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Archives: Hunt for Kiran

Chapter 9: Tiger Lily Inn

    Thiana entered the Tiger Lilly Inn and looked around. There was quite the crowd tonight and she figured she might be able to make enough for traveling and lodgings in one night. Heading to the counter she lightly knocked on the it. Theros stopped by her side and kept an eye on the room. “I’d like a room, hot bath, and meal for the night, please. Would you allow me to put on a performance tonight for the patrons since I have no money?” She was just glad to be here, though she also wanted a hot bath before anything. That could wait until this was dealt with. The last time she was here was at least ten years ago. Still, it felt like a long time to her.

    The innkeeper scrutinized Thiana for a moment. “You look familiar...” he said, but he couldn’t remember. “Have ye been here before?”

    Thiana laughed lightly, this was probably expected since it had been so long. She brushed her hair back a little and replied, perhaps she needed to remind him of last time, “I come here every ten years. It’s me, Thiana, and this is my companion, Theros. I was hoping we could keep the same arrangement this trip, I told you I would come back with some new pieces last time.” She felt at home here. This place had always been kind to her. Of course, the information she sought may be here, though she would first earn her keep and then start searching.

    “Ooh...Thiana. Well, I can’t say I remembered yer name, but it’s good to see ye again,” the innkeeper said with a smile, but his expression dropped a bit. “I’m afraid I have a bard already...though he should have been down here by now.”

    He turned around and grabbed a broom from behind the bar, then walked out from behind it, heading towards the stairwell. “NAT!” he shouted once, but got no reply. Then he started tapping the broom handle on the ceiling. “Nat, git yer ass down here or I’m givin’ someone else yer job!” he warned, but there was no reply. The innkeeper grunted and turned back to Thiana. “Well, if he ain’t down in five minutes, then the job’s yours.”

    Thiana wondered who the bard he had was when he mentioned they had one already. Perhaps they were just as good as her. Though she kept her hopes high and smiled, this search had gotten off to a bad start already. “Good to see you too, it’s been too long. I won’t keep you from the other customers much longer. I’ll be ready quickly in case they don’t show up. I just need to watch the crowd; helps me decide on what pieces I am going to use. Thanks.”

    Picking up her bag, Thiana slung it over her shoulder. At least her clothes were alright after being thrown into the water. While she waited for the time to pass, her eyes scanned the crowd. There was even a grassrunner here.

* * *

    “You drink like a fish Mia,” Midau chuckled. “Take it easy or else you’ll wake up with the drinker’s curse.”

    “Meh, I’ve woken up with plenty of things. It takes more than two or three ales to get me buzzed,” she replied to Midau. A new dark elf had entered the inn with a dog in tow. Mia almost expected the animal to get thrown out, but the innkeeper didn’t seem to mind. “Geez, is this like the elf hub of town?” she mused.

    Midau snorted at Mia’s joke. “I’m going to go get something to fill my belly more than ale.” The dark elf stood from his chair and went to the innkeeper with a small request for food for himself and Bella. He was sure that Bella wouldn’t eat meat, so he ordered a medium salad and some potatoes for her, as for himself he ordered a large enough meal to fill him, unlike his picky eating in Roid the day before.

    With his order in place, he returned to the table past the new dark elf that entered the inn. Midau wasn’t one for mixing more company, however, since she was alone save for her dog, he figured she’d need a bit more company. “You can sit with us if you’d like,” Midau said at Thiana’s table. “We do have room for one more, if that is to your liking. If you’d prefer to sit alone, that is alright too.”

    Without further word or waiting for her to answer verbally, Midau returned to his table with a broad smile. “Ooh, I do hope the potatoes are good here. It’s been a fortnight since I’ve had some decent potatoes.”

    Thiana heard Midau’s offer and thought for a second. Even though she might be starting in five minutes some company would be nice. Looking over to the table she stood up, she would join them. She walking over to the table she smiled, Theros was a little on his guard however.

    “Calm down Theros, you’ve really been edgy since we arrived. We’ve got no enemies here, at least I’d like to think so,” she spoke to Theros, kneeling down a little to pet him. Perhaps it was because of that incident. Still, they both just needed to relax, hopefully the work would come through. Standing up, she smoothed her clothing. “Thank you for the offer, I’ll take you up on it. I’m Thiana and this is Theros, nice to meet you,” she addressed the table, though the first bit was more for Midau then anyone else.

    “I guess elves feel more comfortable outside their forests now,” Azala said in a passive tone. In all honesty, he was formulating a plan to skip out without the others knowing. He really didn’t want to go to one particular forest. “Hmm, a bard eh? And of what stories do you intend to sing about?”

    Thiana had not thought much about that. This performance would have to have many of her newer songs in it. She also would do some dances. Making up her mind quickly, she answered, “I plan on doing some of the more inspiring legends in song, as well as some that are rather whimsical. I have several new ones since I was last here. I also dance, if there is room. I have one I like to call the ‘blade dance’, though I rarely show it.” Perhaps this time, if enough room could be cleared, she would showcase something that was for combat or entertainment. She found a seat and sat; this group seemed quite well-humored.

