Wren and Jyslyn joined the investigation party.Four Leaf Inn, Wildwood, the Sylvan Forest
"Get up, you lazy lump." Nyssa threw her pillow at her squire, nailing Leomund in the back of the head.
Leomund rubbed the back of his head, ruffling his chestnut brown hair. "I'm awake, ma'am."
Nyssa hobbled across the room, her wounded leg limping. "Good. Breakfast awaits. Have you ever had elven cuisine, Leomund."
"Does last night count?" Leomund flipped over to see his liege.
"I don't remember much from last night. What did you have?"
"I asked for stew. I got soup."
Nyssa tsk'ed. "Leo, you should have had me with you."
"Yes, ma'am, but when you got here, you passed out on your bed." Leomund rolled out of his bed. "I would like a proper breakfast, ma'am."
"Excellent, my boy. Get cleaned and dressed, then meet me downstairs. I will give you a lesson on diplomacy"
Leomund just stared at Nyssa. "Yes, ma'am."
Nyssa held her hands over her heart. "You wound me, Leo."
"I've seen you negotiate before, ma'am."
"Ah, and there's the lesson. Different people respond to different approaches. Take Count Tathan. Best way to deal with him is from a position of strength. He respects strength. The Council of Matriarchs here, though, need deference to their wisdom."
"If you say so, ma'am."
Nyssa walked to the door, still using the crutch but trying to not favour her wounded leg. "Hurry up. I'll be downstairs." She left the room, leaving Leomund to his privacy.
Taking the stairs one at a time, Nyssa arrived in the inn's common room. Only a couple of tables were open. The knight sat at the one closest to the stairs. As much as she wanted to deny it, the wound slowed her down. Her thigh ached with the effort of getting down the stairs. Nyssa sat, extending her leg under the table.
An elf girl arrived at the table. "Hello!"
Nyssa switched to the elven tongue. "Good morning. I'll start with tea. My squire should be down soon. We'll order breakfast then."
The girl ran back behind the bar, her amber blonde hair flowing behind her. Nyssa chuckled. The girl was likely the knight's age but had far more energy in her than Nyssa ever had. Leomund was halfway down the stairs when the girl returned with Nyssa's tea. The squire sat down across from the knight, flashing a half smile at the elf. Nyssa arched an eyebrow. "Already working on relationships with the elves?"
Leomund shurgged. "She was here when I ate last night."
Nyssa noticed the light blush growing on her squire. "I see." She waved to the elf girl, beckoning her. "Ready for breakfast?"
Nyssa looked up at the blonde elf. "I want two of your chef's best breakfast." she ordered in elven. "Two eggs for each of us. I prefer mine poached, but if your chef has a better way to cook them, I'll take it. My squire here likes his eggs with the yolks cooked through. Again, if your chef has a better way, he'll take it."
"Ma'am, can you ask about sausages?" Leomund asked.
Nyssa relayed the question to the elf girl. She shook her head no. "That's fine," Nyssa said. "And bring my squire some tea as well. That's all."
The elf girl brushed against Leomund's arm as she left. Nyssa gave her squire a questioning look. "I talked with her last night, too, ma'am."
"I see." Nyssa stretched. "Leo, you are about to get your second lesson in diplomacy."
"Ma'am? But I can't speak her language."
"And she probably doesn't speak ours all that well, either." Nyssa stopped speaking when the girl return with Leomund's tea. When the blonde elf left, Nyssa watched as girl ran a finger up Leomund's arm. "Some gestures can break the language barrier."
Leomund sipped his tea to hide his face. "I don't know what you mean, ma'am."
"Leo, Leo, I am far older than you. That girl is interested in you."
"You could tell, ma'am?"
"I was once your age, Leo. I remember the awkward moments." Nyssa glanced at the serving girl. "And not so awkward moments. Did you really only talk with her, Leo?"
Leomund set down her tea. "I may have gone beyond just talking, ma'am."
Nyssa laughed. "And there's your second lesson."
