The next day Adwin and Mokha headed out early. Tipper had offered to come with them but Adwin told her it was okay, they were just scouting out the situation. Really he did not want her to know they were also going to Roburns Shipping Company, especially after the disparaging comments she had made after seeing some of the flyers.
Mokha had assured him that he had recast the seeking spell, showing the long curled hair he had tucked away in one of the tiny boxes he had. Mokha had a lot of little boxes and small envelopes of paper, he said drugs usually came in them. He seemed surprised when he could sense that Raven was over on the northwest side of the island.
“Most of the time she’s been north central and mid island. Maybe she’s away from her friends or home, might be a good time to have a private talk with her.”
“Not sure how much running I’ll be able to do. Should we get the horses?”
“We can just rent a carriage. I know where they wait, though I’m not sure they’d be there this early. Lets check.”
There were carriages available and for three silver weight one of them was willing to take them up to the north end of the island. Adwin was amazed at the price but did not say anything. He was even more surprised to learn that there were streets designated for carriages and horses only. The teamster they had hired said something about fire wagons, but Adwin was unsure what he had meant. He kept quiet for most of the ride and enjoyed the sights.
The ride took them from the University District, through what the driver called the Inner Quarter, periodically when there was space between the buildings or walled grounds or a row of two story buildings, Adwin could see the thick forested area at the centre of the island. He could see a world tree in the direct centre, soaring as high as the great Eldra towers.
Mokha noticed it too, he was startled and exclaimed “Wow!”
The teamster looked back over his shoulder, “Something wrong?”
“That was not there last time!”
The driver slowed and looked around. “What do you mean friend?”
“That tree, has it always been there?”
“The trees yes, they have always been there.”
Adwin piped up, “Even the really big one?”
The driver flicked the reigns and said, “A lot of them trees are big sirs. The tall ironwood in the centre, is said to be nearly three hundred years old. It’s a little under sixty paces in height. Lord Probancruq has a small carriage built from the wood of that tree, shaped by mages, one of the most beautiful things I’d seen.”
Mokha and Adwin looked at each other as the man babbled on about the carriages of the various Councillors and Lords. They both looked back up at the heart tree, its reaching branches nearly covered half the city.
“We need to tell Tipper.” Adwin said.
A moment later the tree was gone. “I need to look into that.” said Mokha.
After many moments the teamster stopped talking about carriages and told them they were moving into the Artisan District, to their right the boulevard they were travelling along branched to a green stone bridge that over passed a vast water cistern. Large figures had been shaped into the sides of the bridge and the supporting pillars of that great arch were statues of four lordly ladies. Adwin wished they had gone over it.
Then they passed through the North Temple District, though there were only four temples here and one was not even truly a temple but a Monastery of Thray. The others were the High Temple of Mercy, a Temple of the War God Dovner who was also a god of justice and there was an older temple dedicated to the nine Eldra gods, much of that one was made of the same green stone of the original city.
The northern Eldra Tower started to dominate their forward view, it rose tall above the rest of the city, around it was a great paved circle, similar to the intersection they had seen coming off the bridge. The tower seemed to be in use, there was nearly as many people as when they had come off the bridge, but the flow of traffic was much different. This was an administrative hub, as well a transport terminus for the northwest part of the island, with roads and gates into the various districts.
The driver followed an outer right-of-way, again meant for carriages and horses, though they were often slowed and had to stop twice to let small throngs of people dash across the street. He saw that there were a few people in green uniforms, standing on small platforms, directing the traffic flow.
Then they were into the North Trade District, just south of the docks. To the east was a market the likes of which Adwin had never seen, but he was informed that the South Market was nearly twice as big. Further north a massive sign had been erected on the roof of a large warehouse, it was close to twenty paces high.
Roburns Trading Company.
“Biggest sign in the city, them Maldorn think they’re right smart with their signs and them flyers. Seems to be working though, the guilds are giving them a hard time, the Council is upset, some of the smaller shippers have moved on or gone out of business.”
“Is that actually where they are?” Adwin asked.
“Well ya, from that warehouse right down to the docks, in the last decade they’ve bought up a swath of properties half a yat wide and nearly a yat long. Not to mention a number of other properties across the city. To make it worse they have a no-never-mind attitude about tearing the old stuff down.”
