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  1. #51
    Paladin Quaxo9 is offline Quaxo9's Avatar
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    The scouts shifted to regard the three who had approached more clearly. The first looked beyond to see the rest of the party, squinting to judge their motives. The second man merely turned and yelled over his shoulder.

    “Lorela!”

    A meaty Norn poked her head out of a window in the hall before hauling herself back inside only to appear out in the snow. “Wha?” She growled, clearly not in the mood for games. The second scout approached and murmured an explanation. She snorted and rambled toward Anakita with an amused grin.

    “These trolls don’t know travellers when they see them. Hune would kill them if he knew they stood in your way for even a minute. Once you’re inside, I’m sure Halgirr will like to hear of your deal – but if I want to have a kitchen to work in, then I’d better invite you inside!”

    Her expression changed to one of surprise when she caught a whiff of the package the Ranger had been tossing around. “Vanilla? Yes! Finally I’ll get to learn about something that doesn’t involve meat! I’ll introduce you myself!”

    Suddenly much more agreeable, the Norn chef-in-training motioned to the party and smiled broadly. When they reached the hall itself, they’d find more than a few patrons within. The usual bragging and story-telling was occurring randomly throughout, but unlike many halls, this one had a ...smell.

    A hulking man stood over a spit, roasting what could only be identified as having once had a long tail. Lorela waved Anakita over in this direction while the lodge owner addressed the rest. Hune was intent on getting at least one night’s stay out of the group.

    Halgirr just wanted them to eat. His bushy eyebrows managed to raise out of the way of his eyes just long enough to size up the Ranger. Humans never ate enough to know good food when they had it, in his opinion, but he welcomed the opportunity for trade. He grunted and clearly eyed the small sack in Anakita’s hands. “So - trade, eh? You’re not here for the grub?” The question was asked somewhat hopefully.

    ~~~~~

    Reticyn was grousing about having to leave Spike outside, but took a seat at a table anyway. He growled before raising his head and sniffing the air. “Something sure smells good. I’ll take one of whatever it is.” The Asura had raised his voice – and his hand – toward Hune, who nodded and yelled the order to Halgirr.

    Satisfied with the service, Reticyn leaned back in his chair, clearly pleased with himself. He glanced around the hall, then leaned over to the nearest party member. “Hey, where’d Nairn get off to? Wasn’t this whole trip her thing?”
    Last edited by Quaxo9; 03-11-2013 at 05:20 PM.
    Winner of the dubious Vaarsuvius Award for Verbousness!

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  2. #52
    Anakita Snakecharm



    Anakita was feeling a bit overwhelmed by the presence of a group of strangers, but she gave Lorela a crooked smile, the best she could manage under the circumstances. Another smile was turned Halgirr's way when he asked about the trade.

    "I could eat," Anakita replied, and added diplomatically. "It smells good."

    She gestured with the small bag, and went on, "I'd like to talk first. I'm interested in a woman named Astrid, and her ward, Nairn. Nairn is around here somewhere."

    It wasn't like the tall, odd Norn woman was likely to go unnoticed, and it would seem strange to act like it was just a coincidence that she would come asking about something potentially important to Nairn. Anakita didn't know exactly what she was looking for, so she was just going on a fishing expedition.

    "Enough useful information, and you'll convince me to part with this vanilla. I'm sure you could find a use for it, eh?"


    ***


    Canach nodded to Reticyn, and glanced around.

    "I'm sure she's here somewhere," he said. "But facing the past isn't always easy."

    That was something the Sylvari understood all too well. Although he drew a clear line between apology and atonement, and sought only the latter, he was no stranger to being haunted by things that couldn't be changed.
    "Sleep to dream, and we dream to live..." -Great Big Sea

  3. #53
    Paladin Quaxo9 is offline Quaxo9's Avatar
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    All conversation in the hall abruptly stopped as Anakita outlined her terms for trade. The next sound was of chairs scraping against the floor as they were pushed away from tables. Hune was more upset about that sound than anything else. Immediately, he held up his hands to his patrons and gave them a friendly grin.

