Tamric (closed for Wordforgedsoul)


The Divine
Aug 7, 2020
As the other Outriders made their way to the nearby city to square up their debt to the local magistrate, Ingrid and Tamric had the very present problems of running a coffee plantation. Ingrid had, over the span of a few days, coaxed some of the workers back with a promise of shares of the first year's profit and a place to live on the sprawling estate. Past that, she was at something of a loss how to proceed. There was still the issue of the "heir" to the very gay Michael Vartan. While the work of the other mercenaries would most likely put their legal title to rest, there was some moral question of what to do about the boy and his mother. Further, there were dryad's that might have to be appeased on a fairly regular basis... though their lust for human male company seemed to satisfy whatever bargain needed to be struck there. Aside from that, was the interminable waiting. She seemed to vacillate between furious activity and a sullen withdrawal, spending a few days in her rooms when there was nothing to distract her.

At the end of the week, when it was expected that the others should have returned (and had not as of yet) Tamric found her floating in the bath-house. She sank a bit, covering her chest out of respect for his pious sensibilities "Sorry" she rolled her shoulders "we definitely cannot afford to fix the other bathhouse." She laughed "I'm not entirely sure we can afford to run the plantation. At least there's SOME yield from the crops left to grow wild. They need a lot of work though." Only her head was visible above the surface of the water "what have you been doing with yourself?"
To say the first week on the plantation had been an adjustment to the disillusioned cleric would be an understatement. He felt less like a fish out of water and more like a fish that had been spirited to a whole other plane of existence. The exotic land he now called home was so far removed from all he had known. Everything was so different from the frozen north where he was raised. And it was not just geography that was different here. Moral attitudes, romance, right and wrong, everything seemed so much more flexible here in the southern continent. And truthfully, Tamric found himself intrigued by it all.

The other outriders had taken to their new situation with ease. Adventuring, relaxing, enjoying pleasures of the flesh with each other and with the nubile dryads who demanded appeasement; Tamric had stayed very much on the sidelines of it all, but it was not from some pious disapproval or show of devotion to his god.

Tamric was quite sure he didn’t have a God anymore. That feeling that he had been abandoned by the deity he had sworn himself to was a lodestone that hung heavy on him. It made him sluggish and saw him skulking around the plantation, a part of but also apart from the Outriders who were beginning to settle and even thrive in their new situation.

Most left him to his own devices. Tamric suspected the others were glad he was there and willing to see to the more administrative tasks. He also suspected that the others were quite glad he was not fighting for the attention of the few women in their company. Though whenever Tamric felt that thought bubbling to the surface he chastised himself. Deep down he knew the truth. The others probably didn’t give a shit what he did or didn’t do. It was his own jealousy of the freedoms the others enjoyed that saw him projecting onto them.

If there was one thing that had remained constant for Tamric since making a home on the plantation, it was the feeling that he was still adrift, not at home at all.

On entering the bath house to relax his mind and body, the cleric stiffened to find Ingrid alone in the water. His first instinct was to apologize and walk away. But something kept Tamric rooted to the spot.

The others were away on a mission. The plantation was nearly deserted and his self-imposed isolation made him yearn for company. More than this, he did not want Ingrid to think him some recluse and stop trying with him. The others had grown more distant with him in the last days, leaving him to manage accounts and paperwork related to the plantation and setting up their licenses.

But Tamric would have been lying if he were to say company and companionship were all that kept him in place and staring at the waters.

The new forbidden thoughts that had been brewing over the last week, the desire to push against the habits and laws put on him by his old faith were becoming harder and harder to ignore in this new land. He found his eyes staring at the water, his lips going dry as he spied the outline of Ingrid’s body below the waterline, wishing she hadn’t sunk below as she had. His mouth fell open. He didn’t speak at first, his wide-eyed stare and fumbling attempt to speak were sure signs of how flustered the situation made him.

But he wasn’t leaving.

“I… It has been a strange few days, to tell the truth.” Tamric rubbed the back of his head, eyes alternating between looking away from Ingrid and then pulling right back to her. “I will confess, after so much of my life spent sheltered in a monastery the change in scene… It is taking some getting used to. But, I think I will grow to like it here, once I get over the difference in culture.”

