Starik was only two years older than Gonath, yet his size matched that of a large draft horse. It was Starik's build that enabled him to leave the village at sixteen and join the King's Army to defend the northern border of the kingdom's territory as it was routinely raided. Gonath had not seen Starik since the day he left and continually wondered what had become of him.
"You double-headed mule. Three years pass and today you decide to return. What brings you back now? I don't doubt the Tournament has anything to do with it?" asked Gonath.
"The fighting in the North is dwindling and our numbers aren't needed there. Besides, Mylor's hound Demorus has us gathering the unsavory men of this bunch for him." He eyed Alasdair. "I figured most would be spending their time in this fine establishment. But forget that for now. We have some time to catch up on between us."
Starik led Gonath to a darkened corner of the Inn and convinced Alasdair that another round of drink was in order, especially with Starik’s return. Reluctantly, Alasdair served them. One drink led to two, two led to even more and soon Gonath lost the sense of urgency to prepare for and to compete in the tournament all together.
The more the ale went from barrel to cup, the louder Gonath and Starik became. They were becoming so
disturbing that Alasdair regretted to inform them that he could not serve them anymore and that, in their best interest, should leave the inn before anything should happen. Gonath and Starik, with the Thol’s encouragement, agreed they shouldn't waste the day behind the walls of the inn's dreary tavern and that the festival outside would best suit their present condition. The two led one another to the door and ventured outside to find a more likely place to accommodate their reunion. They scoured the village and reminisced of the past. They recalled the mischief they stirred as young children, bragged of the bloodied fights, usually held between themselves, and discussed the events that had led them to this day. Starik spoke of the battles he fought in lands far north. He recalled the endless numbers of men on both sides of the fighting that gave their lives in the name of the crown they served. The more Starik "boasted" of a soldier's life, the more Gonath thought himself a coward. Each of Starik's stories landed them in a different alehouse and another dripping cup. They were on their way to another establishment when Starik's laughter stopped and his entire frame went rigid. Gonath couldn't understand what could instill such fear in an armed fighter like Starik, that is, until he noticed the cold stare of the military officer.
"A fine example of his majesty’s defense are you not?" hissed the Major.
Starik, whether from fear or a lack of self-control, lost his composure and began to sway while trying to stand at attention. The more Starik rocked, the angrier the Major became. Starik staggered and diminished the distance between them. Now, with only inches between the two, Starik began to sweat and became instantly pale. As the major began ordering the drunken soldier back to the encampment, Starik, without warning, retched what was left of the roasted mutton and ale onto the major's chest. At the sight of it all, Gonath could not contain himself. His laughter infuriated the Major more than the insult of what was covering his uniform. With uncontrollable anger, Starik's commander turned and marched off and ordered Starik to report to camp.
With a quick handshake and a drunken smile, Starik stumbled his way back toward the military encampment and left Gonath still laughing. It was not until the drunken effects began to wear off that he noticed the hunched woman following him from a few yards behind. He heard the phlegm filled voice for the first time as she walked up to him.
"Prepare yourself for an untimely death, foolish boy!"