8th day of Alturiak. Evening. Baron of Mutton.
"Jelenneth's cloak!" says Andrenn excitedly. "Where did you get this? You've seen her? Was she ok? Where is she?"
"Ah'm sure Ah don' know what yer talkin' about," says Ortho as he pulls the cloak from Andrenn.
"This cloak was Jelenneth's," explains Andrenn, a look of hope on his face.
"Wal, lad, if'n this was Jelenneth's cloak then perhaps we're on the right trail after all. Ah inherited this cloak from an evil human priest Ah had to send back to his god. Yer lady may have it back when we find her if she wishes. Until then the cloak will remain with me to remind us in the Company of our duty."
"We'll find her lad, we'll find her. Don' ye worry we've found the right trail," says Ortho with compassion for the boy's strong feelings.
Andrenn looks upon Ortho with a mixture of shock and horror. "The lady's cloak is not a trophy of war for you to wear around this town. If you need a reminder of your duty then perhaps I have chosen the wrong group to find my beloved. I would appreciate you returning the cloak to me now." Andrenn holds his hands out expectantly, his brows furrowed. Several of the patrons in the inn have taken an interest in the exchange.
Ortho shakes his head ever so slightly as he stands up. Placing his feet about shoulder width apart for good balance, he faces Andrenn.
"Yer right, lad, this is no trophy. It is a symbol of OUR devotion to Jelenneth. As Ah said, she will wear it again if she chooses. If you wish to give it to her yerself then ye are most welcome to join us as we go back into the DEEP mines and fight more orcs and ogrons and spell-wielding evil priests. Ah will GLADLY have ye fight beside me against the filth. Now, if ye do not choose ta go, the cloak stays where it is for Jelenneth may need it," rumbles Ortho. "Now, laddie, what is YOUR choice?"
Before Andrenn can answer, Ortho continues on, "Andrenn, just so there is no misunderstanding, we will not be bullied. Not the Red Feather Company. We will find Jelenneth and you will pay us. If you wish to change those terms, and those are the ONLY terms, then say so now. We will hold no ill toward ye fer changing yer mind," Ortho waits expectantly for the boy to answer.
Andrenn's anger seems to grow and take on a life of it's own as Ortho speaks. Barthelew moves over from his position behind the bar to try and restrain his brother from any hostilities. Andrenn angrily pulls his arm free of Barthelew's grip. "Aye, you will not be bullied but ye sure have no problems doin' the bullying! What proof do we have that you are even looking for Jelenneth? How do I know you didn't find her and just take the cloak? What of her signet ring? Do one of you have that?" Everyone in the inn is now firmly engrossed in the exchange between Ortho and Andrenn. A few mumbled words of agreement follow many of the statements from Andrenn.
"There has never been a kidnapping in this valley till the day your Company rode in. How do we know that you aren't the kidnappers? You speak of devotion to Jelenneth. You have no devotion to her beyond the promise of gold. You said so yerself. If the cloak is for her after you 'find' her then it should be carried, not worn by another as a trophy!"
Garth rises to come between the two hotheads, hoping he can sow some common sense. Looking them both in the eye, he begins, "Gentlemen, let us remember who the real enemy is. We are all upset by Jelenneth's kidnapping, but no one here wishes for anything but her swift and safe return."
Turning to face Andrenn, Garth has a hurt look on his face and says, "Ortho does not mean to keep the cloak as a trophy. He, and I for that matter, truly believe that we will find Jelenneth, alive. Since we go to find her, and will most likely be the first to see her, should we not return it to her? Have no fear that we will treat it as some sort of cheap war trophy, that is not our way. We will treat it with care and love."
With a sad look, Garth continues, unpinning his red feather, "You question our honor and think of us as gold hungry mercenaries. Tis not so. What we do requires much support and supplies. Since we do not turn our hand to the noble plow or shepherding, we must purchase what we need. We do not do this for money or glory or honor. We do this because we want to and feel that we must."
Moving to pin the feather to Andrenn, the young lad moves to brush away Garth's hand. Garth persists and pins it to his shirt, saying, "No, what we do is not cheap. Before I came, this company took its name for the red feather worn by one of our comrades. In her memory. You see, she gave her life for us." Garth's eyes become a little teary as he continues, "Not so long ago, Brother Randor did the same. No," Garth pauses to clear a lump in his throat and continues, "What we do is not cheap. Have no fear for Jelenneth's cloak Andrenn. While one of us in the company of the Red Feather lives, we will return to exchange either Jelenneth or her cloak for this feather."
Turning now to face Ortho, Garth places his hand on his shoulder and says hoarsely, "Ortho, I too am still raw from the death of Brother Randor, but I know you to be stronger than looking to nettle another in his grief for a missing loved one. You know Andrenn is still sharp in his grief. Let us understand his sharp words and turn them to the real enemy, not turn them back against him."
Facing them both, Garth waves his hand out the door and pleads, "Let us save our true anger for those who deserve it. If we turn on each other now, then we are beaten as surely as if we have fallen in battle. And Jelenneth is truly lost." Garth steps to the side to let what he has said sink in.
Andrenn calms down somewhat from the obviously emotional words of Garth. Looking at the dwarven priest before him and then Jelenneth's cloak on Ortho, he calmly addresses Garth and the others, "No one has said that what you do is not commendable nor have we said that it doesn't require it's costs, but I do not believe that Jelenneth's cloak should be worn by one of your company until she is found. If you wish to give it to her when she's found then fine, put it away and give it to her then. It should not be worn around by the like of him until that time comes." Andrenn ends this last statement with a wave of his hand at Ortho. "The goods and possessions of the people of Milbourne are not yours to do with as you see fit in the name of the protectin' them!"
