165/366 – Pondspar on the Road (Part 1)

Day 23 of 100 Word Prompts: Antique

Dylian approached the city of Gratle, which sat perilously close to the border between Kinia and the Kingdom of Breya. While he knew that Breya was a kingdom seemingly filled with thugs, bandits, and criminal empires, he had heard stories about the inhabitants of Kinia.

Dylian led his donkey forward cautiously, expecting the giants to find him the second anyone realized he wasn’t one of them. The walls of the city, thirty feet high with towers dotting every few hundred feet, stared back at him. From a quarter-mile away, he could see the open gates, as well as cart and foot traffic, entering and exiting.

“What do you think, Agnescious?” Dylian whispered, stroking the donkey’s face. “You think there are giants here looking for a half-elf and a donkey to eat?”

Agnescious snorted at him, nuzzling his hand.

“Yeah, that’s what I thought, too,” Dylian replied with a nod.

Dylian passed cobblers, sewists, smiths, and potion-makers. Every one of them nodded and waved with a friendly smile. He reached the gates finally and was immediately approached by a guard.

“Halt!” the guard commanded, to which Dylian obeyed. “State your business.”

“I don’t really have any business,” Dylian said, looking at Agnescious. “We are just wanderers currently.”

“I’m going to need to inspect your belongings. There’s been increased criminal activity as of late,” the guard said.

“Yeah, no problem,” Dylian replied before turning to his donkey, “it’s okay, Agnescious, these men are going to go through your bags. You need to be nice, okay?”

Agnescious hawed in response, which Dylian assumed meant he was going to listen.

“Here you go,” Dylian said, handing the lead to the guard.

The guard approached Agnescious with a level of caution that Dylian understood meant one or two donkeys had kicked him in his time, but Agnescious was patient and calm, letting the guard do what he needed. When he finished his inspection of the bags, he turned to Dylian and inspected what he had on him.

“Pondspar?” the guard asked, looking at the sword he had removed from the sheath.

“Family name,” Dylian replied. “I was adopted.”

“This sword is an antique, erm, what’s your name?” the guard asked.

“Dylian, Dylian Pondspar,” he replied, a cocked smile spreading across his face, “What’s your name?”

“Lieutenant Demarcus Bowen, Commanding Officer of the Eastern Gate of Gratle,” the guard replied.

“All that’s your name? Your parents were either prophetic in their naming of you, or had a wonky sense of humor,” Dylian teased. “Well, anyway, it’s nice to meet you, Lieutenant Demarcus Bowen, Commanding Officer of the Eastern Gate of Gratle. Want to grab an ale?”

“Here are your things,” Lieutenant Bowen replied, looking at Dylian a little dumbfounded as he handed back the Pondspar Sword, “You know that my name is not my title, station, and assignment, right?”

“Sure, buddy. I’m not here to judge,” Dylian replied with a shrug as he looked past the guard, “Where’s a guy able to get a drink around here for a few coppers?”

“The Vagabond Whistle would be the best bet for a man such as you,” Lieutenant Bowen said, “It’s three blocks straight ahead, then over a block to the left. There’s a big sign hanging off it that you can’t miss.”

“Thanks, buddy,” Dylian said, taking the lead from him. “I’ll see you there!”

Dylian walked away, leading Agnescious into the city. The plaster homes with clay-tiled roofs looked reasonable enough. There were no abnormally large doors or forty-foot tall men walking around. In fact, the first group of people that Dylian saw were a group of three halflings, chuckling and speaking to one another as they passed him.

“Hey, guys, could you be my friends and point me to the Vagabond Whistle?” Dylian asked. “Another friend highly recommended it, and I don’t want to get lost.”

“It’s right down there,” one of them said, pointing down a side street.

“Thanks, pal,” he said, continuing on his way.

Dylian turned the corner to see a massive, twenty-foot-tall sign attached from the roof of the building. Several brackets had been added to the face of the building, undoubtedly to prevent it from falling as the bottom of it looked as though it had met with the cobblestone street on several occasions.

