The group was stewing in the foyer as Silah and I descended. She led the way, walking a few paces in front of me as I hadn't quite recovered from waking up. From the looks of it, the course for today had been planned, debated, and eventually decided long before we had gotten here. Bromm was thumbing a coin in his hand, staring at it as if to ask it the innumerable questions that seemed to be floating through his eyes. On the coin was the Hammer of Kols, not Bromm's version of a pistol striking hammer, but the symbol of the hammer itself. The noise from the world quieted for a moment and I felt a tension rise in me with the burgeoning implications that this gift had meant.
We have to do something about that. I thought.
If it was up to Silah, we would likely have stormed off, but she had pushed it aside effectively enough that she allowed herself to enjoy these simple pleasures. I was aware how painfully serious this could be since after dispatching the enemies of Kols in his very temple.
"The hammer has fallen…" the old dwarf's voice echoed in my head.
I sighed, wondering if she'd see the symbol and adopt the same consternation that enveloped Bromm. Silah, however, seemed entirely unfazed, plopping down at the table with a smile.
"We were wondering when you'd show up." Sig said with a slight smirk. "We're about to deal with that cargo business, Danin and I."
"Then you don't need me for anything?" I nodded, pulling a half smile.
He shook his head. Bromm looked on toward one to the Butterwick serving girls. Blonde and well fleshed, but he seemed to be pining for water, not attention. He lifted his mug to see if she'd sway his way but he failed to catch her eye. He settled with a look of consternation seeming much less assertive than usual.
"A little before noon, we're going to meet back here and head to the beach on the cape to look into something Biedrick told us about yesterday." Floki said, picking something out of his fingernails with a metal fork, then putting the utensil back on the table.
"That means we have a little time?" Silah said to me, erupting with a glorious smile.
"I did say we'd go find you a dress, right?" I said, looking at her with adoration.
Her little hands clenched and her shoulders tucked in with the excitement. I had planned for this. I had even dressed in my best clothes from Mont Brooks, feeling it was a safe enough time to do so.
Such simple pleasures. I thought. I just wish they weren't all so expensive.
"You going anywhere, Bromm? Floki?" I asked the two who, knowing already that they were content to linger.
They both shook their heads in turn.
I ordered a light breakfast, which, to the Butterwick clan, was a grease slicked platter of lamb gut sausages, eggs, bread, and heaps of butter. I felt a little queasy midway through the meal and Silah looked at the remainder.
"It's not good?" She asked, looking at my expression.
"It's good. Just..." I held up the plate watching the pool of grease gather at the raised edges.
"So, that's not good?" She said, her inquisitive nature about it prompted me to furrow my brow and put the plate in front of her.
"Then you don't want it?" She glanced from me to the plate.
"It's all yours." I motioned to her.
I watched her unceremoniously upend the plate and catch the pool of grease in her mouth. I felt my own stomach lurch in response. She downed it quickly and her face came back spotless.
"Huh. Very … lubricating." She smacked her lips and visibly rubbed her teeth together.
I grimaced at her. While I still wasn't absolutely sure, I believed that she couldn't actually taste anything she put into her mouth. If she could, she'd likely be much more discerning about it. The thing she did recognize was texture. I watched her tilt her head back and forth, still experiencing the after effects of the grease she had guzzled.
"I don't think I like that, either." She mused as she looked to me.
I looked around the table and saw mixed expressions of somewhat veiled horror and disgust from Tagaern, Danin, Sig, and Floki. Bromm's expression didn't change. From the looks of him, he was was very far away from here.
"Shall we?" I said, standing then extending my hand toward Silah.
She smiled and took my hand gracefully, letting me lead her from the table until she had a clear path to the door. I followed close, moving forward and opening the door as we approached.
"Very much the gentleman, today." She said, nodding as she clasped my arm.
"I like that on you." Her whisper echoed in my head.
Her sleek form appeared against the darkness of my mind, standing my height, then leaned forward and kissed me deeply. I caught my foot on a rock and stumbled slightly, nearly losing my footing, confused by the conflicting realities. She steadied me easily from her position at my side.
"Careful now. I don't want you to bruised when I'm just getting to show you off." Her sleek form echoed as she smirked and kissed me again lulling me into a state of bliss.
We had been directed to Shadowridge, high on the bluffs behind Bowler's Green, where Butterwicks stood. The vertical climb was significant but I wasn't going to let Silah show me up with her tireless gait.
