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BTW: "Whispers in the Walls"


Beyond the Wall
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I

 

Meara had been warmed by her friend’s arrival, for in her heart of hearts she had feared leaving alone. The three slept and with the break of dawn and with Haygar's well wishes they set one foot in front of the other on the road. Their adventures had begun.

 

Taking the advice of Haygar the intrepid trio set out toward the nearest city, Fessin, which was the northernmost walled city of Apria and sat on the western bank of the Tribiron. According to him it was there that they could find direction toward what it was we wished to accomplish. He had given them a small amount of seed gold saying that it was a loan and that he expected repayment when they returned from their adventures.

 

Ardan led them east toward the river a march of a few of days, the plan being to find passage on a river boat south. Their first night the camped out under the clears sky but by morning the clouds had come, and the days march was long and wet. They came that evening to a village, much like their own,  but as they weren’t traders they were looked at with grave suspicion and not very welcomed though they did except payment for food and a place to sleep in  the towns common barn. The next village was much the same and they realized that these small communities were just like their own in that strangers were not received with open arms. They hoped that in the south they would find things different.

 

They arrived at the river only to find that most of the river traffic had put up for the winter and the few boats willing to take them wanted three or four times the coin that Haygar had said was reasonable. They also found the small river communities much less savory than even the villages they had passed through. Their youth and the fact that two of their numbers were young women drew unwelcome looks and even propositions of the most unwelcome sort.

 

 After their third attempt to find passage in as many river towns and several encounters that almost ended in fights, they finally found a fur trader with a small boat who was going to Fessin with a load of furs. He didn’t charge them anything just had them pay for their own supplies and help with the work. It was a flat bottom boat that  was loaded with  furs and supplies. The put into  shore at night and slept in a makeshift covering on the boat. It was cold and usually rainy but the trip down river took them less than a week and if they had walked it would have been at least a month.

 

Fessin was actually two cities or rather a town and a city together. Lining the wide section of the west bank was long series of piers which stretched out into the river. Beyond the piers were warehouses and tavens and sellers’ markets. A town had grown up to service them and a road led through the town,  usually called either Lower Fessin or West Fessin,, away from the river to the walled City of Fessin about a mile away.

 

The road from the river to the city wall was lined with shops and inns as well as residences all crowded together around the road. At the halfway point to the city was across road with a rough wagon trail wide enough for a single wagon, heading off north toward the distant forest which was several miles away and a cobbled road heading south. wide enough two or three wagons. The wall of the city was fourteen feet high and lined with a parapet. Guards could be seen walking the parapet but they did not seem overly observant. The entrance through the wall was some ten feet tall a double gate made of stout timbers bound with riveted iron. The gate opened inward, and the road went through there was a large guard house to the left set back and against the wall and was where the guards went to the parapet from the inside. The road continued beyond with the same sorts of shops and taverns and inns lining it as it wound through the city sprouting off avenues and alleys to other sections and neighborhoods. The main road continued on about three quarters of a mile until it came to the castle ramparts which rose up some twenty feet to another wall which was another fifteen feet taller. This wall also had a parapet as well as crenelations and was triangular with three towers at the corners. Nestled with int this inner wall was the city castle ruled over by the Count of Fessin.

 

As far as cities went it was actually small but to Ardan, Artoria and Meara it was the biggest greatest thing they had ever seen.

 

The boat had arrived late in the afternoon and after helping the boat master, whose name was Gerddry, unload his furs he bid them farewell and slipped each a gold coin larger than the ones Haygar had given them. They later found out that those larger coins were worth ten of the smaller, and that there were even larger coins and some made of metal more valuable than gold. Gerddry told them to follow the road into the city and not to spend any money in any of the shops or taverns along the way, to wait until in the city proper. He said that showing gold was dangerous especially for such as young and inexperienced as them and that they should take what coin they had to a money changer and have the gold or some of it changed to silver and copper which was more easily spent and didn’t draw as much attention. He advised that if they had a lot of gold, to make an arrangement with the changer to hold it on account. He then gave them the name of a bonded changer and told them what inn they should seek out for rooms, The Stebbins House.

 

None of the three had ever seen such a place or so many people and their eyes grew wider as they made their way to the gate and through it. The guards did not seem to pay much attention to the individual people moving in and out they just kept everyone moving, although both Meara and Artoria drew some looks.

