Chapter 4: The Friendly Arm Inn

Disclaimer: The World of the Forgotten Realms is not owned by me.

NSFW Warning: This particular chapter contains graphic sexual content.

Wheeling Sundril about in the keep’s courtyard, Jaryn tore out through the gates and down the high avenue. It was nearing dusk and he knew he had a hard nights ride ahead of him if he were to reach the Friendly Arm Inn, a waystation along the Coastway, a normal two days ride to the south, in time to hopefully intercept Lystra. If she were to perceive of trouble before he reached her, she may abandon his orders to make for the city and make her way to Beregost instead. It would also behoove him to get into contact with the High Druid Blacktree once more and, luckily, there was a way for him to do so much close at hand. 

Galloping hard, the Ranger flew down the twisting avenue, across the square within the main gate, and out onto the moorlands once more.

From his vigil atop the gatehouse, Commander Adrian Durham watched him go with a slight frown, his gauntlets resting upon the crenelations. 

Once beyond the city walls, Jaryn steered Sundril southwards along the puddle-strewn path of the Coastway Road. Darkness was falling faster than normal due to the dense ceiling of storm clouds overhead. Luckily, darkness was no hindrance to the ranger, nor to his steed, and he rode on despite the landscape about him plunging ever deeper into night.

After almost a league of travel, he directed Sundril’s gallop to angle back towards the west. Before him rose the rock-strewn, grassy slope leading to the cliffs of Baldur’s Gate’s southern end. Winding his way through the uneven, steadily climbing terrain, he made his way towards a large grove of trees nestled at the ridge-line’s base.

Urging Sundril to halt just at the treeline’s edge, he stroked his mount’s neck and gazed skyward. Directly above the grove, mirroring its eaves exactly, was a perfect hole in the clouds above which he could see the first glints of stars. His jaw set and his eyes narrowed at the sight. So there was indeed some sorcery at work here, perhaps the work of some sinister cleric at the behest of their dark god. If not why were the domains of the woodland deities spared this storm?

Dismounting, the master ranger led Sundril under the bent eaves of the ancient oaks. Whispering a phrase in elvish to his faithful friend, he continued on alone, delving deeper into the murky depths of the grove.

Soon enough, he found a curved stair leading into a shallow dell within the encircling trees. At the dell’s bottom, surrounded by a thick carpet of fallen leaves, was a weathered stone well that was filled nearly to the brim with shimmering silver waters that illuminated its surroundings in a haunting glow.

Descending the stair, he stepped lightly onto the leaf litter and strode towards the well. Removing his hood at its brink, he gazed down into the swirling depths, and waited. Within moments a soft, deep, yet feminine voice spoke from somewhere among the trees.

“It has been some time since you have visited me, Moorstrider,” it said.

“Yes,” he replied, still staring into the well, “I have need of you now, Druid.”

Movement to his left drew his gaze and he beheld an aged, yet comely, woman wrapped in a threadbare grey cloak descending another stair towards him. In her hand she gripped a gnarled silverwood staff, and on her shoulder was perched a white owl.

“Jaryn Moorstrider,” she said, a soft smile touching her lips.

“Myrna Grey,” he replied, dipping his head in respect.

“What brings you to the grove of the Earthmother?”

 In reply the ranger gestured to the small break in the overhanging canopy above them, through which stars twinkled.

“I need a message sent to two with whom you can commune much quicker than I,” he said.

“So you have perceived that this foul weather is not of this world,” she surmised.

“I need you to ask The High Druid Blacktree to reach the town of Beregost and speak with the ranger, Trotter, who resides there. He must protect the caravans at all cost. Also, I need Jherek to safeguard the city.”

“I no longer am one of the Harpers,” she replied crisply. “And in any event, Jherek’s dead.”

“He lives,” the ranger stated flatly.

The druidess seemed taken aback for a mere moment before composing herself.

“Then you know more than I,” she said.

“Get a message to him in any way you know how. He will be returning to Baldur’s Gate within the fortnight.”

“He should stay wherever he is now.”  The druidess joined him at the well’s edge and peered quizzically into its depths. “To return here will be the death of him, for certain this time.”

Jaryn stepped away and paced about the glade. Finally he stopped, placing a palm upon the knotted trunk of the closest oak, he murmured, “ you know as well as I that means little to him. Storm Silverhand contacted me recently, she said that she had rescued Jherek from the clutches of the Zhentarim. She said that they had tortured him for some time. She said that he is but a shadow of who he was.”

