Great Forks. Why did it have to be Great Forks, Midnight Rose thought dryly as Errant Venture led the way towards the cityâ€™s southern gate. The City of Temples, known to some as simply, Decadence, was the only city on Creation that was ruled openly by gods in proud defiance towards heavenâ€™s laws. While it was most well known for its weekly, sometimes even daily festivals and the cultivation of almost every manner of drugs known to man, as well as some that were not, it was also one of the most advanced centers of learning and culture outside of The Realm.
It was midday when they arrived. They had spent the past week traveling along the Yellow River with only the fading remnants of their Solar quarryâ€™s thread of destiny to guide them. Rose had been hoping that they catch up with them in one of the many villages that dotted the riverbanks, but Fate had decided to not be kind to its agents. With so many individual destinies interwoven and braided into the thick cable that was the destiny of a city, tracking down a single person by such esoteric, but generally reliable means was pretty much impossible. And that was before one factored in the radiant threads of all myriad gods, godlings, and other beings with awakened essences that crowded this city like no other in Creation. Like searching for a golden needle in a haystack this was, only this haystack was filled with pyrite needles as well.
â€œI hope youâ€™ve got some contacts we could use in there,â€ Rose said to the Journeys, who seemed awfully cheery about the prospect of visiting the city.
â€œThat I do,â€ Errant replied easily, his stride a touch longer than normal, revealing his excitement, â€œBut first, letâ€™s get some lodgings.â€
Rose nodded. It made sense. This will probably take a fair bit of time, if they even succeeded at all.
They were on one of the many well-kept dirt roads that led towards the city, still about half a mile from the city gates. She turned her attention to the expansive fields of tobacco, marijuana and poppies that surrounded them. â€œThey grow anything besides drugs around here?â€ she asked with a furrowed brow.
â€œSome of the more delicate fruits like peaches and grapes,â€ Errant explained. â€œThey import pretty much everything else.â€
Rose made a small sound of acknowledgement as she fished through her elsewhere cache for a moment and produced a long, straight stemmed smoking pipe. It was a delicate looking piece of work, intricately carved out of red jade to make for easier lighting. More expensive versions, like hers, allow for instant lighting with only a simple application of essence. Not missing a step, she stuck the mouthpiece between her lips and again her hand went back into her breast pocket for a small box of tobacco leaves.
The Chosen of Journeys gave her a sidelong glance of disapproval, â€œYou smoke?â€
She returned the gesture in kind, â€œYou donâ€™t?â€
â€œIâ€™ve got enough vices under my belt already,â€ Errant replied offhandedly.
â€œThatâ€™s not something to be proud of,â€ Rose noted as she plucked a pinch of leaves from the box before returning it to its place in the cache. With her newly freed hand, she pulled the pipe from her mouth with practiced grace and filled bowl, pressing the leaves into the diminutive vessel with her little finger. â€œIâ€™m guessing it has something to do with this place?â€
The Journeys shrugged, his hands never leaving his pants pockets. A few moments later he spoke, â€œYouâ€™ve read up on the locales before transferring in?â€
Rose took several test drags as the pipe lit on its own. She nodded once to her partner then let a steady stream of wispy gray smoke out from between her lips, â€œI leafed through most of the files. Give me the short of it.â€
â€œA trio of gods called The Three are at the top of the totem pole. Under them are the ministers of their particular specialties; trade, worship, military, etcetera. Just remember not to interrupt anyoneâ€™s prayers on top of standard common sense. Oh, and donâ€™t, for any reason, compare this place to Yu-Shan, good or bad. They donâ€™t want any more heavenly attention that they already do.â€
The Battles nodded and silently puffed on her pipe as they stepped into the shadow of the looming city walls. The walls of Great Forks were thick and sturdy, and plated with sheets of pale white marble. As beautiful as it was, it reminded her that the only beatings the walls have ever endured were from heavy rainy seasons that fed the rivers from which the region draws its name.
