Three days after their first stop at the inn, the group made it to Amea. It wasn’t what Rowena had been expecting. Instead of a quiet village with only a few houses and maybe an inn where they could stay, she found a bustling and lively market town. As she walked down the busy main street she found she had to hold on to Artem’s arm to stop herself from being swept away by the rush of people walking in the other direction.
‘The inn is just over here,’ Artem shouted over the noise and pointing to a building on the corner of the street. The group made their way over and was very glad to get inside the building and away from the crowds of people outside.
‘I never knew places could get so busy,’ Rowena said, brushing herself down and pushing her hair back as they stood in the doorway to the inn.
‘It’s market day,’ Jem said. ‘Lyrians get very excited on market days.’
‘I can see why,’ Lukas said looking out of the grimy window and onto the street. ‘There are hundreds of people out there selling stuff.’
‘Amea is the first big market town inside Lyria,’ Jem said. ‘You get stuff from all over the Known World here, that’s why you get all these crowds.’
‘Hey Arty can we go out to the market?’ Hans had a look of excitement you normally only saw on the face of a child plastered across his face. ‘Not for very long, just to look around.’
‘Yeah your majesty please let us go.’ Erik laughed his head off, although no one else joined him. Rowena wasn’t sure if he was mocking Artem’s position as King, or Hans’s limited intelligence, but she decided not to get involved and stay quiet.
‘I can see no harm in you guys exploring the market,’ Artem conceded. ‘After all you’re not needed here. Just remember that this area is not under my jurisdiction, so if you get caught I can’t help you.’ With throwaway agreements and promises the men all hurried out of the inn and on to the street. ‘Whoa there,’ Artem said taking hold of Rowena’s arm as she tried to follow the others out of the building. ‘Where do you think you’re off to?’
‘To explore the market like the others.’
‘I don’t think so, not alone.’
‘But you said you trusted me. Why say that and then not allow me out of your sight. That’s telling me that I can’t be trusted.’
‘It’s not that Ena. I have to think of the way my men will see it. I let the prisoner go wandering around a busy marketplace on her own and they’ll think I’m losing my grip on reality. That’s the first rule of kidnapping; never let your captive out of sight.’
‘So what am I meant to do then?’
‘You’re coming with me.’ Artem dragged her away from the front door and up to the desk, where he proceeded to book three rooms for us to stay in for four nights.
‘It’s really going to take us four days to sort out whatever it is we’ve come here for?’
‘Probably not,’ Artem replied. ‘But the men need a rest from travelling and here is as good a place as any to stop for a few days.’ He handed the quill he had used to sign the booking form back to the innkeeper then turned to Rowena. ‘OK then, I think a little trip around the market is needed.’
‘But I thought you said I wasn’t allowed out of sight.’
‘Yes I did, but that doesn’t mean you can’t go to the market. You’ll just have to stay in my sights for the duration of our trip.’ He led the way outside, Rowena hot on his heels. ‘Besides, we’ve got to get you something else to wear.’
‘What’s wrong with this?’ Rowena looked down at her dress, remembering how much it had cost to make.
‘Well, first it’s filthy, and secondly it makes you stand out too much. You look too much like a noblewoman. We need to find something a little more…boring.’ He headed off into the crowd, his hand on her arm, leading her along. He stopped at a stall covered in dresses. ‘Something a bit like this,’ he said picking up a plain navy blue cotton dress with lacing up the front of the bodice, long sleeves and a square neck. ‘What do you think?’
‘Yes it’s nice,’ she said casually, not really caring about how plain the dress looked. She was used to lavish clothes, beautifully embroidered in exotic fabrics and completely impractical. None of the dresses in the market could compare with that.
‘That’s settled then,’ he said, throwing some coins at the stallholder and moving back off into the crowd.
‘Where are you getting all this money from?’ Rowena asked as she jogged to keep up with him.
‘Now if I told you that you would disapprove. And who cares about money anyway, it can’t buy you everything.’ His attention was drawn over to another stall; this one selling highly decorated throwing knives and daggers. Rowena felt uncomfortable to say the least standing at that stall. What sort of people bought knives from a market? People like Artem was her internal reaction. She then realized this was her moment to escape. Her captor was engrossed in examining the stallholder’s wares and wasn’t looking to see where she was, assuming she would be by his side. All it would take was a few seconds to disappear into the crowd and they would never be able to find her. She would be able to find her way home and everything would be as it was before she had been imprisoned. But as she began to walk away from the stall, something made her turn around. She looked at Artem and something inside her told her not to go. She hesitated and that was all it took. Artem turned around to see where she had got to and saw her standing a few feet away.
'Hey Ena. Come and take a look at this dagger,’ he called across the crowd. Putting a smile back on her face, Rowena crossed over to the stall and listened intently to what Artem was saying about the particular dagger he was holding. He was pretty knowledgeable about things like knives. He said he’d had to use them often enough as they were the instruments of his trade and if he didn’t understand them then he’d be a pretty poor thief. After much deliberation and examination, he bought the dagger in question, slipping it immediately into his belt.
‘It always pays to have a good weapon on you. You never know when you might need one.’
‘Does that mean I’ll need a dagger?’ Rowena said, joking.
‘Of course not,’ Artem joked back. ‘With five strong men around, why would you need a dagger? Now then,’ he said, surveying the street. ‘I think it’s time for a drink. What do you say?’