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An Evening Inn:Open to all


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    Blaeric turned around, a grin threatening to split his face in two as he raised his first in triumph.  “Now that is a throw that you will only better if the Creator is sitting on your shoulder Owen, and I wager he is not tonight as I am convinced he is sat on mine.”


    The man standing to Owen’s side groaned in exasperation at Blaeric, shaking his head in mock frustration at the younger Ranger’s boastful tone.


  “Blaeric have I not taught you any better than this? Boasting is the downfall of the unwary on many occasions and I have no doubt tonight will be yours.”


    “Oh that is what you think is it Rori? Well I tell you what, oh mentor mind, I will show you how confident I am that that is a winning throw, I will accept any bet that Owen cannot better that throw.”


  “Any bet Blaeric?” Slowly a grin started to spread across Rori’s face. He might not have been as tall as the other two men, and was actually one of the smallest Wolfkin in the Stedding, but his height had no bearing on his standing amongst the Rangers, as many had come to understand.


  “Yes Rori, any bet, are you up for this Owen?”


  Grinning to himself, the white skinned Ranger walked over to the white line that was drawn on the floor and knelt down. In his hand was a copper coin and for a moment Owen idly twirled the coin across the back of his right hand.


    “I accept Blaeric, and your forfeit will be to act as Rhya’s servant until she tires of you, she needs something to cheer her up and I would think that you waiting on her hand foot and finger should be just the fillip she needs.” 


    “Without waiting for a response Owen flicked the coin, with a casual ease that only came with years of practice, and turned away without even bothering to wait on the results of his throw. All the confirmation he needed that his throw had bettered Blaeric’s was the groan that emanated from the young Ranger.


    “It would seem that Rhya has just gained herself a servant for the duration Rori.”  Owen reached for his tankard and took a long sip from it. At the sound of the door to the Inn opening Owen turned and a smile appeared back on his white face.


  “And here she is to collect her winnings now. Rhya, come over here, Blaeric has some good news for you that I am sure you will like.”


    Rori and Owen could not help but grin as the young Ranger, Blaeric, explained to Rhya how she had come to earn herself a servant without having actually done anything. At the expression on Blaeric’s face, as he recounted the tale of his over confidence, all three of the people stood around him burst out laughing.


    Another evening at the Hole in the Wall was underway, and as usual, it would prove to be an eventful and interesting one for all involved.



The White Wolf


Ranger Leader

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Rhya hadn't been sure what to make of the idea of spending an evening at the Hole in the Wall but for once the thought of company was actually welcome and she figured there would at least be some faces amongst those gathered that were newer than her own. She'd heard mention of recent arrivals and they were likely to feel as out of place as she had during her first week.


Thankfully there seemed no requirement to dress up. Owen had assured her of that before he left. This was no fancy dinner party such as her mother liked to attend but more a convivial gathering, a relaxing evening amongst friends. Not that she'd made any friends so far but from her walks around the Stedding she'd come to recognise a few people, had been introduced to one or two of the Rangers and had exchanged pleasantries with others. It made the evening to come at little less daunting.


Sitting in her room, surrounded by the faint smell of honey blossom from her earlier bath, Rhya's one concession for the occasion was to fasten her pendant round her neck and slip a pair of silver ear-rings into her ear lobes. The ear-rings were no gift as her pendant had been, but rather a purchase she'd made herself several years ago. Shaped like acorns and oak leaves, a tiny bell was cleverly concealed in each one, so that each step she made was accompanied by a delicate ringing that afforded her hours of amusement. Brushing her dark hair till it hung in a smooth sheet down her back, she was satisfied that she'd made all the preparations she could and hastily pulled on the pair of black knee high boots she'd cleaned earlier.


"Presentable," she murmured softly, checking herself over one last time before heading out to the balcony. The evening air was soft and mild, no need for a cloak. She didn't have far to walk and saw no point in carrying anything that she'd likely forget come the end of the night.


