Mists of Kel Doran
Season 1 - Dragon-Touched
Episode 1 - The Weave of Fate
Chapter 3 - Tone of Understanding
Chapter III - Tone of Understanding
Approximate read time ~ 7 minutes
“Took several for myself,” Cooper chuckled while Mr. Aerent arranged his chair. “Assumed you wouldn’t mind.”
Ava and her friends laughed under their breath as Thibold grabbed the purse and gave it a hearty shake. His chair groaned, signaling his arrival into the seat. “Well yes…Uh…I, thank you?” he added, unsure of his choice of words.
Jorel squinted across the table, surveying the leather satchel draped across Mr. Aerent’s chest. A deep scar ran from the bridge of his nose to his ear, joining several smaller lines as they created a mesh of torturous history across his face, along with a permanent expression of annoyance. His stare deepened and his ‘squint’ sharpened as he focused on the odd businessman. Speaking in a brutish tone, like a mouth full of broken gravel, he muttered, waving his hand across the tavern, “’Spose you’ll be on the Promenade with the rest of ‘em?”
Mr. Aerent instinctively clutched tighter at the leather strap, drawing it into his chest. “The Prom…oh, the ship. Yes, I just need to…uh, meet with someone first.” He answered the question, but his mind was still set on the magic trick just performed before his eyes. Thibold turned back toward the mercenaries, all admiring the golden coin. He angled his head in their direction and asked, “did you….is that really a…” he stammered.
“Nah,” Cooper added quickly. “It’s fake. An’ I supposed they’ll be figuring that out pretty quickly. So…you might want to hop on your ship while you can,” he continued, flicking his hand in the direction of the docks. He sprang to his feet and motioned for Jorel to join him. Cooper leaned in to offer Ava a kiss on her pale cheek and a nod to Mr. Aerent.
“What’s in the bag, whitey?” Jorel questioned, refusing to divert his attention.
Thibold’s eyes darted between Taryn and Ava in nervous anticipation. Jorel leaned closer, lusting for whatever answer came first.
“You’ll have to excuse him,” Cooper interrupted, leaning onto the table. He cupped a hand to the side of his mouth and whispered, “We don’t let him out much,” nodding in the direction of his angry-eyed friend.
A fleeting giggle broke the silence as Ava covered her lips in embarrassment. The men at the table all turned their eyes to the young woman…all but Jorel. Ava looked to each of them with her wide, blue eyes, offering an apologetic shrug of her shoulders to remove any further tension. She reached for Taryn’s mug, pulling it from his grasp, to which he offered little resistance.
“Well then,” Cooper added. “And with that, we must bid you ado.”
“My Lady,” he said as he properly addressed Ava. “Cocker,” he added, turning to Taryn. “Time to go to work,” he concluded. Taryn and Ava both let loose a small chuckle as Cooper skipped through the tavern, flying through the crowd and out the door. Jorel followed, but flung curses at the patrons as he shoved his way through.
Ava and Taryn exchanged flirted laughs and quick glances as they looked to Thibold, still adjusting in his seat. Mr. Aerent reached into his robe and pulled out the same slip of paper, mouthing the words to himself.
“Yes, well…I was wondering,” he began. “Would you be able to point me in the direction of Varin Wr…?” Ava slammed her mug onto the table and glared at Thibold. Mr. Aerent jumped, dropping his folded note into his lap. He looked down at the glass, and the maze of fractured cracks that now ran through it. He followed the lines of the glass to Ava’s slender fingers before landing on her wrists, and the horrific raised edges that wrapped their way up her arms. The twisting, darkened ink unfolded across her forearm in an elegant tapestry, though everyone in Kel Doran recognized the mark of a slave.
“Oh, I…I didn’t know you were a…” he began, his words trembling.
Ava stood, placed her palms against the worn wooden surface and leaned across the table. “A what?” she demanded. “What is it you think I am?” Her voice no longer carried a refined, soothing pitch. Her stare, along with her tone, now became one of loathing and insincerity.
Mr. Aerent attempted to stand, the instinctive custom of a proper gentleman, but he merely lost his balance and fell backwards into his seat. His eyes darted to the young girl, but quickly faltered, unable to withstand the intensity of her gaze. Thibold then looked to Taryn, also staring in disapproval, though not with the same intensity.