    “A blade dance? Sounds interesting,” Mia commented. She and Azala had finished their own dinner when Midau and Bella arrived, so they didn’t need to order again. She reached over to pat Theros’s head. Canines were her favored animal companion ever since she and Lucied ended up together. Her wolf never came into towns, however, he always preferred to retain some of his freedom and took care of himself while she was in the city. Lucied wasn’t exactly fond of humans anyway, since according to his previous companion, the dark elf Felor, Lucied’s entire pack had been slaughtered for their coats when he was just a pup.

    Approximately five minutes had passed with no sign of the other bard, so the innkeeper came over to Thiana and tapped her on the shoulder. “You can set up now, if ya like. Looks like Nat’s drank himself into a stupor,” he told her.

    “It is quite dangerous, it is also an art that can be used in combat,” Thiana quickly replied to Mia when the innkeeper came over. At his news she seemed quite happy. Standing up and excusing herself, she made one last reply; she could not leave so rudely, “I hope you all enjoy the show, it was a pleasure meeting you all. Now if you’ll excuse me, I must prepare for the show.”

    Theros felt comfortable at Mia’s touch. He got up and headed off with his mistress, though he gave Mia’s hand a friendly lick before leaving.

    “A blade dance, huh?” Azala mused, thinking about that. It didn’t sound terribly familiar, but then again, he was more about history rather than martial history. He could guess where it came from from what it was called. Probably Flaim, or just simply foreign to Lodoss altogether When she left, he gave a light nod. “Fairly attractive, no?”

    Mia nodded and watched Thiana with an appraising look. “Not too bad,” she agreed with Azala.

    Midau shrugged. “I’m not one for performing arts.” He ate his food while he listened. His mind was still stuck on the past too much to pay much attention to the present. “How’s your meal Bella?” he asked offhandedly between mouthfuls.

    “It’s good,” Bella replied, not caring to comment on Thiana’s attractiveness.

* * *

    Thiana went and got ready, changing into something more loose and flexible once she had secured a room for privacy. She had to make sure everything was just right. After this it might be another ten years before she performed here again. Once she was ready, she returned to the common room and sat down, pulling out her flute she opened with a folk melody that her mentors had taught her just before they died.

* * *

    After being turned down from several other inns, the travelers were getting quite tired and anxious to find a place to stay. At least Olula was. As they passed the Tiger Lily Inn, Olula thought to give it a chance. “Let’s check this one,” she said, and without waiting for a reply, she left her horse on the street and went inside.

    Upon entering, Olula was shocked to see the patrons already there. A dark elf, a common elf, another common elf (though she seemed rather dark skinned for one), and what looked like an elven child were sitting around a table. Further back in the room, a dark elven bard was performing! This seemed like the perfect place.

    Eagerly, Olula turned around with a broad grin and waved to her companions. “Come on! I think we’ve found the place!”

    The half-dark elf strode into the inn confidently and found a man who looked to be the innkeeper. “Pardon me, but would you happen to have room for six?” she asked.

    “I could probably squeeze you in, so long as your friends don’t mind sharing rooms,” the innkeeper replied, without hesitation for Olula’s race.

    “We don’t mind at all. We have three women and three men. We have two horses to stable as well.”

    “Well...we have no more than two beds per room, but if a lady and a fella won’t mind sharing a room, I could book you for three. I’ve got a small stable in back with room for yer horses.”

    “Alright, I’ll let them figure out it,” she replied, then turned around to see if her companions were coming in after her.

    Flora jumped off Keyo and walked into the inn. As soon as she entered, she saw a few elves. “More elves,” she said softly to herself as she walked over to Olula. She stood to the side, keeping her mouth shut.

    Krisatris, Trent, and Thangroth came in momentarily and Olula informed them of the room situation. It was decided that Trent and Thangroth would share a room, Flora and Krisatris another, and Olula would share a room with Kiran. She trusted the dark elf now, and expected that he would allow her privacy for changing. Perhaps she could make a little time for her shamanist training. Three rooms were purchased, as well as two stalls in the stable, and this time Trent volunteered to take the horses back to the stable.

    Kiran had followed his companions around town, but not on the streets. He had been traveling by rooftop to avoid being bumped into. He trailed them to an inn and waited momentarily from the roof across the street to see if this inn would have them. When the entire group went inside, it seems things had either taken a turn for the better, or for the worst. However, Trent soon emerged and led the horses behind the inn to the stable. It seemed they had a place to stay for the night.

    Still cloaked in invisibility spirits, Kiran dropped down from the roof and stepped into the inn. He didn’t want to drop their protection just yet, at the risk of scaring the innkeeper or his patrons.

    Bella was quietly enjoying the bard’s performance when the group entered, and she spared them little more than a glance. A dwarf and two more half-elves, she noticed. Then something caught her spiritual senses. There was a strong concentration of spirits...invisibility spirits! Midau warned her back in Roid to be aware of them. Bella leaned over and grabbed Midau’s hand. “I sense invisibility spirits!” she whispered.

