The Dragon Stone [The Swordmage Cycle I]
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by T. J. Lazier
Category: Erotica/Erotic Fantasy/Fantasy
Description: Magic, Swordplay, Romance and Erotica! If you love Fritz Leiber's or Robert E. Howard's fantasy but wish the female characters were stronger and there was some sex once in a while, then The Dragon Stone is the fantasy you have been looking for! When Gadwin, a swordmage, and Jaim Medario, both mercenaries, their cousin Avian Divcarry, a guardian or magical law enforcer, and a noble courtesan and powerful sorceress, Lady Nicholettia meet up an an inn called the Plumb Orchard they do not dream the role that fate has in store for them. The next day. Lady Nicholettia or Nicky overhears the rogue Guardian Narshavus Rolas scheming with a shaman to steal the immenseley powerful Dragon Stone. Then, Avian is magically seduced by the rogue Guardian and is then put under a sleep spell while after being warned of an attack on the Temple of Sevastion to steal the Dragon Stone, while Nicky accompanied by Gadwin and Jaim ride to the temple to give warning. Ahead lies battle, love, fearful magics, death, and only the slimmest chance of success!
eBook Publisher: Renaissance E Books/Sizzler, 2005
eBookwise Release Date: October 2005
25 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [203 KB]
Reading time: 144-202 min.
On a warm spring day two young men rode down the Keeve Road in the west of the land of Kaldishar some three hundred and fifteen years after the death of the Immortal Emperor. The Keeve Road ran from the city of Intare in far western Kaldishar to the eastern capital and port city of Keeve far to the east and had done so for centuries. Along the packed dirt road that was one of the major trade arteries of the Candatara Region in the grasslands between the Tarn Forest and the Hill Lands sat the city of Ilding. Once a small hilltop town Ilding had become the seat of Queen Katterine during the restoration of the nation of Kaldishar and had grown into the western capital of the nation.
In the near three centuries that Katterine had reigned, Ilding had become a bustling city of more than a hundred thousand and was one of the great cities of the region. Stretching from the South Fortress in the south to the Keeve Road in the north Ilding was not a grand ancient city like Keeve or Dinstarra, but an energetic young city of more practical construction.
Probably the most practical district of the city was the Warehouse and Wagonyard District. This outerburg of Ilding was bordered by the walls of the Old City to the south, the Keeve Road to the north, the Wagon Road to the east and the Waterless Slums to the west. The Warehouse and Wagonyard District was the center of Ilding's mercantile imports and exports and due to its very nature was the second most dangerous section of the city and by far the rowdiest.
However, right across the Keeve Road from the Warehouse and Wagonyard District sat a modest sized inn that was older than the modern city of Ilding. It was built of fieldstones with a slate tile roof, a fieldstone walled orchard behind it and a fieldstone wooden shake roofed stable off to one side. The sign at the front of the inn had three painted plum trees on it and beneath them the name The Plum Orchard.
It was into the stableyard off the side of the Plum Orchard inn that the two young men rode on that fine spring day. They had been riding their horses eastward along the Keeve Road since just past sunrise and since it was mid afternoon the two of them were feeling their saddles. So having heard of the Plum Orchard from friends they had decided to stop for a meal and perhaps lodgings.
The two young men rode similar tall bay geldings of fine Tanshari stock and were more than half Tanshari themselves. They hailed from the Brashart town of Jaln on the Aenaire River across from the nation of Caden and bore the surname of Medario. They were Gadwin and Jaim Medario and the Medario brothers had come to Ilding in search of someplace new to see.
Gadwin was the younger yet taller of the two. He stood a good two inches over six feet and was built slender, but with broad shoulders and was well muscled. Gadwin's bushy hair was a sun touched brown, his eyes were gray blue and his skin even toned. Ruggedly handsome would have described his dark stubbled face and fine but rumpled would have been an apt description of his attire of baggy light blue silk shirt, snug fitting gray leather riding pants and scuffed black riding boots.
Around his waist Gadwin wore a thick brown leather weapons' belt with a bone hilted, ring-guarded short sword on his left hip, a long curved, broad bladed heavy dagger behind his right hip and a finely crafted and loaded wheel-lock pistol in front of the dagger. A ring-guarded broadsword and a steel hafted warhammer hung from Gadwin's black Tanshari saddle and he knew how to use all of them with great skill.
