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Chapter 14

"I'm glad to have been able to meet you, Leylau," said Derrl with a smile. He felt just a little bit giddy, as she'd just kissed him again. He felt ready to melt. "But I really have to get going. I owe a friend a favor, and I have to arrange a couple things before I can do it. I'm sorry, but I really do have to go." He managed a half-smile for her benefit.

"I understand, but… Oh! I feel so silly trying to ask you this, Derrl. But, would you walk me home? I understand if you can't." She was looking away shyly by this point. It was apparent that this was not the sort of thing that she did often. He was ready to melt instantly, and he very nearly did.

"What? No! What I mean is… Oh, to the pits with all of it, Leylau! I'd love to! I wouldn't miss it for the demon's throne." He picked her up by the waist and swirled her around before he realized what he was doing. Apparently he could be just as gushy as old Mensk. He blushed furiously and quickly put her down. She saw his face and his reactions and couldn't help but giggle. This served only to make him try to hide his face as it took on a deeper shade of crimson and spread down his neck. Mensk was watching the whole incident and decided to step in on Derrl's behalf at this point.

"Just a moment if you please, Derrl." He was self-consciously mopping his forehead and neck with a serving towel, as he often did when he felt uncomfortable. He didn't usually do this. "Um… well, I've been a little low on help lately and… Well, the stable boy left, and the workers are mostly gone… Oh! To the pits with it all! Do you want a job or not?" He was not happy when he couldn't speak his mind properly, but he felt a little uncomfortable.

"You want me to come work for you, Mensk?" asked Derrl incredulously.

"Well, yes," he quickly tried to cover up his emotional side. "I need workers, and I can't pay you much, and you would have to do some work in the storage shed and stable before you can leave," he said gruffly, or as gruffly as he could manage. He really did care for Derrl.

"Thank you very much, Mensk, or should I call you ser? I'd like to work for you." He turned to the healer, "I'm sorry, Leylau. Could I postpone walking you home until another day? It's not every day that you get an offer like this, and work is becoming more scarce these days." He started to frown. He felt badly about the way this was coming out. Once again Mensk leapt to his rescue, because he couldn't stand to see his two favorite youths in such evident discomfort.

"It's ok. I only need you to stack ten cases of ale. It shouldn't take you too long, the hoist helps get things along. I'm sure Leylau can wait fifteen minutes or so, can't you, Leylau?" She was bubbling at this point, it was all she could do to nod and keep herself from bursting out into flurries of giggles. She was immensely content with the way things were turning out. "Ok, so go out to the main shed out back, you've done this before, so it shouldn't take you too long. Since you left we installed a hoist so that one person could do the job better by himself." Derrl nodded and sauntered out through the back door to the tavern and walked into the dingy shed. It was dull and gray. The near-constant rain turned all wood in the area gray before its time, though the shed was solid and well built. Mensk had built it himself, and there was no faulting Mensk's work. He might not do things the same way others did, but that was because he was smart enough to figure out ways that would allow him to do more of the work himself. He walked into the barn and saw the cases of ale on the other side in the dim light. He started to cross the building and due to the lack of lighting he tripped over a shovel that had been thrown carelessly on the floor. He stumbled, tripped and started to fall, but managed to catch himself momentarily with his right hand on something that moved easily, but just enough to regain his footing. He stood up and began brushing off his clothes in order to regain his composure. He heard a faint creaking, as of ropes, and looked up just as the heavy wood and metal the hoist came swinging back to collide with the right side of his head. It managed to hit him square on the right temple. The pain was mind-shattering. Derrl saw a momentary blinding flash of light and then all went black. He could vaguely sense something warm and sticky on the side of his head.

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