Making her way through the Stedding she saw others moving in the same direction and nodded greetings to those she recognised. Taking her time, she walked round the Infirmary, noting that for once it was not a hive of activity and followed the path towards the lake side where the Ogier-built watering hole sat, looking for all the world as though it was a part of the forest itself.


Rhya pushed open the door, her eyes scanning the interior, automatically searching for Owen and found him standing with two other Rangers just as her own arrival was noted.


“And here she is to collect her winnings now. Rhya, come over here, Blaeric has some good news for you that I am sure you will like.”


As Rhya joined them, Blaeric looked rather abashed and began his explanation of what had happened. Eyes twinkling, she laughed outright at the conclusion of his recitation.


"Then you'd be as well starting now. I seem to be short a drink," she commented with a grin, quirking an eyebrow at his slightly crestfallen expression. As he moved off to do her bidding, she transferred her attention to the rest of the large open room, taking in the other patrons and the general air of festivity. "Looks to be the start of a busy evening. Will there be music later?"


She almost missed the reply as the door opened again announcing more revellers.

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Foreign. That word described almost everything here. Seth was so lost, that he couldn't even think straight. He wandered around, shying away from any weapons as he would from a poisonous snake. Perhaps more so. The people here frightened him. They all had golden eyes, shining in the moonlight. His eyes shone, and were also newly golden, but he couldn't see his.  His shaggy locks covered his eyes mostly, so his eyes didn't stand out, not that they would in this crowd. But his clothes did. The only clothes he had was what he had worn all the way here. A bright yellow coat, and bright green trousers. According to the locals, that wsn't the norm.


The Stedding was peaceful. He didn't understand why his people didn't all go live in Steddings. Yes, they couldn't search for the song, but it was peaceful.


He spied some people heading toward a largeish building near the middle of the Stedding. He walked closer to read the sign, again avoiding the weapons. The Hole in the Wall. It appeared to be what he had heard was called an "inn". He had never heard of such a thing before, but he had heard it had all sorts of good times here.  Perhaps he would see what this "inn" was like. He shyly sauntered over and entered after a young lady.


He stepped in and stood in awe. It was a huge building with all sorts of food smells drifting through it. He smelled al sorts of meat and vegetables, and another smell, which he heard was alcohol. That one was not so pleasant, but it mixed well with the other scents to give the inn a welcoming feeling.


He saw the lady that went in before him over by a table with three other men. It was a good of a place as any, so he shyly made his way over.


"Hi, my name is Seth."


Seth Roses

New Wolfie

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    Owen and Rori burst out laughing as Blaeric made a show of following Rhya’s orders. “Do you think he will ever learn Owen?”

    “Of course not Rori, Blaeric always likes a challenge, it would take an event of cosmic proportions to change him. But at least he is no longer as reckless when it comes to more serious matters.” The tone of Owen’s voice changed and became more serious, Blaeric had always been headstrong and it had taken several reversals, usually at the hands of one or other of the Rangers, to knock this recklessness out of him.

    "Looks to be the start of a busy evening. Will there be music later?" Rori rolled his eyes upwards at Rhya’s question. “Do you prime people to ask these questions Owen or am I just cursed with ill fortune?”

    “You know as well as I do Rori that you are envious of my talent with the flute, at least I can play, not like that noise you make with that harp of yours.”

    “Noise, Owen? I will have you know I am the best harp player in this room.” Owen could not help but reply to Rori’s comment.

    “Oh yes I can see that you would be, right now Rori. It is not like there are an abundance of harp players in the room right now, are there?”

    Rori aimed a punch Owen’s way but nearly over balanced as Owen sidestepped the punch. “Keep that up Rori and even Rhya here will have the beating of you.


    Just then the door to the Hole in the Wall opened and a young man walked and after a moment made his way over to where Owen. Rori and Rhya were stood.

