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Archives: Search for Azala

Chapter 1: Seri’s Mission

    The usual morning fog of the coastal city of Raiden was starting to burn up and it was shaping up to be a sunny day it seemed. That boosted Sairina’s mood only slightly. For the last month, she’d been preparing for a journey, where it lead her, it was anyone’s guess. All she had to do find someone to travel with. At twenty one, the temple told her she had to go out into Lodoss to gain more worldly experience before she could continue any further in the priesthood.

    Sairina was all nerves this morning. She wasn’t even sure where, if or how to find companions. The best idea she had was to go to one of the inns near the Mercenaries’ Guild and see who had any missions she could tag along on. With a shaky hand, Sairina pushed open the door to an inn and slipped inside.

    Orion leaned against the building’s cool stone, hidden within the shadows of the alleyway across from a shabby tavern. His pale blue eyes watched as a women moved hesitantly inside the door and closed it behind her. His long white hair was hidden under the hood of his white cloak, along with his sharp, deathly pale features, which in all his life had never been effected by the sun. Something inside him was tempted to enter, even if he preferred to avoid large crowds and people in general. He could usually keep from drawing a lot of attention. Still, he watched and waited.

    The inn was in less than desirable shape, it was quite dirty and showed signs of many a drunken brawl. However, it was cheap and popular among mercenaries. Sairina steeled herself and strode inside. A couple mercenaries leered, one was brazen enough to make a catcall which his companions chuckled at. Sairina sneered slightly, but didn’t make eye contact with the group as she glided by. Suddenly, a hand snatched her arm and yanked her down into a lap.

    “Well, what an exotic lil’ lass I caught!” the man announced. Even so early in the morning his breath reeked of liquor.

    “Alright, so the place looked better last night,” a male of apparent elvish decent said as he pushed some brown and white hair behind one of his long ears.

    “It did not look better last night, you were just too tired to notice.”

    “Oh it’s not that bad...” the first one said, and then noticed the commotion.

    “Well at least it’s not us this time, Dina,” he said again and looked at his companions. One male and one female. Both of who were obvious elves, though the girl had eyes of different colors.

    “Cara, I could kill you at times. How could you bring us into a place like this? And Rain too! And...” he noticed the girl’s plight and sighed. “I’ll be right back.”

    With that he got up and walked over to the thugs harassing the priestess. “Ah I see you have finally made it,” he said to the girl, he did not know her name, but he thought that they might buy the ruse. From the table Cara sat beside Rain and he was ready to step in if needed.

    A young half-elf girl was sitting on a stool at the bar in the tavern. She shook her head at the display. “Hey boy,” she said to the young man who was trying to help out the young lady. She stood and took a few steps over, putting her hands on her hips. “If that’s yer girlfriend or somthin, you oughta’ take better care of her!” With that she smacked the back of the drunkard’s head with her palm. “Let go! Can’t you tell this girlie’s a priestess? Do you really want Marfa or Falis getting even with you for defilin’ a messenger of god?”

    Surprised at being confronted by two strangers, the brute released Sairina and the priestess hopped to her feet, spun and slapped him with all the strength she could muster. “How dare you treat me like a common whore!” Sairina growled at the man, then took a step back and clasped her hands in prayer.

    “Holy Cha Za, god of Luck and Fortune, let this man learn the error of his ways. Let his luck in love and all trade fail him!” Sairina prayed. The man’s face went sheet white as he realized just what sort of wrath he’d invoked.

    Sairina turned to face the elven man who’d first spoken up and gave him a small smile, “Thank you,” she murmured, then looked to the half-elven girl. “Cha Za bless you both.”

    Dina suppressed his surprise and the only outwards appearance was his widening eyes. Getting himself under control he smiled at her. “Thank you for you blessing, would you care to join us for a while?” he asked her and motioned towards his two companions. He definitely felt sorry for the drunk, this guy was not going to be happy for some time after this. Looking at the other half elf he smiled, “Please, we would be happy for both of you to join us.”

    The girl happily agreed to the invitation. “Sure!” she said. “You look like a nice guy. I’m sorry I cut in on you like that, but these guys don’t take a hint unless you smack them around a little.” She held out her hand in greeting. “I’m Luria! It’s nice to meet you!”

    “And I am Dinalindel, though you may just call me Dina,” He told the two girls with a bow. He looked to the priestess, “Please, if you would,” he said as she motioned towards the table where his companions sat. From the table Caradithil waved to the two girls and for an elf he was large, and had brown and silver hair.

    Rain propped her chin up on her palm leaning her elbow on the table simply watching the barroom and those within it. “How does he do that?” she muttered in astonishment. Here was her Dinalindel, or Dina to her, older brother who had a heart bigger than his brain strolled over to a table, traded a few words of introduction, chased off a fight, and then come trotting back with two women in tow. Rain may just be a simple half-elven but even she had to say she was impressed and just slightly annoyed. Her annoyance grew when she traded a look just saying so to Cara who was stupidly waving like a happy oaf to the women, “And how exactly does the waving help?” she asked with a masking smile on her face raising from her seat abandoning her drink on the table.

    “Hi,” Rain said to the two women determined to be cheerful even if she had to sew the smile to her face with a needle and thread. “Are you two alright? I am Rain. This is Caradithil.”

