Omydaedren overheard voices in conversation as he stomped down the last wooden stairs.
It was Vasati and her husband, Gefryn.
"Morning, Daedren!" Gefryn greeted him. He was sitting on the wooden railing and facing his wife. His dark brown hair was cut shorter than the last time Omydaedren had seen him. Vasati frowned when she saw Omydaedren. "We only saw three birds fly out."
Omydaedren's face still wore his fear from before.
Gefryn hopped off of the rail. "Did you try to summon a bird?" He asked.
"I couldn't do it," Omydaedren replied plainly.
"Will you attempt it again before you leave?" Vasati asked him, her dark eyes squinted. Omydaedren rubbed his eyes, "I do not want to."
"It could take several attempts," Gefryn reminded him. "You aren't a Skytalon by blood, same as me," he added.
"No, I am not Skytalon," Omydaedren sighed.
"It is in the blood," Vasati stated, folding her slender arms. Omydaedren gave her an awkward smile and descended down the last spiral stairs.
He set out on a simple dirt path that led toward the city. Zrerra squawked as she flew over Omydaedren and landed gracefully on the wooden rail of the aviary. Omydaedren shook his head at the hawk and shoved his hands in his pants pockets.
The city he was headed toward was one of stone brick and thatched roofs made simply from the grasses of the plains. The largest structure, aside from the aviary towers, was the Kandratin Hold. The majority of the building was carved directly into the mountainside. The entrance was the only part not submerged in the mountain. Two, sturdy and square, towers built out of stone bricks and an immense set of wooden doors that were always open. A way beside the Hold, was the Wamerian Mines. The outside of the mines was built as a circular tower around a large pit and had an open roof. Smoke was constantly fuming out of the open top and would fill the surrounding air with the scent of burnt wood and coal.
Omydaedren could see the darkening smoke now and sighed heavily at the thought of the stench being all he could smell for hours. He had made it to the first outskirts of the city where the thick grasses had been turned into fertile farmlands. He could smell the fresh soil and the heavy stench of buffalo manure. The land on either side of Omydaedren quickly became fields of wheat and barley and still had their green blades. A Drarvuno on a saddled buffalo looked up from pulling harvested wheat and waved a hand to Omydaedren. He waved back and could hear several buffalo grunts as he travelled through the farmlands.
The sun had finally begun to warm Omydaedren when he made it into the city. The air had changed to the sweet scent of pastries blended with the smokiness of buffalo meat. There was chatter on the streets and some of the children were playing with a ball made from hides. He thought for a moment, that he ought to stop later and buy some of the meat for his journey tomorrow. Omydaedren continued toward the mines. Later, he thought. He still felt the need to flee from what chased him. The air was steadily becoming more overcast with smoke as he continued on.
The sounds of metal on stone was all Omydaedren could hear when he came upon the Wamerian Mines. Men were going to and from the mines, lugging massive shards of stone with veins of iron and clumps of coal. Most of their hands were black from touching the coal. Several smelting fires were lit with men working them constantly. Omydaedren continued inside the mine.
Inside, the mine opened into a wide area. The floor was busy but plain except for the massive hole that was dug into the earth. Vertical shafts lined the outer walls of the building that were responsible for guiding the smoke out of the earth. Since there was no roof, hefty ropes were strung across the top of the exposed building. Thinner ropes were attached to those by welded rings. They cascaded down into the mines and carried Drarvuno up and down the excavated sides of the hole.
Omydaedren moved toward the mine and started down the dug out stairs that spiraled around the outskirts of the hole. He was forced to duck his head when the stairs led into a tunneling ramp that led further down into the cold stone. The only light in the tunnels was created from torches and those barely seemed to make a difference at times. The deeper tunnels were usually worked by Drarvuno, who could see much easier than humans in the darkness. The Drarvuno also stood shorter than men, which meant less picking through stone.
Omydaedren turned a corner into a long corridor that was mined tall enough for both men and Drarvuno. The hallway had several wooden doors that lined both sides and each had a torch to light the entrance. Behind each door was an office for a mining captain, who were in charge of the different levels of the mine. Omydaedren was headed toward the door on the left, third to the end, for the captain of the second level of the mine. The second level was responsible for controlling the height and depth of the ropes that descended down the middle of the mines. Omydaedren stopped in front of the door and knocked twice. He held his ear to the wood in order to hear his captain, Joris Yelcan, invite him inside. The office was dim lit, with the only light coming from a small lantern.