“Alright, Agnescious, you’re going to have to wait out here. I don’t think they’ll let a donkey in for a drink,” Dylian said as he tied the donkey to a post. Agnescious heed at him in response. “Listen, I can ask, but you remember what Dad always said, you weren’t allowed inside. I think we have to start there, and maybe if I can get the owner to hear me out, you can come in, okay?”

Dylian patted Agnescious’ face two more times and entered the building.

At first glance, it was a simple tavern. A handful of people sat inside. Most looked as though they drank too much, despite the sun barely beginning to set. Behind the bar, a simple man chatting with a patron wiped out a mug. His short brown hair and well-kempt friendly mutton chops beard gave him the look of a man one could trust.

“Hello, traveler!” the man called, waving him to the bar. His tongue rolled over the r in traveler, giving him an exotic accent, “I’m Charlie Harrison, owner of this fine establishment, what’ll you be having today?”

“What can I get with this?” Dylian asked, placing five copper on the counter. “This is all I have. I would love an ale, but I think maybe I should eat something as well.”

“Well, now, it’s your lucky day. It just so happens that this is also an inn, and for four copper, you can stay the night, have three ales, as well as dinner tonight and breakfast in the morning,” Charlie said, filling his freshly polished mug with ale and setting it in front of Dylian.

“I also have a donkey outside. If he could come in for a drink, I know he’d appreciate it,” Dylian added.

“Tell you what, for that last copper piece, I’ll have my son, Mason, here, take your donkey around back where we have the finest straw beds for horses and donkeys on this side of Gratle,” Charlie said, “What d’you think?”

“I think you, sir, have a deal,” Dylian beamed as Charlie scooped up the copper pieces.

“Mason, get to tending,” Charlie said to the man at the bar. Mason stood, nodded to Dylian with a smile, and walked out the front door. Charlie turned to Dylian, “And you best get to drinking!”

“I’ll drink to that,” Dylian replied, toasting to Charlie Harrison.

Three ales, and one incredible stew later, Dylian sat at the bar feeling better fed than he had in weeks.

“So, Charlie, can I call you that? Where’s a fellow such as myself find some work around here?” Dylian asked.

“Charlie is fine. What sort of work do you do?” he asked.

“I was raised as a farmer, and that’s pretty much all I know,” Dylian replied, slurring his words a bit.

“I see you carry a sword, are you any good with it?” Charlie asked.

“I’m alright, my father was better,” Dylian said, falling silent at the thought of his father.

“Well, if you think that you can handle yourself well with a sword, you could go work for the town guard, or maybe sign on to one of the acquisitions companies around the city. While the town guard is an honest living, it doesn’t pay much. The private companies, though, they pay handsomely,” Charlie said.

“How does one meet one of those companies, per se,” Dylian replied, pinching his fingers in front of him in an unusual gesture.

“Well, for starters, you’d probably want to be sober, but I can get you in touch with one or two of them if you like. How about in the morning?” Charlie asked. “You can go up to your room and get some rest, and I’ll get in touch with a company you choose.”

“Sounds alright to me,” Dylian replied.

“What sort of company do you want to work for? High risk, high pay, or low risk, low pay?” Charlie asked.

“What’s the difference?”

“Well, the high-risk fellows usually lose a guy or two in their journey, makes for a near-constant job opening they’re eager to fill, but they say they go to places where monsters live and kill or steal from the monster. I heard that one time all but one of them died retrieving a dragon egg,” Charlie said. “On the other hand, the low-risk fellows tend to keep things a little more local. They mostly deliver letters, parcels, and messages within the city walls.”

“That last one doesn’t sound very exciting,” Dylian said, “But the first one seems like a bad plan. Is there anything in the middle?”

“There’s a merchant company leaving in a couple of days from the Western Market. They say their heading to Heyles. You might be able to sign on as a caravan guard. It’s a long trip, but they pay well enough if you don’t care about staying anywhere in particular,” Charlie said.

“That sounds like the one,” Dylian said.

“Alright, you head up to your room, and I’ll reach out to the merchant. I’m sure that I can get him here by morning,” Charlie said.

Dylian nodded and staggered off to his room to sleep off the alcohol.



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