The Main Hall
Green Griffon: Main Hall
The Green Griffon Inn is a cozy, wooden building. It stands out in Kiana as the only building with a high enough ceiling to fit the occasional Uman traveler. A lovely carved sign of a Green Griffon in mid-flight greets the visitor from the outside, while the interior hosts tables and chairs both in Hafling and Uman size. A small stage for the occasional troupe of performers is located next to the bar at the far side of the hall, and a wooden staircase leads to the bedrooms above.
The innkeeper, Zenfe Barrelbrew, is a seemingly jovial Hafling, with bushy, curly, greying hair and twinkling blue eyes. His clothes are often stained, and he is merrily addicted to gossip.
((OOC: Vjerdt; from the Streets of Kiana))
The first thing that struck Vjerdt as he entered the Green Griffon was the crowd, and the noise. So many people, and so much noise! The Ice Gnomes of the Krowne were a silent lot. Speaking too much or too loudly was frowned upon. It was dangerous, luring whatever monstrosities traversing the icy expanses out there. And when it wasn't dangerous, it was vanity. One should not take too much space or call too much attention to oneself. So, the clan could sit almost wordlessly next to the hearth or around a campfire for entire nights, quietly humming ancient tunes or slowly telling a tale with as little words as possible.
But here, oh my, Haflings and mugs of ale and laughter and loud singing, all intermingled into a cacophony that dizzied Vjerdt. Luckily for him, he was noticed the moment he entered. The Hafling behind the bar was quick to recognize a foreigner he never met before.
“Hey! Yew! Welcome to the Green Griffon!” The Hafling beckoned Vjerdt to draw near with a broad smile, and the shy gnome made his way through the crowded hall. The Hafling, his hair curly and grey, squinted at him. “Yew’re a newcomer, ain’t yew?”
“Yes…” At first, Vjerdt couldn’t hear the words coming out of his own mouth, and he realized he was speaking too quietly. He strained his voice to speak louder so as to overcome the surrounding commotion, although he was hardly used to speak like this. “Yes! I was told I can find a bed here for the night!”
The Hafling raised a brow at the odd gnome. “Yew can if yew have the coin. Do yew have the coin?” Vjerdt nodded anxiously and fumbled through his pockets, finally drawing several silver pieces from one of them. “Hmm. That should suffice,” said the Hafling, a twinkle in his blue eyes. “Find yerself a seat. I can fix yew a quick meal and some ale, and yew’ll tell me yer life story in return. Yew seem like someone I’ve never seen before.”
To tell the story of his life? The idea terrified Vjerdt. He was hardly able to tell that story to himself, let alone a total stranger. It was not a story to be proud of.
But the Hafling, who introduced himself as Zenfe as he sat by him with a plate and a mug, seemed to present it as part of the deal, a barter of sorts. So Vjerdt will have to tell some story, even if he made it up.
“So I am um… I am on a mission from my clan,” the Hafling’s eyes sparkled when he mention a mission, which encouraged Vjerdt to continue. “A quest, really.” He took a sip from the ale, and the strong beverage gave him courage. “To find an ancient relic, a sacred relic that was taken from our clan year ago. The… the Anvil of Ice, it is called.”
This was a lie, but not entirely. Stories about the Anvil were told in his clan at the Krowne – the sacred relic that was stolen centuries ago. No one believed it will be ever retrieved, some doubted it ever existed, and certainly no one would send anyone on a quest to find it. But here he was, making up such a mission for himself.
“It was taken south, and our clan’s wellbeing is dependent on it, so… So I need to find it. Yes.”
The Ice Gnome turned to focus on the food, hoping his embarrassed blush was not entirely apparent.
Zenfe’s eyes widened. “In search of a stolen relic!” He exclaimed. “Well that’s impressive,” and Vjerdt felt he had earned his meal. “And is it supposed to be here, in Kiana?”
The gnome gulped. “Well, not here exactly, but in the, um, wilderness around.” He was digging his hole deeper and deeper and walking open-eyed into it.
