Baxter couldn’t help but smile as he watched the proprietor of the inn chat up the little bard that had come in out of the cold. Bergren was usually shy and reserved around women almost to the point of standoffishness. Today, however, he was as charming and genial a host as he was to the men of the nearby village. Baxter knew what the change was about and welcomed it.

“He likes her,” Columbine said as she picked up a pitcher of ale and several mugs. “She seems to fancy him too.”

“One can hope,” Baxter said. “The elders would be much happier about him if he took a wife.”

“Why?” Nicholas asked. “Do they feel that way about everyone – or just the proprietor?”

“Businesses can be passed down – and taxed – only if the owner has an heir upon his death. Master Bergren was named the late owner’s heir, but that’s not likely to happen again and the town’s leaders would be happier if the inn – especially as prosperous an inn as this one – remained on the tax rolls,” Baxter explained. “The other way of dealing with it would be to try to buy it out from under him – provided that they can find someone with an heir and enough money – which they likely could.”

“That wouldn’t be good though – for us?” Nicholas said softly.

“Very few eldar would employ such a mix of races,” Baxter said. “The fact that I’m only informally trained in brewery would cause me problems too. Master Bergren is the best man for the job – as far as we’re concerned. If he gets a wife, then the village elder hasn’t a leg to stand on, though.” His grin turned slightly feral as he added, “That would upset the apple cart.”

Arthur nodded as he joined them. He smiled slightly before bringing the lovely bard a mug of cider. All in all, he hoped that things worked out well for the pair – and not just for the sake of his job.

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