Chronicles of Norallen (storyline)/An Inn Somewhere in the Dragonspine (vignette)

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An Inn Somewhere in the Dragonspine - A Chronicles of Norallen Vignette

Protesting loud enough to wake the dead, the inn room door swung inward at a ponderous rate, bringing with it light and fresh air. Dust motes drifted from the ceiling, illuminated by the lantern held aloft by a young maid who peered into the depths of the room. The shadow looming tall behind her pushed past her shawl-covered shoulders and aided the door into completing its opening swing. Its knob struck the wall behind it with a bark that caused the maid to jump.

“Thank you,” the taller woman said, somewhat thinly as she turned her back to the dark room and faced the maid. “I can take it from here. If my brother owes you any additional fees, please let me know, and I’ll handle them on my way out.”

“He don’t owe nothin’, miss. Rooms paid fer through tha’ end o’ the year, e’en though he’s not been here fer more’n two months.” The maid replied as she squared her narrow shoulders and looked up. A glint of pride shone in her eyes. “We kept our word ta’ tha’ good knight. We ‘er honorable folk.”

Eldrianne smiled, genuinely this time, as she gazed back at the maid.

“Thank you. I’m sure that my brother appreciates your honor and your grace. I am pleased that you have kept his things this well. And, if I may…” She reached into the bag hanging from her back, a simple carryall without ornament or design, and pulled out a small pouch. Hefting it a few times, the jingle within sounding like finger cymbals at a dance, she offered it to the woman. “I would like to retain that service for all of next year, too.”

The maid reached out for the bag, quickly opening it, and eyeing the contents.

“This ‘ere gives you the room, food, and the baths, miss. There’s probably too much in here, honest. You sure you want to give it all up?”

“Yes,” Eldrianne said, turning her back to the maid. “This may take some time.”

Depositing a lantern on the end table, the maid departed, pulling the door closed behind her.

“Where have you gone...” Eldrianne asked into the cluttered, dust-covered room. She dropped her carryall to the ground, her heavy woolen cloak following it in short order, and moved to the cramped desk.

Shuffling several papers around, she sat slowly, the weight of the road and her weeks of searching making her weary. This hidey-hole was at least better than the last, proving that perhaps this was more of a central station for her missing brother than another waystation out in the wilds. He’d been missing for months from his post, years from his home, and they’d only called her to the search because they believed him to be an honorable man. He was part knight, part researcher, and at this moment, she was back to thinking fondly of him. If she had to spend another night in a rain-soaked bog trying to pick up his trail, then her thoughts would be less generous. She was so engrossed in her readings that she barely noticed when the maid returned, lighting a fire at her back and placing a board of cheese, meats, and bread at her elbow.

She nibbled at the food absently, her eyes scanning each journal, loose page, and map that she could find. As she started to read one covered in sketchings of Saramar runes, a noise at her side alerted her to the return of the maid.

“Bet tha’ bard ‘e mentions jist thar is up at the Kindred Games.”

Turning, Eldrianne leveled her gaze on the small woman who was adding more wood to the fire.

“Sorry, miss,” she said as she tried to curtsy and not get into the fire, a sudden nervousness taking her at having the taller woman’s full attention.

“Why are you sorry? Just tell me what you know.”

Curtsying again, the made moved to the side of the desk and pointed to a name on the page in front of Eldrianne.

“This ‘ere fella,” she said tapping the page.

“And you think he might be up at the Kindred Games?”

“Oh, ‘e might but e’en if’n ‘e ain’t, ye could take some of yer brotha’s works and barter a tale fer information on tha’ fella. Games’er up at Jirkl’s Hilltop an’ tha’s jist a few hours nor’east o’ ‘ere.”

Chuckling, Eldrianne stood and planted a wet kiss on the maid’s cheek, which caused the poor thing's eyes to go round as saucers and a fine blush to darken her skin. Snatching her cloak and bag from the floor, she strode through the door.

“Might want to bank that fire, I won’t be back tonight.”

Blinking, the maid sat down at the desk and began to eat the remains of the meal. She told herself that it was going to go to waste and was compensation for the cleaning she was able to give the dusty, cluttered room. While chewing on a bit of dried mutton, she turned over one of the volumes on the desk, the spine glinting in the lamp light.

The Chronicles of Norallen, Volume 1.