At twenty five years of age Gadwin Medario was a powerful swordmage. He was a warrior trained to use both magic and weapons and specialized in using legal defensive magic against those who could not use magic to avoid violating the laws of the Treaty of Dinstarra. Though Gadwin often broke the law in many other ways, had an admittedly short temper and was prone to bouts of heavy drinking when he was bored.
Jaim Medario was two years older than Gadwin and a perhaps two inches shorter. Jaim had the same slender well muscled build, however he was a bit thicker through the torso than his younger brother and not nearly as broad in the shoulders. He had the same colored eyes and skin tone, yet his hair was darker and streaked with red from the sun and he wore it longer and pulled back into a tail. Boyishly handsome and clean shaven, Jaim actually looked younger than Gadwin and his clothes were just as fine but unrumpled. Dressed in a baggy sleeved crimson pullover silk shirt, snug black suede riding pants and black leather riding boots Jaim cut quite the dashing figure.
Jaim also wore a weapons' belt around his waist, a thick black leather one with a silver buckle. On his left hip in a black leather scabbard hung a long narrow bladed, double edged sword with a black leather wrapped hand and a half hilt and a steel ring-guard. Jaim had two wheel-lock pistols instead of one and the same kind of heavy curved dagger behind his right hip, which was the extent of the young man's weapons and he was good with all of them.
However Jaim was most skilled with his sword, which was an heirloom of the Medario family and had been forged centuries before by the Kintaro. Jaim had no talent for magic and was a swordsman and fighter instead of a swordmage. He was just as prone to breaking the law as Gadwin though, but was not so quick of temper and not so fond of drinking.
The two brothers had been born in Jaln to a Tanshari mother and a good part Tanshari Brasharter father who ran a stable and forge. The Medario family was a long line of merchants, craftsmen, soldiers and adventurers and it was to the latter that Gadwin and Jaim had been attracted. Trained by their swordmage uncle the two had left home when Jaim was twenty two and Gadwin twenty and over the last two years had worked as soldiers of fortune in the city states and petty realms of Brashart. Now carrying everything they owned on their horses they had traveled into Kaldishar and eventually to Ilding in hopes of finding employment and perhaps their cousin and old friend Avian Divcarry in the city.
As they rode into the stableyard from the Keeve Road Gadwin was thinking more about finding something that was not a saddle to sit on, some whiskey and a good meal than anything else. Gadwin had heard stories of the Plum Orchard inn from Avian and others and it was supposed to have the finest fare and best drink in all of Kaldishar. It was supposed to be a quiet inn that served predominately merchants and was not known for being rowdy. Which was not much of a selling point to a young man who liked rowdy inns and taverns with cheap drink and friendly women.
"An inn in the Warehouse and Wagonyard District would most likely cost less," Gadwin observed to Jaim in a voice that was deep yet youthful.
Jaim smiled over at his brother. "You just want someplace you can get drunk and into a girl's bed," he replied, his voice neither deep nor boyish.
Gadwin smiled back at Jaim. "True," he admitted. "Though I do my best to avoid getting too drunk."
"Not that I've ever noticed," Jaim said with a laugh and a shake of his head as he reigned in his horse at a hitching post in front of the stable's awning.
Gadwin grunted and reigned in his horse alongside his brother's. "I suppose the Plum Orchard won't be too bad as long as they have got whisky. Plus they might be able to tell us where Avian is," he stated.
"Now there is one girl's bed you truly want to get into," Jaim commented.
Gadwin shot Jaim a slightly dark look. "Avian means more to me than a warm body to fill a bed," he said with a certain edge in his voice.
Jaim grinned and swung out of his saddle and down off his horse. "I know Gad, you've been in love with Avian since you were a kid. The two of you were always disappearing together and even after she left home whenever Avian came to Jaln you were always the first to ask her to the stable." He chuckled and stepped back from his horse to adjust his weapons and belt. "Not that I wasn't the second."
"I am not in love with her," Gadwin said, though he had never been sure of his feelings for Avian.
"If you say you aren't, then I guess you aren't," Jaim stated diplomatically, but unconvincedly, and looked around. "Where is a stablehand when you need one?" he demanded.