    “Now, now. No reason to be leavin’. I won’t be serving that thieving mongrel here!” He turned and yelled to the rafters. “Nairn! Nairn you flea-bitten whelp of a warg! Show yourself so I can kick you out properly, as your name demands! Unwelcome cur.”

    No one moved. Not even a shadow stirred in response to the man’s bellows – except for the one patron at the long bar. Her hands were slender, obvious as she took up the mug of water which disappeared into the folds of her cloak before it returned to the table empty. Delicate fingers plucked pieces of meat and potato from the plate in an unhurried manner.

    Hune nodded at a man behind the woman, who returned the gesture and reached out to tug back her hood. Nairn made no response to the action, but did glance over at Anakita and the open-mouthed Halgirr. She raised her fork and waved with the hunk of meat stuck on the end.

    “Are you sure that you are interested in Astrid Hrodolfr?” The chef leaned over the counter and whispered none-too-conspiratorily. “If you have thrown in your lot with her you must be very stupid or...” he trailed off with a shrug.

    “No vanilla is worth what you’re asking.” Halgirr finally said, much louder, and pushed away to return to his roasting spit. “You should probably get going before things get rough.” Anakita received a wink over his last comment.

    On the other side of the hall, a number of patrons were now approaching Nairn. They heckled. They insulted. They threatened. Nairn...did nothing. It wasn’t until someone grabbed her right pauldron that she finally acted. She slipped her left hand into the man’s belt, then smacked him in the face with the butt of his own knife. He staggered back, surprised, wiping his nose.

    hI’m bussy.” Her voice was low, even.

    It was the last quiet thing to happen in the hall for the next few moments.

  4. #54
    Anakita Snakecharm



    "Dammit," Anakita swore softly, and muttered to herself, "I'm not the one who should do missions like this."

    By the standards of Anakita, this was stealthy. She'd asked her question in a polite voice, had made a little bit of small talk, and had been carefully casual in her request. No one had been punched, shot, stabbed, or even seriously threatened. That was about as diplomatic as she got. She was surprised Nairn hadn't realized that. Or maybe she had, and had been willing to take the chance anyway. If they got out of here alive, Anakita would make sure that at the next steading, someone else did the talking.

    She glared at Halgirr, as if this was somehow all his fault, and vaulted a couple of tables to get to Nairn. Stefan, Canach, and Ursa had drawn their swords, and were advancing too - not attacking, but prepared to hold off an onslaught as needed. Maymar subtly summoned a matched pair of minions, not wanting to create a spectacle. A spectacle was inevitable, though, and soon there was a full-fledged brawl in progress.

    "Sorry," Anakita said as she got close to Nairn. She cracked a male Norn on the back of the head with her bow, neatly knocking him out. "I should never be the one to do the talking. Maybe Maymar can do it next time. Or Canach; he's actually extremely smooth when he wants to be. Or... anyone who isn't me. My diplomacy is more..."

    She notched an arrow and pinned another Norn's sleeve to the table, preventing her for going for the dagger at her waist.

    "Like that," Anakita concluded, gesturing toward this object lesson.

  5. #55
    Paladin Quaxo9 is offline Quaxo9's Avatar
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    Nairn was steadily bouncing knives off of skulls and ducking attempts to knock her nose out of alignment when Anakita pushed her way up alongside her. She grinned down at the human.

    hhAt leasst they underrssstand hyou when you ssspeak.”

    Her eyebrows darted upward, then grin never dipping. The Norn had been expecting this. Truthfully, she wouldn’t have been so jovial if she hadn’t caught Halgirr’s glance. He had something to tell – and he likely wouldn’t do it until things cleared out.

    hhYou did jussst fine. Do not worry ssso much.”

    An instant later, she was gone, only to reappear leaping over someone’s back and tossing them out the door. It seemed to start a mass exodus. A Norn man ran out of the hall pantless, thanks to Maymar’s minions, only serving to increase the urge to retreat. Even Hune relinquished his hold on his hall, vowing revenge. Soon enough, only the party remained...well, them and the owner of a booming laugh.

    Halgirr had clearly enjoyed the spectacle. He swept broken glass off the counter to set down sacks of bread and meat.

    “I figure we have a minute or two before they charge in here like they’re after Jormag himself. I have your grub to go.”

