Turn 27 -- Addition and Subtraction

Listening to Talimar's tale of Rannigan wishing to join the Red Feather Company, Snagger merely says, "Ye already have me opinion of 'im. I'll still say it again though. Bah, mages!"

"Ah'm no judge of mages. If you and Dain think him worth protectin' then Ah'll go along. With Dain's guidance he might just be worth somethin' someday," rattles Ortho. Finished with his little speech, Ortho turns to Gnore, "Say Gnore, ol' buddy, what did the fish say when he swam into a rock wall?" Ortho smiles crookedly at his befuddled friend. "Dam! Har, har, har, har!" Roaring at his own simple joke, Ortho falls off his chair and lies there on the floor laughing out loud. "Dam! Get it?!" The sodden dwarf priest, a Chosen of Moradin, holds his belly and curls up on the floor in gut-shaking mirth.

Druckner chokes on his ale at Ortho's joke and coughs up suds through his nose. Trying to stop laughing, he says about the mage, "Ah don' know ef we shood let umm in so easy. Ah'm not sayin' he means wrong but he cood be a spy or somtin' like. His story sounds too convenient. We shood give him a test ta see ef he's worthy an' able. Ah don' think any ol' person, mage or not, shood get in the Red Feather Company withou' provin' his bravery an' mettle."

He looks around meeting the other's eyes, "Ah say he shood be on probation, till we get a good occasion to test him proper."

"Here, here!" cries Snagger while choking down ale after the joke.

Kersath laughs heartily at Druckner's response to the joke, revealing rows of white teeth, a sharp contrast to his ebony skin and not an unpleasant one. "For once, I have to agree with ol' foam-nose here. Mages like those are not to be trusted..." Realizing what he has said, he quickly turns to Dain, "I apologize my friend, you have proven yourself beyond any doubt, I was merely speaking of strangers in general and strange mages in particular. He may prove a valuable ally, as you most certainly (and rather quickly, I might add) have, but we can't simply allow him within our ranks without knowing he means well." Leaning back in his seat, he adds, "Sides, I don't like people like him that like to show off that they have gold pouring out of every hole."

"No offense taken, friend," replies Dain. "I too am a bit wary of this newcomer, but his expertise could prove invaluable. Besides, if he turns on us, we should be able to overtake him quickly if we all keep our eyes and ears open."

Gnore looks at Ortho, then to Druckner and finally Kersath with a questioning look. "Well why wouldn't the fish say DAMN? He hit his face, didn't he? Personally, I'm surprised that's all he said." Gnore shakes his head, perfectly content in suggesting that a fish can actually speak.

Feeling no pain, Gnore tries to pick out the blur that best fits Talimar's general description but fails. Frowning, he gives up his search and looks down at the table. "Bah! We don't need another mage, Dain has already proven his worth and Dain has said that he and the rude one may come to blows if near each other fer a time. Now, I like a good fight as any other kin but I don' think it'wald be best ta tempt that type of anger." Gnore states flatly as he tries to focus on the table in front of him instead of the two on either side.

"Also, we currently have a job fer the time being. Again, I say the Gnores are waiting fer us. If the rude on wants ta find the girl then fortune be with him but there is no one but our Company ta help the Gnores. Kre didn't spill his blood for unfulfilled promises." He releases a deep sigh as the image of Kre lost among the murderous Trolls flashes in his mind. He clears his throat before continuing.

"B'sides, with the talent present, the Mage can hire his own red feather company and help find the girl that way." He finishes this last statement with a loud belch, frowning at the after-taste.

"You know what we need...more drink!" He calls to the barkeep for another round of pitchers to be added to the ever-increasing tab.

Talimar looks around the group gauging their reactions to the idea of Rannigan joining the group, "Well some of you are obviously against the mage joining us," he comments with a smile to the dwarves. "While the primary objection of others seem to be we don't fully know his motives."

The elf frowns in thought, looking again at everyone's faces, "Let us take him on, with the understanding that he is on trial. He will not be accorded full status as a member of the Red Feather Company until we are all satisfied with him." Talimar grins mirthlessly, "Should he survive that long of course."

Gnore shrugs his shoulders and nods his head. "Well that solves the problem on who will watch the mules when we battle..."

