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Old July 13, 2018, 03:22 PM   #16 (permalink)
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Niven would not have to watch Hoskuld closely for signs of recognition at all; they were all over his face -actually, they were all over *her* face, as a fine spray of beer, foam, and spit gushed out of his lips to moisten the lovely elfess’ features the moment she mentioned the names. ”Cala…” the dwarf’s voice choked out from somewhere behind the beer-scented mist. ”Aw, feth, pardon! Sorry ‘bout that,! he added hastily, apologizing for his companion’s sudden beer bath. It was a good thing he had already swallowed most of it so that she was merely dampened instead of drenched.

A few moments of wheezing and awkwardness followed, as Hoskuld tried to recover his composure, and then to make up to the elf for losing it in the first place. When he was ready to try to speak again he said: ”Calanon and Kailin! Niven, I know about ten people in all Port Alyxandrya, and those are two of them. I don’t believe it! Calanon, heh!”

He shook his head in disbelief, wiping the beer spray off his own face; he was reluctant to offer to do the same for the elf for all sorts of reasons, and so didn’t. Shoulda known that crazy elf would be in the middle of a ‘complicated’ situation, he thought to himself; however, he would have credited Kailin with more sense. She was so wholesome, after all. Still, they were together, so Cal’s problems became hers. Poor girl.

And his incredulity and amazement only grew as Niven recounted the details. His mouth probably didn’t close the entire time she talked. It was all quite fantastic and baffling, not least of which was the fact that she was telling a dwarf she barely knew all of this at all. A love potion? Hoskuld wasn’t entirely sure he bought that part, but it wasn’t his place to judge. Still, if he knew anybody he’d believe to get caught up in such an incident, it’d be Calanon.

What brought Hoskuld fully back to himself and made him realize he was gaping like an idiot was Niven’s mention of the Fog, and the loss of her family to it. Any thoughts he had been forming, any judgements or observations about her and Cal’s “complicated” situation were swept away by a wave of condolence. ”You lost your families to the Fog?” he said quietly, somewhat lamely repeating her words. ”I am sorry for your loss. I keep forgetting how many others lost people on account of that fethin’ Fog, too.”

The dwarf did not elaborate; instead he puffed his cheeks and exhaled sharply as he pondered his drink, letting a moment of silence pass as he pensively rotated the tankard between his thumb and forefinger. Looking back up at Niven and returning a rueful smile of his own he said: ”I think I spit in your drink back there. I’ll pay if you wanna switch it out for a fresh one.”
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Old July 17, 2018, 07:29 PM   #17 (permalink)
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The elfess closed her eyes as the spray from the dwarf’s mouth misted her. Looking none too impressed, Niven blinked her eyes a couple of times before she patted the counter a couple of times. A towel landed on the bar in front of her from a laughing Logan. She shot her friend an unamused look before she buried her face in it, wiping the remnants of beer mixed with dwarf spittle off her face. Looking down, she also dabbed the towel on her white shirt, grateful his mouth hadn’t been more full lest she be soaked. “It’s all right,” she replied to his apology, still looking down at her shirt as she dabbed at it.

At last, she was done and put the towel back on the bar, returning her attention to the dwarf.

Niven’s face didn’t move a muscle as Hoskuld claimed an acquaintance with both Calanon and Kailin. “Of course he does,” she thought wryly, “Why wouldn’t he?” It would seem that Calanon and Kailin managed to do their fair share of travelling and managed to cross paths with many of the same people Niven was.

Hoskuld seemed more than a little surprised at the tale she wove but said nothing until she mentioned the Fog.

“Thank you,” she replied simply with a melancholy smile. "Both Calanon and I lost everyone. I have only met one other Sylrosian since then, in Moonstone. She was working as an Elementalist for Sliucha to restore the principality to its former glory. Eventually, we hope to work together to restore the Sylrosian Forest. But I need to get there first and report on what is left. Calanon has already been back and said it’s nothing but a wasteland. However, he is a sorcerer and not a druid as I am so he has a very different perspective than I will. Still, that report saddens me.”

The elfess looked at her drink and sighed before looking sideways at the dwarf. “You lost people too, I take it?” she asked softly.

