Silver Fangs

Back up in the now empty atrium, Caelinus walks over to Toshio and Iolana and scrutinizes them for an uncomfortably long moment. “You, girl, tell me truthfully, did you ever willingly assist Narcizia?”

Iolana shakes her head and says meekly, “No sir, never.”

Caelinus nods. “Very well. I know that you are telling the truth. All the same, don’t try to leave town. We will have more questions for you about what happened here.”

Caelinus turns to Toshio and asks, “What is your interest in all this? I know you are not like those others, who are just looking for trouble,” he nods towards Keng, Jharad, and Jethrik. “Are you here on the business of the Lady of Graves? Something tells me no. You seem to be hovering over this girl as though she were yours, when any fool knows she’s every man’s girl who has the coin to pay. Hmm. Maybe you are some love struck fool out to save the damsel in distress and ride off into the sunset? Is that it? What’s your story boy?”

Toshio replies, “I am here only to help this girl at the request of her friend. The friend has left this place, but still cares deeply for her and hoped that I could help persuade her to start a better life. I intend to do what I can to that end, and have stayed with her since the trouble started in order to keep her safe. I make no claim to her, romantic or otherwise, beyond helping her do that.” Toshio hopes that will satisfy him and that he won’t need to mention his connection with the temple, although that might not matter so much now.

For a moment it looks as though Caelinus is going to pursue his questioning, but then he turns away. To the Signifer and officer of the guard he gives instructions to take Anyanka away. She is now gagged as well as manacled.

Caelinus turns to Keng, “Now that is settled. There is a tavern right outside. Will you and your friends join me for a drink? It’ll be on me.”

“Most kind your lordship,” relies Keng, “perhaps you can can tell us about your Order?”

“I would be happy too,” Caelinus replies with a genuine smile.

Jharad laughs at Keng’s use of title and follows them out to the tavern.

Jethrik perks up. “I could use a sip. Perhaps a little fortification will stop these shakes.” He holds up a hand and jitters it wildly.

“I could use a drink as well,” says Zeyala.

Toshio tags along, quietly amused to see Keng getting along with the Hellknight. Keng did quite well tonight. He didn’t have to get involved, but he did, and Toshio makes a note to do something to show his appreciation – to Keng and the rest of his comrades.

As they are walking out Toshio pauses to say, “On second thought, perhaps I should join you somewhat later. I should see Iolana to safer lodgings first.” To the Hellknight he says, “She won’t leave town, my lord, as you’ve directed.”

Caelinus asks, “Where are these safe lodgings?”

Although he’s not eager to divulge his connection with the Temple of Iomedae (his instructions were to avoid doing so), Toshio feels that evasion would be inappropriate. “Her friend is lodged at the Temple of Iomedae. I expect that Iolana will stay with her there.”

“The Haven? Huh. I should have known you were from there. Make sure she stays there in case the magistrates have any further questions.” Caelinus starts to turn away from Toshio and Iolana but then turns back again to say, “The followers of Iomedae strike me as idealists who shrink from doing what must be done, but I will allow that you are brave, loyal, trustworthy, and honorable. I salute you.” He in fact does salute, right fist over heart, and then turns back with the others towards the tavern.

Toshio doesn’t argue, but graciously accepts the complimentary portions of the Hellknight’s statement. “Thank you, sir,” he says and returns the salute with his own.

Keng catches Jharad’s eye and rolls his eyes.

Jethrik leans over to Jharad and sniffles. “This is so sweet,” he whispers.

Zeyala is momentarily lost in thought, but a smile quickly breaks across her face as she exits with the others.

As the others leave, Toshio turns to Iolana. “It’s been a busy night, hasn’t it? I think you won’t need to worry about buying your freedom now. Still, you’ll be safer in the Haven. If you will gather your things I’ll escort you there. Besides,” he adds with a wry smile, “I think it’s the only place the Hellknight has authorized for you.”

Toshio considers Caelinus’ words as he waits for Iolana. Idealists? Certainly. And what could be wrong with that?  Many of his words were quite complimentary. But shrinking from what must be done? Toshio can only wonder what Caelinus had witnessed to give him that unfortunate impression. He notes that he’ll have to learn more about the Hellknights’ order, but there seems to be no chance he’ll be able to return swiftly enough to join the others tonight.

