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The Stumbling Of Man Upon The Uttermost West.

YayGollum

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On yet another brisk day in what he considered his father's port in the Forodwaith, Brandor's first stop was his favorite pub. His full grin was barely pulled back into a self-deprecating smirk as he hopped through the door. "Barkeep, my usual! Ha! I still haven't learned any better than to come here first!" At the sudden interruption, several sailors turned, revealing a smattering of surprised, amused, and annoyed faces, most of which sobered when Narvi stomped his way up behind and closed the door.

The two picked their way through a moderate crowd to a round table in a corner far from the bar. The short statue grumbled, only half to himself. "No, you haven't. Shouldn't we visit home first? We've been gone, what, a year, this time? Ugh. The only son of the most successful man in the business doesn't need to associate himself with the common employees! And he knows that even the smell of alcohol will get him sick!"

Once seated, the young man innocently gave a few steamed sailors a, "Forgive him," smirk. "Shush, Narvi. There's nothing common about the man that braves the open seas as well as these! Ha! Ah! My tea! Thank you. Say hello the family for me! And try not to let the word out that I'm back so soon." Already, though, several patrons had scuttled off to spread the news that the wandering heir of the shipping business that fed them all had returned.
 

Narya

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"There was no other way...he said to leave while I still can. So I did. I left him there."

With the ship in even keel, Kastor decided it was time for another shot of Pöusse. The dark bottle warned, drink moderately, and it was good advice: Pöusse was the most potent liquor this side of Middle Earth. Kastor loved Pöusse and what it does to his wits despite the massive hangover he knew he'd get the morning after. He opened the bottle and the room was quickly filled with its strong aroma. A shrill squeaking sound from his right coat pocket prompted him to put the cork back in. After fastening the button of the flap, Kastor opened the bottle again and poured the golden liquid into a shot glass and downed the drink in one gulp.

"He'll be in all the news by the morning." He said shortly. "Perhaps we can muster enough men for the next voyage, ey? We need to stop at the slops in town to buy me more of these here Pöusse."

He stood and wobbled a bit, then looked out through the porthole and saw the dock was empty as a graveyard. He pulled out an old pocket watch and saw that it was only four in the morning. The sun would not show his hot face until eight. Kastor decided to make use of the dawn.

Taking his spear, he said, "He had a son, I believe. Lived here I suppose. Never did meet the lad but---" he sighed laboriously before heading out of his cabin into the alleyway. "---well, there's always a first time for everything."

He ventured off into the foggy morning, tightening his grip on the spear and making sure that his right coat pocket does not twitch too much.
 

chrysophalax

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An other headache creased Horatio's brow. Must be the weather, the clouds have been gathering...either that, or trouble's on its way!" He paced the length of his office, high in the eatern tower overlooking the harbour below. Horatio made it his business to keep his eyes on his workers and woe betide they if he should catch them slacking! Time was money, after all.

The fact that his brother seemed to have disappeared on another of his daft "voyages of discovery" hadn't helped his temper, or his migraines. It had been months and the fool hadn't even bothered to have word sent! Typical...leave me to handle the wages, the complaints, the orders to be filled...while you go off, shirking responsibility yet again! This had been an on-going battle bewteen the brothers for more years than Horatio cared to remember and now things looked like going in the same direction with his son, Brandor. At least, that's how they had been. Just wait until the youngster got back into port! Uncle Horatio intended to have a long talk with the budding adventurer. A talk which would hopefully settle him down and make him see that if he wanted a place in the business, it depended on more than just having his father's name. It was time that he either assumed a more constructive role, or if not, find himself being dealt with.

A cruel smile lit Horatio's face as he poured ihmself a glass of miruvor, a delicacy he rarely indulged in. First the brother , then the son... and then maybe at last Horatio would have what he had always desired...exactly what he deserved.
 

YayGollum

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After only his second cup and his fifth visit from a fellow customer, Brandor perked up as he noticed who was coming in next. "Old man Dingo, is that you? You're looking as healthy as ever! It's Brandor! You remember me, don't you? Come on over! I've got room. Narvi, get up, won't you? That chair won't support you for long, and I'd like to give our visitors the chance to sit." The statue mumbled something about merely attempting to keep up appearances but stood and rooted himself protectively behind his ward.

Old man Dingo, as he was oftimes called, veered his gaze away from the bar that he had come for, spotted the unusual duo, flashed them a surprised grin, and ambled over. Before taking the vacated seat, he gave the kid a slight bow and removed his hat. "Of course I remember you, Brandor. And Narvi, as well, of course. Your tastes certainly haven't aged in the last year, I see! A young man of your position could afford quality, but you insist on equipping yourself with only the simplest. Ah, well. To each his own. How have you been?"