The elfess chuckled at the next comment Hoskuld made. “Actually, I think I will take you up on that,” she said, an amused grin on her lips and twinkle in her emerald eyes.
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Old July 19, 2018, 07:25 PM   #18 (permalink)
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Niven was a good sport about the whole beer thing. She was rising in the dwarf’s estimation by the minute.

Hoskuld nodded quietly when she asked him about losing people. ”Not family,” he said, more softly than usual, ”but pretty much every friend I had outside of Primus Gaudeo. I’d been living in High Peak, working in the Chillings Mines there for a few eras. Then, in the spring of Nineteen, when the passes had cleared and we got the first mail of the season, I get news that my oldest brother’s to be wed.” His expression grew more distant for a moment, but also a bit happier. He grinned.

”And he married up good, too. Citrina Fire-setter. Rich family. *Very* rich. In fact, her uncle was buyin’ almost half the gems from our mines. Which was probably why my boss was so willing -eager, even- to give me all the time off in the world to attend that wedding in Primus Gaudeo. Consequently, pretty much all of my family -including some relatives I’d never met before- were together in a safe place when the Fog came. Cetheron be praised.”

Hoskuld raised his mug in a silent solo toast and took a thoughtful pull of his beer. He reflected on what Niven had just told him about Calanon’s going to Sylrosia. He could imagine what that was like; it was an experience they had in common. Perhaps he would have to start being nicer to the crazy elf, after all.

”I didn’t know that about Cal,” he said. ”But I did somethin’ similar. I eventually wandered out to High Peak, after the war with the Xet was over, to see if there was anything left there. There wasn’t. Nothin’ but rocks and snow and wind. Everybody I knew from there was gone -well, near enough everyone.”

He thought briefly of Ylva Cherhc, the young barbari woman with the white hair who was no taller than he was. The corners of his eyes creased fondly as he recalled how she had struggled with his name and called him “Household” when they had first met. The dwarf had heard that she had survived, even managed to make a name for herself during the war. Good. He liked that fierce little bitch. It was too bad he hadn’t seen her again.

He returned his attention to the elf next to him. ”The new in-laws were good to me, though -the Fire-Setters, I mean. They’re the ones who wanted to set me up in the gem trade in Arconis. But the Xet weren’t finished with their mischief, so as I said before, that plan didn’t quite happen. But at least my family survived.” Although his second brother, Doli, had come back from the war a different, shattered dwarf. But there was no need to trouble Niven with that.

He cheered up when Niven accepted his peace offering and caught Logan’s attention. He ordered another round of what they were having -he was ready for another one too, or he would be as soon as he finished gulping down the remainder of his current lager. He wasn’t troubled that it was probably mixed with spit. It was his spit, after all, and wouldn’t *any* beer he drank have his spit in it?

When the fresh round arrived, he raised his glass to Niven’s in a toast. ”To all our people, old and new, lost and found.” Well, it had sounded good and solemn and impressive in his head, at least.
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Old July 23, 2018, 09:40 PM   #19 (permalink)
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Niven nodded where appropriate during Hoskuld's story. She was happy for him, truly, that his family had managed to escape the same fate hers had. There was perhaps a lick of jealousy in there too. If only she’d thought to invite her family to see her and Dante in Demios. But would they have come after how things had been left? Niven frowned at the thought. Likely not. They had objected quite strongly to her relationship as if they had seen or known something that she had not seen. Perhaps they were trying to save her from herself.

But then who knew? Perhaps in her interest in making peace would have made all the difference. If she couldn’t have saved everyone, perhaps she could have saved her mother. Her mother would have had the chance to see her grandchildren, been there when she’d given birth to them. But then maybe they wouldn’t exist? Niven would likely never have been in Port Alyxandrya that darkening if she hadn’t gone to Moonstone to bid her family farewell. Things wouldn’t have played out as they had. The idea that her children would never have existed stopped her thoughts in their tracks. She couldn’t imagine a life without them. And wouldn’t want to.

Giving her head a slight shake, she broke out of her thoughts and focused once again on what Hoskuld was saying. Something about in-laws and Arconis?

“Yes,” Niven agreed with a soft melancholy smile, managing to catch the last thing he said. “You are very fortunate. I am sorry about your friends, though."

Logan reached for her soiled stein of mead and replaced it with a fresh one. Niven flashed him a grateful smile before smiling and raising her mug to meet that of the dwarfs.

