FreeHolds Adventure, Cycle 2 Part 7c

FreeHolds Adventure, Cycle 2 Part 7c

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The end of the eight-day came, seemingly in a flash. Adwin was busy through the days with the usual work and meetings, as well, two of the evenings he had gone to dinners with important clients. Addath had somehow forgotten that he was actually going to take a day off and slotted a mid-day meeting with one of the property owners. Feeling somewhat taken for granted he had declined the meeting and suggested Addath could handle things herself.

It was unacceptable that he had not yet gone to see his friends, at least as far as he was concerned. Mokha had been abducted and Tipper nearly died in the attempt to rescue him. Granted, there was no opportunity to see them during the time they had initially been in custody, but it had been over three eight-days since he could have gone to see them.

To be fair, he had tried twice, but both times important people had come forward for one reason or another and the business needed him present during those meetings. He had sent notes to cancel and apologize to his companions both times, promising he would see them soon. So today, regardless of SkadWind’s requirements, he was taking the afternoon to see his friends.

The other thing that was bothering him was Addath’s insistence that he go in a carriage with a security detail. Ever since Mokha’s latest mishap with the Fingures, Addath had been resolute on increased security measures. Which meant that if he was outside of SkadWind or the company warehouse, he had extra people nearby seeing to his well being. Even during his off time. He was no longer free to wander the city; Addath and Heller were supposed to know where and when he was out and about.

The carriage slowly traversed the length of the island, regular snowfall had many of the back streets either partially or completely blocked with piles of snow. Any of the roadways not magically enchanted to remove the accumulation had layers of compressed ice and snow, mixed liberally with refuse. GreensBridge was much less pretty at street level, during the winter. Eventually they came to a stop in front of Hearts Nook. It was a sunny, cold winter’s day with a fair wind from the north. Though he could have walked here faster than the carriage had brought him, he had at least been sheltered from the wind.

The first thing he noticed was the front of the Cafe, Mokha had been correct about the quality and craft that had gone into the creation of the building’s facade. As promised, it was just as beautiful inside and Adwin had to pause a moment to take it all in.

Mokha was on the small stage sitting on a rug, cross legged. He was playing a lute Adwin had never seen him with before and singing softly, just under the general sound of conversation. Those sitting closest to the stage seemed intent on the performer. Other people were eating lunch, most of the clients seemed young and well dressed. In a partially divided side room he could see students sitting in booths, most of them seemed engaged in their academics. He noted the establishment burnt good quality wood and the smells from the kitchen were delicious. His stomach grumbled.

An attractive woman approached and asked him where he would like to sit. When he indicated he was here to see Mokha and another friend she smiled, “You must be Master Adwin of SkadWind.”

“Ah, yes. Adwin, is fine though.”

She offered to take his cloak and he passed it to her, along with his fur mittens and hat. Then she smiled and said, “Follow me, Mokha had reserved one of the private dining areas. Your friend Tipper is already present.”

He followed her to the back of the partitioned room and went upstairs where he discovered a well lit gaming room and a few people sitting at a table playing cards. Past this room towards the back of the building there were four private dining rooms. She went to the first door on the left side and opened it for him. He felt weird when she respectfully bowed her head as he entered.

Tipper laughed. She had been standing in front of a tall window that overlooked the street below and the western side of the campus. She gave him a hug. He could not help but give her a critical look and check to make sure she was still intact. The story he had heard from Heller and some of the others who had arrived after Tipper’s latest rampage had been startling.

She gave him a push, “Stop that, I’m fine.”

The host cleared her throat, “Is there anything you require?”

They looked at her, Adwin said, “I’d like a mead and some cheese.”

Tipper waved a dismissive hand. The woman smiled and left. Adwin sighed and slouched against the table, “I don’t think I like being a wealthy business man.”

“You’re not even, besides, you’ve been chasing money ever since we arrived.”

“Well, not just. Not at first anyway.”

She gave him that look he disliked, but he paused to consider why. “I mean, aside from the fact we chased Celestial and Raven into the city.”

“That was you. I was otherwise occupied.”

Adwin stood straight and rolled his shoulder’s out, “Seriously though, I’m having a hard time accepting the excess of my present life-style.”

She clasped his shoulder and with a friendly smile, “No sane person would be comfortable wasting resources. Money makes a lot of folks mad. Mad as a hatter, that is.”

“I know. I see it every day. So, really, are you alright?”

“Yes, thanks to the Arcanium and Heller and his bunch. Thanks for that by the way.”

“No problem. Addath was really upset with me; apparently there are limits within the city’s laws regarding what you can do with private security forces.”

“Well, I’m glad you did so. Thanks. I’d even say that makes us even?”

“You mean from back when you saved me from the goblins?”

“More or less.”

“I’d say a little less than more.”

“Still.”

“Alright then. Though I’m seriously going to train with you during the trip back to Kaymere.”

Tippers brow wrinkled slightly.

“Something wrong?”

