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Hero's Song - Chapter Five

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"SAL!" Duncan hollered to the backroom, and his aging bar-hop hurried out into the main floor, looking resigned.

"Hey, get my neice a tankard, will ye?" He sat down across from me and sighed. "All right, look, I suppose ye deserve to know the truth." He glanced warily as my companions crowded around the table, eager to listen. "Um...did ye need some privacy?"

My eyes bore into his. "Nope."

He frowned at me. "I like you Harper, but sometimes you act just like Daeghan." He shook his head, then reached out and patted my hands, clenched together and in front of me on the table. Sal sidled up and slipped a cold mug inbetween them; Relax, I told myself. Your clean. Your hair is brushed. You have alcohol sitting right in front of you, and a fire is blazing. I took a drink...and sighed, my muscles loosening.

"Healing potion be-damned, nothing heals better than this," I said, and smiled at my uncle slightly. "Ok. Look, the githyanki said I have a...shard, like the one you showed me, but it's inside me. Here, under this scar." I pulled back the collar of my tunic slightly, showing the top of a faded, white scar that, when fully exposed, ran from my right collarbone down to near the bottom of my sternum.

Casavir coughed, and looked anywhere but at me. Bishop just watched blankly. Khelgar whistled. "That looks like a nasty scar, lass." Neeshka rolled her eyes at him. Grobnar piped up "Why, that's nothing, I have a scar on my backside that I received once when..."


"Uh...Right. Sorry, Shandra."

I stifled a laugh in my ale-mug, and then glanced up at Duncan. "You know what happened to me, I can see it. For gods' sakes, Duncan, you have to tell me now. With so much at stake, it could cost me everything if I don't know what's going on."

Duncan sighed and wiped a hand across his eyes. "Daeghun'll be furious with me for telling you." He looked into my face. "But you're right. Ye have to know. If he won't be the one to tell ye, well, I will." He paused. "Do you know about the battle at West Harbor, the one fought when you were a babe?"

"Aye, I know some of the story," I said, puzzled.

"Demons were over-running the town, and West Harbor was caught in the middle of a war between them and Neverwinter's forces. Daeghun and some others were evacuating the town, but your mother...and his wife, Shayla, tried to fight through those monsters and get you from your crib. I remember the look on Daeghun's face when he realized Shayla and Esmerelle weren't with the others. We ran back towards the village...I swear, fastest I've ever seen him run." He shook his head. I handed him my glass, and he gratefully took a swig.

I could feel my throat tightening as he went on. "Your mother reached you, but a baatezu did as Shayla first, and I saw your mother running, you clutched against her chest. Then there was this...intense...white light, and the sound of shattering glass, and suddenly Esmerelle was down, covering you with her body, and you were screaming horribly, and there was so much blood." His voice shook a bit, and he drained my drink without realizing it. "I guess the shard went through her body, straight...straight into your chest. You healed within a matter of days, but Daeghun; he still bleeds from that day."

The room was deathly silent. When I spoke, my voice sounded brash, too loud, against such deafening silence. "Duncan...I...thanks."

He smiled at me. His eyes were unusually bright. "Ah, it's something you needed to hear, my girl. My brother'll forgive me for telling you. What's family for, eh, if not broadcasting secrets?" He looked at my empty mug, and had the grace to blush. "I'll...uh...just get you another drink."

He moved to the bar with my glass and I sighed, feeling deflated. Khelgar said, "I think yer uncle has the right idea! Oy, Duncan! Get me one, too!"

"Get yerself one, dwarf, yer legs aren't broken, and I know you know where the kegs are."

Shandra stood up. "I'll get it for you...I think I need one myself. Elanee?"

The elven druidess shook her head. "I don't drink strong spirits."

"I do!" This from Neeshka.

"You know, I think if I mixed two parts of Duncan's Flagon Brew, and one part fire-beetle belly, I might be able to copy my old Uncle Tobin's Hot Toddy recipe..." Grobnar was a tiny blur moving towards the bar, almost knocking Shandra off her feet.