With the perfunctory critique of his attire out of the way, Brandor hailed the bartender to order his visitor a generous gift of wine, even though he knew that the fumes would make him dizzy. With the perfunctory thanks for the generosity out of the way, the wanderer fumbled with his words, attempting to make a disappointingly routine journey seem interesting.
 

chrysophalax

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A knock on the highly polished oak door brought Horatio out of his reverie. "Enter!" Now what calamity has befallen that needs my attention he thought as a straight-backed young man slid silently into the room. "Message for you, sir." he said softly, well used to his employer's moods.

Horatio took a long sip of his elven wine before sinking into the red leather chair behind the ancient mallorn desk. His brother's desk...now his. It had been in the family for several generations and even then had cost a fortune. At certain angles, it gleamed with a soft, golden light that never failed to make Horatio want to reach out and caress it. His fingers slowly made their way across the table's surface as he glanced up at his secretary. "Well? Out with it, man!"

"Sir, it appears that your nephew has been seen down by the docks, in an establishment called, " he consulted his memory, "the Dancing Ogre. It seems he is home, sir." Horatio twirled the stem of his wine goblet between his fingers. "Is he, indeed? That is...interesting news. Send for my horse! I must go and greet young Brandor." The young man bowed his way out as Horatio went for his cloak and hat. Home at last, was he? Now all that remained was to get him out of the way again...as soon as possible!
 

Narya

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Although he limped, and the docks had creaking floorboards that tilted sideways when he passed, and very little light, Kastor found his way to the Dancing Ogre with ease. It was packed to the rafters with sailors, their lovers, and regulars that don't even like the smell of the sea but would pay good money for a taste of good ale and to hear a good tale. Kastor push his way through the throng and found his usual place in the corner right next to old Tobbald. The old timer nodded a greeting to Kastor before returning his attention to his mug. Kastor sat on the chair and lifted his left leg on another.

Eana brought him his usual brew -- 1420 -- and Kastor sat back, watched and listened as the sailors animatedly took turns bragging about their voyages and their adventures and their women.

One voice rose above the noise and boasted, "I seen them lands, far back south where the Kings of old 'ave been said to 'ave stayed!"

"That be nothing to what old man Jenkins told me!" Interrupted another. He stood up, pointed his forefinger into the air. "He's seen them elves! Lurking in that old forest!"

"Rubbish!" The crowd chorused; they laughed at him, and many went back to their drinks.

"He's seen 'em, I tell ya!" The man insisted. Kastor could see he was looking around for listening ears. Kastor avoided his eyes.

The crowd relentlessly taunted him.

"Elves? Down in the old forest?"

"There'd be dwarves as well?"

The man looked at him and said, "They don't live in trees!"

Silence followed that remark, then like rain, the pub slowly errupted in laughter. The man had no recourse but to give it up and he left the pub swerving from all the ale in his head. Several hours after that, the crowd went back to their tales and more ale and after an hour or so, most went out. The pub soon quieted down and Kastor very nearly fell asleep when a young man and what looked like a walking statue, came in. The whole pub hushed and gave them both a suspicious look. They made their way towards the bar and ordered something to drink.

"It's him." He whispered. "They look so much alike." His pocket twitched in answer. "Let him have his ale and then we'll tell him."
 

YayGollum

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Brandor slumped back into his seat with a baiting and unfulfilled look, once he finished telling what little he had to tell. Dingo caught onto the sense that the kid was still a bit miffed that he didn't see anything mythological and wanted to be cheered up. "Ah! Now, don't get discouraged, young man. The next time the wanderlust strikes you, be sure to remember me. I was a wanderer, too, you know. There are still several magical places left. You may not even get the chance to see them, though! Many responsibilities lie ahead, if you decide to stay, this time. You're much older, and your training has barely even begun!"

After the kid's face grew a more decisive shade of dismay, Dingo continued, "I notice that you've been avoiding every opportunity to speak of your responsibilities here. The sailors look to your family for guidance. Isn't it about time you answered them? No need to rush home yet, but, Look there! Isn't that Kastor, one of your father's best men?" The old tailor nodded in Kastor's direction and attempted to hook his gaze but saw that Brandor was already taking the initiative and sighed to himself. "I'd envy your energy, if I didn't know where your status demands it to go."

Brandor, eager to meet someone who his father spoke highly of, stood and scanned in the indicated direction. Loudly, and in a fizzled attempt to boom, ending with a boyish grin ---> "Where's that Kastor? One of my father's best men, you say? A high claim indeed!"
 

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Kastor watched with amusement as the boy and his friend ordered their second ale. Quite a heavy drinker for a young lad, he thought. Nin proded him to approach while the boy was still sober but Kastor was not bringing news for the sober. In fact, in his opinion, the boy needed a bit more ale and a soft bed after.