When Iolana is ready, he offers his arm, saying, “Shall we?” and they set off for the Haven.

In the tavern, Caelinus buys a round for Keng, Jharad, Jethrik, Zeyala, and Ealisaid. In response to Keng’s query he explains that the Hellknights are not a single order of knights but an umbrella term for several orders that were founded in the neighboring Chelaxian Empire.

Jharad nods his thanks when offered a drink, and then sits back and enjoys the conversation between Keng and Caelinus.

“We were founded to establish law and order. We provide a bulwark against the forces of chaos and barbarism that surround Cheliax and the islands of civilization established outside its borders such as Korvosa and here in Magnimar. We are called the Hellknights because we take as our model the iron discipline of the legions of the Nine Hells. Those legions accept no weakness or excuses and the punishments they bring to law-breakers and the unrighteous are dire indeed. Each Hellknight, in fact, must prove himself in combat against a devil summoned forth from those very legions for the very purpose of testing his mettle and worthiness to be numbered among us. Only a select few are able to bear the discipline, responsibility, and strength-of-arms that is demanded of the Hellknights.”

“Proof in combat!  I like that,” Keng says as he swallows a drought of ale and wipes his chin.  ”That is my kind of order!  But I must ask, why do you call me a force of chaos?”

“Because he’s met you.” Jethrik smirks.

Caelinus ignored Jethrik’s comment and says to Keng, “I can sense it in you. It is common amongst the Shoanti and the orcs as well, and I can see you are of both. Among them there is no proper hierarchy or rule of law, only primitive traditions and the whims of the chieftains and shamans who do as they please until someone stronger comes along. Don’t you follow only your own interests with no greater loyalties than to your own will?” He shakes his head. “Perhaps I should not blame you, as you probably have not known anything else until now. Am I right in guessing you have just come down into civilized lands? There is much you may learn here that will be of great benefit to you. I hope you have the patience and determination to do so. You may find that you will become greater when you become part of something greater.”

Keng starts to anger and begins to push his chair back, then thinks twice looking at the fully armored Hellknight. He sits back down and takes another pull of ale. He then says, “Yes, I have just come down from the from the Cinderlands, but I am no bumpkin. I follow my heart and life, because that is what’s true. Laws are things made by man and as such are flawed. Even the gods are fickle.”

“Well, certainly goddesses like Calistria are fickle. There are more reliable gods, however – like Abadar, Master of the First Vault. Now there is a god who represents progress, hard work, and the blessings that come from it.”

“All gods serve their own interests and it rarely matches ours,” Keng retorts.

“That is just it,” Caelinus replies, “Our own interests are often selfish and shortsighted. If we align ourselves with the gods of Law their interests and ours will coincide. Then we will be on the side of gods who can be relied on. But enough of such talk, I can tell it does not sit well with you. I offered to buy you all a drink to show my gratitude for your assistance and not to convert you. However you may feel about it, on this day you have served the city of Magnimar well. The gods of Law are sure to be pleased that the forces of Chaos have been quelled once more.”

Ealisaid breaks in to say, “Certainly the Pharasma will be pleased, for she sees the undead as an abomination against the natural order. I too thank all of you for ridding this world of that vampire and the madam who harbored it and even went so far as to create mindless undead to fight for her.”

Jethrik lift his mug, “Here’s to keeping whorehouses safe for all!”

“‘To each their own said the woman who kissed the buffalo,’ as my mother used to say,” and with that Keng toasts the group.

Jharad accepts his drink and nods his appreciation for their thanks. “And thanks to both of you for your assistance in the end. Sir Caelinus, what will become of the brothel now? And those who work there? I am curious what the Hellknights have planned for those who are innocent of Anyaka’s machinations.”

“Those who broke no laws have nothing to fear. Those who did will be shown no mercy. Anyanka and any we deem to have colluded with her or the vampire will be consigned to the Hells, the prisons beneath the Pediment Building where the Justice Court meets. The thirteen Justices of Magnimar will decide her fate. As for the brothel itself and these taverns, likely the city will take it over for the time being until it can be sold. The girls will probably be able to continue their trade as before. Most likely one of the older girls, or perhaps I should say women, will be appointed the new madam to oversee things for the Ushers and the Lord-Mayor’s Office or whoever else may take over.”

