"I don't need a mage for this."

"Everyone needs a mage for something," Tier'ghan said with a soft laugh.

"Or just parts of one."

Tier'ghan's mouth closed with a snap and he sat up, a prickle of alarm racing across the back of his neck. Was it that obvious he was alone, without a paladin to protect him? He could take care of himself. He'd been doing it for months. Turning away from the grumpy bard, Tier'ghan let his gaze wander the tavern. No one in particular seemed to be paying him any attention, though that didn't mean anything. Mages might be powerful, but he wasn't invincible. Pulling his rune book out of his satchel he wondered if he should try again to hire a paladin. One who didn't know about him. Though word seemed to travel faster than a messenger bird. As long as he didn't tell anyone his name he should be alright.

The rune book offered a few ideas for protecting himself. Mist for obscuring his features, neglect to make certain they forgot him and frost to ensure no one lingered around him. He'd have to wait until he'd eaten something before he could use them. At least the cleaning spell seemed to be working. That, or he was getting used to the stench. Catching sight of the barkeep headed his way with a full tray, Tier'ghan put the book away and took a small vial out of his pocket. He needed to refill the narweed tincture as soon as possible. Running out meant agonizing withdrawals and eventual death. Keeping some with him at all times had been drilled into him from the moment he'd stepped into the academy at twelve. Mages, and any magic creature, had to have the common herb to survive.

"Here ya are, good sir, finest vittles in the house. That's chopped lamb in a pepper cream sauce, grilled leeks and carrots, meat pies with venison, and roast taters with shallots."

Tier'ghan's mouth watered as the tray was set before him. He yanked off his gloves and set them to the side. He'd not expected anything near this nice—some watery soup with moldy vegetables seemed more likely. Thankfully he didn't have deal with that. The smell alone had his stomach growling. He snatched up a roll from a basket full of them and stuffed it in his mouth. A bit dry, but it was food. He didn't even notice the barkeep leave.

The attentive barkeep was ready with new plates as he finished the first ones.

"How is it?"

"'S'good," Tier'ghan managed between bites. Truth be told it could have been terrible and he probably wouldn't have noticed. He just needed nourishment. And a job. A job would be fantastic.

But not here. Nowhere within a hundred miles of Valsarai. No, the further from there the better.

"Wonderful. I'll keep plates coming as long as you want 'em. You need anythin' jus' holler, name's Narder. Oi! Quenoor! Quit moping about and play something already. What am I paying you for?"

Tier'ghan glanced up at Narder, then over his shoulder at the bard.

"He said his lute is broke."

"Broke my ass," Narder huffed. "Stupid halfling, just do your job already."

Tier'ghan shifted sideways in his seat to get a better look at Quenoor. A halfling? Half of what? Tier'ghan grabbed another mincemeat pie and bit into it as he watched one of Quenoor's hands come up and shove the hood back. Tier'ghan almost choked on the bite he'd taken.

If he didn't know better he'd think he was looking at one of the fabled Sidhe. Stunning didn't even come close to describing the beauty of the man. His fawn colored skin seemed to shimmer with gold highlights even in the dingy light of the tavern. While it was too dark to make out the color of his eyes, the open distrust and hint of revulsion were clear to see. Full lips pulled into a sneer.

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