After a long five day stint in the mountains with Jorund in search of Wyvern nests, Dremnin arrived back at the Reach dirty, tired and looking forward to seeing Hannah, and sleeping in his own moot-home. But first, Jorund had invited him for a drink in the village tavern, known as the Watering Hole. A tavern that was run by dwarves, but had good troll brewed mead, dwarven ale, and of course, skoad.
Walking into the stone building, Dremnin saw that the place was loud with laughter and nearly full with a large contingent of name-givers there, mostly trolls that he recognized as crewmen of the airship, Wind Viper. Among them was the human warrior that he recognized as Stilicho, who saw the pair of scouts enter, and waved them over to the crews table. There were a pair of open chairs beside him.
Dremnin looked over at Jorund for direction, as this was his call. He had invited the human newot for a drink, and Dremnin wasn’t about to detract from Jorund’s invitation by accepting another’s invitation to sit.
Jorund, having seen the invitation and Dremnin’s hesitation, motioned for Dremnin to lead the way to the table. He chuckled and said, “Looks like they knew were coming, eh?”
Dremnin made his way over to the table, and greeted Stilicho. “Well met, Stilicho, may we join you?”
“Absolutely!” Stilicho smiled invitingly. He waved to the dwarf bartender, who hurried over.
Jorund sat down, and glanced at Stilicho. “Good hunting today Stilicho?”
The big human replied, “Yes, a caravan from Kratas apparently thought it was safe crossing the plains near out moot in the middle of the day. The Ork merchant must not have been paying well, as all of his guards ran like frightened deer.”
“No captures then?” Jorund asked, then looked to the bartender who had shuffled up to the table. “Skoad.” he said flatly, "And whatever my newot here wants.” He motioned to Dremnin.
The dwarf looked to Stilicho. “Another drink, Lord?”
“One more, thank you.” Stilicho responded politely.
The dwarf then looked to Dremnin. “And what are you drinking today sir?”
Dremnin tried to blend in with the surroundings and become unobtrusive. He looked first to Jorund, and nodded his head with an open smile in thanks and acknowledgement of the drink. “Mead, thank you”, he said to the dwarf in Throalic, and turned his attention back on the air crew and their tales.
The dwarf bartender hustled away to fetch the drinks. There were more than fifty crewmen in the bar, and it was noisy. Shortly after the dwarf came back with the beverages, Quorra, Stilicho’s woman, began to tell a tale of an old battle. The table hushed as she began the tale. The battle was between two Steelskull clan ships, both Drakkars, and four Theran vessels. Which consisted of two merchant Galleons and two Vedette escorts. She told how the troll Drakkars boldly swooped in on the unsuspecting Therans, and how the lead galleon was boarded, and the loot taken from the hold, while the Theran escort ships futilely tried to fend off the circling troll Drakkars. Then the second merchant vessel apparently decided to help the other merchant ship, where the battle still raged. The Theran captain pulled alongside that ship, and offloaded all of his air sailors and warriors, every soldier he had, onto his sister ship to help their harried crew fight off the Crystal Raiders. The leader of the trolls, now horribly outnumbered, lead the charge as his men fought their way from the hold in the middle of the enemy ship, to the stern. There they took control of the rudder, and turned the ship. And just like that, they sabotaged the rigging and leapt off of that ship, taking their loot with them, onto the other Galleon which had foolishly allowed itself to get below the looted vessel. The trolls, now alone on the other galleon that was without any on-board defense, took it over and sailed it away from the foundering pillaged Galleon. By the time the hapless Theran Vedettes figured out that their ship was no longer theirs, they were too far away to be pursued, especially with the presence of the fast and relentless troll Drakkars. That great leader’s name was Vargas Steelskull.
Vargas stood at the mention of his name, and everyone in the tavern roared. Quorra began listing the names of other raiders who fought, one by one they stood and the crowd cheered. In a few cases, a name was mentioned, and nobody stood. Then, the crowd would solemnly rap their mugs on the table, twice. After a pause, the next name would be called out, and the same would happen for each.
Finally the story ended, with the trolls taking their captured loot, Galleon, and prisoners, back to the Reach in victory. The hated Theran enemy was once again humbled while the Steelskull clan and its raiders brought much honor and renown to the Stoneclaw moot, and to all of the peoples of the Twilight Peaks. The crew and clansmen around the table all muttered in approval at the expert telling that Quorra provided in her lovely voice. Then, the table broke down into a number of small conversations. Clearly, the crewmen were celebrating, and were preparing for a long night.