* * *

    Phaeton entered the inn; the savage was breathing slightly hard from his long run, and desired only water or ale. As he took in the sights, sounds and smells of the place, his blue eyes settled on a table near a wall, it was out of the way and that appealed to him. A few onlookers noticed the warrior step in and made a few remarks, none of which concerned him in the least.

    A server noticed the warrior and shied away as he walked past, another patron made a comment about wild men and quickly turned his face away when his eyes met Phaeton’s. Civilization was so strange to him, people moving so fast, hustling and bustling always there were those who never said what they meant. After sitting down at the table, the warrior reached into his pouch and felt a few bare coins there, remembering what little he’d learned of currency he examined the coins. A server stepped over timidly and spoke. “Um...your order sir?”

    Phaeton looked up at the serving girl and spoke in a calm gentle voice. “I would like...water? Is this enough?” The savage held out more than enough for a tankard of water, as the girl nodded in a bit of confusion and relief.

* * *

    Kitsa had arrived in Raiden just two hours before. Her heart was still pounding heavily in her chest with fear and excitement. She’d wandered around Raiden’s main streets for awhile and tried to get into a few inns, but she didn’t have enough money to afford a night and meal in most nice looking inns. Her funds were a lot lower than she thought they were when she left home.

* * *

    After a moment of standing perfectly still in the dark, watching the lights inside the tavern, Orion moved into the street and to the door, the only sound he made was a slight rustle of his cloak behind him. Hesitating half a second, he turned the knob and stepped inside. For a moment, he was disoriented but quickly regained himself and moved from the doorway, letting it close softly. He took a seat at a table near the corner, avoiding the louder occupants, his eyes on the wood grain of the surface before him. Absently, he heard the many voices, the shuffle of feet and the clinking of glasses but he ignored them all, immersing himself in his own thoughts.

    Phaeton settled back and gratefully accepted the tankard of water the serving girl bought him. As the young savage took a long draught of water, he glanced around at the many tables and studied the faces of the different people there. Finally, his eyes settled on a young woman with a few others, she seemed to carry an air of importance about her and he could just barely hear someone in the crowd say “priestess” and “curse”. A bit curious about just what exactly they meant by curse, but not wishing to pry, the warrior decided it must’ve been some matter of civilized men and took another draught from his tankard.

    When a female server tried to take Orion’s order he merely waved her off without a word. She made some comment about manners she obviously thought he wouldn’t catch. Unbothered, Orion finally looked up to scan the other occupants. He saw a small group that seemed to be gathering at one table but he watched them only briefly before moving on. His eyes fell upon another who seemed to be just as detached from the world as he was, sitting in the opposite corner of the room. Somehow, it was a little reassuring to know he wasn’t the only one.

    Phaeton sighed gently as he began to relax a bit, the long run had actually been a bit further than he’d expected and he had yet to find work. The only thing he knew was tracking and hunting, he had done mercenary work before since his exile, yet the ways of civilization were still so new, strange, exciting and more than a bit frightening to him. Some regarded his strange accent like himself, with curiosity and others with guarded suspicion, glancing around the inn he spied another enter who briefly glanced in his direction. Before Phaeton could return his eyes to any other matters that found his attention he was startled by a sharp slamming sound near him. As the young savage turned, he saw three men guffawing in laughter, as one of the individuals turned in his direction and spoke.

    “Hey you! Are you desert folk? Or do ye have a bit of dark elf in ye? Either way, my companions and I don’t like the look of ye!” Phaeton paid the man no mind and turned back around to finish his drink, a few moments later another slamming sound caught his attention as the fellow shouted, “I’m talking to you! Don’t turn away from me, answer the question!”

    Phaeton turned sharply as he saw the other two men rise from their table, as well as the first lout who reeked of alcohol. Apparently, the inn was full of them this day.

    Orion watched as the drunks stood up near the one he’d been watching. It was amazing how stupidity could take over these people with a little too much to drink. Nonetheless, he thought the man may need some help. Inwardly slapping himself for meddling in others business, Orion rose gracefully, giving a light sigh as he moved over to assist the man. “The manner in which you’re acting could be considered rude, my friends,” he stood just behind the seated man, his voice strangely placid.

    Luria was about to join the others at their table when the drunkards started causing a disturbance. Her easily distracted attention was drawn to the commotion. “Hey look at that,” she said, pointing to the elf and the young somewhat barbaric-looking man. “It seems like everyone’s bound and determined to get in a brawl today! First no respect for a lady of Cha Za, and now a bunch of— of—racists or something? This is starting to make me really angry!”

    She walked up to one of the bar patrons causing the trouble confidently as if she was bigger than him, when in fact he was easily twice her size. “Hey!” she said, nudging him. “You’re making the people of Raiden look bad to these visitors! What is your problem anyway?”

    Phaeton was more than a bit surprised when he heard the voice of another behind him, this one had the long ears of an elf or as his people knew them “spirit-folk” and apparently he was coming to the young savage’s aid. Before Phaeton could make any reply or even move a lovely half-elf woman strode into the midst of the drunken men and soundly began chastising them. She was unafraid to tell these men exactly what she thought of their behavior. Phaeton could not allow such bravery to go unaided; the young man rose from the table and stepped alongside both the elf man and woman.

    The drunken lout, who had started the entire affair seemed taken aback by the young priestess, and especially an elf who’d come to the defense of their target. The man stared at all three individuals and seemed to consider his options a moment as he quaffed another drink from his mug. After downing a gulp or two the brown-scruffy haired individual straightened his slightly faded green tunic and sneered at the woman as he spoke, “Hmph...An elf? Ye shouldn’t even be in a place like this, it’s downright shameful isn’t it, Som? Maybe I should teach her a lesson in minding her own business and put ‘er over my knee for a right good spanking?”

