While the commotion with the prince was going on, the town guards had become lax in their security at the gate facing the dungeon. When reports of battle came through the town, the security decreased even further as more guards left their posts to assist in the aftermath.
With the limited personnel present at the gate now, no one was there to notice a small figure slipping in with the normal crowd of adventurers and merchants. The figure waited until he was clear inside the town before darting away the crowd into a small alleyway.
As he confirmed no one was following him, Rowen sighed a breath of relief. “I made it,” he reported.
“Good going Rowen,” Claire praised him, “I don’t know why the guards were missing, but this made it a lot easier to sneak inside the town. How are you feeling?”
Rowen peeked out and stared at the newly risen Dungeon Town. He shook his head, “It’s so similar to the city I saw from the castle, but it’s obvious this is not my time. I can only read half of the words I see; the language has obviously changed. I’m really glad being a part of sir Doc allows me to understand what others say.”
“It’s because Doc’s magic enables him to speak with everyone. Imagine trying to speak with The Twins or Anadine without it,” Claire giggled in Rowen’s mind.
Rowen couldn’t help but giggle himself; Anadine couldn’t make sounds and the twins barked and growled. When he recovered, he peeked around the corner again.
“What should I do next?” he asked.
“I have no idea; you’re the human here,” Claire declared, “I have no idea how to live with humans. They tend to be grabby with my kind.”
Rowen grew worried as he kept staring from the corner. While he indeed was human, in a fashion, he was of royal blood and from a time period years in the past. Even if he could understand what others were saying that did not mean others would understand him.
“Hey kid, what are you doing here?” Rowen jumped as he heard a voice behind him. He turned and found three large men starring down at him.
“Hi, I’m Prince Rowen the Third, Son of King Helius the Second,” he squeaked.
“What did he say?” the man on the left asked.
“Don’t know; I think he’s a foreigner,” The middle one snorted. He snapped his knuckles threateningly, “That means he’s a spy. Let’s turn him in for some silver; maybe a slave caravan would buy ‘em.”
Rowen had heard enough. He bolted into the street, running as fast as he could through people and wagons. With the men roaring at him and chasing after him, Rowen dashed down the street before darting into another alleyway. He dived under a wagon and clapped his hands over his mouth to hide the sound of his breathing.
He listened to the sound of the men running down the alley, passing his hiding spot and leaving him behind. Waiting until he was sure they were gone, Rowen slowly crawled out from under the wagon and jogged back onto the main road.
“I can’t communicate with them mother Claire; this is not good,” Rowen said worried as he kept his pace.
“Hm, I’m sorry Rowen that I can’t help,” Claire apologized, “I can’t teach you how to speak because my nature allows magic to translate the words I speak and the words I hear. You’ll need to find a teacher.”
“How should I . . .” Rowen began to ask before he spotted one of the men from before running toward him.
“Hold right there ya little brat!” the man roared at him.
Rowen turned tail and ran as fast as he could, once again. This time, however, the streets were becoming less filled as he approached the gate. Rowen was forced to leave the busy area and enter the area filled with tents. This unfortunately meant that he couldn’t hide anymore.
Rowen’s speed was much faster than the man, but he could feel himself starting to get tired. His body was still young, and sleeping for hundreds of years had impacted his previous training. Knowing the man behind him would eventual catch up if he slowed, Rowen forced himself to run into one of the taller buildings in the midst of the sea of tents. He burst through the swinging door, his head darting quickly and taking in the surroundings. Rowen dived behind the counter, startling the barkeeper who was working.
“What in the nine hells?” the bartender yelped as he glared down at the crouching Rowen, “Get out of here!”
“Please help me,” Rowen begged.
The bartender cocked up his eyebrow, “What . . .”
Rowen heard the door swing open again, and listened to the footsteps as the man approached.
“Oy, tell me where the boy went,” the man demanded.
The barkeep folded his arms and glared, “Why should I?”
Rowen heard the man growl, “Don’t question me old man; that boy’s a spy and I want the reward for turning him in.”
Rowen watched the bartender’s forehead start to twitch, “A spy huh. What makes you say that?”
