Getting a sitar for Mokha had been more difficult than he had expected. He had heard of a well known luthier who lived in the Tannican District. Getting there had been the easy part, despite the local Tannican population being in a state of rebellion. They had seized control of the bridges leading onto the island that was the Tannican District, though, certain people in the know were able to get stuff to or from the island. His boss Addath had been one of those people and using company assets she had gone over with him.
The difficulty had been with the luthier who had initially refused to sell a sitar to a freeholder who could not possibly understand the significance of such a sacred instrument. It turned out the man was himself an Aggedrah. So Adwin had told him that he was buying the instrument for an Aggedrah friend of his. Then he was required to prove that he did in fact know an Aggedrah and surprisingly the man knew Mokha Nathorah. Thankfully at the mention of Moddar Ponh, Harrahk of the Mountain Leaf and Shak he was able to convince the man that any sitar he purchased, would in fact go to someone who did understand the significance.
Of the instruments available, off the shelf, three of them were of plainer and supposedly more sturdy construction and a travel case could also be bought. Each of the other three were increasingly more ornate and expensive. The most lavish one was inlaid with gold, made from exotic wood and other rare materials. Adwin was unsure if the man really intended to sell the instrument, or if it was just his masterpiece, kept to impress potential customers. Though Hehbohta of the Flying Chisel did claim that if he ever met the Empress he would gift it to her.
In the end, knowing Mokha intended to travel to Elquin when the snow cleared, Adwin opted for the travel case and chose the instrument with the least decoration, mostly because the instrument’s physical beauty was with the fine natural finish and the patterns of the wood grains. Mokha seemed to have become a bit obsessed with woodworking and different typed of wood recently.
Hehbohta was happy to haggle over the price and Adwin was able to get the man to include all the various accoutrements that went along with such a purchase. All together he paid twenty-two gold weight, which was less than the man had originally asked as his base price.
On their way back to the docks Addath stopped at a warehouse belonging to Rashammon. She was known there and took the opportunity to conduct a fair amount of business on behalf of the Roburns Trading Company, including rearranging their general business dealing out of Naskohn for the foreseeable future. Then she conducted her private business and bought some exotic liqueurs from Swampdon, as well as tobacco, hashish and some strange looking mushrooms. Since Adwin needed to secure more liquid assets he bought some khulmah and a large jug of spiced cider. Oddly they were very generous on the price and seemed pleased to meet him.
They hired a couple lads to help them carry their purchases and Addath lead him to the Low Docks, so called due to the fact the water was almost always a couple feet lower on the south side of the island. Adwin was having a hard time understanding how that worked, something to do with strong currents he guessed.
Along the way they had walked past the Cathedral of the Illuminated and as was the case every Yuletide, light shone brightly from its windows and high steeple turrets. Many Tannican folk were coming or going from the temple, seemingly in family groups for the most part. All were sombrely dressed in black clothing; the men were armed with heavy swords and the women wore veils across their faces. A dirge-like chant could be heard from within and the entire scene was weird to Adwin. It seemed Addath, whenever she was recognized, was not welcome. They quickly moved on.
Addath bribed the guards at the docks to gain access, then they met Heller and the two oarsmen over where most of the small craft were docked. They coasted out with the current and then the two oarsmen rowed with determination for a long while. They had been moving across the current and when they came up near the main island their speed dropped considerably. The men stopped rowing and let the river carry them to the South Docks. High above them the edifice of the East River Goddess towered and her temple was lit up as brightly as the Tannican Cathedral.
They hired a carriage and went to SkadWind. Addath dismissed Mr Heller, giving him a bottle of booze as he departed. Adwin went upstairs and retrieved everything that he was bringing and remembered to grab a change of clothes. Then he went looking for Addath and found her in the office, she was making a few notes regarding her recent dealing with the House of Rashammon.
“The carriage is waiting.”
“Yes, Adwin.” She made a couple more notations then gave her stylist a quick rinse. When she stood Adwin was surprised to see she was wearing a weapon, one of the Maldorn alchemical shooters. She removed the belt and holster and left the weapon hanging on the coat rack in the office, along with the long coat she had been wearing earlier. She adjusted her clothing, decided to redo one of her sleeves, making sure it was rolled to just below the elbow. Then she fussed with her hair a bit, “Alright, enough of this, let’s go meet your friends. We’ll see if I can remember how to be social with normal folks.”
“I don’t think they’re very normal.”