Quorra walked over to Stilicho, and sat in a chair behind him. Stilicho and Jorund made small talk for a while; clearly the two knew each other. They talked about the state of things in the mountains outside of the Reach. After a while, Jorund and another troll begin talking about the loot they took from the Ork merchants. Then Stilicho looked to Dremnin with a serious expression, and said, “Dremnin, you and your friend ”/campaigns/heroesunchained/characters/ardor" class=“wiki-content-link”>Skram fought with us against the Therans, and fighting beside a man creates a bond. Though I am not happy that your party had to be subdued after the Therans surrendered, I am glad that you all were given a chance at life again, and were accepted into the clan." He paused, and then smiled. “That said, how do you like things here in the Reach? I hope you’re finding things tolerable here?"
Thank you for your words, Stilicho", Dremnin said to the human warrior. “The Tail Dancer and I have fought many fights together, and have found that we work well in battle as a team, side by side. What you say is surely true. Trust me when I say that we were not happy either when we found ourselves at odds with the very name-givers we thought to be our salvation from the Theran slavers.”
The human scout paused to take a drink of mead and continued. “That said, however, I am glad to be alive, with the chance to work and learn scouting with Jorund. He is an excellent teacher, and knows the lands of the clan well. Life is tolerable as a newot, and Hannah and I are both safe and well cared for. For the time being, it will suffice, and we can show our value to the clan so as to earn our freedom again. I have sworn a Blood Oath to deliver the book we carried to Throal, though, and I must honor that duty.”
Jorund nodded in appreciation to the kind words.
Dremnin paused to look around at the assembled sky raiders, then said, “With the collection of name-givers and adepts in the Reach, I do hope to be able to pick up some additional talents, and with a few troubadours present, I’d like to improve my musician skills as well while I have the opportunity.”
Quorra, perked up at Dremnin’s last comment. “You are musician Dremnin?”. She tilted her head in curiosity. “What instrument do you specialize in?”
The scout smiled and turned to the beautiful human troubadour, then said quietly, “Well, my mother was a troubadour adept, and she imparted her love of music to me as I grew up. She taught me to play stringed instruments and to sing, though I am barely tolerable at this point in my life in either area. I hope one day to be able to acquire a mandolin or a small harp along the way, perhaps in the great market in Bartertown, one that I can carry with me in my travels.” He took a swig of mead then asked, “What instruments do you play, Quorra?”
She smiled back at Dremnin. “I play the harp, it is the only instrument that I play.” She leaned in toward the scout as the noise-level in the room got louder with sudden laughter. She looked very serious. “I’m sure we could dig up a harp for you if you’d like me to train you?”
Again, Dremnin was presented with the sincere face of generosity as Quorra offered not only to find the scout a harp for practice, but she had offered to give him training as well. The Passions had obviously brought the Unchained to this place for a reason, and with each new day there appeared to be some new reason to live and excel within the Reach. He truly hoped that Hannah was finding her way opening to her in like manner.
“I would be delighted and honored to accept your offer to be my teacher, Quorra”, he said with a sincere smile. “I would look forward to the training and any improvements we might be able to make in my playing. I hope you know the torment you have just arranged for yourself with me as your pupil.” He raised his tankard in a toast to his lovely new teacher. “When might we begin?”
Stilicho raised an eyebrow and appeared a bit surprised. “Quorra, you’re going to train him for free?”
She smiled sweetly at him, and replied curtly; “Yes love, I offer to train him freely, and in return I may ask him for a favor as well.”
Stilicho nodded and gave her an amused smile. Then he looked at Dremnin. “Speaking of training, Dremnin, did you ever find someone to teach you how to use your new war bow?”
Dremnin listened to the exchange between the lovers and raised an eyebrow at the prospect of owing someone a favor. Yet he considered Quorra to be an honorable name-giver, and appreciated the offer to assist with his training in music. “Thank you Quorra”, he said as they finished speaking, “I look forward to receiving your training with the harp.”
Then the scout turned to Stilicho and replied, “No, not yet. I am trying to learn its strengths while I’m out with Jorund on our walkabouts through the clan’s territory. It might be best to learn a talent related to the bow that would help maximize my limited talents.”
Stilicho nodded. “That makes sense Dremnin. I have a good friend who owes me one, and perhaps she can show you a few things.” He paused, and leaned in a bit closer, as a serious look passed over his face. “I think it important that those who I may someday fight beside, be as well drilled and equipped as possible during times of peace, as it is too late to try to properly equip and train men when a fight does come.”