    Phaeton finally had run out of patience and spoke in a very calm and cold voice. Meeting the fellow’s eyes as the other two behind him looked wary. “I know not the ways of this place, but I know that one should respect holy ones and spirit-folk. I wish no trouble, but if you touch either of them, I will see you regret it.”

    One of the men behind the brown-haired man looked nervous and spoke in a hurried voice. “Fyr, let’s not mettle with an elf, they know magics. And a priestess...are ye wishing a curse from the gods upon ye? Let it go and let’s be gone from here.”

    Orion jumped as another came to aid the man and thiner numbers stood at three but he was even more surprised when the man stood up for them both. He smiled inwardly and then put his full attention back on the men.

    “I wouldn’t advise it,” Orion’s calm voice gained a sudden edge of ice as he let the hood drop away to reveal his strangely white skin and white hair, his pale blue eyes narrowed in irritation. He watched the men, ready to defend himself if need be.

    Dina moved to beside Sairina the priestess of Cha Za while Luria spoke to the men and he chuckled. “I was not looking for a fight,” He told them. “But if you want one I am more than willing.” As he spoke he noticed that Orion was making ready for a fight as well, and though he did not know their names, he could not stand to see people get picked on like this.

    With the arrival of another individual, the first agitated drunkards bottom lip quivered as he finally felt his courage fail him. Turning towards his two companions, the foul-tempered fellow decided he’d had enough and spoke. “Hmnph...This place will let anyone in now, first seedy wild men, then elves and little girls that play at being priestesses. Well, I won’t be the one responsible for the call of the guard. We’ll be taking our leave. And as for you dark-skin, we’ll be seeing you later.”

    With another gulp of his drink the man slammed the mug he’d been drinking from down on the table and turned to leave with his two companions. The threat had not gone unnoticed by Phaeton, he had no idea what could’ve caused such malice, but while he would be wary and alert for them should they make good on their threat, he was unconcerned for the moment. For now his main concern was thanking those who’d come to his aid, turning towards Orion and the others the young savage made a short bow and spoke. “I am in your debt, and thank you for your assistance. I am called Phaeton-Sky eyes and I greet you in respect and honor, please allow me to repay each of you by buying you a...what’s the word...Ale. Yes, that is it.”

    As the men walked of, an unbidden annoyance crossed Orion’s features. How quickly they fled once their target did not stand alone. Cowards, he cursed inwardly. Orion turned to Phaeton as he bowed, a slight smile playing briefly across his features. It was absurd to hate someone simply because they appeared different then one’s self. It only led to hate and anger, and nothing good would ever come of such prejudice.

    “Greetings Phaeton. I am Orion and it is an honer to meet you.” he spoke with a slight incline of his head, the icy sting to his voice diminished as if it had never existed.

    Since Dina was still beside the priestess he heard Phaeton and Orion introduce themselves. So he spoke up as well, “Greetings then, I am Dinalindel of the Glassy Woods. My companions at the table over there are Caradithil and Rain. We were about to have a few drinks and some food, but considering how things have gone so far this morning I think it might be good for us all to eat together and get to know one another.”

    Sairina glared after the drunken mercenaries as they left. If she had the chance, she would have put a curse on them all. However, they had been successfully chased off by

    other patrons. She watched them leave, and as the man who grabbed her stormed outside, a thief ran by and snatched his coin purse. The mercenary cursed and drew his sword, only to fumble it in his drunken hands. The sword fell to the ground, and in a twist of poor luck, it broke. Sairina smirked in satisfaction, then turned to all the people who had stood up for her—and the dark skinned mercenary.

    “Thank you again. Cha Za’s blessings on all of you! My name is Sairina Fadriewen, Priestess of Cha Za,” she introduced herself to Phaeton and Orion and gave a graceful curtsy.

    Luria stretched with her hands up in the air confidently and flipped stray strands of her long blonde hair back over her shoulders. “I’m Luria,” she said to everyone again, and then remembered that she’d introduced herself to over half the gathering once already. Oh well, she thought. “So Sairina, what’s a priestess like yourself doing in a place like this? Matter of fact...” she looked around at the odd group beginning to form. “Eh, what’s a buncha elf-kin and a tribe-man doing here? I’m beginning to feel like I don’t stick out so much for once! I’d buy ya’ll a round but I’m flat broke, ya know?”

    “A priestess of Cha Za, what luck...” he said then shook his head at the play on words. “Sorry about that,” he said to her quickly. Dina laughed and then looked to Cara & Rain who were still at the table, but thankfully more relaxed. “Well last night we got in from out of town and Cara though this place looked good. But last night things were a bit rough and we just took it to be a party of some sort. Though I have to admit looking at it this morning this was by far one of the worst choice he’s made. Either that or we were guided here.” Dina shrugged his shoulders. “But regardless I am glad we could be of help today. Now, about that drink... We should have enough for all of us here... But it sill be a stretch.”

    Phaeton smiled at Luria’s comments, and spoke as he studied the faces of everyone present. The young savage was a bit more at ease with these people, many like him were a bit out of place in civilization. “It is my honor and pleasure to meet you all, I have been traveling sometime seeing the wonders of civilization. I am from the Wildlands, and things are very different here. It has been strange yet exciting.”

