EverWars Roleplaying / Dragon Riders of Lupinia (to be continued) 
Dragon Riders of Lupinia (to be continued)
Arleon was thankful when the moonlight revealed an inn up ahead. The dust of the road had penetrated every pore and coated his tongue. He was deeply wearied and wanted nothing more than to break his fast, and have a flagon or two of good ale, before seeking both bath and bed. His mount seemed equally pleased to follow a young groom to the stables and some over-due oats.

The inn was bustling and Arleon attracted a fair bit of attention as his spurs clanked on the pine planking as his imposing frame wended its way through the crowd to a solitary vacant chair beside a small table in the corner by the kitchen door.Many of the women in the inn smiled, winked, or made flirtatious remarks as the tall, handsome knight strode by but Arleon was oblivious to such blandishments as his gaze was riveted upon the only other occupant of the table.

Her hair was a marvel of caramelized brandy, shot through with sunlight, while her skin had a delicate scattering of freckles, like flecks of cinnamon floating on a buttery cream. Her form was lissome, so sweetly shaped as to lull many a man into misjudging the steel beneath her enchanting exterior. Even when her delectableness was concealed by armour, her eyes were mesmerizing, stormy grey-green irises with a outer halo of amber, and with pupils which had a hint of carmine, like banked fires, hidden within their depths. Her movements were serpentine, a sleek rippling of muscles, so smooth as to seem illusory, puzzling to Arleon on some primal level.

"Dragon's spawn" hissed one old crone to her ancient companions, as Arleon bowed to the vision before him.
"Aye" nodded one of the other hags, pausing to slurp at her ale, "Dragon's spawn she be."

The other old women nodded assent and continued to whisper but Arleon was oblivious. "May I join thee?"

At her nod of assent, Arleon drew back the chair, as the object of his interest parted her rosy lips, revealing pearly, slightly pointed teeth and said "Greetings, stranger. I am Sirena de Chapalu."

Her voice was as melodic as her face and form were beauteous and, Arleon mused, she was aptly named, for such as she had lured seamen to their doom. Fascinating though she was, he sensed that this woman was dangerous, even as he replied "Arleon, Chevalier de Courtenay, at your service."

The arrival of a buxom serving wench was welcome both in answer to his thirst and hunger and to enable him to regain control of his senses. With a polite nod to his companion, Arleon was soon tucking into a hearty venison stew, freshly baked bread, and a tall flagon of dark ale.

Sirena, for her part, was equally glad of a diversion so that her cheeks could lose their flush and her breathing become more regular. As she ate her pudding she bethought herself that this knight was a handsome devil, even covered with travel dust. He was over six feet tall, a giant amongst men, with a wolf-like appearance. He had high cheekbones, deep-set amber eyes, a luxuriant dark mane of hair, streaked with silver, and sharp white teeth in a well-trimmed beard. His every move was fluid, gracefuly athletic, and the man exuded an animal magnetism, stronger than Sirena had ever experienced from any man. Was he the one? Sirena remembered the last reading of the runes. Only time would tell . . .
In another part of the tavern, the striking couple were also the topic of another whispered conversation,

"I did not think to see that one still alive!" muttered a huge, gnarled man of middle years to his two disreputable-appearing companions.

"Insufficient coin was paid, methinks."

The third man gave a short, sharp laugh. "Or his stamina and prowess were insufficient against one such as Arleon. The man is in the prime of his life, and was schooled in battle by the very best."

The others grunted and raised their tankards anew.
Sirena was mindful of the sideways looks and mutterings from various parts of the room. Even though she could not overhear the words, she was certain she knew what people were saying. It had been ever thus, first with her grandmother, then her mother, and now with her. Ignorance was like a blight upon the land, coloured with superstition, and seasoned with petty jealousies. Time was said to heal all ills but people's memories were long, and the stories gained impetus from the retelling. She sighed, and in an effort to distract herself from the wagging tongues of other patrons, she addressed Arleon.

"From whence have thee come?"

"Three days hence, Middlewich, and ye?"

"Not far enough, 'twould seem. Baneborough."

Arleon nodded, seemingly able to read betwixt the lines. "Ah. One travels fast but gossip gallops, eh lass?"

Sirena nodded. "Regrettably so. Those with empty brainboxes produce the greatest chatter."
"God's teeth but I am weary" thought Arleon. Now that his belly was full, the only thing keeping him from seeking out a bed was his desire to further the acquaintance of the lovely woman seated across the table.
He dare not heed the seductive lure of clean sheets until he discovered where Sirena was headed. By all that was holy, he was determined to accompany her!
"Twas good to have shaken the dust of Baneborough from her feet. The people had been petty and small-minded, fearful and ignorant. The stocks in the town square were in good repair, the stoning pillar was free of moss, and many were the signs against the evil eye above doors and windows. She had returned there, of a necessity, but naught good had come of her visit. The mutterings had grown louder as night followed drear day and day followed restless night. The tongues had wagged ever faster, and the locals viewed her with the same mistrust as they would have directed at a stranger. No happy homecoming for Sirena or others of her ilk. Aye," Sirena nodded to herself, "her leavetaking had occurred not a moment to soon! "
As Arleon savoured the rich malt and heady hops of the strong ale he wondered what thoughts had caused Sirena's countenance to darken. As though sensing his gaze, her chin lifted and her eyes locked with his own. An feeling came over him, what his gran would have called "a goose walking over his grave", the hairs lifting on his arms and the nape of his neck, and a shudder travelling up his spine.
Ever since he had arrived at the Killarney Crossroads, where four roads met, Arleon had felt drawn in one direction, impelled upon the one road which had led him here. He had not intended to come this way but there was no resisting what every sense in him had dictated. This woman must be the reason that the Fates had directed his steps to the inn.
Sirena had succumbed to temptation and was savoring a plum pudding, her small pink tongue licking the final drops of rum sauce from her spoon, until a sudden sharp intake of breath from Arleon drew her attention. The warrior was almost vibrating with an inner tension as he gazed with sensual hunger upon her glistening lips.

"Gad, but the woman is a tempting little morsel!" thought Arleon, while struggling to avert his eyes.

"Would ye be needing a bed?" inquired one of the serving girls.

Arleon's next thought must have been obvious to Sirena whose cheeks suddenly took on a rosy hue.

"Well, sir?!"
"The innkeeper's wife has already shown me to mine, 'replied Sirena.

"We've been busy this day" grinned the plump wench, and there be just the one left, and after that it's the loft in the stables for anyone else. So will ye be wanting it sirrah?"

Arleon agreed with alacrity. "And a bath too, if you please."
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