At the bar
Chug surveyed the near empty room as he slowly polished a mug with a near-clean rag. Looking to his left were empty tables, looking to his right were empty tables. Glancing in the darkened back of the room he thought he saw some movement in one of the booths, but he had trained himself years ago not to let his eyes linger back there long.
"Hhmmpf," he shrugged, and yawned. "It's as if the whole werlds been sleep'n."
Magickers! he thought. They were probably to blame.
Özkrat alighted from his llama, fixing it by a reata to a hitching rail. The animal grumbled as the orc removed his saddlebags, tossing them over his shoulder. “Savaausan katu agh nauk-ukav. Jiak liwo be kurrauz. Trausan noav avo ukpiav par folkuk or ukhiav gith ovas!”. Værg replied to the orcan grunting by reaching into its third stomach to spit a glob of rancid green fluid. Anticipating the llama’s retort, Özkrat deftly stepped aside letting the pungent viscous substance splash harmlessly against a tree trunk. “Next time perhaps my worthy mount! Of all my possessions I know you are my most guarded”, he exclaimed over his shoulder wagging a red finger.
Now would be a test. Özkrat had never been this far south before but he was given to believe that Seven Oaks was more tolerant than other places. Still, he braced himself for being told “We don’t serve yer kind here”. The trick was to be confident and friendly… but try not to smile (something to do with his teeth?). That's what he had learned on the sea voyage from a small fishing village north of Trinsic across the Vericul Sea.
The orc was hopeful the place would be busy or dark enough to slip into the shadows. He figured he had earned enough for a bed and a hot meal. Such luxuries after a perilous journey through the Green Forest followed by a long voyage in the bowels of a ship. "Steerage" they called it. More comfortable than the agoge or the barracks by far… but unpleasant. Propelled by the prospect of fish head soup or green mutton… Özkrat entered the bar area of the Worlde’s greatest inn.
Et ignotas animum dimittit in artes
Özkrat made his way to an empty table in a corner of the barroom. As the diminutive orc walked, his eyes scanned the room for signs that his presence would be seen as unwelcome. Relieved at first to not have been greeted by immediate hostility or microaggressions… he realized hiding in a crowd would not be an option.
Placing his saddlebags and effects in a chair in front of him, Özkrat began fussing nervously with their placement as if appearing busy would somehow deflect attention. Finishing with the prolonged task he sat down momentarily before rising again to search through his rucksack… drawing out an old book with a broken spine and stained pages. The faded cover of the book bore the title “Goblinproofing your Chicken Coop and Other Practices for the Modern Degavian Woman” written in a fine Elvin script. Özkrat didn’t read Elvin, he didn’t read any language terribly well for that matter… but he held up the tome to the light and sat back in his chair not recognizing that it was upside down. Opening the book to a random page he pretended to look interested, occasionally exclaiming “Oh, now that is quite remarkable!” and “My, my what poetry!”.
Et ignotas animum dimittit in artes
The world began to turn a deep crimson as it pulsed along in time with the chorus of heartbeats that surrounded him. Pioloss squeezed his eyes tightly shut, gritting his teeth together so hard that they creaked audibly inside his skull as he tried to block out the noise. But somehow that only served to make it worse.
"Sotar take me now!" He groaned under his breath, imagining that he could now even hear the rich, red blood itself as it coursed through the tavern's other patrons where they stood, packed in near shoulder to shoulder around him. Not for the first time Pioloss cursed the heightened senses that came with this God's be damned affliction. Why, even with his eyes closed he fancied that he could sense the suspicious look from the towering Barman in front of him, and a fleeting glance upwards a second later confirmed those suspicions.
It had been a mistake to come here.
After counting several deep breaths Pioloss managed to regain a small measure of control, enough at least to open his eyes and take a furtive look around him.
The Seven Oaks Inn… What cruel twist of fate that he would end up back here barely a two day walk from where it had all begun! Nigh twenty years of Hunting the Undead and after all that he now found himself slowly becoming one of the very things to which he had devoted himself to cleansing from the lands! The shame of it alone was almost more than he could bear!
Pioloss groaned again as his fist clenched, and he looked down as a cold wetness suddenly spilled across his hand. A twisted ruin was all that remained of the tankard of ale he had been nursing listlessly since he’d arrived. The thick metal couldn't have been any more unrecognisable from its previous form had it been heated in a forge and then beaten mercilessly by a drunk Dwarf for hours on end.
“Oi! Yew’re gone ter have ter pay fer that!” The large Barman rumbled across at him, the threat of violence if payment was not forthcoming clearly evident on his face.
Pioloss looked up sharply as a sudden flash of murderous rage surging up within him. For the span of a single, breathless moment he felt sure that he was about to leap across the bar and tear the man’s throat out with his bare hands! But then as quickly as it had come, the moment passed, leaving Pioloss trembling with a cold sweat beading across his brow beneath the large hood of his cloak.