"Omydaedren," Joris greeted him with the nod of his head. He was sitting behind a sturdy, dark wood desk and his silver hair appeared to be tied behind his head in a knot. He was reading parchments under the lantern and was squinting his abnormally large blue eyes. The gray markings that lined his face had noticeably begun fading in his old age, as it was for Drarvuno. His pupils enlarged again when he looked up from the lantern light. Omydaedren almost did not notice at all that there was someone else in the room. He squinted his eyes in an attempt to see in the dim light.
"Sorry for the uh..." Joris trailed off as he quickly rose from his chair. He hurried to use a thin strip of wood, lit from his lantern, to light the candles around the room. Omydaedren blinked his eyes to adjust to the change in lighting.
"Sorry, you know we see differently than you," Joris said as he placed his lantern back onto the desk.
"I don't mind, I only came for a short while," Omydaedren replied, looking around the office.
"Morning Daedren." Omydaedren could see now that it was Isbeil standing in front of Joris's desk. Her pale blonde hair was down, in her typical twin braids that hung over her shoulders.
"Good morning Isbeil," Omydaedren replied. She looked to be irritated by her conversation with Joris.
"You've come to get your share yes?" Joris asked him. Isbeil frowned at Omydaedren, her round eyes reflected white in the darkness that was left in the room. He avoided her gaze and nodded to Joris. Isbeil folded her arms tightly.
Joris reached into the top drawer of his desk and pulled out a small pouch of coin. He gestured toward Omydaedren before he tossed the pouch to him. The coins clinked when the leather fell into Omydaedren's hands.
"It seems you two are busy," Omydaedren began. Isbeil was glaring at him now. "I'll leave you," he said, clearing his throat.
"We were just finishing," Joris stated, glancing to Isbeil. She turned to look at him and Omydaedren could tell it wasn't a pleasant one. Isbeil opened her mouth as if she wanted to argue, then, with an equally unpleasant look from Joris, she turned abruptly and stormed past Omydaedren. She pulled open the door so fast, nearly hitting Omydaedren with it. He glanced back to Joris who only answered with the quick rise and fall of his eyebrows.
Omydaedren hesitantly followed Isbeil into the stone corridor. Her frustration had turned its attention to him.
"Why did he give you that?" she asked, her dilated pupils flickered white in the burning of torchlight. Omydaedren's heart skipped a beat as he tried to think of something that would satisfy her.
"I asked him for it," he replied.
"Do you think I'm dimwitted? Why did you ask him for it?" her frown pulled the gray markings on her face toward her eyes. Omydaedren tied the strings of the pouch around his belt.
"I need the silver so I can live in the city," he told her. He was almost certain she would tell he was lying by the slight shakiness in his voice. “You’re moving closer?” she asked, surprised. "You know my mother and all," Omydaedren added to his story.
"A lot of men know your mother." Isbeil folded her arms and looked him up and down. Omydaedren blinked once and uneasily began to walk away.
"Why were you in the captain's office?" he asked, hearing her footsteps behind him. She came beside him, her head only coming to his shoulder.
"I want to be mining the lower levels like the other Drarvuno," Isbeil replied irritably. Omydaedren knew how much Isbeil hated being confined to the second level of the mines.
"You were asking Joris to reassign you?" he asked. Isbeil sighed.
"I have tried to reason with my mother but she threatened to put me on the first level shoveling coal," she replied, throwing her hands into the air.
"The way you describe it, it is better than the Hold," Omydaedren stated. The two turned onto the ramp that headed toward the surface.
"It is," Isbeil agreed. "I want to be down there mining for Vahhadün. Not up here, pulling ropes." She gestured toward the ground as she spoke. Vahhadün was the most precious gem any Drarvuno could find in these mines.
“Vahhadün is in the Ratan mines, not here,” Omydaedren stated.
“It was here,” Isbeil argued, slapping his arm.
"You believe that you'll find it down there?" Omydaedren asked Isbeil as they reached the spiraling stairs. The sun's rays had begun to beat down onto the rock from the exposed top of the mine.
"If the gods were true," Isbeil replied. They emerged from the mine side by side.
