Castle Roland

Sands of Time

by Roland

In Progress

Chapter 8

Published: 8 Apr 14

Sands of Time

Copyright © 2014-2017 by Roland
All Rights Reserved

"You know, the more I see of this time, the more I miss home." Olpha said as she walked next to Lucas.

"Yes, trust me I do too." Lucas said with a bit of a chuckle. "I just wish I understood why everyone is so afraid of Magic around here. Did you see how everyone backs away with fear every time a spell gets cast."

"Very strange." Olpha agreed. They were wandering around the market, looking for some very specific things. Both of them needed Mage books. The ones they normally carried were getting so large and awkward they were next to impossible to use properly. They both had well over a hundred spells each now since they were given several handfuls before being gated into this awful future world. Before they left Seandra, both of them had been given all the spell pages that the Mages could spare, so many spells there was no telling which one they even got. Both kids figured out it would take hours to really sit down and go over what they had, and yes they knew there were some duplicates, but those could be sold. Plus they needed to start gathering the materials needed to make copies of some of the pages. They quickly realized that they would not be able to get everything they needed in this little hamlet. They even wondered if some of the items were available any more.

"Lucas." Olpha said, pointed, and they both walked over to a small stand that was out of the way of everyone else. Obviously this stand was set up to purposefully be somewhat hard to find. They walked up to the table, and started to look over what was available. Neither one of them missing the looks from the two guilded swordsman who were standing guard, nor the human behind the table. While the looks weren't outright hostile, they were guarded in nature.

"You youngins able to pay fer what yous want right?" The human asked slowly.

Lucas nodded, trying not to get upset at them implications. "Of course good merchant." The man simply nodded, but did keep a close eye on them. Not that there was anyone else there for the merchant to watch over.

"Lucas." Olpha said again, as she picked up a spell book kit. He moved over and started to look at the different spell book kits that the man had for sale. It was odd, the kits had all the needed items to make a bonded spell book, but the covers were gaudy, they had symbols on the covers that made them look like something meant to stand out, some even had heavy ornaments like a glass encrusted spider on the front. “Gee, Olpha, these all look like our first children’s spell books, not a real Mage book!”

"Ahh, you kids be lookin for new books? Just getting into Primary, and decided to get new books?"

Lucas was about to say something when Olpha stepped on his foot. Being a Halfling, she didn't have enough weight to really hurt him, but it sure got his attention, enough to make the words die in his mouth, allowing her to speak up with a grin. "Exactly. Our fathers both said if we passed the primary tests, they would give us enough to buy better books, and maybe even a spell for us, if you have any that are cheap enough." She pulled out two gold coins and showed them to the merchant. "They've been saving up ever since we both tested as Mages. It took everything both families had, but being that we are the only trainable ones in the family, they all said it was worth it."

Lucas took a deep breath, lying felt wrong, but he figured he needed to blend in just like he had been told to do. “Yeah, but there is no way our fathers would be happy with us for wasting money on fancy covers with spiders and scorpions on the covers.” Even as he said this he shook his head at how stupid the spell book kits looked.

The Merchant nodded with a small smile. "You gots good kin." He said as he moved over to locked trunk. "Since yous both just passed into Primary, I's thinks I gots some spells you might be interested in." He pulled out a small key, and inserted it into the well made Dwarven lock, turned the key, popping the lock off. He opened the trunk up and pulled out several spell pages. "You younglings came to the right spot. I's got the best supply of Primary pages in all of Welleger."

He also pulled out half a dozen other spell book kits, two where just plain Iron Wood covers with the needed ingredients to bond them to the purchasing mage. The grey colored wood really stood out. The last four were all made from Raven Wood and were jet black, but two of them had some kind of animal hide strips to mark pages once the book was made and bonded.

Lucas couldn't help himself, but at least he bit back to response so only Olpha heard it. "That would not be difficult..."

"Ahh.. here ya be!" The Merchant said handing over a very small stack of pages. "I know some of them may be a bit much for you kids, but you never know. If you pick something up now, you'll always have it." The merchant moved a bit closer, and leaned in closer. "Tell you kids what. Don't tell no one, but I be feeling a bit nice today. You can pick one page, as well as a book of yer choosin. We'll call it even for the gold pieces."

