It took a while for them to sort out the horses and their gear, Tipper left her red pony with them to be stabled and took the other horses to look for a buyer. Mokha went into the tavern to arrange for a room. Adwin waited out front with the mounts and their gear.
The place was large, well lit from both natural light through a number of small windows and expensive lamps that hung from the ceiling. It was also modestly busy, a minstrel strummed her guitar from a small stage near an unlit hearth. Heavy tables and chairs were spaced around the common room and within a number of small alcoves, a few people were eating and a few more were drinking. A well dressed woman stood near a short counter, heavy mugs hung from racks above her and a dozen taps poked through the wall behind her.
“A drink?” She asked as he came to her counter.
“Well, surely. I also wanted to make arrangements for a room rental and stable space for four horses.”
She smiled, “Billeting is handled by Semosse, he’s in the room over there. Do you want a drink now or after you’ve had a chance to clean up.”
The way she eyed his clothing and travel worn appearance and the fact that most of the clientele seemed fairly well to do indicated he should make arrangements first. He smiled, “I will be back.”
Going to the indicated door he knocked, a voice from the other side bid him enter. He opened the door and stepped in, “Are you Semosse?”
“Mr. Semosse, yes.” Said the large man sitting at the small desk, paperwork before him, a couple of shelves with books and folders on the wall to either side and an expensive standing lamp in the corner behind him. The fellow was dressed in a light weight, expensive robe. “What can I do for you?”
“I’m looking to rent a room and stable four horses. I’d take your best room if its available and extra feed for the animals.”
The man looked him up and down, “Well, our best rooms are taken. I should also mention up front that I’ve no need to barter for entertainment, I regularly employ a small troop.”
“We’d only be staying over night, our destination is GreensBridge. We’ve coin and other valuables.”
“Ah, very good then. How many?”
“Three people, four mounts.”
“I’ve a spacious room atop the north wing with four beds, you can see the city’s towers from there on a clear day. We also have laundry services and can provide a tub for the room, though I’d highly recommend Galleen’s Bathhouse, across the way. We also provide security though the night, including the stables and if you have valuables you’d like secured we have a safe.”
“Well, it seems you run a fine establishment Mr Semosse. We’ll take the room in the north wing and laundry services. Diner and breakfast for three and drinks.”
“Well sire, most of that I can do. But I’ve rented to Aggedrah a time or two before and I can not include your drinks in the price.”
Mokha chuckled, “You are a man of experience and wisdom then, sir. Let me relieve your mind of any thought of profit loss or mischievousness on my part.” He fished out one of the pieces of jewellery he had taken from the bandit camp, a bracelet of hammered gold and rough set stones.
The man took it from him and tested its weight and then looked closely at it in the light from the lamp. “I’ll have to get this appraised, but there is enough value here that I can establish an open tab for you and your companions. I’ll return the value of any difference tomorrow on your departure, if that is acceptable?”
“Certainly, Mr Semosse.”
“Good, lets get you straightened out shall we.”
Their belongings were taken to their room and any clothing they wanted cleaned was taken by one of the staff. Adwin made sure the horses would be well taken care of, including having a farrier see to their hooves and paid out of his own funds for shoes for all four. They sat out back waiting for Tipper and had a couple mugs of beer. When she had not appeared Mokha suggested they head to the public bath across the way, they left a message for Tipper.
The public bath was moderately busy, perhaps forty people. The staff was polite and Mokha paid for the pair of them up front. Adwin was surprised by the bath, the running water splashing down into a shallow pool where they rinsed the worst of the grime from their bodies, the common pool was deep enough to swim in and large enough not to be crowded, the alcoves where the water was kept hot and six people could sit at their ease in a shallow tub. The stone work and the building’s pillars also amazed him, as well the sky light in the ceiling.
Then Mokha had the staff take them into the back where they were massaged with fine oils, their hair trimmed, beards shaved, toe nails and finger nails clipped and filed. Adwin wondered if everyone in GreensBridge lived this way. They were done before the sun had set, yet Tipper had not joined them.
Out in front of Galleen’s Bathhouse they stood and watched as people came and went, lamps were being lit and hung from poles along the street and many houses and businesses also were lighting lamps. There was no sign that people would be slowing their activity as darkness settled around the village. Adwin just stood and watched it all, wide eyed and full of wonder.
“Did you want to walk around? Many of the shops will be open for a while yet and there’s likely a bizarre or market that stays open late. Or we can go back to the tavern, I’ve paid for an evening meal?”
“Ah.” Adwin’s attention was on all the people coming and going, the bright colours of their clothing and strange fashions. Music, laughter, loud conversations and even a distant argument could be heard.
