Fruit of the Fallen

A Turn of The Page

Quitting Time

Part 24 of The Adventures of The Split Falchion

University of Wynarn, The Next Day
“So… we’re just giving up? Leaving?”
“I am, Shakris,” Professor Langhorn, in his study, answers, “The snows yesterday did little to budge the minds of the rest of academia, and I cannot keep up this charade any longer. I must continue my work, even if not here. You may remain if you wish. Seek another’s tutelage, I will not think less of you.”
“Of course not!” His student, Shakris, answers strongly, but then follows, “But… where will we go?”
“I have been in contact with an old colleague of mine in Sharn,” the professor answers, “They have noticed… similar, if reduced weather variations. We will find more receptive patrons there, I believe, even if I must surrender my tenure here.”
“Sharn, but that’s in Breland!” Shakris exclaims.
“Very south of Khorvaire too. You may find it to be quite an adventure, Shakris, though I understand if that makes you hesitate.”
“Will we be safe?”
“As safe as one might expect. The Treaty gives us protection enough, especially as guests of Morgrave University,” the professor shifts his gaze downwards, and continues hesitantly, “ I… do fear we may need guards, however, all the same.”
“Guards? What kind of guards?” Shakris asks, not liking this.
“Mercenaries,” Langhorn replies, not able to dodge the word anymore, “It will be a long journey, even by lightning rail. My severance, as well as a stipend from Morgrave for moving expenses, will cover it, don’t worry.”
“I… suppose it’s better to be safe than sorry,” Shakris agrees, “Should I find some for us?”
“No,” Langhorn shakes his head, “I find it is better to work by word of mouth. We shall leave before the week is out, I suggest you focus on making your own arrangements. I know you have family here.”
“I’ve been with you so much professor, I might already have been in Sharn,” the student replies loosely, “But… thank you. Do, do you think it’ll matter?”
“What?” Langhorn asks, confused.
“This,” she gestures around in general, “Will we be able to stop… whatever is happening in time.”
“That is indeed a worthy question,” the professor answers with a small laugh, “I find it better to remain hopeful. Look at it this way, even with the weather changing, it won’t freeze in Sharn.”
“I suppose that’s true,” Shakris concedes. “I’ll… start packing.”
“And I’ll keep hoping,” Professor Langhorn says to himself, after she had left.

The Crowned Leper, Marwyn
For the second time in a row at The Crowned Leper, Marwyn slept past noon. No one could really blame him, given yesterday. It was different today, however. The bed across from him was empty. Last night had gone bad. It might have been worse than his first mission, the thought of which made his shoulder itch again, skin crawling around the mark he still bore.

Wanting to forget, or at least distract himself, Marwyn turned to his bow. He thought momentarily about going to a range, but didn’t want to leave his bed. The shard, hung from thin but strong cord, catches his eye, and he remembers the moment it all went wrong. None of the intense energy it had once carried was present now, though he could sense something… off about it.
Nothing about the shard was physically different, but when he reached out with his mind, he almost shivered with the sensations it gave him. Withdrawing his mind like a hand nearly scorched, he then wonders if he should ask Lesani about it. Both she and Jorduna had been solemn, and almost speechless since they had returned to Fairhaven late last night. But that was preferable to Vargard, who just seemed… done. He was meeting with The Royal Eyes now, alone. To quit, Marwyn guessed.
He tried contacting Cletus again, through the stone, but it was pointless. No response. Nothing they tried to do to contact the dwarf succeeded, and the possibility that he was dead was becoming very real. He sighs, hunger forcing him from his bed. Marwyn pokes his head out of the door, trying to see if any of his friends were near. Seeing none, he silently locks his room, and heads downstairs.

A Few Hours Later, Wilhelm Garodin’s Estate
Vargard walks slowly towards his uncle’s manor, dreading what he’d have to do. His meeting with The Royal Eyes had gone about as well as it could have. An agent he’d never seen before gave him hell for the loss of their agents, but paid him all the same for the return of the jumper. Aundair somehow managed to avoid starting a war, they told him, though only because Thrane couldn’t prove anything. He didn’t know if it was rage or depression he was trying to hold back, as he told the agent in no uncertain terms that he was leaving The Eyes service. For good.