Jharad nods and says, “Sounds fair enough,” then takes a large drink from his ale. Smiling wide he continues, “So, is there any reward for serving the city of Magnimar as we did?”

Caelinus twirls his moustache and says, “You get the reward of having a drink with me and the satisfaction of knowing you did your civic duty and then some. Oh, and also that medallion you took. I’ll let you keep that for your troubles as well.”

Jharad laughs loudly and raises his glass to the Hellknight. “To your long life with good health and purpose Sir Caelinus. May I never find myself on the wrong side of you nor your order.”

To Jharad and Jethrik, Keng asks, “Care to take a walk?”

Jharad drains the rest of his glass and replies, “Yes, I could use some fresh air.”

Jethrik raises his half pint to the knight, drains it and takes his leave with Keng and Jharad.

“Try to stay out of trouble, or at least don’t go looking for it,” says Zeyala as the others are exiting the tavern.

“Booooorriiiiinggg” Jethrik sings.

Keng let’s out a loud guffaw, “Of course we’re going to look for trouble! Come with us!”

Zeyala shakes her head to decline. From outside, as her friends walk away, she can hear Keng saying, “I like this town. We got into a fight with some drovers. We killed a vampire. We busted up a brothel. I had sex with a warrior maiden and Toshio got in trouble! Now what do we do?”

Once the half-orc, elf, and gnome have left, Caelinus says to Ealisaid and Zeyala, “I must confess, I am relieved to see them go.” To Zeyala he asks, “You seem to be on friendly terms with them. How do you know them?”

“They do like to make an entrance,” admits Zeyala. “Friends with one, yes –  the gnome, Jethrik. He and I have known each other for some years and have done a bit of traveling together. The others, I have only made their acquaintance recently, but we have been working together… somewhat. We share similar goals and our paths seem to lead in the same direction.”

“Pardon me for saying, but I hope that path leads out of Magnimar. The priestesses of Pharasma such as yourself are of course welcome. You do a great service for us all. Those three, however, they are admittedly only looking for trouble and I would that they looked elsewhere.”

After taking a few puffs on her pipe, with a smile, she says to Ealisaid, “Magnimar is just as I remembered – nothing boring about this place. Thank you for the adventurous evening.”

Ealisaid laughs, “Believe me, I had no intention of dragging you into an adventure such as this. I merely wanted to keep an eye on things. However, I am glad you were here. Without your assistance things may have gone worse for your friends and many others. And I thank you too, Sir Caelinus, for your timely arrival.”

Caelinus nods, “I owe you a debt Ealisaid. Your intervention may have saved my life. Surely Narcizia intended me to wait in my quarters and to invite her in when she arrived later in the evening. I would be nothing more than a dry husk by morning if you had not alerted the watch commander who then woke the Signifer and broke the enchantment.”

Caelinus asks Zeyala, “You have not told me about the young Tian man who left with that girl, Twilight Blossom. Is he also one of your friends? What is his story? He seemed much more earnest than the others. My guess would be that he is some knight or paladin of Iomedae. Am I right?”

“You guessed right,” answer Zeyala. “He is a paladin in service of Iomedae.”

“However,” she continues. ”I really don’t know that much about him. He is an honorable man, to a fault… but distant. His mission was his own, but we somehow stumbled into it. Had he confided in us, perhaps we wouldn’t have brought so much chaos to Magnimar with us. But then again, most of us are as new to him as we are to each other. And trust is an expensive commodity. The girl he left with, I have no idea of their relation.”

“Hmm, well, I have no problem with the followers of Iomedae, though I find some of their ideas about mercy and restraint towards those who would break our laws to be naïve and even laughable. A good sort though.”

Caelinus finishes his drink and then excuses himself. “I must be off. It has been a pleasure ladies.”

Ealisaid says, “Goodnight Sir Caelinus. I think I must be getting to bed myself. Zeyala, I can walk back with you to your inn. It is, after all, on the way to the Midwives Shrine.”

