It was starting to get dark as Twila, Malut and Thysmac walked around to the tavern. They saw a few members of the Bauerson family behind the bar circled around Kaja, who was still in tears. They found Faith sitting at a corner table near the entrance to the second room. She had a bowl of soup in front of her but she was playing at it, not really eating.
She looked up as they approached her table.
"Leek and potato soup, you should try it," she said, trying to act normal. She held up a cup of something. "And this is a dirty kobold! Not bad, actually. Together, they are making the injuries inflicted on me by a falling elf disappear."
"Are you ok?" Twila asked her, feeling awful.
"I'm fine, it's nothing to worry about," answered Faith. "Go on, get some supper. We have to figure out what's being done about our sleeping arrangements soon."
"Do you want to talk about it?"
"No," Faith answered quickly. "I really, really don't. It's fine, I shouldn't have yelled at you, I'm sorry. Ok?"
Faith had never had a real friend before, someone to giggle with and be silly. She wanted a friend more than anything else in the world. She didn't want Twila upset with her and she didn't want to have to talk about her mother in front of all of these strangers. She'd tell Twila the story sometime but she was still pretty shaken up at the moment.
"Sure, ok," said Twila even though she still felt like she'd done something awful.
"Soup for everyone?" asked Thysmac. "I'll go order it."
Malut and Twila nodded and took seats at the table with Faith. It was not like there was anywhere else to sit anyway. The Wavecrest was at full capacity, which seemed odd to Faith, given all the recent ship attacks. She guessed most of the people in Korthos lived here full time like the instructors and masters and merchants. There really wasn't anywhere else in the village to eat and most of the living quarters didn't have a place to cook.
Thysmac returned to the table and took a seat next to Faith, giving her a small pat on the shoulder.
"You are getting your color back, I think you'll live," he said with a charming smile.
Faith smiled back. It really was nice to have people around who truly seemed to care. She had been alone for so long. She decided to put all the thoughts of the undead out of her head and try to be sociable.
"So, Thysmac, where are you from and what are you studying?" she asked him.
Ingrid Bauerson appeared at their table with three more bowls of soup and three steaming cups. Efficiently, she passed out the dishes and with a nod she said, "I'll put this on each of your bills to be settled at the end of the week." Then she disappeared back into the kitchen.
"I grew up in Stormreach and I'm here to train as a sorcerer," he answered her.
"Are you one of the Essorys? The importing family? With the mansion on North Silversmith Road?" asked Twila, suddenly interested. Her ears literally twitched.
"Recently of the Marketplace, yes. My family is living in Summerfield now." Thysmac looked into his soup.
"Oh, Summerfield is nice," Twila said awkwardly. Clearly there was something neither of them wanted to mention. "I grew up in House Phiarlan."
"Ah, the house of entertainers," Thysmac observed. "No wonder you like to gossip."
Twila made a face at him and then ignored him entirely. She turned to the half-orc noisily slurping soup.
"Malut, where are you from?"
"Shadow Marches, barbarian, " Malut replied. He didn't offer any additional information. The soup bowl clanked against his tusks as he gave up on the spoon and drank directly from the bowl. It slid over the edge of his broken tusk and smacked against his teeth as he upended the bowl to get the last of the soup.
"Ah, the Shadow Marches are part of Khorvaire, aren't they?" Twila asked. Malut grunted. "Faith is from Khorvaire, too!"
"It's a huge continent. I'm from Breland," Faith put in.
Malut did not seem to care to establish any sort of bond based on a shared continent. He slurped his dirty kobold, the cup looking ridiculously small in his hand after drinking from the large soup bowl.
"How was your soup?" she asked him during the awkward pause that followed.
"Nice and thick but it could use some spicing up. Garlic might help."
No one really knew how to respond to that detailed assessment. They couldn't help but hear the conversation at the table next to them and they all fell silent. A dwarf was arguing with a fair-haired elf. Faith recognized the elf as one of the trainers she had passed earlier.
"By the Flame, man, this is ridiculous. You know me, Meldrik, I've been through the Korthos program seven times now. You know my reputation, my renown. I can do any job you want me to do by myself. I'm not going to drag along a bunch of greenhorns who will just slow me down. I just want to get my training in and head back to Stormreach," the dwarf said, his gruff voice rising.
