Part 1: The Feast

The hour grew late as the feast went on, and one by one humans, halflings, dwarves, drow, and elves alike left to find their beds until only the servants remained to clean the hall.  Well, the servants and one barbarian woman passed out in a corner with a huge wildcat that growled at any who came near.

Berriam sighed as he crossed the hall towards the snoring female and her overzealous companion.  He had been in the middle of getting ready for his own rest when his steward had quietly knocked on his door and asked if he would not mind speaking to the cat and letting it know the servants meant no harm? He was growling at any who came too near and giving the cleaning maids quite the fright.  So here he was, barefoot, hair tied loosely back, a plain cotton tunic and woolen breeches, about to ask a giant, fickle predator to stop ‘protecting’ it’s mistress.

“I need to find more sober comrades,” he muttered as he drew near.  Fluffy had seen him enter the hall but, not wanting to leave his sleeping mistress, had waited for Berriam to approach them before greeting the elf lord.

//Berriam!// the tiger was excited to see him, getting up and rubbing vigorously against his leg. Used to such enthusiastic greetings from the dire tiger Berriam was able to keep himself from being knocked over.

//Shadow// Berriam responded, calling the cat by his true name rather than the nickname most others used. He knelt down so he was face to face with the cat and began running his fingers through the tiger’s ruff.  Shadow’s eyes half closed as he began to rumble. //You no sleep?//

//Mistress sleep. Shadow watch. Shadow protect mistress from elf strangers// the great cat opened his eyes to glare towards the servants watching safely from afar, the rumbling turning into a low growl.  Berriam hastily soothed the cat.

//Mistress safe Shadow.  Elf strangers Berriam friends. They no hurt mistress. Shadow no growl elf strangers// Shadow laid his ears back.

//Too many strangers near mistress// he huffed.

Gods Berrriam’s head was starting to hurt.  This ability to communicate with animals was not intended for such a lengthy conversation.  He thought quickly.

//Wake mistress? Find her den for sleep?// Shadow’s ears perked up and he stopped growling.

//Yes!  Den for sleep.  Much better for mistress//

Shadow turned and nudged Elga with a paw as large as a dinner plate.  The woman mumbled something unintelligible but otherwise did not stir. Nuzzling her shoulder, Shadow managed to get his head under her arm and partially roll her over, where she promptly began to snore again.  Shadow looked over at Berriam with an almost sheepish expression.

//Berriam wake mistress?// he asked.  //Mistress drink too much rotten grass and fruit water. Shadow can’t talk to Mistress now until next sun//

Only Shadow would refer to the finest wines and ales in his cellar as ‘rotten grass and fruit water’ the ranger thought to himself as he bent to the task.

“Elga? Elga my dear?  Time to get up,” he called loudly as he shook her shoulder to no avail. Undeterred, he tried again. “Elga wake up! Humbrol has the Ever Lasting Beer Barrel and he needs your help to drink it!”

“Huh! Wha! S’ok! Fer glory and…skull…bears…” Elga started awake and sat up blinking blearily around her before focusing on Berriam.  “S’bed times?” she slurred.

“Yes, bed times, come on,” he held out his hand and helped the woman to her feet, ducking under one arm as she started to sway.

“Ok now let’s go.  One foot after the other leaning on me yes?”  Elga nodded as she frowned in concentration as she stepped forward. Shadow stood up and pressed gently against Elga as they walked, bracing her from the other side.  //Shadow helps// the cat flicked his tail across the back of the legs of human and elf.

Nodding to the servants to continue their work, Berriam and Shadow carried and supported Elga down long hallways and up several flights of stairs.  The trip becoming easier the more they walked as Elga swiftly sobered up.  The one good thing Berriam and the other Misfits had learned about being around a barbarian on a drinking binge was that they sobered up quickly.  Finally, they arrived before Elga’s chambers.  Not quite able to juggle opening the door and supporting a still-drunk Egla, Berriam turned to her companion for aid.

//Shadow open door?// he asked.  The cat obligingly lifted a paw and levered the door handle down, pushing as the latch disengaged. //Grateful.  Berriam set mistress to sleep, let Shadow in//

Shadow huffed his acceptance and laid down outside the door as Berriam stumbled into the room under Elga’s weight.  Thankfully the room was large and spacious so he did not have to worry about crashing into anything.

