Tales of a Horse Thief, Cycle 2 Part 7b

Tales of a Horse Thief, Cycle 2 Part 7b

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Loden had been half asleep when Iflarga stepped out of the smithy to get him. It was still light outside, but he noted the sun had sunken behind the western buildings. He was informed of the great honour that had been bestowed on him. He would be able to meet with the Master Artificer.

Though he had initially been elated by this news his endurance was tested once again. Loden found himself in a modestly furnished room where only a couple of chairs and one table accommodated his height. There were nearly a dozen dwarves gathered to witness this negotiation, out of respect for him they had decided to forgo typical formalities and abbreviated introductions were given. During this period some food was brought, which Loden found to be rather dry and tasteless. A couple of lamps were lit when the darkness settled and somewhere around the twenty-fifth hour of the day they were able to get down to business.

The conversation that followed was one about tradition and exception. During this rather long oration Loden said very little, though he did his best to listen carefully as Iflarga translated for him. The crux of the matter, at least the best that he could understand it, was that the weapons he had found were made by a master. They were either a gift or a payment for something exceptional that had been exchanged with the crafting master or said master’s clan and that Loden’s possession of them was an offence to the dwarven way of thinking. It was more complex than that, as most things dwarven seemed to be. The master who had crafted them was of a clan, or family, that was particularly offensive to the local Brv-rocht dwarves, and seemingly others. Loden had not understood exactly why the clan was so offensive but he thought it had something to do with breeding dragons. Due to these unusual circumstances and in consideration of something called the Right of Ownership, which seemed to boil down to the fact that Loden possessed the weapons, therefore he had a recognized claim on them, a compromise would be negotiated.

Furthermore, there were certain expectations about such weapons that the dwarves seemed honour bound to respect. The short version of all this was that it normally would have been a significant offence that Loden possessed the repeaters in the first place, though because the people who had made them were without proper honour or tradition, the Brv-rocht peoples would not see this particular situation as an offence to them. They would in fact, within their tradition, make a fair offer. It all seemed to be a really big deal to them and he was informed that if he had not been dealing with another master that there would not have been any negotiation.

By this point Loden was so tired that he really did not care about much else, other than the fact it seemed like he would get some ammunition for his weapons, “It sounds good to me, thanks for explaining all that. So what’s the deal?”

In their convoluted way it was explained to him that he would be provided with ammunition for as long as he lived, there was something about a new harness that Master Bronkarak Bjorttenver would craft for him and two swords that would rival any blade he had ever wielded. All of this would be done to his specifications and while the swords would take some while to be crafted, the rest of it would be ready within ten days. In exchange he would give one of the repeaters to Master Bronkarak.

Loden was hesitant about giving up one of a matched pair, though after what he had just been through he was not going to just walk away from this negotiation with nothing to show for it. So he pulled out one of the shooters, flipped it around and offered it to the master, “Sounds good to me. What’s next?”

Next was the formal acceptance of such a gift, another time consuming tradition that Loden guessed was abbreviated for his sake. Then, much to his surprise he was measured from head to toe, particular attention was given to his arms and hands. When that was done he was given a contract on some sort of thick paper and they all had a drink of distilled alcohol, which Loden thought was very tasty.

He left, with a headache and the need for sleep. The sun was rising. He made his way back to the inn where he had left Asta, she was just finishing a large breakfast in the establishment’s dining room. He too ate breakfast and briefly explained the ordeal he had just gone through. He felt she lacked appreciation for what he had endured.

She was more concerned about the ten day delay to their departure. “When the goddess calls, I’ve found it is best to respond sooner rather than later.”

“So. What does the goddess have planned for us next?”

“I’m still trying to understand that, but I believe we are going to Swampdon.”

Loden very much wanted to negotiate on that point, he really rather would have gone in the opposite direction. He was too tired to even try. He also felt that he would have little choice on the matter, as he had made a deal with the goddess and she had held up her end. He gave a slight nod, “Alright. I’m going to bed. Can I use your room?”

“Of course. Just up the stairs, third door on the right. It’s not locked. Sleep well.”

Loden trudged upstairs, found the indicated room, nearly fell onto the bed and was asleep in moments.

He slept through the day and well into the night. He was a bit surprised when he realized that Asta was asleep beside him, she had an arm across his chest and her face was very close to his. He was very aware that he had dreamed rather intensely, despite only remembering a few brief flashes.