    “Well, I’m on a mission. My temple has decided I’m ready to travel so that I can gain experience as a priestess,” Sairina explained. “I came here hoping to find a group of adventurers I could accompany. I just didn’t realize how unsavory this place is,” she sneered, looking around at other patrons. “But we’ll see if their drinks are any good,” she replied to Luria, her sneer changing to a friendly smile.

    Dina’s eyes widened, “Well then if your temple has decided it, I would be glad to help, as I know my friends would too. We have been on the road for some time traveling across Lodoss,” he then chuckled, “As for the drinks, I have had better, but this place is not too terribly bad. At least it’s drinkable.”

    Phaeton smiled and spoke in a calm gentle voice, as he moved his long ponytail back playfully. “It would be the height of bad manners to allow a holy one, blessed by the spirits to travel on such a quest without aid. Please, allow me to accompany you and aid you in your quest as well. It is the least I can do for your assistance. It would honor me greatly, though. I fear I do not know of the great one you serve. I ask forgiveness for my ignorance, I fear I know little of civilized customs.”

    Kitsa, the exotic quarter-elf, peeked into an inn that looked far cheaper than all the others. It smelled bad, it looked bad and it was filled with some people who looked bad too, but what else could she afford? She wasn’t even sure if she could afford this!

    Orion smiled through the rest of the introductions, listening intently to each one. When Sairina mentioned needing companions his smile broadened dramatically. “I too would be honored to assist you in your travels. That is if you would permit me to do such,” he bowed slightly, his curtain of hair sweeping over his shoulder. “If so, my services are yours, milady.”Briefly his eyes fell to the exotic woman who now peeked in the door, but they quickly returned to the priestess waiting patiently for an answer.

    Sairina turned her smile to Orion next, “Thank you, you’re welcome to accompany me—or us, I should say,” she said, looking to her new companions. “It seems we’ve all made some new friends in only a few mere moments. Strange how things work out, isn’t it?”

    Sairina noticed the exotic looking woman in red as well. She stuck out just as badly as Sairina did, if not worse. “Perhaps we could make another? She seems lost,” Sairina suggested, drawing everyone’s attention to the newcomer.

    Dina nodded, “She does seem to stick out. I tell you what, lets all get a big table to the side so we can talk, and I will see if this young lady needs any help. Priestess,” he said bowing to her, “Caradithil and Rain from my herd are just over there, I’ll get them over here as well.” As he spoke he pointed to what looked like a half-elven female and a large male elf. But the male had brown and white hair that seemed to be braided in places.

    “Well, you know its smart for girls to stick together,” Luria said to Sairina. “I’d like to come along too if you’ll have me.” She took a seat at the big table everyone was moving to. “I may not look very useful, but I can do all kinds of things! Oh, and if you guys are buying I’ll chip in what I have, though it’s not very much.” She laid out a few coins on the table, enough for a small drink for her and a little more to help cover the others. She figured it wouldn’t have been enough to buy anything useful anyway, so might as well.

    Orion bowed respectfully to Sairina his eyes beaming.“It would be an honor,” he smiled taking a seat at the large table just to the left of Luria, following her lead, and laying a few coins out on the table to help with the drinks. He knew this was odd behavior for himself, but at the moment he felt no reason to distrust any of those he’d only just met.

    Sairina took a seat alongside her new companions at the table Dinalindel directed them too. “Hello,” she said to the two he called Rain and Caradithil. “I’m Priestess Sairina Fadriewen. You are Caradithil and Rain?”

    Rain smiled cheerfully, “Hey, yes, I’m Rain,” she said with a little wave of her hand as the woman pulled along side in a chair. “I see you met my older brother. Well, pleased to meet you. What brings a priest like yourself out into a tavern like this?” Then she stopped pausing for a few moments, tilting her head and arching her brow in adorable display of confusion when the half-elven realized she didn’t know, “Uh, what exactly are you a priestess of, Sairina?”

    Cara stood up to greet her, and for an elf he was tall as he stood 6 foot 7 inches. “Yes I am Caradithil, Cent...” he stopped and realized what he was about to say and then hurriedly changed it. “Sent from the Glassy Woods,” he gave her a smile and hoped she bought that as he didn’t want to explain more right now. Her sat back down beside Rain and hoped to the gods that Rain’s question would mask his blunder.

    Sairina found herself quite enthralled with Rain and Caradithil’s unique appearances. Rain with her mismatched eyes and Cara with his incredible height and motley hair. She didn’t take his near slip of the tongue for anything but a stammer. “I’m a priestess of Cha Za. I was looking for some adventurers to join with for my journey. I have to go out into the world and gain experience before I can progress any further in the priesthood. It seems I’ve already done well in that respect,” Sairina grinned, looking at all the companions she’d stumbled on. “Oh, this is Luria, Orion, and Phaeton,” she introduced the other three to Rain and Cara, then glanced to them and added, “Am I correct? I hope I didn’t get anyone confused...”

    Cara chuckled, “I do believe, my lady, that you have had a lot of good fortune in finding help. I know that Dina would be glad to help and he is fast, he can get you from here to the next city in half the time.”