Withdrawing his hand, he turned to face her fully and beheld her eyes alight with tears.

“He returns to Baldur’s Gate,” he said solemnly.

Myrna looked away, hiding tears shed. 

“Very well, Jaryn,” she murmured, not turning to face him again.

He paused for but a moment longer, wishing to speak words he knew would ring hollow, before replacing his cowl about his features and retreating from the dell.

*                              *         * *

Lystra broke the treeline of the western eaves of the Wood of Sharp Teeth at dusk, leading Shadowflight gently down a gradual hillside to the rolling plains that would lead her to the Friendly Arm Inn.

Rain fell upon her in a steady drizzle as she made her way northward, the last vestiges of light haloing the stone keep of the Inn on the horizon.

The rainfall had started shortly after the high druid’s departure from the grove where they had spoken. Soon after, she had bid farewell to Lethir and Kothir and had made her way north. She felt disquieted by her meeting with the High Druid Blacktree, if for no other reason than his words about the rain. ‘If ever you seek safety go to where the rain does not fall,’ he had said, and then the rain fell. Even if he hadn’t spoken thusly to her she would have felt some unnatural power in this weather, she knew. The exact reason why eluded her but there was indeed something sinister in the droplets striking against her hood. They fell perhaps a little too heavily, their temperature a bit too chill. Gritting her teeth against her own uneasiness, she urged Shadowflight into a quicker gait, hoping to reach the inn before darkness truly took the land.

The Friendly Arm Inn truly stood as a testament to the defiance of the peoples of the Sword Coast to the wilds that surrounded them. Built upon a small grassy knoll with rocky sides save one smooth slope that led to its entrance, it resembled a fortress more than an Inn. Indeed it had once been the lair of a fell wizard before an enterprising adventurer’s company had sought his demise. They had succeeded in their mission, but the victory had proven costly with all but one of their number perishing in the ensuing battle. The survivor, a Gnome mage by the name of Bentley, had proceeded to renovate the fortress as a safe place for other adventuring parties along the Coastway.

That had been years ago and yet to this day it stood mighty upon the hill. Its single stone keep rising high above the surrounding countryside, protected by an encircling stone wall with a single gateway. All those who traveled the Sword Coast, heading north to south or south to north, saw it as a welcome sight, Lystra included, and she couldn’t help but smile and she neared its gatehouse. As if she could already feel the warmth of its hearths.

The portcullis, however, was barred upon her approach and she reined Shadowflight in before the grated entrance. Pulling back her hood, she peered within. Beyond the flickering light of the torches within the gatehouse arch, she could see little of the darkening courtyard within.

Pulling back on Shadowflight’s reins, she oriented herself so that she faced the gatehouse fully, then, looking upwards towards its lighted windows, she called, “oi! Corbin! You up there?”

Her keen hearing picked up a muffled curse, and some hasty rummaging, proceeding the appearance of a small, cherub-like face, complete with a rosy complexion and a shock of golden hair.

“Lady Silverdragon,” the face squeaked. “Apologies, I will let you pass.”

Shaking her head but smiling despite herself at the gnome’s obvious embarrassment, the ranger guided her steed back towards the gate as the portcullis began its stubborn ascent.

Passing through the gatehouse, Lystra found herself in a large courtyard, more so resembling a pond at this point than a welcome area for caravans to park their wagons. The encircling wall rose steadfastly about her, culminating to either side of the massive square keep that climbed to a colossal height above. As she gazed up at the impressive structure, the door to the gatehouse beside her creaked open to reveal the diminutive figure of Corbin Bigwig, commander of the Inn’s small, in numbers as well as stature, gnomish guardforce. As ever, the commander was dressed in a well polished breastplate over fine purple cloth. A marion helm complete with a flamboyant purple plume was tucked under one arm. 

In all he struck a rather comical sight, his unkempt hair and hastily fastened, slightly askew, sword belt only adding to the ridiculousness of his outfit. Lystra, however, was quick to stifle any chortle that threatened to escape her lips, as she knew how seriously Corbin took his position, and also that he was indeed an adept swordsman. Foppishness notwithstanding.

“Did I interrupt something?” She questioned innocently enough but her glance back up towards the gatehouse behind him only served to turn the commander even redder. 