Dremnin looked back at Stilicho as he spoke, and responded, “True enough that one must prepare in time of peace for a time of battle. Once the time for a fight comes, you do with what you have on hand, and a thousand wishes and good intentions avail a man naught.”
Stilicho gazed into Demnin’s eyes for a moment, then said, “My father also taught me that the best men follow best lords, and that best lords are generous and fair.”. He looked at the floor rushes for a moment, and then back to Dremnin. “My father was a wise man. Other wise name-givers tell me that our paths are entwined… which means that while I can, I will use what resources I possess to prepare us all for what journey the Passions have in store for us.”
Dremnin was still absorbing those words, when Stilicho motioned to a beautiful elf woman to come over. She glided over to stand beside the table.
“”/campaigns/heroesunchained/characters/solara-kelithian" class=“wiki-content-link”>Solara, this is my friend Dremnin, and he needs you to train him in the ways of an archer."
Dremnin was thunderstruck by the elven beauty that Stilicho called forth named Solara. Her looks were completely bewitching to the young scout, and a thought passed through his mind that even though she appeared young and beautiful, she might be old enough to be his grandmother. Elves did not show their age as humans did, he had learned.
He looked over at Solara and said earnestly, “Lady, I would gladly take training from you in some archer’s talent that might benefit me, but know that my path is set as a Scout Adept, and I am a newot under the supervision of Master Jorund there. I cannot learn missile weapons, as this is a talent which I may learn on my own later on as I advance in circle, but perhaps another useful talent would suffice. I can pay you for your training if you will accept payment in the manner in which I am able to provide as a newot.” He paused and waited to see her reaction.
Solara looked Dremnin up and down with curiosity, and the scout couldn’t help but feel like a piece of fruit being examined at the market, then she looked serenely at Stilicho. “For you, Lord Stilicho, I shall train him.” Her voice was as angelic as her appearance.
Stilicho nodded and respectfully replied, “Many thanks Solara, your expertise is second to none, and I would not want a man who may one day fight at my side, to be trained by anyone else.”
Solara smiled at Dremnin, then looked to Stilicho and said, “He’ll need a bow.”
Stilicho nodded solemnly and replied, “He has one, the same type as yours.”
She raised an eyebrow in surprise at that. “The assassin’s bow??”
“Stilicho nodded again. “The same.”
She looked surprised by that, and then smiled sweetly to Dremnin. “Bring it with you, my dear.”
“I will bring the bow with me, Solara, have no fear”, Dremnin replied as he returned her gaze. The scout could see that Solara and Stilicho had profound respect for one another, and he noted it, for surely there was more to that story.
Solara continued, saying, “As a scout adept, there is one talent in particular I believe will be most useful… it is known as True Shot in Throalic. I will train you in this art, so long as your moot-father, Jorund, will permit it?” She looked to Jorund, who hesitated, and then nodded his approval.
Solara looked back to Dremnin, her majestic eyes boring into his. “Very well, Dremnin, meet me at dusk at the Ironwood outcropping at the North end of town at dusk, and you shall begin to learn the art of the True Shot.”
Dremnin thanked Jorund for his generosity in allowing him to train with Solara, then turned back to the elven archer. He was familiar with the concept of True Shot, and it seemed the perfect talent to improve his limited abilities. “I will be there at dusk, Solara.”
He watched as the archer walked back to rejoin the merriment of the Crystal Raiders, then said to Stilicho, “I thank you for that introduction, Stilicho, which would be highly appreciated even if she hadn’t offered to train me. Her beauty is absolutely breathtaking.” He made as though to clear his head and smiled at the warrior.
Stilicho nodded with a serious expression upon his face. “Solara is an old friend, and she has been that beautiful since I was just a boy.” He paused, and his mouth turned into an amused grin. “She knows how her beauty effects us. Try not to let it interfere with your concentration. That is what she will try to do.” He then toasted Dremnin with his mug.
Dremnin marveled at the beautiful elf as she gracefully sat again at her former table, and listened to Stilicho’s experiences, as well as his warning. “She’s older than she looks, but then for an elf, that’s not surprising. I’ll keep my thoughts on business and not let her confound my learning.” Dremnin returned the toast with Stilicho and sipped his mead.
Stilicho grinned as he too raised his mug. “Sometimes such things are easier said than done my friend.”
Quorra then asked, “Would a smaller instrument be more practical for you to carry, Dremnin? As a scout, a harp would be a heavy thing to carry long distances.”
