Mists of Kel Doran
Season 1 - Dragon-Touched
Episode 1 - The Weave of Fate
Chapter 2 - Important Things
Original Artwork by Nicolas Ferrand..."Thief - Tavern"
Chapter II - Important Things
Approximate read time ~ 11 minutes
The belly of the Guilded Wyrmling Inn bounced with activity, filled to capacity with townsfolk escaping the troubles of a failing city. Oil lanterns lined the walls while well-worn candles added artistry to the shadows dancing across the room. An L-shaped bar, polished to a pristine finish, angled into the grand room; and in the darkened, far corner of the tavern stood a stairwell, ascending to a balcony, overlooking it all.
Dominating the tavern, along the sea-side wall, arched an ancient, stone fireplace, carved from the onyx-stained rock of the Abyssal Sea. The blackened furnace bathed the walls in a soft glow while warming the hearts of those inside. Along the walls and tucked into corners, stacked in front of windows and doorways, were dusty bags, cases, and crates, overflowing with clothes, trinkets, and personal possessions. Round, wooden tables dotted the floor, filled with mugs, drowning the sorrows of a broken city.
Gliding through the sea of tavern goers was a slender man with soft eyes and an eager smile. Taryn danced around joyous families and happy couples, repressing thoughts of anguish with equal parts laughter and spirits. He took a moment to acknowledge each pair of eyes that met his own with a gracious nod and a quip of unimportant things, all while navigating toward his table of anxiously awaiting thirsts.
“The dirtiest glasses of piss water Wyvern’s Rest has to offer,” Taryn said as he slammed the steins on the table in front of two men, the amber ale splashing onto their leather vests. Their laughter cut short and their eyes shot to Taryn, neither uttering a word.
“Well…don’t worry,” Taryn interjected, studying their menacing look. “It’s not my piss.”
Laughter once again echoed from the table as both men resumed their tales of the sea. Taryn joined in their laughter before carefully setting his glass before him, cupping the final mug delicately in his hands. He leaned in, securing the ale, “and for you, my lady,” he continued, allowing the glass to come to a gentle rest before a fair-skinned young woman.
“Oh boy,” chuckled the dark haired man across the table. Cooper pulled the long strands of hair from his eyes and tucked them neatly behind his ear, then batted his eyelashes at Taryn, “how can I ever repay you, my sweet prince?”
The woman gave a subtle smirk at Cooper’s words, then looked up to Taryn, giving a sincere nod. “Thank you,” she whispered. But Taryn did not hear the words. His eyes had already lost their focus and the sounds of the room had dissipated from his ears, as happened every time his eyes fell upon Ava.
He traced the ridge of her cheekbones, unerring across her satin, porcelain face. The lines dove headfirst into the valley of her eyes, bathing in the most unique shade of blue the world had ever seen. As his eyes continued their adventure, they intersected the long, shimmering waves of blonde, discretely concealing any area her dress failed to leave to the imagination.
A horrific noise shot Taryn out of his reverie long enough to hear the familiar laughter of his friends. Cooper gripped his mug as the empty vessel slammed into the wooden surface. He shot a sinister grin across the table, the same grin that always preceded an ill-willed bout of sarcasm. Taryn slowly turned his eyes away from Ava, cursing his moment of mesmerized adolescence while embarrassment wracked his young mind.
“Well,” Cooper began. “Good to have you back. Thought we’d lost ya there for a sec!” he continued, his wry grin growing ever wider.
An awkward smile etched its way into Taryn’s lips as he stammered back, “no…I mean. I was just…”
Cooper’s face grew serious, quickly responding, “Oh…oh, I know what you were just.” He raised his empty glass in Taryn’s direction and swung it lightly toward Ava. “32, by the way,” he continued.
Taryn and Ava eyed Cooper as his lips fought the urge to curl upright. He looked at them with the most sincere expression he could muster, his eyes jumping between them in feigned surprise.
“Freckles…32 freckles,” he finally revealed. “I assume that’s what you were counting?”
Ava’s eyes fell to the table, ashamed to look back to Taryn as he uncomfortably slid into his chair. While Ava and Taryn sat quietly, Cooper and Jorel continued their frivolity, reveling at the expense of their shy friends.
“You know,” Ava whispered, breaking a long moment of silence. “I wasn’t particularly thirsty this morning,” turning toward the chuckling men. She stood from the table, the full length of her revealing, emerald dress falling the floor. Her fingers slid around her glass with an elegance befitting a princess.
Cooper winked in Taryn’s direction as Ava glided to his chair. “Now that I’ve seen how thirsty you are,” she said, positioning herself behind the dark-haired man, letting her manicured hand slide down his shoulder, across his chest. “I would feel guilty not sharing mine,” she whispered into his ear, ensuring the others at the table could hear.
