An Inn in the Bear Empire

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The town was a little closer than Deline had estimated – in part because they struck a rather quick pace, not trusting the clouds hovering over the mountains, and in part because they took advantage of two wagon-rides offered to them.

The first one didn’t take a large amount of distance off of their trip, but it was almost all uphill, and they were both glad to let the big draft horses to the climbing.  The farmer, a quiet woman with a distant look in her eye, didn’t ask many questions and didn’t provide much information – but as she was pulling the wagon to a stop, she told them, “if you’re going Ghomau way, Ewdin there might be running the wagon into town.”  She peered up at the sun. “You make a good pace here to there, you might catch him. He’ll talk your ear off, but he likes the company.”

They made it to Ewdin in time to help him load straw into his wagon and ride up with him.  Deline had been a little worried about what they would tell him, what they could tell him, but it turned out to have  been a vain worry.

Ewdin didn’t exactly talk their ears off but he could keep up all three parts of a conversation by himself with no effort.  He “guessed” their story and seemed to have no problem with the fact that they didn’t actually confirm it, nor that he thought that they were running off from an adult  – an adult? Deline didn’t think either of them looked that young – probably a parent.  As bemused as as she was by this concept, she made no move to disillusion him.

The only pity was, she didn’t think anyone else would believe the story, so she couldn’t save it and work off of it the next time they needed to deal with people.

Ewdin liked their loading help enough that he split his lunch with them, explaining as he did that his wife’s junior husband liked to pack excessive lunches, and he always had to find someone to share it with anyway, or risk hurting the boy’s feelings.

Considering Ewdin’s opinion on their age, Deline fully expected that if she met the man, he would be as grey of beard and hair as Ewdin himself.

They got to Ghomau in just enough time to help Ewdin unload his straw into the barn behind the general store, and then they were all huddling into the store proper to hide from yet another massive storm. Ewsin told the storekeeper a slightly annotated version of the story he had made for them, waving his hands to imply quite a few more secrets and angry relatives than either of them actually had.

That was in their favor, it seemed.  The storekeeper gave them good prices on provisions and then walked them through the town’s underground tunnels – reasonable with weather like this – to the two-bedroom inn, the sort of place that mostly served as a tavern for the town’s residents.  From there they got a warm, filing, plain meal and were led upstairs to one of the two bedrooms.

“A bed,” Deline murmured, looking at it in some pleasure.  What she wanted to do was run her favorite little spell for traveling accommodations, but she wasn’t sure she could deal with Carrone screaming about it again.

She needn’t have worried.  Carrone, who had done more than half of the lifting into and out of Ewdin’s wagon, fell down on the bed and fell asleep the moment his boots were off.

“Thank you, Mother Bear,” she murmured.  She could use a little quiet, for one.

She pulled the ingredients she needed from her pack and sprinkled a little of this and a little of that around the bed, a little by the doorway and more by the window.  She breathed out the right words as quietly as she could, and sent a thread of power through the spell.

She could tell the difference immediately.  The bed Carrone was asleep on looked less saggy in the middle and, from the way he shifted, was more comfortable.  The noise from other rooms faded to a whisper. The storm noises seemed soothing rather than threatening. And the curtains seemed better-made and more likely to keep out prying eyes and the morning beams of sun.

The spell also killed off all lice and other vermin that might be in the area and made the door very difficult to get in if you were unwelcome.  In her experience, some of the results would last indefinitely – this room would have the best bed for years – and some of them, like the security, would fade within a few days.

It was enough.  She slipped off her outer layers, washed up in the basin (the water therein was now warm and fragrant) and lay down next to Carrone to sleep.


Next: Teamwork in the Bear Empire

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