The group had spent five days riding and thankfully had not seen any more trouble. The sun was close to setting and they were approaching a small town. Callindra seemed to remember Tryst calling it Gomreed apparently after the name of the grasses that grew at the edge of the lake from which many of the townsfolk made their living.
While Vilhylm and Cronos went to find lodging, Callindra and Tryst asked directions to the constable so that they might report the trouble they’d had with Kobolds. Although it had been seven days this was the first place that had someone who would be able to send word to a Lord and Tryst was adamant that someone of authority be notified.
The cut on her thigh was healing nicely thanks to an ointment Tryst had given her, but it still itched bad enough to make her irritable. After days in the saddle and sleeping on the ground at night Callindra was ready for a hot bath and a real bed, but Tryst insisted on seeing the constable before they secured lodgings. She would have let him go on his own but he had asked her to accompany him.
“Callindra, I would welcome your input when reporting this matter to the authorities.” He had said, “I think you would give good perspective if they ask specific questions. I am less skilled in tactics and warfare than you are.”
It was flattering and she agreed to go, in spite of her desire to slip into a hot bath. As they made their way through the hard packed dirt streets of Gomreed, Callindra noticed they were attracting a lot of attention. Some even went as far as to shutter windows and bar doors.
“Do you think there has been trouble here lately? I don’t remember villagers being this fearful before, do you Tryst?” She asked.
“It just depends on where you go Callindra, every village is different. Some fear outsiders and others welcome them.” He sounded exhausted, worn to the limit.
They entered a business district with shops and a few taverns with music pouring out of their doorways. “Well either way let’s just find their magistrate or whatever and get to the inn. My skin feels like it’s going to crawl away and I’m really looking forward to a hot meal.” The familiar scent of tac touched her nostrils and she turned her head to find the source. A small store was nestled between a pair of taverns, the sign above the door read ‘The Dry House’ and a man stood outside smoking a long stemmed pipe.
“Pardon me sir, would you know the way to the local constable?” Callindra said with a smile. “We have something to report.”
“Run into trouble on the road?” He said, blowing a large smoke ring. An errant breeze blew it spiraling erratically over their heads, although strangely enough it kept its shape.
“Something like that. My name’s Callindra, this is my traveling companion Tryst.” She said, extending her hand.
“Fredrick.” He said, firmly shaking her hand, “The local magistrate’s office is just down the road on the right, you can’t miss the sign hanging over the street. It’s a noose with a raven flying overhead. Stop by on your way back, I can tell you’re interested in my wares.” He smiled and released her hand.
“Thanks Fredrick, maybe I will.” She said, “The smell brings back some memories I don’t want to lose.”
They continued down the street and soon saw the aforementioned sign. Tryst stopped in the doorway, “Excuse me, is this the office of the Magistrate?”
A large man wearing a doublet stained with rust from armor came to the door. “Yeah yeah, what is it now?” He grumbled, “Someone had better be murdered.”
“I apologize sir, allow me to introduce myself. My name is Tryst Te’Chern and this is my traveling companion Callindra.” Tryst said, “I wish to report that a caravan was waylaid along the road approximately one sennight ago by kobolds. There were no survivors.”
“What do you want me to do about it?” He asked, “Out of my jurisdiction. I don’t have any sway along the road, let alone the manpower even if I did have the authority.”
“Well as to that, we dealt with the problem.” Tryst said, “I just wanted to have the influx of those creatures to be reported to someone of authority.”
“Then why are you telling me? If the problem’s solved then there’s even less I can do about it.” He said, turning to go back into the building.
“Sir!” Tryst burst out, causing him to pause.
“Was there something else? I have my dinner waiting inside and a tankard of good ale that’s getting flat.”
“I apologize for the inconvenience sir but could you please pass along messages to the Lords of nearby Holdings if I pen it out tonight? It would carry more weight coming from a local Magistrate.” Tryst almost managed to keep the sarcasm out of his voice.
“Fine.” The Magistrate said and slammed the door in Tryst’s face.
“That fat, worthless…” Tryst took a deep breath, “He’s a disgrace to his position.”
“Come on Tryst, let’s go get a drink and some rest.” Said Callindra, reaching out to touch his elbow.
The bath was wonderful. It was a wide, deep copper affair, set before a roaring fire in a tiled room. A bottle of chilled wine sat within arm’s reach and there was an attendant with strong fingers to rub scented oils into her scalp and tense shoulder muscles.
“Can I get you aught else Miss?” The maid asked, setting down a thick robe next to the tub.
“Mmmm?” Callindra raised her head slightly, “No, this is heaven.”
“You really a warrior?”
“Huh?” Callindra reached for her wine glass and took a drink, “What’s your name?”
“Please call me Callindra Donna, Miss doesn’t quite fit.” She grinned and drained her goblet, “Yes I am a warrior, why?”
“Well, I never seen a woman what used a sword before.” Donna said, glancing at the sheathed Brightfang who lay within easy reach of Callindra’s right hand. “Why you keep it so close? Ain’t like someone gonna attack you here.”
“Brightfang isn’t just a sword Donna, he is my companion.” She smiled at the confused look on the woman’s face, “He is my friend who will never betray me as long as I stay true to him. We are bonded.”