"He'll find out soon enough." He whispered to her. She twitched and he felt her lift the flap of his coat a bit. He pushed the flap back and secured the button. "No, Nin. This is not the right place for --"

A familiar figure entered the pub. His dark blue suit stood out in a room full of neutral colours. The hairy faced newcomer was a welcome sight for Kastor who had not seen him for many months. Dingo, he was called, and he was a werewolf; Kastor found out after his second voyage. The ship was crossing the Greyflood and picked several passengers from Tharbad Port on their way back up to Forodwaith. Dingo was one of them. The night before they reached Hoarwell Port, Kastor was mopping the deck. The moon was high that night and Dingo, the tailor, decided to take a walk.

Dingo passed him a glance. Nothing more was exchanged between them and Kastor hoped he would not tell the boy about his presence. Dingo, expectedly, walked straight to the boy who, unexpectedly, seemed to be well acquianted with the werewolf. They exchanged words and Kastor wished not for the last time that he had the hearing of the elves. From the stories that he heard, they had magnificent hearing, but Nin never confirmed this information.

He went back to his seat and waited again. Dingo looked at him again and nodded and Kastor worried whether he had mentioned him to the boy already or...

"Where's that Kastor? One of my father's best men, you say? A high claim indeed!" The boy announced.

"Dingo, you fool!" He said in an undertone. Nin twitched wildly and Kastor agreed with her cursing of the mangy nut. "He's going to get castrated with that mouth of his."

Kastor decided it was time to tell the lad. He stood and said to him, "What is he to you, boy? Whether you find this man or not is of no importance to you..." Kastor's voice rang inside the pub and the few who had stayed behind to finish their mugs looked up to see this towering bulk move closer to the young man. There was fear in their eyes, he could see, for though he frequented the Dancing Ogre, he was seldom seen by anyone.

Kastor stood a foot away from the boy and the odd looking individual standing valiantly at his side. "...Unless you need to hear news that only he brings."

The young lad looked at him, his eyes brimming with curiousity. "You're Kastor?"

"Aye." Kastor replied. "And what is your name?"
 

YayGollum

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While straightening under the larger man's gaze, Brandor lifted his chin confidently. "Brandor, sir." He seemed to get distracted by the ceiling for a second, then brightened and casually stepped back to offer a seat at his table. "Oh! You mentioned news? I'm afraid that this is only my first day back home, actually, so, if it's about work, you should probably talk directly to my father. I'd like to take a couple of days to settle in before thinking about business, you understand. Ah...would you care for a drink?"

Dingo's ears pricked up at Kastor's seriousness. He attempted to slice the kid's genial behavior with a sharp look, then turned to the sailor with a comradely grin. "Brandor, don't try to shrug responsibility off before you even give it a chance. You would do well to earn this man's respect. He'll set you on the right path. Hello, Kastor. How was the weather?"

Narvi, although he had grown a bit of wariness when the sailor advanced, relaxed since he figured that if the guy was of such high status, he should know better than to actually harm the kid. He mused that getting stared down by some brute might actually be good for him. He didn't take the time to be polite enough to change his expression, though, and only moved when Brandor stepped back. After that, he just hunkered down again to observe.
 

Narya

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"Brandor, sir." Replied the boy; Kastor sweeped a glance at the bar and realized his mistake. No wonder he smelled like grass. Returning to the boy who had mentioned something about taking the affair to his father, Kastor realized the mistake he was about to make again. He does not know of their voyage to the far south. He felt his pocket twitch and he quickly placed his hand inside it until Nin calmed down.

"Brandor, don't try to shrug responsibility off before you even give it a chance. You would do well to earn this man's respect. He'll set you on the right path. Hello, Kastor. How was the weather?" Dingo said shortly.

Kastor looked at him but did not reply; There was so much being revealed to too many ears. Dingo was an old acquiantance that had had other dealings with strange folk, himself being, no doubt, the strangest of all. It would not hurt to tell him of the latest adventure Kastor had gotten himself into. However, from what Kastor had learned from their last expedition, nothing must be left to chance. It would have been different had they not been too careless. No. Dingo cannot be trusted...yet.

Then there was the odd looking individual who seemed to serve the boy as his guard. Kastor could not make out what he was exactly, and therefore his trustworthiness hangs in the balance. The bartender was also exceptionally interested that morning, and who wouldn't be? This must have been the oddest gathering of people in the Dancing Ogre in a long while. Kastor knew there were more ears pricked and listening and interested especially after Brandor, foolishly, announced his name.

Too many. Nin was right. He should have made the first move. His errand was to the boy alone. The news and all its detail should first be revealed to Brandor and the then to the other person in his list: Horatio.

"Begging your pardon, but I cannot stay too long." Kastor declined the offer of a seat and another mug of ale. "However, I would appreciate a talk at a later time. Would it be possible for us to meet at your father's estate, Brandor?"
 

