Moghendhim Tathar'an was a kitchen slave. His skin was as dark as that of any other drow, his hair as pale, and his features as fine, yet, unlike his kin, he was a slave in the world of men. Sixteen years ago, the owner of the Anderry Inne had won him in a game of silver queens; his father had been a gambling man, and on a whim, bet his firstborn son. Moghendhim wasn't bitter about it, or at least he told himself he wasn't but it ate at him in ways that the other folk working in the inne could see. Old Kerrel, the cook, still crossed herself and spit when she passed him in the passages, convinced that he was evil incarnate, and by his attitude, he might as well have been. Only Bronwyn seemed to like him, and he was, at best, wary of her. She liked to sing while she worked, and there wasn't an animal or a drunk who wasn't calmed by her hands; Bronwyn had a strange magic about her, and he didn't like the feel of it one bit. He grudgingly admitted that he owed her his life for the time she'd cured him of Red Fever, but frankly, he wished that she'd have let him die. Dead, he'd no longer be a slave, but it was dishonour to take his own life. Besides, now not only was he owned by a lesser creature, but he owed his life to one. To Moghendhim, a pale skin usually covered a pale mind, and thusly, he kept to himself and silently did his work.

The Anderry Inne was the only lodging place in the village of Anderry-on-Orin, and it was usually more full in the pub than in the rooms. Few travellers came through Anderry except for bands of minstrels who'd taken the left instead of the right fork at Merril, and the occasional troop of soldiers being transferred out to the hill country. The pub was full of locals, then, when the three strange wanderers came in, backlit by the early evening light. Moghendhim could see their sillouettes in the door, and his ears laid back a bit at the sight. One had what looked to be a tail, one was tall and smelled like an enemy, and one was barely chest high. Elf, he thought, an elf, his fiend wife, and their child. Then they stepped in, and he saw them as they were. He gasped inadvertantly, and the darkish elf's ear twitched, but the halfling girl looked at him like she could read his soul. I know you, her eyes said, and he felt a strange pull in his heart; the young drow nearly discarded his pride and crawled across the straw to lay out his heart and beg her forgiveness for all he had done wrong in his life, but the tiefling boy slid his arm around her, and she broke the bond with Moghendhim to smile at him. Moghendhim was shaking and sweating as he began viciously peeling another potato. He didn't know the newcomers, nor did he want to; he wanted them out of the inne and on their way. That girl was dangerous, and the elf stank of blood. "Bronwyn," he called down the hall, careful to keep the quaver in his heart from his voice, "You have real customers!"

Bronwyn Greenhands came swishing and twirling out of the back room, singing an old lay about some long forgotten king. Her gold hair was in two braids which hung neatly over her shoulders. She smiled and greeted the three travellers, welcoming them to the inne, and offering food and drink. She didn't even look twice at the tiefling's tail.

Padraig, being the tiefling in question, noticed that she hadn't blinked at the sight of him. He also noticed the lovely low cut of her dress. Morrigan pinched him sharply as she settled rooms and dinner with Bronwyn. El'lome looked distracted, but not by Bronwyn's breasts. He was brooding about something, and Morrigan hoped it wasn't last night's misunderstanding. El'lome had left them at about sundown, and wandered into the wood with just a knife. When she and Padraig had settled for the night, El'lome returned with a pair of rabbits which they could have for breakfast. Later in the night, Morrigan woke and saw El'lome counting out a set of purses. She'd called him a cutthroat, accused him of being a highwayman. He had looked up with a murderous gleam and denied it, explaining that there were three less bandits in the world than there had been that afternoon. Then he reconsidered; perhaps that did make him a highwayman, but they wouldn't be waylaid the next day. She had given it some serious thought, and he watched her with dead eyes. In the end, she decided that she was grateful, and wrapped her arms around him and apologised. He'd kissed her on the head, and told her all was well, and she should go back to bed, but now, with him brooding, she wondered if all was, in fact, well.

Morrigan came to her senses as Bronwyn set great bowls of food in front of them. When the woman returned with the ale, Morrigan invited her to sit and eat with them. Bronwyn considered nervously for a moment and then agreed, plunking down on a bench between Padraig and El'lome. Bright-eyed and breathless, she asked about them and how they'd come to the little backwater town, and they gave her a slightly edited version of the journey so far, leaving out those things that were too personal or irrelevant to tell to a gossipy barmaid. And when they had finished, Bronwyn told the story of how she'd been raised in the inne with Moghendhim for a brother...


next week: Bronwyn's Lament

Maerklon's Story | Ophandir's Beginnings | Padraig's Younger Days | A Traveller in Cambry | Morrigan's Quest | Down the Road a Piece

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