Chapter Five: Next Time, a Rhinoceros
The companions spent the next few days of travel getting to know each other better. They even managed to press Evelyn for more details about her young, dark past. She simply told them her family wasn’t nice and she ran away in her fourteenth year, never to see them again. She pointed out that she never wanted to see them again, and though Roon wanted to ask her for a specific reason, he feared the answer. If it was anything like Destra’s story, he didn’t want to know the details.
Thinking again of Destra after so much time left his stomach roiling with shame, and he pushed away the memories.
“Kilian?” Roon said quietly to his friend.
“Yes?” the sailor asked, rubbing his eyes as he set aside a book.
“I never meant to have a direction,” he said.
“What do you mean?” the human asked.
Roon sighed and stood. “Never mind,” he scratched his head. After an awkward hesitation he headed outside to take over Opal’s watch.
The sailor shook his head in confusion and returned to his book.
“Anything?” Roon asked the genasi as she leaned over the thousand-foot drop. The castle drifted through thick, puffy clouds, sending a chill through Roon as he pulled his cloak tighter around him.
Opal turned her head to him and smiled, “it’s hard to see much up here,” she said, and he nodded his agreement.
“Are you alright, being here?” he asked her.
She thought for a moment, then nodded her head. “Yes,” she said gently. “Though I do miss the trees.”
Roon paused. “I’m just not so sure—”
Opal gasped, cutting him off. “Look!” She pointed, and Roon caught sight of something large passing through the clouds. It was there for a moment, then disappeared.
“Kilian!” Roon shouted. “Everyone! We may have company!”
The shape swooped back into sight and sent Roon stumbling back in shock. A massive, silver dragon with figures clutched in its talons pierced the cloud cover and dropped its burden onto the deck of the tower, near where Opal and Roon stood. The dragon opened its maw and roared, then beat its wings upward and went to land at the top of the tower, now out of sight. Opal and Roon went scrambling back through the tower as the others rushed toward them.
“What is it?” Kilian asked, eyes alert and wild.
“D-dragon!” Roon squeaked.
Kilian stared at him for a second, and Opal nodded to confirm. “Zephyros!” the sorcerer shouted. “DRAGON!”
“It dropped something just out there,” Roon panted, gesturing through the door.
Before anyone could ask what, a loud clanking sounded outside as whatever was dropped at their door pushed into the foyer. Six heavily armoured dwarves with severe expressions strode up the marble stairs.
“We really need to lock that door,” Roon said, not for the first time.
Zephyros appeared overhead from his balcony. “Did you say dragons?” The giant boomed, and it was the most anger Roon had ever heard in the giant’s voice. “I. Hate. DRAGONS!” He shouted, and as he did the dragon tore through the giant wizard’s hat atop the tower and roared down at him, its long, silvery neck coiling down and belching a thick plume of grayish smoke. The giant’s griffins went screeching and fluttering away in fear.
Zephyros raised a hand and shot a retaliating flurry of spells at the dragon.
“Oh no, the griffins!” Opal cried.
“Why are you here?” Thia demanded of the dwarves. “What do you want?”
The dwarves ignored them and pushed past their group, drawing out vials from their cloaks and downing them. Slowly, the dwarves began to shift form, losing their substance and drifting upwards as gaseous clouds. Before the final one transformed, he spoke. “We come to the giant on behalf of Queen Da’g Nabbet.”
They all looked around at each other in confusion. Evelyn cut her arms and raised her flaming rapiers. “Do we fight them?” Thia asked quickly.
“They haven’t done anything yet,” Roon said, looking to Kilian for advice.
Kilian shrugged, and they all looked up as the dragon roared again and shot more gas at Zephyros. “We must defend the giant,” Kilian finally said, a chaotic bolt of energy appearing, crackling, in one of his hands.
“How do we fight a bunch of clouds?” Thia asked quickly, drawing her blade and singing into its steel until it began to glow with power.
