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The Dragon's Hoard - Freelander District, Light's Reach


Nestled along the western edge of the road at the northernmost entrance to the district, the Dragon's Hoard welcomes any common traveler with the aromas of richly brewed ale, warm bread, and of course, open wings. With walls built of sturdy stone and supporting beams of pine, patrons can rest assured that it will take more than a simple dispute between pints to tumble the walls.
The space inside is well stocked with lengthy tables and smaller, more intimate booths near the corner hearth. To the left of the doorway stands the bar counter where the keeper and maids stand ready to serve up a hearty stew, the latest brew, or endless streams of questionable conversation. To the right of the doorway a small platform has been built up from the straw-covered floor, providing the night's entertainment with a place to perform.
For those too tired to watch said performances, their place is across the room and up the narrow staircase to the inn upstairs. A young boy waits patiently (or fast asleep) at the foot of the staircase, ready (when poked with one's toe) to assist patrons in obtaining one of the few rooms available.
Despite the light-hearted, bawdy, and at times utterly unruly atmosphere that fills the establishment, the tavern is reigned over by more somber powers - the powers of memory and faith - that is if the carved teeth and gaping maw of a drake head mounted above the hearth don't sober you enough. Above the doorway is a wooden crest - a rosy sun mounted on a pair of white wings, centered on a black plaque which reads: "Out of the ashes of old shall birth a new dawn. May the Light Reach forever."


Thayndor Zahir sits, very quietly, in a back corner of the tavern, eating vegetable stew.


From the direction of the inn rooms wanders a lone figure, cloaked in black with hood drawn. The small person heads for the bar and softly orders something to eat, before glancing about the room. And then again... The hood shifts a bit, suggesting that the figure is looking in Thayndor's general direction. Bot for now, it stays at the bar.


Thayndor Zahir glances to Marisa. The outlaw's expression is vaguely thoughtful before he returns his eyes to the stew before him, innocuous.


Once her food arrives, the teen glances back over to that corner table for a moment. She lifts her food from the counter and approaches Thayndor slowly, stopping within comfortable conversation distance. "'S been a while," Marisa says softly, "D'ye min' if'n I's joinin' ye?"


Thayndor Zahir gestures. "Not at all," he says. "Please, sit. I have gone a long time without company of any kind." He smirks, without mirth. "But do not take that to mean I am merely settling for yours. I apologize for not acknowledging you in a more outspoken way, but," the smile cracks a little larger as he looks down to his spoon, "it was unclear to me who's reputation would be more damaged by the act, mine or yours."


The blonde chuckles and takes a seat, "At dis point? Proleh mine. But I's don' wan' be 'nnounc'd aneh'ay." Marisa takes a glance around and then pulls back her hood. There's a bruise around her eye and she's gone back to her 'pile of rags' look, but she seems to be in decent spirits as she starts into her meal. "So," she ventures, glancing over to the man thoughtfully, "... what 'app'n'd? If'n I's 'llow'd te ask, dat 's."


"You are allowed to ask," Thayndor replies. "However, if you are still an employee of Darkwater -- which will, likely, never be mine again -- you are an employee of someone who has little care for my well-being, and I may not be inclined to provide an answer." He tilts his head. "You don't look to have been at work in my absence."


"I's workin' fer ye, nae Darkwat'r," Marisa replies, "An' since ye's nae been 'roun', I's nae 'ad much te do fer workin'. Been buseh, dough. Ran 'nteh Swif' - Roy'l Guard sav'd meh arse." She and Thayndor are seated in the back corner of the tavern, eating and talking. It's not a hushed conversation, but still quiet enough to be private. "Been 'idin' out, mos'leh. But if'n ye's don' wan' tell meh, dat's ye's call, aye. But I's be owin' ye, so's keep dat 'n mind."


Thayndor Zahir nods. "In that case, then, I owe you the same frankness I have always extended those who work for me," he replies, setting down his spoon and gesturing with his hands, palms upward. "Several months ago, I decided to go into the woods and confront an aspect of the Shadow that lives within me -- The Beast, if you will. It was far more powerful than anticipated. Last night, I regained enough control over myself to get close to Voreyn Zahir's Eventide Keep in a search for help." He looks pained, but maintains control of his voice. "I did not gain enough control to gracefully handle what followed, and when I left Eventide, I fear my affiliation with House Zahir left with me. As I have almost all of my funds in the accounts and the vaults of Darkwater, you will not find employment with me nearly as lucrative, at least for the time being."