"Kal, as you say, you have been here seven times. You know the rules. You can't ask me to bend them for you; it can't be done. You may know all the faces here and the program requirements, but this isn't the same Korthos you've been to before. We are in crisis with the dragon and the cult... and for all your reincarnations, you've never been a healer before. You have to learn your new class just like any first life student," the elf answered, calm and unruffled.
"Is there a problem?"
The tan and black warforged had left his table and walked over to the table with the arguing pair.
"No problem, Master Garant," the elf lowered his eyes deferentially. "Kalvenor and I were just debating the merits of reincarnated students having to take history courses."
"That isn't what we were discussing at all," said the angry dwarf. "Master Garant, you know me. I am competent, I have powerful gear and the knowledge gained from many past lives working for the Adventurer's Union. I am asking to be given the benefit of my many years of service and be promoted to the next level and graduated from the program. I think it's only fair."
"Kalvenor, you know that's not how it works," the warforged answered, eyes brightening and dimming as he spoke. "Reincarnation wipes out a great many of your memories, leaving only the basics. You are training in a new class. You must earn your levels like any other student. We do respect the years of experience you bring to the table, but the rules cannot be bent. You cannot graduate this program without earning and proving each skill and feat needed to effectively perform your role. It would be unfair to you and unsafe for those who work with you in the future."
"Unsafe!" growled Kalvenor. "I take responsibility for my own actions. I do not intend to work with others. I work alone. I've had enough of other people getting me killed."
"Well Kal, that is your choice but I still cannot allow you to be certified without doing the training. Enjoy your evening."
Master Garant crossed the floor and left the tavern.
Everyone at Faith's table suddenly remembered to eat. The dwarf looked around to see half the tavern watching him and gave a disgusted snort.
"See what I mean Meldrik? Bunch of nosy parkers who can't mind their own business."
The fair elf put his hand on Kal's arm. The more annoyed Kalvenor became, the calmer Maldrik seemed.
"Kal, I only want the best for you, old friend. You shouldn't have gotten Master Garant involved though. He holds a lot of influence with the Adventurer's Union and he could have an impact on your ability to get work in the future."
"The people I work for ask for me by name; don't waste your pity on me," Kal replied. "I'm not staying on this kobold nest of an island and longer than I have to."
With that he pushed away from the table and stomped across the wooden floor to the exit. Faith noticed he was fairly tall for a dwarf. Meldrik sighed deeply and finished his drink.
Twila, ever bold and unabashed, leaned across the table towards Meldrik.
"Excuse me sir, but did he say he's had seven lives?"
Meldrik was a little startled and turned to look at her.
"Yes, child. You don't know about reincarnation?"
They all shook their heads.
"The short explanation is that once you've mastered your career, you may go to House Jorasco, the house of healing in Stormreach and see Kruz the Orc. If you are worthy and give him certain things, he will reincarnate your soul. Reincarnated people lose almost all of their training but not their personal memories or general knowledge. They are returned here to Korthos Island to begin their training anew."
"Why would someone do that?" Thysmac's eyes were wide. "I mean, what's the point?"
"There are many reasons one might want to reincarnate. A battle-scarred body is given new life. A tired soul is given new challenges with a new career path. Physically, one becomes slightly taller when reincarnated. But most people reincarnate to become more powerful. Your abilities are stronger with each new incarnation and the memories you do retain of your past life also make you stronger and allow you to use a little of the skills you learned in those previous lives. In a way, it is immortality."
He leaned in close to their table and lowered his voice.
"But to be honest, most of the people who reincarnate more than once or twice simply have never found a life outside of this work. They haven't found someone to settle down with or they are possibly escaping a spouse or family they no longer care for. Some seek eternal youth, even if it comes with hard work and many dangers. Some simply have nowhere else to go. This career can consume your life if you let it.
Many people join the Adventurer's Union for fame, some for fortune, some simply for the thrill of adventure. Some seek personal validation for their achievements or competition with others. It is an exciting venture, there is no doubt about it. And it can be very profitable. But I would caution you not to let it take over your life. Make real connections with people in this world. Balance in all things.
But this is nothing to concern yourself with at the start of your career! Everything is new and exciting for you now. Enjoy it and learn well! Have a good evening."
Meldrik gave them a nod and headed for the exit.