"Wake up, I've already been kind enough to let you have another five minutes,” Ell’s voice spoke from the side of the bed.
“Hm.” Was Rohl’s sleepy reply.
“The celebration will be starting shortly,” Ell spoke again as she threw off the covers and did all she could to prevent Rohl from remaining asleep.
Once Ell pulled the pillows out from under him, Rohl decided he had slept enough. He was still tired but the small rest had done him a lot of good. And so he opened his eyes and sat up in his bed.
The sight that greeted him was somewhat of a surprise.
Ell had already awoken and had changed into a simple yet lovely short-sleeved dress. Most of the gown was covered in a dark green colour except for a small streak that flowed down the centre of the dress and had twirly brown lacing around its edges.
“You look very nice,” Rohl stated after taking in Ell dress, a dress he had no clue she had even brought.
“I know,” Ell began “You can compliment me more later, but come on we're almost late.”
At that, Rohl quickly jumped out of the bed and did his best to tidy up his hair and straighten out his clothes. He would have gotten changed but in truth, he hadn't really brought any nice clothes and besides he felt far too tired to bother getting changed into clothes no better than what he was wearing.
With that decision made, he and Ell soon left the room and made their way down the empty hallway.
Whilst it was empty of people, the sound of music could be heard faintly throughout the hallway, it seemed the party had truly started and Rohl was just glad he had a break from barding and got to truly enjoy himself for once.
They made quick progress down the passageway and found themselves in an only slightly less deserted main hall. The tables were gone but many waiters and chefs were making there from the kitchen and out the main door, carrying many exquisite dishes as they did so. A few of them were even rolling large wooden barrels of mead out of the door. The deaths brigands must have truly been a successful company to be able to afford this many lavish parties and from what Rohl knew of their contracts with the dwarfs that certainly seemed to fit.
The area just outside was a flurry of activity as people made their way towards the villages central market, even from this distance Rohl could see that all the stalls had been removed, only to be replaced by tables and large bonfires.
Countless people milled around the area, it seemed the entire village had shown up despite the short notice. The feast truly had an atmosphere of celebration. And Rohl could understand why they had gone all out, finally being free of such a powerful tormenting monster was as good a reason to celebrate as any.
Several of the tables were stacked full with drinks food, with people either helping themselves to the dishes or hopping between the tables talking and chatting as they did so. The musicians were playing once again as their cheery music only added to the already buzzing atmosphere.
The pair spotted Tay and Rose first, they were sat on one of the less busy tables, chatting to themselves. Rose didn’t seem particularly pleased to be here but she had at least changed from her armour into more simple clothing. Tay on the other hand seemed full of life with much more cheery and colourful clothing.
Tay as if noticing Rohl’s eyes, looked up and with a smile signalled them over. Ell gave a resigned sigh but went anyway. Rose didn’t seem to protest her sister's behaviour, perhaps saving her life in the fight had warmed him up to her.
“We owe you one for that fight, your blessing was very helpful. Thank you,” Tay said in a manner more serious than she usually was.
After a nudge from Tay, Rose finally spoke as well “Thank you…. don’t see why I should thank him, now we don’t get the reward, this is just going to make things more complicated,” Rose added begrudgingly.
“No worries, I'm just glad we all got out of there okay. How are you two?” Rohl asked as he accepted their thanks and decided to ignore the rest of Rose’s grumbling. He could understand her likely annoyance, they were here to complete a contract with a large reward and now they had lost that chance. He did feel somewhat bad about that but he had a good reason for needing it more.
With the pleasantries exchanged he and Ell filled up the empty seats by the sisters.
“Were both fine, thank you. How about you? Did you get any more cool scars?” Tay asked as her sister just sighed and tucked into one of the flagons of mead.
“Nope, it's nice to be somewhat unscathed and physically uninjured for once,” Rohl replied but before he could speak any further on the topic, the conversation was interrupted by Disko, Calco and Falene who immediately took the remaining seats, much to Rose’s displeasure.
Falene immediately began small talk with Ell as Disko and Calco kept their attention on Rohl. They had dressed somewhat smartly in clothes only a step down from ball wear.
“Seems the hero of the hour didn’t dress up for the big celebration,” Disko spoke first.
“Seems he also kept the whole blessing thing rather quiet,” Calco finished.
Rohl didn’t answer, he didn’t want to interrupt this speech they had clearly practised. Instead, he began nibbling on some of the scrumptious food spread out before him.