“Oh.” Donna gave her a direct, doubtful look, “That mean you don’t like men?”
“What?” Callindra burst out laughing, “No, it just means that I don’t have to worry about anyone taking advantage of me, man woman or monster.”
Callindra’s laughter was infectious and the maid laughed along with her, “Sounds lonely, I wouldn’t mind that knight with the hammer takin advantage of me.”
“Knight? Oh you mean Tryst? He’s a priest, although I don’t know if his order is a chaste one or not.” Callindra shrugged, “He’s pretty enough if you like that sort of thing. I guess I never gave it much thought.”
She stood and Donna gasped, “Gods; that wound!” She exclaimed, pointing at the newly healed gash across her thigh.
“Yeah, it was a pretty nasty one.” Callindra said with a shrug, “It’s healing well though, mostly thanks to Tryst’s skills. This one hurt too.” She said pointing to a long shallow scar across her rib cage, “Without my armor it might have killed me.”
“So many scars…” Donna’s voice trailed off as she saw the myriad of thin lines that crisscrossed her arms. “How you get em? How old are you anyway?”
“I’m eighteen. Most of these are from training, many are ones I gave myself. Learning to wield a sword isn’t without its hazards.”
“Eighteen? My younger sister’s eighteen, she’s been settled for near two years now. Has the sweetest pair of boys you ever seen.” Donna glanced over Callindra’s lean, muscled form and decided to stop talking about babies.
“Donna I wonder if you could get a couple pairs of men’s breeches that would fit me? Maybe a shirt too. I could do with some extra clothes.”
“Sure, no trouble.” Said Donna, “Well I best get to work. Good ta meet you Callindra, I’ll bring the clothes you wanted up when we get em. Should be with breakfast.”
Callindra regretfully looked at the empty wine bottle, but knew she should stick to water lest her head get the better of her the next morning. She sighed, wrapped the robe Donna had left around herself, picked up Brightfang and made her way up to her room.
The next morning when Callindra woke she could hear the maids moving through the hallways. Opening the door she found her new clothes folded and sitting outside her door just as Donna had promised alongside a tray with three small grilled fish, a pitcher of milk and half a loaf of bread so fresh it was still warm to the touch.
She dressed quickly and only paused to buckle Brightfang on over her tunic and grab the loaf of bread before heading out into the street, making her way back to The Dry House. It had been a long time since she had smelled the particular blend of tac that Glarian used to smoke, but yesterday the scent had been strong.
When she arrived, Fredrick was just opening his shop. A pot of strong tea was brewing over a small coal stove just inside the door and a heavy loaf of bread similar to the one she had consumed on the way here sat next to it.
“Ahhh… Callindra wasn’t it?” He said, looking up as she approached.
“Fredrick, I am interested in that blend you were smoking yesterday.” She said, “I think it was an old friend’s favorite blend and the scent really brought back some pleasant memories.”
“You’re here very early my dear. Why don’t you sit and have a cup of tea with me. You can tell me of your travels and then we can talk business.” He gestured to a pair of chairs outside the shop door with a steaming cup of tea.
“Thanks.” She said, sitting across the door from him. “I’m not sure how much time I’ll actually have to chat though. I need to stretch and practice before my party awakens. I’m afraid we will be leaving today.”
“Tell me about this friend of yours at least then.” He said, blowing on his tea to cool it, “It’s not just anyone who smokes Carilan Imperalus you know.”
“He saved my life.” She sipped her tea and found it to be harsh and bitter, “I guess I don’t know much about him really. As sad as it seems, we lived together for years and I never took the time to ask about his life. I always thought there would be more time. I won’t make that mistake again.”
Fredrick gave her a quizzical look over the rim of his teacup. “That particular blend is one favored by the Keld’Ima.” When she didn’t react he added, “The King’s personal bodyguards.”
Callindra laughed, a breeze swirling around her and playfully tickling the back of her neck, “I’m pretty sure he wasn’t a bodyguard. He lacks any real desire to take orders I think. Besides you don’t seem the type either but I certainly smelled it coming out of your pipe yesterday evening.”
“True enough.” He said with a grin, “I acquired a taste for the Imperalus blends years ago. Strong yet subtle, just the right balance of aroma and body. I don’t know what the curing process is but it takes time and skill. Your friend, whoever he is, has good taste.”
He rose and walked into the shop, refilling his teacup then making his way behind a counter to a wall set with a myriad of small doors from floor to ceiling. He opened one and slid a drawer out, selecting a sealed leather pouch before closing it firmly again.
“Here you are, twenty silver for a packet of memories.”
Callindra balked slightly, her room for the night had only cost half that. “Gods, I’ll need a pipe and flint as well at that price.”
“Consider it done.” He took a long, narrow box from beneath the counter and took a slender pipe with a long stem from it. She could see delicate carvings of flowering vines all down the stem and around the bowl. “This should fit your character quite nicely.”
She was about to protest until she saw the vines were climbing roses with thorns clearly defined. “I suppose it does at that. The next time I’m in town I will take the time to sit and share some stories of the road.”
Fredrick smiled and gave her a small bow from the waist, “I look forward to it Callindra.”