Wyanet and I burst into the Crimson Snowfall. It was early in the evening and the villagers had started to filter in. “Ineni!” I bellowed as I rushed up to the bar, “I need some information.”
Ineni placed a foaming mug of ale before an annoyed halfling who’s hair and shirt clung to him with sweat. Then he turned his broad shoulders toward me.
“You’re a rude little git. I spend the entire day hoeing fields and your pale arse runs in here and interrupts my drinking.” The halfling mumbled in our direction.
Wyanet thumped her spear against the floor behind the halfling. “Is there a problem?”
The halfling glanced over his shoulder and sneered at Wyanet, revealing a couple of rotten teeth. He paused for a second and scanned Wyanet from head to toe. He mumbled something unintelligible as he slid off his bar stool and slunk to a table in one of the corners.
“Mr Applebottom isn’t wrong.” Ineni said, “Damian was just very rude.”
“He has not spent much time around civilised people,” Wyanet smirked, “but he does have some important questions.”
Ineni half turned away, leaving one hand on the bar. “That depends on the questions if I can be of any help.”
“How many spiders have you seen or killed around the tavern lately?” I asked.
Ineni looked to the ceiling and stroked his chin. “Are you asking about the little brown ones or the big furry ones from the Archipelago?”
“The furry ones, like you killed this morning.”
Ineni thought for another minute. “In the past week, I’ve killed about a dozen or so. Why is that so important?”
“It is a suspicion of his about what happened to the Baronet’s children. I do not know if I believe it.” Wyanet interjected.
“How long ago did they start appearing?” I asked.
Ineni replied immediately. “One or two normally come in when I get a shipment from the Archipelago, but the last shipment was almost two weeks ago. I think one of the spiders got out of the crate and laid eggs somewhere. I don’t see how that is connected to the disappearance of two children.”
“Have you seen any Dark Elves pass through the village?”
“Can’t say that I have. What do they have to do with this?”
“Just a hunch. Are there any caves in the forest, or maybe someone had a new door in their cellar recently?”
“I don’t know much about the woodland here. I lead the builders and settlers in after the Baronet and his company cleared out the Goblins.” Ineni pointed at a magenta skinned Tiefling sitting in an alcove near the fireplace.”If you want to know about the forest, you should talk to Kalista. She was part of the Baronet’s company, and now she works as a huntress for the butcher.”
“Thanks, Ineni.” I took a single step away from the bar.
“You’re going to want this.” Ineni placed three small clay cups on the bar and slid a squat opaque bottle across the bar.
“Add it to our tab.”
“Already did, Mr Damian.” Ineni chuckled.
Wyanet approached Kalista’s table first. She leaned her spear against the wall and took a seat. Kalista leaned back in her chair and eyed Wyanet with confusion. “You’re a bold beauty,” Kalista said, her accent sweet and lyrical, but spoken through the nose. “That’s a refreshing change from most of the other women around here.” Kalista made a sweeping gesture towards the rest of the bar.
I ambled up to the table, placed the clay cups down, and filled them all to the brim before taking a seat beside Wyanet. Kalista shifted her black eyes back and forth between us. She grinned and drank the brown liquid in a single gulp. Kalista rocked her chair up onto two legs and crossed her legs on the edge of the table.
“So, it’s business is it?” Kalista laughed, “And Ineni sent you with the good booze from home.” She snatched the bottle from the centre of the table. “This is going to be good.” Kalista filled her cup, looked at it and decided to drink from the bottle instead.
I picked up the cup and threw back my first shot. The dark brown liquor smelled of vanilla and tasted of sugar, and burned as it ran down my throat.
“Well, darling?” Kalista said to Wyanet. “Are you going to drink with us, or sit there like a priest in a whorehouse?”
Wyanet picked up her cup, sniffed it, and flinched back in surprise. She took a small sip and contorted her face in pain. Wyanet dropped her cup, spilling the rest of her rum onto the table and floor. “You people drink fire?” Wyanet coughed.
