[Timeline - Following Taylar's funeral]
Taylar wandered around, he was heading slowly home, after leaving his own funeral. He wasn’t sure how he felt, kind of up, kind of down, kind of sideways. He was in a haze, a mixture of pleasure and amazement,but there was something pressing on him, the weight of vengeance was squashing him, affecting how he was feeling.
He had enjoyed his own funeral, how many people could say that. He was impressed that so many people had come to his funeral. So many of the townsfolk who had looked down on him previously had attended his funeral and had been sad that he was dead. There were even some people there that he had thought really disliked him. They had carved a bust of him, he was only used to seeing busts of rich people like kings and so on. He had liked the sound of ‘reports of my demise are greatly exaggerated’ he hadn’t planned to say it, but that was what came out of his mouth, but it had soundedappropriate. His friends had been sad. Although they seemed to recover fast, well apart from Tam, he wasn’t sure what was up with her, perhaps he ought to go and talk to her. Her mood had been a little strange before he had left as well. He didn’t understand what was going on with her and that minotaur. Perhaps she was ill. He was glad he had bought presents for everyone, especially now he saw how much trouble they had gone to.
What an adventure. So many new experiences in such a short time. He had been teleported, twice. He had killed a demon. He had learned about gnomes. He had committed burglaries for the benefit of someone other than himself. He had become, albeit temporarily, a spice merchant. He had eaten strange foods, he had been robbed and he hadn’t murdered the thief.
But that enchantress hadn’t expected for him to have a good time. She had expected him to suffer. So that probably meant that heought to kill her. Plus she had a lot of cool stuff which was well worth ‘acquiring’ and she had that fat half-elf who had been so rude. But enchantresses were tricksy. Plus she had to be fairly powerful on the grounds that she had created an item with a greater teleport spell in it. But he knew where her shop was and where her underwater thingy was, now he just needed to work out where she slept and where she kept her books. She had given him a cursed magical item and that deserved some retribution. But, she could have teleported him into a hot volcano, over an ocean, into a cage, high above the ground, or even into another plane and she hadn’t. She had given him the item as payment so at least he deserved another item from her, maybe if confronted she would give it to him, or maybe she would try and hurt him again. Using the law or using public opinion would be interesting, she had a store in the city and if he told everyone she sold cursed items to people pretending they werebeneficial that would hurt her business. Or there was that lawyer. After all, using magic on someone against their will was illegal. He had to think carefully, it was strange, but for once he wasn’t sure that his vengeancehad to involve spreading his foes ribs and penetrating each organ in alphabetical order, although that would be the simplest solution of the dozen or so flowing around his head. The biggest thing was to deliver hisvengeance so that the sorceress didn’t think she had won.
Jagron was fun. Who would have thought someone that crazy could be related to Sati who was such a boring person. Taylar had never imagined actually using the dragon illusion, especially not in the town. Maybe Jagron could help with his vengeance, he was more than a match for Garmilla and he had a relatively warped view of justice and fun. Plus he could use some protection against her magics. It was unlikely that the rest of the group would help him against the enchantress even though one of theirs had been wronged.
It was with these thoughts that he got home. He noticed lamplight seeping through the cracks of his door and he opened it with a sudden movement drawing both kukris simultaneously and tumbling into the centre of the room. He surged to his feet ready to kill only to find Tamarack standing there, he had a funny look on her face and it looked like she had been crying.
Tamarack glanced at his blades and smiled faintly. "Sorry if I'm intruding. I've been… keepin' the place warm for ye." She glanced at the small roll of blankets she had been using.
Taylar smiled and sheathed the blades. “Sorry, I am not used to company. Not that there is anything worth stealing here of course.” His face did not betray his hiding places beneath the floorboards although his eyes were burning to look at his hidden caches. “I have been thinking about the difficulty of keeping this place warm and that big statue hidden underground.” Taylar looked at his friend and noticed the lines of worry slightly easing as the conversation progressed.
“So what have you guys been up to, other than planning funerals and pulling huge wealth out of vials of acid? I have had a huge adventure. I killed an assassin demon, got teleported, met an archmage, drank tea, bought cool stuff, met different people, and it was so amazing. Oh and did you know that gnomes are demons from another world?” While he spoke Taylar pulled his own bedroll out from inside a decomposing barrel. The difference between the two friends bedrolls was obvious, Tamarack’s blankets were warm and clean while Taylar’s bedroll was a mattress of sorts made up of old sail cloth stuffed with straw that had, from the smell, seen better days and his blanket had belonged to the mayor’s horse until the mayor had bought the horse a new blanket and discarded the old one.