“Tis a quiet night, Lady Silverdragon, We had no news of any travel on the roads,” he stammered. “Told my boys I’d take the first watch and…”

Lystra waived his tumbling excuses aside, knowing that if she let him continue she may well be stuck out in the rain all evening.

“Think nothing of it, Corbin,” she said mildly. “I myself hadn’t planned on coming this way this early in the season. I only inquired because if you’re distracted that means Huvertrov is up there with you, and if Huvertrov is with you that could only mean Kivan is up there,” she pointed at the inn proper.

Composing himself somewhat, Corbin nodded.

“It’s as you say,” he admitted.

Lystra sighed ruefully. “Well at least one of us has some good company tonight.”

“Lord Kivan aight such a bad sort,” Corbin said, adjusting his swordbelt and plopping his helm atop his head.

“He certainly isn’t a lord, Selune be praised,” the ranger replied dryly. “And while we are at it, I am also no lady so cut that shit out will ya?”

Corbin cleared his throat and nodded but Lystra knew that it was no use. To him she would always be “Lady Silverdragon.” 

“Thanks for letting me in, Corbin, I can find my own way from here,” she said. “Get you back to Huvertrov but do stay vigilant, there’s something odd in this weather.”

“Tis a mite cold,” the gnome nodded. “I’ll be sure to keep my eyes peeled.”

Nodding, and raising her hand in farewell, Lystra made her way towards the inn, leaving Corbin to hurry back inside the gatehouse.

* * * *

Hurrying back up the narrow, twisting stairwell, carved specifically for the boots of smallfolk, Corbin made sure to re-secure the portcullis, Lystra’s warning echoing in his ears, before composing himself and re-entering the guardhouse.

Inside was a cozy living area where those guards not currently manning their posts could have a drink at one of the small, round tables, or sleep in one of the cots that lined the walls. A small fire crackled in the hearth set into one wall, and it was beside this that the room’s sole other occupant knelt. Said occupant was a gnome, like Corbin, though one far more rugged in appearance. He was slender of build, with long, somewhat wild, black hair, streaked with gray. His skin was deeply tanned, darkening his already deep-hued complexion, and his robes were road-worn, though clean. Corbin smiled despite himself, as he always did when he laid eyes on Huvertrov.

Just as Corbin was admiring him, Huvertrov burned his finger on the teapot he was heating. He made no sound but retracted the hand quickly, frowning at the assaulted digit.

“Oh you clumsy old boot,” Corbin exclaimed, hurrying over but Huvertrov waved him off, motioning that he was fine and encouraging the commander to sit with an outstretched hand to the nearest table, an ernest look in his electric blue eyes, eyes Corbin always found himself mesmerized by.

Allowing himself to be guided, the commander sat and graciously accepted a cup of tea when it was offered. Huvertrov seated himself across from him, his own cup of tea clasped in one well-calloused hand whilst he suckled the no doubt still throbbing finger he had burned. 

For a time the two sat in silence, sipping the fragrant tea, lost in their own thoughts. Soon enough, however, Huvertrov toed Corbin’s boot with his own and nodded to the door, a questioning look in his eye.

“Lady Silverdragon,” Corbin answered him. “She merely seeks a room for the night but something troubled her. Something about the weather,” he looked towards the open window, beyond which the rain still fell.

With a sigh the guard captain rubbed his eyes.

“I swear, Huvertrov, sometimes when she speaks it is as though Moorstrider stands before me, not the carefree sprite she was when first she came to the Sword Coast. Well,” he smiled in self-admonishment, “ perhaps not carefree as there was ever a dark cloud above her, but sometimes I worry she will become as dour as the rest of her ilk.”

Huvertrov made a few signs in the air between them and Corbin chuckled.

“No she isn’t as bad as Kivan,” he agreed. “Yet…”

They lapsed into silence once more then Huvertrov, with a determined, mischievous look, set his tea aside and rose. Leaning over Corbin he kissed his fully and deeply, his tongue insisting entry.

Corbin savored the kiss, but when Huvertrov began unbuckling his belt he protested.

“Lady Silverdragon urged me to be vigilant.”

Huvertrov rolled his eyes and, reaching within his robes, withdrew a jar painted black. Opening the container, he tipped its contents onto the tabletop. From the vessel toppled a tiny, gray, winged creature that was all rolls of baby fat and luminous yellow eyes.