As he spoke a faint smile pulled over his lips, a nervous anticipation as he considered the woman sitting naked in the bath, remembering the sounds he had heard echoing out of the place that first day.

“I’m sure once our operations licenses are in place and the rest of the outriders start bringing in money from contracts we can turn this place around. I am looking forward to the challenge and making the Outriders a positive force in this land.”

Tamric bit his bottom lip, trying to decide what to say next. He took a risk, moving closer to the water's edge and crouching down, a sure sign that he intended to stay. “I must say, it is nice to have this time to talk. While it is quieter here with the others on mission, I am glad it gives us time to know one another better.”
Ingrid nodded, still keeping her body respectfully below the surface. In the dim light she wasn't really visible except as a vague shape. Her wet blond hair fell around her face, clinging to her. She looked up at Tamric "All 10 of us eh? I don't think we're changing the world any time soon." She treaded water as she headed out to the deeper part of the bath. "Besides the Beys are at peace with each other for the moment. Unless they're going to conquer Krakydos or something." She started to lay back to float, then remembered herself and righted again. "But honestly I won't miss that. I think." She didn't sound entirely certain. "No more falling on baggage trains. No more scouting for alternate routes. No more guerrilla harassing of the enemy. No more screams and blood. No more choosing the slain. No more death." She sighed and closed her eyes "I'd like to think I have had enough of it. That being a coffee farmer will be a much more satisfying life and the damnable thing is I *know* that's true. I feel it. I feel it in the warmth of the sun. I feel it when I look around at verdant fields. I feel the potential and the life that i'm cultivating and not snuffing out. I feel it in the external quiet here." She moved closer to the edge of the bath "but its the internal quiet that's bothersome isn't it? The lack of that feeling. The certainty that lets you know you're doing the work of a god. The terrible joy that rose in your heart as you snuffed out the life of your enemy. The calm in the center of battle as you let the deity move through you. The rush of their power as you healed a fallen comrade or smote your enemy. That... emptiness. It's horrifying."
As Ingrid moved through the water, her curves and form hinted at but kept veiled by water, steam, and darkness, Tamric found himself sitting. Dressed in a plain robe, he lounged at the edge of the water, daring to let one-foot dip into the warm bath. Any concern he had about impropriety and angering his former god were swept to the wayside of his mind, so too was the part of him that had been momentarily stunned by the mere concept of sharing space with a naked woman. It was easy to ignore the stimulus of those thoughts when her words set his mind thinking.

It was easy to forget that Ingrid was a cleric, or former cleric at least. They came from such different backgrounds and spheres and Ingrid always seemed so composed and sure of herself, it was easy to believe she had everything figured out. It had never occurred to Tamric that she in fact might be a kindred spirit, someone who knew the dull ache of feeling your life’s purpose, your philosophy, your world, and religion pulled out from under you.

“You were a cleric too in another life,” Tamric said, his tone gentle, inquisitive. What shyness had been present before was gone as he considered this link between them.

“We came from very different spheres you and I. My God… they are falling out of favor in the world. Jokes have often been made that the order would have died out and our God forgotten years ago were it not for the order taking in everyone’s unwanted bastards. Clerics like me… we fall into the role because we are obliged to because we feel we owe it to the order that took us in when no one else wanted us. But feeling like you owe your allegiance to a deity is not the same thing as wanting, truly wanting to serve. I love that my work has given me power to help others but… I can’t say I ever felt that thrill and connection to my God the way you just described. But I do understand the ‘emptiness’ as you put it. One day you just look around you and you realize everything you built your life on, everything that defined who you were is gone and you have to make something new for yourself out of the nothing you have left…”

Tamric paused, his chest swelling as he sighed. He glanced at Ingrid, no longer bashful or concerned about her nudity or the situation they found themselves in. It was like he was connecting with her soul, really finding a bond there.

