The tavern was filled with a quiet, tranquil aura.
One might think of it as ironic, as taverns are pretty well known for being home to boisterous crowds and loud, too jolly voices, but in Brightvale, these taverns were considered places of meeting between friends, to talk and to catch up. In fact, the tavern was more restaurant than anything else.
The crowd was more subdued than usual. Amiable chats and the clink of utensils were probably the loudest sounds here.
Suddenly, two Draiks appeared, both in sweeping robes of the colors white, gold and green, and both equally as blue. They would have looked like brothers, save that one was shorter and stockier than the other, and he bore an appearance of a hardened soldier.
Greetings burst forth from the crowd; these two were well known. After reciprocating their gestures, the two Draiks settled down at an empty table. The waiter quickly cleaned it off, and brought them the customary Brightvale appetizers, cubes of yellow cheese sprinkled with honey and mint.
“Ah, the delicious Brightvalian fare,” grunted the stocky Draik, taking a toothpick and skewering the cheese to eat.
“None finer,” agreed his comrade, doing likewise.
“So tell me, Rothren, how does the business? Yesterday I was passing by to go to the market, when I saw your shop filled with people,” the first Draik said.
“Ah, Glaubin, I dared to stock a heavy blue tunic.”
“Everyone ran in and started throwing neopoints in my direction. Eventually I sold it, but the shop was a mess!”
“You should have called me; I am an expert to cleaning up messes. My floor is always filled with broken window pieces. I’ve stopped walking barefoot ever since I learned that the hard way,” Glaubin muttered.
Rothren nodded in sympathy. “And how goes your business?”
“Also good, I made some high quality windows and the Duke of Arville came to purchase them.” The stocky neopet grinned smugly.
A quiet befell the two, as they chewed their cheese and savored the sweet and pungent taste, with the refreshing notes of mint. The waiter, a well-dressed Kyrii, came before them and inquired as to what type of drink they would be enjoying. Glaubin quickly ordered some fresh skeem juice, while Rothren ordered a screlonade.
As the waiter rushed off to get their orders, the two spoke once more.
“You know, it seems my business is always full of people interested in my goods. They never leave without getting anything,” Rothren remarked.
“That is well,” Glaubin said slowly. “My business is met with infrequency, but when people do come, my profit is immense!”
Rothren snorted and twitched his grayed wings. “Perhaps it has something to do with the quality of your work in between?”
A moment of silence, and then a roar. Glaubin leaped forward, angrily staring at his comrade with flashing eyes. “How dare you proclaim my work to be inferior, compared to the simple threads you hand out to people?”
Rothren leaped up likewise, their snouts barely touching. “Simple threads? Foolish Draik, I will make you pay for this insult!”
The tavern grew very quiet, as all stared at the two shop-owners clashing horns. The Kyrii waiter, who would have thrown the troublemakers out quickly, dared not even come forth. Mainly because they were pretty popular and well known, but also because Draik fire could easily set his wonderful hair alight.
“I bet your work is useless; who needs windows anyway?” sneered the taller Draik.
“Pagh, simple clothing for protection would hardly be necessary; I can tear through that nice cloth of yours like a knife through butter!” snarled Glaubin.
“You can’t tear through magic.”
Rothren’s tail lashed out, striking a vacant chair and sending it tumbling with a clatter.
“Please, stop fighting!” the Kyrii waiter shouted.
“Aye, he is right. Let us not pit ourselves here; we shall bring our complaints to the higher echelons. Perhaps good King Hagan the Enlightened himself will tell us whose work is better, colorful windows or ragged cloth,” the stocky Draik rumbled.
“An excellent idea,” Rothren growled, noting the hardly-veiled insult.
The two Draiks stomped out together, leaving a stunned crowd and a Kyrii waiter bearing their ordered drinks.
Word had gotten ahead to King Hagan of the two visitors to his palace. Fuming like a forge, they ran right in, glaring at each other as if they were about to fight. Obviously there had been an argument, and the root cause was probably a misunderstanding.
