“What’s their story?” called one of the bearded men from a table.
“Been chased by Trogos, they have,” the first man explained. “Darn near got eaten.”
The men grumbled at the naming of the wolves. They were clearly no greater fans of the monsters than were Linvin’s party.
“May we shelter here from the storm?” Linvin asked most earnestly.
“Do ya tell good stories?” called an indiscriminate voice from the group.
“We have all kinds of stories,” Anvar interjected.
“Can ya hold your liquor?” called another voice. In unison, the men reaffirmed the question by yelling “Ya?”
Bander stepped forward in an unexpected move and cheerfully pronounced, “Put the drink in front of us and see!”
The men cheered at the acceptance of the challenge. One handed his mug to Bander, who drank the contents in one long swallow. It was harsh liquor that did not completely agree with his empty stomach. Still, Bander kept it down as promised. He slammed the mug down on the table. The men jumped up in celebration and patted him on the back.
“Get some blankets and drinks for our new friends,” called the man with the lantern.
The lumberjacks treated them like younger siblings coming in from the cold. They peeled thewet clothes off their shivering bodies and hung them on branches near the fire to dry. There was no room for modesty among the woodsmen, who knew all too well the illnesses that could set in from exposure. They wrapped the elves tightly and placed them at a table of prominence near the fire. Each was handed a full mug of whiskey.
At first the rye drink was bitter to the tongue and hard to take. Gradually, as the effects blended with the merry disposition of their hosts, the beverage became more palatable until it was consumed with ease and even enjoyed.
Obviously cut off from outside news, the men begged for stories. Linvin did not want their quest revealed and thought he should be the one to tell their story. He explained that they were headed for the Unclaimed Territory when the wolves began stalking them. As the story brought them into the moment, the men began to mutter curses about the beasts to one another.
“The King needs to do something about those mongrels!” cited one of the men.