Book of songs, Wintry call.

Discussion in 'ROLEPLAY GRAVEYARD' started by The Fox and The Spider, Jan 29, 2013.

  1. Book of Songs, Chapter of snow.

    commission__siela_by_zolaida-d33s5pu.jpg




    The vast drifting dunes of snow and ice have long since served as a hibernal hell for the race of men and elves whom called the frozen tundra’s of Nurik their home. The winter season was both unforgiving yet fair, serving as a wall keeping most trapped within their settlements, and as a barrier toward those who’d dare do them harm. The locals here were resilient and a harsh people. Known for being just as frigid as the blistering winds. Their sense of justice cruel, unwavering as was their resolve. For a long time many empires have sought to conquer this frozen realm, but none had succeeded. The clime served as a more potent weapon than even the local army. Making matters worse, within the frozen wilderness lurked monstrosities far more terrifying than that of winter’s icy grip.

    <o:p></o:p>

    For within this land of frost crept all manners of fearsome beast, ranging from snow trolls to stone giants. From silver dragons to the Direwolves which stood six feet tall. But none were as troublesome as the various Lich lords whom raised armies and studied within their holds. Baneful abominations filling all whom cross their paths with dread. Showing no clemency for race nor banner. Thankfully the undead horde had little interest in the affairs of mortals, choosing solitude over war. These lich lords migrated to this frozen wasteland for its isolation meant they could study with little distractions. Sometimes the hordes of the sentient dead would venture into town, trading for alchemical or magical supplies their masters needed. Vampires, zombies, apparitions, ghouls and even necromancers made up this horde. Each somehow having independent thought, a feat which was a growing concern.
    <o:p></o:p>

    Within this terrifying world could be found a dot on the map, a small town closest to the border just outside the feet of the Drocov mountain ranges. A settlement known for its production of Ale, wenches, brothels and farmland. Across the vast fields of snow it’s glistening lights serving as a beacon of hope for the weary traveler. Being close to the border the town was naturally fortified, a wall of ice encircled it's limits. On this massive wall of ice patrolled armed guards from the high chief.(Leader of the providence, elected by a court of lords. Each lords ruling over a sector within the realm.) It’s streets were safeguarded by once dormant golems, recently awoken from their state of torpor and used as mindless guardians.
    <o:p></o:p>

    The most famous structure within the humble settlement of Frostwreath was a tavern and Brothel hybrid. The upper levels provided warm mead, ale and food. The first floor of the cellar housed gambling and fist fights whilst the third and bottom floor stored supplies as well as served the more lustful perversions of any who had the proper coin. Within the sea of tired merchants, pilgrims and livid locals stood out a young woman, no older than her 22nd birth year. Like many others she was a traveler, a bard who used her voice to not only charm and sooth others, but also to defend herself. A lost art seldom encountered throughout the bulk of the realms. Far from her home of pink blossoms she provided an often underestimated and overlooked service.
    <o:p></o:p>

    Many considered her kind to be assassins, spies or instigators. For it was no secret that the magic of song and poetry could rile up a people, or calm one’s nerves. Some considered such arts as a form of thought manipulation, tying it together with the illusionary school of magic. However this simply wasn’t true, though it was generally accept as being so. Gently by the glistening light of a roaring fire her fingers would pluck away at the strings of her Lute. The strings reverberated a deep, potent song of sorrow Both bitter yet sweet, a defiant contrast. A favorite of hers from the desert land of Shirkova.
    <o:p></o:p>


    “Yu kaso di eir dos.
    Vus gein vu, ich vahlorn.
    Dos, Dos, dos.
    Yu kaso.

    Vus, Vus, Vus
    Uhnd Vahlorn.
    Saske tes veer unst trau nich.
    Ain grudask tru el matvu.

    Yu veer di eir dos nich.
    Veer dis eir vus mich.”
    <o:p></o:p>



    A simple chorus serving as a haunting melody, a brief tale of hope rising from a sea of the dead. The dialect that of her native tongue, foreign to most if not all. Her voice powerful, soft yet some would go as far as to say divine. One by one the patrons found themselves lost to its call as she repeated the lines a few times over. Her pale pasty skin, oddly colored hair, perfume and unusually light blue eyes all proclaimed her immigrant status. For a month now she has made this town her nest, at first many kept their distance due to the stigma of her vocation. But through time they warmed up to her, some even respected and adored her. Though tolerated would best describe most folks feelings toward this bard.
    <o:p></o:p>

    “Xuelah, she is quite the muse eh?” A patron rooted on a stool in front of the bars counter inquired, his question aimed toward the female bartender and joint owner of the establishment. “That she is, though I still don’t trust her kind as a whole.” She retorted, expressing the xenophobic nature of the northern territories. But such bigotry only inspired Xuelah to rise to the challenge and prove herself. In many regards she couldn’t fault the local populace, rather she found herself oddly agreeing with their disposition toward her. For respect should never be given, rather earned. Fight for everything you desire was the law of this land. A law she found admirable.
    <o:p></o:p>

    Next to the crackling flame the bard would remain, plucking away and singing her charming song. Watching as a few locals graced her
    with some spare coins. But despite this casual display of art and vocal mettle, it was clear that like all bards she was here for something more than pocket change and a free room for the night. Though what would remain enshrouded with mystery,
     
  2. The man stood next to a bar stool, shifting his paltry weight from one leg to the other. He could have sat down, there was certainly no dispute over the seat by any of the other customers. But standing he remained, listening to the woman with the enchanting voice, eyelids dipping over emerald irises ever so slightly. Reaching into his traveler's rucksack, he fished for a small leather bound notebook no bigger than his hand. Then, scraping a stub of charcoal against the browned parchment, he quickly scribbled the words from her song as best he could, spelling most likely botched from unfamiliar phonetics.

    He stared at his charcoal blackened fingers for a moment, pondering over what made them quite so long and slender, and, dare he say, feminine. Folk from the coasts were typically large, seafaring men... While Balor had been born with gangly, awkward appendages and a height just tall enough to make others uncomfortable without the mass to match. He had been an embarrassment to his father and the laughingstock of his brothers and sisters.

    Who needs them now? Always he had been wistful for a different view. Nothing could be further from the salty coast than these harsh icy mountains. And what he lacked in brawn he certainly made up for in brains.

    Looking to the barkeep, he murmured, "Ah, but who is fool enough to trust wholly?"
     
  3. Her tall, almost burly looking stature had caused her to be easily mistaken for a man, especially with the mixture of sword and bow she typically carried on her back, on more than one occasion. Traveling outside of her home town meant dressing down for the platinum night, choosing normal traveling attire over her usual armor and military insignias. The dark brown haired woman had found it easier to blend in, as well as a person of her towering height and build could blend in that is. Her breath steaming in the cold air of the snow covered town and needing to warm up, Trina stepped inside a local brew.</SPAN>

    The warrior was used to the stares of those whom didn’t know her reputation. Even those of many a wondering eye of men thinking her just another piece of female meat prime for the taking. Those same men found themselves landing in the cold, wet water at the bottom of the local well. Taking in the room and its occupants, noting several of whom to keep a close eye, Trina tossed down some coin on the bar and ordered food and drink. The soothing sound of a female bard that filled the crowded refuge from the cold reminding her of just why she had traveled to the hard-to-reach township; leaving behind her usual traveling companions to man and guard The Keep in which they had been entrusted to run in the Queen’s absence.</SPAN>
     
  4. Through pale frost irises the bard would observe the coming and going of the Patrons. Few here seemed of little merit or worth toward her cause. Yet somehow against the sea of common folk, two seemingly untied folk jumped out at her. And Xuelah was one who always trusted her intuition. The once soothing sound of her divine voice would become swallowed by silence as she finished her song. The strings which once vibrated on her lute had finally known respite. A few of the Patrons found themselves freed from the spell her voice did weave. It was a bitter sweet end for the daunting melody. The foreign dialect no longer hung heavy in the air as within seconds the normal clamor of tongues from the locals had begun to fill the institution.