 

Once inside the walls they were pushed along by the traffic until the road widened to a small square where the broke out of the moving mass and stopped for a rest and to get their bearings. The square was built around a fountain with a statute. The three sat on a bench before the statue and looked at the chaos of people.

 

 

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The trip to Fessin was amazing in and of itself.  Even when they had to do some real work, they did it together, and were actually paid for their work.   Ardan was happy to find good people in the world, though he knew there were true bastards.   He  chuckled as the girls drew more attention at the gates, an smiled at them.  "Pretty ladies always catch  the eye."  He had said, even as they were pushed along.
 

When they finally reached the square, Ardan nodded, stood between his two friends, Taking in the immensity of the square.  "Well it's obvious we aren't from here, so I think We should follow Gerddry's advice, change out at least a portion of what we have, and make our way to Stebbins House.   We can get a hot meal, get cleaned up,  and then beginnings of a more in-depth plan going forward."
 

He had kept his voice low, enough so that only the two could hear him, and in such unfamiliar grounds, it was plain to see Ardan was still on guard.  They had indeed made it to the city, but his father had told him tales of the big cities years before.  He couldn't recall as much as he liked, but Haygar had impressed upon all three of them that things were different than in the small villages, and that being on your guard was a wise thing to do even within city walls.
 

"Too bad we didn't actually get directions there..."  He was wondering if perhaps either of them had, while they'd worked with Gerddry, he hadn't thought of it at the time, something he was kicking himself for abit internally.

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"So we find a temple and a priest. Surely one of them will steer us in the right direction," Artoria offered. Before this journey, her go to suggestion would have been a blacksmith, but the ones they had encountered in the small villages had been downright bristling with territorial hostility, even beyond the general distrust of strangers and the more targeted disdain of aimed at an 'uppity girl' walking about armed and armored. It made her bristle herself, and strain the smile plastered on her face.

 

Still better than the crude... offers made towards her and Meara. She got the impression if they *hadn't* been armed and armored, it might have been less offer and more certainty had they hung around more than an evening.

 

Finding the fur trader had been a blessing beyond words or else the next one to proposition himself would have found himself on the receiving end of her big big hammer. Someone with a little tact might have been fun to talk with for an evening, but with the other two needing her and not quite knowing how literally to take Haygar's advice of trusting no one... She didn't quite want to let down her guard. This though? This 'City' was spectacular. You could drop the whole population of the Chalk into the walls, and Gods help you if you needed to find them again. It'd be an adventure in itself to just pick a direction to walk in and find yourself back to your starting place.  

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Meara quietly agreed though she was a bit uncertain about the whole temple thing. They left the square and after asking a guard where the temple was, they traveled deeper into the city following his directions.

 

The sights never lessened they saw their first ever living Dwarf, a group of them in fact, none taller than four and a half foot and each  broad shouldered and thick of arm and leg, their long hair, and beards, both braided and adorned with colorful beads and snippets of cloth, set them apart from the usually taller slimmer men. Their clothing and armor and what weapons they could see, axes, knives, and swords, were of the same sort men carried though they carried several of each it seemed.

Of course not all was pleasant, it was hot and the air did not flow well through the crowded streets and the smell of so many in even such a space as this was not pleasant. The directions the guard had given led them off the main thoroughfare  and the crowds thinned eventually they came to the temple dedicated to the gods.

 

The building was large, but they had passed larger it was also not as they might have imagined the walls were not made of gold and there were no statues of gold or even silver, in fact there were no statues at all only a large double door at the top of a wide stair which came up from the street. On the door was the Trefoil emblem of the Three.

 

There were no guards at the door, and it opened easily for them.

 

There was inside the door a small area where cloaks and shields could be hung and a tall table with a bowl of water and towels for washing.  There were several cloaks and one large round shield in this area. Beyond this there was a short stair of only a few steps which led down into the main worship hall, the floor was of bare stone and there was a lane with long wooden benches on either side that led to a podium behind which was another large emblem of The Three. Lining the walls on the ends of the benches were several alcoves built into the walls some of these held statues and candles others appeared empty above each alcove was a narrow window  which held no glass and was open to the outside. These let in air and light from outside.  Most of the Light inside was supplied not by the high narrow windows but by tall candle lamps which stood between the alcoves. There were many more candles at the altar. There were two doors in the wall at the alter end of the hall.