"They are true Isbeil. Rata only dug on the right side of The Spine," Omydaedren stated as he continued outside.
"Did you read that in one of your books?" Isbeil asked jokingly.
"Which part?" Omydaedren asked in return. They stopped outside the mining area. Omydaedren folded his arms as a breeze blew down from the mountains again.
"You don't need a book about the gods. Rata? perhaps." Isbeil rolled her eyes as Omydaedren spoke.
"One explained how the Dranac are worthier miners," he added. Isbeil looked up at him with a skeptical glare. "The Dranac are proud beasts. They isolate themselves across the Arthion so that they are the only children with Vahhadün," she distastefully replied. Omydaedren answered with the shrug of his shoulders.
"To make it worse, they're hideous," Isbeil stated. Omydaedren chuckled lightly and Isbeil laughed with him.
"Perhaps that is the real reason they isolate themselves," Omydaedren joked. Isbeil nudged his arm with her elbow. "You would not need a book for that."
As the two snickered, a pair of Wamerian Drarvuno guards made their way toward them. Their destination is seemingly obvious to Isbeil. She sighed heavily.
"Isbeil Labridain," one of the guards stated. They both wore the standard furs underneath steel plated chest plates that bore the symbol of Wameri. A large pick facing downward with a phoenix, wings spread, at the end of the handle.
"What is it?" Isbeil asked.
"Your mother wishes to see you," the guard replied. Isbeil turned back to Omydaedren, "I suppose Joris must have got word to her," she said. Isbeil sighed again before she joined the guards.
"She would be in her chambers by now yes?" she asked the guards, not waiting for them to escort her. Omydaedren felt suddenly regretful that he did not tell Isbeil about his plans to leave Wameri. A rushed feeling overtook him. "Isbeil," Omydaedren quickly said, loud enough for her to hear him. She turned around, the two guards stepping around her so that they could escort her. Omydaedren hesitated, "Vesstan and I will be at the Grazing Buffalo tonight." Isbeil raised her eyebrows.
"What for?" she asked, placing her hands on her hips.
"Vesstan summoned a bird. His brothers will be there," Omydaedren replied. Isbeil breathed a short laughter, "Will you pay for my first drink with that new coin?" she asked. Omydaedren tapped the pouch at his belt and nodded. It made the woman smile before she turned away again.
Omydaedren watched her head toward the Kandratin Hold for a few moments before he turned away. He had meant to make a stop at one of the small shops in the city. It was owned by his friend, Monhais Caidi, who sold anything that would sell except for his books. In his youth, Monhais would travel by boat on the Azariah river to the bigger cities of Venpall and Zehah just in an effort to collect more books.
Omydaedren walked down the streets of Wameri, which were busier in the afternoons, until he stopped at a small stone brick building. Potted plants hung wilted outside the only window, frozen in the winter and the wooden door was still set askew from the winter before that. He remembered that winter, Monhais had sent him with a heap of books to read in anticipation of the heavy snows that came down from the mountains. Omydaedren peered inside the window, nothing appeared to have changed inside the shop from the last time he was in. He forcefully pulled the wooden door open, the jingle bells on the doorknob rung sharp through the shop.
Inside, wooden shelves lined all four walls containing various odd objects and things that have collected dust over the years. Shaped gemstones were common throughout the shelves and appeared to be the only things ever pulled off the shelves. Other things were animal skulls, teeth, claws, feathers, and other mundane objects that were shaped into new things. Omydaedren never understood Monhais's fascination with warping things that way.
"Omydaedren!" Monhais came through the archway of the back room. His graying hair was disheveled as if he had just risen out of bed.
"Did I wake you?" Omydaedren asked. Monhais hobbled on his wooden cane toward Omydaedren and waved his wrinkled hand.
"It is alright." His brown eyes seemed even darker with the bags under his eyes. He wore brown robes that matched the wood shelves around the room. "You came for a book?" he asked in a croaking voice. He waved a hand again for Omydaedren to follow him back through the archway. The archway led into another room lined with only two bookshelves, stuffed full of books and papers. The shelves didn't extend to the ceiling like inside the shop and never had any speck of dust since Omydaedren had been allowed inside. The books were always kept in good condition. Two cushioned chairs were in the middle of the small room over a rug made of buffalo skin and a small table between them. A small fire was burning under the mantle against the far wall, crackling softly.