“Falene told us everything,” Calco said seriously before his blank face began morphing into a laughing smile.
“So awesome, it's a shame we didn’t get to feel it,” Disko began “You’ve got to do it again before we all separate, I want to be that strong,” Disko added as his own aloof attitude broke down.
Rohl couldn’t help but smile slightly at their attitude before giving his own reply “I'll see what I can do.”
“We will hold you to that, besides it’s not just us, the whole village has heard the story. You could charge them to experience it,” Disko said.
Rohl smiled brightly at that, he was not going to turn down more money. Although the subtle luck from Ell seemed to suggest that it probably wasn’t a good idea.
“You could make a killing, I'm sure many people would love the extra stamina, Freya for example,” Disko began with a light teasing smirk on his face. Before he could finish talking Rohl cut him off.
“The money would be nice sure, but what about you guys, where are you headed next?” Rohl said as he tried to take the conversation away from where it was heading. It seemed to be working and just to be sure, he requested a refill of mead from a passing waiter, making sure both Calco and Disko got some as well.
Tay seemed to be interested as well, she was watching the conversation with particular interest. Perhaps wondering if they were leaving in the same direction. Not that Rohl could blame her if she was, he was quite interested in everyone’s next adventure himself.
“We’ve been hearing rumours of an uprising in Elmon, I'm thinking we look for work out near Stassleburg. What about you two?” Disko said having no idea of the whirlwind of thoughts and emotions his words sparked in Rohl.
With the best poker face he could manage, Rohl replied “We need to go back to Elmon, that’s where our guild and belongings are.” It was a decent enough answer and one that suggested he knew nothing of recent events. But it did leave Rohl wondering how it took this long for word of the events at Elmon to spread, at least the rumours didn’t seem to include any specifics.
“How about you Tay?” Rohl added next as he attempted to cut Disko off from inquiring further.
“Rose wants to head for Stipus, but it seems more fun around here,” Tay responded as she tucked into the delicious-looking spiced chicken meal that had been placed before her.
Rohl soon did the same with the roast chicken that had been placed nearby, he was starved from the fight and the possible combination of chicken, mash potato and vegetables was irresistible in his current state.
Ell had been given it originally but she seemed to prefer the fish dish instead and had switched them. Not that Rohl minded, he was very much a potato lover.
“I wouldn’t call this fun but whatever floats your boat I suppose,” Calco replied giving Tay a somewhat confused look.
“Seems we're all going our separate ways then,” Falene said next.
“Should we ever run into each other again, id be happy to hunt another monster with you all,” Rohl spoke trying to lighten the mood, his words brought nods of agreement from most of the adventurers around.
The clinking of metal on glass soon cut off any more discussion. Captain Valhalderson had risen from his seat at the far end of one of the tables and was clearly about to give an announcement. His actions quickly garnered the attention of the many party-goers.
“Adventurers please come here,” he called loudly as he and everyone present turned to watch the adventuring groups rise and move to stand near the captain.
Freya and Reginald soon stood as well, two small cloth bags in their hands.
With a loud booming voice that kept the attention of all that had gathered, the captain spoke once again “Today we have finally defeated the monster that has plagued our village, it is only thanks to these adventurers that we were able to slay this beast. For that I applied their bravery, skill and courage,” the captain spoke, pausing only to allow a small cheer from the crowd.
“The credit of the victory goes to the Elven Glory adventuring team but I cannot deny that all adventures played a role. The Doom Bringers and Merciless Death teams will be given small rewards as a symbol of our gratitude.” With those words, Freya and Reginald handed over the small bags to the respective team's leaders. Tay and Disko accepted the small bag of coins with gratitude and whispered thanks ignoring the cheering crowd as they did so.
“Now Elven Glory, step forward.” At the captain's words both Rohl and Ell stepped forward, they were now stood between the crowd and the captain allowing everyone in the village to see them clearly.
After a gesturing look from Ell, Rohl steeled his nerves and took another step forward, interrupting the captain before he could start to speak again.
“If it’s okay, I would like to request a different reward,” Rohl spoke somewhat hesitantly, his words drawing silence from the crowd as well as causing the gazes of all of the Valhalderson to focus on him.
Despite the rather intense gazes focused on him, Rohl refused to look away despite how nervewracking it was. At least Freya seemed to be giving a more supportive look but any relief he felt at that soon vanished as the captain started speaking once again.
