Tales of a Horse Thief, Cycle 2 Part 7d

Tales of a Horse Thief, Cycle 2 Part 7d

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By the time Loden had made it back to the inn, his feet were in rough shape. He had a number of blisters and his left heel had been scraped raw. Asta had taken a look at the damage, and suggested he ask for some hot water and salt to soak them in, then advised him to stay off his feet for the next few days. When he asked if she could just ask the goddess to heal them she had laughed and shaken her head, “While I’m sure the goddess has compassion for all folks, and if we were on the road I would ask for her aid, sometimes it is best to let the body heal naturally. Especially since this was self inflicted.”

So, he had little choice but to stay close to the inn. He slept a lot, not keeping specific hours and ate when he was hungry. The first couple of days, when he was up and about, he spent much of his time sitting in the back yard. There was a lush kitchen garden that took up much of the available space, a small stable and carriage house. There was also an old apple tree, providing plenty of shade from the late summer heat. During the first day of his convalescence he had made a couple attempts to ask the goddess to heal his feet, though nothing happened. He shrugged off the idea and resigned himself to lounging around the inn.

The proprietors were initially somewhat confused as to who he was and what he was doing hanging around their establishment. When they figured out that he was staying with Asta, in her room, they were somewhat taken aback. Loden was quick to deduce that it was an issue of weight and not one of morality. He paid them the difference for double occupancy on the room and gave them a deposit for food and ongoing lodging.

Asta, however, was not around the inn that much, though they usually had the evening meal together in the dinning room. After she had taken some time to rest and to reflect on the visions she had received from the goddess she spent a considerable amount of time at the temple. Often enough, there were priestesses that sought her out at odd times of the day, she would then head off with them on one errand or another.

Loden made a point of getting up early and going down to the kitchen to hang around with the cook. He liked watching her work and enjoyed conversing with her. He certainly had lots of questions for her, regarding the story she had told him, not the least of which was, “So why do you do this?”

“You mean cook breakfast?”

“In part, sure. But I meant the inn, in a general sense. You alluded to being upwards of a couple hundred hears old, you’ve had experiences that most people would not even dream of and from what you’ve been saying I gather you are some sort of wizard. Why here?”

She smiled sadly, “Closer to three centuries actually. Family mostly, is the reason I stay.”

“Family?”

“The present owners of this fine establishment are my grandchildren.”

“No way. They’re so old and frumpy.”

“It’s true. After I had served the Avari for a century and given him three children, he had let me go. After a couple of decades of travelling around and seeing what the world had to offer I decided that I wanted to settle down and have a family of my own. So I came to GreensBridge, joined the Guild of Mages, and found a nice man to have children with.”

“And you stayed all this time? How many children did you have?”

“Three with my first husband, then two with my second husband. And, yes, I did stay. This,” She made a broad gesture, encompassing the inn, “was mine. I kept it for over fifty years, then gave it to my youngest son and worked directly with the Arcanium for a few decades. Every few years I come back and hire on, usually as kitchen help. It allows me to keep tabs on some of my family without disturbing them.”

“So they don’t know?”

“No, I prefer it that way.”

“Your family are not all wizards?”

“The three children I had with the Avari are, assuming they are still alive. But of my human offspring, only my third born to my first husband had the talent for it. She and I had a falling out a few decades back and we haven’t seen much of each other since.”

Loden had though about what she had said for much of the rest of the day. He still found her story hard to believe. He had not sensed any deceit, nor inconsistencies with her story, he was troubled by the implications. How many other people were like her? Surely not all mages lived so long? If so, he figured there would be more mages than non-mages. To his knowledge she was the only mage he had ever met, other than that Ide fellow. What about the other LampLighters? Were the grumpy lady or old man directing traffic also mages? Had they lived as long? Directing traffic for a hundred years seemed monotonous. He shuddered at the thought.

By the third day staying at the inn his feet were much improved. Asta had acquired some very nice wool socks for him, so he started wearing his boots again, just an hour or so at first, but increasingly more so as their departure loomed closer.

Paladin Kelifa and a middle aged rough looking woman had supper with them the evening before they headed out to Brisken. The other woman, Lavmor Reth was a paladin as well, though she lacked the refinement that seemed natural to Kelifa. Loden had seen her at the temple, training some of the others. He liked the older woman’s bluff demeanour. As Kelifa and Asta talked about logistics and what they might expect when they reached Swampdon, he and Lavmor talked about tobacco, gambling and wenching.