"My position is still as solid as before. He will not walk out of this inn wearing the cloak of my beloved."
Ortho's eyes go wide at the words of his fellow dwarf and the threats of Andrenn. "Ye can't mean it, Garth! This boy is making accusations and you just go and pin a feather to his chest?! Nah! Ah'll have none o' that!"
Ortho steps around Garth and up to Andrenn, looking up fiercely into the eyes of the young man. "Listen, boy, if you doubt we are looking for Jelenneth then you come with us. If you think we are behind the disappearances then you come with us. If you are worried about Jelenneth getting the cloak then you come with us! Do you hear me, boy?! You say you care so much for her but ye don' care enough to go look for her now, do ye?!" Ortho roars in a good burn. Andrenn stares in shock at Ortho ranting before him, his own anger so intense that he cannot speak for the moment. Several of the inn's patrons rise from their chair at the words and actions of Ortho. A large contingent of townspeople has formed a circle around the two.
"Now let me tell everyone here something else. We have not met Jelenneth. Yet we are the ones looking fer her. None of you are. You think we are doing it just for the offered reward? Well, Ah'll tell you what: we are no longer working for Andrenn or anybody else hereabouts. That's it! Lad, you keep your gold. And we'll keep looking for Jelenneth, if there really IS a Jelenneth. If there is we will find 'er or die tryin'. And when we do find her Ah will personally relate this little grandstandin' show ye are puttin' on right now. Then we'll see how high ye stand with yer noble lady."
"As to the rest o' ye, since we are no longer under an agreement with Andrenn we are not tied to this task if the rest of ye wish us to be gone. The Red Feather Company can leave yer town as easily as we came. And we'll leave the orcs, the ogrons, and the brigands to yerselves. You good people just tell us what ye wish. But make it quick, for we either return to the trail in a couple of days or we do not return at all. The choice is yers."
Ortho then reaches up and removes the red feather from Andrenn's shirt, "Ah'm sorry, lad but ye haven't earned this. Ye could, if ye go with us into the mines. Until ye do, Ah'll not have ye wear the red feather. These feathers are earned with blood, not fer startin' an argument. NOBODY is goin' to wear one o' these without earnin' it or bein' a staunch supporter o' the Company. Ye haven't done the former and ye have shown now that ye aren't the latter." Andrenn simply watches unconcerned as Ortho removes the feather, not too keen on the idea of wearing it anyway.
Ortho then turns to Garth, "Garth, Ah appreciate yer tryin' ta help an' Ah appreciate what ye did fer Randor. Could not have honored him as well meself. But Ah will not sacrifice the honor of this Company ta avoid a fight. Not now, not ever. Please keep yer silver tongue quiet when the Company is being falsely accused. An' don' stand between me an' an argument or a fight. Remember that."
Garth simply frowns deeply and shakes his head at Ortho as he returns to his seat at the table. Across the table Ras, having stopped his conversation with Snagger on the tale of Jelenneth to hear the argument, says to the dwarf, "Excuse me Snagger, I think I need to step in here." With that he steps forward and places his small hand on Ortho's shoulder; quite a reach. "Excuse me, could I respond please?"
Ras then turns to Andrenn and with his common, humble look says, "My good sir, I want to assure you that our first priority is Jelenneth and we have lost two of our comrades doing just that, our friend will not die for naught." He reaches into his pocket and pulls out the signet ring of Jelenneth, offering it to Andrenn. "We found this and maybe this is what you speak of. If it is, you may have it. I know you are distraught but be patient, if she is alive we will find her. If we have continued any further our company would have more casualties, I think especially you can understand that." Andrenn looks at the ring and his eyes light up at it. "Yes, this is her ring. You can see the inscripted 'J' right here," he says as he turns the ring over and shows Ras the mark.
Ras smiles and turns to Ortho before continuing to speak to Andrenn, "I think my friend should hang on to the cloak and if you could give us a note to give to Jelenneth if we find her and can show her the cloak and the letter, she will know we are there to help." Then to Ortho, he adds, "Just like we did not want to wear Randor's clothes, let's respect Andrenn and store the cloak. I am sure if you need it for warmth in the cave, Andrenn would not be upset with that?"
Andrenn slowly shakes his head, "No, if you need warmth, buy another. The cloak can be stowed away but only Jelenneth should wear it."
"You can carry it," he says as he nods to Ras.
Having resumed his seat at the table, Ortho quiet sips his ale. Hearing the words of Andrenn, he shrugs his shoulders and takes off the cloak. Carefully folding it neatly, he tosses it to Ras.
Having resolved the matter somewhat to his satisfaction, Andrenn moves away from the party, turning the signet ring of his lover over and over in his hand. Several of the patrons clap him on the back heartily and buy him an ale at the bar. Wrinkled brows and angry looks of many of the patrons are shot the way of the company as they sit down to enjoy their ale once again. Ras notices that several rather rough looking men move over to speak with Andrenn.
Looking at his shocked comrades at the table, Ortho just shrugs. "He questioned the honor o' the Company. We no longer 'work' for him. Ras, mark that in yer log. Ah'll go into personal obligation ta replace whatever funds to the Company might have been lost by this little bit here tonight." Ortho gazes deeply into his tankard and gives a deep sigh. The others sit in silent contemplation as they try to sort out just what happened.