    Midau shot out of his seat when he heard the news. He had almost forgotten to be wary in case Mica was on his trail again. His sudden start knocked his seat to the ground with a loud thud. He looked around the inn, keeping his hands on the hilts of the swords at his side. Although his usual calm face hadn’t shown much change in expression, his eyes displayed fear of the impotence of not being able to sense the spirits himself. “Where?” he demanded of Bella.

    Mia felt the tingle as well, and it sent a chill up her spine. “I sense it too, near the door,” Mia said. She didn’t know why Midau was so scared, but she wasn’t exactly fond of strange dark elves creeping around her invisible. She bowed her head and raised a hand over her lips, then began to chant; “Spirits of Invisibility, reveal what you hide.”

    Suddenly, the invisibility spirits lost their hold on Kiran and the dark elf was visible to all again. He paused in mid-stride, frozen in fear, and looked around the room. A dark elf he didn’t recognize had stood up and was about to draw his swords, and at the table the dark elf had been sitting at, there was a woman with long, pale blonde hair and a pair of very familiar ears. Oh Falaris...I’m in for it... Kiran cursed silently.

    Mia turned around to see what she had uncovered, and for a moment, she only stared, utterly dumbfounded. Kiran...

    Thangroth yawned then stretched, and had planned on listening to the bard play, but that wasn’t to be. No sooner had Trent had gone outside to take care of the horses than things began to move. A dark elf quickly stood and pulled steel, looking around as if he were going to be attacked. And what made things all the more interesting was who appeared...Kiran.

    Another elf, a woman with blonde hair, was also alerted and it seemed that the mysterious dark elf whom Thangroth and his companions had known for only a short time was in for it. The red-haired dwarf almost cursed. As much as he hated to admit it, they owed the dark elf. If the fellow with blades or any of the others were going to jump him, he’d need help. Thangroth hefted his hammer and calmly walked over to Kiran, making no sudden movements. The dwarf looked at Kiran and said, not taking his eyes off any of the others for a moment, “Kiran...what’s all this then? You know these people?” All he wanted was some sleep and good food. He hated it when things went like this.

* * *

    Thiana had been singing at the moment this started. Seeing Kiran appear she paused a second and then carried on. Smiling as she sang, her eyes looked his way, though she reached for her flute and started into a part of the song that had no words. Trying to calm those who had drawn weapons with the instrument’s magic, she played in the direction of the potential fight. She could not interrupt her performance even to defend Kiran.

    Theros stayed close to her. Of course, she was considering sending him to Kiran’s side to help him. A fight right now would ruin the evening for everyone, perhaps it was also time to roam. Moving from the performing area she moved around the tables playing, pretending to be stretching her legs for her upcoming dance with the walking.

* * *

    Kiran... Midau’s eyes narrowed. Kiran was the name of Mica’s father, the reason for a lot of Mica’s anger. One of the worst things that could happen now was if Mica was to walk in. Midau was sure that the assassin child of the man who now stood uncloaked by invisibility spirits would have a delightful time on his hands, having two of his enemies in the same place at the same time. When Thiana changed to the flute, Midau’s ears twitched. He was a flute player himself, but for some reason the melody irritated his sensitive ears. A calming sensation started to come over Midau, a sensation that was far from pleasant because he knew he should stay on guard. Mustering a bit of will he bit his lip until it bled and kept his crimson eyes on Kiran. With the pain in his lip overriding the calming sensation, Midau’s head remained clear.

    Despite the bard’s choice of instrument, the calming spell it created wouldn’t hold back Mia’s rage. The elf had suffered too much at Kiran’s hand to be calmed so easily. After her moment of shock wore off, she launched out of her seat and charged Kiran with all the speed an elf could muster. To avoid the dwarf placed in front of him, she leapt up over the dwarf’s head and came down at Kiran with her fist.

    Kiran hadn’t noticed Thiana. In the moments that passed before he became visible, he had been focused entirely on Mia and her companions. As she flew towards him, fist drawn back to punch him, he didn’t dare move. His instincts told him to dodge, but his desire to make amends told him to take everything she had to dish out for him. He deserved it after all. Mia came down, and her fist connected with Kiran’s cheekbone, sending the dark elf crashing back into the barstools.

    Midau cursed, and ran to collect Mia from pummeling Kiran. He was sure that the dark elf deserved it, but he didn’t want to incite the anger of the tavern keeper—that would be the second inn he was kicked out of in a day. He locked his nerve-dead arm around Mia’s upper torso grabbing a hold of her left shoulder, and his left arm underneath her left armpit with his left hand grabbing the back of her head. “Calm down Mia,” he said as soothingly as possible. “Whatever the beef between you and he is, he’s not worth the effort.”

    Mia pulled against Midau, but the dark elf had her held fast. She didn’t feel like hurting him to try to escape, if she could some how slip out of his grip. “Not worth the effort?” Mia growled. “If you had any idea what that asshole put me through, you’d let me pound him into a grease spot!”