    Looking at the others Cara said hello to them as well. “Greetings and well met.” He looked over the crew and thought that this was definitely a varied group. Turning back to the priestess Sairina he asked, “So what kind of adventures do they want you to embark on? I know of nothing other than roaming the country side, but I’ve heard that in the Mercenaries’ Guilds they usually have jobs to do. Though I have not gone there yet, I’ve just been overhearing others talk.”

    Dina then left Sairina, Orion, Phaeton, and Luria and then walked towards the newcomer. Considering how this group of drunks had been lately, he decided that he’d attempt to keep from making a scene like they had just been in. However, once he got closer to her he had no clue what he was going to say to her. Stopping just in front of her he paused and considered his words. “Greetings,” he said and hoped he did not sound corny. “I am Dinalindel of the Glassy woods...” he paused and looked at her. She seemed nervous, so he thought that mentioning the priestess would be helpful. “Sairina the priestess said that you might want to join us...” He chided himself mentally over how stupid that sounded. “So, would you care to join us?” As he spoke that time the motioned to where the priestess was as well as several others. “Drinks are on us.”

    Kitsa stared blankly in confusion at Dina. No one had approached her so openly in Lodoss yet. And, his pointed ears definitely drew her attention. “I...I do not know Sairina. Maybe you are mistaken?” she managed, stumbling over the words.

    Dina looked back at her and smiled. “I did not know her that well myself. But you are still welcome to join us. You look like you could use a few ears to talk to.” He motioned towards the table to see if she wanted to follow him or go ahead of him. He gave her a smile and realized that this was definitely turning out to be an interesting day.

    Kitsa broke out into a broad grin. “Thank you! I would like that very much!” she replied exuberantly. “I am Kitsa Stormeyes,” she proudly introduced herself to Dinalindel, putting her hand out to shake.

    Dina shook her hand. “And I am Dinalindel, though you may just call me Dina.” After shaking her hand he told her, “Why don’t you come over and meet the rest of my herd and our new friends.”

    “Yes, you told me,” Kitsa said as he gave his name again. Her eyes drifted to his ears and she almost reached out to touch them. “Are you a elf?”

    Dina chuckled, “I’m sorry I almost forgot I did... and I am like everyone more than I seem.” He looked her over and added, “And I believe Kitsa, that you are more than you let on as well.”

    Kitsa nodded and tucked her hair back behind her ear to reveal that it was pointed. “My father was half-elf,” she replied. “He was from Lodoss. Now I come to explore his homeland.”

    Dina nodded to Kitsa, “I see, so your father was from Lodoss, and your mother was from one of the islands I believe, am I right?”

    Kitsa’s eyes lit to a bright shade of gold and she positively beamed. “Yes! I did not think you would know,” she replied. As they came up to his friends, she looked over the group, which was a wide variety of people. There was a very pale elf dressed all in white, a dark skinned human man in leather, a pretty woman who looked to be of Azarn heritage too in white and jewels, an elven woman who dressed like a ranger (she reminded Kitsa a little of her father), another elven woman with dark hair and mismatched eyes, and another elven man with brown and white hair. “They...are your friends?” she asked Dina.

    Dina chuckled, he didn’t want to tell her that he just made a guess. “Yes,” he told her and pointed to Rain, “This is Rain, My sister,” then he pointed to Cara, the large elf looking make with the white and brown hair. “And this is my friend Caradithil, though we just call him Cara.”

    Cara nodded to her and looked around at the others. “Looks like we have a good start at a lot of fun.”

    Kitsa smiled warmly to everyone at the table. “I am Kitsa Stormeyes,” she introduced herself. “It is a pleasure to meet you.”

    “Hello Kitsa, I’m Sairina,” Sairina greeted her warmly. “Here, have a seat, we were just about to order drinks,” the priestess offered her a seat beside her. The table was filling up quite nicely. It seemed Sairina would have plenty of companions for a journey. At least, if they all had few enough attachments to want to travel together.

    Phaeton was pleased with his new companions, as the young savage waited, he soon noticed Dina return with a young woman who spoke in a graceful fluid voice, as she introduced herself, it was surprising to the young man that her last name was Stormeyes. Phaeton thought about he meaning of it, and wondered. Had she been of his clan or tribe, then it would probably have been a good name for a shaman or the like, regardless of the meaning it was good to finally meet and greet some friendly people in the strange maze of civilization he’d found himself in. Giving Kitsa a slight nod of his head the warrior spoke in a calm and gentle voice, looking her straight in the eyes as he did so. “It is my honor and pleasure to meet you as well, I am Phaeton Sky-eyes. I greet you in respect and honor.”

    For a moment, Phaeton smiled a contented smile as he felt something he hadn’t felt for quite sometime. The warmth of these people, strangers as they were who had come so readily to his aid and their friendly manner was more than he could hope for. It gave him the feeling of belonging and more than that, he actually felt less alone than he had since leaving his clan. Though the only indication of the young warrior’s contentment was the slight, contented smile which crossed his face as he waited for his other companion’s to introduce themselves to Kitsa.

    Orion watched the newcomer with a quiet smile as she introduced herself to their growing group of people, and then listened as Phaeton introduced himself. When no one else was speaking he introduced himself with a slight incline of his head. “I am Orion and it is an honor to meet you, Kitsa Stormeyes,” he greeted simply, smiling. Strange how so many people of different races and background could be brought together with the simplest of events.

    With everyone gathered around the table, Dina found himself sitting between the Priestess and Kitsa. And on the other side of the priestess was Cara and then Rain. Luria was beside Rain and beside the mercenary was the man Phaeton and then Orion. “Well, now this is an interesting group. Sairina, I believe Cha Za has definitely worked overtime for us all to be here. But anyway, do you have any particular destination in mind?”

