Having escaped Harringall and spent the remainder of the day on the road, Avi has now setup camp for the night. He isn’t alone for once as he is joined by a group of travellers. They are a welcome change of scene after the sort that inhabited that cursed town where Harding’s Pilaster still stands.
At first he had been wary of these travellers still judging them, subconsciously, by the standards of those in the town on the hill. But after several hours of conversing he has softened, no longer feeling a need to be so mistrusting of the group, especially now that they are gathered around a fire toiling away with conversation the last few hours of the day.
Finally, the conversation turns to Avi as one of the travellers, a woman with short brown hair and quiet eyes, asks, “Where are you heading Avi?”
He is the only one amongst the group that has as yet not revealed their journey heading or destination.
“South.” Avi says lying.
The lie not because he mistrusts these people after the events of Harringall but because at no point along his journey, when he has met other wanderers, has he openly professed as to why he is out on the roads of the continent. Most would think him mad if he spoke of a fabled weapon said to have been crafted so long ago by Dwarven master smiths, and so he keeps his true goal to himself. He expects some of those he has met along this journey have done the same. He holds nothing against them if they have and hopes they would do the same.
“South. There is little down that way, at least for a merchant such as myself anyway. I hope you, Avi, find what you are searching for.” One of the other travellers, a man with dark eyes and darker hair pulled back into a ponytail, says from below the wide brim of his pointed straw hat.
“I’m sure I will, but thank you nonetheless.” Avi offers in reply as the conversation moves onto other things. Some of them Avi chimes in to add his own two cents too, others he does not. Rather he listens while continuing to indulge in the drink that has been supplied by his fellow travellers for this evening.
As he listens his mind eventually begins to wander to a place and subject that is a focus for the dwarf, the Eris Hammer. He still manages to chime in every now and then, but most of his time is spent absentmindedly sipping on his drink, agreeing to it being refilled and chuckling along when is most appropriate. That is until nature calls with such authority that he feels he can no longer ignore it. So he rises to his feet, dusting himself off as he does so. His movements draw the attention of his company which is why he advises, “A call of nature means I must excuse myself.”
The others break out into a round of drunken laughter that slows the speed of the conversation until Avi is out of sight and deep into the dark woods beyond their roadside camp.
The dwarf can seldom hear the voices now. At least not the actual words anyway. He can still hear them chuntering on and it draws a smile to his lips as he unfastens the buttons along the crotch of his trousers. Then following a quick fumble about to ensure that he will not stain his garments Avi begins to fulfil what nature has called him here to do, relieve himself.
The soft sound of droplets falling on the undergrowth is somehow soothing to the dwarf, but it isn’t long before Avi feels a presence take up a position a short distance away from him. Reflexively, Avi twist his neck to look over his shoulder. As he does so another dwarf assures, “Worry not brother I too am here to relieve myself.”
Avi nods, his fears of being suddenly ambushed placated as he finishes, replaces things where they should be, re-fastens the buttons and then turns to head back toward the fireside gathering.
Avi manages five paces before the other dwarf, apparently also now finished, falls in step beside him.
“I’m Ferris by the way.” The dwarf with a shaved head, thick long greying black braided beard and hazel coloured eyes offers.
Avi manages two more steps before stopping and turning to face Ferris so that he may reply in kind.
“Avi. Nice to meet you.” The redheaded dwarf says as they shake hands respectfully.
“Where are you headed Ferris?” Avi asks not long after.
“Nowhere.” Ferris replies with a shrug.
Avi smiles to hear a reply that is as much a non-answer as his own has been throughout his quest.
Following that Ferris asks, “And where are you headed Avi?”
“South.” Is the short, succinct, half lie of a reply he then gives with the smile still plastered across his face.
“Is that all I will get?” Ferris then queries right after a short deep laugh has passed his lips.
“The direction is all I have.” Avi assures a few seconds before Ferris nods his acceptance and then bids, “May your journey be well then Avi.”
“Will you not be rejoining us around the fire?” Avi queries surprised.
“I will not. I must retire for the night for I have to leave before the breaking of dawn.” Ferris explains.
“Then I wish you well also Ferris.” And with that the two dwarves part ways with Avi returning to the group around the fire.
As soon as Avi steps out of the murk of night one of the travellers says, “We thought you’d got lost.”
“…Or passed out drunk as a skunk.” A woman in the group with black hair adds before a unified raucous laughter fills the cool night air.
“What do you mean?” Avi asks unsure as to why this group were concerned regarding his absence seeing as he told them he had to answer natures call.
“You were gone for many minutes. I t was far longer than you should have needed.” Someone replies.
“I was talking to one of the other dwarves, Ferris.” Avi explains.
“Who?” Is the confused response levelled his way.
“Has a greying black beard, braided and clad in layered armour most impressive.” Avi details casually.
“Alright that is proof you have downed too much drink as there is no such person, dwarf or otherwise, that matches such a description in this motley crew.”
“What? But…I’m sure…” Avi begins but never finishes as the woman with short brown hair comments, “Don’t worry about such drunken delusions. They afflict all who consume large quantities of ale. Instead, you should retake your place so that we may continue this chat and indulgence until we all are afflicted by such things.”
“That’ll take until the hour is so late it is early.” Someone exclaims.
“Then we should get to it.” Another cheers merrily as Avi retakes his place on a flat stone only to have the traveller next to him, an elf with long flowing brown hair, comment, “But you should stay your thirst of ale for at least a while so you are not further afflicted by conjurings of the mind.”
Avi agrees, reluctantly.