- Welcome back, old friend!
- Nultar, my brother, I am so glad to see your friendly face! You will not believe the stories I have to tell!
- First, let’s get some ale in that elvish mug of yours! My treat, your choice between The Drunken Dragon and the The Fork and Plate, but not the The Fork and Plate.
- Hahaha, I see you haven’t lost your sense of humor my short and stout friend! Allow me to bathe and exchange clothes, first, please!
The dwarf replies, imitating the elf’s voice with exaggerated pretentious gestures:
- “Allow me to bathe and exchange clothes. I would also like to perfume my genitals and have my nails done.” Go bathe! I’ll pick you up in an hour from your place… Old man Thomas wants to see you, I’ll bring him along.
- Yes, sure. It has been at least two years since I’ve seen him. Is he alright?
- Old Tommy? Never better! Wait till you see him drink! He is so detached from all of this day to day nonsense, enjoying his retirement. He is getting older though, you know how commonfolk are. I think he’s going to ask for a favor on that matter, wouldn’t give me any details, but he kept asking about your return from Derindin.
- You know that magic rarely heals the problems of old age… We’ll see what Tom wants to talk about. For now, I really need a bath, haven’t felt the pleasure of warm water in more than a while. It is true that travel is as tiring as it is rewarding.
- We’ll catch up in an hour, I’ll holler at you. Don’t be late, or you’ll have to deal with your neighbors!
After an hour, in front of the elf’s house, a dwarf starts shouting:
- Veliooor! Veliooor! Come out and drink with your friends you uptight elven fairy! Velior! I can see your naked lady parts from here!
From one of the windows, a middle aged woman starts yelling at the dwarf:
- Shut up, you drunken vagabond! There are old people here tryin’ to get some shut-eye!
- Sorry ma’am but I ain’t drunk yet! Velior! Your mom is being a nag hag. Hahaha! We’ll have fun tonite!
After a few moments, rushing through the door of the apartment building, comes Velior, all clean and well dressed.
- Oh my goodness, Nultar, you’re going to get me kicked out of the building. You know that they don’t tolerate savage behavior in this part of the city!
- Don’t get your panties too wet! Nothing’s gonna happen, that old lady wanted a piece of this dwarven godlike figure. She just couldn’t handle rejection!
- Where is Thomas?
- He’s waiting at the tavern. I told the old fool to get us a table! I want to sit near the stage. Tonight, Brumelda and her band have a show and I’d like to be near that dwarven bosom!
- You sound like you’re the one who spent the last year traveling! Says the elf laughing and they both start laughing even harder, while Nultar mimics what he would do to Brumelda if he had the chance.
They walk around the busy streets of Bard’s gate, from the noble district to the busiest district of them all at this time of the day – the theatre district, or how the more poor inhabitants call it, Pubtown.
Once in front of The Drunken Dragon, they look around for a table outside. Seeing there is no sign of Thomas outside, they walk in and find him sitting at one of the side tables, nursing a mug of dwarven ale spiked with a dash of elven spices.
Once he notices them, his eyes brighten up a bit and he rises from his chair to embrace Velior.
- My friends! I started a bit earlier, couldn’t wait any longer, the waitresses were looking at me funny…
- Thomas! I am so glad to see you again! You look fine!
- Looks are deceiving, my old friend…
Nultar loses his patience and exclaims:
- Drink first, talk while you drink! My throat is dry from all the yelling I had to do to get him out of the house! M’lady! Bring us two of what he is having! Make it quick, I am thirsty as a dwarven miner!
The drinks arrive quickly and the three friends join mugs in a dull sounding clink. They then drink the specialty of the house with enthusiasm, Dragon’s Ale they call it.
- Sorry for bringing business at the table Thomas, but since I am the one arriving from far away lands, I feel it’s my prerogative to detract the conversation to matters that one might think would be impolite. I understand Tommy that you have some problems… Please, we’ll have time for stories later, once the ale takes hold. Tell me what can I do to help you?
The dwarf stares at his mug, avoiding the conversation for the first time this evening.
- Velior, I am so sorry to bother you with this! I know that once people started dying from the elixirs, they became illegal and you know that age is catching up to me…
- Tom, I can’t…
- I’m not asking you to brew, I know the academy keeps the Weave monitored… But my health is deteriorating… My eyesight is getting worse. I need people to repeat the words they say too often. We’re not like you, we age quicker, we die faster.
- But you live in one life as we do in two, Nultar intervenes.
- True that as it may be, I do not want to live as long as an elf, if I did I would’ve asked the druids for a new body. Time I’ve had enough. I just do not to live my last years on this plane as a decrepit old fool. I do not ask for time, Velior. What I ask for is health, until the day my spirit leaves for Celestia. I know that there is magic that grants your body and mind timelessness, until the day your time is over. Do you know about this? Can you cast such spells?
- These sound like Weave manipulations done by clerics or druids. Even bards might reach these kind of qualities with their songs. But mages like myself are rarely looking at ways to maintain the health of the body.
- Maybe with necromancy! I am not a stranger to Weave bending myself. This feat sounds like it requires a necromancer’s hands.
- I will have to study this, Thomas. But do not raise your hopes. It’s one thing to grant you vision if your eyes fail you, or hearing if you go deaf, but granting you timeless body and mind requires great magic, especially for the mind. Not even a reincarnation spell doesn’t grant you immunity to an old man’s delirious rants.
- I am sorry to place this burden on you, but I really need this, for the few years I have left.
- I’ll do my best, I promise! In the mean time, go to the temple and ask for help from the clerics. You have the coin for the best treatments!
- Ah, you know how the clerics from the gate are… Much coin for nothing, empty blessings and holy words. There are few that haven’t conceded to the pleasures of the coin. Either way, thank you for your promise, Velior! I’m sure you will find something. You always do! Now… Tell us about Derindin!
- It’s the least I can do for an old and faithful friend! We were in many perils together and we will meet each other on the outer planes… Now let me tell you about the great city of Derindin!
- Ah… Yes! I was afraid I was going to listen to you two whine until sunrise! Go on, Velior, is the city as wondrous as the bards sing it? Says the dwarf, suddenly awakened by the ending of the slightly awkward conversation.
- Oh, my friends, you couldn’t believe your eyes! It is one thing to see the paintings and hear the songs, and it’s another thing completely to watch the wonders of chasm. House upon house built in the rock of the canyon, rows and rows of stairs, taverns built where sinkholes were before, markets filled with travelers from many realms, elevators built on pulleys that take you from the bottom of the city, up to its most luxurious villas. It’s like watching an ant farm made of people. Hundreds of bridges form a web of passage ways so full, that even if you felt from the sky in the exact center of the canyon, you wouldn’t reach the bottom. The social hierarchy is as structured as the housing and distributed in the depths of the canyon. The lower levels are like the slums of Bard’s Gate, while the top most structures hold the temple district, the rich’s villas and the officials. The middle ground has the most intense activity though. There you can see the school system, the playgrounds, the mines and the artisans that harness the wind from the earth’s lungs, huge cylindrical sink holes that go from the bottom to the top ground.
- Sorry to interrupt, V, but Brumelda is about to start her show and I won’t be able to pay attention to you…
- Oh alright, we’ll listen to a few dwarven songs, and we’ll carry on later. I’ll tell you about the perils of reaching Derindin. The trip takes a half moon, from the Gate, but you can consider yourself lucky if you make it. Indeed the scarred lands are still savage.
- Shhh! It’s starting! Brumelda!! Woooo!
To be continued…