    "Hi, my name is Seth." All three Wolfkin offered up greetings to the newcomer, and not long after Blaeric returned from the bar bearing a tray of drinks but upon seeing Seth he asked him what he would like to drink and then returned to the bar. Owen took a sip of his tankard of Dark, one of the more refreshing ales that Owen knew about.

    “Well then Seth, where are you from? Rhya and I were born in the Borderlands, and the less you know about Rori’s heritage the better off you are. As for Blaeric, lets just say that somewhere in his family there is an uncle who has six toes on each foot and some say they have webbing between them.” Blaeric was just about to take a sip of his ale when Owen said this and nearly choked on his response trying to speak and drink at the same time.

    “As you can see, he has problems with his coordination, but do not let that put you off, he has some uses.” Grinning Owen patted Blaeric on the back in an attempt to help him clear his throat.



The WhiteWolf


Ranger Leader


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Seth smiled as the three welcomed him. At least they were friendly. The third man was coming back with a tray of mugs. He looked startled to see Seth there, but quickly offered him a drink. "Umm, yes please. A weak 'ale'." Another unfamiliar word, that he was sure he would quickly become acquainted with.


The man, whose name he gathered was Blaeric, brought him his ale, and Seth took a sip. Quite tasty. The speaker, Owen, asked him where he came from, while telling him where they came from. Two borderlanders. He had been there before. Sheinar, if he remembered the name right. They hadn't stayed long, but it was a beautiful country. The other two didn't have thier homecountry mentioned, but Seth laughed merrily when Owen made a comment about Blaeric's uncle with webbed feet. "Well, I was born in the north of Andor. But I never lived there. As you might be able to tell by my clothes, I am one of the Tuatha'an, or Tinkers, as you people call us. I have seen many lands. Cairhein, Andor, Ghealdan, Murandy, Tear Sheinar, but I have never had a home."

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Cautiously Alaya shuffled in through the door, praying fervently that no-one would hear or notice her so she could then leave as quietly as she had arrived. There was a burst of laughter as she walked in and she shied away from the sound, preferring to find a quiet seat somewhere unobtrusive.


She was still feeling stunned and distant, not yet having come to terms with the situation she found herself in. She remained convinced that she could go home and it would all be fine. She sighed heavily and sat on the bench in the corner, her back against the wall and hugged her knees to herself, resting her chin on them and closed her eyes allowing the memories of home to surface once more. Oh how she longed to be home!


I'll give it a few more days, then I'll leave. It can't be as bad as Lorelai said it would be. It can't! She must have been exaggerating, she simply must have been! Mother and Father would never treat me like she described. Alaya told herself firmly, completely ignoring the fact that her mother had ran from the room at one glimpse of her golden yellow eyes. I could stay indoors, helping Mother sew, no-one would know, I could keep out of harms way, it will be all right....


She glanced up as the laughter died down and saw that the group of people were deep in conversation with a lad dressed in the most garish clothes Alaya had ever seen. Shaking her head at the group of people, most of whom looked very strange to her, she turned her attention inward once more.

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Lorelai stepped into The Hole in the Wall. It was a while since she frequented the place. At times it felt like she was hardly at the Stedding. It would be a resting day between constant travels. Hopefully, she'd be able to stay put for a while, helping with matters within the Stedding, if possible.


The first thing that stood out in the common room was Owen. It was impossible to miss him, in truth. He was engaged in conversation with a few Wolfkin. Lorelai recognized a few of them and was about to head over to them when she spotted Alaya sitting in the opposite direction. Alone. And visibly observed in inner turmoil.


Lorelai ordered two cups of mulled wine, grabbed them and sat down next to Alaya. She handed her one of the cups and smiled. "You know, Nightfall seemed to have taken a liking to you. She asked about you earlier." Alaya stared at Lorelai, seemingly unsure what to say. "She said she'd like you to join her tomorrow in hunting. She's rather good at it and she just loves to flaunt. She's worse than me in some aspects." Lorelai laughed softly and then took a sip from her cup.