“Your request better not have anything to do with my daughter.” His tone showed no signs of his previous friendliness.
The words took Rohl completely by surprise and shattered his previous confidence. Despite his request having nothing to do with Freya, his flushed red cheeks likely did little to show that. as his “Nah, no, nah, it has nothing to do with that, so let's not talk about that,” Rohl mumbled out in a bungled mess of words, words he was sure very few around would have been able to make sense of. He could almost feel Ell’s gaze on the back of his head and after taking a quick second to gather his courage he spoke again, his words definitely lacked the impact they would have if the captain had not spoken.
“You see, we had special reasons for coming here, a special request to make but before I get into all that, I had better start from the beginning,” Rohl spoke with only a small pause so everyone around him could take in his words. Once he knew he had all the mercenaries attention he took a deep breath and started speaking of the journey he had been through.
“A short while ago, me and Ell were on a quest in Bureihal forest, where we discovered a new dungeon, purely by luck we defeated it using my blood. Shortly after its sacrilegious beast, a mimic capable of creating an army followed us towards Elmon, besieging the city,” Rohl began, he had originally planned a slight more theatrical impressive telling but planning a speech and doing it were very different things.
“After securing the help of General O’Halley and the 4th legion we were able to slay the beast, at great cost. After doing so, word was sent to the king to inform all of what had happened. However, he believes us all to be traitors and that our story is a plot to gather and form an army to overthrow him.” Rohl spoke before making sure to direct his next words to the leader of the mercenaries directly.
“As our reward and also as a favour to governor Sampson, I am here to ask your aid in ending this civil war. The general plans to march on the capital with an army at our backs to persuade the king that we are not traitors, once we arrive and lay down our weapons, the governor believes the king should see reason,” Rohl finished before finally allowing him to let out the breath he had been holding.
It took only a moment for the crowd to erupt, some in confusion and disbelief, others in awe and shock. Only the captain remained quiet, his face stoic and unmoving.
Rohl could hear his fellow adventurers whispering behind him, he couldn’t resist turning to look. Ell was giving him a reassuring glance whilst Tay and Rose both had small smiles. A complete contrast to the doom bringers who were conversing with each other in a small huddle. As much as he wanted to know what Tay and Rose were thinking, he did his best to focus them out, instead, he turned his face towards the captain. Despite the worry he felt, he still did his best to make his face look as honest and sincere as possible. Unfortunately, he was unable to stop his hand from nervously pulling at his sleeve.
After what felt like a lifetime, the captain raised one hand and the crowd fell silent.
“Hmm, normally I would refuse such a request, but we do owe you a debt and we are unlikely to receive any mercenary contracts. You shall have our aid, men enjoy the feast for tomorrow we march,” the captain finished loudly with a much more boisterous tone. A moment later the crowd erupted into cheers before rapidly returning to their feasting and drinking.
Thank the gods, Rohl thought as his body became filled with relief, it was as if a great weight had been lifted off him. He had finally achieved the mission he had been sent here to do, all that was left now was the hard part, ending the war.
With the feast ongoing, the captain returned to his own drink, only giving Rohl a quick raise of his glass in acknowledgement, they could speak tomorrow, now was a time of celebration. Reginald soon did the same, his attitude towards Rohl seemed to be one closer to respect after such a speech if the nod of acknowledgement from him was anything to go by.
Freya on the other hand left her fathers side and moved to talk with Rohl.
“That was quite a revelation,” Freya asked quizzically upon reaching him.
“Yeah, I’m sorry for keeping it a secret but I’m sure you understand why we had to.”
Freya nodded in response, a small frown on her face as her father coughed not so subtly from behind her. After one more annoyed glance aimed towards her father, Freya turned to whisper in Rohl’s ear “Id prefer to hear the story in full, perhaps tonight or when we make camp on the march.” With that she left, leaving a cherry red Rol behind her. He knew she was doing it to get back at her father for his restrictive behaviour but that didn’t mean anything to his embarrassed face.
Once the cool air had cooled his heated face Rohl finally allowed himself to turn and face Ell giving her a bright smile as he did so. “Well, that went well.”
“Indeed, I’m surprised you managed to pull it off, then again you had my help,” she said with a small smirk. Rohl just took the interaction as Ell’s way of congratulating them for a job well done.
Before he could speak again, Tay interrupted them. The smiling girl dragged Rose behind her as he did so.
