"Please, my lord," the woman said with a smile. "I will offer this one free." She paused for a moment. Monstroth took that as a sign to take the hat but the woman pulled it away. "With the purchase of another hat, of course." A devious smile covered her face. "One hat is three silver orbs. That is a good price, no?"
Monstroth smiled a little. He liked this woman for some reason. "It is a deal, Lady Naetia." He pulled his pouch of orbs out and paid the vendor. "My master could use a hat for his shiny head."
Naetia laughed for a moment before finally asking him the obvious question. "What is my lord doing all the way out here in Naston? Isn't there tension between Tav and the desert home?"
Well, it was good to know the King's assassination hadn't reached this far. That would give Tav a reason to attack. Maybe. Did anyone dare attack Faerein? "Yes, but I have forsaken my name to become the Sovereign of Mineral's apprentice."
The woman's eyes widened. "Then that man who was just here...?"
Monstroth nodded. "Sovereign of Mineral."
"Sands! I should have given him a free hat!" She looked embarrassed for not noticing earlier. Or, that's what Monstroth was guessing. Women were always a mystery. "Sorry, I did not mean to curse..." Well, then. That's what the embarrassment was for.
"Don't worry," Monstroth told her. "I'm not a prince, so it's not like you have anything to be worried about." His uncle had told him commoners should respect the royal family since they were the reason Faerein stayed strong. Monstroth didn't necessarily believe him, but he did know that a lot of common citizens felt ashamed if they were disrespectful.
"Would you like a tour of the city, then?" Naetia smiled as she said this. Clumsy, smart, and not afraid to try to get money out of a prince? Already, Monstroth liked the woman. The only issue was that he had no experience with women. That was one field neither he or Rhazin had even been practiced in.
"Don't you have to run the... hat store?"
Naetia spread her arms to the surrounding streets. "It is getting late, so people are returning home." It was true. The main street had partially emptied of people and vendors both in the time Monstroth had been chatting. "And in addition, I have already sold plenty of hats."
Well, so much for getting out of this. "Then I will take you up on your offer."
Naetia seemed excited about the concept of showing a former princeling and Sovereign's apprentice around the city. In fact, she told him how excited she was as she put away the hats in her cart and rolled it into a nearby shed. Monstroth noticed all the sheds were in between the buildings and had locks as well. Interesting.
"Let's start with the harbor, then," Naetia said once she had locked her shed. She tucked away the key in her tight blouse and moved to grab Monstroth's arm. It was odd, but he actually enjoyed the feeling of her pulling him along. The only thing that ruined it was the people who stared.
It was obvious they were surprised about his large size, but he couldn't help but feel that they were watching him blush as Naetia pulled him along like a wolf on a leash. Sands, he had never been so close to a woman as this. Well, aside from when he used to sleep with his sister as a small child. But that was different.
"You know about the Burnrei, right?"
Monstroth nodded to Naetia as they made their way through the thinning crowds. So many people even after half of them had went home. "My master told me just before you stopped us."
"Well, then that takes all the history out of this tour." She sounded like she was disappointed. Maybe Monstroth should have said he didn't know. "Well, I could at least tell you about how Naston was founded."
Well, that was something he didn't know. "I would like to hear it, lady Naetia."
The woman nodded happily and gave him a smile. "Well, you know about the Scarred Father's Exodus, right?"
Monstroth apologized to a man he had bumped into before nodding. "Yes, the Scarred Father was banished from Paradise for a grave sin he committed. The Unscarred Creator punished him with a two-fold curse and sent him to a land overcome with sin. That curse is the Mystics."
"Oh, so you know the whole legend?"
"I was taught many things in the desert home," Monstroth told her. 'Pity none of them were how to properly deal with women.'
"Well, it's said that people abandoned the Scarred Father when he passed through this area and started a town. It just evolved from there." She looked up at him. Being three heads taller than her made him keep having to look down. "Pretty boring story, right?" Naetia sighed and pulled Monstroth onto a walkway.
The walkway was made for the purpose of keeping people out of the way of wagons that carried in the goods from the harbor. But, Monstroth forgot about that as soon as he saw the street open and the harbor come into view.
Being born in the desert home, he had never seen a body of water bigger than an oasis. Even on the journey so far he had only seen ponds and one small lake. But, this was nothing like that. The harbor had wooden docks - he knew that word from the books he read - that branched out into the massive body of water. Massive wooden structures that were called ships were connected to the docks, making Monstroth visibly gape.
They were nothing like the books had portrayed!
Naetia noticed this and giggled. "I forget that you have never seen a ship before. None of those in the desert home at all."
Monstroth could only nod in agreement. The sails of these constructs speared into the sky - the ones that were still out, that is - and the wooden bodies dwarfed the largest house he had seen in this city. They were long and, from the size of the men who walked around the docks, held over a hundred people. It was like a massive wagon for the waters! Sands!
It took him a minute to tear his eyes away from the massive ships, but Monstroth eventually was able to focus on the ocean. Despite the ships being amazing, the ocean was even more. Monstroth could only describe it as the larges oasis that was ever made. But it had a certain calmness to it. Almost as if you could stare at it for eons...
Monstroth had to be pulled back to reality by Naetia.