“Who is Rikki Cooper and why should I care?”
Aria’s question fought through the cacophony of The Pitchfork’s main hall, settling in the tall pointed ears of a male eladrin sitting across from her.
“Have you ever wondered why all the winter’s in memory crowd the span of a mere four days every year? Four days. Four days Aria, that bring all of the season’s natural cycle into a distillation of bitterness that cripples the land. And the dead…the dead walk in footsteps not theirs to claim.”
Jack-A-Lynn stared with stony resolve into vampiric eyes whose gaze few could hold for long of their own accord.
“Not particularly, no.” Aria replied, pretending to dine upon a meal that her human palate had long since been retired from.
Jack’s eyes cut for a moment to a particularly raucous dice game that momentarily held dominance over the inn’s atmosphere.
“Her name appears randomly amidst the delusional scribblings I placed upon the surfaces of my cell in the High Church. In all the thousands of words I wrote, it is the only consistent piece of information, and recurs 12 times.”
“So? I assume there is a point to all of this.” Aria said, pushing the morsels on her plate into new arrangements.
Jack frowned a bit, and then frowned deeper as the boisterous dice game exploded with shouts again, and one of its principal players nearly staggered back into Aria and Jack’s table.
“The Battle of Saddle-Brook. Rikki Cooper fought there and died there on the 12th and final day of that battle. The day the avatar of Tiamat, Panserous, came from The Far Realms at the bidding of Simon the Eternal and laid waste to the city.”
At this, Aria stopped still at the feigning of her drink and stared with sober demeanor at the eladrin.
“The Undead forever claimed Winter after that day, and…”
A splash of cheap beer hit the table between the eladrin and the vampire, slung drunkenly from the mug of one of the gamers as he carelessly stumbled into it. Spinning about, the interloper brayed intoxicated laughter and spittle. Only Jack’s eyes moved to the interruption, and they caught the surly patron’s with practiced ease. His face went slack and his voice vanished. Not a word was spoken between Jack and the gamer, whose posture suddenly straightened and he spun about. Condensation gathered about Aria’s glass and Jack’s breath misted before him as the dice player calmly pulled a knife from his belt and walked calmly over to the dice table. He plunged the blade half its length through the hand of one of his comrades leaning on the table and buried itself solidly in the wood. The howl of the wounded gambler erupted as his attacker shook his head as if awaking from a dream. the wounded man swung with his free hand catching the first squarely in the jaw. Laughter and threats ensued while Groverton’s enforcers moved in to take charge of the situation. Old Charles himself stood behind the bar watching his two friends with a frown that seemed to say ‘Not again.’
Jack returned his eyes to Aria to witness lengthy canines retreating into her sensuous mouth.
“I could have handled that, you know.” Aria pouted.
“I know.” Jack simply replied.
“Continue…” Aria said, gesturing with her moist-slickened glass.
“Rikki Cooper had two children savaged by goblins, their bodies not to be found. She married an elf. The Eladrin Queen told me of an unfulfilled oath that Cooper had once sworn to the Fae. That she once had a connection to a beast, a connection that was severed. She was touched by the Shadowfell and fought against The Far Realms. Who does this sound like to you?”
“Blackpaws.” Aria said.
“Its all tied together, Arai. Cooper, the Fae, Winter, Tiamat, The Far Realms, Blackpaws…and more things I have not quite discerned yet. How they all fit together, I cannot say yet.”
“In fact, Blackpaws is the reason I am here, Jack. He gave me this…” Aria patted a large bag that jingled when struck by her bejeweled hand. “…and told me to tell Groverton ‘to get started before I forget completely’. I was waiting for him and the others, but they haven’t shown back yet. I’m a little worried.”
“There are more words that stand out from my writings…Argent, Corbin, Silver Cloak, somehow giants are connected. I have to research more.” Jack said
Placing her glass upon the table, Arai said "I need to check and see what’s happened to them. A new comer to the group, Vis, performed a teleportation ritual that should have brought them back. I don’t trust him.’
“Find them. Once I have completed my research, I will look for them as well if you have not found them by then.”
“Agreed. By the way, ‘Jack’. Why do you keep using this persona? We know who and what you are now.” The Vampire said.
“There are still those who would use me for their own rituals and purposes, Aria. Besides, I thought you of all people would appreciate the necessity of keeping up appearances.” the changeling said as she glanced at Aria’s plate.