Lord Toran called to the group, “Back to the hall! Use your call spells!”
Rakhanar was only too happy to be done with the night and slink off somewhere to lick his wounded pride. He had never used this spell but what he needed to do seemed to bloom in his mind with the Lord’s command. His bloody, gauntleted hands moved as if of their own accord in graceful movements before his eyes, drawing the glowing energy to him while arcane symbols burned in his mind’s eye. His body began to shimmer as the power infused him, binding the blueprint of his form even as it shattered him. It wasn’t painful – actually it was one of the most blissful feelings he had ever experienced. He was everywhere at once for an instant, timeless and eternal.
And then he saw the grand entranceway of the hall fusing into being before him, the four tapestries fluttering softly with innate power, down from the high round ceiling. He was one of the last to appear. Before him, Lady Lilithna and Shialli headed to the magic globe, along with the Traveler and Lord Banedon. He moved out of the doorway and the fae priestess, Evaine, shimmered into being behind him and fluttered around him slowly.
“You did fine, young man,” she whispered in passing. “You’re good.” She smiled and touched his forearm and the last of the pain in his arm disappeared as she followed the others. He stood for a moment, his emotions roiling inside him. What did she mean by that?
He stormed into the crafting hall with slightly less self-directed disgust than he might have had the little fae not added her encouragement. There was no one in the hall but the hired help, and even they seemed reluctant to meet his gaze. At the counter by the forge, he yanked off his battered armor, stripping all the way down to the loose cloth pants he wore underneath without a thought, and knelt to ram it into the standard issue magic bag that had been the last thing in the box of gear he had been given.
“Tainted Tunare.. Freeport militia? Bunch of thugs…” he grumbled, pulling the robe that Carroway had given him from his bag and wrestling it over his head. He was too wired up to go find a place to sleep and too exhausted to work out his anger at the forge. He needed a drink, and… what? Someone to talk to, maybe… someone soft and sweet…
His mind went straight to Siffy, then caromed off into anywhere-but-there land. With an angry grunt, he jumped to his feet and headed for the Tattered Scroll. It too, was empty at this hour, so he turned on his heel and charged back to the first counter where the little halfling female was busily sorting through a pile that might have contained a kitchen sink or two.
“Where can I get a drink?” he said, giving the counter a solid slap to get her attention as he leaned over it to look down at her. She snapped her head up and shrank back fearfully. Sudden remorse hit him and he barked a short, apologetic laugh, then softened his tone as he added, “There must be some place, little one – I just need to relax.”
“Uhhh.. you might try the Velvet Lily. They cater more to f—females, though,” she squeaked. “In New Halas.”
He nodded and forced himself to smile. It probably didn’t help; in his current mood, he was sure it looked like he was baring his teeth threateningly. “Thanks.”
* * *
The entranceway of the Velvet Lily was flanked by two short, blue-skinned Coldain butlers, and when Rakhanar pushed through the double doors to the main room, he found it to be a nightmare in pink and prettiness, definitely geared to more feminine tastes. Rakhanar hoped that meant there would be more females there – if that turned out to be the case, he could bear the frills and fluff.
There were private alcoves set off to his right, and before him was a long bar, along the back wall. He was surprised to find that Lord Toran and the Traveler were there before him, sitting at the bar to his right. Lady Lhasa, his superior in the Water Element, was standing beside them. To his left sat a fae female and a human woman in a green gown.
Lhasa turned as he entered and stared at him, her hostile gaze softened by the drink in her hand, her stance unsteady. She made her way over to him as he stood there absorbing the atmosphere, her gait apparently meant to be a sultry sway, but the alcohol added a bit of a wobble that spoiled her intended effect. Coming to a stop before him, she reached up and patted his dark bearded cheek, ice clinking in her glass. “You’re cute!” she said, blasting him with alcohol-scented breath.
Rakhanar just stood there and stared at her, speechless. She winked, smirked and wandered past him toward the door, nonplussed, and he doubted she would remember the encounter the next time they met. It occurred to him then that he might just have to forego training at her hands, no matter how capable when she was sober. The price might be too high.
