Book 1 - Chapter 1.5

A drawing of Sol and Nyx inside of a simplistic depiction of an inn's dining room, the windows of the room teeter over them as shadowy patrons stare at then. Both women are uncomfortable with the attention.

The inn did not take them in.

The moment they walked through the beaten metal door of the low building, the proprietor, who was a pretty thickset older woman a shade darker than Sol, caught sight of them and shouted "No!"

The intensity of her rejection startled Sol, and for a half second she almost considered turning back. But her desire for a warm bed and meal, and to prove herself right to her new companion, kept her feet planted on the woven welcome mat.

As Sol closed the door behind her the proprietor shook her head warningly, her lips set together in a frown, but she didn't say much else.

The inn was crowded, full of fishermen and women from the wharf, brick layers, as well as many travellers who had arrived with offerings for the tithe. They sat on braided grass seats at low tables built out of brick that connected to the room's walls, or on metal chairs at the bar counter, which the proprietor stood behind. The whole place took on a chilly silence at the innkeeper's shout, and they all stared at Sol and the cloaked woman where they stood.

Prosper had thoroughly spread the word about their presence in the town.

Sol stepped towards the counter and the innkeeper, who was still glaring at her. She could feel the cloaked woman clinging onto her coat.

"We would like a room, please." Sol said with her kindest smile. She kept her head bowed low so that she could appear less imposing to the woman at the counter.

"We have no room, miss. Even if we did, we are not lodging the likes of her." The innkeeper said.

"How much is it for a room?" Sol asked. "I'll pay double that just to stay inside and sleep next to the fire for the night."

The innkeeper shook her head again, but when Sol dropped four copper coins on the counter, she narrowed her eyes. Sol placed two more, watching the innkeeper's face.

The innkeeper leaned in and said. "No amount of money is worth having my home destroyed." But she still placed a hand over the coins. "Ask for anything else, stranger."

"All I want are lodgings." Sol said.

"You'll get that if you leave her outside."

Sol felt the eyes of the sitting room boring into her, and from the corner of her sight she saw a few patrons shift in their seats so as to get a better view of the two of them. The night was still young, and even if she was able to get the two of them a place to rest inside, Sol knew that it would only be a matter of time before someone grew the nerve to kill them in their sleep.

She had to cut her losses. Her charge was right, they would not let her stay.

"Could I get a hot meal to go then, enough for two people, and some charcoal if you can spare it?"

"We don't have any of this charcoal, but we can get you your meal." Said the innkeeper.

"What is this inn heated with then? Do you have coal?"

"We use peat bricks. We can spare two." The innkeeper said as she scooped the coins off the counter and deposited them in her pocket. She then left for the kitchens.

The conversations in the inn picked up again as a dull murmur. Some of the tension left the sitting room once the patrons knew that Sol and the cloaked woman would not be staying, but only by a little bit. They were still being watched by some patrons, and Sol cast a wary glance across the dining room.

Though she was put off by the townspeople's strange bloodlust, she still yearned to sit at one of the low tables in front of a warm fire with a hot meal and a cold beer. A floor in a warm inn was better than a cradle of damp grass or cold hard rock with a dark unfeeling sky overhead.

The cloaked woman silently moved from behind Sol's back to stand next to her. Sol, still chewing on her yearning for warmth, reflexively placed a hand on her companion's back and in response the cloaked woman leaned in towards Sol.

For that brief moment Sol figured she could survive one more night outside if she wasn't alone.

"I told you they wouldn't let me in." Said the cloaked woman.

Sol heaved a tired sigh. "I hope it feels good to be right."

The proprietor returned from the kitchens to let them know their food would be ready shortly, and she handed Sol two small but heavy peat blocks that she had tied together with a hemp cord.

"I need something else from you." Sol said as she stashed the peat bricks in her bag. The innkeeper watched her warily as she pulled out her map and spread it out across the counter.

"I need to know where your town is located."

The innkeeper leaned over and looked at the map then looked up at Sol and said, "I don't recognize this place."

She then indicated the oceans. "We don't have any large lakes like these nearby. I'm sorry I can't help you."

"Those are oceans." Sol said numbly.


"Never mind." Sol said quietly as she folded up her map. "Thank you for your help." She caught sight of the cloaked woman watching her out of the corner of her eye.

Sol could accept that someone from a small village would not know where to place a town on a larger map. She could convince herself into believing the innkeeper wouldn't know if only because she probably didn't travel, but she still spoke to travellers and sailors...

"Could you show me a full map of this area then?" Sol asked as one last bid.

"There's one cut into the town walls." said the innkeeper.

"Yes I saw that." Sol said, holding fast to her patience. "I mean one that shows geographical landmarks, like mountain ranges, or even lakes."

"You would have to ask one of the traders, but they don't come near towns that are about to pay their tithe. We haven't seen one for many days."

Sol rubbed a hand across her face in exhaustion and said, "When does the tithe end?"

The innkeeper shrugged, "Probably in a couple days. Though stranger-" She leaned in and put a hand on Sol's shoulder so as to angle her away from the cloaked woman. "So long as you travel with that woman you will not get to see the end of it."

"We'll be fine so long as we don't stay in this town, right?" Sol said.

"No." Said the innkeeper in a low voice. "We want her out so that we survive. Listen, you seem like a nice young lady. I'm sure you had good intentions trying to protect that one, but you need to get as far away from her as possible or you will die the worst death imaginable."

Sol was silent but she glanced over her shoulder at the cloaked woman standing back a bit behind her. Her companion was staring wearily at the innkeeper then glanced up at Sol with a look tired by pleading look.

"She follows you like a lost kitten." The innkeeper whispered. "She might not fight back if you do away with her in a back alley."

"Why exactly is she a danger?" Sol said quietly and as steadily as possible.

The innkeeper shook her head. "I can't say out loud."

Sol shrugged the older woman off of her and returned to the cloaked woman's side. "Then I'll take my chances."

"Then you better take yourselves as far as you can from here." The innkeeper said with a scowl.

A man had just come from the kitchen with something smelling of fried fish wrapped in paper. The innkeeper took it from him and practically tossed it at Sol. "Better yet, walk into the mist and get it over with sooner."

Sol's ire had piqued as well, and with a raised voice that shocked the murmuring conversations of the patrons back into silence she said, "I'm sorry I'm not as ready to murder another human being like the rest of you are. As far as I can tell the most dangerous thing in this town are the people living in it."

Sol then took the cloaked woman's hand and led her out of the inn and back into the chilly evening air.

A drawing of Sol and Nyx's hands clasped together as Sol leads Nyx into the night.