back and continued running over him to the other side of the roof. The lady of the inn gasped, her hand covering her pink little mouth. Beckett flattened out, trying for all the world not to roll off the roof after making a quick grab for the little Asura. With a flash of green light and some smoke, at the snap of Selphius’ fingers, a gooey fleshy minion popped into existence, hovering over Beckett’s prone form. It dripped viscous slime onto his back. Beckett cursed vowing all sorts of unpleasantries befall Selphius.
It was right about that that Fel and Zoula came riding into view with Indrii, Jestir, and Juel behind them riding side by side. Behind them rode a small column four abreast of about one hundred Bloodgale. Cybele stealthily ditched the straw in her mouth with a smile. Almost in tandem Fel asked loudly what the hell was happening here and Zoula yelled Selphius’ name. Indrii watched with detached amusement. Beckett, hearing the voices of the new arrivals, looked up suddenly in embarrassment and lost his footing. He rolled off the roof and landed with a thud in front of Cybele who loosed a startled scream. Adair had conveniently vanished, which explained Beckett’s tumble from the roof. Beckett wheezed having the wind knocked clean out of him from the fall. With a ragged gasp he loosed a stream of profanity that would make any pirate’s mother proud.
It was Zoula who spoke, a cold crisp command that drained all joy from their antics, “Get your acts together. We have work to do.”
And with that their impromptu holiday ended.
The care free child-like faces of the warriors went blank, and slowly the pressures of the world once again visibly weighted their shoulders and etched their faces. Casualty reports, supply lists, debriefing notes, and the like flooded their minds. The sentiment was the same for them all, they had one day to themselves without worry, without care, a day where they didn’t have to be vigilant warriors but could enjoy each other’s company and play as children might.