“Coming, coming! Just wait there,” the felis waiter said. He finished picking up a few dishes from a group’s table and ran into the back. He could be heard yelling out orders for rice and chicken to the chef, and then ran back into the main room. “Come, come!”
The waiter entreated the kids upstairs, and they obliged. They took a corner table and sat on wooden benches.
“What’ll it be for the young masters?” he asked with a smile.
“Two noodles, a plate of greens, and a whole chicken,” Shiroi said before the other two could speak up.
“Hurry on,” Shiroi said in a somewhat gruff voice from underneath the hood.
“No drink for the masters? We have fifteen year old wine, Terrak’s Lilies, at the discerning master’s disposal,” the waiter said, his lip half curled.
“Water!” Shiroi exclaimed, and then slapped her hand on the table. The waiter quickly bowed and ran downstairs. Va’il and Ruby sat with stunned silence.
“Shi… Reft, what was that performance?” Va’il asked.
“I’ve never seen you act like that, what do you have against that waiter?” Ruby asked.
“Nothing, Zak. But,” Shiroi said, and then motioned for the other two to lean close to her, “we are incognito, and rather close to our objective, and close to the border. And think of what we are, compared to what we should pretend to be. Boys, headstrong ones who only answer to the master father. Though we aren’t of great means, we still demand respect on the behalf of our father, correct? We cannot give away the slightest trace of what we really are, for fear of safety, correct?”
“Oh,” Va’il said, and then grinned. “So you think we would have given it away if you hadn’t stepped in.”
Shiroi smiled without saying a word. Ruby acquired a sour look as she thought that she wouldn’t have given anything away. Much less to a common person of no consequence.
The waiter arrived again with plates and bowls full of the requested food, and then quickly left their presence without another word. The two had to admit that Shiroi was effective in keeping others from asking too many questions. The meal ended, and Shiroi pulled a few copper coins and one silver one out, just in time for the waiter to arrive.
“For the meal,” Shiroi said as she handed him the coppers. She held up the silver coin in a gloved hand, “Do you have an open room for the night?”
“Yes sir, please follow me if you’re ready,” the waiter replied, then held out his hand.
“As well, accommodate our horses,” Shiroi said as the group got up and followed the felis.
The waiter led them through the hallways until they arrived at the last room in the place. He pushed open the doors, which squeaked as they opened. The three children walked inside and closed the doors behind them. They remained quiet until the steps of the waiter disappeared.
“At least there’s something soft to sleep on, finally,” Ruby said as she eyed the bed in the corner. The rest of the room had the usual accommodations: benches, a small table, three candle-torches, and wine. They were in a corner room, which had a closed wooden window.
“Grass is softer than wood,” Va’il lamented, as he looked around the otherwise bare room. Shiroi laughed lightly, and Ruby turned around, a pillow being fluffed in her hands.
“What do you mean by that?” Ruby asked, but then laughed when she realized what Va’il meant. “Ah! I’m sorry Va’il, I guess these accommodations are only good for the girls.”
“Shh! Not too loudly, we’re boys, right?” Shiroi said.
“We’re boys, that’s right,” Ruby said in a deep voice and a mocking tone.
Va’il sighed and walked to the window. He unlatched and opened it. Looking down he saw the lights come on one by one as the sun’s light faded. The sound of people dimmed into the background, punctuated every so often by the whine or trot of a horse. The sun left the sky entirely, but behind Va’il the girls had lit the candle-torches. He breathed in deeply, smelling the scent of a new town. The lingering smell of the raw meat the merchants had been peddling just an hour ago mixed with the freshness of the ever-pervasive ivy and the sizzling meals still being created in the inn’s kitchen.
He smelled the air again and again, taking in Dent, remembering its scent. It reminded him of an area between the markets and fourth district of rising, sweat from hard work near mercantile offerings. There were fields of various crops that supported the area, and he took a moment to identify a few of them before the constant ivy smell overpowered them. He even tried figuring out the composition of the town from the different smells he knew of each species, but too many people passed through, he couldn’t tell which were the most prominent. He had a feeling it was a toss up between hares, humans, and felis in this town, though he could’ve been wrong. And by this point, he had noticed that it’d been a while since they’d been in a confined space together. He smiled as the familiar scents he knew very well reminded him of the path ahead.
They passed a few hours doing little but talking and staring at the sky, and then turned in for the night. Va’il eventually closed the window, and then laid out a blanket on the wooden floor. He lay down and slept, dreaming of traversing though deep valleys and tall trees.
The next morning held a pleasant surprise. Not only were the horses fed and stabled for the night, as expected, but they also had been washed and groomed. After the trio had breakfast, they thanked the felis waiter with more copper, and then rode south out of town. Though brief, their stay in Dent had left them with a very positive impression.
The southern journey brought them through an apple orchard that went on for an hour, and then they arrived at a valley. It didn’t match the one in Va’il’s dreams, but it still held its own very significant charm. A single cliff gave character to the valley, and hills and greenery filled the rest of it. Colorful plants and trees of red, orange, and green accented the view, and streams of water were abundant. It had many animals, most unseen, but plenty heard throughout the day. Every stream passed provided yet another reason to take a break, which was encouraged by the warm and somewhat humid air as well. It wasn’t hot in the valley, only mildly uncomfortable.
They followed the path through the valley until nightfall, and then set up camp near the valley’s exit. After setting up a small fire they ate, and then slept. Though it wasn’t an inn with a comfortable bed, the valley’s ground was soft and grassy, providing even Ruby with a comfortable rest. As usual, they awoke early the next morning to set off again.
After exiting the valley, the land that awaited them was expansive. To the west a forest could be seen, and there were fields of grain in the east. South, the direction they were mostly still heading in, held rolling hills of green. After travelling for a short while, they reached the hills, which meant they were in De’un’s territory.
Encouraging the horses onward, they made quick progress though the land by a well-travelled road that passed by various small villages. They finally arrived at the town of Speck in the late of night. Along the way there, they had noticed that the only people they had seen since exiting the valley were avian.
The town of Speck was where De’un resided, but it was far too late to try contacting him. And there was another matter that needed attending. Ruby had not told Va’il about De’un. All Ruby had told him of was the search for Darius. Deciding to finish the night without trouble, the trio found an inn that was still open, and paid the avian innkeeper to stay the night.