"There is one right over here, sir," announced a cracking adolescent boy's voice in the same Dinstarra Sevarran they spoke from Gadwin's left.
Jaim's horse was to Gadwin's right, so he could not see who had spoken. Gadwin who was still seated on his horse turned and looked down to see a short skinny boy who was perhaps twelve or thirteen standing a pace or so to the left of his horse. The boy had dusty blond hair, brown eyes and dusty brown skin and was dressed in brown trousers and a gray linen shirt. He was so small that his presence was hidden from Jaim by the height and bulk of the Medario brothers' tall Tanshari horses.
"Great Mother, I've seen cow pies bigger than you," Gadwin commented with a chuckle.
The boy glared up at Gadwin. "I am not that small for my age," he said defensively.
"Was your grandfather a midget?" Gadwin asked.
"No!" the boy snapped and crossed his arms over his narrow chest. "Do you want me to take your horse or are you going to sit up there all day making fun of me?" he wanted to know.
Gadwin laughed and swung down off his horse. "Well at least you have got some spirit in you boy."
"My name is Ean," the boy informed him.
Gadwin pulled his foot from the stirrup and turning to Ean tossed him the reins. "Well, Ean, I want you to look after our horses and watch our things while we go get something to eat and drink. If you do a good job I'll give you a silver tenth and if anything is missing I'll cut your head off and stick it on a pole," he told the boy, using a threat his mother had always used when he was little.
Ean gulped and looked up and up at the dismounted Brasharter, who was at least a good foot taller than he was. "Yes sir."
"Good lad," Gadwin said and headed off around the front of the two horses to join his brother.
Jaim smiled at Gadwin as he rounded the horses. "Still enjoying torturing stablehands, I see," he observed.
Gadwin shrugged and chuckled. "Just making sure he would do a good job."
"You always did take after mother," Jaim stated and chuckling the two brothers strode off toward the inn.
They crossed the stableyard and headed around the front of the Plum Orchard for the front door. There was an open split side door that led into a kitchen, but a lot of innkeepers and even more cooks did not like strangers walking into their kitchens. The front door of the inn was set up a bit from the small front yard of the inn with a short fieldstone porch before it and was wide enough to fit three people through at once.
Which as Gadwin and Jaim rounded the corner of the inn three people came out of the open front doorway of the Plum Orchard all at once. It was actually one medium height stocky built man with wide shoulders and thick torso carrying one man by the belt and dragging another by the scruff of the neck. The man doing the hauling looked old, with only a gray fringe of hair around his bald head and a heavily lined lightly dark face. But the fiery look in his dark eyes and the ease with which he handled two men at once said his was not feeble yet.
Heavily muscled despite his age and dressed in brown pants, white pullover shirt and brown leather vest it was hard to tell whether he was the innkeeper or the inn's flinger. Whichever he was the man tossed both men off of the front porch and out into the packed earth front yard of the inn to land with loud grunts.
"Now when I say out of my inn, I mean out of my inn!" the man bellowed after he had tossed the two, which answered just who he was.
Which meant he must be Peld Shender, the owner and proprietor of the Plum Orchard that Avian had told Gadwin and Jaim about years before.
One of the men managed to get to his hands and knees to glare back at the innkeeper. "You will pay for that old man," he growled.
"Not likely," Peld Shender answered, crossing his arms over his thick chest.
"You got Jak and me by surprise," the down man said. "That will not happen again."
Peld snorted. "I have taken bigger and meaner than both of you," he told the man.
"You wish, you old bastard!" the man snarled angrily.
The man climbed to his feet and began dusting off his clothes, which consisted of gray trousers and a white wool pullover shirt with a gray vest over it and brown boots on his feet. The man was tall for a western Kaldishari, probably around Jaim's height, and he had big shoulders and big hands with brawler's knuckles and his head was shaved. A broad leather belt encircled his waist and he had a short, straight spined and single-edged sword called a kung and a long straight dagger sheathed on it.
The fellow who was still on the ground was dressed similarly and was also armed. He however did not look like he would getting up any time soon and the most he could manage when the shaved headed man nudged him with a foot was a low moan.
"Looks like your friend is down for a while," Peld observed with a smile.