 

There were only two people in the hall aside from themselves both sitting on the bench at the front by the alter, both were women, one dressed in a plain but serviceable robe and sandals her blond hair tied in a bun at the back of her head giving her a severe look. The other was armored in armor unlike any of them had ever seen before, all metal, chain and plate, like something out of a tale. The helmet sat on the floor by the knights, for sure that had to be what she was to have such armor, foot. Her hair was shorn short and was brown. The two were in conversation and both laughing which seemed out of place in a hall of worship. Neither noticed the three travelers.

 

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This was her idea to start with, and she was the social one of the trio so she should take point.

 

But, Gods help her, the sheer scale and grander of the interior made her feel very small indeed. Forget losing the village within the city walls; you could plop down the entire village with room to spare in this hall alone. Still, Artoria squared her shoulders, suppressed a wince as sore muscles protested lugging around her arsenal of weapons. If nothing else, leaving those behind in the antechamber, was worth this stop in her mind. And this place..? She couldn't speak to the stonework or the stonework, but the little bits of metal work everywhere gave silent witness to a small army of blacksmiths upkeeping the place.

 

Right. She was stalling.

 

"...My Ladies, forgive my interruption," she called after coming within reasonable earshot of the two and rapping her knuckles on a pew to get their attention, "My friends and I were hoping to get directions to the Stebbins House. We're new to the city."  

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Right to the direct approach I see.   Ardan mused mentally.  Well when you've got a hammer, and everything seems like a nail...   he moved up with Artoria, but still behind her,  backing her up like he said he would.  Like her, he'd set his weapons down.   It didn't seem proper to carry them fully into the Temple itself, and he didn't want to make some major mistake so soon after their arrival.   Ardan took note of how the two they were approaching looked, he'd never seen full plate before, but it looked quite heavy, and the way she sat, she was comfortable in it.  That hinted at the knight being quite strong, and with deep reserves of stamina to keep such a thing on in the city.

 

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The two ladies both looked up at Artoria’s words, neither seemed startled, though Artoria noted that the armored woman’s hand strayed to the hilt of the long sword at her side though not in a threatening manner. The one dressed in the clerics robe stood and turned toward Artoria and her companions a gentle smile on her lips.

 

“Greeting’s travelers, Welcome to Fessin, and it is no interruption, all are welcome in the House of the Three, at any time. Please come sit.” She walked in front of the knight and with a gesture indicated the bench across from where they were sitting. The knight turned to keep the youths in her sight, but her manner remained casual.

 

“I am Proctor Celis, and this,” she gestures at the knight who stands, “is Templar Essine.”

 

The armored woman stands, and they realize that she tall, taller than any of the men from their village and as broad shouldered, as far as they could tell with the armor, as Haygar who was, aside from Artorias father who had bigger arms, the largest man any of them knew or had seen before. She gave them a polite nod as she let her eyes rove over all of them, her hand still on the pommel of her sword. “You have traveled far,” asked the Templar? Her voice was in a rich and clear middle range not the lower deep sound that her size and look would lead one to expect.

 

Spoiler

The names sound odd to your characters ears, foreign. and the terms or titles, Proctor and Templar also have no immediate meaning, although Templar does sound like it has something to do with temples 

 

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"Down from our village, Havendale of the Chalk, a week by foot and a week by raft to here, Templar," Artoria replied, bobbing her head politely and (poorly) trying to hide her awed fascination with the looming woman. The blonde bladesmith wasn't used to being loomed over, not since she grew into her last growth spurt.

 

"We've been told how short that is, but has seemed far, seen a lot," she continued with a nervous laugh, looking down and running her hands over her comparatively shabby armor before rallying, "My name is Artoria. These are my friends Ardan and Maera. Your city is... Well, amazing. Our mentor told us about it, but seeing it is something else. So much everything, so many people. in one place."   

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"Truly, it is so much larger than anything we're accustomed to. the buildings are larger than anything I've ever seen before, I'd only heard stories before."

Ardan smiled slightly.   "A part of me wants to explore, but I know better.  We know little of the city, and I'd like to learn abit more before we actually go wandering around the city aimlessly."

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Templar Essine nodded, “Havendale, that’s on the other side of the Grimwood,” she looked at Celis who shrugged, “hmm… about two maybe three days ride from the old, haunted elf ruins.”

 

“Ahh,” Celis nodded now.

 

Essine regarded the three youths once again, “You mentioned a raft, so I assume you came by the river instead of through the Grimwood.”

