“She’s still breathing,” Lazhar said, standing up from the bed and turning to Alyssa and Yzhemal. He moved away from the sleeping girl, dusting his hands together. “Whether she wakes or not? I cannot say,” he said with a casual shrug.

“I warned everyone of putting out fires before sleeping. Lass is lucky she didn’t burn down my inn.”

“She would probably have died,” Alyssa mumbled. Looking up to the twin with the beer belly—she didn’t actually know if they were twins or not, but they were brothers and looked similar enough to each other that it probably counted—she asked, “Is there nothing else you can do for her? Smelling salts or… something?” She had her first aid kit, but honestly didn’t think anything in it would help with asphyxiation. In fact, she didn’t have the slightest clue how one went about treating asphyxia except maybe with an oxygen mask. Alyssa didn’t have one of those even back at the house.

“Smelling salts?” Lazhar said, utterly confused. His bewilderment only lingered momentarily before he began smiling again. “I am sorry, I do not understand. I am but a humble priest. Are you trained in the healing arts?”

A priest? When Yzhemal had told her to go find his brother at the brewery, she had assumed that Lazhar was a doctor of some sort. Priests were the ones called for last rites. That or miraculous healing. But as a priest of Tenebrael, Alyssa highly doubted that he would be able to get that angel to show up. From what Alyssa had seen, Tenebrael wouldn’t bother to heal the woman. In fact, she might just hasten the poor girl’s death.

“No. Not really,” Alyssa eventually said. “I’ve just heard that smelling salts can help people wake up.”

Yzhemal scoffed. “I consider myself the altruistic sort. This careless lass nearly burned down my inn. I wouldn’t waste valuable salt on someone so worthless.”

“Brother!” Lazhar said, voice low and deep. “She is a pilgrim! We can hardly blame them.” He paused, blinking his dark eyes as he looked towards Alyssa.

Bounding over the short distance with footsteps heavy enough to shake dust from the floorboards, he clasped a hand on her shoulder. “Do not worry for this girl. Pilgrims…” He waved his hand in the air without any real meaning or direction. “They are a different sort. At the end of their ropes. Lost and directionless, they come here seeking… Well, it is personal for each pilgrim. However, they come with but one thing to lose.” He nodded his head towards the punk rocker girl. “And if she loses it, I am sure that Her Holiness will welcome her on the other side.”

“Yeah,” Alyssa said through pursed lips, “I’m sure she will.”

“Glad you understand,” Lazhar said with a jolly smile, apparently taking Alyssa’s words more positively than she had meant them. “Come brother, Alyssa, let us leave the girl in peace. I shall save her a spot in the closing ceremony just in case she awakens.”

As Lazhar started to lead her out of the room, Yzhemal walked up to a small leather pouch sitting on the floor next to the bed. He flipped open the flap and started digging through the contents. It took Alyssa a moment to realize what he was doing.

“You’re stealing from her?”

“Stealing?” He pointed down at the damp charcoaled wood on the floor. “I am seeking recompense. This floor must be repaired. Unless you are going to pay for it? You’ll be working with no pay for a lot longer than three days.” Crossing his arms, Yzhemal started tapping at the crook of his elbow.

Alyssa couldn’t do anything but bite her lip and shake her head. If that was how this world worked, the girl had brought it down on her own head. Someone from Earth would have to pay a hotel if they burned half the floor away. Though, people wouldn’t just take it while the arsonist should be in a hospital. Some sort of court would probably be involved. It would wind up some big deal that would end up costing everyone more than the cost to replace the carpet.

“I thought not,” Yzhemal said as he returned to the bag.

Alyssa stared for another moment before turning and allowing Lazhar to walk her out of the room. She stopped once they reached the main tavern room. The younger boy she had noticed the night before was seated at a stool in front of the counter. Supposedly, she was on a break. Yet he sat there, all alone in the room. Did he need help? Service? With Yzhemal still upstairs, it was probably her job to go and see if he needed something?

He gave her a slight wave as she stood there, but not the sort of wave that would try to call her over. At least, she assumed it wasn’t that sort of wave. Mannerisms could easily be drastically different from Earth. But he looked back towards the front of the room and shut his eyes, leaning slightly on the counter. So she kept following Lazhar. He wouldn’t be staying long anyway, then she could see if the boy needed something.

“Shame about that girl,” Lazhar said as they reached the entrance to the inn. “But nothing to do about it. I need to get back and finish filling my kegs. Perhaps I’ll see you around the bonfire tonight, hmm?”

“I think I’m going to be waiting on tables this evening. Sorry,” she said, not really feeling sorry at all. Making money off people celebrating Tenebrael was one thing. Celebrating her was another thing entirely.

“My brother has you working like a mule, I see. Still, he’ll give you time off for the closing ceremony. You’ll attend that, no?”