“To all our people,” she echoed, letting her glass clink against his before taking a hearty drink.

“Mmmm,” she said as she put the back of her hand to her chin to catch a but of mead that had slipped down her face. “So how do you know Calanon and Kailin?"
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Old July 25, 2018, 05:58 PM   #20 (permalink)
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Hoskuld clinked glasses with Niven and took a swig of his fresh beer before putting the mug back down. He was two beers into his evening. Not much by dwarf standards, but things were off to a good enough start. He was beginning to feel warmed up.

He looked at the elf and pondered her question a moment. How much to tell? Well, he had no particular reason to keep secrets from her, so he decided to tell as much of it as the conversation would bear. Besides, it seemed stingy not to share when she had been willing to. ”Met Cal in a village in the Maevewood," he explained, "not too far from here. Some pretty odd circumstances brought us together. I was lured there by rumors of a monster that was terrorizing the place, which turned out to be a prank, and Calanon and some others were getting ready to set out on a search for Mercuria the Great Underground Empire.”

Hoskuld intoned the last few words with a hint of the contempt and disbelief he still felt about it all, even after all these months. He knew he probably shouldn’t. After all, the wild tale that had lured him to the village was every bit as ridiculous, and he should have known better. He continued: ”We ended up checking out an abandoned mine outside of Arconis that had some curious history to it.

“As to Kailin, well, I met her not too long afterwards. I had just arrived here in town and needed something to do, preferably something that made money. After a couple cycles of milling around I got wind of somebody wanting to hire adventurers to investigate the disappearances of children around Port Alyxandria. I went to the meeting to sign the contract and Kailin was there- as was Calanon, as well. That was the first I learned of them being…together.”
The dwarf hesitated on the last word, not sure at this point if it was the right one to describe their “complicated” relationship. ”Of course, both of those threads are ongoing, so I can’t exactly tell you what happened after that, but the upshot is, that’s how I know them.”

He frowned slightly as he thought of something. ”I guess I don’t know much about either of them outside of adventurin’ stuff. Haven’t had occasion to call on either of them socially. For some odd reason, Cal hasn’t invited me.” He grinned as he said the last phrase. He obviously did not expect Calanon to invite him anywhere. To date they hadn’t exactly hit it off. He had gotten along much better with Kailin to date, he thought. Or perhaps she was just nicer and chose to humor him.

At any rate he looked at Niven and asked: ”So how does Calanon like bein’ a daddy and staying at home with babies? I mean the elf I know was always doing adventury things like me, so it’s a bit odd for me to think of him settled down. Does it suit him, you think?”

He thought a bit more. ”And what about you? What do you want to do, now that you’ve got kids? Do you want to stay *here*? Or make a home of your own somewhere else? How much longer do you want to stay where you currently are, in your ‘complicated home situation’?”

Hoskuld suspected they were probably well outside topics that would be normal for two people who had just met that brightening to talk about. But the dwarf was never much for social graces, and the elf had already shown a surprising candor on the subject. And it was much more diverting than guessing which rock samples contained the most silver.
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Old August 2, 2018, 06:31 PM   #21 (permalink)
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Niven snorted at the phrase, “Some pretty odd circumstances brought us together.” She couldn’t help herself. “Do normal circumstances exist when it comes to meeting Cal?” she wondered wryly.

As he continued Niven nodded, mentally placing Hoskuld’s meeting of Calanon around the time things with her and Dante were unravelling. It was a couple cycles later that she had arrived in Port Aylyxandrya and gone to the Alyxanda home to find Kailin, no more than a cycle before Calanon returned from the search of Mercuria to the life-changing news she bore. The acquaintance was still fairly new then.

“Yes, I heard about that,” Niven interjected, taking another drink. “So sad and rather frightening, especially as a mother.”

She smiled as he mentioned Calanon and Kailin being together, not quite understanding what Hoskuld was meaning about the status of their relationship. “Yes, they are actually not so unusual a couple. It’s hardly rare for an elf to find themselves romantically entangled with a human, even with their remarkably short lifespans.”