Opal lifted her hands and a gust of wind blasted from the door and hit the dwarves-that-were-now-clouds, dispersing them so they drifted toward the walls of the tower.
“Friends, we have no wish to fight you,” Kilian said, “but we will if you don’t explain yourselves.”
The tiny clouds continued to drift and slowly inch upwards as they righted their course.
“Very well,” the sailor said, and threw back his arm, whipping a stretch of lightning across the room at the clouds. It passed through them without effect. Kilian cursed, and threw the chaos bolt that still hovered in his other hand.
“Leave!” Zephyros shouted down at the floating dwarf-clouds, and there was a weight to his voice. It was a spell, just like the one Roon had used only a few days back on the cultists. But this one was much more powerful. The gaseous clouds instantly stopped floating upwards and began to sink and become more solid.
Evelyn poked a hand in the air and a larger, ethereal hand made of dripping ice thrust into one of the clouds, fog spilling out around it. Opal bent and shimmered as she took the form of a lithe, spotted jaguar. She snarled and waited for the clouds to reform. Kilian backed up a few steps and twisted his arms over his head until a swirling wind formed around him in a howling sphere of storm. While all this happened, Roon conjured a sacred flame in one hand, waiting for the dwarves to attack. They had yet to do anything, though the dragon continued to belch gas at Zephyros whom, it now seemed, had gone invisible and was shouting “confounded dragon!”, which Roon could barely hear over the rushing of Kilian’s spell.
The dwarves formed one-by-one back into their humanoid shapes and began running for the exit, bowling past Roon and the others. Roon released his sacred flame, Opal leapt in her jaguar form to push one to the ground, and Kilian stood in front of the entrance, barring their escape. It seemed the command spell Zephyros had laid on them was quite the force to be reckoned with.
They defended themselves against the dwarves as they tried to leave. Roon cast a few spells to try and hold them back, but they pushed through the magic. “We need to catch one!” Roon yelled to Thia, and she nodded. “We need to question them!”
What was it about this particular cloud giant that made him so popular with all these strange cults?
Opal’s cat form was batted away with a heavy dwarven arm in splint armour. She yelped and sprawled to the floor, a large gash across her whiskered face. The dwarf then drew up his axe and began cutting at her. Opal tried to skitter away, but the marble flooring was too slick, and the axe landed heavily, cracking open her feline skull.
There was an ashy light and a flash, and the genasi transformed back into her humanoid form. She stood, shaking but unharmed. The dwarf hesitated for a moment, giving the genasi room to draw her bow and take a few limping steps back. The dwarf charged before she could fully arm herself and swung again with his heavy axe.
The genasi fell and remained unconscious, a pool of blood spilling generously out onto the floor.
Roon quickly sent his duplicate running toward her to stop the bleeding. Meanwhile, he and Thia were casting spells at the dwarves while Evelyn ran through them and cut at them, an irritant more than anything. The dwarves moved slowly in their armour, but they were well protected. From within his torrential wind spell, Kilian threw daggers and cast shattering spells, sending the dwarves back a few steps as they continued to push toward the door.
“Stop this madness!” Kilian finally yelled as he dropped his wind spell. With the hurricane winds gone, they could hear the battle at the top of the tower waging between the dragon and the invisible Zephyros. It was difficult to tell who was winning, and Roon wasn’t sure if he cared all that much in the moment. “Explain yourselves!” the storm sorcerer growled, and the dwarves looked to him, the madness of Zephyros’s spell seeming to dissipate somewhat. “Why have you come here?”
The leader of the dwarves, the one who had cut down Opal, slowly lowered his bloodied axe and held a hand up to the others, who stilled. “We are here to stop the cloud giants,” the dwarf said.
“Stop them?” Kilian looked confused. “What has happened?”
The dwarves all blinked, their expressions grave. “Our home has been attacked by the floating castles,” a female dwarf with thick red hair explained bitterly.
“I’m sorry to hear that,” Kilian said, dropping his hands. “We just came from Nightstone, where there was another attack from the cloud giants.”
