The small halfling sat upon the edge of the docks over looking the waters below as she watched another ship come into the port. Almost without thought she juggled the three rocks in her hands, catching them so that the padded inside of her fingerless leather gloves took the impact before flicking them upwards once more in a neat shuffle. A whisper of words with a thought and one rock seemed to burn as it gave off light and she tilted her head to the side with a peek at it though she was half watching the ship.
Off to the side the sun was headed downwards with it’s form shimmering over the waters while some of the smaller fishing boats headed in. Shaena peeked to them curiously and wrinkled her nose even as she prayed that the inn wouldn’t serve fish stew again. “Please, please just let it be chicken tonight,” she murmured before frowning as none of the stones were lit the one having flickered out even as it was caught and tossed to air once more.
Again she whispered the words carefully with a quick gesture to make a rock light up and seem to burn though there was no heat to it but this time she shifted the color to blue. She’d learned the spell but it was harder to burn the knowledge into her thoughts even though it was just an addition to something she’d already learned. With practice it would become second nature but she hated the practice part.
Glancing over she watched as the ship tied off and the gangplank was moved to start unloading the passengers from the South who’d come into the Northlands as she and her companions had. Sighing softly she let the stones drop far down into the water below with a wet plop as they hit and a ripple of tiny waves before she rolled backwards in a tumble and pushed off with her hands to hop to her feet. A dusting off and she ran along the docks darting in and out of the crowd of people and under lifted boxes with a giggle of mischief.
She skidded to a stop before the passengers disembarking the vessel and bowed a sweeping bow from the waist with her tri-cornered hat in hand. “Greetings and well met,” she cheered out to them standing with a wave of her hand. “New to the town, to the port, to these lands and seeking out shelter,” she rambled as she looked around the small group that actually paused to look her way. She gave a grin and stood with a wave of her hand with the hat in it before dropping the hat upon her head and giving a whisper of spell. Above her the image of the inn’s sign shown seeming to dangle there in the air with an arrow pointing the way.
“I would take it upon myself to point you in a good direction, a direction of warm rooms, tasty food and good company at a reasonable rate as well I might say and say that I do,” she said firmly with a grin then a giggle before she cartwheeled a bit down the dock with her hat falling off. Eyes wide she eeped as one of the sailors unloading came close to stepping upon it before a gesture and whisper got a ghostly hand to flick it to her.
Hat in hand then upon head she turned and started off only to pause and glance over her shoulder to see if anyone was following. “Hey fishie, ho fishie, good fishie stew, red fishie, blue fishie, tasty fishies too,” she started to sing as she swayed almost like dancing along while she walked back towards the inn. “We got all kinds a fishies, here and in the sea, sells ‘em in the market stalls if’n yer hungry,” she chanted out with a wave or a bow with a tip of hat to those she’d seen before around the place. "We can fry ’em, we can poach ’em, boil ’em up as well, even got a few crustaceans, we cook those in the shell,” she sang on before starting over as she went using the sound of her voice as a beacon to find the three foot tall one in amongst the others.
Shaena sat by the fireplace and watched the fire for a moment before taking a sip of her ale then standing and stretching. Sneaking a hand out she snatched up her lute and strummed it a bit before sitting down right next to the fire with her legs crossed as she looked out into those in the night time crowd and she played a bit more distractedly. Just small tiny melodies. Her brown eyes glanced to the fire and she watched the flames dance.
“A long time ago, here in the Northlands my people still wander in the wilds and hunt, especially when the cold comes,” she said casually but loud enough to be heard before flicking a hand to the air. A hint of snow floated where her hand had been before a puff of breeze blew it away. “The snows up here as you know can be hard, storms to make one glad of a warm inn to stay for the night and a mug o’ ale,” she suggested with a soft, sad smile at a few murmurs of those paying her attention.
“One year the sleds went out with the hunters, looking for meat and skins though they didn’t pay close enough attention to the supposedly empty sleds they pulled. One of the girls of the village had hidden, bundled up under the thick blankets they’d taken. She wanted to surprise her father in the morning, but she slept until noon,” she said with a grin and a shrug with a hidden gesture. Against the crackling of the fire an almost haunting sound of a cart moving along was heard.
“Fourteen hunters plus one went out that day and while annoyed her father let her stay as long as she stayed out of the way and sent one hunter back for a bit to tell her mother lest he not hear the end of it,” she said with a chuckle as she swayed back and forth then strummed the lute softly.