Both kids were looking through the pages, and each pulled one page out with a smile. They then picked out a book that they liked, and handed over the gold pieces.

The merchant pulled out a razor sharp knife and held it out for Lucas, “This be the hurtin’ part, son. Do it fast and deep, Me’ll heal ya up!”

Realizing the man was demanding he actually make the book right here and bond it to himself, Lucas took a deep breath, eyed the blade to make sure it was clean, then made a slice down the middle of this right hand. He then squeezed the wound so a decent amount of blood came out before pressing his hand onto the Raven Wood covered book cover. The man leaned forward and gently squeezed Lucas’ shoulder, “Push yer force inta the blood, son, me know it hurt, but the quicker ya dose it, the more faster me’ll heal ya!”

Lucas kept his breath even and calm as the man put the back of the book over the back of Lucas’ hand and gripped the leather on the side, making sure it was nice and even. “Lookin’ good son, Now just let the blood soak into the bindin’ leather. Almost done!”

A few more seconds pass before Lucas felt the book merge with him become part of him. It was clear the man knew this as well as he pulled the now formed book back, grabbed Lucas’ hand and touched his Silver lightning bolt holy symbol. “Lady of weather a brave lad be in need of your touch!”

Moments later the gash on Lucas’ hand closed and vanished. “Ya, be a brave one boy!” The man reached over and gave Lucas a very unexpected hug, “Not a tear. Me be thinkin’ great thing will come a ya!” He then handed over a sugar stick before glancing over at Olpha, “Ya ready, lass?”

Olpha went through the exact same thing with the man once again giving her a hug and praising her after healing her hand.

After they walked away, Lucas glanced down at Olpha. "Thanks."

Olpha just giggled. "You are the Lockmaster, why did I have to come up with the lie?"

"Because, you are cuter!" Lucas said with a grin. He loved it any time he could get her to blush, and she just did. However she also punched him hard enough in the arm to make him wince. "Cuter and more violent." Lucas giggled as he rubbed his arm.

Olpha's smile faded as she looked up at Lucas, and spoke softly, switching to the Sand Dragon tongue. "Can you believe that man was a Channeler? Not to mention a respected merchant and mage? Does everyone in this time speak like an Orc?"

Lucas couldn't help but grin. "Remember Love, the last Orc we captured. He spoke better than the people here do."

She almost fell over from laughing, so Lucas had to help her walk. She finally got herself under control as they got back to Mablin's table and found the man taking a break. Watching Killian make a trade with a friendly looking older woman. "Sir, might I ask you a question?" Olpha asked as the reached the merchant.

Mablin looked up saw who was there and nodded. "We just came from a merchant who sold us these two spell pages as well as two new books. All of this for 2 gold pieces. Was this a good deal?"

Mablin looked over the spell pages, and the books then shook his head. "I am not sure who this merchant is, but he gave you a very good deal. The books themselves are about 100 silver each, and the spell pages... Well 'Cancel' is one of the most common spells. I have, I think five of them, that I sell at 80 silver each. 'Mirror Image' is also somewhat common, I would have sold for maybe 120 silver. All in all I would have sold everything for 400 silver, or four gold, certainly not two gold. I am not sure if I would have even given you such a deal. Speaking of which, why did you go to someone else. I would have been happy to sell everything to you, even if you did get a very good deal."

"We know you would have, but we were mainly interested in seeing how honest another merchant was, and 2 gold is not much to us." Lucas said softly.

Mablin nodded, filing that little bit of information away for later use. "Why did you need new books though. Did something happen to yours?"

Lucas and Olpha looked at the man, deciding how much they wanted to trust him. Finally Olpha nodded, then Lucas did, and they both looked back at the man who was waiting patiently. "Our spell books are getting too large to carry into battle, so we are creating 'Battle Books'.

Mablin studied the two for a moment before he spoke. "While I have heard of such a thing, and have even began to consider doing so myself. You two are still children. How can you possibly have enough spell pages to need to do that."

Again they hesitated, before Olpha began to speak softly. "Before we left our home, we were both given many spell pages to help us in our travels." She paused, obviously thinking something over before she spoke again. "Sir, please excuse our questions, there are a lot of foreign customs and practices in this place, than where we are from. We do not mean to insult you, but simply to find out what things are different."