She raised her glass and poured. The amber liquid spilled across Cooper’s black hair, falling in front of his face in wet, matted clumps while the others snorted with laughter. Ava continued pouring, slow and deliberate, as Cooper sat in his chair, accepting the fate his sarcasm had awarded.
Ava looked back to Taryn, who found himself staring…again. She gave him a knowing nod and the faintest of smiles, relieving some of his prior embarrassment.
A young, disheveled boy shot past Ava, bouncing off her hip. He wore a look of despair as tears lined his dirty, terror-stricken face. The stein slipped through Ava’s delicate grasp, crashing onto Cooper’s head. As the small child fled into the darkened corner, Ava’s eyes followed him. Her expression grew solemn as the joy of the morning filtered away and the somber realities of Wyvern’s Rest resurfaced.
“Ah!” Cooper gasped, rubbing the top of his head and swiping the matted hair from his eyes. “Damn kid!”
Ava extended a hand in Cooper’s direction, her eyes still set upon the young boy, now cowering in a ball of tears. “Something has happened,” she whispered, her voice long, her words mourning. She instinctively moved toward the child, leaving her friends to the table and their inconsequential stories.
Cooper rolled his eyes and rubbed the knot on his head. “It’s fucking Wyvern’s Rest…something always happens,” he said, arrogance returning to his voice.
The tavern doors flew open. Plastered chips tumbled from the walls as the morning sun penetrated the old inn. An impossibly large man, stretched into a brilliant white robe stumbled into the room, bumping into tables and knocking over glasses. “S…sorry, I’m sorry,” he stuttered, his attempts to control his discrete entry wildly unsuccessful. Thibold clutched at his satchel while ducking his head in shame. He lifted his apologetic hands as a cloak of silence fell across the bustling tavern. With all eyes focused on him, he scurried around the sea of tables and chairs.
Cooper turned to the odd entrance, then spun back to his friends at the table. “There…see what I mean?” he added, sipping Highland Ale from the corner of his lips. Taryn laughed at the sight, the awkwardness now washed away. His eyes darted to Ava, then back to the brilliant spectacle unfolding before them.
Thibold barreled through the crowd, his robe catching on tables and chair legs as he swept toward a group near the stairs. “You’ve gotta get me out of here! There’s been a mistake!” he cried, crashing into their table. Rowan calmly leaned forward, whispering, “sure thing boss.” His lips curled into a smile before continuing, “we’ll take ya back…for 250 marks.”
Thibold’s eyes grew wide, “Two…two hundred fifty? But it only cost a hundred to get here!” He backed up, sliding his satchel from one arm to the other, while the mercenary leaned closer.
With a smile, Rowan stated simply, “Well, if we gotta go back, that’s twice as far….cost you twice as much.” He then fell back to his chair, swinging his boots onto the table with a resounding thud. Mud splattered onto the white robes as Thibold recoiled. His eyes darted from one mercenary to the other, all wearing the same, devilish grin. His gaze wandered from the table and realized the eyes of the tavern were still on him, enthralled in his demise.
Thibold spun back, “fine!” He panted as he reached into his robe with one hand, then switched to reach in with the other. His face stretched as he spun, desperately scanning the floor and under the tables.
“Looking for something?” came a sinister chuckle, followed by a rhythmic jingle. Thibold looked up to see Rowan dangling his coin purse in front of him, an evil grin erupting across his face. A chorus of laughter filled the room as the mercenaries joined in, along with several nearby tables.
Thibold’s eyes narrowed, eyeing his old coin purse. His face turned red while he raised a finger of disapproval. His lips pursed before opening his mouth in a torrent of reprimand.
“Well, well…looks like you gentlemen brought the party,” came a light-hearted voice from a nearby table. Thibold froze as he leaned toward the mercenaries, turning toward the voice. Cooper stood from his chair and walked toward the group. He ran his fingers through his black hair, pulling it behind his head and tying it off. He straightened his worn vest, long faded from its original shade of black, and adjusted his cuffs, ensuring they were properly aligned to his sleeves.
“Dammit Coop,” Taryn proclaimed. He reached across the table to grab Cooper’s arm, but he was already out of reach, wearing a clever smile that grew with each step.
“And I see you’ve brought the balloons,” Cooper stated, waving his hand in the direction of the white, silken robes, adding a subtle wink.
Thibold placed his pudgy hands on his hips and gasped, “Well, I never!”
Cooper skipped over to Mr. Aerent, giving several pats on his over-sized belly. “Missed a meal?” he questioned, spinning back toward the mercenaries.
Mr. Aerent huffed, heaved his arms across his chest, and looked away from Cooper, his eyes falling across the tavern and the other men and women, laughing unashamed.
“This ain’t your cause, Coop,” bellowed Rowan in his distinct, gutteral voice. “Best mind your business,” he continued, dismissing the bold young man.
