The Hen was considerably less packed that evening, after all those visiting returned to their neighbouring towns. The three Renith were quite distinctive now, sat beside the bar in their outlandish attire. Ruru noticed that they were never without a drink (quite often with two or three, particularly the young woman he had met earlier), rousing suspicions that the innkeeper was ignoring their tab for the sake of the income generated by the rest of the masses drawn there. The young woman was easily the best storyteller of the three, gaining and keeping the largest audience. The only male, perhaps a year or so older than Ruru, sat beside her, talking little. The third of the group (and easily the most attractive, Ruru found himself thinking) looked scarcely older than his sister, though her blonde hair was strung in a plait to her waist. She also lived up to expectations, answering any questions and embellishing the other young woman’s tales with gripping details. Evidently, they were humouring the locals.
Ruru doubted if they had to spend a single coin that night, with people offering meals and lodgings at no extra cost, just to say that they knew some of the Renith. He heard the young male laugh as he commented on this to Carseike, but that may have just been coincidence - though it was less crowded than before, there were still twice as many people as there were seats, and the Renith were commanding total attention.
Not too long after this, Gerrias left to sober himself up before heading home (neither of his parents knew about his drinking habit), leaving Ruru and Carseike among a handful of others determined to stay for as long as the Renith would. As their numbers steadily dwindled, Ruru noticed the young woman in the hat glancing across at him increasingly often, until Ruru could count the number of people left using just his toes. He watched as she caught his eye and held it before sliding from her stool and joining their table. The innkeeper nearly dropped his tankard in shock (rather, he did, though the male Renith caught it deftly). You came to the Renith, not the other way around. Ruru felt his face tinge pink, and he found himself glancing over to the other female Renith, only to find her gone. His gaze returned to the newest member of their table when Carseike jabbed him painfully below the table.
“Mind telling me where you disappeared off to earlier?” the young woman asked in a sweet drawl that Ruru thought might have been U’aldarian, though she spoke his tongue fluently enough. “You could offend a lady like that.”
And so between them, Ruru and Carseike narrated the afternoon’s events to her, and she laughed and gasped in all the right places, proving almost as good a listener as a storyteller. In time, the male Renith joined them also, and they exchanged names followed by yet more tales. It was Carseike who eventually begged for a display of magic. Riyuel seemed just about to indulge them when the young man, Finn, cut across her. “Magic isn’t a game, it’s a tool, and far more straining on the body than any hammer you’ll ever hold.”
Carseike scowled at this, but Ruru saw Riyuel wink at him again, and knew that there would be a display later on. Not wanting to entirely change the subject, Ruru began asking the duo how their magic worked, and where they had learned it - the latter of which gained a snort and a giggle from Riyuel. “Sir, were I rich enough to afford an education, I would not be living off free drinks.” Finn shot her a weary glance. “Oh, all right. Maybe I would. It might depend on who bought them.” She laughed softly, though Carseike frowned at her.
“If you didn’t learn your magic, then how--?”
“It came to me one day,” was all she said, placing her empty glass on the table beside previous ones. The lines on Carseike’s forehead deepened at her response, and so she elaborated. “Magic is a living thing like you or I. It chooses its wielder, and I happened to be chosen.”
Ruru had a sudden vision of himself wielding the power of the Renith, protecting his sister from the entire world, even the disease that had taken both their parents. He could be the one bought drinks and given places to stay, the one given a free ticket for life. He could travel all over the world, searching for a suitable husband for his sister, and easily save enough for a dowry for her. He might never have to work again. A smile spread slowly across his face.
“So what kind of person does magic choose as its wielder?” Ruru asked, trying to keep a purely conversational tone in his voice.
Riyuel shook her head. “All sorts. Who knows? There aren’t enough of us to build any connections, or at least none that the prince has found. I wish I knew, if only so that I could answer when everyone asks that.” She smiled at him. Ruru couldn’t help but smile back, though he became somewhat disconcerted by Finn looking over his shoulder and straight past him. He turned in his chair and saw his sister standing in the doorway hesitantly, a concerned expression on her face. It was unladylike for her to enter, let alone sit down in an inn such as this (such rules did not apply to the Renith, of course), so Ruru merely nodded at her and began making his excuses.
“I must be leaving,” he apologised, and stood up from the table. Carseike soon followed suit.
“I do hope I haven’t lost you to a younger woman,” he heard Riyuel call, only to turn and find her speaking to Carseike. This baffled Ruru until he saw that his friend’s hand was placed far too low down on his sister’s back - he would be having words with both of them later. Finn and Ruru merely nodded at each other before he left the inn and stepped into the darkness, following the dimly lit path home, whereupon Carseike bid him and his sister goodnight and departed. It had been an unexpected and eventful day from the moment the sun rose, decided Ruru.