The meeting with Roburns Trading Company’s boss went pretty well. At the very least he was interested in sitting down and having a conversation with the Councillor. Addath stayed to do some paperwork there and Adwin returned to SkadWind before lunch.
Mokha had sent a message saying they would meet with him at Hearts Nook in the middle of the afternoon, but neither he nor Calathy felt like staying inside. It was a nice day out, bright sunshine and the temperature was well above freezing. They decided to walk there as they were in no rush.
It seemed like half the city had a similar idea, a lot of people were out walking and they passed many a building that had doors and windows thrown wide, rugs and blankets were being aired and beaten. There were many friendly hellos from strangers, happy to be out and about. Plenty of comments on spring being just around the corner.
Truthfully, Adwin felt it as well, being cooped up within four walls for long months at a time had certainly affected him. He had almost forgotten how beautiful the world was and how wondrous GreensBridge could be. On the other hand, he had met a wild elf and been to his second heart tree. The few days following that encounter, everything, but the memory of that summer land, seemed flat and ill considered. Mostly though, he was feeling like he wanted to be out in the open country. If he was honest with himself, winters in Willik’s Preserve were far better than winters in the city.
When they arrived at Hearts Nook the place was packed. Even though many of the students were involved with completing their finial dissertations, the cafe had more of a festive mood than one of a study hall. The students could feel spring in the air, soon the snow would be gone and most of them had their minds on other things. Adwin noticed the trio of performers on the stage; a drummer, a mandolin and a singer. They were in fancy performance garb and the vocalist was of Tannican ancestry; Adwin suspected they were Mokha’s friends, the ones that had been attacked out front some eight-days ago. He was glad to see they appeared fully recovered.
Dios recognized him and waved them over to the bar, “I was not expecting you until later this afternoon.”
“Too nice to stay at home.”
“I can have your dining room set up shortly. Are you hungry?”
“That would be gr-”
Calathy interrupted him, “Could we sit down here? I want to watch the minstrels.”
“Of course. Looks like that table is just opening up. I guess we’ll take a couple of ciders, Dios. Thanks.”
They moved over to the vacated table, just a bit left of the stage, one of the staff brought over the ciders as they settled into their seats. Calathy was paying close attention to the performers, her smile appreciative and open. As usual, most of the seating close to the stage was filled with people who were here for the music, there were a few cheers and a smattering of applause as the trio finished a song.
“They’re really good.” Calathy enthused.
The drums were traded for a taller, narrow drum and the mandolin swapped for a lute, the vocalist shed her long tunic revealing the glittery and flesh revealing costume underneath, she picked up a pair of clackers. There were some hoots from some of the students and a woman towards the back shouted, “Sefla, we love you!”
The drummer made a loud tak! sound with his instrument and much of the cafe fell to silence, even the second room’s noise dropped noticeably, near the stage an expectant hush fell over the spectators. The dancer struck a dramatic pose, arms high, the music started low and quiet with the lute. After a while the drum came in, barely noticeable at first, slowly gaining in volume.
Calathy, in a hushed breathy voice whispered, “Would you look are her.”
Adwin took a moment to realize the dancer had slowly started to move, her midsection undulated slowly, she started to circle her wrists and slowly turned her head, making eye contact with the closest audience members. She was trim but had good muscle definition, he was especially fascinated by the way she could move her belly.
The music slowly built in intensity, the dancer moved off the stage and gracefully wove her way around the closest tables. She came to Calathy and spared a brief glance towards Adwin and smiled at him. Calathy was grinning at her. The dancer did some snake-like side step in behind Calathy, there was a loud double clack from the dancer’s hand instruments, she froze, the music stopped.
Someone in the crowd gave a loud hoot. A moment of silence followed, the dancer seemed to quiver with a slow undulation. Then lute, drum and clackers started up together at twice the tempo they had previously been playing. Many in the room started clapping. The dancer shimmied, stepped and turned, moving slowly from Calathy’s left-rear to her right side, shimmy, step, turn. The dancer’s focus was on Calathy, her expressions ranging through curious, inquisitive, friendly and flirtatious. Calathy was nearly agape, clapping, smiling and blushing so hard her face was redder than her hair.
The music increased in tempo again, now just lute and drum, the dancer spun away from Calathy and the audience was hooting and stomping, pounding on the tables, some rose to their feet, clapping in time with the music. Sefla smiled radiantly, wove her way around the nearby tables and then back over to the stage. When she came up onto the small platform, the tempo of the song increased again, the dancer maintained a shimmy and graceful arm movements as other parts of her body slid one way or the other with short pops and stops, all in perfect time with the music. Adwin had no idea someone could move like that.
