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Season 3, Episode 3
On the Wide River
Season 3, Episode 3
On the Wide River
Mosvil itself perched atop the bluff on the west bank, overlooking the Wide River and the low marshy flats on the other side. What few buildings there were on the east bank stood on stilts; this was the Rice Basket of the region.
Standing under a tarp, erected to shelter the hold, Bailar frowned at the muddy path leading up the bank. The bound pirates were marched up that path, stumbling at times, amid passengers and laden pack mules. The sorcerer looked at his apprentices, Mik and Sura, standing close to each other. While they had discovered and helped to foil the pirates, he knew that life on a barge did not suit them.
“I’m sure the two of you would not object to having even muddy ground under your feet,” he said. “And we need some provisions, it so happens. Go to the tavern on the other side of town, just inside the gate by the Royal Highway—here’s a list of what we need. If old Enzid is still in charge, he’ll try to give you twice what we need for free.” Bailar counted silver coins into a pouch and gave it to Sura along with the list. “But like magic, accepting such gifts should be done only when necessary.”
The apprentices trudged up the muddy path, using their staffs to stay upright. Though they were eager to find shelter, they stopped to rest where they could stay out of the way. “Look at that!” Sura gasped during one of their rest breaks, pointing down. Close to the docks, they saw a net-like contraption rising up the side of the bluff, hauled up by unseen hands at the top. Several people clung to the sides, like spiders on a web, as it rose.
“I wonder how much it costs to take that way up,” said Mik. “We should see about it for the return trip.”
“But we need to get our provisions down,” said Sura. “You’re strong enough to carry them down yourself, right?” She gave him a playful nudge with her free hand.
“Ha! Maybe this Enzid can help us negotiate the porters’ fees. I suspect hiring a mule would be cheaper than that ride anyway—there are people all up and down this path, and there’s only one of those things.” Mik paused a moment. “Sura? Why did the mentor send us? Sure, it’s our duty, but if this Enzid is such a friend that he would give us everything, why wouldn’t Bailar come himself? He could ride that basket up and not worry about the mud.”
“Something about Mosvil, I think. I’ve been with him on these trips before, and we never set foot off the barge here before. He never told me why, though.” She brightened. “But at least we’ll have a little time together!”
Mik grinned. He had no objection to that.
The taverner was a soft but quick man, dressed in a stained shift with a simple belt. He reminded Mik of Toisto, an innkeeper back in Lacota. “Hang your cloaks, wipe your feet,” he said, bustling by. The entryway was lined with pegs on both sides, and they found two adjacent pegs. A strange kind of straw on the floor—probably rice stalks and the like—caught the drips and clung to the mud on their boots. It gave a strange but not unpleasant smell as they wiped and stamped their feet. The floor inside the tavern proper had the same treatment.
“Thank you, traveling apprentices,” said the taverner, coming around again. “Are you come by the river or the road?”
Mik and Sura looked at each other. “River,” said Mik. “How did you know?”
He smiled. “You are not of Mosvil, so you are travelers. Youths always travel in the company of parents or ‘prentice-masters. Since you are not with your parents, I can safely assume that your master has sent you for provisions. Am I correct?”
Sura returned the smile. “It is said, a wise merchant knows even his newest customers. Would you be Enzid?”
The taverner gave the briefest pause. “That I am,” he said. “I surmise that your master has thus had dealings with me before. May I ask whom you represent?”
“The Sorcerer of Exidy, Bailar the Blue.”
Enzid gasped. “Then you are my honored guests! Come, sit at my table!” He led them to a table near the fire and beckoned a serving-woman. “What provisions does your master require?”
Sura produced the list as the serving-woman joined them. “Mem,” said Enzid, “give these honored guests the best of whatever they request.”
Mik looked at Sura, then at the woman. “Bread, cheese, and tea?” Sura nodded; the woman returned the nod and departed. “Finally,” he sighed. “Do you know how often I’ve wished for just a moment alone with you?”
She took his hand and smiled. “Me too.”