A darkly-hooded character moved slowly toward the party, nimbly picking its way through the crowded, jumbled area while keeping Tarn, the three elves, and the lone dwarf in its sights.The group seemed unaware of the hooded figure's approach, engrossed as they were in a breakfast of eggs, bacon, and fruit.
Andouille, the dwarf fighter, reverently lifted a mug of dark, aromatic coffee to his nose and sniffed. "Ahh, a ged strong batch o' keffee," his voice grumbled just before his lips found the rim and he took one long, noisy slurp of the hot liquid.
People in the busy dining area warily followed the dark figure with their eyes as it stalked to the party's table and began fixing each of the party members in turn in its eyeless stare.
"Saved you a chair right there," the bard Samanthia's chipper voice assaulted the new arrival from the end of the table. "Good morning, Sunshine!"
"She tried that line on me, too, Azo," Tarn grumbled. "Maybe your ancient magic lore that you took those extra skill points in contains the secret as to why elves wake up so damn chipper?"
"Human and elf emotion is more in the knowledge base of a priest, not a mage, Tarn," the man scolded as he threw back the charcoal-colored folds and bared his head to the breakfast crowd. "And yes, waitress--um, Leslie, I see--might I have a cup of the same brew that my dwarven companion is guzzling over there? Tarn, maybe you could tell us what you know of the matter."
Aerandir snorted, a sound the party had come to associate with the elf's presence as a constant. "How about we talk of matters more pleasant than Tarn's dirt-worship?"
"Next time I'm calling upon the Earth Father to heal your wounds, elf, I'll remember how highly you bespoke my 'dirt worship.'"
A pretty human girl stepped out from behind the tall mage and joined the party, taking the other empty seat. She doubled Azo's coffee order and then both agreed to follow Leslie's suggestion and partake in the breakfast buffet.
"'Ware the bacon! It's not done enough and pretty greasy," Tarn warned as they left.
"It's always greasy at the high class dining establishments you bring us to," Aerandir said, earning a deep snort from Andouille.
Tarn shrugged. "I didn't bring us here," he corrected. "This dining establishment, if you must grace it with such a title, was chosen by the group because it's next door to the motel, if you recall. Besides, I was the one who pointed out that the n in the sign was burnt out, thus making this a dier. But food is food, and my god does provide for us, whether it's a fine meal or this stuff, eh?"
"Luckily your god also provides you with a stomach made of iron," Samanthia replied. "Meanwhile, I'm glad I'm a vegetarian."
"'Vegetarian' comes from the elf term for 'crappy hunter,' doesn't it?" Yslea asked as she returned to the table with Azo. The pretty blonde human slipped into her chair and then quietly chanted a few phrases. At the end of her chant, the heap of bacon on her plate sizzled, firmed and browning. She gleefully took a now-hot piece off of the stack, folded it into thirds, and popped the entire slice into her mouth.
"Not even done with breakfast yet and you're already using one of your spells?" Tarn scolded. The party's mages were always late to breakfast due to their requirement to study their spells at the beginning of every day. Those spells, then, were expected to last them the entire day.
Yslea shrugged. "That was just a cantrip, not a spell, so it's fine. And who elected you master of my spells?"
"His wonderful earth god, who so wonderfully provides wonderful vittles of wonderment--" Aerandir started with a smirk and stopped as he deftly caught the napkin wad the earth priest had hurled at him. The smirk shifted to a wide grin as the elf rogue twirled the napkin wad across the top of his hand, ending the twirling with a flourish as the napkin was replaced by a steak knife. "Care to throw anything else my way, Father Tarn?"
"Dinna threaten the healer," Andouille grumbled.
"No threat here," Aerandir purred, pairing the knife with a fork to attack the last piece of food on his plate. "I just needed my knife to cut this cremated patty that I believe our host is sarcastically referring to as sausage."
"Got one of those catnips for Aerandir's sausage, Azo?" Tarn asked the black-robed mage, who sniffed in response.
"They're cantrips, and no. I do not use my hard-won powers on food," Azo replied, bringing his hands together in front of his chest, fingers pressed together.
"Of course you don't," Samanthia said. "Now, must I remind everyone that the day is ticking along with or without us, and Dothan isn't getting any closer."
"Dothan? Alabama? What's in Dothan?" Azo asked.
"Double hotel points," Tarn said around a gulp of well-creamed coffee.
"I thought we were going to..." Yslea started, but she was interrupted by Aerandir.
"Yes, we all thought that, but apparently the dungeon is too far away for a single day's travel. We must stop, therefore, and deplete our gold supplies one night further," the rogue said.
"It's going to be two nights further if we keep sitting here mumbling about it," Samanthia said.
"At least let me finish my bacon," Yslea said, folding another strip into thirds and pressing the whole strip into her mouth.
"How does a slender lass like you eat so much bacon and stay so trim?" Tarn asked.
"Magic," Yslea said, shrugging her shoulders.
"Hmmph, Tell me you didn't see that coming, large earth-man. No, never mind. I'll just wait outside for the rest of you," Aerandir said, leaping out of the booth and walking out, the elf bard and ranger right behind him.
"It's gonna be a long trip," Tarn mused, a sentiment Andouille agreed with through his now-refilled mug of coffee.