I was immediately taken in by his charm and warmth. He pulled a chair from a neighboring table and everyone at the table shifted to make room as the entire tavern seemed to pull in closer, collapsing in on his presence.
Durid looked on us with a wise smile, noting the amount of attention his entry had garnered. With a nod, he settled in.
"Gentleman. Ladies. I was wondering if I could cover a few of the finer points of your tale?" His eyes moved to engage each one of us at the table. "It's not often I get to see those that I tell tales of. I can say that it has been near decades since I've garnered such a tale where those heroes have live to tell it."
Bromm's mouth pulled into a straight line as he saw the faces hovering over the table. I looked on recognizing at least half of those faces, these others would likely spread the tale readily which brought me to the same point of consideration. After this, there would be no hiding from what we'd done.
"I take it I'm not all that far off from what I've told?" He said, looking at us quizzically likely due to our silence. "Although, on some of the finer points, I saw that some things didn't quite line up. I appreciate an opportunity to set the record straight?"
There were nods around. He focused in on Danin.
"You held the banner of Kols, yet you are a Cleric of Derrum Ebbar?"
"How did you come to be in possession of such an artifact?"
"Our man, Bromm, here." Danin nodded to him, "It was a gift to him."
"Heh, a gift." Bromm muttered. "A dwarf delivered it to me with a cryptic message. ‘Take my banner to the Bulwark.' and placed a token at our table. Then, just as quickly, he was gone."
Though it wasn't exactly how I remembered things, I believe that Bromm wanted to protect the dwarf who had been possessed by the spirit of Kols.
Durid nodded at Bromm's explanation.
"And you're the one who has single handedly restored the faith of Kols. Was this why you were bestowed with this honor to begin with?"
Bromm paused, looking uncomfortable, then said, "You could say that."
Durid noted his expression and his words. He nodded, seeming to empathize with whatever mixed emotions Bromm had let seep through. The bard turned toward Sig.
"And you. You're the businessman. You're the namesake for Richter Holdings, if I'm not mistaken."
"Yes. Sig Richter. I'm partnered with this man here," He pointed to Bromm, who nodded in response.
Durid listened to the response then waited a moment for the silence to fill in behind Sig's words.
"You're not exactly a wizard, are you?" Durid said, leading the question.
"Not exactly. No." Sig said, with a dangerous smirk. "I do what I can to help out with what skills I've developed."
Sig's standoffishness was also noted by the bard. Durid nodded at him and seemed to want to ask another question, but then thought better of it.
"Tagaern. You're a war hero? Ten-years War from what I hear?" Durid leaned on the table, shifting his focus to the next in line.
"Yes. Hakaar and I fought in the same battle that finished the Mad King." He said heartily but his tone went somber as he continued, "Duncan Tham, our mutual friend, had fallen in Kellas. They had taken his head and we went to reclaim it."
Durid nodded at the connection.
"So, this Duncan, was also from the Ten-years War? I had heard he was a good man. He will be missed." He spoke reverently bringing a nod from both Tagaern and I.
"You're a disciple of Qinnah." The bard pointed to symbol that Tagaern was wearing, "Were you the one who called on the Shield Maidens?"
"If only I had the power to will a vision like that into being!" He said with a wide grin, his eyes sparkled, glossing slightly as he recalled the experience.
"I saw them, clear as I see you, standing between a dozen archers and the great tree. I heard Qinnah's voice saying that they would protect our approach. Once I had that vision, I had no doubts." He smiled, " And, sure enough, just as I heard it, the Shield Maidens did protect us. As is Qinnah's way, turning the tide of battle in our favor."
Durid smiled at Tagaern's passion.
"So, you two fought together in the Ten-years War?" Durid motioned between us.
"Then you knew each other?" He continued.
"We were in different companies, but they held the line while the Grasslions, led by Duncan, stormed the palace and put an end to the Mad King." I said, stirring memories from the haze, "I was there when his madness was silenced."
"The Red Shields stayed back to finish the fight." Tagaern presented his shield from where it hung on his chair and knocked on its red painted face. "Not a glamorous job, by any means, but we saved a lot of lives."
Durid looked at Tagaern with a smile and then furrowed his brow slightly.
"There's a scorpion on your shield. What's that for?"
Tagaern pointed to Sig.
"Just a little advertising for Richter Holdings." Sig gave a slight smirk.
Durid looked briefly disquieted, but then his expression smoothed back to placid. He sipped at a Shatterhammer ale that had been placed in front of him.
"This is good. A local brew?" Durid licked his lips as the mug clunked to the table.
"One of our own." Bromm said, "Out of our family brewery."
He flashed a smart smile, "That you run as well, I take it?"
Bromm smirked, but looked just a little sheepish.
"You men are surprisingly enterprising for as young as you are. Not many your age are taking on giants, politics, and trade. All in one go." He sipped at the ale again and looked to me.
I felt my mouth go dry.
"You're the … man with the sword?"
Silah was still leaning into me, but now she was sitting there watching from my eyes, standing on the shoreline of the beach, the scene painted across the ocean and sky in front of me.
"Calmly, my beast. Don't worry about your words. He's a master of them, which means that you don't have to be." Her voice echoed in my mind, as her horned visage looked on me from glowing yellow eyes.
Her face was attempting to mask some mirth. Finding my sudden panic amusing.
"Hakaar?" Durid's voice floated over the misty waters.
You're not helping. I grumbled to her quietly, pulling my focus back to reality.