    Thangroth barely had time to turn around before the elf woman had smashed his companion in the jaw and sent him flying into the barstools. There wasn’t time to move before one of the woman’s companions was trying to pull he maddened elf off Kiran. The dwarf looked confused and didn’t move, waiting to see what the situation brought fourth. Things were unfolding quickly and he watched as he replied, “I say…that means yes to my question eh Kiran?” It appeared to be something private between the woman and Kiran and the dwarf moved off to the side with wide eyes, deciding interfering in this matter would be utterly foolish. However if one of her companions entered the fray then he might reconsider…maybe.

    “I’ll need a momentary break. I’ll pick up right after this matter is resolved,” Thiana stopped playing and quickly commented to the innkeeper. She stopped beside the dwarf and sighed. Perhaps tonight had not been the best night. Looking to Kiran she frowned. Had he become this pathetic? “To think you’d let someone hit you like that, is that what’s become of the Kiran I once knew?” Offering her hand she moved closer, trying to help him.

    Kiran rubbed his sore cheek. It would definitely bruise up, and he earned it. Suddenly, he was shocked to see another familiar face above him, a woman who had been his lover once. He had called upon her many times in the forest a few years ago, and left her when he became bored of her. Apparently she didn’t take it too hard to be so friendly to him again. She didn’t know that at the same time, he had Mia locked up in his house.

    “That Kiran is dead,” he replied to her, and refused to take her hand. Instead he stood on his own, using the bar behind him for support. “I deserved that punch, and any more she has to offer,” he stated, looking at Mia.

    Olula stood back, left utterly confused as to the problem with her new tutor. She thought that the elf woman might have had a grudge against dark elves, but her friend was a dark elf too. What had Kiran done to her? Olula had a hard time imagining him as a someone who could incite that sort of rage.

    Krisatris’s hand went to her sword hilt after Kiran was attacked, but she stayed her hand after learning that lesson in Vedun. She was just as confused as Olula as to why. “Kiran, what’s going on?” she asked.

    Midau grunted but held Mia back. “First off Mia, while I don’t exactly condone people like Kiran, I’m not about to let you break him in half because of something he did in the past. His son will be more than happy to do that for you, and probably a whole lot more.” The very thought of Mica made Midau shiver, relaxing his grip momentarily.

    Thiana was surprised by his reaction, though she knew about more of his enemies. The very least she did not want to see him die, which was why she was glad to see him. “Still, to see you’re alive is good. I guess you don’t want to know why I sought you...” She sighed and gave him some space. Would Kiran let Mica come if he knew about the threat that he posed? If so, then she had to protect him. What would it take to get him to realize she did not care what he was like now?

    Midau’s words made her stop and look to Midau, so he knew Mica too. “Mica... Kiran, we have to get out of here soon. Your son Mica seeks to kill you. I just want you to see our son, even for a day it would mean a lot to me...” Thiana hated the thought of what would happen if Mica found him here. She was lucky to have gotten thrown off of the ship like it happened. Now she had to convince him to run and try to make amends some other way..

    “Wait...what?” Kiran said, confused by the talk of sons. “Who is this Mica, is he your son?” he asked Thiana, but quickly realized that their relationship had been too recent. “No...I don’t suppose so. You had my child?”

    “His son, huh? Well, I bet there are plenty of women and kids out for his blood,” Mia said with a smirk. She turned her attention the bard, who moments before she had been so kind to. “And you, do you have any idea what sort of man this is?”

    “That’s the son I was talking about,” Midau groaned. He shook his head and released Mia. “If Mica’s on his way here, then Kiran’s as good as dead. He was my student after all.”

    Thiana looked to Mia and wondered what she was talking about; if Kiran was not who she thought he was it still would not matter. He did not deserve to die. If anything he deserved a chance to make good on his past. “What kind of man is he then? Just what has he done that makes you hate him so much? If it really is that terrible then he deserves some pain, though he still deserves a chance to change.”

    Thiana caught Midau’s words and grit her teeth. Mica would kill her too for helping him. Still she could not hate a man who did not hurt her for his past, though it was wise to listen to those who may hate him. What Mia had to say, she would listen to, so she refrained from saying anything more about Kiran. “I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Mica already. I don’t like him very much myself.”

    Mia gave the dark elf bard a sadistic smirk. “The kind of man who locks up a woman in the basement to be used and abused for whatever he wants. The kind of man who orders his lackeys to beat the said woman into submission, and every time she tries to escape, hunts her down and uses the most vicious spells known to dark elves to subdue her. The kind of man who doesn’t even have the decency to let her die.” With her last sentence, Mia showed Thiana her arm and yanked down her glove. It revealed a long, deep scar up the inside of her forearm from an attempt at suicide. It would have been successful if Kiran hadn’t found her while she bled out and took her to a Falaris priest for healing. Unlike holy orders, healings from Falaris clerics were meant to do little more than save a life and basically sped up the healing process, as opposed to restoring the body. That meant that their healings often left scars. “Every scar you see on my face was caused by him, but in fairness, every scar on his face was caused by me.”