Beleg listens quietly as his companions discuss the mage's future with the Company. As the conversation wanes, he adds his opinion, "I too am hesitant to accede to the mage's request, though I sense no intention of evil in him. I will agree with Talimar's suggestion that he mage join us on a trial basis." The large paladin falls silent, though his face clearly shows that he is troubled.

After a moment, Beleg quickly drains his mug of ale and stands. Turning to Gnore, he says, "I am off to my room for prayer, meditation and rest. I will be ready to leave for Shadowdale at first light, if that is still your intention." Turning to Talimar he asks, "Do you intend to inform Rannigan of our decision tonight or shall we let him wait until the morning? If you desire my company during your conversation, please don't hesitate to call on me."

Gnore tries to focus on the biggest blur he can find that would look like a human. The source of Beleg's deep voice is lost on the dwarf as sound seemd to echo about him. "Aye...Aye, I still want ta travel ta Shadowdale. T'morrow then, wake me when we are ready to leave." Gnore states surprisingly clear until his pitcher meets his mouth.

Kersath raises his eyebrows in surpirse. With the newcomer and all the arguments about him, he has all but forgotten about Shadowdale. "Oh yea, we still need to go don't we?" he says with a slight smile. "That might be a good opportunity to test the mage's mettle, don't you think?" The sober members of the company can sense the excitement in his tone as he speaks of Shadowdale. "At any rate, we'd better see who exactly is going to Shadowdale and who will stay here. I will, for once, be a good boy and do as I'm told, as I am more than happy either way. What say you, Tal?"

The dark elf does not really want to stay in town, but he realizes that it might be necessary, therefore suppressing his natural instinct to jump up and say, "I wanna go!" Apparently he has learned some responsibility from these last few weeks and from the encounters with the Trolls, where it seemed that rushing in with no regard to anybody else (which was basically his tactic so far) was NOT the best way to accomplish things. After all, this whole 'group' thing is a rather new concept for him. Until he met the other members of the company, he had traveled by himself, with no more responsiblities than himself only.

Talimar frowns ever so slightly at the question from Kersath, "As we discussed earlier, Gnore, Druckner, Ortho, Dain and Beleg will be traveling to Shadowdale; the rest of us shall remain here. I will go tell Rannigan of our decision now." Leaving the table, the elf walks back up the stairs to meet with the mage.

Nodding a goodnight to his companions, Beleg makes to follow Talimar and retire to his room. Stopping the innkeeper, Barthelew, on his way, he asks, "Good sir, I have some laundry that needs to be done before the morning and I would like to have a bath, if such is possible. I would also like to be awakened an hour before sunrise."

Barthelew seems a bit taken aback by the request of Beleg for a brief moment until he remembers who exactly it is he is speaking with. "Well, good sir, the only bath that we have access to would be the one in the stables. Ye are free to use that if ye wish. As to the laundry, Ah'm sure Ah could get one of the women here to take care of it fer ya. For a fee o'course."

"Of course," returns Beleg. "That will be fine. I will have the clothes brought down when I take the bath."

With that settled, Beleg goes upstairs to retrieve his dirty laundry before taking a warm bath at the back of the stables. He then sees to his arms and armor before making his nightly devotions. As this is going on, Dain and Ras retire to their rooms to leave the night to the dwarves and Kersath.

After being received by Rannigan, Talimar gives him a measuring look before speaking, "Rannigan, I have spoken with the others in the company. We have decided to let you join us, at least for a trial basis. Some of us will be heading to Shadowdale for supplies for a few days. We will be heading back underground in approximately a ride, depending on how long the Shadowdale trip takes."

"Very well, I thank thee and thy companions, and you shall see that my intent is true and that I shall prove my worth to you all," begins Rannigan. "I shall remain here with whoever does also and speak of the plans and such while your other companions are away."

16th day of Chess. Morning. Milbourne

As the early morning patrons of the Baron of Mutton rise and make their way out of the inn, they notice the dwarves Ortho, Gnore, Druckner and Snagger slumped over their table and snoring loudly. Having practically closed the place down for the evening, the dwarves decided not to stop there, instead ordering a full keg from Barthelew before the innkeeper retired for the evening himself. With the empty kegged rolled to its side, the dwarves all finally gave up the ghost and decided to sleep off their evening where their heads fell. Across the room a shadow appears to move as the glowing eyes of Kersath appear to materialize moments before his body does. Stepping out of the shadows, the dark elf gives up his post to the morning. Having no need for the sleep of others, the dark ranger had spent the evening watching over his drinking and, finally, sleeping companions ensuring that no harm befell them.

