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Chapter Two
Home Again


A swirl of purple and blue magic materialized outside the town gate - a tall, well-built man slowly materialized as he stepped out of the portal. His sandy-brown hair a bit ruffled from the quickly conjured portal.

His sword was strapped at his side, and his shield strung on his back. He had even taken out his old boots - the leather had to be hastily repaired from aged cracks. He felt like he was stepping into his younger and less experienced self - the thought brought a smile to his face as he remembered just how much he and his boots have been through.

A soft breeze rustled his hair and he took in a deep breath. The smell was woody, full of the aromas of nature; trees, grass, and the clean smell of a fresh rain. To him, it was the scent of nostalgia. The scent of home.

The wooden town gate in front of him was only half open, with the one of the massive doors remaining shut. A large engraved brass sign read "Betelgeuse".

He took his first few steps slowly, just to take in the changes since he'd left home well over five years ago now.

Off to his left just as he passed through the gate was a quickly made wooden post sign.

For your safety, the
temporary curfew
is at sunset. The
gates will be locked
at this time.
~ Sheriff Lowren

Perhaps Erasmus was a bit under-informed when he was told about the troubles. In a way, this reminded him of Mordavia.

From the corner of his eye, Devon noticed that someone was watching him from a window. Slowly, he turned and took note of the well dressed - if extremely thin - man at the window. With a single nod, the man walked from the window and soon was exiting the building from the door nearby.

The man was actually thinner than Devon first thought, but he walked with a purposeful stride towards him. He had a sword at his side.

It wasn't anyone he recognized from his youth, which made Devon feel a bit more homesick.

The stranger spoke calmly and in fluent Germanic. "Allow me to welcome you to Betelgeuse, adventurer." The man extended his hand. "I am Deputy Olaf Herzig."

The King smiled at the young deputy and took the other man's hand in greeting, replying in his native tongue as well, "I am called Orion al-Rashid, Deputy."

Olaf's eyes went wide. "Forgive me, King al-Rashid! I was told to expect you, but I was expecting... more."

Orion gave a polite chuckle. "I'd suppose news of royalty arriving would cause you to expect a more fanciful arrival..."

The Deputy nodded, almost embarrassed. "Please forgive me for this next part, King al-Rashid, but I must see proof that you are who you claim to be. It's dangerous out there, and with rumors of witches in the woods, one can never be too careful."

He nodded slowly, unsheathing the sword he'd been given by Piotyr's ghost. Olaf eyed him a bit suspiciously, but the intense blue flame that suddenly engulfed the sword put aside any worries that may have crossed his mind.

"Proof enough for me, my King." Olaf gave the other man a smile as the sword was safely put back into place.

"Please, just call me Devon."

"Of course Ki..." the deputy paused, recognition showing on his face. "Devon? So it's true. You are Devy Aidendale...'" Olaf was staring intently now, and realizing that Devon had changed a lot since he had left on his quest for glory.

The King laughed. "The one and only. I remember everyone here saying I left on a fool's errand to go off like that without experience, and all because of a book."

Olaf was a bit amazed. "I remember when you left." There were a few moments of odd silence. "Erm, if you don't mind me asking, Devon... What's with the name change?"

Devon was studying the man - he still couldn't place who he was - and simply answered, "I was adopted by the Sultan of Shapeir, and I took a 'royal' name."

"Still Devon at heart, I hope." Olaf smiled.

"Of course, Ollie." The name came out without him expecting it, and with this simple slip, Devon finally remembered the man who had been just a young teenager when he left.

The Deputy laughed. "I haven't been called that in years!"

"I could say the same with being called Devy." He shot a grin at the other man.

After a few more minutes of chatter and reminiscing, Devon finally made his way through the town. A blacksmith had opened where the old bakery used to be, and the barber had relocated to the basement of the church just recently.

The pub was still there though. He already knew this, since his father had asked to meet there.

"Rigel's Pub an' Inn," the sign above the door read, complete with a drawing of the constellation containing the star Rigel. A painted sign hanging on the door explained it was the birthplace of the drink "Beetle Juice" from Betelgeuse - which was a spiced apple and pear cider.

As he opened the door, a shiver ran up his back. It made him wonder if there was some shady gambling going on.

He made his way over to the bar, getting a smile from the bartender.

"Well, well. If it isn't the dream chaser. Finally come back home, I see." An ale was placed in front of Devon. "On the house, son."

Devon smiled, giving the man a nod. "Been busy, Rigel." He made himself comfortable on the barstool and took a drink from the stein. After wiping the foam from his moustache, he grinned. "Still the best damn stuff I've had."

"Good to see you too, Devon." The portly, dark-haired barkeep said as he wiped down the counter. "Rumor has it you're pushing for world peace."

This brought a laugh from Devon. "I might have been a dreamer, but even I know that's not possible. I just want an alliance so no barony or kingdom stands alone against any foe."

"Once a dreamer..." Rigel flashed a grin moments before being called down the bar for a refill.

Devon took the time to spin on his bar stool and look around.

The far corner had a group of teenagers chatting excitedly with each other. At one of the booths in the middle if the pub was a frail old man staring at his pint. A few other customers were throughout the pub, mostly just keeping to themselves.

"Listen, Devon," the pub's owner said from behind him, placing another full stein on the counter, "If you're looking for a place to stay, I've got a single room left. It's yours if you need it." Rigel gave a laugh. "Still owe you for that last weeks pay."