Lorelai could sense the sadness in Alaya. It went down so deep that Lorelai could almost feel the roots' tight grip. "Look, Alaya. I'm not one to whistle the same tune twice. But let me offer you a perspective I've embraced a long time ago. When you love someone, you protect them. Look around the room. Each and every one of these people has left their families. But not all of them were cast out. Some of them did receive support from their keen. But they chose to leave, regardless. To spare their family pain by persecution. It is very likely that their families are alive thanks to them. Merely by being here. And I doubt any of them has any second thoughts about that decision."


Lorelai took a few sips from the cup. She came to the inn to have a good drink and a laugh, and instead she found herself in lecture mode. Amazing how she could annoy herself sometimes. Shaking her head slightly, she raised her cup. "For change and new friendships. May you embrace both." Lorelai raised her cup just a tad higher and then galloped down the remaining wine. "Refill? Good! I'll be right back!"







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As the conversation swirled around her, Rhya surreptitiously surveyed the young man standing beside her whom she'd just greeted. His clothing was a colourful mish mash that she'd never seen before yet recognised instantly as a trademark of the Tuatha'an. She'd heard traders talk of them though, as far as she knew, her father had never had dealings with them.


The lad seemed shy and uncertain, clearly overwhelmed by his new surroundings, but he was polite and making an effort which was more than Rhya had done since she'd been brought to the Stedding. The thought shamed her until her common sense reasserted itself and reminded her that everyone dealt with change differently.


Taking a swallow from the tankard Blaeric had provided, her eyes caught sight of a second obviously new face. The poor girl looked miserable and very alone but was soon joined by another woman so Rhya returned her attention to the banter flowing between the Rangers and was soon laughing at their teasing and joking.


"Don't mind them Seth," she smiled at the slightly uncertain look on his face, feeling a sudden rush of empathy and spoke quietly. "This can be quite a lot to take in during your first few days. I take it you've just arrived today?" She resisted the itch in her fingers that wanted to brush the fall of shaggy brown hair out of his eyes. He was probably close to herself in years but had an innocence about him that made him appear younger. At his nod, she ignored the rush of homesickness she felt and told him, "I've only been here a matter of weeks myself. It does get easier though."


Taking another sip of ale, Rhya raised her voice again, "Well if there's going to be music it should be a lively night.... at least if you all stop arguing long enough to play!! Blaeric, if you're done choking to death, I need you to run another errand for me."


She smirked slightly as the man spluttered into his ale once more and drew him over near the door, whispering a few instructions and then rejoined the group while Blaeric left the building. At the look of curiousity on Owen's face, Rhya smiled complacently, her eyes laughing up at him, "There's no point having a servant if you don't put him to work, now is there?" 


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    A short time later, Blaeric returned from his errand bearing a small round drum as requested by Rhya. Owen had noticed it amongst her belongings, but she had never mentioned it so he did not want to pry. Although they had been sharing the same tree house for a number of weeks now she still had her secrets, just the same as Owen still had his and because of that he could not blame her.

  “An interesting instrument Rhya, and for some strange reason one that seems to suit you, I hope you can play it better than I can play my flute that was you can cover up my mistakes.” Grinning at Rhya to show he was joking, well mostly joking, Owen did not think he was that competent with the flute, despite all the hours of practice he put in. Gesturing for her to follow him she fell in behind, her face suddenly taking on a worried expression as she must have started to realise what was about to happen. Rori had produced a fiddle from somewhere and accompanied them to the small stage in the corner of the large room. The three stood together and Owen and Rori played a few notes to make sure they were in tune with each other. Rori turned to Rhya and smiled at her, reassuringly.

    “Just follow along with what I play Rhya, I play the melody and Owen plays around me, so we can provide the sound foundation for Owen to screech over the top.” Before Owen could reply, Wall, the nominal owner of the Hole in the Wall presented them with a tray of drinks, Owen saw that he Wall had provided another tankard of Dark for Rhya and not wanting her to be taken by surprise by the strong dark ale Owen leaned over towards her.