The Hafling innkeeper grunted. “Well, there’s plenty of wilderness around,” he stated. “There’s the Okajavo Desert to the east, and the Hills of Umma to the north-east, and then to the west we have Dragon’s Peak just beyond the Bigobo Grove. Do yew have any clue where to start looking?”
The miserable gnome was not able to look the innkeeper in the eye. “Um, well, Bigobo and Dragon’s Peak do ring a bell,” he muttered. These were simply the only names he was able to recall in his state of terror.
“Splendid!” Zenfe slammed his mug on the table. “Wouldn’t want to imagine how an ice creature like yew would survive the Okajavo, eh?” Vjerdt laughed feebly. “So, we should find someone to show yew the way to Dragon’s Peak tomorrow morning once yer rested.”
And before Vjerdt was able to realize what was happening, the innkeeper turned around and roared into the hall. “Hey! Our gnome friend here needs a companion to Bigobo Grove and the Peak!” The horrified Vjerdt attempted a meek protest that no, no, really there is no need, but Zenfe shushed him. “Nonsense! I would not let yew leave Kiana into the wilderness alone, not if I want my conscience to be clean.” He turned back to the hall. “So! Who can accompany him tomorrow morning?”
Vjerdt looked around, praying that they were all very busy tomorrow morning.
The door to the gathering hall of the Griffon swung open to admit a diminutive--though not compared to Haflings--Aeros girl with brown hair and tawny wings. She blinked in the dimness of the indoors as her eyes adjusted before scanning the few patrons present.
Well here he is, of course. She thought to herself as she spotted Vjerdt's long blue braid. Miiya had first overflown the town looking for Mr. Blue Hair. Having no luck, she had landed at the leatherworks to find that her satchels would be ready tomorrow. The smith had been out, so she'd done another fruitless overflight before trying the Griffon.
"Hi Mr. Barrelbrew!" Miiya returned Zenfe's greeting brightly as she made for Vjerdt. "Got anything for me?" In just a few days Miiya had become a familiar face at the Griffon. She liked the inn because it was one of the few places built at a size comfortable to foreigners, so she felt a little less like a giant here. On her first visit to Hafling lands it had been fun to tower over everyone, but now she was over and done with that thrill.
Generally when she couldn't find the addressee of her letters or parcels she would leave them with the Green Griffon's innkeeper. Likewise, word was spreading that the Griffon was the place to leave post (and payment) for Miiya's Airmail Service. There was another, less-reputable, tavern in town, but it was not the kind of place to leave confidential mail or packages. Miiya only went there when she knew the recipient would be present.
"I have a letter for yew." She announced to Vjerdt, when she happened to catch his attention. "It's from Bella Crosswaters." She would hand over the letter without any further preamble at the first opportunity, before turning back to Zenfe.
She was very interested in Vjerdt. He was clearly not a Hafling like the homebody Crosswaters, but she was just a courier. She had run messenger errands for her mother (and secretly for Uncle Osu) back in Daelows, and she remembered the rules; no peeking at letters (even if they weren't sealed) and no curiously hanging around once they're delivered. It was bad manners if the sender was her Mother, and could be dangerous if the sender was Uncle Osu.
Miiya wasn't stupid, she knew a Gnome from a Hafling, or at least she thought she did. However, Bella had said her cousin was an odd duck, and so maybe she meant he was some sort of mix.
Still, it wasn't bad manners to conduct other business near the recipient of your letter. So she could chat with the innkeeper and maybe just watch Vjerdt a little out of the corner of her eye.
Should he open it, the letter from Bella would be written in the common script and read:
Yew are cordially invited
to visit myself
and the rest of the clan
at Crosswaters Farm.
Most Sincerely Yours,
The script was followed by a rather unclear sketch of a map somewhat showing the way from town to North Hampshire--if one were already familiar with Kiana. To anyone else, it could possibly be mistaken for an inkstain.
The gnome was holding his breath, dreading someone would volunteer to escort him in his fake quest, when luckily the attention was diverted by the inn’s door opening. Inside walked a creature of the sort that Vjerdt has never seen, and his pale blue eyes widened in astonishment. A Uman looking person, it would seem, but with wings?! What further wonders does the Worlde have in store for him?