“So, you are on our side, then,” the first dwarf said, straightening. “You are prisoners here?”
Kilian shook his head. “You have the wrong cloud giant. This one—Zephyros—he has not been involved in any of the attacks. In fact, he knew nothing about them until we told him.”
“He’s helping us stop the giant uprising,” Thia added, lowering her glowing blade.
The dwarves looked to the leader for guidance, hands still on their weapons.
“We speak the truth,” Kilian said steadily. “Now, stand down, or we’ll throw you off this tower and be done with you.”
“We’re the good guys,” Thia said reassuringly.
After a moment, the lead dwarf nodded and returned his axe to its holster at his back. “Very well,” he said. “Come,” he told the others, and they strode back to the doorway.
“Clarion!” the female dwarf shouted up, and there was a snarl as the silver dragon ceased spewing its gaseous cloud. They could hear Zephyros coughing, but still alive and unseen.
The dragon screeched and took flight, drifting around the tower and down to the balcony, where he pumped his wings and stared at the dwarves.
“Sorry about your friend,” the female dwarf said, gesturing to Opal, who was pale and unconscious, but alive, Roon’s duplicate still hovering over her.
Roon nodded unhappily, and the dwarves made their exit, crawling into the dragon’s open talons, which then closed gently around them. With a final roar, the silver dragon allowed the blowing wind to catch his wings like a sail, and he disappeared into the heavy clouds.
“Zephyros?” Kilian shouted. “Are you alright?”
There was a groan, and the giant appeared floating ten feet above them and rubbing his head. “I hate dragons,” he said.
Roon ran to Opal and quickly healed the genasi, whose big eyes soon opened to blink up at him. “Oh, hello,” she said dreamily.
“Glad you’re okay,” Roon said, patting her on the shoulder and standing up.
The genasi sat up so she was of a height to him and said with a smile, “next time, I’m turning into a rhinoceros.”
After a tenday and a half of travel, the companions finally arrived at Triboar, well rested and anxious to be on their way. Despite their two strange encounters upon the cloud giant’s tower, they were, for the most part, extremely bored of their time spent in the clouds and happy to finally be back on solid ground. Outside of the town, on the forest’s edge, they climbed down the steep stairs, a thousand feet down, until they reached the earth. Kilian gratefully reached a hand down and swept it through the grass, as if to reassure himself that it wasn’t a dream.
Upon departing Zephyros’s company, the sailor had reminded him to stay away from dwarves and dragons, which he happily agreed to.
They entered Triboar on the main road and noted the general shabbiness of the town immediately. It was a scorched ruin being held together by straw, mud and the dreary consistency of those who lived there. To say the citizens of Triboar were peasants was a generous term. They were downright homeless-looking. They shuffled quietly between buildings and alleyways, looking down and avoiding interaction. The hopelessness was tangible.
“Excuse me,” Thia said, taking the arm of a young woman in a tattered brown dress as she walked, a tightly wrapped babe pressed to her chest. She looked up in surprise at the tall elf with the long, black hair. “Where might we find a woman by the name of Alestra?” That was the name of the woman whose ex-husband had died in the attack on Nightstone, the one they were sent to find.
“Alestra?” The woman thought for a moment, “ah, the one who owns Lionshare with her husband.”
“Lionshare?” Kilian asked.
“It’s a goods store,” she pointed them down a road, then hurried off after Thia thanked her.
“Okay,” Kilian said softly as they walked, “let’s remember to break this to her gently.”
“It’s her ex-husband,” Roon pointed out. “She’s remarried, by the sounds of it.”
“Still,” the sailor said.
They approached the low building with a swinging sign that read ‘Lionshare: Goods and Parcels’, carved with a lion standing on its hind legs. “Here it is,” Kilian said as he opened the door and they filed through.
“Um, excuse me,” Evelyn said, approaching a dark featured man sitting behind a counter, “could I sell you some stuff?”