“Out across the snows through the Northern forests the halflings went, their boots slipping down into the snow for those who didn’t have proper shoes but that year the animals seemed to be gone,” she said bowing her head almost sadly before peeking up. “The few tracks they could find led North even more into colder, deeper snows and the men worried even as the girl enjoyed her ride with them,” she said before giving a grin and closing her eyes. “She laughed and played on the sled as the dogs pulled it along and none of the hunters shushed her for there seemed little for her to scare off,” she explained with a slight gesture of hand and the sound of giggling mixed with dogs barking seemed to echo off into the distance.
“One day, then two came and went and the little one was taught to tend the fire just like at home,” she said reaching over for a piece of wood then setting it into the fire letting the heat move over her skin with her white linen shirt sleeve rolled up. Sparks and flames lifted up into the air to go up the chimney as she looked from it to those who watched and listened to her. “Then they decided to split up half the group would go one way with a cart and half the other for a few days to search for game for without the meat or furs the winter would be all the harsher to face,” she explained.
“Then came the day they found boot prints, small feet like those of their own but the boots were crudely done, and there were many prints,” she said before stretching slightly. “Someone else was out hunting game, which was fine for them, they could hunt else where, it was a large land, large enough for all so they thought even as night came,” she said before gesturing once more casually and the fire seemed to dim next to her in the shadowy room putting her face in darkness as she looked down a moment then back up with two tiny red lights over her eyes as she seemed like she was peering at the crowd.
“But that night, they could feel the snowy woods around them, watching,” she said before she blinked as the red lights vanished and the lone howl of a wolf in the distance sounded. “They heard wolves though they’d not seen their tracks then they saw the eyes peering at them as they huddled around their campfire,” she said before gibbering voices, low and deep sounded somewhere closer. “Goblins,” she said loudly as she sat up straighter. “And they were not alone for some rode upon the backs of dire wolves, wolves who’s teeth gnashed and snapped ready to break bones and rip flesh,” she added as growling and snarling sounds came from the other side of the fire.
“Seven spears went to hand that night as the wind it blew so cold,” she started to sing as she strummed her lute. “They knew they would have to fight lest none o’ them would be growin’ old. So they set their spears and stood their ground, determined to see it through. Though there were so many when the halflings were so few,” she sang out as the fire crackled beside her before she stopped.
“The father looked down to the daughter who seemed so terrified and he shook his head. ‘You are the keeper of the fire’ he said and she looked up into his eyes and he did his best to stay strong for her. ‘You just keep that fire going until the sun comes up,’ he asked and she nodded and fed the flames a bit to keep it going. She focused on the flames but closed her eyes tightly as she heard one of the hunters call out, ‘Here they come,’” she said before she started to strum again.
“Spears flew through the air as the halflings crowded ‘round that fire though it was not the flames that they protected as much as it was the girl, and each other’s backs then seven became six,” she said as the music paused once more with the sound of someone falling into snow as she gestured in the air. “A shove and he lay by the fire as the six crowded by the fire more and the girl started to cry,” she said before shaking her head. “’You are the keeper of that fire just focus on the fire and don’t listen,’ her father demanded even as sounds came from the darkness,” she said with a gesture as soft guttural mutterings and chucklings seemed to rise into the air from the shadows before being dismissed in the howling of wolves.
“’Here they come again’ came the call and the wolves bared dagger like fangs as they bite for flesh even as their riders brought down their spears for those who’d set against their charging in,” she said as snarling came from the air and she used a small piece of wood to clack against the edge of her lute in a well worn spot. “Once more the goblins pulled back, they left trails of their blood but their spears and wolf fangs had not gone unbloodied,” she said as she looked over the crowd.
“There on her knees was the girl, quietly feeding the fire now and then to keep it going and knowing it might not go until dawn, one way or another as she dared not look to her side at the man, and then men who laid huddled next to the fire barely conscious,” she said softly as she reached over and took another small piece of wood and fed it into the flames beside her making the fire crack and pop. “She kept remembering her father’s words trying to make them louder in her head then the cries of the injured on both sides or the snarling of the beasts which were easily twice her size,” she explained with a gesture and the sounds of battle lingered like a long lost, faded echo through the room.
