I walked through the corridor as silently as I could, taking the outer stairs down to the square. Deirdre was still on the horse and, to my surprise, the boys weren't standing around her. I looked up at the sky and smiled, we would have at least several hours before nightfall. It would be useful to take that time to get things arranged. First order of business: go and put the horse in the stable. I crossed the square and smiled, this might prove to be a very interesting afternoon. I was glad I'd rescued the girl ever so valiantly from the forest. With a smile on my lips I approached her.
"Can I help you off there?"
She smiled. "Yes, please." It felt like one of the first smiles she'd given me.
I reached out and carefully helped her off the horse, making sure that the sheets would stay in place. She'd fastened them a little better and they looked almost like a new style of clothing. Or an old one. I led the horse into an empty stable and fastened it securely. I heard one of the boys sighing loudly and, out of the corner of my eye, saw him walking over. He didn't look particularly happy with the predicament, but with an air of 'do what the Master says' he started getting some food for my horse. The boy didn't talk to me, but I suppose he didn't like me very much. They'd seen me coming from the side of Light and while they would do their duties (for fear of punishment), they didn't have to like me.
Fair enough I suppose.
Deirdre took my arm as we headed out. Again it didn't look like she particularly liked it, but she was aware that showing she was with me would avoid a lot of questions. I didn't mind. We walked out of the square and into the market, ignoring the glances of the guards as best we could. The market, as I said before, wasn't very big. But now that I was looking for something specific, I noticed a stand with some basic clothing. It wasn't much, just pants, shirts and basic dresses that were of no particular size and made of a crude fabric. But it would be a start at least. We headed towards it, now more noticed as we were on foot. But no one really spoke to us particularly. The guy at the stand saw us getting closer, but he smiled as he didn't care who his customers were, as long as he had any.
"Will this do?" I motioned to the stand.
She nodded. "Yes, can I pick one?"
I nodded. "Of course."
The man let us be, slightly grinning at the sheets, though. In fact, I was almost glad he wasn't talking, he might ask questions that I had no answer to. Deirdre took her time looking through the clothes. Some of them were woolen or jute, but there were some finer woolen shirts and dresses as well. Red, green and brown were the only colors available though and most of them weren't very deep. She picked out two nice things, though. A very basic dress in red and a light brown shirt, both made of very thinly woven wool. They should be quite comfortable. The man looked at me as soon as Deirdre appeared to have decided on them.
"That's eight bronze, mister."
It was a bit steep, but, to be fair, the clothes were of surprisingly decent quality. "Six bronze?"
"Seven bronze, but no lower."
I nodded and reached for my purse on my left. I was surprised I didn't find it there and, for a moment, I panicked, thinking that it might have been stolen. After a breath though, I remembered I had actually put it on the other side because of the message bag. Habit is a wonderful thing. Mentally scolding myself for this stupid moment of confusion, I opened it, got the coins for the man and handed them over. He nodded and turned around to put them away, giving us sign to leave. I took Deirdre, who was still holding the clothes clutched to her chest, by her arm and pulled her away. Now we needed somewhere to change. Though all kinds of options went through my head, the simplest and most elegant solution would be the Inn. Perhaps even... I wondered if they had a bath.
With Deirdre following closely, we headed for the Inn and went inside. The building was very simple, but still quite nice. A large fireplace with a few occupied tables in a semi-circle around it and a bar with a maid and the Innkeeper. The windows were large enough to avoid the need for candles, but most tables held one anyway, for ambiance probably. Smells of meat and mead hung invitingly in the air, reminding me that I still needed to eat. Had Deirdre eaten? The Innkeeper saw us as soon as we entered, but the buzz of conversations didn't stop. We weren't that interesting looking after all. I walked over to the bar and nodded to the Innkeeper.
"I'd like a room for the night, the Master of Light sent me and he sends his regards." I hoped that would be enough.
The Innkeeper looked thoughtful for a moment and smiled. "Of course, sir. Second room on the right."
I was glad he didn't ask for payment, but I presumed there were not that many guests of the House coming here. So maybe they valued the rare guests they did have. We headed up the stairs and had no trouble finding our room. Upstairs was a simple corridor with windows on the left and doors on the right. The room was simple, but was at least lockable from the inside to avoid any annoyances from entering and contained a bed, a chair, a small closet and a pot. The window, looking out on the market, had no shutters, but that wasn't a problem, as I needed to get up shortly after sunrise anyway. Deirdre stepped in hesitantly behind me, looking around and sighing.
"Shall I go out of the room so you can get dressed?"
She looked relieved that I asked. "Yes, please. Ehm... Can I have a knife?"
This was very unusual, but considering how she had behaved so far, I decided to give her my penknife. I retrieved it from my belt and handed it to her, handle first of course. She took it gingerly with a thankful look in her eyes. I headed outside and closed the door behind me. To my surprise she didn't lock it, but then again, I suppose if I showed some trust in her, she could show some trust as well. From inside the room there were curious noises of cloth being torn and cut but it was too soft to really make out above the noise from the people downstairs. I was very curious, but I supposed I'd see it soon enough anyway. After about three minutes, maybe four, she called out to me.
"You can come in."
I gingerly opened the door, curious to what she would have done. And what I saw surprised me. She'd cut up the sheet she'd worn before into a few thick and thin strips to use. Beneath the brown shirt, I could see how she'd wrapped some of it on her upper body to protect her breasts and she'd fashioned a strip into a scarf. Above the light shirt she wore the red dress that was surprisingly nice looking on her, which she tightened around her waist with another strip of cloth with some leftover hanging on her left quite elegantly. She had done a lot with a little. She looked like a playful farmer's daughter and, if I was honest, very beautiful. Her brown hair flowing over her shoulders, straightened somewhat, framing her pretty face nicely. Her intense grey eyes looked at me, wondering what I thought, waiting for a reply. The only word that escaped my lips was probably the wrong one, but it completely voiced my thoughts.