YayGollum

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A look of surprise and confusion popped onto Brandor's face when Kastor declined the act of generosity, but he nodded and gulped down the last of his tea. "Oh, well, of course. I'm just wasting my time here, anyway. I should at least start looking at what my responsibilities will be, I guess. Shall we go?" Eager to prove himself, Brandor whirled to make sure that Narvi was still behind him, then waved that they would be moving on. He would have rushed past and forgotten all about Dingo, if the guy hadn't stood to lean towards Kastor, which made him stop short.

Dingo, since he had been trying to go easy on the kid, was dismayed that he'd be headed for the ones who'd try most aggressively to pin expectations to him. He wanted to at least give him the opportunity to talk with more of the people he'd be helping by learning the trade. Of course, since he didn't know Kastor's news, either, he didn't know better than to lightly touch the guy on the shoulder and speak cautiously to him. "Is this news so important? Your most cheerful disposition is no different than when you bear the worst of news, you know. I was going to have you help ease the boy into his position, but you might have other plans?"

For the group, while attempting to whisk them outside and away from prying ears ---> "Now, then! May I walk with you, to Brandor's place of birth? Or could I tempt the young sir with a visit to my shop, first? Really, you could at least do with something warmer!"
 

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Suddenly aware of the werewolf’s interest on the boy, Kastor turned his full attention to him. “Dingo,” Said Kastor, sweeping the boy aside as he strode closer to the bar; “’Tis been too long since last I saw you. How has your shop been, ey?” He looked at the bartender, again, the man seemed as aware of him as was the rest of the pub. Something’s amiss. “Lad, I changed my mind. It’ll be too rude if I shouldn’t at least take a mug before we left. Give me another of ‘em 1420’s, there’s a good man.” A mug was placed before him, and he downed it in one long gulp.

The werewolf was little impressed; in fact, he was now looking at him with a grin on his face. Kastor could tell that Dingo had an interest on the boy’s affairs perhaps it had something to do with Brandor’s father and the business. “Find Horatio” was the last thing he ever yelled before Kastor was out of earshot, and for many nights before they got moored on that forsaken piece of unmapped land, they’ve talked about nothing else except Horatio and his son, and how there are those who would like to claim the business for themselves.

“The news I bear,” Kastor said shortly; “Is not for your ears, master tailor. So I’m afraid you cannot walk with us, although I expect,” He was now looking at Brandor, pretending to size up his clothing; “The young lad will have to visit you afterwards. He does need new clothing...and perhaps a bath.”

The insult caught the boy off guard and Kastor saw him smell his underarms and the inside of his shirt before straightening it with both hands. Gullible git. Kastor sighed laboriously then went back to Dingo, then said, “So, if that’d be all. Boy, pay the good man and let us be off. I would like to finish my errand early today.”
 

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Dingo squelched a thoughtful frown and turned away as Brandor, not to be left behind, rushed past them to pay the bill. The old werewolf decided that whatever the news was, it was most probably important to the business or the boy's family. Nothing that immediately concerned him and which he wouldn't eventually find out anyway. Brandor, having merely intended to wait for the two to exchange farewells, suddenly caught his breath and rushed outside, looking green. Narvi just tutted and took his time with stomping out after him.

After a brief smirk, Dingo caught Kastor's eyes to add an earnest plea ---> "He's a good boy, and very like his father. I know you'll keep him safe." He then took a seat at the bar to go about his usual interactions but touched his hat and tossed Kastor a wink before turning away. "Looks like the tea was too much for him!"
 

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Kastor placed his arm around the young man's shoulders and leaned a bit on him. He could see that his weight made Brandor wince a bit. So much like Doran, he thought. "Do we really have to travel with that," Kastor threw a glance behind them to the walking thing; "That friend of yours?"

Brandor, after wiping his mouth, straightened and looked back at Narvi with sympathy, and said "Well, he is my friend, so, of course!"

"I've never seen anyone like him,” Kastor said shortly, again looking behind to see the fellow marching behind them. It was the strangest thing he had seen in that port in years and Kastor had seen many strange things. There was something about Brandor's friend that alerted Kastor's nerve and he didn't like the feel of it. "What is he lad?"

Brandor winked at Narvi, then grinned at Kastor before saying, "We're not quite sure of that, yet."

Narvi took the time to cross his arms and look Kastor up and down with disapproval. "We are alone, now. What message have you for the young master?"

Surprised by the question, and somewhat alarmed by this uncanny character, Kastor stopped, sized him before looking at the boy and knew that they shared some kind of bond. It would not do well for him to try and pry them apart, nor would it be beneficial for them all if he were to contend with that bond that they share. However, his judgment had been challenged before and oftentimes it was proven wrong. Could he be wrong again on this occassion? He might be. Then again, maybe not. Maybe he was just being overly cautious and that this thing is a real friend to Brandor. At length, he decided to keep his opinions of this individual on neutral ground and wait for a sign to suspect him.

