Vigil for a Dragon, pt 5

A woman in a veil sits in the next seat along. The veil covers her face above her mouth, and Kallar presumes that she is either horrifically ugly or breath-takingly beautiful to look upon, as in his experience, only the women at the extremes of appearance tend to feel the need to hide away. And yet the woman is by no means shy. She speaks confidently, even raucously at times, and her manner suggests that she is accustomed to command. Although little can be seen of her expression, her lips are often twisted into a wry smile.

Next to her sits a man dressed mostly in armour – and armour that is dented and scuffed, but probably still very serviceable to Kallar’s trained eye. The man seemed a little uncomfortable in a social setting, although that might simply have been his response to the woman sitting next to him, whom he was clearly smitten by. The man had refused the invitations of his other neighbour to gamble, but it was how he had done so that had caught Kallar’s attention: he had paused, his eyes clear but distant, and then responded only after a second or two’s thought. This was a man who knew the odds in any situation.

His neighbour probably knew them, but seemed the sort of man who would be loathe to admit that. Both his manner and his dress were as loud as the man next to him was quiet. Kallar knew his type; flashy charmers with silver tongues often came through towns like this one, offering games of chance and investments to good to refuse (and yet, which somehow never seemed to pay back their investors, although always for a good reason). They were entertaining enough if you knew where you stood with them, and even moreso (and safer to boot) if they knew that you knew.

At the last seat on that side of the table sits a young woman who seems to believe everything that the man next to her says. Kallar wonders if he shouldn’t intervene, but surely she cannot be as wide-eyedly naïve as she appears? She is a priestess, from her garb, but Kallar doesn’t recognise the god she serves – either she’s not wearing a talisman or she is and he just can’t see it. She eats like a hungry child with a bag of sweets; it’s a little endearing, truth be told.

The chair at the foot of table is unoccupied, but not empty. The minstrel has left the case of his lute sitting there while he plays elsewhere in the tavern, and Kallar does not doubt that he knows exactly how close each person who passes it is – minstrels more than most jealously guard all their possessions in his experience. The minstrel himself is young-seeming, though probably at least thirty. He’s abrupt to a point just short of rudeness, but he clearly loves his music, and on hearing it, Kallar suspects that like him, most people would love it enough to forgive the man his peculiarities.

The next chair is occupied by another elf, and this one is more what Kallar has come to associate with elves. Polite to a fault, but always faintly disdainful, as if this place is beneath him. His manner conveys that everyone here is beneath him to some extent, and that his chosen place to sit is because the people at the table with him are ever so slightly less beneath him than the others here. He talks little, and when he does, his voice is rasping, like a man with a bad cold. No one seems comfortable in his presence, least of all himself.

The final seat at the table, between the elf and the blue-skinned an, is also empty.

Kallar knows, although he knows not how he knows, that they are waiting for something, but he has no idea what. He suspects that at least some of them don’t know either.

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