The following morning, he paid the rest of his balance to the same lunyari man he’d met the day he’d arrived in Oldwatch. Xantoxu was waiting out front for him. He attached his bags to the back of the saddle, mounted up, and headed to Tehaksha’s temple.
A large ox-drawn cart stood in the square in front of the temple. Several priests and acolytes milled around, checking the ox’s harness and loaded packs into the cart. Beryna stood to one side, supervising the proceedings. Linndan dismounted nearby and led Xantoxu over to her.
“A fine morning, Scholar Linndan,” she said amicably, eyeing his horse. “That’s a fine beast you have there.”
“If you don’t mind my asking, how did you come by it? You don’t strike me as the sort of man who can afford such a creature.”
“Ah, well, that’s an interesting story. Xantoxu is a cull, gifted to me by a rancher back east for some work I did for him.”
“An expensive gift, even if he is a cull.”
“Considering the nature of the dispute, he thought it a fair price to pay. Xantoxu has a deformity that makes him ineligible as a stud, so he’s useless to the rancher but makes an excellent mount.”
Beryna raised an eyebrow. “He looks fine to me.”
Linndan bent down and brushed aside the long hair hiding the horse’s front hoof. Rather than the cloven hooves common to Melphor’s equines, Xantoxu had a single, solid hoof.
“I’d never heard of this deformity before.”
“Neither had he until Xan was born.”
“Shame. He’s lovely otherwise.”
Linndan straightened and patted the gelding’s neck. “He certainly makes getting around much easier and is faster than a (donkey).”
“Better looking, too.”
A middle-aged priest walked up to her. “High Priestess, the last of the bags is loaded. We’re ready to depart at your leisure.”
“Thank you, Lagrom, that will be all for now.” He bowed and left, heading inside the temple. “Are you ready to go, Linndan?”
“I make a habit of travelling lightly. I didn’t bring much with me. I’m ready to go whenever you are.”
Beryna nodded and walked over to the cart. Two other priests waited for her. “Let’s be off, then. The sooner we leave, the sooner we arrive in Paraten.”
One of the priests climbed up into the driver’s seat and took hold of the ox’s reins while the other got into the bag with their bags. Beryna joined the first priest in front. Linndan got into his saddle and followed them down the road and out of Oldwatch.
Once they were outside the city limits, they took the road north. It was one that Linndan knew all too well. If they followed it all the way to the end it would take them to the Scholar’s Academy, athe school he’d studied at in his youth.
The ox plodded along at a slow but steady pace, slower than what he was accustomed to travelling at. Xantoxu tossed his head but obeyed his rider. In some ways it was nice to not be in a rush to get from one place to another, but on the other having to restrict his pace to something as slow as an ox was maddening.
The first few chimes passed by with nothing more than bird song, the sound of the cartwheels rolling along over the hard packed dirt road, and Xantoxu’s hooves to break up to silence.
“Have you been this way before?” Linndan asked.
Startled, Beryna turned. “Why do you ask?”
“While I’m accustomed to travelling in silence, I enjoy conversation. It’s rare that I have company on the road other than Xantoxu here. He’s not exactly the greatest conversationalist.”
One of the priests chuckled.
“I have not,” Beryna said, answering his question. “I’ve been out of Oldwatch a few times, but never down this road.”
“I myself am from Sunhame,” the priest in the back of the cart volunteered. “Before today, Oldwatch was as far away from home as I thought I’d ever go.”
“Really?” Linndan eyed the man with curiosity. “Why would you leave Sunhame?”
“Our sect isn’t welcome there,” he said bitterly. “My…devotion to our holy Mother caused friction within my House. I left rather than bring shame on them. I found myself welcome in (name), eventually making my way to Oldwatch on a pilgrimage of Her holy sites.”
“That’s quite the journey.”
“May among us have similar tales,” Beryna told him. “Tehaksha is much maligned by all. It’s only on occasions such as this one when they remember Her and find Her useful.”
“I don’t pretend to understand your bitterness, but I’ll remember your words when I write about Her people,” Linndan promised. “All the gods are worthy of our love and devotion. They all have a place in our lives. They made us, after all. Who are we to reject even one of Them?”
“Well said, Scholar,” the other priest said.
“By the way, I don’t think we’ve been introduced,” Linndan said.
The priest at the front hesitated before speaking. “You can call me Neissen.”
“I’m Mician,” the other said with a wave of his hand.
“No House names?”