He’d leave Fairhaven soon, maybe even Aundair altogether. No point waiting for Cletus, not even a sending seemed to reach him. Either he was dead… or worse. Vargard didn’t even want to think about it. And now, he knocks on his uncle’s door, unable to suppress the memories of when another had to do this grim task for him, years ago.
“Master Garodin,” the servant addresses, opening the door after a slight delay, “I will inform Master Wilhelm of you arrival.”

Vargard didn’t know the man, so he merely grunted and stood by the doorway. A short while after, the servant returns, saying, “Master Wilhelm will see you in his study now. May I take your coat?
“No,” Vargard shakes his head, “I won’t be here long.”
“As you wish, sir.”

The ex-major was sitting in the same chair as when they had last met, a few days ago. He even had another decanter of whiskey ready, two glasses beside. “Vargard, two visits in one week, do what do I owe the pleasure? Vargard?” Wilhelm asks, worried, when the warrior sits himself heavily in the adjacent chair without another word.
“Will…” Vargard tries to say, finding it hard to even broach the subject.
“What is it?”
“You’re…. I had to be the one to tell you. I couldn’t let them lie to you,” Vargard answers, and forces it out before the conversation was prolonged further, “John’s dead.”
“What!?” Wilhelm cries, sitting up in his chair and looking desperately for any sign of a black humor, “But… that’s impossible!”
“Did you know he was an agent of the Eyes?” Vargard asks, trying to be as gentle as possible.
“Wha… no, Var, you must be mistaken. He’s in the guard…”
“It was a cover, Will,” Vargard corrects, “I didn’t know until… it’s him, there’s no mistake.”
“How?” Wilhelm asks weakly, head in his hands.
“On a mission. It went… bad. We lost almost everyone. I lost…”
“Don’t,” Wilhelm interrupts, unable to bear more than what he’d already heard, “I… how could he have hidden this from me? You told me of your involvement…”
“He was a full-fledged agent, Will,” Vargard explains, “One of their best. It would have been treason to let family know, as it is now. I… I don’t know what they’ll tell you, but I have no doubt he’ll be made out a hero.”
“I’d rather have a son than a hero!” Wilhelm shouts loudly, causing the servant to peek into the study, wondering if something was wrong. “Leave us!” he shouts, and the servant quickly retreats.

“His body, Var… is it?” Wilhelm stops, unable to continue.
“It is whole,” Vargard answers carefully, “He will have a… proper burial.”
“Slim solace, that,” Wilhelm responds, shakily pouring himself a drink, “What do I do, Var? How do I tell my wife?”
“Tell her he died well, saving many lives.”
“Is that the truth?” Wilhelm asks.
“It is the truth she needs,” Vargard says enigmatically. “I… I can’t stay long after the funeral, Will. They lied to me for years, lied to both of us. I don’t know where I’m going, but…”
“I don’t blame you,” Wilhelm waves him off, alcohol numbing some of the pain, “Could I run from this… I would.”
“I’ll be at the inn, when you… make the arrangements,” Vargard says, standing, “Will, if there’d been anyway I could’ve…”
“I don’t blame you, Var,” Wilhelm says, sighing, “I don’t blame anyone. I can’t, I can’t let that hate destroy me. Don’t let it destroy you.”
“I don’t hate them, Will,” Vargard says, in parting, “I just don’t care anymore.”

The funeral came and went the next day. It was a grand affair, a hero’s funeral for a guard who died from wounds sustained in killing the first lycanthrope attack in Fairhaven for decades. It was also a lie. Only Vargard attended, the others not feeling it was proper to do so. They’d been avoiding each other, in fact, not wanting to start what might lead to the end of the Falchion.
They’d already written off Cletus. No magical attempts at contact had succeeded. The current prevailing theory was that he died when his car came to a dead stop just short of the river bank, maybe surviving long enough to drown as it filled with water.
But now, coming back from the funeral, Vargard resolved to determine their future. Or, just his future, whichever was fated. The four solemnly gathered in Marwyn’s room, each trying to stay silent.