    Midau laughed at the end of Mia’s story. He didn’t mean to sound obnoxious, but the story made him wish he’d hit Kiran himself. He put a hand over his face to stop chuckling and glared at Thiana. “While Mia’s story is a nasty reminder of what kind of dark elves live out there, I’d have to say it compares at least in barbarism to his rape of a thirteen year old Marmo girl sixty odd years ago. From that accursed union came Mica, a half-dark elf child to an insane child mother. Learning from her great ‘teacher’ of a first lover, Mica’s mother forced herself on her child, raping him and torturing him. She tried drowning him on many occasions leaving him terrified of water. Finally, when he was old enough to ‘take care of himself’ he killed his own mother while she slept.” Midau shuddered at the thought of Mica’s emotionless eyes as a young Mica in his mind rung his mother’s neck while she slept. “That is the kind of man that gave birth to Mica’s hatred. Even the people of Roid, as deep as their hatred of all things dark elven, would have to bow before the hatred that Mica has for his father, and others of his ilk.” Me included, he finished silently.

    As if Kiran wasn’t feeling horrible enough from the recount of Mia’s tale, what the other dark elf had to say about Mica brought Kiran to his knees. He remembered a young girl, and though it generally wasn’t his tastes to go after girls so young, she had been rather well-developed for her age and he was high on power. With a thud, Kiran feel back to the floor onto his knees, covering his face with his hands. “Oh gods...” he gasped. I deserve to die for what I put that girl through, and what she put her son through because of me.

    Upon hearing these stories Thiana looked to Kiran, what he had done was terrible and he had much to make up for. Kiran’s response was no better. If he was this terrible then maybe she was wrong to act as she did. Right now he seemed like a pitiless shell of a man, somebody who had to come back to his senses before he did anything stupid. “That is truly terrible. I hope you can forgive me for being unaware of this. It is true he deserves to face his past, but not like this.” Thiana wanted to slap him for the way he acted, but she refrained from it and looked to Midau and Mia. “He should at least face Mica when he can look him in the eyes. At current he is a pitiful cowardly shell of a man, and I can’t let Mica kill him before he meets our son.”

    Kiran peered up from under his hands when he heard Thiana talking about him. “A coward?” he asked, sounding quite offended. The dark elf stood back up and frowned at his former lover. “How am I a coward? You have no idea what sort of sins I have weighing on my soul. You think because I feel guilty for what I did to Mia and Mica’s mother that I’m a coward? Do you think that wanting to atone for all the mistakes I’ve made makes me a coward? I will look this Mica in the eye if and when he finds me, and I will apologize, and I will take whatever punishment he feels I deserve, even if he believes that I deserve death. If I were a coward, I would run right now, as far as my feet can carry me. I do not fear death. I do not fear Mica. The only thing I fear is becoming the same beast of a man who raped Mia, raped that thirteen year old girl, and countless others.”

    Mia was confused. What happened to Kiran? Not that she was complaining that he seemed to have changed for the better, but it was an astonishing turn around from what he was five years ago. The elf was dumbfounded and speechless. She wasn’t going to attack Kiran again, unless this turned out to be a ruse. Standing beside Midau with her arms crossed over her chest, she simply watched where this would go.

    Thiana looked down before looking to Kiran. She had reached him in her own way. She knew that by now Mica was in town, and he would have to face him eventually. “I am sorry for saying that, but I had to get your attention somehow. What else could I have said? I still care about you... You are not that man I can tell, but what would your death accomplish now if you did not apologize to everybody you hurt before it?” Her tone changed like she was happy about his reaction, perhaps now he might take her words seriously. She tried to hide her eyes at saying that. She did not want to tell him that so bluntly but somehow it slipped out. Perhaps she might as well speak her mind now, even if she would be the one hurt. “I came to see you because I have a request of you. I’d like you to meet Kailos and spend at least an hour with him. I always want to remember you as a strong person. Please, at least think about my request. I’ve got to get back to working, I’ve tarried my performance long enough.” She would accept his answer either way, but still it was good to see he still had that fire in him despite his guilt. Maybe it was best to watch from a distance, though she knew it was not possible with her.

    Midau shook his head. “You should fear Mica, Kiran. Even if you ‘changed’ since your ‘bestial’ days, Mica will never forgive you, and will kill you, probably very slowly. He’s ruthless, cunning...pretty much almost everything you were.” Midau placed a hand on Mia’s shoulder. “You’ll like Mica.” he jested. “He’ll probably really like you too. You have one thing in common.”

    “Honestly, I don’t like the sound of this kid,” Mia replied to Midau. “But that’s Kiran’s problem, not mine.” Mia turned away from Kiran and returned to her table. He wasn’t worth fighting now, and Mia was still confused by his change of heart. Had Marmo been to blame? It was said that the island twisted its residents, at least when Kardis’ soul was still active. When she first met Kiran over thirty years ago, he wasn’t a rapist. He was an adulterer, but not a rapist. She never knew what got him banished from his clan, but maybe that was why.

    Kiran glanced at Thiana coldly. He didn’t accept her excuse for calling him cowardly, and if not for the mention of a child, he would have simply moved on. One day, he would face Mica, but first, he wanted to meet this child of hers. “I’ll speak with you later,” he told Thiana. “I need to speak with my companions first.”