 

“That is a good thing, through the wood you probably would have come out further west near Celweal. It is a larger city, but more… stringent,’ throws in Celis with a chuckle.

 

“Yes, Proctor, we did come down the river.” This time it was Meara who spoke. These the first words she had said since entering temple. “I know what a Proctor is, but I have never heard of a Templar, is that a knight?”

 

The two older women exchanged glances, then Celis answered.  “Something like that. A Templar is a warrior chosen as a champion by one of the gods.  You could call her a Holy Knight I suppose,” Celis grinned at her friend. Essine sighed but her own smile showed she wasn’t offended.

 

“Gods?’ Ardan tilted his head a look of confusion. Back home the three were never called gods, they were always referred to as The Three or if individually as the Maker, the Namer and the Nurturer. Of course, he knew that The Three were Gods and had even heard tales that mentioned other gods worshiped in other lands, but hearing The Three spoken of like this, and from a Proctor no lees, seemed irreverent at the least if not blasphemous.

 

Spoiler

if you have questions I have answers

 

 

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"I don't think I've ever heard of a Holy knight before."  Ardan said quietly.  "I heard stories that there were other gods, but in Havendale on the Three are actively worshipped."  Ardan said nothing of the elf ruins, or anything else they'd done before coming here, it wasn't information he was going to volunteer readily.

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"Not as strange as a holy smith," Artoria cut in with a sly grin and a gleam in her eye as she pivoted into the other reason she had suggested visiting the temple, acting on the advice Haygar had given her when she asked about her rune between rounds of getting her ass beat, "And the person who taught us about the outside world mentioned the church has those."

 

She produced the aforementioned rune from a pouch and held it up so the two older women could see it, smiling hopefully, "I'm a smith, born and raised in the Aching family forge. An elf gave me this several months ago, and I've learned enough about it to make a weapon... Well, a little bit magical once a day. Make them magical forever if I use it on a weapon I'm forging. I don't know a lot, but I'd like to show I can learn more. At least once we've found a place where my friends can do the same."

 

The blonde bladesmith let the smile continue to dance on her lips as she glanced back over at Meara in silent invitation to ask her question. Or not if such was her desire. 

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Both older women studied the rune Artoria showed them. Essin pursed her lips curious but not know anything about such things, Celis on the other hand nodded.

 

"Yes I have seen such before, though I know little about them myself. Markham, is our armorer, here, but he is not in the city today. I can send for him if you wish to return tomorrow and talk with him."  She looked thoughtful, "You say an elf gave this to you? That is not something...." she trails off, "I know a dwarven smith, here in the city as well I'll see if he will come and talk with you if you wish it."

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Ardan had gone silent, and waited.  He wasn't so willing to just admit what they'd gone through, or their abilities, but if this actually helped Artoria better herself and her abilities, then he was all for it.  They all had room to grow, and would have to to make it in this new place they'd journeyed to together.  

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"Thank you. I will try to not waste their time, M'Lady," Artoria answered with a respectful bob of her head and a happy smile she didn't bother to suppress one iota, letting her eyes dance over the templar's well-crafted armor as a distraction from her reflexive 'Oh-Maker-Oh-Maker' panic of not knowing what sort of gift to bring to cover her introduction to this presumably-master smith. Her wares didn't break until the user hit them against something stupid for a damn long time, but the interlocking articulations on that armor were a far cry from a door hinge. Get it wrong and you'd end up with a different combination of 'hot spot' in every single position.

 

"And the direction to Stebbin's House? Unless I missed it?"

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The Templer smiled, “I will take you there, directions might be confusing and it is getting to the time of day when the streets are over crowded. I have to travel that way anyhow so I might as well show you. I can also deliver your message to Balkon, I assume that is who you were referring too?” This last was asked of the Proctor.

 

After the Proctor wrote her message the three adventurers left the temple in the company of the tall Templer. Traversing the streets was easier this time even though they were more crowded. The mass of people made way for the tall woman warrior and cast awed glances at her and those looks include her companions.

 

Meara, remembering the fur trader asked about the money changer and Essin knew the man in question and seconded the recommendation. She obliged by leading them there first and introducing them to him and waiting while they conducted their business.

 

Afterwards she led then into a side district that was lined with service shops and several inns and usually an adjoining tavern finally they arrived at the Stebbins House where she said her farewells.