"One last book before you go," Monhais smiled, though Omydaedren could sense the sadness behind it. He gave Monhais a weak smile in return. The old man motioned for him to sit. Omydaedren sat in one of the chairs as Monhais scanned his collection.
"I should not be so forlorn," Monhais said, his crooked finger grazing every book as he searched the shelves. "I was the one who told you about Ginnen." His hand finally grasped a book. “And Othoria,” Omydaedren quickly added. He turned back to Omydaedren, who shifted his weight in the chair. "I even got you a ship," he added, chuckling to himself.
"It is more of a boat," Omydaedren replied. Monhais chuckled again, "It will do." He held the cover of a dark, leather backed book to Omydaedren. "This is one you might want to have," he told him. Monhais handed him the thin book. It was poorly made in comparison to the other books Monhais collected, the uneven pages cut and bound together seemingly all by hand. The leather cover was smooth in Omydaedren's hands. He flipped open the cover to read the first page. A title was handwritten on the page, Korborin of The Spine. Omydaedren frowned, "Who wrote this?" he asked Monhais. He shrugged as he sat in the opposite chair, almost falling into it.
"I don't know. Mister Osarin gave that book to me," Monhais explained. He propped his cane against the middle table. "He said that he bought it off of a young girl while he was sailing along the Strait," he told him. Omydaedren raised his eyebrow, "The man who will sail me to Ginnen?" he asked. Monhais croaked a short laugh and nodded, "The girl was with an older man and, he mentioned they were covered almost entirely in robes." Omydaedren flipped through the handwritten pages of the book, glancing through them. “They were Korborin,” Omydaedren said in wonder.
"Gave it to him for no price," Monhais trailed off his words. Omydaedren shut the book.
"That is strange," he stated. Monhais nodded, his eyes pinned to the carpet.
"As are things that are so close to the Arthion," he finally said, clearing his throat. Omydaedren loosely hugged the book in his arms. "Have you read this?" he asked.
"No," Monhais shook his head, his gray hair like wisps in the air. "I am a stubborn man Omydaedren," he said, pushing his skeletal body up in the chair. "I would want to see the Korborin myself if I read that book and I am far too old to make that journey," he continued. Omydaedren glanced back to the leather book.
Silence, then "Will you take Loradove?" Monhais asked. Omydaedren looked back to the elderly man and nodded.
"Good, you will run into less Rak'kinthar going that way," Monhais replied. "They hate it. I suppose it may be Eldyth's way," he added. Omydaedren's stomach felt like it sunk and his mouth tasted bitter.
"Do you have a weapon?" Monhais asked him, leaning forward in his chair. Omydaedren shook his head, his eyes took their turn to be pinned to the floor. He took up his cane once more and hobbled toward the door that led to his bedroom. Omydaedren set his new book on the table and rose from his chair. He heard Monhais moving things around in his room and eventually heard him force open a drawer or a trunk. Monhais returned from his room, carrying a long, narrow box.
"I want you to have this," he said, hobbling on his cane. He handed Omydaedren the dark wooden box. It had bits of dust on the lid from sitting too long inside of Monhais's room. He brushed the top to be rid of the clumps of dust before he pulled the box open. His eyes widened when he saw a silver sword set in a blue velvet cloth that looked to be completely untouched. Omydaedren examined the sword, the blade was polished and reflected better than any mirror he had seen. The hilt and cross bars were black leather and slim. The most striking part was the red gemstone that was laid into the pommel of the sword.
"It is from Rata," Monhais told him. Omydaedren set the box on the table and lifted the blade by the hilt from it. The sword was heavier than he had expected.
"Rata?" Omydaedren asked, his eyes never leaving the sword. Monhais laughed to himself.
"I travelled there when I was a young man," he explained. He placed both of his hands on his wood cane, "Which is why I bought that sword. I was young," he sighed. Omydaedren gripped the hilt completely, his hand almost too large for it.
"That gem embedded in the pommel was a Vahhadün gemstone," Monhais said. Omydaedren inspected the gemstone closely. He thought for a moment that he could see darker swirls of red stir inside the stone.
"This must have cost a life's amount of gold," he marveled. Monhais only held a smirk on his wrinkled face.
"There is also a belt under that cloth," Monhais said. Omydaedren pulled the cloth out of the box, revealing a brown leather belt that had a sheath for the sword attached.
