Abby - 1999-3-19
eleos walked into Ansleigh three hours after sunset. Given the hour, it was no surprise that the streets were next thing to deserted, but she knew that business in the local inn would be at its peak. So now all she had to do was find that worthy establishment.
She was somewhat the worse for wear. Road dust dried her mouth and clogged her throat; her eyes felt gritty. The soles of her feet had a dull, warm ache, her lower back was beginning to develop another, and her hands--well, she wouldn't think about her hands.
All in all, Keleos felt-- Like I spent the morning juggling lightning bolts, the afternoon unconscious, and the evening walking ten miles, she thought with a bit of scorn, turning down one of the wide streets. I didn't know I was turning into such a whiner. Well, it's no more than I deserve for ducking and running. And I hope that the next time something like this comes into my head the Powers That Be will drop a flaming boulder on me or something.
Around the time Keleos ended her mental lecture, she found the local inn--as she had expected, lights were burning inside and out, and she could hear the rough, faintly discordant murmur of a dozen or so private conversations.
The Bottomless Barrel. Joy and rapture. Well, so long as the food is edible and there's a decently clean room for me, I'll live. With a rueful wish for someplace like the Stone's Throw in Gateway or Ardath's Silver Chalice, she pushed her way into the common room.
Nobody paid Keleos much attention as she wove through the crowd towards the bar, for which she was grateful. "Your pardon..." she said to the sturdy brown woman across the scarred, age-darkened wood, voice pitched just loud enough to be heard.
"Just a moment," was the reply. Keleos waited patiently while the bar-mistress distributed mugs of beer to the assortment of people--mostly men, probably mostly farmers--seated at the bar. Eventually, the other woman turned to her. "What'll y'have?"
"How much would it be for dinner and a room for the night?" Keleos queried. "And what would the meal be?"
"'S two nobles for dinner, a room, and a meal to break your fast in the morning besides," the brown woman answered, with the mellow dialect of farm stock everywhere. "Dinner's meat an' potato pie, with cider, wine, or beer, and breakfast is a good thick porridge."
"Done," said Keleos promptly, fishing a pair of square silver coins from her hidden purse and laying them on the bar. "If you could have the dinner sent up to my room, with a glass of wine, I'd be grateful."
The bar-mistress pocketed the coins with alacrity, and produced a key of rough-cast iron. "Sure, sure. I'll have one of the girls bring it up. Yours is the second on the left from the stairs."
"My thanks." Keleos took the key, and asked one last question. "I don't suppose you could tell me where around here I might buy a good horse?"
The woman grinned. "You've good timing, lass. There's a horse-trader what always comes through here, due the next day or so."
Keleos chuckled at that. "Well. I do have good timing, it would seem. Again, my thanks."
She turned away from the bar, heading for the stairs and treading heavily of the toes of a man who attempted to waylay her.
The room was plain, and not very large, but it was clean--almost painfully so. Keleos sat down on the narrow bed to tug off her boots.
She'd only gotten one off when someone knocked at the door; grumbling softly, she got up to answer it and was met by a serving girl bearing a tray. Keleos took the tray, thanked the girl, and closed and locked the door. Returning to her seat on the bed, she removed her other boot and settled back to pick at the gently steaming pie--not exactly to her taste, as Shenmiri fare tended to be rather light... She pushed away a wisp of bitterness and turned her mind towards her plans.
Tomorrow she'd need to buy rations, and--she glanced ruefully at the singed sleeves of her shirt--spare clothes. She hoped the promised horse-trader would turn up tomorrow, since she really didn't feel like paying another two nobles; a good horse was going to take most of her ready money, and she'd need all that was left to get her to Torrigan. She had a few small things with her--bits of jewellery, mostly--that she could sell, but she'd really rather not have to, and they wouldn't bring near as much here as they would if sold to the right people in the right places.
Eventually Keleos gave up on the pie, which sat like lumps of gluey mud in her stomach, and turned her attention to the glass of wine.
So far, so good...
Obsidian - 1999-3-19
bsidian looked behind him and sighed before brushing away a dark lock away from his pitiless black eyes.
That was a close one.
Another chase like that and he was afraid he wouldn't be able to survive it. He turned his face upward to look into the sky where the sun was setting. A cool breeze stirred the fallen leaves on the dirt road. A few birds chirped in the air as if trying to tell him all was okay. Not most likely. Not after that attempted assassination. Guards where everywhere.
Obsidian grimaced. That was the first time he missed a shot. And the first time he ever got caught, which was no small blow in his pride.
Sighing again, Obsidian started forward. Another mile till Torrigan and he was already feeling worn out. Wiping off his dusty boots, he started forward again.
A while later, Obsidian was still trudging down the dirt road when he caught glimpse of a figure up ahead. Realizing the woman was waving to him Obsidian warily walked forward.
The woman nodded, laughing, before running forward. "Gee, Sid, it's been a long time since I last saw you. How long was it? Six years ago?"
Obsidian stared for a while before counting the numbers in his head. "Closer to seven, I daresay."
"Well, that hardly matters now. Where are you going to?"
Frowning, Obsidian dug a boot into the soil. He had two minds about telling Mia what he was really doing here. He shrugged. "Just looking for work. Decided to go north to Torrigan."
Mia nodded eagerly. "Uh huh. That's where I'm going. I need work too you know--" she smiled shyly "--can't survive on a couple of silvers."
It was meant as a joke, but Obsidian nodded his head gravely. "You said it-" he looked in back of him hurriedly as if he suspected someone watching them in between the trees. Obsidian turned back to Mia trying to force a smile on his alabaster white face though his dark eyes didn't join in.
But Mia, who was always filled with joy and happiness, didn't seem to notice. "Hey, you want to join me. We could go there together."
"Er...." Obsidian glanced back at him for another look. "I.... I guess. Yeah. Let's go."
Mia started ahead and Obsidian followed behind fingering his pouch. All was well. For now, at least...
Copyright (c) 1999-2000 Abigail Laughlin and the members of the Circle of Stone.