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Upon entering the open air tavern, which was just inside the entrance to the marketplace, Aria got a sense things weren’t as much the same in Iselos as they seemed.
Several small groups of men were gathered at the tables, with steins of foark in hand, as to be expected. But, instead of sloshing their drinks around and slapping their knees while throwing their heads back in laughter, they sat with their heads drawn together, speaking in muted tones.
I can’t hear them.
I thought you didn’t want to, Taura smiled.
I don’t. I’m just surprised I can’t.
Taura laughed, giving herself away.
You have something to do with this?
I thought an extra filter might help. Maybe it would make staying more tolerable?
Though Aria appreciated her sister's intentions, she was annoyed she did it without permission. Don’t do that without telling me first next time. For now I’d rather be able to hear what’s going on.Her eyes darted around the crowd. Here,in the tavern tent, right now, particularly.
Taura lifted the dam she'd placed on her sister's mind, and the voices flooded in. Aria had to concentrate hard to focus on any one particular voice, otherwise the noise was no different than what she could hear with her ears. Thanks.
Not really. Want to start out with a drink?
Sure. Might lighten your mood.
As they walked to the barkeep, ordered their foark and waited, Aria felt several sets of eyes on them, which followed as they moved to a table at the edge of the tent.
The table behind you finds your riding trousers flattering.
I’ll bet the one behind you has similar thoughts on yours. Taura humphed and took a deep drink.
“Perhaps,” Aria smiled wryly. “Maybe this isn’t going to be so bad.”
“Told you so.” Still nothing?
The hunting tournament starts the night of the next alignment of the orbs. That’s what, a week away?
Two I think.
Perfect. That'll give me time to get familiar with the terrain and local crennas. Aria looked up and saw a young man approaching behind Taura. Don't look! We have a brave one coming in.
“Excuse me ladies,” he brushed sandy strands back from his face and he gazed down at Taura.
Aria’s foot tapped Taura’s shin under the table, “Oh, ummm, yes?”
“I was wondering … I mean … well, you’re not from around here, are you?”
Taura answered. “Yes, well, no.”
“What she means is, we used to visit more frequently, and haven’t for awhile." Aria explained. "But, we’re considering staying for some time now.”
He flashed a brilliant set of teeth, so white Iridius would envy them, for Taura. “Really, have you found a place to stay?”
“Not yet.” Taura played coy. It annoyed Aria.
“My uncle owns one of the best boarding houses in Iselos. And, I happen to know he has some rooms available. That is, if that’s what you're looking for.”
Aria cleared her throat. “Thank you, it's so kind of you to offer assistance. I don’t believe we’ve been properly introduced?” She noticed his friends seemed to be getting a fair dose of enjoyment from their encounter.
His cheeks flushed, “Forgive me. It's Ithitane. I- I'm Ithitane.” He extended his hand to Aria first, before shyly taking Taura’s. “It is a pleasure to meet you.”
Taura favored him with a smile, “I’m Taura, this is my sister Aria.”
Aria kicked a stool out from under their table. “Please, won’t you sit down and join us?"
"Thank you." He sat down.
"Taura and I only just arrived and haven’t met with any of our acquaintances yet, but I'm curious about the word around town. What’s passing for fun these days?”
“Well, Market Days, but that’s a given." He paused for a drink. "Then, there’s the tournament…”
Taura caught on quickly to her sister’s plot. “What tournament?” Aria continued.
“The Malorian Hunt. It’s just over two weeks away now. Three nights, most skins wins!”
Ugh, thought Taura. “What's the prize?” she asked.
“A fine sword and three knife set forged in Lakien, two hunting jackets, and the purse, of course.”
“How much is that?” Aria was intrigued. They didn’t necessarily need the coins right now, but she didn’t know how long her father’s stash would last living here.
“I believe it's 1200 whole pieces. Enough to live on for a year, or two if you had to.”
Aria whistled long and low. She weaved her fingers together behind her head and looked to Taura, “What do you think?”
“Sounds like something you could get in to.”
Ithitane looked confused, “You aren't thinking of entering?”
Aria shrugged, “Why not?”
He stared down at his own mug, rubbing the handle with his thumb. “It’s … not the sort of competition women enter.”
“Why is that?”
“Well, it’s dangerous for one …” Aria’s laughter cut him off.
“My sister is fast friends with danger,” Taura explained. “It has a knack for finding her.”
“I meant that some of the, um, contestants … they don’t exactly play by the rules. They aren’t afraid to kill to win.”
“Oh,” the sisters breathed in unison.
Taking a long drink, and a moment to reflect, Aria told Taura, No matter, I’ll hear them coming. Then she whispered to Ithitane, “Where I come from, I’ve fought Malorian packs for my life; a few hunters are nothing for me to fear!” Taura stifled a giggle at her sister’s bravado.
His smile was forced. “Well the information is all posted at the tanner’s booth: sign up, rules, prizes and so on.”
“We’ll have to stop by,” Aria threw back her head as she finished her drink. “Almost ready?” She eyed Taura’s almost empty mug.
“Sure, uh, which boarding house did you say it was?”
“The ‘Iselos Inn,’ creative, I know. It’s across from the other end of the marketplace.”
“We’ll have to check it out then, thank you.”
He smiled again, genuinely this time, “Maybe I’ll see you around?”
“Maybe.” Aria replied. She had Taura on her feet before she could open her mouth. “Thanks again.”
As they walked out of the then, Aria said, That got annoying quickly.
You didn’t have to be rude.
You didn’t hear what he was thinking, or his friends for that matter! “I'm sorry, Tauri. Forget the name Ithitane, he’s not the one for you.”