Faith and Twila spent the afternoon wandering the Marketplace. Twila showed Faith the different gates to the other house enclaves and taught her a little mnemonic to remember them all:
How Strange That Little People Don't Jump Kinetic Crystals
Harbor, Searing Heights, The Twelve, Lordsmarch Plaza, House Phiarlan, House Deneith, House Jorasco, House Kundarak, House Cannith.
Faith was pretty sure she'd never remember all the names, but she could remember the silly sentence.
Twila had to meet her parents for a while so Faith went to check out her lodging. She found the little shack facing the large fountain in the Harbor, its' entrance high on stilts. A couple of lanterns were hanging on a rope stretching from the hut to one next to it; Faith was careful not to get wound up in the rope as she jumped up to the small porch that made up the entryway to her hut. Is'kel was moving about in the tiny room, organizing her bags. Faith thought it made her hut on Korthos Island look like a palace; she and Is'kel could barely move.
"You're back. I want to show you something," Is'kel said brightly.
"OK," said Faith. "Are you feeling better?"
"Much better, thank you." Is'kel went back out onto the little porch, then turned and jumped onto the roof. Faith was surprised, but followed her. Is'kel jumped onto the adjoining roof, walked carefully to the end of it and sat down. She spread her arms in front of her.
"It's not much of a house, but look at this view!"
Faith settled down next to Is'kel and looked around. It was beautiful. She could see down into the harbor where ships were coming and going, people were bustling and crates were being loaded and unloaded. She could hear the screech of gulls and the shrill notes of the ship's whistles. The Leaky Dingy hovered over the water. Directly beneath them, they could see people coming off the ramp and going about their business in the upper harbor.
"It's great," agreed Faith, turning to watch the activity around the fountain. They had a bird's eye view of the whole plaza and even up into the Harbormaster's house area. Faith watched as the Stormreach guards handled a dirty, scruffy man who was leering and drooling, yelling out that he had a secret. They eventually got him to leave. The sun was starting to set and Is'kel pointed to the sky over the harbor.
"A rainbow!" she said.
It was a bright, beautiful rainbow, set against a darkening sky as more rain was on the way. Everything in Stormreach seemed so peaceful and lovely. Faith would remember this moment in the months to come, wishing she still could see Stormreach as a quaint, peaceful town of shipping and tourism.
"I'm meeting some people for dinner, would you like to come along?" Faith asked.
"Yes, please," answered Is'kel who followed Faith down from the roof.
They ran into Malut while headed through the Market gate, so the three of them walked together towards the bank. As they walked along North Silversmith road where the Essory mansion was, Faith felt an odd sense of de ja' vu. She had been here before, a long time ago. The house between the Essory mansion and the businesses on the south side of the road was very familiar to her; she knew the interior layout of that house. There was a living room, then a kitchen, both long and narrow. She could picture it.
How did I know that? she asked herself.
"Everything OK?" asked Is'kel, looking confused.
"I've been here before."
"No, a long time ago..."
She didn't explain further because she couldn't. The memory was vague and more like a feeling than something she could grasp. They headed up the stairs to the plaza surrounding the impressive Bank of Kundarak, Lordsmarch branch. A tall fountain with water spiraling around it decorated the outer edge of the plaza. Faith saw several elves near the fountain speaking quietly but urgently to one another. She remembered what Twila had told her about dragons taking elf form and studied them more closely, but they looked like regular elves to her.
The Phoenix Tavern was tucked into the basement of the bank, its entrance on the side. As they approached the tavern, they heard yelling behind them. A pair of Stormreach guards appeared, carrying the drooling man Faith had noticed earlier in the harbor. He was struggling.
"I don't want to go there, I don't want to go!" he shouted. "I have a secret!"
"Ok Durk, sure you do. You can keep your secret. But you can't harass people in the Harbor, you know better."
"They want my secret, they all do!" cried Durk, tossing his head from side to side.
"You'll feel better after a nice rest..."
The guards disappeared into a archway marked "EMBERS DISTRICT" behind the bank.
"That was ... interesting," Is'kel said. Malut shrugged and they went into the Phoenix. The round bar seemed large in the small room, taking up the right side of the tavern. A few tables were scattered in front of it, most of them taken.
"We'd like to order some food," Faith told the girl behind the bar. She nodded, rattled off a list of the day's specials and told them there were more tables in the next room. She also told them there was a live band that night and both gambling tables were open.
They made their way into the large, open room adjoining the main bar. Colorful banners of dark blue with orange stripes hung from the walls while more delicate, colorful banners depicting a winged angelic woman were suspended from the ceiling. The floor opened up into a deep pit area. The tables and chairs in the pit area were damaged, split in places and gouged in others. Burn marks scarred the stone walls. A suspended bridge spanned the pit to where a band was playing on the other side. A placard in front of the band declared them to be Toheas Songweaver and the Critical Hits. The music they were playing was new to Faith, a blend of mysterious sounding wind instruments, strings and drums. Further into the room, another bridge led to a small room where a crowd was gathered.
