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12th of Uktar - The Great Party - Part Two

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12th of Uktar - The Great Party - Part Two

Post  Penelope on Thu Oct 08, 2009 10:52 pm

Dawn broke over the horizon, bathing the land in a soft red glow. Sounds of revelers who did not sleep drifted up to Kaber as he stood atop one of the castle towers. He couldn't tell if the city looked better or worse after one night of celebration compared to the destruction that was already present.

A breeze blew in from the sea. A hint of salt could be detected in the air, reminding him of the voyage they had just taken. It had been a much-needed reprieve from all the fighting. Let everyone else have their party, he would take the sea. The coolness of the wind reminded him that there we few pleasant days left. Then the weather would change to more what he was used to in his home along the Spine.

Kaber looked out over the city. People had forgotten the pain and horrors of the recent past and relaxed enough to throw a party. The minotaur had spent the night wandering the city. He partook in some of the festivities. Many wanted to buy him a drink while others were curious about him and their travels. They were all polite to him, but there was still the fear and distrust in many eyes. It didn't bother him anymore, but he didn't want to cause any trouble. At one point, he was determined to head to his room in the castle to rest. However, his mind continued to wander, and thoughts of all that had occurred recently would not let him sleep.

He looked around, taking in the panorama of the landscape. He spied figures in another tower, slightly higher than the one in which he stood. After a few moments he could make out Elric going through his morning routine. He would have to speak to the half-elf soon about some ideas he had. They were both front line fighters, first into a brawl, yet the minotaur was always weary about swinging his massive axe so near the hand and fist fighter. Perhaps if they worked together more, they could use both their styles to better advantage against foes.

The other figure must be Ashara. His thoughts lingered on her a moment. She had been more compassionate and understanding with him than anyone he had ever known. Around her, sometimes he felt like a child, learning the way of things all over again. He did not use the term lightly, but he considered the priestess a friend. Though she had an incredible amount of power, power that sent involuntary shudders down his back, he felt that he would die to protect her.

He would die to protect a human, he had changed greatly. Others of his kind would have called him weak. Yet, he knew he wasn't, he was actually stronger for it. He had achieved a strength and knowledge that he doubted he would have found among his people.

With one last look at the pair he turned to leave. They had both changed too in a short time. They loved each other. They had found strength in each other, yet the warrior mused, they almost acted more like children themselves now. He did not understand it fully, but he knew they would be fine together.

The mighty minotaur walked the corridors of the castle, heading for his room. His hand clenched and unclenched, seeking the reassuring weight of his weapon. So long had they been fighting, it felt odd without the pull of armor on his shoulders, without the smell of dried blood filling his nostrils. Even sleeping in a soft bed was almost uncomfortable to him, so used to the hard rock that he had lain on.

Entering his room, Kaber looked around, making sure all his belongings were where they were supposed to be. His great axe lean against a corner. It's dwarven make held a keen edge even after the many battles it saw. Opening a chest he looked at his meager possessions and his new armor. Also of dwarven make, it lay in the chest neatly, as if lovingly a carefully placed there.

He was about to shut the lid and lie down, but looked at the armor again. His fingers ran over the curves of the breastplate. Etched into it, with a master's touch, was the symbol of the Champions. Kaber pulled the chest closer to the bed and sat upon it. He pulled out a shoulder piece. The morning sun glinted off the polished mithril. The symbol of his clan, the broken horn, had been engraved into this piece.

The minotaur mused on the almost conflicting symbols. Much like himself, representing two worlds. He looked at the armor, shining so bright. He wondered what had made him choose it. None of his kind would wear something so complete, yet, it felt right to him. It was who he was now. He felt proud to wear it, almost as if a trophy to how far he had come, and to the battles he had won, both physical and other.

Kaber put the armor away and closed the chest. Looking up he saw that the sun had risen quite high already. Wondering what the others had been up too since last night he stood. He actually felt invigorated as he walked to the door. Today he would try to take part in more festivities. This was a party for Gwilly, and she would chastise him if he were not present. Therogeon had created a monster in the little pixie with this party. Though this was something that was probably needed by them all.

Heading out, Kaber's stomach rumbled. First he would need food.
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Kaber walked through the city. People had continued to party through the night. Some were fighting sleep, trying to continue the party as long as possible, others were waking from drunken hazes, searching for bottles to take the pain in their heads away.


He headed to the large tent that had been the starting point for the group the night before. Several such tents had been erected to act as makeshift taverns and halls for large numbers of people. Entering within he saw many of his fellows already inside.

The druid seemed to be continuously moving through a never-ending line of females. He seemed to possess an endless reserve of energy to accommodate them all. Not far away the priestess and fighter moved together in dance. It was actually odd seeing Elric that awkward compared to his normal grace.

