Chapter II: The Hostelry
Copyright © 1999 C.E. by Dustin Jon Scott
[Last Update: June 6th, 2018]
13th Month, 19th Night, 4,632nd Year
Note: All of this is going through heavy revisions.
The room was deafeningly congested, replete with dozens of permeating, boisterous voices each trying desperately to surmount the next. The Talenburg Inn was full to capacity tonight, and the abhorrently inebriated horde showed no sign of a proximal departure. Strangely, though, no one seemed to be affronted or irate, and the atmosphere was that of merriment and camaraderie. Most of the patrons seemed to be human, though there were also a few Common Elves, Duegar, hobs, Gnomes, half-Elves, and even an Ogre or two. It was strange to see the different races relating to one another so effortlessly and without reservation -- especially within the Neutral Zone between the kingdoms of Béowyn and Faelore, where tensions always ran high. There was obviously something very different about this evening, something with the significance to bond the races, if only in fleeting.
The pub itself was ornately decorated, with floors of finely polished brick tiles, walls made of ash planks and joined with pitch, and intricately carved chair and table sets made from cherry wood. The eaves and pillars within the bar were quite large, and seemed to be constructed of stained oak. Above each table hovered a small brass chandelier, hanging from each extremity of which were ornamental lanterns with red-stained glass walls that saturated the room with warm, cranberry light.
Rylen Llyraeus, Llaralynn Harnram, Lily Tifwing, and William Huxley sat at a corner booth, conversing quietly amongst themselves as if independent from the vulgar yet joyous commotion of the tavern.
“So, things sure aren’t the same here at ‘Ye Olde Pub’, are they?” Llaralynn asked, somewhat rhetorically -- a textbook illustration of her innate sense of candor.
Llaralynn awaited a reaction as she smirked slightly from behind her glass, her enormous viridian eyes dancing back and forth between Rylen, William, and Tif. She had been drinking Elven ale that night, a beverage known to be roughly as intoxicating as Human ale but with a far sweeter taste.
Llaralynn set her mug down on the table and ran her fingers through her jet-black, nearly shoulder-length hair as her olive skin grew red with inebriation. Her attire was casual; a white, slightly tattered, button-less, short-sleeved tunic, a knee-length buckskin vest, and brown leather trousers.
“Well it’s probably more the same here than it is at ‘Ye New Pub’,” Rylen joked; as usual, no one seemed to find him witty.
Rylen smiled meekly once he noticed no one was laughing, having embarrassed himself with his ineffectual attempt at humor. The charmingly inelegant half-Elf was drinking his usual mug of ale, and of course wearing his characteristic mustache of foam for the greater portion of the evening.
If not for his glaring awkwardness, Rylen wouldn’t have been the type to stick out in a crowd. He looked to be a typical half-Elf in every respect, with the attractive but not incredibly masculine face of a Common Elf, as well as the platinum blonde hair and sky-blue eyes characteristic of the Tel’quessir; although, were it not for the points of his ears, he could’ve passed for a somewhat petite Human. His style of dress complimented this superbly inconspicuous appearance, as tonight he was clad in an off-white linen tunic and brownish, wool trousers with his feet bound in strips of leather.
William, the half-Ogre, remained silent as he gulped down his oversized mug of ale; it was his seventh that evening. His eight-foot tall, four hundred pound body was all but immune to the beverage.
William Huxley was an unusually handsome half-Ogre, with the overall appearance of a very tall, extremely muscular Human. He kept his figure burly yet trim, with little excess fat. Part of the colossal man’s allure was his infectious smile and soulful brown eyes. Always well groomed, William tended to get quite a bit of positive attention from Human women despite the fact that he dressed mostly in bear pelts. Tonight he wore his usual brown bearskins sewn into a tunic, tied with a leather belt at the waist and completed by a pair of bearskin boots covering his feet.
“I think Riley’s had too much ale tonight,” said Tif, sticking out her tongue playfully at the half-Elf, her wings fluttering slightly. The petite Pixie was comfortably perched cross-legged in the center of the table, dressed somewhat scantily in miniature, dyed-green linen garments.
William chuckled heartily, nearly spilling his own ale as Rylen’s face expressed the ravages of Tif’s good-humored mockery. Llaralynn smiled brightly at Rylen, trying her damnedest not to laugh. Rylen was obviously feeling a bit uncomfortable, and so Llaralynn quickly threw an arm around him and kissed him on the cheek.