“Thank you. I appreciate the company.” Zeyala gets up to leave, saying to the Hellknight, ”Good night to you Sir Caelinus.”

Considering how to show his appreciation to his comrades, Toshio is glad he didn’t have to spend his money for the atonement spell. He can use that money instead to get his friends something to commemorate defeating the vampire and the help they gave him this night. Something they can wear proudly, in or out of armor. Then it comes to him. If he can get them made, a gold pin in the shape of a wooden stake would be just the thing! He resolves to look into it after they’ve rested.

Back at the Temple of Iomedae, Chaplain Tira is astounded but pleased to see that Toshio has returned with Iolana. The girl is quickly settled into Haven with her own room. The reunion between Iolana and her friend Piousa is a bit awkward, as Piousa is overjoyed to see her friend alive, well, and free, but Iolana is still fairly traumatized by the events of the evening and full of shame and guilt for what she unleashed and became (however unwilling) an accomplice to. Chaplain Tira suggests to Toshio that they leave the girls to catch-up and invites Toshio back to her office so that he can tell her what happened.

Toshio bids the girls farewell, pleased that they seem to be on a good path at last.

Toshio tries to give Chaplain Tira a thorough briefing, but things were happening so fast that he’s sure he is leaving out some details. He confirms that he did not take advantage of any of the girls’ profession, but merely engaged in conversation. He describes briefly the wait for Iolana, then meeting her. He tells of Narcizia’s entrance, then follows up with his misunderstanding that led to him leaving with Narcizia.

He goes into some detail regarding his revulsion when he detected the strong evil in her, and his relief that his friends were (serendipitously) nearby to help (certainly saving his life). Her ability to control people’s minds is described. In this he includes the fact that a Hellknight also fell under her control.

He only covers sparingly the fight as he re-entered the Garden, then tells how he found Iolana again and they all went to finish off the vampire while it was still weakened. Anyanka’s complicity with the vampire is described, and the final outcome.

Lastly, he notes that he never got the chance to settle his bill. He intends to return to do so, as he doesn’t want the girls involved to be left short because of his actions. And he mentions his intent to have gifts for his friends crafted as tokens of his appreciation.

Chapain Tira smiles, “All seems to have worked out as the goddess would have intended, even to the extent of having the very friend, or at least ally, that you had insulted come to your aid. You yourself have performed admirably. In fact, you did more perhaps than I had intended. If I had known that there was a vampire involved… I pray your forgiveness in that matter, for I should not have sent you into such a great peril as that alone. In any case, don’t worry about any bill. I will send someone around to settle any outstanding debts, and to be assured that the girls are being treated well and in no further danger from either predators or the Hellknights.”

*                                                                     *                                                          *

“Twilight Blossom is safe?” asks Zeyala upon Toshio’s return to the inn.

“Iolana is her real name. And yes, I’m happy to report that she is safe. She is with her friend – the one who initiated all this – at the Haven in Iomedae’s temple. Thanks to you, I’m also safe, and very satisfied with the night’s work.”

“Iolana… that’s a lovely name.  I’m glad to know that she will be alright,” says Zeyala.

Toshio asks, “But the night’s work has left me very thirsty. What would you like to drink? And do you think the others will be joining us, or are they continuing their romp? I’ll get drinks for them, too, if they’re coming.”

“I’m not sure what the others have in mind for the rest of the evening, but a glass of wine would be divine.

Lighting her pipe, Zeyala continues, ”But Toshio, why did you not let us know what was happening? You could have been killed. So could any of us. Fate has brought us together, all of us. I’m sure of that. But it does none of any good if we don’t work together.”

Toshio orders some wine for Zeyala and good ale for himself. Then, between sips, he tries to answer her concerns. “I didn’t think any of you would be involved at all, or I would have filled you in beforehand. As it was, even I didn’t know that I’d be doing any ‘undercover’ work – no pun intended, and nothing like that happened – until after we’d all split up. Sure, we know now that it was wildly dangerous, but nobody on our side had any idea what was really going on. I probably wouldn’t have been sent on the mission if anyone had known. As it was, I was very, very lucky you happened to be there before Narcizia could kill me.”