Zenfe now turned to converse with the winged creature, and for a moment Vjerdt was relieved that his own ordeal was over. But such relief was short-lived, as for some inexplicable reason she turned to him of all people, announcing she has a letter for him. For him?! Why on earth?
Utterly confused, the gnome took the letter, looked at the winged woman with a quizzical eye, and – bewildered as he was – read the letter out-loud:
Yew are cordially invited
to visit myself
and the rest of the clan
at Crosswaters Farm.
Most Sincerely Yours,
There was also a vague scribble, or perhaps an ink-stain, at the bottom of the page. Perhaps the writer was not a very well-accomplished one. Who was Bella Crosswaters?! Why was he invited to her clan?! Is she a gnome? He just made up a story about himself, and suddenly, as if in response or as a punishment, reality itself became almost fictional, surreal.
“I didn’t know yew are acquainted with the Crosswaters!” Zenfe bellowed, slapping the gnome on the back forcefully. “Why didn’t yew say anything?!” He didn’t give Vjerdt an opportunity to reply and instead called to whoever in the Griffon that was still listening: “No need for a chaperone! It seems this fellow is friends with the Crosswaters!” Zenfe then turned to the winged woman to explain: “He is on his way to Dragon’s Peak! But he will be in good hands now, won’t he?”
Vjerdt thought quickly – at least this new, very unexpected twist would take him off the hook of his current predicament. It would still mean pretending, but he will deal with the consequences of that later.
“Yes, I did not get the chance to mention the, um –“ He peeked at the letter again – “The Crosswaters… I should indeed go visit them right away. Thank you, my lady,” he turned to the winged woman, “for delivering this. Can yew please show me the way to their residence?”
This was all probably a very bad idea.
Mr. Blue Hair looked a little surprised to receive his invitation, but that was to be expected. Most of the Kianans first experience with air mail was a bit of a shock, and Miiya was used to similar reactions. While Vjerdt opened his mail, the innkeeper handed over two more letters that had arrived at the Griffon since Miiya had made her morning rounds. One was headed to Ishtar and the other to North Hampshire.
Well, Miiya wasn't making a run to the misty island tonight, that was for sure. She tucked both letters, and the four coppers in payment, away for delivery.
While Verjdt read his invitation aloud, and Zenfe boisterously responded with something about escorts and Dragon's Peak, the tavern wench delivered a large bowl of the evening stew to Miiya. One more reason to stop by the Griffon. Acting as a post office had markedly increased the business at the pub so food and drink were complimentary for Miiya. "Thank yew!" She piped, before turning back to Zenfe.
"Yup!" She agreed. The Crosswaters counted strong sword arms amongst their number. If cousin Blue Hair needed an escort to Dragon's Peak, he could do worse than the clan that was hosting her.
Miiya plowed into her stew with aplomb. Mr. Blue Hair was talking to her. Yay! Ugh, but he wanted a guide to The Crosswaters. Miiya had experience walking and riding with grounders. It was slow. Very slow. Plus she had deliveries to make tomorrow.
"Well, maybe..." she temporized. "Not tonight at any rate. It's a half day's journey afoot to Crosswaters. Yew'd have to stay the night along the way." She smiled at Verjdt. Pretty eyes, she thought to herself, and wondered how old he was. Didn't gnomes live as long as elves? She wondered if he was over the century mark. She leaned over to look at Verjdt's letter. "Oh, Bella's drawn yew a map... Sorta. Maybe yew kin find yer own way..."
The innkeeper interjected at this point. "Aye, our Miiya's a busy gel. Yew'd best hire a room here fer the night, and I kin rent yew a nag or an ass for the morrow if yew don't care to walk." He suggested before turning to attend to another pub-goer. The evening crowd was starting to arrive and occupy more of Zenfe's time.