Eventually, Vargard finds it in himself to begin. “By now, it’s clear that… we lost Cletus. He was a good friend, a good warrior, and we should honor his memory. To Cletus!” he says with all the bravado he could muster, lifting his flask. The others try their best to reciprocate. “We’ve been avoiding this the past few days, but… I’ve got the pay from our last mission. The Eyes are going to make an attempt to give Cletus’ portion to any kin he has, for what it’s worth.” He lightly tosses a generous pouch of gold towards each. They were heavy, enough for a month’s worth of living at least, but none were excited.
“Feels a bit like blood money,” Jorduna responds, and no one challenges the statement.
“I’ve decided to leave Aundair,” Vargard says, “I don’t know where to, not Thrane, gods no, but I’ll not stay here. I can’t. No jobs, either. Maybe not forever, but… Who’s with me?”
“I am, always,” Lesani says, “You need never ask.”
“I was… I was supposed to die, Var,” Jorduna says, somewhat shocked, “If it wasn’t for Cletus, I probably would have. I still expect to find him creeping up beside me, the way he used to. I think he liked it, even if he never…” she sighs, and answers, “I’m with you, Var. Wouldn’t know what to do with myself without you telling me.”

There’s a silence, Marwyn lost in thought.
“Marwyn?” Vargard asks, unable to read the bard’s emotions.
“Var… I…” he gulps, “Mevalyn, she’s said before that she wouldn’t want to leave Aundair. I…”
“Stay, then,” Vargard says, with no ill will, “I have no doubt you’ll have a good life here. Safer, certainly, if it’s what you want.”
“I do,” Marwyn nods, making his decision. “But… I can never repay you, all of you, for what you’ve done.”
“The pleasure was ours, Marwyn,” Vargard says, shaking the young half-elf’s hand. “Keep the sending stone. It will be nice to hear from you, time to time.”
The bard turns to Lesani, who embraces him with a short hug, and says, “I wish we could continue our adventures, Marwyn, but I understand. I wish you well.”
“You too, Les,” Marwyn says. He glances awkwardly at Jorduna, who remained sitting on a bed.
“Won’t hug you kid,” she says, “But I can’t say I won’t miss you either.”
“You too, Jor,” Marwyn says. “When will you be leaving?”
“Tomorrow,” Vargard answers, “By horse. I’m not getting on another damnable train for as long as I live.”
“Guess this is goodbye, then,” Marwyn says, grabbing his bag. “I’ll… never forget you,” he says, unable to hold the tears back. He leaves, as the rest bade him goodbye.

Later that Day, The Mired Harper
“Marwyn?” Mevalyn Aviarch exclaimed, seeing the bard, “Back already?” She was sitting at one of the Harper’s tables, enjoying dinner.
Marwyn walked towards her, pale faced, barely able to speak.

“Marwyn, what’s wrong?” Mevalyn asks, noting his demeanor. “Why are you…”
“Mevalyn,” he says, the name barely passing his lips. His strength waxes, though, as he continues “I… I’ve never met anyone like you. Though we met in war… it was in love that we’ve truly found each other.”
“Marwyn, that’s so sweet,” she says, smiling, “I’ve found our time together pleasant as well.”
“Mevalyn, I…” Marwyn falters, voice catching again. He steels himself, gathering the will to finish. Fishing out the ring he had purchased moments before, he lowers himself to one knee. “Mevalyn Aviarch, I want to spend eternity with you. Will you marry me?”
The tavern goers, who had thus far ignored the tableau before then, shift their gaze. For an agonizing moment, Marwyn feels the eyes of all on him, as Mevalyn pauses to think.
“Marwyn… I,” she tries to say, speechless, “I never thought… yes, of course I will!” There is general applause with this, good cheer filling the inn.
“A round for the engaged!” the barman shouts, to which the revelry redoubles. Marwyn puts the ring on Mevalyn’s hand, and the two embrace. Amidst the applause, and the embrace of his lover, Marwyn allows his troubles of recent be lost to the merriment.

