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Old 02-12-2011, 10:14 PM   #361
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‘Whoa up, now, darlins! We’re here, I do believe.’ Rusco set the brake on the small wagon and wrapped the well oiled leather reins about the brake handle. He hopped down, the water puddled up on the stone path splashing up the sides of his boots. The rain soaked his hair and dripped steadily down the collar of his now soggy cape.

He came round to where Whitefoot and Twitch stood, stamping their hooves. ‘Should have worn my oilskins and hat, eh?’ The mules nodded their shaggy heads up and down as if to agree. ‘Won’t hear the end of it from Signy, will I?’ He chuckled, picturing his wife, hands on hips as she would greet him – a thick towel for his hair, a big warm blanket to wrap him round, tsking and shaking her head as she reminded him she’d told him so, hadn’t she just! ‘Be just a bit, boys,’ he told them. ‘It’s our last delivery.’ Reaching deep in an inner pocket of his cape, he fetched out two small apples. ‘Here you go!

Rusco went to the big oak door at the rear of the inn and rapped loudly. No one answered. He tried the handle and found that it not locked. ‘Well, then, I’ll just set the two barrels in the kitchen.’

The room was dark, save for the banked fire in the kitchen hearth. He set the barrels in a corner near the entryway to the common room. There was some small light showing under the door there and he thought he heard voices beyond. Nudging the door open slightly, he peeked his head through.

‘Anyone here,’ he called out. ‘It’s Rusco. I’ve brought the late winter’s ale I’d promised . . .’
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Old 02-13-2011, 05:28 PM   #362
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Behind Rusco, the big oak door at the rear of the inn swung open, creaking. Mellonin frowned, a little; Morien the innkeeper had always insisted on well-greased, quiet hinges. But she spoke to Rusco cheerily and gave him a sweet smile. "Thank you! Perhaps when word gets out that your ale has arrived, we'll have a few more visitors! There is room for your pair in the stable, around the side. There are some rags hanging on the last stall door you can wipe them down with. Wash the rags when you are done and hang them back on the door as you found them. Your name?"

"Rusco, " he replied, and she nodded.

She bustled past, opened a cupboard, found a jar of oil, and went back to the oak door hinges, and dripped some oil on them til they were quiet, and then replaced the jar of oil. She motioned Rusco out to the stables, and showed him where to put his cart and harnesses. "The hay is free, but if you want grain for the mules, it comes at a price."

Rusco shook his head. "No fear, ma'am, Whitefoot and Twitch are easy keepers."

"You'll join us soon, then," she said. "Do come back into the common room. I saw the loremistress headed this way. Let me know if you need anything else." She hurried back into the inn, and went inside, and through into the common room. Her dark hair, half braided and half cut short, was growing out, and she shook away the wisps that covered her grey-green-blue eyes.

Morien the innkeeper was not there; apparently he had not come back from his journey to the southen vineyards yet. But there were Mistress Bethberry, Loremistress Estelyn, a man from the north, and-- my goodness!-- two halflings! She smiled with delight as she stepped into the rim of the firelight.

"Can I fetch anything?" she said with a curtesy, as Loremistress Estelyn met her gaze.

Estelyn raised an eyebrow. "You'll join us, " she said, "when you may, for there are some questions being raised that a young loremistress might want to hear."

"Oh-- oh, yes, Milady, " said Mellonin with another curtesy.

Estelyn waved her off. "Bethberry says there is food in the kitchen?"

"Stew and bread, Mellonin. Mind you the bowls are cold."

Mellonin swept into the kitchen and put six empty earthen bowls in the hearth to warm, and then as an afterthought fetched a seventh for the man with the pair of mules. Just in time; he came in through the back door, and eyed the bowls hopefully.

"Wash your hands, " she said, waving to the pump handle. He nodded, and did a fair job of it. "There is bread in the oven; put it on this plate; cloths over there, knife there. " She ladled hot soup from the hanging kettle into the rapidly warming bowls. Soon she had a tray of four bowls, and Rusco had the bread and the knife on the plate. She fetched seven spoons, and Rusco followed Mellonin through the door into the common room. She gave the stew to the shivering halflings first, then to the man from the north, and the fourth to the slightly startled Rusco. Then she returned with the three other bowls, served Bethberry and Estelyn, picked up her own spoon, and all seven set happily to their stew and bread.

Last edited by mark12_30 : 02-14-2011 at 01:34 PM. Reason: I suppose it's asking a bit much for the Seventh Star to have a wood-burning cooking stove... edited to a hearth and kettle.
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Old 02-14-2011, 09:37 PM   #363
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"Thank you," Alaric said to Mellonin, after a few judicious mouthfuls of stew. Kira, on the other hand, ate at a more sedate pace, though from time to time she stole half-smiling glances at her husband.

"This is quite good," said Alaric, after a few minutes' silent eating on the part of the hobbits. "I only have to wonder..."

"Your pardon," said Kira. "But the farther we've gotten from home, the more finicky Alaric's been, and by 'finicky' I mean 'still willing to eat whatever's put in front of him while articulating how it could have been better.'"

"Really, it is fine," said Alaric. "It just comes of missing a kitchen of one's own."

"Yes, because clearly you were cooking all the time at Great Smials..."

Alaric cleared his throat. "That's neither here nor there. What I mean to say, Miss, is thank you." He scraped the bottom of the bowl with the last bit of his bread. "Might there... might there happen to be any seconds? I don't mean to trouble you," he added quickly. "In fact, before we settle in here any further, I, at least, would like to change into some drier clothes." They had set their packs, which fortunately looked more watertight than their cloaks, on the floor out of the way of the fire. "And a room really would be helpful, since we'd like to stay here for the night."
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Old 02-15-2011, 06:51 AM   #364
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Mellonin smiled at Alaric, and then giggled, and then composed herself again, as Estelyn hid a smile.

