XII: Wandering Eyes

Entry: XII

Ice blue eyes, adorned with the intricate makeup of a seer, peer into a levitating amethyst the size of a sturdy knight’s head. The many jagged edges projected the peering eyes, scattering them amongst the walls and ceiling, in kaleidoscopic brilliance about the study room.  The polished furniture glowed with violet luminescence.

The door creaked open cautiously.

The magnificent stone crashed to the ground in an instant. The precious thing now lay smashed in pieces, void of light, on the stone floor.

“Unbelievable wretch!”   …is what she wanted to say, but through her reserve and wisdom, she spoke softly.

“Yes?”

An awkward looking young caretaker inched his way into the room. He felt a deep tremble in his gut –as if someone had pumped him promptly with rotten air.

The pressure started up his torso and he nearly felt as if he was about to vomit. He clasped his hands tightly around his mouth and gagged.

The seer watched unamused. He wasn’t sure which was worse, the magic’s adverse effects or her intense, unwavering, fixed eyes.

The several moments it took him to regain composure felt longer to him than the dozen tower floors he climbed to deliver a very simple message.

She spoke again “A gemstone is to magic as the mighty dam is to our Draumer river… if you break it, you’ve released the flood; most respond poorly.”

Turning away from him she sat back down at her desk.

Half speaking, half choking, the man responded. “Of course Lady I-*heuck*… apologies… L-lady Ingrid.”

She scooted the chair around towards the door, folded her hands, and closed her eyes. Even the lids of her eyes burst like the sun with extravagant color. She dropped her forehead to her hands and began messaging her temples.

She spoke wearily. “So… the Count’s here then?”

“Yes, Milady”

“And I’m supposed to sup with him or some formal nonsense?”

“The Jarl’s intent was to have y— was to include you in this very important dinner, yes.”

“I will not.” Lady Ingrid turned back towards her desk and pulled a leather bound book out by the spine.

“But Lady, the Jarl commands—“

“—Nothing of importance! Now, you will go to Sigismund and fetch me a new amethyst, which the Jarl will be charged for, and leave me to study in peace!”

The young man abruptly dipped back outside and close the door tight behind him.

“Every time I stumble on something interesting…” She soughed “Formalities…”

Using her index finger and propping her chin on her free hand, she flicked open a book of hand-drawn illustrations and descriptions of elves. She peered her eyes on the ancient lettering.

“Now… who is in my city?”

 

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Chapter 10: Decadent Streets and Strange New Brews

The guard not only directed us to “The Prancing Witch” but led us there, and bid his partner adieu, promising to be back within the hour. He walked ahead of us at first, talking about the history of all the buildings, the fine architecture of old constructs desperately clinging to preservation. The city was littered with both culture, and vestiges of war.

After we had marched down countless streets and traversed a handful of short-cut alleys, we approached “The Prancing Witch”. By this point the Guard had led his hand to Abeline’s shoulder… a little too touchy perhaps; Abeline cringed for a moment; she looked at me and rolled her eyes. This didn’t seem like the sort of place you’d want to boast your tourism in, a touchy guard was better than no guard; the merchant’s here were ruthless, I could see it on their faces—they could smell our foreign air.  Our tavern was clear at the end of a colorful street, past a long stretch of narrow city townhomes—homes built into each other in a collision of architecture, culture, and personality, that had been transformed into a sort of wild bazaar. Colored, brightly dyed linens hung out windows drying, dripping unto the canopies of street vendors that have transformed their porches and front rooms into store fronts. I remember master’s mutterings before I left, “You can find anything on those streets… be careful Leafe.”

“Clear a hole, c’mon you, step aside.” The guard pushed his way through a bustling crowd of bidders and hagglers. Men and woman walked through with baskets of cheap jewelry and trinkets, holding fistfuls of whatever shiny things they were peddling over their heads.

The shouting was insufferable. Though I’m the only one who seemed to think so. Abeline, though a witch, seemed to adore the hustle and bustle. Her eyes fixed from shiny nick-nack to brilliant fabric, to spectacular doo-dad. And when we passed the herbalist stall, I had to pull her along as she grabbed the side of her coin purse and charged towards it.
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Old, dank, creaky, and yet… very homey—The tavern of the Prancing Witch embraced us seamlessly into her care. Cleaning the place however, was a journey in itself.  There was dust left unperturbed for what seemed ages—so rooted into the furniture on which it lay, that extracting it from the wooden chairs and tables felt like an advanced form of alchemy.

Abeline took on a motherly role, which I didn’t at all mind. She set me up with a spacious room, abundant in chests, wardrobes, writing desks, and a bed which after cleaning, was the best I’ve ever rested my body on. She, naturally nabbed the master bedroom and one smaller room adjacent to hers which mysteriously accumulated magical nick-nacks, potted herbs, potion bottles, and… organic parts—fur from a certain woodland kritters, an over-sized eyeball plucked from who-knows-what. I felt it best not to pry into these matters.

That left the remainder of the upstairs hallway opened to guests and tavern-goers whom couldn’t stumble their way back home. They didn’t appreciate the obligatory fee that coincided with being put-up for the night; however, it kept them from passing out in our alley-way and thus, kept away guards and pick-pockets.

Those first few weeks were full of scrubbing, swabbing, sanding, finishing, and all stuff I was used to from my past laborious occupation, and didn’t mind in the least. And when we got sick of dust and splinters, we took trips to local vineyards, which are plentiful in Draumerheim, and forged relationships, making deals for wines and mead.

Abeline and I plunked a barrel of sub-par red wine onto one of our tables.

“Alrighty pointy, pay attention, this is how we sell wine.”

She pried open the barrel and took a small taste with her finger. “Be a dear and run up to my room; there’s a small box of spices and fruit peals under my bedside stand.”

When I returned with box in hand, a faint, lingering purple smoke had just dissipated from above the barrel.

“What was that?”

“What was what? Oh good! The spices. Spill ‘em. Now.” She pointed with her index finger into the brew.”

“All of-“

“Yes, all of ‘em.”

I dumped the contents of the small box into the wine. Upon hitting the surface there was an oddly volatile splash, larger than I expected, almost as if the wine was somehow… lighter. And as the heavy bits of dried fruit absorbed the juice and had begun to sink to the bottom, somehow the faint rusty red begun to deepen into a rich sanguine pool.

I could feel my face flushing just at the scent of it. “Oh my… that smells incredible.”

It wasn’t often that I paid compliments, but the aroma rising up from this brew sent a series of chills and sensational tinglings throughout my body. Abeline smirked with a proud glint in her eye. “And this lovvie, is how we make profits.”

She sighed and paced towards the basement door behind the bar with her arms at her waist and gave a “humph.” “Looks like we ran out of excuses not to clean the basement.”

Armed with lanterns and mops we started descending into the unknown. Each creaky step let up a cloud of soot. I coughed out the words “When was the last time—“ I put my hand up to my throat, “Gods.” I stood still and rubbed my tongue against my teeth trying to not think about all the questionable particles leaking into my lungs. “When was the last time someone’s been down here?”