There was a definate chill devleoping in the air.
Rainclouds were scudding acoss the not so distant sky as Roache and Cwoss trudged into the tiny village. They had been up with the sun, and all morning their march had taken them towards black weather, and away from the summer sunshine that annoyingly persisted just some few miles behind them.
Cwoss stopped on the bridge spanning a lethargic flow some 15 feet or so below, and hiking up his surplus to tuck under his chin, began to relieve himself. Looking over at his companion. Owlie grinned. "Might as well take advantage of it.. this might be the cleanest privy we find here.."
"Dont do that!" spasmed the cleric. "You bloody well know it gives me the willies when you do that to me.." Cwoss fumbled beneath his robe for a minute. "Damnation! Youve made me dribble.."
Cwoss dropped his clothing with disgust, and stumped over to join his friend, all the while muttering about sheep, their sexual preferences, and the extraordinary knowledge Roache posessed on that issue. Some of them by name. The sheep that would be..
Roache had to laugh. "Ach Im dreadfully sorry Ive made you pee yerself Ollie..but one must take ones opportunities when they come up..surely theres someone in the village wholl do laundry while we have a bath.. Now whats the name of this pub by the grist mill ?"
"Well it was called The Dogs Bollocks, but this is an old map Ive got here.. Might be anything now.." As they got closer to the sad little collection of houses and shops, Cwoss took on an interested look.
"I've been here before.." he mused. "Seems to me the whole family came through here some years ago. Dad was taking us 'doon the watter', on the run from a creditor if I recall.." Smiling, Cwoss lost himself in reverie for a moment, saying "He did that rather frequently actually. I'll keep my eyes open for familliar haunts and remembered places. Long time ago.." he sighed.
Roache looked at his friend fondly. It hadn't been that long a time they'd been together, but both felt as though it was meant to be; neither would consider leaving the other. The elf shook his head, for beyond the Old Man, he'd never even known anyone else. Odd how things happen.
Walking down a muddy track onto what might loosly be called a square, they noticed a couple of open stalls selling greens and sundries, set up along the side wall of what indeed was 'The Dogs Bollocks', these days a somewhat seedy and rundown establishment. But at the sight of the sign, a smile broke across Cwoss' face, and Roache put whatever misgivings me might be harbouring behind, and followed his friend inside.
A long trestle which served as a bar ran the length of the room, behind which were three barmen attending to the not insignificant custom. Two barmaids hoisted trays of steins, and make their way with a certain grace through the melee. Roache thought to himself there was a certain sad grace to the movements of these drabs, as though watching ageing gazelles harnessed to a plow. There were some 50 to 60 drinking and eating already, most filthy and reeking of soot and sulphur. These men shared another common trait, in that they couldn't seem to get the drink down themselves fast enough; man and boy were socking the ale with an almost religious fervour. Several were already snoring softly away to themselves in booths which lined the wall opposite the bar, already overcome by that which they'd imbibled.
Our pair stood. with their backs to the door for a moment, as their eye adjusted to the gloom. When finally Roache, who's eyes were much better than those which equipped his human companion, saw the numbers drinking, he turned to his companion asking "How long has it been since you were here last..?"
Cwoss frowned in thought for a moment, then muttered "Must be fourteen or fifteen years at least. As I mentioned it ws with my Da, when he was on the run from the City Guard." Peering into the dim, Cwoss straightened, and pointing with some excitement said " As a matter of fact, those three along the end of the bar look just like some of the folks Da had a falling out with, and if I'm not mistaken they're still standing in the same spots.."
Unconciously Cwoss had loostened the thong which stopped his Morningstar from banging him about the shins when he walked, and began t work his way through the throng towards the trio he thought he'd recognized.
"Ahh feck.." muttered Roache. .."not the City Guard.."
"Barkeep!" bellowed Cwoss, as he sauntered his not inconsiderable bulk between two of those he'd thought he remembered.
"Barkeep..! Ale for meself and my friend over there..". And with that the cleric swung his arm around as though to point out Roache, but rather carelessly instead catching one of the Guards full in the pint glass, just as that vessel was about to meet the man's lips.
The Guard staggered back, his eyes filled with incredulity and his mouth with broken teeth and an unpleasant mixture of ale and shattered glass. This was unheard of! Never was the City Guard treated with such disregard, disrespect, or even nasty looks. The uniform itself was usually enough to send those even remotely guilty scuttering for priest-holes or secret doors, anything to get away!
He started to draw his sword, but before the hilt had even settled firmly in his grip, the contents of his skull had been scattered over an area several yards in diameter, not unlike Marmite over a large piece of toast.
His companions, well, companion, for Roache had deftly opened the chest of one of the others with a swipe from his longsword, was still under the impression the City Guard could not be bested. He stood, still with drink in one hand, trying to free his sword, when Owlie sent yet another sinner to his eternal reward with that most effective of convertive hardware, that 35 pound solid iron Morningstar, standard issue.
"Three up.. three down" said Roache quietly to himself, as he used the tabard of one of the Guards to wipe his weapon.
Cwoss smiled at his friend. "Room for us now at the bar if you'd like.."
Roache was still sheathing his sword when the first round of ales arrived, and as he looked about the room he was somewhat surprised to see little or no reaction from the other patrons, not even so much as a curious glance as two elderly workers appeared from a back room to drag the bodies away,and make desultory attempts at cleaning up the entrails littering the floor. And there still he stood, when several hours later when word arrived by breathless lad, that a squad of Guards was on it's way, to check up on the three Cwoss had taken a dislike to.
"Right." said Roache. "Time we found this aged colleague of yours my friend. We should get this show on the road.."
"I suppose so" said Cwoss, though his gaze ran longingly over several casks of ale yet unbroached. Heaving a sigh, he rose and wandered almost in comlete control towards the elf waiting at the door for him.
Taking the cleric by the arm, Roache pulled ,well perhaps peeled Cwoss away from the public house, and into the mud of the street again.
"Come on Owlie..if we're still here when the rest of the bloody Guard appears, we gonna have a lotta splainin to do.."