Duncan came back with two ales in hand; one, he handed to me. He glanced over at Bishop, sitting at the other end of the table. "Bishop, I...well, thanks for looking out for them. For her. I'm thinking the debt you owe..."

"...can't possibly be paid off yet." Bishop's eyes glittered dangerously as he looked at Duncan. "C'mon, Duncan...I still owe you. What better way of paying you back then watching your kin, here?"

"Now, now, you've done more than..." started Duncan nervously, and Casavir shot in with "We don't need you, Bishop."

"Thankfully it isn't up to you, Casavir, it's up to Harper." He looked at me, eyebrow raised. Casavir's face looked thunderous; Duncan looked worried.

"Well...honestly, if you don't mind staying on, we could use your help," I said, the words barely tumbling out one after another. Truth to tell, I was kind of anxious that he'd be leaving us already. Elanee didn't know the northern forests, and even with her knowledge of the Mere, it was getting harder and harder to track a path through the swamp these days. At least, that's what I told myself. We needed a good tracker. And the words vanima'lindo kept echoing through my head...

Casavir gave me an exasperated look, but Bishop grinned at me. "Then it's settled! Oy, Shandra! Make yourself useful and get one for me, too!"

"Gods-damnit...does anyone else want anything while I'm up? And entire keg, perhaps?"

Khelgar laughed. "I didn't know yer strength had returned to you so quickly, lass! If you can lift an entire keg, I'll have to make you an honorary Ironfist clan member!"

I quirked an eyebrow at him. "That's your secret rite of clan initiation? Lifting a beer keg?"

Bishop and Neeshka laughed. "I wouldn't put it past them," the tiefling girl said. "And when they don't have any kegs available, they lift Khelgar instead."

"Heh! Look who's talkin' about 'lifting', ya petty little cut-purse," Khelgar grumbled. He took his mug from Shandra and nearly drowned himself happily with his first swig.

Duncan knuckled my shoulder affectionately. "Why don't ye play us a tune on that fiddle of yours? Lighten things up a bit."

One look at my face, and he knew he had said something wrong. I felt my heart sink; I had almost forgotten about my heart-wood fiddle, lying crumpled up in the Luskan mountains. I tried to smile at him, brushing it off. "It's...well, it got broken when we were saving Shandra."

"Broken?" Duncan looked incredulous. "But...Daeghun's craftsmanship is damn good! It'd take a hefty blow to break an instrument like that!"

"Like a blow to a githyanki's head? In the hands of an overbearing dwarf, perhaps?" Neeshka's voice was acidic.

Khelgar turned red, and was about to rumble off an insult, but I inturrupted. "I said it was okay. I meant it," I said softly. "Let it rest. Grobnar can play his lute, if he wants."

"And not sing," interjected Bishop.

Elanee frowned at me sympathetically. "Oh Harper, I'm were quite good with that instrument..."

An explosion rocked the bartop, and I gripped the table in a panic, nearly sliding on to the floor. Casavir caught my arm and held me steady, and his deep voice rumbled in my ear, "Careful!" He helped me right myself, pushing my long hair off of my face. "All right, Harper?"

"Um...yes. Fine, thanks." I patted his arm nervously; gods, his eyes were so blue...

Bishop snorted. "How did we ever live without your chivalry, paladin?"

Casavir glanced at him coldly. "I do know for a fact that we managed quite well without your entire presence, Bishop." He stood and moved to Shandra, asking if she was all right.

Duncan was hollering at a sticky, red-substance covered Grobnar, who was bashfully trying to smooth down his hair and pretend he didn't know what was going on. "Mixing fire-beetle belly?!?! Have you lost your ever-loving..."

"And that, friends, is my cue to go to bed." I drained my mug. "Much as I love a good night spent drinking, when things start exploding it's time for me to leave." I said my good-eve's to everyone and made my way to my room, Duncan's angry shouting echoing through the walls.

Tomorrow, I'll go looking for another fiddle, I thought forlornly, staring at my dark ceiling. But I knew I wouldn't have the heart for it.

Hero's Song - Chapter 5 © Avariel600

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