A melodic laugh pierced the air at Hoskuld’s surprise at not being invited over. “Oh, I wouldn’t take that too personally,” the elfess advised him. “Once I arrived everything became quite complicated and Calanon is a rather private person at the best of times. He likely didn’t want to involve more people in our odd predicament, at least until we figured out a more stable arrangement. And if you haven’t seen him since then, there is a good chance he doesn’t even know you are still in town.”

There was no hiding the smile that spread across the druidess’ softening face then. “Calanon is actually a wonderful father. He’s rather hands-on and very involved. It’s really sweet.” She sighed happily.

“He’s happy to do his part at home or at least has been so far. I don’t know exactly how he is feeling about the lack of adventuring or if it’s something that even bothers him. Nothing has really come up that he’s been kept from and the babies keep us pretty busy. I suppose that will be a bridge we cross when we come to it.”

Niven gave a grimace at the dwarf’s next question. “I’m not too sure. As I said, I need to go back to the Sylrosian Forest sometime relatively soon. Calanon said he’d go with me. The plan is to restore the area. And I want to pursue a career as a Healer as well, to be able to support myself and the twins. I’m not exactly certain where that all will take me. Everything is rather undecided and unclear.”

A small shrug of her shoulders then. “I’m not sure what will happen with the current living situation. I don’t really want to take Calanon’s kids too far from him, and the assistance I have with him and Kailin is invaluable. To be able to handle it all on my own I would need help and I can’t afford that right now. And I can’t exactly work right now, so I can’t support us either. I would like to give the two their own space at some point though. It is their home."
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Old August 6, 2018, 03:30 PM   #22 (permalink)
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Hoskuld gazed at the trace of foam around the edge of his beer and grinned at the thought of Calanon as a father. The image of him getting baby pee or spit-up on his face amused him; it also briefly made him think of elves a bit differently. You looked at their cool, composed features and smooth, ever-perfect skin and never thought of those features and skin getting babied on. And to his surprise, he didn’t take too much glee from the idea (not *too* much); it was actually endearing, a prospect that made those seemingly aethereal beings seem more down-to-Telath.

More serious and sobering were the concerns Niven voiced about her future. He nodded sympathetically. ”Yeah, that can’t be easy,” he offered, unable to think of much else to say. But how to continue that observation? The dwarf knew all about needing money and having uncertain prospects; however, he had never had anybody but himself to take care of. How would *he* want to have a couple helpless hungry infants to worry about as well, he wondered?

And no, she didn’t want to stay here. She wanted to do many other things. Become a healer, rebuild Sylrosia…it was a lot. ”I guess that’s a difference between us and humans,” he observed. ”Humans have some kids, they stop and raise ‘em, and by the time the kids are all grown the parents are already middle-aged. My parents had eight kids over about sixty eras. When the youngest moves out, they’ll still be fairly young, with centuries of health ahead of them. Who knows what all they could do with that time?”

He gestured towards Niven. ”You might not want to wait that long, of course, to do all those things. But you *could*. Bein’ a full time mom wouldn’t cost you half your career like it would a human.” He stopped himself and shrugged sheepishly. ”I don’t know if it helps to think about that or not.”

A bit of awkward silence followed, as the dwarf seemed to mull something. Then, perking up, he said ”I hope you’re able to accomplish everything you want. It sounds like a lot, but there’s nothin’ wrong with dreaming big.” He picked up his mug. ”To dreams, and their fulfilment.”
After draining it he set the tankard down with a sharp rap. Three he thought. ”Another one?” he asked the elfess.
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Old August 6, 2018, 07:51 PM   #23 (permalink)
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Hoskulds words rang true for the elfess as she considered them through her slightly foggy senses. Unlike a human, she had the time to take to raise her children before starting a career. She was only almost 100, plenty of time to properly raise her twins to maturity before pursuing a career. She didn’t have to be a Healer right away. But then she wanted to.

And then there was the work she wanted to do in the Sylrosian forest. The sooner that got started, the sooner it would be able to thrive and grow. And then it would be time that would restore the mighty oaks and other vegetation that had made up the forest so that once again Sylrosians could make their home among the trees.

Starting to feel more than a little light headed as her tankard got close to being empty again, she nodded slowly.

“Kailin is a human,” she said, rather stating the obvious. “She has a career. Painting. And shipping….or merchanting. Is that a thing?” Niven turned her head to look at the dwarf. “She’ll be old by the time the twins are of age. Could you imagine? Being fifty and old?” The idea seemed ludicrous.