And then it was done, the musicians muted their instruments and the three of them froze in place. Cheers, hoots, foot stomping, table pounding and clapping rose like a wave from the students, staff and other customers. When the accolades started to subside the dancer took a bow, the two musicians stood, the three of them bowed in unison and then they made their exit. More cheering and applause followed and slowly dwindled as people found their seats, took a sip of coffee or resumed conversations.
Adwin looked to Calathy who was still flushed and blushing, they smiled at each other. Everyone around them was smiling as well, many talking to their companions about the amazing performance they had all just witnessed.
The rest of the early afternoon passed quickly, they switched from cider to coffee and had some finger food as they waited for Mokha. Tipper and Setta were the first show up, Dios came to Adwin and informed them that his friends had arrived and were waiting for them upstairs.
Once they entered the dinning room Tipper went to him immediately and gave him a big hug, “Glad to see you’re still among the living.”
“Seems like not that long ago I was saying something similar to you.”
Mokha showed up then, with his instruments. “Hope I didn’t keep you waiting, I did a show last night for our captors, went longer than I expected it to. I need some coffee. Has everyone ordered?”
Setta said, “We just arrived.”
Adwin smiled, “We’ve been here a while, too nice of a day to stay home.”
They gathered at one end of the dining table after more hugs. Mokha ordered coffee for everyone, there was talk about the attack on Adwin and Addath, they drank a toast to Hidge’s ferocious counter attack and the death of Celestial. Soon enough the conversation turned to their plans for the spring. Adwin filled them in on the express couch he had rented, not unexpectedly Tipper was less than enthusiastic.
“I thought you’d’ve been happy to cut ties with the company after the way they used you for their own ends.”
“Well, I’ve no intention to burn any bridges if I don’t have to. I’ll probably end up keeping SkadWind, Addath has agreed to manage the business for me. Besides, the coach can comfortably take four or five people and a considerable amount of luggage. Supposedly, it can accommodate nine and only feel a little cramped. On top of that, Tipper, we can cover two to three yateer a day, all the way to Sharlok’s Keep.”
“Well, that might not be the best idea. Who knows the reception we will receive in Sharlok’s Hold. Though, if their claim is true we could cover a lot of distance in short order.”
“We’ll cover the distance faster, especially through the areas where the Green Road runs and even right up to Sharlok’s Hold if we decide to. We’ll have dry beds and prepared meals along the way. We can even take some extra supplies for our efforts at Kaymere.”
“How do you intend to get the supplies and luggage to Kaymere from wherever the last Roburns station is?”
“If we need to, we can hire the coach for that as well, though I was thinking we might be better off contacting your uncle to provide us with the transport we need for the last part of the journey. I think a couple of smaller carriages or light wagons would be better on the roads east of Wikkersak.”
Tipper crossed he arms and looked out the window.
Setta, who had remained quiet for most of their discussion asked, “Do you know where you’re going after Kaymere? I was hoping to be able to join you guys at some point.”
Mokha looked like he was about to say something but Tipper cut him off, “Darner’s Hold, via Willik’s Hold I would imagine. At least if I find what I’m looking for. If not, I don’t know.”
Mokha opened his mouth to speak, but Adwin held up a hand, “Do we all agree we’re taking the coach I hired? Tipper?”
“Fine, we’ll use the coach.”
Calathy was very happy, with a big smile she said, “Yeah!”
Mokha said, “If I may? I’ll be having at least one other travelling with us, I’ve recently taken on an apprentice. And, they might have a friend who wants to come as well.”
Tipper rolled her eyes, “We should invite the rest of the city to come along, as well.”
Setta said, “Tipper, be nice.”
Tipper scowled at Setta but remained quiet.
Adwin sighed, “Look, it’s pretty straightforward, we take the Roburns coach as far as we dare, we send a letter to Tipper’s uncle to meet us there, wherever there is, and he can take us the rest of the way to Kaymere. If we need to, we can buy a wagon and team for our own use, I should be able to handle a pair of horses and a small wagon. We can also trade our own horses with Roburns here and receive a voucher, redeemable at any Roburns station along the way. We might only have to get a couple of more pack animals at that.”
Mokha looked surprised, “I’d forgotten about our horses.”
End Cycle 2