Tavern Talk

Beersel's Tavern was full to bursting the night when Alden's group entered it. Alden was not surprised . Beersel's was maybe the only tavern in about a dozen miles that was still open. It was illegal in the small valley province of Haven to run anything that could be considered a waste of time - which basically meant anything that kept the citizens from working for the Lord. How Beersel managed to stay open and unharmed was beyond anyone's understanding. He should have been dead by now, killed in some dark night by Lord Stannon's goons or hired mercenaries like themselves. Perhaps the innkeeper had some dirt on the Lord that kept him safe. Either way, the tavern was a welcome sight on a night such as this. 
"Welcome!" the fat host yelled when Alden entered.
Alden pulled back the hood of his coat releasing his long blond hair that had been hidden beneath the heavy cloth. Alden nodded to the host and took a seat at one of the unoccupied tables. His companions followed in behind him and secured the perimeter.  Mechlen and Aliani seated themselves next to Alden along with Oud've and Tongren. 
The resemblance between Alden en Mechlen now that they were seated so close together was remarkable. They were brothers, but they could have been twins. There were only two differences between them, the first was that Mechlen preferred short leather jackets over long wispy cloaks when travelling and the second being the length of their hair. Alden's was bright gold and long, Mechlen's was shorter and just slightly paler, appearing more silver in the Tavern's smoky atmosphere.
"Alright... Anwerp and Tinien have secured the back." Alden said.
"I can see Bergen and Hegouw on the other side, " Aliani said, "the front is being watched."
Aliani, a young woman from a poor villages had joined the group two years back. Alden still found it amusing when he thought back at that time. Aliani, soaked and mad-angry had lunged at them and had ordered them from her land. Her 'land' turned out to be a patch hardly bigger than a privy where she grew some carrots and tomatoes. It had taken two of Alden's men to bring her down, a remarkable show of her skills. That night she lost her food, but she gained friends. Hungry friends.
"Are they watching?" Mechlen asked, his usual stern and rigid face tightly stretched.
"They are for certain." Alden said, "They always are when I am to meet Lord Stanny the next day."
"The paranoid weasel." Tongren entered the conversation.
4 pairs of eyes looked disapprovingly in the boy's direction. Even Oud've, the oldest man in the company who was training the lad with the rust-coloured hair, gazed at him with disbelief in his eyes. Tongren had only joined recently and apparently Oud've needed to knock some sense into the aspiring tracker because one just did not badmouth the Lord in the open. That could get them all killed. 
"Well that's what he is." the young man whispered to regain some self-image.
"But we don't say that...We only think it." said Oud've, a slap with the back of his hand delivered promptly in punishment. 
"Why not?"
"My God. What've you been teaching this young chap, Ou'dve?" Aliani answered, "Because there might be little birds around." she winked.
"Ohh..." Tongren answered, "Then why are we going to discuss our plans here?"
2 feet banged against Tongren's ankle. "Ouch!"
"Be quiet you." Oud've told him calmly. "Maybe we should go look at our horses?"
"Yes, that might not be so bad an idea. And ask Beersel if our rooms are ready." Alden told Tongren.
Having dispatched the young lad, the three seasoned mercenaries left through the back and headed for the stables. They would be relatively safe to discuss their plans here since Anwerp and Tinien would prevent anyone from following them. And if they could not stop them, they would create a loud enough diversion - a lover's spat - that would Alert Alden and the others that they should revert to talking about the horses. 
"I swear, he's going to rat on us one day." Aliani said.
"He is loyal." Mechlen commented falling back to his usual three-word-sentences.
Alden always figured they worked so well together because of the fact that he was a talker and Mechlen was the quiet one. They had each other's back but they just knew that they each had their own specialities. They knew what to expect from each other and that made them a great team. 
"Not intentionally he ain't, but he'll get us in to trouble..." Aliani continued.
She worried about her group. She wanted the best for them and if Tongren continued to be a liability, she would not hesitate to ask for a vote to cast him out. Yes the boy was young, but he had grown up in the same situation as the rest of them. He should know to shut up.  
"That's worry for later." Alden interrupted them, "Now, the trip will go like this: Aliani, you will go first, take Tongren and Oud've along with you. You guys will be the ones the least missed when they watch us."
"No harm from wenches, boys and elderly gentlemen." Oud've remarked, squinting his eyes.
"That's right." Alden said, "Mechlen, you will follow after them shortly and take the mountain pass. Take the others. No use in leaving anyone behind for our little adventure, they might regret it."
"And you?" Mechlen asked
"I'll be right on time for the rendezvous. Don't worry."
Alden gritted his teeth. He would need to hurry, but he had the fastest horse and would be taking the easiest road. He just hoped that Lord Stanny had not gotten wind of their plans. They were playing with fire and Alden could take the heat but preferred not getting burned. 
Tongren came outside, just in time to join Aliani and Oud've on their errand. Alden made a show of seeing them off, handing them a letter and a parcel so people would not think anything strange of them leaving. Then he returned with Mechlen to the tavern, ready to eat, drink and get a good night's rest. But first Mechlen, Tinien, Bergen and Hegouw would leave on their assignments and Alden would be left to meet the lord. Maybe facing the lord by himself was a bad bet, but the die had been cast, there was no changing the plans now. 

Stick around with Alden in [HEADED for TREASON]
Join Mechlen, Tinien, Anwerp, Bergen and Hegouw to [THE COLD of FIRST LIGHT]
Depart with Aliani, Oud've and Tongren to [BURNING SIGNS]


Lantessama Isle

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