A sly grin came across Cooper’s face as he looked back to Thibold. “Why, business is my business,” he proclaimed. “For example…This man here,” waving his hand once again, “this is a business man.” Cooper spun, waving his arms before the crowd, “this man, however,” he continued, swinging a pointed finger to the dark mercenary, “…is an idiot!”
Laughter erupted throughout the tavern as Rowan vaulted to his feet. His chair skipped into the corner behind him, tumbling over Ava and the young boy she was consoling. She stood in defiance, ready to protect the boy, then stepped closer as Cooper continued his taunts on the tenacious mercenary.
Rowan snarled his teeth and withdrew his dagger, shifting the coin purse to his free hand. With reckless abandon, he lunged toward Cooper, a glint of steel reflecting the candlelight.
The young man merely twirled as his armed assailant flew forward. Cooper spun and fell into an empty chair, allowing the momentum of his legs to swing onto the table. He looked across to the other mercenaries, gave a sarcastic nod, and finished Rowan’s ale.
The Mercenary stumbled forward into Cooper’s table, where Taryn and Jorel both met him with apologetic smiles and raised glasses.
“You see, ladies and gentlemen,” Cooper proclaimed. “In the time it took this man to swing his baby dick sword, I’ve learned three very important things.” Rowan slammed his fists into the table, his teeth clenched in anger. He spun around and lunged once more at Cooper, planting his dagger through the seat of an empty chair. He looked around in disbelief, his weapon lodged deep into something other than his target.
The mercenary raised his head and saw Cooper, confidently spinning away from his table and putting his arm around a young, blonde woman. Rowan paused for a moment as he studied her form, his eyes following the curve of her breasts, down through her waist. Ava gave the man a look of pity…until she felt his eyes upon her. Her eyes narrowed and her look transformed into disdain as she folded her arms across her hips.
“One…..this man is very slow,” Cooper interrupted, wrapping his arm around Ava’s shoulder. He played to the audience again, holding up both hands, “but I think we’ve all learned that today.” He turned back toward Thibold, offered up another sly wink, and rested against the beautiful woman, eyeing the group of mercenaries.
“Two…” he added, as he reached for Ava’s hand. Cooper pulled her hand to his lips and offered a subtle kiss between her fingers. “This fellow loves the ladies.” He exchanged winks with her, adding, “but in this one’s case…don’t we all?” The crowd cheered, hooting and whistling at the young girl. Ava’s eyes rolled away from the cheers, an exhausted look upon her face.
“And three…” The mercenary yanked his weapon out of the chair and jumped to meet Cooper once more. He stepped forward as Ava spun her hands, revealing a small leather coin purse. “He’s not a very good business man,” Cooper added, pulling the purse from Ava’s fingertips. He gave it a hearty shake, provoking the same rhythmic jingle overheard before.
The mercenary’s eyes widened as his arms dropped to his hips, feeling around his belt. “You little…,” he began as he stared back at Ava, who met his gaze with a satisfied grin.
“For if he were a man with any business sense,” Cooper interrupted, raising the coin purse high overhead. “He would know the true value of his coins.” He reached into the purse and pulled out a single, rusty mark.
“This one,” Cooper said, holding it before the crowd, “isn’t worth shit!” He turned back to Rowan. “And do you know why?” Cooper waited for a response, but the mercenary just looked on, a scowl across his face.
“Because it’s dirty!” The tavern once again erupted in laughter.
“In order to add value,” Cooper continued, “it must first know beauty.” He leaned toward Ava once more and pointed toward his cheek, turning his head slightly. She quickly obliged by gifting a small kiss upon his chin.
Cooper stood proud as the jealousy of the crowd grew. “Will that work,” she added softly, flushed with embarrassment.
“No, actually,” Cooper added. “That had nothing to do with it…but I appreciate it, just the same!” The crowd once again let loose a roar of laughter while shades of crimson flushed across Ava’s porcelain cheeks.
“Please, my dear…would you do us the honor of kissing this coin?” Cooper said, offering the old piece before her. She studied his mischievous grin for a long moment before relenting to the cheers of the crowd, applying a small, gentle kiss.
Rowan approached, weapon ready. Cooper spun around and met his gaze. He flashed his hands and twirled them about before revealing a flawless, golden coin. The mercenary stopped. “To recognize value,” Cooper said as he flicked the coin into the air. “You must recognize beauty,” he continued, adding a gentle wave and a curtsy to his fair friend.
The tavern crowd gasped as the golden mark fluttered through the air. Cooper escorted Ava back to her chair, then resumed his seat next to Jorel and Taryn while Rowan snatched the coin. Coop tossed the leather purse down on the table at an empty chair and, with a flourish, waved his hand toward Thibold, beckoning him to take a seat.
This series runs on caffeine and donations!
Learn how we can increase your sales, develop your brand, and generate interest in your site.
Mists of Kel Doran