Rowen almost jumped as a fist slammed into the counter, “Don’t ask questions old man! Tell me . . .”
The bartender’s hand shot out and grabbed the man’s throat, pulling him over and causing him to gasp for air.
“Oy bastard,” the bartender said slowly, “You made a few mistakes here. One, you weren’t polite and entered my business before asking permission. I’m not open right now.”
“Two,” he squeezed tighter, “I’m not old. I’m in my 30’s in the prime of my life.”
“And three,” at this point the man’s face was turning blue as he struggled to break free, “No one hits my bar.”
The next instant, the bartender released the man, jumped the counter, and grabbed him by the shirt. Rowen poked his head above the counter and watched as the bartender dragged the man to the door and threw him out.
“Don’t come back!” the bartender roared. Turning around, he sighed and scratched his head awkwardly as he stared at Rowen.
“Ah, let me get some tea. My healer tells me it’s not healthy to get so worked up anymore,” he said to Rowen.
Rowen watched as the bartender took out two small cups from under the counter. He reached up and took a pot off the shelf, placing it on a strange looking surface of four cross bars. Rowen jumped in shock as the bartender placed a red crystal underneath that caught fire. Soon, the pot whistled, and the bartender poured the tea into the two cups.
“Drink,” he said to Rowen.
Rowen obediently picked up his cup and drank it, slowly like he had been taught by his mother. It was warm and very soothing.
“Thank-you,” he said to the bartender.
The bartender nodded in understanding, “I see. You can understand me, but can’t speak in turn. You know how to drink tea properly, something most children cannot. Judging by the state of your clothes, you must not have any parents.”
Rowen, having been reminded of his parents, teared up and nodded. The bartender sighed and shook his head mournfully.
“I’ve too many like you. Parents gone or dead, leaving younglings like you behind to fend for yourselves. I’m guessing your parents were fairly wealthy if you understand tea,” the bartender mused, drumming his fingers on the counter. After a moment, he asked, “So, what do you want to do?”
Rowen shook away his tears, “I want to be an adventurer.”
The bartender shrugged, “Well, it’s not like I can understand you.”
Rowen’s face twitched.
The bartender chuckled and slapped Rowen on the back, “I’m just joking youngling. I understood the word ‘adventurer’ from the garble you just spat out. Still, you are too green to be wanting to go dungeon diving.”
He scratched his head in thought, “Well, how about this? I need someone to assist me in this tavern while I’m renovating the place. You help me and my daughter, and I’ll train you with my adventurer experience. I’ll even pay you a small wage and let you have the attic to sleep in.”
As wonderful as the terms were, Rowen felt very cautious. “Why?” he asked the bartender.
The bartender rubbed his chin, “I’m guessing you’re curious why I’m being so generous. Three reasons; one, I actually need help. Two, I don’t fear anything you could do. Three, I have a soft spot for younglings like yourself.” He grinned roguishly, “You remind me of how I used to be.”
“Father, I’m home!” Rowen and the bartender turned to see a perky, young girl skipping into the tavern. She cocked her head curiously, “Who’s he?”
“This is my new worker . . . um . . . Hey brat, what’s your name?” the bartender asked.
“Rowen,” Rowen answered.
“This is Rowen, my new worker. This is my daughter Milly, and you can call me Fred,” Fred held out his hand, “Welcome to the Knifed Zombie.”
Rowen shook Fred’s hand and was pulled into a violent handshake by Milly.
“Hi! This is great! You can be my fake little brother!” Milly screamed happily.
“I don’t really want to be your brother,” Rowen tried to communicate to Milly.
Milly shook her head, “I don’t understand . . . Oh, I bet you asked for my help in learning how to read and talk. You’re in luck, because I’m soon to 14 and know a lot of words,” Milly puffed out her growing chest, Rowen’s eyes twitching downward for a moment, and continued, “Follow me for your first lesson!”
Fred grinned as Rowen was helplessly dragged away by his over eager daughter. He began to whistle as he returned to cleaning the counter.
All of the please Rowen sent back to the dungeon were met with restrained giggles from Claire and misplaced encouragement from Doc.