Meanwhile, The Crowned Leper
The now three of The Split Falchion sit at the bar, taking in an almost constant stream of drink.
“Can’t believe Marwyn left,” Vargard says, “I don’t begrudge his choice, it’s just…”
“No one could have predicted… this,” Lesani says, after a gentle sip.
“Hey, he’s found someone who can tolerate that annoying personality. Good for him,” Jorduna says, “Weird way to meet your soulmate, when you think about it. But hey, whatever works.”
“Hear you’re leaving town for a while,” the innkeeper banters, while cleaning a glass, “Shame to see you go.”
“As am I,” Vargard says, sighing, “But nothing’s changing it.”
“Drinks’re on the house,” the innkeep responds generously, “And may your travels return you to my door safely.”
“Cheers,” the three reply. They focus on the drinks, not willing further conversation.

Some time passes, though in their haze none could tell exactly how much. Drunken stupors are broken when an elderly voice from the door cries over the noise in the tavern, “I’m… uh… looking for a Vargard Garodin.”
“Who wants to know,” Jorduna replies, not drunk enough yet for her speech to be impaired.
“A friend of Professor Gilmont.”

Vargard turns to assess the newcomer, who approached the bar. It was an old elf, in robes. Certainly had the look of one who knows Gilmont. Vargard wasn’t in the mood for friends of friends, however. “Who the hell are you?”
“P…p…Professor Langhorn,” the professor answers, unnerved by the gruff demeanor of the warrior. “Gilmont said if… if I needed men for something…”
“We aren’t taking jobs,” Vargard replies bruskly, “We’re leaving Aundair tomorrow.”
“Good!” the professor exclaims, and then hurriedly adds, “I mean, good that you are leaving Aundair, for I am as well. I am merely looking for an escort for my apprentice and myself to Sharn.”
“Not interested,” Vargard answers.
“Wait,” Lesani says, “Var, Sharn is as good a place as any.”
“I can pay,” Langhorn adds, seizing on the uncertainty.
“Why?” Vargard asks simply, softening his tone.
“Why….?” Langhorn repeats, not understanding.
“Why are you going to Sharn?”
“It’s… not something I’d really expect you to understand. Or believe.”
“Try me,” Vargard challenges.
Langhorn sighs, and explains, “I’ve noticed something wrong with the weather, as of late. I’m not just some old elf complaining, I’m talking about measurable differences in the patterns of the sun, and did you notice the recent snows? Wynarn isn’t interested in my research, so I must turn to Morgrave. But my research isn’t really importan….”
“We will accompany you,” Lesani answers, “When do you leave?”
“Well, as soon as possible ideally, though if you need time…”
“Tomorrow works,” the warlock answers, ignoring Vargard’s furious stare, “We will meet you here. By what is our mode of travel?”
“Lightning rail. I already have the…”
“Like hell!” Vargard exclaims, but Lesani overrides him.
“That will be fine.”
“O…ok. I have your five passes if you…” Langhorn starts.
“We will only need three,” Lesani corrects him, “I suggest you not ask why.”
“R…right. Of course. I will meet you here on the morrow then.” He leaves, not entirely understanding Vargard’s reticence.

Jorduna looks to the warlock in stunned amazement, never having seen her countermand Vargard before in such brazen fashion.
“Les, what the hell?” Vargard asks, “If you’ve forgotten, I’m the leader of this outfit.”
“And you are in mourning,” Lesani answers, “You would never pass up a job like this normally, and now that we have burned our bridge with The Royal Eyes, we cannot be too choosy.”
“I’m not riding on the damn rails,” Vargard says, stubbornly.
“Vargard Garodin,” Lesani bristles, “You are acting like a child. Your friend perished, as did your cousin, but I refuse to believe this is the same man who slayed Redmont, who overcame that dark beast and banished it from this world. You are angry, you are drunk, but you are still a proud warrior. Now, go up to your room and sleep it off,” she orders, and yells “Go!” as Vargard begins to protest.
Grumbling to himself, Vargard stumbles towards the stairs in obedience.