 

Most of the buildings they had past in this district had been two stories, a shop filling the ground floor with living quarters above for the owners or workers. The Taverns were usually only one story although a couple had two stories with the same arrangement as the other shops. The inns however were almost always three or four stories and most had small stables on one side while the other side was often a tavern. None o the inns actually had taverns in them, they had kitchens and drinking rooms but not full fledged taverns.

 

The Stebbin's House was a three stories and seemed well constructed and the paint covering the walls was fresh and not faded or chipped. On one side was a stable with a small corral that could house a half dozen horses or mules the saw two young boys probably about twelve working in the stables brushing a pair of large draft horse. The could see a closed wagon parked at the back behind the stable. The other side was a tavern called the Smokey Jack whith and ally between the two buildings.

 

Inside the inn was a large room occupied by half dozen long table each with a long bench on each side the side of the room closes to the alley by the tavern next door was a huge fire place. There were a couple of smaller round table near the fireplace these were set with wooden chairs.

 

The back of the room was a short bar with taps for Ale and Cider and doors which led to the kitchens. The side of the room opposite the fire place was a wide staircase which led to the upper floors and under the stair was the opening to a hall which led to several private dining rooms.

 

It was early afternoon and the dinning room was almost full of both men and women eating and drinking. It was loud with conversation but not raucous and it was obvious that all were familiar with each other for the most part. The table were being served by several serving wenches whole carried trays filled with plates of food or mugs of ale and cider or jugs of water.

 

A few of the people nearest the three from Havendale gave them curious glances bot over all they were mostly ignored. One of the serving wenches, after she emptied her tray stopped by them, tray tucked under one arm she looked them over gaze lingering on the packs and weapons as she brushed her lank brown hair from her eyes where it had fallen down from the scarf tied to keep it out of them. “You lookin fer dinner or room,” she asked, her accent strong and unusual. She was short only about four and a half foot and chubby with a pleasant round face and a spray of freckles across her nose. She smiled at Ardan. speaking to him more than to Artoria and Meara.

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Ardan smiled thinly in response.   "Both, eventually, though for now, we'd like to start with two adjacent rooms, if possible.  One for me, one for my friends."  He figured they'd not mind sharing a room together, somewhat less so sharing one with him.   Normally he'd have let Artoria answer, but since she spoke to him directly, he did.

 

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Artoria let Ardan have his fun as the focus of attention, taking in the crowd of eating people. This crowd seemed... community-like, without being hostile to outsiders, at least not her and her friends, not yet. With any luck, they could keep it that way. She grinned and shifted her gear on her shoulders to get some of the kinks out while waiting for Ardan to arrange for rooms and a good meal, something she could sleep on easily. Such variety and quantity of foods being served. It made her stomach rumble in impatience.  

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The serving wench smiled at Ardan until Artoria shifted her pack then she swallowed in fright seeing the bulging biceps on the taller girls’ arms and the Hammer, “All right then,” she looked around then pointed a one of the smaller tables by the fire that was being cleared at that moment, “Why don’t you set over there and I’ll have Master Dullen sees to you  in a flash.”

 

With that she sketched a quick curtsy and turned to go find the Inn keep. The trio made their way to the indicated table and, once this skinny serving girl, much younger than the other, finished wiping it down, settled into wooden chairs that were oddly comfortable.

 

Only a few minutes passed, time which the trio used to study the people around them. They saw men and women obviously of the peasant class like themselves but much more richly attired and well fed. The clothes while not gaudy was equal to what they would have worn to high feast days back in the village, but here seemed to be everyday attire. That made up the majority but there were also some who were obviously of a higher class, probably merchants whose clothes were considerably richer, silks and velvets, men with rings of gold and silver and women with necklaces of gleaming white stones and dangling jewelry from their ears. The women of the higher class all seemed to wear their hair up in towering coifs while the peasant stock wore theirs down. The men were often bearded though few had full beards and the higher class men had theirs trimmed in strange ways to the trios eyes, some of the non-peasants were clean shaven.

 

They took all this in in a only a few moments then the inn keep stepped up. He was a tall thin man with a dour long horse like face. His thinning hair was combed back and where it was not shot through with grey was still a dark brown. He wore common clothes and a heavy stained apron and when he stopped at their table, he was wiping his hands on a long cloth which he slipped into the space between the apron and his body when he was finished.