“Well that’s a problem,” Berriam muttered as he caught sight of the bed.  It was strewn with the contents of Elga’s backpack, her clothing weapons and armor piled in a disarray across the plush bedding.  “Alright my dear lady, do try not to fall over while I take care of this.” Slipping out from under her arm Berriam began moving items so his friend could sleep. Finally having cleared everything off, he turned around to help Elga into the bed.

“Come along now my dear, you must get your beauty rest before you return to your people…in…the…” Berriam’s words trailed off as he looked up to see Elga hopping on one foot while she tugged her boot off the other, which just so happened to be the last article of clothing she had on.  Berriam just stared at her for a moment as he tried to decide what was more surprising: that she was able to keep her clothes on for this long or the fact that he was still surprised by anything this woman did.

“Elga,” he finally asked. “Why are you naked?”

Elga made a rude noise as she weaved towards the bed. “Can’t sleep with my clothes on silly,” she muttered.  “Oh!  Wait no, can’t go to sleep yet.  Need to find an elf for the night.” Changing course and making her way around the end of the bed with a surprising amount of grace for a drunk naked barbarian, she made for the door but Berriam wisely intercepted her.

“And why dear lady would you need ah…how did you put it…’an elf for the night’?”

“This is my last night as a Bloody Misfit!” Elga proclaimed dramatically.  “I must partake of debauchery to the highest degree!  And this means drinking, feasting, fighting and fucking! I have had ample of the first three both here and abroad, and am at a loss for the third.”  She made to move past him again but the elf lord stood his ground. “Berriam,” she sighed “you have two choices.  Find me a bed mate or stand aside while I find one for myself.”

He shook his head. “At least put some clothes on first-“

“Nope!” Elga said cheerily as she made another attempt to get past him. “I shall find that lucky elf in all my glory!  Unless you want to be that elf?” she winked saucily at him.

Berriam sighed and held up his hands in defeat.  “Fine, I know better than to argue with you when you’re like this.  Just…sit down before you fall.  I swear you are the only barbarian that can get black out drunk and still be as eloquent as me,” he muttered as he steered the woman back to the bed.  Elga giggled as she flopped down on soft mattress and laid back across the bed, drumming her heels off the floor as she began humming a nameless tune.

Berriam made to leave but hesitated at the door, one hand on the latch as he gazed at the woman laid out across the bed before him and  His eyes ran along her naked form. He remembered once when he was wounded she carried him to safety to be tended, and held him in the night when nightmares plagued his fever dreams, stroking his hair and murmuring comfort into his ear.

She was such a paradox.  A human with higher than average intelligence. An educated barbarian prone to prose.  A warrior who thought first and fought second. Her body hard and corded with muscles honed from fighting, but she still had the soft feminine curves that drew the eye of most every male around her.  She could take lives in the morning, swinging her axe with abandon to fell her foes, and tend to her comrades with the softness of a mother’s touch in the night.

To the hells with it, he thought as he felt himself stirring.  He slid the lock on the door in place before he could change his mind.  Elga looked up as she heard the lock engage, a look of confusion on her face as Berriam began crossing the room towards her, tugging off his tunic and letting it fall behind him.

“Berriam?” she asked as she sat up.  “Why?”

“Why not?” he asked with a shrug pulling out the tie that held his hair back, letting it fall around his face and shoulders. “You said to find you a bed mate or take his place.  I’m taking his place.”

Elga’s face closed and became guarded, but before she could voice a protest Berriam reached out and gently cupped her face in his hand.

“Believe it or not, you are a beautiful woman Elga Serpentbane,” he murmured. “Beautiful, fierce, and wild.  Any man would be honored to lay with you, and a fool to turn such a chance away.  And I am no fool.”

He leaned in to kiss her, using his forward momentum to gently push her back down across the bed until he was stretched out on top of her.

“Besides, you are among my most special and honored guests,” He purred, trailing his lips down her neck, punctuating each word with a kiss, “I would be remiss if I did not dedicate myself to ensuring your full enjoyment of my…hospitality.”

Elga’s deep throaty chuckle swiftly melted into a moan and they did not speak again for a long time.

Part 3: The Morning