    The arches of her luscious lips would contort, birthing a simple smile on her picturesque face. Her eyes resting on the few coins she had received for her talent. The lack of currency was no surprise, for the area was poor and most were more concerned with paying their tabs rather than a muse. But such was the way of a bard, singing their beautiful songs for the art. Not so much the financial gain, if any was too be had at all. The crackling fire flickered, providing a chaotic shift in the lighting. Giving her pearly pasty skin an almost orange tint. With lute not slung over her back Xuelah would rise from her rooted position.


    Making her way in between the convened patrons, who once more drowned themselves in their sorrows. For much like the land, the people here were frigid, tough, but knew all to well the taint of death. A dreaded sense of nihilism seemed to creep around every corner, Xuelah had foolishly hoped that her song would stem such a blight. Somehow providing hope and illumination where only fear and distraught nested. Yet after weeks of work and putting her soul on her sleeve, nothing had changed. At best she could only alleviate a few symptoms momentarily, the source however seemed beyond her ability to mend.


    Abruptly she would halt, pivoting to face the one known as Balor. Hands resting behind her back as those icy cerulean eyes of hers locked onto his slender almost frail looking shell.
    "Indeed, only a fool vould trust everyone." A truth she had learned from observing the politics of the houses. "Zere is a saying from ze motherland zat is derived from an old Drow proverb...Focus on vatching your back for too long, and you'll get stabbed from ze front." A grin now lingering on her youthful face as these words parted form her mouth. Though truthfully she was unsure whether or not it's meaning would elude him or not. "Ze name is Xuelah, Xuelah Bloomwind." The bard would introduce herself lest she leave room for needless offense.


    Through the crowd she would peer as she waited for a response. The influence of her gaze barreling on the tall amazonian like female warrior. Who was within a stones throw from their current location. Offering her a warm yet sincere smile, those eyes of hers seemingly welcoming her approach if she should choose to grace Xuelah with one. Unsure whether or not this Balor would welcome the presence of two woman. But her limited experience with men was that they always preferred a higher female to male ratio. It usually improved their chances for sexual activities and at the very least provided them with a sense of self worth. Though she was unsure of what sort of man this one was. And even more weary of the amazonian female. No doubt if she so saw fit to, the warrior could easily fling tiny light Xuelah around like a rag doll.


    Still it was these unknown and unforeseeable events which proved to be the spice of life. And in her own eyes and Aphrodite for the soul...
     
  5. "I-.... I....." Why now, of all moments, must the Gods choose this very one to tie my tongue? My pathetically ill-prepared tongue? She'll certainly think me a fool now. He stared down at her beautiful face, the white skin reminding Balor of the shells he found clinging to the shores of the sea. It filled him with wistfulness, but not for home.

    Her accent made him blink underneath his spectacles. It was not one in which he heard often in his travels. He scoured his mind to conjure up an image of where he had once heard the strange tongue. Balor's efforts brought forth memories of warm air and flowers, before he realized that, typically, conversation required some form of response.

    "Aye, The foolish and unwary find surprises and among them, waiting death." He countered her proverb with another, the corners of his lips twitching slightly with what may have been a smile, had he not been completely unaware of what to do next. He had never had a real conversation with a girl who was not his sister before.

    His too long fingers tangled up with each other, and the small pocketbook slipped from his palm onto the floor with a thump. Hastily, he reached into his pockets and pulled out a handful of coin, thrusting it towards her, Xuelah, to hide his embarrassment. The gold gleamed in between his digits promisingly, like fish scales in between a net. He did not look at her as he did such, for fear that she would see the shameful blotches of color on his cheeks. "It was pretty. The song." Balor nudged his full hands towards her again, causing a few coin pieces to slide away and roll under the bar. If any patrons had their attentions on the awkward exchange, they shot hateful glares Balor's way. He knew that life in Frostwreath was grueling and rarely prosperous. In what short time he had spent in the settlement, Balor hid his wealth to avoid the very glares he was feeling now.

    The home he left was not without it's benefits. It's access to the sea provided access to the wealth of visiting merchant ships. Balor, being obviously unfit for the tasks of a workman or fisherman, was under the employ of one particular ship before, on one excursion, he simply did not return home, and continued to roam as a seeker of knowledge and nothing more.

    Balor's glasses began to slide down his lightly freckled nose, whilst he attempted to mentally will them back into their proper place. It did not work. Only briefly did he allow himself to think of what other purpose the tavern served. Balor glanced at her once, then guiltily away again, as if she were able to sense his thoughts through just one look.
     
  6. Trina watched, and listened, both to the patrons that filled the seats and to the serenity that filled the words of the bard’s song. Few would understand the words but many would feel them without knowing. It had been a long time since the warrior had been in the company of a bard, the last one having been part of a thrown together scouting party. The bard was female, and therefore would last longer in Trina’s company than the man on the bar stool she was currently having a conversation with. A grin crossed her lips upon hearing the Drow saying, a picture of Riloyss flashing in her mind as if she herself were standing there stating it to the man.</SPAN>

    Taking in a drink of her Ale, Trina caught sight of Xuelah’s piercing gaze over the rim of her glass. It was hard to miss although it was oddly filled with nothing but good will and welcoming towards the newcomer. She finished her sip, raising her cup slightly in a cheers motion and returned the good will smile to the Bard. At the same time she was raising her cup, unbeknownst to the rather average man behind her that was attempting to reach for the hilt of her sword on her back, her other hand had slid down to her side. Finishing up her exchange of gestures with the female across the room, Trina turned her head to the man behind her; her eyes giving him one of those ‘go ahead and try’ glances before they motioned to him to look down. To the man’s benefit his hand retreated and he continued by her as if nothing happened and the dagger, should anyone look down, would be gone just as quietly as it had appeared. </SPAN>

    Having finished her meal, Trina got up and walked towards Xuelah and the male patron. He was slight looking but she was slighter and the look in his eyes told tales of the thoughts that were most likely circling around in his mind. Considering how clumsy he was with his money in such a hard stricken city, he should learn to take head to what she was telling him. Among the glares of the other patrons there looked to be some mental ideas of ways to rid the man of the burden of his monetary values, which of course the ever duty bound woman would have to provide interference if necessary. Nodding to the pair politely but with her eyes landing squarely on the small female in front of her, Trina picked up where the man left off. “It was indeed a lovely song, would you care to join me for a drink? I would love to hear of where you learned the sayings of the Drow.” She looked to the man briefly, “to which you should probably take head to what she said and not be so careless with your money.” Trina was actually really curious as Riloyss only shared what she needed to, which so far hadn’t been a lot, no matter how hard the warrior tried to pry information from her. Not to mention, she wasn’t there to protest the sharing of knowledge which made the woman chuckle within at the thought. Her arm motioned to an empty booth, waiting for a response from the Bard, and the male if he chose to tag along.</SPAN>
     

  7. This man was a strange one to say the least. The manner in which he spoke and his body language bellowed forth a foreign tale. That of a traveler not so different than herself in many aspects. His reaction birthing a gentle smile which adorned her porcelain toned face. Greeting him with a sense of reassurance and sincerity. Traits that is hard to come by during such difficult and trying times.
    “Death vaits not for ze prepared nor does it prey on zose ill equipped.” She would retort, chuckling lightly to herself. An act in contrast with her swarthy words.

    <o:p> </o:p>

    No doubt he’d find such a reaction toward such morbid thoughts to be a bit ill timed. Nonetheless she saw little need to bridle her actions; such was not Xuelah’s way.
    “Death knows no clemency and consumes all ze same. One may post pone it, but none can truly escape its baneful hunger which in time vill swallow even ze vorld.” The bard word conclude, those frigid blue irises of hers drifting to that of the Amazonian woman who seemed to be making her approach. Her acceptance of the vague offer was refreshing.

