Basilglen looked so different!
It was nighttime, once again, when they arrived, but this time the entire city was lit and alive, not just with the dregs of society, but with the kind of elves Xac expected, wealthy elves in beautiful clothes, but also with things he had never seen before.
The roads were so packed the carriage stalled, and there were soldiers on the bridge who seemed to be looking for something. But as they passed beyond them Xac saw hastily constructed booths and tents that had not been there before, and he didn’t know what they were or what they were meant for, but he smelled hot oil, dough, and so much sugar it permeated the air and he could taste it. Music came from all around him, and it was not all the same song, but it blended together not in a caucapony, but in a symphony, as if everyone understood the spirit, if not the tune.
He was sitting on his knees trying his best not to press his face to the glass as they moved slowly through the streets, watching the kind of things he had never seen before. There were people standing beside the booths and tents, shouting for anyone who cared to listen-
“Step right up! Try your luck! Two for a copper-”
“Right this way ladies and gentlemen, see creatures you have never before set eyes upon in the traveling menagerie-”
“Only the most brave may enter here, for beyond lies a true danger, a mermaid, alive and well, from the deepest, darkest parts of the ocean-”
“You bring me anything, I’ll fry it right up-”
“THIS SUNDAY, SUNDAY, SUNDAY, AT THE BASILGLEN MATCHGROUNDS, TICKETS STILL AVAILABLE FOR THE AGRICULTURAL DISTRICT CAGE FIGHTING PRELIMINARIES. IT’S GONNA BE A BLOODBATH!”
“The finest livestock this side of the Sacred Woods! Horses, oxen, cattle, humans, chickens, ducks, geese, sheep-”
“It’s so loud,” Alex whined, and it was the first time he had stirred on the trip.
“We’re almost there, darlin,” Kyrtarr assured him, “We just gotta fight past the crowd.”
“I like it!” Xac defended, “Wake up! Look at this!”
“Do you?” Agalon asked as if this information shocked him, “You’re usually so skittish.”
“It’s excitin though!” Xaxac said, “An’ you’re with me! An’ we got the soldiers, right? You said nothing bad would happen as long as you were with me!”
He scooted to sit in Agalon’s lap and cuddle up with him.
“And you’re finally startin to believe me,” Agalon smiled, “I knew we’d get you outta that shell, Honey Bunny.”
“Are we gonna drop them off at the hotel?” Kyrtarr asked, “Alex gets grumpy when he wakes up from his sleeping potion. I don’t reckon he wants to fool with gettin the fighters settled.”
“We can,” Agalon shrugged, “Will you be alright to do that, darlin?”
“I like the hotel!” Xaxac said, “I… I think I can, if Alex is with me. Can I just eat the fruit flowers, though? Do we have to go back to the food place?”
“It’s called a ‘restaurant’, Honey Bunny,” Agalon explained.
“Well… do we have to go there?” Xac asked, making his eyes as big as he could, “I don’t like it. I’m scared I’ll get sick. They give me chicken last time.”
“Oh my god,” Alex lamented, “Xac, honey, you know I love ya but I can’t have you makin that noise. Your voice just… it’s got this whine in it, when you do that that just makes me angry… like instantly. Stop it.”
“You’re just grumpy on account of the sleepin potion wearin off,” Kyrtarr told him, “be nice.”
“I just wanna get settled,” Alex explained. “Yeah, Xac, we’ll just go to our rooms. Your rooms, preferably. Can I hang out with Xac, KyKy? Please?”
“Sure, darlin, whatever you want,” Kyrtarr said as if he wasn’t particularly concerned about it, then to Agalon he continued, “Well, we did make good time, for a caravan.”
“I’ll be glad to crawl into bed,” Agalon said, cuddling Xac to his chest, “Travelin just wears me out anymore.”
The carriage came to a stop and Lee came around to open the door.
“Perfect,” Agalon said as he gently scooted Xac out of his lap and kissed him on the forehead, “Be good, darlin.”