Jorduna had watched Lesani’s tirade in disbelief, and it wasn’t until the fighter had completely disappeared up the stairs that she metaphorically picked her jaw up off the floor. “Uh… Les, did you just…”
“Was I wrong?” the elf asks with self-righteousness.
“No… I’ve just never seen you stand up to Var like that.”
“It needed to be done,” Lesani answers simply, “He will thank me come the morning.”
“I’d hope he’d have forgotten it,” Jorduna answers, “But I’ll drink to that. You’ve got steel when it counts, Les, I’ll give you that.”
“Thank you, Jor,” Lesani responds graciously.

One Hour Before Dawn, The Next Day
Langhorn, and his companion, Shakris, waited in The Crowned Leper’s barroom for the three mercenaries to descend.
“I thought your friend said there was five of them,” Shakris comments, having just heard the tale of last night from Langhorn.
“Indeed, as I was led to believe. Apparently it’s a… sore subject. They were deep into their drinks when I arrived.”
“Are we sure we want them?” Shakris asks, not liking the sound of that.
“Gilmont vouched for them, and I trust his judgment. Just… don’t broach the subject with them. There’s one now,” he points at Lesani, who descended the stairs.
“Lesani Windhailer,” the warlock greets the pair, shaking the hand of Shakris, “Are we prepared to leave?”
“Yes,” the professor nods, “Our train leaves just after dawn, we should leave soon if we are to make it. Will that be a problem?” he asks, noting the lack of her companions.
“No, my companions are merely gathering their things,” she answers. This was half true, the full truth being that Jorduna was attempting to wake Vargard from his deep slumber. “I am somewhat learned in the ways of magical research. If I may ask, do you have an idea as to the cause of this change in the weather?”
“Not at present, though I would be loath to discuss my research in public,” Langhorn responds, “My previous employers blocked my attempts to use the university’s resources, precious as they are. Real work will begin in Sharn, I hope.”

“Are you a warlock?” Shakris asks suddenly, sizing up Lesani.
“Shakris! Don’t be rude,” Langhorn admonishes.
“No, it is an honest question,” Lesani says, forgiving the query, “Indeed I am, though I am often told I am far more benevolent than most of my kind. Why do you ask?”
“Just curious,” Shakris answers, slightly embarrassed.
“Well, I… oh, there they are,” Langhorn says, as he sees Jorduna and Vargard descend. Vargard appeared decent, having recovered from last night.
“Are we ready to depart?” he asks clearly, no trace of the malice from last night.
“Yes, we are,” the professor answers, grateful to see the warrior’s mood improved. “If you follow me…”
“By your lead,” Vargard nods. He pauses by Lesani for a moment, however, and breathes, “Thanks for keeping me honest, Les. Reminds me of old times.”
“Anytime, Var,” she responds quietly, and they continue out of The Crowned Leper. It is a short walk to the outskirts of the city, then to the train yard, and then to their carriage South, towards Sharn.

The Mired Harper
Marwyn awakes next to Mevalyn. He didn’t entirely remember last night, but those memories he retained were pleasant. Mevalyn awakes instantly when he does. Her nature required less rest than the half-elf, but she had remained in her trance until he too had awoken. This pleased Marwyn in ways he didn’t fully understand.
“So, when do you leave?” she asks, smiling.
“Leave?” Marwyn asks, confused.
“As much as I’d love for you to stay, I’m sure you’ve got another adventure to embark on. I’m sure I’ll find quite a few of my own here while you’re gone. Even if they take me away from Fairhaven, I’ll be sure to let you know, somehow.”
“I’ve got… good news, Mevalyn,” Marwyn says nervously, “I left the Falchion. I can stay here, with you.”
“You what?” Mevalyn says, sitting up suddenly. “Marwyn, tell me you didn’t.”
“I… I thought you’d be happy,” the half-elf says, unsure what he did wrong.
“It’s not that I wouldn’t like it,” she answers hurriedly, “But I don’t want you giving up your friends for my sake. Can you truly say you are happy, giving up on your friends for me?”

