“Who was the man you were talking to outside?” Lexa asked.
“My ticket outta here, but no, I have to be stuck here. Cleaning this stinking place and having strangers live in my house again, because the mayor needed help.” Kiri complained, punctuating her frustration by throwing a log onto the woodpile by the fireplace.
Kiri placed a few more logs on the pile while Lexa swept the floor.
“What about you” Kiri asked.
“Huh?” Lexa replied
“How did you end up here?”
“I was traveling with a group from the port to the capital city. We stopped here to replenish supplies and spend the night. The next thing I know, I wake up in the morning and my group is gone.” Lexa explained, “I tried for a while to connect up with another group but, nobody would take me on and all my money and belongings were with the first group.
So I ended up staying here and I’ve started to like the town so, I just figured I’d stay and try to start new and then I ended up here working for you.”
“Where do you come from?” Kiri asked.
“What? Uh, umm. Shouldn’t I get washing the linens? They are quite dirty and may take some time.” Lexa stalled.
“Here, I can help you with those.” Kiri said.
“No, no, that’s ok, I’ve got them” Lexa said as she pushed her way towards the kitchen.
Kiri shook her head and finished straitening the room. She grabbed the broom Lexa left behind and looked around; it had been sometime since she was up here. She liked the view from this room; it overlooked the main street and looked out to the woods beyond. It was the room she had shared with her Father when he was still here. After he was gone, she moved into the storeroom off of the kitchen, to have another room to rent. When it became too much for one person to handle, she had to quit renting rooms. Kiri grabbed the broom and headed downstairs.
Kiri walked through the kitchen doors and Lexa was at work washing the linens.
Kiri pointed out, “You never did say – “
“Do you think this is clean enough?” Lexa interrupted.
“Yes, fine. Where did you –“
“Because if there not, I can wash them again.”
“WHAT’S YOUR PROBLEM? I was just trying to ask where you came from and you interrupt me and try to avoid the question. I was just trying to find out a little more about you.” Kiri said.
Flustered, Lexa stared at her. “I, I don’t like to talk about it” Lexa said quietly. “I walked to town from the capital city looking for a new home. Can’t that just be enough?”
“Yeah, yeah, that’s fine but, I thought you said you road with a caravan from the port town.” Kiri questioned
“Ah yeah I did, Isn’t that what I said? That’s what I meant. That’s right, I rode here with a caravan from the port city, I meant we were heading for the capital city.”
Kiri looked at her for a few seconds, grabbed a tray of mugs and carried them to the bar.
Kiri filled one of the mugs with beer and took a drink. “Still tasted good”, she thought, “But nothing like it used to.”
She now had beer delivered from the port town or made by local brewers. It was too time consuming for her to brew the beer herself. “But, she thought, if business really picks up and get even more help, I could start brewing again using the old recipes.”
Kiri stacked the mugs behind the bar, wiped off the bar top and went into the kitchen. Lexa was hanging the last of the linens to dry. Kiri opened the pantry, looked up and down, and opened a small crate next to the door. “Shoot, I forgot to get onions. I’ll be back.” she called as she grabbed her money bag and her sack and ran out the door.
Kiri ran down the street, headed for a local shop, as she walked through the door, the mayor was walking out.
“Kiri my dear, I’m so sorry. I haven’t forgotten about you but, I’ve been so busy, I haven’t been able to find anyone to help you. But, I will get on it as soon as I can. I’m sorry, I can’t chat; I’ve gotta run.” The mayor said as he ran off.
“But … what do you mean?” Kiri called after him.
He responded with nothing more than a wave.
Confused, Kiri got the onions she came for and made her way back to the bar. As she went, she saw a few men slip down different alleys as she passed.
Kiri walked through the back door of the bar, dropped the onions in the crate called out, “Lexa!” and walked out to the bar. As she was starting up the steps, she heard a noise come from the kitchen, she ran back just in time to see Lexa slip out the door. Kiri ran after her and followed her down the alleyway across the road, through another alley and towards the woods. Kiri slowed as she started to see a number of small groups of men heading in the same direction. Kiri looked around and realized that she had lost sight of Lexa. Intrigued, Kiri began to follow the men, walking parallel to them, trying to keep out of sight. She ducked behind a fallen tree and some brush and watched. The men began to uncover something; she realized that it was a wagon. One man approached and barked a few orders, as he turned, Kiri recognized him as the annoying man from the bar. Kiri began to stand up, unsure of what she was going to say or do. A firm hand wrapped around her mouth while another grasped her arm and pulled her to the ground.
“Mmmffpp” was all Kiri could manage as she struggled to free herself.
“Shut up” a familiar voice whispered in her ear.
It was enough to relax Kiri. The grip loosened and Kiri turned to see Lexa.
“Sshh” Lexa responded, “follow me . . . quietly or you’ll end up dead!”
They crept slowly out of the wooded area. When they reached the street, Kiri ventured, “Who?”
“Shut up.” Lexa said under her breath, “and keep walking.”
They reached the bar, Kiri walked in; as Lexa came through the door, Kiri grabbed and spun her against the pantry door. “Who the hell are you and what were those people doing?”
Kiri barely got the words out before Lexa knocked her feet out from underneath her.
“I’m the one who just saved your life.” Lexa responded as she started to walk away.
“So are you going to tell me what’s going on and who you are?” Kiri called after her, “or are you just going to try and feed me some more lies?”
“What are you talking about?” Lexa asked.
“I know that the mayor didn’t send you to help me and you weren’t to clear on your story of how you came to town. So how about you try something different, like the truth?”
“I never said the mayor sent me”, Lexa said, “You just assumed. You would’ve known that had you not been too wrapped up in talking to that guy you’re never going to see again. I overheard you and the mayor talking this morning and I need a job and a place to stay, so I thought I’d take a chance and try to get to you before he could find someone.”
“Horace will be back.” Kiri responded.
“Not for you, not that it matters.”
“How did you get to town then and what was all of that going on in the woods?”
“Those stories are connected. I made it here by following those men in the woods or some of them, different ones from time to time. I traveled mostly on foot, getting food when and where I could and trying not to get caught. Those men are the ones who are trying to control the ports and trade routes so they can bring down the capital city.” Lexa said.
“Come off it. Those are just stories and gossip which are spread by drunk patrons and old women.” Kiri replied.
“Weren’t you the one who was trying to teach me to keep my ears open to listen for bits of news? Well that’s exactly what those ‘rumors’ are. I have followed these people from the port city and was barely able to leave there without being noticed.”
Kiri sat on a stool. “What was in the wagon and who was that man?”
“The wagon is where they are hiding their weapons and supplies. They have also been hiding certain items from the townspeople there.”
“The thefts!” Kiri exclaimed.
“Exactly, now you are catching on. They are storing them there and that man you noticed is the one in charge. Let me tell you; you don’t want to get on his bad side.” Lexa said.
“Too late for that; I had a small run in with him the other night.”
“They are planning on quietly shutting down the port city and taking it over without force. By the time news reaches here, this town will be taken over quietly and without force. Likewise, before news of the port city or this townbeing taken over reaches the capital city, it will already be under their control.” Lexa continued.
“Then why all of the wepons?” Kiri asked.
“We have to do something, we have to tell someone, we can’t just sit here.” Kiri said as she jumped up and began pacing back and forth.