"I dinnae know that," she chuckled. "Everyone's been keepin' busy I guess. I mostly been worryin'. Hangin' about here… trying not to think of you dissolved into nothin'. I was opposed to havin' a funeral, but… it don't much matter now."
Tamarack glanced sadly at his bedding. She would have thought he could afford to live in a bit more luxury, but… luxury had never been Taylar's way. She took a deep breath, finding it unusually difficult to say what she wanted to say. She had never felt anything but supreme confidence when it came to flirting. Then again, she never solicited the attentions of anyone she had any kind of a relationship with. As far as she concerned, relationships and 'that' were entirely separate things.
"Tell me to go if ye want," she said haltingly, unrolling her bedroll with a flick of the wrist and revealing the tiger pelt she'd taken from Lindelbrie's cabin outside Jilnoc Mine some time ago. "I know I'm no kobold… and truth be told, menfolk en't my usual taste neither. But they say two keep warm better'n one."
Taylar looked at his friend almost completely missing her point. He put his bedroll down close to hers thinking to share warmth through proximity. Taylar lay down looking at her. The excitement of the last few days fading slowly into memories with the joy of being home.
“I liked the funeral it was nice, I don’t think I would have liked it much if I had been dead. Especially not dissolved into nothing, that doesn’t sound like fun at all. What are we going to do about that Enchantress woman, it was all her fault after all.”
Taylar looked at the tiger pelt, completely confused. “Why haven’t you sold that? A lot of humans pay a lot of money for things like that, then you can spend more on things that matter.” As Taylar said things that matter he touched his weapons and armour. A light clearly clicked on across Taylar’s face and he pulled his pack towards him pulling things out of his bag, mainly packages of spices that did a lot to improve the odor of the room, until he found the items he had fetched back for Tamarack and her young ward. He pulled out a glittering ring, a jewelry box, three books, and a large bottle of bourbon. “These are for you, well you and kit.”
Tam smiled helplessly at his naiveté and hyperactive strings of questions and received the gifts graciously.
“Whats wrong with men-folk?” the innocent Gnome asked, “Hetty always said they only wanted one thing, were too stubborn, and got violent quick, but then again most of those things can be said about female dwarves as well.” He let that comment hang in the air for a half-second before remembering the other thing she had said. “Did you know that most gnomes hate kobolds.” His fast paced speak starting to slow as the excitement of the day, and the fact that he hadn’t slept the night before started to catch up on him. “The gnome caravan I was traveling with did not seem impressed when I said I wanted to go and see some kobolds and make sure they had escaped okay. They also said that kobolds hate Gnomes, do you think those kobolds hated me? They didn’t seem to but maybe they just didn’t want Graster to kill them.”
Tamarack let out a long breath. He was like a small child after too many sweets. She was tempted to abandon her intentions—fillying about with someone she knew was a dangerous game. She didn't want to clutter up her recreational activities with real emotion. Plus, his complete failure to take a hint was not encouraging.
"I dunno, puppy," she sighed. She glanced at him and laughed helplessly, and then blurted out, "You really are kind of a dunce, yunno that?"
Taylar looked confused at not receiving answers to his questions, questions he had thought were important. Then looked at her again, his mind examining the accusation of stupidity, his conscious mind raced through the things she had said that he could have misinterpreted. He thought about him liking that kobold, and then about Tam staring agog at the vampires, female vampires. “If you like womens so much why is everyone you spend time with male, well apart from Kit, but that is different. And I know you’re not a kobold, but that is a good thing given what I have been told. Dwarves are much better than kobolds anyway.”
Taylar’s mind flicked over the kobold, she had been smaller than him, and he had wanted to protect her and make her safe, not many people were smaller than Taylar these days not even Kit. Taylar thought of the vampires running their hands over each other and wondered whether that was what Tam wanted, physical togetherness, and the thought excited him. It wasn’t anything he had any experience of, only glimpses of the female form from street harlots, and a very brief encounter with a young halfing girl he had rescued from a gang in Landsbreak, but that had only lasted a few moments and wasn’t really anything.
Taylar looked at the dwarf and suddenly saw that she looked different, not just the way she was sitting, but the look on her face, and what she was wearing. It was strange to see her out of armour, and she looked so clean and well kempt, totally out of place for his mental image of the oft barbaric dwarf. She was clad so simply, the chemise that fitted her so well, but that swelled at her bust line drawing his eyes to each button on turn. When his eyes moved further down her body it was to see her legs crossing underneath her kilt which suddenly seemed much shorter than it really was. His heart seemed to miss a beat and he realized he had been holding his breath.
