Dohpoora Courtyard had been interesting, but the old lady had not been at the fountain telling stories when Adwin had been there. One of the local youth had been talkative and she had informed Adwin that Heklertha typically came to the fountain sometime after midday. If the weather was fair the storyteller might stay and tell stories well into the evening, though in the winter or if the weather was wet or overly windy she would stay long enough for one or two stories and then returned to her home. Adwin had asked the girl if she knew any of the stories and she replied that she knew most of them and had listened to the old woman’s stories nearly every day of her life. Adwin then asked about the specific story he was interested in and the girl immediately became indignant and accused him of being some kind of pervert.
Taken aback, Adwin tried to assure her that he was no such thing, “I’m just really interested in stories about the world trees.”
She gave him a skeptical look, “Right. Well, Heklertha is very old and finds the winters difficult. If you come back again, bring a large basket of food and a generous pouch of coin.”
“I will, in four days. I’ll be back. Also, I’m not sure why you think the request was of a perverted or sexual nature, but I assure you my intentions are not whatever you assume.”
She smirked and blushed a bit, “Yeah, well, let’s see if you’re back here in four days.”
The girl had left him by the fountain and he stood there for a while longer, just to make sure the old lady was in fact unlikely to show up this early in the day. He noted that the fountain was still full of water yet absent of ice. Three and four story, grey stone buildings ran along the edge of the fountain courtyard and along all the adjoining streets. The dwarven crafted architecture was sturdy, the facades accented with red and black stone around quality glass windows and the door frames. Everything was clean, there was no smell of coal and only a bit of wood was being burnt. He was pretty sure most of the buildings were actually venting steam and steam also come up from a few of the sewer grates along the side streets. Adwin suspected that there must be one ore more underground boilers and extensive plumbing running under this section of the city. As folks passed by he gave a nod or smiled and unlike the busier sections of the city most of the folk returned the courtesy. After a while he left, heading out along one of the side roads and then along a nearby commons. Many blocks later he left the grey buildings behind and was sure he felt a drop in the ambient temperature.
He passed through an area with Eldra stone work; streets, structures, fountains and statuary all seemed pristine. More modern sections of the city could be seen around the area, they all seemed to be at somewhat higher elevations relative to this older section. People mostly seemed to be passing through, many of these buildings seemed to have been converted into shrines or drinking halls. A large circular structure, adorned with statues all around its facade, was in the centre of the area, it seemed to be a theatre. A large sign boasted the best entertainment nightly, the place seemed to be named GoldHaven, but the script was an archaic form he had not seen before, it might have been LightHaven. Adwin also noted that this area still had numerous of the ancient light globes that were once throughout the city. He climbed a narrow stairwell between two of the old buildings and found himself in familiar territory.
He followed the wide street that circled the central area of the city, often called the grove, walled off with no apparent gate or entrance. It was here that he had seen the world tree before and even when there was no world tree visible, the place had been left to go wild and great old trees of all sorts grew here. He followed the street around until he was along the southeast side of the grove and took an alleyway between a series of old warehouses until he came out into a busy mercantile and residential area.
A block later Adwin came to Breatta’s Breakfast Diner, one of Mokha’s favourite places in the city. Here one could get breakfast any time on any given day, they offered a wide variety of breakfast foods from most of the major cultures of the northern continent. They also had a really impressive water clock in the main entrance, Adwin knew he had arrived early so decided to sit and watch the clock for a while. Over the last couple of months he had developed a better understanding of time and why people cared about an hourly count to the day. Yet when he thought about it, sometimes he figured city folk spent too much time worrying about time.
Surprisingly Mokha was not late, showing up at the main entrance a bit over an hour after Adwin, “Good morning my friend.”
Adwin pointed at the clock, “Almost the sixth hour of the day, so not morning for much longer. But yes, good morning.”
“Should we find a table?”
They found a table in a back corner of the upper dining room, this level was used less than the lower level dining room and offered a bit more privacy for conversation. Which, given the nature of their discussion, was a good thing. After they had ordered their meals and received a carafe of coffee and glassed, served in the Tannican style, Adwin asked how things had been going with Mokha.
“I guess I can’t really complain.” Mokha replied after sipping some coffee.
