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Chapter 12

"Pass it down. I'll make sure it gets there."

"I'm sure ye will bucko." He smiled and passed down the small, intricate box that held something that was evidently important. "Be sure ye remember bucko, 'The Pint Alehouse', give it t'the barkeep there and he'll know what to do."

"How could I forget? It's the second time you've told me." Derrl said with a grin. "Well, if I'm gonna get it there I have to leave. I'm off then." He waved over his shoulder as he carried the small wooden box with its carved lid through the low waves to the beach. Yerril looked on as the crew continued to unload the cargo behind him. He smiled and turned back to supervise his men.

Derrl trudged up the sand of the beach to a large driftwood log and put the box down on it. He sat down on a patch of sand that the warm sun had dried and took off his boots. There was water in them and it was irritating him. He took off and wrung out his socks, and then put them back on. He put back on his left boot before he stopped, absentmindedly wondering what was in the box, but he couldn't bring himself to open the box, as it wasn't right for him to do that. He shook his head to clear it of such thoughts, and quickly put on the other damp boot. Nothing to do but deliver it, and then find out if he could figure out where Kevesk was. He hoped he would be able to find him when he was done running this errand. As for the errand, it would be a simple matter to find it, for it was where he had worked for his brief stint of honest work. He knew the barkeep and was fairly sure that he could find out something about the box, or at least its owner.

"The Pint Alehouse" was not far from the warehouse that he had been occupying lately. He walked past the old trader's building on his way to the tavern. He could not shake a weird sensation about the box, or perhaps it was the contents. He could almost feel pure good resonating from the box, as if it had been conceived for pure purposes. But that was silly, how could something not alive be good or evil? It was strange, but he couldn't help thinking that, oddly enough he had been thinking of things in terms of good and evil lately, perhaps it was a side effect of his will. He couldn't be bothered with this right now though. In his reverie, he had almost walked past the tavern. He backtracked a few steps and walked in through the heavy door. Unlike many other alehouses in the area, the owner of this one felt that most alehouses were too close, too confining to make you fell comfortable. So he'd had this one built with large windows in the front wall that let the sun stream in as it looked across the harbor. The ceiling was high with bare rafters running across the room, though it was plain and on the small side. It was neat, warm and comfortable, with a brick fireplace on the other side. There were a few townsmen at the bar and scattered around the room in various booths and tables, singly and in groups of two or more. There was maybe one group of four, but that was the largest. All in all, with maybe a score and a half people in the tavern, business was pretty good. And the back room would have more people, though not the same type as these. It was a good tavern, not grubby, but not too high class, though the back room did cater to somewhat more distinguished tastes. He sauntered over to the bar where the barman was serving an older man who was graying, but ageing fairly well, if anyone could be said to do such.

"Ho, Mensk! How are you? I trust business is doing well." As he looked over the bar he could tell that Mensk was feeling his years, he had his walking stick back there. Though he looked rather young, he was older than most thought, his hair had been silver since birth, so that didn't give him away. He was a man with a smiling face, but the only lines on it were caused by joy.

"Ho Derrl! I'm well, though my bones don't seem to agree with me on that one." He smiled at Derrl, and laughed, a laugh that welled up from his growing beer-gut. He wasn't fat, but the line of work he was in was affecting his aversely. "I trust you've been busy. So what brings you here? You don't love me so much that you just came to see me. Out with it boy," he said with a laugh. During the short time that Derrl had worked here, they had developed a close kinship. Derrl almost thought of him as a father figure, as he was certainly old enough to be his father. Most people thought that they knew Mensk.

How little they knew. Few people knew Mensk very well, but Derrl was one of them. Mensk was a man of odd humour. He treated his workers well, almost as if they were family. He had been an only son, and now that his parents had passed away of old age he had no family other than those that worked for him at the tavern he called home. He was ageing, had no children and no wife, but seemed happy anyway, and he spread around what love he had to his barmaids and other employees. He treated Derrl almost as if he were his son. He would even have given Derrl a place to stay when he had been roaming, but he wouldn't have taken it if he could avoid it. Derrl didn't like to feel as if he were imposing on people; it made him feel as if he owed them something. Mensk filled a mug with cold ale and passed it across the bar to Derrl who took it and swigged some down.

"'S good! As always of course," Derrl said. He put down the mug and reached into his overcoat to pull the box out from where he had tucked it and presented it with a flourish. "This is what brings me here, Mensk my friend. My friend Yerril ran into a mishap that required his attention so he asked me to deliver this here. He told me you would know what to do with it."

"Yerill?… Yerril… Yerril… Name sounds familiar enough? Who did you say it was again?"

"Yerril, captain of "The Pribe," you're getting old, friend Mensk." He reached over and poked him in the ribs. "You're not the same young snip you used to be," he said with a smile for the kindly old man.

"Oh!… right, right! Yerril! Oh now I'm sure, that belongs to the lovely young lady in the corner booth there, the one in green. Why don't you take it over there to her?" He said it with a grin.

Derrl turned around on the barstool he had appropriated and to see who his friend was referring to and did a double take. He was shocked, stunned. She was absolutely ravishing. She was dressed in somber greens that looked alive on her, and had blonde hair streaked with darker browns. Fortunately for Derrl she was looking the other way

"Put your tongue away and put your eyes back in your head where they belong, son," he said with a grin, poking him back in the ribs with his walking stick for good measure. "Now take that box and bring it over to her, she's been waiting for it for a week now, she comes in here everyday anyway. That way people looking for her can find her. When you're a healer, people like to know where they can find you. Don't stand there gawking, boy! Go over there and say hello, she won't bite." Derrl glared at him, but the smile on his faced ruined an otherwise perfectly good glare.

"All right, have it your way, OLD MAN." At that point they both started laughing. Mensk shooed him over to the booth where she was sitting.

"I'm going, I'm going! Keep your pants on." He said over his shoulder with a grin. He walked over to the booth where she was sitting with a glass of springbrew in hand. She looked up at him and smiled.

"Is there anything that I can do for you?" That smile was melting Derrl where he stood.

"M-may I sit down?" he asked lamely. She smiled again.

"I don't see why not. Have a seat …?" She was trying to ask him what his name was, and he was too nervous to realize what was going on. Fortunately for him, Mensk was paying attention to what was going on in the corner.

"His name's Derrl," he supplied with a grin. "Ask him what's in the box, Leylau." He was grinning from ear to ear, laughing at Derrl's predicament. He never had been terribly good with women, always freezing up when he got to near and they started talking.

"Thank you!" she called out, with a smile for the old barkeep. "So, Derrl, what's in the box?" At this point Derrl realized what he was doing and slapped himself in the head for being so stupid. He should have realized what would happen. Mensk made a fool of him again and he knew it.

"Pardon me for a moment"

"Certainly!" She said it with that smile, and a light, rippling laugh. He got up, took a step outside of the booth and shook a good-natured fist at Mensk. The smile on his face was there for everyone to see, and the room burst laughing as Mensk chuckled, his belly shaking. He smiled and steeped back into the booth to reclaim his seat across from Leylau. He produced the box from his overcoat once more with a flourish, and held it out for her.

"I believe you've been waiting for this. My friend Yerril is a bit tied up right now, so he had me deliver this for you here. My silly friend at the bar was supposed to take care of it, instead he sends me to do his dirty work." He was grinning. "Although I am sort of glad he did." She held the box lightly as she took it from him.

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