"I never had to use that sword and I hope you will never have to either," Monhais said. Omydaedren placed the cloth back into the box and then set the sword carefully on top.
"Where you are going though, perhaps you might have to," he sighed. Omydaedren set the lid back over the box.
"I will be fine," he replied, managing confidence. Monhais breathed a short laugh through his nose.
"If you take the river Loradove from Azariah and Aerrus’ light, I am sure you will be," Monhais reassured himself. Omydaedren tucked the box under his arm. "Mister Osarin knows the way, you assured me of that," he said. The old man nodded, his face holding a wistful smile.
“That man has sailed me many places before,” he said, almost to himself.
Omydaedren gazed up to the only window in the room, the sun was beginning to lower in the sky and let it's golden rays inside the old room.
"I should be going. The Skytalons will be at the Grazing Buffalo tonight and I need to gather supplies for tomorrow," he said. Monhais stood up straighter with his cane, "I suppose I will not see you for some time," he presumed. Omydaedren sighed heavily.
"There is no need to say goodbyes." The man retrieved the handmade book from the table and handed it again to Omydaedren.
"Take these with you," he told him. Monhais placed both hands on his cane once more.
"I will see you again. Whether it be in Wameri or Othoria," he said, smiling wide. Omydaedren shifted his weight as he held both objects in his arms. Monhais reached out and patted Omydaedren's arm lightly.
"Go on," he told him, still smiling. Omydaedren sighed heavily again, "Thank you for these," he replied. Monhais smiled brighter, his wrinkles even more profound. Omydaedren smiled back and reluctantly started for the door. When he was outside, he looked down at the book and box with the sword. He hugged them tightly again and headed toward the markets in the city.
Tucking the box under his arm, Omydaedren made his way to the smoked buffalo meat. If he didn't already know the way, he could have simply followed his nose. The smell filled his nose when he came upon the shop that sold the meat. The small shop was not busy but had a steady flow of customers inside. Omydaedren welcomed the heat created by the furnace fires that was manned by one of the owners, Berold. His sister, Ibbet was tending to her customers but was sure to give Omydaedren a frown. He awkwardly looked away from her fowl gaze and moved into the short line of people. He knew all too well what she was angry with him for.
Reaching the counter, he could not escape her gaze.
“What will it be, Mister Sihai?” she asked, her tone was sharp. Omydaedren cleared his throat, “Six batches of buffalo jerky, please,” he replied. Ibbet shot him another sideways look before fetching the wrapped jerky. She placed it on the counter and held her hand out for the payment. Omydaedren handed her coins from the pouch he had attached to his belt. She swiped them from him.
“If you are heading home, tell my husband that if he wishes for food to be on the table he’ll get down to the mine and earn his own coin,” Ibbet growled. Omydaedren gave her only a slight nod before leaving the shop. He sighed heavily when he began down the street toward his home outside of the city. Upon leaving the city, he passed the buffalo farmers and fields of wheat once again. Phoenix birds flew high overhead around the aviary towers and Omydaedren could make out a smaller bird circling the first tower. Vesstan must still be up there, he thought. He continued down the path until he stopped at one of the small homes. Omydaedren turned the knob of the front door only to find that it was locked. He tried the door again before slamming his fist three times against the wood. He could hear stirring from inside the house and then the door swung open. He expected his mother but was met by a man. His hair was disheveled and he was still buttoning his shirt.
“Hello Mister Hilfir,” Omydaedren said as he brushed past the man. Inside, a table and bench was in the middle of the room and a fire on the far side of the room was lit inside the fireplace. His mother came quickly down the narrow and short corridor that led into two small bedrooms. Her hair was the same color as his, a dark brown but with a few strands of gray finally showing. Omydaedren knew he had the same green eyes as well but he chose to ignore that. He continued around the table and past his mother, who he paid no mind.
“Omydaedren,” his mother started after him.
“I will be gone in a moment Shael,” Omydaedren stated, swinging open the door to his tiny bedroom. He quickly shut the wooden door behind him and pushed the finger sized metal bar across the crack of the door, leaving his mother outside.
