Polymath Redux Annex
Chapter 18 – A new base of operations
The ‘Vardis Inn’.
While not quite at the level one would call ‘dilapidated’, the signs of age had begun to take its toll. Yet, the building had struck a chord with Mordred’s sense of hermit-attuned aesthetics. The lounge was rather expansive with clean wooden floor. Most of the furniture and décor sported a rugged feel and look to them, but the lack of dust suggested regular maintenance. Visibility was poor and only a slight sliver of sunlight poured in to the inner parts of the building. Gentle percussive taps against the glass from the outside wind created a rhythmic ambiance.
The place had been maintained with a good level of professionalism that Mordred found more than acceptable. In fact, the quiet lack of other patrons also elevated the inn’s charm in his mind. A strong kinship to his old way of live could be felt emanating from this establishment. ‘A home away from home…’ he smirked to himself. As per his specifications, everything was aligned perfectly. Even the location was rather secluded from the rest of the city. Almost too much so that he started to wonder how business could be financially sustained. “Yes, this would do. Well done,” he nodded with praise. “I’m surprised you could so easily find a place with my exact specifications. The power of an information broker is not to be underestimated, I see.”
“Hmph, this isn’t just a place I found,” Yda shook her head with a sigh. She walked towards the other side of the counter and placed down her dagger. “This place also happens to be my home.” At that moment Mordred understood how this place could manage to stay afloat. The main function of this establishment was not service to patrons but to act as a hideout to a grand thief. “Then… welcome, dear guests, to the Vardis Inn,” she greeted with an awkward and unwilling tone but continued. “We do have a system here, so I would like you to pay up front. Twenty gold pieces!”
Playing along, Mordred extracted a few pieces of gold from his ‘inventory’ and placed it down onto the wooden counter. Their metallic clanging echoed through the empty inn with a distinctive sound. “Would this suffice?” Mordred asked as he moved his hands to reveal a small mound of gold coins that stacked up to at least thirty pieces. Yda’s eyes widened as she found it hard to look away from them. Drool slowly leaking down the corner of her mouth.
“Uh… How much…?” her hands trembled as she slowly picked one up to examine their authenticity. From her reaction, it was obvious that this was an exorbitant fee and that she had expected him not to pay. Most likely, she was trying to use that as an excuse to kick him out, but the situation has changed. Her left hand subconsciously clung onto the side of Mordred’s clothes to prevent him from leaving. “Thirty-two gold pieces… more than enough to live for five years without work,” she whispered under her breath.
Not that he didn’t hear but he chose to ignore it. The small amount of money on the table didn’t even begin to scratch the surface of his limitless wealth. “What do you think? Have you determined them to be authentic?”
“Huh? Oh, uh… yeah, it’s fine,” she nodded and slowly pocketed the gold into her own purse. Still, it began to dawn on her that this much money was not something ordinary people carried around. Her expression shifted from obvious greed to suspicion. “Just who are you? Are you a noble kid from the countryside? Or a different nation entirely? Just so you know, we’re at war with the Empire.”
Mordred shook his head, “we’re not from any country and we’ve no allegiance to any state.”
“What do you mean by that? Then where were you born?”
With a smile, he denied her the answer, “that’s not something you need to know. If you’re fine with the payment, would you guide us to our rooms?”
“Ah, right. Just pick any room from the second floor. We don’t have any other guests anyway.”
With the dubious transactions completed, Mordred turned for the stairs. Yet, before he could ascend the stairs, the doors of the inn slowly creaked open. Two people. One, a nubile young woman that appeared to be no older than her late teens. Non-human; her skin was a soft and cold shade of blue. Her hair void of colours glittered through the sunlight behind her. More distinctive features included two horns that protracted from the sides of her temples that curved forward. However, one of the had evidence of being torn off through rather violent means. Through her faded icy glanced towards Yda and then to Mordred and Irina with a smile. In her arms was a large paper bag full of misshapen groceries.
To her side was a small child, about seven or eight in terms of appearance alone. She possessed a very similar set of characteristics to the blue tanned woman; two horns, white hair and clear blue eyes. Yet, her skin’s tone was different, more human in complexion with a soft cream colour. At the sight of strangers in Mordred and Irina she quickly hid behind the older woman only to peek out and steal slight glances. The most notable feature on the child however, was not the colour of her skin but a small birthmark upon her right shoulder. A red cross upon a circle. Too detailed to be a natural occurrence but also to blended to be artificial.
“Ah, Yda, you’re finally back! I was getting kind of worried that something may have happened. Thank goodness,” she spoke gently words of relief before addressing Mordred. She moved over and placed the bag of malformed groceries on the table to embrace her friend.
“Hey, wait, Rena! You’re embarrassing me!”
“Sorry, it’s just that you haven’t been home for a few days… but it’s great to see you’re not hurt,” she replied with a discouraged voice. Wiping the small droplet of tears from her eyes she finally turned to address the two new guests. She lowered her head, “aha, I apologize for showing you a scene most unbecoming. I’m Rena and this is my daughter, Charlotte.” She pointed to the small child that hid behind her skirt. “Perhaps you are guests?”
Mordred nodded, “yes, we were ‘recommended’ by Yda.”
At his words Yda rolled her eyes and shook her head, “right… well, at least they paid for their stay.”
Perhaps she had known all too well what kind of profession Yda was in, but Rena instantly turned to confront her. Her brows furrowed and she asked hesitantly, “paid? Exactly how much did you charge them?”
“Umm… just a few… pieces of gold?”