The minotaur moved to the hastily erected bar. "I would like some food", he spoke to the man behind the counter. The man looked at the large warrior and nodded, probably afraid that he may not have enough to feed the brute. "Whatever you have will be fine", Kaber added, hoping to put the man at ease.

He looked around again and saw Ashara and Elric move to a table and sit. He watched them for a moment before deciding to join them. He sat down with his companions as he heard the words 'sword swallowers' spoken.

"What are they going to do with blades?"
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Elric turned when he heard the gruff voice behind him. "Kaber!! Where've you been? I thought you were going to miss the whole thing." The half-elf beamed at his typically anti-social friend.

He looked back to the stage. The sword swallowers were warming up the crowd. It occurred to him that Kaber had never seen this kind of act before. "Well... These two are what they call Sword swallowers. They are going to take those thin little swords there... and umm.... Swallow them. Before you ask, No there is no magic involved." Memories of Eddick completely drunk with swords sticking through him popped back into his mind. "Well, not usually. Our Druid cheats." He quickly amended. "There is some kind of trick or well practiced method to it." Elric's voice got very serious... though he couldn't keep a straight face. "Do NOT let Gwilly talk you into trying it... She'll try!"
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Ashara smiled widely as Kaber finally joined the party! He had been scarce both on the ship and in town, though he hadn't seemed sullen, just...introspective. She suspected that his perspective of life had changed down in Dagadar, as most of CoRD's had.

It also appeared that the minotaur had...bathed?! All the blood had been washed away, and he even looked a bit fluffier!

Elric explained about sword swallowing while the priestess eyed Kaber's plate of food. Laying open one's heart was exhausting business, and she realized she was starving! Besides, there was an enormous bowl of strawberries over there near the bar, and it looked so very lonely. Where they would get strawberries this time of year, Ashara had no idea. Likely it was a pixie illusion, but she decided that illusion or no, she was going to enjoy them! She excused herself, making sure that Kaber knew she wasn't leaving because of him, and left the table.

Moments after she left, a young boy, not more than eight years old approached the minotaur. He had a rusty old helmet perched on his head, with two thick iron spikes punched through the inside of the helm to make it look like he had horns coming from his head. There was no fear in the child's eyes, only excitement and wide-eyed trust. "Mr, Kaber, sir, Mr. Kaber! You are my MOST favoritest of all of the Champions!" The boy poked his head around Kaber's arm to wave quickly at Elric before continuing. "My mommy said that I shouldn't come talk to you 'cause you might not like me, but I told HER that you were a hero, and heroes are ALWAYS nice to kids! She doesn't ever believe me though... I told her I wanted to be an adventurer someday just like you! I've been practicing to be a great fighter, so I can save Zazesspur if anything bad happens again!" He inhaled loudly. "I can't carry a big hammer or axe like you yet, but I'm trying, and my mommy says I'm already good with a knife!"
---------------------------------------------------
Kaber coughed as a piece of meat lodged itself in his throat.

It took a minute before he was able to breathe properly again. This time swallowing down the correct pipe, he turned to regard the child. The ill-fitting helm sat crookedly atop his head. He looked as foolish as a pixie illusion. Yet the smile on the kid's face, the way he stood there so proudly, gave Kaber pause. Here was a youth, unafraid, proclaiming that we wanted to be like the minotaur. Such a young age, and wanting to protect his home.

The warrior was confused. He was embarrassed at the beaming gaze of the young face.

"I, um...", was all that Kaber could get out.

He gave a pleading look to Elric for help.
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Elric had his Ale mug up to his face to hide the laughter. Still every few seconds some sloshed out as he gulped for air. The look on Kaber's face was priceless. He wished Ashara were there to draw it.

Seeing the minotaur this embarrassed, Elric just couldn't help himself. Looking over at the child he asked "Boy, What is it about Mr. Kaber that makes him your favorite Champion?" Then sat back to watch the show.
---------------------------------------------------------
The child peeked his head around Kaber's arm again, mildly annoyed that it was the half-elf speaking to him and not the minotaur. "My name is not BOY," he said, hands on hips, "it's Kevin! Someday I'm going to be a great hero, so you should remember my name!"

Kevin positioned himself so he could see both Kaber and Elric. "Mr. Kaber is my favorite because he's the biggest, strongest, toughest and BRAVEST of all of you! It's no big deal for the rest of you guys to come into a city, but Mr. Kaber always has people look at him weird n' stuff. Don't worry though, Mr. Kaber, I'M not afraid of you!" The boy beamed up at him.