Once they set foot into the city, Rose detected the fragrant odors of various dried and processed herbs in the rows of warehouses that flanked the main avenue they were on. She learned from Errant Venture that the warehouses were located conveniently close to the docks, which lined the riverbanks just outside the eastern edge of the city. The center of the city contained the cityâ€™s temples, studios, and other establishments, while the outer half consisted of the four directional quarters, each holding three neighborhoods split by main roads like spokes on a wheel. Each quarter housed its own specialty, such as the southern quarter and its countless warehouses.
Rose caught a few glimpses of the side streets as they walked by, noting how narrow they were compared to the main roads. They seemed to be spread out into an irregular and confusing labyrinth of alleys and cross-streets, making it difficult for any outsider to quickly navigate. Taking over the place would be as easy as asking nicely with an army at your back. Holding onto it on the other handâ€¦ She could not help but smirk with some approval for whoever had designed the layout of the city.
As they moved towards the center of the city, she noted surprisingly few people on the streets other than the occasional handful of workers taking time off outside a warehouse or a patrolling squad of guardsmen. That changed when they moved beyond the quarter and into the inner city. People filled the streets in the Temple district, blanketing the air with sights, sounds, and smells that assaulted the senses. The noise and crowd of Great Forkâ€™s Temple District reminded her of the bustle of Yu-Shan, but she kept her mouth shut in regards to such comparisons.
Rose rested her palm right palm on the pommel of Crimson Princess out of habit as they moved through the throngs. Young men and women in light, filmy garments flitted about, hanging banners and other decorations on the buildings in preparation to some festival or another. A wave of conflicting perfumes and incense assaulted her sinuses, forcing her to puff more smoke to ward off the smell. It did not work, much to her chagrin.
â€œWhere the Hell are we going to anyway?â€ she asked Errant, almost stepping on his heels to keep from getting separated in the crowd.
â€œThe House of Learning in the Temple district at the city center,â€ Errant replied, still slipping through the maze of bodies without looking back.
Rose frowned and looked about, â€œThe university? Why would we be going there for? Thereâ€™s plenty of inns here, even if they do look a little expensive.â€
â€œI have an acquaintance by the name of Karreth Doublegift. He should be able to hash out some free housing for us while weâ€™re here.â€
â€œHâ€™oh?â€ Rose asked lightly, â€œSo he some official or something?â€
â€œYou can say that. Heâ€™s actually the-huhâ€¦â€ he said, stopping short, his attention focused on something off to the side of the street, which almost caused the fiery haired Battles to walk right into him.
â€œWhat?â€ she questioned in a low whisper, her hand subtly gliding from the pommel of her saber to the handle.
â€œGimme a second,â€ the Chosen of Journeys said simple and headed off to where he had been staring.
Rose muttered a few choice words from her mental library as she followed the other Sidereal perpendicular to the current flow of moving people, bumping into more than a few individuals as she did so. When she arrived at the side of the road, she noted the rows of street vendors and gambling booths offering passerbyers everything from cheap pottery to high stakes card games.
She found Errant standing over one such booth, a table specializing in the game of cups to be exact, a version of the three card monte games that were popular in her old beat. The dealer of the booth, an unshaven man in brightly colored linens, was spinning the three cups across his table with amazing speed. His mark, one of the poorer citizens of the city from the looks of him with dirty cotton clothes and unwashed hair, was sweating over the dizzying display mumbling a mantra that sounded something like â€˜double or nothing.â€™ Both were seated on cheap wood and straw stools on opposite ends of the table.
â€œErrant, we donâ€™t have time for this-â€ she started to say but the Journeys, without turning away from the display, shook his finger towards the sky for quiet. She rolled her eyes and puffed quietly as the cups slowed then stopped.
â€œJust find the red bean and you win, friend,â€ the dealer said with an underlying tone that the Battles thought mildly suspicious.
The mark looked at the three cups like they were vipers, his hand hovering over them as though they spelled his doom. Just as he was about to choose one, the Journeys bent down and seized the manâ€™s wrist before guiding his hand over to another cup. â€œI think this one here is your lucky pick,â€ Errant said cheerily.