“I have no desire to bring any dishonour to my House by association,” Mician explained. “I love my family and my House, but they are ashamed of my choices. Perhaps one day this will be different, but today isn’t that day.”
“My reasons are my own,” Neissen said bruskly, turning his attention back to the road.
“Pay them no mind,” Beryna said. “As I said, you’ll find many such stories among Tehaksha’s people. Many of us are reluctant to identify our House or Clan to outsiders.”
“Are there any centauricorn among you?”
“If there are, I don’t know of it. As I understand it, their Herds are largely identifiable by physical characteristics, so hiding that piece of information would be difficult.”
“I know, that’s why I asked. I’ve met a few of them in my travels. They make excellent Scholars when they bother to come south.”
Mician barked with laughter. “Imagine that, a centauricorn Scholar.”
“They have a penchant for telling things exactly as it happened and never exaggerate,” Linndan said. “These are ideal qualities for a Scholar.”
“I imagine so, and yet I can’t see one putting down their lance and picking up a quill.”
“As they say, the quill is mightier than the lance,” Linndan quipped.
Several chimes later, the road forked, heading northwest. They turned the cart down that road and travelled for another chime before taking a break for the night. Neissen saw to the care and feeding of the ox while Mician set up camp. Linndan watched them while he was giving Xantoxu a rub down. He kept an eye on them over the horse’s back.
“Is it just me, or was that suspicious?” Ellias asked.
“Keep your voice down,” Linndan hissed. “But yes, it was. To be fair, their reasoning was sound, but not above suspicion. And then there’s Beryna.”
“She claimed the other day to have never left Oldwatch. Today, she said she’d been down the road we were on. Both things can’t be true.”
“So, which one is the lie?”
Linndan shook his head. “I don’t know, but I aim to find out.”
“Are you going to brush that horse all night or are you going to come join us?” Mician called out to him.
“I’ll be there in a moment,” Linnda called back. To Ellias, he said, “I’ve got to go, but keep your ears open.”
“I don’t have ears anymore,” the skull grumped as Linndan walked away.
Linndan joined the others around the small, crackling fire. He glanced around, frowning.
“Is there a problem?”Neissen asked.
“It’s probably nothing, but we’re camped far from the road.”
“What of it?”
“None of you are concerned about beast attacks?” he asked, his eyebrows arched.
Beryna’s eyes danced with mirth. “In this part of the country the Order is vigilant in dealing with any potential threats to public safety. The road between Oldwatch and the Academy has been clear of anything more dangerous than a pack of wolves for years.”
Linndan exhaled. “Forgive my paranoia, but it’s been a long time since I’ve been further south than the Academy and I don’t make a habit of spending my nights out in the wilderness.”
“I suppose we can forgive you,” Beryna said gravely. “In any case, Mician is an accomplished archer. Should the worst happen he’ll be able to protect us.”
“An archer? An oddly feminine pass time.”
Mician shrugged, embarrassed. “My sister is highly competitive. She taught me so she’d have someone to hone her skill against. I’m not as good as she is, but it serves me well enough.”
Neissen plucked one of the skewers of meat from beside the fire and offered it to Beryna. He gave a second one to Mician and another to Linndan before finally taking one for himself.
The meat had an odd texture and dripped with hot fat but it was good and filling. Linndan offered to help Neissen clean up after but the other man declined, insisting that he get his rest. When he asked about night watch, Neissen laughed and explained that the ox—(name)—was a more effective sentry than anyone else and would wake at the slightest hint of danger.
Frowning, Linndan unpacked his bedroll and crawled in. As tired as he was it was still several chimes before he fell asleep.
They rose just after dawn. Neissen hitched the ox back up to the cart and they headed off. They ate some fruit and cheese as they travelled, tossing the remains off to the side of the road.
They passed a few people travelling on foot, but exchanged no words with them. Linndan frowned as they passed but kept his peace. He would have liked to chat with them but understood that it could delay their arrival. Had he been travelling alone he would have happily stopped to talk to them to find out why they seemed so fearful. It seemed at odds with Beryna’s claims that the area was safe.
He kept his concerns to himself as they continued on, passing a number of hamlets and farms before the encroaching dark forced them to stop for the night.
Once again, Neissen took care of the ox while Mician set up camp. Linndan saw to the needs of his horse before joining Beryna around the fire.
“Something on your mind, Scholar?” she asked.
He shook his head. “Yes, but it’s probably nothing.”