The homunculi, for it could be nothing else, yawned languidly, stretched, then hopped up on its tiny bare feet, turning to regard Huvertrov expectantly. The gnome made a few signs to the creature, then motioned to the open window. Obediently, the homunculi took flight and landed on the window sill, gaze turned out to the darkened wilderness.

Corbin watched all of this slightly slack-jawed, ever amazed by his lover’s abilities. He of course knew Huvertrov to be a well accomplished illusionist, and powerful wizard in general, but it still never ceased to amaze him.

Huvertrov, for his part, turned Corbin’s face insistently back to his own, bringing their lips together once more in a fervent kiss.

 At once, Huvertrov’s fingers, so adept at weaving spells, were again at Corbin’s belt and made short work of the buckle. His sword falling to the floor with a heavy clunk, Corbin brought his own hands to bear, sliding open the wizard’s robe and running them over the other gnome’s scar-festooned chest. His fingertip tracing the lines of several more prominent pathways. 

So lost was he in the lips of his lover that Corbin didn’t immediately notice that Huvertrov had turned his attentions to the buckles of his breastplate.

“I cannot let down my guard too fully,” he protested weakly between kisses, but was quickly urged to silence when Huvertrov freed his cock, calloused hands running over the fast-hardening flesh. Offering no further protest, Corbin allowed his armor to follow his blade, and his undershirt to be peeled open.

Huvertrov descended, leaving a trail of kisses down his chest, pausing briefly to run his tongue across the pebbled surface of an exposed nipple, before continuing southward.

Corbin inhaled the strong smell of campfire smoke that filled his lover’s hair, and buried his fingers in the wizard’s thick, greasy locks as an eager mouth encircled the head of his cock.

Though Huvertrov’s tongue could not form words, he proved that it was in no way a useless muscle for him as he expertly worked his lover’s shaft, head, and balls. He did so love the heavy sack that hung, fully laden, below the short, thick shaft of Corbin’s penis. He loved to pull first one, then the other, testicle into his mouth, feeling the soft wrinkled flesh bulge between his lips, as he buried his nose in the bed of curls that surrounded them. His main focus remained, however, on the length of his lover’s shaft, ensuring that it was well greased with his saliva, waiting until he was sure Corbin was about to explode, his groans and moans reaching a pitch, before popping the hard flesh from his mouth, rolling off of his haunches and onto his back before the crackling hearth.

As Corbin watched breathlessly, Huvertrov opened his robe and, spreading his legs, offered the commander his willing hole.

Not needing any further encouragement, Corbin was atop him, kissing him deeply as he guided himself in. Unable to resist the welcoming heat of his lover’s ass, Corbin set a quick rhythm, curling his arms about Huvertrov’s knees, lifting his legs further to grant him deeper and deeper entry. It did not take him long, already near his end thanks to the skill of the wizard’s tongue, and soon enough he was stiffening, his back arching, his seed spilling. 

Collapsing upon his lover, Corbin gasped for breath, attempting to regain some semblance of consciousness as they held one another tightly. 

In time he lifted himself, falling heavily onto one elbow at Huvertrov’s side, his breath still coming in raggedly. 

“I am far too lucky to have found you,” he said breathlessly. “I swear, do you ever think of yourself? All I ever hear is of you aiding others out there in the wide world.”

In answer, Huvertrov smirked mischievously, and nodded towards his own fully erect cock. Corbin laughed aloud and pushed himself to where now he could most please his lover.

  *       * * *

After she had secured Shadowflight in the courtyard stables, Lystra made her way towards the keep proper. Night had now fallen fully and the rain still fell, making her ever more eager for a warm hearth and a mug of Bentley’s best.

Pushing her way through the keep’s large oaken front doors, she stepped onto the planks of its threshold. She now stood in a large, well lit foyer with several doors leading off in a multitude of differing directions. Several gnomish guardsmen, dressed similarly to Corbin, patrolled the area.

Besides this, the only adornment was a winding, wooden stair that curved up and out of sight. She knew the taproom lay somewhere midway up that stair and that the rest of the keep consisted of rooms for travelers, as well as living spaces for the numerous gnomish families that now called the keep home.

Well known among the guardsmen, Lystra passed unhindered up the stair, removing her cloak as she went, and shaking off her water-laden locks.