“I want to fill that void. I don’t know how yet. I don’t know what I want to devote my life to or how to shape even concepts as simple as right or wrong anymore. And believe me, in my order, a great many things were ‘wrong’ they were real sticklers for rules, something I admit I don’t miss but also am finding trouble letting go of.”

Tamric shook his head. He didn’t want to bring down the mood with his morose talk. “How’s the water? Enjoying having the bath to yourself? Well, almost…” Tamric wiggled his foot, which was steeped in the water, making ripples spread over the surface. He was glad he had come out here. This was better than cloistering himself away.
Ingrid shrugged "its really hot. Its almost too hot with this climate" she laughed "In the far north, there are springs like this where there's snow piled all around and steam. So nice." she floated a bit "as for your order they aren't wrong Tamric. They do as the god tells them. The question isn't whether or not that is correct. Of course it is correct. The question, really, is whether or not you're a good fit. I was a good fit." she yawned and looked up into the shadows in the cieling "and then one day I was not. That has everything to do with me and nothing to do with the goddess. She is the maiden of battle. For those that walk that path her path is the way. I am simply no longer walking the same path."
Tamric nodded. Ingrid was such an intriguing creature, body swathed in the shadow and steam of the waters. What primal stirrings the cleric felt on entering the bath were returning, the young half-elf suddenly struggling not to glance her way and take in what little there was to see in the gloom. Only now his fascination was becoming replaced with something else. What attraction he was feeling for the former war cleric was now only added to as he considered her words and wisdom.

"I think I envy you a little, Ingrid. You seem to be farther down the path than I am. You say that you struggle with the void your old order and life has left you, but at least you seem fully resolved to find that new life for yourself and find new fulfillment how you may."

There was a long pause, Tamric now staring openly at the woman in the water. It was not a lustful stare, but there was intent and purpose there. Since coming to this land, Tamric had been feeling a change in himself, a desire to find something new and connect to a purpose that suited him. He was searching for a new God to worship and in order to discover the deity he should serve, he first needed to know himself and accept that he wasn't the right fit for his old life just as Ingrid had accepted she wasn't right for hers.

"I am walking a different path." The words were spoken almost like a promise, a commitment to himself that he was finally ready to shrug off the shackles of his past, the memories and disappointments that bound him in misery to the frozen North.

"Might I join you in the water? I am enjoying your company, but sitting in all this steam in my robes is stifling." Tamric bit his bottom lip, unsure how Ingrid would react to the question that was so far out of character for him.
"Don't get me wrong. Being on your own path is terrifying" She laughed "but its the only way at the moment." She gestured "its a big hot spring pool. there's plenty of water to go around" Her voice was teasing "But you know, don't do anything that will keep you from rejoining the monastery" her voice was teasing and she splashed him playfully, moving back away, turning around to give him the privacy he might or might not want as he disrobed. "while you're getting comfortable, any chance you might check out this heir of Vartan and his mother? See what the deal is and maybe try to figure out who the real father is?"
Tamric felt a chill run through his spine at Ingrid's words. Teasing though they were, there was some very real truth to them. By disrobing in the woman's presence, and sharing the waters with her, he knew he would be in defiance of several strictures of his former temple. Were he ever to return and confess... he might not face banishment from the order but there would be a need for atonement. Not that he would ever have to tell anyone what he did here in the South if ever he ventured home.

However, even if the abbot and elders of his order could not do anything to stop him, even though they would never even know what he was doing in this bath so many leagues from home, it still represented an important moment and crossroads for Tamric. By openly choosing to disrobe and step into the waters, he was closing the door on his old way of life, bidding the god he had served since birth farewell, and starting on a new path.

Did he dare take the leap?

After a long, heavy-laden pause, the half-elf smirked. "I am sure the benefits of a good soak in these waters outweigh the loss of the rejoining my order. It is not like I intend to travel all the way back North when we spent months marching to reach this place."

With that, Tamric stood up. He pulled at the ties of his robes, shrugging them off, slowly and with care. He was clearly nervous. He had never been naked in front of a woman's eyes before. His body was strong, his muscles lithe and firm. He still had some of the characteristic trim figure of an elf, but his human heritage was far more obvious when one looked at the hard lines of his body, muscles that spoke of a life of hard work and intense physical labor.

