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Legends of Taltos:Crusaders

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Sensing that the dwarf might have had too much to drink to recall the previous evening's events, Janara turns her attention to Lady Rai, who seems to have clearer recollection of the banquet.

 

"Where is Ben this morning? Have you seen him Janara?"

 

"Last I seen him he was in here 'bout to fall asleep in a chair. I was up all night with Joe so I don't know where Ben slept at." Janara stacked her book and papers to make more room for others to seat themselves at the table if they choose to.

 

"So tell me all about the banquet, Miss Rai.", Janara begs the mage. "Did they really feed their pris'ners to dragons? That Marcus Freen sez they do, but I don't b'lieve much of anything he ever sez about much of anything."

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Rai joins Janara at the table. "The banquet was quite lovely. The food was like none I have tasted before." She grins. "Very warm spices. However the I chose not to view the executions of the prisioners. They let Rune carry out the sentence to at least one of them." She closes her eyes and shutters a bit. "But you asked of dragons. No, they did not feed them to dragons."

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Rune nods an assent to Rai's account of the banquet of the night before, then says "I have to add that Reptus food is the best I have ever tasted, and their drink-I couldn't quite tell if it was ale or beer, kind of a mixture of the two, I guess- is comparable to Dwarven brews. Also, they are a generous folk." He stands and removes the right shoulder plate from his armor, and pushes up the leather jerkin underneath, revealing the tatoo.

 

"I awoke with this on my arm this morning. From what I have already felt, it increases my strength." He replaces his armor before continuing. "I also seem to have made some allies for my people. I vaguely remember being called by a phrase in the Reptus language which, as Khow-Loon translated it, means 'Friend of Khong-To'." He grins a bit sheepishly. "I guess my actions have made me famous."

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Ben, looking a bit bedraggled, but with a sparkle in his eye that has been mostly missing these long weeks on the trail, pokes his head through the doorway and grins a sideways smile.

 

"Well it's about time everybody was up and about," he says comically. "Since I was up, I thought I'd see some of the city."

 

He produces a small bouquet of exotic flowers and presents them to Janara. "To cheer up m'lady," he pronounces. "I don't know if Joe passed my message along or not, but I'm behind you and Aridwyn in whatever decision is made about Bhoggy. He's a member of this party and if he doesn't want to stay here, you have my support."

 

He then produces a large bag with a wonderful smell rising from it. "And for the rest of us, a treat. Apparantly, not everthing around here is covered in enough spice to make the hairs fall out of your chest. I found a cart selling these wonderful balls of bread that are fried in grease and then rolled in a sweet sugar-like coating. Eat up!!"

 

He gives a meaningful look to Rai, "I'm glad to see that you're back. How did things go??"

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Rune stands and removes the right shoulder plate from his armor, and pushes up the leather jerkin underneath, revealing the tatoo.

 

"I awoke with this on my arm this morning. From what I have already felt, it increases my strength."

 

"It's a krung!", exclaims Janara as if she was the first to figure that out. "I seen plenny of people with things like that b'fore..but not green like that'un is."

 

"Well it's about time everybody was up and about," he says comically. "Since I was up, I thought I'd see some of the city."

 

"G'mornin' Bootknife-Ben!" Janara grins when Ben presents her with the bouquet. "You're a good ol' guy, Bootknife-Ben. These smell really sweet... almost like....sugar-dumplins?" In the distance she can still hear the familiar snoring of Just-Plain-Joe. "You're the first human that ever gave me flowers.", she says with a giggle.

 

"I don't know if Joe passed my message along or not, but I'm behind you and Aridwyn in whatever decision is made about Bhoggy. He's a member of this party and if he doesn't want to stay here, you have my support."

 

"Sometimes people gotta do stuff they don't wanna 'cuz it's what they're s'posed to do. Me an' Joe talked 'bout it some, an' I prayed 'bout it some more this mornin'. Aurellius'll look after him jus' like he looks after me 'cuz I'll pray for him ev'ry day."

 

He then produces a large bag with a wonderful smell rising from it. "And for the rest of us, a treat. Apparantly, not everthing around here is covered in enough spice to make the hairs fall out of your chest. I found a cart selling these wonderful balls of bread that are fried in grease and then rolled in a sweet sugar-like coating. Eat up!!"

 

"So THAT'S what smells like dumplins! You got us DUMPLINS!"

 

Not needing to be told twice, Janara reaches into the bag and helps herself to one of the treats.

 

"Did the hair really fall outta your chest?", she asks Ben, having tried the food herself and not entirely sure he was joking.

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Rai smiles at Ben's entrance but remains quiet until he addresses her. "It went as well as a grand banquet ending in executions can go I guess. I am just thankfully they did not frown upon my request to be excused from watching such events. I was grateful for the night's ending. Though I will say the sounds plagued my dreams."

 

She frowns a bit as she helps herself to a dumpling. "So what is this news about Bhoggy?" she asks looking from Janara to Ben. "And why do you need cheering up Janara?"

