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Rated: E · Draft · Fantasy · #2245850
Writing exercise for {bitem:2219764}. A traveler finally finds what he's looking for.
A chillness ran through the Wilting Sun Tavern the night he found her. Dim lights glowed from crowded tables. Patrons huddled over tankards of ale conversing with quiet voices. A solitary laugh broke through the murmur only to be reigned in with a cough and several glances.

Bensin sat at a small splintered table near the back wall. He stared across the room, his eyes unblinking. His lips held tight together under his braided beard. He fiddled with a small book in his worn hands, turning it over and over. The smells of roasted hasmock and huntington spices swept through the crowded room. A serving man with a dirty face and a worse apron worked his way through the crowd, platter piled high. Bensin licked his lips. He eyed the grizzled lomain keeper bathed in succulent vembros sauce which sat on the table before him, one bite taken. He remembered the royal cooks serving the meal when he was a novice. It begged to be eaten. It was the best preparation of this meal Bensin had found this side of the Ashen Desert… and it was getting cold.

A coarse-skinned man stumbled with a chair and collided into Bensin’s table, knocking Bensin’s olivern tea and spilling it. Bensin caught the man and helped him into his chair. Scrambling for his napkin, Bensin wiped his table the best he could. He paused over his plate. The vembros sauce had been accosted by the swirling tea and mixed together. He slumped into his chair. “This is not why you’re here,” he repeated to himself fixing his robes sharply. “But by Norvel’s breath…” A strong laugh drew his attention.

The bar illuminated the other end of the room from where Bensin sat. Rugged men and women filled the rickety seats. A tall man sat at the bar as he brushed snow off of his coat, the women next to him patted his back. One seat was left unoccupied. Through the gap in the crowd, Bensin could see the barkeep talking with a short pudgy fellow at the bar. She laughed and her smile beamed with life. The small man barked another laugh and threw an object in the air. The barkeep gracefully spun and caught it with both hands to her chin. She blushed and gestured back at the man, a surprised look on her smooth face. She held it against the light. A glistening gem encased in a small flat disk sparkled brightly.

Bensin sighed deeply and sat straighter in his chair. Leaning to one side he tapped the man’s shoulder at the table next to him. The meager man flinched and turned to look at him. Two scars mirrored each other across the man’s cheeks.

Bensin paused and cleared his throat, “Um… yes, hello… The barkeep there. Would you have her name?”

The scarred man didn’t take his eyes off of Bensin. “That’s Narva.” He wiped his mouth with a cloth. “And you best be leaving her be. She…” He trailed off, finally glancing toward the bar. “It’s been a good day.”

Bensin followed the man’s gaze back to the crowd around the bar. Over the people, he could see Narva tying back her bright red hair. “Narva now huh…”, he ran a hand through his beard and sat back in his chair. He bit his lip and flipped the small book over in his hand. He turned back to the scarred man, “Would you know-”. His breath caught. Where the scarred man had been now stood a hulking figure whose meaty arms were stretched across his chest. He smelled of mesopian cheese.

“Well… right.” Bensin swallowed, sizing up the giant brute. “Good sir. I-”

“Leave.” The bulking man’s voice sounded like a grinding thunderclap.

All conversation paused around them. Bensin produced a small bag and dropped it on the table in front of him. Coins clinked as it hit. “I think we can find-”.

The brute snatched the bag in a swift movement and resumed his fearsome pose, “Leave.”

Bensin swallowed and dropped his head. “Right…” his hand went into his robed sleeve. “I see your… tastes, are more… refined, my laborious friend. Maybe this will do?” He removed his hand to reveal a small disk with a sparkling gem cut into its center, a matching piece to the one given to Narva at the bar. He placed it slowly on the table.

The giant brute grunted and stared at the disk. He remained completely still. His breath came out in starts like a giant ox. Maybe that’s forester cheese? A full minute passed with the hulk unflinching. The people around them sat in silence, frozen. No-one turned a head, as if completely disregarding the giant man’s presence. Bensin shifted uncomfortably in his chair and eyed the thin juicy fibers of the delightful fish on his plate. Finally, the beast of a man turned and lumbered off. The hushed murmur resumed around Bensin once more. He grabbed the small disk and straightened his layered dark blue robes. I might have time to put in another order.

A few moments later, the brute appeared again out of a side door. Under each arm were two large bags. A glinting two-handed sword was strapped to his back. He took two steps into the room and stopped.

Bensin gasped as half the room stood at once, chairs squeaking and clattering together. Conversations continued as the large group moved methodically around the room. People staggered around Bensin and headed for the door. A few stayed in place continuing their conversation or their meal. Half the group had already filtered out of the tavern before Bensin caught sight of his plate being carried off in the hands of the serving man in the dirty apron.

Right. Bensin stood and arraigned his robes.

Narva was loading small containers into a mid-sized box when Bensin took a seat at the bar. One man remained in the seat next to where Bensin sat. The greasy squat man chewed his food loudly. Bensin glanced at the man’s plate, grilled lomain keeper. Of course.

People continued to file out behind Bensin as he watched Narva. She wore a tight-fitting gown under a deep blue tunic. It was simpler than he was expecting but as she closed the wooden box and moved another one nearby, Bensin caught the glint of tiny jewels lining the tassels running down her side.

“They say the Lucian clans are moving again,” Bensin said tapping his small book on the oaken bar.

Narva lifted a large bottle into the box followed by three more.