A grin graced her features at the toast. “To dreams and fulfilment!” she said, rather loudly lifting her tankard. She then tipped it back and finished it.

Niven thought for a moment. She probably shouldn’t have another. But she was having a good time and the dwarf seemed to want another and it was rude to make him drink alone right? Eventually, she nodded.

The rap on the counter brought Logan over.

“Another?” He asked Hoskuld, wiping his hands on a towel. Logan then ventured a glance at Niven. He’d never seen her drink this much before.

“Two?”
he asked, holding up two fingers.

“Yes,” Niven replied. “Another. And make it what he’s having.”

The human bartender failed to hide his amused smile. “Alright,” he agreed amiably but resolved to keep an eye on the petite elfess. He took their mugs and returned promptly with two full ones.

Niven reached for hers and pulled it closer, bending down to smell it. It smelled alright. Definitely stronger than the mead she’d been drinking. Putting her hand through the handle she raised it to her lips and took a sip.

Not bad!

Putting it down again, she turned to Hoskuld. “So your brother married. Have you ever thought about it? Marriage I mean? Finding a girl, settling down, having mini-dwarves. Is there currently a girl?” Apparently, a little drink made the elfess’ tongue a bit loser and dissolved her filter.

As she waited for his response the elfess wrapped her other hand around her tankard as well and leaned forward on with her forearms on the bar.
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Old August 7, 2018, 07:41 PM   #24 (permalink)
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She’s feelin’ it a bit the dwarf thought, noticing how the elfess talked and moved. This would be round four, and she was moving on to stronger stuff. Hoskuld’s capacity was unremarkable for a dwarf; he was not a particularly heavy drinker. But it would take as much beer again as he had downed so far for him to get even slightly wobbly. He looked at Logan as Niven ordered. ”Maybe we could get somethin’ to munch on, too?” he suggested.

The image of himself pouring Niven onto Kailin’s landing, possibly from a wheelbarrow, at Calanon’s disapproving feet amused him more than it probably should have. But she was a mother of young children imposing on a friend’s patience and hospitality, so it was probably better if that didn’t happen. And while the idea of Cal’s disapproval aimed at him didn’t faze him much, the prospect of Kailin’s did.

Niven’s question met with a surprised look. Surprised not because he was somehow shocked that she had asked such a thing, but because he realized that he had not given the subject much thought, which suddenly seemed odd. He looked at her nonplussed for a moment, then let out a short sigh.

”You know, I thought about it a bit when Hoggy’s wedding was goin’ on,” he answered at last, a bit pensively, ”There were some girls my age there, too. But events took another turn, what with the war and all, and I just never thought of it again, not seriously, anyway.”

He surveyed the other clientele at the bar for a moment, then shook his head and looked back at Niven. ”I’ve been out and about tryin’ to make my fortune. I always told myself I’d maybe think about marriage once I’d gotten settled in to something steady. Maybe in Arconis.” He shrugged. ”It hasn’t happened yet. And I don’t run into many dwarf ladies in my travels, so not much time or chance for dalliances, either.”

Hoskuld took a swig from his fresh beer, taking a moment to savor it while he considered another thought. ”My mom started bugging me and my brother Doli about looking for girls ourselves at that wedding, but neither of us took her seriously. I guess like I said earlier, our kind has time to take. Maybe I’ll be like you, but the other way around. Spend some decades getting my career where I want it before I think to start a family. My grandfather had lived about two centuries before he took a wife; that’s not something a human can afford to do.”

He took another sip, just a small one and again held it on his tongue a moment before swallowing. He tended to do that when he was mulling something serious. ”On the other hand, now, Doli came back from the Xet war kinda messed up. Not physically so much but…” Hoskuld pointed meaningfully at his head. ”He may or may not ever marry now. So that can happen if you wait too long, too, I guess. Who knows what the gods will send you?” He shrugged. ”But yeah, at any rate, no girl for Hoskuld right now.”