* * *

    Trent returned to the inn after stabling the horses. Under one arm was a bundle of wax he intended to harden his armor with, which was made more with comfort in mind than battle. It was payed for with some of the pelts he was going to sell in Olula’s hometown.

    The young man was surprised to see Kiran in plain sight, and more surprised to see that the man who was thus far rather calculated was down in his knees in repentance. Though he was still to far to hear what the dark elf was saying.

* * *

    Olula was speechless after hearing all the horrible things Kiran had done in his past. She couldn’t believe the accusations being made against him, but then he acknowledged them! Just who was this man? She had come to trust Kiran in the last two days, and he had not once acted like a rapist. He hadn’t even given the three girls a second glance. Yet, he was trying to make amends. Olula just couldn’t believe that he, at any time, could have done the things he was accused of.

    “ all this true?” she asked the dark elf.

    Kiran turned to Olula regarded the half-elf girl regretfully. He didn’t want her to know these things about him, but his past just came and punched him in the face. There was no way to avoid the subject now. “It is true,” he replied softly, so the three girls he traveled with could hear. “But I was a different man back then. I don’t want to become that man again, and I’m just trying to move forward with my life. It seems my past misdeeds are coming back to haunt me. If I continue to travel with you, I’ll be putting you all at risk. I’m afraid this is where we will have to part ways.”

    Flora watched what was happening. She sighed and looked at Kiran. “Must you really leave?” she asked. She was very confused by what was happening, but she tried to use her best knowledge to understand. “I don’t mind you staying around for a little more, and I also don’t mind going with.” She said to him as she blush a bit.

    Thangroth listened to the elf woman’s tale of how Kiran had abused and tortured her and the dwarf was gravely silent. When the tale was finished he gazed at Kiran and wondered about the sincerity of his words when he said he didn’t want to be that man anymore. The dwarf was sometimes harsh and generally rough, but to change one’s past deeds, to make up for crimes committed in the past was something Kiran would have to work at. He deserved that chance and the dwarf finally spoke in an even voice as he leaned up against the bar. “If you don’t want to be that man anymore lad, then don’t. If you’re serious about changing and making amends for your past deeds then that’s a noble thing. Of course you should be prepared to face the consequences of your past actions with any you’ve crossed or affected over the years such as this woman here.” He nodded towards Mia and then continued, “The choice for your traveling with us lad is part ours as well. Do ye think that danger won’t come to us if you’re not traveling with us? You said you didn’t want to become that man again, then what better way to have companions watching your back and keeping you on the straight and narrow. I don’t propose to know all the things you’ve done. But so far you’ve proven alright by us. You’re welcome to travel with us if ye wish, no one should ever go it alone.” And having nothing more the say on the matter the dwarf ordered an ale and when it was served drained in a single gulp.

    Kiran listened to the dwarf—and was rather annoyed that someone who was likely a third his age kept calling him “lad”—but he didn’t change his mind. Mica sounded dangerous, and he wasn’t about to expose his companions to that sort of hatred. “I’m sorry, but I can’t bring you into my affairs. The last thing I want is for my enemies to become Olula’s enemies,” Kiran replied. “I must face my problems on my own, and I couldn’t live with myself if I brought others into my battles, no matter how willing they are.”

    Tears came to Flora’s eyes as she looked away from the group. She listened to what Kiran had to say and her legs became really weak. She slowly walked over to a table and sat down in a chair. She rested her head on the table and repeated what Kiran had said to herself.

    Thangroth listened to the dark elf and while he didn’t agree with his reasoning, he respected him and his privacy. If Kiran wanted to handle things himself the dwarf wouldn’t interfere. One thing he’d had to learn in life was each man had to face his own past and demons on his own at one time or another. “Very well. But, if you should change yer mind. You have friends Kiran. Don’t forget that.”

    “Thank you for your kindness, and take good care of the girls. Please, find an elf to tutor Olula so she can learn to speak to the spirits,” Kiran said to the dwarf. He then parted from his companions and took a seat in a far corner of the common room where he could have some privacy. He didn’t really want to stay in that room, but Thiana needed to speak to him, and he was quite interested in what she had to say.

    Disheartened, Olula watched Kiran split from their group and resisted the urge to go join him at his table. With a heavy sigh, Olula instead followed Flora to the table she had chosen and collapsed into one of the chairs. Krisatris followed her, but the ranger was a little more reserved in her emotions to show much upset over Kiran’s departure.

    Flora looked at up at Olula, then she sighed, and put on a fake smile. “Are you two alright?” she asked towards Olula and Krisatris.

    Thangroth joined Olula and Flora at their table and there was little he could say, Kiran made his mind up on his path, it was set. The dwarf knew Olula seemed to be a bit taken wit the man and that was natural he supposed.

    She was after all a half-dark elf, and he’d been the first full blooded elf she’d met at least of her kind. The dwarf looked at her and said. “I’ll see what I can do about getting us some spiced cakes later. Sometimes wine and good food makes things a bit easier.”