Beryna arched an eyebrow. “If it was nothing, you wouldn’t find it so bothersome. You’ve had nothing to say all day.”
“As I said, it’s probably nothing, but are the roads around here usually so…empty?”
“How do you mean?”
“Aside from those few travellers we passed early in the day, there wasn’t a soul to be seen anywhere. There were signs of life, but no one on the road.”
“We’re nearing Paraten,” Mician explained, skinning the carcasses of a couple unfortunate rabbits. “Folk don’t travel much this time of year. They see it as unlucky.”
“I see.” Linndan pondered this. “I suppose I find it strange having never travelled in this direction at this time of year.”
“There, you see?” Beryna asked. “A simple explanation rather than something sinister.”
A chime later and food was ready. Linndan ate his portion, taking care to let the fat drip into the grass at his feet rather than onto his clothes. Rabbit wasn’t a taste he was fond of, but food was food and anything was better than having to eat his own cooking or worse: cold rations.
His hunger pangs relatively sated, he went to bed and tried not to think too hard about the fact that the only guard their little camp had was a sleeping ox.
Around the midday chime the next day they arrived on the outskirts of Paraten. It wasn’t the most impressive place he’d ever seen, but for a small town near the Forbidden Lands it had its charm. It certainly wasn’t what he expected. There was more colour and while the people who were out and about were quiet, they didn’t seem particularly fearful to him.
The buildings all looked more or less the same, with white stone walls and red tiled roofs. The few decorations were limited to flower beds and pots of herbs that could be brewed into teas or ground up for their medicinal properties. The cobblestone streets beneath their feet were swept clean of any refuse.
Perhaps they’re accustomed to living here, he thought. It takes a certain kind of determination to stay in such a place.
The city itself was laid out in the circular pattern typical of places as old as Paraten. Linndan found it strange that it hadn’t expanded much past its original walls whereas other cities had long since surpassed their original boundaries.
Xantoxu drew more stares than the people in the cart. He supposed it wasn’t every day they saw a horse given how prohibitively expensive it was to acquire such a beast in the first place.
Inwardly, Linndan groaned. Great Goddess, I hope they don’t think I’m some sort of lordling again. It was awkward enough the last time.
Neissen guided the cart to a public stable not far from the town gate. He bartered with the stablekeeper for a little before they settled on a fair price. Linndan made arrangements for Xantoxu to stable there as well.
The four of them walked to the mayor’s manor house. The stone used to construct the buildings in that part of town was of a slightly higher quality and in better repair, with fewer cracks in the walls. As they got further into town, Linndan noticed the unusual style of lamps. He’d seen them before in places that didn’t have any knights to light them with magic. These ones had to be lit by hand.
Beryna presented a guard at the gate with the letter she’d been sent. After scanning its contents he sent someone to fetch the mayor.
Shortly after, he came rushing out. While he wore good quality clothing, they were in such a state of disarray that Linndan had to wonder if he’d slept in them for the few nights. His hair was pulled back in a proper masculine bun at the nape of his neck, but the loose strands of hair indicated that this had been done in haste.
“High Priestess, thank you for coming on such short notice,” he said, bowing. “I am Rendall of House Sholken.”
“It is I who must thank you,” Beryna returned. “This is a great honour.”
“If you pardon my saying so, my lord, you don’t look well,” Mician said.
“Ah, well, there have been a few…strange occurrences here since I sent for you.”
“How so?” Linnda asked.
Rendall looked at him. “A Scholar, hmm? We don’t get many of your kind here.”
“His question was valid, my lord,” Beryna said.
“Yes, it was, but none of those will have any impact on your purpose here.”
“That isn’t for you to decide,” Linndan said. “If I’ve learned one thing from my recent studies of Tehaksha’s followers it’s that you never know what they find relevant.”
Rendall’s eyes narrowed. “Is this true? You’ve been studying them?”
Linndan nodded. “There’s precious little information about them in our archives. I suggest you answer and let the High Priestess decide what will and won’t affect the execution. She speaks for Tehaksha, not us.”
Rendall mulled this over, but finally nodded. “If you insist, I’ll tell you, but I doubt you’ll find it important. A few mornings ago, the knights opened the library to find a statue in the foyer. This isn’t just any statue, but a likte statue that is normally kept in the vault. The Order has been trying to figure out why it moved.”
“Strange,” Linndan commented.
“Knight Melethus, head of the Order here in Paraten, has been missing since then. She was last seen the night before the statue was discovered.”
