A warm place

JP between Lucian Omni and Bandorchu

The pair finally arrived at the steading well after the night had claimed them, making the fire within quite welcome. Not seeing the others at first, Tarmen was slightly on edge, even if he could see there had been no invasion of the property. He realized only now as well that he didn't have any other clothes here, which led to him taking a spot close to the hearth in order to dry the dampness that had begun to chafe. Feeling the warmth come over him, he was tempted to simply lie in front of it for the night.

Alexis quietly followed Tarmen inside, wringing some excess water out of her hair. Almost immediately the dancing flames of the fire place tested her willpower. And it was starting to win. Whether her strength was running out, or that allure was getting stronger she couldn’t say, but it was beginning to feel almost as powerful as the pull of the hammer once had been. The artefact on the other hand seemed dormant right now. She hadn’t even noticed, and she wondered what that meant.

And because she wasn’t sure she wanted the answers to that right now, she began to busy herself with making some tea. She knew for sure she could use it, as could Tarmen, and most likely their currently absent friends, wherever they had gotten themselves to. Not far supposedly, if they left the fire going.

Kettle hung in the fireplace, she started rummaging through a crate for the extra blankets and held one out Tarmen.

A mumble was thanks for the blanket, though he held off throwing it around him. Nothing worse than sleeping with wet bedding. While usually preferring alcohol to warm up, tea sounded quite nice and he idly wondered what blend it was. Kru’ll was certainly not known for its herbal trade, but he was missing the taste of Xambaya leaf tea. It was poisonous by itself, so it took a skilled and trustworthy hand to prepare the deliciously spiced brew.

The flames also reminded him of Alexis’s stunt earlier, both the sheer strength in moving the flaming timber and being utterly unharmed from it.

“How long you been able to handle fire like you did earlier?”

The tea was made from herbs found in the near woods, edibility determined in a group effort when they were still settling into their new home.

For a fleeting moment a melancholic smile ghosted over Alexis’s features as she remembered the … less enjoyable tastings they had collectively endured while sorting out what worked and what didn’t.

She returned to the present and Tarmen’s inquiry swiftly.

“First time I noticed was when you went missing in the Oasis, actually.”

She remembered all too well. It had scared the shit out of her.

A lovely time for the both of them then and a sore point he had briefly forgotten.

“A rather nifty trick it seems. Was quite the shock to see.”

He swirled the given tea as a feeling wrestled within him. It didn’t take much to know what it was now, guilt. A deep guilt for how he had been for that entire debacle. Actually voicing this though proved difficult, Tarmen having to clear his throat in order to prepare.

“I want to apologize for that. Stuck in a land of people that want us dead and I decide the best choice is to party and let my guard down. It nearly killed me and I had no idea if you even lived.”

“You only ever got into that situation because you were helping me.”

Alexis softly answered.

“I know we have been over this, but it remains true all the same.”

She had expressed her regret over pulling him into her mess before, and he had graciously waved it off. She didn’t hesitate to return the favour.

“So if you somehow hold no grudge against me for that, I sure as hell don’t condemn you for wanting a break. I could call it foolish, but then again I am not exactly one to talk, am I?”

She finished with a self-deprecating half smile.

Tarmen returned the smile graciously and toasted his tea.

“I’ll only believe that from you lot.”

Though there was an odd welling of emotion within him, he let little of it show. At most it would seem like he was trying to get comfortable in his drying apparel. He finally tried the tea and appreciated the heat, though the flavor was different from what he expected. A second sip was enough for it to be of some comfort as well.

Alexis imagined that this was high praise in Tarmen speech, and lightly chuckled.

She put her mug to her lips and let the warm liquid chase away a bit of the chill that the evening’s events had left with her as a comfortable silence settled in.

People you could just be quiet with were few and far between, and she appreciated Tarmen’s company as such.

The lodge was wrapped in the comfortable quiet of the rainy autumn evening, with Alexis and Tarmen finishing their conversation, seated comfortably by the crackling fire. Their peace was abruptly shattered by a burgeoning commotion that seemed to start from the back of the lodge and steadily grew louder.

At first, the distant sound of stomping boots mingled with hearty voices carried faintly through the walls. As the noise approached, it became clear that it was Ekero and Voah, their voices rising in a jubilant refrain.

The song’s lively rhythm and foreign words filled the air, growing louder as the pair marched through the lodge. Tarmen and Alexis recognized the Mizaran drinking song from the celebration of Voah’s natladay.

“É! Ō! Vé ūénii zelïsa, ala té ata sorii!
Brexhé brexh, ūr tïon ōngii ab kïdatïh!”

