Astelbania Chronicles: Old Friends

Falina rushed for the pot tongs and lifted the rice off of the fire.  She was quick to drop it to the floor as the burned rice filled the room with a acrid dark smoke.

Axym rose his bushy eyebrows, and closed one eye, "Aye, then erm, I believe i'll skip your fine sup, lassy," he offered a quick smile, and turned toward the back door, "Perhaps I'll find a stash of my fine Dwarf-Spirits back here."

"I am terribly sorry, I was caught up in our..."
"Save your apologies," Bahl took the tongs from Falina and pulled her close.  "We must keep your true identity from him,"
"I thought you trusted him?"
"Trust has nothing to do with it," Bahl said, "For now..."

"What, lad!?" Axym smiled as he raised a ceramic jug, "Direct from Odgenvale ..." he laughed, 'Ohh this stuff will have ye growin' a beard, lass,"

"She is to have none, Axym, please," Bahl offered only a curt smile.
"Oh come come, Bahl, me lad, you can'naw deny a dwarf a drink with a fine maiden,"

Bahl was adament, "She is to train some more in the early morning, I will not have her drinking your fire-water and suffering from a Dragon's noggin in the morning!"

Axym was indignant as he looked from the girl to his old friend, and then again back to Falina, "He keeps a tight leash on his Hens Dun'he?!" he laughed, uncorking the bottle and taking a long pull from it.  "aaaah, now that's the stuff, boy!" he winked, "now tell me.  If ye not be bedding the girl - what are ye, doin' here in our .. HAVEN which should be our own little secret, eh?!"

"I mean to bring her into the fold," Bahl said.
"An apprentice eh?" Axym nodded and sized up Falina critically, "she doesn't seem to have the stuff of the Shadow-Hand, Bahl.  Methinx your eyes be slippin in your old age,"  he shifted in his chair, "Do ye know anythin' 'bout thievin' girl?" he asked.

"Thieving?  I am an honora..."
"She will learn soon enough," Bahl interjected.

"Ahh... " Axym nodded wisely, "I see. He one of the best, you know," he said to the young lady.
"Best what?"
"Thieves.. Fastest hand me ever saw," Axym took another haul off the bottle and belched, "can swipe a man's coin right from under his nose and not be the wiser.."

"I thought you were Knights,"
"KNIGHTS?" the dwarf's guffaws went on for long moments, with tears streaming from his eyes, spilling into his long red beard, "Knights indeed... Our guild name is nothing but subderfuge, Lady Falina, a euphemism to still the guilty, noble hearts of Goldenbane Castle,"

"The prince and king are good and honorable men!" Falina shot.
"Peace, lass, of course, of course," the dwarf waved away her short-temper, "I mean to say that we do deeds that they, who are under public scrutiny, could never do,"

"We are knights in shadow," Bahl admited, "but we are all thieves - the eyes and ears of the underground for the King of Devensheer," 

"Keep your enemies closer," Axym winked, and thumbed at his nose, knowingly. And then his eyes narrowed and he stood looking up at Falina .. "Still.. you look familiar to me," he walked around her, making Falina feel more like a piece of cattle sold at the market .. "I du'no here... tharr is somethin' about ye... i just can'aw put mah fingarr on.. " the dwarf shrugged, looked up at Bahl and asked, "So, how long are ye stayin'?"

"A month, maybe more .. "
"A month eh?  Wouldn't have something to do with that assassination in Devensheer now would'eh?" this time, Axym's wise eyes bore into Bahl's .. he was old.  He was a drunk, there was little disputing that, but he was not a stupid dwarf, by any long stretch.

Falina's eyes went wide - a reaction that Bahl would have to work on.  The poor girl wouldn't last two minutes in a game of Dwarven Dice with anyone. 

"Hmm." Axym nodded, "The assassination that is rumoured in low places that you done, my boy... a girl they say.. a commoner.  Ye wouldn't know anything abou' that'eh?"

Bahl's face belied his frustration.  He'd wished to keep the fold closed to just he and the girl.  Less baggage, less explainations. Less bar-room brawls and far less collateral damage.  Axym was a great friend; a brother in a time when Bahl had almost lost himself to his own inner-rage.  His hestitation was not a thing of trust; but of convenience.

"Come laddy-boy.  Lemme help ye'.. What has she done?"

"Me? Done?  Why I'm an unwitting participant in thing that I CANNOT understand," Falina pointed at the dwarf.

"I like her spirit," Axym gave a good tug upon his beard, but never took his blue eyes off the tiefling. And then Bahl relented.

"It isn't what she's done; it is who she is!"
"And?  Who's tha' then?"
"She is Genevive El'Cairn's daughter - she is the El'Cairn Heir!"

Axym was speechless.  He drank a long haul and slammed the bottle on the table, making Falina jump.  "By Fasdeus' beard I..." he stammered, and then his eyebrows met critically, "Why in the Hells didn't ye say so in the first place," the dwarf stood straight and bowed to Falina deeply.. "It is an HONOR, My Lady!"

Falina looked from Bahl to the genuflecting dwarf.  "What?"

The End

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