    <o:p> </o:p>

    “I doubt you’ll be offended if ve had more company?” Arching a brow as a harmonious tone escaped her luscious lips. Those shimmering cerulean pools of hers were being drawn to the shine of his coin. It was not wise to flaunt such wealth amongst the poor and desperate. Though before she could express such thoughts it seemed the other female had stolen the words out of her mouth. “So much coin for a simple song. I am flattered sire but zat payment is far too much…” She replied before taking a pause, her pointer finger tapping the outer rim of her bottom lip as if she was pondering something.

    <o:p> </o:p>

    “I have an idea. Vhy don’t you just buy us all a round or two! Zat would be perfect no?” Her eyelids would close as she tilted her head, giggling softly to herself as her snow white hair partially obscured her picturesque face. But her relishing of her own brilliance would be cut short as the inquisitive nature of the other female reverberated within her ears. Without so much as thinking about the consequence of telling the truth, Xuelah would blurt outloud. “Vhy ze lady in ze gem told me!” She proclaimed, undoubtedly such words would sow seeds of confusion if not intrigue.

    <o:p> </o:p>

    Reaching into her coat the young bard would pull out a sapphire gem which seemed to give off an unnatural warmth.
    “She doesn’t talk much, in fact it took years before she spoke to me. I sense no ill will in zis one. So don’t fret…” To her such a thing was normal, unaware of how whimsical and farfetched such a tale may seem to others. For a moment she’d permit the amulet to linger there, before dropping it back within her coat, to nest between her bosom.

     
  8. At the female bard's words, Balor's appreciation of her grew. He wondered if she had been educated, as her words indicated such. It was difficult to come across an educated woman, at least where Balor had been raised. The women there married young, as they were celebrated only for their ability to produce children. The thought that his youngest sister, nearly a score younger than he, would marry in the next coming years disturbed him for reasons he refused to acknowledge. Returning to his present situation, Balor appraised the white haired woman with a smile. "To be at peace with one's own mortality.... You are as wise as you are... " Beautiful. He had finished the sentence with a cough instead, while he closed his eyes against the thought that, no matter how many books' knowledge filled his head, he would never understand how to speak to a woman.

    Balor shifted slightly away as the tall woman made her approach. He was used to those stronger than him, but even so, it made him uncomfortable in knowing she could likely toss his lanky body out the door without a second thought. He had the sudden urge to flee the establishment. Balor was well aware that he had performed a huge transgression in revealing just how wealthy he was in comparison to the ragtag dwellers of the patched up tavern. For a moment, he was also aware that the lady warrior could easily rid him of the burden.

    Which is why, at her words, he released the breath he had been holding in a relieved sigh. Yes, I know I'm careless. Yes, I know that I'm an incompetent ass, He wished to say. But his lips only formed an uncomfortable smile as he nodded without looking at her. At Xuelah's words, his smile became genuine. Balor hastily bowed to Xuelah, his bony ribs folding over his midsection while plain brown hair fell over his forehead. It was a gesture foreign to this area, but he hoped that his gratitude translated through. Righting himself, he dumped the coin on the counter of the bar, exclaiming, "A round for each of us, please, and whoever else wants one," to the barkeep. It was a comfortable repair to his previous mistake. Balor hoped strongly that he would not continue to make an ass of himself throughout the night.

    Now that his hands were his own again, Balor would fold them tightly across his chest, trying to trap whatever heat his body could muster inside himself. He was from a land of warm breezes and salty sea air, he was unaccustomed to the biting winds and unrelentless cold of the North. He clenched his jaw tightly, attempting to still the unavoidable chatter of his teeth. His solemn brown eyes became sorrowful behind thick spectacles as the lady warrior invited the bard away. He had hoped to... Well, he was not sure of what he had hoped to do, but he certainly did not wish for Xuelah to leave him just yet. He eyed the woman, who might have been as tall as he was, with a hint of jealousy. She had an easy tone when speaking, a tone which did not come as easily to him.

    By then, the drinks were placed on the table. Balor eyed the glasses apprehensively. He knew that his thin frame would not handle the ale well.

    The petty feelings of resentment towards the brown haired woman dissipated as soon as Xuelah spoke again. He wondered for a brief moment if she were jesting, and indeed it was a colorful jest to say the least... Until she pulled the amulet from her coat. In his time working under powerful merchants Balor had come into contact with relics of supposed magical power, therefore, her claim was not so farfetched as he originally thought. While he was comfortable reading about magic and mythos, his mind could not fully accept what he could not see. As she dropped the gem back under her coat, he eyed her guardedly. Some part of him hoped that her words were true, and that she was not a raving lunatic.
     
  9. The somewhat lanky man seemed a bit jittery but at least he listened. Xuelah’s reply to the woman’s inquiry however was rather unexpected. Nothing surprised the warrior anymore, not after the travels she’d been through and the things she’d seen. Of course, the tattoo on her back would scare anyone should it come to light in the most literal of senses. But she wasn’t too worried about that happening in this part of the country. The pair accepted her invitation and they all sat, the ale arriving shortly after compliments of the man whom she hadn’t caught a name for just yet. Speaking of which, “that’s a very interesting trinket you have there Xuelah, one that I wouldn’t share too openly if you don’t mind my input on the matter. I’m Trina.” She looked over at the man with no special look to her trying to look as non-aggressive as possible. He did after all by the round to which she should give him a proper thanks. Lifting her cup to take a sip, “thank you for the round, do you have a name Mr. …” the question was left hanging.</SPAN>
     

  10. The scrawny man's acceptance of her words wrought the tugging of her facial muscles, her luscious lips bending to form a genuine smile. Though she could still sense an uneasiness about him. Not just toward the tall amazonian woman who joined them; but also toward her comments regarding the sapphire amulet that now hung between her bosom. It was true that she had come to terms with her own mortality, though being so youthful it was an easy thing to claim. Something she would refrain from admitting out loud. As the bartender brought her a drink she'd offer the man a bow of her head. As she raised the condensation covered glass toward her lips.


    Her nostrils widening as the aroma of intoxication tickled her senses. The warmth of the liquor tingling the flesh of her pink lips. Casually the bard would place the glass on the table after taking a sip from the glass.
    "Vise? Zat's a new compliment most usually just say zat I am beautiful." She'd tease the young man, knowing full well the word that danced on the tip of his tongue before he bit down on it. Those pale blue eyes of hers locking with that of the brown haired male. For a moment they would remain fixated as the amazonian like woman asked him for his name in a not so subtle manner.


    "Calling you simply mister seems a bit too formal for my taste." She'd reply, much like the other woman wanting to pry the information from him in a subtle manner. The amulet that hung under her coat gave off an abnormal warmth that justified some concern. But before her attention could remain focused on it for long the door of the institution would fly open. The icy wind rushing throughout the bar as a man clad in leather armor stepped through it's mouth. The door slamming shut behind him as he removed the fur hood that once shielded his face against the harsh element. He was a rugged man, in his early thirties with dark brown hair and bicolored feral eyes. One light blue while the other was an amethyst color.



    http://www.iwakuroleplay.com/attachment.php?attachmentid=18996&d=1360452889



    Those frigid battle harden eyes of his surveyed the scene before barreling down on that of Xuelah and her friends. The patrons now cheering as free glasses of liquor were being passed around. A result of Balor's generosity which for the moment sedated the curiosity and wandering eyes of the locals. On his back rested a finely crafted bow, engraved with the dialect of the golden elves. Who were renowned for their bows and magical tomes. On his hips rested two sheathed short swords that were strapped to his hip. A few scars could be spotted adorning his thick neck, signs that he was a man of war. One who wore these marking with honor and humility. Testaments to the errors of the past yet somehow at the same time they served as milestones in his development.


