Cry for the Wolf, Chapter 6. by Richard Walker

(Page 2 of 18)

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It was about noon but who could tell for sure? The booming of the church bells couldn't even be heard over the din of the crowds. The noise was near deafening. The tipplers tried to cry their wares over one another, hawkers and huxters of snack peddled their goods on every street corner, and minstrels competed for audiences at every intersection, all pleasantly harassed by the crowds, grinning till their faces hurt to hear the steady clink of silver crossing their palms. The city was jammed, as the two should well have expected. If the crowds were any indication, they would be sleeping stacked like cordwood up to the rafters of every garret. The chances of the influx tapering off before the royal train had arrived were slim, and afterwards it would become even harder to get around in the streets. .
Coris leaned over in the saddle to shout in Mallos' ear so he would be heard over the din.
"We're gonna have to get on to my folks' townhouse, Mum and Da are just going to have to deal with it. Whether ye follow the ways of the Mountain Mother or not, ye're going to stay with us."
"It's charming of thee to invite me on such short notice, but I fear me it may be time for us to part company," Mallos replied in gracious formal form. "Thy company on the road these many miles has been a blessing. No finer boon could I have begged of thee. I durst not burden thee or thy good family further. Dost thou know the Bronze Dragon? It is an establishment of some repute in these parts and I had hoped to find a place there plying my minstrel's craft." He patted the side of his harp case which hung by his knee from the saddle. "That is, if there's anything available." He reviewed the crowds with a sour look. Too late, Mallos recognized that Coris' offer included compromising the religious sanctity of his parent's home on his behalf. With deep chagrin he recalled the prominent role religion had played in the yarns and fables Coris had spun to help while away the many long miles on the road.
Howling Hounds of Darkness, Mallos thought, No way to accept gracefully now. You really stuck your foot in it that time, Mallos, old boy.
"If I can get even a garret room there I assure thee I will be more than comfortable." He gently spurred his horse forward, leaving Coris behind in stunned silence. But Coris refused to let him go so easily, knowing well Mallos knew no others in town on whom he could depend for a place to bed down.
"I'll see ye settled, then, before I go to home."
Long into the afternoon the two searched for a room for Mallos. The Bronze Dragon turned into the Silver Goblet, then the Rook's Nest and the Cat's Lair, and the Parson's Rest after, or was it the Silver Dragon? The Bronze Gobbet? The Rook's Lair? Cat's Rest or the Parson's Nest? The names of the inns they had visited in and around the city had long since become a blur. There had to have been more than a dozen of them. Their ears still rang with the laughter of the innkeep's. Everywhere it had been the same those rooms that had not been reserved with cash payments in advance by regular customers from previous years or rented out to more prudent early arrivals had been reserved by runners with retainer money by those knowing they would be late.

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