“You left the mines early today?” Shael asked, her voice muffled slightly by the wood. Omydaedren tossed the jerky onto the sturdy wooden table in the corner of his stone room. Instead of replying to her, he slid the slender box from Monhais under his short bed and placed the black leather book on top. It fit perfectly under his bed and Omydaedren was satisfied that his mother was asking about the mines instead of the box. Peering out the little and only window he had in the room, he could see it was getting later. He moved to the wooden trunk that lay at the end of his bed and pulled a simple coat from it. He began fitting it over his shoulders.
Omydaedren flicked the metal bar back into place and pulled the wooden door open. Shael was still standing there, wearing a worried look on her face.
“His wife wanted him to know that he should get back to work if he wants food on the table tonight,” Omydaedren stated. Shael rolled her green eyes and brushed a hand through her graying hair. He moved past her again and was gone from the house. He stopped for a moment outside to reassure himself that his coin was still at his belt. He patted the pouch, still plenty of coin, and started again down the dirt path to The Grazing Buffalo.
The sun was setting when he arrived at the tavern located in the middle of the city. The air had become even more frigid and forced Omydaedren to rush indoors. He shook off the chill and spotted Vesstan and his brothers at a table in the middle of the floor, surrounded by other Wamerian youths that thought it was something to see a Skytalon in the city. Rathal and Hagen were already charming the girls with their stories of flying. Vesstan had Zrerra perched on the back of another chair beside him and was feeding her scraps of meat from his plate. He perked up in his chair when he saw Omydaedren coming to the table.
"I thought maybe you would not come," Vesstan said as Omydaedren took the other chair next to him at the end.
"You will not believe what Monhais gifted me today," Omydaedren replied.
"It was a sword that he said was from Rata. There is a Vahhadün gemstone on the hilt," Omydaedren raved. "Gods Daedren, you're going to carry that around with you?" Vesstan asked. Omydaedren shrugged.
"If I had ever a need for it I would surely be using it against a Rak'kintha. I'm not sure they care so much for gemstones," he replied. Vesstan gave him a worried look.
"Daedren!" Hagen had finally taken his attention away from the girls to notice he had arrived. Rathal took a seat across from Omydaedren and leaned back in his chair.
"I had not noticed you had arrived," he said, placing his feet on the table. Hagen plopped himself into the other chair, "Elisen! We need more ale for my little cousin!" he shouted toward the front of the tavern. Rathal laughed as he drank out of his cup.
"I think they may have had plenty already," Omydaedren remarked.
"They haven't even started dancing," Vesstan replied. Omydaedren spotted Elisen making her way to them with a metal tray full of empty buffalo horn cups and jugs of ale. Her blonde hair was tied back into a braided bun and her white apron was already spoiled by smudges of spilled ale and grease. Omydaedren nudged Vesstan's arm and nodded toward the approaching young woman. Vesstan quickly sat up straighter when she arrived at the table.
She placed several of the cups down on the table in front of Omydaedren, who thankfully took one. Omydaedren caught Rathal raising his eyebrows and smirking at Vesstan. His face instantly flushed. Elisen appeared to pay no mind to them until she emptied her tray. Without asking, she began pouring ale into Omydaedren's empty cup and then refilled Rathal's. He grinned charmingly to her but she ignored him. She held up the metal pitcher, "Ale?" she asked Vesstan. He pushed his cup to the end of the table for her to fill it. He smiled awkwardly, "Thank you," he said, barely meeting her blue eyes. She did not reply, instead, she frowned at Zrerra. Vesstan shifted his weight in his chair.
"Does she like mice?" she asked Vesstan. He glanced at his bird before replying, "Yes."
"My father caught mice in a trap he set this morning. She's welcome to them," she explained.
"She would love them," Vesstan replied, stroking Zrerra's brown feathers. Elisen finally smiled, "I can show you where he placed the trap, we haven't emptied it," she offered. Vesstan nodded and stood up from his chair. He nudged Zrerra from her perch to his forearm and followed Elisen away from the crowded table.
Omydaedren looked at Rathal in amazement. He dropped his feet from the table and laughed while holding his stomach. Omydaedren chuckled with him.
"You see Daedren, the girls love phoenix flyers," Rathal shrugged. Omydaedren shook his head, amazed still at what had happened.
"He will have to thank Zrerra more than his new phoenix," Omydaedren said.
"It is a shame you will not be there when my little brother names his bird," Rathal said, placing his elbows on the table. Omydaedren waved his hand in response.