The poor man looked at the dealer, who shrugged smugly and said, â€œDo what you want, friend. Itâ€™s your money thatâ€™s ridinâ€™ on this.â€
â€œWhatâ€™s your name?â€ the Journeys asked the gambler.
â€œTrust me, Glavis,â€ Errant said. Rose could not see it, but she could hear that infuriating grin in his voice. After a momentâ€™s hesitation, the mark nodded meekly and flipped the cup.
Three sets of voices erupted at that moment; Glavisâ€™ whoop of relief, the dealerâ€™s shout of disbelief, and Errantâ€™s overly dramatic cheering, which drew some extra attention to the table. His antics also jostled the table, flipping over the other two cups, which revealed nothing underneath them. â€œCongratulations!â€ the Journeys said to the man called Glavis, clapping his shoulder jovially.
â€œB-but thatâ€™s,â€ the dealer began to say when Errant raised his voice once again.
â€œClearly thatâ€™s the only one with something under it, so you won! Itâ€™s that great?â€
The mark, who looked the happiest heâ€™s ever been, nodded vigorously, â€œYes sir!â€
â€œHow much did you win, my good man?â€
â€œFifty dinars, young master. Enough to keep my home.â€
â€œWell isnâ€™t that just swell?â€ the Journeys said happily and shot the dealer a glance, â€œIsnâ€™t it?â€ The shady man gulped and immediately began counting his coins. As he did so, Errant stooped down to whisper in the gamblerâ€™s ear. â€œPlentimon, the God of Gambling makes you a guest in his home today, but it is not wise to overstay oneâ€™s welcome, especially his. Donâ€™t you think?â€
Glavis nodded emphatically, â€œYes. Yes, youâ€™re right of course.â€
â€œWell then, off with you,â€ said the Journeys after the dealer handed the man his winnings. As the mark disappeared into the crowd, Errant Venture leaned across the table and made sure that the man knew the bean came from the Journeyâ€™s own pocket as he stared into the dealerâ€™s eyes. In a low whisper he then said, â€œNice lift, friend. The Enforcers will be watching you from now on.â€
The shady man then gulped and nodded stiffly as the Journeys turned, a large, stupid grin on his face as he started towards the center of the city once more. Rose caught a glimpse of the poor gamblerâ€™s thread as he departed and blew a stream of smoke as Errant passed her. She then turned and followed him into the crush of people.
â€œYou know that guyâ€™s just going to gamble away his home tomorrow right?â€ she said after a few minutes.
He shrugged, â€œI know.â€
â€œThen why bother? Donâ€™t tell me you get your kicks from scaring the locals.â€
Errant glanced back at her before he replied, â€œI just canâ€™t stand cheaters.â€
Rose just smirked and kept walking.
There were no more detours during the rest of their trek through the city, and besides the occasional need for Rose to roughly shoulder her way past the crowds, which Errant seemed to have no trouble avoiding, the walk was pleasantly uneventful. By the time they reached the edge of a grand plaza, the sky was turning a rich golden orange.
â€œAh, here we are,â€ he said.
The plaza they stood before was the inset for the jewel that was the magnificent Palace of the Three. It was a grand structure among the lavish and extravagant buildings that made up the entirety of the Temple District. Tall columns of white marble lined the exterior walls, supporting a massive dome set with millions upon millions of lapis lazuli in a mural that depicted the epic story that drove the aggressive and undead commanding Princess Magnificent with Lips of Coral and Robes of Black Feathers away from Creation during the time of the cityâ€™s founding.
On their left, pointing towards the southwest was the House of Learning. From what she remembered from leafing through the Bureau files, it along with the House of Functionaries and the House of Soldiers made up the three major complexes that surrounded the Palace of the Three, each adjacent to one of the temples dedicated to a member of the three gods that ruled the city. These temples, built into the palace itself, also served as support stones for the huge dome at the city center.