He smiled at the boy and said, "The ground has ears, and the wind," he looked up into the open air filled with cold fog; "Can speak messages---” He struggled for the stranger's name; he couldn't recall if it was given or not in the many exchanges that transpired inside the pub. Deciding that perhaps he was not properly introduced, Kastor smiled wryly and said, "There are ears that have been waiting for the very message that I carry, Brandon's friend--- However, it is only meant for Brandon himself. I will discuss it in safer quarters." He turned to Brandon again. "Are we far from your father's house?"

Brandor, having never possessed much in the way of a sense of direction, looked around while glaring at the buildings studiously. Narvi, having always possessed very little patience and a much better memory, took the lead and pointed the way. "This way." He marched forward and when he was beside Brandon, he grunted, "We haven't been gone so long that you should forget where your own home is."

Brandor mumbled about growth and development. Brandor saw Kastor shake his head and took it as a sign of disappointment. He decided to turn the table around and before moving along, he raised an eyebrow at Kastor and attempted to gauge his worth, something that had always sounded easy.

"So, my father, how is he? Did you get back recently?"

"Aye,” Kastor replied. He was not going to answer the first question in the open so he decided to waddle in the second. "The ship is anchored there," he pointed to the biggest ship in the port with gray folded sails and a large white mermaid in the bough. "She's a beautiful ship. Doran's finest. We traveled to the South, her bilges are bursting with crates of mollusks and stone crab from Tharbad port. The market should be swelling with it by now."

Brandor, easily distracted, licked his lips then said, "Ah, a feast for my arrival! I'll ask if you can stay, Kastor, although, my father shouldn't mind, if you're as close as Dingo hinted. I'm sorry that I am not around more often. I really should know you better already. But my father has the sea and I have the land--- much to my family's dismay!"

Cringing at Brandor's carefree laugh, Narvi grumbled over his shoulder at them. "I wish that your uncle would put a stop to that! He, at least, has a good head on his shoulders."

"Does he, now?" Kastor said, narrowing his eyes. Hook. "What is your name again?"

The statue halted in the middle of the alley they were passing through, stomped up to Kastor, and was forced to glare at least a foot up at him. "I was not given a name that I know but Brandor calls me Narvi."

Brandor hastened to step beside the two since he couldn't exactly get between them. "Yes, Narvi. After an old Dwarf I heard about. It's a good name!"

Narvi, giving the man a steady glare, spoke again. "Have you a distaste for those who can carry the weight of such a vast shipping business, even through the hardship of a brother like Doran?"

Line. "I have very little care for such things. The shipping business was Doran's forte. Mine is the sea and how to steer his ship across it and back. However, because of circumstances, Doran has entrusted me with matters concerning his shipping business and I hold it and its interests in high priority. I trust no one with it. Not unless Doran himself says he can be trusted." Kastor's lancing gaze bore down upon the creature that obviously wasn't human. Narvi just stared back. Both did not blink and Kastor barely moved. In his mind, the foremost thought was that his spear may not peneratrate the thick hide of this "thing". Brandor cleared his throat and Kastor looked up to see that a crowd was now beginning to form around them. He lowered his gaze, and even forced a small smile before saying, "Narvi. I shall keep that in mind. 'Tis a good name, lad, let us hope that he acquires a few of their traits. Just a few, Dwarves are known to be ruled more by greed than by loyalty."

Narvi gave the man a smirk before turning away. Brandor looked at the two worriedly and clapped Kastor's shoulder lightly, and then said, "Well, actually, I think that I might have met a few Dwarves already. They aren't so bad. But then, they might have just been descendents. Or just a few short loremasters. They're more cautious than greedy. And certainly very loyal, if you get to know them. You are actually very Dwarflike, Kastor! Well, not in height, of course. Your beard is quite lacking, too. But you do have the loyalty of a Dwarf. They don't even need to know their rivals to hate them, either! Ah, have you met my uncle, by the way?" the last, he said with an innocent smile.

"Yes," Kastor said. "I have."
 
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YayGollum

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They made their way through the busy streets now loud with market-fare. The men from the ship, Evertas, have unloaded their crates of mollusks and stone crab and the merchants were now bargaining for prices.

At long last they reached the manor, quite an estate from the look of it, and very palatial if compared to its very modest neighbors. The gates bore a large insignia of Doran's family. They made their way inside and Brandor thought it best that they talk in the library where the books and thick drapes muffled their voices. Not, of course, before he spoke to at least three servants about preparing a feast and gathering his family for a surprise.

In the library, after Narvi shut the door and stood with his back to it, Brandor found a comfortable chair and motioned to another.

"This should be fine. What news can you have for me that must be kept so private? Oh, I should have asked the servants for drinks!"

"Leave the drinks," Kastor said. He refused the seat once more much to Brandor's displeasure and this time he couldn't hide it. "I bring terrible news for you, Brandor."

