Hello everyone, this is Asclepius, with the final instalment of this great story from Elgarion, entitled
The Tavern Respite
Chapter 6, “Briar’s Cafe “
Elgarion De’Kahli hobbled his way up the well trodden cobblestone road, entering the prosperous town of Owl’s Head. Supported by walking stick, weighted by a somewhat cumbersome leather sack of books, the old man pressed forward as if this journey had become one of routine. With keen eyes intent upon the bridge ahead, leading into the town proper, Elgarion stopped a moment to take notice of a quaint yet elegant cafe along the right side of his path. “Briar’s Cafe…” he mumbled to himself as the thinly man considered his options. With feet sore from travel and a shoulder aching from the slung sack, Elgarion decided he would take a pleasant and unexpected break before retiring at Fire Lotus Tavern. This eve, he would sit a while and enjoy something new.
Pleased by the gracious attentiveness of the host, Elgarion was guided to a table of his choosing by the bar, slightly elevated from the rest. The scent of spiced mutton stew caused his parched mouth to find water yet again and spawned a grumble in his belly. Chuckling to himself and before even taking to seat, the elderly man, with a kind smile, stated to the host, “It would seem my body has decided for me, my friend. Please… might I have some of the fine mutton stew that lured me from the streets with its fine savory aroma? Also, a mug of ale… something local, please.” Nodding, the host scurried away without taking anything to paper. Elgarion then placed the sack down onto a bench and began to remove several books, scrolls and parchments, spreading them out before him, yet leaving ample room for a mug and a bowl. Once he felt his dinner was well planned by a carefully arranged assortment of reading materials, the decrepit yet devout follower of Artenius lowered himself down onto the bench with occasional winces of pain from road wearing muscles ranting him for rest.
As Elgarion waited patiently for the mutton and ale, an elegantly bound menu caught his eye resting at the table’s center. He took up the menu with delight, planning what might satiate him upon his next visit to Briar’s Cafe. As his gaze drifted across each page, the old man smiled more and more. In good time, the host dutifully returned with mug, dripping with froth, and bowl steaming with spiced allure, and Elgarion’s eyes widened with ravenous anticipation. “Good man, thank you so much for being so quick and generous. It is not uncommon for one such as I to be delayed service, placed in a corner far from view for other patrons, or simply turned away. And alas, you’ve done me such a kindness. The finest table. Expedient service. And from what I can detect, the most delicious of foods.” The host paused a moment at this comment, bewildered slightly and only bowed and backed away with a gracious smile.
Elgarion, equally bewildered, looked upon his own visage with obvious disappointment. Once… a lord of men, a cortier of kings, a prize for ladies, now a withered husk, frail and bent. White beard scraggly and uncombed. Wisps of hair flaying in the breeze, remnants of what might have been beautiful in his youth. Dusty earthen-toned robes with frayed edges and torn seams, both crying for a sympathetic tailor. Sandals and toes caked with the dried mud of the Kings Road. Nothing about him was pleasant to behold. Elgarion sighed to himself and whispered with some attempt to raise his own spirits, “I have found my home… soon I might appear as though I have one…” Elgarion chuckled a moment at himself, to cover the shame in his appearance behind a guise of humor. To interrupt the old man’s mumblings, having overheard what just transpired, a nearby patron, a soldier in common armor with only a single stripe upon his shoulder, approached and stood stoic beside Elgarion’s table. “My lord… news of your discovery has traveled throughout The Vale. We of Owl’s Head greet our neighbors with open arms. And besides, there are many we serve far more road worn that yourself. We are a proud people, but also prideful in our labors. A days dirt upon one’s clothes merely gives merit to their dedications for duty. But… regardless of which disguise might adorn you, my lord, Marquis De’Kahli is welcome in Owl’s Head.”
Elgarion’s lower jaw quivered slightly as if words had trouble escaping him, “I… I… you do this old man a kindness, friend. Alas, I have not felt so welcome in this new world as I do in this very moment.” Elgarion braced himself against his staff as if to attempt standing for the soldier, but the man insisted the weary traveler remain seated upon the oaken bench. “Please, my lord. Do not rise, your stew awaits, and I distract you from its wonders.” Before Elgarion could respond, the infantryman came to quick attention, issued a flamboyant salute, then hastened southbound onto the nearby road. The venerable sorcerer of Artenius’s eyes followed the soldier for a moment, but as the armored man slowly drifted away from view, Elgarion’s thoughts gradually deepened into his current state of affairs. With one final glance upon the menu of Briar’s Cafe, he set it aside and looked upon the books which were placed around him.
