Loden swore he could smell meat pie. He was confused about where he was. His guts roiled painfully. He had a disturbing memory of a great eye in a star speckled sky. He sniffed again, definitely meat pie but also earth, plants, summer and the press of humanity. It sounded, and smelled, like he was in a city. Tisp? No, that was not right. Had he been drinking? It felt like he had been drinking. Maybe even a days long bender, his throat was sore, his head ached and his stomach was in a horrid state. Nearby someone made an inarticulate yum sound, the smell of fresh bread and meat wafted around him. Someone was masticating. He felt like he could eat a horse.

He wondered where he had left BigNose and Tingy. He opened his eyes and saw thorny branches with little leaves of green, rusty orange and red hues. Was he laying in rose bushes? Beyond the shrubbery he could see a few small clouds and a beautiful blue sky. The sight of the sky made him very emotional, on the verge of crying he sat up, the thorns pulled at his hat and scratched along the material of the heavy coat he wore. He was in a small park in the midst of a highly urbanized place, certainly not Tisp. To his left there was a kid stuffing his face with delicious smelling bread.

The youth, not a child, looked trim and smelled clean, but somewhere nearby was a wretched smell Loden could not identify, though it seemed familiar. Loden asked the kid where he was, or tried to, his vocal cords were tight and his throat raw. The youth put his bread down, picked up a cloth wrapped pie and offered it to him. Loden greedily grabbed the pie, in his haste the pastry nearly fell apart. He gobbled at it, bits and pieces falling to the sides. His stomach started to settle immediately. Half the pie was gone before he stopped to take a breath.

The young man on the bench smiled and held out his hand, offering a few copper weight, certainly enough for a drink. Loden nodded, stuffed more pie in his mouth, wiped his hand across his coat and took the proffered coins. Nice guy, this certainly was not Tisp. Looking around, Loden saw that the park was on a wide street with two and three story buildings, seemingly freeholds, though nowhere he had been before. He staggered to his feet, inarticulately mumbling his thanks. He wanted to find out where he was, there were horses to look after and he was pretty sure he had been with an exceptional lady the night before.

After a while he came to a street sign, PineHollow Road. That did not seem familiar. He kept going and came to the end of the street. There was a busy bakery, lots of people and he could see two towers of green stone that rose high above most of the rest of the city. He paused, people skirted around him, some obviously distressed about his smell. This had to be GreensBridge.

Loden looked around in confusion, he remembered heading east, away from GreensBridge. Where were his horses? He spotted another sign, Meave Street. He started running, pushing past people, nearly getting himself trampled by a pair of horses pulling a carriage. The woman at the reigns shouted at him and shook her fist. Loden kept running. There were so many people, so many odd buildings, he was overwhelmed by nearly everything around him.

Pain stopped him in his tracks, he doubled over and cried out as his guts roiled, agony. He cried out again and wrapped his arms around his midsection. Had the kid poisoned him? People kept moving around him, some gave him dubious looks, one fellow suggested he find a bath house.

Ahead Loden saw a great span of arching green stone, off to the side he could see stairs going to a lower section of the city. He staggered over. Below he saw a couple of broad stone walls framing a great fountain and gigantic, oddly life-like giant statues, they were supporting columns for the bridge. There were very few people down there. He stumbled down the stairs, his stomach trembled and another painful spasm brought him to his knees, he clutched at the railing along the side of the stairs. Beads of sweet broke out along his brow. After a long moment he was able to stand again, he made it to the fountain, more like a great cistern. He was too hot, he pulled off his hat and coat and dropped them at his feet.

“Hey buddy, you can’t swim in that.” A gentleman in an odd uniform advised him.

Loden nodded in response, waved him off, then lowered himself to the edge and dipped his head in the water. It was cold, refreshing, he wanted to stay just where he was. Eventually the need to breathe forced him to sit back.

The grey haired fellow in the funny little uniform had approached, a concerned expression on his face, “Do you need help?”

Loden was about to say something flippant, instead a burst of chunky black bile erupted from his mouth. The man gave a dismayed cry and attempted to dodge aside. Loden almost fell into the cistern, he clutched at the edge and vomited. Dozens of little wiggling creatures landed on the stone, others had splashed into the water and swam away. The pain in his midsection receded significantly, almost joyfully he vomited again and collapsed along the edge of the pool.

