Beldon grins and says: "I'm ready when you are!"
Cali nodded in agreement. "Let's be off before the crowds get busier."
Cali did not like crowds, but he tried to hide that 'flaw' as much as he could. At best crowds made him feel uncomfortable, at worst he became paranoid and very touchy. The three of them walked out of the safety of the inn, into the busy Market Day streets. Cali always made sure that he was closest to one side. His companions thought this slightly odd, but never mentioned anything perhaps out of politeness or perhaps not wanting to alienate the massive gargoyle. Whenever they stopped at a stand to look at the wares, Cali politely stood to the side ready to depart at a moment's notice.
Everyone was going to go through adjustments and unfortunate compromises on this quest, and Cali was no exception. He usually liked being completely aware and in control of all his surroundings, and this quest was not going to be one of those situations. All beings, especially humans, were difficult for him to predict and therefore difficult for him to control.
"So Beldon, you are a blacksmith?" Cali tried for some light conversation. "That was a fine idea to have the ladies enchant the horseshoes. I was thinking that if time and speed is of importance, and with the amount of money The Lady is flashing around, we should be able to afford a couple of griffins or perhaps a roc. But then not everyone in our group might be comfortable with flying, and the horseshoes will come in very handy."
He completed his thought. ~Nice try on the light conversation,~ he thought to himself. ~Maybe next time you should let someone else have a chance to respond. Interacting with the humans is certainly going to prove a challenge.~
He did not say anymore after that, until they arrived at the stables.
Beldon turned to Cali and said: "Yes, I learned some blacksmithing in my travels. Everyone has to have a trade, and I have more than a few!" He smiled in spite of himself. "I like to blacksmith, but every time I start to settle down, I get the urge to travel more. I suppose eventually when I get sick of traveling I'll move to some village and open up shop there."
Walking along with Beldon and Cali turned out to be somewhat of a challenge. There were times that they stopped at a few stands, to look at the wares and to see what was new. Cali always stood to one side, looking away, or acting nervous.
"Poor Cali," Seth thought. "It seems he feels out of place."
Seth had been watching a few of the patrons around the market. Most gave the small group the right of way. There were a few he caught out of the corner of his eye pointing and laughing at Cali. He also heard a few gasps and screeches from the ladies as he walked by.
Shaking his head Seth thought, "The fools. If they could look into Cali's eyes, they would see a good person. One who is wise beyond their dreams. Some are no better and should look at themselves before passing their eyes over others."
Seth heard Cali trying to make conversation. "Yes it was a great idea, Beldon, to offer your services. I myself would not know what end of the horse to place the shoes on , let alone work the metal." Seth laughed, and tried to cut the tension in the air. Finding the Stables was not hard.
"Well it looks like Hugh has given us the right directions after all. For a time there I thought us lost in the Market. Let's see if we can find this 'Drew' person..."
[Cali / Drew]
"Hello," said a pleasant, deep voice. It came from a very large man, about Cali's size. "My name is Drew. How can I serve you today?" He was black, bald, and had a gold earring in his right ear.
"We will need several horses for our companions," Cali took charge.
"I see. Well, will they be ridden or pulling a wagon?"
"They will be ridden." Cali answered, trying to sound calm. "But they must be well trained."
"That will be a little more costly, how well trained would you like them to be?"
"They must take even to me," Cali said, and pulled back the hood of his cloak with a clawed hand.
"That will be quite expensive training," answered the man with an amazed expression.
"That is fine, we have these gems. Will you take them?" Seth showed the bag of gems to Drew.
"Oh no gentleman," the man paused and looked at Cali expecting a response which never came, "I only deal in gold thank you. You can exchange those at the gem cutter shop. Ask for a young dwarf called Darin, he will get you a better deal than his father. Their shop is on the other side of the market, you can't miss it."
~That's great!~ Cali thought to himself. ~I wonder how much commotion I would cause if I just flew over there.~ He looked up at the sky, then down to the crowded streets. Finally his gaze returned to his companions.
Beldon pondered for a moment, then looked at Seth. "You probably know more about horses (and wildlife in general) than I do. It would make sense for me to go exchange the gems while you pick out horses, and see which ones will take to Cali."
Beldon paused while he thought about what type of horse would best suit him.
"For myself, I'd prefer a sturdy horse to a lightning fast one. I'd probably end up falling off the thing anyway! A bigger horse, possibly a work horse. What I'd like is dependable, strong, responsive, and reasonably fast horse. Maybe even a Clydesdale, but I suppose it might not be fast enough if we needed to make a quick exit."
Beldon laughed. "Anyway, I'll leave it to your discretion."