“Sorry.” Pioloss managed to cough as he tossed a handful of silvers haphazardly across the bar.
But rather than scooping up the coins, the Barman let out a strangled gasp as he stumbled back, pressing himself bodily against the wall behind him in an effort to get as far away as he could. His face was pale, his eyes wide, and his heart pounded a staccato rhythm in his barrel-like chest from the split second glimpse of something monstrous, predatory, and utterly inhuman that he had just seen on the face of the quiet man in front of him.
Pioloss fled, moving as quickly as he dared whilst still appearing outwardly casual. He knew that an enraged rabble of locals chasing him through the streets of Seven Oaks now would be the absolute last thing that he needed. Then once outside he bolted, the cool, crisp air buffeting his face as the cobbled streets blurred by beneath his feet. Empty market stalls sped by on his right as he headed east, and he kept running until he was well onto the Lorimar road and not a single heartbeat could be heard around him.
“Too close.” Pioloss berated himself under his breath. “That was too darn close!”
He knew that all it would ever take would be for him to give in just once to the ravenous, omnipresent hunger that now tormented him during his every waking moment. Just one single slip up, and the monstrous transformation that was taking place within him would be complete, cursing him to an eternity of darkness and leaving him utterly beholden to the one who had done this to him. The one whose death had been the single driving force to his entire existence ever since that fateful, stormy night when she had turned up on their doorstep and killed the only people that he had ever loved...
(OOC - Pioloss exit to the Sevenoaks Mile)
Chug looked down the bar at his new hire, Squimby, who was peeling himself from the wall still trying to catch his breath as the strange man left. Slowly, he reached under the bar and pulled out a large wooden mallet which he slammed effectively down on the bar with a room-quieting "BOOM!"
"Happens again, Squimby," Chug winked, "Get yerself one of these."
( OOC: Coupla notes on freeform. Always give others room to post, not always obvious who is around. Also, customary to post enters and exits in OOC. )
(OOC: Pioloss; from the Seven Oaks Inn > (OOC - Pioloss exit to The Lorimar Road > The Lorimar 16: The Seven Oaks Mile > Leaving Seven Oaks on the Seven Oaks Mile
(OOC: I moved your post from inside the Inn to a new Journey > "Leaving Seven Oaks on the Seven Oaks Mile" under The Lorimar Road. Please carry on "outside" there. -- OL)
(OOC - from the kitchen)
Baldor made his entry from the kitchen as nonchalantly as possible, perhaps even unnoticed. Those at the bar probably didn't even see anything other than the momentary swinging open of the kitchen door, for the bar was taller than Baldor.
Sweeping the room with his gaze, the halfling took in the various tables of patrons...
Some, playing their gambling games at crowded tables, others sitting alone or in pairs. Baldor attempted to size up all those within the room, he needed an easy mark, for his purse was empty.
Hamilcar entered the tavern, a bit bewildered, as he stared behind him at a llama tied to a hitching post several yards from where he had tied his two horses. He had heard about such creatures, but never seen one. It did not appear as ill tempered as he had heard. Big dark eyes. Hamilcar nearly tripped on a chair, which brought his attention back to the room he had entered. He scanned with some relief. It appeared the establishment was not so busy at the moment. Some gambling at tables, mainly people enjoying a goblet of their preferred alone or with friends. His eyes landed on an orc, apparently reading a finely crafted book with lettering of the elfish sort. But the title appeared placed on the bottom of the cover rather than the usual top. Perhaps a mages tome?, Hamilcar shrugged. It was beyond his experience to know.
Finding the bar, Hamilcar could hardly contain a grin on his face. He practically speed walked to the barkeep, raising a finger he thirstily croaked, "A flagon of Nikur, if you have it sir! I am so dry I am nearly spitting dust." He rummaged in his pocket and placed coinage on the bar, licking his lips in anticipation.
Chug eyed the man sitting before him. "Nikur? This ain't no castle," he said placing a mug of ale in front of the man. "Seven Oaks ale is wat we got, call it mud if yew want." and scooped up the coin.
Then his eyes focused on something behind the man on the floor. "Champ! Is that yew Champ!"
Chug rushed from behind the bar to disheveled man on the floor (@Pioloss) and picked him, stumbling with him to the bar before propping him up next to the new arrival. Chug beamed a broad smile at the man.
"Champ!" Chug winked and turned to proudly display a crushed mug hanging on an nail behind him from the bar. Picking it from the nail he held it over the man's head and shouted to the crowd at the inn.
"This man here is the Champ!" Chug shouted proudly holding the mug, "I'll waiger one Terajin Silver that this man here can beat anyone in this room in a mug crushing contest!"
"No Nikur." Hamilcar sighed quietly. He stared at the mug set before him and then picked it up and chugged it down with thirsty relish. Rivulets ran down his chin and every gulp tasted better than the last. He plunked the mug down with a thump on the plank bar and turned his head to size up the disheveled fellow being acclaimed champion of 'mug crushing'.