"Learning about other cultures. Let's take our hosts here. Instead of having counts or barons or even kings, our hosts have the Council of Matriarchs. What does that tell you, Leo?"
"That they don't have one person making all the decisions?"
Nyssa nodded. "Go on."
Leomund thought over his answer for a few minutes. "There's something about the elven women, right, ma'am? Oh, and they head up families. Matriarchs. So the Council here represents the families, and the Martriarchs mean to make sure all the families prosper."
"Anything else, Leo?"
The young squire took a sip of his tea as he tried to work out what Nyssa wanted. As he pondered the question, the elf girl returned with two plates, a folded omelette steaming on each one. Leomund gave the girl a broad smile.
"Thank you," Nyssa said. "Leo, this is indeed a treat. Elven omelettes. If the chef is worthy of being called a chef, he'll have added the perfect blend of spices." The old knight cut a forkful to taste. She closed her eyes as she chewed. "Simply wonderful," she said after swallowing. Once the serving girl left, Nyssa continued, "Well, Leo? Do you have an answer?"
"No, ma'am. I can't think of anything else."
Nyssa ate another forkful before answering. "Elven women are more open about pursuing someone they fancy."
Leomund choked on his omelette. When he could speak again, he said, "Ma'am?"
"Elven girls don't wait to be asked. They don't play games to get a boy's attention. They are direct." Nyssa smirked. "So, Leo, how much farther than talking did you get to last night?"
"Did her sister tell you what happened?"
"Leo, my boy, at least tell me there won't be a half-elf baby with your eyes born next year."
Leomund slunk in his chair. "We didn't get that far, ma'am. Her sister showed up and yelled at her."
Nyssa roared with laughter, earning her the glare of everyone else in the common room. She ignored the attention. "Eat up, Leo. We have travel plans to make."
"Leaving so soon?" Kazimier sat down between Nyssa and Leomund. "I thought we were going to work together."
"I wouldn't dream of leaving you behind, Sir Elf," Nyssa said. "We have supplies to gather. It is a long trek to the Realm Below the Mountain."
"True, but I have arranged for one of our outriders to join us. We should be able to hunt along the way."
Nyssa raised her tea cup as a salute. "You are thinking ahead, Sir Elf."
"And how is your leg this morning?"
"It will be fine. Horses, after all, are ridden in the seated position." Nyssa kept her expression neutral but she heard Leomund trying to stifle his laughter.
"You still have to walk to your horse, Dame Knight" Kazimier said. "I'd like to look at the wound, to make sure it's healing. Are you feeling any pain?"
"I was stabbed with a poison knife. Yes, it still hurts, but not like it did before. I can put my weight on it and walk."
"With the crutch," Leomund added.
Nyssa sighed "Yes, with the crutch, thank you, Leo. I've had worse, and I ache in many places at my age. I will manage."
"Sir, if Dame Nyssa says she can walk, not even the Gods Above and Below will stop her." Leomund finished his breakfast. "If I may, ma'am? I should start on our supplies."
"You may go, Leo. Leave the elf girl alone, though." Nyssa watched as Leomund slipped through the crowd to the exit. "He's a good kid. He just needs some exposure to new cultures and he'll be a decent knight."
"The elf girl?" Kazimier asked.
Nyssa gave the serving girl a significant look. "She was trying to expose Leo last night."
Kazimier laughed. "Ah, yes, Lia. No one can call her shy."
"So, Kazimier, right?"
"Yes. Kazimier Starpetal."
"As in, the Matriarch I talked with yesterday? My dear, you are a clever one. May I ask what her relation is to you?"
"The Matriarch is my great grand-aunt."
"I just hope she knows what a good person you are."
"I remind her from time to time." Kazimier eyed Nyssa's empty plate. "If you're done eating, I could look at your leg up in your room."
"My room? And what would everyone here think?" Nyssa winked.
With a laugh, Kazimier said, "They'd think that I finally found someone, then talk about Lia's latest conquest. Now, do you want help upstairs, or are you going to insist on going up on your own?"
The party sets off on adventure.