“Varin Wray?” he concluded, careful to avoid Ava’s gaze.
Taryn’s eyes filled with sorrow as they landed on his young friend. He knew what was to come, and his stomach turned. He stared at the curve of her face and the angle of her chin. He fell into her eyes and longed for his hands to match the contour of her long, flowing hair, and ached knowing that day would never come.
Ava’s stare had not left the business man, nor would it any time soon. Taryn turned to Thibold and stated simply, “He’s not here.” He then looked back across the table, adding, “Ava…we need to go.”
Taryn stood and walked around the table, reaching for Ava’s hand. Thibold reacted and stood as well, dislodging the table and the glasses still resting upon it. Ava backed away like a cornered animal. Her eyes tore through the businessman, relentless daggers. Taryn grabbed her hand and pulled her close, taking her attention away from Thibold.
“Thibold Aerent,” boomed a voice from the shadow of the stairwell. The commotion in the tavern died to a dull rumble as a short, rotund man descended the stairs. He flashed his rings and adjusted his topcoat as his voice thundered over the crowd. “Welcome to Wyvern’s Rest, dear friend.”
Thibold glanced toward Ava once more, but her back was turned, pulled close by her dearest friend. He could make out, however, the unmistakable reflex of a sobbing young girl. He looked back toward the man on the stairs and straightened his robes. “Mr. Wray?” He clutched his satchel and walked around the table, meeting Varin at the bottom of the stairs.
Varin extended his arm toward the balcony, inviting his business partner to continue. Thibold turned around once more, eyeing the young woman in the emerald dress, her back still turned against him. A multitude of thin red lines crisscrossed the pale skin of her back and shoulder, some fresh, others as old as the woman that bore them. The wounds cut deep, yet seemed shallow compared to the emotional scars she carried with her.
Mr. Aerent swallowed nervously as Taryn raised his eyes to meet Varin. Cold and dark, his gaze reflected nothing of the genial man he met mere moments ago. As Mr. Aerent passed up the stairs, Varin turned, his curious eyes landing on the same golden blonde hair and emerald green dress, then followed their curves to the floor with the appetite of a hungry wolf.
After a moment, he overtly cleared his throat for all the tavern to hear. A silence fell over the crowd as Ava’s shoulders slumped and her eyes drifted to the floor.
“You don’t have to do this,” Taryn protested, bending lower to catch her gaze. He grabbed her hands and pleaded, “just run…run away!” His eyes implored her to action while she stared into emptiness.
Varin’s expression grew dire while Ava’s back remained turned. “Am I to assume you’ll keep our guest waiting?” he demanded, crossing his arms across his prodigious chest.
Ava lifted her blue eyes and met those of Taryn. They were wet and solemn, begging of understanding. “And where would I go that he wouldn’t find me?” she asked, placing her hand on his chest. She gently pushed away, spinning out of Taryn’s arms. With her head held low, she passed Varin up the stairs. There was no eye contact, no recognition, just a simple, understated tone of understanding between owner and slave.
Taryn heard a gentle sniff as Ava reached the top stair, followed closely by Varin. As he stared up the empty stairwell, a distant bell rang through the tavern. It echoed off the walls and rattled the glasses, bringing all in the tavern to attention. Without a word, the crowd worked their way to the walls and gathered their belongings. The belly of the inn emptied as dozens of solemn faces flowed out of the crowded room and headed toward the docks. Taryn’s eyes struggled to remove themselves from the stairs as dozens rushed past him, eager to make their exit.
A pain washed over Taryn, like nothing he had ever felt. His stomach turned and his heart ached as his eyes fell upon the giant sails through the windows of the inn. Passengers lined up by the hundreds as the vessel opened its doors to the onrushing crowd. He pulled a small golden charm from under his shirt and ran his thumb over the symbol of a butterfly with a broken wing. A solitary tear released from his eye while his fingernail traced the engraving.
Through broken heart and man's goodbye, a fallen angel learns to fly.
He gently kissed the locket and placed it under his shirt.
“Goodbye, Ava,” Taryn whispered, bowing his head. He turned away from the stairs and shuffled toward the door. With a simple turn of his head, he looked back to the empty stairwell and the table they sat at moments ago, then pushed forward, leaving the comfort of the Guilded Wyrmling Inn…forever.
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Mists of Kel Doran