He had a slight headache.

He thought he may have dreamed of the goat-witch, or whatever she was, maybe it had just been a goat. He had certainly seen the Eldra man in his dreams, who had been trying to explain something to Loden. It seemed important, though what the man had been saying was elusive to his waking mind. With a groan he sat up, careful to move Asta’s arm gently to the side.

The room was dark, a narrow line of light could be seen under the door. He found his satchel hanging from the bed post near his head. He felt around in the bag until he found his canteen. He took a drink and was, as always, surprised to find the water cool and fresh. He sat quietly for a while and his headache receded.

Loden took his satchel and carefully left the room. Once in the hallway, by the dim light of a candle that was near the stairs, he removed his harness and put it away. While many folks went around armed in the city, most did not. He had worn his weapons in the Grey District to dissuade would be thieves, but he did not need the extra attention that wearing them would draw.

He could hear noises downstairs, it sounded like someone was in the kitchen. He went down and found a young woman making bread. The fire in the stove was crackling and the girl was adding a topping to a few of the loaves, she had about a dozen bread pans on the sideboard. She was not wearing much, he suspected that it must be hot work, especially this time of year. Her hair was up and she was humming to herself.

“Good morning.” he said, startling her.

She jumped and nearly knocked a pan to the floor, “By the gods man! Don’t be creeping up on a person like that. You scared a year of life right out of me.”

“Sorry miss. I wasn’t meaning to scare you, I just thought it best to announce myself.”

“You’re up awfully early sir, breakfast won’t be ready for some time.”

“How about something from the pot?” He pointed to the big pot sitting on the back of the stove, likely the leavings from the last few days were mixed into it.

“Not till it comes to a boil.” She said, then went to the stove and carefully pulled the pot forward so that it would get more heat. For good measure she gave it a stir.

Distractedly she went back to her original task, she kept looking over at him, seemingly curious. After a while she said, “You’re a well dressed man to be staying here sir. Have you come to hard times?”

“Eh? Ah, no. Well, yes, but not the way you mean.”

“Sounds like there might be a story in that answer. Why don’t you tell me about it?” She had finished with the bread and began cutting up a large ham.

“I’m not sure you’d believe me.”

“Well, I’ve a few stories myself, most folks wouldn’t believe. Besides, it’d make me a bit more comfortable, rather than you just standing there gawking.”

Loden scoffed, “I can’t imagine a lass your age has anything that shocking to tell.”

She raised an eyebrow and gave him a critical look, “I suppose a man such as yourself, well situated by the look and well travelled by your accent, must think he’s seen more than some simple kitchen waif. However, not all things are as they appear.”

Loden rubbed at his forehead, “I’m sure your story is interesting enough, but I find it unlikely you’d have dealt with anything even close to the weirdness I’ve been through lately.”

“Really? As a child I was kidnapped by goblins.”

“I was recently held captive by a creature not of this world.”

She resumed cutting the meat, “I was rescued from the goblins by one of the Avari, those are the elves that hate mankind and blame us for all the wrongs in the world.”

“I was rescued by a priestess, after which a goddess marked me as one of her own.”

“A goddess, which one?”

“The Goddess of Mercy.”

“Oh, well, that’s not really that unusual. After rescuing me, the elf took me to his lair and made me part of his household. He lived in a very beautiful underground palace that he had built himself with his magic.”

He could not tell if she was pulling his leg, “Well, after being rescued by the priestess we discovered an Eldra town and found one of the ancient ones, who somehow had survived the destruction of his people.”

“The elf had a room where there was no time, he would go there to think, to study and to do great magic. He educated me and taught me a bit of the arcane arts, as he did with all those he brought to his household…”

They continued like this until the soup had boiled. She finished cutting the ham in that time and then put the first half dozen loaves in the oven. After which she served him up a big bowl of the thick soup, gave him a hunk of stale bread and some hard cheese. She let him eat in the kitchen as she went out to the garden and harvested a large basket of vegetables. He noted that there was some light outside, the sun would be up soon.

After eating, he thanked her for the food and then headed across town, he had clothing and new boots to pick up and he needed to find an outfitter. There was no point leaving GreensBridge without having the gear one would need for a long trip across country.


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