Esvan makes his way into the tavern, somewhat tired and out of sorts, with Brand in tow. "Better?" he asks. "It's been a while...I guess it's not too bad."


"Well, they'll let me in this one," Brand notes, rubbing at his eyes. "Mm. I'll see about getting rooms."


Marisa listens to Thayndor thoughtfully, frowning lightly. "Ligh'...," she starts, "Dat's..." She just trails off, apparently not quite able to finish the thought, and decides to change to the lighter subject, "Don' worreh 'bout de moneh. I's nae starvin'." The blonde teen sips at her beverage and then regards the former Zahir with an expression of concern, "'S ye gon' be a'righ'?"


"Perhaps," Thayndor replies. "Having ..." He contemplates his stew. "I shan't mope." He looks back at Marisa, face stern. "I will not run from Imperial law, and I will not allow Voreyn Zahir to abuse me. We shall see where that gets me." From his table in the far corner, he glances aside at the newcomers, then back to Marisa. "We shall likely see very soon."


Esvan nods to Brand, and then turns his attention to the tavern - somewhat attentively, but also tired, as one who has been doing a lot of looking recently. His attention falls first not on Thayndor, but on his companion. He starts toward her table...only then noticing the marks of 'mage' and 'zahir' on her companion, and pauses again. "Marisa," he says softly - the care one uses around a wild thing that might bolt or attack, one or the other. "Do you sit with your master?"


Brand yawns and walks on, procuring a room for him and his lord. Then going to occupy it.


The blonde looks up to Esvan at that, smiling, "Lor' Esv'n. 'Ow 'n de Ligh's name de ye's keep findin' meh?" The question is asked with a hint of teasing as the teen stands, bows, and then retakes her seat. Marisa glances over to Thayndor, then to Esvan, then to Thayndor again, before remarking, "Mast'r? I's gots meh a Mas'r? 'S news te meh. I's gots meh a boss, dough, I's knowin' dat. 'S 'at wut ye's be meanin', Lor' Esv'n?" She seems quite at ease with her companion, and mildly amused at the younger Zahir's mannerism.


Thayndor Zahir quietly folds his napkin, setting it down, unhurried. "There's no need for that, Marisa," he says, exhaling quietly. "I will not run or use trickery here. Yes, nephew, I am -- or was, until recently -- the Lord of Darkwater." Only then does he glance sidelong at Esvan, frankly sizing him up. With deliberate, measured movements, he pushes his chair back from the table. "You've nothing to fear from me," he says, rising and drawing himself up to his full height. "I came here in part because here, at least, my very presence can not be misinterpreted as a threat. The Shadow holds no sway here, my curse no power." Here is a Noble, in bearing and speech if no longer in title. He smiles warmly down at Esvan. "So tell me, my nameless nephew: having banished me from all I held sacred, what other tortures does the Duchess wish to visit upon me for seeking her help in my weakest hour?"


Esvan blinks. "My name is Esvan, uncle," he says, and bows slightly. "I think it's more complicated than that, but the scribes were very clear when my parents were killed. I'm not afraid of you." That said with the simple bravado of a fifteen year old. "But Matriarch is...very much not happy. She stayed outside until late last night, with that chain."


"Nae trick'reh, jes' lettin' ye's make de d'cision 'n ye's own," Marisa explains to the mage simply, "Nae meh place te do more 'n dat." The blonde returns to her food and leans back in her seat some, keeping an ear to the conversation but falling silent.


Thayndor Zahir glances aside at Marisa, offering naught but a brief, thankful nod, before returning his attention to the Zahir. "I stayed outside until dawn, young Esvan," Thayndor replies, quietly. "She threw away a Count. I'm without an entire family, my birthright property and all but the most loyal of my people. The arithmetic is, if not exactly equal, then certainly balanced." His eyes flick up and down the young Zahir, and he draws in another breath, preparing. "It's good that you came," he says, voice resuming the volume and metered authority one might expect from the master of a keep. "Leave it to the Mikin -- or whatever we're calling them now -- to fill a whole town from nothing and leave out a store with ink and parchment. I would like for you to deliver a message to the Matriarch, if she is willing to hear and you would be so kind as to carry."


Esvan makes a face. "I will carry it. Whether she will hear it I can not tell you. I've tried to look after your people for you. Or at least keep track of them." He nods to Marisa. "And the Mikins are called Valoria now."


Marisa finishes her food and sets her empty plate aside, pale green eyes glancing between the males passively. She still remains silent, although Esvan's nod gets a slight shrink and a mild look of sheepishness.