    The massive Norn winked at Reticyn who had seemed most upset about missing a meal, before settling himself over the counter on both elbows.

    “Now, you wanted to know about Astrid Hrodolfr, eh? I’ll tell you what I know, but not for a bag of vanilla – which I’ll still accept, mind you – but for Nairn.”

    Her cloak had been torn in the scuffle - without a hood to hide behind, her surprise was apparent. Halgirr chuckled.

    “Yes, I know you filched chunks of bacon from my kitchen, but I also know it was you who made that toy alpine stalker for my daughter when she was born. She grew up to be a Ranger, with an alpine stalker for a pet. I’ve always attribtued that to you.”

    A strange look twisted Nairn’s features, but she said nothing to confirm or deny what the chef was saying. He continued without pause.

    “I also know that I did not go picking thyme – and yet, my kitchen was stocked with it always. And so for you, Nairn Tuckamore, I’ll answer your questions about your guardian. And before you get this poor woman to do your dirty work for you – I know you can talk – so out with it, girl.”

    Her face had grown slack with discomforture. Shifting restlessly, she glanced over her shoulder, ran her eyes past the group that had decided to come along, and finally focussed on Halgirr. To her surprise, he didn’t seem to be lording his knowledge over her – quite the opposite – he was simply waiting to hear what she had to say. A familiar constriction in her throat threatened to keep that from happening, but she pushed her self-doubt aside and ploughed ahead.

    hI wanted to know wherre sshe came frrom – and why ssshe kept me.” She stopped abruptly, before adding, as though it were justification for the question, “hEverrryone knew sshe did not want me.”

    “Ah, of course. I might have known.” Halgirr nodded sagely, but with a sadness that let Nairn know that at least the important question would go unanswered. “I’m afraid Astrid kept to herself on the subject of you. No one here knows why she looked after you like she did, but I do know where she came from. She let slip one night that she was from a more southern region, so naturally I inquired as to whereabouts. If she hadn’t had a bit of ale that night, I doubt she would have told me – but she said Bouldermouth Vale was her homestead. If I were you...that’s where I’d look for your other answer. Surely someone there knew her better.”

    He shrugged. “I’m sorry, but that’s all I know.” The sacks of food he pushed forward weren’t light and they clearly signalled that he thought it was time for them to go. “Good luck.”

    Nairn’s hand snagged a loop of rope and pulled the nearest sack toward her. She could smell the smoked meat within and it hit her with a wave of nostaglia for the first time since they’d arrived. Perhaps it was the knowing that she’d had some sort of positive impact on the community, or maybe the jerky was really that good, but Nairn knew that she’d depart a little sorrier to see the Hall fade away than she had thought she would.

    “Thank-you.” She spoke the words softly, then took Halgirr’s arm. “hI wissh the ssame forr you.”

    There was no one in sight when they left the Hall, though the voices of many angry Norn congregating bounced off the cliffs about the place, spurring the group southward with haste. Nairn had paused long enough to snatch a few pieces of errant leather from items left behind in the jumble and now began weaving them together. Anything to keep her fingers busy. She had a lot to think about on this journey south.

  6. #56
    Anakita Snakecharm



    Anakita was desperately relieved when Halgirr pointed Nairn in the right direction after all. She'd been so worried she'd ruined everything by... well, being herself. Although Nairn was being stoic about it - and although Anakita had been serious that they'd try knocking on the door of every steading in the Shiverpeaks if necessary - she was glad it had all worked out. At least she didn't have to feel guilty. At least it wasn't her fault.

    "So," she said. "Bouldermouth Vale, then?"

    To her surprise, Canach nodded eagerly. Maybe he was turning into a hero after all, Anakita thought. On some level, she'd always believed he had it in him. She was pleased to be proven right.

    "To Bouldermouth Vale," Canach agreed. "I'm eager to see where this quest may lead." He cracked a grin. "I know, I don't sound like myself, and you probably suspect I've had a head injury or some such personality-alteration. Don't worry. Maybe I'm turning over a new leaf."

    On the surface, it was just a joke - Sylvari, new leaf, har har. Anakita couldn't help thinking he wasn't being entirely insincere, though...

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