"Just one of them," the shaved headed man replied.
As if that statement were a prophecy an arm and hand with a short wooden club in it came out of the door behind the stocky innkeeper. There was a stout built dark haired man of similar height to Peld attached to the arm and the fellow's surprise blow caught the innkeeper square in the back of the head. Which Peld promptly crumpled forward and rolled off of the front porch into an unconscious heap in the front yard.
The stout man came out the door and stood appraising his handiwork with a satisfied smile. "The old bastard did not see that one comin'," he said.
"Good work, Halk," the shaved headed man complimented.
"Thanks, Rennal," Halk replied and stepped down off of the porch to stand over the downed Peld. "Now let's work him over good to teach him a lesson."
"You are thinkin' just like me," Rennal stated and started for Peld with blood in his dark eyes.
Two more men came out of the inn behind Halk. Both were around the same height as Halk and though neither was as stout they were well muscled. One had short brown hair and a short brown beard and had a light axe and dagger on his belt and the other had gray hair and had a club in his hand and a kung and dagger on his belt. Gadwin thought that they looked like guards from one of the merchant wagon trains that moved up and down the Keeve Road.
Whoever they were the four of them looked intent on murder as they surrounded the unconscious Pled Shender.
"We should stop this," Jaim said to his brother as they stood watching. "I think that's Peld Shender and he is a friend of Avian's."
Before Gadwin could make a reply a soft and feminine voice cried out, "Leave my father alone you sons of bitches!"
A girl came storming out onto the front porch of the inn, a long kitchen knife in her right hand and determination in her eyes. She stood perhaps four or five inches above five feet and had long glossy black hair pulled back in a tail and big almond shaped black eyes framed by long dark lashes and set in a youthfully beautiful face. The girl's soft looking skin was light brown in tone and her build was girlishly slender with long slender legs, shapely little hips, tiny waist and a medium sized bosom.
Dressed in brown trousers and white linen shirt with the sleeves rolled and a white apron over the top of it the girl looked like she worked in the inn's kitchen. If she was Peld Shender's daughter that meant she was Kila Shender, another friend of Avian Divcarry's.
Rennal looked past the stout Halk as he delivered a hard kick to Peld's ribs. "Stay out of this girl or we'll teach you a lesson after we are done with the old man," he warned.
"I said leave him alone!" Kila cried and with the knife held low she started toward the men surrounding her father.
Rennal nodded to Halk and the stout man spun and kicked the advancing girl square in the belly. Kila was brave but really no match for brawling ruffians and Halk's booted foot drove the air out of her and she fell to the fieldstones of the porch to curl up in a ball.
"Now why did he have to go and do that?" Gadwin demanded of no one in particular, his temper starting to rise at the sight of a pretty girl being battered.
"Leave them both alone!" Jaim roared and Gadwin realized that his brother was already advancing on the four men standing over Kila and Peld Shender.
Jaim hated bullies who preyed on those weaker than them and Gadwin knew that his brother was going to take on the whole lot who had just knocked the inn keeper and his daughter around. Gadwin himself was more than a little riled by a grown man kicking a girl who was only trying to defend her father. Also he and Jaim always backed the other in fights and confrontations, so Gadwin decided he was going to get involved as well.
However as Jaim stalked straight toward the four men Gadwin slipped up along the front wall of the inn while their potential opponents' attention was focused on his brother. Which Rennal, Halk and the two other men had turned toward Jaim when he had shouted and were watching him advance on them. The four men did not stay clustered around the fallen Peld, but fanned out to meet Jaim with Rennal in the front and the other three a couple of paces behind him.
"So you like beating old men and girls?" Jaim demanded as he stopped in front of Rennal with his right hand on the butt of one of his wheel-locks.
Rennal sneered at Jaim. "I like beating the shit out of old men and young men. I prefer raping girls," he answered and grasped the hilt of his kung with one hand. "Which is what my friends and I are going to do with that little bitch after we take care of you."
"Over my dead body," Jaim said, a deadly edge in his voice.
"If that is what's necessary," Rennal stated as Halk and the other two moved around him so that they were to Jaim's left with their backs to the inn.