When Marwyn doesn’t immediately answer, Mevalyn continues, “We both have many years ahead of us, Marwyn. I gave you my hand, and I will keep my promises to you. You need not worry on that front. Go, explore the world. Just come back to me, whenever you can.”
“I… it might be too late,” Marwyn says suddenly, “They said they were leaving today.”
“It is nearly dawn,” Mevalyn notes, drawing back the shades, “Go, now.”
“Yeah,” Marwyn says, rushing to gather his things. He stops for a moment, glancing at his hand, where his own ring rested. “Oh, I almost forgot. Our rings!”
“Yes?” Mevalyn raises an eyebrow.
“They’re enchanted. Pair-bonded. I’d… come into some money, so I spared no expense. Speak to it with your mind and I’ll hear you.”
“I thought I’d sensed something off about it,” she smiles, joking, “Thought it might have been an illusion to make the gem look real. But you should go, Marwyn. May your travels be safe, and fortune ever smile upon you!” she yells to the departing bard.

Meanwhile, Vargard
Vargard sat uneasily in the railcar’s chair. The seats the professor had attained were in the lowest class, and they were more benches then real chairs. But they’d do. It was more the thrum of the elementals below him, preparing for the journey ahead, and the memories they provoked that troubled him. His concentration was broken, however, by the chime of his sending stone.
He quickly activated it, thinking it might be Cletus, reaching out for help. “Cletus?!” Jorduna and Lesani turn their heads at the mention of the dwarf’s name.
“No, its Marwyn,” an out-of-breath bard answered, “I… huh… changed my mind. Innkeep said you left… wheh… half an hour ago.”
“Marwyn,” Vargard addresses, both to engage the half-elf, and answer his companions’ gazes, “We’re on a lightning rail. It’s about to depart.”
“What?!” Marwyn answers, “But I’m… I’ll get there!”
“Marwyn, it’s impossible,” Vargard argues, hearing the last call, “You can meet us at our next destination. Marwyn? Marwyn?” Vargard repeats, when the bard doesn’t answer.
“What did he want?” Lesani asks, curious.
“Changed his mind,” Vargard answers, “He’s apparently trying to run from the Leper to here before we leave.”
“Huh,” Jorduna grunts in surprise, “Won’t make it though.”
“One of your companions?” Langhorn asks, picking up on the conversation, “Well, I can see if we can purchase a ticket for him at the next station, and have them send it up the line. As Ms. Jorduna says, it is unfortunately too late to… what are you doing?” he addresses the last question at Vargard, who stands and heads towards the guard posted at the connection between train cars. The warrior ignores the question, however.

“Don’t react,” he says quickly to the guard, who gives him an odd look, “I need to speak with the conductor, and this train can’t depart until I do. There is a threat to everyone on board that I’ve just been made aware of.”
“Get back to your seat, old man,” the guard sneers, brandishing a nightstick. Had Vargard’s sword and shield been visible, they might heeded his words. But Vargard had stowed them in preparation for the journey.
Instead, Vargard effortlessly plucks the wooden mace from the inexperienced man’s hand, saying, “I don’t have time for this. I need to see the conductor, now!”
“O…ok,” the guard stutters, having entirely misread the warrior. “Just… take it easy.”
“Conductor, now. Before we all get blown to Khyber,” Vargard says, flipping the nightstick and handing it back to the guard.
“Right, yeah,” the guard responds. He briefly considered striking out and subduing his assailant, but felt he would get the worst end of that attempt. He opens the bulkhead door to second class, and nervously ushers the warrior through.

