Still working on this of course. Hopefully now that July is almost on us I can finish the writing of the darn thing. the last of the book is still kicking my butt.
Loralil was unsure how to deal with these folk. They looked to her eyes like skinny, beardless dwarves. “Welcome, Welcome, fair travelers. You have come just in time for our festival!”
Hiding her sigh, she dropped back, letting Karleen and Levy take the lead. “An auspicious time for us I think, little dove. These people seem very friendly.”
Loralil nodded, her eyes moving from place to place. It was obvious to Jark that she was still acting as a guard for her friends. “Relax. According to the elder, these are a gentle and peaceful people.” He smiled down at a pretty Gnome woman who flirted coquettedly with her lashes at him. “They are certainly friendly enough.”
The travelers dismounted as they reached the village gates. A tallish Gnome in an uniform covered in embroidery greeted them. “Good day, travelers. What is your business with the village of Poppy Fields?”
Karleen spoke up for the group. “We are just passing through. The elder Nalleen recommended we come this way on our journey toward Tal’shin.”
The Gnome’s face lit up, wreathing in smiles. “Elder Nalleen sent you? Well then welcome, double welcome. Any traveler that knows our great friend is more than welcome here.” He stepped back and gestured for them to enter the village.
As they walked forward, leading their mounts, the travelers were assaulted by a riot of color. It seemed that the Gnomes of Poppy Fields loved color in all its wondrous palate. Swirling murals covered each and every wall and what could be seen, each roof was a different color from it neighbors. It should have been a disaster of clashing but somehow all this color and style gave off a more happy and relaxed feeling.
Peaking out of windows and doorways were male Gnomes dressed in bright red shirts, and blue pants tucked into tall, shiny black boots. The women had more style about them with blaringly white blouses covered with fancy stitchery and full skirts of every color in the rainbow. Each face held curiosity and wonder, as if they had not seen a party like this before. Whether it was Karleen’s regal braids and green healer robes or Levy’s dusty robe mage’s robe that interested them or if it was Loralil’s gem hilted sword riding over her gray clad shoulder and Jark’s black leather and armor, it could not be said.
The first stout Gnome they saw in this village called out from what must be the local inn. “Welcome travelers. Would you be needing a room or four?”
Karleen took charge and soon the companions handed their horses off to a bright-eyed stable boy who barely reached Loralil’s waist. It was odd to her to be surrounded by so many who were shorter than herself. She watched as he skillfully moved the much larger horses into the paddock, calling out to his assistants who swarmed about, unsaddling them and grooming them down.
“Come, little dove. Lady Karleen has bespoke dinner and a bath for us all.”
Turning away, Loralil slung her pack over her shoulder and followed Jark into the inn wondering just what they were dealing with now.
“So you are heading to the Grey Elf city then gentlebeings?” The inn keeper brought them a fine dinner of lamb and new potatoes swimming in a sauce that Loralil could not quite name but found quite tasty.
“Yes, we would be quite grateful if you could tell us of the road before us? Is there anything we should be worried about?” Karleen smiled and thanked the serving maid at her elbow, who poured her a brimming flagon of ale.
The innkeeper looked to his serving wenches before answering. “It is only a rumor, but there have been some who say that the duergar have moved into the old dwarf tunnels.”
“Duergar?” Levy looked up, gently moving the teasing hand of yet another serving wench who seemed to be attracted to the still handsome mage. “I had thought they dwelled nearer to the Undercaves than here. When did the rumors start up?”
Loralil put down her folk and leaned forward. She knew of Duergar, the evil cousins of dwarves. They were to a one, dark followers of Loith and the other underworld gods. They had been known to descend on their tunnels of their cousins, wiping out entire clans in their fervent worship of a goddess who loved blood. She had come up against one in the arena. He had been a truly ugly creature and he would bath in the blood of his downed opponents as the crowds cheered. As much as she hated the killing, that was one of the deaths on her soul that she could not quite feel bad about.
“Normally we could care less about what goes on under the mountains. We have our hills and the Duergar are not interested in our shallow tunnels, as they call them, but they have started to attack caravans through the mountains. Searching for more gold and sacrifices for their goddess.” The innkeeper shuddered before continuing. “We would recommend you wait for the next large caravan to go out to Tal’shin travelers. It would be safer for all if you did.”
Loralil shook her head, sitting back. It was obvious that this innkeeper was a villager. She doubted the gnome had stepped too far outside of his own inn. The dangers of the open road would take a greater evil to a being such as he. A large caravan would most likely attract more attention than their small party would. Though if this gnome could convince Karleen to stay here it would be for the best. While Levy was old, he was still a strong magic user and of course Jark was a warrior priest. Either man could hold off an enemy with her own sword backing them up.
Needs work but then I have to do a serious editing pass through next.