His smile lost its vigor as he looked on her with sad eyes. He opened his mouth to say something. Though it was rude, Alyssa didn’t really want to hear any preaching. So she beat him to the punch.

“Actually, I was wondering if there is anywhere around here I might be able to purchase a cloak or coat or something similar.”

Lazhar hummed to himself, scratching his beard. “Tailor Thovas may have a spare or two he would be willing to sell.” He reached out a hand and brushed his knuckles against her arm. “Quite high quality wool you have there. The tailor must have been skilled.”

“The tailor was skilled,” she said after a moment. “Unfortunately, I can’t get them anymore. Besides, this isn’t meant for cooler climates. It’s much too thin. I might as well be wearing nothing at night. How much would the tailor be asking, in your best guess?”

“Two of his sheep were killed a few weeks ago. Carried off by harpies, the filthy vermin. Because of that, I imagine any wool he has in stock will cost a lot. More than my brother is paying you over a few days. Seventeen medi. Maybe fifteen and four prav at the lowest.”

Which meant that prav were a smaller denomination than medi. Bronze and silver respectably? Alyssa didn’t dare ask and display her ignorance. Unless the money was only used within the village, it was probably something that even a child would be aware of. She simply nodded her head. “I see.” Maybe she could trade something. If worse came to worse, there were winter coats back at the house. They wouldn’t blend in half as well as a locally made coat. Avoiding a slow death from hypothermia and frostbite was just a little higher on her priority list than appearing as a local. “I’ll figure something out.”

“Well, I wish you luck!” he said with a chuckle. As he left the inn, he gave a quick wave over his shoulder without looking back.

Alyssa watched him go for a moment, staring out the open door. Even in the middle of the day, people were out partying. Lazhar stopped and greeted nearly every person he passed. Several of the closer ones—the ones Alyssa could hear—asked if he would join them for a drink or a chat. With a jolly laugh, Lazhar always declined, pointing off to the distance to the stone building that was his brewery. Nobody protested much as he walked on to the next group. Nobody wanted to be the reason the ale ran dry.

Shaking her head, she closed the door and turned back to the tavern. “Can I help you?” she asked as she stepped behind the counter.

“Just resting,” the boy said without opening his eyes. He had a slight accent that Alyssa couldn’t place. Of course, something would be very wrong if she could place an accent in this world. It was amazing enough that everyone spoke English so far. “Getting out of the sun, you know?”

“It is bright out today, isn’t it.” Not that she had to worry about the weather. Aside from running to grab Lazhar from the brewery to check on the punk rock girl, she hadn’t left the inn once. Yzhemal had her cleaning and she wasn’t sure that the building had ever been cleaned before.

“I hope you don’t mind me overhearing your conversation, but you’re looking for a cloak?”

Alyssa’s eyes flicked to the violet cloak around the boy’s shoulders. A large silver brooch inlaid with three amethyst gems held the top collar together around his neck. Leather straps down the open edge held the rest of the cloak closed, though he only had the two uppermost straps done up. With the rest of the cloak open, he was free to move his arms about and work. It wasn’t as nice as modern materials, but might as well be when compared to the clothes everyone else wore. More than that, it looked clean and colorful. In short, she would probably need to work at the inn for several years before she could afford something like it.

Before she could respond, he undid the silver brooch and the leather straps. Gripping both ends of his collar, he swung it off, letting the ends ripple through the air until he folded it over one arm. He set it down on the counter and slid it towards Alyssa.

She stared for just a moment before looking up to him. “I can’t accept this. I don’t even know you.”

“Aziz,” he said, pressing the cloak just a little further. “And I insist.”

Alyssa stared for a moment before brushing her fingers across the fabric. It was almost more like thick felt than a soft wool. Much better than whatever the bed blankets were made from. When she didn’t pick it up, he shoved it forward again, forcing Alyssa to grab hold of it before it could fall to the floor.

“You’ll get more use from it than I. Don’t worry about it being a noble’s cloak. No one will care. If you really don’t want it, just leave it on the counter. I’m sure the innkeeper would love it.”

“When you put it like that, how can I refuse?” Alyssa said, hoping she wasn’t getting herself into some strange courtship ritual. She looked up from the cloth, half expecting him to be leering at her, only to find Aziz leaning over the counter with his eyes closed once again. This time, he had a slight smile on his face.

“I… You’re a traveler, right?” Alyssa asked before she could stop herself. “I hate to impose after you’ve just given me this gift, but I don’t suppose you have a map I could look at? I don’t need to keep it, just a quick look,” she added quickly before he could throw more of his possessions at her.

However, he shook his head. “I don’t. But! I believe Bertram, my companion, has one in a bag. I’m sure he wouldn’t mind you taking a gander at it.” Aziz slid off the stool and headed towards the stairs. “It would be up in our room, I’ll show you.”


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