Astelbania Chronicles: The Ruse

Falina pressed her tongue to the roof of her mouth, doing all she could from grimacing as the fat Ivan Gromslet ran his hands down her back, no doubt checking his merchandise.

"We agree, then, this is for a forthnight?" Ivan licked his lips.
"Of course," Bahl nodded, "Is that right my dear,"
"I wouldn't hear of a day shorter, my love," Falina pushed away from the wealthy collector, "I trust, I will be well cared for; food, drink - " she smiled, "Jewlery even?"

"Oh .. yes yes, I have all of them in abundance,"
"I see," Falina spun around to face only Bahl, and she wrinkled her nose with a dragon's stare before her lips switched quickly to a mischievous smile, "I am thirsty,"

"Of course you are, my dear.. Please, if our business is concluded..?" Ivan opened the door and Bahl was first out,

"I believe it is,"
"Good then, i believe we have some mulled wine and ..."

"WHERE IS HE?" there came a roar from the common's room.  Gasps came from the the gathered guests as heavy boot fell upon the pristinely mopped wood-floor.. "Where is thah bloody tiefling, so's help me, i'll have his horns!"

"Oh my," Bahl's expression never changed.
"What is going on?" Falina asked.
"On that, we share a question, my dear," Ivan put a jump in his step as he announced himself at the top of the stair, "What is the meaning of this ... and who are you - a dirty, filthy dwarf - to come into my home disrupting my goings-on!"

"He's here," the dwarf barked, "I know it, eh?  I smell him - that demon-ass bloody stink of him.  Ha!  There," the dwarf raised a grubby finger and pointed accusingly at Bahl.

Bahl, for his part, touched his chest, "Me? What would you want with me?"
"But that's..." Falina began to speak.
"I've not seen him in my life, I assure you, Ivan!" Bahl shouted, offering a sobering gaze at Falina, who took the time to clamp her mouth shut.

"A swindler, thah one, I say," Axym stormed into the house, his face and beard caked in mud, his usually reddish hair, marred grey with dried clay and soot.
"I'll not have you insulting my guest - i suggest you leave, dwarf," Ivan shouted, as gentlemen in the party switched wine goblets for daggers.  "Make your peace, dwarf - I beseech you to leave.  I'll not have dwarven blood upon my floors,"

"Gah - damn ye and ye'ar stuffy party... And YOU..." the dwarf's finger jabbed at Falina.. "Ye trampish cow!  What's she sellin' to ye, eh?  She tellin' ye she's a lady .. she'll rob ye, blind.. look ah' me.. look!!!" Axym spun around on a heel, arms raised to showcase his torn garbs, and altogether unkept condition, "I was rich one too, ye know.. aye, ah' was! Until thah' one there.." another finger at Bahl, "Swindled me out of mah money!"

"Me? Swindle... I've half a mind to beat you down, good sir, and cut off your beard... I've done no such thing... And frankly I resent ..."

"Oh shut it!" spat the dwarf, "what did he offer ye, eh?" Axym spoke directly to Ivan.

"I'm a collector, good sir - and I've never been swindled in my entire life .. and Bahl is a man of good character.  Our agreement was that i enjoy the company of the Heir of El'Cairn, to learn her story, such as it is," he smiled broadly sweeping a hand at Falina - more gasps and smiles came from the gathered, so important was her name.  Falina hadn't thought of it until just now - how FAR DID the name El'Cairn go?? 

"El'Cain? HA!" the dwarf laughed.. "She's no El'Cairn, man.. There is NO Heir to the El'Cairn estate.  The heir is dead buried no doubt.. murdered in Devensheer nearly a year's past .. did you not know?  You are as stupid as ye look, lad!"

Now it was Ivan that spun on Bahl.  "Is the dwarf right.."

Bahl looked sheepish, "Well, I ... never did ... "
"You assured me she was the Heir .. "
"One could never tell for certain.."
"Ach.. Liar!" shouted the dwarf .. "I tell ye what.. I shall leave with apologies, but you give me the teifling and the woman and ye can keep what ye gave 'im too! And I'll even kill'em for free!"

"Wait just a minute," Falina shouted, "I am the heir - do not send me back to that dwarf,"

"Ye'ar not even close to being a lady, ye tramp!  She sells for two bits in Dirkshire,"

"At least 5 bits," Bahl argued.
"There ye have it then!"
"I trusted you, Bahl.." Ivan extended his hand, "I'll have the Quill back."

With heavy frown, Bahl relinquished the box.  With a quick look inside, Ivan eyed his prize and took Falina by the arm, throwing towards the stair.. "Off with you then!"

At that moment, Falina felt shame and she could not fathom why.  For the alternative was to spend a fortnight with the fat merchant, and that prospect held no value on her, at all.

Axym ran forward and pulled at her arm, "With me, woman, and I'll show you the merciless sides of me hands... AND the tiefling,"

Ivan pushed Bahl down the stairs, and the tiefling tumbled ankles over shoulders, and landed awkwardly upon his back.  "I will thank you for getting out of my home, then!"

Axym made quick work with rope around Bahl's hands, pocketing the tieflings daggers, and pushed Falina at the door... "Out missy 'fore I beat ye now!"

Falina rushed outdoors leaving the house behind.  Bahl and Axym prodded along in silence until they were away from eye-shot.

"Did ye' get it?" Axym whispered.
"In my jacket," bahl nodded.

Reaching in, Axym removed the Quill of Alarin... "Ach, she's a beauty."
"Quickly, we must be away before our ruse is discovered."

Falina's face was still masked in shock, "I thought you gave it back.."

"Ivan the Magnificent will find he is the proud owner of a Goose Feathered quill - fashioned by yours truely last night after my hunt," Bahl actually smiled.
"And.. " Axym nodded, "we re-enforced ye'ar death, my lass.. news will get around that ye'ur no' among th'eh living anymore .. "

Bahl lifted his hands, "Untie me,"
Falina took the rope and pulled Bahl in tow, "Not yet," she smiled gleefully, "I want to enjoy this moment a while longer,"

"Untie me, I said.. Axym.."
"Do no' look at me, boy .. ye'ur in the girl's hand now," the dwarf tagged along the rear laughing.

"Five bits, indeed," Falina huffed.

The End

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