“That seems more worrisome than a wandering statue,” Beryna said.
“While Melethus has been known to leave town on occasion, she’s never done so without notifying the Order. I can’t imagine what circumstances would cause her to leave without warning.” Rendall wrung his hands. “On top of all this, I’ve had reports of strange noises coming from the hills around town. Some say they heard large cats prowling through the streets the night Melethus vanished, but there’s nothing like that living around here. Perhaps up in the mountains, but not here.”
“Those are all strange incidents.” Beryna frowned. “I’m far more concerned over the disappearance of Melethus than I am with the others you mention. She was to assist me with the preparations for the execution.”
“Without knowing if she’ll be back in time, I’ve asked Deinla of House Veltklon—her second in command—to take over that duty. You’ll find her at the Order’s headquarters.”
“Are there lodgings prepared for us?” Neissen asked. “It’s a long journey from Oldwatch. The High Priestess will need to be well rested before the execution tomorrow.”
“Of course, of course. I have rooms set aside for the three of you in the inn.” He eyed Linndan. “Had I known we were to expect four, I’d have made additional arrangements.”
“It’s fine,” Linndan said. “After they leave I’d like to stay a little while to conduct some research. It’s better for me to find my own lodgings.”
“I would be happy to have you in the manor, but my guest rooms are spoken for,” Rendall apologized.
“Those would be the Rose Knights you mentioned in your letter,” Beryna guessed.
“Naturally,” Rendall replied. “One does not host the Empress’s bodyguards and expect them to stay at an inn with the common folk. No offense, priestess.”
“Do you know which Knights you’re expecting?” Linndan asked.
Rendall shook his head. “No, only that I’m to expect two of them.”
Linndan’s eyes bulged. “Two Rose Knights for this?”
“Our Empress feels strongly about larüsorlne. She wants to ensure that this is done properly, hence her personal guard and a High Priestess of Tehaksha.”
“I hadn’t thought Empress Hihaye was fond of my great Mother.”
“I can’t speak for her, but when it comes to this matter, we’re all grateful to the Soul Eater. Without Her aid, that corruption would spread.”
Beryna bowed. “The Gathering is pleased and honoured to be of service.”
“Do you need an escort to the library?” Rendall asked. “It isn’t far from here and easy to find, but you’re strangers here and it wouldn’t do for you to get lost.”
“I think we’ll manage on our own, but thank you for the offer.”
“In that case, I won’t keep you.”
“With respect,” Linndan said, “it looks more as though we’re keeping you from your affairs.”
“Not at all,” Rendall said, though the rush to his words implied the opposite. “I hope you enjoy your stay in Paraten, in spite of the nature of your visit.”
The three priests bowed. “We’ll see you at first light tomorrow morning,” Neissen said.
“As morbid as it sounds, I look forward to it.” He nodded and went back into his manor.
Beryna turned, heading back down the road. The library was easy to find, standing proud in the center of town. The building used by the Order of the Rose for its headquarters was two blocks away and easily identified by the cream-coloured flag hanging lifelessly from a pole on its roof.
“This is something we must do alone,” Beryna said to Linndan.
“As much as I want to know what’s involved in this, I think I’d rather go to the library,” he said.
“I find it unlikely that we’ll see each other before tomorrow morning,” she continued. “In such a case, I hope you find somewhere to stay.”
“Oh, I doubt that’ll be a problem. Good luck with your preparations.”
Linndan made his way back to the central square, stopping along the outskirts to take in the sight of the library. It was an impressive building, though not as large as some of the libraries he’d seen.
A giant door made of thick white oak stood partially open to admit visitors. The door had handles, but they had no real function, being simply decorative in nature. The door itself was ornately carved with roses, the symbol of the Order of the Rose.
Above the door was a statue of Aquhilte the Winged, a lunyari goddess. She wore flowing robes standing proudly and holding one hand out, her massive wings spread out to the side in a welcoming gesture. While normal lunyari had wings that were more like that of a butterfly, the lunyari deities had four wings that were feathered like those of a shai’then. Her raised hand was cupped as if it was holding something, but her hand was empty. A glowing sphere nestled in the centre of one of the carved roses at her feet.
He nodded at the statue, even though it was just a statue and not Aquhilte Herself, and went inside. Several white cloaked members of the Order stood around a statue.
This must be the likte statue the mayor mentioned. But why is it still here?