“Thank you,” says Zeyala before taking a sip of the wine. “I understand now, but despite that you should have given us at least a hint before you had us follow you back into the brothel. All we knew was that you were looking for someone inside.”

With a chuckle, Zeyala adds, “We could have come up with a better plan than, ‘Get her!’

“Yes, I was a bit focused on my task, Toshio replies.

“Perhaps.” shrugs Jethrik as he comes into the room with Keng and Jharad and overhears Zeyala’s comment, “but who can quibble with success?”

Seeing the others come in, Toshio motions to the innkeeper for more ale for his friends and continues his explanation.

“When I walked into the Blissful Garden I had no idea what evil lurked there. My goal was to encourage Iolana to decide to leave that place for good, and to help her do so. I was also to help the other girls there if possible. It was known that something strange was going on, but not what. If my order had known what was going on, I doubt I’d have been sent. Also, I’ve never encountered a vampire before and didn’t know that’s what Narcizia was, only that she had a powerful aura of evil (and that was only discovered moments before you came to my rescue). I didn’t know what she really was until she had already turned to mist and we were heading back inside.

“Well, there had been enough trouble inside already, thanks to Keng and friends, and it could have been that Narcizia would make more. That’s why I asked you all to come back inside with me. And at that point we all knew there was significant danger – I didn’t think it required more explanation. It was Ealisaid, I think, that mentioned that vampires can regenerate within an hour and our time to finish it off was short. With that in mind, there wasn’t time for lengthy explanations.

“I wasn’t recalling that Keng and others had just been involved in a brawl inside the Garden and wouldn’t be welcome there. I had at first hoped to get Iolana out without a fuss, with the rest of you as back up, just in case. But getting you all back inside proved… difficult. Then the Hellknights arrived – something I’d been instructed to avoid, if possible, but it worked in our favor this time.

“I didn’t want to bring Iolana into the basement and expose her to more danger, but it was necessary. Apparently she was the only one who knew where the lair was. And you know the rest. So many things were happening so fast – and I’ve left out huge amounts of detail – there wasn’t an opportunity for full explanations, unless we risked letting the vampire escape, until now.” He takes another sip to wet his mouth. “I hope you won’t hold that against me.”

Jethrik rolls his eyes “No, but the whole… paladins as perfect and wise beyond words thing is totally out the window.”

“Well, here’s to walking away with only a few bruises, but all our limbs intact,” says Zeyala while raising her glass to toast.

“Here, here!” Jethrik joins in and takes a swig from his half pint. Turning to Toshio. “Aren’t you guys supposed to see into the future or something?”

“We do,” replies Toshio, hiding his mirth with another swig, “but we’re not allowed to tell what we see.”

“Or act on it, apparently,” says Jethrik.

“Or maybe… I was acting on it! Ha ha!”

“Oh he acts on it when it suits him,” grumps Keng. “He left us behind first in the Gardens and then in the cellars. Some paladin,” Keng snorts.

Toshio replies, “Keng, you were wonderful! You attacked the vampire, distracted Anyanka, and then kept her under attack until the Hellknight could take her into custody. Without your help I couldn’t have completed the mission. And I’m delighted that nobody suffered any serious wounds in the process. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, Keng.”

Keng looks confused, then blinks his eyes and shakes his head. He scrunches up his face and replies, “Don’t get tricky like the elf.”

Jharad smiles at the reference but remains quiet, sipping his ale.

Toshio laughs gently upon hearing Keng’s suspicious nature expressing itself once more.

“And not just Keng,” continues Toshio. “You were each in the right place at the right time. I thank you all for your help.”

Jharad finally says with a serious tone, “Yes, Keng did very well tonight. In fact we all dealt with the situations presented to us quite well – with the exception of you, Toshio. I understand you were presented with conflicting courses of action and that in the end the safety of who you considered innocent took precedence, but the fact of the matter is that you asked for our help, lead us back into the brothel, and then abandoned us to Anya and her bodyguards. Without knowing the outcome, you left those who were following you behind. That is the mark of a bad leader. You need to correct that about yourself if you wish to lead us in the future.”