Mokha suddenly asked the man to take the next right and they skirted the market for a while. The market was crowded with people from all walks of life and seemingly every culture he knew about and a few more besides, goblins, dwarves and humans. Tannican, Freeholds oldways and the new, the tribals, fair haired Elquin, Maldorn, and folks from the farsouth, Hapanni and Nargatheen according to Mokha. The colours and the noise, the different clothing, music and language, it all washed over him like a great voice in his mind and heart. He could not have imagined it, he was moved to tears.
Then Mokha said, “Stop, stop, stop, stop.” tapping the teamster’s shoulder, he paid the three silver and hopped out. Adwin followed.
Mokha darted across the street towards one of the buildings facing the market, he started up the stairs to the front door, but just as quickly turned around and came back down. He had nearly run into Adwin.
Then he looked down an alley, “This way, she’s close.”
They made their way down the narrow alley, which dropped a level after a few dozen paces. Mokha raced down the narrow stairs pointing to the building to his right. Mokha hopped onto the roof and approached a small door on the upper back part of the building, Mokha continued down the steps and entered through a side door. Adwin listened at the door, he could hear a struggle inside, muffled shouts from a woman, a child crying.
Adwin opened the door and stepped in, he could not see well in the comparative dimness, though he could make out a large man in the centre of the room, a woman pinned on the low table in front of him. The child sounded like he was in the corner of the room on the other side of the man.
The big guy looked up at Adwin, “What—!” Adwin slammed into him, momentum carrying them into the wall. The man grunted and grabbed Adwin, bodily picked him up and threw him into the centre of the room, Adwin crashed into the table, the woman screamed and rolled out of the way. Adwin half rolled, half skidded into the door.
“Who are you?” The big guy asked.
Adwin stood up, “Names Adwin, from Hadden’s Fort. Who are you?”
Adwin rushed him again, ducked to one side of a punch and grabbed the man’s arm and kept running into the hall beyond. The man could not turn fast enough and Adwin slammed the arm into the door frame staggering into the hallway and nearly pitching over the railing that guarded a narrow stairwell.
From below he could hear Raven cursing at Mokha and another man shouting.
The big guy came through the door and Adwin dropped in front of the man’s feet, he pitched into the railing and with a loud crack of breaking wood fell into the stairwell. Adwin grabbed one of the supports from the railing, jumped down onto the man and stated beating him about the head and shoulders. The bigger man fended off most of the blows with one arm and tried to shift his weight, he seemed stuck.
Raven let out a horrified shriek and Adwin could smell burning hair, and the unknown man said, “Got her.”
Adwin kept raining blows onto the man until the stick suddenly broke, a quick moment later Nasty finally shifted his weight and rolled down the stairs, unbalancing Adwin so he had to jump to the lower floor.
Mokha and the other man had Raven in hand, her hair had been scorched to the skull on one side of her head, the smell of it strong in the air. Mokha shouted to the man Adwin was fighting. “That’s enough or I slit this bitches throat.”
A heavy bed pan was flung from above and struck the big man atop the head.”Alright! Enough. Gods.”
The man holding Raven, “Who are you people?”
“My name is Adwin.”
Mokha did not offer his name, “Who are you? Is this your place?”
“No, it is my bother’s. My name is Hadrim, I deal in old artifacts, a treasure hunter you might say.”
Mokha still seemed cautious, “What is your business with these two.”
“Well I met her a couple of evenings ago and we got along very well. She was curious about the things I hunted for and I had offered to show her if she would come for tea here at my brothers. Why are you after her?”
“She and a friend of hers robbed us a few days back.” Adwin said.
“Oh, I see. Lady has some issues it seems. What did you intend to do with her?”
“Well, I was hoping to get our stuff back. What do you say Raven? Feel like returning what you stole from us.?”
She spat on the floor, glared at Mokha who still held a knife near her throat.
Adwin turned to the big guy, “Nasty, take off you belongings and strip.”
“My friend is very okay with killing Miss Raven. I suggest you drop your stuff, lose the clothing and get out of here.”
Nasty looked to Raven who gave a slight nod, “Do it.”
When he was gone Adwin turned back to Raven, “Strip off your stuff, lose the clothing and get out of here.”
She laughed, though being mindful of the knife hovering near her throat she followed his orders. She was carrying a surprising number of knives, mostly small and balanced for throwing, a set of small tools in addition to the usual things a person might have one them.
She paused at the door and turned to them, unabashed “You’ll regret this. If you had been smart you would have let it go.”
Adwin pointed, “Get.”
With Hadrim’s blessing they gathered what the thieves had dropped and placed it in a small sack. They bid Hadrim and his sister-in-law a good day and headed back to the market.
End of Cycle 1