He climbed heavily out of the carriage and spoke to Lee, “Have my things taken to my rooms, and Ky’s to his, and then come find me, alright?”
“Yes, master,” Lee said, and Xaxac watched Agalon walk away and wondered where he was going. He was shocked to see him walk to the other carriage and climb onto the front of it. Bobby handed him the reigns and hopped down.
“You just eat you a bite and try to relax darlin, alright?” Kyrtarr said to Alex, and Alex threw his arms around him. Kyrtarr hugged him much tighter than Xac had ever seen them embrace before, then smoothed down his hair and kissed him on the forehead.
“Alright,” Alex said weakly, “I love you. I’ll miss you.”
Xaxac realized he should have said this to Agalon, but it was too late to worry about it now. Kyrtarr was already gone, Lee had closed the door, and without his master Alex looked genuinely scared. He had pulled his knees up to his chest under his traveling cloak and wrapped his arms around them.
Xac didn’t understand this. He thought his reluctance to travel had been an act, for the benefit of the elves, to make him seem fragile and cute. But now they were gone, so there was no reason to keep up such an act.
“Are you ok?” Xac asked as he hopped up, moved to sit beside Alex, and threw his arm over his shoulder, but Alex did not have time to answer before the carriage stopped again and the door opened.
“Hey Alex,” Bobby said, “You remember where the royal suite is? Can you head on up there?”
“You want me to help y’all pack stuff?” Alex asked.
“I can help too!” Xac proclaimed, “I really oughta always been doin that. Lee’s all old… I ought not be lettin him do stuff I can do.”
“I can hear you,” Lee huffed, sounding as if he had been gravely insulted, “I’m just unhitchin the horses, I didn’t leave.”
“I didn’t think you did,” Xac said as Alex shoved past him to jump out, a little wobbly on his feet, and Xac realized that they were in a sort of barn, but it was full of carriages and humans that he assumed were grooms. One of them was standing with Lee, presumably to take the horses, and Xac caught him snickering at their exchange.
“OfAgalon,” Lee said to him, “and OfLeohorn.”
“Alright,” the man said and pulled from the bag on his hip a series of three wooden cards. He clipped two to the horses’ bridals and handed the third to Lee, “Give that to the girl at the desk and she’ll send some kids to help you with the luggage. That boy’s right, you ought not be doin that.”
“Y’all know I ain’t dead, right?” Lee huffed, “But it wouldn’t hurt my feelin’s none. They wanna let the youngun’s get it, let the youngun’s get it. Let’s just go check in. Get us a bite to eat.”
“I don’t wanna eat,” Xac said, “I’ll get sick. Aggie said I could just go up to the rooms and eat the flowers.”
“If that’s what you wanna do,” Lee shrugged and led them through the barn and into the human section of the restaurant, which confirmed Xaxac’s suspicions. The last time he had been in there, he had thought the human entrance came in through the barn, but had no way to confirm it. He had a small sense of satisfaction about his correct guess, even though it couldn’t matter very much, in the grand scheme of things.
The restaurant was even more crowded than it had been the first time; there were more people than there were seats at the benches, to the point that some folks were trying to eat standing up, with more success than Xaxac thought he would have had in their situation.
He saw the girl, Helen, the other pleasure slave, but she didn’t see him, and he was glad for it. He hoped she wouldn’t, and that she wouldn’t see Alex, or any of them. She had been there the night he had shifted, the night he had tried to run away, and he didn’t particularly feel like seeing anyone he only kind of knew.
They did, eventually, emerge into the elven sitting area, which was considerably less crowded, and walked briskly through it, following Lee.
He spoke to the lady at the desk, but Xaxac wasn’t particularly interested in the conversation. He had heard it before, the last time he had been here with Agalon. He was just going to get a key and someone to go get their luggage. He was more interested in Alex. He thought there was a secret about him that he didn’t understand, but Alex wasn’t acting odd anymore, apart from still being a little sleepy from the potion; he really was fine once he got where he was going, just as he had said.