Their laughter and the clinking of tankards preceded them as they made their boisterous way from room to room. The sound of wet boots slapped on the wooden floor.

“É! Ō! Klïnk ūénii zelïsa, ala té ata sorii!

Alaïl sōth eçō evii, mahan sōth eçō mïtii!

Ō! É! Nédé en matii saïxh.
Brexhaii ab stéta té Eréūhïn.

Ō! É! Rejé brexh xhūnii.”

Just as they rounded the corner into the main hall where Alexis and Tarmen sat, Ekero and Voah belted out the final lines with gusto, his spirited entry was followed by the accidental dropping of a metallic tankard.

Yōté en anii “pin pan pon!”

The tankard hit the floor with a theatrical "pin pan pon," causing a brief pause in their singing. Ekero and Voah, noticing Alexis and Tarmen, had to stifle a burst of laughter at their own dramatic entrance.

“More cider,” Ekero smiled his cheeks flushed, as he bent to pick up the tankard. His eyes twinkled with mischief, clearly enjoying the moment.

Voah smiled bashfully, her eyes briefly flickering sideways as her cheeks tinged with a soft rose. The smile, hesitant yet warm, danced on her lips as if she were trying to hold back the full expression of her delight and embarrassment.

“Welcome home, Gatana...” Voah said, referring to Alexis as “older sister. “Tarmen.” she nodded, standing a bit wobbly. She hiccuped and briefly touched her lips with a finger.

The two were clearly soaked by rain. Voah slicked her short, wavy hair back out of her face and stood closer to the fire.

“We saw God today…” said Ekero drunkenly cavalier in broken Helian as he plundered the area for a carafe of cider.

Huh. Seemed like those two had a hell of a lot more fun than Tarmen and herself.
After a moment of bewilderment at the bizarre performance, the implications of Ekero’s statement sunk in.

Alexis frowned.

“At the bottom of the last bottle of booze or actually actually?”

And wasn’t it wild that this was a perfectly legitimate question these days…

Voah considered the thought as she teetered on the edge of drunkenness and mirth. It had been a profound meeting, and she was happy to know she hadn’t experienced it alone this time. Her mind hadn’t felt quite right since their exploits beneath Fang.

“Bit of both, actually,” Voah said, her voice lilting. We saw someone… experienced some thing…”

She waved a hand in disregard. “We can speak of it on the morrow.”

She turned to Ekero, “Save it for tomorrow. Mahan, nnn? Unless… there are important matters to address tonight?” The question was directed to Alexis and Tarmen, whose disposition certainly didn’t match her own present one.

Tarmen was stuck between two desires, one to not stifle their good cheer and possibly join it for a nice reprieve, the other to get their business done with and have a plan for tomorrow. Based on how the two were handling themselves however, it seemed little good would come from such serious business. Hearing of a supposed experience with a deity also had an effect on him, remembering his own experiences in the woods over a year prior. He grimly wondered if Slivhiki still had power here. Still, it was hard to show such dour thoughts when seeing the legendary Arbiter tottling around like this, Tarmen chuckling at the sight.

"I would say it has to wait, neither of you seem in good condition for such grown-up talk. I am more concerned if you have already drained this place dry of spirits while speakin' to them."

Alexis gave a crooked smile and a nod.
Tarmen was quite right. Besides, joy, complimented by alcohol or not, was a very very rare commodity these days, and it felt wrong to rob their friends of it. The sobering, both the proverbial and the literal, could wait until morning.

She leaned back and tiredly let her hair down, simply watching over the unfolding shenanigans.

Voah chuckled, her amusement mingling with a hint of sheepishness, "Then you'll be pleased to know..." she began, as she gestured grandly toward the doorway that led to the larder. "...that the farmhands have kept the place well stocked." She glanced down into her nearly empty cup, adding with a sly smile, "Though, it really didn’t take much."

It was true, the woman didn’t drink often and had very little body mass. She was maybe three pints in and feeling really good.

She looked at Alexis, "I organized some things and I hope you don’t mind us dipping into the supplies." and she finished with a full-toothed apologetic grimace, acknowledging her overstep in a place not her own. Voah’s eyes twinkled with mirth, gratitude, and something more.

Straightening up, she looked earnestly at the two, warmth radiating from her expression. "Can we fetch anything for you? I suspect you're in need of a bit of cheer." The offer came naturally, gently nudging to bring her friends into the fold of their impromptu revelry.