Tamric kept his body turned. He slipped into the water carefully, sinking as deep as he could and casting glances to Ingrid and then away. Though he had nothing to be ashamed of in his physique, it was clear from his trembling that he was nervous. Or maybe he was excited by this new step he was taking.

To try and calm his heart, Tamric focussed on the question.

"I would like to investigate the claims of this heir to the estate. I recognize the difficulty and bind it puts on all of us if the child's claim proves true. But, at the same time, I do not want to dismiss it out of hand. It's the right thing to do and, who knows, being seen to work with the mother to establish the facts might put us in better standing with our new neighbors. It will not do the Outriders any good to be seen almost as invaders and interlopers, laying claim to another's land. My thought has been to call on the Mother, find out her story, and explore our options. I don't know if she'll be pleased to see us or not. But at least by extending the hand of friendship, we engage the issue with the moral high ground."

Tamric sighed, relaxing in the water a little, but still casting glances at Ingrid, aware that her naked form was close now.

"Wh... What are your thoughts? You don't resent me for doing this? I know how much this plantation and new life means for you. I'd hate to disappoint you if my investigation reveals a true claim for the child."
Ingrid smiles "I literally just asked you to do it. So no i'm not upset." She laughed and moved closer, brushing against him perhaps accidentally before moving over to the side, supporting herself on her arms, her ample chest just at the level of the water's surface. She looked over at him, drinking in the spare frame of his elven physique. She arched and settled, then sighed and closed her eyes "I can't imagine that queer old boar getting a bastard on a woman unless he was drunk enough and she was dressed as a man. But you're right. If we're going to walk this path we need to do it right." She sighed and looked over at him "Are you allowed to be a lone with a woman, priest? should I come along to preserve your modesty?" she laughed and splashed him with a gentle kick at the water. "I mean if she's so tempting a vixen as to coax Vartan's cock to life one has to take precautions. I wouldn't want her to rob you of your virtue" she waggled her eyebrows and stuck out her tongue, teasing but not in a mocking way.

"really though, if it would make you more comfortable I don't mind being there and it might help somewhat with the local sensibilities. It might also make it feel less like you were coercing some sort of confession out of her in case she decides spontaneously to admit her fraud. In any event as well we should probably give her and the boy a place to live or something. If they knew him well enough to pull off this ruse they might have been close to him or important in some fashion."
Tamric was very much out of his depth sitting nude in the water with an attractive and confident woman like Ingrid beside him. Just the slight brush of her body against his was enough to make his body stiffen like her merest touch had sent an electric jolt right through him. He was grateful for the water and the steamy dark that hid his growing arousal from view. Between his legs, he could feel himself hardening, responding to Ingrid’s beauty and the charged eroticism of sharing a bath with her.

It was almost intimidating to the elf how easily Ingrid could tease him so playfully one moment but then return to the more serious issues in a single breath and heartbeat. Then again, she had much more experience dealing with these kinds of encounters than he did. Not that remembering the soft moans and cries he had heard from these baths just a few days before helped much in controlling his growing erection.

“Whatever rules my order had about being alone in female company, I am breaking them all by being here in the water alone with you. In comparison, a talk with this mother alone in her home and fully clothed is far more responsible than what I am doing now.”

Tamric didn’t know if he was flirting or not. He felt completely out of his depth here, following instinct as he tried to keep up with Ingrid’s back and forth.

“But I do think it is better if we go together. It’s reassuring to know that you’ll be there to protect my honor,” he joked, eyes unable to stop themselves from lingering on the full swells of Ingrid’s breasts peaking above the waterline.

“Um… But uh, yes… I do think it makes sense we make the call together. It will… look better to the town folk as you say and the both of us there together will show we genuinely care about resolving the issue and I am not just going there on some token… effort.”