Kilian looked annoyed but allowed the girl to sell a few of the weapons she had taken from the defeated cultists in the tower. She took the gold pieces carefully in her hands, placing them reverently into her newly acquired coin purse. When she was finished the sailor cleared his throat. “We’re looking for Alestra. Is she here?”
“What is it you want with my wife?” The man asked suspiciously, folding his arms.
“What’s your name?” Thia asked in a friendly voice.
“Narth. Narth Tezrin,” said the man.
“We have news for your wife,” the elf told him, her expression turning grim.
Narth eyed her carefully, then nodded and called for Alestra. A minute later there was some shuffling from a back room, and a door creaked open as she entered carrying a heavy crate.
Alestra had frizzy blonde hair tied into a messy bun. Her eyes crinkled with friendly lines as she greeted them all. “What can I help you with?” She asked, somewhat out of breath as she heaved the box down.
“Hello,” Opal said in her sing-song voice, stepping up. “My name is Opal.”
“Opal,” the woman said, somewhat surprised by the strange group before her, a mixture of races not often seen in concert with one another. “What can I do for you?”
“How do you feel about your husband—”
“Ex-husband,” Roon cut in.
“Ex-husband,” Opal corrected. “How do you feel about him?”
Alestra looked between the genasi and gnome in confusion. “Um, well,” she glanced over at Narth, whose mouth had turned down, “what exactly are you—”
“Do you have good feelings about him?” Opal clarified, smiling.
Kilian looked as if he wanted to create a tornado where Opal stood.
“I mean, he’s a decent man, I suppose,” Alestra stuttered.
“Well, I’m sorry to tell you that he’s dead,” Opal said abruptly.
“D-dead? What do you mean? What happened?”
“Here, let me explain,” Roon said in a relaxed tone to Opal, who looked surprised by the woman’s reaction. “I’m the sensitive one,” he assured her. “Your ex-husband was in Nightstone, yes?”
“Y-yes,” she said, hand covering her mouth.
“There was an attack on the town. Well, first it was attacked by cloud giants. They were throwing giant rocks down on the townspeople, squashing them into sauce. Then, there were some orcs. Oh, and goblins. No, wait,” Roon paused thoughtfully, speaking quickly, “actually, the goblins came before the orcs. Well, so, really, he died because of the first thing. The giants. Because after that the townspeople were kidnapped and brought to a cave, and some of them were tortured. Actually, there was even one guy who was eaten alive—ah, yes,” he said, noticing Alestra and Narth’s expressions of horror, “but that wasn’t your ex. No, no. He would have died quite quickly, I suspect. I mean, we can’t know for sure. We weren’t there.”
“Roon,” Kilian said, exasperated.
Roon ignored him. “So, yeah, he was likely squished by a massive rock. It just fell right on his head. Instant. Quite unlucky, if you think about it,” he paused thoughtfully. “Anyways, one minute he was there, the next minute he wasn’t.” The gnome shrugged.
Alestra turned and vomited on the floor.
Narth placed a hand on his wife’s heaving shoulders and pointed the other at the door. “OUT!” He shouted angrily. “GET OUT!”
They rushed out of the door, Kilian and Thia dragging Opal out after them. She looked confused. “I thought we explained that quite well,” she told them once they were outside on the street.
“We should have sent a pigeon,” Thia muttered.
Kilian shook his head, “next time,” he breathed, stabbing a finger at Roon’s chest, “someone else does the talking.”
Roon shrugged, “I thought I was quite the wordsmith.”
“Maybe we should have planned out what we were going to say while we were stuck in a tower for fifteen days,” Evelyn said softly.
“Probably a good idea for next time,” Roon agreed.
“I don’t think there will be a next time,” Thia said, looking back at the Lionshare anxiously. “Come on, let’s find a place to stay for the night.”
“I could use a drink,” Roon sighed. “Let’s find the dingiest place in town and get drunk.”
“Why dingy?” Evelyn asked curiously.
“Because,” Roon said, “that’s where you get the best local gossip. Plus,” he smiled, “the booze is cheaper.”
