Tindolen and Brashani spent much of the remainder of the day repairing the Grey Horse. It was slow work, because each piece of wood had to be cut to size and, between them, they had only so much strength to cast spells. Much of the time was spent resting to recover the needed strength to fuse the next board into place.
Iriel washed up and went back to work for Frank, as her uncle had suggested. James, on the other hand, doused his face in water and changed his clothes; he put on a white shirt and a pair of tan trousers, before he returned to the great hall. As he entered the room, the bard found dozens of townsfolk waiting for him. They barraged him with questions and wanted to hear the story — both stories — of the gem’s theft and recovery.
James glanced about the hall looking for assistance from his fellow guards, but Daniel sat in his customary corner meditating and Brashani was outside mending the hole in the wall. No help there. He raised his arms and held out his hands for silence. The crowd quieted down and James cleared his throat.
“It began early this morning,” the bard said, and began to tell the story as slowly and simply as he could. When he had finished, some of the locals left the hall; others came in and asked the same questions he had just answered. So, he told the stories again, adding details and refining the tale each time he told it. Brashani, while resting, provided other little bits to the bard’s tale until the simple retelling became grander and more heroic.
Evan, meanwhile, was pleased. Professional guards assigned to watch the gem meant he did not need to stand watch any more. And with Ebalin apprehended and Jormundan slain, the priest’s mission was complete. He could return to court any time now. But before he did, he needed to let the residual pain from Jormundan’s spell fade away completely. That would probably take a day or two and he was in no hurry. After all, how often was he able to visit his hometown?
His stomach growled and he realized he’d not eaten all day. When had there been time? He headed over to the common room. As angry as Frank was with him, he wouldn’t turn down Evan’s patronage.
As the day wore on, James grew tired of telling the story; Brashani, tired of hearing it. James tried to take breaks, but the crowd clamored for more. Some wanted other stories. Some wanted to hear the first tale of the theft once more; others, the second tale. By dinnertime, James was mentally exhausted.
Evan was exhausted too, both mentally and physically. After eating, he had gone upstairs to rest; however, the growing commotion in the great hall woke him several times. The last time was just after the clock tower struck six in the evening. He sighed, realized he would not be able to sleep soundly until the crowd was gone, and decided to go back down to the common room.
He stood. The pain in his limbs was gone but he felt his fatigue like a dead weight. I need coffee, he thought. He felt his face. It was sore in places from his fight with Molin.
Lethargically, Evan tromped downstairs, waded through the crowd, and made his way into the common room. He settled in at a corner table with some coffee and a bowl of stew, and hoped the throng would disperse soon.
Tindolen came in and sat down across from Evan. “The repairs are complete,” he reported. He wiped his forehead.
Evan smiled. “Good, Frank will be pleased.”
“Yes. You’d never know anything had happened.”
The priest gestured at his food. “Care to join me for dinner?”
Tindolen shook his head and stood. “Thank you, my boy, but no. I’ve been neglecting my business far too much today. I need to get back.”
“All right,” Evan said, waving good-bye. “I’ll talk to you later.”
“Yes, I’m sure we will speak again before you leave town.”
Evan watched his friend leave and then returned to his meal.
It was late Friday evening before the crowd left and Frank was able to close and lock the front doors. The Grey Horse staff was happy to hear the lock click into place; they were completely worn out from the hordes of people asking questions about what had happened. It was the busiest day in the Inn’s history and the most exciting thing that had happened in Clearbrook since King Kenilworth had marched through town thirty-five years earlier to defend Thalacia against invading armies.
Fatigued but feeling better, Evan trudged up the stairs to his room and went to bed. The night passed uneventfully and he awoke feeling refreshed. Listening for the sound of a crowd, Evan heard nothing. No noise from downstairs wafted up to him. Evan got out of bed, washed, and dressed. He was about to leave his room when the sound of many voices all talking at once reached him. When he went downstairs, the foyer was filled once more with people. He sighed with disappointment.
He pushed through the crowd and made his way to the common room only to find most of the tables taken. Evan scanned the room, spied an unoccupied spot, and sat down.
Frank whizzed by carrying a stack of dirty plates. Concern showed on the innkeeper’s face; he did not know how he was going to serve all these hungry people. Although Iriel had returned to her job as a serving girl, it had taken both of them to keep up with the demand yesterday afternoon. He was in no mood to repeat yesterday’s experience. Then he remembered that there was one person he could ask for help.
“I was planning to interrogate the elf we captured,” said Evan. “I’m afraid my priestly duties must come first.”
“I understand,” said Frank, as his face grew longer.
“Besides,” Evan continued, “I’ve never been good at waiting tables. I’m all thumbs.”
“I know, but Iriel and I can barely keep up. Since I’ve got the chambermaids watching the registration counter, there’s no one else to ask.” Frank gave Evan a plaintive look.
Evan shook his head. He felt his resolve crumble. The Michaeline priest could not in good conscience abandon a friend. “All right,” Evan agreed, “if I finish the questioning early, I may be able to help before the dinner service.”
Frank smiled. Evan shot up a hand. “But no promises.”
“No, absolutely not,” replied the innkeeper. He slapped Evan appreciatively on his back.
James did not fare much better than Frank. He told and retold the story of the theft until he was nearly hoarse. By noon, James was tired and wanted to leave the great hall to rest; however, too many people had jammed into the hall around him, making it impossible to leave. He wished the hole in the wall had not been fixed so quickly; it would have given him an escape route.
Resigned to his fate, James tried to push through the crowd but relented after a few minutes when he saw how hard it was to move about. Sighing, James sat down next to Daniel, who was meditating and talking to Aure.
Daniel, I must thank you for rescuing me.
The honor is mine, Aure.
Thank your friends, too.