“We will join you on the march,” Tay said much to Rohl confusion.
“I appreciate that but why?” Rohl replied with a slightly confused frown.
“Both me and grumpy owe you for saving us, without you we would both be,” Tay said before finishing her sentence by mimicking a hanged motion.
“Okay, but you don’t have to, there are other ways to…” Rohl spoke before being cut off.
“No, we’ll go,” Rose cut in as she took a step closer to them. A moment later she seemed to realise what she’d done and returned to her previous position. “Just accept our help and drop it.”
Before Rohl could reply Tay began to pout. If Rohl was honest her almost begging expression was a bit much but if they were this insistent on thanking him through this then he didn’t see any reason for dragging this argument on. He did sort of understand the desire to help and save someone you owed your life to.
“Fine, thank you.”
Tay expression instantly became relieved, she gave his cheek a small tug before adding “Yay, don’t leave without us.” With that they departed, soon returning to their seats to continue their meals.
As if sensing Rohl was free to talk, the doom bringers made an appearance, Disko taking the lead. Despite Rohl’s need for a drink, he remained stood, curious to see what they had to say.
“Seems someone has been keeping secrets,” spoke Disko
“Seems someone has been really busy,” added Calco
“Yeah, I'm sorry again,” replied Rohl
“Don’t worry about it, we completely understand, it's likely we would have done the same,” spoke Falene as she elbowed Calco who was just about to continue speaking.
“We heard your conversation with Tay, we won't be joining you but we're more than up for another round of drinking,” added Disko, clearly uncomfortable with the rebellion talk.
“Sure, give us a minute.”
He nodded at this before he and his party took their own seats at the table, more food and mead soon joined them.
With Rohl finally free of adventurers, he turned to face Ell who had remained silent and bored throughout the whole affair. She only raised a slight eyebrow at him.
“So do I get a reward for a job well done,” he asked, the success of the journey giving him extra bravery. He wanted treats this time.
“Sure, I won't hurt you as much during sparring,” Ell replied with a smirk, a mischievous glee in her eyes.
“You're too kind.”
Ell only smirked more before moving closer to Rohl, her mouth just shy of his ear “If your extra good, ill reward you by letting you treat me again,” she said with a whisper, her breath lingering on his ear.
“That sounds more like a reward for you.”
“I know, I spoil you as is. To start we could open that wine we were given. Fetch boy fetch.”
Rohl only gave her a sideways look followed by a laughing smile as he agreed with her suggestion.
The wine was still in their room and Ell was gracious enough to save him a seat whilst he went to fetch it, fortunately, it wasn’t far.
Not wanting to miss out, he half walked- half jogged back to his room, giving waves and smiles to all those he passed by. It seems his speech had definitely put everyone’s focus on him and Ell. A cloaked figure held the door to the hall open for him as he then did the same for some passing servers who roast pig on a platter between them. Its smell distracted him for only a short second before the sound of the kitchen door opening once again snapped him out of it.
The hall to his room was clear and he made it there in no time at all, however, his door was ajar. A tiny glimmer of light could be seen through the gap. He knew for a fact he had shut the door. Cautious of making any more noise he slowly crept up to the door and carefully pushed it open, the door made no noise as he did so.
A cloaked figure stood watching the door, their face concealed under a dark green cloak.
“Rohl,” a soft voice called out from under the cloak.
A voice Rohl recognised as he fully stepped into the room and closed the door behind him. Once that was done, the hooded figure pulled down their hood to reveal shining silver eyes and flowing black hair. A bright smile soon covered their face as they rushed to embrace him in a tight hug. One Rohl quickly returned and held.
“Mimi, what are you doing here? I thought it was too dangerous,” Rohl asked in a concerned whisper. His eyes constantly flicked between her and the door as if afraid someone might discover her. He remembered Terrance’s conversation at the inn all too well.
“I missed you and we happened to be nearby,” Mimi responded looking slightly guilty.
At Rohl’s concerned look she continued “We wanted to make sure you were okay, no one saw me enter, not with this party going on. Quinn being a ranger allowed him to get a contract for this road. Once we got close he tied up Thaddeus and Terrance so I could sneak out.”
Rohl couldn't help but smile at that before meeting Mimi’s eyes “I missed you all too and I'm glad you’re here, I just don’t want any of you to get into any trouble.”
