When in Doubt
Wednesday, December 9, 2009 - 10:28 AM
“And after they destroyed Hope, they came marching out from the crypt entrance, and challenged that bastard Beckhardt right there,” said the thin man with great intensity. His thin face was bright-eyed with the story, and his gloved hands danced like swallows in front of him. From his golden complexion, dark hair, and pointed features he was a Purayu.
The other man, elbows on the bar and brooding over a tankard, was heavy in the shoulders and brows, with a good many fighting scars on his forearms. He shook his head slowly. “That's not what I heard. I heard that, when the sky cleared, Beckhardt's army found them crawling up out of the grave dirt. And then Beckhardt threw down his sword.”
“That makes no sense,” interjected the Purayu. “Why would he do that? And if they were buried in grave dirt, how did they fight Hope?”
“If I knew the answer, I'd be working for Lady Angharad and not hiring out to protect you,” came the bleak reply.
This made the Purayu scoff. He was polite about it; it was just a sudden arch of the eyebrows and a faint sneer. Chas' grin widened slightly, but he straightened up to remind the two that he was there. Egos got touchy in a place like the Blue Shadow. It was a place where old veteran adventurers would come to trade stories about their glory days, and discuss how hard it had been to retire from The Life. A lot of adventurers came through there to meet the famous and prove their own place, and some of them got pretty terse about it.
Of course, Chas had built the Blue Shadow in Last Chance, which was a town that wouldn't even exist except for the notorious Tower of Folly. The Tower loomed about two miles out of town, and Last Chance started as a cluster of merchants waiting to capitalize on the steady stream of desperate treasure hunters and foolhardy glory seekers who attempted to brave the Tower. Now it was a town of its own, populated by the sons of merchants and the adventurers who confronted the absurd lethality of the Tower and decided to retire.
Even though very little of interest had come out of the Tower in recent years, it had become a kind of pilgrimage for people who dealt in sudden death and heroic violence. They would come to Last Chance, spend a lot of money to celebrate or bolster their courage, and then go to wander the now-emptied entry halls of the Tower. The brave (or stupid) went much further, and most of them didn't come out again.
“Lady Angharad has to have actors and bards run around to protect her reputation,” continued the Purayu. “The common man is my herald. Everyone knows that I won the Rout of Dardanti. I was in Pesh for the Ogre War, and I even fought a gavarrhan in the wasteland of the Dohoroz. Hope was some kind of washed out healer turned bad, from what I hear. Not so impressive.”
“Maybe so,” said the brooding man. “But her people killed Martel.”
The counter got quiet for a moment. Hope was something abstract, a shadow from a legend up north where the Leandrites sang of holy war and danced in their courtly tapestries. But Martel was real to many of them. Many had lost friends, lovers, parents, children to Martel. Even dead, Martel's reputation loomed in their minds.
“If they did,” said the Purayu politely, “They must have gotten lucky. Or Martel wasn't as dangerous as all that.”
Chas laughed, and some of the grizzled, jade-eyed people drinking alone at the bar smiled. Chas rarely laughed, but when he did, it was to put someone in their place.
“You never fought Martel,” announced Chas to the Purayu man, who looked unimpressed. Chas poured himself some mead, looking down at the Purayu with his small, sharp eyes. “But I did, and if it wasn't for my companions, I'd be dead right now.”
Even if anyone doubted Chas, it was bad form to dispute the reputation of the man serving you drink, but the Purayu's hesitation was enough for Chas to push on. “We went against Martel, six of us. We were four when we escaped him, and we might have been less but Martel let us go. Who can say why? The Gorecrow liked to mock his foes.” Chas took a deep pull from his mug. “Lady Angharad went for him with only her three companions, and the fight burned down part of Arn. So, even if I had no grudge for Martel, I tell you that I'd respect her and hers for finally bringing the monster down.”
There was a murmur of assent from many of the older adventurers, and then someone lifted their tankard.
“Death of Martel,” he intoned in a somber voice.
“May the slain be content at last,” intoned another.
“Death of Martel,” filled the Blue Shadow, and then silence as most of the occupants drank.
Chas, mug emptied, looked down at the Purayu again. “Heading into the Tower?”
“...yes, of course. I've six companions, and this worthy here.”
The brooding man lifted his drink slightly in acknowledgment. “Slayer's Brotherhood, second class.”
Chas bumped the man's tankard with his mug for acknowledgment, and then nodded at the Purayu. “Good luck. I do have a question, though... you said you'd fought the gavarrhan. Well, I never have, but I have a couple of friends who did, and they told stories that made me lose my hair. So, did you win?”
The Purayu man blinked, started to say something, and then stopped.