"Thanks Beldon. Leave it up to me huh? Well if I do find you a good strong horse, but don't go blaming me if you fall off!" he laughed. "I think we will see what Drew has and go from there. Oh, and thank you for offering to go and exchange the gems. I would get lost and with my luck, I would find the wrong shop and not get enough coins to buy one horse, let alone four. Take your time and see if there is anything else we might need for the trip. Extra food, blankets or rope. Anything you think we can use would be helpful."
Seth waved and watched Beldon as he lost himself in the crowd. "I hope he doesn't find any trouble," Seth whispered under his breath.
Finding the horses was not too hard of a feat. Drew had a number of them in a large corral. Climbing up on the fence that kept them in, Seth looked to see if he could find a few good horses.
"That one over there doesn't look too bad," he pointed at a large mare. She was gray with a white mane and tail. Small black spots ran across her back and down her legs. She ran proud with her head held high, and her brown eyes shining. She was spirited and she kept the stallions at bay. Seth whistled and watched as the gray mare walked over and nuzzled him.
"She is beautiful, and it looks like she is not afraid of you Cali."
Seth smiled and rubbed the horse's long nose. "She looks strong, and fast." Seth brushed back her mane from her nose and noticed a black star between her eyes. "Yes, I think this one will do nicely for Beldon. She is strong, well mannered and she trusts us. I think she would be gentle with him. Yes she will do just fine." Knowing that Beldon might have wanted a stallion, Seth looked over the rest of the horses.
One mare caught his attention. She was a deep black with a white mane and tail.
"It can not be!" Looking again, he felt a stirring in his stomach. "But I left her back home. It can not be the same horse." Whistling a tune that he used to call the mare over, he was surprised to see her raise her head, and watched as her ears came forward." By the gods of the Fye, it is! "He whistled once more and watched as the black mare walked over and nuzzled his outstretched hand.
**Talk to her Seth. She will talk back to you. She is sentinel.**
**What do you mean, sentinel?**
**It means that she can speak to you telepathically. From her mind to yours. She is not how you see her.**
**What do you mean 'see her'. She is a horse. A black and white mare. What else should I see?**
Selina laughed, and Seth looked down to see Cali looking at him. Shaking his head he looked back up at the Mare.
**Hello young one. It has been a long time. It is good to see you well.**
Seth stroked her mane from her eyes and spoke with his mind. **Yes it has been. You are looking well yourself. What are you doing so far from home? Last time I saw you, you were with child. Everything is all right at home? The Fye are ok?**
**Yes everyone gives their best. My foal has grown and is now the leader of the herd. I was asked by the Old Tree to look you up. He has told me that you are on a very dangerous quest. I have come to offer my services if you will have me?**
**Yes, I would be more than happy to have you along. The Old Tree is wise to have you come here but I must pay for you. The one that captured you has said that I must give him gold coins for you. I have sent a friend off to trade the gems we have for gold. He should return soon.**
**Yes I saw him. He looks to be a good friend as does your strange looking friend next to you. I can tell he is worried that he is not fitting in too well. He is not used to humans, or elf for that matter. It will take time, but I feel that he will be a great asset to you. His heart is pure. He will be good company to talk to. He is wise beyond your imagination. He will make a good friend.**
**Yes, I think so too. Now tell me why Selina said that I am not seeing you for what you are. I see a beautiful horse. Is there more?** He heard Selina laugh once more.
**Well. Yes there is more of me than meets the eye. Wait and I will show you.**
Seth watched as she started to glow and then changed from a black and white mare to a mare with a gold horn that stuck out between her eyes. It spiraled up to a very fine point, and Seth heard the horn humming.
"By the Fye gods. What are you?" He looked over at Cali and saw no surprise in his face. He heard her laughter, and it sounded like crystal falling. It was musical.
**I am a Unicorn silly. You remember all those tales the Fye told about us when you were little. Well they are all true. We hide our true self from others, because they would try to cut our horns off and melt them down for gold. Our horns are the purest of gold. They are worth more than any bag of gold.** Looking down at Cali, she added:
**It looks like your friend here already knows about me. I am not surprised. There are a few creatures that see us for what we are. There are a few others here that wished to come along. The gray mare you first picked out is one and the silver stallion over near the gate is the other. There are a few more, but they can ... pop out and go back home if they are not needed. Does your friend here need our service? Or would he rather fly or run?**
**I am not sure but let us gather up four of the best you have, counting you, the Stallion, and the mare. I will see Drew about the price. I expect that you are all well trained. Does Drew know what you are. I mean does he know that he has Unicorns in his corral?**
**Yes we are well trained, and the large black man will have no trouble training us. You might say we will be the easiest horses he has ever trained and no, he does not know that we are Unicorns. If he does, he does not care to say. He had a good heart, but he can be rough at times. We will be ready by the time your group are ready to leave.**
She nuzzled his hand again, and asked: **The next time you come, would you bring me an apple. All I get here is hay and grain. The others would like an apple too. You might want to tell that to your friends.**
Seth laughed. "Yes, I will tell them."
