The Logs of the TDFS Tindome
Chapter 16: Inns and Outcasts
We report to our captain that we have found an inn suitable for
purchasing for the cooks (sic), and that he will have to be the one to
negotiate with Captain 'Arry Jones. Finwë frets that he is not
good at bargaining. Eïr volunteers that we have 89 pieces of gold,
about 120 pieces of silver, and assorted jewelry (or at least
some of us do), candelabra, and such like. He decides that
Eïr should do the haggling, that Cook should come to explain our
business plan, and that Bavör should come, apparently to represent
our martial aspect. We bring a little money, and Bay brings his hammer.
We arrive at the Golden Cockerel and chat with the barkeep about the dubious charms of Old Ned's place. The bartender warns us that Captain 'Arry has not finished his first drink. We decide that he should have as many as possible before we start negotiating. Finwë makes a telepathic link with Eïr, which should help. Finwë takes two mugs of drink over to Captain ' Arry, offers one mug, and introduces himself. He indicates that we are interested in Old Ned's place, which he (Cap'n 'Arry) now possesses.
There is much discussion and meandering talk, and a price tag of 200 gold pieces is mentioned in passing. Eïr takes Cook aside and explains that we don't have that much. She suggests a percentage arrangement, which would motivate the pirate captain to protect the inn. Cook wonders if the captain can even appreciate the value of a steady income. If the exchange rate for silver to gold is twelve to one (as it was in Cook's hometown), we have only half the asking price. Cook admits to having a little money of her own, but she wants to use it for repairs and stock. Cook takes a deep breath, and suggests offering 100 gold pieces, twenty of which are hers, plus ten percent of the take for ten years. Eïr mentally relays this suggestion back to our captain.
He makes this offer to Cap'n 'Arry, who is interested, if it is indeed one part in ten of the total income of the inn. We confirm this with Cook. The captain suggests that if the inn fails, its ownership would revert to him. Cook nods. Cap'n 'Arry Jones would also have his own table, in a preferred spot, whenever he was in port. We confirm the agreement. The captain spots the arrival of his dinner, and we arrange that his man, Jenkins, will come to our ship the next day for the payment. We leave him to his leg of mutton.
Eric has spent his time trying to locate Sam's brother, either by dowsing, or with our telescope-window. It has been a truly frustrating afternoon for him; he has had no success at all. The other group comes back on board. Up on the observation deck, he makes one last try, and finally is able to narrow Micah's location to one ship.
So, we have ten gold and 120 silver pieces left. Two of the gold pieces will finish off the purchase of the sword and knife. We will stay at least through tomorrow night, at which time we should try to free Micah and his sister.
The student grips his carpetbag firmly, and heads down the alley. The door at the end is secured with a large padlock. He touches it. Nothing happens, and he marches firmly back out to the street. He hears a voice near him whisper hoarsely, "Hey, boy!"
He turns to see a middle-aged man in grimy clothes and knit cap sitting on a nearby stoop. He is clutching a cylinder-shape in a paper bag.
"You want to be careful boy. Can't go around letting them see you do something like that."
"I'm trying to answer a summons," he explains to the man.
"It's no good friend who'd send you a summons like that. Care for a tipple?" The bottle smells as foul as he'd feared. The boy fakes a drink and hands it back.
"No great friend would be sending you through that in full view."
"That one leads home, right?"
"Yeah, it should."
"Listen," says the boy, sitting on the stoop. "I've never gotten a summons like this. Is it… all right?"
"Could be. Might be them as you know from back home. Ye don't look like one of the riff-raff."
"It used to be back home."
"That dingus you're carrying…"
The student says, apologetically, "It appears to be its idea."
"Not surprising," observes the man. "It seems to be… not local."
"Would you like to see it?"
The man thinks. "Does it have eyes?"
"They don't seem to work."
"I'd just as soon not see 'em."
The lad pulls out a bust, carefully facing it away from his companion. The man gives him an aged handkerchief. He ties it around the bust's eyes.
"I thought you had a small dingus from… I think that one's been greatly weakened by time."
"It does seem very old."
"It's done run out of steam. Which is p'haps just as well."
The boy ponders the bust. He probes it psychically.
"Looking for something in particular, boy?"
"No, I was just trying to find out something about it."