Tamric winced, knowing he was fumbling over his words as he shifted uneasily in the water. He had been so sure when he had decided to shed his clothes and step into the bath. He was so determined to put his old life behind him and start a new chapter. But going straight from monastic tradition and law to sitting naked with an alluring woman… he had very much jumped in at the deep end of this new life path he was taking.
Inrgrid shrugged and put her arms up on the edge of the bath. She looked over at Tamric "well. yes. that's basically the point." She closed her eyes and soaked in the water. "you still seem tense. maybe more tense since you got into the hot spring. Quite the accomplishment. Are you sure you aren't wanting me to go?" She didn't move, keeping her relaxed pose against the side, body slack, devoid of the tension that seemed to pervade Tamric. "If you turn around I can slip out and get my towel. But if you're fine staying i'm not quite finished."
Tamric grit his teeth. He didn’t know if Ingrid was teasing him for his tense body language and stuttering or if she genuinely thought it better to leave him alone in the bath. Neither was a thrilling prospect for the man. He did not want to be seen as some shy and stumbling innocent, even though that was exactly what he was.

He needed this. He was taking a major step here on a new path and he feared the backward step that would come if he let Ingrid leave now. He had to push his comfort zone. More than that, he did not want this moment to end. As flustered and uncertain as he was, he felt something truly monumental in the simple act of bathing with the beautiful woman whom he at once admired and respected.

“Stay!” his words were gentle but firm. As if to make his point clearer, Tamric moved in the water, his hand grabbing Ingrid’s by the wrist to keep her close.

“Um… I… I mean…”

Tamric’s words were still filled with uncertainty and fear. Thankfully, his body knew what it was doing, even if his mind didn’t. As his hand on Ingrid’s wrist loosened, he stroked his finger up her arm, then down the contours of her side, taking in her curves and skin.

“I… I want you to stay. I’m enjoying this moment,” Tamric said, his voice a whisper. "You can take all the time you need to um finish."
Ingrid arched an eyebrow "Rough. Is that what they teach you in the monastery?" she grinned a bit and leaned in, brushing against him "Because that has its moments, Tamric." She laughed and pushed away, then got up out of the bath. The water beaded on her skin, shimmering in the light coming in through the nearby door. She took her time getting a towel, drying off in full view, then wrapped it around herself and sat "I'm good and clean." She smiled and leaned forward enough, teasing him with a little cleavage "Why don't you get yourself nice and clean and then we can get onto some horses and smell like shit again after a few hours of riding all over town looking for vartan's uh.... widow. or whatever she's supposed to be."
Tamric scrunched his eyes shut as Ingrid left. The image of her body haloed in the light of the door, her cleavage on tantalizing display was seared into his mind, keeping his cock uncomfortably hard beneath the water.

“What am I doing?”

He whispered the words to himself, a feeling of confusion mingled with more than a little shame washing over him. Ingrid’s parting words had felt teasing, her reaction to his reaching out for her playful. She did not seem insulted by his bold move. At the same time, Tamric couldn’t help but feel a little guilty or maybe just plain stupid for having reached out for her as he had done.

It felt like a desperation move. He was adrift, trying to find a sense of self and envying the pleasures he had seen the other Outriders enjoying in these new lands. Rather than working to find something true for himself, a definite plan and path to follow into his future, he wondered if he was clutching at straws reaching out for Ingrid as he had done. Something about her drew him in. Like she was a piece of driftwood he could cling to in the tumult and storm that was his life.

But that was not fair to her. And perhaps she had sensed that his actions had been borne more out of that desperation than anything. The idea that she saw him as clueless and naïve galled him. He deserved her teasing.

Closing his eyes, the Cleric – if he could even still call himself that – sent out a silent prayer into the void. He had been doing this now and then, always in moments where he felt most lost and uncertain.

“Please… whoever is out there and listening. Help me find a way. I need… something. I am a Cleric… that will always be true I think… But what kind of Cleric am I without a God I can follow wholeheartedly.”

Shaking his head once more, Tamric sank below the water line. He remained submerged for a few seconds, cocooned in a world of warm water. When at last his breath was close to running out he broke the surface, water cascading off his toned body. He ran his hands through his hair, slicking it back as he waded to the edge of the bath and got out.

Enough worrying about his future. Ingrid was right. There was a job to be done now.