"Obviously the pixie can't be my favorite, cause really...she's a pixie and all the other kids would laugh at me if I wanted to be like a pixie..." He stuck a nubby finger in Elric's direction. "You and that old guy are always hanging around girls," he said as if it was a curse word, "...so I DEFINITELY don't want to be like you!" Kevin stuck a finger down his throat and pretended to gag at the thought.
------------------------------------------------------------
Kaber glared at Elric, he was no help. If only Ashara hadn't walked away when she did, she would know what to do. The minotaur sighed.

"Um...young one...um...Kevin", he stammered. How did one address a child?

"I can see that you are brave, and...you will probably be a great fighter one day." Where did he go from here? People buying him drinks he could handle, even a pat on the shoulder, but this confounded the minotaur. He looked at the expectant grin.

"Um...but being big and strong isn't the only thing. You need wisdom and intelligence too. We all work together to help each other. Even the pixie plays a strong part." Where had that come from he wondered? That was something Eddick would say, though using more words.

He grinned at the child and reached out his hand to place it upon the youth's head. Looking at the unusual helm, he thought better of it and laid his hand very gently on the young lad's shoulder. After what felt like an awkward moment he removed it.
------------------------------------------------------------------
With mock seriousness, easily betrayed by his eyes, Elric addressed the boy "My apologies, Sir Kevin! We hadn't been properly introduced." With a sly look at his large friend. He asked the boy, "What about Therogeon? What makes Mr. Kaber SOOO much cooler than the mage?"

Elric was having a blast with this. Seeing the minotaur embarrassed, self conscious... It was good for him! It was nice to see him in non-combat situations. Seeing the world, living a life. It was character growth... It was also very, very funny.
-----------------------------------------------------------------
Before Kaber was able to completely withdraw his hand from the boy's shoulder, Kevin wrapped both his arms around the minotaur's huge bicep and hugged him tightly.

"Thank you, Mr. Kaber! I'll make you proud of me one day, you'll see! I can be smart AND strong! You'll hear some bard sing a song about 'Brave Sir Kevin', and then you'll know it's me!"

"What about Therogeon? What makes Mr. Kaber SOOO much cooler than the mage?"

Elric's question pulled Kevin off Kaber's arm. The boy's eyes shifted to Kaber, then to Therogeon, then back to Kaber. He scrunched up his face in confusion. "Really? That's kind of a silly question, mister... Wizards cause more problems than they solve. That's what my mommy says anyway. Those scary gnolls that hurt so many people, had some crazy wizard magic on them. Everyone says so!"
-----------------------------------------------------------------
"Magic is magic. It's how you use it that's good or bad." Kaber surprised himself saying that. He had actually come to understand that about magic. He accepted Therogeon and Ashara casting on him and against their foes. He hardly considered anything about it when they did do it anymore..

"Same as strength is strength. You can use it to hurt or protect people." Leaning down to be as close to eye level as possible with the boy he continued, "Just because some people believe something, doesn't mean that you have to too. Remember, you came over to speak to me, though others wouldn't."

Was Elric smirking? He seemed to be enjoying this lad's questioning a little too much. Kaber made a mental note to throw him into a wall later. He amended that note, to lightly throw into a wall.
--------------------------------------------------------
Elric was curious just how far he could push this. Kaber hadn't taken a swing at him yet, which showed that he was a much different minotaur than the one he had first met. Still he had a feeling he was pushing his luck.

"Well, Kevin," Elric nodded thoughtfully. "You have some very convincing points. Mr. Kaber really is great guy! You could certainly do worse for role models. The Champions of the Red Dawn just wouldn't be the same without him."

"Why did you ever hear about when we all met him?" Elric asked. He then went on to tell the child about the day the champions formed and how Kaber came and rescued them from the 'six legged tiger'.
-----------------------------------------------------
Kevin listened intently to Kaber's words and Elric's story. "Mr. Kaber, sir, I wish everyone knew how smart and nice you are! Then no one would be afraid to come say hi to you!" The boy grabbed the minotaur's hand to shake it, but being unable to lift his arm, Kevin settled instead for shaking his finger. "I'll tell ALL my friends how great you are, then they'll want to be just like you too!"

He waved goodbye to the both of them, and ran out of the tent with a huge grin on his face.