Maps, lore, myth and missives, even magical incantations littered the table around the bowl of mutton stew, now being ladled into Elgarion’s mouth, dripping down his unkempt and wispy beard. With his attentions intent upon study, the delicious meal merely brought the wizard satisfactions deep in the recesses of his mind, as his truer passion and hunger were now being satiated by the knowledge which surrounded him. For hours Elgarion labored over the writings, absorbing anything which might reveal even the slightest hint of where the Moongate within Kahli once stood. Already having discovered Kahli, nestled between The Bone Spires and South Marsh, aside the village of Braemar, Elgarion’s search was now narrowed and refined. A path to his is lost people was no longer concealed amidst an entire world. Now, the search spanned only to an area of mere miles. For behind this elusive and fallen rift, if it could be found… reopened, if he could step inside and return to The Void which he for centuries craved escape, then the Marquis of Kahli could return to the imprisoned and forgotten citizens of the once great city and deliver them from their accursed fate.
“Why”, he wondered, visions from his past overtook the survivor of The Void… “Why… blackness… so long, shrouded. Then the light came… blinding to eye yet soothing to soul. Nearly a year I followed the light within that horrific dark–the light of my Lord Artenius, the Seventh Son, was my beacon. For so, so long, I followed. After so many years, I now bathed in his light once again. And then I saw the opening; a rift in the darkness which revealed the light of the world. The edges of the rift wavered and shuttered as if straining to close again. Tendrils of mystical fire swirling amongst tentacles of enchanted water, these elements grasped one side of the rift while the other was held at bay by ensorcelled dust billowing through incantations of air. The light of The Seventh Son had directed me to the exit, but upon reaching it, the powers which held open the door assaulted my being with an overwhelming feeling of solace. The warmth of Artenius had shined upon me, given me hope, but the energy before me granting my exit was unfamiliar. I felt a presence… one of woman… of a mother… I felt the love of a mother to her son. I felt the essence of The Savior Avatar. The “Son” of Balance. But no… I do not believe the Eighth be son at all. For the powers which displayed before touched my heart as would a woman’s kiss upon my cheek. The two Sons worked in tandem to liberate me. Artenius, the Seventh. And now, The Eighth “Son”? Why? Why did they come for me, guide me to my freedom? Why did they not serve as harbinger to my people in my stead? For it was I, a Sorcerer of Artenius who sealed their dire fate. It was the arrogance of my sect which betrayed them.”
As Elgarion stared onto the runic scribblings adorning a brittle scroll, he remembered his final moments from within The Void. Then, he spoke softly to himself with lips dry and barely parting, with words which brought him great purpose, which defined him, “I weep as do The Seven. But what was lost, will be found again. The light of Artenius guided me then, and his everlasting radiance guides me still. I will not forsake the gift which was bestowed upon me. Sons of the Original Touch, I will not fail thee. Artenius, The Son of Lifeforce and Sunlight. The Savior Avatar, The Son of Balance. I believe you saved me so that I might find repentance for my transgressions. You bless me with divine purpose. I am to liberate those which I doomed to eternal pain. Only then, might my soul heal. Only then, will I find peace. And only then, will I rest. For this gift which I am most undeserving, this chance to redeem myself, I thank thee and give myself to thee for eternity.”
Many hours passed as Elgarion took to his research until the hours grew late. The wizard wiped stew from his beard on a dusty sleeve, gathered his works and placed them gently into the leather sack, took up his gnarled staff, twisted with age just as he, and hobbled his way out of Briar’s Cafe. With a wave to the host who stood diligent at the entrance, Elgarion turned northward up the cobblestone road, heading once again to his lodgings at Fire Lotus Tavern. Upon reaching the bridge, a voice ahead caught his attention. The town crier of Owl’s Head approached, bellowing forth with vivid clarity of the recent happenings in nearby lands. Elgarion stood silent as the man approached, taking in the news with a smile. But what came next pleased the sorcerer greatly. For the crier took to providing the old man a conversation which likely, the wizard would remember for years to come. For the first time, from this interaction, Elgarion began to realize that the lands were healing. The roads were opening and news from abroad was once again reaching the lips of criers and kings. Just as Kahli had been found, so many other villages, towns and crossroads are being revealed to the world. Each with their own amazing stories of how they survived or arose from the ashes of The Fall. The world awaited him. The world await them. New Britannia was ready for the return of The Avatars. And his peoples, once freed, would enter into a new world, vibrant and ready.
((below is the conversation which took place with Elgarion and Markus (played by Tolly Lardbottom) just after Elgarion departed Briar’s Cafe))
“Hear ye! Hear ye!” bellowed the town crier, a young man, fair of skin, dark of hair and intent of purpose. “Found: One white rabbit. If you are the owner of this animal and can describe him properly, please contact the refugee family by the river.”
Elgarion waved kindly to the crier, attempting to give sign of thanks to the crier’s services.
“Hear ye! Hear ye!” again he exclaimed. “Lord Enmar decress that all displaced persons declare themselves at the guardhouse by the Upper Marketplace.” The crier returned the wave to Elgarion and approached. “Come to tip the town crier, sir?” The crier bowed to Elgarion, kindly.
“Greetings, friend. A fine voice for a crier, I must say.” Elgarion complimented the crier as he returned the bow with a slight wince, relying heavily upon his staff for support as he did so. “A tip? Why certainly, friend. You do a fine job keeping the citizens here informed.” Elgarion rummaged through a pouch at his hip, which by the jingle, only contained a small number of coins.