“Fair enough. I meant to say, let’s see if I can be social in a non-work related setting. Ah, I should bring extra cigarillos. I’m assuming, since your friend Mokha is Aggedrah, that he smokes?” She grabbed the box from her desk and then opened the drawer and took another box.
“Often.” Adwin made sure he had everything, then they headed back out.
The carriage ride was easier going by this point, many of the revellers had left the streets as the night became colder. They came to the better end of town, where the well-to-do and the city’s nobility had their homes. Larger properties with big houses, some of them almost palace-like. The streets were wider, more often lit up with the magic orbs, as were a few of the property gates. Some of the manors were dark, or mostly so, but the majority of them were well lit and in some cases even the surrounding property was well illuminated.
They pulled up in front of the Greensly manor, which was mostly dark, a small sheltered lamp burned near the gate and something similar was near the main entry. The windows were dark and to all appearances no one was home. After getting out of the carriage Adwin took a good look around the street, no one appeared to have followed them.
The teamster helped them unload their goods, Addath paid the man who advised them to stay sheltered and to have some fun during the Yule. Adwin wished him well, then the two of them picked up all they had brought and went to the main entry. It really seamed like no one was home. Adwin put a jug down and knocked. There was no answer.
Addath found a knocker to one side of the door and used it, it clunked loudly in the cold night. The house and yard remained quiet. Then just as Adwin was about to use the knocker himself he saw a bit of flickering light through the narrow window beside the door.
Two near adolescents, mask wearing youths in garish dresses answered the door, they waved their arms around causing the candles they carried to flicker, “Raaargh!”
Adwin smiled, “Hi, I’m here to see Mokha.”
“Raaargh! Not if evil spirits ye be!” Then the two of them burst into laughter and giggles.
Adwin replied, “We’re no ghosts nor wraiths. We come as friends seeking shelter through the darkest days.”
When they had contained themselves, one of them answered, “Then be welcome, enter and be safe.” They stepped to either side of the door allowing Adwin and his guest to pass.
They left the consumables downstairs and were shown to a room on the third level. Adwin left the gifts he had brought on one of the small beds, along with his change of clothing. Addath looked around the room, but said nothing. She left the small satchel she carried on the bed as well.
They were taken back downstairs and the four of them carried the beverages and foodstuff to the kitchen. There was already a lot of food, filling one of the kitchen’s large tables, including the sweet rolls, sour tarts and meat pies he had ordered from the Baker Brothers. It seemed there was ample drink as well.
“Nice spread.” Addath commented.
Adwin asked the closest youth, “Where is Mokha?”
The kid pointed to the other door across the kitchen, “Mr Mokha and Miss Calathy are down the hall. Past the pantry and work room. If he’s not in the baths then take a right up the narrow staircase, upstairs you will find a games room and a music room. They should be in one of those places.”
“Can you not take us to him?”
“Oh, no. We have been forbidden the back part of the house. And, tomorrow we get to go home?”
“Ah, I see?”
“Yes, Miss Calathy said so. Because we are the guardians of the door.”
“Well, thank you for your help, I’m sure we can find Mokha on our own.”
Addath and he found Mokha and his friend upstairs in the music room. They had been talking and when Addath and he appeared in the room the two of them jumped up, a bit surprised. “Adwin, you made it.”
“Well yes, I know I’m a day later than I said I’d be, work held us up. This is Addath. Addath this is Mokha and, um…”
“Calathy” Mokha provided.
“Nice to meet you.”
“Blessings of the season.”
Calathy asked, “Are you hungry?”
Adwin smiled, “I am. I think the last time I ate was around mid-day.”
“Oh, thank you Adwin, for all the baked goods. That frees up so much of my time. After the mornings cooking and baking, I’ll be letting the monsters go to their families. That will leave us the run of the place. Come along now, there’s no reason for you two to be hungry.” Calathy affectionately took him by the arm and walked him back to the kitchen.
Mokha asked Addath, “Do you play?”
“Not in years. I had a couple flutes when I was a child.”
“Well, if you feel like playing any of the instruments, go ahead.”
“Ah, thank you.”
Calathy started preparing some food for them as they sat around one of the tables, Mokha poured some drinks and they all raised their cups to the year’s ending. Then they ate. Calathy went to bed, as she would be getting up in a few hours to deal with the rest of the cooking. The other three retired to the games room, had drinks and smoked. Mokha and Addath played numerous games of stones and Adwin sat in a big comfy chair, content with a full belly.