MORE NECRO (you aren't really surprised are you?)
She soon heard voices, as one usually hears conversations long before one sees the conversationalists in the caverns of home. But these were louder voices, unlike the hushed harsh voices of the strange men. Tyrrae moved close enough to see that the speakers were young women.
“So you saw him ride into town then?”
“Aye, as tall and confident and handsome as you please! Katy and I were hidden in the branches above the thoroughfare, for we were talking over her feelings for our Thom- whatever she sees in my brother is beyond me! And she’s still too shy to come forward and speak her heart, so we must talk behind our hands like schoolgirls. Out in the open is always best for privacy, you know. We were lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time, and saw it all. Where were you?”
Privacy by being in the open was such a foreign concept to Tyrrae.
“Berry picking like we are today,” the first voice replied. “If you tell me enough details of this shinning paladin, perhaps I shall share details of my day with you.”
“Like that was it? You mean you actually convinced Herbert to come off into the woods with you, away from his stuffy books?”
“Not a word until you tell me more.”
“Fine. I see how you are, Amarylis. You had better give me more details than you care to share, or I shall ask Herbert myself!”
“He wouldn’t answer you. He has no patience for your disorganized ways.” There was a smug note in the voice. “But do go on.”
“Anyway, this young man rode through the sentries, hailing each as he passed. His hands never strayed to his weapons once, although he carries a large sword on his saddle, and has a fine bow strapped to his back. He even greeted our Thom who had shifted well into the shadows, if you know what I mean. His armor is metal and shines in the sun. His hair is brown like trampled leaves, but his eyes are bluer than the summer sky. I’d swear my heart stopped beating for a moment when he looked up at me, and he smiled.”
“He saw you? I thought you said you were hidden?”
She shrugged. “Perhaps he has a charm that allows for it? Or just native instinct? I simply delight that he smiled at me.”
“Pooh! You would quash all of my dreams with a drop of reality! I swear to you his heart will one day be mine.”
“Living or dead? Seriously, he is a human! And a wanderer. He may leave his heart in several towns with many young maidens like yourself. Humans don’t live long enough to grieve over. Don’t waste yourself on such a whim! There are many more worthy companions.”
“Like your brother Alfred? They will still be there when this human is gone. I live for now. And so does he. We could be happy, I know it. I will seize this chance.”
“You speak in haste…”
“Poetry and song tells of love at first sight. It is only through poetry that I may speak of him and what I felt when he smiled at me! I felt as if my very soul traded places with his when our eyes connected…”
“That’s nice, dear,” Amarylis said in tones that suggested her friend was clearly insane. “But it tells me nothing of what was said when he met the Loremaster. Please tell me about that.”
Tyrrae, as silently as possible, sat down and leaned against a stalagmite. She absorbed the conversation as she watched them work their way among huge pieces of lichen, stripping off the seedpods and gently place them in odd buckets. There was even an odd thing that looked like two pieces of color connected with string, dancing about in the gently moving air.
“Well, the spoken bits were the standard really. By this time, one of the sentries had run back to town to warn everyone. There was even enough time for Dawn to change into her best smock after cleaning up her father.”
“I will say this much for Dawn; she knows when to make the effort. Very ambitious, that girl.”
“That cat already has her hooks onto him. Why is it ambitious for her to want him, and something to be discouraged in me? But you make me jump out of order, and I’ll forget something. The Loremaster was waiting in the central square, with all baskets raised. We never show total trust to strangers, but we did show respect in allowing him to be alone with our elder. Of course the usual compliment of warriors were in the trees with arrows nocked. He dismounted, and let the reins dangle. His horse placidly stood there.
“ ‘Loremaster?’ he inquired. The Loremaster nodded. ‘I have come to you in the traditional manner. I have seen your sentries and offered no threats. I have heard of you troubles with the nearby orc clans, and I offer myself to the service of your people. I pledge that while I dwell here, I shall only strive for the good of your clan.’
“It was then he drew his sword, taking great care to step out of attack range of any of our people. He gestured and the sword burst into flame! I have only heard of such weapons in the legends told by visiting bards. I never thought to see one.”
“It is more likely just the light glinting off the steel blinding you.”
“Amarylis! You shall see the truth of his blade soon enough! Another gesture and the flame vanished. He then stepped forward and offered the blade hilt first to the Loremaster. Naturally, the elder said, ‘Your blade is refused, but your service is not. You may stay in our guest house.’ And a basket was let down for him. He insisted on caring for the horse first, and tied him beneath where Katy and I were still sitting. We got to watch him brush out the horse.”
“You didn’t offer to help? I am surprised at you.”
“We have not been introduced properly. I could not speak to him yet.”
“And now, you act all shy. I’ll bet he spoke to his horse.”
“He did. He told the horse to behave and listen to Stave. So that must be his name. And he said they had come a very long way from Chelsam. And it is a long way from here to there. That poor horse must be tired.”
“And this is when Dawn introduced herself?”
“No, her father did. For Dawn is in charge of the Guesthouse this week, and will therefore have the running of his daily things at her command.”
“When was that arranged? She works fast indeed, to know when to volunteer for the baking and cleaning of a second household.”
“You know it was Bessie's turn again- and she'll trade with anyone if the House is empty for the week.”
“But it never is empty, so she owes for a month, aye.”
“As soon as Dawn heard, she ran to Bessie's and asked to trade. It was done quickly before Bessie knew. I did look up at her face- she was not pleased.”
“But that still leaves you the problem of your introduction and how will you manage. At least he has shown he is not ignorant of our ways!”
“Well, there will be a harvest dance tonight, or have you forgotten why we are picking these berries?” She giggled- an unpleasant sound at home, but somehow fitting here. “I did what any forward young miss would do. I dropped a glove. Surely there will be a dance of the gloves and if not, and excuse is easily created.”
“He could give that glove to anyone, you know. I've heard of folks selling such tokens! I'm sure that Harvey bought Bessa's glove from Frankie, for the poor girl had to produce a third glove and insist she never dropped one.”
“I am sure he has too much honour to sell a favor lightly. Besides, he smiled again, kissed it, and tucked it into his pocket.”
“His pocket? why not into his shirt to be close to his heart? Sounds very smooth to me.”
The two young women moved further away and Tyrrae could no longer easily hear their exchange of confidence. Much of what they spoke made little sense. These people certainly had strange ways. And they would offer shelter if approached properly. In this strange cavern, perhaps that was a good idea. She did not know the size of the village, but it was certainly larger than herself, and if it were threatened by orcs, surely whatever these beasts were would not be peacefully inclined to herself.
She wondered what an orc was.