The plaza around the palace, a grand maze of masterfully crafted fountains, beautiful statuary, and sculpted landscaping, branched out to encompass the House of Learning campus as well. There the perfect lawns gave way to well-tended groves of magnolia and black cherry, which filled the air with their rich perfume. Tall coniferous trees lined the grounds and provided shade to the many marble benches that were perched on deliberately chosen vistas overlooking the countless ponds and groves. The tranquil setting contrasted starkly with the many dozens of people hurrying along the paths; some carried scrolls and books, while others carried lectures with their audiences following dutifully with rapt attention.
â€œThis way,â€ Errant said after giving her a moment to take in the view and cocked his head towards the largest building on the campus, which was also the one closest to the Palace of the Three, â€œKarrethâ€™s office is in the main building of the university.â€
Rose cast one more look at the plaza before she followed the Journeys down a small set of steps into the plaza proper, â€œHow long has it been since youâ€™ve last talked to this guy?â€
â€œBout a month or so. Heâ€™s gonna need some reminding.â€
â€œArcane Fate, eh?â€ she murmured ruefully.
Errant scratched his chin, â€œNobody remembering your existence has its uses, especially in our line of work,â€ he said as they crossed a two rows of closely packed cherry trees, their branches making the path more akin to a tunnel than anything else, â€œThough sometimes I wished some of the folks in the Bureau could forget about us too.â€
Rose barked a short laugh, â€œYouâ€™re kidding right? If that were the case weâ€™d never get anything done.â€
The Journeys shrugged as they reached a set of double doors leading into the main building of the university. â€œJust watch what you say or do while youâ€™re here in any case,â€ he cautioned as he opened the door for her, â€œThere might be the occasional person with the will or enlightenment to have a better memory than most. They may not remember the who of it, but theyâ€™ll probably remember the what, if you get my meaning.â€
She nodded an affirmative and tapped out the ash in her pipe against the heel of her boot before stepping into the school. â€œI wonder how long itâ€™ll take for all my old contacts to forget about me,â€ she mused as she passed him.
â€œFirst transfer eh?â€ Errant said as he entered and shut the door behind him. â€œIâ€™d give it three months. Thatâ€™s how long it took for my network to go down anyway.â€
Rose raised a brow as she tucked the pipe back in her cache, â€œI didnâ€™t think transfers were all that common.â€
The main lobby of the building was a spacious hall with high dark wood ceilings and crystal chandeliers. A pair of heavy stairs flanked the archway into a wide corridor on the ground floor. At the base of the stairs on either side were long halls lined with doors and tasteful wooden paneling. Three more archways leading into more corridors were present at the top of the stairs. The halls were sparsely populated, but Rose could hear the muffled voices of lecturers coming from behind many of the doors nearby.
She glanced in Errantâ€™s direction as he shrugged at her comment. He then took the lead as they started up the stairs, â€œTheyâ€™re not, but Mama Ura pulled some strings to get me out of a dead end beat in the Air Convention. This was back when the Bronzes were sittinâ€™ all high and mighty over there.â€
â€œMustâ€™ve been tough,â€ she said offhandedly.
â€œIâ€™ll say. All they ever played was Majan. Merciful Mercury, that gameâ€™s older than Gateway and the Realm put together!â€
Rose chuckled despite herself as the image of her Sifu came to mind.
A few minutes later, after her partner finally flagged down a passing staff member and ascertained Mr. Doublegiftâ€™s location, they found themselves outside the manâ€™s office. A conveniently placed placard identified the room as such and Rose could hear hushed conversation taking place on the other side of the heavy wooden door.
â€œJust let me do the talking for now,â€ Errant said to her before he banged loudly on the door with the bottom of his fist.
A tall man with perfect, bronzed skin opened the door a few moments later. He stood in the doorway with his sinewy arms crossed over his doubtlessly strong chest as he regarded them with an appraising eye. His face was chiseled and handsome, and his hair dark and mussed, with a roguish quality that she found oddly attractive. He wore a set of scholarâ€™s robes, but left the belt undone, revealing a fine, half-laced silk shirt underneath and a pair of fashionable tanned leather pants. His voice was a rich baritone when he spoke the regional language, Riverspeak in a thick Forest-tongue accent, â€œCan I, uh, help you?â€
â€œKarreth, you old rogue!â€ the Journeys said cheerily, and loudly, â€œDonâ€™t you recognize me? Itâ€™s Errant Venture! You remember that jaunt in the Firewander, donâ€™tcha?â€
Karreth Doublegiftâ€™s brows furrowed into a frown for a long moment before recognition finally gleamed in his striking, rainbow hued eyes, revealing his divine heritage. His face broke into a welcoming grin as he reached out and clasped forearms with the Chosen of Journeys. â€œErrant!â€ he repeated warmly, â€œI almost did not recognize you there, my friend! It has been ehhhâ€¦â€
â€œMonths,â€ Errant prompted.