"Which would youl ike first? The stew or the room? The stew will still be hot when you have changed, and you might enjoy it more."

Alaric liked that idea. "The room, please."

"I'll show you the room. Your bowls of stew will be ready when you come back down." Mellonin set aside her half-finished bowl (on the hearth, to keep it warm), snatched up a lit candle, and led Alaric and Kira out of the common room. She paused at the stairs. Beyond the thumping of Kira's crutch, these were halflings, and she vaguely recalled a dislike of heights. "Would you prefer a ground-floor room?"

Alaric bowed slightly, and Mellonin turned. She led them down a hallway, opened a door, and handed Alaric the candle. "You'd like firewood?"

"Please."

Mellonin hurried back down the hall, fetched a canvas, put moss, a handful of leaves, kindling and firewood in it, and took it back to the room. They had hastily changed, and their wet things were on the hearth. She helped them prepare the fire, and they were lighting it with the candle as she hastened back to the common room. Nogrod and Rusco had finished their stew as well. She hesitated, and then wrapped a cloth around the haldle of the kettle, and brought the whole kettle out into the common room, and hung it in the fireplace there. Returning with the ladle, she served Rusco and Nogrod, refilled the halflings' bowls leaving them in the hearth to warm, and then settled happily back to her own stew.

She turned to Nogrod, between spoonfuls. "What brings you to the Seventh Star?"
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Old 02-15-2011, 05:04 PM   #365
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Nogrod took a draught of Rusco's winter ale and felt the full taste in his mouth. It was good; the ale, and how he felt right now.

"Hah, it's a long story..." he replied to Mellonin while turning his gaze on her. "But cutting it short, let's say that when you are a child you wonder about the world as it is brand new and amazing to you every day, full of new things, things to learn and experience. When you're a teenager you feel like you own the world, you know how it is and how it should be - even if you don't know what you yourself are. Then you get children and you care for the world, you carry the burden of it for your children and the coming generations... but then, after your children fly out? Well then you become a child again and wonder about the world once more with the difference that you have slowly learned something about yourself..."

Nogrod was toying with his pint. "Although I'm not sure about that last one... maybe it is not that we have "learnt" things about ourselves as things that have already been, maybe we're just becoming someone through age and experience?"

He laid the pint on to the table next to the chair and took a spoonful of the hot stew, carefully blowing it to make it cooler. "So I'm kind of looking for things to surpise me..." he said smiling and then took the spoonful of hot stew, nodding with the taste of it. "This is good..."
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Old 02-17-2011, 10:43 PM   #366
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"Feeling any better?" Alaric asked Kira as he coaxed the fire into further life.

Kira pulled up the hem of her skirt to expose her malformed right foot and slowly wiggled her toes in front of the fire. "I think," she said. "It's going to take it a while before it realizes we aren't out in the rain anymore."

"Let me help," said Alaric. He turned and knelt in front of her, then gently took her foot in his hands, warmed by the hearth, and began to rub it in the places that didn't hurt. "Better?" he said.

Kira nodded. "We should probably let our things dry, though, instead of hogging all the heat for ourselves. And I wouldn't mind sitting down."

There were a few wooden chairs in the room, but they looked hard and unforgiving compared to the large Man-sized bed. "Should we ask for a step-stool this time?" said Kira.

"I think we can climb this one," said Alaric. Getting a running start (not, in Kira's estimation, that he needed one), he reached up and hoisted himself on the bed. "See?" he said.

Kira only chuckled to herself, and allowed him to lift her onto the bed next to her. The way their feet dangled over the edge reminded her, as it always did, of when she was a child. She leaned her head on her husband's shoulder as he slid his hand around her waist.

"Do you think they'll ask us about the Book here? They've got a much better chance of knowing about it here, especially with that talk of lore."

"I don't know," said Kira.

"Have you thought about what you'll say to them?"

"No."

"If it's any trouble to you--"

"I know," said Kira. "You'd tell them for me. But I might as well do it. It'll be good practice for later, if we get to meet the King."

"You're right."

"You, on the other hand, can tell them all about how we found out about this copy, diamond shirt-studs and all!"

Alaric began to laugh. "That rascally fellow! Do you think he ever stayed here?"

"I don't know. It's so hard to tell age with these stone buildings. He didn't include it on his list of 'ales you absolutely must try,' I'd have remembered the name. But that doesn't rule out the others."

"Or any others who might have visited before the Falling-Out."

Kira shivered. Alaric responded by dropping a kiss on the crown of her head. "Well, we're fixing that, now, aren't we?"

"If it ever can be fixed."

"Come," said Alaric. "Let's rejoin the company; it won't do you any good to stew right now. Stew, on the other hand, will do us both good!" He hopped down from the bed, and then lifted Kira and set her on the floor. Kira kept her arms around his neck, though.

"What is it?" he said.

"You've just been very good to me, is all."

"Well, I should hope you wouldn't have married me if I weren't!"

"I don't know--looks and money cover a good deal of faults..."
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Old 02-20-2011, 06:29 PM   #367
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Bethberry gratefully downed spoonfuls of the stew while listening to all that was going on. She hadn't realised how cold and hungry she was. 'Mellonin certainly knows how to keep a good pot on the fire,' she thought appreciatively.

"This should warm you from the rain, no?" she asked the Loremistress, happy to see her friend once more here at the Seventh Star. Then, in response to the man from the north, she asked,

"And so you decided there was nothing left to surprise you in the north, but there might be in the south?"
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