    Under the table Cara reached over and took Rain’s hand so that no one could see it. “Dina’s right, do they give you any other instructions other than go out and see the countryside?”

    Sairina shook her head in response to the two Glassy Woods men. “The destination is my choice, though they would prefer it if I travel as much as possible. I really don’t know where to go. I came looking for any company of warriors bound for the road. As long as they were the savory folk, at least.”

    Kitsa looked into Phaeton’s eyes as he greeted her and noticed that his eyes were sky blue, like his name. Did his people have the same naming as hers? Her eyes were still a bright gold, giving no one a clue as to her name’s meaning yet. “Thank you, all of you,” she said, a blush starting to show on her dark cheeks.

    “Well travel is not a problem,” Dina told her. “We’ve been traveling across Lodoss for a short time now but we are always interested in seeing more.”

    Cara nodded, “He’s right we just came in from the Glassy Woods last night, and the night before we were down in Moss.”

    Dina shot him a look akin to shouting “shut up,” though he did not open his mouth. For those familiar with the area they would know that this trip should have taken several days to a week, not two days as Cara had just said. Grumbling at his friends blunder he turned his attention to Kitsa, “Well... He’s exaggerating things a little... But um... Anyway... Don’t worry about thanking us, it’s always fun to meet new people.” He looked around at the group while Cara wisely remained quiet for now. “Since we are just going to be wandering around you’re welcome to go with us... Um... ” he realized what he had done and had stuck his foot in his mouth. If a group were to go with them then they would all know of the secret.

    Phaeton found the behavior of his new companions a bit strange, but very pleasing. The young savage chuckled slightly at Dina and Cara’s foray, then caught himself immediately, and went back to his quiet demeanor. Glancing around, the young man noticed several more of the inn patrons talking, eating and coursing. So many people in a closed place was apt to make him a bit uncomfortable, turning towards the others he spoke almost absently. “Mmmn..I look forward to our journey, I can offer my services as warrior and tracker, I know some simple herbal uses and cures if that will be of help.”

    “I would love to travel with you!” Kitsa said. “I have no one else to guide me, I’m afraid I would be lost if it weren’t for you.” She told the group.

    “Well,” Luria interjected in the conversation, “I’m a traveler by trade! Or... I wish I were anyway. I want to be an explorer, to map unmapped territory and write travel novels! Of course umm... I haven’t done anything all that interesting yet...” She gave a nervous smile. All she’d really done on her travels so far is visit the different cities of Lodoss. “But this sounds like the perfect chance to do something unique!”

    “Well then...” Cara said with a grin as he looked to Phaeton, Kitsa and Luria. “It looks like we have a number of people that would love to travel with you Sairina. That is if you want. There are really only two questions to be asked then...” he said and paused for a dramatic effect then noticed no one was interested in a dramatic effect. “That’s who all is going and when are we going?”

    Dina sighed as he knew that there was no way out and eventually everyone that went with them would know their secret, and he thought it was funny how one simple thing has caused them to blow their cover like this. “There is one other thing. For those that go with us, make sure you have horses, because only Cara and I will be walking. The rest of you won’t be able to keep up.”

    “I have a horse waiting for me at the temple stables,” Sairina replied, then looked at Dina in confusion. “Why would you two be the only ones walking?” It didn’t make sense to Sairina, maybe these two were just cocky? Maybe they liked to run or they had a fast pace? She didn’t have a clue.

    Dina leaned over closer to the priestess. “We’re um... not exactly elves...” He said softly to her. “And I can jog three times faster than any horse out there can run.” He then smiled as he sat up again. “Let’s just say that when we leave, you will be surprised.”

    Kitsa was just as confused as Sairina. She looked at their other companions for hints on what was going on, but got nothing. “I do not have a horse,” she said, but she still sounded very confused.

    Cara chuckled, “Don’t worry, I will be carrying Rain, so Dina can carry you.” He then noticed their confusion and grinned weakly... “We’re really fast runners...”

    As the conversation continued, Phaeton spoke as he was curious about their companions. “I...usually run myself, but I think I may have enough to purchase a horse. I am not sure about...currency fully, it is still new to me. But, not to pry friend Dina and Cara yet, if you run won’t carrying any of us be tiring to you? But, I should not ask such a thing you are spirit-folk, and I should respect your privacy, my apologies. My people, use a few horses yet mostly other warriors as myself run when hunting or traveling, though I am not adverse to riding one.”

    Sairina still wasn’t quite following Dina and Cara. They were going to run AND carry two people? Well, she’d just have to see what they were talking about. “Perhaps I can get a few extra horses from the temple. Luria, Orion, do either of you have horses?” the priestess asked.

    Orion looked to her quietly with a slight shake of his head. “I’m afraid not,” he responded with a coy smile. “I’ve always traveled on foot,” he explained to the priestess politely.

    “Me either,” Luria answered. “Uhh... I couldn’t afford to feed one, ya know?” she scratched her head. “And those two sound just plain batty. Oh well... Maybe mister Orion and me could split one or somethin?”

    Cara looked at Rain then Dina and sighed. “Alright, well. it is not a big secret. well it is but it isn’t. I mean you would find out when we leave anyway.”

    Dina ground his teeth, “Just spit it out.”