â€œMonths! Yes, that was it. How are you, my friend?â€
â€œAs well as could be expected.â€
â€œGood, good,â€ the God-Blooded said as his attention shifted to her. â€œAh, but where are my manners,â€ he said and took her hand in his and brought it to his mouth, just barely grazing her knuckle with his lips, â€œMy name is Karreth Doublegift, Minister of Lore of this great city and headmaster of this fine university. I would be most honored to know your name, missâ€¦?â€
Rose offered him one of her best party smiles, â€œKaral Midnight Rose,â€ she answered, expertly shortening her breath a touch and letting some color reach her cheeks.
â€œAh, a Lookshyan. With such a ravishing name no less. Please, I cannot have you standing outside a moment longer. Come, let us retire to my office,â€ Karreth said charmingly, still holding her hand as he subtlety led her inside. The Battles shot her partner a questioning look as she passed by to which he responded with a shrug and a quick roll of his eyes.
The ministerâ€™s office was an impressive clash of class and ostentatious taste. The floors were sheathed in thick rugs; their intricate designs suggested a Southern origin, probably Chiaroscuro. Shaped and polished glowstone lamps made in Gem bathed the spacious room with their soft yellow light, slightly muffled by the tall tapestries and immaculate portraits that hung from the walls, and brilliantly refracted by the delicate, grossly expensive looking mountain of crystal that was the chandelier that hung from the ceiling. Rose gave the chandelier an uncomfortable glance before turning her attention back to ground level.
Karrethâ€™s desk, which faced the door, was a massive construct of carved mahogany topped with a thick sheet of glossy black marble. Numerous knick knacks were arranged apparently haphazardly on its surface, none of which appear to be scholarly by any stretch of the word. In front of the desk was a large table of polished wood styled after a pair of crouching lions, which served as the tableâ€™s legs. On it were a handful of rolled up scrolls and books. There was also a small tea set with steam trailing lazily up from the pot. Of to the left side of the table was an couch made of cast bronze and laden with so many red velvet cushions that she felt more comfortable from just looking at the thing.
I wonder how many guests heâ€™s had in here, her thoughts wandered, and suppressed a smirk.
Along the right wall were heavy bookshelves packed with tomes and other materials both decorative and scholarly. There was also a pair of armchairs in the corner, with designs matching the couch, flanking a small coffee table with a marble top with a general map of the Scavenger Lands, the region of the world they were currently in, carved into it.
And standing behind the desk and framed by a large window that overlooked the university grounds was a woman, presumably the one the minister had been talking to before they arrived.
â€œAh,â€ Karreth said after following Roseâ€™s line of sight, â€œallow me to introduce Ms. Alessia Fenrir, the House of Learningâ€™s newest guest lecturer.â€
To Rose, she was quite simply, the most beautiful woman she had ever seen. Her golden hair was bound up with a discrete pin and cradled by a thin web of silk and semi-precious stones that was attached to a simple tiara on her brow. Her eyes were a rich sapphire, which made the ones adorning the studs on her ears pale in comparison. She wore a robe of blue silk, cut in Great Forkâ€™s fashion, which was to say that it left her creamy shoulders and midriff bare, while keeping long, bell shaped sleeves and hip high slits along the ankle length skirt that revealed alluringly with each stride.
â€œMy my, I did not know you were expecting guests today, Mr. Doublegift,â€ Alessia said in a soft alto as she moved gracefully around the desk towards them, her hands folded neatly in front of her and hidden within her wide sleeves.