Alexis waved off Voah’s apology. Wasn’t like those supplies had to last them that long, with an all-consuming war at their doorstep.
If they could offer her friends some cheer, she was fine with it.

As for her offer, she simply deferred to Tarmen, who was clearly looking forward to some spirits.
She herself had no intention to get drunk.

After the day they had, Tarmen was all to willing to join in this impromptu revelry. Seeing that Alexis was willing to allow it, he returned a cheerful grin to Voah, appreciative of any moment that they weren't being knocked down or loaded with more woes. To embrace the moment more, he made a grand gesture to bow and hold his arms to signify for Voah to lead the way.

"If spirits are so humbly offered, than they better compare to Ekero's brew! I don't want to feel my toes tonight!"

Although Ekero didn't understand Helian, a subtle half-grin inched up his cheek as he sensed that the festivities would continue for at least one more drink.

He followed the two Helians while Voah grabbed a lantern and led them to the larder, moving with a lightness and buoyancy as if the burdens of recent events had momentarily lifted. She descended a short set of stairs and pushed open the storeroom door, releasing a blend of apple and spice aromas that mingled with the cedarwood scent wafting from the shelving. Inside, the room was stocked with an assortment of crates, baskets, jars, bottles, jugs, and casks. She led them to the alcohol where there waited ciders, ales, and wines.

Voah selected a particularly dark, robust-looking bottle.

"Mmm… this one has the look of forgetfulness,” she remarked. “But by all means, find a fitting one that will rid you of your toes.”

Tarmen took the bottle willingly, looking over it and its compatriots for the best selection. While not fully ready, he wanted to have a proper sendoff to a part of him that no longer fit. Not the boisterous cacophonies he had thrown in the past, but a night full of friendship. He pulled another bottle, one far wider than the 'forgetfulness' and one he knew had fire to it.

"Before I forget tonight, there will be songs and tales."

His face had a long forgotten mirth to it, different from the reckless fervor he had embraced in Gra'akast, as he picked a random ale to compliment their choices before looking to their squat friend with his arms spread wide.

"Your turn friend!"

With the merry trio scampering off to procure themselves more ‘medicine’, Alexis had a few moments to herself.

She leaned against the wall and closed her eyes for a little while, listening to the crackling of the fire place. It was soothing in a way, as was the sense of non-heat that she was starting to become accustomed to.

Maybe she needed a little more of this, later, when their respective choices of drinks would have lured her friends into deep and hopefully restful slumber.

Ekero knew what Tarmen’s gesture meant and he had already made his decision, going for a tan jug. “More cider. Hot. Sweet. Strong.”

The corners of Voah’s mouth turned down in a frown and her eyebrows raised, not in disapproval but rather of bemused acknowledgment and respect. It was the kind of frown that said ‘well, he certainly knows what he wants’. And she smiled as they made their way back up to the fire with their selections and cups.

Tarmen led the charge back into the main room. Several cups were laid out, more than those present, though one was separated out of respect for Alexis’s abstinence.
Each choice was poured and offered to their chooser, himself holding the cup of what was revealed to be Mizaren Tuberbrew and the other bottle he had grabbed, a more tame Empirical ale, the latter he raised high before the warmth of the hearth.

“Tonight we drink. We have many reasons for it and toasts have been made before, but tonight I say we drink for us.”

Here he saluted his cup and downed it.

“Tonight we need stories. Tales that let the world know we haven’t forgotten who we are and where we came from. Songs that the wind will carry for those that come after to hear. Our lives told to those that will gave a damn to hear it. Among true friends.”

Inspired by Tarmen’s spirited proposal, Voah smiled warmly cradling her head at an angle with on hand. She straightened up and raised her own cup.

"Indeed to us. And to our memory, and whosoever may carry our song." she said, her voice telling of heartfelt zeal. “To Greyriver Company.” With a graceful nod, she took a sip, sealing the toast to her friends gathered around the fire.

Touched by the kind toasts of her companions, Alexis felt a little warmer where the fireplace’s heat couldn’t reach.
She raised her cup of tea.

‘’To us. To those friends in need that are friends indeed. To lights in the dark, wind in the back, shelter in the storm. To tonight, that precious little moment between past and future.”

Tarmen felt another swell of emotion, this one much warmer than what he had felt just minutes before. He liked this one. He unceremoniously took the cap off from his bottle and took a hearty swig to chase his toast. He then cleared his throat in grand fashion, raising the bottle in a toast towards Alexis, fully embracing the role of Master of Ceremonies.

"As our most gracious host and supplier of such fine spirits, it is tradition to offer our own Lady Greyriver the first tale of the night?"

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