“Fine,” Thia said eventually, “but I would rather not sleep there.” She flipped back her hair, “it’s about time we stay somewhere decent.”
Kilian nodded, seemingly over the incident in the shop. “I would like to find out more about these supposed fire giant attacks. I don’t see evidence for anything recent, but perhaps there is news from the borders.”
With that, they soon found themselves entering a half-standing shack called ‘The Talking Troll’. When they stepped in, Roon took in the stale scent of spilled ale, piss and unwashed men. “Ah,” he sighed appreciatively, “just where I belong.”
Thia wrinkled her nose and pointed to a hole in the roof, where pigeons flitted about. The splintered wooden floor had bird droppings all over it. “Hold on to your coin purses,” Kilian whispered.
“I always do when Roon’s around,” Thia said, glancing over at the gnome, who smirked.
The bar had a handful of patrons in various states of drunkenness, the oldest one snoring in the corner, his head on the table and half a mug of ale in his loose grip. Kilian and Thia stepped up to the bar and the sailor ordered five ales. “I’ll have your best cup of wine,” the elf said.
“That’ll be one gold for a cup,” the bartender told her, eyeing her lithe figure with a groping gaze.
“Alright,” Thia said, “your second-best cup of wine.”
The bartender nodded. “Just four ales, then.” Kilian said.
“Still five ales,” Roon corrected, standing on tip toes near the bar. When Kilian gave him a look, he shrugged. “It’s been a rough couple of hours.”
When the ales came, Roon quickly took two large mugs and expertly dodged tables, wet spots and upturned chairs to the table Opal and Evelyn had reserved for them. Opal had a pigeon perched on the crook of her arm and was currently chatting to it animatedly.
Roon sat and immediately chugged half his ale, wiping the foam from his mouth with a satisfied belch.
“Disgusting,” Thia said, sitting across from him.
Kilian sat and studied their surroundings, assessing the locals. “This town is in rough shape.” He spotted a man across the small room, semi-drunk and dressed in a shabby, priestly garb. “I’m going to speak with him,” Kilian said, “find out what I can about the giants.”
Before Roon could protest, he took the second ale from the gnome’s hand and went to seat himself next to the priest. Rolling his eyes, Roon finished the rest of his ale and trotted over to listen to the conversation.
“Silvarrian Loomshank,” the man was saying with a slight drawl, whether from drunkenness or an accent, it was difficult to say.
“I’m Kilian,” the sailor introduced himself. “Tell me, why is this town in such ruins? I see no evidence of recent attacks, but it has me wondering.”
“That’s right,” the priest nodded his gray head and gestured to the hole in the tavern’s ceiling. “There were attacks a couple’a years ago. Most peoples is too,” he hiccupped, “too lazy or too damn poor to fix any of it.”
“What was the attack?”
The man shrugged. “Fire giants, from what I’ve heard. Not sure. Just got here m’self.”
“And you’ve seen none yourself?” Roon cut in excitedly. The priest looked down at him in surprise, having not noticed him before.
“No fire giants here,” he grumbled.
“Have you heard rumours of giants in the area?” Kilian prodded. “We were told there were some near Triboar. That’s why we came out this way.”
“I’ve been travelling this way from Neverwinter,” the priest said. “Banished! Bah! Can you believe it? Anyways,” he sighed, “I’ve heard rumours, like you, but no giants. Can’t see why you’d be chasing them anyhow.”
“Fate, it would seem,” Roon said seriously, and the priest nodded in understanding.
Kilian sighed, disappointed. “Very well, thank you for your time.”
“Thanks for the ale,” the priest raised the mug, then finished it in two sweeping gulps.
“Where are you headed next?” Roon asked.
“Not sure as to that,” he said. “I was a priest of Helm, but now…”
Roon nodded sympathetically. “Religious people, right?”
“Cheers to that!” the priest boomed, suddenly emphatic. He raised his mug and went to take a drink, then realized it was empty and slammed it back down onto the table, muttering.
“Right,” Kilian said, placing a hand on Roon’s shoulder. “Let’s get out of here.”
