Grace smelt Trinaze before she saw it. The tell-tale odour of a lakeside fishing town was lessened by the cold weather, but what remained was wafted by the persistently chilled wind. It guided her in the absence of paving, the stonework having abandoned the area in favour of heading east and south.
As she crested the hill, the vista of Trinaze spread out below her. Nestled into the lake edge, the many wooden houses were obscured by a haze of hearth smoke, while the forest stood ominously at the edge of the town. The smoke was complemented by mist floating spectrally above the lake, the airborne water continuing off into the distance, concealing the opposite shore.
Grace warily walked the descending path into the town, the ground slick with condensation. The worst of the wind chill was now passing above her head, she pulled the cowl down to her shoulders. Her pale face had been made rosy by the trials, the brightness of the windburn overpowering the splash of freckles across the ridge of her nose. Her delicate features downplayed her strength; a fact that had benefited her more than once in her career.
The townsfolk moved quickly along the main thoroughfares, huddled in pairs and looking down at the ground in front of their feet. She overheard the mutterings of people she passed, many bemoaning the influx of incorrigibles into town, and the trouble they had already caused. She begged the audience of a pair she passed.
“Excuse me. I am new to town, and I am seeking a man named Sebas.”
The elderly pair considered her for a time. The woman’s mouth was pursed in distaste, while the man seemed amused by her query.
“You look a lot less unsavory than the others that have trickled into town.” He turned and pointed back the way he had come. “Just keep walking this road until you reach the lakeside. There is a large building near the wharves, The Dockside Doxie. You can’t miss it; it stands a floor or two above everything other building. Sebas has set up his recruitment office in there. Be wary, as plenty of bar-room brawls have broken out recently, and between hulking brutes no less.”
Grace huffed with amusement. “I thank you for your concern, nut I have dealt with such men before.”
“Really? You look as if a stiff breeze could send you sprawling.”
She shrugged. “It was slim pickings heading east, in terms of work and food. Luckily, a traveller I passed spared me some food.”
The man’s companion cleared her throat theatrically, drawing a narrowed glare from him.
“We must go. Just remember; The Doxie near the wharves.”
She nodded her thanks as they moved off. Following the man’s directions, the littering of folk along the roadside increased with the noisy bustling of the dockside. As she stepped out from the houses overlooking the street, a large pier swarming with activity stretched either side of her. Carts were being pushed by their owners, bellowing their wares above the pervasive din. Looking around, she saw a substantial log building that towered above the dockside, overseeing the activities below as the trees had overseen hers the past handful of weeks.
The crush of humanity increased as she approached the imposing construction, many in the throng sporting torn garments and bruises to their faces and limbs. Edging her way towards the building, a faded sign above its inviting stairs showed a buxom, scantily clad lady invitingly holding two jugs of beer. The anchor tattooed into her shoulder told Grace that this was the doxie she sought.
As she stepped forward to ascend the stairs, the doors of the Doxie flew open, a monster of a man stepping out while holding a protesting patron by their collar and belt. With no backswing, the massively muscled guard flung his burden down the stairs. Luckily, the airborne man was able to turn himself, avoiding landing face-first on the beams below.
Grace helped the dazed man crawl away from the steps of the stairs, sitting him upright against its supporting beams. She gently checked his limbs for signs of a break, and asking him if he felt any serious discomfort. Happy that nothing was broken, she stepped away as he groggily voiced his thanks.
Finally ascending the steps, she quietly felt the jingle of the purse she had relieved the man of. From its weight, she guessed it held possibly enough for a meal and a stiff drink.
Steeling her nerves with a sharp intake of breath, she pushed open the door into The Dockside Doxie.
– ♥ –