    “We’re not really what you see in front of you. we’re centaurs of the Glassy Woods; Dina, Rain and I are of the same herd.” Cara looked at those assembled, they would either laugh or believe them. and given the circumstances, it does seem hard to believe. But when they go to leave seeing will be believing.

    “Wow,” Luria gasped in amazement and leaned over the table. “How rare!” she squealed. “I’ve never met a centaur before, even in the woods I couldn’t find one!” She realized her rudeness and sat back down in her chair, blushing. “Excuse me!” she said. “I just get a little exited sometimes.”

    “Cen..Centauur...Centaur? I am confused, what—who are centaurs? I have never heard the like, are your people not spirit-folk like elves?” Phaeton was a bit confused, he’d never heard the term before but it seemed to mystify his companions when the term was mentioned. Not that he had any problems with it, whatever it meant. He was more than a bit curious, since most of the tales he’d heard from the shaman’s of his clan had only mentioned elves and a few other creatures but the term “spirit-folk” was usually applied to anything they didn’t understand which wasn’t human or those races of long years. The young savage, smiled as he spoke and was equally curious at the term.

    Kitsa was even more uncertain than Phaeton. She’d never heard of centaurs from her father’s stories. And what about that made them faster than humans? They looked like elves to Kitsa. “Yes, what are centaurs?” she asked as well.

    “Centaurs?” Sairina asked, her eyes were wide with surprise. The need of horses made sense now, but she didn’t know if she could fully trust them or not, seeing as how they appeared to be elves. They must have a spell to transform them. Sairina admittedly didn’t know much about Centaurs, but much more than most people at the table. “Centaurs are a race that appear to be half-elf and half-horse. I was taught at the temple that Marfa created them during the War of the Gods. I have seen one before from Blue Dragon Island. You must have some sort of spell to change your form?”

    Rain grimaced. These two were like big kids they could never keep a secret for too long without feeling like they were about to explode. And for their trouble the half-elf cheerfully stomped one foot each for the boys. Conveying the question of why did they have to tell this new group of strangers their guarded secret when they were exposed in such a public place.

    “Yeah, well,” she coughs forcing another smile, “I’m actually the adopted one. I’m just half-elven.” Then she looked Kitsa and Phaeton with surprise. “You don’t know what centaurs are? They noble people of the forest that aren’t often seen by others. But in essence they are like elves with the lower half of a horse.”

    Dina smirked at Luria and the others before he was kicked in the leg. “Ouch.” he said and rubbed his leg for a moment. “Well, we don’t usually like being found which is why we make ourselves look this way. it’s a lot easier for people to see us as elves.”

    Cara rubbed his leg, though he didn’t show any other outward appearance of being kicked. “They’re right.” He said nodding towards Sairina and Rain. “We look much different than we do now.” He looked up at the ceiling. Chuckling he told them, “The ceiling is a bit low in here otherwise I would show you my true form.”

    After hearing the explanation, Phaeton smiled and spoke. “Ahh...then you are spirit-folk as the elves, only a different type. I am even more honored than before, the sharing of your secret is not an easy thing, I can tell. None will learn of it from me, even unto my death. I promise this on my very totem.”

    “Indeed,” Sairina replied. She was certainly anxious to see them change, but she contained it. However, the question of where they were going was still abound. “Now that we have all found each other, what do we do? I am content to follow you where ever you choose, so long as it takes me out of Raiden.”

    Half horse and elf? Now Kitsa was very curious and uncertain. She had to see it with her own eyes before she believed it fully. Kitsa sat silently as Sairina asked about a plan, but she was just as direction-less as the priestess.

    Dina gave Phaeton a smile, “Thank you, but you do not need to be that drastic... I hope.” With that Dina sighed, “Well I guess you all know now. So, what do we do now? Since Sairina needs adventure and traveling; we are able to help with at least the traveling bit. And apparently interesting things seem to happen around us, so we are bound to find at least a little action along the way.” He rubbed his hands together and drained the contents of his mug. “It is still rather early in the day, should we head out today or in the morning?”

    Cara nodded his agreement. “I’m ready to go any time. I would welcome the chance to stretch my legs.”

    Though Orion listened tentatively to the conversation around him, he had gone silent, receding into himself to regain his usual posture. He’d never become totally comfortable or familiar with society and especially not with others. Even around such friendly people he was uncertain and slightly defensive.

    Phaeton was extremely pleased with his new companions. Now part of a small adventuring company in a sense, he had a new feeling of belonging and purpose. Glancing around the tavern once more the young savage longed to be outside under the sky, the open air would do wonders for him. Turning to his companions he smiled and spoke in a smooth calm voice, an idea came to him and it seemed wise to share it with them. “My friends, perhaps we might find purpose at the Mercenaries Guild, they might have jobs or the like we could accept. If it is travel and adventure we seek, I think perhaps that would be the most likely place to begin.”

    Sairina didn’t see this group as the mercenary sort, but perhaps they’d find something they could all feel comfortable doing. “It would be a fine starting point,” Sairina replied to Phaeton. “Does any one here have guild membership? The Raiden guild prefers to only give jobs to guild members. So many non-members go there looking for work only, they’ve limited jobs to members. They can officially hire anyone who has membership, and the rest of us would just be tag alongs. If we find anything all of us can agree on.”

    Dina chuckled. “Going to the guild sounds interesting, and as for tagging along, eh why not? We’ve got no where else we need to be and we can help make the trip faster.”