    Olula nodded to Flora, though she was still sullen. Thangroth’s offer earned him a weak, forced smile. What the half-elf needed most was a moment to think on Kiran. She had a poor opinion of dark elves her entire life, but he opened her eyes to the possibility that that opinion wasn’t completely true. He was nothing like the dark elves she had known—but then the accusations against him said that he was exactly what she knew dark elves to be. Was he only acting like a good man, or had he sincerely changed since these other people had known him? Olula shook her head. What did it matter now? Kiran was going his separate way. She may never see him again, especially with the talk of people seeking vengeance against him.

* * *

    The common elf known as Azala had watched, and only watched, the entire time. He wasn’t one to keep Mia from butchering someone, and he recognized that name. After all, you tended to remember someone with that bad of a reputation. Kardis? Marmo? No matter what was said, those were excuses. Everyone had their own sins to bear, and to blame something else on such things was pointless indeed. Getting up, he chuckled lightly at Mia. “So this is your ‘friend’? I’ve heard so many things about him.” Despite his somewhat friendly tone, there was definitely an icy undertone to it. “So... many... things.” He placed a hand gently on Mia’s shoulder. “Well, I’m not one for old... well, I should say walking carrion from what I’ve heard. Shall we leave this... ‘man’, old friend?”

    Mia was grateful for Azala’s support. She had told him about the things she went through on Marmo when he asked where her scars came from some time ago. “Yes, please,” she said softly to the common elf. Being around Kiran dredged up so many horrible memories. “Let’s go to the room.” She needed some seclusion, but she definitely wouldn’t mind the company of one of her best friends. At her weakest moments, it was good to have someone to lean on.

    Mia glanced over at the grassrunner and kindly said goodnight; “Bella, it was nice to meet you. I’ll probably see you and Midau tomorrow morning.”

    Seeing how the situation diffused, Midau returned to his seat near Bella. “Well that was a dandy waste of time and comfort.” After saying such, he noticed his scarred arm remained in the free air for all to see. Without much delay he returned his arm to the safe confines of the vanbrace. He picked at his food and stuck a small piece in his mouth. His expression became immediately crestfallen after the bite. “It’s cold...” he muttered softly to himself.

    Bella gave Midau a sympathetic smile. She had stayed out of the conflict, but the dark elf Kiran and his tangled web of connections had her curious. There had to be quite a story to his life, and some of what she heard frightened her, but it also made her eager to learn more. However, she refrained from speaking to the dark elf, since he didn’t seem to be interested in being social. He was too intimidating anyway.

    “I’m sure the innkeeper could warm it up for you,” Bella said, patting Midau’s arm. Meeting Kiran had wrecked Midau’s mood, and their company was leaving. “Or maybe we should go to bed early too?”

    Midau nodded but completed eating his meal despite the coldness. “We probably should hit the sack soon. Hopefully...everything will be peachy in the morning light.”

* * *

    Thiana returned to the open space in the common room and spoke to the crowd, “Everyone relax and enjoy the rest of my show.” The mood had been spoiled and Thiana had one last thing to perform. She began her dance, but the thought of Mica was on her mind. He scared her since she had crossed him as well.

    Thiana had observed the how the events finished off as she danced, not even slipping slightly on the most dangerous moves of the dance. As she moved, her blade moved in perfect sync with her pattern, even as it was sent spinning and flipping into the air. After finishing a perfect dance, she curtsied and gave a light smile to the crowd. “I apologize for the minor interruption earlier. In lieu of that, I shall perform something I have only practiced for two months and never performed before. It is a piece from the war. I learned it from the retired soldier who wrote it and was present at the fall of the two great heroes who were now bitter foes. ” With that, she started into a piece that captured the battle as if the music was a wordless retelling of its heroics and tragedy, it lasted for several minutes and was almost perfectly played.

* * *

    Dinner had finished and most patrons had gone to bed. That mean that Thiana’s set was done for the night and finally Kiran could speak to her. He had been patiently waiting in his broody dark corner since the confrontation when he arrived. The wait had been frustratingly long. Kiran had thought about his plans and what she could want to talk about, but after he had debated that all he could, his mind began to sink into darker thoughts that he tried to avoid most of the time. To keep himself occupied, he had ordered a meal and ate it slowly as he tried to focus on the music. It was hard to keep his mind from drifting back to the past however. Sometimes, it tempted him to just end his life on his own, but he didn’t think that would be fair to the people he had hurt. If Thiana wanted him to meet her son, then he would. He had to stay alive long enough for that.

    Thiana had put her flute back in the ornate case, through everything she had faced getting here she was happy to finally be meeting Kiran once again. Seeing him at a table she walked over with a goblet of wine and looked at him, wondering what he was thinking.

    “I’m sorry for earlier. I had no right to say such harsh words to you. I’m just glad to see you again. May I sit down please?” She managed to get the attention of a barmaid and ordered a late meal as well, she was a little exhausted from performing all night.

    Kiran was silent as he offered the chair across from him for her to sit in. He was in no mood for smiles and politeness, rather a dark brooding cloud was hanging over his mind.