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"R'member those monks yesterday..the ones that was carryin' Bhoggy up an' down the streets an' singin' that liddle song he likes so much? Last night me an' Ben an' That Marcus Freen met one of them an' he told us all 'bout how Bhoggy's their Harmony Child. I dunno what all it means, but one day they b'lieve he'll be really umportant...like a priest maybe. I dunno."

 

Her face saddens, but she does not cry.

 

"They wanna keep him here. Joe sez he wants'ta stay. Zeke's really sick an' ourghtta not go with us an' Bhoggy wants'ta look after him. Ardywen's gonna miss him. He's her son. I'm gonna miss my Bhasamagh too... but we gotta do what's right."

 

Janara looks at the bouquet of flowers and it occurs to her how things might appear.

 

"It ain't what'cha think. Ben only gave 'em to me 'cuz I was sad 'bout Bhoggy. It ain't nothin' more than that. He's a good ol' guy."

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Marcus Freen enters the room, looking pale and sickly. 'what about young Bhoghmur?" On hearing the story repeated, he nods, frowning.

"I understand the need for him to study, and know he will be safer here with the priests, but damn it, I enjoy his wit and spirit. Anyone who would bite Bootknife Ben...." He looks at his current company and grows quiet for a moment.

 

"When Joe awakens, and has been fed, I want to begin loading up for the drive. We take possesion of the krungs this morning. If Zeke and Bhogmur stay, Malachias and Johahn can take over the wagon. With he leave of Sir Erik and Lady Rai, of course." He looks around the room.

"Where is Jasmine? I need to pray with her. I feel awful." Ernesto points out the room of the priestess, and Freen knocks, speaks quietly to the door, and goes outside.

 

****

 

Upon awakening, Joe asks Janara, "Why's everyone in a hurry? Are we leavin'? How's Zeke?"

 

****

 

Zeke sleeps soundly now, the rasping sounds of the last few nights gone. Bhogmur, still holding Aridwyn's hand, rises. "Can we get soup, mama? I missed dinner."

 

****

 

A pair of human servants appear at the main door with Khowloon. They bring with them all of the party's travel clothes, now laundered and mended. The scholar speaks, "Friend Rune, the Tyrant requests that you and Marcus Freen join him for breakfast. May I convey your acceptance?"

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When Joe joins everybody else in the common room, Janara sees to it personally that he gets one of the dumplings that Ben bought for everybody. "I betcha Zeke could learn to make 'em jus' as good as these are."

 

"Why's everyone in a hurry? Are we leavin'? How's Zeke?"

 

It's That Marcus freen..he wants'ta load up the wagon as soon as you get yer breakfast. I ain't seen Zeke or Ardywen yet, but I heard Bhoggy hummin' that song he likes."

 

Janara goes in the direction whence the humming had been coming earlier and finds Bhogmur in one of the little rooms tugging at Aridwyn's hand while Zeke dozes away on a bunk. Not wanting to intrude on what will probably be the last private moment the boy will have with his foster mother, Janara is uncharacteristically quiet and brief in her words.

 

"Who wants dump-liiiiings?", she says softly in a sing-song inflection, then gently closes the door and returns to the main room and to Joe.

 

When the human servants arrive with the laundered clothing and gear, Janara thanks them, unable to recall the last time her cloak, shirt or tatty old trousers had smelled so good or felt so soft. The clean scent reminded her of the bath the afternoon before.

 

Shyly she asks one of the servants, "D'ya think it'd be arright if I kep' this robe too?" "Yes you may.", they respond in unison. She turns to the others and grins widely, then trots off to her own quarters to change into her travel gear.

 

Not entirely sure when the monks intend to visit Bhoggy, when breakfast at the Legation will be served or when Joe and Freen will be ready to start loading the wagon, Janara carefully bundles up her new blue silken robe, collects her three leaves of paper from the table and rolls them up scroll-fashioned, and returns the orc-book to the large desk in the library.

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"It ain't what'cha think. Ben only gave 'em to me 'cuz I was sad 'bout Bhoggy. It ain't nothin' more than that. He's a good ol' guy."

Rai's cheeks suddenly redden and she diverts her eyes to look at her half eaten dumpling. "Be at ease Janara. I thought nothing. Ben is a good friend." She scrunches her eyebrows together as she quickly finishes her breakfast. She then rises and takes her freshly washed clothing from the servants. "I think I shall go ahead and prepare for our journey," she says a little jittery then departs toward her room.

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A pair of human servants appear at the main door with Khowloon. They bring with them all of the party's travel clothes, now laundered and mended. The scholar speaks, "Friend Rune, the Tyrant requests that you and Marcus Freen join him for breakfast. May I convey your acceptance?"

 

 

"I don't know about that jackass Freen," Rune growls, "but I'll be with you momentarilly. As soon as I bite that dog back." He then walks up to the bar in the common room, which is unattended, so he just helps himself to a couple of shots of whiskey, leaving some coins under the counter for it.

 

Feeling a little better, he turns back to the messengers. "Lead the way," he says.

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Zeke sleeps soundly now, the rasping sounds of the last few nights gone. Bhogmur, still holding Aridwyn's hand, rises. "Can we get soup, mama? I missed dinner."