Several of the inns patrons frown at the snoring dwarves as they pass them and take other tables, but most remember the joyous singing, tale telling and generous rounds of drinks bought by the kin so they pay them no heed. Barthelew comes round to retrieve the empty keg as the inn slowly begins to come alive. The sounds and smells of the kitchen begin to waft through the inn as orders are placed and the day begins in Milbourne.

A few minutes later, as the dwarves are finally waking, Beleg enters the inn following his morning exercise and prayer. Although his companions are a bit testy from lack of sleep, Beleg marvels at the way they seem to be little effected by the amount of spirits consumed the previous evening.

"Ya 'spect good kin ta be hungover drinkin' this watered down, orc-brew?" grumbles Snagger as he takes a swig of the remaining ale in his mug from last night.

"No self-respectin' kin would be," agrees Ortho as Druckner and Gnore nod their heads in agreement.

Beleg simply smiles at his companions as he orders a hearty breakfast from one of the waitresses. As Beleg and the dwarves' meal arrives, the other companions also make their entrance and join the others. The last to arrive to the table is the mage Rannigan, and Snagger, true to character, greets him warmly.

"So, ye think ye're worthy ta join dis group, eh?" he begins, rather annoyed. "Well, I may be da newest but ah still have a say. Not only are ye a mage, an I never did trust any magic dat didna use any rune er anything, but yer a rude mage."

Plowing straight ahead despite the frowns from Talimar and some of the others at the table, Snagger continues, "That head there is from da beast dat killed Randor," he motions his head over to the stuffed form of Garundzer, "Now, ah may never ah new Randor but he died ta save me. An another one uh our own jus died recently. Ye think that ye have da guts uh dem? Ye think yer made uh dat kind ah stuff, mage? I don wanna work with ye unless ye can show some manners. All dem fancy magic component an weird chants don give ye da heart dat it takes ta be like Randor er Kre!"

Seeing that Snagger is finished, Rannigan bows his head ever so slightly to him before speaking, "I have no desire for you to take me just at my word, that would be foolish, and none of you would be here today if you were a foolish lot. Spend enough time around mages, my dwarven friend and you will quickly find that they have no doubt about their abilities. I am no different. I will prove myself and my worth, have no fear of that. And if I don't, I will be dead anyway so it will not matter."

"Harumph!" is the only response from Snagger as he grabs his mug and takes another drink of his ale. A few of the other companions hide smiles behind their drinks as they are impressed with the response from Rannigan.

Hoping to lighten the mood again for the early morning, Beleg smiles around a slice of bacon, "After what we've been through the past few weeks, this meal today and last nights seem like a feast!" he says with unbridled enthusiasm. "Yet despite the good food and better companionship, I can't help but worry about our next foray into the world below the earth. I am not ashamed to tell you that I'm a bit afraid of the future," he says a bit sheepishly, his face becoming crimson. "Don't get me wrong. I do not fear for my own safety. Nay, I only fear that by some action, inaction, or inadequacy, I may cause harm to one of you."

Beleg then looks around at his companions. Warming to his subject, he continues with more confidence. "It is clear that I am not suited for travel below ground. My size and innate clumsiness give me great worry that at some point I may be the cause of the company's distress. Even more worrisome is my dependence upon our magical light. I fear that it gives our foes undue notice of our arrival, yet without it I am unable to make my way, much less take part in battle. That is one of the reasons I wish to travel to Waterdeep. It is my hope to find someone who can give me instruction in the ways of the dark. Failing that, perhaps there is some magical device or elixir that could improve my night vision."

The Paladin of Forseti pauses, taking a quick drink of his ale. He then adjust his tunic and, sitting up straight and tall, continues his speech, "However, if I am not able to find such a teacher or device, I am afraid that I will be a serious liability to you. Please understand that I do not wish to be seprated from this company nor do I want to give up our noble quest. Yet, I feel it is only right that I share my concerns with you and make it clear that if you agree with my assessment, that I am a liability to this quest, then I will abide here when the Red Feather Company makes its next foray into the depths."