Which meant that while they were watching one of the Medario brothers the other slipped up behind them casually. Gadwin stood perhaps a pace from Halk who was in the center of the three and waited for someone to make the first move. The fact that the men did not notice the tall Brasharter swordmage standing right behind them spoke of both his stealth and their overconfidence. It would be ugly once things got started and with Gadwin behind them it was the three brawlers whom it would be ugly for.
Jaim glanced over at the three men to his left. "Or maybe I should change that?"
"That would be a good idea boy," Rennal advised, his sneer growing wider.
"To over your dead body!" Jaim called and before the shaved headed man could react he stepped forward and kicked him as hard as he could in the groin.
Rennal gave a strangled cry and his eyes grew huge as the force of Jaim's shin impacting with his crotch lifted him off of the ground. Then he collapsed to the packed dirt of the inn's front yard in a curled up heap.
Gadwin moved a second after his brother and even as Rennal was hitting the ground he took a step and launched a powerful driving kick square into Halk's rump. That sent the stout thug reeling forward and Jaim stepped to the side and tripped him so that the man hit the ground face first. While Halk was still reeling forward Gadwin had planted his right foot and turned to backfist the gray haired man to his right across the head as the fellow was turning toward him.
The gray haired man staggered and fell and Gadwin out of instinct continued to turn to his right and narrowly dodged a downward swing of the bearded man's light axe from his left. Gadwin came full around as the man's arm and axe swung past and he lashed out with both hands to seize the man's elbow and wrist. Using leverage and strength Gadwin pulled the bearded man's arm down and around and stepping behind him he yanked it up behind the man's back in a hammer lock.
Gadwin applied pressure until the man's shoulder gave way with a squishy crack and the fellow screamed and dropped his axe. Then he turned and shoved the man forward as hard as he could. The bearded man went staggering and then tripped over the gray haired brawler who was just starting to get up and the two men went down together in a tangled heap.
At about that same moment Jaim delivered a final choice kick to Halk's head so that the man would not be able to rise for quite some time. Stepping back Jaim drew one of his wheel-locks and spun around searching for someone to shoot just as the gray haired man extracted himself from his moaning comrade and got slowly to his feet. The fellow still appeared a bit rattled but when he looked at Gadwin he drew his kung while the tall swordmage drew his dagger, which was known as a carver and began advancing on him.
Jaim's attention focused on their last standing opponent and he leveled his pistol on the man and shouted, "Run or die!"
The gray haired man did the smart thing when faced with a leveled wheel-lock and Gadwin advancing with his carver drawn and promptly ran as fast as he could. That left only groaning or unconscious men lying on the ground and the Medario brothers standing with no one left to challenge them.
"Short fight," Gadwin commented as he sheathed his carver.
"Yeah," Jaim agreed and stuck his wheel-lock back into its gun-loop. "But unfortunately we were too late to keep the Shender's from getting hurt."
Gadwin shrugged and stretched his neck from side to side. "Better hurt than dead," he pointed out.
Just then the gasping voice of Kila Shender called weakly, "Papa."
Gadwin and Jaim turned toward the source of the voice and saw Kila kneeling over her father's unmoving form. She was holding her belly with one hand and was shaking Peld with the other, tears filling her big black eyes and running down her cheeks. They were tears of fear and sorrow rather than pain and the look in Kila's eyes and on her beautiful face spoke of the terrible dread she must be feeling for her injured father.
Gadwin was mildly disturbed by the girl's grief and it touched his heart a bit, though he tried not to let such things affect him. Glancing over at Jaim he saw in his brother's eyes that the other young man was more than mildly disturbed by Kila's grief and his heart was more pierced by it. In that moment Gadwin realized his brother had just fallen in love for the first time with Kila Shender.
"Dragon shit," Gadwin muttered to himself, knowing what sort of trouble being in love could cause.
"Poor girl," Jaim murmured and made a bee-line for Kila and the unconscious Peld, saying to Gadwin, "Come on, we have got to help them."
Which of course Jaim really meant help her. Seeing a beautiful girl he had just fallen in love with in such terrible grief must have been tearing him up inside. Gadwin sighed heavily and followed his brother since he had planned on helping them any way. They were friends of Avian's and so he was obliged to do what he could. Which was quite a lot since the first kind of magic Gadwin had learned from his great uncle Gadfor was the healing variety.