With an honest gasp, Brandor said, "Oh? What happened?" Narvi stepped forward a bit, as the kid was normally too lighthearted to show much worry.

Kastor, who never learned to say things with a grain of salt, knew only of one way to disclose news: blunt and fast. "Your father is dead."

Brandor blinked once, then shook his head and smiled, looking around the room. "Is this a trick? Father would sometimes play tricks on me, but I never would have thought that he'd add one of his shipmen to a plot! Is it because I've been gone so long and should be so much wiser? Where is he now? He's not dead." Only a soft and hopeful laughter followed, though. Narvi, on the other hand, didn't doubt the man's tone, but started stomping around the room, checking behind drapes just to make certain that noone was hiding behind them.

Kastor didn't know what to say next. He just realized how young Brandor was and how gripping was the message he had brought. He couldn't meet his eyes. He felt a stinging jolt run through him as he listened to the young man's disbelief. I shouldn't have left him.

Brandor, showing a bit of annoyance, crossly said to Kastor, "Come now! Don't lie to me, Kastor. I've only just returned. What kind of welcome is this, to hear that my father is dead? Very bad taste, sir!"

Narvi, after checking around the room, shook his head sadly and took a place beside his companion.

"I'm sorry, Brandor." Kastor regretfully said, and again he felt remorse coursing through him. "It is the truth. I come to give you this,” He took out an envelop with Doran's seal. "It is your father's will. It leaves the entire business to you." Handing it to the young lad.

Brandor shakily stood, while glaring at the drapes, to take the envelope, but he didn't open it. "Are you certain? Did you see him die?"

It was the question that Kastor feared to hear. He didn't have the stomach to tell the boy that he ran and left his master behind so that he can save his own life. Yes, he needed to stay alive and give Brandor what was rightfully his, and make sure that he keeps it. He needed to stay alive to make sure that the business and the house and all of Doran's belongings were given to his son, and not taken by those who have been conspiring to take it from him. Nevertheless, if he only stayed for a little while longer, and fought, Doran would not need to pass down his will. Not yet.

"Did you see him die?" Brandor asked again, and this time his voice shook.

"I,” Kastor hesitated. "I did not."

For a moment, Brandor's face held a confused glare, but after a deep breath, he dropped the envelope on his chair and gave another carefree grin, this one accompanied by a much harder voice. "Then I have no need for his will yet, do I? So, where did you leave him? Oh, and why?"

Do I tell him? Kastor could see how stubborn this boy was -- after all, he was Doran's son. He knew the task needed more than just a day to accomplish, and now that he has met Brandor it would take longer than he anticipated. His pocket twitched again. He steadied it but not quick enough, for Narvi's eyes quickly caught sight of it. He said nothing though, which added to Kastor's already growing suspicion of him.
 

chrysophalax

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Horatio was in high dudgeon. Rarely did he ever waste time and yet, here he was, apparently on a wild goose chase. His dear nephew and several suspicious characters had left the bowels of a particularly rank pub near the docks not long before, most likely for home. Hardly the establishment I would have allowed my son to frequent. I must speak to the whelp about the family reputation. he thought as he rode hell-bent for leather along the cobblestones toward the mansion. His brother had obviously been remiss in the lad's education.

Candlelight blazed in the windows and lanterns had been lit all along carriage entrance Horatio noticed through narrowed eyes. A cynical smile graced his lips as he pulled the frothing horse to a skidding halt in the yard and leapt off. A startled servant darted out, as if from nowhere. "M-my lord! We had no news of your impending arrival! I..." He cuffed the boy's ear soundly. "Because I sent none, fool! Be off with you!" The lad needed no further encouragemant and lead the heaving animal to the stables, leaving Horatio to contemplate the reason for the gaiety within.

A frontal assault had never been his forte, so Horatio walked calmly to the rear of the massive stone structure, all the while thinking, ever thinking. It was obvious the young wastrel was busy spending the family fortune on those eccentric "friends" of his, the most dangerous of which in his opinion was Dingo, a rather dapper older man that always seemed to smell like a wet dog, for some reason. From the sound of things, young Brandor had to have done well on this venture and his unce was bound to find out exactly how well. When he reached the back of the manor, Horatio slipped through the postern gate, to which only he and his brother had the key. Two flights later, after startling several bats that always lurked in the stairwell, he was once again in his apartment.

"He's back, m'lord." Horatio tossed hat, cloak and riding gloves into the ever-waiting arms of his life-long servant, Thomas. "Really? You mean that bonfire of candles downstairs isn't for my homecoming? You wound me, Thomas!" A thin, perfunctory smile greeted the acidic comment. "M'lord likes his jest, I'm sure. Wine. m'lord?" On the table in the center of the drawing room sat a delicate crystal decanter, full and a goblet, also full. Inwardly, Horatio relaxed as he strode to the table, picked up the goblet and inhaled. "Ahhhh, Thomas. What would I do without you?" "Hire another servant, m'lord?" Horatio chuckled. "My cynicism has worn off on you, I see. Nay, nay. Come, tell me all. I want to be prepared before I greet my nephew with open arms."
 

