Shadow of Hope 49

“First of all,” Erellia said, turning to Finn, “welcome Master Farstrider. I apologize for the,” turning a raised eyebrow at Talon, “abruptness with which you were brought into these circumstances. I greatly look forward to hearing what exactly Talon has been telling you during your journey with him, and I assure you that if after hearing our tale you wish to depart from our company, you may certainly choose to do so.”

Finn bowed again and said, “Oh, I don’t expect to be leaving anytime soon, m’lady. I’d been hearing about these parts for some time and wanted to come and see what all the fuss was about.”

“Secondly,” Erellia continued, acknowledging Cheskith, “my initial response at seeing Talon and Finn was spoken more out of bewilderment than any sense of truth. Few know of the existence of these lands and fewer still have the ability to find them if they so choose. Encountering someone you believe to be hundreds of leagues distant and in such a place as this, would shock almost anyone.”

At this point, Zulian returned to the party and approaching Erellia stated, “They didn’t come through the ravine as we did. They came up from the south.”

“I would expect no less,” Erellia said, chuckling softly. “I’m sure you all have a great many questions that you would like answered,” she continues more solemnly, “and I will do my best to respond to them all. There is an inn not far from here known as the Autumn Glade. We may begin our discussions en route and continue them over a warm supper.”

“Trymeya guided me to your dear, long-lost companion Talon,” the halfling said with a roll of his eyes and a smile, “and we have been enjoying each other’s company since. I do so wish to hear your tale and it sounds like the Autumn Glade is a place to give us some peaceful rest and some good home cooking! I’ve been wasting away out here in the wilds – it’s always good to sit down to table and with companions to share a meal.”

Erellia gathered up the reins of her mount and lead the way through the nearby forest. She stopped however, as if recalling some important fact.

“Though these lands are safer than most,” she said with a hint of sadness in her voice, “that which protects them has begun to crumble, and evil is afoot. Be on your guard.”

With that she began to lead the group away from the ravine and the adjacent clearing and into the forest at a leisurely pace to allow discussion amidst the group.

Finn eyed Cheskith a little nervously, having little experience with lizardfolk except for raiding parties along the river. Nevertheless, Finn offered a curt bow to the chanter and then turned back to following Erellia and Zulian into the woods.

“Oh, by the way,” he piped up, “this ornery beast is Jack.” He gave the reins a playful jerk and his pony shook his shaggy mane. “Say hello, Jack.” Jack snorted and dropped a small steaming pile of dung in the green grass of the glade. “Ah, yes!” Finn chuckled. “Jack and Donayal have an agreement, you see. He eats the grass grown by her providence and then he in turn fertilizes the new growth left behind! He’s a good pony, yes he is!”

As the party focused on Jack’s tribute to Donayal, Rôhn cuffed Talon on the shoulder and said, “So tell me, you scapegrace, how did you ever make it out of that temple? I thought for sure you were dead!” He offered Talon some of his clove and leaf for rolling, and then stuffed some in the bowl of his own pipe.

When Finn got a whiff of the tobacco, he followed his nose, seeking out the source. With a hopeful expression on his face, his said, “If I may, could I have a pipe of that? And the next one will be on me. I have some dandy weed that hints of dark cherries I’m sure you’ll enjoy. Ain’t that right, Talon?”

Rôhn turned to regard the halfling, as if seeing him for the first time. His countenance was stoic and expressionless. He paused for a moment, as if considering the request, and turned the pouch toward the halfling, to sprinkle some of the leafy mixture into his bowl.

Seemingly oblivious to the dwarf’s stoic countenance, Finn accepted the tobacco with a smile and a nod of thanks. After lighting his pipe, Finn puffed a few times and smacked his lips. “Ummm. I love cloves! Reminds me of my Aunt Maggie’s winter ham. Nothing better than a fat ham with fresh cloves,” he said to no one in particular.

Rôhn nodded in return and turned to Talon again, awaiting his tale with great anticipation.


Shadow of Hope 50

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