Chapter Three: Stonebridge
The traveling had left us weary and exhausted. It had taken just over a month to get to Stonebridge. There were times that it seemed Toeryn never slept. If I ended up sleeping in my saddle, he would lead my horse at a slow pace so not to disturb me. I grew to dislike riding each day. None more so than the first week when my muscles protested.
As we approached the city of Stonebridge, I grew more excited. Toeryn relaxed more, knowing that we would soon have a bed to rest in, a hot meal and bath. Even though it was dark it gave us hope. Torches lit the tall stone guard towers, from the distance we sat at, I could see the armor of the guards who paced along the wall.
“I’m going to do good by us this time, Ana,” he said. “Going to find a proper job.”
“What about until you do find something?” I asked, cynically. “Are we going to pickpockets or beg on the streets?”
“Actually that may not be a bad idea,” Toeryn said, losing himself in his planning. For that moment I regretted opening my mouth in the first place.
We approached the gates, only to find them lock. Toeryn told me to remain where I was with the horse while he went to see about getting in the city. When he returned me to a few moments later, he explained that they locked the gates at sundown, and don’t open again until sun up. So we had breakfast on the side of the road, watching the sun rise above the horizon.
A few hours later, the gates opened. Toeryn and I led our horses down the cobblestone street. A simple looking man went around extinguishing the kerosene lamps that line the roads. He glanced at us for a just a moment, offering a nod in our direction. Toeryn returned the nods and I smiled at him, bidding him a good morning. In the center of the huge city, was the tallest tower I had ever seen. Just next to the tower, was a huge stone bridge with sweeping arches that crossed the Messewan river. Out of the several spires that were noticeable from where I stood, the one on the tower stood the highest. It was far from a plain spire, the detail was perfected right down to the tiniest little creature in the sculptured base. The other buildings, houses and shops, had beautiful stonework and stucco, with overlapping gables and deep brown timber that stood out against the gray of the stones. The shutters began to open as people woke, and shops opened for daily business. They revealed clear glass windows, with wooden lattice framework.
Knights in white and gold patrolled the streets. Toeryn studied their movements carefully as we moved along the stone road. Men in tall hats, and spectacles sitting on their noses, walked pass us fitted pants with bright blue waistcoats, shined shoes and double breasted morning coats. One of the men carried a fashionable can with him. They each said good morning to us as we passed. The streets were quiet as traveled, the hooves of the horses clapping behind us against the stones. No one paid much attention to us.
Eventually, we found an inn on the other side of the River Messewan. The Rusty Pigeon. It wasn’t the most appealing place, but it was adequate until we could find something better. The inn keeper looked like someone who hadn’t seen sleep in weeks. His face was pock-marked, and scarred. A large red puffy scar ran over his left eye, which a milky white color. His other eye, was a sharp green that gave you the feeling it seen more than what most thought. He passed us the key to our room with a suspicious gaze and warned us that any funny business would get us tossed out to the streets. Toeryn and I didn’t pay attention to how the room looked, we were both too tired to care. The moment our heads hit the pillow we were asleep.
Some time later I awoke and found myself alone in the room. On the small table Toeryn had left me several copper coins and note.
I will return later. Going to seek out work. Get yourself some food and wait for me to come back. Don’t wonder on your own just yet.
I scooped up the coins and went down to the common room. Patrons had arrived throughout the day, the room was loud and reeked of fish. I carefully moved to the bar, feeling the eyes of some of the patrons on me.
“What can I ye?” The inn keeper asked me. His accent thick and deep, almost like he was growling at me.
“Bread and stew please,” I replied, setting down a few coins on the counter. “And a glass of water.”
Sweeping the coins into his pocket, he got my food and returned it quickly. I ate in silence for the first few moments, watching the inn keeper clean glasses, wipe the counter and get more drinks for the patrons.
“What’s your name?” The inn keeper asked me in his gruff voice.
“Lyssa,” I replied slurping some of the stew into my mouth. It was watered down, luke warm and mostly consisted of broth, but it tasted good nonetheless. “Yours?”
“Daven,” he told me with a sickly smile. Several of his teeth had been knocked out, the rest were stained yellow. Daven looked intimidating, but was nice enough and told me funny stories about patrons who frequented the tavern, or who rented a room for him.
Several hours had passed when Toeryn had returned. He sat next to me at the counter and smiled winningly. My gut warned me he had something up his sleeve.
“C’mon, lets go upstairs and talk,” he told me. I stood and waved farewell to Daven, before climbing the steps to our room.
Once we were inside, Toeryn closed the door behind him. The grin never left his face. I sat on my bed. The rough fabric of the wool blanket grazed my skin, causing it to itch. It was then I realized how poor looking the room was, the hard wooden floor with its threadbare rug, Two poorly made beds that gave off a slightly stale smell. Even the table and chairs, looked like they had seen better days. There were no decorations in the room to make it feel homey at all.
“I’ve got a plan,” Toeryn said excitedly, pacing the floor. “And I have you to thank for it baby sister.”
“Why does this make me feel uncomfortable?” I asked rhetorically. Toeryn paused to look at me for a moment before he began pacing the room again.
“Finding honest work is going to be tough. It could be weeks before I actually found something worthwhile.” he began. I leaned back on my elbows on my bed watching him. “I figure while we are waiting for that ship to arrive, we could obtain money in other ways.”
“How?” I asked. I wasn’t sure I wanted to know the answer to that.
“Cutting purse strings,” he said bluntly.
“Are you mad? Have you lost your damned mind?” I interrogated, not attempting to hide the disgust in my eyes. “Or did you just forget what we dealt with in Tel’thurian?”
“Ana, we can do this,” Toeryn continued, as if he didn’t even hear my words. “It will be simple and we won’t get caught. No one will know, except you and me.”
“Toeryn you are going to get us both locked up,” I stated. “or worse.”
It took several hours, and a lot of convincing on Toeryn part to get me to agree to this plan of his. We were to go into town every day, stake out a few people, and distract them long enough for one of us to steal their coin pouch. For the most part, Toeryn would be the one to grab, I was to distract them. We were to start the next morning, after the markets had been set up. Toeryn has spent the afternoon watching the patrolmen and where they spent most of their time and also finding out where the most people were so we would be less likely to be caught. It was easy to lose someone in a crowd. That night we talked ourselves to sleep by devising plans for the distractions. I didn’t feel much more confident than I had when he first laid this plan on me.