Arvedui

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Meanwhile, in a dark corner in the library, a small, squat statue carven in stone, was standing. Immensely old it seemed, carven with humanlike features, but much shorter and broader. And even if it was just a statue, some sort of mysterious power seemed to emit from it if one got close enough.
 

Narya

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Nin slowly made her way into the sleeve of Kastor's coat. Using every crease as though they were steps in a large staircase. She made it to Kastor's broad shoulders with very little effort and, hiding herself in the thickness of his hair, she whispered to him, "Remember Ankaragmir..."

Her slicing voice cut through Kastor's consciousness like a hot knife on butter. His mind was thrown out to sea on a day he will forever regret...

He was trying to log their bearing when Doran came down. Kastor looked at the piece of parchment that Doran had placed on top of the loxodograph. New bearings. He wants to go further down south. He never questioned Doran's decisions - not once - but today, after they have voyaged steadily southwards for months, Kastor was beginning to suspect that his master had lost his mind.

"Captain," He called.

"Yes, Kastor?"

"You want us to go further South?"

Doran nodded; he had that silly smile plastered on his face like the one you see in a child who had mischief in mind. He turned around and was heading out the door expecting Kastor to just follow the order that he had just given him.

"Captain," He called again.

"Is there something wrong, Kastor?" Doran replied, his voice had a tinge of annoyance, which Kastor expected seeing as this was the first time his order had been questioned by no less than his first mate.

Kastor hesitated, unsure if he should tell him his fears. Then again, he had been getting warnings from Nin for many nights now. Do not go down to the Dune; Ankaragmir is the birthplace of the Laminak!

"We are going to the Dune?"

"Yes. We are." Doran replied, suave and casual, as though the Dune Sea was a place he frequented.

Kastor knew he had to try and talk him out of it. He took a deep breath and said, "There is nothing there, captain. It's just a dead sea."

"We will port in Caldûne, and go inland from there. The town of Julus is famous for its pearls and torquiose, and..."

"We will go inland, captain?" Kastor echoed.

"What is the matter with you, Kastor?" Doran asked, clearly bewildered by his obvious hesitation to go south. "I've never seen you this agitated before."

Kastor closed his eyes tightly and sighed heavily. He didn't want to reveal the existence of Nin. Not even to Doran. Especially not to Doran. He would be exceptionally interested with her; his lust to see such beings in existence had been the driving force of many journeys to unchartered lands. Journeys that nearly ended in tragedy and Kastor knew that if they continued teasing fate, she will tire of their jest too soon.

Doran walked back to him and placed a hand on his left shoulder, and then said, "You and I have risked dangers and garnered treasures that no man in Forodwaith ever had."

"Worthless treasure." Kastor reminded him.

"Treasure is not just silver and gold!" Doran interjected. "The history of our land has been kept in ice and water for many centuries. The books of lore have been sold to the highest bidder, who takes them out to sea only to be plundered by pirates."

"Legends!" Doran exploded. "Captain, these are nothing more than legends that we are after. You are risking your life for something that lies in mists! You have a son --- "

"Who loves the ground more than the sea!" Doran interrupted.

"Still he is your flesh and bone and blood. He is your real treasure." Kastor insisted.

There was silence after that. Doran just looked at him and smiled sadly. Then he nodded and turned around placing a hand on his waist while the other rubbed his forehead. With Doran's back to him, Kastor bowed his head in shame knowing how much it pains his captain to remember his dead wife. However, Kastor needed to convinced him not to go on with this mad hunt to uncover the past and the only way he knew was to dig into the deepest wounds of his heart.

"You have neglected both him and the business in Forodwaith." Kastor said.

"Horatio is taking care of both while I'm away, Kastor, you know that." Doran replied.

Kastor limped toward him. He said, "Are you certain of that?" Looking directly into Doran's eyes, his own pupils glittering with words he could not utter. It was clear with Doran's confused expression that he understood.

He asked, "What is that supposed to mean?"

"Horatio seems to be ecstatic everytime you leave for the sea and disappointed whenever you show up at the harbor..." Said Kastor, looking out the porthole, then turning back to Doran again; "...alive."

"Madness! What are you implying, Kastor?" Doran asked. "Horatio is my brother! I doubt the people he mingles with but never him. Blood is still thicker than water after all." Kastor looked undeterred by it, and in an attempt to win the debate, Doran spoke again, more sternly now, and said, "If you--- know something--- tell me."

"I only know what I feel in my gut, captain. My gut is telling me not to trust Horatio." Kastor said. "Blood may be thicker than water but it dillutes faster when you're always out in the sea. Soon, the ocean will have disolved everything that ties you both."

