Walking along with The Lady, Seth tried to stay close behind her. Whenever she stopped to look at something, Seth kept an eye peeled for trouble. He had never been around this many people before, at least not this crowded. He had noticed that The Lady was able to 'float' by anyone, but Seth had a hard time just walking. There were people everywhere. He could barely breathe at times without bumping into someone.
"Pardon me.. Excuse me.. I am so sorry. Yes, I am sure my foot will be fine."
It went like this all day long. There were times he could feel small hands reaching into his pockets to steal anything he had, but he kept everything in his backpack, and he knew that Selina would let him know if anyone tried anything.
Finding their way to one tent, Seth walked in and took a deep breath. The smell of hot fresh bread made his stomach growl.
"Sorry, M`lady. Sometimes I thing it has a mind of its own."
Reaching down, Seth grabbed a loaf of bread that looked like it was tied into a knot. It was still hot to the touch and Seth juggled it between his hands.
"OW! That's hot!"
"But of course it is. All the bread here is hot and fresh. You will not find a better loaf of bread anywhere in Montfort. I should know. I am the Baker."
Seth turned to see a rather large bellied man, with a flowered apron on, looking up at him. His hair and most of his clothes were spotted with flour and bits of seeds. A tall funny looking hat rose up and almost touched the tent's roof. It looked like a mushroom, but it was white and made of cotton.
"Here, let me put that bread in a bag for you before you drop it. It will stay hot until it's all gone."
Taking the loaf, the baker placed it in a small brown paper bag, threw in a few packets of butter and honey and sealed it tight. "That will be two coppers. Is there anything else you need? I know! I bet you will love these."
Walking over to a small oven that he had placed on a table, he opened the door and brought out a small rack. On the rack were six small flaky squares. All golden brown, and all smelled like apples and cinnamon. Three small slits in a V pattern were cut in the top, and Seth could see fresh green apple slices bubbling inside each square.
"They smell wonderful. How much?"
He watches as the Baker slipped them off the tray and unto six small plates. Taking a small cup, he poured some sweet honey on top in a zig-zag pattern and then sprinkled sugar on the honey. Seth's mouth started to water and he looked over at The Lady. She looked back at him and smiled.
"Hang the cost! I will take all six, and I will be back later for more."
Taking a plate he offered one to the Lady. "Careful, they are very hot."
He heard the Baker laugh and say: "They are called Apple Fritters, because they fritter away as fast as I can make them." Reaching over, he picked up two glasses and filled them with a rich looking beverage.
"This is apple cider. My Mrs. makes it with her own hands. It's very good with the fritters."
Handing the glasses to Seth and The Lady, he smiled and said: "The drinks are free, but the fritters are a copper apiece."
Seth dug into his back pack and brought out two silver coins.
"Here, they are worth a lot more than that. Take these, and when you make more, please have them brought over to the Dragon's Inn. Tell Sera that they are from Seth Fyeand The Lady. Tell her to enjoy them, but also tell her she will have to share them with Hugh."
The baker's eyes grew wide and he waited for Seth to drop the coins in his hand. He learned long ago never to grab for a coin. It was not polite.
"I will do that and more. Thank you Seth Fye, and you as well M`lady." Bowing, he placed the coins in his pocket, and went about making more fritters.
Seth leaned over and said: "If you mix the cinnamon with the sugar, it would taste better. An old Fye recipe."
The baker took a small bowl of sugar and placed in a bit of cinnamon and looked over at Seth.
"More! Until the sugar looks a rich brown."
The baker sprinkled more, looked over and sprinkled more. "That should do it. Now stir it up real good and taste it." The baker took his whisk and stirred and stirred until the sugar was a rich golden brown. Licking his finger, he stuck it in the mixture and brought it to his mouth.
"It's better than before. Thank you Seth. I will add some to the apples before I bake them. They should turn out better than before. How can I repay you?"
"No payment needed. Just make sure Sera gets her Fritters hot. Who knows, Hugh might start buying them from you," Seth laughed.
Turning, he followed The Lady out of the tent, all the while blowing on one of the fritters while trying to holdon to his glass of cider.
It was midday, and the streets of Montfort bustled with a flurry of activity due to the Market Day. Then suddenly, from the massive white granite structure that was theMontfort Coliseum came a blare of fanfare and trumpets. As many paused to study the abrupt sounding, it repeated once more. Then a voice came booming from the walls, just as the mysterious sounds had.
"People of Montfort," called an amplified woman's voice, "The Montfort Coliseum would like to invite one and all to the Grand Opening festivities. Tonight, at sundown, the Coliseum will make it's long awaited debate. Come and see the mighty and savage Huntress; half woman,half lion, and all warrior. Come and see dazzling displays of martial prowess. And, in honor of the Grand Opening, all seats are free. Yes, all the fighting action you can stand ... absolutely free!"