    Cara added to that, “As for the three of us, we have no real guild memberships yet.” He looked at the group. “So who has a membership?”

    Phaeton smiled as he spoke, the young savage actually had a membership, though he couldn’t read or write, fortunately someone at the guild had been kind enough to aid the young warrior on the sign-up procedure. Phaeton glanced towards Dina and spoke, as he was anxious to finally get outside. “I am registered with the guild, I’m sure that will serve our needs. Shall we go my companions? Forgive my impatience tend to prefer open sky to the confinement of these civilized walls.”

    “I don’t have one either,” Luria said. “I usually end up on mercenary jobs just by lucky accident. But... maybe we could just go there and ask one of the members if they’d like to join us. It’s not every day you get a whole range of fighters and a priestess just up and offer to help, not to mention having a bunch of cute girls in the party doesn’t hurt things either. I bet lots of people would want us to work for them.”

    “I just arrived in Raiden, I do not have any guild memberships,” Kitsa said. She did know a thing or two about guilds. There were merchants guilds and sailors guilds on her island, but no mercenary guild, of course.

    Orion was vaguely fascinated by all this guild talk. He’d heard of them but never bothered joining any. He didn’t like to stay put or usually tell anyone who he was. Still He smiled slowly at the idea. It would be good to travel with others and not on his own for once.

    “Well, I suggest that Phaeton and I go down to the guild,” Sairina said. “I’m certain we can find all of us a good adventure. Since he’s the only one with membership, and I’m a Cha Za priestess, they’ll let us in. Phaeton?”

    Phaeton turned towards the priestess and the young savage smiled and spoke in a calm gentle tone. “Yes, I believe that would be a good idea. I am certain that there should be some sort of job open for us at the guild. The Guild Master was most helpful in assisting me when I needed membership.”

    With that the Phaeton rose from the table and prepared to escort his companion as they prepared to head to the mercenary guild. As he rose, Phaeton’s ponytail brushed a passing barmaid by chance; the young woman stopped and glanced at the savage. Giving a brief smile she then hurried about her duties, a table not far from them burst into roaring laughter as a patron told a rather salty joke. Phaeton didn’t get most of the inflection of the joke, unfortunately most of it was lost on him. Most of it having to do with rouge and a merchant’s daughter, the table denizens found something hilarious about the whole tale. Phaeton looked confused then spoke in a completely near lost voice, as he had no idea what was so funny. “ not understand civilized people sometimes. By the wind spirits, what is so funny? I’m afraid, I don’t understand.”

    Sairina heard the joke as well, but stuck her nose in the air. “Nothing, it’s just low and crude,” she replied to Phaeton as she led him out. The pair left the inn and walked down the block to the guild.

    Luria moaned out of sudden boredom and laid her head on the table. “Actually the last time I tried to join a guild they wouldn’t even take me seriously. Hmm... but if this adventure thing is real out of the way won’t we need some supplies? And horses as we said earlier... and other things that require money...”

    “I believe the priestess offered horses from her temple,” Kitsa said. “I do not have much money for supplies, but I do believe I have everything I need.”

    “Good,” Dina said and smiled at the others. “Well since they have gone to the guild... I guess we are left up to our own devices.” he looked around the table at Orion, Kitsa, and Luria. “You all know that we are just travelers, but what do you all do for a living?”

    Cara butted in, “Well as for other supplies we should have enough... Not to mention ways of getting more on the road.”

    “I suppose you’re right,” Luria said. “I’m just really surprised that they’d give us horses and stuff. It’s not cheap, and temples really don’t have a whole lot of sources of income.” She tried to dismiss the issue she had brought up. Maybe it wasn’t that the demand sounded unreasonable, but that she was so poor it seemed like a lot. “Well,” she continued, “I’d like to say I’m a professional explorer, but err... I haven’t ever actually been on an expedition. I can do just about anything from drawing maps to hunting game, but I don’t get a whole lot of that kind of work. You see I’m not educated, so I can’t get a thinking job. But I am smart, and that means people don’t hire me for grunt work. They all want to hire some brainless thugs that can’t hardly count, like these pleasant folk over here.” She grimaced and pointed behind her into crowd of drunk bar patrons making their crude jokes. “That’s why I’m jumping at the chance to join you all.”

    Kitsa shrugged at Luria’s comment. “Sairina does not look like one who lives on a small income,” she said. The priestess was adorned with gold and jewels and wore silk. Cha Za was the god of trade, so perhaps his temple was richer than others. Kitsa wouldn’t know from experience, there were only shrines to Marfa, Falis and Myrii on her island and only one in the port actually had priests.

    “I have never left home before,” Kitsa told the others, since Luria seemed to be starting off with stories of herself. “But my father was from Lodoss. He left me a map, his sword and money when he died so that I may come here.”

    Cara stole a glance at Rain as Luria mentioned having cute girls in the party. He could definitely not argue with that. Looking at those that were left at the table Cara agreed. “It is not every day that something like this happens... Especially not everyday that so many find out about our secret at one time.”

    When Kitsa mentioned her father dying a deep sadness passes over Cara’s eyes. Dina knew what his friend was thinking about when that was mentioned and he knew that Rain would understand too if she saw it. Trying to get his friends mind off the past Dina decided to try and change the subject some. “Well it is a good thing that you are here. Otherwise we would be short a person for whatever job they come back with.”

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