She opened her eyes. Fetch's second story ceiling bowed ominously as she gazed upward. She could make out damp spots where the rain probably poured through unhindered but it had all the grainy texture of the real world.
She sat up. The still heat of the room and the angle of the sun outside the window told her it was well into the morning. She swung her feet onto the floor, grateful for the slightest cooling touch. As she became more aware of how uncomfortable she was, the dream faded to the back of her mind, much to her relief. She scrubbed her face with her hands and stood up to stretch.
What a ghoulish bunch of symbolic shit. Fortunately she'd woken up before Gareth could put in a surprise appearance.
A slight breeze drifted in through the rough-cut window and brought all the noise of the crowded streets below. She walked over and leaned out, unconcerned she was wearing only her chemise. Modesty was something that didn't concern her. People were afraid to look her in the face, much less anywhere else.
The thing she hated most about nightmares was she woke and felt as though she'd never slept. And the dream would linger too. The vivid ones always did. She sighed and cupped her elbows in her hands and propped herself on the sill.
The streets were jammed with people and she could hear all the verbal garbage of the vendors and merchants as they sold their wares. The whole scene was chaotic, like ants scurrying around an anthill, but she wasn't about to spend the day in Fetch's sweatbox.
Her eyes fastened on a little boy of about twelve winters as he lead two equistags towards the Livery. The stags pitched and screamed their displeasure at being led through the crowd but the boy walked on, unperturbed, reins tight in one grimy hand as he scoured the ground for coins.
"Hey you! With the 'stags!" She leaned out farther and waved a hand. He slowly glanced up, his face guarded. When he saw her, he grinned and displayed a hole where two front teeth had been. An angry looking scrape peppered his chin.
"You going to the Livery?"
His smile widened. She realized, with a heady mixture of relief and amusement, that he had no idea who she was.
"Yes'm. Takin' these dickheads over for the linen merchant. He's gonna pay me." He bobbed his head with importance.
She smiled at his choice of words. Not one of the more gently born,she noted, but the word described his charges to a tee.
"Tell you what. If you ask Duran for Loki and bring him here, I'll give you three pieces of silver. Can you do that?"
"Shit,yeah!" He blushed and backed up a bit. "I mean...yes'm, sure can. Loki huh?"
"Yep. And tell Duran not to bother saddling him. Bareback's fine. Now,he's big but he won't hurt you."
The boy gave her a reassuring nod.It was a surprisingly adult gesture on his part. He stared at her and his thoughts skated over some sleeping emotion buried deep inside. One that lifted its head now and then but wouldn't be fully awake for another two winters or so. He was left with its sweet aftermath as it curled back up, dreaming. For a moment he forgot about the promise of coins. He drew himself up with a rakish grin.
"Don't worry 'bout me. I don't care how big he is. I ain't scared. Ain't scared of nothin."
(Well...that wasn't entirely true. Maybe Maire Rhymer who'd knocked his teeth out for no good reason but she'd had to sneak up on him from behind to do it)
"All right. I'll meet you downstairs." Alora gave him a final wave then ducked back in to the squalid little room to dress.
Fetch hadn't wanted to give her a room when she'd come back from the Livery the night before even though she'd offered him enough money to buy the whole building. He'd hemmed and hawed then tried to give her some difficult line of bullshit dressed up in complicated words designed to make the one listening cave in by feeling stupid.
"Water would be nice." She thought as she struggled into her leggings and vest. She felt the first trickle of sweat start up between her shoulder blades.
She'd finally gotten the room after she'd lost her patience with Fetch and referred to him as ten pounds of shit stuffed into a five pound sack. Incredibly,he'd still stood his ground. The threat of conjuring up an invasion of goblins with an infinity for alcohol was what had finally broken him down.
Her fingers momentarily paused as she laced up her boots. Was there such a thing? She didn't really know but that didn't matter: Fetch believed there was.
Her sword's harness hung on the corner of the bed and she put it on, twisting and pulling, until it felt right. Her leggings and vest were already sweated to her skin and perspiration inched along her scalp. She eyed the bed with suspicion. "I should have slept outside." She thought. She ambled down the stairs, still pulling and tugging at her clothes.
Fetch eyed Alora with a sour expression from behind the bar. Because of this bitch, his entire morning had been spent on his knees on top of artfully placed pebbles as he begged for forgiveness. His whore money was gone. "Donated" to buy the luxury of standing up while his legs would still hold him. Now he was broke and the priests would use the funds (his money!) to build new flower boxes or some other kind of happy horseshit.
All of this was written across his face but Alora ignored it with a blitheness that came from years of practice. She tossed him a coin for the overnight and he ducked as if she'd chucked a rock at his head.