Then the great brass doors of the Coliseum swung open with a loud rumble.
"A warrior that's half lion and half woman. That does sound interesting. I wonder what part is the lion?" Seth said between bites.
Knowing that The Lady would not like to watch any one fight, Seth took a deep sigh and started to walk on. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Beldon and Cali heading back from the stables.
"Beldon! Cali! Over here!!"
Watching as they walked up, and smiling as Cali parted the patrons like a hot knife to butter, Seth held out his hand and said: "It's great to see you two again. Beldon?What happen to you? It looks like you fell down and hit your face against something. Are you ok?"
After hearing what happened to Beldon, and hearing that the exchange of gems to gold was taken care of, Seth smiled and slapped Beldon on the back.
"Good man. Well met. I am happy that you're all right." Leaning closer Seth asked: "Beldon. If you would not mind, would you watch out for The Lady. They have opened the Coliseum for an exhibition in fighting. And it's free. I know the Lady does not wish see the fights. I think she would wish to search the market for more things, but this crowd is getting to me. I have been pushed around and stepped on, and glared at all day. I would ask the Major, but I have not seen him. If you do, I know he will be more than happy to walk with her."
Leaning in closer, Seth said: "I think the Major likes The Lady. Have you ever noticed the way he looks at her, and how nervous he gets around her?"
Poking Beldon in the ribs, Seth laughed and added: "I will save a seat for you."
Looking down he asked Cali: "Would you like to come with me? They have a warrior that's half lion and half woman. I am trying to figure out which half will be the woman," and he blushes lightly.
"A Coliseum? Sounds intriguing. To tell the truth, I am getting bored with this market. And everyone else is having fun, perhaps I will look into having a little fun myself." He emanated a low satisfactory growl, and looked at Seth.
"I would be more than happy to accompany the Lady for a while. She is certainly pleasant company." He dashed his best smile at her while winking at Seth.
"Where to M'Lady"? And Beldon bowed.
"To be honest, good Beldon, I have nowhere in particular in mind to go. I have never seen a thing such as this Market Place. It is most fascinating, is it not? So many people. So many different species of life forms. I did not know there could be so many intelligent life forms."
She spoke softly, her crystalline voice soft and musical in the air. Her excitement was barely evident but it was there. Her self-control and composure remained intact.
"I have burnt my fingers on something called Apple Fritters, most wonderful treats. I have savored something called Apple Cider. I would love to take the recipes for these things home with me when I find Aelora. Moonbeams love fruits and breads. These recipes would quickly become home favorites. I have sensed the presence of a minstrel here somewhere. I would like to find her and hear her songs."
The measured repetition of the Major's footsteps outside of the Inn removed all doubt to those inside as to who they belonged to. Before the Queen's officer could make it to the Inn, however, he passed the Lady and Beldon, walking together down the road.
Stiffening automatically in the presence of the person he had grown to accept as the legitimate authority of the group, the Major's bow to the pair was courtly and fluid.He was indeed a handsome man, weathered and tested, with a chiseled look to his face.
"Ma'am ... ever your humble servant," he said in a serious, but his eyes twinkle a bit and communicate that he may be less than serious. "And Beldon, I trust you're keeping good watch over Her person?"
The question has a genuine note of concern in it, but thesmile on his face said that he is confident in Beldon's character. "Beldon, my good man, have you no saber?" He asked, unable to understand how a gentleman can be without a blade.
"M'Lady, I wonder if I might bring something to your attention ..." When he is not stopped or denied, the Major continues. "... I've received word from Queen's intelligence that six members of the Das'Raje Clan are in the vicinity of the town. I tell you only because they are known ..." the Major's face colored slightly in embarrassment, "... violators of women, and they have a special vendetta for the Queen's Army, so if they discern that you and Amarantha are under the protection of an officer of the Army of Her Majesty ... well, M'Lady, in short, I humbly request that you and Amarantha keep me abreast of your schedules while we remain in town, for your own safety? Is this acceptable?"
"Yes sir, I have been watching her carefully. Alas, I am much more proficient in fighting with my quarterstaff than with any edged weapon."
He grinned playfully. "Somehow, I think she could probably do more damage with her magic than you or I could with ANY sort of weapon."
He chuckled to show that no hard feelings were meant.
"I thank you for your warning, good Major. Your concern is most appreciated. I am grateful for it. However, I assure you that I will be quite safe and in no danger whatsoever. You may join us, however, if you wish. I would be glad of the company of both of you. Cali, would you like to accompany us as well?"
With that she motioned towards the right and waited for Beldon to join her. If the Major was joining she was sure he would fall into step with them.
