FreeHolds Adventure, Cycle 2 Part 8b

FreeHolds Adventure, Cycle 2 Part 8b

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The Lamplighter’s Hall was nearly always busy. The Lamplighters were so much more than just lamplighters, they were involved in nearly all aspects of the city’s maintenance. They certainly did go around the city and activate the magical light orbs, but they also oversaw the vast majority of the city’s magical upkeep and worked hand in hand with the various guilds that dealt with the mundane equivalents. Whether is was garbage removal, the sewers, freshwater supply, fire fighting, food storage, street repair, maintaining the ancient structures of the Ellordran or planning and advising on future building projects, the Lamplighters were either implicated or wholly responsible. They also worked with the city guard to patrol streets, as informants, and sometimes aided them in tracking down criminals. Within the Arcanium they regularly worked with the Enchanters and often, the Warders.

As an institution they were generally well regarded by most folks. Many within the Lamplighters were well educated, there were engineers, alchemists, architects and even a few medical doctors. They had their own smiths, masons, carpenters, potters and glassblowers. Aside from the main hall near the university grounds, there were four lesser halls around the city and each of the Marches had a hall. They were the most publicly identifiable branch of the Arcanium and the most numerous.

Their motto, Service For All, was appropriate.

Yet, people being people, there were times when the various guilds they worked with were less than happy with them, typically because said guilds felt their people would be better employed and better paid if the Lamplighters stayed out of their areas of expertise. Then there were the people who thought the Lamplighters did not do enough in a general sense and also periodic cases where citizens blamed them for things beyond their control. More recently the Lamplighters were suffering low moral and general dissatisfaction about their disposition within the Arcanium and the city in general.

While, Service For All, was a noble sentiment, when it was combined with the Arcanium’s rules restricting its active members from charging for their services, many felt they were over worked and underappreciated. Certainly under compensated.

Mokha had learned most of this from Nox over the past seven eight-days. He and Tipper were required to check in with him daily, Tipper usually saw him before dawn when the hall was at its lowest point of activity, while Mokha typically met with him in the early hours of the new day, after he was done at Hearts Nook. Nox and Tipper had generally kept things short and simple, however, the Lamplighter seemed to have taken a liking to him and would usually sit and chat while they had a drink and smoked. Mokha was not sure if Nox slept, certainly, if he did, it was not very much.

Nox was personable, well educated, fairly powerful and knowledgeable in the arcane arts. He was also a good conversationalist. Even with the present dissatisfaction within the Lamplighters, Nox seemed well regarded by his people. Surprisingly, he had even decided to hold a vote amongst the membership as to whether or not they were going to have a general strike, in the hopes of gaining them some equity. After all, even the despised goblin workers for the sewers and garbage collection made more than his people did. So, he felt some changes were long over due. Changes for the Lamplighters and also changes within the Arcanium in general.

Then there was Ide. Ide Yette was Nox’s senior apprentice, technically an adept, though that term was no longer used by most of the Arcanium. Ide was young, opportunistic, full of ambition, stylish and attractive. Mokha thought he might have made a good Aggedrah, though he was not sure he was a good fit for the Arcanium.

Ide often came by the Hearts Nook to keep an eye on Mokha and to make sure he was following the strictures of his probation. He was also one of Tangia’s best customers for her Flow potions. He also never seemed to be short on weight, despite being a junior member of the least paid group of people in the city.

They were sitting in one of the booths at Hearts Nook, towards the back of the partitioned room. Tangia had just left the two of them and Ide had bought a half dozen flow potions from her. Too curious, by this point, Mokha asked him, “You must make a good return on reselling those.”

Ide put his coffee down and smiled at Mokha, “Sure, though I only sell half of them and the markup is good, but not enough to keep me in good shoes.”

Mokha wondered about his meaning, Ide wore well made boots, maybe shoes was something he wore in finer weather. “Well, you never seem to be shy on weight, your clothing is well made and you seem to own at least a couple of magical artifacts. Are you from money?”

“Hah, hardly. I was born in the Grey District, but even before I knew I was a mage, I had figured out how to make weight.”

“You’re fortunate then. From what I can tell, most folk born in the Grey District also die in the Grey District.”

“Lack of ambition and will on their part. I know plenty of people from the Grey that did alright for themselves.”

Mokha gave him a skeptical look, “I’ve known lots of people born into poverty or the lower castes, almost none of them ever get a chance move beyond that. While dedication and hard work are helpful, they usually don’t get a person out of poverty. You, for example, were found to be a mage, so here you are, rubbing elbows with the well-to-do. Most people don’t have such an advantage. Yet you say, you had figured it out before you knew you were a mage.”

