"You 'ere what 'appened to Suthwick?" Asked the balding one.
His compatriot, a stout man with the hands of a metal worker raised an eye brow.
"No, I haven't, but I'm sure you're gonna tell me."
"Right you are! Soz the rumour from the local traders if that them Esarans are marching again."
The stout man leaned in.
"No... you don't mean THOSE Esarans, right Bart?"
"Yea, I'm serious, Stefan."
"It's bad enough getting caught in the dispute of nobles, but these bastards burn good folk. Healers, wise women, doctors..."
The bar boy stopped listening after refilling the pair's ale. He shook his head, messing up his shaggy brown hair.
He stepped out from behind the bar and out onto the tavern floor. The people of the village of Vordhal filled the room.
They looked up at him. Their face was non-descript, probably a glamour.
"So you can see me, sit."
Their voice sat between genders. He felt compelled to join them, likely some charm or other trick.
"Well, are you going to order or not? I've got a whole bar full of people to serve and you're holding me up."
"You people finally decide to do something about the Esarans committing genocide?"
"Yes, we have and we have been for years."
His temper flared.
"Then why didn't you do anything about Suthwick? Where were you when they burned my mother and sister!?"
"They came with their guns belching golden flames and war clerics wielding burning wire that moved like snakes. They killed any who resisted and the others, the ones who surrendered, they tested us."
He clenched his fists.
The figure nodded.
"Quit your babbling and listen to me, Rufus."
"This can't be happening, I watched you burn..."
The figure sighed and pulled their hood back then dispelled their glamour. She looked enough like his sister, older and her eyes were harder.
"I'm so sorry, little brother. I'm going to give you back control, I hope you believe me."
Tears welled up in his eyes. She was dead, this was just a cruel illusion the mage had conjured up to earn his trust.
"This, this is just a trick and a cruel one that. What the hells do you want, wizard?"
She looked down at the table.
He bit his lip. Even if this wasn't her they were still an agent of the Spire and they were here before the Esaran army. They could help, maybe.
"Help the people here."
He knew that smile well, the way the left side of it curled up so that it almost looked like a smirk and the subtle parting of her lips. There was no way she could really be his sister, could really be Rene.
"Do you remember when dad left and took Erich with him, remember what I did?"
"Yes, he and Erich went to Kasite. We were left behind, we weren't his kids, Rufus."
She paused. He knew she was right. He and his sister never knew their father.
Her face turned dour and the near smirk became a sad, gentle smile.
"Say, Rufus, why don't we continue this later? Your patrons are getting restless."
"Hah, yea, I uh, guess I should."
He began to tie the bandanna around his neck. Rene extended a hand towards him.
"Do you mind if I wait in your room upstairs?"
He fought back the urge to cry. This was actually happening, maybe something good will come of it. He just wished that it was under different circumstances.
"It's okay, I'm here now. I'm so sorry I took so long."
She squeezed his hand.
"No, of course not. Why would you even think that?"
He squeezed back.
"I just never really measured up to Erich. That's why he took him and not you or I."
"Hey, look up at me."
He lifted his head.
"You know the reason he took Erich is that he's his child by blood and you never had to measure up to Erich, you aren't him."
She cocked her head to one side.
"Yea, you don't need to be. Just be yourself, my sweet kid brother."
She smiled at him.
"Be myself, huh? Well I..."
He inhaled sharply.
"Be myself..." He muttered softly