The stout wooden door slammed shut as the last of them arrived. It was Harrick. He was always the last one to arrive, Renmar silently noted once again. As the elderly hunter hung up his cloak, Renmar stood up to call the weekly gathering of the Aubenglade Watchers to order.
Knocking loudly on the table with a gnarled wooden hammer, the leader of the group called out, “I hereby call this conclave to order.”
He continued by taking the roll. Harrick was just taking his seat, complaining about his bad knee. Orlon, and his cousin Palgin, were at the far end, both smoking a rich smelling tobacco from clay pipes. Ilmina sat to his left, picking burrs out of the hem of her cloak while Albinara and Yolt sat on the other side of her, quietly bickering over some small amount of coin spent on supplies. Finally, to his right sat the rotund Durwan, sharpening a dagger with flat stone. With the roll complete and everyone in attendance, Renmar continued with the agenda. “The first order of business tonight, who brought the ale?”
For the next hour, the eight of them laughed and drank, feasting on a smoked boar shank provided by Orlon. They talked about the wild animals that seemed to be growing ever bolder in attacking local herds. They planned their next expedition, which would be little more than a relaxing three day adventure into the wilderness, disguised as an important scouting mission for the town. As was their tradition, a flask of particularly strong mead made the rounds after the dinner trenchers had been piled up at the end of the table.
“Well, that just about covers all of the Watcher business.” Renmar concluded, letting out a small burp and patting his stomach. “Anyone want to hear the latest draft of the Hunter’s Tale?”
There were groans from all around the table. The other members of the Watchers had heard this tale over a dozen times already.
“Is the beast even bigger now, maybe the size of a cottage?” Durwan called out, drawing chuckles from the around the table.
“Did you finally get around to mentioning that the poor thing was clearly half-starved and asleep when you found it?” Laughter echoed throughout the small wooden lodge as Ilmina’s barb hit home. Renmar put on a scowl. She was right of course, the chimera had been ill when he encountered it, but it was still a danger to the town that had to be dealt with. Renmar’s battle with the beast was legendary around Aubenglade, and even after all these years he was admired and respected for his daring assault and expert marksmanship. It seemed that such feats of courage were a thing of the past for him now and holding on to the tale, no matter how embellished, was all he had left.
“Well fine, I’ll save it for my lovely daughter. She never mocks me for my heroism.” Renmar concluded with a wry smile, which brought on more laughs and a few hearty pats on the back.
The mirth died away slowly, leaving a calm silence as they all looked around at each other. It was almost time to go, to get home to their families before the dark came to the woods and the going became treacherous. One by one, the Aubenglade Watchers stood and gathered up their gear. Renmar looked as his friends and grabbed his exquisitely carved bow from the mantle above the fire.
“Remember, I won’t be able to make it next week.” Renmar’s voice sounded suddenly hard. “I have the reunion.” With that there were a number of grumbles and stern looks.
Harrick came up and looked Renmar in the eye. “Try not to be too hard on the boy. It’s been, what now, over fifteen winters?”
“You know that I can’t.”
“And all the more’s the shame for it. It will be good to see the lot of you again. The real heroes of Aubenglade.”
As Renmar made his way home, the thought of the upcoming gathering grew to dominate his thoughts. It would be good to see Karwyn again at the very least. The dwarf was a fine warrior, and even after she lost her faith in the group and the town, he still trusted her with his life. He hoped that this time it would not come to that, but they had to finish what they started. Eadmar would have wanted it that way, even if it meant working with Valtirus again.
In the fading light, Renmar approached the back door of his home on the outskirts of Aubenglade. There he found his daughter, lithely dancing between the trees with her rapier in hand, practicing her forms. He watched her silently, noting that she really had improved. He was so proud of her, of the young woman she had become. She was going to do amazing things someday, go on incredible adventures, and see wonders beyond his imagining.
He only hoped those days would wait a little longer.
Making his was up to the kitchen door, Renmar called out to his loving wife. “Leylinia, I am home!”