A ramp on their side of the room led up to additional seating on a mezzanine high above the main floor. Malut led the way up the ramp to find a table. Near the top, they could see the occupants of the other tables and Malut stopped short. The tables were all taken, but one in particular caught his eye. Rorry Malcanus and Verona Jethro were seated at the table near the edge of the mezzanine, holding hands and staring deeply into one another's eyes.
"Let's not intrude," Faith mumbled and they backed down the ramp. Just as they reached the bottom, there was a ruckus from the entrance and in swept Lorban Kilrath on his metal dog.
"You can't have that thing out in here," the barmaid was yelling at him.
He ignored her and trotted the homonculus across the bridge and into the small room on the other side. Curious, they followed him. Inside the room, he had dismounted and put the dog away. He leaped on to one side of the divided gambling table that filled the room and with a flourish, he produced a small leather bag which he handed to a dwarf seated at the table. It was Kalvenor.
"Carry on, master of the game!" he announced.
Kal opened the bag and poured the coins into his hand.
"This is just a loan, Rat. I'll give it all back to you."
"Of course you will, noble one."
"Off the table, gnome. This isn't a stage," growled the dwarf woman with a no-nonsense haircut behind the table. "Place your bets, the wheel's about to spin!"
Rat jumped down and the people standing around the table placed pieces of gold onto the colored card in front of an elaborate roulette wheel.
"No more bets!" announced the dwarf woman and she spun the wheel. The little white ball jumped and spun, hopping until it finally landed on a green slot. "Green pays three gold pieces," announced the dwarf, collecting all the gold pieces on the card with one swoop of her hand and handing three of them to the halfling in front of her who was jumping up and down in excitement.
"Henda, is this game fixed?" Kalvenor asked the dealer suspiciously. "I've lost over one hundred gold now and not won a single time."
"Kal, your head is what needs fixing. Why do you keep playing a game you aren't winning? Your luck is bad tonight. Go home and don't you dare accuse me of cheating again unless you want to be permanently banned from here. Place your bets!"
Kal winked at her and she raised her eyebrows and nodded her head at him, indicating he should go. With a big sigh, he relinquished his spot at the table. "I always trust a fellow dwarf, especially if she's beautiful. I'll be back tomorrow, maybe my luck will change."
Henda Boulderbreaker blushed slightly. "Get on with you, silver-tongued devil. I have a game to run."
He bowed deeply to her, then turned and nearly ran into Malut.
"What are you all doing here? Are you spying on me?" Kal looked suspiciously at the three of them.
"Eating. Dinner," was Malut's succinct answer.
"Of all the places in Stormreach to eat dinner, you guys just happened to come to the Phoenix?"
Malut shrugged. "Twila picked it."
"So, where is Twila if she picked it?"
"She's right here," answered Twila from behind them. "What are you all doing in the gambling room and what is she doing here?"
She was pointing at Is'kel with an angry look on her face. Faith forgot that Twila hadn't been around when Is'kel had joined them.
Kal nearly misstepped into the brawling pit. Malut grabbed Kal by the shoulders and steered him back over the bridge with Rat insisting that Malut let Kalvenor loose or be slashed. They found the large table at the top of the ramp as now empty and Malut maneuvered Kal into a seat, with Rat waving a tiny bastard sword threateningly at the half-orc.
"If you want a fight, go down to the pit," yelled a bartender. "No fighting up there."
"This is my new roommate, Is'kel Qua'dens," Faith introduced Is'kel to Twila as they followed Malut up the ramp.
"Pleased to meet you," said Is'kel with a shy smile, holding out a hand to shake.
"I'm not shaking hands with Thuranni trash," Twila said vehemently, stepping back. "Faith, how could you?"
"I have no idea what you are talking about," Faith was confused. She looked at Is'kel who was looking hurt.
"Qua'dens is a Thuranni family. They are our competitors and they are spies. Why are you here? Who is your target?" Twila hissed at Is'kel.
"I'm not from House Thuranni," Is'kel protested. "I'm from Aerenal; I've never even been to Khorvaire! I don't think my family has anything to do with the Thuranni Qua'dens."
"Twila, she's a bard. She was out on Korthos when we were."
"Oh, I know she was. I know exactly who she is. And so does she."
"Really, I'm not a spy. I'm not House Thuranni. Please believe me," Is'kel begged.
The guys at the table were watching this drama unfold, Rat having forgotten his determination to skewer Malut's shin. Twila looked around and realized half the tavern was watching them. She dropped her eyes and walked to the far side of the table, sitting as far away from Is'kel as possible. Is'kel's grey eyes filled with tears, her pointy ears quivered slightly.
"I'll just go," she said.
"No, stay and eat with us," Faith insisted, pulling her towards a chair next to Kal. "It will be all right."
Twila shot her a ferocious look and continued to glare at Is'kel all through dinner. A barmaid showed up with their food and quiet settled over the table as they ate. The strangely energetic music from the band somewhat filled in the awkward silence. Rorry and Verona walked by hand-in-hand, headed down the ramp for the exit. Rorry smiled as he approached their table.
"Hello, how is everyone tonight?" He was in a fine mood, the girl of his dreams at his side.
"Fine until you brought that tramp over here," Twila said.