Looking down at Cali, Seth says: "Well it looks like we have found our horses. Now all we need to do is find Drew and have him set up saddles and tack for them." Seth thought for a moment then turned back and asked: "Cali, can you read minds? I mean, can you use telepathy?"
Seth scooted his foot around in the dirt and then looked up. "What I am trying to ask is can you hear me ... talking to Selina and the horses? Do you know about them?" Seth watched as Cali thought for a moment.
Cali showed no emotions nor did he speak right away. They walked on and Seth waited for him to speak ...
After a pause, Cali looked at Seth and answered: "No, I do not have any telepathic abilities. But it is possible for others to project thoughts into my mind. You can ask Selina more about that." He then looked away, and up into the sky, "although I do know a few things because of friends in high places..." That thought he left unfinished. "I do know that the horses are more than what they seem. Although that is not a telepathic feat, or because of my connections. They use a simple illusion to hide their trues forms, and I can see through those."
They continued to walk towards the front of the stables. "But because of my connections, for example, I happen to know that The Lady would like the silver stallion the best." He looked at Seth for a reaction, but his face did not reveal anything, not to Cali anyway.
After talking to Cali, Seth showed Drew the horses that he wanted, and told Cali good-bye. "If you would take care of the rest Cali, I would be ever in your debt. I promised The Lady I would take her to market. I hope you don't mind. See that all the horses get a few apples as well. Thank you. I will see you back at the Inn." Turning away, and waving, Seth headed back to the Inn. " I hope I dont get lost " he said under his breath.
" Do not worry. You will be fine. Now hurry before it is to late."
Yes, yes I know!" I am..I am". Seth looked back and readjusted Selina.
Walking through the crowd , Seth tries to finds his way to the inn.
[Cali / Drew]
"Did you gentlemen find everything to your liking?", asked Drew. "Yes we will take the four horses, saddles and tack. Our friend is changing the gems into gold. I will wait for him to return and we will pay you today."
"Excellent." A huge pleasant smile grew on Drew's face. "And when will you be picking up the horses?"
"We are leaving town tomorrow morning."
"But that is quite a short amount of time to prepare everything. I do not believe the horses can be ready for your needs that quickly."
Cali looked the huge man straight in his eyes: "This time it is only a gut feeling, I don't need telepathy or anything else for this. So far everything else is going quite in our favor. Trust me and don't worry, the horses will be ready on time."
Amarantha had to cover her mouth after hearing the Major's opinion concerning the stallion's species. It might have caused those at the table to wonder as to why she was so amused at this assumption, but the rest of the table were also unaware of Elite's immediate reaction to this, which was of a more telepathic nature. Outwardly, the large stallion just turned to glare at the Major.
It seems Ashbury has had very little to do with creatures of a more fantastic or magical nature, and she couldn't help but wonder what he first thought of The Lady's tiny little wind sprite. Well chances are he would be in for a bit of an education with this adventure. A good thing for a military man. Teach him to expect anything at anytime, if he does not do so already.
She also felt more than a little smug about his comment too, because it meant that so far she was winning the little argument with Elite. Cali's reply however set the argument to continue. Well, they'd been at this particular argument for several centuries.
*Ha!* Elite triumphantly sent, *told you! If that gargoyle is not a statue then I'm not a horse.*
*Well, at least in Cali's opinion anyway. But aren't gargoyles actually some sort of statue that is bought to life or something like that? Because if that's true, then technically, he's still a statue, just a little more animated than others.* Amarantha replied.
*Nope. That's golems you're thinking about there. A little different.*
Tizzy and the others had left the table to go explore the markets, the pair watched them go.
*Astartia said she'd planted some sort of a magic book for you in the markets here. Its got all that sort of information in it. Stuff she insists you learn. I have to agree with her on this one. You're a goddess, and if you want to become a Presiding Deity of whatever, you have got to learn how to use and handle a great deal of magic and power, and understand it properly. Especially since as a high ranked djinniyeh, it is expected that you be a very powerful being. Many of the folks who are travelling with you are going to assume that you know all sorts of magick tricks, and sometimes be reliant on you to use your abilities.