His eyes fell on the fae, who was tossing peanuts in the bouffant hairdo of the green-gowned woman and getting away with it. He decided to head over to her side of the bar, as the Traveler and Lord Toran seemed to have their heads together, plotting. Besides that, he was counting on her calming effect.
The tiny fae looked up at him brightly and he felt the tension ease out of his shoulders immediately. “Need a drink, big guy?” she chirped.
He nodded. “Ale, m’lady fae.”
She hopped over the bar and fetched a frosted mug, stuck it under the tap and filled it to the brim, then headed back to him. “You can call me…” Just as she handed it to him, she turned into a pinkish-skinned giant, and her voice dropped to a deep growl. “…Xixy.”
That did not help. Stupid fae. Always with the pranks. He growled as he took the ale from her massive hamfist as she looked down at him and chuckled, a deep-toned rumble now, and he felt his hackles go up.
Rakhanar leaned over to slap coins on the bar, pointedly not looking at her. He could feel the threat of red humming in his skull. He turned away and took a big gulp of the ale, then found his gaze focused on the Traveler. Suddenly he realized that the Traveler was wearing exactly the same kind of robe that he wore. It was too much. Just too much.
Rakhanar narrowed his gaze at the Traveler. He strode over to the stool where the Traveler was sitting and bumped him off the seat, taking it for himself as if it were a throne.
“Oh. Did I take your seat? Sorry.” Sarcastic.
The Traveler managed to keep his feet under himself and regain his balance. He turned back to look at Rakhanar, his face impassive. Rakhanar glared. The Traveler said nothing.
Just at that moment, another female came into the room from a curtained doorway. Her gown was of high quality and screamed wealth and position. She focused her gaze on the man before Rakhanar.
“Ah, Traveler! Good to see you! Would you like to take a tour?”
The hooded man turned to look at her, only too glad to take her offer. He nodded, took her arm and headed out of sight, Rakhanar glowering after him.
Rakhanar took another swig of his ale, smirked, and turned back to see that the fae was still a pink giant. Red throbbed at the edges of his vision, relentless.
Change back… Please…
She didn’t. Rakhanar turned and looked at Lord Toran beside him, meeting the Erudite’s surprised gaze with a snort and a shrug. After a moment, the Traveler came back into the room and took a stool on the other side of Lord Toran.
Rakhanar couldn’t stop himself, the red was threatening, hot in his eyes. He wanted a fight. He turned to stare at the Traveler again.
“What are you hiding under the hood? You bald?” he sneered. The Traveler stared straight ahead, ignoring him.
Rakhanar’s gaze fell on the Erudite between them, bald black pate shining. Lord Toran. Oops. “No offense, m’lord.”
“None taken. I never understood the appeal of hair anyway.” Lord Toran smiled slightly, seeming to enjoy Rakhanar’s baiting of the Traveler.
The Traveler leaned back on the bar, picked up his wine glass and and hailed the barmaid, the fae who was now a fae again, not a pinkish giant. “I’ll take a bottle to go, please,” he said, his lips tight.
She fluttered over to grab a bottle off the rack and set it before him, catching the coin he tossed at her deftly. Rakhanar watched the hooded man head out the door then looked back at the fae, who had settled behind Lord Toran, wiping glasses. Suddenly he felt the rage slip away and regret settled in its place, familiar.
“I… I’m sorry. For chasing off your customer, there.”
The little winged female looked up at him, blinked. “Oh! No! You didn’t. He does that all the time. He prefers to drink alone, that’s all.”
Rakhanar rolled his eyes. She just had to lie to him.
“Right,” he said, sarcastic again.
But he determined to swallow his pride and apologize to the Traveler the next time he saw him. As long as he wasn’t wearing the same robe.
* * *
Wizard of Wildfire & Shadow Walker Wordsmith ((a/k/a The Real Me ))