“Again and again they came, five became four, four became three then three.. became two as the night wore on and piece by piece the firewood she had went into the blaze until she reached over to the pile and picked up the last long piece only to glance frantically for another,” she said before there was a sound of a body falling and then another and she closed her eyes tightly for a moment. “She watched as the two men dropped, tired, wounded and in pain they slumped and she could see off in the distance just the hint, that barest hint of dawn sneaking up, the graying of the sky,” she said as she opened up her eyes and looked over the crowd.
“It wasn’t fair, they were so close, even the sound of the wolves had stopped and she hadn’t looked up except for then, she’d been good, she’d tended the fire, it simply wasn’t fair and rage boiled inside of her as she stuck the last piece of firewood into the fire part way just enough to catch the tip and light it before she stood up swinging that burning branch around to face what she’d been terrified of for the night,” she said before pausing and bowing her head as the fire next to her seemed to flicker out only to come back in a blaze as she looked up seemingly in rage. She sat in shadow with the blaze partly behind her to backlight.
“And she screamed ’I am the keeper of the fire,’ as loudly as she could into the darkness. ’And it shall not go out,’ she yelled…,” Shaena said loudly and proudly before ducking her head. “…and the man next to her started to laugh even as seven halflings stepped out from the darkness and out around the dead bodies of the goblins and dire wolves. ‘Your daughter is as stubborn as you are’ proclaimed one of the other hunters to the man next to her who’d laughed, before they moved to treat the wounded,” she explained peeking up with a teasing grin before playing a short merry tune upon her lute then.
Giggling she jumped to her feet then and moved to pick up her ale for a long pull before she switched to drinking songs for a while leading the drunker ones like her own off key, muttering, yelling, horrible sounding choir until calming things down with softer songs to calm them back down. As she sang she wandered the area with a gesture here and there to warm up hot drinks or chill cold ones. Once things died down she moved to help easily with the cleaning before heading off to her room with her lute.
Stealthily she had slipped inside the old warehouse and down into the secret door before she used her weakest spell for light. A peek around and she moved away from the closed trapdoor with her pack on her back and over to a crate before she cast her light spell on the back of one of her gloves. She’d checked in before and seen the crate so she knew it was the one. Carefully she opened the lid and gently shifted the straw aside before peeking over the pair of eggs. Gingerly she lifted the one she’d memorized upon her short trip with it.
Slipping her thick bedroll off her pack she let it flop to the ground then took out her winter blanket before sitting down with her back against the crate and legs crossed. The thick heavy, dark blue blanket went across her lap and with utter care she nestled the egg there as she tucked it in gently. “Hi.. I’m sorry we didn’t get to talk a lot before,” she whispered softly and sadly as she flipped the blanket’s edge partly over the egg to tuck it in.
“Okay, okay I know.. I probably confused you to a point because I fussed over you then I gave you up for a few pieces of gold, but one of my partners was right.. this is a harpy egg and although I don’t believe in that whole born bad thing I also know that I’m an adventurer and I’m gonna be on the road a lot and we’re not of the same species which means that I.. I guess I wouldn’t be the best mum to ya,” she said before wincing and giving a shrug. “Then there is the whole thing where I may have set your actual mum on fire or one of my companions have stabbed her which is kinda awkward enough to talk about right now let alone when you’re old enough to talk back,” she added as she looked down at the egg and brushed her fingertips over the shell lightly.
“Your mum loved ya, I believe that, and I love ya but I’m hoping you’ll go with your sister to some refuge or some type of place where they’ll bring you up and take care of you, maybe studying you both and finding a way we could all peacefully coexist which would be amazing, but put me out of work to a point though there’s still exploration and wars between the ‘civilized’ species,” she said using air quotes before sitting there quietly with it.
Slipping her lute out she began to sing softly as she played quietly focusing on happy songs she knew when she sang or simply playing light melodies. Then she picked up the egg and held it to her chest gently cradled in her arms.
“You will be the most beautiful and graceful of harpies ever,” she whispered softly with her eyes closed. “Your mind will be brilliant and I will believe in you,” she offered as she just held the egg against her wondering if what was inside could hear the thud of her heart beat or the words she offered or if there was anything really inside. “Do your best, don’t take crap from people but don’t be a bully either.. um.. don’t say crap.. it’s a bad word I think,” she stated before thinking for a moment then giving a sigh.
