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Lady Tam

The Darakan Chronicles

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"We're heading back, Throat-Crusher," the Lynx says aloud to her closest companion. No other is with her now as she and the huge dog prowl the lonely edges of a small forest outside the walls of the city.

 

The dog, large even for a wolf, replies, "We've been heading back since the day we left, Cat." The last word is spoken as both a name and a playful insult. "At least now we can speak to each other."

 

"Yes," she smiles her feral smile, "that does make some things easier. I still can't believe you remember everything."

 

"I was a shaman's familiar, and he was a good Cur. Never was quite the thug the raiding parties hoped he would be. I remember seeing you several times before the day he died. When he did, and you were there, I wanted to Return. But when the Gods say 'Stay', you stay. I guess someome knew you would call someday and they just thought it would be easier this way."

 

Jesset laughs at the image of a god saying, "Stay!" to her spirit-friend.

 

"What?" asks her friend as they lope along easily at a running pace for any normal elf.

 

The Lynx smiles. Like most dogs, Garr has adopted easily to civilization and even speaks with the rhythms of language found among orcs, elves, dwarves and humans rather than those of the wolves that dogs were bred from in ages passed. And yet, as comfortable as he is, and as smart as he is - easily smart enough for any average conversation - still somehow his world is a little to simple for humor.

 

Play? yes. Understand when he is the but of a joke? no.

 

And yet somehow that only makes him more lovable.

 

"Nothing you mongrel mutt. Just funny pictures dancing in my mind."

 

Now that Garr understands. Taking advantage of the Lynx's good mood, he positions himself in front of her and bounds straight up when he comes to a root...instead of over it. The running skoli barely has time to get her hands up and push the mutt to one side while she dances to the other. Even so, there is a brief collision knocking some air from the Upright Runner. The Four-Foot runner grins his wide wolf grin with tongue hanging out.

 

It is Jesset that makes the challenge official: "You PEST!" And suddenly the two are sprinting and tagging and ramming and wrestling.

 

It is almost an hour before they both lay panting on the forest floor just in sight of the nearest gate. Jesset on her back uses her chest to support the War-Dog's Jaw. Her clothing gradually becomes wetter but she does not mind. After a few minutes of total rest, she reaches up and scratches her friends' ears. "It's going to be bad, Killer."

 

"That's why we hunt in a pack."

 

"They have a bigger pack."

 

Garr whines a bit, but his answer is obvious: "So get help."

 

"We've talked about that. If I ask the King for help, how will that look to the Council?"

 

With a quick twist of his head, the huge dog nips at the slender wrist petting him. "Big King asked Blue Cat for help. You forget too many things. If I weren't here to remind you of basic Pack-Sense, you would still be trailing the pack with a bad paw while bad folks stab you in the back!"

 

"So what do I do? I'm going to need every favor there is after I kill my brother. Killing Kin? The order GUARDS kin, Throat-Crusher. You know how it will be after that with the Council. AND with Father and Mother."

 

"So don't kill! Why learn your magic and lip your Fang if not for the power you didn't have on the stair!"

 

"But it's not that easy!" the Lynx is now the one whining. "I can't put them to sleep. And the Color Spray won't fell them - if I even get close to them. More than likely I'll be too far away to do much besides shoot them with arrows or fireballs."

 

Garr chuffs, conceding partial defeat. Then his ears come up: "You have Skeleton Arrows - use them to hit your brother on the head!"

 

Jesset Ferryl laughs her loud, almost barking laugh. If only it were that easy - an arrow to knock the Necromancers unconcious!

 

And then she sits up suddenly. Feeling her movement, the huge dog stands instantly to avoid getting thrown. The resultant confusion would be comical to any onlookers: a gargantuan Orcish war dog standing half on - half off the skoli beneath him. The skoli actually UNDER her familiar's chest and trying not to poke him with her horns without twisting her neck - not entirely successful in either endeavor.

 

The skoli stands, rubbing her twisted neck while the war-dog hop-limps trying to keep weight off his front legs. Jesset knows instantly that the pain is in his chest and not his legs, but either way it makes it uncomfortable to put weight on his front paws. The big beast woofs balefully

 

"I'm sorry, Garr," she begins. But when the dog whines, she laughs: "You big baby! I hardly touched you! You'd think I never saw you stuck with a spear!"

 

"I'm sorry," the mutt responds sheepishly - hanging his head with guilt.

 

"No, Boy. I'm sorry. You're right. I have no pack sense. Let's go ask for help!"

 

Together the two go to see Aifrik, apologizing for waiting until the second day before making her requests. On the other hand, her requests are modest compared to those of some of her companions. Perhaps there will be no delay despite her tardiness.

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As Shan and Lady Air spend long hours going over books and such, a thought occurs to the young Islander and he reaches into his backpack and pulls out a worn leather pouch.

 

"Tell me, if you will... do you recognize these?" So saying he pulls out a large brass key and a golden ring with precious stones. As she looks at them in a soft voice he asks one more question.

 

"... and what's my name?"

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Warrick edges deeper in his booth to further cloak himself in the shadows. With Jesset leaving him to his own he has found the seediest tavern, if so it may be called, in the bright Elven city. He turns his half-full wine mug absently as he considers the newest patrons entering the tavern.

 

All locals, by the look of them. Frustrating. Even in my element here there is so much that is different. I would have thought sure that whatever loathesome wretch that is behind all this undead would have to have ties inside the city. At least for information, guard positions, defenses, whatever. Either this brother of Jesset's, or whoever, is vastly over-confident, or he knows his army is large enough it will overwhelm the city without reconaissance.

 

The last thought brings a grim look to the Scout's face even as he hopes the former is true.

 

If his force is large enough to overwhelm this city, then his next run may be a Searoad. Now I begin to see why Janchu thought it wise to send us. Not that those Elven warriors left much option.

 

He draughts lightly from his mug, unusual for him, but Warrick, servant of Searoad, is at work at the moment. There will be time for mind-dulling consumption later. He thinks back over his evening's observations. Mostly locals in the dive bar of the city. Two Elves that were clearly handlers of the dead but they seemed straight-laced enough. Zero merchants in the cheap bar. Mostly male patrons. Few adventuring types. And an undercurrent of concern or remote worry on nearly every visage.

 

Oh yeah. And how could I forget the numerous looks of disdain for a Mon'Keigh defiling their drinking establishment. Pah!

 

Earlier in the evening Warrick was practically sure he was destined for a fight, possibly two, when several Elven wagon-handlers visited the bar. But evidently they all felt it somehow unseemly or beneath even them to deign to bloody up a Mon'Keigh.

 

I'm sure they'd be weeks trying to wash my stink off their hands. Probably wouldn't be welcome in any of their local bath houses for a while. Such a beautiful city to cover such ugliness. Ah well, it just proves it's true everywhere.

 

The Scout's eyes continue to drink in every detail they can consume. His ears sort bits of conversation but his human ears are at a disadvantage as most of the Elves speak in very hushed tones. He glares another "No, thanks" glare at the barmaid who checks, again, to see if he is finished nursing his drink yet and ready to leave. Actually, he is bored enough that he was actually ready to leave, but now he alters his decision just to further annoy the barmaid and the rough crowd his presence continues to insult. Minor sport, but vaguely satisfying for the moment.

 

He continues eyeing the crowd even well into the night. He is sure a lead or some contact might turn up and, when he wants to, he can nurse a single drink all night long...

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