Waving away those who sought to bring him wisdom (which was often so silly that Hagan was forced to pay them to depart), Hagan leaned back in his marble and velvet throne and waited for the guards to bring forth the angry twosome.
Ah, should a stormcloud have come into the throne room, it would have found kin in these two Draiks! Like a storm itself, they rampaged before his presence, glaring and arguing at each other, spitting insults at their work, and totally ignoring his bemused expression.
From what snippets of information he picked up from his surprised and disturbed guards, King Hagan learned that their fight started at the Steaming Skeem Tavern, and they were arguing over whose work was better. The stocky fellow was Glaubin, and he owned the Brightvale Glaizers. Hagan bought frequently from the store, as the work was high quality and created beautiful dancing lights on the floors of his palace when installed.
The other, a slimmer Draik, bore the name of Rothren. He owned the Brightvale Armory, which made fantastic cloths and cloaks imbued with magic that could protect a soul just as well as heavy metal armor could. King Hagan also bought from him. In fact, most of the guards wore those cloaks under their light armor.
As they neared the podium where the throne was, the regal green Skeith coughed politely to get their attention. Much to his surprise, they kept arguing!
He coughed again, this time louder.
And still they argued.
At last, displeased with this lack of respect, the Skeith gave a roaring beacon that made the two Draiks jump with fright and spill out apologies.
“I know of your situation, Draiks, but might you explain to me why you have come before me?” It was time to get the story from their perspective.
“Good lord, we must ask you a question. Tell us, whose work stands as the best, petty windows or magical cloth?” Rothren dared a glance at Glaubin, who returned the glare with a snort of smoke.
Hagan smiled to himself, running his thick fingers through his golden beard. He let the silence bear out for more, to give a heightened sense of expectancy before speaking in a regal manner.
“My subjects, this matter seems quite difficult to settle indeed, even for myself! Why, I must deliberate this with my good court, and decide the truth. Because of the delicacy of this meeting, I must ask both of you to depart from this room and wait in the Royal Guest Quarters. You shall be called back by the guards.”
Both Draiks bowed and left the room, while King Hagan summoned the few earls, dukes and barons that made presence within his court that morning. They smiled knowingly to themselves, for they knew that their king had something especial planned for the troublemakers.
“Good sire, what shall be done with them?” asked a lean green Ixi in purple clothes.
“They must be taught that both of their works are fantastic in their own right, but if I tell it to them, they shall not believe it in their hearts. I must make them believe it on their own accord,” the green Skeith announced majestically.
The court nodded knowingly.
“But how shall this be done, old friend?” an elderly purple Scorchio inquired.
“Through a unique, unusual, and simple method,” the king said, contradicting, much to the confusion of his subjects.
However, it seemed that the Scorchio understood, and smiled in understanding. “My liege, shall I have the honors of telling them?”
Ignoring the obvious bafflement of the court, King Hagan grinned gleefully and nodded. “Be my guest.”
The two Draiks left the castle with the words that the court was still deliberating and they needed a day to complete their discussions. The two shopkeepers acquiesced with this decision and returned to their homes, but the following morning met them with surprise.
A purple Scorchio appeared at the doorstep of Glaubin’s humble home, proclaiming that he would escort the Draik to his workshop. At first, the stocky blue was pleased by the company, but soon realized that they were going in the wrong direction. Upon inquiry, the Scorchio replied that all was well.
They arrived at the Brightvale Armory when the sun had just touched the tips of the trees, giving everything in the land a golden sheen.
“This is not where I work!” complained the Draik, flaring his wings. “I work north of here, near the castle!”
“Ah, but didn’t you hear? Rothren is ill today, and King Hagan sent you to work here in his place for a day. Do not fret about your own workplace; the good king sent one of his most skilled servants to take your place. Do not feel slighted, my friend; your pay will be generous, much more than what you would usually receive in light of this incident.”
Satisfied yet uncertain, Glaubin entered his new work while the Scorchio departed, surprised by how light the place was. It seemed windows – HIS windows – were everywhere. Smirking with satisfaction, the stocky Draik settled down at the counter, surrounded by cloaks and cloths. The smell of Gnorbu and babaa fleece was in the air, giving it a musty tone that was hardly similar to the smell of the forge.