When Quorra asked the scout about the practicality of carrying a harp around, he thought about it for a moment and then replied, “Well, a full harp is a bit much to carry around when you’re trying to keep up with the long strides of Jorund Farseer. If you have something smaller, perhaps in the range of a mandolin or a lyre, that would be better for me. Thank you for asking”, he said with a small, polite bow to the lovely human.
Quorra, nodded, glanced at her lover, Stilicho, and then she continued. “Perhaps a flute would be a better instrument for your travels? The Widow Runa is very good with a flute and she would be delighted to train you. Plus, Stilicho has one that he could give you?” She looked at him and he nodded.
Seeing her look, he nodded. “That is true… I took it off of one of Calamon’s men that I killed. It is made from the stinger from a Wyvren’s tail, and is of fine make from what I can tell, and it’s as hard as stone, so it would be durable.” He shrugged. “It is yours if you want it, I have no use for it, and selling it wouldn’t bring much.”
Dremnin considered the flute for a moment, then said, “I appreciate the offer of the flute, Quorra… Stilicho, though I prefer to train with a stringed instrument if I can, as this allows me to sing while I play.” He looked thoughtful for a moment and said, “Since the widow Runa would be the teacher, perhaps my daughter Hannah might borrow the flute to learn while she is in the care of the widow each day? I have been trying to teach her to sing, and the flute would broaden her artistic skills.” He looked at both name-givers to gauge their response to this notion.
Stilicho nodded. “As I said, I have no use for such a flute and if it would be put to good use, Hannah could have it, if you would like to give it to her.”
Quorra smiled at Dremnin. “You have the heart of a bard!.” She paused, thinking. “A lot of troubadours that play a flute will play a tune and then sing a their song between segments. I do believe however, we could find a small harp that you could practice with, though it belongs to someone so you would have to find your own later.”
“I credit my mother, Gabriella, for my love of music, for she is a troubadour adept. As to the harp and the flute, I would be grateful for both boons. I will of course return the harp to its rightful owner when my training is complete, and I’d be delighted to give the flute to Hannah”, he said in response to the generosity of his new friends. “This is very good and generous of you both.”
The trio continued to drink lightly and chat until the time came for Dremnin’s departure.
After his experiences in the bar, Dremnin made his way to the Ironwood outcropping at the north end of town, so as to arrive at dusk as instructed. He was looking forward to seeing Solara as much as he relished her training.
As Dremnin approached the wood, he looked ahead at the tall, ominous mass of dark ironwood trees looming and spied the obvious light tracks of what had to be an elf maiden heading into them from the village. He began to pick up the strains of her “music”… a sweet, clear, teasing sound that caught her character. He followed after her using his scouting abilities so as not to disturb the woods and its creatures by his passage. He followed and kept his senses alert for her, in the event she was playing some sort of game with him. She would not find him loping into the woods as a brash young pup, but rather as a skilled scouting adept using his stealth and survival skills.
As Dremnin followed the footsteps left by the gorgeous elf maiden, he took in the sites and sounds of the dark trees of the ironwood copse. There were signs of mule deer, a common creature in the Twilights Peaks, and one frequently eaten by the troll moots. There were the normal sounds of the wood, and things were peaceful. Then Dremnin paused as he noticed something peculiar. Right in the middle of the trail he had been following, were a number of the same prints, and in the center of that disturbed ground sat a large flower, stuck into the ground by the stem. He had seen such flowers in berry bushes growing in the mountains. In this case though, the flower was out of place because there were no such bushes along the path he had been tracking.
In the quiet that was the Ironwood copse, Dremnin opened his senses to try and determine the elven female’s current location, if indeed she was still in the woods. She had obviously set out the flower, and he had found it… what was her wish now?
His senses took in everything they could from the woods. He smelled pine needles mixed in with the scent of ironwood bark. His eyes darted back and forth, looking for anything out of the ordinary. Then he spotted something high in a tree, but as his sharp eyes focused in it just appeared to be an eagle’s nest. He then heard a slight creaking sound from his right. He looked over there, and at first saw nothing, but then saw the elf maiden Solara up in a tree in the distance, deftly balanced upon a branch watching him, watch her.
In her flowery voice, she broke the silence. “A good scout you are Dremnin. You move quietly, and alertly. Most name-givers would not have noticed the flower until they were upon it. None but a scout would have spotted me up here. Do you think I could hit the flower in one-shot from here Dremnin?”