"Sorry. It's a lot to think about." I said, attempting to recover.
"So it seems." His eyes looked on me quizzically, seeming to suddenly be more intrigued by my lapse.
"What was your question?"
"Your sword? With a prized possession like that, I'd expect you to wear it at all times."
"It's always close." I said, attempting mask my expression. "I can call on it when I need it."
"It sounds like an impressive artifact." He said with an appreciative nod, "How did you manage to come across this?"
"Oh, the benefits of traveling with men like these." I said, realizing that I was playing a dangerous game with someone who had much more information about local lore than he let on. "In our travels."
"You're pretty bad at this." Silah's voice echoed silkily in my head.
A little help, then? I pleaded internally.
"Oh, you're doing just fine. I promise." She said with a slight edge to her voice.
"You've been traveling together for some time, then?" He continued to press.
"Long enough to manage that sword?" I said as a question, hoping to keep him at bay.
"I see." Durid nodded slowly, grinning briefly as he tipped the mug to his lips again..
"And you, the Ranger, you have a wolf of incredible size?" He said, breaking off our conversation and continuing on to Floki.
"Yes. He's very large. You described him perfectly." Floki said with a smile.
"Was he a gift from Yollari?" Durid asked quickly.
"Yeah. Yeah, he was. I was out tracking orcs. He just floated down and, ya know, that was that. A gift from Yollari." Floki said nonchalantly, shrugging absently.
Durid nodded, again, seeming to take note. Honestly, no one was there when Floki found the wolf. When I first saw them together, it was a dirty, scrappy creature. It had grown formidable under Floki's care, which had said a lot about Floki's own ability.
"You could learn something from him." Silah echoed with a giggle. "A grander version of the truth is always acceptable."
"You, m'lady, you were there, too, correct?" Durid looked directly at Silah, looking a little suspicious. "But I wasn't sure of the part you played?"
Silah regarded him placidly while she tilted her head.
"Oh, I think you know, storyteller." She said with a grin. "Yet, it may be best that your story remains just as it was last night. As you know, there are some things best left to the imagination."
He looked concerned, glancing around the table, then looked at her again and nodded, wetting his lips.
I glanced at Silah who had still locked her eyes with Durid, trying to determine what their exchange was. A moment of silence passed, ended by the squeal of Durid's chair as he pushed away from the table. He took a sip of the ale, then drained the remainder from his mug.
"It is rare, as I said, to have a moment from those who experienced such a memorable tale. I thank you for your time and hospitality." Durid said, having shaken off the concern and smiling handsomely around the table, his tousled grey and brown hair hung around his face as he bent to stand.
"One thing before you go." Sig said, narrowing his eyes. "Where did you get this information?"
"Ah, I don't reveal my sources, my friend." He said, as he tipped his head to the side.
"Oh, I insist." Sig said with a grimace, "This happened no more than two days ago. You speak like you were there and I know for a fact that you weren't."
He stood, looking much less grand as he weighed his options.
"Was it the wizard?" I asked.
He put a finger to his lips and looked around the tavern, then nodded toward the door. I followed Sig and Bromm out the door. Silah nodded and smiled as I stood.
"I'll stay here. Don't get into any trouble." She said with a glittering smile.
She was definitely hiding something.
We moved outside, stepping some ways away from the door of The Sea Witch when Durid, looking intimidated, looked to us, his voice low.
"Yes, the wizard Sobek, in part, but I am connected to those who watch him. Sobek is mixed heavily into the politics of Dowry. The Princess, herself, has put a detail of observers to keep track of his movements believing that he's not to be trusted." Durid said, looking on the late afternoon bustle as he spoke. "I'm a broker of information. That's my trade. However, my true love is to preserve and tell these stories of heroism."
I moved up behind Bromm as he nodded at Durid's words, crossing my arms imposingly. Durid looked up to me, wanting to say something, but after a long, concerned grimace he turned back to Sig.
"Well, that explains that." Sig nodded. "Perhaps there is some information we could have you keep an eye out for?"
"Oh? What is that?" Durid seemed nonplussed by the request.
"There's an alehouse in Dowry that holds a special recipe."
Durid twisted his head and furrowed his brow briefly, still looking at Sig.
"Chantry? The three brothers?" Durid drew his lips into a tight line.
"That's the one." Sig said with a nod.
"And, I take it, you want this recipe." He said flatly.
"Information. That's what we're looking for."
I gave a contemptful chuckle and looked between Sig and Bromm.
"I see this doesn't concern me. I'll be inside." I said as I turned on my heel and moved toward the tavern.
"Wait. There's something you should know." Durid called out toward me, making me freeze in my tracks.
"There's a man, a skilled Samurai, from the West. He challenged a nobleman and took his sword because of its … special properties." The words spilled out of him quickly. "I've heard of such properties, but only in distant tales."
I turned slowly and came back, standing close to Durid again, forcing him to crane his neck to make eye contact with me.
"I wouldn't have guessed if I hadn't seen her with my own eyes." He glanced anxiously between Bromm and Sig, then back to me. "Your story is much like his story. I intend to seek him out, but I believe you and him have something in common."
I scrutinized him silently, nodded, then moved back to the tavern. My head swam with the implications. I moved back to where Silah was and sat heavily next to her.
"You knew, then?" I said aloud, looking forward at the rough table surface.
"Oh, my dear. I sure am glad I'm here." She said, her voice cooing to me like a child while she leaned into me, sliding her arm along the inside of mine. "You are not very good at this."
(Get to know Akeron.)