Jaim circled around Peld's limp form and knelt down next to Kila. "Are you alright?" he asked, laying a hand gently on one slim shoulder.
"I'm fine," Kila said shakily. "But my father is hurt very badly."
"Your father will be fine," Jaim told the girl.
Kila turned her tear filled big black eyes on Jaim. "How do you know?" she demanded.
Jaim gazed into her eyes with a struck sort of look on his face. "Because my brother will heal him," he replied after a moment.
"Oh." Kila gazed back into Jaim's for a long moment with a similar struck expression on her face before saying softly, "Thank you."
Jaim smiled broadly. "You're welcome."
Gadwin grunted in disgust and knelt down on the other side of Peld Shender. "Thank him when I'm the one doing all the work," he grumbled to himself.
Ignoring his brother and Kila while they gazed into each other's eyes like a couple of idiots Gadwin carefully turned Peld onto his back. Cradling the old man's head in his hands the young swordmage first felt the back of Peld's scalp where a large knot had formed. The innkeeper's skull was thick enough it was not broken as far as Gadwin could tell by probing with his fingers. However that did not rule out damage to Peld's brain inside his skull and at his advanced age such an injury could be very dangerous.
Checking further Gadwin pulled back one of Peld's eyelids and when he got no reaction and saw how dilated the old man's eye was he knew it was bad. If unhealed the innkeeper would probably lose his vision and there was a chance that he might never regain consciousness. It would be a very difficult job of healing and Gadwin was just thankful that his Uncle Gadfor had emphasized the healing of injuries above anything else.
"Will my father be alright?" Kila wanted to know after she got done staring into Jaim's eyes.
Gadwin looked up at her and smiled confidently. "He's just got a little bump on his head," he lied and winked at her. "Don't worry, I can heal anything as long as it is an injury."
Kila let out a sigh of relief. "Good."
"Just don't ask me to heal a cold," Gadwin stated and took Peld's head gently in his strong hands.
Closing his eyes Gadwin ran through the mental mantra of a powerful healing spell. The long training and experience he had with healing magic combined with his great natural talent and affinity for mind and body magic meant that he did not have to speak the spell aloud or use any keywords even. As Gadwin cast the spell magical energy within his body turned to healing energy and passed through his hands into the damaged head of Peld Shender.
It was a strong spell but Gadwin had plenty of magical energy and so with less than a sixth of his strength expended he healed the innkeeper within a matter of heartbeats. The knot disappeared under Gadwin's fingers and the old man let out a long moaning sigh as the healing forces coursed through him.
Gadwin took a deep breath and let it out slowly before opening his eyes. Which when he did he was looking down into the now open and clear eyes of Peld Shender.
Peld looked up at him blearily. "Who are you, my boy, and what happened?" he wanted to know.
Gadwin smiled and laid the old man's head gently down onto the ground. "My name's Gadwin Medario and I just healed a bump on your head," he told him.
"Oh," Peld said and smiling at Gadwin the inn keeper observed, "Well then you are probably a handy young man to have around." * * * *
Kila, as it turned out, was the Plum Orchard's cook and she decided that feeding Gadwin and Jaim was the least that she could do to repay them for their aid. So after they had introduced themselves the young woman escorted them into the inn's kitchen and seated them at a circular wooden table off in one corner. While Kila bustled off to get a meal together for the brothers the fully recovered Peld joined them at the table with a tin pitcher of pale cold beer and three tin mugs.
The beer was very welcome to Gadwin and the cold chill of it cut his thirst quickly. Cold beer was a luxury since ice was expensive even when manufactured by mages known as icemakers and only the better off could drink it on a regular basis. So Gadwin drank down a full mug as fast as he could and gladly accepted a refill from Peld when he offered it.
The innkeeper smiled at Gadwin when he had finished pouring a second mug. "You Brasharters really do like your beer," he observed.
Gadwin nodded. "Especially cold Anster Pale," he said.
"Never met a man who could tell a beer by flavor before," Peld stated, sounding a bit impressed.
Jaim chuckled and took a sip of his beer. "Gadwin is an expert on any liquid that will get you drunk," he commented.