Mokha waved a hand in front of Adwin’s face, “Are you alright?”
“Is this a festival?”
Mokha looked around to double check and tried to sort out the date in his head, “I don’t think so.”
“Do people sleep here?”
“What’s this all about? Look at all the lamps. That’s a lot of oil, surely they don’t do this every night. Do they?”
“Well, likely not so much through the winter. This village likely serves as a trade hub to the main city. Merchants from all over come to sell their goods to the merchants here, who in turn transport the goods to their interests in the city.”
“Wow, everyone is so rich.”
“We should likely go to the tavern, see if Tipper is there, maybe eat.”
“Let us be about it then.”
The tavern was busier. Two other musicians were playing, lute and a low toned flute, they played just loud enough to be heard over the mummer of conversation. There were a couple of staff waiting on the guests and clearing tables in addition to the woman at the taps. Mokha found a table and ordered food and drink for three while Adwin went up to check if Tipper was in the room.
Mokha enjoyed the ambience and nursed his drink while watching the interactions of the folks at the nearer tables. He felt good, it was nice being back in civilized lands. The food arrived as Adwin returned with Tipper in tow. She too had cleaned up and was wearing a simple tunic and skirts, her hair was down. She scanned the room, taking particular note of who might be sitting at her back.
Mokha gestured to the small feast set before them, “Relax Tipper. Enjoy the bounty we have before us, eat and drink your fill.”
She frowned at him, “I’m not one for crowds.”
Adwin piped up, “They have street lamps and the businesses stay open and Mokha says there’s a market that would be open all night. Oh, what’s this it smells great.” He started into the food with curious abandon, sampling everything he had never seen before.
Mokha asked Tipper, “Well, you’re not one for crowds, yet you’re heading to the biggest city in the FreeHolds. How’s that going to work for you through the winter?”
“I’m here looking for information. So I expect to be mostly at the university or the Arcanium.” She sniffed at her plate and looked at the cutlery.
“Good luck getting into the Arcanium, guild members only.”
She picked up one of the forks and sampled some vegetables, surprise replacing the alert distrust. “That’s good.”
“I spent some time at the university’s library and I’d surely love to get into the Arcanium, though I did try last winter to no avail.”
“So when you say, guild only? You mean?”
“Mages guild, the same organization the maintains the Arcanium and enforces the laws regarding magic in the city.”
“So you have to be a wizard or some such?”
He nodded, “And a resident or have been borne in the city.”
“I thought the Arcanium was part of the university?”
“More or less, many of the guild members teach at the university.”
“What’s an Arcanium?” Adwin asked around a mouthful of food.
“Well the easiest way to describe it would be to say that its a sanctuary for mages and a museum of sorts for artifacts of power.”
“That’s neat, so there are a lot of mages in GreensBridge?”
“Quite a few yes, and the Arcanium is rumoured to have a vast collection of artifacts from around the world, many dating back to the time of the Eldra.”
“The guys that built GreensBridge?”
They ate in silence for a while, Mokha ordered another round of drinks for the table.
After a while Tipper said, “This is really good Mokha, but what’s it going to cost us.”
“I’ve covered our stay.”
She seemed a bit abashed, “Well, that’s nice of you. Thank you.”
When the main meal had been consumed Mokha ordered sweet tarts and a plate of soft cheese, as well another round of beer. He also inquired if Khulmah was available and was happy to hear they did offer two different types, on from the Tannican quarter of the city the other imported from West Port. He ordered a pot for the table.
When the Khulmah arrived the other two looked curious, the strong smell of the warmed alcohol enough to distract Adwin from the sweet tarts. Mokha ladled out three cups and passed two to the others. They sniffed at the drinks, Adwin wrinkled his nose a bit, Tipper tilted her head to one side her expression curious.
Mokha raised his cup, “A toast to the two of you, fine travel companions. Adwin to your friendship and Tipper for your protection along the way.” He downed the thick warm drink in one gulp.
They followed suit, Adwin twisting his face and gulping some beer while Tipper seemed pleasantly surprised. She looked at the cup and then to Mokha, “That’s good.”
They ate dessert and drank more beer with shots of Khulmah interspersed. Adwin seemed not to like the warm Tannican liqueur sliding his cup to Tipper after his second drink. Mokha and she finished off the pot. By this point most of the other patrons had finished meals or sat with tasty treats and enjoyed the music. A couple more entertainers arrived, some of the patrons left and the two minstrels that had been playing took a break, heading to the taps to refill their mugs.
“I’d like to walk around the village,” Adwin suggested, “maybe go to the market?”
Mokha nodded, “Sure, what about you Tipper?”
She smiled, “Lets go, a walk sounds nice.”