He didn’t have a toast for that thought, so instead he addressed himself to the possibility of munching on something. And perhaps also, he thought as he watched Niven lean onto the bar, the possibility of commandeering a wheelbarrow.
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Old September 3, 2018, 07:11 PM   #25 (permalink)
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Logan raised an eyebrow at the dwarf, his mouth still twisted into an amused grin, and gave a short nod. A few minutes later, a bowl of pretzels and one of nuts appeared on the bar in front of the pair. Logan took another long look at Niven before shaking his head and moving to receive the order of one of the barmaids.

Niven took swigs from her mug of ale as Hoskuld spoke, nodding slowly, her head heavy, at appropriate places. Each time he paused, she opened her mouth to reply, but then seemed to forget what she was going to say and promptly closed her mouth again, or popped a piece of pretzel into it.

“I don’t recommend getting married too young. When you have time, you should take it,” the elfess said. “ My husband had an adopted elf son he wanted to let court a girl and he was barely twenty one!I Twenty one! Far too young to get married. A baby!” Pause to take a sip. "No, time is what is needed. To be older and wiser and more certain of your partner. I made the mistake of getting married too young and look where it has lead me!”

She opened her arms, waving her mug in the air, a pretzel stick in the other hand and almost fell off her bar stool. She leaned forward and gripped the bar, dropping the pretzel, miraculously not spilling a drop of liquor. “Whoa!” A huge amused grin on her face.

“Both of our species are long lived, and we were together 7 years before we actually got married, but clearly that was not even enough time for us to be strong enough to handle what the gods threw at us.” She looked melancholy for a moment before her face took on a more determined, even vexed look.

"You know, I expected better from him! He was a priest of the church for a long time! He should not have thrown away what we had so easily. He had often said that he’d wade through the fires of Aeternia to be with me. That I was the suns in his sky, the reason he breathed. He’s still breathing!!” She insisted, rather loudly.

“But clearly not!” she continued, in her inebriated state not caring that the other patrons of the bar were starting to stare as her words rang out, reverberating off the stones. “Clearly it was not about what I needed or how I felt about the news when it made itself known! Nooooooooo! It was all Dante this and Dante that. He wouldn’t be in the same room as me, let alone look at me. Froze me out. Never gave me a chance to explain! I didn’t ask for what happened it just did. And I was certain it had been a dream until it seemed it couldn’t possibly be!” A sip of her ale. "Of course, then there was the vial from the potion I found among my things later as well. I must have slipped it into my pocket at some point. That pretty much sealed the deal that it most definitely was not a dream.”

The druidess paused, thinking for a moment over everything she’d just said. “Dreams are funny things, aren't they? I did have a dream once that was actually a dream, but with real people in it. At least I hope it was a dream. It would be pretty messed up if it hadn’t been!!" Niven giggled. "Actually that’s how I met Kailin! In the dream. Well, initially anyway. We met in the real world about an era ago. Boy, were were surprised to see each other!"
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Old September 10, 2018, 07:17 PM   #26 (permalink)
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Hoskuld watched Niven’s pretzel and the bear warily as she brandished them overhead. It was a bit distracting and made it all the harder to understand the elf, who was making less and less sense. Then she lost her balance and almost fell off of her stool She’s feelin’ it a lot, he thought, still thinking about that wheelbarrow. Starting to feel a familiar buzz in his own head, the dwarf decided to slow down a bit himself. If he was going to have to get them both home, he’d need to have some wits about him. Besides, she seemed determined to match him drink for drink; the more he drank, the more she would.

He tried to nod sympathetically as she went on and on about ‘Dante this’ and ‘Dante that’. She’s getting’ loud, too, he noticed. Hoskuld surveyed the room. Any heads Niven hadn’t turned on entering were turning now. Fethin’ wonderful, he thought sourly.

His bushy eyebrows rose when Niven started talking about dreams, and meeting Kailin in one. Definitely drunk now, he thought, but he decided to humor her. ”So you meet people in dreams and then you meet them in real life?” he asked, setting his beer down pointedly. Pretending to be fascinated would give him a reason for leaving his beer alone for a bit. ”That’s never happened to me, nor anyone I know. Sounds like quite a gift.”

An unexpected thought popped into his head that amused him, causing him to grin. ”You didn’t dream of that fae we met today, did you, Niven? Heh, that woulda been a nightmare. Anybody else you met in a dream that you later met in life?” Keep her talking he thought, maybe she’ll rant herself tired. It at least *seemed* to be a plan.
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