He walked into the tavern for the first time in nearly a year. It was a place he had frequented often in the past, and the smell of stale ale, roasting meat, and wood smoke brought back a rush of memories. He glanced over to the back corner of the room, which was nestled in the flickering shadows cast by the dancing torch light. Sure enough, there were several familiar drunken faces playing a game of dice. The shouts that followed each roll of the dice drowned out the lute player by the window, and the irritability in her face showed clearly. He closed the door behind him and turned his head away from the soldiers playing dice. He wasn’t here for them, and he didn’t want them to see him.
“Didn’t think I’d see you in here again,” said the tavern owner. Yelderiv frowned a little at the tone of disdain in his voice, but he knew he had earned it. “Didn’t think this place was the right kind of establishment for a person of your stature.”
Yelderiv shrugged his shoulders. “If you hold every person responsible for the words they say when they are drunk, then I’d be surprised if you had any friends left. Come on, Sven, let bygones be bygones.”
“I’ll let bygones be when they settle up their tab,” he quipped. “Until then, they stay on the do not serve list.”
“Relax,” muttered Yelderiv. “I’ve got your money.” He laid down two gold pieces on the wooden counter. “And I’ve got some extra for you if you can help me.”
“Help you with what?” Sven replied.
“Have you had any elves pass through lately?”
At this Sven’s eyes lowered in suspicion. “What’s it to you? By law I can conduct business with the Five, I haven’t done anything wrong.”
Yelderiv held up his hand. “Sven, it’s not like that.”
“Are they fugitives?”
“So you’ve seen some?”
“Maybe. But remember I’m just a tavern owner that rents rooms. I’m not responsible for who stays.”
“Of course you’re not. Are they still here?”
Sven hesitated, not sure what side of this he wanted to be on. On the one hand, the elves were his clients. It would be bad for business if he just gave them up. On the other hand, his tavern was within the walls of Weslo. It wouldn’t do to upset the Earl, or the agents he sent to do his bidding.
“They are upstairs, in room three. Two elves and a half breed.”
“Do you know anything about their business here? Why they came to Weslo?”
“I make it my business not to ask,” answered Sven. “But they are not merchants. They’re not travelling heavily enough for that. They’re an odd group, too. Two females, neither really carrying the weapons they should be to stay safe on the roads. A couple of daggers, and one had a wooden staff. Then there’s the guy, the half-elf. I couldn’t tell you too much about him because of the cloak he wore, but he looks like someone accustomed to being on the road. I could make out the hilts of two swords, and he carried a great longbow with him.”
Yelderiv nodded as he took in all the information. He didn’t want to get into specifics with Sven, so the less he told him the better. The half-elf seemed promising, and the two female elves seemed even more so. Sven was right; the road had grown dangerous. It was filled with bandits and pillagers. So much so that it would have taken more than one ranger to protect the two damsels, regardless of how experienced he was. As a race the elves were long lived, wise, and skilled in a variety of things, including magic. He glanced upstairs, silently hoping that he had found what he was looking for.
“Do you want me to get them for you?” Sven asked.
“No. I don’t wish to disturb them. I will wait for them, if you don’t mind.”
“Not as long as you’re paying,” replied Sven. “I just don’t want any trouble in my tavern.”
Yelderiv slid a piece of silver across the counter. “No trouble. I’m just looking to make a few friends. And avoid the old ones.” He nodded with his head towards the soldiers in the corner.
“I don’t think they’d like to see you either,” said Sven. “Luckily I think they’re distracted with their game.” He handed Yelderiv a tankard.
Yelderiv took it, and handed Sven another piece of silver. “I’ll be at that table, behind the arch. When they leave, make sure they use the front door.”
“Understood,” nodded Sven as he pocketed the other piece of silver. “Enjoy your drink, soldier.”
“Paladin,” Yelderiv corrected. “My path is different now.”
Sven nodded with a smile and turned his back before rolling his eyes as Yelderiv made his way to his table. When he reached the table, Yelderiv made himself comfortable. He wasn’t sure how long the elves would be in their room. He didn’t care about the wait, though. It would give him time to figure out how to convince three strangers to join him on a very unusual quest.