â€œNor did I,â€ Karreth replied with a chuckle, â€œMy good friend, Errant Venture likes to drop in unannounced from time to time.â€
â€œI see,â€ the blonde woman said with good cheer and smiled dazzlingly at them both. â€œLike Mr. Doublegift said, my name is Alessia. It is a pleasure to meet you both, Mr. Venture and Ms. Karal, correct?â€
â€œLikewise,â€ Rose said, nodding her head once in acknowledgement as Errant maneuvered his way up to the other woman.
â€œThe pleasure is mine,â€ the Journeys said smoothly, â€œI had no idea Karreth kept such lovely company.â€
Alessiaâ€™s light laughter filled the room at his words. â€œMr. Doublegift,â€ she said with a sidelong look in the ministerâ€™s direction, â€œI am beginning to believe that all of your friends are as charming as you are.â€
Charming is not the word Iâ€™d use, Rose thought dryly. As the others fell into small talk, the Battles glanced around at the portraits that hung on the walls. Most of them were self-portraits of their host in various outlandish costumes and landscapes, making her idly wonder just how many of those places heâ€™s actually been to.
Her name being spoken was what finally drew the Siderealâ€™s attention back to the group, â€œHuh?â€
Alessia was smiling at her and the others were looking in her direction, â€œSince these two gentlemen seem to be well acquainted, I will only have to caution you on Mr. Doublegiftâ€™s silver tongue. It has gotten many women and men into trouble before.â€
â€œYou wound me, my dear,â€ the God-Blooded said with mock dismay.
Rose smirked and rested a hand on her hip, not far from the hilt of her saber, â€œI think I can handle myself.â€
Mirth danced in the other womanâ€™s eyes for a moment before she turned back towards Karreth. â€œIf you would please excuse me, I shall let you two catch up,â€ she told the minister demurely as she slipped past the two men towards the door, the fabric of her skirt rustling softly around her sandaled ankles. As she passed, Rose noticed that Alessia was a couple finger widths taller than she was.
â€œI apologize for having interrupted your conversation, Karreth,â€ Errant said to the God-Blooded as his guest reached the door.
Alessia shook her head delicately, â€œI should prepare for my lecture in any case. Shall we speak again later, Mr. Doublegift?â€
â€œIndeed, we shall,â€ Karreth said with a roguish smile.
â€œVery good,â€ she said, then glanced at two Sidereals in turn with a heart quickening smile, â€œIt has been a pleasure speaking with you both. I hope we will meet again.â€
And then she was gone, the door closing gently behind her with a sharp click. It took Rose a moment to realize that both Errant and Karreth were still staring at the door. Men, she thought with a mental sigh. Her gaze shifted between the two before she decided to clear her throat. Loudly.
â€œAaah yes!â€ Errant spoke up awkwardly, scratching the back of his head in an overly obvious fashion, â€œagain, sorry if weâ€™ve interrupted anything.â€
â€œForget about it, my friend,â€ Karreth said with a nonchalant wave of his hand. He then leaned back against the heavy table in the middle of the room, his voice taking on a more serious tone â€œTell me, what brings you here to me this time, eh?â€
â€œBusiness, Iâ€™m afraid,â€ the Journeys answered bluntly, â€œWe need a place to set up shop for a few days. Discrete and with access to public records, nothing serious, mind,â€ he clarified before the other man could object, â€œjust standard customs logs and the like.â€
Karreth hummed thoughtfully, rubbing his chin as he did so, â€œLooking for someone, eh? And the girl, she in on it?â€ he asked with a glance shot in Roseâ€™s direction.
She was about to snap something rather vulgar about monkeys and appendages when Errant cut her off, â€œSheâ€™s with me on this one,â€ he said simply.