"Only if it's from Brashart or Caden," Gadwin corrected his brother and guzzled about half his second mug.
Peld laughed and then gave the brothers a curious look. "So what brings you boys all of the way to Ilding?"
Jaim shrugged. "We were on the losing side of a war and our company was destroyed so we thought we might see what kind of work was available in Kaldishar," he told Peld.
"Plus we thought we would come this way in hopes of finding our cousin Avian," Gadwin explained further, then said, "I believe you know the Guardian, Avian Divcarry?"
Peld nodded and made a thoughtful sound. "So the two of you are cousins of Avian Divcarry. Must be on her father's side since you don't look like you've got elf blood in you," the old innkeeper observed.
"Her father is our father's cousin by way of our great uncle Gadfor Medario," Gadwin explained.
"You've both got the height and eyes of Tanshari, are you any good with horses?" Peld asked, leaning forward and placing his elbows on the table.
The brothers looked at each other and laughed. "We grew up in a stable and forge run by our parents," Jaim informed Peld.
Peld smiled and his eyes lit up. "Well it just so happens it is harder than kissing the Queen here around Ilding to find decent shoers and stablemasters. I have been looking for a good shoer and stablemaster for months and if you boys are interested the jobs are yours if you are qualified," he told them.
Gadwin nearly choked on a swallow of beer when he heard that. "I left home so I didn't have to work in a stable," he said with feeling.
Jaim promptly kicked his brother under the table. "That's a damn kind offer Master Shender, but we'll have to think on it," he replied politely.
Gadwin shot Jaim a glare. "I don't need to think on it at all."
"Some honest work might be good for a change," Jaim pointed out, glaring back at Gadwin.
"I'll settle for dishonest work if it keeps me away from mucking stalls," Gadwin stated.
"You won't have to muck stalls at all," Peld said, interrupting the brothers' building argument. "A stablemaster or a skilled shoer don't need to do that kind of work. I will pay a crown a week for a shoer and twice that for a stablemaster and room and board are included. So are you boys qualified?" he asked.
"Gadwin is a fair shoer and I know my way around a stable better than just about anyone," Jaim answered, sounding and looking entirely too interested in the jobs Peld Shender was offering.
"I'm a skilled swordmage and I don't need to do manual labor," Gadwin declared and then inspiration struck him and he gulped down the rest of his beer before adding, "Plus I drink heavily and can't be trusted around pretty young women."
Peld shrugged and smiled. "Kila can take care of herself, you can try your best with the other girls who work at the inn and I don't care how much you drink as long as you get your work done," he countered.
"I think it would be nice to have a couple of strong young men around," Kila stated as she came up behind Gadwin. "Especially two good fighters who can handle rough bastards when the need arises. Papa is getting older and sometimes a bad element will get in here from across the road," she said and stepped up to the table between the two brothers with a plate in each hand. "I hate to think of what might have happened if you two had not helped us today."
Jaim turned to smile at the very pretty girl standing next to him. "I hate to think of that too."
"You boys did save us both today and I don't think I could ever thank you enough for that," Peld said, sounding genuinely grateful. "I would like you to think about taking those jobs. But don't make up your minds until you get a taste of the meals you will be getting for free," he advised, smiling and winking at his daughter.
"Does beef in gravy over potatoes sound good to you two?" Kila asked sweetly, setting a big steaming plate in front of Jaim and another before Gadwin.
Gadwin's mouth watered as he eyed the big tin plate filled with chunked beef in gravy that was so thick and in such quantities he could not see the potatoes beneath it. It smelled even better than it looked and he was thinking about just how he was going to devour the plate when Kila handed him both a fork and a spoon.
"You will need both," Kila informed him and gave Jaim a fork and spoon as well before telling them, "Dig in."
Gadwin did just that and with the first bite he realized that this was the best food he had tasted in a long time, if not in his entire life.
"This is really good," Jaim mumbled around a mouthful.
Kila gave him a warm little look. "I am glad you like my cooking," she purred.
Gadwin rolled his eyes, knowing a girl artfully roping a man when he saw it. However he was far too interested in the meal in front of him to be really concerned about his brother getting roped by Kila Shender. Jaim was a grown man after all and if he was going to fall in love, get roped and be branded by a girl it might as well be one that could cook.