"What did you call me?" Verona asked Twila in her unnaturally deep voice.
"You heard me," Twila blew on a spoonful of soup.
"I'll teach you some respect!" shouted Verona, lunging at Twila but Rorry caught her around the waist, pinning her arms and dragging her back down the ramp.
"It's not worth it, just let it go," he told her.
Verona easily broke free of his grasp, whirled around to face him and said, "You are just going to let her get away with that? With calling me names?"
Then she burst into tears and ran out of the tavern. Rorry glared at Twila.
"Why? What possible reason could you have to do that?"
"She's playing you, Rorry. Open your eyes! She's not worth it!"
"It's none of your business anyway, is it? Stay away from me!" Rorry was angry but controlled. He turned and went to find Verona.
Everyone at the table stared at Twila.
"What has gotten into you, girl?" asked Kalvenor.
"Somebody had to say it!" Twila protested. "It's for his own good. I'm the only one with the courage to say it, but we all know she's no good."
"Hmnph. That never helps. People have to find out what other people are like for themselves. You can't save them from their own desires."
"I can try," insisted Twila. "I did what was right. I am trying to help him."
"Or are you just jealous?" asked Kalvenor.
This made Twila laugh very hard.
"Oh, trust me, I'm not jealous. I just don't like to see people being taken advantage of," she looked hard at Kal. "Except it is kind of funny to watch you take advantage of yourself. That's a twist. Did you really reincarnate just so you could come back to Stormreach and drink and gamble?"
"Rorry was right. It's none of your business," Kal turned his attention back to his stein of ale.
"How dare you insult the great hero, Kalvenor Grimseeker! This shall not go unchallenged!" Rat jumped up and stood on his seat, pulled a rune arm out of his bag and mounted it on his left arm. A disc on the end spun around and it made a menacing whirring sound.
"Put that away, Rat," Kal said in a tired voice. "It's not worth getting kicked out over."
"I challenge you to a brawl, right here in the pit!" Rat pointed at the brawling pit while waving the rune arm menacingly at Twila. She acted like she couldn't hear him and continued to eat her soup.
"She's right, put it away Rat," Kal said again. "I am wasting my life here. Again."
Kal sighed deeply, then took a long draught from his ale stein.
"I've wasted everything. I've been an idiot. I don't even know why I came back."
This brought a look of horror to Rat's face as he stared at his hero. Absently, he deactivated his rune arm and stored it in his bag.
"Surely, you cannot mean that. You are famous! You have done great things! You are Kalvenor Grimseeker, leader of Rust and Ruin!"
"More like notorious. Just because people know your name doesn't mean they like you," grumbled Kal. "And I dissolved Rust and Ruin back when I gave up adventuring. I talked to the Union officials today and when I dissolved Rust and Ruin, another guild registered the name. I can't get it back."
"Ha ha ha!" Malut suddenly laughed. "You dissolved rust. I get it."
Kal paid no attention to him. "None of my old buddies are around anymore. I can't find a soul. I don't know why I bothered to come back."
The table fell silent. Even Twila looked sympathetic.
"We'll be your guild," suggested Faith.
They all stared at her. Twila shook her head, trying to get Faith to be quiet.
"Why not? None of us are in a guild. Maybe it won't be forever, but we can get started together, can't we? Kal, I know we are fresh off the boat, but you can train us. Right? Teach us how to be a team."
"Excellent idea!' crowed Rat. "I shall be your second in command."
The others looked a little uncertain. Kal shook his head.
"You don't want me as a leader. Listen, you guys have seen how I am. I pretty much either like everyone or hate everyone. I am impulsive. I have temper tantrums. I'm not a leader."
"But you are a leader," Rat disagreed. "You are an excellent teacher. You are generous. You never leave a gnome behind. You may not think it matters, but you know everyone in Stormreach. You were born to lead a guild to greatness!"
Kal looked around the table at their faces, awkward and uncomfortable.
"Thanks Faith and Rat, but I don't think it's a good idea. Maybe I'll hit it big at the roulette wheel and retire to Ataraxia."
"I'll join your guild," offered Malut.
Kal smiled at him. "I'll think about it. But thanks for offering, guys."
Is'kel finished her dinner and stood up. "Thank you all for having me. It's time for me to go."
She left quickly. Faith felt guilty, like she should walk her back to the harbor, but Is'kel was already gone.
"You were so mean to her," Faith scolded Twila. "She's new to Stormreach and doesn't even know anyone. That wasn't nice at all."
"If you knew what House Thuranni was like, you'd understand," Twila brushed off the accusation. "She's probably rushed off to check in with her handler. Look Kal, I'll join your guild but only if you don't invite her. I can't be guilded with the enemy."
"I'm not making a new guild, get it through your heads," Kal was starting to be annoyed. He banged his fist on the table and glared at Twila. "And if I do start a guild, I'll invite whoever I darn well please."
With that, he scraped his chair away from the table, stomped down the ramp and back across the bridge, this time settling himself at the side of the table being run by a warforged who was rolling dice.
"Good evening, all," Rat bowed and followed his mentor back to the gambling hall.