    The distance would slowly be closed between them as he weaved in between the patrons. His stride that of a man of discipline. A man who has had extensive military training of some fashion. Abruptly he would halt standing just a few feet from the party that convened around Xuelah. The bards eyes drifting up to his face offer him a smile. Though no such formality would be offered in return; he was tired and like usual just finished a waltz with death. Though the cause was not his own, as was often the case.
    "Velcome back Mr.Ulfric." She'd state, displaying the fact that they were acquainted. "Did you find anything useful?" She'd inquire into, momentarily derailing the previous conversation.


    "Aye las oi 'av returned." He'd reply before sitting down with them. His thick Irish accent only being rivaled by that of Xuelah's accent. "Oi got waat yer wanted...who are dees blokes? Name's Ulfric...pleasure ter meet al' of ya." He'd introduce himself, those mixed color eyes of his focusing more so on the other female rather than the male. Reaching and grabbing a glass on Balor's dime. "Cheers an' t'anks mate!" He'd raise the glass before gulping it's contents in a matter of seconds. Reaching into his breast pockets before tossing a small leather bag Xuelah's way. The female bard would catch it but not before almost dropping it. "Zank you...Everyone zis is Ulfric my guide and body guard hired by my house." She'd explain, at the same time declaring her social status.


    Clearly there was more to Xuelah's being here than met the eye. Why else would a wandering bard need a guide and hired hand. Ulfric would offer Trina a wide smile. Exposing his pearly white teeth. He was more than aware she could handle him as if he were some sort of rag doll. But that didn't seem to intimidate let alone prevent him from making idle advances.
     
  11. <!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:WordDocument> <w:View>Normal</w:View> <w:Zoom>0</w:Zoom> <w:TrackMoves/> <w:TrackFormatting/> <w:PunctuationKerning/> <w:ValidateAgainstSchemas/> <w:SaveIfXMLInvalid>false</w:SaveIfXMLInvalid> <w:IgnoreMixedContent>false</w:IgnoreMixedContent> <w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText>false</w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText> <w:DoNotPromoteQF/> <w:LidThemeOther>EN-US</w:LidThemeOther> <w:LidThemeAsian>X-NONE</w:LidThemeAsian> <w:LidThemeComplexScript>X-NONE</w:LidThemeComplexScript> <w:Compatibility> <w:BreakWrappedTables/> <w:SnapToGridInCell/> <w:WrapTextWithPunct/> <w:UseAsianBreakRules/> <w:DontGrowAutofit/> <w:SplitPgBreakAndParaMark/> <w:DontVertAlignCellWithSp/> <w:DontBreakConstrainedForcedTables/> <w:DontVertAlignInTxbx/> <w:Word11KerningPairs/> <w:CachedColBalance/> </w:Compatibility> <w:BrowserLevel>MicrosoftInternetExplorer4</w:BrowserLevel> <m:mathPr> <m:mathFont m:val="Cambria Math"/> <m:brkBin m:val="before"/> <m:brkBinSub m:val="--"/> <m:smallFrac m:val="off"/> <m:dispDef/> <m:lMargin m:val="0"/> <m:rMargin m:val="0"/> <m:defJc m:val="centerGroup"/> <m:wrapIndent m:val="1440"/> <m:intLim m:val="subSup"/> <m:naryLim m:val="undOvr"/> </m:mathPr></w:WordDocument> </xml><![endif]--> Balor laughed, raising a hand to brush against the back of his head at Xuelah's first comment. It was a self conscious gesture, but his hand soon dropped to his side and hung limp there as she began to stare at him. Balor was quite used to being looked over, not looked at. Whatever whisper of manly pride he possessed barred him from breaking eye contact.

    "My apologies, I nearly forgot to introduce myself. My name is Balor Noorwynd," He said, glancing from Trina to Xuelah between sentences. He was named after the hero of an old folk tale who apparently slew a great sea serpent with his bare hands. It was a terrible irony, in his opinion. He was barely able to slay a housefly without a tinge of remorse. Sighing with resignation, Balor bent down to retrieve the journal he had dropped earlier. He would have hated to lose the thing. It was filled with notes, personal observations, names of people, sketches of plants and strange animals... He tucked it carefully into his rucksack, in between countless maps and books. It was a welcome press against his bony shoulder blade.

    It was that precise moment that the comfortable aura between the three acquaintances was jarred. At least for Balor, it was. Xuelah did not seem to mind the new man, who looked practically war bound. The smile she offered him twisted Balor’s stomach, even though the gesture was not returned. Against his better judgment, he picked up his drink and took a considerable gulp, then another, bracing himself against the taste. “Forget about it,” he mumbled in acknowledgment to Ulfric’s thanks. He could imagine what he looked like next to the male warrior; a bookish, fumbling wimp. He was comforted slightly that Ulfric seemed more interested in Trina than anything, but at the same time he found himself worrying for the woman. The thought caused him to laugh at himself. What was he going to do, defend her honor?

