On the road, part four

8 0 0

Maybe Erkateren wasn't less populated than Vimarin, but with fewer farms and more woodlands it filled them with a sense of desolation. It was with some relief they reached the first of the towns along the road. They saw it after reaching a crest from where the road gently sloped downwards to open ground. The forest opened up and in the middle of a wide valley before them a walled town sat hugging a narrow river. A few stone houses rose above two stories wooden buildings that were in majority. The wall itself was more of a wooden stockade than a proper city wall, and Arthur guessed the town only housed a few thousand.

Really nothing more than an over sized village.

As they came closer he saw that people here favored leather and wool rather than the ever-present linen and occasional silk he was used to from Verd.

Their presence caused great stirring here as well, but by now Arthur was used to it, and they needed to draw as much attention as possible or they would have to spend an extra day searching for traders. Now the traders would come looking for them instead.

Passing the gates and entering narrow streets Arthur was first surprised to see them unpaved. Soon enough the ever present smell of manure told him the futility of such an effort. The magical cleanliness of Verd seemed more and more like a distant dream, and he noted the total absence of lampposts. That probably translated into the need of being indoors after dark, especially as the day was overcast. He didn't want to stumble along the streets with only his hands as eyes.

Inside the city walls he got a better view of the people strolling around the streets. Some of them looked old and bent, but he had traveled too much not to recognize the signs of hard work and what it did to the body if health care was lacking. He guessed them to be not much more than sixty, or even less. Hygiene, it had to be the stark contrast in cleanliness compared to Verd that did it. The town was dirty in a way he couldn't have imagined if he hadn't seen, or rather smelled, it for himself.

He decided against strolling through the streets on his own and followed Harbend to an inn after they managed to get their animals stabled. It was built like the road inns they visited while still in Keen. A tavern in the bottom floor, behind stairs leading up to a narrow corridor feeding small rooms on the second floor. Dirtier than he remembered the road inns to be, but after long weeks on the road still a very welcome change having a real room with solid walls and a bed to sleep in.

The woodwork, though, was magnificent. Walls, doors, everything of wood finely crafted, and his hopes for the furniture they were to buy here later soared. Someone must have put a lot of effort in finding wood already shaped as they wanted it, because he saw almost no seams anywhere.

There was no bathhouse, but with the help of Harbend he managed to find a bathtub in the backyard, and as darkness fell they'd all taken turns in it to the great amusement of the stable boys.

The TaleweaverRead this story for FREE!