Rykson looked around in awe at the lush interior of the Crown & Scepter Inn, it was easily the most luxurious inn that he had ever seen. Where he was used to seeing gnarled, rough-hewn benches of pine, there were instead perfectly round tables of varnished oak, surrounded by tall, sturdy chairs with padded seats covered in rich velvet. The long bar of dark mahogany gleamed with polish, behind which were rows of multi-colored bottles holding the finest spirits from the Kingdom of Rhuul. Platters of steaming meats, savory cheeses, and freshly-baked breads were brought out by gorgeous young ladies at regular intervals. Talia, the innkeeper, was friendly and witty, as quick with a joke as she was to refill a tankard.
The other patrons were jovial and pleasant, after only a brief sidelong glance or two at the odd appearance of the dwarf and halfling. The stalwart ranger couldn’t blame them for that; it must have been very unusual indeed for them to see a halfing, normally relegated to the role of servant, drinking and eating as an equal. The sight of a dwarf was likely a first for everyone in the room. But, after their initial shock, the well-to-do tavern goers welcomed all five of the Seekers with open arms. Everyone engaged in conversations ranging from the socio-political state of Dunkeld compared to the other great cities of Rhuul to recipes for roast fowl. Most of the discussion went well over the head of the short warrior, both figuratively and literally, but that suited Rykson just fine. He was happy to enjoy the comforts of the inn, and the sound of something other than battle.
Then he looked at his companions to gauge their mood. Viktor was clearly in his element here; the rakish scoundrel seemed to be chatting with everyone in the room at once. Whenever he flitted to the bar to order another drink, or moved to sit in one of comfortable lounge chairs before the fireplace, a group would quickly surround him, hanging on his every word or bursting into fits of uproarious laughter.
Tudor was engaged in deep conversation with a small, select group of intellectuals. Rykson could barely understand half of the words that were exchanged between them as they spoke passionately about subjects like science and the mystic arts. A pang of self-consciousness gripped the ranger for a moment, as he realized how foolish he must sound to his friend. For perhaps the first time, Rykson realized just how brilliant his comrade really was… the feeling passed when Tudor saw the halfling looking his way, and gave a simple, reassuring nod and flashed his country-boy smile. The group around him was just as enamored as those surrounding Viktor, if somewhat less obsequious.
Surprisingly, Moradin had gained a few followers of his own. The taproom had more than a handful of Iron Knights, as well as a few other warriors, including several bodyguards to the rich and a pair of sellswords who had recently come into money. These hardy men talked at length with the dwarf, having heard of his battle prowess during the Siege of Gentry. After a few drinks, the talk turned into arm-wrestling and other feats of strength. Rykson got the feeling that a few more drinks would lead to an outright brawl, though a good-natured one. For his part, the surly dwarf managed to navigate the conversation with a variety of grunts and belches.
A few of patrons had tried to strike up a conversation with Creed, but it took only a tiny glower from the cleric to discourage further attempts. Again, it was perhaps the first time that Rykson saw a friend in this light. Creed had always seemed like a bit of a father to the ranger, with his protective and caring nature, but he realized now that other people did not see the grim man in the same way. With his closely shaved pate, grim features, and a skull hanging from his belt (which he seemed to be talking to), it struck Rykson just how intimidating the man really was to… normal folks. As Rykson was watching, a haughty noblewoman approached Creed, perhaps to ask him to share a glass of wine. Creed simply stared at her for a long, drawn-out moment before she finally turned away, visibly paled. Even across the room, Rykson could spot the tiny smirk on the cleric’s face as the woman scurried off to the join the rest of the sycophants surrounding Viktor.
Nobody approached Rykson at all, aside from the staff of serving girls. He was welcomed into conversations and given polite questions about where he was from and such, but he could tell that none of these highborns were truly interested in a lowly halfling. It suited him well enough. He was satisfied to have a comfortable place to relax, with strong mead in his cup and hot food in his belly. Still, though, he felt some envy towards his companions: Viktor with his suitors and flatterers, Tudor with his meaningful discussion of issues, Moradin with his simple camaraderie, and even Creed, who at least had the choice to voluntarily exclude himself from the merriment. As if reading his thoughts, Kongo nuzzled his snout into Rykson’s hand and jumped to lick the halfling’s face. The ranger sighed and smiled, “I love you, too, boy.”