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Travel was something that had ingrained itself into Blayre's way of life since childhood. She had never been entirely happy as a child – her home situation had never allowed that. Her being the other child, begot when her father had been unfaithful to her stepmother. She had fond memories of her siblings. An older brother who had always shown her the best ways to get into mischief, and a younger sister who she always felt was in need of protecting.

But Blayre felt most at home when she was wandering the streets of a new place. Until just recently, she'd never left the boundaries of Emares. But the current situation had broken down that barrier and now she stood, slightly overwhelmed, on the dock of a bustling port city.

There had been no ambush awaiting Blayre, Caval, and Fletcher as they disembarked from the ship, walking on ungainly legs with their meager supply of luggage. The planks of the wooden dock they stood on swayed slightly in the gentle push and pull of the tide. The water at their back was a vibrant turquoise blue and before them were colorful buildings built into the tall cliff sides that stretched all around them.

Blayre glanced behind her, the water lapping against the shore, and extending out infinitely into the horizon. From this vantage point – it seemed like the things – and people – she was running from in Emares would never catch up to her.

Blayre hadn't known what exactly to expect from Solpor, but she hadn't anticipated such high cliffs. She supposed that was why the city was so secure compared to other areas of the continents that could easily fall prey to the control of other nations.

"First order of business," Fletcher interjected, while Blayre gaped at the kaleidoscope of red, blue, and yellow rooftops. "We need to get clean, no offense, but you both smell like you just spent two weeks on a ship."

"You don't say?" said Caval, who was holding Azure in his long arms, appearing to the passersby as though he had a strange attachment to a very large gray cat.

"Well if that isn't the pot calling the kettle black, I don't know what is." Blayre said, wrinkling her nose. "Want to find us an inn?"

"There are public baths here," Caval interjected.

Blayre cringed, "Nothing like getting naked in front of a crowd of strangers in a new place, to welcome yourself to the city."

Fletcher waggled his eyebrows, "Modest, are we?"

Caval began walking, Blayre and fletcher fell into step behind him. "The people of the Southern Isles do not think much of nakedness." the mage explained, "To be sure, you will see a lot of naked bodies – real and art forms alike – here in Solpor. In the Unviersity, bodies are to be studied and celebrated. You'll also see plenty of examples in the paintings and sculptures here." He winked.

Blayre wrinkled her nose. Growing up in the cold of the mountains meant that clothing was not optional in public. Even the fashions of the Capital and Port Roubeles had taken some getting used to. But this, this was a completely different culture.

But not quite ready for the shock of a wide-open bathhouse, Blayre convinced her companions that they should seek out lodging first and foremost.

"Okay, okay," Caval conceded, pulling a crumpled piece of paper from a pocket. "We have to go to the Dragonstone district." He said, glancing up and squinting around at the buildings, as though they might tell him something.

"Lost?" Inquired a female voice behind them.

The three turned toward the woman. She was dressed in a loose, bright orange shift, free of adornment with the exception of a yellow ribbon that tied at her slim waist. Her smooth skin was olive toned and tanned in the warm climate than Caval's, and hair dark as ebony was knotted back in neat rows. Blayre envied her comfortable looking outfit as she felt a bead of sweat drip down her back underneath her long-sleeved cotton shirt.

"However did you guess?" Asked Caval, flashing her a smile.

The woman smirked coyly in response, and Blayre felt a sudden urge to skewer her with the hidden blade at her side.

"You and your companions certainly stand out in your – comfortable looking attire." The woman said in an islander accent that was thicker than Caval's. "I'm Coneesa." She added, by way of introduction. "Where are you headed? Perhaps I can assist."

"The Dragonstone District." Caval answered.

"Ohhhh," Coneesa purred. "Highbrow types, aye?"

Blayre and Fletcher exchanged glances but let Caval do the talking.

"I am looking for a contact of mine in Solpor. A scholar mage by the name of Sebastian Belizaire."

"I know just the place or can at least get you close," Coneesa said.

Azure chirped from her perch on Blayre's shoulder.

"Beautiful bird." The woman commented.

"Bird?" Blayre asked, confused. Azure was supposed to be a cat.

Caval cleared his throat. "Yes, a fine bird as ever there was. And right smart too."

"Ravenous hunger though," Fletcher put in.

Blayre glared at them both. Caval had changed Azure's illusion from a cat to that of a bird and neither had bothered to tell her.

"Yes, thank you, she's a beautiful bird." Blayre said drily.

"In his defense, it makes more sense than a cat," Fletcher whispered to Blayre as they followed Coneesa through the streets.

Blayre watched Coneesa and Caval warily from behind as the woman animatedly chatted with the tall mage. She pointed out occasional landmarks, or shops that might be of interest as they passed through the market district.

The streets were at an incline leading up to the Dragonstone district, and Blayre's legs burned with the effort, weakened as they were from the ship travel. She and Fletcher had tried to keep up their training regimen while aboard, but the flat ship deck was no substitute for naturally ascending dry land.

And the heat. The constricting leather of her boots was the worst part. She hoped that this – contact of Caval's turned out to be more gracious host than acquaintance because twelve hells, she really needed to get out of these Emarian clothes. Another bead of sweat trickled down her chest. 

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