The doorknob felt heated on Teiy's fingertips, as he lengthened his arm to open the wide door. The space inside was perfectly lit, and each corner was a good way from being covered in shade. A fireplace relaxed to the left, beside the door. Only two men sat inside, away from each-other at different seating places. There were several sturdy tables and chairs throughout the main-room, with a stairway at the back-left junction. A bar stand was located towards the right of the inn, and had a dozen or so bottles of alcohol on stacked shelves. The amount there didn't look the number to satisfy even a moderate load of customers.
Teiy stuttered at the unexpected greeting from one of the nameless men. The fellow was seated at the table nearest to the bar, with a large mug of ale close at hand. Teiy brushed his head, “Hi.”
The man wore glistening silver armor that looked as hearty as it most-likely cost. He also wore a large grin as he positioned neatly still, “You staying for the night?”
“Well, so are we.”
Teiy wasn't in the mood for conversation. This person in particular seemed quite friendly, but all that was wanted in his mind was rest from it all.
“Oh! My name is Lyez. Yours?”
“Teiy. I... has anyone passed through here since this morning!”
“Huh? A couple, why does it interest you?”
“There was a... situation. I'm looking for my lost companion.”
“Yes, what did the two people look like!”
“Um, one was a younger gent. Had long hair. Didn't look like mercenary material if you asked me.”
During their venture on the road, even at the times Gladius wore a helm, Teiy could surely notice he lacked lengthy locks.
“Apparently, he was a merchant. On his way to Lucan.”
“Lucan? The other guy... don't tell me he was an old one.”
“What should I say?”
Gladius didn't stop here... should I even be here? Is this right? Shouldn't I be rushing to Builth to catch up with him?
“I wasn't on the trail all day, so I didn't see who passed outside. What does your friend look like?”
“... it wouldn't matter. I'll be leaving tomorrow morning to continue my search.”
The front-door rasped and the innkeeper entered, “Damned door! I better fix... you finding the place alright...” The inn-keeper stopped in place, in the middle of his word, waiting for Teiy to act.
“Ah! I see! I also see you've gotten together a little with Lyez. Well, that's good!” He made his way to the counter, “Is there anything you'd like to drink? Dinner will be shortly.”
“I'll just have some water, thank you.”
“Nothing strong? Alright, alright. Coming right up then!”
Lyez hit his mug on the counter and stood out of his chair, “You have to tell me Teiy, which way did this friend of yours go?”
“Oh? He... he went south.”
“Tomorrow morning, my breaks over. I'll have to leave as well.”
The sound of a filling cup played along.
“I will go with you, until I reach where I have to stop. I'm a knight of Royce you see. How far were you planning on going?”
The faucet stopped, “One glass of water!”
Teiy walked over, “Thank you.” He sipped the glass for a moment, “I – I’m stopping at Builth... I think he'll be ther-”
“Builth? To the south?”
“Yeah, it would make sense for him to be there.”
“Is it a hamlet?”
“You don't know of the castle of Builth? It's... well there's no reason of discussing it then. I'll go -”
The sound of crinkled paper could be heard behind the bar, “Teiy, I have a map of the each of the citadels within a few hundred miles. I don't recall a 'Builth'.”
“It's there. It's only a dozen, or so, miles south from here.”
Lyez stepped over to the unfolding map, “It couldn't be to the south at that distance! There can't be any dominion so close to Royce. That would be silly!”
“There is, I can assure you.”
“Then come here! Show me where it is. You know don't you?”
“With a map? Yes.”
Teiy made his way to the large, flattened map. “Let's see.” He placed his finger at the center and slid it down slowly to the south-west. “Home should be here... so Builth is right below it.”
“Royce”, Teiy was lost. His finger laid on 'Royce'. Never in his life did a city of this name catch wind. He swallowed, “Well, the dividing dominion of 'Grosmont' should be here at the center. This map isn't right. Where did you get this? Hopefully it wasn't expensive.”
The innkeeper looked concerned, “This map is official.”
Lyez turned, “'Grosmont'?”
This doesn't make any sense. Why don't these people know of the five, regional citadels? Do they even leave this tavern? “Do you two even know of the five cities? This is ridiculous!”
Lyez tapped his foot, “Of course! Lucan, Filis, Batris, Tibal, and Royce.”