"What's its name?"
"No. You'll be wanting something more European. Anton or Gregor, Boris or Pavel or Yuri."
"Something eastern European. Perhaps Vlad?"
"Yes. And you'll want to look for something less exposed. You'll want to be traveling on, away from here, since all the doors are being watched."
"By the green-and-red party and the solid green party?"
"By the inside and the outside."
"Thank you for sharing," he says, rising. He nods at the bottle.
The student returns to the Grotto Restaurant. He heads for the back and looks for the crack there. It is still tiny.
He heads out of town eastward, hitchhiking. A dilapidated lorry, very old-fashioned, pulls over near a hedge. "Thank you," says the student as he gets in. The driver appears to be rustic, but not dangerous.
"Where to, boy? Off to the seashore?"
"Yes. Uh. Off to Dover. And points east."
"Well, 'tain't goin' that far south. Goin' to Wyndmouth. Goin' out to sea? Goin' to make yer fortune?"
"Sounds interested. Uh. Actually, I've been called away."
"You seem a bit old to be running away from home."
"Oh. Just foot-loose and fancy-free? I don't see many young folk hitch-hiking."
"I don't have a car. Where are you going?
"Off to the Wyndmouth. Been doin' that for a long time."
They drive on for half an hour. The student examines the driver. There is a difficulty: the driver is psychically cloaked.
"You're not supposed to be out here."
"Yeah. I know."
"You really ought to charge up the cloak on your dingus," the man offered, gesturing at the carpetbag.
"Well, it's not really mine. It appears to be hitchhiking on me. It seems… I've been summoned, and it's coming along, and I'm not sure that it's a friendly summons."
"Seein' as how I'm an antique dealer, how about showing it to me?"
He digs out the bust, still wearing its hankie, and hands it to the dealer. The man discards the hankie, pulls out a loupe, and examines the bust. "Boy, you may be in a tad of trouble, so I've heard."
"When did you hear that? Just now?"
"Well, when doors shut all over, you try to learn what happened. And things tell me an interesting story. A young fellow like yourself, you probably don't do much analysis."
Silently, the lad nodded his agreement.
"Well, I guess we have to look out for each other. First there's some sophisticated work that been done here, and it's contemporary."
"Yup. Made very systematic, very recent. Here's the thing. The collar can 't be more than five or six hundred years old, but the weathering is a lot older. The other thing is someone put what they thought was a very sophisticated, permanent piece of work on this thing, but it's worn out. The last thing is, someone has pasted something else on top of the original. It 's sophisticated too, in workmanship, but not in complexity. The underlying, it's a form of scrying that I'm not familiar with. On top, some very precise directions, and as you suggested, a bit of compulsion or… I'm not sure what. It could be some sort of psychological compulsion, but now I think it's some kind of TK. This brings us back to the people who closed the doors. They understand about things that are older than they should be."
"I've often wanted to find those people."
"Not those who shut the doors!"
"Oh, no. The other people."
"Well, if that thing is as tuckered out as it seems, it either has an affinity to you, or you shouldn't be out here at all, or it was really very, very powerful."
The boy looks into the eyes of the bust. He suddenly knows that the right direction is that-a-way, and he knows that he doesn't have a lot of the ability to go in that direction. He puts the bust away. "So what's it like at Wyndmouth?"
"It's the last port at the east coast that keeps to the old ways. There's some to the west and the north." He pulls out and goes back to driving.
"It sounds charming."
"Well, it is. Most people overlook it."
"Well, I'm very grateful to you. It there anything I can do to help, along the journey?"
"No. Edgestow." This last is something the old man seems to be saying to himself. "Why, boy, you found your way past one of the doors. Marcher boy. Why don't you go back the way you came?"
"All the ways I know are closed. So I've trying this."
"Well. You have a bit of luck, boy, or my friend wouldn't have sent me along. There aren't many of us left, but we keep an eye out. Eddie told me, you don't seem a bad sort. Also, good to know, that people ain't above sneaking out."
The lad gives an eloquent shrug. "My folks used to have its own road out. The family just doesn't take to being fenced in."
They keep driving. They arrive at Wyndmouth, an absolutely charming town.
©2002, 2006 Ann Broomhead. All Rights Reserved.