Miiya felt a little bad denying Mr. Blue Hair's request, so she added: "I can give yew directions to get yew started and meet up with yew on the road after I make my morning deliveries." She did, after all, want to make acquaintance with this interesting guy. "I'm Miiya, by the way." She at last introduced herself, proffering a hand to shake as her brother had taught her (rather than standing to curtsey as he mother would have preferred).
He was hoping that these mysterious Crosswaters were just around the corner, but once he realized that it was a matter of many hours of travel to get there, Vjerdt realized just how exhausted he was. He was kicked out of a ship today, straight into an entirely foreign land, and now the emotional and physical toll began to kick in. Besides, what the winged woman explained to him was actually a map was entirely undecipherable for him. Perhaps the Southerfolk had their own odd ways of mapping terrains, but for Vjerdt it was of no use.
“That is a wise idea,” the gnome nodded to the innkeeper as Zenfe suggested that he will stay the night there. He had never ridden an ass or a nag, but the idea of walking was not very pleasant to his very tired mind. They had their own beasts of burden up north in the Krowne, mainly the white-furred Nuukii, and he hoped it was not much different.
Therefore, once the winged woman offered her assistance in the morrow, he was grateful to accept it. “That would be most generous of yew, thank yew.” She then put her arm in front of him in an odd manner that the Ice Gnome did not recognize and did not know what to do with. There was no handshaking among the Krowne’s gnomes. He stared at it, then tilting his head a bit to look at the palm and then the back of her hand. What was she trying to show him?
“I am Vjerdt,” he said, a bit confused, still looking at the stretched arm. He pronounced his name Vi-yer-t. “It is a pleasure meeting yew, Lady Miiya.” He heard once that there were ladies in the South, and assumed all females of the South were Ladies. Feeling awkward gazing at her arm for such a long while, he shifted his blue eye back to her face. “May I ask… if it not being too rude… I have never seen the likes of yew, with the…” he gestured at the great tawny wings. “What are yew?”
Apparently they didn't shake hands in Sagav. Miiya had been to Pirgav on H'jek Daru, and the greeting was common there, but whatever. She withdrew her handshake with a little shrug. Score one for mother. She thought.
Vjerdt's question made her giggle, though he wasn't the first to so query her. She thought briefly about having sport with him and saying she was a girl, or a bard, but then decided against it. "I'm an Aeros, Mister Vjerdt." She replied. "One of the winged folk from the Mountains Ethereal on the isle of Aerie." Miiya smiled. "Or at least half of me is. The other half is from my mother's homeland far, far across the Western Sea."
And then, because she was proud of it, and told any who's ear she could bend, she described her flight from Aerie to Kiana between bites as she plowed through her stew. She did not, however, mention why she had made such a desperate gambit. If Vjerdt might have judged Miiya to be a bit of an irrepressible chatterbox, he would not be far wrong, and even had he been a loquacious soul, there wouldn't be much chance to get many words in edgewise.
Miiya's tale was wrapping up when Zenfe bellowed loud enough to be heard throughout the now busy common hall: "Et be the sixth hour past noontide, happiest of all hours, and drinks be half price!"
So late already! A look of surprise crossed the Aeros girl's face. "Crumbs! Its late! I've got to get back to Crosswaters before they lock up for the night!" She exclaimed. "Here, let me see the map again. I'll give yew directions to get yew started on the morrow."
If she'd been a bit more experienced or in a bit less of a startle, Miiya might have thought to let Zenfe or someone more familiar with Kiana guide Vjerdt. As it was, if Vjerdt reopened the letter she would point to a scribble on the map. "That's the sign for North Hampshire. If yew are unsure, just follow those. The road is clearly marked."
Miiya then described the general direction Vjert should head in the morning. There was only one specific direction that she spoke, and this she gave in a grave and serious tone. "When yew come to the fork in the road to North Hampshire, take the left fork! Got it? Left fork. It's the longer path, but it is the safest one." Remembering her and her brother's last walk under the trees of Tobold's Hollow made Miiya shudder involuntarily.
Of course, Miiya aviated her way to and from the shire daily. The directions she gave, of the path to take, were from her memory of her one and only walk from the shire to town.
