The kids had been very helpful, they had taken him to an alley with a small fountain. About half of them had ran off to scrounge up a sack, tunic and britches. They even brought him back some food. The rest of them had waited nearby, making sure he did not run off, no doubt. After he had transferred most of his belongings from the coat to the sack he cleaned up and changed into the clothes they had brought him. The britches were too tight, and there was no footwear. He left his old clothing in a pile, including the coat, at the back of the alley. He ate some food and asked the children about the city.
Loden learned that there was a Temple District, not quarter. Though the temple for the Goddess of Mercy was not in the Temple District, but was close to the North Market. He also learned that the Tannicans were not laying siege to the city, yet, but everyone expected them to show up any day.
He had handed out gem stones to most of the kids, which was more complicated than he had expected as each wanted a specific colour, or a different shape or sized stone. Once that was sorted, the three eldest took him back to PineHollow Road where he gave them the rest of the stones, the box and thanked them for their help.
Once they had departed he had no troubles finding the small park he had awoken in earlier. After excusing himself to the young couple now sitting on the bench, he carefully looked around and found his satchel in the rose bushes. Careful not to step on thorns he retrieved the satchel. The couple were bemused by his antics; he bid them good day and left them to their cuddling.
He found a barber not far from the park, paid for a shave and a haircut then had the man see to his teeth. It did not take long and the man’s prices were very reasonable. Further down the road he found a tailor across from a cobbler’s shop, he visited both places.
The tailor was rather standoffish at first, dismayed by Loden’s bare feet and obviously worn out clothing. However, his attitude changed when Loden showed him he had no lack of wealth. After being sized Loden picked some simple fabrics for his new clothes, nothing outlandish, just common freeholds garb. He then took the opportunity to change into the set of clothes he had in his satchel. This caused a bit of a stir, the tailor and his staff marvelled at Loden’s dark blue Eldra clothing, which fit him very well and felt more comfortable than anything else he had ever worn. No wonder Asta had been so happy with her new clothes. Loden paid in advance and promised to return in a couple of days.
The cobbler took his time sizing his feet, carefully measuring him for riding boots and he also put together a pair of soft soled ankle boots fairly quickly. Loden was happy to have footwear again but it felt more like he was wearing slippers rather than real boots. However, in a couple of days he would have a nice new pair of riding boots. After paying the cobbler Loden took stock of the coins he had left, more than enough for drink, tobacco, food and lodging for a while.
He hoped he would be able to find Asta at the temple, but he was only assuming she would go there. If she had found herself transported to some random section of the city like he had, that would make sense. Hopefully she was not lost nor in any difficulty, though he suspected she would be able to handle most trouble that came her way.
He took some time to walk around the city and orientate himself, it was a bit after midday. He noted people behaved deferentially towards him, amazing what well cut clothing would do to people’s perception of a person. He enjoyed the unfamiliar attention, especially that of the attractive women that smiled at him as they passed in the street. It was not long before he was lost in the city. He looked for a place where he could get above the level of the buildings. Seeing the city from a higher vantage would help him sort out where he was.
Loden headed towards the nearest of the great towers. He had no idea if he could even go inside one of them, but they were obviously the tallest points in the city. The streets confounded his progress and he wound through a tightly packed residential area. The buildings were built side by side and in some cases one on top of the other, there was no uniform architecture. To all appearances this area of the city had been built up over centuries. More than once a dead end street forced him to backtrack, eventually he came to a broad boulevard, lined with fruit trees, that lead directly towards the tower he was trying to reach.
The green tower was a hundred paces in height, at its base it was over thirty paces across and to all appearances it only tapered slightly towards the top. Around the base was a broad circle of stone, crowded with people coming and going from the tower. On the opposite approach there were numerous carriages lined in an orderly fashion, most were fairly simple with a single horse while others had teams of up to six and were down right ostentatious.
There were so many people, different races and cultures, the styles of clothing were even more varied. Loden stopped, staring as a group of nearly twenty dwarves moved past, they had a few hand carts and they all carried tools of the sort that a mason would use. No one else seemed overly surprised by their presence. Briefly, through the press, he caught a glimpse of a pair of goblins, wearing fancy clothing and finely crafted accessories. They wore veils across their faces. Someone in a uniform, black clothing with a red sash, encouraged him to move along, she did not look overly happy standing on a raised stone, directing traffic.
Loden could see a great doorway at the base of the tower, people came and went, entering to the right, through the left side they exited, it seemed like dozens of them passed through every moment. He forced his way through the exiting flow of people, some gave him dark looks as he jostled past. When he made it to the flow of people heading inside he was quickly swept along into the tower.