The squat man leaned over, “Nasty bunch them.” The man’s eyes were misshapen and he looked right through Bensin, not focusing on anything in particular.

Bensin shifted in his seat and cleared his throat. “They were last-”

“Where’d you find a gemstone?” Narva cut in, not looking at him. She added a dark brown sack to the box she was loading.

Bensin croaked a laugh, “Oh, well… you have no idea how hard that was.” He pulled the small disk out of his sleeve and twirled it in his hand. “Well… I guess you would. You did-”

“We’re closed. You’ll have to come back another time.” Narva said sharply as she lifted the lid onto another box.

“It’s quite a predicament,” Bensin continued, “The clans that is. They ravage the lands and villages as they sweep through the coast.”

The sounds of ox breath caught Bensin’s ear as the giant grunt passed behind him. Definitely forester cheese.

“Havrom,” Narva spoke and the giant man stopped, bags still in his arms. “Tell the boys to launch the boats.” She gave Bensin a stern glare before turning back to Havrom, “I’ll meet you there. Tell them I want a bigger place this time. You know… larger kitchen and the like.” She smiled mischievously and winked.

Havrom grunted a nod and then continued out the door.

Bensin ran a hand over his beard, “Interestingly enough-”

Narva smacked her hands on the bar in front of Bensin, making him jump. Were her eyes… purple? “Look… you come in here and take up a table all the blightweavers day.” Her voice grew dark, “You don’t touch my food and now you clear out my tavern.”

“I…”

She leaned in, “I… think it’s time you were moving on as well then, yes?” Her eyes were brighter. Small trails of purple-red smoke rose from their corners and lifted into the air.

The crazy-eyed man sitting next to Bensin jumped to his feet and patted Bensin on the shoulder. “Yup, time to go. You should be off as well.” The man shot a glance back at his plate. “That’s still mine, best dish I’ve ever had. Night your… Narva love”. He ran.

Narva stepped back, took a breath, and ran her hands down her gown.

Bensin flipped the book over in his hands, “It is interesting… the clans ravaged this entire coast last year…”

Narva tensed. The tendrils of smoke thickened as they wafted into the air.

“…Yet this town seems to have stayed standing while almost every other town around it was burned to the ground.”

“Alright… that’s enough-”

“Four years.” Bensin cut her off, his own voice rising, “I’ve been searching for four years. Two countries, 57 different towns. Do you know the food I had to-”

Narva screamed. Light filled the tavern. Purple flames shot out of Narva’s hands like an inflamed cannon, red sparks burst in the air. Bensin stood, arm extended. A giant blue field had formed in front of him. His eyes glowed bright blue. The enraged flames flowed over the shield like water. Bensin’s beard blew back over his shoulder. His robes slapped against his sides.

Narva’s scream wained. Panting, she lowered her hands. Her eyes smoldered as if on fire.

After a moment the blue field blinked out. Bensin fixed his beard and glanced back over his shoulder. A massive gust of bitterly cold air hit his face. Snow billowed in from two massive holes left in the wall. A small section of the roof cracked and fell. Flames danced and crackled on part of the wood.

“Henson is back. He leads the Lucian clans now. I don’t know how they missed you, but you can’t keep hiding forever…” He turned back to Narva, “your majesty.”

Something collided into Bensin’s chest, hard. He was thrust backward, the tavern flew by him in a blur. He landed in a cushion of white. He laid on his back mostly covered with crisp snow. Stars shown overhead. Pain, his head was swimming. A fist connected with his jaw making his eyes spin again. Narva was on top of him swinging wildly, her teeth bared. He tried to raise his arms. Between blows, he could make out the shape of her head, it was engulfed in fire. Her long red hair was entangled in strips of blue and orange flames. Her eyes raged with light.

He lifted his arms trying to block the blows. Struggling, he got his hands together and a blue shimmer swept over his body. Narva punched again and when her fist connected she was suddenly flung backwards arching high overhead and dropped into a snowbank. Steam erupted from where she landed. Flames raced up the tavern’s sides.

Bensin staggered to one knee, wiping blood from his mouth. “I’m not here… to just find you. I’m here to protect you! Your father, King Norvel-”

He was thrust into a tree, the wind knocked out of him. In one hand Narva held the braids of his beard with the other a knife edge pressed forcefully into his neck.

“You think I need protection?” Narva hissed and pressed the blade harder into his skin.

Bensin winced a cough, “You… you do. It’s not just the clans.” He pressed for air, “He brought something… else. It’s… a danger even to you.”

Narva glared at him. The rage of fire in her eyes was only matched by the uproar which engulfed the tavern. She relaxed her shoulders and dropped him into the snow. “How did you find me?”

“Your majest-”

“Don’t call me that!” she thrust her dagger into its scabbard.

“The… the grilled lomain keeper. There’s…” he coughed and put a hand to his neck, “there’s only one recipe that does it right. I… I followed the food.” He rolled over in the snow.

Narva watched the tavern burn. She sighed, “Of course you did.” She put her hands on her hips. People ran about the tavern, shouting and carrying off supplies. “I never thought he would have sent you.” The flames around her head settled and she brushed her hands through her hair. “Fine. You found me. But if you think I’ll be marching back to high lord father, you can lose that hope. These last few years I’ve… lived.” She turned and sauntered into the swirling winds.

Bensin watched her go then collapsed back into the snow, “Yes… your majesty.”





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