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A Dance With Demons - Chapter 03

A Dance With Demons - Chapter 03

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Published by screaminlemur

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Published by: screaminlemur on Jun 28, 2009
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06/28/2009

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Chapter 3 - the Wounds of a dead Man
 Tarn rolled over and saw the rst light of dawn lterthrough the window in his room.
Morning already.
He sat
up and stretched, shaking the cobwebs out of his foggyhead with a ourish.
Time to set out on this foolish quest.
He pulled on his clothes —leather riding pants and ane cloth shirt, as well as the stout military issue bootshe still preferred —and gathered his gear into his pack ashe headed downstairs. The inn was bustling even at thisearly morning hour. Several people were scattered aboutthe common room eating breakfast, and the conversation was already quite loud. The room was small, however, andbefore long Tarn spotted Logan sitting at a table in thecorner attacking a plate of eggs and bacon with gusto. Tarncrossed the room and sat down across from him.Logan looked up, and between mouthfuls said, “It reallyis a crime what they charge for a good meal around herethese days. Back west what I paid for this would have fedme for a week. I gure that where we’re going, though,I won’t be eating good for a while, so I’ll splurge.” Loganpicked up a stein full of something noxious smelling,drinking deeply before Tarn realized it was only coffee.
Nasty stuff 
, he thought.
Tastes like year old water from an unwashed canteen.
He shrugged.
To each his own.
He ordered his breakfast from the serving girl and sat, watching the cleric put away his breakfast with gusto.
Well,he eats like a dwarf 
, Tarn thought, smiling softly. The pairdidn’t say much —Logan was simply too busy eating. Then,right about the time his own food came, he spotted Nylacoming down the stairs.He gave her a quick appraisal as she came down. He
 
noticed her pale white complexion, on display as she hadpulled her long red hair that fell into a braid down herback. She was dressed sensibly, much as one of the cowhands that they had fought the night before had been — riding breeches, woolen shirt, and a small pack strapped toher back, as well as the spell pouches and the two wickedlooking daggers at her hip. Tarn was almost convinced sheknew what she was doing. She came over to the table andsat down, a bowl of porridge in her hand. Expecting her totalk, he was surprised when she simply started devouringher breakfast with focused intensity. He watched her, abemused expression slowly crossing his face.Logan spoke up rst. “What makes you think you cantrack these orcs, Nyla?”She paused between bites. “It’s not hard. A coupledozen orc raiders should leave enough footprints that ablind gnome could follow them. I wonder why our friend theknight can’t do it himself.”
So do I,
 Tarn thought. “Besidesthat, I have had some training. Master Ulric down at theguild insists that I train in something besides mage craft,and as my worthless father was something of a woodsman” —she indicated the points of her eln ears —“I come totracking rather naturally. Besides, if nothing else, it isuseful in helping one nd spell components.” She wentback to eating.Logan pushed away his now empty plate. “You’ve donesimilar work before, I assume?”“No.”“No?”“No.”Logan paused. “Are you even sure you can do this?”
 
“Yes.” Tarn couldn’t help but chuckle. Her condence wasimpressive, but he couldn’t help but think Logan was rightto ask the question. He turned to the priest, feigning morecondence that he felt. “Don’t worry, Logan. She’ll be ne.And if not, I have enough skill that we won’t end up lostin the plains forever.” He laughed as Nyla stared daggersat him. “Just don’t end up getting us lost, girl. I haven’ttracked anything since before I left the King’s service, so myskills are a little rusty.” The three of them nished their breakfast incompanionable silence. After saying their farewells to Bear,they set out for the Keep, a good mile away as the griffonew.
* * *
As the three companions walked along the dusty side
street that the
Happy Orc 
was located on, Tarn recalled
all he had learned about the city —village, actually — of  Traazon Keep. His years in the army had required him tolearn the history of the empire, and he shared some of thisinformation with his companions, neither of whom hadheard all the stories Tarn had“Why here?” Logan asked. “What makes Traazon Keepthe spot where the Empire built the easternmost of its greatcastles?”“The location of this little city is dictated by two things.” Tarn replied. “First and foremost is the Ishkar River. Eventhis far north, it’s over a mile wide. The Ishkar follows itscourse all the way to the far south, and across the riverto the east are the clan holds of the orcs. Here, though, atthe end of the King’s Way, men built the last of their greatborder great redoubts.

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