Together they moved through the crowds of people. Beldon experienced the same mobility difficulties Seth had. She seemed to simply float through the crowds, oblivious to the fact that it should be hard to move,while Beldon had to push and shove his way through. She stopped to look at the fabrics and dressesin the dress shop. She stopped to look inside a tool shop.
There was a small, fine axe there for the cutting of wood and other things. She took it carefully in her hands and examined it moreclosely. It was made of a strange silver coloured material that looked more like glass or crystal than any metal. Both the head and the handle were made of this material.
It felt warm in her hand and she could feel an energy from within it that would make the wielder of this axe mostproficient in its use. She looked over at Beldon, "You are an experienced woodsman, are you not, Beldon?"
"Of a sort," he answered her. She inquired of the shopkeeper the cost of the axe.
"That there's a very rare and fine axe, Ma'am. That there's gonna cost you ten gold coins. You looks like a lady of some affluence. You looks like you can afford my price."
"I don't carry coins, good sir, but will this compensate you enough?" She reached into her sleeve and brought another sapphire gemstone. It was the size of a small child's hand and of perfect formation. His eyes became huge with greed at the sight of the glowing stone and he reached out for it immediately.
"I don't normally take gems, Ma'am, but in your case I'll make an exception. The axe is yours but if you want anything else from here it'll cost you another one of these.That there axe is made from diamond dust and a rare, magical material. It'll never break or go dull. It'll always hit its mark and hit it hard, even a child could take down an old oak tree with that baby. If you drop it, loose it or if it gets stolen, it will find its way back to its rightful owner. That would be you, Ma'am, or who you decide to give or sell it to. Now if there's anything else you need just let me know. Otherwise the door is that way."
The large, sweaty, greasy haired man pocketed the gemstone without the slightest hesitation and went back behind his counter. The moment he saw that the two had left he took it out and had a good laugh at them.
"Man oh man! I am a rich, rich man! That woman was the easiest mark I ever saw. She won't be rich for long if she keeps giving them stones away like that. Hmm, I wonder how many more of them stones she's got with her. She certainly isn't very well defended! Not with that clumsy buffoon she had with her. Maybe my brothers and I can get set for life. Joe!" He bellowed loudly. "Hey Joe! Get Sam and get in here! We got us a dove to pluck neked!"
Outside the shop the Lady stopped and gave Beldon the axe. "This is yours, good Beldon. Keep it with you always. We may find that we will need it on our journey."
They moved on after he had placed the axe in his belt. After a while she stopped at an alley and looked down it. Then she moved into it, moving in her usual slow, graceful way.
"Um... Excuse me M'Lady, but I have a bad feeling about this alley. It is dark, and we look pretty vulnerable at the moment, with just the two of us."
Despite Beldon's objections she went into the alley. "The minstrel I wish to see is down this way. If I wish to see her then I must go through here. All will be as it should be, Beldon. Do not fear for me."
They had gotten about halfway down the alley, where it was fairly well shadowed, when three very large men stepped out of the shadows. Beldon immediately stepped in front of the Lady to protect her from them.
Beldon did his best to snarl. Usually calm and calculating in battle, he was abnormally fierce-looking, as if honor-bound to die for the Lady, although an easy retreat might have been the smart thing to do.
Wielding his quarterstaff and looking as solid as a rock, he said:
"You have no wish to hinder us here. Be gone or face powers of which you have no understanding."
He, of course, did not mean his own, though he could have probably prevailed against two of the thugs. He knew he was outmatched facing three of them, especially since they bore arms.
She, however, seemed to have another idea as to how they should be dealt with. Stepping from behind Beldon she outstretched both her hands, palms upward, and moved a step towards them.
"What is it that you desire?"
"Little dovey, we want everything you have! Give us your gemstones or we're gonna take 'em by force."
She tipped her head slightly, "I cannot be forced into anything but you are welcome to try. You will find that I have nothing that will serve you in any way. I currently have no gemstones. I will have another when I have need of it but now I have none."
"Why you little..."
The three of them moved menacingly towards her as one, prepared to take by force what she refused to give. Beldon made another move to protect The Lady but before he could do much more than think about what he would do, the three men stopped in their tracks. Their faces turned the colour of stone and their tongues were stilled. She walked up to them and calmly flicked a bug off the collar of one of them.
"I told you that you were welcome to try to use force. I did not say I would allow you to succeed."
She turned to Beldon and smiled at the astounded expression on his face.
"Relax, my friend. They will move again when the moon touches the sky and they cannot be broken. They are safe as they are. Shall we continue?"
Beldon looked at the three newly created statues and nodded his head in bewilderment. He moved to follow her through the remainder of the alleyway, but paused to tap his staff against one of the three.
"Amazing! Solid as stone!"
He shook his head and smiled at his disbelief in the powers he was surrounded by.