Mablin nodded his understanding. "And please forgive me if I ask questions, which you feel are too easy, I am a teacher, and I see before me two young children. Both of whom I am sure are more advanced than I would imagine, yet I need to find that out for myself."

Lucas grinned as did Olpha. "We are always willing to learn new things." He said looking down at Olpha who smiled and nodded.

"Okay, so..." Olpha started out trying to pick her words carefully. "Would I be correct in assuming you know the art of being a 'Bookless Mage'?

Mablin nodded skeptically. "I do, although I am somewhat surprised that ones so young would know about it."

Neither child showed any sign of being offended, so Mablin pushed. "Tell you what, if you are willing, I would like to get an idea of how advanced you kids really are. Would you be willing to answer a few of my questions, with as much detail as you feel necessary?" They both smiled and nodded, sitting down on the edge of the wagon to get comfortable.

"Okay, let’s start at the very beginning. Again, I am as much of a student here as you are. I am most interested in seeing the difference between where you are from and what I know. So... what is Magic?" Mablin said as he too settled in for a long conversation. With every student he ever had, this was always the first question, and often the hardest. Most people take a while to really figure out what Magic really is, at least what it is to them.

However, as was becoming typical with these strange kids, they did not even hesitate. They both answered instantly, and together. With a simple word. "Life." Mablin had been expecting almost anything, but this was not one of those he was expecting. When it showed on his face, Lucas started to explain. "Life." He said again. "Magic is the basis of all life. Without magic there is no life, and without life there is no magic. You can not have one without the other. Magic is in everyone, and everything. It is the common thread that links everything, living, and once living. Simply Magic is life."

Mablin shook his head. While he was amazed at how much thought was put into the answer, the simple fact is, the child was wrong. "Close, but not really. Magic is the essence of Gods, bound to all who live through Dragons, without Dragons there would be no magic and without magic there would be no Dragons and without either, there would be no contact to the outer realms and the Gods." Even before he was done speaking, Olpha was shaking her head.

"I am sorry to have to disagree with you Sir, but I must." At first Mablin was about to get upset by being disagreed with. He was a teacher after all. However, he decided to see what these kids thought. It was obvious that all of these children were from an area whose way of life was so vastly different, perhaps they simply had a different perspective. He nodded for her to continue, so Olpha took a deep breath and began.

"While it is true that the Magic that swirls around a Dragon is vast, Dragons themselves are no more important to Magic than anyone else. Save for how much of it runs through them. Take a Sorcerer. Are they not able to rip the magic from the very air around them, even when there is no Dragon around them? Are there not spirits that have immensely more power than a Dragon. For your description to be true, then Dragons would have to, by nature, be the most magical of all creatures. But they simply are not. Even Dragons have mundanes. To be brutally honest, every Dragon and Dragon-Kin in the world could die, right now, and while Magic would be damaged, it would not cease to be. No, Magic simply is a part of life, a part of the universe, pushing through, and tying everything together. To bring it down to the most basic terms, Magic simply is."

Mablin sat there stunned. Always he had heard what he had said to them, and it made sense, Dragons were the most magical of all creatures, or so he thought. Everyone he had even spoken to said the same things... Dragons. But here he was being told that Dragons were not conduits that allowed Magic into this world. It went against everything he knew, everything he believed, but what the girl said... it just made so much sense. "I... I have never heard of it spoken of like that. I will need some time to think on what you said."

They both nodded, neither one of them smiling or looking like the were happy they made a Teacher think about something different, simply nodding in acceptance. 'These kids certainly are strange.' Mablin thought to himself, as he moved onto the next part of the conversation. Mablin reached into the wagon, and pulled out a large and rather ornately decorated book. "Okay, this is my Mage Book." He paused as he looked at Lucas. "Please explain to me the relationship between a Mage and their book, as well as how it works."

Lucas sighed, but actually enjoyed this, he was learning a lot about this time, but also refreshing himself. As Olpha's father, the Royal Mage of Seandra, used to say it is often good to go back to the basics so you remember where everything started. "A Mage and their Book are linked through the force within the Mage. If the book is damaged, so is the Mage... if the Mage dies, so does the book. It is one of the major downfalls of being a Mage. As to how it works, a Mage can add or remove spells from his book rather easily. In order for a Mage to be able to cast higher level spells, they need to have no fewer than fifteen pages of the lower Echelon in their book, and of course the Force needed to cast them. If they ever fall below fifteen pages, or fifteen memorized spells, they can not cast the higher level spells, even if they have the spells memorized.

