Stephan, Maruc and Ludo drove the horses on to Prestelle’s establishment. Having separated prior to entering Rifllian, the three making their way to Prestelle’s hoped to meet up with the remainder of party on the other side of town.
“It’s midday,” Stephan declared the obvious. “A good time to sell horse. This way to Prestelle’s.” He lead the horses and companions to the stables on the south side of town. Dismounting in the yard, Stephan grinned at seeing Prestelle already engaged in horse trade. From the looks of it, his old acquaintance was making a pleasing deal. This bode well for Stephan’s trade. The woodsman dismounted and approached Prestelle from behind.
“A sunny day and sunny deal, Prestelle?” The proprietor nearly jumped out of his boots. Turning, he recognized his old friend and grinned.
“Yes indeed, Master Sukiska! Yes indeed! A very bright day indeed! And brighter now that you grace my humble shoppe.” The tall elvish horseman quickly stowed what seemed to be a bulging pouch of coins before taking Stephan’s hand in greeting.
“I’m glad you’re here, Master Sukiska.” He peered beyond Stephan to take in the equine goods he’d brought. “What have you here, lad?” he said dispensing with formality. Prestelle moved with alacrity to the first horse and began assessing the creature.
“Ah, but my manners are lacking. I see you have traveling companions…”
“Paid hands only,” Stephan lied. “Jobe” referring to Ludo and “Balen,” he indicated Maruc. Prestelle eyed them with suspicion. A seasoned trader in horses and aged elf was no fool. He could tell these were more than hired hands. But out of respect for his loyal customer, he let it go.
“Well met, sirs. I trust your journey was smooth and not overly taxed with horse droppings,” he grinned at his own jest.
Turning back to the horses, “Fine mounts. Yes, fine horses. As usual from House Sukiska. A little worn from the road,” he said walking around the horses. “In need of a rub down….hmmm,” he leaned in scrutinizing a bolus on one of the horses’ haunches.
“A bit of balm should take care of that,” Stephan offered. To be expected from a horse that just made a trip from the south. And in the rain.”
Maruc had kept quiet throughout Stephan’s negotiation with Prestelle nodding only briefly at the traders acknowedgement. He had no background of trading like Miklos to offer support and his eyes betrayed the subterfuge Stefan was espousing during his introduction. He was sure the Stephan trusted Prestelle, equally he was sure that the elf knew or guessed that the trading was only part of there reason for being here. The less Maruc said or did the better.
Ludo nodded to Maruc. He though it would be best to leave Stephen to engage in the final dealings with Prestelle. Maruc shifted uneasily and was pleased when they were free of the elf trader.
Stephan and Prestelle continued to engage in friendly barter until they reached an agreeable deal. As hoped, it was already a good day for Prestelle, so he was willing to make a good price for the horses. All in all, he was satisfied with the deal. He had managed to get more from her than what Ahiktos had offered, and the gold would go along way toward helping his clan rebuild.
* * * * *
“This Jolenta intrigues me,” Miklos remarked to Feldard as they walked through the small town. “Another wizard perhaps? Golthar’s apprentice? Either way this complicates things but also confirms that we are on the right track. He is still throwing his resources at us to slow us down or slay us. We must be vigilant. Even now we may be being spied upon. Let us find an inn.”
It was not long before they made there way to the Silver Swan. “Hello Barman.” Miklos smiled at the halfling behind the bar “Two draughts of ale please and here is an extra coin if you can tell me if you have seen a man in a yellow robe or a tall dark woman by the name of Jolenta?”
“A tall dark woman ye say? With piercing blue eyes?” he replied.
The mage nodded in reply, anxious to see that the halfling seemed to be familiar with this mysterious woman.
“Ye wouldn’t happen to be traveling with a man by the name of Stephan Sukiska? Why, she was just here early this morning. I can even recognize ye by her description, which she gave in quite some detail.”
“That is quite interesting news,” said the mage. “Allow me to confer with my companions. Stephan should be joining us soon and then we shall no doubt discuss this matter further.”
Hasan watched the elf king push off from the Rifllian quay. He ached to see his tribe restore itself to this glory, for surely that was their destiny in these times. How lucky was he to see such a sight, a clear sign of the path before himself and his folk. For he had no doubt, the time of the Elyan was near. In the meantime, he swallowed his pride, and remained carefully hidden below his cloak, trying to remain anonymous in the Callarri waystation.
Together, the priest and rogue walked down the street just outside the Silver Swan. “That elf guessed something back there,” Maruc commented to Ludo as they walked, “but I think we can trust him as far as our journey ahead goes. My guess is that Golthar is ahead of us anyway, so if Prestelle is false he is unlikely to get a message to Golthar before we get to Threshold. The question is will he be there to greet us? Or is he elsewhere?”
As they entered the inn, a smiling halfling approached them, wiping his hands on a apron. “Greetings young men – what can I get you today?” Ludo fumbled in his pocket for a list of supplies that they would need for their travels on to Threshold and asked the Halfling inn keeper ‘Stubbs Plattermann’ if he could fulfill the order. In particular he was keen to get some ale for Feldard, Ludo noticed that if Feldard went without ale for any great length of time he got quite grumpy.
“So Mr Plattermann,” inquired the cleric. “Who did the rather ostentatious barge belong to that just left the jetty?”
“That was the Duke’s Galley. Quite a sight, ain’t she? The Elvenguard pilot the vessel to and from Threshold from the capital once each month, dropping off supplies and picking up taxes, furs, and the like.”
After purchasing the supplies, Stephan entered the Inn looking quite pleased with himself – no doubt the sale of the horses had been completed and Stephen had got a good price.
“You have returned, my old friend!” declared Stubbs in a voice too loud for Stephan’s liking given his current mission. Several patrons cast unwelcome eyes on the woodsman as he crossed to the bar. “Will it be the usual, Master Sukiska?” Stubbs asked while grabbing a large flagon from what looked like a little-used cupboard. “What brings you to Rifllian?”
“Horse trading, my good Stubbs. Horse trading. It’s good to see you again. Business looks good. Oh and, yes, the usual please.”
Stubbs poured generously into a large stein a rich brown malt brew. Stephan thanked the jolly bar keep while placing two slivers on the bar. He drank deeply of the nutty brew. The effects were pleasing. Nearly instantly, he could feel the positive effects of the brain-metabolizing substance. His limbs, right down to the finger tips, felt energized yet relaxed. He remembered why he loved this diminutive brew masters so much.
“Ah. This is impressive Master Plattermann!” He threw another silver on the counter. “I’d almost forgotten the pleasure. The best in my travels, for sure!”
Stubbs beamed with pride. “It is an old clan recipe. The techniques are, shall we say, meticulous, in the brewing of it.”
Stephan cast his eyes about the place noting, he hoped without a flinch, the presence of Ludo and Maruc.
“Yes,” he said turning back to Stubbs, “your establishments seems to be doing well. I’m glad for you. But I’m sorry to say my time in Rifllian is short. I must be away and soon.”
Stubbs appeared crest fallen. “Surely your travel has engendered some degree of hunger. Can I have Pruddy prepare you some bangers before you flee?”
Stephan could smells the goodness of the cookshop in the back wafting through the pub. “Well, I suppose some sustenance is in order. Yes! I’ll refill the gut but then must be on my way.”