“The eldest daughter still after you?”
Mokha laughed, “Yes, the second oldest as well now, not to mention the wife and sometime the sister in law.”
“And the merchant?”
“No, he seems uninterested.”
Adwin laughed, “I meant has he picked up on the fact?”
“Oh, well, I don’t think so. But, regardless I’m still avoiding such entanglements, as it could be very bad for my long term employment with the family.”
“Well, that’s likely smart.”
“What about you? Any luck with that senior scribe you were talking about? You seemed interested last time we talked.”
Adwin blushed a bit and shook his head, “No. I really don’t see her outside of work and I don’t think she’d be interested.”
Their waiter showed up and placed their food on the table and left them to their conversation.
Adwin took the opportunity to change the track of the discussion, “So any problems with folks giving you a hard time for your Tannican ancestry?”
“A bit, but I don’t wander around too much outside of well travelled areas. I had heard of a family had been driven from their home in the Inner Quarter, things became pretty violent and rumour has it a couple of them were killed. For the most part the last couple of eight-days have been calmer, though the Tannican District remains volatile and the bridge and gates remain closed.”
“So, where are we with the Fingures? Still able to scry on Celestial and Raven?
“Yes, and Nasty and the two guys who were with Celestial last time we ran into her. Have you had any further troubles with them?”
“Surprisingly not, in fact almost nothing.”
“I think I might know why; I’ve notice that the two ladies are somehow coming and going from the Tannican District, so they are likely smuggling.”
“They did promise a reckoning for what we did to them. Though maybe with how things are now they’ll leave us alone.”
“I don’t think that’s likely Adwin. Crime families don’t tend to forget who wronged them or who stands up against them. The present situation just means that there is money or favour to be had now, doing what they are doing, in the Tannican District. When the Fingures have normalized their present activities then their attention will turn our way once again.”
“So now what then? I mean, I’ve not retrieved my hat and I don’t think we’ve taken back an equivalent value compared to what they had taken from us originally. Though I do think it’s pretty funny we robbed them and made them walk home naked. So, maybe the balance has been struck? If we leave well enough alone, maybe they’ll do the same.”
“I’d be surprised if that happened. Really at this point I’d expect them to knife us in a dark alley and then string us up as a message to others who might think to stand against them. I really think, regardless if we continue our activities against them or not, that they will come for us. So at this point I think we should carry on.”
“So? More observation on the tavern?”
“Well, maybe more than that, with their new levels of activities in the Tannican District we may be able to slip into the tavern for a more direct look at their operation there. Sneaky-like of course.”
“What about their mage?”
“Well, I’m not even totally sure there is a mage. As I said before, it could be some enchantment on the building or an artifact that blocks me from scrying them there.”
“Sure, but you said it’s likely a powerful mage.”
Mokha shrugged, “It seems the case, but we won’t know until we really get a good look around.”
Adwin studied his friend’s face for a moment, “You seem more interested in this now than you were before. What’s changed?”
Mokha smiled with a very self-satisfied expression, “We’ve already agitated the bees, we know we’re likely to get stung, I think we should make sure we get the honey.”
Adwin sat back and looked at Mokha. His friend resumed his meal, finishing with another glass of thick coffee. Adwin knew that his friend could hide them from being scried, not an entire building as in the case of the people they were now thinking about robbing, but enough that a mage would not be able to easily trace them. He also wondered what Tipper would think, likely she would accuse them of being foolish.
Mokha finished his coffee and set the glass down then used a napkin to wipe his face and hands, “My guess is that all the buildings on the tavern property are connected with underground passages. The barn is likely the easiest way to get in. So we wait until it gets dark then quietly take a look around. If I’m wrong about a connecting passageway between the buildings then we can withdraw. If we are successful then we can change our living situations and hide out somewhere pleasant for the winter.”
“Alright then, but I seriously want my hat back.”
Mokha smirked, “You really like that hat.”
“Dawdwin made it for me. It was his last gift to me. It reminds me of him.”
“Fair enough. Now that we’ve decided on that, I suggest we take the rest of the afternoon and visit the Tearlong Bathhouse. I’ve heard great things about the place.”