“With that being said though, a Mage can memorize spells. Even ones that are not automatically memorized, which some are. For every four pages in the Mage's book, they can memorize a spell that is not one of those that is instantly memorized. For instance, I know of forty three first level spells. Twelve of those are auto memorized. If someone were to have all forty three spells in their book, they could have a total of twenty two memorized.

“To bring it back full circle though, If someone were to have fifteen first Echelon spells memorized, they would be able to cast Second Echelon spells even if their book dropped below fifteen first Echelon pages. However, the Mage needs the magic of the pages to learn more, so to lose pages is to lose magic, to lose magic is to lose life, to lose life is by no means the way to tap into the flows of magic, so pages in the Mage book are pages of life."

Mablin was completely stunned. Never had he heard someone linking life to magic pages like this. The very thought was intriguing. So lost in thought was he, that he almost missed Olpha taking up the narrative. "That being said, metal armor hampers a Mage as they are casting, so most Mages tend to stick to natural leather armor, or at the most, armor with as little actual metal as possible. Hence why most Mages tend to stay back a bit from the fight, and mainly act as support. However, the combination of a Mage and a Sect Warrior, can be extremely powerful. Especially as a bookless Mage." She paused eyeing his book for a moment, before she blushed. "May I ask you a personal question?"

Mablin nodded wondering what new thing they were going to tell him that would completely blow his mind.

"I mean absolutely no insult to you, however, is that the book you given when you entered training? We saw a large number of Training spell books at the merchants stand, and looking around here, all we see is Training Books. We were just wondering why?" Olpha asked, blushing slightly, hoping to not offend the man.

"No..." Mablin asked completely confused now. "I bonded to this book less than a year ago. When I tested for the Teaching Echelon."

"You did?" Lucas asked now, just as confused as Mablin was. "Why would you bond to a beginners book?

Mablin's brain was firing quickly now, trying to understand what was being said. They obviously were not intending to insult him, but why would they consider his book a training book? He decided to ask that exact question. "Why do you think my Book, as well as the ones being sold to be training books?"

"They are all adorned!" Lucas said like it should have been obvious. "It does nothing to enhance the Magic, yet draws attention to the book. All the mages I have known keep simple books to not draw attention to the fact that it is a Mage book. Yours... It... Well it screams 'Mage Book'! It is just... Not wise. Besides, why do you need to make your book heavier and thicker all for the pride of making it look like something I would have found awesome when I first started casting Autospells? Are all Mages in this area... um... Vain?"

Mablin sat there stunned. Never before in his life had he been this stunned over a simple conversation. Part of him wanted to get upset over how they spoke of his book, but, well he could not fault their logic. Finally he felt he needed simply time to absorb everything. "I do believe you have both given me much to think about. Thank you for your candor, and please, I very much wish to continue this conversation." He placed his book back into the wagon, then stood, bringing the other two to their feet. "Perhaps you would join me for dinner this evening, after I have had some time to absorb what you have said."

"We would be honored to. I truly hope we have not offended you good Mage." Olpha said with a low bow, one that was mimicked by Lucas.

"Worry not. You may have offended others. Those that would not think that someone of my ranking could learn something from Children, but rest assured I am not one of those short sighted individuals." With a smile and a nod, Mablin headed off to finish his day at the merchant stand. Unfortunately for him, but to the good fortune of those he was dealing with, his mind was not entirely into his job, and he made no where near the amount of coin that he should have.

Thane sighed deeply as he looked at the clothier shop in front of him. As much as he hated this, he knew by what just happened in the alley way, that the only way to get around here without people bothering you was to dress like someone straight out of a Royal Court. Thankfully for him, he had more than enough practice, since he is the son of a Duke, and spent all but the last several years in an Alphar Court.

"You two stay out here. If someone asks tell them you are waiting for me. If they try to make you leave, have Fluffy here bark his little head off, or run into the shop, and I will protect you again. Okay?" The two wide eyed boys nodded. The amount of fear in their eyes was enough to make Thane's blood boil, and what he was about to endure worth it.