Within the hour, Tamric was dressed and ready to accompany Ingrid into the town. He wore his armor, about the first time he had donned it since arriving on the plantation. Only, as he saddled his horse and prepared to move out, anyone looking would have noticed the new marks on his breastplate. The symbol of his deity had been beaten out. The armor was bent and buckled, as though a novice blacksmith had furiously attacked the plate with a hammer until the symbol was warped to nothing.

Tamric couldn’t afford a new breastplate right now, but he also refused to wear the trappings of his order when he felt he could not represent them properly. It was just another way he was showing the universe and whatever powers might be watching that he was ready for a change.

Bringing his horse alongside Ingrid, Tamric nodded. He said nothing about the bath but his eyes struggled to meet hers at first as they rode out together.

“Well then, I am looking forward to seeing this woman and her son. Let’s see what we can glean from her and pray a way forward is easy to find. I don’t know if wearing the full armor and regalia is a bit much. I hope we don’t frighten her by showing up armed. But at least it makes our visit feel more formal and official.”
As the cleric prayed for some sign he felt only the emptiness of his own mind for a time. Eventually, pricking at the edges of his consciousness came whispers, tantalizing, promising salvation. Promising a life of purpose. He knew those whispers of old though. Spirits and devils often came to men who could wield the power of a deity. Corruption of the faithful was to them a sport. Part of the teaching of most monasteries was heavily skewed towards identifying those spirits seeking to do harm as opposed to the voice of a true god. Still, a cleric's sole was a fantastic prize for the devil that could claim it. Eventually they tired of their torments and left him be to soak in the hot water.

When he came out, he found Ingrid unarmed. She was taking her life change seriously, so it seemed. She looked pointedly at his breastplate and smiled softly. She reached out and touched his arm "You should get someone to repair that dent. Or you know. Maybe just get a new one. I imagine though that plate will be quite uncomfortable here in the south. We should investigate what sort of armor the locals wear. They surely don't value protection over not dying on the march." She gathered her reigns and set off at a slow pace for the town "As to you being armed I'm grateful for it. God only knows what sort of bandits or other trouble might be about and well." She gestured "I'm not exactly equipped for it now am I?" She looked over at the hills "I apologize for earlier. For teasing you. I'm getting used to this all myself. It's hard. I feel rudderless you know? I think that's the term. Like i'm being blown about on the sea in a storm and nothing the helmsman does is ever going to affect the course. But really, its not even that is it? It's more like looking back and seeing there is nobody steering the ship where a moment ago there was the steadiest hand in all of creation." She sat in silence for a moment "as for the other teasing well. When you're ready to uh... completely defrock yourself. You're not a bad looking man under that armor."

She turned her conversation then to the widow "Honestly I want to see if the child looks like Vartan at all. They say that the face is natures way of proving patrimony. What I wouldn't give to still be able to compel a truthful answer from the woman though. Look at both of us, stumbling along to solve a problem with our wits that could have been solved two months ago with a prayer."
“Perhaps that is how some of the gods ensure our worship and service,” Tamric mused as he considered Ingrid’s words. “They grant us powers that make themselves nigh on indispensable in our lives, powers that many would be unable to give up even if their heart was pulling them away from the faith. I wonder how many clerics out there yearn to leave behind their deity and temples but hold back simply to retain the blessings they have been given for their service…”

Tamric’s lip curled as he considered the question then his eyes wandered back to Ingrid. He was very aware of the compliment she had shot him a moment ago and wanted to reciprocate, to let her know his interest and admiration for her. His efforts in the bath had been clumsy, but he hoped he could do better here riding alongside her.

“I must say, what little I saw of you earlier, you are a vision under your armor. That time together earlier certainly has me thinking I got a good deal in letting go of my past and my temple. We might have been able to solve this question of inheritance quickly if we were still bound by our faiths, but so far I am willing to accept the trade-off for the freedoms I’m enjoying. And who knows, maybe there is a god or goddess here who will grant us back our powers and has less restrictive rules to abide by.”

Tamric didn’t know if he was doing a good job with his attempt at flirting or not. Ingrid’s words came out so cool and composed he still felt like he was fumbling around like some dumb kid.