“Don’t try so hard, honey. It wasn’t exactly your sense of humor that made me fall in love with you,” Llaralynn offered.
“So, what do you suppose everyone is so excited about?” William broke in, setting his mug down, as his face grew vaguely serious.
“Someone finally killed the Fafnir outside of town,” a foreign voice interjected.
It was then that an unrealistically curvaceous redhead approached the table wearing tight, low-rise, tan colored linen trousers, knee-high, black leather, lace-up boots, a white, backless bust-bodice with shoulder straps and a lace-up front that was obviously tailored specifically for her miniature torso and mammoth chest, and a mahogany-colored leather corset completing the ensemble. Her long, sensuous legs seemed to glide in a confident gait as her peculiarly hefty bosoms tremored powerfully behind their linen captivity with each prideful step. Llaralynn, Rylen, Tif, and William knew at first glance who it was.
Each time she passed within a few feet of a man, his jaw would become slack and his eyes would widen with desire. The women she passed were visibly desirous, and those who kept themselves from outwardly expressing their envy were putting on blatant pretenses of disgust. The brazen, fiery-haired, outrageously proportioned young women smiled graciously at each yearning man, absorbing the looks of unreserved awe, intermittently flashing a conceited smirk at each resentful, envious woman. It would’ve been obvious to any bystander that she was fully accustomed to this sort of behavior, and cherished every moment of it.
“It’s been a long time, Jadia,” Llaralynn remarked, smiling warmly as she put an arm around the absurdly buxom girl.
“So, what’s this business about a Fafnir?” William asked.
“Haven’t any of you ever heard of the Talenburg Fafnir? It was a huge monster that lived in a cave just outside of town. Supposedly, it guarded a secret treasure. The monster’s carcass was dragged out of the hills a few hours ago -- along with the bodies of the apparent slayer and his hunting party. The Talenburg city council is planning to excavate the cave tomorrow to determine if there really is a treasure. It’s supposed to be huge! In fact, when I heard the council was sending a hunting party into the hills to slay the Fafnir, I postponed my expedition to search the catacombs of Necropolis just so I could come here,” Jadia explained.
“Any word on your sisters’ whereabouts?” Llaralynn questioned.
Unexpectedly, the double doors at the tavern’s front entrance were opened, and a mysterious figure walked into the room wearing a black, ankle-length velvet robe with bell-sleeves and a draping hood that fully concealed the figure’s face, carrying a tall, knotted staff. Everyone in the room suddenly hushed as four paladins positioned haphazardly about the bar, each dressed in only partial armor, stood and drew their longswords.
“We don’t want any devil worship around here!” the burly, aging bartender charged.
The robed figure took a few more steps into the room, reached under the garment’s neckline and pulled out a talisman; a silver pentacle. The paladins sheathed their swords and remained at attention, waiting for the robed figure to reveal itself.
Pulling the shroud-like hood up from over her face and allowing it to slide down the back of her neck, the figure revealed herself to be a beautiful woman with warm features and golden hair. She smiled sweetly at the bartender and proceeded to scan the room.
“I’m so sorry,” the bartender pleaded, “we’ve just had a lot of trouble with warlocks and black mages around here lately. If I had known you were an Aradian priestess...” he began to ramble.
“It’s perfectly alright,” the incomprehensibly gorgeous blonde replied, “I know how confusing it can be for cowans, especially since the priests and priestesses of Mortifer dress themselves in much the same manner as we Witches.”
The beautiful young priestess then held out her arms, as the four paladins quickly made their way to her and took her staff, then removed the ritual garb from her body, folding it neatly. One of the paladins wandered off with her staff, presumably to the tavern’s weapons locker.
Beneath the hooded vestment was a revealing black dress made from two rectangular cuts of fine silk. The two silk squares were pinned together once above each shoulder and then again above each hip by four large, disc-shaped, button-like clasps. The garment was narrow enough that it barely remained fastened by the clasps at her waist; as a result, the dress exhibited great expanses of skin. The dress was also absurdly short, extending down only far enough to cover an inch or so of her long, slender legs. It looked as though the woman had taken two silk handkerchiefs and somehow managed to stretch them enough to pin them together over her torso. Of course, the dress wouldn’t have fit at all if not for her lissome bone structure and minuscule waist, since even now it looked as though it were straining to stay on her voluptuous body; the back of the garment only partially covered her plump, muscular posterior while her bountiful chest threatened to burst through its silk prison in front.