    He finally did sit down when Xuelah declared her class. Then he ordered another drink. He was already beginning to feel light headed. In order to barricade himself against a fall into dejection he would simply have to forget life’s shortcomings.
    <!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:LatentStyles DefLockedState="false" DefUnhideWhenUsed="true" DefSemiHidden="true" DefQFormat="false" DefPriority="99" LatentStyleCount="267"> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="0" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" QFormat="true" Name="Normal"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="9" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" QFormat="true" Name="heading 1"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="9" QFormat="true" Name="heading 2"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="9" QFormat="true" Name="heading 3"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="9" QFormat="true" Name="heading 4"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="9" QFormat="true" Name="heading 5"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="9" QFormat="true" Name="heading 6"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="9" QFormat="true" Name="heading 7"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="9" QFormat="true" Name="heading 8"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="9" QFormat="true" Name="heading 9"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="39" Name="toc 1"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="39" Name="toc 2"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="39" Name="toc 3"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="39" Name="toc 4"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="39" Name="toc 5"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="39" Name="toc 6"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="39" Name="toc 7"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="39" Name="toc 8"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="39" Name="toc 9"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="35" QFormat="true" Name="caption"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="10" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" QFormat="true" Name="Title"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="1" Name="Default Paragraph Font"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="11" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" QFormat="true" Name="Subtitle"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="22" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" QFormat="true" Name="Strong"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="20" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" QFormat="true" Name="Emphasis"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="59" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Table Grid"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Placeholder Text"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="1" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" QFormat="true" Name="No Spacing"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="60" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Light Shading"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="61" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Light List"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="62" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Light Grid"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="63" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Shading 1"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="64" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Shading 2"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="65" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium List 1"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="66" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium List 2"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="67" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Grid 1"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="68" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Grid 2"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="69" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Grid 3"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="70" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Dark List"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="71" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Colorful Shading"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="72" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Colorful List"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="73" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Colorful Grid"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="60" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Light Shading Accent 1"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="61" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Light List Accent 1"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="62" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Light Grid Accent 1"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="63" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Shading 1 Accent 1"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="64" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Shading 2 Accent 1"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="65" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium List 1 Accent 1"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Revision"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="34" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" QFormat="true" Name="List Paragraph"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="29" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" QFormat="true" Name="Quote"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="30" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" QFormat="true" Name="Intense Quote"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="66" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium List 2 Accent 1"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="67" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Grid 1 Accent 1"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="68" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Grid 2 Accent 1"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="69" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Grid 3 Accent 1"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="70" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Dark List Accent 1"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="71" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Colorful Shading Accent 1"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="72" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Colorful List Accent 1"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="73" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Colorful Grid Accent 1"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="60" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Light Shading Accent 2"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="61" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Light List Accent 2"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="62" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Light Grid Accent 2"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="63" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Shading 1 Accent 2"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="64" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Shading 2 Accent 2"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="65" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium List 1 Accent 2"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="66" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium List 2 Accent 2"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="67" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Grid 1 Accent 2"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="68" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Grid 2 Accent 2"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="69" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Grid 3 Accent 2"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="70" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Dark List Accent 2"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="71" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Colorful Shading Accent 2"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="72" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Colorful List Accent 2"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="73" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Colorful Grid Accent 2"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="60" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Light Shading Accent 3"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="61" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Light List Accent 3"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="62" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Light Grid Accent 3"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="63" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Shading 1 Accent 3"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="64" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Shading 2 Accent 3"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="65" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium List 1 Accent 3"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="66" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium List 2 Accent 3"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="67" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Grid 1 Accent 3"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="68" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Grid 2 Accent 3"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="69" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Grid 3 Accent 3"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="70" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Dark List Accent 3"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="71" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Colorful Shading Accent 3"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="72" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Colorful List Accent 3"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="73" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Colorful Grid Accent 3"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="60" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Light Shading Accent 4"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="61" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Light List Accent 4"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="62" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Light Grid Accent 4"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="63" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Shading 1 Accent 4"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="64" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Shading 2 Accent 4"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="65" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium List 1 Accent 4"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="66" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium List 2 Accent 4"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="67" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Grid 1 Accent 4"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="68" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Grid 2 Accent 4"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="69" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Grid 3 Accent 4"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="70" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Dark List Accent 4"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="71" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Colorful Shading Accent 4"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="72" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Colorful List Accent 4"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="73" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Colorful Grid Accent 4"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="60" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Light Shading Accent 5"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="61" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Light List Accent 5"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="62" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Light Grid Accent 5"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="63" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Shading 1 Accent 5"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="64" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Shading 2 Accent 5"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="65" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium List 1 Accent 5"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="66" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium List 2 Accent 5"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="67" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Grid 1 Accent 5"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="68" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Grid 2 Accent 5"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="69" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Grid 3 Accent 5"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="70" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Dark List Accent 5"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="71" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Colorful Shading Accent 5"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="72" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Colorful List Accent 5"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="73" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Colorful Grid Accent 5"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="60" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Light Shading Accent 6"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="61" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Light List Accent 6"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="62" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Light Grid Accent 6"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="63" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Shading 1 Accent 6"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="64" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Shading 2 Accent 6"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="65" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium List 1 Accent 6"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="66" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium List 2 Accent 6"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="67" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Grid 1 Accent 6"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="68" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Grid 2 Accent 6"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="69" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Grid 3 Accent 6"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="70" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Dark List Accent 6"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="71" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Colorful Shading Accent 6"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="72" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Colorful List Accent 6"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="73" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Colorful Grid Accent 6"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="19" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" QFormat="true" Name="Subtle Emphasis"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="21" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" QFormat="true" Name="Intense Emphasis"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="31" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" QFormat="true" Name="Subtle Reference"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="32" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" QFormat="true" Name="Intense Reference"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="33" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" QFormat="true" Name="Book Title"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="37" Name="Bibliography"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="39" QFormat="true" Name="TOC Heading"/> </w:LatentStyles> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 10]> <style> /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-priority:99; mso-style-qformat:yes; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:11.0pt; font-family:"Calibri","sans-serif"; mso-ascii-font-family:Calibri; mso-ascii-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-fareast-theme-font:minor-fareast; mso-hansi-font-family:Calibri; mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin;} </style> <![endif]-->
     
  12. Balor, the name being offered finally, seemed a bit out of his league between Trina and what appeared to be a very knowledgable bard. However, Xuelah didn't seem to mind his company and the woman warrior was simply trying to blend in for a bit longer. Ever watchful of the door, Trina had noticed the rugged dual color eyed man arrive without blatantly staring in his direction and still keeping tabs on the conversation currently happening at the table. Even in the most casual of situations, her military eye was constantly at work. Which broght to question the purpose this new arrival had there at the Immoral Dragon. The way he carried himself was all too familiar to the woman, training of some sort for sure, perhaps granting him a small inkling of respect from her, but only just. Balor, on the other hand, had no apparent training of anykind and Trina wondered if perhaps he was a historian of sorts, watching him stow away a journal that had dropped on the floor.</SPAN>

    The arrival of the newcomer, Ulfric, at their table raised a bit of suspicion even with the proper introductions made. Trina had heard of the plight of the Bards but until that moment, wouldn’t have thought either of them to be connected to it. Setting down the pint before her, she simply nodded to Ulfric’s pearly whites laughing inwardly both at the man with better teeth than most and at Balor’s awkwardness with himself, let alone the group.</SPAN></SPAN>

    “Xuelah, might I ask what brings you to such an out-of-the-way and difficult to reach town such as this?” She wondered honestly, whether the answer would come from Xuelah or Ulfric. She supposed it would depend on just how protective he was of his charge.</SPAN></SPAN>
     

  13. Ulfric took note of the man’s sense of inferiority when standing next to him. He did not relish in his lack of confidence, nor did he feel a sense of pity. Truth be told the idle insecurities of this frail man were no concerns of his. The Rugged mercenary ran his fingers against his beard, only caring for one thing, the paycheck at the end of this whole dreadful affair. The thought of riches caused the contorting of his lips, bestowing a sly ol’ grin.


    Some might foolishly belittle the man for his seemingly self serving attitude. However something about this Ulfric didn’t mesh so well with such an image. For the wealth he was to acquire was not for his own pleasures, rather the security of another. Though such truths would be obscured under a guise, for Ulfric was not one to so easily disclose his personal life toward others.


    Xuelah had noted the older man’s sly grin, arching a brow finding such a display in complete contrast of the man she thought she knew. But before she could inquire into it, she’d shrug such idle concerns aside. Focusing instead on the words and uneasiness of the scrawny man before her, not fully understanding his reasons for acting so. Had he thought of her so vain? So childish as to belittle him whenever a man of more defined physique pranced by? Surely this was not the case; surely this adult was not so childish in his thoughts to deduce such whimsical conclusions?


    Balor, Balor was his name, a legend she was more than versed in. For bards just like sages were scholars, digging their noses as much in tomes and books as they did their musical wiles. Xuelah had no desire to keep this Balor wallowing in the stench of his own self pity, nor did she desire silence to linger between them. And so promptly she did reply, purposely ignoring his muttered reply to Ulfric.
    “You are most kind Balor.” She paused, gracing the strange man with a subtle smile. “Are you some sort of scholar? It has been some time since I met someone as addicted to books as I!” She retorted with a sense of enthusiasm, her once subtle smile widening just enough to display her pearl white teeth.


    Trina’s words had fallen on deafen ears, for not even the mightiest of clashes could remove Xuelah from her thoughts. Whenever she thought of or held a book she became absorbed into a world of her own. A trait that was a catalyst for much frustration for the old mercenary, though seldom did he voice such matters aloud. A heavy sigh parting from his dry lips, as the rugged man finished off his glass of liquor. It’s warmth now rushing throughout his entire being. A comfort compared to that of the howling freezing winds he had just endured.


    “Xuelah!” Ulfric bellowed, as expected she wouldn’t even as much as flinch. Gently the mercenary scratched the back of his head, ruffling his short tamed brown hair. An act birthed from frustration no doubt. “Oi found t’is old book on t’e road..” He whispered, almost too faint for even Trina to have heard, who stood closest to him. Xuelah’s ears did twitch; as she excitedly turn to face Ulfric, her eyes glistening as her pale face seemed to brighten out of glee. “Really!?” She cried. “Vat sort of book?’ Finally the old man had the youngster’s attention. “Oi lied, it was t’e only way to break t’e spell of your own t’oughts. Trina had a question for you lass.”


    Oh how her face reddens out of embarrassment, meanwhile Ulfric raised his hand for another round. Giving the scrawny male a grin.
    “Don’t fret lad, t’is one oi pay for.” He replied, as Xuelah managed t recall Trina’s question. “I am so sorry Trina! It just happens venever I zink about books!” she explained frantically, Ulfric muttered something under his breath, far too inaudible to be made out. Still it was clear whatever he said drenched with sarcasm.