Mimi only smiled at his words “I'll be fine, I won't stay long, just tell me how it's going.”
“Not bad, we've slain the monster, a bangungot. The captains even agreed to meet us at Elmon with his company as our reward.”
“That’s wonderful, I knew you could do it,” Mimi replied happily, her eyes almost shining at the good news.
“How have you been doing?” Rohl asked, he knew it hadn't been that long since they had spoken but monster hunting was dangerous.
“Same as ever, still plenty of monsters plaguing the roads. Quinns still annoying.” She replied with a little laugh that Rohl couldn’t help but copy.
“I'm glad, it’ll be nice once this is all over, id prefer not to have to meet you in secret.”
Mimi gave a small blush as Rohl continued to speak. “I'll make sure to practice for you all, ill have a bunch of new songs by the next time we meet.”
“Id like that but just make sure you get back in one piece first.”
“I will,” Rohl responded before the sound of multiple people entering the hallway caught his attention.
“Stupid Reginald, why do we have to patrol during the party. One of the voices spoke with clear annoyance.
“Come on let's just get our equipment and get this over with,” a second mercenary called in the distance.
“You need to go, if someone finds out and word reaches the king,” Rohl whispered as more vices appeared in the distance.
“I know, this was not as much time as id hope,” Mimi whispered back clearly disappointed.
Rohl gave her a sad smile in return “Be safe.”
“I will, oh by the way Quinn says to do him proud and listen to the wise mentoring he’s giving you.”
Rohl couldn’t help but snort at that as began pulling up her cloak.
“I'll make sure the coast is clear,” he added before leaving the room and making sure the hall was empty and the way out was clear.
Once he was sure he signalled Mimi to come out from her position around the bend in the hall. She quickly made her way to him in silent steps before pausing next to him.
With a blushing smile she gave him a deep long hug. “Be safe,” she whispered before rushing out of the room and into the cool night sky. Leaving a stunned and red Rohl behind.
Once Mimi’s retreating figure vanished, Rohl returned to his room and collected the wine as his mind remained busy with thoughts of his friends. The fact that they cared enough to check up on him was extremely heartwarming. They were good people and great friends. Despite this, he wasn’t going to tell Ell about what happened, she would only get annoyed given her dislike of the group.
The elf was already giving him suspicious looks upon his return as if questioning why he had taken so long.
“I got lost,” Rohl said once her questioning gaze became too much. He regretted the answer immediately, it was a panicked slip of the mouth and there was no way she was going to buy it.
“Even I know you're not that much of a dumbass,” Ell replied from her seat next to Rohl, a small plate of food sat in front of her as well as two empty glasses, possibly for the wine. The other adventurers who sat around them weren’t the only ones giving them jealous looks upon noticing the wine.
“I took a quick nap,” Rohl responded next, extremely grateful that he had actually managed to think up a plausible idea. A response which Ell seemed to buy, a few of those nearby were even giving him pitying looks perhaps believing he was still exhausted from the earlier fight.
With that settled, Rohl tucked into his own meal, having decided to save the wine until he was finished eating.
Once his meal was over, he turned to Ell, making sure she was also finished. Once he saw that she was, he opened up the Liber Bacchus and began to pour two small glasses for him and Ell. Taking the utmost care not to spill a drop of the wine, it was far too much of an expensive and potent drink to risk wasting any.
Despite its value, it didn’t look like any wine Rohl had seen, mostly due to the yellow tinge it had instead of the usual red or white.
With the wine poured, they both raised a glass and tapped them together slightly. It was rare for adventurers to get such luxuries and Rohl wanted to make the most out of it.
With that done, Rohl bought a sip of the wine to his mouth. The taste was a completely new sensation for him as if he was tasting every fruit at once in a glorious cocktail. Just the tase alone made him want to drink more and more. Before he even knew it his glass was empty. Ell had a look of bliss on her face as she downed her glass as well. It was not the proper way to drink such an expensive wine but he couldn’t stop himself.
A moment later they were both finishing another glass, then another until the bottle ran dry. A revelation that almost brought a tear to Rohl’s eye. He examined the bottle multiple times, searching for any last drop, much to his disappointment there was none, only a warning that made him freeze.
A warning which read.
This bottle contains extract of Dionysus, a highly addictive and potent substance. In order to drink responsibly, let the wine air for several minutes before consumption.
Rohl had definitely not done that and as he processed what that meant, one phrase popped up not his mind.