“Rescue Elizabeth, eh? You know you’re not suppose to kiss her.”
“That’s what King Erik told me. I find it a little strange but not a problem. She’s being held by Saydens the Black Wizard.”
“Saydens? Pretty dangerous man to go against.”
“Have you met him?” I asked eagerly.
“Nope. Never had the pleasure. In all my years with the Hooded Heroes, we never went up against him. He always seemed to lie low when we were in the area.”
“And with good reason!” I added. “You guys are legendary.” Janbar blushed slightly at the compliment.
“Anyway, I came into town to buy a horse and see what you knew about Saydens.”
“I can lend you a horse. As for the information, you know who you have to ask.”
“I was hoping to avoid her. It’s been many years since I last spoke to her.”
“Well if you want information, she’s the one. They say you know her very well.”
“A little too well,” I said reluctantly. “I guess I have no choice then. Thanks Janbar.”
“Not a problem. My horse is hitched up out back. I’ll bring her around front for you.” Janbar walked toward the back and said something to the barmaid with the cat-like reflexes. She quickly came to my table with a tankard.
“I apologize for my rude behavior,” she murmured.
“I’m sorry for asking about your name, Lee.” I smiled hoping to smooth things over. She smiled back.
“My parents were human and decided to give me a human name. I take great offense to anyone who comments about it.”
“Well, you should pick your own elven name.”
“Do you have any ideas?” she asked.
“Not at the moment. But I’m coming back this way. Maybe when I return I’ll have one.”
“Thanks! Oh, no charge for the ale,” she said but I threw five gold pieces on the table.
“I know. That’s for any problem I caused.” She bowed again as I left Quenchers. Outside Janbar was already waiting for me with his horse. It was a black war-horse who had seen a lot of action.
“I don’t know how to thank you,” I said.
“Just keeping the legend of the Hooded Heroes alive with your stories is enough. Good luck with…you-know-who.” He turned and walked back into the tavern. I mounted the horse and rode out of Mengelay.
About a mile out of the village I came to a small grove, dismounted the horse and checked to make sure no one was around. I said a short prayer to the goddess Erica and then summoned my contact.
“Ann. Ann, it’s me…Darryl. I need to talk to you.”
“Wait. Stop the story!” demanded Sir Talbot. Dingle focused on his long-time friend who seemed quite upset.
“What’s wrong?” asked the bard.
“What’s wrong? This Ann person you called. Are you referring to Ann, The Temptress?”
“You mean to tell me that after all these years of adventuring together and talking with contacts in seedy taverns and other locales of unworthiness that all you had to do was call on Ann?”
“Pretty much, yes.” Dingle’s reply was a little too casual for the knight.
“Pretty much?! You know as well as I that a succubus is the best contact for any and sometimes all information. Why did you never tell me before you knew her?”
“Because I don’t like to call on her that much. And all succubi want something in return for information. Usually a life is at stake.”
“She’d kill you after giving you the information?”
“Not me personally but you might be the victim.”
“Why not you?” inquired Sir Talbot.
“All bards are somewhat immune to succubi because without us we could not keep the horror stories alive. All succubi have formed a pact never to harm a bard so that tales of their conquests can out live their own lives. That’s one of the main reasons adventuring parties have at least one bard in their midst so they can gather much needed information.”
“I fully understand,” said the knight apologetically. “But what kind of name is Ann for a succubus anyway. Why not something more unique like Venesa?”
“Our daughter’s name is Venesa…I mean…her daughter…”
“Did you say ‘Our daughter’?”
“Uh…no. No I did not.”
“Yes you did! Are you trying to tell me you had a child with a succubus?”
“Well…yes. I owed Ann a favor for some information I obtained but it was a long time ago. Ann wanted more than to just spare my life and tell her tales. She wanted a child and—and I agreed.” He suddenly looked sorry for having done so. Sir Talbot could see that it hurt his friend to talk about it or even be reminded.
“I…I…When was the last time you saw your daughter?”
“I have never seen my daughter.” Dingle sighed and for a moment seemed he wasn’t going to say anything. “When she was born, Ann came to me and told me we had a girl and that she named her Venesa. Other than that, neither of us ever mentioned her further. I didn’t know if I wanted to see her or not; knowing that I helped create something evil.”
“Does she have a nickname like her mom, The Temptress?”
“She is called Nightfall,” Dingle replied simply.
“Why?” Then Talbot thought about it. “Wait! Never mind. I’m sure I’ll be sorry if I ask.”
“Can I just get on with the story?” the bard asked.
“Of course, my friend. Please continue.”