“Goddess preserve! What’s wrong with you?” The older man backed away, horrified.

In a sudden flood Loden’s memories returned, he coughed a couple times, spitting repeatedly. He remembered the warbling creature that had held him captive, the strange sky with one huge moon and a smaller one, like a great eye looking down. Then he remembered the drake and the Eldra man that had brought him here. So much had happened, it was overwhelming. It forced a couple of deep body shaking sobs from him.

The old man turned and called out, “Mahgs! Go find a Lamplighter!” He looked back to Loden, noting the harness of weapons, “And the city guards!”

Loden sat up, he was dizzy, but felt better than he had in days. By the gods, he needed a smoke. However, he thought it wise to make himself scarce. He stood up, the older fellow stepped back a couple paces and looked at him fearfully. After retrieving his hat and coat he bid the man good day and headed off along one of the walkways that lead under the green bridge. After a while he noted the man in the odd uniform followed at a distance.

Loden wondered where Asta was. After passing under the bridge he came to some sort of park with freestanding walls, heavily engraved with imagery, most seemed to be of heroic scenes. Walkways radiated out from the park, some seemed to lead to tunnels, while others lead back to the upper part of the city. There were benches, and spots with little flower gardens or trees. A few people were around, mostly couples, but he also saw a number of folks sitting by themselves, some were reading books. He would have approached to ask directions to the local Temple of Mercy, but he was now keenly aware of just how wretched he smelled.

He wondered if there was a temple of the Goddess of Mercy in GreensBridge, he thought back to conversations he had with Flint and Asta, he was pretty sure she had mentioned something about a temple here. Glancing over his shoulder he saw that he was still being followed. He walked quickly around one of the free standing walls and then cut towards a tunnel while he was not in the man’s line of sight. Once in the dim light of the tunnel he moved up against one side and waited, after a long moment there was no sign that the man had seen which way he had gone. He continued on his way. After a few dozen paces the tunnel came out into another park area.

He was wondering how he was going to get cleaned up, he was too filthy to go to a public bath. He also realized he was missing the satchel he had packed before leaving the ruined Eldra village. Could he find his way back to where he had awoken? PineHollow Road should not be too had to find. He certainly had more than enough valuables on hand to pay for assistance. He looked around, but the park seemed to be empty. Nearby was a walkway leading back up to Meave Street, maybe? There was another green wall with detailed engravings, a statue of a young woman was near a bench and an old apple tree. The tree bore fruit, though the apples did not seem to be ripe yet, close though.

He went to the tree, took a couple of apples and tried one. It was crisp and bitter but helped dispel the horrid taste of his mouth. He chewed on a few bites but spat the apple out until he no longer tasted bile. He ate the rest of the apple, then sat on the nearby bench. He placed the second apple beside him and fished his tobacco pouch out of his coat pocket. He packed his pipe, lit it with a quick-strike, puffing contentedly as he mulled over his options. He wondered why the man at the cistern had asked for a lamplighter?

His thoughts kept drifting towards Asta. Hopefully she was alright. Once he was able to sort himself out and retrieve his satchel he would go to the temple quarter, assuming there was such a place in this city. Certainly there would be temples, in Tisp they were all grouped together in the north part of the city.

His reverie was interrupted by the appearance of a gaggle of children, when they spotted him they became cautious, clustered together and talked among themselves while periodically glancing over at him. They appeared to be fairly presentable, not overly dirty or desperate looking. Still, they were appraising him as if he was some sort of mark. Eventually a couple of the older children approached him.

Loden reached into one of his pockets.

“Hey mister. What are you doing here?”

“Well,” he pulled a small box from his pocket and opened the lid, “I’m looking for a well or fountain where I could clean up, away from other folks. I’ll need a change of clothing, then I need someone to guide me back to PineHollow Road. If you lot could help me out I’d give you each one of these gem stones.”

The boy’s eyes widened when he saw the assortment of stones in the box. The girl said, “We’ll help you, but I want the box. It’s pretty.”

Loden snapped the lid shut, “Deal. Show me the way.”


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