They next made their way to a two-story, somewhat leaning structure that looked to be the most official building in the town, which was not promising. There were no guards as they entered the creaking front doors and stepped inside the dimly lit, dust-filled space. The room had a few small, high windows with cracked glass allowing some daylight to filter through. Untidy bookshelves lined the walls, and in the back of the room was a tall, lantern lit desk with a large tapestry behind it depicting three black boars. Beneath that was a dying fireplace and a woman hunched over the desk, reading from a stack of papers.
Roon ran up to the desk, which was much too tall for him to see over and stood on his toes to tap his hand on the desk. His hand came back sticky, and he popped a finger into his mouth. “Hm, is that apple pie I taste?” He asked curiously, stepping back and wiping his hand clean on his trousers.
“Hello,” Kilian said, drawing the woman’s attention up.
She had curly, dark hair, thick eyebrows and pale skin. She had a square jaw and jade green eyes. When she stood to greet them, Roon could see she was, on all accounts, a handsome woman. “Hello,” she said, sparing a long glance for Roon, who waved innocently.
“I am Kilian,” Kilian introduced himself, offering his hand to her, which she took, “and these are my companions, Thia, Opal, Evelyn and Roon.”
“Darathra Shandrel, Lord Protector of Triboar,” she said.
“We have just travelled from Nightstone with news of an attack by cloud giants upon the town.” Kilian told her.
“Cloud giants?” the woman said in surprise. “That does not bode well. We have heard rumours of giants of late, but as for them attacking…” She nodded her head, as though deciding something. “Yes, well, thank you for this news.”
“What exactly have you heard about the giants?” Thia asked.
The Lord Protector shook her head, “only that villages in the north are claiming attacks. We’ve had a few refugees come to the town in search of shelter and work.”
“Speaking of work,” Kilian said, “we are mercenaries, tracking the giants, but also looking for income to help us in our journeys. Tell me, do you know of any jobs?”
She shook her head again. “I’m afraid I don’t know. You’d have to go to the Triboar Travelers. That’s where all the caravans pass through.” She paused reluctantly. “Speak to Ulam Stockspool. He’s not the friendliest of men, but if there’s work, he’ll find it for you.”
“Very well,” Kilian dipped his head, “thank you for your time.”
“Thank you for the news,” Darathra said carefully.
As the group closed the door behind them, the Lord Protector quickly thumbed through her stack of letters until she found the one addressed to her and stamped with a red symbol depicting a sword and snake. She tore the letter from the open envelope and pressed it under both hands, rereading the message in the dim lamplight. When she was done reading, she straightened and took a deep breath. Then, she crumpled the letter and threw it into the fireplace, watching the paper catch and shrivel into blackened ash.
“Well, that wasn’t overly helpful,” Roon sighed as they headed to the Ever Wyvern House. They had found directions to the finest lodgings in Triboar from an elderly gentleman sweeping the streets.
“It seems no one has any hard evidence that the giant’s have attacked, other than a few refugees from the north,” the sailor said in frustration. “And the more north we travel, the less work there is to find.”
“I’m running low on funds,” Roon admitted. “There’s been no one to gamble with for ages.”
They came upon the manicured lawn of the Ever Wyvern House. The pathway was made of smooth, matched stone and lined with pink and white flowers. The house itself looked to be freshly painted and stark white, with blue and yellow designs painted into the eaves. The door was made of dark polished wood, and two tall, finely dressed women stood in front of it, quietly sipping crystal glasses of rosé.
“Um, does anyone else feel like there’s something wrong about this place?” Thia asked awkwardly as they eyed the house from afar, surrounded as it was by peasant shops.
“I think we may have to disguise ourselves to get in,” Roon said, eyeing Evelyn’s clothing in particular. “Hopefully we can afford it!” With a flourish of his hand, he cast a disguising illusion over himself and looked down to admire his handiwork. He wore finely cut golden robes and his fingers and ears sparkled with gems. His usually frazzled hair was slicked back and braided with colourful ribbons. “Alright, here’s the plan. You’re all my servants, except for Thia,” he said, gesturing to the noble elf woman. “You,” he smiled, “are my trophy wife.”