“Ah yes, I’m sure you are aware that the Lamplighters only receive room and board and a small stipend for their service?”

“Very well informed by this point, Master Nox has brought it up regularly over the last few eight-days.”

Ide rolled his eyes, “Master Nox is a politician, good at what he does, but politicians are the middlemen. Typically sycophants to the rich. I intend to be the rich and maybe even Grand Magus of the Arcanium.”

“Well, Ide. I’d guess that being Grand Magus is a lot of politics. Regardless, you still haven’t answered my question. Reselling a few potions isn’t what brings you your weight. How do you do it?”

He looked around the room, to make sure they had their privacy, “Well Mokha, in a city where magical artifact are plentiful and mostly illegal, there is a lot of weight to be made in their redistribution. Not to mention offering the service of identifying such items.”

Mokha was impressed. Though, he was also suspicious, was this some cunning trap Nox and his apprentice had connived?

Ide smiled at him, “So, if you stumble across something and you’re looking to turn it over to the Arcanium, come see me first. I offer much better rates than the Arcanium.”

“Ah, I see. Well, I’ll keep that in mind.” Now he was almost certain this was a test or a trap, but a sudden disturbance from the front of the cafe drew their attention.

The handsome hostess, he had met the first time he came to Hearts Nook, Erbro, exclaimed loudly, “There’s a bunch of troublemakers out front! They’ve surrounded our new performers, looks like they’re pushing for a fight.”

There were angry exclamations from the staff, the customers by the front windows peered outside. Mokha rose to his feet, saying to Ide, “I have to deal with this.”

Ide was quick to follow him, saying, “You can’t go out front Mokha, you know your restrictions.”

“Yeah, well, we’ll see.” A number of people were heading outside, he could hear some shouting and cat-calls.

One of the customers by a window said, “Looks like Jolka and his crew.”

Mokha had to wait for the others going through the door ahead of him, Ide grabbed his shoulder, “Seriously, you have a good thing here, let me handle this.”

Dios came from out back, he paused behind the counter and grabbed an old table leg he used as a club. He went over the counter and ran for the door. Some of the staff and customers had crowded around the windows, Mokha stepped aside as Dios rushed passed, other customers were also going outside. Mokha stopped and glared at Ide.

Shouting and curses came from a gaggle of people who were engaged in a street brawl. Other citizens were calling for the guards and many were gathered, calling encouragement to the people fighting. Mokha caught a glimpse of Sefla, she took a fist to the face and fell down, lost to sight. Dios pushed his way through the spectators.

Ide made a gesture and mumbled a few arcane words, then he shoved Mokha into Erbro and was gone through the door. Erbro managed to catch Mokha who would have fallen otherwise. The hostess looked pale and scared, “Are you alright?”

Mokha did not answer, but stepped to the door. Dios had grabbed one of the instigators and had dragged him out of the fight as he smacked the man a couple of times with his club. Ide, moved past the spectators, twice as fast as he should have been moving, then he raced around the melee, tripping people and yanking a couple of them back from the fight.

From two different directions the town guard could be heard approaching, their shrill whistles caused some of the spectators to make themselves scarce, while most of the others moved back from the fight. Dios planted his foot into the man’s backside and sent him staggering towards Mokha, “Make sure he’s around when the guards show up. He’s the usual ringleader for this crew.”

Mokha’s attention was elsewhere though, he continued to watch as Ide ran around the edge of the fight. In the time it had taken Dios to speak, Ide had done a full circuit of the melee and sent a number of people stumbling one way or another. A trip for one, a shove for another, pulled a cloak over one fellow’s head, then knocked a young woman backwards over one of her companions. Mokha could now see Sefla, being kicked repeatedly by a burly man, one of her companions was grappling with another assailant and the third member of the performing trio lay motionless on the ground.

Mokha nearly stepped out from the building at that point, but Erbro had just stepped past him, he had drawn a small knife and placed a foot on the chest of the man Dios had tossed their way. “Move bitch, and I’ll stab you.”

The first pair of the city guards rushed up, shouting for everyone to stop. Ide circled the melee again and sent another three stumbling one way or the other and knocked a forth man’s feet out from under him. Then he stopped and placed a foot firmly on the last man’s back.

The two guards approached, one seemed to recognize Ide and they started grabbing the folks around the edge of the melee. A small crowd of spectators moved towards the cafe’s door, Mokha had a brief glimpse of Sefla rolling over, spitting blood and getting to her hands and knees. He also saw one of the assailants make a break for freedom, then the customers crowded him back into the cafe. He heard the other guards arriving.

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