Taken aback, Toshio just looks at Jharad incredulously for a moment. Then he recalls Jharad’s usual level of tact. Nodding, he replies (in what might seem dismissive to someone with normal social skills), “I see, Jharad. I’ll try to keep that in mind.”

*                                                              *                                                         *

The next day is the celebration of the Day of the Inheritor, the commemoration of the welcoming of the worshippers of the late god Aroden into the Church of Iomedae. The day is commemorated with a solemn procession of the Iomedaean sword-circles and other white-clad lay followers through the city culminating in a circumambulation around the Seerspring Garden and then a noon feast at the Temple of Iomedae. Toshio, his mission complete, is able to join his own sword-circle, the dozen fellow knights with whom he trained before he returned to Sandpoint. At the feast Toshio and the others are able to relax and enjoy the various entertainments, including sacred plays enacting the various acts of Iomedae.

Afterwards, Zeyala makes one more visit to the Temple of Pharasma. She also buys a a silk scarf that is alabaster with gold accent, Magnimar’s colors.

Toshio also heads to the market on his own to buy pendants for everyone. He is not able to find gold stakes, but he does find silver fangs. He plans to present them to the others back in Sandpoint so all the people who know and care about them can also appreciate what they’ve done – and perhaps raise their status in the town somewhat when the townsfolk hear the tale.

As they leave the inn, Jharad settles all of their lodging accounts with the gold he made from selling Anyanka’s silver medallion bearing the three-blades of Calistria. He does the same for the night’s stay at the roadside inn on their way back to Sandpoint. When asked about this he smiles and responds, “Anyanka was kind enough to provide for our lodging given the trouble she caused us.”

Keng shrugs his shoulders and walks away as if to say of course this makes sense.

Jethrik chuckles, “Well, I prefer that over a hickey!”

Toshio also chuckles and says, “Well, it’s the least she could do.”

On the way back to Sandpoint, Jharad enjoys an ale while relaxing at a road side inn after the days ride from Magnimar. He pulls a rolled parchment from his pack and hands it to Toshio with a smile. On the parchment is a sketch depicting the processional during the Day of the Inheritor. While many figures are depicted, the focus of the scene is of Toshio, riding high on his horse, armor glinting in the sun, looking both majestic and devout. Surrounding or perhaps radiating from the paladin’s head is an extremely faint glow of white light, easy to miss with a cursory glance at the drawing. It is signed at the bottom right corner in Elvish runes – ‘Jharalion Aeirandi.’

Toshio unrolls the parchment and is surprised to see himself presented so. “This is quite nice, Jharad. You’ve certainly been generous to me in your presentation. You used you magic to make the sketch, no doubt, eh? Yes, very nice indeed.”

Upon returning to Sandpoint, Toshio makes arrangements to meet the others at the Rusty Dragon later on. Then he rides home to wash up. Dressing nicely, he makes sure he has his gifts with him, plus enough coin for dinner and drinks for everyone that evening.

At the Rusty Dragon he orders everyone a drink, and loud enough for the other guests to hear he says, “Things in Magnimar happened so fast that I barely got a chance to thank each of you for your actions, let alone thank you properly. Tonight I’d like to fix that.

“I went to Magnimar on business of my own, and each of you had your own reasons for going. And, as you four know, my work got me into a nearly fatal situation. While trying to help one of Magnimar’s residents I happened to meet a vampire, and I was supremely lucky that you four were nearby. First Zeyala, then each of you rushed in when I called for help. We managed to defeat the vampire, but not destroy it.

“Then, proving your worth as friends still further, you followed me back into the building so I could finish my task and finish off the vampire. That led to a painful fight with the proprietress and the Hellknights somehow got involved. But thanks to your help we managed to rescue the girl and the vampire was finally destroyed. To show my appreciation for your help and friendship, and to commemorate your part in ridding Magnimar of a significant evil, I would like to present each of you with a gift.”

He brings out a silver fang pendant and puts it on Zeyala. “Zeyala, thank you for being the first to come to my aid, and thank you for healing us so often in the fight that followed.”