“Man, no wonder I wasn’t hired for the jester-bodyguard thing ‘cause I’m really not good with kids,” she muttered softly. “Brush your teeth.. um.. beak.. whatever.. um.. try not to eat people and if you can look out for your sister.. and uh.. I would have named you Melody,” she said as she slowly moved to slip the egg back into the crate and cover it up with the straw. “And don’t tell anyone I was here,” she whispered before carefully starting to close the lid then pausing.
She looked at the other egg under the straw for a moment. “Behave and don’t cause problems for Melody okay, be a good sister,” she whispered before gently patting that egg then closing the lid carefully. Gathering her things she scrambled back for the trapdoor since her light had gone out and she slipped out once things were clear.
Stretching out in her seat the halfling pulled her knee high boots off and wiggled her toes in their once white socks as she propped her feet up on the chair across from her’s and watched Lash doing the tally of the treasure. Reaching into the backpack at her side she pulled out the remains of the old book they’d found upon the harpy island and looked it over not for the first time. Frowning she shoved it back into her pack and pulled out a quill and parchment then took out her vial of ink and set them aside.
Pausing one of the staff she ordered a rum before she went back to her musings and cast a simple illusion in the air of a map. With a fingertip she traced down what she could remember or had heard of the coastline and the area around before she started to fill things in before her drink arrived. A tip got the drink though the map in the air got a quirked brow which she ignored.
Reaching up she pushed down on the image of a map and made as if to press it against the parchment before dipping her quill then tracing the image easily. Now and then she paused to add to her crude map as best she could before she let it dry.
Sitting back she sipped at the cup of rum with a grin before taking out a coin and flipping it over her fingers. Once it reached the end she’d cast her light spell, changing the color of the light before starting again. Almost absently she poked at her chest with her free hand as she remembered the feel of the boulder slamming down against her from the yeti and feel of it crushing the life from her almost. Shivering she slipped her hand away and over to pick up the cup of rum for a healthy drink.
Once more she wiggled her toes in her socks before pausing and looking to them for a long moment. Reaching down she snatched off her socks and slipped them over her hands pausing to use a droplet of ink here and there as eyes as she turned them into sock puppets.
She sunk down below the table and held the puppets just over the top so her wrists wouldn’t show but moving one far to the side on the table.
“Hello, I’d like to join your adventuring party,” she said in a squeaky voice as she brought her left hand closer to her right and turned them so the puppets would face each other as she opened and closed their mouths.
“Okay, we have room for another,” she said opening and closing the right’s mouth before making it nod.
“But you don’t know my specialty.. don’t you need specialists,” the left asked in her squeaky voice and using her thumb and pinky she made the right puppet shrug.
“Sure we do but we’re pretty well covered, it’s simply we have a lot of people join and leave for some reason,” she had the right one explain as the left nodded.
“Well, who’s your party’s cleric,” the left one asked but the right one shook their head.
“No, that’s the mage,” the right puppet explained.
“Huh? Who’s the mage,” the left one asked and the right one nodded.
“Yes,” the right puppet confirmed.
“Yes? Yes what,” the left puppet asked in confused tones as she made it look downwards.
“No-no, Watt’s a monk,” the right puppet explained.
“Who’s a monk,” the left puppet asked as it stared at the right one.
“No, Hoo’s the mage,” the right explained and the left puppet turned away before moving down the table a bit then turning back around and coming back.
“Okay, okay I don’t care about the mage or the monk or even the cleric any more, do you have a fighter,” the left puppet asked then and she paused to reach up and sneak a sip of rum from her cup and give a giggle before putting it back.
“Yes,” the right puppet confirmed firmly with a nod.
“What is the name of the fighter,” the left puppet asked sounding irritated but the right puppet shook it’s head.
“No, Watt’s a monk,” the right said with a nod and the left shook it’s head.
“I don’t care about the monk any more! When you ask for the fighter you say..,” the left puppet prompted.
“Wright,” the right puppet said simply and the left looked towards the ceiling with a groan then looked back and moved closer almost threateningly.
“Right what,” the left sock puppet asked and the right one moved back a bit and shook it’s head.
“No, I don’t believe they’re in a relationship I mean he’s a human and she’s a dwarf,” the right puppet explained carefully and the left one shifted as if tilting it’s head to the side.
“Who’s a dwarf,” the left sock puppet demanded but the right one shook it’s head back and forth.