    “I am here because my house sent me. I must restore our honor and find the missing pages of my houses ballad!” She explained, holding certain details back. But certain that the answer she gave would sedate Trina’s curiosity. Not so much an act of deception, rather an act of precaution. For even now many spies have been following her. Trying to pry information that they can report to the other houses, for conspiracy ran as deep as blood in her society. Something that prove quite lucrative for Ulfric’s line of work.
     
  14. Balor could not help but to return Xuelah's grin. Whether it was the alcohol or her words, he relaxed his bony shoulders so that they were once again level with the base of his neck, rather than his ears. Most kind, she said. Balor was not able to accomplish much, but he surely tried, and for that he was glad that Xuelah had noticed.

    His smile became a light chuckle at the bard's question. One might think him a scholar. But Balor had always thought 'Scholar' too stuffy a definition for himself. He preferred to think of himself as a seeker of knowledge. "What do you imagine I bear here on my back? Silly trifles such as clothing and food? Pah!" He joked lightheartedly, shrugging his pack from his shoulders and loosening the top strap just long enough for a peek inside. If she looked, she would find hundreds of pages staring back at her.

    The pack was not open for long, though. A few of the tomes he bore were of enough worth to get him killed. His experience as a merchant was not lost, the books he could stand to part with were to be sold or traded. There was one particular tome in which he was searching for...

    <!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:WordDocument> <w:View>Normal</w:View> <w:Zoom>0</w:Zoom> <w:TrackMoves/> <w:TrackFormatting/> <w:PunctuationKerning/> <w:ValidateAgainstSchemas/> <w:SaveIfXMLInvalid>false</w:SaveIfXMLInvalid> <w:IgnoreMixedContent>false</w:IgnoreMixedContent> <w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText>false</w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText> <w:DoNotPromoteQF/> <w:LidThemeOther>EN-US</w:LidThemeOther> <w:LidThemeAsian>X-NONE</w:LidThemeAsian> <w:LidThemeComplexScript>X-NONE</w:LidThemeComplexScript> <w:Compatibility> <w:BreakWrappedTables/> <w:SnapToGridInCell/> <w:WrapTextWithPunct/> <w:UseAsianBreakRules/> <w:DontGrowAutofit/> <w:SplitPgBreakAndParaMark/> <w:DontVertAlignCellWithSp/> <w:DontBreakConstrainedForcedTables/> <w:DontVertAlignInTxbx/> <w:Word11KerningPairs/> <w:CachedColBalance/> </w:Compatibility> <w:BrowserLevel>MicrosoftInternetExplorer4</w:BrowserLevel> <m:mathPr> <m:mathFont m:val="Cambria Math"/> <m:brkBin m:val="before"/> <m:brkBinSub m:val="--"/> <m:smallFrac m:val="off"/> <m:dispDef/> <m:lMargin m:val="0"/> <m:rMargin m:val="0"/> <m:defJc m:val="centerGroup"/> <m:wrapIndent m:val="1440"/> <m:intLim m:val="subSup"/> <m:naryLim m:val="undOvr"/> </m:mathPr></w:WordDocument> </xml><![endif]-->[FONT=&amp] The book was more of a rumor than a fact. Even so, the man he had apprenticed under, while ruthless and cunning, was also ambitious. A large portion of Balor's time spent on the merchant ship was devoted to researching the Book of Songs. Therefore, Balor's own curiosity to hold the book he had for so long been in search of had overcome him and he set away to find it himself. The merchant he had assisted did not deserve to find the book, in Balor's opinion. His motives were not pure. He sought no knowledge. Only power and riches. [/FONT]<!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:LatentStyles DefLockedState="false" DefUnhideWhenUsed="true" DefSemiHidden="true" DefQFormat="false" DefPriority="99" LatentStyleCount="267"> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="0" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" QFormat="true" Name="Normal"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="9" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" QFormat="true" Name="heading 1"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="9" QFormat="true" Name="heading 2"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="9" QFormat="true" Name="heading 3"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="9" QFormat="true" Name="heading 4"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="9" QFormat="true" Name="heading 5"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="9" QFormat="true" Name="heading 6"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="9" QFormat="true" Name="heading 7"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="9" QFormat="true" Name="heading 8"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="9" QFormat="true" Name="heading 9"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="39" Name="toc 1"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="39" Name="toc 2"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="39" Name="toc 3"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="39" Name="toc 4"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="39" Name="toc 5"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="39" Name="toc 6"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="39" Name="toc 7"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="39" Name="toc 8"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="39" Name="toc 9"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="35" QFormat="true" Name="caption"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="10" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" QFormat="true" Name="Title"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="1" Name="Default Paragraph Font"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="11" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" QFormat="true" Name="Subtitle"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="22" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" QFormat="true" Name="Strong"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="20" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" QFormat="true" Name="Emphasis"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="59" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Table Grid"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Placeholder Text"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="1" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" QFormat="true" Name="No Spacing"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="60" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Light Shading"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="61" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Light List"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="62" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Light Grid"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="63" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Shading 1"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="64" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Shading 2"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="65" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium List 1"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="66" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium List 2"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="67" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Grid 1"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="68" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Grid 2"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="69" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Grid 3"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="70" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Dark List"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="71" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Colorful Shading"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="72" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Colorful List"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="73" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Colorful Grid"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="60" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Light Shading Accent 1"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="61" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Light List Accent 1"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="62" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Light Grid Accent 1"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="63" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Shading 1 Accent 1"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="64" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Shading 2 Accent 1"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="65" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium List 1 Accent 1"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Revision"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="34" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" QFormat="true" Name="List Paragraph"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="29" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" QFormat="true" Name="Quote"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="30" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" QFormat="true" Name="Intense Quote"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="66" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium List 2 Accent 1"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="67" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Grid 1 Accent 1"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="68" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Grid 2 Accent 1"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="69" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Grid 3 Accent 1"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="70" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Dark List Accent 1"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="71" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Colorful Shading Accent 1"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="72" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Colorful List Accent 1"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="73" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Colorful Grid Accent 1"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="60" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Light Shading Accent 2"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="61" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Light List Accent 2"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="62" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Light Grid Accent 2"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="63" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Shading 1 Accent 2"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="64" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Shading 2 Accent 2"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="65" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium List 1 Accent 2"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="66" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium List 2 Accent 2"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="67" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Grid 1 Accent 2"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="68" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Grid 2 Accent 2"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="69" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Grid 3 Accent 2"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="70" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Dark List Accent 2"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="71" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Colorful Shading Accent 2"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="72" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Colorful List Accent 2"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="73" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Colorful Grid Accent 2"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="60" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Light Shading Accent 3"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="61" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Light List Accent 3"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="62" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Light Grid Accent 3"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="63" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Shading 1 Accent 3"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="64" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Shading 2 Accent 3"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="65" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium List 1 Accent 3"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="66" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium List 2 Accent 3"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="67" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Grid 1 Accent 3"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="68" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Grid 2 Accent 3"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="69" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Grid 3 Accent 3"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="70" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Dark List Accent 3"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="71" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Colorful Shading Accent 3"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="72" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Colorful List Accent 3"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="73" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Colorful Grid Accent 3"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="60" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Light Shading Accent 4"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="61" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Light List Accent 4"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="62" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Light Grid Accent 4"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="63" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Shading 1 Accent 4"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="64" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Shading 2 Accent 4"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="65" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium List 1 Accent 4"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="66" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium List 2 Accent 4"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="67" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Grid 1 Accent 4"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="68" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Grid 2 Accent 4"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="69" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Grid 3 Accent 4"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="70" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Dark List Accent 4"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="71" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Colorful Shading Accent 4"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="72" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Colorful List Accent 4"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="73" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Colorful Grid Accent 4"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="60" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Light Shading Accent 5"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="61" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Light List Accent 5"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="62" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Light Grid Accent 5"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="63" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Shading 1 Accent 5"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="64" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Shading 2 Accent 5"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="65" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium List 1 Accent 5"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="66" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium List 2 Accent 5"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="67" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Grid 1 Accent 5"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="68" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Grid 2 Accent 5"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="69" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Grid 3 Accent 5"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="70" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Dark List Accent 5"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="71" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Colorful Shading Accent 5"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="72" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Colorful List Accent 5"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="73" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Colorful Grid Accent 5"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="60" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Light Shading Accent 6"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="61" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Light List Accent 6"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="62" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Light Grid Accent 6"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="63" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Shading 1 Accent 6"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="64" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Shading 2 Accent 6"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="65" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium List 1 Accent 6"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="66" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium List 2 Accent 6"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="67" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Grid 1 Accent 6"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="68" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Grid 2 Accent 6"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="69" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Grid 3 Accent 6"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="70" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Dark List Accent 6"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="71" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Colorful Shading Accent 6"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="72" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Colorful List Accent 6"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="73" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Colorful Grid Accent 6"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="19" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" QFormat="true" Name="Subtle Emphasis"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="21" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" QFormat="true" Name="Intense Emphasis"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="31" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" QFormat="true" Name="Subtle Reference"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="32" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" QFormat="true" Name="Intense Reference"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="33" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" QFormat="true" Name="Book Title"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="37" Name="Bibliography"/> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="39" QFormat="true" Name="TOC Heading"/> </w:LatentStyles> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 10]> <style> /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-priority:99; mso-style-qformat:yes; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:11.0pt; font-family:"Calibri","sans-serif"; mso-ascii-font-family:Calibri; mso-ascii-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-fareast-theme-font:minor-fareast; mso-hansi-font-family:Calibri; mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin;} </style> <![endif]-->

