Home is Where the Hearth Is

Submitted by Sheila on Fri, 8/11/2017 at 5:43pm

Pushing the door open, the Ixifar healer stepped into the cool dimness of the Shady Corners.  Although she had only been away from Jastrey for a couple of mestruns, as she stepped beyond the doorway and made her way to her favorite table, nodding her greetings to the tavern maid, the sudden burst of homesickness that flooded her heart made it feel as though she had been absent far longer. She had enjoyed her time reconnecting with her family, mending any ill feelings and setting straight past events, offering forgiveness and, in turn, being forgiven of any transgressions arising from those misunderstandings and outright untruths.  

As she settled into the chair, the waitress settled a pot of tea upon the worn wood of the table, placing her favorite chipped tea cup before her. The First of Avaren nodded her thanks, reaching over to pour a cup of the fragrant, steaming liquid.  Leaning back, wincing at the slight creak of the old wood of the chair, Claudia carefully sipped the hot tea, green eyes glancing about, taking in the familiar sights and sounds of the citizens of Jastrey, a slight, knowing smile touching her lips.

Kade entered the tavern looking for Silaine as usual. However, she was surprised and delighted to see that Althena had returned. "Althena!" she called happily. She rushed over to join the First at her table. "It's good to see you back. They said you were in Tarkalsys, but never quite told me why."

Startled by her friend's enthusiastic greeting, and at the call of her alias, Claudia smiled back at her, rising and, going against her usual hesitation at physical contact, gave the younger woman a hug.  "Please sit with me," she said as she sat back, gesturing to the maid for another cup as she smiled at Kade.  "It is good to be back. I missed you very much and am very sorry for my absence." She tilted her head slightly, "My visit home was exceptionally enlightening and eventful."  Claudia smiled as the waitress placed another cup in front of Kade.  "Would you like some tea?  It is one of the finest from my family's stores.  One of the few beverages Rica produces that does not taste of swill."

Kade had planned to order one of Silaine's special ciders, but accepted non-the-less. "I think I would. Thanks." She smiled. "So why did you go to Tarkalsys? I can't imagine any reason good enough."

"We had a very compelling reason to do so," the healer replied as she carefully filled Kade's cup, "The Barren Throne was being threatened," she glanced up as she placed the tea pot back onto the table, reaching to pick up her own cup.  Taking a sip, she frowned slightly.  "I apologize.  I do not know how much of Tarkalsys and its history you may know.  I will give you a brief explanation of the history that affected this particular quest," she leaned forward, resting her arms upon the rough top of the dining table,  "Two ages ago, there was a great civil war - the Vedrischtal - during which the mad King Sorin Arqveil killed, amongst many others, his seven children.  As he, too, met his fate, he placed a curse upon the throne.  The ranking nobles of Tarkalsys decided to rule as a council over the land, leaving the throne bare."  Claudia gave a little shrug, "For a time, it remained so, until a fool noble decided to claim it, in the name of Ressik no less.  My family asked me to assist them in preventing that. With the help of many of our friends and Avaren's Grace, we were able to defeat that plan."  She lifted her eyes and offered her friend a wry smile.  "Although our efforts saved the day in Tarkalsys, from what little I have been told, it seems Garen's brother has made off with or otherwise hidden the crown itself, using poor Shrayvar as his instrument." A shudder slipped over the ixifar, "I am certain Garen would have more information, as I died - or nearly died - during the battle itself, so have no intimate knowledge myself."

Kade frowned, "I'm tired of hearing about Garen's brother. It seems he has each of his eight legs in a different pot." She absently sipped her tea, forgetting to savor it as she grew angry. "Now it seems he has also taken up with Goose's wife and daughter, changed as they are. A few days ago Dreghor and Clover started wreaking havoc in the Grove. After completely thwarting any of our attempts to reason with or attack them they vanished through a portal and Goose followed them." She pounded her fist on the table. "Idiot! You'd think someone that old would have developed some wisdom by now!"

Claudia paled, her tea forgotten at Kade's words.  "Goose...followed Dreghor through a portal? What was the fool thinking?" she shook her head, forcing herself to calm, "I realize that this is his wife and child, however we already knew his wife had been transformed and not in her right mind.  And, quite powerful.  Why would he go without assistance?"  Placing her cup down, she glanced up at the human, "Seems Garen's brother has his fingers in every pot, now, does it not?" The ixifar settled back into her seat, a thoughtful, worried expression upon her face as she digested the realization that the uordeq obviously had plans for more than Jastrey.  Tilting her head slightly, eyes narrowed, she looked back at her companion.  "Although, given Ressik's dislike for non-humans, it seems doubtful Dreghor is allied with Ressik, whatever the creature is up to."

Kade quirked an eyebrow, "What else has been going on with Ressik?"

"Oh, just the same," the Nectrum noble replied with a shrug.  "He has held onto Targas for quite some time.  Got that lacky Earl Tremblay to make an attempt for the throne.  As the fool Earl lay dying, he called out to Malkonius, cursing Thareon's name."  She gave a slightly wicked grin at that. "Ressik really does not like Thareon."  The slight mirth eased from Claudia's features as she continued. "Ressik has always wanted to take over Tarkalsys, but has been basically shut in at Targas.   Apparently, his followers decided that now was a good time to make another try at the Throne - again - and they, again, failed," she lifted her tea cup then, taking a small sip before continuing, "Seems to be a common theme with them."

Kade chuckled. While she had grown up around followers of Ressick, she had never liked them very much. "Well. Good news is always welcome. And this tea is actually very good. Thank you." 

"I am glad you like it.  I have missed this particular collection, which was developed for my mother decades ago."  Claudia's smile became genuine and wide as she reached for the tea pot, pouring a little more into Kade's cup to heat the liquid and did the same with her own cup.  "We can always use more good news wherever we may be."  A thoughtful expression crossed her face and she glanced back at the human at her table.  "That reminds me, have you seen Maya about lately?  She had expressed an interest in learning about Avaren, but I fear with my recent absence she may feel a little neglected."

The tavern door silently opens just wide enough for a dark figure to slip through. A beam of light follows and thins to a sliver as the door slowly closes. Motionless, the figure stands back to the wall, allowing the essence of souls dotting the room to become more familiar.

'Clouded eyes, everyone of them.' One in particular requires more attention. 

'There is a kindness within her... and a mark on her soul... This one intrigues me.' Blinken is surprised by these thoughts.

Blinken's head tilted a moment; silently the Forbidden slips out of the tavern.

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*A short time later Blinken re-enters and speaks to a pair sitting mid-tavern, then sits alone at a quiet, dark, corner table.*

Claudia lifted her head, taking note for the first time the dark figure standing with Pelle and Ikara.  Frowning slightly, she tilted her head, unable to identify the newcomer's race.  Knowing it was rude, but curious nonetheless, the ixifar healer tipped her head close to Kade, "Just a moment, my friend," she replied, tapping the human's wrist lightly as the dark figure stepped away from the pair and walked to a dark corner table, "I see a newcomer, who seems..." she shook her head slight as she rose, "...I do not know how...."  With those words, she rose, and stepped closer to the lone - or perhaps lonely - figure sitting in the corner table.