That got a grin from the King. "Ah, we'll see, Rigs. I'll have to check if my family expects me to stay with them. I'm sure mother would complain if I didn't at least ask."

Rigel shook his head. "Mama's boy."

With the grin still on his face, Devon grabbed up the full stein. "I'll let you get back to work." He stood up, rolled his shoulders and looked around - deciding that a booth near the window would be best.

He made his way across the room, only to hear a voice, accompanied by another shiver at the nape of his neck.

He turned, peering at the wrinkled old man at the table he had just passed. The elderly man's dark eyes were fixed on him.

Steadying his nerves, shaking off the tingling sensation from his Sense Danger, Devon questioned the man. "I'm sorry? What was that?"

The man gave a short, wheezing giggle. "I..." he wheezed out another laugh, "I was wondering how your brother-in-law was." When he spoke, it reminded Devon of one just saved from drowning - their voice almost bubbling.

"Excuse me?" Devon was gazing at the man intensely, his body still tense and his Sense Danger wasn't dying down. "Do I... know you?" The tingle that had started at the nape of his neck was now halfway down his back.

With a nod that Devon was surprised didn't break the fragile man's neck, the man confirmed they had met. "Of course... you won't recognize me." A smile spread over his face, which accented the wrinkles, and displayed what few teeth he had left. "Never was the brightest," he mumbled, suddenly seeming oblivious to Devon's presence.

The chill had reached his waist, and Devon kept himself alert, ready to act in case this was a trap. He had ignored the old man's comment - instead, he was focusing himself, trying to keep himself from shaking with the adrenaline his body now automatically produced when he Sensed Danger.

"Have a seat, Hero." The chair was kicked out towards him, giving him room to sit.

Oddly, with this gesture, the sense of danger lowered. Still a bit unsure, Devon moved to sit, his hand reaching into his pocket and out with a barely-noticed movement. The Ring of Truth was now upon his finger.

"You've changed since we last met, Hero." The raspy voice of the old man brought back the chill of danger to the Paladin.

With a coolness that belied his inner struggle to contain his surging adrenaline, Devon replied simply with, "I wish I could say the same, but I'm afraid I don't remember you." The glint in the old man's eyes reminded him far to much of Ad Avis' 'I am your friend' gaze, and he avoided direct eye contact.

"Markus. Of Spielburg. And you owe me a pet and bodyguard." His voice was less liquid now.

No reaction from the Ring, which confused Devon. "I honestly don't know what you're talking about."

As Devon spoke, the old man was looking at the window, where a few people were walking past.

"Just remember the cave, boy. I still miss by pet bear." He pointed to the door, where three people had just entered.

Devon's mind flashed him the memories of rescuing Barnard from the Kobold Sorcerer. He had absentmindedly looked to where Markus had pointed and saw his father, sister and childhood best friend at the door, but when he went to respond to the old man claiming to be the Kobold he had killed all those years ago, there was nobody there. Even the Sense Danger tingle was gone. Slowly, he stood from the chair.

At the door, the younger of the two men noticed Devon and hollered out to him, rushing halfway across the pub to give his friend a crushing embrace.

"Gah, Drake, lemme breathe!" he grunted as the other man squeezed him.

'Drake' let out a boisterous laugh and let go of Devon, but kept his hands on Devon's upper arms to look him over. "Good to see you," he said, a huge smile on his face. Devon looked over his friend, whom he'd not seen in close to five years now. Draco Valkon had bulked up in those few years, his shoulders having gotten broader from his days hammering away at the anvil. That's not to say the auburn-haired man hadn't packed on other weight too. He'd gotten a bit wider around the waist too. He released Devon from his grip, a gold ring twinkling on his finger as he scratched at his close-cropped beard.

Devon grinned, the old man from a few minutes ago temporarily pushed from his thoughts. "I see you suckered somebody into putting up with you."

"I wouldn't say 'suckered'," came the soft voice from behind Draco, "but I try my best to tolerate him." Theresa was positively beaming as she wrapped her arms around her brother and kissed him on the cheek. She had her sandy brown hair pulled back into a loose bun. She looked very much a sister to him, as they both had the same high cheekbones and chiseled cheeks.

Devon was a bit shocked at this. "You two?" He found himself grinning, knowing that Theresa couldn't have found anyone better.

"Oh, c'mon Dev, you really think I was your friend because of your charming personality?" Draco was trying hard not to laugh. "I was only using you as an excuse to come over and see Theresa." Devon just rolled his eyes and laughed, not even needing the warmth from the Ring still on his finger to confirm to him that Draco was joking.

"It wasn't until after you were gone that he pounced me," she giggled a bit, her fingers entwined with her husbands.

"Besides," came a voice which - while soft - almost demanded attention, "you know how much he enjoys your mother's cooking." Myrlinus Aidendale had finally spoken up. The only thing that would suggest to somebody that he was a Wizard was the long brown beard. Everything else about him seemed 'normal'. He nodded at his son and extended his hand, a slight twinkle in eyes.

Devon stood still for a few moments, just looking at his father. A smile quickly came over him and, ignoring the outstretched hand, he embraced his elder.

"How is the little one?" Merle chuckled, patting his son on the back.

Our Hero broke away from his father, a smile on his face. "I swear he's getting bigger every day."

"And the Missus?"

"Upset she couldn't come along."

"Naturally." There was a bit of a pause before the elder Aidendale continued. "How about you then, 'Orion'?"

Devon gave a hearty laugh. "Where should I start?"