“What is the meaning of this?” the conductor, who was standing by the lightning rail’s controls at the head of the train, asks when Vargard is escorted into the cabin. The guard posted to him, obviously much more experienced than the one leading Vargard, draws him weapon.
“Rikir, what the hell?” the second guard asks.
“Said there was a threat to the train,” the guard mumbles.
“You need to inspect the cells holding the elementals before you engage them,” Vargard starts, hoping bluster would be enough, “I don’t have to tell you what happens to everyone on board if they escape and run through the railcars.”
“What? That’s ridiculous,” the conductor answers, “I have no idea who the hell you are, but those cells are checked regularly. If there was a fault we’d know.”
“Can’t catch recent sabotage,” Vargard counters, “Now, I’m only telling you this because I don’t like the thought of a furious electrical storm chewing through my innards halfway to Passage, and needless to say if you tell anyone about this, you’d wish one had.”
“Either start making sense, or we’re throwing you off this train,” the guard captain threatens.
“Close that door,” Vargard orders.
The guard captain, about to assure Vargard that it had in fact been closed as was protocol, turns to see it wide open. Several of the workers in the second car were watching the display with quick glances. “Rikir! Close that door and get back to the aft car!”
“Yessir,” the guard says quickly, taking the chance to escape.
As the guard flees, Vargard mentally urges Marwyn on, unsure how much more time he was able to buy.

“Start talking,” the remaining guard commands.
“A Thranish train was recently hijacked. They blame us, security alert for all Aundair lightning rails was just raised. This is the one train they can’t check,” Vargard explains, relying on half-truths instead of total lies.
“Hijacking? Why would…”
“I don’t give a damn why those fanatics think we did it,” Vargard counters, “I’m just telling you what I heard.”
“And who the hell are you to get these ‘security updates’?” the guard challenges.
“Not one you should be talking to in such a manner,” Vargard menaces, trying to bully away the question.
“It… it wouldn’t be too much trouble. A short delay, at most,” the conductor tries to mediate, not liking the hostile air, “Look, we’ll check the containment cells, just don’t make a big deal out of it.”
“You believe this guy?” the guard turns to the conductor, but then spits to the side, and says, “What do I care? Not like I’ll be the one doing it. I don’t know what game you’re playing,” he says, addressing Vargard, “But raise any more trouble, and I’m not going to stop at just throwing you off the train.”
“If any more trouble’s raised on this train,” Vargard says honestly, “You better hope I’m on your side.”

Vargard returns to the aft car, having bought Marwyn all the time he could without trying to take over the train. It’ll have to do, he thinks.
The train was just about to take off, the mechanics having completed their checks, when a loud banging was heard from the outside of the cabin door. The guard posted by it, who had so far been doing his best to avoid Vargard’s gaze, looks out the small window built into the door. He opens it quickly, allowing Marwyn onto the train, who was gasping for breath. All aboard looked at the bard with curiosity, but soon lost interest as he joined the general throng, trying to find his friends. Late arrivals were uncommon, but every so often someone would arrive just in time to bribe their way on board for double or triple the going rate.

“Glad to see that it wasn’t all in vain,” Professor Langhorn comments, moving aside to accommodate Marwyn. He extends a hand, which Marwyn, still exhausted, barely manages to shake. “Professor Langhorn.”
“S.. s… sorry, I’m… late,” Marwyn pants.
“Changed your mind?” Vargard asks, secretly glad to see the bard, but outwardly showing no emotion.
“Yeah…. Could say that,” the half-elf responds, breathe returning to him, “So… who are you?” he asks, realizing he didn’t know the elf he was sitting next to.
“Professor Langhorn,” the professor repeats, “I’m sure we’ll have plenty of time aboard to discuss the next few days.”
“Where are we going?” Marwyn continues, “And what do you need us for?”
“As to the latter, nothing, I’d hope,” Langhorn replies, “As to the former, Sharn! It’s going to be quite the adventure for Shakris and I,” he adds, and Marwyn sees a woman at Langhorn’s left wave to him.

All aboard brace themselves as the train jerks into the motion, finally departing after engineers had checked the elemental cells. It exits the busy trainyards, which were processing the last of the grain shipments from the furthest fields, and quickly speeds across the Aundair plains. Above, the sun glared down, casting strong rays despite the encroaching cold, as if renewing the promise of summer for the denizens of the lower realm.

If only they knew.

Continued in Episode 3: Winter’s Bow


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