"How does one crush a mug and does it lend itself to needing help off the floor?" Hamilcar asked the fellow with a wink and a grin.
Mug crushing contest? Pioloss mouthed to himself as he felt a pair of large, calloused hands pull him up off of the floor as if he weighed no more than a sack of grain before spinning him round and placing him at the bar.
After a tense few moments of waiting to see if anyone was going to take up the challenge, and him receiving only raised eyebrows from the perplexed looking crowd in return, Pioloss turned to the newcomer, looking longingly for a moment at the last few drops of dark ale as they ran down his face. He delved deep into the pockets of his robe, thinking to ask the still broadly smiling barman for an ale himself before remembering that all of his money had been in his bag. Gods darn it! Shame he couldn’t have taken someone up on that wager after all…
“How does one crush a mug and does it lend itself to needing help off the floor?” The Traveller then asked. The question sounded genuine enough, but there was a glint in the man’s eye that might have been either friendly or mocking, but then, Pioloss had never been particularly good at being able to tell such things.
Knowing that in this case the truth wasn’t an option, Pioloss floundered for a moment before answering with the first thing that came into his head.
“I was looking fer me bag.” He muttered with a shrug, “And I come from a long line o’... mug... crushers, all the way back to me Great Grandfaether Hans McCrusher.”
Chug nodded, since there were no takers, and tucked the Terajin Silver back into his pocket muttering something about a "roomful of spineless weasels". He carefully put the crumpled mug back up on the hook behind him and moved away from the pair down to the middle of the bar out of earshot. He quietly began polishing another mug keeping careful watch on the crowd.
Hamilcar eyed the robed figure a moment and then smiled easily.
"Well then, as a mug crusher of renown, it would be my honor to buy you a drink." Hamilcar fished in his pocket and placed two coins on the bar, holding up two fingers in the hopes the barkeep noticed. His gaze returned to the fellow beside him. "You lost your bag, you say? Where did you last recall seeing it? I will keep an eye out for it, should you like. What does it look like?" Hamilcar swept his gaze around the room, silently wondering if he might locate a bag laying under a chair or table. The mug crusher seemed quite depressed at the loss of his possessions.
"Then I thank you for your generosity, and it would be my honour to accept!" Pioloss replied, feeling somewhat taken aback by the sudden offer. And to think! Only moments ago he had been trying to decide if the man had been mocking him or not!
As they waited for the attention of the Barkeep, Pioloss studied the traveller. He was young, barely out of his teenage years - if at all! Yet there were scars aplenty on his skin, and a look in his eye that spoke of a capability beyond his years and of experience hard earned. In some ways the youth even reminded Pioloss of himself! Though in his younger years of course, and then only after his first few, danger fraught years out on the road...
With this realisation, Pioloss suddenly became aware of his currently dishevelled appearance, and of how ever since becoming infected with vampirism, he had been running around in a blind panic like the greenest of wet eared youngsters! Gods alive! Had he acted any wetter, mallards would have probably tried to land on him! Well no more! If there was one thing that he had learned during all his years on this worlde, it was that regrets and doubts changed nothing! This was merely one more in a long line of obstacles that he would overcome.
"My bag was a simple leather one of my own making about so big," He began, miming the size with his hands. "It contained some items which are very dear to me which is why I returned here in the hopes of finding it.
But enough of that for now. Tell me more of yourself Traveller, what has brought yew into seven Oaks? And what is this Nikur of which yew spoke earlier?"
"Well then," Hamilcar nodded, "We shall make every effort to locate your leather bag my friend." He scanned the room once more, hoping to locate such an item. Seeing nothing that might be a match, he frowned and returned his attention to his drinking companion.
"Ahhhh, Nikur." He licked his lips in spite of himself. "It is a drink I became fond of while serving, briefly, in a mercenary band. A potent drink with the flavor of clove." He closed his eyes at the memory of the taste. "The Captain of the mercenaries told me he thought it was brewed in Gning Nar somewhere. But he could have been lying. He tended to do that." Hamilcar let out a sigh and stared at his mug with an air of disappointment. Then he recovered and shot an apologetic grin at his companion.
"Sorry, ummm, what brought me to Seven Oaks? Ha! My horse I suppose!" He winked. "It was the nearest main town after I departed my mercenary cohorts. I decided life as a paid ruffian wasn't for me. I don't really know where I am going, or why, if I am entirely honest. I don't think I want to be a farmer. My father was a miller. I detest that. My mother taught me that the world is large and there is much to see and experience. She was a school teacher before she married my father. I think she always missed teaching." Hamilcar stared, unseeing into the distance for a few heartbeats and then shrugged, returning to the present moment. "And what of you my friend? What brings you to the port of Seven Oaks?"