Final preparations and a look at Jyslyn's home.Inn at the Crossroads, outside the Sylvan Forest
The sun sat on the horizon as the small group arrived. Leomund dismounted first; he led his charges into the unmarked inn's courtyard. Nyssa followed, bringing her horses in. Wren took charge of the elves' mounts. Kazimier eased Jyslyn down to the ground. The dark elf took several unsteady steps, then rubbed her legs.
"That was different," Jyslyn said.
"You'll get used to it," Kazimier said. "Just walk it off."
Nyssa hooked a thumb at the inn. "We should get inside. Let Wren and Leomund handle the horses. We need to get space, either on the common room's floor or a private room." The knight gave Jyslyn a significant look. "Ideally? A private room. We don't want trouble tonight."
"I will vouch for Jyslyn," Kazimier said.
Jyslyn placed a hand on Kazimier's arm, holding him back. "I am well aware of the reputation my people have. It is well-earned. I may not start anything, but there could be someone in there who will."
Nysssa nodded. "Exactly. And the inn isn't in any country. Sure, everyone around claims the area, including Wildwood."
"We send patrols this way," Kazimier said. "But we're protecting the Sylvan Forest."
"Same with the Seven Dominions," Nyssa added. "And the Kingdom of Berrin. The crossroads is just outside, perfect for anyone escaping justice or avoiding interest. It's not a tough crowd, but it will be a surly one."
Nyssa opened the door, allowing Kazimier and Jyslyn to enter the inn. A fire crackled in the common room, providing a flickering light. A number of people sat at the bar, including a minstrel with a lyre, strumming the instrument softly. The tables in the common room , half of which had people dining on them, lined the walls, leaving room for a circle painted on the wooden floor. Nyssa avoided the circle as she approached the bar. The barkeep ambled over to her.
"We need a room for five," Nyssa said. "Private. And whatever you're serving for dinner."
The barkeep eyed the newcomers. "I only see three of you."
"Someone had to take care of the horses. How much?"
"Five crowns for the room. Six with dinner." Nyssa dropped several gold coins on the counter. The barkeep tested each one to make sure they were genuine. He grunted, then deposited the coins into a small lockbox. "Meleri will take you to your room." The barkeep turned to find the serving girl. "Oi, Meleri, show this lot to room four."
The serving girl returned from her rounds. "This way." She brushed a dark bang out of her eyes as she started for the stairs.
"I'll go," Jyslyn volunteered. "Have my dinner sent up."
"Are you sure?" Kazimier asked.
"I'm sure. No trouble, right?" Jyslyn followed Meleri up that stairs.
Nyssa found a table where she could watch for Leomund and Wren. Kazimier joined her, giving one last look at Jyslyn's retreating form. "Relax, lad. She can handle herself. She wouldn't have survived in her home if she couldn't."
"She's no longer in her home." Kazimier returned his attention to Nyssa. "How often have you come here?"
"It's a useful place." Spotting Leomund, she waved. "Leo! Over here!"
Leomund walked through the common room to join Nyssa, followed by Wren. "Horses are stabled. One crown total."
"Where's Jyslyn?" Wren asked as she sat.
"She's in our room," Nyssa answered.
The young elf began to get up, only to be held by Kazimier. "She needs some time alone," he said.
"But she'll miss dinner."
"We're sending dinner up to her."
"It's alright, lass," Nyssa said. "She's safer there."
"We'll be going up soon, anyway," Kazimier added. "The sooner we leave, the more ground we can cover."
Wren pouted. "It doesn't seem fair to her."
"Look around," Nyssa said. "These aren't men and women who trust easily. We've been getting furtive glances since we came in. They want to be sure we're not a threat to them. Jyslyn tilts that balance, even covered up. She looks like she's hiding, and that makes people nervous. That leads to problems. Problems lead to us being kicked out and on our own tonight."
The serving girl returned downstairs. She grabbed a tray of steaming bowls and brought it to the group's table. "Your friend's not coming back down," Meleri said as she set the bowls out.
"We know," Nyssa said. "Take a bowl up to her, too." She slid a silver coin to the girl. "The sooner, the better."
The coin disappeared into Meleri's apron pocket. "Will there be anything else?"
"Ale. Even for our friend."
Meleri flashed her best smile. "I'll be right back." She dashed away.
"Ale?" Wren asked.
"It's like wine," Kazimier said. "It's more popular in human lands than in Wildwood. We don't have the grains to brew it properly."
"First time away from home?" Leomund asked.
Wren slumped. "Not really."
"It's a long story," Kazimier interrupted. "First time out of the Sylvan Forest."
"Yes, that." Wren started on her bowl of stew. "Soup!"
Leomund stared at the blonde elf. "Did Lia teach you that word?"
"Oh, yes. Lia taught me your language first, then my master in the outriders."
Leomund broke up with laughter. "That explains my supper two nights ago."
Kazimier fought to keep from laughing at Wren's expense. "This is stew, Wren. Lia always gets the two mixed up."
"Stew." Leomund began eating his own meal. "Not as good as Lia's, though."
Wren laughed, covering her mouth with her hand.
Nyssa cleared her throat. "Leo, mind what I said yesterday."
"I am, ma'am."
"Kids these days."
"One of these 'kids' is older than you, Nyssa," Kazimier said.
"And one isn't."
Between spoonfuls of his stew, Leomund asked, "Ma'am, what is that circle on the floor for?"
Nyssa glanced back at the circle before answering. "There's no law here, not like in the Seven Dominions. If a fight breaks out, it could get everyone involved. The owner set up the circle so that two people determined to knock each other silly could do so without disturbing others. The fight becomes entertainment."
"That sounds," Wren search for the word, "awful. That's the right word, awful?"
Kazimier answered before Nyssa could. "It is, yes."
"It serves the purpose. Loser sleeps in the hayloft, even if he already paid for a room." Nyssa pointed at Leomund. "Mind your manners tonight. I don't want you in there."
Sleeping in an unfamiliar bed.