He brings out a similar pendant and approaches Keng. “Keng, it’s clear that we don’t agree on many things. But it’s also clear that you value honor, bravery in battle and comrades every bit as much as I do.” He places the pendant on Keng and adds, “And I honor you for your outstanding actions that night. Your attacks on the vampire and against Anyanka kept me alive, and you provided superb distractions so I could get back inside to complete my task.”

Another silver fang pendant is placed on Jethrik. “Jethrik, thank you for following me back into the building. You didn’t know my task or what might be expected, but you trusted me and came anyway, even though I hadn’t had time to explain anything.”

“And Jharad,” he continues, presenting him with his own fang pendant, “thank you for your help. I don’t know how you managed to have everyone in the right place at the right time, or how you found the Hellknights so quickly (that was your doing, wasn’t it?), but without your intervention I wouldn’t be here.

“Clearly, there is much to the tale that I’ve left out, but I’ll leave those things to the bards among us to tell more elaborately than I could. I just want you to know how much I esteem each of you.” Bowing to them in the manner of his ancestors he closes with a simple “Thank you” and sits down, fully expecting that Jethrik will grab the opportunity to tell the tale in detail.

Jharad smiles at the paladin. “Thank you Toshio. As I said before you were faced with several difficult decisions that evening and leading a rabble like we seemed must have been daunting. Though I have admonished some of your decisions already I would like to say that in retrospect with the clearer visage that only time allows I can understand them. Your actions are honorable and you regularly think of others before your self. In the future I will remember this and endeavor to follow your lead with more trust.” With this he raises his glass to all around him and loudly says so that all those in the tavern can hear, “To Toshio, may he never find fail to come back from the brink of death.”

Zeyala bows graciously. “Thank you Toshio. Completely unexpected… and unnecessary, but I am humbled.”

Keng takes off the pendant and holds it out to Jharad, “Does it do anything?”

Chuckling, Jharad responds, “Yes, it keeps your neck warm on cold nights.”

Keng tosses it back to Toshio and says, “I ain’t in your club paladin. And you can’t buy me that cheap.”

Jharad frowns at Keng, “You are being rude Keng. He is not asking for you to join a club. Nor is he asking for anything like your allegiance. He is only expressing his thanks for us having his back in Magnimar. Surely supporting your mates in combat is something you can understand and appreciate.”

Disappointed, Toshio tucks the pendant into a pocket as he sits. “Jharad is correct. But of course I won’t force a gift on you.” He says no more about it, but waits with great curiosity to see if Keng will retract his words or even accept the gift.

Keng gives Toshio a blank look and continues drinking. He looks at Jharad and says, “The paladin needs more than a silver tooth to make amends. Such a trivial gift is more an insult than thanks. I do not wear jewelry I have not won in combat.”

Jharad laughs and says to Toshio, “Well… there it is,” and takes a big swig of his ale.

“Yes, there it is indeed.” He takes a swallow of his own drink. “Perhaps later you can help me understand what amends you are looking for, Keng. I wouldn’t want to leave any bad blood between us. Certainly let’s not let it ruin the evening.”

Keng leans forward and replies, “Give a gift that has meaning to who you give it not just yourself, tell your mates what you intend before leading them hastily into danger and pay me well to watch you back.  The road to the Nine Hells is paved with good intentions and so far your choices have proved ill conceived.”

“It was never my intention to lead anyone that night. My task was mine alone. It proved beyond me and it was only by Iomedae’s grace that all if you were there. You not only rescued me but also helped me finish my task. You were under no obligation to help – yet you did. If we continue our association I hope to learn what meaning you value so any gifts I offer will mean as much to you as to me.” He smiles good-naturedly, refusing to let the situation cloud the evening. “Until then, because I know so little of you except your strength and temper, I’ll just have to keep trying. Let me get you another ale.”

“Now that is a gift with meaning! Let us drink to more adventures!”

Keng continues after drinking, “Feed me/Pay me/Mine own hands find gifts.” He utters a loud guffaw pleased with his own lame ham-fisted attempt at poetry.

Jethrik is visibly relieved by the de-escalation of tension. He begins to play with his pendant, putting it in his mouth like a fang and saying, “Rawr! Rawr!”