    “Take your time with that Rhya, it is a strong drink and not for the unwary.”  As he was talking, Owen noticed that Wall and a couple of the barmaids had cleared a space in front of the stage and that a few of the Wolfkin had gathered around the edge of the cleared space, obviously waiting for the music to start.

    Replacing his tankard on a low table, Owen glanced over at Rori and nodded his head, then turned to Rhya and offered her a reassuring smile before counting them in to the first song.



The WhiteWolf


Ranger Leader



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Rhya reached protectively to take her bodhran from Blaeric, cautiously checking the tautness of its thin goatskin covering and assuring herself there were no chips in the beautiful wooden drum. She had not played the instrument since leaving home but had been unable to discard it there either. Now she was daunted at the prospect of playing for so many strangers as she followed Owen and Rori to the small stage. Rori’s tongue-in-cheek remark about Owen’s flute playing had her relaxing a little though and she pulled over a chair on which to settle herself, listening to the men tuning up.


She nodded absently at Owen’s warning over the ale, too preoccupied with what was to come to bother drinking and instead removed the small tipper, a double ended beater which was tooled from a single piece of wood, from its clip at the back of the bodhran. She then placed her left hand carefully on the cross bar, allowing her to move position, changing the timbre and pitch of her beats with her fingers and supported the edge of the drum against her left arm and torso.


When the men began a lively reel, Rhya submersed herself in the rhythm underlying the melody. Her foot tapping slightly, she gave them a few bars of the music before raising her right hand and introducing the counterpoint, catching a few surprised faces as, instead of a heavy drumming, the bodhran produced a softer, more rounded thrum to the music. As the tune strengthened, the three musicians becoming more certain of playing together, Rhya picked up the speed, grinning at Rori as his fiddle became almost a wild thing matching the bodhran’s beat. Soon the Wolfkin around them were splitting up, some dancing, others whooping along to the music, feet tapping and hands clapping.


The ale flowed freely as they moved through a few more lively pieces and Rhya was thoroughly caught up in the moment, enjoying herself immensely. Thrilled at the opportunity to give some little thing back to this community that had taken her in, she glanced surreptitiously at Rori as the tune they’d been playing came to a flourishing finish. Seeing that Owen had paused for a drink, she leaned over to Rori and mouthed a quiet query.


“You know The Mountain Home?” At his nod, she winked with a slight smile, setting her bodhran aside. “You play this time.” The Ranger looked bemused, obviously wondering what she was up to but set bow to fiddle in the opening strains of the ancient ballad. She was not quite done divulging secrets this evening. Before Owen had a chance to query the change in tempo, Rhya began to sing. Her eyes half closed, she was oblivious of the hush that fell. Whereas her playing was adequate, this was her true gift and her voice soared, pure and true through the refrain.


This is the land of Manetheren,

  The land of lovely forms,

The valleys of the mountain-mist,

  The torrents and the storms;

The land that blooms with freeman's tread,

  The sword that would not break,

Where far and deep the green woods spread,

  And the wild Rose does take.


She heard the flute as Owen joined in, adding a hauntingly beautiful overtone that picked up her vocals perfectly but only in a distant fashion, caught up as she was by the music.


Ere ever Eldrene's lofty voice

  Had told of Aemon's fame,

Ere ever from their native fields,

  The Red Eagles they came,

Our land had given heroes birth,

  That dared the boldest brave,

And taught above tyrannic dust,

  The Gheandin blooms to wave.


What need we say how Aemon fought,

  And how his foemen fell?

Or how on bloody Bekkar's Field

  The work at first went wild and well?

Ours is the land of gallant hearts,

  The land of honour'd graves,

Whose wreath of fame shall ne'er depart

  While yet the Sun Rose waves.


