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Chapter 8. Capes and Secrets.
Just across a river or two from the city, Zyrina stopped along the side of the bridge and looked at the sign directing us to a midsize town just ahead. The sign said Ordanis Mortis.
“Here it is,” Zyrina trailed off. “Restaurant coming up.”
“Real food.” Lucy nearly drooled.
Without hesitation I spoke up, “Absolutely, we’ve travelled hard and hungry. Let’s go find out what we can. Same tactic as last time: look for people who know more than they should know…and get them drunk if you have to.”
“Is it far?” Lucy asked, her stomach rumbling along with her question.
“Nope. And the town crier is usually near the docks just as we enter town, and he will give us better directions than I can remember off the top of my head. I just remember the menu…” I noticed Zyrina wiped her mouth which was salivating in anticipation.
“Come on,” I called out as I headed for the community of Ordanis Mortis. I had more than food on my mind.
“List Rostov hires the best chefs in the land, as far as I’m concerned,” Zyrina proclaimed boldly as she crossed the bridge. “She has never failed to fill my stomach with a good meal and sometimes a good song too. List dabbles in music too, you know?”
I nodded my head, “Yes, I’ve played music with Ms. Rostov at various pubs around Novia. And I’ve eaten with you at this restaurant years ago.” Zyrina looked thoughtful for a minute before remembering, then nodded, and Lucy just looked confused and hungry.
Here Zyrina stopped gossiping and hailed the town crier, “Good sir, where might I find Los Gardeñias Restaurant owned by List Rostov?”
The crier pointed to the path across the field away from the river and through the beautiful cherry tree garden nearby. We did find it, mostly by following our noses.
We seated ourselves in the outdoor area behind the main building, on a long bench and a long table covered with a checkered pattern. Then staff arrived at our table with heaping platters of succulent meats and dishes from around the land as well as a sweet wine that all of us drank far too much of. The Phoénix Picante was AMAZING. Lucy had two helpings.
Zyrina had wandered off part way through the meal and, as Lucy and I were just beginning to wonder where she had gone, she returned. She held a few scraps of torn paper in her hand and placed them in a clear spot on the table.
“I saw someone I knew,” she said simply. “The mage has been here in Ordanis Mortis, too.”
That drew the immediate attention of Lucy too. We all leaned in further.
“Juanita Joanna Maria Pajero, a waitress here at Los Gardeñias, is an old friend of mine. I asked her if she had seen Aslinne come through town. She hasn’t.” Zyrina saw me open my mouth to ask.
“We were talking about magic in Novia and she got a strange look on her face. I asked what she was thinking about. She hesitated a little before mentioning a weird fellow, a tattooed mage in black with a little book under his arm and a big blue bag that had been here for a meal with an equally striking older man also dressed in black,” she told us.
Zyrina went on, “that description of the mage caught my attention right away. Juanita knew nothing else, but she showed me the cloak that the mage left behind after an argument between him and the other fellow.” Here she held up her hand to deflect my question. “The fight was about a dragon egg. It was short and vicious. She didn’t hear anything more specific. He didn’t even storm out, didn’t even finish his meal, he uttered a short incantation and rudely disappeared right in front of everyone.” She added, “Obviously used a magic travel scroll.”
I nodded agreement, “Go on.”
Zyrina continued by answering Lucy’s question, “They were here recently enough that Los Gardeñias has not yet discarded his forgotten cloak.”
Lucy looked ready to speak but Rina continued, “Yes, I went through the pockets,” She added seeing our hope, “I only found three things. These were in one of the pockets. Another one that looks like it was torn out of something.”
The first note was wrinkled from being in the bottom of a pocket and shredded to bits, but still readable. The series of numbers were different from the first ones we had discovered, but no less confusing. And the paper didn’t seem to match up to the edges of the other piece of parchment anywhere. The papers seemed to be related though. Four numbers in a row.
“What in the world can this be? A really long lock combination?” Lucy stared at the numbers as if they were going to speak to her. They didn’t. She smoothed the paper and tucked it in the satchel with the other numbers we had encountered. None of theses made any sense to any of us as of yet.
The second note made more sense. We were on our way to Darkshire Hills and this might have been the mage that was there with Aslinne and Kitty, after all. I nodded my head and pursed my lips to read it aloud.
At the headwaters of the Eylo River you will find the peace of mind you have been searching for all these years:
The Bent Bow Inn
When you arrive in Darkshire Hills choose Town Boundary #3 and take the left fork on the road. You will find us near the bridge.
Our inn is clean and tidy.
Our food is delicious and nourishing.