He stood straight, squared his shoulders, and slipped into the polished court member mindset that he so hated. He walked into the store, and before the Elf behind the counter could say anything, he pulled out ten gold coins, laid them on the table, and spoke. "I am new in town, and need to have clothing that is proper to who and what I am. I am sure you can help me or point me in the direction where I can find what one of my station deserves... Correct?"

The female Elf looked at the coins, and her face lit up. "Of course good sir." She clapped her hands three times, and four other Elves came running in from the back, all of them appearing to be his age, or perhaps a little older. "Please follow me sir, and we will see to getting you dressed properly."

The next twenty minutes was almost torture to Thane, but he knew it was something that needed to be done. When she turned him to face the mirror, he nearly groaned. Outwardly he nodded in satisfaction at the ruffled silk shirt, puffed out silk pants, with gold weave. Boots that were more gaudy than they were functional. A belt that was thicker than he would want, and a buckle that was entirely too outlandish to do anything other than shout, "I wasted coin on this!" Thankfully he was able to arrange his own belt in a way that he could still wear it, and access the pouches that he wore. Both the ones for his 'claws', and the ones that he kept his coin, and other valuables in.

She even had a set of overly bejeweled bracers that frankly, would have done little in a fight, but it did cover up the wrist bands that held his throwing spikes. "If I may sir, you look absolutely grand!"

"Thank you Good Lady." Thane said with as much fake enthusiasm as he could.

"If I may suggest one other thing. The store next door is one of the finest jewelers in Welleger. They have some mighty fine items that will make this outfit perfect for one such as yourself."

Ten minutes later he left the jewelers another 3 gold coins lighter, but he had to admit, as much as he hated wearing this garbage, he did look the part he was trying to play. That fact was driven home when both El'izar and Ev'izar didn't recognize him at first, and when they did, they both were trembling in fear. He knelt down and put a hand on each boys shoulder. "I know this seems odd, but please trust me. I gave you my word that I will look after you, and to me, coin means nothing if someone does not have their honor intact. Okay?"

They both hesitated, but nodded, so he stood back up. "Good, will one of you please carry this?" He asked as he held out the bundle of clothing that he had worn into the shop. "If I do not miss my guess, it will also make sure that no one bothers you, as you will be seen carrying my belongings."

El'izar nodded and took the bundle, and tucked it securely under his arm. "Thank you." He said as he looked around. "Now, do either of you two know where I can purchase some clothing for the two of you, that you would be at least somewhat comfortable in, but will not make you appear to be orphans?"

Ev'izar nodded hesitantly. "Yes'ir, but... Why you spending coin on us. We be nothing!" The boy looked on the verge of tears, and Thane again had to fight down his anger. He squatted down again, and this time put both of his hands on Ev'izar's shoulders, and held the boy so that Thane could look into his eyes.

"First off, please honor me by calling me by my name, Thane." He waited till he got a small nod from the boy before he continued. "Second, and this may take you both some time to understand, but, where I hail from, children are not treated the way you are, they are looked out for, especially the ones that can be trained, which I do think you both can be. But most importantly, children are the next generation, if we want to better ourselves, then it requires that we help the children better themselves."

Knowing the neither boy really understood what he meant, Thane sighed and tried again. "It will take you a while to understand, but how about if I say it like this. I have a very close friend that is an Orphan. He saved my life, and in a way I using this to pay him back." They both nodded, being able to understand that better than what he said before. He sighed and again stood. "Now, that shop."

Ev'izar nodded with a smile on his face, and started walking, leading Thane and his brother towards a shop much further down the road.

'How I wish I could wear this clothing!' Thane thought to himself as he walked out of that shop, with two smaller bundles of clothing. He handed those to Ev'izar, then said, "Okay, the Mystic shop next." He could see both boys were confused, but started to lead him without questioning.

When they got to that shop, he again asked them to wait outside, as he walked in. Immediately he took a dislike to the Mystic, as he eyed the two boys and the dog outside with a look of disdain. He raised his nose up at the Mystic and spoke, as if he were a king speaking to a slave. "I have need of several potions. I need to remove the fleas from both the dog, and my two companions. As well as one to make the fur of the dog look healthier. Can I assume you are able to create such simple potions, or shall I go elsewhere?"

"No!" The man almost shouted. "I.. I can certainly help you with such simple things. If it would please one such as yourself, I will just run to the back and mix them up quickly."