In addition, the Witch wore a pair of high-healed sandals with black leather straps ascending clear to her knees in a cross-gartered pattern, and a silver pentacle, which dangled mere fractions of an inch above the cleavage made visible by the dresses’ plunging neckline.
The folks in the pub were plainly taking notice of the unabashed priestess. Although the beguiling young blonde’s substantial breasts weren’t anywhere near the ubiquitous magnitude of Jadia’s, nor was her waist quite as tapered (though every bit as taut), her nonetheless mesmerizing figure was receiving comparable attention as she began to move across the room, extravagantly swinging her robust hips from side to side with each pretentious step she took.
The Witch continued inspecting the bar, until her eyes finally settled on the corner table, which seated Jadia, Rylen, Llaralynn, William, and Tif. She began walking toward the five friends as her newly acquired paladin sentinels followed closely behind her. As she was walking toward them, a man who’d been sitting near reached out and lifted a corner of her dress, exposing her deliciously copious buttock for all to see.
“Show some respect for the clergy!” one of the paladins shouted, seizing the man by the front of his tunic.
“Wait! I can handle this myself, thank you,” the priestess commanded, approaching the unrefined man as her paladin guards stepped away.
“Have you ever heard of Kha Lo Din?” she asked, bending forward to look the man straight in the eyes. She rested one hand on the table at which he sat, and the other on the arm of his chair.
“Of course ... who hasn’t ... everyone knows who the son of Kha Ri Oric is ... Rioric is a living legend ... Lodin was a prodigy…a warrior ... before he was even a paladin...” the uneasy man stammered.
“Okay, then listen up,” the magnificent, charming girl said with a smile, “if you don’t have respect for this,” she said, holding her silver pentagram-medallion, “then at least have respect for this,” she continued, pointing to the ruby-studded platinum ring on her finger.
“Wha...what’s that?” the man asked.
“It’s an engagement ring, the one Kha Lo Din himself gave me. Gee, do you think he’ll be angry when he hears about this?” she asked, her sparkling brown eyes full of sympathy as she coyly bit her lower lip. “I really wouldn’t want to see anything ‘bad’ happen to you,” the Witch said with a bright, toothy smile.
The man fell backward out of his chair as the priestess stepped back, scrambled to his feet and made a run for the door as quickly as he could. The golden-haired beauty simply laughed and kept walking confidently toward the corner table.
“That was awfully harsh, Alyssandra,” Llaralynn scoffed.
“What? Don’t I get a hug?” she replied.
Jadia and Llaralynn deployed themselves from their seats behind the table and greeted Alyssandra, amiably embracing her. The three girls released one another, and Llaralynn returned neatly to her place next to Rylen as Jadia motioned for Alyssandra to take her seat.
“How’ve you been Alyssandra?” William asked, caringly as ever.
“It’s been a long time...” Rylen added with a reverent nod.
“What the hell happened to you?” inquired Tif, staring at Alyssandra’s new style of (partial) dress.
“What?” said Alyssandra, looking down at her scant apparel. “Oh, I guess I am a little less inhibited than I used to be,” she remarked with a smile as she sat down beside Llaralynn.
“So, you finally became a priestess,” Rylen commended.
“Naturally. I’m not just a follower of the Aradian faith anymore, I’ve gone through the dedication period, the initiation rite, and now I’m part of the clergy! I’m a full-fledged Witch!”
“Aren’t priests and priestesses supposed to be naked under their robes?” William queried.
“Well, Witches are supposed to be skyclad during most rituals, though dedicants are allowed to wear these little black satin loincloths if they wish to preserve their modesty. Once he or she becomes a Witch, though, we’re to participate nude on the Esbats and robed on the Sabbats. The robes are also our formal garbs as well as our only permissible municipal clothing. We’re normally not supposed to wear anything beneath them, but the Priesthood makes an exception for social settings,” Alyssandra clarified.
Alyssandra stopped for a moment.
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to ramble on like that,” she said. “Anyway, what were you guys doing?