“No, I know the difference between a dwarf and an elf. Hoo’s an elf,” the right puppet said as the left one looked away and shook it’s head.
“Mmmmmph! Okay, okay.. when you ask for the fighter you say..,” the left one asked seeming to try and catch on.
“Wright,” the right puppet confirmed with a nod.
“Fine..,” the left one said with a nod then before the right one stood a bit straighter.
“Fīn? Ah! You know our bard already,” the right puppet said and the left jerked back slightly in confused shock.
“What,” the left one asked and the right one started to shake it’s head again.
“No, Watt’s the monk,” the right explained once more and the left one looked to the ceiling again.
“Okay, what’s your name,” the left one asked but the right one started to shake it’s head.
“No-no, I’m not a monk, can’t you tell that by the way I’m dressed.. I got armor, a shield, a sword and a holy symbol,” the right one stated.
“Right..,” the left one groaned but the right one shook it’s head again.
“No, I’m not the fighter either,” the right one said with a huff.
“Fine..,” the left one groaned as it turned away and started in slow hops to move away along the table.
“No, not the bard either,” the right one corrected. “Say, why don’t you at least tell me your name,” the right puppet asked hopefully.
“I quit,” called out the left puppet with a glance back.
“Huh? Are you related to our cleric,” the right one asked and the left dropped to the table with a groan.
Smallfoot reached up and grabbed her cup in both of her socked hands then took a drink to finish it before she curled up sleepily under the table. Though she slept lightly.
Finishing her help in the back with cleaning the dishes the little halfling bolted up the stairs to grab a few things from her pack in her room before sliding down the banister and jumping off at the end. Into the tap room she dodged tables with the chairs stacked atop them and made her way to the fireplace. Pausing she bowed her head and dropped to one knee.
Peeking up once more she placed a small plate upon the hearth with a bit of incense before she picked a narrow piece of wood from the kindling and poked at the fire to light the stick then used that to light the incense. Soft puffs of air as she got the incense to burn came from her before she stuck the stick into the fire and bowed her head once more.
“I beg yer pardon O’ Blessed One of the Hearth but I would have your ear a moment if’n in pleases ya,” she whispered with head bowed, eyes closed and hands together as she knelt before the incense on the hearth in the quiet room. “I have a slight worry over something I did and would speak of it, a trifling matter to be certain in the scheme of it all, but I’d have a sad thought over it none the less,” she explained softly. “I had to send one of the misguided Children of the Fire back to the planes to rethink their ways,” she offered as the smoke of the incense rose up and was sucked into the draft of the fire to go up into the chimney.
“Those with which you have chosen to gift with the blessing of the creation of fire sometimes forget that this is meant to be placed within the hearth and fire-pit, to warm cold bones and flesh, to bring the family together, to cook the food, to provide light against the darkness and to protect against what lurks,” she prayed as she thought carefully of her own words. “But sometimes we forget, and that one did so.. me and mine we sought to help another, to bring your hope of community to one out in the wilds, but he seemed a wee bit lost and wandered off that path a piece and sought to burn up my friend Lash and the elf.. what’s her.. name.. um.. Fae.. Faelan,” she mused before looking off for a moment thoughtfully then wincing slightly.
“Er.. okay, ya she worships the moonie one, but she kinda pulled my little butt out of the fire so to speak later, and she’s okay, and the whole moonie thing ain’t no real reason to let her get all turned to ashes after all she’s part o’ the community as well even if she’s a bit tall,” she muttered as she slipped a hand up to rub the back of her neck for a moment. “Anyway, what was I saying,” she asked awkwardly before scratching her head then nodding as she brought her hands back together again. “Ya, my brother in flames got a bit lost and if you could kinda poke him back upon the path it’d be a help to me and perhaps to you, not that a Goddess needs help or nothin’ but I’d be obliged if of course you’d not mind doin’ so,” she stated firmly.
“So.. um.. if it isn’t a bother please watch over those of this hearth and the community that grows out around it and I’ll go back to doin’ what I can to use the blessings you’ve already given me to protect ‘em and I’ll let ya get back to what e’er it was ya was doin’ that was no doubt more important then listenin’ to my little worries,” she offered before bowing her head deeply before reaching into the pouch at her side and taking out a tiny roll. She neatly tore it in half and ate one half before putting the other half into the fire along with what was left of the incense on the plate before she cleaned things up.