Thursday, December 20, 2012

In Hospitable Territory

A Cave, Karbath Mtns
10th Byol, YT 331

Uri and Nuri ushered the two priests and the barbarian into the cave. A small campfire was burning. Gorran tried to get some of the chill from his bones before approaching the warmth of the fire. Father Nicolai looked troubled. Possibly his decision to accept the hospitality of these newly met prospectors was the cause. Either that or the decision to part company from Helena, Hector and Tolarr earlier that day. Some mining gear stood against one wall but not all of the cave was visible in the winter gloom even with the firelight. Nicolai was slightly reassured that their claim to be prospecting stone-kin seemed to be confirmed. But he still had a strong sense that these were not quite what they seemed, even for secretive torpek. All three men were glad to have shelter for the night. Winter nights in the Karbath Mountains were a trial even for a wild Thracous barbarian and two ascetic sons of Mother Church.
As Uri cooked 'venison' over the fire Nuri poured five pints of Tolarr's ale. 'This is a good brew' he declaimed after a long pull at his tankard. He offered mugs of the ale to everyone. When Nicolai expressed a preference for wine a flagon of passable red was handed to him by Nuri. He declined any further drink but gradually the demonslayer drifted off into a dreamless sleep from which Gorran could not rouse him. His suspicions raised, Gorran refused any more ale. Sensing Gorran's mood, Hamec too resisted the temptation of more free beer! Uri and Nuri offered several times and seemed slightly offended by their guest's refusal. While the cleric could plead the exigencies his holy orders, the refusal of a barbarian was clearly seen as an insult. They seemed to be quaffing great quantities of Tolarr's ale themselves.
Hamec wondered briefly what Tolarr would say about this, assuming they ever saw Tolarr again. Clearly their decision to go their own way in the hunting lodge was wrong. You should always follow the headman and Nicolai was clearly the leader. The little witch-woman and her warrior had not been long with the group but Tolarr should have known better. Perhaps he missed the companionship of Olorin. A torpek might have seen through Uri and Nuri. Tolarr probably could have made more use of the keys that were clinking on Hamec's belt too.
After a couple of hours drinking, Uri and Nuri started to take on a more unpleasant sneering tone towards these abstemious humans but Hamec and Gorran still politely declined their offers of more beer.Later, after the twilight had gone and winter night had settled on the Karbath Mountains, Nuri asked Gorran to help him move a large stone further back in the cave. The bard-turned-priest overcame his disquiet for a moment. Surely an act of charity was what was required given his new calling. After a few steps beyond the firelight Gorran realised that while he could not see a thing Nuri had no such difficulty. He excused himself and swiftly retreated back to the fire. Nuri and Uri took turns to berate Gorran for his ingratitude and sloth. Gorran let these comments pass. Whatever happened he had decided to stay in the light. Charity is a precept of Mother Church but foolishness certainly isn't!
Around midnight the fire died down and Gorran roused Hamec to keep watch while he went to fetch wood. Gorran thoght it odd that the woodpile was located beyond the firelight deep into the cave. The torpek seemed fast asleep and Hamec promised to stay awake until he could get the wood. However, when he came back with a load of dry logs Hamec was coughing and spluttering and had clearly only just woken again. A short time later Hamec too fell into a deep sleep. Again Gorran could not rouse his sleeping companion
Now Gorran was convinced that Uri and Nuri were more than they seemed. He sat beside the fire thinking.'Perhaps they do not relish taking on even one opponent. They must be lying there silently laughing at how they have tricked these humans. If only I can stay awake long enough for Nicolai to wake from his drugged state. I only have to stay awake until daybreak. I haven't taken anything more to eat or drink in the last hour or two. I just have to fight the fatigue of a day spent fighting and hiding and knocking holes in the Old Imperial Hunting Lodge. Keep watching the two tricksters. Not take my eyes from them. Even for a minute. Don't go to sleep. Fire is warm. Flames flicker like Tara dancing in the Painted Courtesan. Mustn't think that. Too warm. Mustn't sleep. Too tired....'