"Rathal! The girls want us to gamble!" Hagen exclaimed, loud enough for the whole tavern to hear. He drank out of another freshly poured cup already. Rathal stood from his chair, looked to Omydaedren, and gestured toward the group that was busy setting out a game of gambling runes. Omydaedren declined by shaking his head. Rathal shrugged and joined Hagen and the girls at another empty table to play.
Omydaedren felt a hand on his shoulder and found Vesstan had returned with a burlap sack, presumably full of mice.
"Are they gambling already?" he asked, scratching his scars. Omydaedren nodded as Zrerra returned to her perch on an empty chair.
Then, Omydaedren noticed the tavern door open and saw Isbeil enter.
"You invited Isbeil?" Vesstan asked, noticing her enter.
"Yes, and I have not told her Vesstan," Omydaedren replied. Vesstan put his fist down on the table enough to rattle the empty cups. "Why not?" he asked, his tone like his mother. Omydaedren hunched closer to Vesstan.
"The last time I told her something she did not want to hear, she stormed off and shunned me for three whole days!" he whispered like Isbeil was inches away from him.
"Omydaedren--" Vesstan started.
"I don't want to leave that way," Omydaedren said quickly, before Isbeil stood in front of them. She looked to have rebraided her pale hair and wore a buffalo hide coat with a small, gold threaded Wamerian crest on the arms.
"It's a bit early to gamble," she stated, taking Rathal's seat across from the pair. Vesstan let out a deep sigh that only Omydaedren could sense was irritation.
"Not for those two," Vesstan replied.
"I suppose I did arrive along with the fablers," she remarked, gesturing to the small wooden stage in the tavern. Two older men and a Drarvuno with faded marks were unpacking instruments to play for the evening. Omydaedren had seen the group play in the tavern before, singing songs of climbing the Mouth of Ta'thul and the wasteland below it. Although, the songs of Eldyth and The Dancing Rivers were always a crowd favorite. Suddenly, the gambling group erupted in cheer. Hagen was scooping up the small pile of coin from the table.
"He won again. He is a lucky one," Vesstan sighed. The flutist then played their first note, a sharp and uneven one. Then, the harp began the melody of The Song of the Herd, a song special to Wameri. The group cheered again and moved to the empty area in front of the fablers. The flute joined in on the second line, and then the drum on the third. Other tavern goers joined in the dancing and sang along with the harpist's lyrics.
“O Tannator the horns of the land,
O phoenix the keeper of the wind,
Fly high, oh! Fly high, oh!
The buffalo’s horns grow toward the sky!
Fly high, oh! Fly high, oh!
The herd will hear your cry!”
Vesstan tapped his hand along to the fablers' song on the table. His brother came bounding over to the three still sitting at the table, a cup in his hand and ale spilling with every step.
"Come dance with us little brother! We're celebrating the new flyer tonight!" Rathal exclaimed over the growing cheer of the tavern. Vesstan rubbed Zrerra's feathers before standing from his chair to join his brother. Hagen suddenly came from dancing, to Rathal's side. He looked to have had one ale too many for how early the night was.
"Daedren, come dance! It's your last night!" he shouted, stumbling into Rathal.
“Last night?” Isbeil asked, her blue eyes piercing Omydaedren. He cleared his throat while he tried to think of a response to please her. He glanced at Vesstan, who looked to be trying to slither away quickly. Rathal was still sober enough to notice the immediate tension.
“Last night as a not phoenix flyer,” he intervened, smiling awkwardly while he held Hagen from stumbling more.
Vesstan stopped his attempt to leave, hearing the lie, and gave Omydaedren a look. Omydaedren could feel his palms begin to heat up as his nervousness grew.
“Isbeil, I need to--” he began over the fablers’ tune.
“He flying to Ginnen Rath?” Hagen asked, fumbling his words.
“Ginnen?” Isbeil asked, her face scrunched in distaste. Then, Rathal shoved Hagen away from the table and back into the dancing crowd. “Barely hold your drink!” he was heard shouting.
“That coin is not to live inside the city, is it?” Isbeil asked, squinting her large eyes. Omydaedren sighed, “I wanted to tell you,” he mumbled.
Isbeil abruptly stood from her chair and without a word she started for the door. Omydaedren looked at Vesstan, who only shook his head and swiped another drink from his cup. Omydaedren left the table after his friend who had already made it outside. He caught her stomping down the road, wrapping her coat around her short body.