 

“Welcome to The Stebbins House, Becky says your looking for rooms and food. Food I can supply as I won’t turn away a hungry man or woman,” he added the last with a glance at Meara and Artoria, his eyes lingering longer on Artoria in contemplation. “As for rooms that depends on yer ability to pay. We have a common room, 3 pennies a night, includes a small breakfast, palettes are changed weekly, you supply yer own blanket, or we can for an added cost. The rooms swept daily  and I can guarantee that it is the cleanest common room in the city. That being said, I wouldn’t recommend it for women patrons.

 

Third floor rooms are a silver a night come with supper and breakfast. Second floor are roomier and more comfortable, they come with meals but cost 2 silver a night. If you intend a longer residence rates are cheaper.”

 

He paused and his eyes strayed to the weapons again, “You come through the river gate? Did the guards say nothing about yer weapons?”

 

 

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Ardan shook his head.   "No they didn't even seem to notice them to be honest.   Other things seemed to have their attention.  They generally seemed content to keep the flow of people moving.  Is there something wrong with our weapons?"  back home it was normal to see the hunters with their bows, even in town, and daggers or swords.  It had been a blessing of its own, the few times monsters had come near the township.

"As for the rooms..."  he looked to both Artoria and Meara, "What do you think?  I'm inclined towards the third floor myself."  He could just make the decision himself, it certainly seemed most thought him the leader, as he was a young man, still the two with him were his friends, and he'd give them a chance to make their own decisions.   

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Meara glances to Artoria who shrugs, “The rooms on the 3rd floor are connected to the common room? And do you have baths,” she asked the Innkeep?

 

“Yes, the rooms open on the common room. The doors are stout, and each has a bolt. Baths are available on the 3rd floor for an extra fee, the 2nd floor there is no charge.” He addressed Ardan about the weapons while the two young women conferred.

 

“They are supposed to,“ he points at the sword, “they should have informed you that free-swords aren’t to wear or display arms, while within the city walls. You can carry them in your packs or on an animal or even wear them but then only if they are peace bound. A belt knife is allowed as are work tools that might be used as weapons,” he points at Artoria’s, “ not sure where that one stands.”

 

“About the rooms,”Interuupted Meara, “you said there was alower price for longer stays? How much would a room on the second flood cost for a seven day?”

 

“One room? For the three of you?”  The innkeep looked shocked.

 

“Oh no sir, Ardan can stay on the third floor.” Meara grinned at Ardan.

 

“Well in that case, let me see,” he reached up and tapped his chin for several seconds, “we’ll say 10 silver for a seven day, if you think you might be here longer, we will drop that to 8 after the first seven day. But I would want the first in advance.’

 

Meara and Artoria exchange a look and nod. “We shall take your offer and here,” she say opening her belt purse and retrieving a small hand full of coins which she counts into the innkeeps hand, “is for the Seven Day.”

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Ardan grimaced at the thought of being one full floor away from the girls but nodded his agreement to the arrangement and paid for his week in advance which saved him two silver.

 

Then not wanting to display ignorance but also not wanting to break the law he asked about free-swords and what peace-bound was.

 

“Tats the common term for warriors who have no master, unemployed guards, Mercenaries with no place, adventurers, troublemakers. Free-swords with nothing better to do often get drunk and brawl and if they have weapons serious injuries and even killings can happen. So they can either store their weapons or have them peace bound.

 

A peace bond is a tie placed on a weapons sheath and used to bind the weapon where it can't be drawn with out breaking the bond. It uses a fancy knot and the ends are crimped with a metal piece which bears a mark of the bonding agent, most of the smiths here in the city can do a Bond. You sign the bonders book, he ties the knot and makes the crimp. The only way to draw the weapon is to break the bond. Which leaves a record. If it is self-defense and the bond is legitimate you might get a small fine if even that. But if not the best you can hope for is expulsion from the city, but likely your talking about time in the gaol and bigger fines or something even worse depending on what trouble ye caused. I'd suggest either leaving that sword and that hammer in yer rooms or have em bound.”

 

After they ate the were shown to their rooms by a young skinny boy named Roady. The girls room on the second floor was good sized, the bed was large enough for the two of them, but Roady said that if they wished they could have a pallet set up for sleeping at night and put up under the bed during the day. Aside from the bed there was a small desk and a chair, a stool for sitting, and a small table with a wash basin and a large pitcher of water, at the foot of the bed was a large chest that could be used to store their belongings. On the third floor they had to cross the common room which made up the largest part of the floor with only four small rooms taking up the back quarter. Those rooms were much smaller that those on the second floor, with only a narrow bed, large enough fro one, a small table with a wooden basin and water jug and a small chest for storage.