    Which is why, at the mention of Xuelah's house's ballad, Balor shot up from his chair, knocking it over to the floor in a clatter that seemed to go on forever. He glanced rapidly in between Xuelah and Ulfric, finally connecting the dots. Balor cursed himself for his inability to piece things together earlier. Finally coming to the realization that Xuelah was also in search of the same tome as he, Balor slowly bent down and retrieved the fallen barstool. He was suddenly self conscious. He was a simple man, on an honest yet unhurried endeavor to find a book. Xuelah's house, however, depended on her finding it, and Balor was sure that Ulfric would not think twice about killing him if he got in the way.
     
  15. Trina would be the first to admit that idle conversation was not her strongest suit. Put her in the middle of a bar brawl or battlefield and she would feel right at home. But here among strangers, enjoying a cup of ale…or two as the case was, she was definitely out of her element. It was her training that was keeping the façade alive that she was enjoying the happenings of the evening. </SPAN></SPAN>

    Xuelah seemed enchanted by the lanky man across the table sharing a similar interest in books and writings of all kinds. Frankly, Trina was quite bored with it all and just wanted to confirm her suspicions of the bard. The reports she’d received at her post was what lead her to this place yet, things still needed confirmation. Her question lost amongst the excitement over the talk of books and the tall woman resigned herself just to listen.</SPAN></SPAN>

    Ulfrics rather sly deception to get the bard’s attention was comical to say the least, causing an inward chuckle. His inaudible mumblings a sign that perhaps he was as bored with the evening as she. More entertainment came when the answer caused Balor to loose any composure he had managed to muster as he shot up out of his chair, knocking things over as if he was being bitten by a dog. The stir brought unwanted attention to the group even if it was brief and certainly raised suspicion on whether Balor was a friend or foe. Trina nodded politely with the vague but helpful information provided. Xuelah was very founded in her need for precaution and vagueness. It was something the female warrior knew all to well. “Well, I need to go find the keeper of this fine establishment and see if they have any rooms left. If you’ll excuse me.” She nodded her head with a faint curl of a smile to her lips and stood up.</SPAN></SPAN>
     

  16. The attention wrought by the actions of this scrawny man indeed birthed much concern. After all both Xuelah and Ulfic were here on secretive business, if word got out, it would only serve to weaken her house. The consequences of which, could prove quite catastrophic. Naturally this was something they both wanted to avoid. Out of the two, Ulfric seemed more disturbed, his face cringing out of disapproval, whilst Xuelah maintained her bearing, portraying no emotions.

    <o:p> </o:p>

    She figured the best way to handle the situation was to remain visibly and audibly unmoved. Something the rugged mercenary picked up on quickly, tossing such portrayal aside with haste.
    “Is something ze matter?” Xuelah questioned, the smile plastered upon her soft features widening. As if to reassure the male all was well, and luckily no real damage had be done. For it seemed the locals quickly averted their gaze from the scene, choosing instead to drown themselves in their drink of choice.

    <o:p> </o:p>

    The bard knew for a fact that the scrawny male acted out of ignorance; being more forgiven than Ulfric she harbored no grudges. In truth neither did the rugged man, for his actions had yet to jeopardize their mission, thus his pay. And no one screws around with his livelihood, let alone his honor and pride in his near flawless record. For without due reputation, he’d find it very difficult to find work. For competition was heavy for a man of his vocation, the houses often hired outside help to resolve sensitive issues.

    <o:p> </o:p>

    Ulfric’s eyes did narrow, as Trina removed herself from her perched position. Spewing something about needing to pay for rooms, something that didn’t sit well with him. Casually Ulfric did rub his hand against his facial hair, subtly arching a brow as he pondered over her recent action. By nature, the mercenary was skeptical and distrusting; this paranoia often saved him from utter disaster and despair.

    <o:p> </o:p>

    “Be rig’t back.” Ulfric stated before likewise leaving his nested position, leaving Xuelah alone in the company of the feeble man. The rugged mercenary had assumed that both he and Trina were folk of like mind, born under the influence of the raven. Doomed to speak with their fist or blade, endlessly jumping from battle to battle, waltzing with friend and foe unlike. Until the day dawned in which they fell to the sword they so desperately clung to, a poetic conclusion for ones who willingly became stained with blood.

    <o:p> </o:p>

    Xuelah took note of this action, offering him only a simple nod of approval. For both Ulfric and herself had reached the same conclusion, that this man meant them no harm and was no enemy. However she wasn’t foolish enough to brand him an ally just yet, rather a neutral party on a steadily moving train.

    <o:p> </o:p>

    Once more those pale reflective irises of hers averted toward Balor, locking with his own eyes.
    “Ulfric is a good and loyal man, zough he vould zay ozerwise.” She purred, as her hands now rested on her thighs. “So vhy are you here Mr. Balor? You are clearly far from your element and home?” Xuelah had hoped that some answers might soothe some concerns, and help her put this man into a category. Whether or not he could sense her true purpose in her actions had remained unseen thus far. And if he had noted it, he was quite the actor, for he gave no sign to suggest so.

    <o:p> </o:p>

    Confidently Ulfric closed the distance between himself and Trina, standing by her side granting her a warm and sincere grin.
    “Oi, Dove why don’t we ‘ave some fun eh?” He replied, dropping his back on the wooden deck. The term dove was not sexual in nature, his tones expressed this much. Rather a title given to all women in his homeland. “Can tell a lot of a person in how ‘ey dance.” Ulfric crouched, pulling two small wooden training sword from his back, tossing one her way. “Come, let us go outside an’ do ‘at we do best?” His thick Irish accent perhaps making his dialect indiscernible.

    <o:p> </o:p>
    No doubt this was something Trina would welcome, for talking wasn’t Ulfric strong point. Drnking was, but he had no interest in drinking anyone to the ground. Balor and Xuelah would prove no challenge, and Trina he doubted had generations of alcoholic training instilled into her genes.
     