Doran sighed laboriously, and said, "I know why you feel so strongly about Horatio, Kastor. But your squabbles doesn't concern me. I trust him fully."

Kastor could see that he could not contend with that yet. Maybe he'll never be able to. Doran you fool, how can you be so stubborn, Kastor thought. He could desert him once they port in Caldune. He has paid his debt and earned enough to start a life somewhere. He can leave now. However, Doran was the only friend he has ever known. The only one who even showed the slightest sign of humanity towards him when he was about to give up on the human civilization entirely. He can never turn his back on him. If I have to die defending him...

"Aye, captain."

"Now," Replied Doran , grinning; "Shall we go to the topdeck so you can steer the ship to our next destination?"

Kastor could do nothing but agree. His pocket twitched madly in revolt and he had to endure the sting of Nin's rod in his hand for at least an hour.

Narvi was still looking at him when he shook free of the memory. Brandor was talking about something; he couldn't recall what it was, but he was certain he mentioned something about finding Doran. Nin had made her way back into his pocket.

"No," Kastor said, realizing he interrupted Brandor in mid-sentence, he walked closer to the boy holding out a large hand in front of him as though he was trying to clear some fog. Narvi quickly went between them. "I will not harm him, Narvi. He is my charge---"
 
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chrysophalax

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Following a lengthy debriefing by Thomas, Horatio sat back in his orc-hide recliner and pondered. That his nephew had returned was, in itself, nothing that would normally cause him any distress, for thus far the young man had shone no great promise as a businessman and seemed more than willing to let his uncle take all the responsibility. However, the fact that Kastor was with him boded ill. He had never seen eye to eye with Doran's friend and captain and in Horatio's view, Doran valued the man's opinion far too highly. And then there was Dingo...

The elegant werewolf had always intrigued Horatio, much as a deadly snake is intriguing merely because of its deadliness. His eyes narrowed in thought as he wondered why Dingo had chosen to come to the mansion with Brandor and he could find no reason that seemed good to him. He had the uneasy feeling of a trap slowly closing in and he didn't like it one bit.

"Thomas? Alert the appropriate people, will you? I want no trouble here. Make sure my "guests" are well taken care of and stay close. And tell my nephew I will receive him in the library." Thomas nodded. "Of course, my lord." Then he disappeared without a sound to do Horatio's bidding.

As Horatio made his way to the library through one of the many secret passageways, he smiled to himself. Thomas had been one of his father's more interesting discoveries. The man was more than half-elven, a rarity in this day and time and his loyalty to the family (meaning Horatio primarily) was beyond question. Early on, Horatio had discovered that Thomas was passionate about his elven heritage and Horatio had used this knowledge (albeit illegally) to acquire many treasures long thought lost and even allowed Thomas to own one or two himself. He had proven so grateful that the fact Horatio was a scoundrel at heart made no difference. Together, they made a formidable pair when it came to smuggling.

Upon entering the library, Horatio was instantly watchul. For some reason, he always had the feeling that he was being watched here, so it was rare that he ever came to this room in person. Horatio held out his hand, clasping Brandor's in a firm grip and pointedly ignoring the other people in the room. "Welcome home, nephew! Come, sit you down and tell me of your venture. I trust it was lucrative?" Brandor stood before him awkwardly for a moment and Horatio exclaimed, "Of course! Where are my manners? Would you like tea? I've recently acquired a very aromatic blend from Umbar and a delightful herbal tea from the hillsides just west of the Misty Mountains, where there once stood an elven settlement, it is said." Horatio seated himself and waved Brandor to a chair near the fire. "Tell me everything."
 
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YayGollum

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Although his eyebrows perked up with interest at the mention of the tea, Brandor winced at his uncle's liveliness. He was used to feelings of annoyance and impatience while he was around the guy, which made him feel horrible about having to keep him informed. He picked up the will and handed it to his uncle before sitting down and offering a comforting smile. "Heh. An unfortunate homecoming, this time, Uncle. I was just talking with Kastor here about my father. He wasn't dead when his first mate abandoned him, at least. What do you think we should do?"

Narvi backed away as Horatio entered. Although he was used to only looking after Brandor, he admired this businessman and had gathered that Kastor could be a bit unreasonable, hence his need for a better position. He ended up standing politely to the side of the fire, but still what would be too close for a normal human's comfort. After providing a slight nod of respect for the what might be dead, he noticed another statue. Interest in the conversation quickly made him forget about it, though.

Dingo unexpectedly appeared from behind a curtain, probably by way of a secret passage, and only noticed by those who weren't focused on other things. He silently glided towards the group, giving a sympathetic nod to any who noticed him. If much surprise was shown, he'd flash a grin and whip out a dashing new outfit, obviously meant for Brandor. Saying nothing, his own eyebrows perked up when he spotted the will.
 

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