Kiri woke the next morning, more at ease than the night before. She slipped out the back door into the alley behind the bar. As she walked through the alley into the street of the town, memories came over her of when she was quite young and how her father would take her for walks through the woods that surrounded the bar. Now those woods were getting further and further away.
“Daddy always said that a town would build around us”, she thought, “and an inn would be the first thing weary travelers needed and the last to go out of business if times got bad.”
He built the bar about half way between a growing port city and the capital city. At the time, it was only a small trail between the two, the trade route had not yet been established but, he always said that it would only be a matter of time. The port city was growing and needed a more direct route to the capital city. He had discovered this path during a hunting trip. Now, not only did the main route go through here but, two other, smaller routes converged here and their bar sat right in the middle of it. When it was built, the bar was actually an inn with a bar on the bottom floor and rooms for rent on the second floor. Since her father had gone, Kiri found it difficult to handle the business of both establishments and had to stop renting rooms. Since that time, there had been a few boarding houses which opened up to house travelers but nothing the size of her place. She often wondered how she may be able to begin renting rooms to travelers again but it always came down to having to hire help and she didn’t know if she would bring in enough money to afford to hire help.
Kiri noticed the town was beginning to bustle with activity even at this early in the morning.
“Good morning”, she called as she passed assorted townsfolk. her greeting was always returned with a pleasant smile or wave.
“Kiri, Kiri!” a short, rotund man called as he crossed from the far side of the street, waving her down.
“Good morning, Kiri” he said as he reached her, “may I have a word with you?”
“And good morn’ to you Mayor Smithson, what can I do for ya?” she replied.
“Kiri, we have a problem that you may be able to help with. Could I ask you to reopen your boarding rooms? We have people sleeping in the streets and alleys, not just people but strangers. It’s beginning to be a problem and there is now talk that things are being stolen or places broken into and townspeople are blaming the ones who are sleeping outside. There’s no place for them to go, the few places which rent out rooms don’t have enough beds or have quit renting. I need your help; I don’t know what else to do.”
“Here’s all you have to do. Anyone you find sleeping outside, you arrest. Everybody’s happy.” she offered
“The traveler gets a warm place to sleep, a nice bed and a good meal. You have them off the streets and nothing gets stolen. Problem solved.”
Mayor Smithson stood there with his large jaw hanging open, “I can’t go around locking everyone up. That would just cause more problems besides, what kind of reputation would the town get. Also, with the cold season coming up, your place is needed, Kiri, the only good solution I see is for you to reopen.
“Mayor you know I can’t do that, I can’t run the whole place myself.”
“Kiri please.” he begged.
She thought for a second, “I’ll consider it, but only if you can find me some help. And, I’m raising my rates, I need to come out ahead to keep the old place running.”
“Oh thank you, thank you. It’s a deal.” he said, shaking her hand until she thought her arm would fall off. “I think I should be afraid for my job with the way you can get people to side with you. But before that happens, I will bid you good day.”
Kiri smiled at the thought. She always did have a way of getting what she wanted and she took pride in the fact that she didn’t have to use her looks to do so. She thought of the women that hung out in her bar, using their looks to get the men they were after. Kiri was pretty enough that she could resort to those tactics if she wanted to but, she felt that was beneath her.
Kiri went about her business, in and out of shops gathering or ordering the items she needed, sometimes stopping to chat with friends and other times, leaving quickly to avoid those people she had no desire to see. At one point in her travels, she saw two men leaning against a wall when all of a sudden, they stood up but what caught her eye was the man who had approached, it was the annoying man who was in the bar last night. She darted quickly to the other side of the street, trying to avoid being noticed.
Kiri noticed that it was harder to walk through town with her purchases; there were so many more people than there usually are here. It was as if the harvest holiday was taking place. But, something felt different, a few were traveling but many appeared to be staying. There seemed to be very few women and children. While it was true that many did not pass through as it was, there were even less if that was possible. Kiri looked around and noticed that everywhere she looked, there were small groups of two or three men. They were doing nothing except standing there or looking around and they weren’t going anywhere else.
“Good day Kiri.” someone called and waved.
“Good day”, she called back as the thoughts slipped from her mind.
She realized that the day was getting later and that she should get back to prepare to open, especially if she were going to be opening the rooms back up for rent, there was much to be done.
As Kiri approached the inn, a young man on horseback approached and stopped beside her. “Kiri!”
“Horace?” Kiri questioned.
Horace jumped from the horse, “I just came to say goodbye.”
“Where are you off to?”
“Capital city, Pa is letting me go now that harvest is over and I’m old enough.”
“What are you going to do?” she asked.
“I hear that they will take about anyone for the militia and if taking orders isn’t your cup of tea, there is always someone willing to pay for protection while on travels; or if you are really lucky, you may even hear tales of an adventure.” Horace explained.
“Ah, to go off on an adventure, I hear so many people in the bar talk of adventures. I wish I could be a part of their adventures, the excitement and thrill.”
“You should come with me”, Horace suggested, “we could have our own adventure.”
Kiri’s face lit up with excitement.
“What!” Kiri exclaimed as she spun around.
“Are you Kiri?” a young woman asked.
“Mayor Smithson sent me, he said you would have a job for
“Damn it!” Kiri looked at the young woman, glanced at the bar and turned to Horace. “Be safe and come back, you are the only available man for me in this town.”
Horace gave her a hug, kissed her on the cheek and climbed onto his horse and rode off.
“Come on” Kiri said to the young woman, “We can get in through the back.”
Kiri opened the back door and set her packages on the counter, “So Mayor Smithson sent you. You got a name?”
“Lexa. The mayor said you may even be able to put me up, is that true?” she asked timidly.
“Yeah I can do that but, it would be part of your pay and I can’t offer much.”
“I understand. I’m only looking for a decent bed and warm meal.” Lexa explained.
“You can put your stuff in there.” Kiri said pointing to a door off of the kitchen, “There’s a spare bed in there you can use. Then I’ll show you around, there’s a lot of work that needs to be done if we are going to open this place back up to rent rooms again. I hope you can cook. With renting out the rooms, comes a lot more mouths to feed and I can’t do it all myself.”
Kiri spent the rest of the morning showing Lexa how everything was going to work. They spent the afternoon sweeping and cleaning linens. Kiri also ran out to spread the news that she was beginning to rent rooms again.
“I am going to teach you Lexa, what my father taught me, to always keep your ears open and listen for any news you may hear.”
“Why?” Lexa questioned.
“Because as liquor begins to flow, people’s lips begin to get loose and often they say more than they ought. It is the best way for us to discover any news or dangers which may befall us. And as your new boss, I expect you to share anything you hear with me.”
Lexa just nodded and said, “OK, you’re the boss”.
Kiri new that Lexa hadn’t fully grasped what she was trying to tell her. She also new that as soon as she came across some surprising info, the lesson would never be forgotten.