Towards the end of the meal, as Asta and Kelifa made arrangement about where they could meet or leave messages for one another, Lavmor fished around in her pouch. She pulled out a trinket and passed it to Loden, “I’m not much for visions from the Goddess, but she was pretty clear about this. Been working on it for a while and it seems I’m supposed to give it to you.”

Loden looked at the pendant, it was lighter than he expected. He held a small piece of ironwood that had been carved into the double spiral of the Goddess of Mercy, with a sword centred between the two spirals. “What is it?”

“It’s the symbol that us paladins wear. Seems you needed one of your own.”

Loden protested, “It’s a beautiful piece of work, I’m not sure why you gave it to me. I’m no paladin.”

She cocked her head to one side and smirked at him, “We’ll see.” She slapped him on the shoulder, “I look forward to fighting by your side.”

“Alright, um, thank you.”

“May the Goddess guide you.”

“And you, as well.”

Asta and he walked them to the door of the inn, they said their goodbyes and Loden heard Lavmor comment to Kelifa as they walked away, “You’re right about him not having figured it out yet.”

Kelifa replied, “It takes some of us a while to realized we’ve been called.”

Troubled, Loden looked to Asta, who smiled and shrugged, “Tomorrow we should talk about what else we need for the road. But, I’ve had a long day and am going to go to bed.”

Loden glanced down at the symbol he had been given and then slipped it into his pouch, “I had a nice nap in the sun this afternoon. I’ll be up later.”

“Alright, goodnight.”

“Goodnight.”

Loden filled his pipe and smoked as he watched the evening traffic go by. He mused over the subject of the goddess and what his desperate plea for help had lead him to. Was he a paladin? He did not see how he could be. Until recently he had hardly given a thought to any of the gods, nor ever considered serving one. Truthfully he was not looking forward to being back on the road, these past few days had been the longest period in years where he had felt at ease. He was pretty sure it was the longest period where he had slept in a bed since the Tannicans had destroyed his life.

“You have that look again.”

He glanced over to see the kitchen wench was sitting on the inn’s porch, he had not heard her approach. “What look is that?”

“The look of someone who has been thrown into situations beyond their understanding. The shocked expression of someone who has come to the realization that the world is much more complex and horrific than they had believed it to be.”

“I doubt that is the expression I walk around with.”

“To someone else who’s been through similar situations. Yes, you do. At least these days you do.”

“I figured you’d be sleeping.”

“I take every eighth day off. I’m not a slave.”

“No, certainly not.”

She held up a jug, “I thought you and I could have a drink or a few.”

“Did you?”

“If you want to.”

He was going to spit, but thought better of it, “Yeah, alright.”

“Are your feet up to a short walk?”

“I guess. What did you have in mind?”

“There‚Äôs a small park down the road.”

“Sure.”

They ambled over to the park. It was a nice evening, fairly cool with a clear sky and both moons were near three-quarters full. Loden was not overly fond of the drink she had brought, it had the vague taste of pine or something similar. It was a potent drink however and he soon felt more relaxed. Other folk were out and about, it was not late yet, there was a small group of youth at the other end of the park, talking and laughing. They drank in silence for a while.

Eventually she said, “You’re going to be fine Loden.”

He did not say anything for a while, then asked, “What is your name?”

“Peyla Donty. Though these days I use the name Haldi.”

“Did you want to go to Swampdon with us?”

It was her turn to sit silently for a while, they passed the jug back and forth a couple of times before she answered, “No, I don’t think so.”

“Fair enough… This magic that keeps you young and vital, can you cast it on other people?”

“I don’t do anything. The Avari did this to me and I’ve only a vague notion of what he did. I have met others, who choose to extend their life through the arcane arts. They are more powerful than I am, with more natural talent for magic.”

“Just a few? How can you tell?”

“There are more here in GreensBridge than in other places. Sometimes I can see it in their eyes or the way they behave. There are ways to read the energies that a person carries with them.”

“Energies?”

“Vibrations really, but sound has colour and can have substance.”

He did not know what she meant by that, he had never seen a sound.

When the bottle was empty they were both drunk, though Loden had not really felt intoxicated until he stood up. Arm in arm they stumbled back to the inn. She walked him to the door of his room and bid him a good night.

He lay down on the floor next to the bed where Asta slept and faded into a deep sleep.

 

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