As her voice died away and the flute caught the last note, fading into silence, Rhya opened her eyes, studying the expressions of those present, more than a little self conscious at her audacity.


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When Lorelai spoke about Nightfall wanting to hunt with Alaya, she didn't know how to respond. A wolf wants to hunt with me? Why? Lorelai's only saying that to try and make me feel better!


Then Alaya found herself listening to Lorelai, really listening and absorbing what she was saying. She had been so absorbed in self pity she had never thought that she could have brought persecution to her family home. She blushed and realised that she was being selfish, only thinking of herself and not of her family. Alaya had only experienced a small amount of persecution but she knew that she couldn't let her family experience that.


Alaya found herself responding positively to Lorelai's toast and watched her thoughtfully as she went to get more to drink. Why does she care about me so much? Alaya wondered, but her train of thought was suddenly derailed by a sudden burst of music that flooded the room.


She'd never heard anything quite so beautiful and sat entranced, watching the musicians avidly. In moments she found herself sat up, feet on the floor tapping to the rhythm, leaning forward as if to try and catch more of the beautiful sounds emanating from that motley group of instruments. Then the song died away and after a brief pause one of the woman musicians put aside her instrument and stood up. The sound of the fiddle filled the air and then the woman opened up her mouth and sang.


Sure, Alaya had seen the Gleeman at work once or twice and had listened to the odd busking fiddler passing through her village but this was something else entirely. Eventually and all too soon, the wonderful melody drew to a close and the Tavern rang with the last dying note. The singer stood there and opened her eyes, seemingly unsure of what response she would get.


Alaya surprised even herself when she found herself applauding and calling for more, heedless of anyone else in the room.


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Ah, music. Music was his life. His whole goal in life had revolved around finding The Song, but now it seemed he had a new goal. What it was, he didn’t know yet.


Normally music would have made him very enthusiastic, but tonight, it was not so. As the three played their festive tunes, Seth was plagued with memories of home. Waves of melancholy swept over him, and he put all he had into holding back tears. He sunk into his seat and buried his sorrows in his mug of ale.


Seth Roses


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  • 3 weeks later...

Nightsfire grinned as he approached inn anxious to have a cup of brandy or twelve.  The music inside was just ending as he walked through the doors surprised to find the inn so full.  Owen was present with Blaeric and several younger Wolfkin had decided to join them as well.  Smirking he found Loerali at the bar in her usual spot no doubt already on her way to a pleasant buzz.


Selecting a seat at the edge of the bar he called for a brandy and removed his pipe from his pocket while he waited.  Lighting the pungent leaf he puffed slowly listening to another song as Lorelai droned on about some subject he could not understand so he tuned her out.


It struck the Ranger how much things changed but at the same time remained the same as he studied the faces present tonight.  Grinning as Blaeric passed he took a sip of Brandy.


“Loose another contest to Owen I take it?”  Blaeric’s scowl was confirmation enough and he laughed and drained his cup calling for another.


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  • 6 months later...

Night's Howl sat in the shadows, a glowing bowl of Two River's Leaf casting warm orange across his face. His teeth bit into the long stem, dragged across the smoothness, while his tongue slid back and forth along the bottom.

He disliked being bored. Time had become precious over the last few Winters, every moment worthy of reflection, invention, and inspection. His mug made a dull thud as it dropped to the table.


He disliked doing nothing.

The inn jostled with bodies, something that had not normally irked him, but it did not act to improve his mood. He sucked the last bit of ale residue left in his mouth, his tongue thirsty for more than mead and brandy, while he watched.

The need to move had already set in, the discomfort in remaining in one place too long, a burr between his shoulders. Erik shrugged and nodded for another splash of merriment. His smoke hung in fat round circles over him like dark halos.

All that can be done is to wait. And smoke. Erik brooded over his stein, a faint grin just visible through the scruff of a two week abstinence from the razor.

I miss war.



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