 

After setting up their rooms they met again downstairs and decided to go and find a peace-bounder.

 

After asking, they were given directions to the manufacturing district where they could find a smith or weapon maker to bound their weapons.

 

They walked, this time carrying their weapons on their backs instead on on their belts, but in truth the weapons drew less looks than the large muscular Artoria did most of which were of the appreciative nature.

 

After a long sweaty walk they found themselves in a district that was less crowded, here smiths and textile workers made the goods to be sold in the markets, everything from tools and plows, rugs and cabinets, Swords and horseshoes, were made here. They had been told to look at the signs at each work shop that if there were a small shield in the upper right corner of the sign then that smith was a Peace Bounder. The first the saw the went up to the door but Artoria stopped before going in and shook her head, they went on and found three more but each time Artoria found something not quite right with the smithy and asked that they keep on looking.

 

At the seventh shop Ardan and Meara both looked at Artoria who looked in the window at the wares displayed. She could here the sound of hammering and the solid ring of a hammer on steel, a thing she had not noted at any of the other workshops. She nodded to her friends, “This one,” she said and pushed open the door.

 

Inside the sound of hammering was much louder and the scent of a forge could be smelled. The goods ling the racks and shelves were mostly tools and house goods, the only things that could be considered weapons were a rack of axes obviously made for cutting wood and another wrack of Scythes. There was a doorway at the back covered by a hanging curtain of fine chain like that used in making armor and in front of the curtain a large yellow hound lay, curled on a threadbare rug.

 

The hound raised its head and looked at the trio gave a loud bark then lay it's head back down. The hammering stopped. A few moments later the curtain was pushed aside and a man in his middle years came through. He was average height with a broad chest and strong arms covered with the sorts of burns and scars one gets from a lifetime at the forge. He wore serviceable work clothes and a well used smiths apron with a smiths broad belt with hanging tools jangling against his upper legs.

 

The man, gave them a good looking over his eyes lingering on Artoria, appraising, before he spoke. “Good day to you. Welcome to my shop, I am Master Wellman, how may I be of service?”

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  • 2 weeks later...

Buoyed up by the positive attention on their stroll to through the blacksmith's district. A whole district worth of smiths, each of whom had enough business to specialize in one product or the other. Back home... Yes, the Aching forge was kept busy enough to ensure them a steady supply of food for the table and wood for furnace, but add another rival blacksmith to that equation? They'd both starve, and her father had fought long and hard to keep her as his apprentice over another second son in need of a trade. That realization made her falter briefly in the street, a niggling thought at how little resistance he could offer against those demands now with her vanished into the night. And how heartless it would be be to run back and try and shove some hopeful child just to...

 

Forcing the thought away for a mug or two or three tonight when they didn't have business, the blonde bladesmith kept moving forward until they found the 7th smith and satisfied her instincts.

 

"Good Morning, Master Wellman," she replied with her best smile, feeling naked in a smithy without her own leather apron and gloves, "Peace binding for my axe and whatever my friends need done." She had left her hammer back in the room, not even certain how one would peace bond what amounted to a brick of iron marked with an overlapping 'AA' at the end of a stout stick. That wasn't all there was to it, leather wrappings around where her hands needed a sturdy grip, hammered indents at each corner to make it more aerodynamic, and the nigh-invisible little marks to give it a little more eldritch 'ooofm', but still. A hammer was a hammer no matter how much cotton you wrapped around it.    

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If Wellman was surprised at the tall girl taking charge he didn't show it instead he stepped around his corner and held out his hand, "Let me see."

 

Artoria pulled the axe from her belt and handed it to the smith, haft first. He took it, hefted it to check it's weight and balance looked close at the blade, "It's been cared for well. Those scars. You have worked a forge, I'd say. Is this your work?"

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"My father's," Artoria confessed with a smile and a little bit of preening in Aching family pride, "The knives on my friends and I's waist are my work though. New to the city after traveling by river down from the chalklands. Unless they've been beating them against something they shouldn't, the villagers have had no cause to complain before a tool's time."

 

A little bit of craftswoman's gripe entered, the professional irked by the thoughtlessness of her client before she laughed, "But how much to get you to peacebind our weapons? We passed six smithies on the way to yours, and only you seem to be working. Unless there's some kind of holiday I'm unaware of..." 

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