The bright lights and the warmth of the Pig and Bee tavern was enticing to old bones on a cold night, and it drew Quant like a moth to a flame. Accustomed as he was to the constant company inhabiting the Mage's School Infirmary, he found exile deeply lonely; the tavern promised company at last. The door creaked as he pushed it open, but attracted no attention; people had better things to do than ogle newcomers. This was even better; this being a town that had grown up around mages, it was entirely possible that he could be recognised, if not for who he was at least for what he was, which would be disastrous. Shuffling into a dark corner, he cautiously ordered some summerwine, and sat watching the ebb and flow of humanity through the tavern.
He was almost asleep when a loud cheer made him sit up, shaking his head and accidentally tipping the last of his summerwine onto the stained wooden table.
"Ah me, I'm getting old," he murmured with a faint smile, rising to his feet and peering to see what had garnered the cheer. There was a large crowd gathered around something in the centre of the room, too thick for Quant to see; curious, he padded across and quietly insinuated himself into the crowd. People moved aside for him in a way they would never have done if they had been concious of it; but when a mage does not want to be noticed, it's amazing how many people suddenly go blind and deaf.
He worked his way to the front, and stopped in horror.
There were two men in the middle of the crowd, either side of a rickety makeshift pen that looked to have been knocked together in about five minutes for the occasion. Both men were engaged in tying wickedly sharp spurs to the feet of two struggling cockerels, while the crowd were engaged in shouting out bets, encouragement and abuse in the typical prelude to a cockfight.
Revolted, Quant allowed the crowd to surge in front of him as the fight began in a flurry of feathers. He headed swiftly back to his table, disgusted at the excited cheers and whistles he could hear from the crowd. Who could possibly enjoy seeing two harmless animals rip each other to pieces? The previously warm atmosphere of the tavern had gone sour on him, and he swiftly left, preferring shivering in the bitter night air to listening to such a barbaric pastime.
Mind dwelling on the way humanity had failed itself, he found that his feet had pulled him towards the bright lights and music of the travelling circus. Hoping to find solace among the performers, he wandered in among the tents.
But it only made him more depressed. The 'beargirl', false as she was, reminded him of the Mage's School and poor Madame de Silva; he could not concentrate after that. The performers passed before his eyes like sparkling blurs, the exhibits did not engage his interest. He was too old, too old now to try and change the world...
"Healer! Healer Quant!"
Startled out of his moody reverie, Quant looked sharply to his right, where the voice had come from. Scrabbling up against the bars of its cage was a very familiar looking rat.
"Oh my, Steiffa?"
"Healer! Healer, I thought you were dead!"