    Sitting down, Thiana motioned to Theros to lie down. Whatever troubled Kiran seemed rather grim. Her meal was brought over rather quickly, and she started to eat as she waited for him to speak.

    Thiana didn’t speak, she only began to eat. It was left to Kiran to start the conversation it seemed. “So, you have a son then...” he started off.

    Thiana took a sip of her wine before replying. Here she was, talking to her sons father finally. Hopefully they could return alive, otherwise her trip was in vain. Kiran’s words stirred her from her meal, or perhaps it was the air about him. “Yes I do, his name is Kailos. My parents are taking care of him while I’m away. He looks a lot like you.”

    “On Marmo, I take it?” he asked. Kiran’s dark cloud still hung over him, and he seemed uninterested in the details.

    “I couldn’t take him with me. I’m glad I didn’t take him now. Had he been with me, he might have been lost when I was tossed into the ocean. We both have to be careful, we have a common enemy right now,” Thiana replied, wondering how she could get him to Salbad, so that Kiran could meet Kailos.

    “Tossed into the ocean?” Kiran mused. Thiana wasn’t giving him much to respond to, and he wasn’t in the mood to do all the talking. He wanted her to get to the point, but the conversation was akin to pulling teeth. “Sounds like a rough trip.” Kiran paused and decided that he would bring the conversation to its point. “You want me to see your son then?”

    “It was, but an interesting one. I do want you to see him, before that do you need to take care your business first? I would like to accompany you if so. What do you plan on doing?” came Thiana’s reply. Since Kiran was getting to the point then she would as well. She had her reasons, one of them being to help ensure their survival until they could reach Salbad.

    “Taking care of my business may very well mean my death,” Kiran said coldly. “I will go to see your son, though I can’t promise I’ll be able to be a father to him. Too many people are out for my blood, and honestly, with what I’ve done, I deserve to shed that blood.”

    “You may have done some terrible things, but it does not mean you have to die. If you just meet him that would be enough, though some of the people after you make that risky. If Mica knew I found you first, and tried to help you then I too am in danger. I cannot afford to endanger them by returning so soon, I was lucky to have found you before they did,” Thiana replied with a sigh. This was going to be a messy affair most likely. Though she would do what she had to in order to see Kiran through the worst parts of the coming storm.

    “It’s not my place to decide my justice,” Kiran informed her, slightly annoyed. It was hard to get people to understand the fate he had accepted; whether he lived or died was not up to him. His life was in the hands of those he had wronged. “We’ll leave tonight, and head to Raiden. I won’t let Mica find me before I can meet our son,” he said, though calling this child his son felt hollow, but he hoped that that feeling would leave once he saw the boy. “It’ll be harder for Mica to find us if he doesn’t know when or how we’re going to Marmo...assuming he knows your son is there?”

    Thiana listened as she finished most her meal, then quickly finished her drink. She knew that this would be a dangerous journey; then again, they both could slip out under the cover of invisibility spirits. She finally replied, “He doesn’t really know, and if he does not know where the meeting place is then it’ll be harder for him to track us. I’ll send a messenger to my family once we’re back, arranging a spot where it is best for all of us to meet. Do you want to leave soon then? It won’t take me long to change and repack.” She would trust in Kiran’s judgment as well as her own.

    Putting the plate down for Theros, she let him have some choice scraps of meat.

    “Yes,” he replied. “Go ahead and get ready, I’ll wait here.” Thiana was already making plans on how to meet her parents, but it would be a couple weeks before they reached Raiden. Kiran wasn’t looking forward to returning to Marmo, but he would follow this through. He left Thiana pregnant, and though that was the least of his sins, he owed it to their child to at least see him once before he paid for his other mistakes.

    “I’ll return quickly, I don’t want to lose too much time,” Thiana replied as she stood up. She patted Theros on the head after taking the rather clean plate. Setting it by her empty cup, she then went to get changed. Things were moving faster than she had anticipated.

    When Thiana went to change, Kiran waited patiently. His room and board had been paid for, even if he enjoyed nothing more than a meal. He was going to share his room, so there was no need to get a refund if Olula was still using it. Thiana had paid with music, so there was no need to bother speaking to the innkeeper. The man had disappeared into the kitchen some time ago, and none of the maids came near their table after Thiana’s meal was delivered. If Mica interrogated them, they would have little to tell him.

    Thiana returned a few moments later in her traveling clothes. Theros had been watching quietly, only stirring once she had taken her seat again. “I’ll sleep better knowing we’re not in the same city as Mica. If you need to get ready I’ll be waiting here.”

    “I have everything I own on me,” Kiran replied, then stood from his seat. “Let’s go,” he said, then tossed his hood over his head and headed out of the inn. I really am sorry, Olula...for not being able to teach you, and for you learning about that part of my life, he thought to himself, wishing he had a chance to say it to the girl.

    “Alright, I’m right behind you,” Thiana replied as she stood up to follow Kiran. “Come Theros, let’s go.”

    Once they were outside she put her pack on and double checked her weapon. She would not sleep till they where far enough away from there, so that they could keep a good distance from any who wished Kiran harm.

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