Most of the soldiers were quiet now. They had either turned in for the night, or fallen asleep in their chairs. A few though had stayed awake. Four of them, each sitting with a different waitress, were still enjoying their surroundings.
“You boys, pleasure time is over. Time for some work!” Darius commanded the men in a stern tone. The four looked at Darius, a hint of contempt in their faces. One asked if they had to.
“Get up and repay these fine people for their company. Get me a basket of apples, one of the reserves. We shall pay with fruit, then you can enjoy more leisure time, I promise,” Darius said with a twinkle in his eye. The group seemed to sober up at the words, and quickly got to their work. The four of them walked out the door.
“They seem to be having fun,” one of the waitresses said to Darius.
“I hope they haven’t been too rude,” Darius said while averting his eyes from the woman’s revealing outfit. She wasn’t much younger than his own wife, he noticed, which made her older than most of the soldiers there.
“Well, they are just boys, fun to tease,” she said while laughing heartily. The other girls were also about the same age or a little younger. On average, though, they were older than his soldiers were. Darius chuckled to himself at the thought, but at the same time realized just how effective their age made them at swindling money from his men. He felt that such skills deserved whatever tips they ended up with. He continued conversing with the hosts until the four soldiers returned carrying a single large basket that required all four of them to carry. They were all human, thus too weak to carry it alone.
“Sir, apples, at your request!” One of the human soldiers spoke, bowed to Darius, and then was led back to a table by one of the waitresses, as were the other three.
“Splendid, really. Shall we have a taste?” Darius stood up and the bartender followed. Darius, though wobbly, walked over to the basket. It was nearly as tall as he was, and three or four feet in diameter. Darius put his arms up on one side of the lid.
“Can you get the other side?” Darius asked the bartender. The man went to the other side. They slowly pushed up on the lid. The basket rumbled, and both men jumped back. “What was that?”
“Sir, you didn’t mention anything about your apples rumbling.” The bartender laughed. Darius though, was concerned.
“That’s really odd. Try again.” Darius walked back over to the basket, with slight concern that he wanted to overlook. The alcohol was telling him to ignore the issue and just move ahead with what he was doing. He and the bartender pushed up on the lid; this time it popped off. The basket shook from side to side.
Darius stood back, and the bartender had no joke this time. The shaking didn’t stop until the basket fell over. Out rolled a few apples, mostly whole, and a few that were only cores.
“What the…” Darius sobered up quite quickly at that point. Out behind the apples rolled another odd object. It rolled a few feet, and then stretched out on its back. It was a boy with a cat’s tail. Zeick had arrived.
“Wow, a tavern,” the unfazed Zeick said. “I suppose all of you are drinking.”
“And you are?” Darius had put a firm arm on Zeick’s shoulder. Zeick looked up at the man and smiled, but he did not speak.
“I didn’t realize you were in that kind of business as well,” the bartender said. It couldn’t be told whether he was serious or joking.
“No, no! A stowaway, I’m assuming, right boy?” Darius looked down at the smiling child who wouldn’t respond. “Are you going to speak or not?”
“No, because I might say something I shouldn’t,” Zeick said honestly.
“But you just did,” Darius said.
Zeick remained silent after that. Darius walked upstairs with Zeick in tow. He entered the third room from the left of the stairs, without knocking. Inside was a normal room, with one very massive occupant sleeping on a bed.
“Var! Var! Wake up!” Darius shook the massive bearan, who slowly woke with a snarl and a yawn.
“What are you needing? Sleep,” Var mumbled.
“Var, wake up!” Darius said in the form of a command.
“Yessir, sleep no more.” Var opened his eyes and slowly focused on the people inside his room. “Oh, sorry sir. Didn’t realize you were Darius.”
“That’s alright. Var, I’ve got a bit of a problem now. We got a stowaway, I think, from Rising. This boy here was in our supplies. But I don’t know who he is.”
“Oh, yessir, that’s a problem.” Var nodded his head. “What shall you do with him?”
“That’s why I’m here, asking for you, Var,” Darius said.
“Me? Why’s that, sir?” Var put his hand behind his head and scratched a couple times.
“Aren’t you a personal bodyguard for another child, about his age? Are you any good with kids?” Darius asked, hoping that Var would understand what he was implying.
“Oh, the little misses, yes. Only away from her cause this mission was so important. Ma’am objected, but royal guard orders are important. The miss is a bit older, I think, and I don’t know if I’m any good with her or not. Only obey her whims, that’s all. And keep her safe, though she isn’t one to need it, being as she’s too hard to pin down at all. Suppose she could be stopped by someone with bad intentions, but she’s fast, even though she’s pretty. In fact, I do think she’d be quite good at getting away. But I have to guard her, play with her, being there and all.” Var got out of the bed and stood tall, though his knees were still bent so that he wouldn’t hit his head on the ceiling.
“I’m not sure I understood all that, but anyways, you take care of a kid in Rising, so for now I want you to watch over this boy.” Darius, though stumped by Var’s small speech, still had his main points in mind.
“Certainly, provided that he can be entertained by me.” Var looked at Zeick, who seemed to be awestruck at the bearan’s giant frame. Var reached down and patted Zeick’s head with two fingers. Zeick froze in place, fearing that he may be toppled at any moment.
“You don’t need to entertain him, just watch him. Don’t let him out of your sight. We’re going to have to take him with us on the rest of the mission,” Darius said while sighing again.
“No transportation back to Rising?” Var asked.
“No. We need every last transport available for the mission. He can go back in a cart, I suppose, but before that there is nothing I’m willing to sacrifice. Not only that, but I want to make sure as to whether he is alone or not. I’ll be searching tomorrow, hopefully he will say something by then,” Darius said. Zeick looked down and decided to keep quiet.