***

Meanwhile, Ashara had piled an impressive number of strawberries onto a plate and headed carefully back to the table. She sat between the two warriors, and pushed the plate within the reach of all, before lifting one of the giant berries to her eyes to appreciate it before taking a bite. Between mouthfuls of strawberry, Ashara noticed the contemplative look on Kaber's face, and the mischievous grin on Elric's. She swallowed and raised an eyebrow. "Everything okay?"
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The minotaur had watched the child go, still unsure of what had taken place. He turned back to look at his companion. Kaber paid Ashara no attention as he stared across the table at Elric while he slowly drummed his fingers on the table.
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"Ooh strawberries!" Elric reached out and took a big plump one purposefully ignoring the Minotaur's glare. "Ohh you didn't miss much. Kaber was just entertaining on of his fans. Oh and I have an idea forming for a new song." He said casually, but with a look that said there was sooo much more to the story.

He gave Kaber a smile and popped the strawberry into his mouth.
----------------------------------------------------
The warrior lifted his massive hand off the table. Slowly, he curled it into a fist. Then opening his first finger, so that it pointed straight at the half-elf, his eyes narrowed. It looked as if Kaber was about to say something, but instead thought better of it. With his large hand, he began reaching across the table.

Halfway to Elric the hand stopped, opened, and reached down for a strawberry. He picked it up and drew it back to his mouth. Without looking anywhere but at the one on the other side of the table, he placed the fruit in his mouth and chewed, as a small grin split his lips.
----------------------------------------------------
The priestess’s eyes widened. What exactly had she missed?! She was about to release the word of Command on her lips when she saw Kaber choose the strawberry over Elric's neck.

Ashara shot the half elf a look of caution. Yes, Kaber had changed quite a bit over the last few days, but she had a feeling that Elric had been pushing his luck.

"So...," she started, in an attempt to ease the tension, "what have you been up to, Kaber? We were beginning to wonder if you were going to show."
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Kaber smiled at the priestess, showing her that everything Elric had been in good fun.

"I spent the night walking the city. I was not in the 'party mood'." He quickly glanced around quickly, wary of nearby pixies that may have overheard. Seeing none, he relaxed and took another bite of his food. "I trust you enjoyed yourselves? It looks as if Eddick has", he said nodding in the direction of the dancing druid.
------------------------------------------------------
"So far so good!" Elric answered. "Couple days without anyone trying to hurt us, and not needing to hurt anyone else. What's not to enjoy?" He looked the minotaur over. This was possibly the most 'comfortable' he had ever seen Kaber in a public setting. Even with the uncomfortable, if hilarious situation with the child.

"What of yourself? Are you in a 'party mood' now?"
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Pausing between mouthfuls of food, Kaber pondered the question.

"I shall try to partake in more of the festivities, if only to keep Gwilly happy", he mused. "What sort of things do you do? So far I've seen drinking and music. Something that can be found around a tavern or a campfire every night seems hardly worth calling a party."
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Ashara was keeping an eye on the sword swallowers, just in case there was an 'incident'.

"Well, aside from the current entertainers, there have been fire-breathers, jugglers, and of course quite a bit of dancing. Elric and I haven't lost any toes yet, though not from lack of trying." She teased.

"You should try it, Kaber! I'm sure any number of women would like to be the first to claim to have danced with a minotaur!"
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"The main thing, at least to me..." the half-elf started to explain, "Is the 'attitude' of the people. At a tavern or a campfire, people are still worried about what tomorrow is going to bring. Sometimes they worry about what the current day brought. Even if their minds stray a little with drink or song, the concerns are still there."

"A party on the other hand. A TRUE party, you forget your worries. Forget tomorrow, forget yesterday. All that matters is being with good company and good food." He popped another strawberry in his mouth, and then gestured to the crowd. "Look at them. Their city is in ruins, disaster hangs over their head... but they've let it go. One night, maybe two... Their problems will still be there in the morning, but they can at least unburden their souls for 'just a little while'."

"Of course Gwilly may have a different definition... but that's what I go off of!" He said with a quick laugh.
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Ashara thought she had made so much progress from the night before, but Elric's description of a "true party" made her realize how wrong she was. It was obvious she was still having a difficult time relaxing, and forgetting the problems surrounding them. That never used to be true. She used to look for opportunities to lose herself in revelry, but so much had happened over the last year... The priestess wondered if she would ever truly be able to let herself go again.

Lathander said that no atonement needed to be made, and though he had forgiven her, she was still...after all this time...unable to forgive herself. That was one of the reasons she felt the need to visit The Spires of the Morning. High Radiance Ghentilara was renowned for her wisdom and insight into the heart of a person. Ashara realized that try as she might, she couldn't handle this burden alone, and she didn't want trouble her friends any longer. She wanted to be whole again. For Elric. For all of them.

The priestess smiled and bit into another berry. A couple more days and she would be in Waterdeep. She just couldn't put it off any longer. Maybe she wouldn't be herself again right away, but the thought of hearing the insights of the High Priestess gave her hope that that day would come.

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Penelope

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