Right now, you're lucky that The Lady over there has no idea about the nature of that bottle, or what happened when she touched it like that. If she knows anything about the djinn and the nature of higher order djinn you could find yourself with a bit of a hassle...*
*Okay! Fine! I'll get the stupid book okay! Now will you just shut up already. Now hold the bottle for a bit will you. I have to go get the tack. *
She winked into the bottle and re-emerged a moment later having changed into a scanty bikini of coins covered only by a flowing, shimmery diaphanous white pantaloons gathered at the ankles, and along the arms, as well as a few loose bits. Elite's tack pretty much matched this. The saddle had some finely worked gold filigree, althogh the saddle itself was of white suede. In the middle of the inn, she saddled up the stallion, and easily clambered up onto the horse. Pausing briefly to grab the bottle and attach it to her waist.
"Well, bye Lady. I'm off to the markets. Apparently I've got to get a magic book. See you later." She whirled Elite around and trotted out of the inn. The markets where like a grounded aurora. People of all races and walks of life, trying to make their way past others. Nobility tended to scowl at peasantry, as if those of the lower castes of society had no right to stand even anywhere near them.
Here merchants had gathered from even the farthest regions to sell their wares, often at prices much higher than what they would be in their own country.
Leaving Elite to navigate through the throng of people, Amarantha looked around to see if she could find the banner of a likely magic shop. She knew that if her mother wanted to encourage her to buy something, she would choose the glitzyest and most opulent of vendors, knowing too well her daughter's indulgent tastes. Several magic shops could be seen, from the purple gold and turquoise pennants with an occult sigil to mark it out. A shiny indigo tent caught her attention, and she tugged Elite's reins it that direction.
The stall smelled strongly of incense, but its doors were wide open. Very few people actually stood around it.
*I suppose then, you want me to wait outside then.* Elite grumbled.
*Of course. Mind you not let anyone try and steal you though. I'm sure there are at least a few merchants here who have procured their goods in some not so honest ways, and many more would see you and see themselves as never needed to work again.* she cautioned.
Inside, the shelves were lined with potions, wands, herb, and amulets as well as many other accoutrements of magic. Behind a counter was an aged wizard. He was short and skinny with a white beard, but very little left on top. He was dressed in a cowled purple of velvet with very little in the way of embellishments. He looked at the young goddess, and bowed slightly.
"Greetings Immortal One, how may I be of service to you this day." he said.
"I'm after a magick book," she told him.
"Of course we have many grimoires in at the moment from many of the finest magi." He motioned to a group of brown and blue leather bound volumes.
She went over and thumbed through one. And shook her head. For some reason, she doubted the magic book her mother planted in the markets this day would be any of these.
"Do you have any others?", she asked.
"Well those are more for the common mortal mage, I agree. They would probably be unsuitable for a being such as you."
The old man hobbled out to the back of the store and then started walking out with much larger and more elaborate volumes in his hands.
"Now these are all magical in nature, and many written in ancient languages. This one here is a book discussing the finer points to summoning, but I have had trouble translating it, so I am unsure about what it summons. This book, the words will translate into any language.
But this book, I can never quite figure out what it is about, the pages keep on changing. I just got this one this morning too."
The end book seemed so far to be the one most likely to be the one her mother sent down here.
"Can I have a look a that last book? The new one?" she asked the venerable old wizard.
"Of course Immortal One."
The book was white and trimmed with silver set with opals. In the center was an eye. The Eye of Astartia or the Wells of Power, as it was otherwise known. This would have to be it. The whole design was typical of her mother. On the first page there was a letter from her mother.
*Well that just settles it then.*
"How much?", she asked the old man.
"A Book of Power is very expensive Immortal One. 6 Platinum and 20 gold," he told her.
"Of course old one. Just a moment as I get my pouch. Once again, she winked back in the bottle, hoping that the old wizard did not see Amarantha's disappearance into the bottle as a chance to claim the bottle and put it on the shelves to sell. Fortunately, this was not the case, and she re-emerged carrying a large pouch of gold and platinum and handed it over to him in exchange for the book.
She then returned with her purchase to Elite, who seemed to have found himself a horse thief. The stallion had lifted the little weasel of a man off the ground, and now was trying to figure out what to do with him.
"Lady! Please, get your stupid horse to let go of me," the man, who had now given up struggling and kicking begged.
Smirking, she ignored the pathetic fool and instead, put the book in a white saddle bag and mounted Elite, as if the thief was not there.
*Elite. I'll leave this one up to you. No killing though -- I don't want us getting into any trouble over this,* she told him.
They trotted on through the crowd, Amarantha loosing the reins so the alicorn could better carry the thief. The stallion spotted a group of guards standing around in the livestock section of town talking amongst one another. He shook the weasel enough to get the man shouting and kicking again, neighed and flapped his wings ostentatiously to get the guards attention. Doing that, he trotted past the pig pen that the guards were next to, stopped and flung the wailing weasel in amongst the great bulk of pigs.
"Hey, the man tried to steal him," she shrugged and the trotted on back to the inn, Elite's ears still pinned back in annoyance.