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Chapter Three: Old Terrin

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He stared at the wall for a long moment, nodding.

Have absolutely no idea what that perfectly logical explanation might BE, but there HAS to be one.

Clapping his hands together, he rounded the corner and walked briskly from the door that used to be there, but was no longer there for him.

Right. Moving on—let this go—find a seat.

Pipe smoke from dozens of patrons created a thick haze which seemed to linger down the center of the room, making it difficult to spot a seat without moving among the crowd.

Wendell weaved between tables and chairs, working his way towards his favorite spot: the hearth.

A massive stone fireplace jutting out from the back wall of rustic logs, perfectly hewn and laid with a masters care. The fire roaring, sending orange and yellow lights dancing about, while warming both the bones and heart of weary visitors.

“Not much to choose from tonight,” said a smooth, deep voice.

Wendell looked over and gave a short bow of his head to the resident storyteller. His fine silver hair sparkled in the firelight. “Oh, hello. I was hoping to get the table we sat at last time, but…”

The old man pulled the longneck pipe from his mouth and smiled genuinely, “They’ll be done soon enough, Master Wendell. Have a seat with me, by the fire, as you wait.” He motioned to the second leather chair opposite to him.

Confused, Wendell took the seat. “You know who I am? I don’t remember meeting.”

“They call me Old Terrin in this place, but you, Master Wendell, well, it’s hard to forget a small human boy in a fist fight with a vallen.”

Wendell looked down at his feet, embarrassed. “Ah.”

Terrin’s smile grew. “Nothing to say about your feat of strength? Your blood is still on the wall behind you.”

Wendell spun about, his eyes combing the grains of the log wall. “It is? Why?”

The storyteller chuckled, “Makes for a great story. That…and helps me pay my substantial bar tab. So I asked the ladies to leave it be.”

A bit morbid, if you ask me, buddy, but okay—whatever floats your boat. Sinking back into the chair with a heavy sigh, “It’s just Wendell, by the way.”

“What?”

“My name. It’s not Master Wendell, or Lord Wendell—just plain old Wendell. It’s how I like to be called, if you don’t mind.”

Terrin took another draw of his pipe, wisps of smoke escaping the corners of his mouth and rolling up over his mustache. “There’s power in a name, you know.” His eye shifted slightly, studying Wendell’s face. “The right name, spoken at the right time, can change the world.”

Whatever. Now it was Wendell who chuckled, followed by a soft snort. He looked around him, but there was no sign of Chuck. “If you’re looking to tell me a story to get a tip, you’re off to a bad start.”

“Oh I don’t think so,” Terrin paused, then added in a drawl, “Wendell.”

Blinking twice, Wendell’s eyes shifted from the Great Hall and fixed on the storyteller.

The bard looked to be in his later years, sixty-five, maybe seventy years old. The lines around his eyes spoke of laughter, his eyes though were bright and clear, not yellow with age. His shoulder length hair was silver in the fire light, pulled back into a neat ponytail, while his salt and peppered mustache and beard told Wendell the storyteller cared for his appearance. What captured his attention, however, was the way the bard stared back.

A look of intelligence, of wisdom…searching for information.

“What do you see?” Terrin asked softly.

Wendell blinked once and frowned. “Sorry?”

“Here, in the tavern. As you walked to the hearth, you had a confused, almost disturbed expression on your face. What were you thinking?”

“It’s not important.”

Terrin tapped his pipe against the heel of his palm, jarring the residue loose. With a simple exhale, he blew the ash into the open flames of the hearth. “How do you know it’s not important?”

“Because I…well…because…” but Wendell found himself stuck.

Every time his eyes drifted to the front of the Great Hall, his gut told him something was…off. He knew for a fact that there had been a door at the front of the Roadkill…and no one could convince him that ten dwarves could simply disappear for no reason. That only left one explanation.

He shrugged his shoulders in defeat, “I don’t know.”

Terrin’s brow raised high.

“That it’s not important, I mean.”

Slipping the pipe into a vest pocket, “Then tell me—what did you see.”

What have I got to lose? Wendell wondered. Might as well play this out until Chuck comes back.

Sitting forward, Wendell nudged this head back at the tavern entrance, “I see a door is missing. The front door to the tavern. I know I came through it the first time I came here and it’s not there anymore. There’s not even a whole in the wall.” Yet Wendell froze.

That wasn’t the whole truth. He’d also come through a door and down a hallway, under the curved staircase.

But the staircase wasn’t curved, he reminded himself. It was a double wide set of steps that went straight up. I know, because we sat on it and inspected our wounds after the fight, and…Wendell stomach sank.

He glanced out across the hall, between the staircase and the front door. Or, where the front door was supposed to be.

“No, you are not crazy, my friend. Quite the opposite, in fact.” Terrin leaned forward and added in a softer tone, “Which means, you’re quite exceptional.”

Wendell scoffed, shaking the paranoia from his mind.“You don’t make any sense.”

Old Terrin sank back and lightly crossed his legs, fingers resting softly on the arms of his chair. “Perhaps not,” he smirked, “but I will.”

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