“First time with rum darling?” Kalista clapped Wyanet on the shoulder and fell back into her chair. “Don’t worry, you get used to it.” Kalista laughed again, “How about you, Willow Twig? You want some more?” Kalista offered the bottle back.
I pushed my cup forward and Kalista filled it back up, wincing when she spilt a bit more on the table.
Kalista took another swig from the bottle. “Now, let’s get down to business. What do you want?”
“How do you know we want something?” Wyanet demanded.
Kalista shrugged. “Darling, people only buy me things if they want to have sex with me, or they want me to do something I would rather not do.” Kalista trailed off, “then again most of the men who buy me things I don’t want to have sex with.”
“We aren’t here for sex,” I interjected.
Kalista humphed, “speak for yourself, Willow Twig.”
“We need to know if there is a cave entrance near here,” Wyanet stated.
“You two don’t look like the spelunking types.” Kalista put her feet back on the table. “Don’t get me wrong, you’re a lovely couple, but you look like the types who avoid real danger.”
“It’s for a job, we need to know if we can get into the Underdark.” I declared.
“We think it was the Dark Elves who took the Baronet’s children,” Wyanet added.
Kalista choked mid drink and fell forward on her chair, her flamboyant attitude had vanished. “If that is true, then they are already dead.”
“We still have to try,” Wyanet said.
Kalista sighed, “You’re just as stubborn as that Elf girl.” She leaned back in her chair. “If you two are insistent on getting yourselves killed, there is a cave mouth roughly a days hike from here.” Kalista kept speaking but she became distracted by something behind us. “I’m heading out in that direction in a couple of days on a hunting trip.” There were shuffling footsteps behind us. “I’ll show you where it is, but I’m not going down there with you.”
“Kalishta.” An intoxicated man slurred.
“Merde,” Kalista whispered in Infernal.
“Kalishta,” The drunk man shoved me out of the way and forced his way to the table, spilling his drink on Kalista in the process. “Kalishta, I’m –hiccup– in love with you –hiccup– I nefer want to be away from you.”
The drunk man was violently pulled away from the table by another man in his early twenties who was rippled with the muscle from life on a farm. “Kalista is my girlfriend!” The farm boy shouted in the drunk man’s face. “And I’m going to marry her!” The farm boy turned to Kalista, got down on one knee, and produced a ring of tarnished gold with a poorly cut diamond on it from his roughspun trousers. “Kalista, you are the love of my life and I want to spend every moment possible with you for the rest of it.”
Kalista looked at Wyanet. “See what I mean? They only buy you nice things if they want to have sex with you.” She turned to me, “Have sex with a man once and this is what you have to deal with for the rest of your life.”
Kalista grabbed the bottle of rum off the table and sauntered around to the two men. Kalista snatched the ring from the farm boy and opened her arms in a welcoming gesture. “Gentlemen, we’ve been over this. I’m not ready to settle down yet.” She pocketed the ring. “Now come closer, we still need to learn some manners for addressing a lady.”
The two men stepped closer to Kalista, the drunk man on her left and the farm boy on her right. When they were close enough, Kalista headbutted the drunk with her horns. The drunk stumbled backwards, blood gushing from his cockeyed nose. When he was far enough back Kalista took the rum bottle in her left hand and smashed it against the farm boy’s head, sending him sprawling.
Kalista glared at the drunk. “Don’t spill beer on a lady, especially when she’s wearing white!” She shouted, and turned to the farm boy. “And don’t interrupt a lady when she is talking!” Kalista stared at the neck of the broken bottle in her hand, a single tear ran down her cheek.
“Damn it, Kalista!” Ineni roared from behind the bar.
“What!?” Kalista hollered back, “They started it, and the little chatte made me waste the good stuff.” Kalista turned back to Wyanet and I. “Change of plans, we leave at daybreak.”
The story will continue, April 11th
Written by: Sweeney
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