He approached, not wanting to disturb whatever it was the knights were doing. Everything about the statue seemed lifelike. She had a regal look to her in the stiff backed posture and the almost arrogant tilt of her head. The eyes were inlaid with tiny emerald chips. Her hair was shaped in a halo around her head, adorned by a simply designed yet intricately carved hair piece. It was a simple curved band with a double winged rose in the centre of the front.
Her armor was real and not just a cleverly carved part of the statue. It looked like an antique. From where he was standing, Linndan couldn’t tell how the armor had gotten onto the statue. The armor was made in a solid piece and couldn’t have been put on after the statue was carved.
Magic, perhaps, he mused.
“Is there something we can help you with?” a smooth voice asked.
“Ah, my apologies,” he said, meeting the gaze of one of the knights. “I’m Scholar Linndan of House Leshar’ien. “I came to do some research and didn’t want to interrupt what you and your sisters were doing.”
Another knight sniffed. “This is none of your concern.”
“I find it curious that a likte statue is out in the open like this,” Linndan said, frowning.
“You know what this is?” the first knight asked.
“I don’t know who she is, but I know what this is. The mayor mentioned it when I spoke to him earlier.”
“Who’s fool idea was it to let a man govern?” a third knight grumbled. “Men can’t keep their gods cursed mouths shut.”
“I’ll try not to take that personally,” Linndan said.
“You’re a Scholar, that’s different,” the second knight said. “Your kind don’t really count.”
Linndan bit down on his tongue for a moment to keep from saying something he’d regret.
“At any rate, you’re correct,” the first knight said. “The statue doesn’t belong here, but we’re having a difficult time getting her back to the vault. We don’t know how or why she’s down here in the first place, which is making it difficult to trigger the spells that make her move.”
“I see. Is anything else amiss here?”
The knight shook her head. “Not that Deinla was able to determine, although we’ve yet to do a full inventory of the library. There may well be books missing.”
“Personally, I’m not looking forward to that,” the third knight groaned. “It’s almost guaranteed that Deinla will give that task to us.”
The second one nodded. “Melethus goes missing for a couple days and she just takes over. I think the power has gone to her head.”
“This posting is the worst,” the third knight grumbled.
“I can think of few things I’d enjoy more than to inventory a library,” Linndan said. “If I had the time I’d offer my assistance, but I’m only in Paraten for a few days at most.”
“I doubt Deinla would allow an outsider to help us anyway,” the first knight said with a shrug. “Your offer is appreciated, though. It was kind of you.”
“You said you’re here for research,” the second knight said. “Is there any particular topic you’re interested in?”
“The Gathering of the Black Hand.”
All three knights flinched. “That’s…a weighty topic,” the first knight said. “And somewhat ironic given current events.”
Linndan nodded. “I’m aware. I came from Oldwatch with a trio of its members.”
“You travel in strange company,” the third observed. “That can’t have made for the most pleasant of journeys.”
“It was odd, to be sure,” Linndan agreed. “I wouldn’t call it unpleasant though.”
She shrugged. “To each their own. You’ll find any materials relevant to the Gathering in the collection on the second floor. I can’t promise we have much on the subject.”
“Whatever you have will likely be more than what I know. All knowledge has value.”
“Right now I’d settle for the knowledge of how to get this cursed statue back to where it belongs.”
“I wish you luck in your endeavors, though perhaps one of the Rose Knights would be of assistance.”
The second knight snorted. “Imagine that. A Rose Knight deigning to come to a backwater place like this.”
“Mayor Rendall tells me there are two coming for the execution.”
“So the rumors are true after all,” the first knight said.
“But why two of them?” the third knight asked, rubbing her chin. “No larüsorlne could pose that much of a threat.”
“First the Black Hand and now Rose Knights?” The first knight shook her head. “This whole mess is above our heads, sisters.”
Linndan nodded and left the knights to their work. There were two staircases leading to the second floor with no indication as to which one was which. He took a gamble and went up one set of spiral stairs. At the top was a long, narrow hallway. At the far end was a door made of strange material.
That must be the vault door, he guessed, heading back down the stairs. While I suppose anyone familiar with this library would know which stairwell is which, would it kill them to label the stairs for visitors?
He exited and found the correct set of stairs. He was rewarded at the top with the sight of shelf after shelf of neatly ordered books. Along the walls were private reading alcoves. The signs hanging from their doors indicated that most were unoccupied.He looked around, but saw no one who looked as though they were in charge.