Thane nodded absently and dismissed the man with an off handed wave. "If you must, but please do hurry, I have many things I must attend to. "

"Of course good Sir. I'll be right back." The man literally ran from the room. Inside Thane was seething with anger. He despised having to dress this way, simply to be given the respect that anyone should get, but even more so at the attitudes he was seeing displayed around him.

His thoughts were interrupted by a single bark from outside the shop. Thane spun, and was out the door in a flash. What he saw made his already foul attitude even worse. Two guards were man handling the twin Halfelves, and cursing at them. Thane's blood boiled as he bellowed. "What is the meaning of this?" He moved over to the guards who stopped and looked up, both of their faces going pale. "How dare you manhandle my companions!"

"Me sorry sir. We'e just getting these two orphan scum..." The man never finished his thought, as Thane was in his face in an instant.

"If you dare speak down about them again, you will find yourself facing me in the arena, and I will make sure that only I walk out. Is that clear?" Thane's voice was deadly quiet, yet it traveled over the now eerily silent street. When the man hesitated, Thane again bellowed loud enough to make the two boys wince. "DID I STUTTER?"

"No.. no sir." The guard said as he backed away.

"Good. Then release my companions, and I do believe they are owed an apology. I am sure you agree, correct?"

Both men stepped back from the twins, and muttered an apology before they turned and almost ran away. Thane thought about calling them back to apologize properly, but decided not to draw anymore attention than he already had. As it was, there were many people staring at him, not to mention the twins were gawking at him with huge blue eyes, filled with fear, but also a bit of hope. Thane took a deep breath to calm him, then walked over and patted both boys on the shoulders. "I told you I would protect you, and I meant it."

The boys just nodded without saying a word, just as the Mystic came rushing out of the shop, several potions in his hands. "There you are Sir! I am so sorry it took so long. I hope nothing is amiss?"

"No, thank you merchant. How much do I owe you?" Thane said, again gaining control of his anger, although he would have to do something soon to release that anger, or he would lose his temper, and that would serve no one.

After paying for the potions, he then was led by the boys to a bathhouse. It was time to get the boys cleaned up, dressed and then they would take care of Fluffy. If things worked out, he could change back into his real clothing before dinner.

With his temper still close to the surface, he decided to stop anything before it began as they walked into the bath house. As soon as he saw the person who worked there, be walked straight up to the woman and spoke softly. "If anyone says a word about my companions, I will take my coin elsewhere. However, if all of us are treated with the respect that I demand, then I am sure I will leave several Silver pieces lighter than I should, if you understand?"

The lady put on her best smile and nodded. "Of course, if all three of you fine young gentleman will follow me, I will personally see you to one of our private bath rooms, as well as send a few of our slaves in to help you wash. Would you like me send in someone to give the two young lads a trim to their hair to a more respectable length?"

"Yes please, however, the trim will be to the length that they wish, not a single bit shorter." Thane said starting to calm some.

"Of course. Please follow me." It was clear by the look in her eyes, the greeter was not thrilled with the idea of the two street urchins or the dog coming in, but there was no way she was going to be rude to someone dressed in the clothing Thane was currently wearing. She led them past a large central bath room where water was being drawn by a huge guy manning a single large pump. The water then rolled down over a clay half pipe with coals underneath. The water then flowed into the bath. On the other side, an equally large brute was manning a second pump taking water out of the bottom of the pool where it then disappeared down a metal grate. While this kept a somewhat clean supply of water, it was by no means the magically operated baths Thane was used to, nor where they anywhere near as clean. Under his breath, Thane couldn't help but mutter. "By the Gods, have they fallen so far?"

However, the woman quickly ushered them past the central bath in into a smaller back chamber. As she got close to the door she pointed to a pair of teens, one wearing a slave collar, the other with whip marks across his legs. “We have an esteemed guest, boys, Lady Obirat will have my head if there is any problems, and then I will have yours. Any complaints from him or his two... Companions, will guarantee you a stint on the main pumps after a good hard thrashing. I will get an experienced bath slave for the young noble.”

The slave boy didn’t hesitate to open the door to the smaller room with a small central pool. All around it were high quality bathing items.