There was a gentle jingle of a bell, and the Draik turned from his unfamiliar surroundings to see a Mynci at a nearby door. “Ah, you’re the new guy,” she replied, smiling. “It is my shift at the desk; why don’t you go to the back and Valotorius can see what he can make you do.”
Still confused by the shop’s strange aura, the Draik stumbled awkwardly to the back, which seemed to be surrounded with partially completed cloaks, spools, raw fleece, dyes, and magical potions courtesy of the nearby potions shop.
Unlike the natural light from the shop, the light in this room came from magical torches that emitted no flame.
Three workers, an Aisha, a Techo and a Gelert were sitting near the front, sewing the cloaks while chatting amiably. Beside them stood a robed Lupe that was muttering an incantation into a tub from which their threads came from. Just then, Glaubin realized that the threads were being imbued with magic.
“All right, break time!”
The high voice came from the Lupe. The three workers stopped and left the room, while the Lupe looked up at the Draik and grinned. “Welcome, Glaubin. I’ve been expecting you. We will need you to test these cloaks for their efficiency.”
“Why should I test these simple threads?” the Draik snarled.
“King Hagan set an order for five of them, and he expects them to be in top condition. Now unless you are willing to incur his wrath as these tend to be flawed...”
Glaubin felt his eyes widen with surprise and nodded, chastened. “All right, all right.”
The red Lupe beamed brightly. “Excellent! Now, let me put this Cloak of Flames on the dummy. I need you to send out your strongest fire attack, and if the dummy is unhurt and the cloak is in good condition, then it has passed the test.”
The testing and the work continued throughout the day. Even after the five cloaks were tested, Glaubin offered to do more, impressed with their resilience. When the workers returned, he offered to help them, and even though he had many errors as his hands were used to bashing glass into place, he managed some successes and his respect for the craft grew.
Meanwhile, also that morning, the Scorchio led Rothren to the Brightvale Glaziers. Like Glaubin, the Draik audibly complained about this, but when the reasons were stated he grudgingly agreed to do as asked.
Rothren too found interest and a newfound respect to the work of his comrade. Assisted by Glaubin’s skilled assistants, he managed to make a lovely, (albeit that it was obviously done in the hands of a novice) stained glass window representing Brightvale Castle. It was that interest that carried him throughout the day, and even though the forge was fiery hot and very offensive to a snout that hadn’t been close to a forge since its beginnings, Rothren eventually got used to it, mainly because of his Draik roots.
At the end of the day, the Scorchio returned and led them home, telling them that King Hagan completed his deliberation and wished to see them tomorrow. They went to sleep bearing smiles of ones who had done something extra special that day.
“As you can tell, our court has completed its discussion.” King Hagan announced in a deep voice. “But before our decision can be spoken, what do you two have to say?”
The court fell into silence and all eyes fell upon the two quiet Draiks.
“Good King, Glaubin and I were talking as well, as we came here...” Rothren began, obviously nervous.
“Yes?” Hagan pressed.
“And we have settled the matter,” Glaubin said. “We realized that our works are both respectable, and that our argument was foolish.”
King Hagan nodded gravely. “It seems you have fixed your problems, and therefore you are free to make your leave.”
“But what about the decision?” Rothren asked with surprise.
“The Skeith made a ‘tch’ sound and waved a gloved hand. “Fret not, once both parties have settled their matters without us, then our decision matters not.” Before they could press their points, Hagan pointed to the door and repeated, “you may have your leave.”
Being wise, the two shopkeepers departed without further requests. As they left, the court once again gathered around Hagan, smiling cheerfully. “A job well done, my liege.” The purple Scorchio gave the king a toothy grin. “Do you think the argument will return?”
The Skeith waved his hand and a platter of Brightvale cheese drizzled with honey and mint was brought before him. Taking a bite of the delicious food, he gave his old friend a glance and shook his head.
“I believe that they will never bother us with that again.”
And he was right.