At this moment, despite his regal bearing, Beleg's youth is quiet evident as he sits awaiting the response of his companions. Surprised at the young Paladin's admittance of his weakness, Kersath smiles warmly to his friend. "Your eyes need not worry you, friend. Even with no magical devices to aid your seeing, you have to understand that most creatures of the Underdark have never seen bright light in their lifetimes, and as it may surprise you, the light could actually give you an advantage over them, since some creatures will be practically blinded by the light. If you are that worried though, I hear there is a wizard of some renown living in Shadowdale, by the name of Elminster I believe. He might be able to assist you. I hear he has helped many an adventurer in dire need. And besides, a trip to Waterdeep would take weeks, time which we don't have. We do not wish to let the monsters retake hold of the caverns in our absence."

Joking, Kersath pokes the large warrior in his huge right arm with his finger, "Besides, what you really need to worry about is that huge size of yours in those narrow caverns!" says the ranger with a wide smile on his face.

Beleg smiles at the ranger's attempt at humor, "Indeed, I am concerned about my size in the world below the earth. But at least it shouldn't cause any harm to the company. As to Elminster of Shadowdale, I have made the acquaintance of this wizard and deem it unlikely that he would be willing to offer any assistance. You are right about the trip to Waterdeep being much too far to travel. That is why I spoke, in hopes that someone might have an alternate suggestion." Beleg looks around at his companions, hoping for further advice.

Having burst out laughing at Beleg's initial words, Gnore composes himself enough to finally speak, only after finally realizing that Beleg was indeed serious. Calming himself, he speaks, "Eh, pardon my laugh, Beleg. If'n it hadn't been yer strength, skill and sword, more'n Kre would 'ave died below. No, I definately think we need ye close ta the Company. Let me tell ye this, although many chambers will be tight, there will be many more that will accommodate yer size." Gnore nods then drinks his ale.

"Besides, that light of yers serves a needed purpose. While the rest of us crawl in the dark, you an' Dain can serve as illuminated bait." Gnore laughs at his own joke ignorant of whether he is along in jest or not.

Beleg smiles at Gnore as he shares the dwarf's joke, "You may be right, friend Gnore. Still, I'd feel much better if when the situation arose that we needed to dim our magical light, I had some skill or device that would allow me to move more assuredly in the dark." The young Paladin looks at the dwarven warrior for a moment, then continues, "I don't suppose you'd be willing to share your skill with me? I mean, I've noticed how confidently you move in the dark. Such a skill is not only because of your keen night vision is it? I realize that our time here is short and that you may not wish to spend it instructing me. I do not ask for any gift nor do I wish to place any burden upon you. What I mean is, well...I would be willing to make payment for your services in this matter." Beleg looks earnestly at Gnore, sincerity clear in both his tone of voice and facial expression.

Gnore rubs his chin in thought, reflecting on Beleg's words.

"First of all, no payment is needed. I have a feelin' ye'll be paying me back fer me services by keeping me alive down below. As fer teaching ye how ta navigate through the mountains, that's nae an easy task." Gnore pauses to collect his thoughts.

"Dwarves are born with the dust of the mountains within 'em, so to speak. It is our heritage that allows kin ta move aboot, under the comfort o' the earth, without burden or pause. Indeed, the earth is our kin and as such, we understand. It is difficult, if not impossible, ta relate such a relationship ta others who are not kin. In truth, we dwarves never have a need ta explain, we just know." The dwarven warrior pauses once again. In light of his race's decline, the emotion is almost overwhelming to the dwarf. Taking another long pull from his mug, he continues.

"I could only teach ye a shade of what I understand and, I'll admit, it will be difficult. Not only because ye are of a different race but also because no words or actions were needed in the past, between kin. I do suppose I could try. It's the least I can do fer one of our Company." Gnore nods in affirmation of his decision.

"It will have to wait until after Shadowdale, though." Gnore finishes his drink and sets his tankard down in front of him gently.

Beleg shakes his head in agreement, thankfull to the dwarf that he will assist him and possibly alleviate his fears and weakness in the dark depths below.

"Thank you, my friend."

"Don' thank me yet, lad, it's gonna be tough an' I'm no easy taskmaster!"

"I look forward to it."

"Well I'm glad we've got that settled," begins Talimar to the group. "We should see about getting underway to Shadowdale today. It's going to take some time for the armor to be repaired so we should get there as soon as possible."

"There's one thing we are forgetting," interrupts Garth. As all the others look on at him expectantly, he continues, "Even though we have no body to formally lay to rest, I feel that we should have some ceremony for Kre today. Especially for the lady Leira. What say you all?"

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