"I hope you found 'looking after' my people to be enlightening, nephew," Thayndor replies, undoing his cloak and resting it against the back of a chair. "If you'll pardon me for disrobing." He slips the tabard from his shoulders, carefully folding it as he continues, now wearing just the doublet, with sleeves, on his frame. "I would like you to do me the courtesy of carrying this to the Duchess," he says, tucking the folded garment under one arm as he removes the signet from his finger. "And this." He pulls out the folded garment again, carefully, placing the signet atop the tabard, which has been folded with the raven crest up. "As she has decided that I am no longer to wear it. Should her decision be permanent, then that is her decision. But tell her this: She encountered me as I was in a fight with the Shadow inside me, and I had come seeking her help to win it. In a manner of speaking, she provided that help, and I have won that fight, for the time being. What happens next is hers to decide."


Esvan accepts the items quietly, but says, "Your people trust no one but you, uncle. But you had abandoned them. Keeping track of them at least gave me something to do besides hunt." He regards the emblazoned items. "...Uncle, if your fate is really in her hands, I would make peace with the Light if I were you. She was very angry. That was why I tracked you. I've spent months looking for you. I wanted to know who my uncle was, before she does whatever she is going to do. I am sorry I had to shoot you."


And then the freelander finishes her beverage. She watches the objects being handed over with mild interest in her features, before her eyes flick to Esvan. "Nae. Din' 'band'n," she says simply, and leaves it at that.


"My fate, should I remain outside the Zahir fold, is not in her hands. What happens next, however, is for her to determine," Thayndor says. The accusation of abandonment seems to weigh heavily on him. "I have a curse, Esvan. The Shadow weighs on my soul. One day I decided to leave the Keep and confront it, confront that aspect -- that beast -- that you saw. I had no idea it could consume me so completely for so long," he admits. "It took all that I had just to get close to Eventide. As for the arrows, they were your duty to fire; I am proud that you shot so well." His jaw sets. "This is not an excuse. Banishment is a price I am ready to pay. Beyond that ..." he looks away. "Things are complicated. I am not sure the Duchess will act with more reason than I showed by entering the castle walls, or by panicking like a cornered animal when she reacted to my presence with more anger than concern. It is clear that she holds no compassion for me, and I cannot -- well. Suffice it to say that you are right in believing it would be better not to advocate on my behalf. If you are ill at ease with bearing my message, I will move to another town and find the supplies for a letter."


Esvan slants a look at Marisa, and for a moment there's a lot more Zahir than boy in that face. And the 'be. silent.' is almost clear enough to be spoken. Neither anger nor wrath - simply the absolute expectation of obedience or consequence, the choice being irrelevant. Then his attention's back on Thayndor, silvered eyes intent and somewhat regretful. "I will carry your message, for what that may be worth. I don't know what she will do. She doesn't talk to me very much, unless I drop a bushdragon in her foyer." He tilts his head. "You have a very effective boot dagger."


Risa quirks a brow at Esvan and grins. She looks more amused than anything else, but she does remain silent.


"Thank you," Thayndor says first, simply, nodding. There's a pause. "I'm afraid I don't know what you mean about the dagger. It has been a long time since I visited my armory. But I am curious why you searched for me, Esvan. And I did not mention it before; I was sad to hear that you had lost you parents, and that it has complicated your lineage."


Esvan - perhaps daring - reaches out and (should Thayndor not back away) lightly sets a fingertip to the mark on his face. "Your boot dagger," he says quietly. "I have friends who have that. We decided it's best to think of it like having a boot dagger. A boot dagger is useless if everyone knows you have it and where it is. A boot dagger is useless if you can't use it when you need it. But it's also a very stupid idea to draw it as the weapon of first resort." He steps back, and both hands go behind his back. "I've had a few months to adjust." A deep breath. "I looked for you because I was sent to Darkwater first, and you weren't there. I met her," and he nods to Marisa, "there, waiting for you. I couldn't stay - you weren't there to give permission. So I ended up at Eventide. I ride around; I met Otto. He was waiting for you, too, and we talked about boats. None of them had seen you. All of them were worried. And me, too. Why shouldn't I look for you? But I didn't expect you to be a werewolf."


Another browquirk, this time in curiosity. Pale green eyes look to Thayndor as Marisa seems to examine him. By the look of it, she's probably trying to visualize a Were-Thay.