He had expected a dimly lit interior, instead the large room was brightly illuminated. Loden glanced up and saw a glare of light under a silvery dome. He stumbled along and noticed there were also small windows all around the room about two thirds of the way up the wall. There was a central area with a great round desk, a dozen people were there, directing the hundreds that had come with inquiries of one sort or another. Small alcoves with stone benches were along the edge of the room and two broad stairways wound up to the higher levels. Loden moved to the stairs most people were moving up along, the other stairway seemed to be for downward flowing traffic.
As he came up to the next level, where many people flowed to the left into a broad hallway, he followed along with the folks moving up to the next set of stairs. The third level was similar to the second and more people moved off the stairs. He continued upward, after another level there was only a few handfuls of people on the stairway. By the time he was on the stairs going to the sixth level there were only three other people heading up, they wore robes and talked quietly among themselves about some legal matter they were dealing with. Though they glanced at Loden, they did not seem inclined to question his presence.
The sixth level was different than the previous four, there was an alcove with comfortable looking chairs, a small table and a tall window. He stopped, the lawspeakers continued upwards, a couple other well dressed people came off the stairs behind him and veered left into the hallway, they did not even glance in Loden’s direction. After a moment there was no one in his immediate vicinity. He moved over to the window and peered out. The scene was stunning.
Loden had no idea the city was this big. He thought he must only be looking at about a third of it. The green stone of the main streets, many of the walls and buildings stood out clearly. Most impressive was the great arch of a bridge to the east, spanning part of the East Sister River, it had to be over three yat in length, maybe as much as five. To the southeast he could see a series of large structures and parks, near the river was a large red stone fort of some sort. Parts of the city looked orderly and built of a consistent architectural design, while other parts were a jumble of various styles of buildings. Not far from the tower, to the northeast, he saw the sprawl of a great market area and just south of that he spotted what appeared to be a handful a large temples with walled off sections of gardens and yards.
The view was breathtaking. Loden dug his tobacco pouch out of the satchel he was carrying, filled the bowl of his pipe and lit it with a quick-strike. He puffed contentedly for a while, trying to process what he was seeing.
From behind him a man said, “Impressive isn’t it?”
Turning, he saw a young man in a black robes with a red sash, similar to the folks directing the traffic down below, though the cut of the uniform and quality of of cloth was superior to the others he had seen. The man gave him a friendly smile, but there was something about him that put Loden on his guard. “Something I can help you with?”
“How rude. Let me introduce myself. I’m Ide Yette, of the Arcanium, a Lamplighter.”
Loden turned and spat out the window, “What of it?”
“Well, I’m a representative of the arcane authority that sees to the wellbeing of of the city.”
“I thought you said you were a lamplighter?”
“A branch of the Arcanium…”
“Ah, that clears things up.”
The young man sighed, “There’s no need to be contrary sir. In fact, I’m here to give you a friendly warning.”
“Well, as you are obviously new to the city, I though you should be made aware of the fact that the Arcanium, via the auspice of the Mages Guild of GreensBridge, has strict rules regarding the registration of magical artifact and mages.”
“Well, lucky for me I’m not a mage.”
“But you do seem to have acquired some impressive artifacts.” The young man pointedly looked him up and down.
Loden glanced down at himself, “You mean my clothing?”
“And, other items.” He said briefly drawing a small, familiar looking box from his robes and holding it up for Loden to see clearly. Then with a fluid gesture he returned the ornate container to whatever hidden pocket it had come from.
Loden gave him a flat stare, “Well, if you want me to register my underwear, you’re going to have to point me in the right direction.”
He smiled, “Near the southeast of the island you should be able to see the Arcanium, the red tower. I’d suggest you head over there as soon as you are able.”
“What if I just walked over that bridge? Left the city entirely.”
“That would also be acceptable, though our influence includes both of the Marches.”
“Of course it does. Could you by chance be able to direct me to the Temple of Mercy?”
“Certainly. The temple grounds you see out the window, it is the one further east, on the hill.”
Loden glanced out the window, “That was easier than I thought it would be.”
“Having done my due diligence on your behalf, I’ll once more encourage you to go to the Arcunium. Now, if you will excuse me I have other matters to attend to.”
He turned away in the direction of the nearby hallway and after a few paces stopped, turning back, “Perhaps if we run into each other later you might allow me to buy you a drink. I’ve other affiliations that might be interested in meeting a man such as yourself.”
“Yeah, sure. Good luck with the lamps.” Loden kept an eye on him until he was out of sight then muttered to himself, “Like I’d trust a shifty bastard like you, sir. Stealing from children. Pathetic.” Loden turned back to the window and puffed on his pipe.
At least he knew where the temple was.