Our ale is unique and thirst quenching.
Especially after a long day of fishing along the headwaters.
Especially when you weren’t as lucky as you hoped you be today, but there is always tomorrow.
Come, eat, relax, and try again in the morning for that special fish that you know is there in the Eylo.
Yes, THAT big fish that you will tell all your friends about back home!
The Bent Bow Inn is managed by the Hawkins Family on behalf of the Byrd Family Holdings.
“See? We know where to look in Darkshire Hills now at least. The Bent Bow Inn.” Lucy seemed satisfied at least. I handed it to her.
“My family has properties I didn’t even know existed.” I shook my head sadly realizing that I really need to pay attention to that paperwork back at the Moontower Keep one day. Definitely one day soon.
Thirdly, there was a flyer for the local pub here in Ordanis Mortis, The Filthy Stag.
The Filthy Stag
Come on down to the oldest pub in all of Novia located along the mighty Eylo River in Ordanis Mortis.
You will want to come here and soak up the ambiance. Or at least soak up some of the suds. Don’t dress up. Trust us*
There is plenty to drink and all sorts of folks willing to play a friendly game of chance or share a secret or two.
We will never tell.
Find us straight north of the Town Crier. Or ask the Town Crier. He will know where we are. Bards are always welcome and will be given a meal.
*Wear boots as the floor may be sticky. *Leave your valuables somewhere safe.
Of course, we went to explore.
“Well, drat there isn’t anything here.” After sitting in the pub and playing song after song as well as a story or two, I had watched the entire room and there were no obvious Obsidians in the entire pub; we found little. Few would talk with us on such a personal topic of who they saw while they drank in the Filthy Stag, except one of the old locals remembered seeing a ranked mage with blue and green tattoos who was here one night muttering to himself for a few hours. The mage’s odd behavior spooked the locals. The Oldster didn’t know where that mage went when he rose up while “talking to the midair” and disappeared. Since there were no more drinks forthcoming from any of us he then left our table, grumbling under his breath.
“Weren’t right in the head, s’far as I could make out.” The old fella murmured into the dregs of his drink then went back to ignoring us all as best he could.
“We did find out how to catch a boat over by the docks to take us upriver to Darkshire Hills.” Zyrina said thoughtfully.
“Yeah, okay sure. One thing here was useful,” I conceded. “Information is always valuable.”
Though this interlude spurred us back to our mission, it shone no light on any of the things we understood. We now refocused on getting to Darkshire Hills as soon as possible. After paying for our meal and gathering up our belongings, we thanked the staff for the food and promised to be back next time any of us were anywhere near Ordanis Mortis.
From then on, we kept to ourselves on the road, stopping only to eat from our lavish meal leftovers that had been wrapped in freshly waxed cotton and placed in a woven basket along with another bottle of that sweet wine, Sangria. We rested occasionally and ate when we were hungry. The foliage changed as we trod the well-worn path through the North Majestic Forest, skirting the edge of the Grunvald Barrens and the Savrenoc Timberland as we kept traveling south along the winding trail that followed the Eylo River until Zyrina pointed out the Spectral Mountain chain.
There was a sturdy stone bridge to cross over a wide and deep crevasse with a fast-running river that gave us a great deal of trouble. This is where we turned and headed west into the Spectral Mountain range. We were expecting to have to tangle with bandits on this journey but, of course, the undead didn’t care about our expectations and attacked us on the bridge. Zyrina and I kept a storm of arrows flying as we all sprinted across and as far along the path as we could run while Lucy followed closely and kept a stream of heals pouring into each of us. Eventually the skeletons stopped running after us and went back to guarding their bridge just before we collapsed with exhaustion. Now THIS was adventurous and terrifying too; it sure got my blood pumping.
The exhilaration of battle took some time to dissipate. We worked well as an impromptu team and it took a few moments to relive the running battle while we rested and patched up our broken and jostled gear. We knew we would not have survived a pitched fight with the skeletons and were all especially relieved to have outrun them. The guard at the gates of Central Britanny had warned us of bandits on the road. I hadn’t thought they meant the undead but, from then on, we were far more wary of our surroundings. We slept rough and took turns on watch through the night. There was only one wandering skeleton that we easily outran and, within two days walk from Central Britanny, we had reached the southern edges of the Savrenoc Timberland. It smelled so fresh and vibrant high up in the foothills and the view of the fading peaks in the distance was breathtaking. I could always enjoy the scenery, even under the direst of dashes across the land. And Darkshire Hills was not far away from this fantastic resting spot.
Echoes From the Caverns