A sheen of sweat stood out on my arms and I slowed, dabbing at my forehead, as we approached the bend we were directed to. The clothes I had been wearing from Mont Brooks worked exactly as Denton had said they would. The fabric was cooling even as I heated up, it dried almost instantly leaving me comfortable. We rounded the bend and took in the sight of Mulberry's, the premier clothier in Dowry, outside of those on Cennet, of course.
There was a moment's hesitation as I hefted my coin purse. The place looked very expensive. It was considerably larger than Mont Brooks, back in Hlofreden, but it was also the mix of patrons that moved in and out of the place. Each one dripped with luxury: gold, jewelry, emblems, and buckles. I looked at Silah who beamed up at me, reading what was on my mind.
"Don't worry. We'll be fine." She patted the arm she clung to, reassuring me in a non-reassuring way.
Once inside, I sat down—straight backed and attentive—attempting to act the part, but after moments of her swirling away, laying dress after dress on the counter, I began to slouch further and further until, after I was bleary eyed, she began to ask my opinion.
"That looks good." I nodded with the comment, stirring briefly as I watched her approach with a dress.
"That's not very helpful." She said patronizing while leaning forward.
She held the dress to herself, draped crossways over her slight, but shapely, bust.
"What about this?" She asked, now holding up a black dress.
"It's very nice." I said, nodding.
"This?" Now a shimmering purple.
I pursed my lips.
"Don't you already have a purple dress?" I asked.
"Not this purple. It's actually violet. And fantastic!" She exclaimed.
"It looks nice, but you already have a purple dress?" I shrugged.
"Not like this!" She exclaimed with annoyed disbelief, looking at me agape.
The assistant approached her and was now leaning around from behind her, looking at me with an expression of concern and then a subdued shock. His eyes fluttered between us. I recognized the look and smirked. He didn't like the idea that we were a pair.
Not. At. All. The thought shimmered loudly in my head as I watched him look on our interactions as scandalous.
"We should go somewhere else if you can't make a decision here." I said to her, then turning an intimidating gaze toward the man that flanked her.
"No no no." She said, shaking her head while lifting the dresses that were arranged on the table.
"Why not blue? Or green?" I suggested, now sitting forward, looking at the man with more scrutiny.
"I'll take this." She said pointing to one of the dresses out of my sight.
The sweating man who was now tugging at his fingers obliged, all the while, sending momentary glances my way.
"How much?" She asked.
There was a grumble from the back and a stout dwarf moved into sight. The talk of money brought out the proprietor. Silah grimaced at the sight of him.
Uh oh. I thought. She wasn't expecting this.
"One of our finest dresses, yes?" His deep voice rumbled, seeing both her disdain and approval.
The assistant seemed grateful to be relieved of duty and stood behind the mister who had taken center stage.
Silah walked to me with her palm out. I withdrew the pouch and opened it to begin counting.
"So, how much?" I asked.
She reached down and, slowly and deliberately, took the sack then turned back toward the dwarven clothier. I ran my hand over my face in exasperation then slouched even further.
Why? I thought. Why do I even allow this?
I waited as she slipped into the back with the covered bundle. She slunk out with a stunningly sleek black dress with a web of individual silver chains for shoulder straps. Silver clung to the neck and clasps pulled the dress neatly around her waist, accentuating her shape in a breathtaking display. The rear of the dress plunged to the small of her back held, again, by an asymmetrical criss-cross of glittering silver chain.
My body ached with her perfection.
"That is the reaction I've been looking for." She said with a devious grin.
The other patrons in the store looked on. Her sinuous frame trotted toward me then sat on my lap. The assistant wore a look of horror at her impropriety while the dwarf gave a subtle chuckle. She was entirely aware of the sweating man's disdain at our relationship.
She then stood and took my hand.
"Shall we?" She said silkily, giving me a wistful look.
I followed her lead, making out way out of the shop. As we exited, I took a deep breath, looking at the glorious vision on my arm.
"Oh, I almost forgot this." She said, handing me my greatly reduced money pouch.
I took it and deflated into a slump as we walked. She patted my back as a comforting gesture from the pain that she herself had induced.
"How much, then?" I asked.
"Only eighty gold pieces! Wasn't it a deal?" She said excitedly.
I slumped further, grimacing at her glittering smile.
(Get to know Akeron.)