Entering the taproom, she found the enormous space, taking up almost fully an entire floor of the keep, near empty. With only a smattering of patrons dusting the unevenly spaced tables. 

A quick scan of the room spotted her Bentley, appearing more dwarf than gnome with his barrel chest and long, white beard. As well as the ranger, Kivan, seated in a far corner, the cowl of his woodland cloak raised. Despite this she could tell that his gaze was fixed on her.

Dipping her head to the ranger, she made her way across the desolate taproom, beelining for the bar and Bentley.

“Well if it isn’t Lystra, fabled apprentice to our most fabled ranger,” Bentley greeted her, smiling broadly.

“Between you and Corbin one would think I had some claim to royalty,” Lystra replied wryly, dropping her cloak upon the bar top and seating herself on the nearest stool. 

The old gnome barkeep waived away her sarcasm, turning to pour her an ale as he did. 

“How fares these wild lands of ours?” He asked, setting the foaming mug before her, lifting a hand as he did to forestall any offer of payment.

“Quiet enough,” she said, looking down the bar. Other than herself, only one other sat at the bar. A massive man, dressed in animal hides and furs. Muscles rippled beneath slightly tanned flesh wherever it showed and a colossal claymore, nearly as tall as the man himself, leaned against the bar at his side. Though he currently sat hunched over his drink, long blonde locks covering his face like a hood, Lystra guessed that he easily stood near seven foot. 

Giving Bently a questioning look, she cocked her head at the stranger.

“Icewind Dale,” the gnome replied to her unspoken question. “Leastways that’s my assumption. Doesn’t talk much. Will you be looking for a room this evening?”

“Please,” Lystra took a deep swig of her ale. “But first lemme check in on mister sits in shadows down yonder.” 

As she said this she tipped her mug towards Kivan, who dipped his head slightly in return. 

Bentley merely chuckled to himself as she departed, sauntering down the bar towards the shadowed corner where her fellow ranger sat.

“Shoulda known I’d run into your ilk here,” she said as a way of greeting upon reaching Kivan’s table. 

Tossing her cloak on the table, she sat heavily in the chair opposite him, clunking her tankard of ale heavily down beside her cloak, upsetting the small stack of coins he’d neatly piled on the table. A hopeful offering she knew Bentley would never accept.

“Well met to you as well, Lystra,” Kivan replied dryly, pulling back his cowl to reveal a thin, darkly tanned face with tribal tattoos decorating his forehead and chin. He wore his black hair short, revealing the pointed ears of an elf, and his rich, brown eyes gazed at her passively.

Beyond his features his attire was very similar to Lystra’s, a woodland cloak over hardy leather armor, though he had fashioned his cloak with numerous strips of cloth of various hues of green, brown, and black.

“I hadn’t expected to see you this far north so early,” he said with practiced calm. “I can only assume that Moorstrider has summoned you hence. Is there some evil afoot?”

“None more so than usual I am sure,” she replied airily. “What about you? Shouldn’t you be up some dragon’s bunghole in the name of your guild?”

As she said this her eyes strayed to the flap of his cloak, concealed beneath which, she knew to be the harp and moon pin. The badge of the Harpers.

“Did you come over here just to sour my ale with acid?” He asked. “Or have you a reason for disturbing me?”

“Hey you were the one staring at me.”

“I already said why.”

“You are that curious as to why I am currently passing my night at an Inn? On a main thoroughfare? Have you questioned everyone else in here as well?”

“They are not apprenticed to the most legendary ranger on the Sword Coast.”

“May I forever rue the day,” she said, rolling her eyes and taking a swig of ale.

“Some do,” he said lightly. “ Some even go so far as to question his reasoning. Why would the great Jaryn Moorstrider apprentice a vagabond of the dales who so openly flouts his allegiances?”

“Guess you should ask him.”

“Didn’t say I questioned it, though I do find your hatred for my guild puzzling.”

“As does any measure of tact, I am sure.”

“Those in our profession have little to no use of it. You are a walking example of that.”

Lystra let out a bark of laughter.

“Fairly said, you bastard,” she tipped her mug to him.

“Why do you hate us so much, Lystra?” He asked quietly.

Rather than answer, Lystra downed the remnants of her mug and flipped a coin to land perfectly atop Kivan’s toppled pile.

“I don’t hate you, Kivan,” was all she said before making her way back towards Bentley to secure a room. Waving tiredly back at her fellow ranger as she did.

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