“Isbeil!” he shouted after her. She paid him no mind and continued away from the tavern. Omydaedren pushed himself into a run to catch up to the young woman, his lips chapping in the chill breeze. The woman whipped her head around when he caught up with her and forced Omydaedren into a halt, in fear she would strike him.
“Why would you go to Ginnen?” she demanded, her dilated eyes reflected the moonlight above the city making her appear even more threatening. Omydaedren licked his lips before responding.
“I heard rumors, knowledge bestowed by a God,” he began, shrugging his shoulders. Isbeil made a short laugh in disbelief. “It was from Silborh himself, Isbeil,” he remarked, his voice raising. "You must have heard, your mother is close with King Kandratin," Omydaedren added.
“It is always something else with you,” she muttered, pulling her coat closer to her as a breeze blew off of the mountainside. Omydaedren only raised an eyebrow.
“You have never been satisfied with anything!” she exclaimed. Omydaedren wanted to argue, but thought better of it.
“You only love your stories, even when they lack any shred of truth.” she stated.
"They are not just stories Isbeil," Omydaedren said quietly. Isbeil shook her head, loosening pale strands of hair to hang around her face.
"I should have foreseen this," she started, looking up toward Omydaedren. "Everyone knows Monhais Caidi has always been mad," she said, squinting her reflective eyes.
"He is not mad!" Omydaedren quickly retorted.
"Then it must be you who is the mad one!" Isbeil exclaimed. "You would rather face Rak'kinthar under falsehoods and fantasy, than face the truths that are in front of you here!" she cried, not waiting for any argument from Omydaedren.
"What are those truths Isbeil? Each day the sun rises and I still see nothing here for me!" Omydaedren shouted down to the short woman.
She fell silent and Omydaedren could have sworn on the Gods he saw tears flood into her eyes before she turned away from him. His hands trembled from frustration.
“The Evindal Forest is overrun with Rak’kinthar, you know that,” she said, her face still turned away.
“Monhais gave me a sword,” he replied plainly, looking at the ground. Isbeil chuckled for a moment.
“Aerrus’ light protect you, Omydaedren,” she scoffed and began to walk away from him. He swiftly caught her by the arm. “I wanted to tell you, Isbeil. I do not want to leave this way,” he confessed. She tugged her arm from his grasp and left him. “Isbeil!” he pleaded, but she continued away from him. He rubbed his eyes that had dried in the cold, his frigid fingers sending chills down his spine. Then, he turned back toward the tavern. He spotted Vesstan leaning against the outside of the tavern with Zrerra pecking at the last few mice from the burlap sack on the ground around his feet. Vesstan saw Omydaedren walking and came to join him, Zrerra swooping to land gracefully on his shoulder.
“I’m heading home Vesstan,” Omydaedren stated.
“I thought so,” Vesstan replied, shoving his hands in his coat pockets.
“You should stay, they are celebrating your victory,” Omydaedren told him. His friend only shrugged his shoulders and continued walking.
The pair walked the entire way in silence save for the occasional wincing from the icy wind.
Outside the city, the sounds of chirping crickets filled the night and a fog had begun to roll over the high plain grass. The men stopped outside of Omydaedren’s quiet home, a single candle lit in the window. Zrerra suddenly took flight from Vesstan’s shoulder, most likely after a field mouse her uncanny eyes had spotted.
“I leave for the docks at sunrise, when Thorn begins his flight,” Omydaedren told Vesstan. His friend nodded his head in response.
“Will I see you there?” he asked. Vesstan itched his scars, “I will be there to say goodbye,” he replied, swallowing hard. Zrerra squawked in victory, catching her prey in her talons.
“Goodnight Vesstan,” Omydaedren said.
“Goodnight Daedren,” Vesstan replied, rubbing his cold arms.
Omydaedren opened the door to his home, welcoming the heat from the dying fire inside.
“Zrerra, come along we are going home,” he heard Vesstan pleading with his bird in the road. Omydaedren poked the embers of the fire with the poker and snuffed out the candle in the window. When he was back in his small room, he assured himself the box and book were still under his bed, untouched. Then, he fell onto his straw bed and let out a heavy sigh, anxious for the morning to come.