Shrugging, he perused the stacks, noting that they were organized by subject. He ignored the biographies, histories, collections of poetry, and found the religious texts in the middle of the room. Most of the books in the collection were familiar to him, but he was surprised by some of the titles he found nestled among them. The Codices of Light, The Tranquility of the Mists, The Chronicles of Hysatean, and Wueka’s Spire were rare books. He’d heard of them and read quotes from them in other volumes but had never seen them in person. His fingers itched to pull them from the shelf, but he forced himself to focus on the task at hand.
Linndan’s lips twitched almost into a smile, spotting a copy of Aolon’s Valediction, a book he’d written under an assumed name almost a century ago.
Further down the shelf was a narrow volume with the barely visible words Ytharial’s Blessing written along the spine. Intrigued, he removed it from the shelf and flipped through the pages. Despite the faded lettering on the spine, the rest of the book was in relatively good condition. A couple pages towards the middle were looser than he would have liked, but they weren’t yet falling out. He returned it to its place on the shelf. The book talked about the Watchers of the Wood—the followers of Tehvir the Wanderer—and, while interesting, wasn’t relevant to his search.
After some searching he found three books with no titles on their spines. They were in different parts of the shelf, but all three had deep red covers. The title pages on the inside identified them as The Word of the Hand, A Century of Words, and The Tome of Alidion. A brief perusal of the three volumes indicated to him that these books could well be what he was looking for, so he took them to the reading alcove furthest away from the occupied ones, turned the sign to occupied, and sat down to read.
He removed Ellias from his satchel and set the skull down on the table.
“It’s about time,” the skull grumped.
“Keep your voice down,” Linnda said, flipping through the pages of The Word of the Hand. “No one can see us but this is still a library. Voices carry.”
“Then why take me out at all?”
“I thought you could use a break. No one can see you in here.”
“How courteous of you,” Ellias drawled. “I take it you found something useful?”
“Potentially. This one at least mentions Tehaksha’s followers and a few things about their practices. The other two I picked up look more like stories and guidelines, but they both mention Her, so they’re at least worth a look.”
“As you said earlier, no knowledge is useless.”
“Useless, no, but helpful is another matter. It remains to be seen if these books will help me find our wayward goddess.”
“That priestess certainly isn’t much help.”
“To be honest, I didn’t expect her—or any member of the Gathering—to be.”
“Then why approach her at all?”
“Because there’s always the chance that she knows something and is willing to share, or knows something but is hiding it. In Beryna’s case, I believe the latter is true, but I don’t have enough to go on to justify my suspicions.”
“So that’s why you’re going along with this.”
“One of the reasons,” Linndan admitted. “I’ve never been to this town or its library before, so this is a unique opportunity for me. I’ve also never encountered a larüsorlne, so that’s another new thing.”
“Don’t tell me you’re looking forward to her execution.”
“I’d think by now you know me better than that. If I could stop it I would, but for the life of me I don’t know how without putting my life on the line. I’m immortal, not invincible. If I wound up on that block, it would spell the end of me. I won’t risk it.”
“Death isn’t so bad.”
“Says the disembodied skull.”
“Well, it wasn’t until I lost the rest of me.”
“No offense, but I wouldn’t want to be in your situation.”
“None taken. I don’t think I would have chosen this even before losing my body.”
Linndan sat and poured over the books until a knock on the door startled him. A voice on the other side told him that the library would be closing soon and all patrons needed to leave the premises. With a sigh, Linndan put Ellias back in his satchel and gathered up the books to return them to the shelf.
On his way out he noted that the likte statue was missing from the foyer.
Either they or one of the Rose Knights must have had some luck getting it back where it belongs.
He nodded at the shai’then knight standing at the door. “Excuse me, but where would one find lodging?”
“You’re staying here overnight?” she asked, her brow crinkling. Shai’then had eyebrows, but the shape of their forehead ridges made it difficult for them to raise them the way humans and lunyari did. This was their equivalent expression of surprise.
She eyed his clothing. “Scholars… Your best bet would be the Lucky Bowman.” She gestured out the door and to the left. “Head out of the square down Sulis Way and then take a right down Kiano Lane. You should find it easily enough.”
“Thank you,” he said, heading off in the indicated direction.
<a href=”https://keverynn.net/2022/03/22/chapter-1-4/”>Chapter 1</a> ~ <a href=”https://keverynn.net/2022/03/22/chapter-2-4/”>Chapter 2</a> ~