Tamric adjusted himself in the saddle, uncomfortable in his armor that already felt like it was baking him alive. “We’d best ride out. Assuming no bandits trouble us we might have time to interview Vartan’s one-time fling and see if there is an armorer in town who might give us a deal on something more appropriate for the climate.”

Tamric pushed his steed forward, swallowing as he set his mind off Ingrid and on to the task ahead. He kept his free hand on his mace, alive to the bushes, shrubs, and any area bandits might be lurking. If there was trouble he wanted to prove his worth to Ingrid and keep safe her pledge for a more peaceful existence. Or maybe he just wanted to show off to her. It was hard to get right in his mind exactly what he felt for the Outrider. So much of his actions and words around her came on impulse. All he knew was he wanted her to think well of him. Whether that meant fighting bandits or getting to the bottom of this inheritance matter, he wanted to prove his quality to her and to whatever other powers might be out there looking to guide him toward a better future.
Ingrid mused "I suppose they do, at that. They make themselves indispensable to us so we can be indispensable to others. That in turn lets those others know that the source of our value is the gods. Who can say how and why they exist. We know they feed on us somehow. Or we make them in some fashion. they get SOMETHING from us right? perhaps its payment of sorts. Perhaps they just love our attention, and being useful gets it for them. They are, at times, inscrutable. As for bandits. I'd prefer not encountering them. I meant it when I said my days of killing were behind me." She led her mare down the trail towards the town, quiet otherwise on the journey.

As the sun grew higher and the day grew hotter the pair made it to the town's edge. There, after brief inquiries with the locals and the exchange of some pleasantries in the trade tongue, they made their way to the home of Vartan's alleged bastard. There they found a lovely woman of about thirty, and a son who was maybe 8.The boy was small, with none of Vartan's bulk. Further, he was every bit as swarthy as his mother. Vartan was fair. Ingrid nodded to the woman, then made it known they were there about the estate. Tamric could detect a flash of panic on the woman's face, but that might just be over the prospect that her son might not inherit... or that an armed man might dispatch them. "If it would make you more comfortable, we can chat in the magistrate's office"

The woman shook her head, inviting the couple in. She put out a plate of dates and nuts, and made coffee.
Noticing the tension in the air, Tamric made a deliberate show of disarming himself. He walked to the door, purposefully hanging his mace on a sturdy nail. The woman and her child posed no immediate threat, and he questioned the necessity of his initial armed approach. However, the reality of their journey and the need for personal protection remained.

“I hope you do not mind our calling on you out of the blue like this,” the half-elf said, trying to put the woman at her ease. “I hope you do not think we are here to intimidate or bully you out of any land or inheritance that might be due to your son. We merely wish to get to the bottom of things, ideally finding a solution that benefits all parties.”

Tamric's gaze shifted to the child, who was observing him from across the room. The boy's features didn’t immediately resemble those of his alleged father. However, Tamric understood that children often inherited traits from one parent more than the other, making it difficult to draw conclusions based on appearances alone.

He shook his head, determined not to further intimidate the mother and child by going straight down to business matters. He moved into the kitchen where she was preparing, hoping to put her at ease and lower her guard.

“Can I help you take any of these things through or make the coffee? I do not want you to feel we are being an imposition... Miss…?” He trailed off, suddenly realizing he didn’t know how to refer to the woman or even if she was a Miss. He looked at her inviting, his calm expression inviting her to share a little of herself and give him directions if he could help her.
At the woman's horrified look, Ingrid cleared her throat "he used to be cloistered. He's not used to being a guest." She took a bite of the offered refreshment, gesturing for Tamric to do the same.

The woman looked somewhat mollified as they made small talk and ate an acceptable amount of the proffered food. While Ingrid was present, the woman directed all conversation to Tamric. This seemed to be largely cultural, there was an assumption as the man that he was there to do business, and Ingrid seemed to be there mostly to satisfy cultural norms surrounding his presence. her posture remained a bit rigid, eyes betraying the stress of the duo's presence in her home, but she remained unfailingly polite.