 

"Yes, let's do that. I'm hungry too," Aridwyn replies. She gazes at Zeke in wonder. Janara said he had the Gift, but I never dreamt anything like this...

 

"Who wants dump-liiiiings?", she says softly in a sing-song inflection, then gently closes the door and returns to the main room and to Joe.

 

Aridwyn looks up, but Janara is already gone. A smile creeps on to her face. I haven't given her enough credit... she does have a subtle bone in her body. Or maybe she's just anxious to get back to Joe?

 

"Dumplings sound good right now," she says to Bhogmur, and then she summons every ounce of her strength and scoops him up, hugging him tight. She feels a pang in her gut, knowing this is the last time she will ever pick Bhogmur up -- if I see him again, no, when I see him again, he most likely will be bigger than I am. "Bhogmur, I am so very, very proud of you," she murmurs, and kisses him on the forehead.

 

Then (and not a moment too soon, as Bhogmur has grown like a weed on Zeke's cooking), she sets him down, musses his hair, and gives him her biggest smile, though she wants to cry. "Now let's go see about those dumplings." She takes his hand, and elf and orc go in search of the others.

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Ben gives a small wave then follows silently after Rai. When the two of them are alone together he says softly, "I got a little something for you also," and shyly hands her a small parcel.

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"Oh?" she says with surprise. "I did not expect you...you did not have to..." she adds just as shyly taking the parcel. "I hope you didn't feel I was jealous of Janarae earlier."

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Janara sees Aridwyn and Bhoggy returning from Zeke's room. She waves to the child and his mother, calling them both over to the table at which she is sitting.

 

"I saved ya both a dumplin'", she says, rather proud of having mustered the discipline not to make the last two dumplings disappear just as quickly as the first.

 

"How's Mister Zeke?", she asks Aridwyn and Bhogmur as they eat their dumplings.

 

Once Bhogmur is fed, Janara unrolls the blank leaf of paper on the table in front of him and gives him the charcoal pencil. She then unrolls a second leaf of paper on the table in front of herself. The second page is almost filled with Janara's poor handwriting.

 

"Ardywen an' Joe both say you wanna stay here with Zeke. I'm gonna miss ya lots, but maybe if you draw somethin' for me I wouldd'n miss ya so much."

 

Bhogmur begins drawing, though Janara is not yet quite sure if the figure he is drawing is meant to be Joe or Ernesto. As he concentrates on adding pointy ears to the figure, Janara begins to read what she has written on the second leaf of paper.

 

"Dear Bhogmur.. One day some one will read this to you bee-coz you have not learnt how yet your self", she reads to him, feeling a bit awkward about her inability to read aloud as well as Zeke or Ernesto can. "You are doing a good thing staying with the R-r-r-... Reptusses to take care of Mister Zeke. They told us you some day will show them how to have peace an' they know..er.. knew you was goin' to come an' they will take good care of you."

 

The more she reads, the more she is aware that her written vocabulary lacks entirely too many of the words she wants to use. She eases Bhoggy up into her lap and then lays his page of paper over hers so that he can continue to draw. She then finishes telling him what she would have written if she had only known how.

 

"It ain't gonna be easy bein' the only orc here, but they're gonna teach ya so many things. Don't let nobody here tell you you can't learn nothin' b'coz you're a orc. Jus' try hard an' do your best. R'member what me an' Ardywen an' Joe taught'cha about bein' a good boy an' bein' respeckful to your elders an' teachers. We wouldd'n let'cha stay here if we thought they wasn't gonna be good to ya an' teach ya what's right from what's wrong. Don't forget to say your prayers ev'ry day too. Aurellius'll still hear ya, even this far from the Spire. ... an' someday if I ever have a liddle boy of my own I hope he'll be jus' like you."

 

Soon Bhogmur's page is filled with a tall pointy-eared fur-cloaked goblinoid which Janara had begun to think was meant to be Joe, but it soon became evident to her that what he was drawing was himself..only years older.. Beside him is what any other onlooker would mistake for a bear, though Janara recognizes it as Nokhai, her 'puppy'.

 

The boy grins triumphantly as he puts the final touch on his drawing by attempting to write his name above his self-portrait. With coaching from Janara and Zeke he had finally mastered the first three letters and had learned three more, though his various instructors could not seem to agree on which or how many letters were in his orcish name. Janara helps him finish writing his name and then asks him for the pencil.

 

At the bottom of her letter to him, she draws a series of converging lines attached to a obelisk torso topped by a lopsided circle. She adds a pair of pointy ears, an upward-curving smile with two overstated fangs protruding forth and a pair of large saucer-shaped eyes. She then adds a rough representation of a holy symbol hung round what would have been a neck had Janara remembered to give her drawing a neck in the first place.

 

"It's s'posed to be me...so you got somethin' to r'member me by too."

 

Noticing that her feet have begun to grow numb, she sets Bhogmur back down from her lap.

 

"If I get s'more paper, would you make a drawin' for Ardywen too?"

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