“Maybe. My bumbling efforts have lead to the Arcanium taking a renewed interest in the ruins. There’s talk of sending an expedition there in the spring.”

“What are you going to do?”

“Get there first.”

“Ah.”

“They will send a group of mages, some scribes and labourers. That sort of expedition needs a lot of support, which will mean six or so wagons and a bunch more people. They’d be travelling a yateer every two days on the good roads. They might not make it to Kaymere before the second month of summer, if it’s a wet spring.”

“So is that why you don’t want Calathy to come with us?”

“In part, Adwin. I know you like her and I think she’s great. The truth is though, she has no experience, she is neither hunter nor soldier and until recently her life revolved around one house.”

“She could cook for us along the way.”

“I’m not seeing many cooked meals during the spring trip.”

Then Mokha arrived, followed by some waitstaff. Mokha grabbed Adwin and gave him a big hug. “I’m glad to see you.”

Adwin laughed and hugged him back. “I was worried sick.”

Laughing, Mokha said, “Not so much so that you came running when you heard the news.”

“I tried, but I was about to close a couple of deals when I found out Tipper had run off to rescue you. I sent out the company security team, caught some trouble for that. Then you guys were being detained and there was a lot of work falling in line as various Fingures’ operations were being dismantled by the Arcanium. ”

“I know, I know. I’m teasing.” He gave him another squeeze, “Let’s eat.”

The staff had left a table laden with food and drink, the three of them sat around one end and ate in companionable silence for a while. After he had sampled a bit of everything, Adwin asked Mokha, “Do you work here now?”

“I do.”

“Is it better than working for Lord Greensly?”

“In so many ways.”

“Has he returned to the city yet?”

“Yes, just a couple of days ago, from what I was told he was none too happy.”

“I wouldn’t be either, if I was in his shoes.”

“I have to admit, there’s a part of me that wishes I’d been able to see his return. Just to have seen the look of indignation on his face.”

“I noticed the lute. Is it new?”

“New to me. I won it in a wager I’d offered the owner of the establishment.”

“Oh?”

“As well, it’s how I ended up working here. Dios was none too interested in hiring me at first. I’d been in his office, where he had the lute and a couple of other instruments, trying to convince him of a few improvements to his establishment. The short version of the story is straight forward. As I said, he was not that interested in most of what I had to say and while he was willing to take me on as a musician, he only intended to give me one night an eight-day at first.

“So, I wagered him the lute against a months work and a couple baubles I had. If during the month I was able to double his daytime business, between my suggestions and my entertaining, then I I’d get employment for the remainder of my stay in the city. And, the lute of course.”

“So it happened like you thought it would?”

“More or less, the less being he was adamant about not having scantily clad dancers serving his customers. The rest of it went pretty much as planned, I showed the staff how to make real coffee and how to properly serve it and there are performers here throughout the afternoons now. Mostly me for the first couple of eight-days, but now that I’ve proven my case he’s hired a couple more.”

“Two eight-days, that’s all it took? Did you use magic to entice people to the bar?”

“No, besides I don’t know the kind of magic you’re suggesting and the Arcanium would have put a quick end to such a scheme. They watch me closely these days.”

“I bet. How did you do it?”

“I borrowed an idea from your employer. I had a thousand flyers printed and instead of dropping them from an airship I convinced Tipper and Setta to help me pass them out. It took a couple of days to do that, but there was a noticeable increase in traffic here shortly after. Then the rest was pretty easy. Good music and stories are always appreciated, good coffee and food as well.”

“Wow, so before this, how many people did Dios have coming in through the day?”

“Well, they would have a bit of a lunch crowd, but then not much until evening. Now students come to study and swill coffee throughout the day and many come just to see me play. Starting next eight-day I’ll only be working six of eight, from the twelfth hour through until the eighteenth.”

They finished their meal and sat back enjoying mugs of hot coffee, Mokha spent some time talking about some of his new friends. Especially an alchemist he had met before the yuletide. Apparently she had inadvertently designed a new potion that Mokha was very fond of. It was called flow and had came about as a result of the student in question trying to make a concoction that would help people study. To Adwin, it sounded like a fair number of the people coming to the cafe were here for the flow, as much as anything else that was being offered.

Tipper took the time to inform him that she was in fact looking for weapons and magic to kill a drake that had been found sleeping in a ruins within the borders of Darner’s hold. Adwin had thought that she was joking at first, but apparently she had to confess to the Arcanium why she had such a keen interest in Kaymere. She thought the two of them should know as well, though she asked them both not to tell others. Adwin was startled by the revelation; it put a lot of what Tipper had not been talking about into perspective.

All too quickly their time together was done. Tipper was going to return to her studies, Mokha had to work. Adwin was able to slip away from his security detail by using the back entrance which was below the private dining rooms. He crossed the street and spent the afternoon exploring the campus, he thought the library was amazing. He never, ever, imagined there were so many books in the world.

 

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