Was he afraid of carriages?
“Xac,” Lee said and Xac snapped back to attention to take the key he had been given, “Go on up there, me and Bobby gotta go watch these kids make sure they don’t steal nothin.”
“You don’t want no help?” Alex asked.
“God love, I swear the job makes y’all stupid,” Lee said as if it was a great tragedy, “I just said I had help. These boys gonna help. Pay attention to the world around you.”
“You’re always a sparklin ray a’ sunshine, Lee, you know that?” Alex smirked at him, “Is this one of those things where you’re always mean to me ‘cause you’re secretly in love with me, but you know it can never be, so you try to push me away?”
“Go upstairs,” Lee said like a man who was in no mood for games.
“Maybe if I suck you off you’ll feel better,” Alex giggled as Lee and Bobby walked away, leading two younger humans with them.
“I wish you wouldn’t keep startin fights with him,” Xac said as they walked up the staircase and he thought he was probably not supposed to. There had to be a staircase somewhere for humans, but he didn’t know where it was.
“I don’t start fights,” Alex said as if the concept was ridiculous.
“Are you… scared’a carriages?” Xac asked, more gently.
“Nah, I think I just got kinda put off on um,” Alex explained, “When I was a kid.”
“How come?” Xac asked as he turned down a hall on the top floor and tried to remember where their suite was.
“I ain’t from here,” Alex said, “I was born up north, up by that shitty mountain range they call the ‘Mountains of Death’. Ain’t nothin up there but like… shitty land where nothin grows and goats. So it don’t do nobody no good to have no humans, really. You keep a couple but not a lot, not like we got here. So when I was a kid, my master up there decided he didn’t want me or my little brother, so he sold us to this travelin slave merchant, but Frankie wouldn’t but like… he was a baby, real little, barely could talk. And he tore his ass real bad, so our new master got mad at him, on account of he wouldn’t quit screamin and whatnot- we was supposed to be with everybody else, there was a lot of us, and they chained us up by the neck, you know, like they done with the fighters.”
“But Frankie absolutely would not shut the hell up, and also he quit walkin and like to have choked himself to death, so I tried to pick him up, but I wouldn’t really big enough, you know? I was still pretty little myself. And when we quit movin it messed up the whole line, and we was bein drug along like that and made a godawful noise and I knew he was gonna get us in trouble, and truth be told I was kinda pissed about it too, I missed our parents too, you know? But I was the big boy, the big brother, and I was, god love, probably five or six, but who really knows? Point is I was too big to be cryin about my mommy, but not big enough to stop the clusterfuck of folks trippin over themselves, and when that merchant got out and seen what he had done he was fit to be tied.”
“He grabbed us both up and I knew he was gonna whoop us good before he done it. And I was right. I’m ‘bought always right. But I was kinda worried about Frankie, you know? It’s hard for somebody that little to take a whoopin like that. And it didn’t shut him up, which it what it was meant to do, so he took us both and- them seats, in the carriage, they fold up, where folks store stuff. That’s what the boxes are that stick out either end. He dragged us inside, opened one of um up and threw us in there, with all his boxes and luggage and whatnot. There wouldn’t really room to do nothin, you just kinda had to lay where you was throwed.”
Xac paused at the door. He had nothing to add to the story, so he just nodded.
“I reckon he forgot about us,” Alex said, “There’s only so much cryin somebody can do, so we just had to stay there, till we come to the next town. I don’t know how long it was… I know it… was longer than anybody can keep from… well, we wouldn’t clean time he remembered we existed. But I ain’t never been more thankful for anything than I was the first drink a water I got. It’s the thirst, when you’re locked up like that, that gets ya. That’s what… that’s how they get ya.”
Xac nodded again and opened the door.
“I could use a drink right now,” Alex said and walked into the sitting room.