“You honor me, sir. It’s thirsty work, I must say…” the crier claimed a fact likely influenced by the man’s love for ale.
As Elgarion handed several coins to the crier, the wizard introduced himself, “I am Elgarion. Elgarion De’Kahli.”
The town crier returned Elgarion’s greeting with a reply, “My name is Markus, sir, and I am pleased that you appreciate my efforts!”
Elgarion thought suddenly of Markus’s mention of thirst, then jumped to a recommendation while smiling broadly, “If ye be thirsty, perhaps I should suggest Briar’s Tavern? I just left my table there, and the ale was magnificent.”
Markus, the town crier, nodded in thanks for the suggestion but offered a counter suggestion, “Tis’ a thought, but the place is so expensive in comparison to the Fire Lotus Tavern… you can get a bowl of mutton there for a mere two gold pieces!”
Elgarion nodded softly, feeling slightly embarrassed to have suggested such an establishment of finery to one unable to afford it, “Oh, indeed Markus. In fact, that is where I now head, for I lodge at the Fire Lotus.” Almost thinking their encounter was ending, Elgarion began to gather himself for the remaining journey up the hill, “I hope our paths might cross again. I typically come to Owl’s Head to…” Elgarion paused as if gathering his words carefully, “regroup my thoughts.” Just as Elgarion was about to bid farewell, the weary old man was pleasantly surprised by Markus’s next remark.
“Would you like me to repeat the news of the day, sir?” the crier suggested with enthusiasm.
“Indeed I would! In fact, I’ll be sure to recount your news to my daily scribbles within my journal.” The sorceror began to listen intently with a smile of appreciation upon his face.
“Very well, let’s make this official, shall we?” Markus stepped back and puffed himself up. “Hear ye! Hear ye! Due to the ongoing refugee crisis in the Vale, the price of flour and grain shall once again be increasing. Hear ye! Hear ye! Owl’s Head mentioned in the latest double issue of The Novian Times, available at the public vendor by the pavilion!”
Markus continued to captivate his audience, “Hear ye! Hear ye! Missing person. Talbot the younger. Son of Talbot the torchbearer. Contact his mother Matilda at the stables, or Guard-Captain Dreyfus at the guardhouse.”
Elgarion shook his head sadly and his expression soured at the unfortunate news.
The crier continued dutifully, “Hear ye! Hear ye! Found: One white rabbit. If you are the owner of this animal and can describe him properly, please contact the refugee family by the river.” And again, he repeated, “Hear ye! Hear ye! Lord Enmar decrees that all displaced persons declare themselves at the guardhouse by the Upper Marketplace.” Upon reaching the end of his script, Markus stepped back to Elgarion and lowered his voice.
Having noticed the wizards mood sadden with news of the torchbearer’s son, Markus spoke softly, “Indeed, it is sad — that poor family has now lost both the father and the eldest son.”
Elgarion took this news with a grimace, influencing even further sympathy for the family. After a pause and a sigh, Elgarion spoke with kindly affection, “Markus, you have a talent. Certainly, if you keep it up, you could announce the arrival of lords and kings at court.” Elgarion bowed slightly to show additional appreciation.
Markus’s face reddened slightly, “You flatter me, sir!”
“This pavillion you speak of… do you think any copies of the newsletter remain?” The old seeker of knowledge inquired.
The crier pondered this a moment, then nodded, “Last I was there, I believe at least two copies remained. It was a double issue printed on two pages.”
“Ah, excellent! I will go at once. I will be retiring to my lodgings shortly, and having some current events to read would make the final hour pass well, I would think.” Elgarion beamed with considerable eagerness. With a smile and a bow the old man readied his walking stick and sack of books, “Well then, lad. I must be off to that pavilion. Likely, I will include the happenings of the newsletter in my journal as well. I wish to be thorough in my accounting of todays fruitful events.”
“Of course, sir! I must return to me duties…” Markus, the town crier said with obvious pride for his trade. Markus aided Elgarion in collection of his staff and sack, then shook the old man’s hand heartily. “It has been a pleasure meeting you, Elgarion, and I wish you well in all your future endeavors.” The town crier stated this farewell with sincerity, then stepped back from the wizard and returned to his duties.
“Likewise, Markus. May your voice carry across the realm, young crier.” Elgarion bowed again, then proceeded at a slow pace up the hill towards the pavilion which Markus had mentioned. The crier’s voice could still be heard in the distance amidst the clamor of the blacksmith’s hammer and tappings of the wood workers mallet and chisel. Grateful that copies remained of the first volume, Elgarion made quick purchase with his remaining coin then made way to his quaint room on the second floor of the Fire Lotus Tavern. There, the wizard spent his remaining hour of this day reading The Novian Times, Septembre 8th edition, Sheet 1. It wasn’t long before sleep swept over the road weary man, bringing him dreams of white rabbits, mystifying airships, and sadly, the terrors of The Void.”