“Jadia was just about to tell us if she’d heard anything on her sisters recently,” Llaralynn informed the young Witch, as everyone looked up at Jadia to await her response.
“I haven’t really heard much. There’s the same old rumors that Kyra is in league with blackguards, and of course I haven‘t seen Abby in months,” Jadia explained, her voice timid and irresolute.
“Oh, Jadia, I’m so sorry,” Llaralynn submitted compassionately.
“Who’s Abby?” asked Alyssandra.
“Abigail is Jadia’s other half-sister,” William started; “she’s a half-Drow, like Kyra. In fact, they have the same father. Gail was raised in Faelore with their father while Jadia and Kyra were raised by Isaac and Larissa, so Jadia never met Gail until just under a year ago.”
Jadia nodded, “Well you’ve all heard the story of how my mother conceived Kyra when she lived in Faelore with Aramyn, and how she was captured and sold in the Béowyn black market by poachers who mistook her for a Nymph before Kyra was born, and ended up handfasting my father, Isaac, when he bought her and freed her....”
“About a hundred times,” said William.
“So, Kyra and I were raised like blood sisters. But what I found out several months ago, and what you don’t know,” Jadia continued, addressing Alyssandra, “is that when I was only almost two years old, far too long ago for me to have remembered, my mother was sent back to Faelore because of the war, because of how much she looked like a Nymph. Kyra and I stayed with our father, while our mother ended up having a brief affair with Aramyn. Mom gave birth to Abby about a year later. When the war ended and she was able to return home, she left Abigail with Aramyn in Faelore so that Isaac wouldn’t find out that she’d had an affair. So I ended up having a nearly two-years-younger sister that I never met, or even knew about, until almost a year ago.”
“So, that would make Abby about sixteen years old now, right?” said Alyssandra.
“Right,” answered Jadia.
“And your father never knew about her? Your mother never told either of you?” the priestess asked.
Jadia shook her head, “No, I never would’ve known if I hadn’t run into Abby in Candleton a few months ago.”
“How did you know she was your sister then?” asked Alyssandra, as Rylen and William raised their eyebrows.
“Well,” said Jadia, “she and I do look exactly alike, I mean, I have my father’s red hair and green eyes, and she has her father’s pointed ears, but otherwise we look exactly like our mother did at our age. Well, not exactly, since Abby doesn’t have any freckles and her hair is fairly dark on account of her dad’s black Drow hair, but other than that...” explained Jadia, looking down at her body and gesturing her hands up and down her sides, calling attention to her unusually curvaceous physique, “we’re identical down to every last little curve.”
“Speaking of your father, have you heard from Isaac recently?” asked William.
“No, still no word,” Jadia frowned.
“What? Your father went somewhere? The last time I saw any of you was right after Larissa died a little more than a year ago, what happened?” Alyssandra questioned.
“Isaac took off,” Tif stated bluntly.
“It was a week or so after my mother died,” said Jadia, “he just disappeared one day, and never came back. Anyway, I’d really rather not talk about this anymore.”
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to -- ”
“It’s okay,” Jadia interrupted, “you couldn’t have known.”
Alyssandra grimaced slightly, “so, where’s that fiancé of mine?”
“Pardon?” enquired Llaralynn. “Is Lodin supposed to be here?”
“Yes, after his mission to Faelore, his squadron was supposed to come here, to Talenburg ... to the Talenburg Inn actually. He should be here already. The paladins were sent into Faelore to locate the city of Necropolis more than six weeks ago.”
“Well Necropolis can be a fairly elusive city. Even those who’ve made the trip several times before have difficulty finding it. Perhaps they were lost?” offered Jadia.
“They’re probably all dead,” came a voice from the booth behind Rylen and William; Jadia’s head turned sharply in the direction of the voice, Llaralynn and Alyssandra lifted their heads, and Tif flittered into the air for a better view of the booth’s occupants, as Rylen and William turned around to look.
Sitting in the adjoining booth were two men dressed in tattered brown mantles. The two men pulled their hoods down simultaneously and turned to greet their associates. One of the men was a somewhat elderly yet distinguished looking Human with long silver hair and a short, well-groomed beard. The other was an Elven man with short, frost-white hair and a matching goatee.
