Elga wiped her mouth on the back of her hand and belched, loudly and with great appreciation for the hands that had made the feast she had just devoured.  A few heads turned towards her, but the faces mostly smiled or smirked in her direction for the barbarian woman was well known within the valley and many tolerated her antics with wry amusement.  Much like a parent with a particularly winsome child. Elga gave a mental shrug as she drained another flagon of wine and let her gaze roam over the assembly.  It mattered not what the elves of Beriath’s Valley thought of her.  They were far too proper and while she was careful not to overstep her limits, she enjoyed tweaking their noses with her ‘brash and crude’ mannerisms. Served well to remind them that there was more to life than soft words and softer beds.

“Yes! Yes and then lady Surina, aided by yours truly of course, faced down the dragon…” Elga smiled as Sil’s voice rose and fell among the noise of the revelers.  No doubt she was regaling the elves with a tale of the Misfit’s adventures, and if she knew the little Halfling sorcerer at all it would be a tale that grew taller by the word. Now where…

Ah! There she was, at the far end of the hall surrounded by a group of wide eyed younglings.  The little female’s hands gestured and fluttered excitedly as she continued her tale.  Elga let her gaze continue as she sought out the rest of her companions from the Bloody Misfits.  Oh, there was Bargle and his wife Halia deep in conversation with…more wizards it seemed like.  She smiled and shook her head slightly.  Ah wizards, never passing up an opportunity to study and learn even in the middle of a party.  And it looked like Dietrich was busy trying to charm some local merchants into expanding their trade routes.  Nobleman first, fighter second that one.

Liberating another flagon that passed through her peripheral vision from the hands of a server, she heard the faint strains of a dulcimer and saw Surina attempting to ply her charms upon a noblewoman of the valley.  The bard may have been a drow but that did not stop her from trying to get into a lot of pants. And skirts…and nests…lairs…pretty much everything/one that they had fought or met in their travels.  A chorus of shouts from outside told Elga where the party’s dwarven cleric Humbrol and half drow paladin Torlold had disappeared to.  No doubt attempting to grow their churches through the power of conversion…via a good wrestling match of course.

Elga sat back in her chair, flagon in hand as she surveyed those assembled in Berriam’s hall.  She could not remember the last time she felt so satisfied or at peace.  Her belly was full, she had a steady supply of ale and fine elven wine, her Shadow was a warm presence dozing at her feet, and she was surrounded by her friends who over the past years had become more her family.  All she needed now, she mused as she eyed a passing guard, was a male to warm her bed tonight and everything would be perfect.  The guard noticed her appraisal and boldly returned it.  Winking at him, she turned her attention back to her drink.  There would be time enough later for that.  Elves did not need to sleep like most other races and Elga wanted to hold off choosing her bed mate for as long as she could, not wanting to miss a minute in the company of her comrades.

For despite the joy of the evening there was a bittersweet tinge.  This was their big send off after all, the last hurrah for the Bloody Misfits before they took their shares of the treasures collected on their journeys and settled into quieter lives.  Who knew when or if they would ever met again after this? No, she mused, she had a mate and with a little luck many nights of bed play after this, she would not choose that over these last few precious moments among those who she had risked everything for, and who had risked everything for her in turn.

“Here’s to you Kithri and Milo, where ever you may be,” she muttered as she drank a silent toast to the first Halfling sorcerer to join their group, and the only member of the Misfits lost to death, and the little halfling rogue who was with their party for too short a time.

“What was that my dear woman?” Berriam asked from beside her, not looking up as he methodically cleared the plate that had been set before him.  The Bloody Misfits had been given seats of honor at the head table, but these two were the only ones left as the others had quickly eaten their fill and gone to find other amusements for the night.  The only reasons they remained was as host and lord of the hall, Berriam was only now truly getting to his meal after dispensing with all the formalities such a gathering entailed.  And Elga, after putting away three or four courses of food, was just taking a few moments to wash it all down before joining the others in the throng.

“To Kithri and Milo,” Elga saluted Berriam with the flagon.  Eying the container, Berriam deftly plucked it from her fingers, and ignoring her sputters of mock indignation, poured the remaining wine into their glasses, setting the empty flagon between them before picking up his glass and motioning for Elga to do the same.

“Kithri and Milo,” They drank to the memory of their fallen and absent comrades. “Hey Berriam, you mind bending over for me?” she asked innocently as they set their glasses down and Berriam gestured to another server for more wine.  “I wanna see how big that stick up your arse is.” Berriam rolled his eyes at her.

“Ha ha very funny” he drawled.  “Why are you not down among the rabbl- I mean populous with the rest of our comrades?”

“Why that would deprive you of the pleasure of my company,” she batted her eyelashes mockingly at him.

“I think I would survive,” They grinned at each other as the server set down a platter of flagons filled with various wines and ales in front of Elga.

“Ah ha!  This is more like it!  Elga like!” Laughing heartily, Elga swept up one container and drained it in two swallows before picking up the platter and bowing low to Berriam.

“And such a fine bounty you have provided my lord! Too fine for the likes of a lowly barbarian such as myself.  I must share this with others more worthy!” she mocked, her words starting to slur slightly. “Come along Shadow mine,” Elga bade her tiger to follow. Berriam chuckled to himself as he watched her weave away from the table, her dire tiger companion Shadow aka Fluffy close to her heels and helping to clear a path as people made room for the giant cat and his mistress.  Although an outsider would sometimes be hard pressed to see the camaraderie in the jabs they shared, such teasing was common between the two, for the elf lord and barbarian chieftain were probably the ones who understood each other the most among the rest of the companions.

They were all close and dear friends to each other of course, he mused, but as was the way of things in such bands, some people formed closer bonds than others.  Dietrich shared Berriam’s love of the finer things in life, but held not as much respect towards the wilds.  Sil’s tongue was more silver than the coins in Berriam’s coffers, but her heart always belonged to another which led her to many weeks away from the Misfit’s side.  Humbrol was a fellow cleric although fanatical in his devotion to his god, Torold was far too rigid, and Surina…Berriam hid a grimace behind his glass. Surina was just weird.  Elga understood his connection to the wilds, even asked him to train her as a ranger so she could form a closer bond with her companion and care better for the neighboring lands she called home.  She shared his love of fine food and drink, even as she poked fun of his fine clothes and rich lifestyle.

And, if he was completely honest with himself as he continued to surreptitiously watch her mingle and laugh with strangers and friends alike, she was quite attractive.  For a human of course.

A touch of his sleeve and a murmured ‘My lord?” drew him from his thoughts and back to the present.  There would be time enough later for remembrances and musings.  For now he had a feast to host.

Part 2: The Night