  17. She really did need a room, that part wasn't a lie. However, it could have waited perhaps a couple more hours but the ploy served its purpose. All except for the fact that Ulfric apparently didn't buy it, his form steadily approaching, the hairs rising on the back of her neck from the feeling of being watched. She didn’t manage so much as the raise of her hand to get the barkeeps attention when Ulfric draped himself along the edge of the bar. She found his thick accent a little difficult at times to understand, but so far she could make out enough to get her by. A curious brow raised at the mention of dancing. Surely he wasn’t trying to get her out on the floor? When he tossed the wooden training sword at her, she caught it without even flinching, a wide grin across her face. </SPAN></SPAN>

    Twisting the piece of wood in her hand, looking it over “I haven’t seen one of these in a very long time.” She stated with a hint of humor in her tone. “Well, I was going to settle in for the night but how could I possibly refuse such an opportunity.” He wouldn’t of course have any clue of the underlying innuendoes behind her statement. She’d fought more dragons in her time than he had probably seen. There was no time for idle training with such toys. “After you.”</SPAN></SPAN>
     
  18. "No. No. It's nothing." Balor immediately reclaimed his seat and pasted the same false expression to his face as was on Xuelah's. His stomach cringed in shame, How could he be so stupid? His eyes attempted to convey what his lips could not, an apology. The patrons of the bar did not seem to notice his outburst, and for that he was grateful. He would rather his tongue be cut out than have it be responsible for placing anyone in harm's way, especially Xuelah.

    Though... The curl of Trina's lips... There was something there which caused Balor's brow to furrow. He was a sensitive man, he knew, often over analyzing the simplest of gestures. However, as he watched the female warrior leave the group he glanced subtly at Ulfric. Just as he decided to say something, and what thing it exactly was he did not know even then, he saw that the Guard was already well aware of Trina's possible motives. Balor released a small sigh of relief, nodding feebly at the warrior's curt exit.

    And there Xuelah was, locking eyes with him just as she had before. It again caught him by surprise, and he was barely able to nod at her statement about Ulfric. He did not know enough about the man to honestly agree with her, but there was simply no other way to acknowledge her comment. The bard's question was not unexpected. He was obviously not suited for the harsh elements of this reach of the world.

    "You might consider me a merchant of sorts... Most of the books in my pack here are to be sold to a local dealer. Though, honestly, I prefer to trade rather than sell. Books are of more value to me than coin, as silly as that sounds." He flashed the girl a genuine grin, before worry overtook his features. He wished to ask her if she was truly in danger, though he feared he would make matters worse. Especially since he would not likely be able to defend her against a physical threat. He settled with a solemn, "Are you okay?" He hoped she would understand his implication.
     

  19. It seemed that Trina seemed more than thrilled with the prospect of “Dancing” with the mercenary. A revelation that birthed a wide grin on his rugged face, with both wooden swords in hand the male made his approach toward the mouth of the institution.
    “Come, let us take t’is outside.” He replied, knowing full well the open space and fresh air would do them both well. Abruptly Ulfric did halt, offering Xuelah a quick glance and a nod of the head. Undoubtedly the Bard would note the training weapons and put two and two together.

    <o:p> </o:p>

    Firmly Ulfric grasped the knob of brass, turning it as he pushed the old door open. On the other side of the threshold a howling, frigid wind greeted them. Flakes of snow drifted from the heavens, gently adorning the ground as they congregated with their brethren. The snow and cold provided a tactical element in his eyes, for like all great warriors, his ability to formulate strategies proved beyond reproach.

    <o:p> </o:p>

    “Oi suppose t’is spot will ao as anyot’er.” He whispered, his words hardly audible due to the hoarse whisper of the blistering wind. Quickly Ulfric pivoted, turning to face Trina, a goofy grin plastering itself on his face as he tossed her the wooden sword. “ ’Ere you go.” As soon as these words parted from his lips, the mercenary placed his left hand behind the swell of his back, palm up as his right foot dragged forward. With blade poised with perfect balance at an upward angle he’d assume his stance, rocking back and forth in place. A fighting style unique to these parts no doubt.

    <o:p> </o:p>

    Xuelah had noted Ulfric’s reassuring nod as he stepped outside. Truth be told there was none a finer dancer with blades, nor a better archer in all the lands. She was certain that despite the female’s prowess, the Irish male could hold his own. A heavy sigh drifted from off her luscious lips, admiring his vigor but finding his feeble attempts at flirting to be flaccid at best. Still she suppose it was better this way, her rugged friend did little to ease the scrawny man. Now they could converse in a more lax environment.

    <o:p> </o:p>

    Her ears did twitch as she picked up on his words, as usually they were elegantly poised, showing a degree of intellect. She could tell immediately that this one, this Balor, was a terrible liar. With ease she saw through at his terrible attempt to deceive and dodge her line of question. Seeing how he was unlikely an enemy, Xuelah saw no need in pressing the issue any further. For she had already obtained the information she desired.

    <o:p> </o:p>

    Still she took notice of those eyes of his, expressing a sense of sorrow. No doubt for the spectacle he caused earlier. Her expressive pools attempt to convey a sense of free spiritedness, as if to say no offense was taken, nor was any real harm done. Though she was fairly certain such thoughts would be lost in translation.

    <o:p> </o:p>

    His genuine sense of concern touched the bard, more so then she cared to admit. And though she doubted the integrity within his words, to be specific the comment regarding his trade, nonetheless she found herself being swayed by his kind nature.
    “Vhat do you mean?’ She’d feign ignorance at first, though she knew well that such a guise would hardly linger. And so without hesitation she dissipated it herself.

    <o:p> </o:p>

    “Don’t vorry about mwah. I vill be fine, after all vat iz life vithout danger?” She jested, her words carrying with them the same foreign spice as usual. Her accent often confused most, luckily Balor had little trouble understanding her words. Xuelah knew she’d soon have to offer some details to appease this man’s curiosity. “I do not vish to discuz zuch thing openly. Maybe if ve found zomevere more private?” The bard purred, offering the man a subtle wink.

    <o:p> </o:p>

    Xuelah was fairly certain that such a bold display would cause Balor’s pigmentation to redden, a reaction she always found to be as adorable as it was empowering on her part. For bards often valued their beauty as much as they did their songs.
     
  20. Handing the wooden toy back to Ulfric, Trina simply nodded to his gesture to go outside. The room had gotten a bit crowded for her liking and let's face it, one needed space to properly "dance". She noted the eye contact between the man and the bard, an obvious statement that they had worked together for some time or had gotten to know each other rather well in a short one. Fleeting thoughts of Sanerae traveling through her mind and how their friendship had grown with each battle. A certain look would tell either of them what the other was feeling or wanting, whether it be in battle or not.

    The rush of cold brisk air broke her from her thoughts, her hands immediately reaching up to gather and secure the leather and fur lined traveler's outfit she had chosen. An outfit that wasn't exactly chosen to spar in, an inward frown made as she stepped out into the snow covered ground. Their feet sunk slightly with each step in the softly packed blanket. Listening for footsteps if needed was probably going to be out of the question. Taking in a deep breath of the fresh crisp air, Trina rolled her neck and stretched her arms outward quickly, resulting in a crack of bone along the spine between her shoulder blades and a relieved exhale from the tall woman.

    Quick reflexes brought her hand up catching the well used training tool without so much as a flinch and put her in a rarely seen playful mood evident by the tilted head, slanted eye and grin on her face. She was familiar with the techniques of the region and wondered just exactly where he hailed from. Twisting her wrist so that the wooden sword swayed in a circle a few times before settling into her stance, one that was perhaps a little more aggressive in nature than the finessed one that Ulfric had taken. Sword in her right hand with her left hand slightly out to the side, knees slightly bent.... "Let's dance" she remarked in a playful yet competitively serious tone.