Thia crossed her arms. “Your—what?”
“There, you’ll do great!” Roon said happily, then trotted up the pathway toward the house.
They all slowly ascended the stairs behind him, anxious about how out of place the building was compared to the rest of the shabby town of Triboar. Roon dipped his head to each of the women at the door. They didn’t respond, but one the women pushed the door open and gestured for them to enter.
The room was brightly lit and scattered with tall tables and people so finely dressed, it was hard to look at one for too long, lest your brain be scrambled by the overwhelming number of patterns on them.
“Where did all these rich people come from?” Evelyn whispered.
“That’s a good question,” Thia said seriously.
“I’m going to go pickpocket one of them,” Roon said, and at Thia’s look he clarified, “I want to check and see if I can figure out why they’re here.”
His trophy elf-wife nodded. “I’ll distract that one,” she said, pointing her nose to a tall, slightly balding man in a bronze and red robe. He was standing at a table speaking to a slightly shorter man with a smooth-shaven face and shoulder-length blonde hair.
“Excuse me,” Thia said flirtatiously as she strode over to the man, drawing his attention away from the other man, who muttered and turned away to speak with someone else. “Who do I speak to about getting a room at this fine establishment?”
The man seemed to step into her right away, confident and alluring. Roon mimed vomiting to Kilian and the rest, who were standing a little too straight for supposed servants. Then, Roon ducked under the table and slipped a hand into the man’s robe. He felt the coin purse immediately and drew it out, opening it and dumping the small contents into his open palm. Three copper coins. That was all. Wrinkling his head, he placed the empty coin purse back into the man’s robe and slipped away. Thia noticed, and cordially excused herself from the conversation.
“Well?” she asked, bending down to speak with him.
Roon opened his hand to show her the three coppers.
“No identification, no papers.” He said, “and, no money.”
“Perhaps it’s all with his servants?” She asked.
Roon shook his head, “it’s strange.”
They tried it with one more patron and found the same thing: only a few small coppers.
They returned to their companions just as the blond man with the smooth face walked up to Kilian. “Pardon me, man, can I help you?”
“Uh, yes,” Kilian said, trying to sound demure but looking stupidly handsome and in-charge despite himself.
“I would like two rooms,” Roon announced, stepping up to the man with a sweepingly dramatic gesture, allowing his golden robes to sparkle in the light. “One for me and my servants,” he said, “and one for my wife and hers.” He gestured to Thia, who put her nose in the air.
“Wife?” The man said, taken aback for a moment by the sheer size difference of the two of them. “Very well,” he recovered quickly, “it shall be thirty gold. Fifteen for each room.”
“Kilian,” Roon said, snapping a finger, “be a good lad and pay the man.”
Reluctantly, the sailor reached for his belt and took out some gold, handing it first to Roon, who quickly noticed there was only twenty coins. “Ah, yes, I suppose I shall add the other ten,” he said, then in a falsely conspiratorial tone, said to the blonde man, “can’t trust the servants with too much gold, eh?”
“Right you are,” the man said stiffly, and Roon passed him the full amount. “Wonderful,” he said in a flat tone, “I shall take you to your rooms.”
This isn’t creepy at all, Roon thought sarcastically.
As the man led their small group to a hallway and down a few doors, he said, “with the purchase of each room you, of course, have your choice of complementary companionship.”
“Naturally,” Roon said, and Thia seemed to perk up. Roon gave her a pointed look, and she shrugged with a small smile. He heard Evelyn over his shoulder whisper over to Opal, “what does that mean?”
“I have no idea,” Opal said back quietly, “but it sounds nice!”
“Alright,” Roon said when the man left them with the rooms. “Men in one room, girls in the other.”
“Women,” Thia said, handing Kilian some gold for the room, which he happily put in his coin purse.