Eyeing the flower, Dremnin knew she was an archer with incredible skill… but still he was tempted to think not, as it is a one in a million shot. Without waiting for a response, she drew back, carefully aimed, and fired. The arrow streaked through the night air. The blade of the arrow exploded the flower, sending petals into the air. Dremnin simply stared, stunned by that incredible feat.
Solara, hopped down from her perch, nimbly landing on the cold ground. “You will make a shot like that Dremnin, before our training is through.”
She approached him, wearing tight fitting furs and an equally tight fitting leather coat. The additional layers of clothing did little to deter Dremnin’s mind from wondering about what was underneath them. She smiled, knowingly, as though guessing his thoughts. “First though, we must work on harnessing the magics that guide your aim. Remember, the magic is in you, not the arrow, not the bow… you. It takes concentration. Your abilities as a scout will help. You harness the magics to better feel the wind, see the obstacles you must shoot around, feel your target as it moves. And once you have that down, your aim will be true.”
Over the next several nights for the next couple of weeks, Dremnin and the archer met in the grove. At first, she just taught him to shoot basic targets, as each one would become progressively more difficult. Eventually, she had him starting to feel the magic coursing through him. The only way he could describe it is an enhanced sense of awareness, similar to when he is on a scouting path. However, in this case it was a tight focus on everything to do with his shot. His target, its movement, no matter how subtle. His arm, was it drifting? The wind, not as it was at that moment, but as it would be as his arrow would pass through the target. Magical. Things one cannot otherwise see nor comprehend. Still, he had made nothing remotely close to the shot she had made previously. That was, until a cold night on the last day of his training.
That night, when he arrived he could see a flickering light in the woods as he approached. When he arrived, he saw Solara standing there, this time wearing a long fur coat that covered her completely. On the ground, was a candle, glowing on the path where Solara’s flower had been many nights before. She greeted him as usual and without a word, led him to the tree where she had fired her impossible shot. There she spoke to him, in her flowery voice. “Dremnin, the True Shot art requires the use of magic, and that magic requires karma to work. Using it you must shut out all distractions to focus, not just what is, but also what will be. Through this art, you can know that your arrow will fly true. Draw your bow and take aim, you will only get one arrow tonight.”
Dremnin drew his bow, and begin to take careful aim. He concentrated, and as before began to feel the magic slowly creeping into his mind. There was a slight breeze, it was blowing ever so slighting across his target. The arrow had a slight flaw, the head had a nick in it that would cause a slight shift in trajectory. The magic was more powerful now, and he started to give part of his karma into it. Suddenly, Solara stepped just into his peripheral vision and dropped her coat. She was naked underneath, wearing only doeskin boots, and the sight of her instantly tore him away from his target.
Before he could get a good look, the gentle touch of her hand on the side of his face directed him back to his target. “Make your shot Dremnin.” She said, her voice seeming to pierce through him as he stood there.
“Gadzooks, woman”, the scout exclaimed, “how is a man to shoot with a distraction like that?!”
Her lovely voice filled his ears. “My beauty is not so distracting as a battle raging around you.” He could feel the heat of her breath as he began once again to line up his shot, and as he did the magic once again began coursing through him. She then moved around behind him, and he felt her lithe body lightly touching his. His concentration immediately began to falter again. “Or am I more distracting than a battle, Dremnin?” His name rolled off of her tongue, as though she wanted him. The smell of the rosy perfume she wore, standing next to him, played with his concentration.
He felt himself faltering, knowing he was failing, but then tore his thoughts from her as he might tear a blade from an opponent’s belly. He gritted his teeth, and she, beside him, sensed him pulling away, and she pressed her body harder into his, but to no avail. The focus was now back, and complete. The flicker of the candle’s light might as well have been two feet in front of him, instead of hundreds. He felt the karma mixing with the magic, the power of it enhancing every sense of this shot, and then he released, and like a work of wonderful art his arrow arced through the air with a slight whistle, and the arrow flew true, striking through the wick of the candle, extinguishing its flame. He paused for a moment, in awe of what he had just accomplished, the night was not still and dark.
Then he snapped his head around, and looked at Solara, who was now wearing her coat again and smiling at him. “You have no more need of training from me, Dremnin, you know all you need to know about the art of True Shot.” She then laughed. “Let us go enjoy a drink at The Watering Hole, my man is there, and this cold night has me longing for his warmth.” At that, she winked.
It was going to be a long night for Dremnin.
Dremnin and Stilicho