While the two boys looked around in total confusion, three more slaves were led in. One was a girl about Thane’s age, the other a boy slightly older than Thane, and the last was an older man who looked like he was probably one of those who manned the pumps in the main chamber from time to time. The guy’s arms were bigger around than Thane’s legs by a large margin. The Greeter then came in and bowed deeply. “I was not sure what your preference is young noble. These three are the only fully obedient slaves I have available, but if you have a request I can arrange to hire someone more to your preference. Rental price is five silver an hour. Rental cost of this room is two silver an hour.”

Thane looked confused for a moment, before he finally pointed towards the boy who was slightly older than he was. The Greeter nodded, and waved the other two from the room. The boy came up to Thane, and proceeded to very carefully help him undress.

Off to side, in the larger pool, the two Halfelves and their dog looked totally out of sorts. This kind of bath was a new experience for both boys, since their normal one was the bi-weekly trudge to the stream with the rest of the orphans. Regardless of weather, the boys had always been expected to jump in with a single bar of hard gritty soap to get all the kids and their clothing clean. They would then hike back to the orphanage, oftentimes teeth chattering where they clustered around the single small fire waiting for items of clothing to dry. This experience was totally different and it took them off guard. They stared at the pool and looked over questioningly as the two teens moved to undress them. Seeing Thane nod, the boys stood statue still only moving when one of the two boys tapped them or told them to. They were also amazed by the indoor large pool of warm water, bars of real soap, and real towels. It was all things neither boy had ever seen before. At first they had no idea what to do. That was until the two teens maneuvered them into the water and showed them how to use the sponges that the twins realized this was indeed supposed to be where they got clean.

The teens made sure both kids were comfortable with the water, before moving over to a side barrel of water complete with a washboard and started cleaning their old clothing. Of course the twins needed several washes to get them clean, which took considerable time and more than a little coaching from Thane, who was given his bath in a personal tub. Once done and certain the clothing as well as the boys were spotless, Thane personally scrubbed the Mystics potions into their hair, to make sure they were free of lice and fleas, as well as anything else that might be living in there before having Ev'izar do his hair just to make extra sure he brought no unwanted visitors into their inn room.

Finally they were dried with fire warmed, large fluffy towels, and then another woman walked in to cut their hair. Thane insisted that his only be trimmed, even when she tried to tell him that hair as long as his did not fit with his obvious station. She didn't argue more than once though, since the look she got told her she was treading on ground where the boy’s deep pockets might get a little less deep.

He was glad when both the boys decided to also only get a trim. He was still trying to figure out how or why hair length had anything to do with status, and frankly he wasn't sure he wanted to know, it would probably only infuriate him further, but it was obvious, as the Greeter came in and looked, at his hair and glanced back at the woman who had cut it, both thought he looked very odd. When they walked out, he handed the lady fifteen silver pieces, as well as ten copper. "Please make sure that the young lads that took care of us get two copper each and be allowed to spend them how they wish, slaves or no, they did a fine job. I will look into it, and if it does happen the way I require, I will make sure my other friends bath here when they need to and they will chose the two of you to serve them."

"Of course sir. You and they are welcome any time you wish." Thane nodded, and walked outside. He sighed when he looked at Fluffy.

"Okay, one last thing." He took out the two remaining potions, then looked at the twins. "I need one of you to keep Fluffy calm, this will not hurt, but it will feel a bit different to him okay."

El'izar nodded and quickly ran over to the dog, and wrapped his arms around the dog. As soon as he saw it was safe, Thane took the first potion, and began to rub it into the dog’s fur. Once he was sure all the bugs were dead, he took the other one, and poured it over Fluffy. "Okay, let him go." Thane said, as he pulled El'izar back quickly.

Fluffy turned in a circle a few times, before he started to shake his fur out, almost violently. El'izar tensed, concerned for his friend, but Thane just held him tighter. "Trust me, Fluffy will be fine, the potion is simply cleaning his fur and skin, making it so that he will not have to scratch as much."

The young Halfelvin boy nodded even though he was concerned as he watched Fluffy circle then shake several times, before the dog stopped. He pushed his nose into his own fur, then looked up and 'smiled' at them. "His fur!" El'izar cheered. Thane let the boy go, and he ran up to the dog, and again threw his arms around the pup. "It's so soft and... Fluffy!"

Ev'izar quickly joined his brother, and the tears of happiness that came from both boys made everything Thane had to go through to get to this point, well worth it. Almost.

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