Jadia stepped over to the two men with an air of mourn about her face and took a seat beside the illustrious, venerable patriarch as the others minded intently. The silver-haired veteran lowered his head forlornly, clenching his eyes tightly as the staggeringly erogenous redhead laid her tender arm around his shoulders.
“What do you mean Rioric? What’s wrong?” asked Jadia; comforting Rioric with the soothing tranquility of her melodious voice as the words wisped delicately from her full, gentle lips.
“They were supposed to have returned from Necropolis by now. They must’ve been exterminated by the blackguards,” said Rioric, staring hazily at Jadia’s pouting lips.
Llaralynn turned to see Alyssandra’s eyes welling with tears, placing an arm around the young priestess in much the same way that Jadia had been comforting Rioric. Alyssandra collapsed into Llaralynn’s arms, weeping incessantly as Rylen and William frowned in sympathy.
Tif flittered her wings and began buzzing about the table, “Maybe Jadia’s right! I say we go into Faelore and make our way toward Necropia. We might just find Lodin and the other paladins!”
The snowy-haired Elf raised an eyebrow in attention to the Pixie’s remark, as everyone save Rioric turned to look at the ancient Elven man.
“Well,” said the aging Elf, “it would be dangerous, since we’d have to travel for nearly three weeks through the forests of Faelore, and Faelore isn’t exactly the safest place for Humans, Ogres, Common Elves or Wood Elves since it was taken over by the Unseelie Court. Not to mention that the Valley of Necropia is on the Urukane border of Faelore. If just crossing through that area is enough to keep the Orcs from attacking Faelore, then I’d hate to imagine what would be awaiting us in Necropolis itself, but I suppose if there‘s a chance that Lodin is alright, it’s worth the time and the risk.”
Rioric nodded in agreement. The room seemed a little brighter now, as a sensation of hope began to invade the hearts of William, Llaralynn, Rylen, Toren, Jadia, Rioric, Tif, Jadia, and especially Alyssandra.
Alyssandra lifted her head from Llaralynn’s shoulder, her eyes bright and full of hope as she slid out of the booth and stood to her feet, “I’m going. Who’s with me?” she charged, wiping the tears from her eyes.
“If you’re going, I’m going,” answered William.
“Of course I’ll join you,” added Llaralynn with a smile.
“Ai’ nat’ ten’ vanima Amandil en Tel’kurunidur,” or ‘anything for a beautiful priestess of the Witch faith,’ said Toren, eliciting a temporary smile from Alyssandra, who knew just enough Elvish to understand what Toren was saying.
“Count me in, I was going to Necropolis anyway,” smiled Jadia, squeezing Rioric’s shoulders slightly.
“Let’s go find my son then,” Rioric spoke up.
“Yay!” Tif beamed, “we’re going to Necropolis!”
No one said anything more for several moments, and I wasn’t long before the entire group turned their attention to Rylen.
“I guess I’m in too,” said the half-Elf, smirking awkwardly, “can’t exactly let you guys go out and get yourselves killed without me.”
Alyssandra thought for a moment, “We’ll stay here for tonight, and leave first thing in the morning. Does everyone have a room?”
“Rylen and I are sharing a room, unless he wants to bunk with his daddy tonight,” Llaralynn teased, watching Rylen’s face turn multiple shades of red.
“That’s quite alright,” Toren responded with a whimsical grimace and a slight chuckle. “Rioric and I’ll split a room.”
“Maybe I should join you,” Jadia quipped.
“Actually, Jadia, I think it would be more proper if you stayed with Alyssandra tonight. In case you‘ve forgotten, Toren and I both have wives,” said Rioric.
“And I’ll stay with Rylen and Llaralynn!” exclaimed Tif.
“Hey no -- no way Tif!” Rylen instructed the little Pixie in his firmest voice.
“Oh, I see,” replied Tif. The Pixie then began to sing, “Riley and Llara, sitting in a tree, F-U-C-”
“Tif!” Llaralynn snapped, interrupting the pixie mid-song as Tif fluttered back down and landed softly on the table.
Rylen couldn’t help but laugh slightly, and neither could Alyssandra. William chortled reservedly. Jadia giggled kittenishly and Rioric and Toren just smiled as Tif took her bows upon the tabletop.
“So, shall we rendezvous back here at sunrise?” asked Toren.