And she forgot to reverse them.
Miiya was now in quite a rush, but she hung about in case Vjert had any last-second questions. "I'll try to catch up to yew around noontide to make sure yer on the right track. Okay? Sorry, I really have to get going if there's nothing else..." She had long finished her stew and now stood, bobbing impatiently on the balls of her feet and looking anxiously toward the door.
“An Aeros,” Vjerdt repeated in wonder, as if memorizing the word, learning it for the first time. He listened to her long tale of flight, at awe both by its content and the sheer volume of words in contained. Clearly, she had a very different style of storytelling than they had at the Krowne.
“Yew are very brave,” he mumbled timidly, and meant it. Both of them made tremendous voyages. But how different was it to conduct the voyage soaring in the skies, rather than cowering at the hull of a ship, hiding behind cargo of furs and smoked meat and whatever stolen goods the Tidetamer was carrying.
It was turning late, and Miiya had to leave. She took the time to explain the map to him, which was very helpful, and stressed taking the left fork at the junction. Vjerdt nodded, memorizing to himself – the left fork, the left fork.
“Thank yew, Lady Miiya, yew have been most generous,” the gnome realized she was eager to leave. “I will also take my leave and get some rest, and hopefully will see yew tomorrow at noontide.”
After the Aeros left the Green Griffon, Vjerdt made his way up the stairs to the room assigned to him by Zenfe. Exhausted as he was, and grateful to have a real bed again, he was quick to fall asleep…
At night, he dreamed.
He saw an enormous cave, as vast as the furthest expanses of dreamscapes. At its center, if it had a center, stood a great anvil made of ice, and on its surface the ship he knew as the Tidetamer skated gracefully, moving slowly, and then very swiftly, towards the anvil’s edge. Suddenly, he was not watching the ship from afar but was on it, frantically realizing that they were skating towards an abyss. He cried for help and looked around, but the Uman crew was nowhere to be found. He was alone. Alone and with no knowledge how to steer a ship away from its doom.
The Tidetamer moved closer and closer to the edge of the ice anvil and there was nothing to be done. Vjerdt screamed but no sound came out of his mouth. The ship finally reached the edge and started falling down, down, into the void and the gnome was falling with it, down, down, in that endless cave…
Until a winged woman flew beneath him and caught him.
When morning arrived, Vjerdt remembered little of his dream. He walked downstairs, greeted by a joyful Zenfe. Breakfast was warm and nourishing – oats and fruit and milk – and the Hafling innkeeper indeed rented him an old pony, her name was Pasquella. The Nuukii back at the Krowne were shorter and wider, so Vjerdt had to get adjusted to the height and to the fact that he had to put his legs on both sides of the beast, but beyond that he believed he would quickly get the hang of it.
Expressing his gratitude to the innkeeper, Vjerdt made his way westwards to North Hampshire, reciting to himself: the left fork, the left fork…
((OOC: To The Lorimar 1: The Kiana Mile))
"Tomorrow then!" Miiya departed, still glowing a little with Vjerdt's praise. Outside the inn, sunset was rapidly approaching. The Aeros crouched and then sprang into a vertical takeoff. This time she would fly low and fast straight to the farm. The last thing she needed was to get on the Crosswaters' bad side by arriving after curfew.
As she flew, she contemplated the newcomer's oddities. Bella had been correct, he was an odd duck. For one, Miiya was hardly a lady, being about as far from noble birth as one could get in these lands, but if Mister Vjerdt wanted to call her one, well she didn't mind obliging.
To: Crosswaters Farm
The Next DayFrom: Ishitar
The innkeeper sighed as Miiya vanished out the door. Following, he stuck his head outside and called to the stable boy. "Run an fetch the Guard, Garrol! Tell 'em there's two down in the holler."
Shaking his head to himself he returned to the bar. "Mayhaps I should make signs for visitors." He mused to himself.
Glad for a break from shoveling manure, the stablehand set out toward the Home Guard garrison in the center of town to deliver Zenfe's message.