Thayndor Zahir nods, slowly. He doesn't flinch away from the young man. "They had reason to be worried. This is not a boot dagger," Thayndor says, tapping the tattoo. "The Shadow is not a tool; it is a curse. It grants terrible power at a terrible price. It ruins with every touch. I suppose, young nephew, we shall see soon how badly it has ruined me." He smiles a sad smile. "I did not expect to be a werewolf either, Esvan. And I certainly did not expect to be consumed so. But it has happened, and I have returned from it, and all I can do now is attempt to pick up what I can of my old life and carry it with me into a new one. I am sorry that I was not there at Darkwater, to take you as a ward. I am sure that I would have enjoyed teaching."


Esvan nods. "You can say the same of a poisoned dagger," he says. "The power to kill is the power to kill. It would have been nice, at Darkwater, but what is, is." That said with the flat certainty of a boy who's already had a rather rough year. "You will be here, in this city, a while longer? Or am I to try tracking you again after I deliver your message?"


"I am afraid the comparison is not entirely the same, but your mind is moving in the proper direction," Thayndor replies. "As for the message ..." He glances aside at Marisa. "There are others whom I respect and with whom I must consult. I have to seek them out. I will be in the Hawk and Dove in Trademeet two nights from now. You may find me then." He grins at the woman. "I would ask Marisa, but it would be an ill-fitting reward for loyalty to repay it with immediate and menial work."


The blonde grins up at Thayndor and opens her mouth to comment... but then glances over to Esvan and just closes her mouth to save it for later. Marisa doesn't seem to be in the mood to push buttons tonight.


Esvan blinks, and then nods. "All right," he says. "The Hawk and Dove, then. For now, I had better see to a room. Good night, uncle." And he turns, then, heading up the stairs.


"Good night, Esvan," says Thayndor. "A pleasure to meet you." As the Zahir departs, the outlaw remains standing. After a moment, he folds his arms, covering his mouth with the fingers of one hand in thought.


"So 'e's a noblem'n af'r all," are the first words from Marisa's mouth after Esvan departs. The teen smirks, "Ne'er seen a look say 'shut up' dat clear 'n meh life." Once she's had her moment of amusement, the blonde looks up to Thayndor and remarks, "I's don' min' workin' if'n ye's woul' rad'r nae leave Ligh's Reach, by de way."


"I came here to make the statement that I am not a threat," Thayndor replies. "Statement made. I can move on." He shrugs. "But I appreciate it. In truth, I would rather you stick with me. Voreyn has played her hand, but she has more yet. And may send assassins, if she's really that mad."


"So's I's shoul' pro'leh git 'roun' te r'placin' meh weap'ns," Marisa remarks with a passive nod, "I's gon' be lookin' 't de arm'rehs t'morruh. Woul' ye rad'r meh 'ave a bow 'r a knife? Fis's kin onleh go so far, aye."


"Ah," Thayndor says. "There's what I might want you to do." He reaches into a pouch, and comes out with a key. "You know what this is for. Arm yourself as you require. Fetch my bow -- in my quarters -- and a suit of ringmail for me. Esvan will be busy at Eventide; he won't be at Darkwater to see you. There may be a small reserve of coin in the vault which you may be able to mine to some small benefit. I'll get it from you at Trademeet."


"There is also a trunk in my bedroom, full of letters," Thayndor adds. "The letters are more important. Take them, concern yourself with the money last, and see to yourself before you tend to my other desires." Marisa gives the key a passive glance before slipping it away on her person, nodding, "I's kin 'andle dat, aye." The teen hms softly, then, "Will I's be 'avin' te worreh 'bout de s'rv'nts? Dey loy'l te ye o' de pay?"


"There is not a single person at Darkwater bears arms that did not take up their swords after I took them off the streets -- same as you," Thayndor replies. "It is as Esvan says. But the strength of their allegiance may fade with the strength of my ability to keep my end of the bargain. Be careful and discreet."


"A'righ'," Marisa rises from her seat, then, and bows her head, "If'n dat's bein' all, I's tinkin' I's gon' set out t'nigh'. Bit o' a nigh' p'rs'n, an' 's a long way te go, aye. Light keep ye, M'L-... erm... Wut's I's s'ppos'd te call ye now?"


Thayndor Zahir smirks, again without humor. "I suppose Thayndor will have to suffice," he says. "Light keep."


Marisa smirks as well, "'Ave a good nigh', den, Thaynd'r... Don' feel nat'ral, dat..." She offers a wave, then, and starts for the exit, pulling her hod back up to hide her features once more.


"No," Thayndor agrees quietly, after Marisa has left, allowing the pain and sadness to come to his face. "It doesn't, does it." He rubs his face with his hands, slumping over in his chair for some time.


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