“Are you our of your mind? Skenfrith, Grosmont, White, Goodrich, and Builth.”
A voice rose from across the inn, “Where are you from, guy?”
Teiy turned to the hooded individual at the other side, “M- me? I... the village of Ager.”
“... I’ve never heard of any such place.”
“It's a small village in the middle of nowhere. I wouldn't expect you to. On the other hand, the five cities! I mean -”
“The others are right. Lucan, Filis, Batris, Tibal, and the kingdom of Royce.”
“Kingdom?” Teiy held his noggin, and fell unto a bar-stool. “I don't have time for this nonsense!”
Lyez stepped closer, only to be stemmed by the inn-keepers brace. The keeper then lit a flame, “Dinner anyone?”
Lyez noted Teiy's limp posture, “... that'd be great Kabe.”
The hidden man in the back rose his arm, “Yes!”
Teiy remained awkwardly laid out on the stool as the cooking process went by. The aroma of meaty steak distinguished itself. Even through depression and head-aches, Teiy's mouth watered from the wonderful scent.
Lyez noticed Teiy's faint smile and averred, “Smells good, huh?”
“Say why don't you sit here with me?”
“A- and don't ever bother with that creep over there! He can't even keep a normal conversation going, past a greeting.”
Teiy sipped his glass and looked out the window. The ground to the wall was clearly visible from the absurd amount of flames placed around outside... exactly like the old man's wagon. “Say, does it get really cold over here?”
Lyez stared dumbfounded, “Why, no. Not that much if you stay indoors, or if you have a basic camp-kit to work with.”
Teiy raised his hand and pointed out the window, “Well there sure is a lot of flames out there if you ask me.”
“Ha, well of course. That's necessary if you want to stay safe. They can get real aggressive at times.”
The sound of bubbling fat rose over their voices and the inn-keeper, Kabe, placed the steaks on the bar counter. Four lean steaks laid on a metal pan, and Kabe jumped in excitement with his cooking-mittens raised high. “Delicious! Here they are fellas!” Chair legs shook atop the wooden floorboards, “One steak for each of ya! I'll also get you all a glass of your choice of ale, or rum, on the house! Water too, of course...”
Lyez yawned, “Alright, I’ll be going down for the night after this finely-made meal Kabe!”
“Thank you son! Here Teiy!”
Kabe placed a steak on a white and gold plate, and slid it in-front of Teiy's resting, crossed arms. “Thank you... Kabe?”
“Oh, oh yes! Forgive me, I haven't properly introduced myself. Yes, I’m Kabe. I'm the owner of this quiet inn.”
The hooded man took his portion and rebounded to his rightful spot.
Kabe continued, “This inn might be small... and not too busy, but it always battles to stand entirely safe and sound for all of its visitors! I can assure you Teiy that you won't receive even a tiny bruise as you stay here! If so, a drink on me! O- or a glass of... whatever!”
Teiy gnawed on the steak, then bit in for a regular bite. The toughness of the meat fought back as Teiy sealed his jaws tighter. Tighter now! The raging pressure from both sides of his mouth struggled to their brim! Steady! Firmer!
Lyez burst to laughter, “Need me to chew it for you?”
Kabe turned and hid his face in a towelette.
Teiy tried for the delicious tasting bite, but to no avail.
Kabe wiped his eyes, “I can make something softer for you, settle down now.”
The inn flames stayed brilliant as Lyez made his way up the stairs. Teiy joined the bandwagon, and headed up there for himself. “Good night, Kabe.”
Teiy turned to the quiet, hooded man. He relaxed, angled in his armchair reading a regal looking novel... he looked troubled.
Teiy turned to his direction, “Wh- what book is that?”
The man tilted his head towards him, “It's a story. None of it ever really occurred... so none of the characters were ever real, they never... felt. How should they be treated by real people?”
Teiy felt uncomfortable while considering a fitting reply, “Their actions can show those who read it what might be the right, or wrong, thing to do when they face an issue of their own.”
“So, you would say their only meaning for being mentioned is to get an idea across. No feelings should be felt towards their passing.”
Teiy rubbed his arm, abashed. “Well... all that matters is what exists now, what's real. I wouldn't get too caught up in a simple story. Treat it as a story. Good night.” Teiy made his way up the steps after turning the corner.
The man looked back unto the unwritten novel... and smiled, “Yes... Goodbye.”