â€œUh huh,â€ the God-Blooded mused, â€œI suppose I can help you. Lodgings I can provide. Public records are another matter entirely. Unless the person you are looking for is a scholar of some kind,â€ he shrugged and spread his arms, â€œI would not be privy.â€
â€œThatâ€™s fine. There are other channels we can try.â€
Karreth nodded, â€œIndeed there is, but it would be best you not tell me. Plausible deniability and all that.â€
After a momentâ€™s pause, Karreth clapped his hands and straightened, â€œSo, lodgings. Give me a moment while I summon my deputy. He will take care of the proper arrangements.â€ A brief swagger brought him to the door, â€œI will have you wait a moment in my office. My deputy is stationed right next door so I shall not keep you waiting long.â€
Rose sulked the minutes away while Errant quietly browsed over the knick knacks on Karrethâ€™s desk. The God-Blooded minister was true to his word and returned a short while later with an energetic looking young man trailing on his heels.
â€œMy friends,â€ Karreth said as he took a step back, â€œAllow me to introduce my Deputy of Lore, Mr. Chiming Bells.â€
â€œGood afternoon,â€ the deputy said with and bright bounce, â€œMinister Doublegift has informed me of the situation. Space is rather limited at this time due to the preparations for the Festival of Founding, but I think we can manage something for you, if you do not mind smaller chambers.â€
Errant shrugged, â€œShouldnâ€™t be a problem.â€
â€œExcellent,â€ Chiming Bells said with a crisp nod, â€œIf you would follow me, I can show you the room now.â€
The Journeys started towards the door and Rose mutely fell into step behind him. As they exited Doublegiftâ€™s office, the roguish minister preformed a swallow bow, â€œIâ€™m afraid that this is where we must part. I am late for another appointment. But please, do drop by again tomorrow. There is much to discuss still, yeah?â€
â€œSounds good, Karreth. Weâ€™ll catch you later,â€ Errant replied with a friendly grin.
â€œAnd to you,â€ the minister caught the Battles by the hand and raised it to his lips once more, â€œmy dearest Midnight Rose. If I had offended before, I offer my humblest apologies.â€
It annoyed her, but she found it hard to rebuke the man so she merely smiled graciously and murmured something amiable. Satisfied, Karreth Doublegift left the two Sidereals under the care of his deputy and departed, disappearing into the foreboding corridors that formed the interior of the House of Learning.
â€œRight this way Mr. Venture, Ms. Karal,â€ Chiming Bells prompted, guiding them in the opposite direction his superior had taken.
Their quarters was located in one of the older dormitories located along the northern edge of the university campus. It took the three of them twenty minutes to reach the place, a building of white marble and colored frescos much like the other dormitories on the grounds. Rose thought the quiet of the apartments were a pleasant change from the constant bustle of the campus proper, but figured that the atmosphere would change swiftly once the residents made their way back from their evening celebrations.
â€œIâ€™m afraid we simply canâ€™t spare more than a single room,â€ the deputy told them as he led the pair through the building. â€œI hope the accommodations will be tolerable.â€
Each floor possessed a single hallway, a much welcomed layout after their trek through the labyrinthine university. During the day, natural light would bathe much of the interior thanks to white plaster walls and generously portioned windows, while at the present, well-used oil lamps that dotted the walls provided ample illumination.
The room in question was at the end of the second story hallway. After indentifying the room for them, Chiming Bells handed Errant the key and promptly hurried away, citing a meeting of some sort.
â€œThat wasnâ€™t suspicious at all,â€ Rose muttered.
Errant shrugged and unlocked the door, â€œIâ€™m sure it canâ€™t be that bad,â€ he said in a reassuring tone and opened the door. He then pursed his lips wryly, â€œHrmâ€¦â€
â€œWhat?â€ Rose asked with a raised brow and took a peek. â€œOh, Pasiapâ€™s stonesâ€¦!â€ she growled.
The room was actually rather nice compared to the rundown inns Rose had stayed in during her tour of the West. The floors were covered with clean, reddish brown rugs. There was not a single strand of webbing on the walls and ceiling. A pair of polished glass windows commanded a fair view of the masterfully lit garden plaza of the House of Learning, and the room was pleasantly well furnished with a study desk, a wardrobe, a nightstand, and a bed. One small bed.
â€œI call the bed!â€ Errant Venture chimed cheerily and literally pranced inside.
Rose just wanted to hit something.