Tamarack flushed slightly and loosened the top of her chemise a little. "Menfolk are better as friends. As for… other things… well, this is a fairly traditional town, family-wise, and it en't easy finding a lass with my own tastes. I filly about with Chargurt once in a while just 'cause we both get lonely, and the poor fool practically worships me… that's hard for a gal like me to resist. Not that I'm askin' ye to do the same. The thing is… I like you. Every time I think yer an incorrigible, insufferable little git, y' go and do somethin' downright beautiful. Like you did just before y' got a free trip 'round the world. That stuck in my mind."
The mental image of Tamarack and Chargurt flirting and fooling around together was enough to flood Taylar’s mind with hormonal thoughts and longing and he found himself staring openly as Tamarack loosened her clothes slightly. He thought about the woman in front of him, clean and well kempt and he thought about himself, he was filthy not just from the lampblack and boot polish that he applied himself to help him in the shadows, but dirty with dried blood and grime from the road. He undid his weapons belt from which so many pouches hung and which allowed him to lay down much more comfortably and look at the vision before him. His mind was asking two questions at once and both raced to his tongue at the same time causing him to stammer “What does incorrigible mean?” and “But your bigger than me?”
Tamarack felt strangely nervous. She opened her mouth to offer a thorough and sincere answer to each, but it came down to, "It don't matter, puppy."
She pulled out a clean handkerchief, moistened it with her saliva, and began to dab away at his face in an oddly maternal way. She felt a certain amount of pity for the filthy little creature, but also genuine affection. She knew it was a mistake, but she had already started down this path.
"Well! There actually might be a handsome lad hiding under all that," she grinned, his face now slightly cleaner than before. She gave the handkerchief one last pass across his mouth, and leaned down to kiss him.
Taylar seemed amazed by her kiss and stayed motionless for a second, exactly like a deer freezes as he first hears the hunter, or so before returning the kiss with a hunger that confused and surprised him. It had been a long time since he had been kissed and never before had he felt this yearning desire, this hunger. Maybe it was the fact that he had long cared for Tam ever since they first met in Landsbreak, maybe it was his joy at being home, maybe it was the aftermath of the adventure, and maybe it was the memory of the vampires kissing and caressing.
In between kisses he stammered, “I can be clean if you want.” He called his racial magics to him and prestidigitated himself clean. In his nervousness he applied the magics a little harder than usual and the skin that the spell revealed was red as if recently scrubbed clean. The magics cleaned the gnome, his clothes, and (thankfully) his hair and teeth. With his armour of dirt and lampblack removed Taylar was suddenly much more nervous, he felt naked although he was still fully clothed. Revealed to Tam’s surprised eyes were dozens of tattoos, mostly of eyes and small symbols that looked like tattooed on scars that covered the gnomes face, hands, and neck.
"Wow," Tamarack breathed. "How many of these do you have?" She nudged the collar of his shirt to try to see a little more skin. It was obvious he was new at this, so she didn't want to push too hard.
Taylar started to peel back layers of his own clothing to show her the different tattoos placed all over his body. It seen became evident that if these tattoos had the ability to see Taylar would have perfect all around vision. Of the tattooed scars it soon became evident that it was hard to tell the difference between the tattooed scars and the real ones. Taylar’s back especially was a large mass of scars which Tamarack recognized as tell tale of a naval flogging pushed so far that the bosun would have gotten glimpses of the little gnome’s spine. As Taylar revealed more and more of his little body it became evident that there wasn’t a spare ounce of flesh on him that wasn’t muscle and sinew and that clean he looked even smaller than he had when he was kitted up.
While Tamarack looked at Taylar’s scars and tattoos, it became evident that his mind had again moved away from the tattoos and scars and back to the warm female hands that were touching and stroking his scars. He reached out for her, worming his fingertips under the bottom of her chemise and resting nervously on the bare skin of her waist.
Tam tried not to be furious at the pain that had been inflicted on him, her hands feeling the roughness of every scar on his back. Sorrow mixed with joy as his enthusiasm became contagious, and she relished the experience of being able to grant him this much-needed warmth.
"Dont be shy," she whispered.
Taylar pulled himself closer into her embrace feeling elation and comfort in a way that he hadn’t before. Anyone touching him gently, seeking to create pleasure rather than pain, was new to him for he had never known even a mother’s love before. Their movements and even their breathing became more and more in-sync as their hands explored each other and they pulled closer and closer together until there was nothing separating them at all.