The edlak that Davs had hired for Essenin was a goer. Nothing showy or nervous, but a mount with a steady, groundeating stride. Most of the time. She did have a tendency to sidestep toward the sides of the road in what she probably thought was a stealthy manner when she spotted a promising berry bush.
Essenin decided to call her Sidle.
While they’d never been this way specifically, well-traveled roads in this part of the continent had a sort of rhythm to them. Wild fields with copses of trees, farmlands, town, and repeat. True wild lands probably wouldn’t appear until they were well within the foothills. Maybe. There could be tons of villages scattered all the way up the peaks here since it was warmer than back home and the mountains maybe not as tall?
Tchah. They were terrible at things like this. Davs did distances and heights. Though, Essenin thought with a smirk, both of them were good at lengths.The smile died quickly as they thought of their loves. Hardly half a day’s ride away and Essenin missed them already with a persistent ache that wrapped around their heart. They were the best choice for this part of the plan, but, oh, they were poorly suited for it.
Some people just aren’t loners. I’m not sure I’ve met a lot of selak who are, come to think of it.
Tempting, to stop and talk to the people weeding and watering the sor grain fields and wading in the binaf paddies, but it was too early, too far away still from people who might know useful things. They would ask when they stopped for the night. There. That was a small plan they could concentrate on.
Evening had already pulled the colors from the world when Essenin arrived at a town large enough to have an inn and a well-kept, inviting one at that with cheerful lanterns burning in the courtyard. They stopped for the night and stabled their edlak before entering to negotiate with the landlord for a room and some dinner. Essenin went to the taps to order a kelver and scan the room, cozy but heavy on the dark woods, which heightened the shadows in the corners.
Dim lighting or not, they were certain they spotted a familiar silhouette at the table in the far corner. Oh, I don’t want to go over there. I could pretend I didn’t see him. It could get messy and unpleasant. But…what were the chances they’d meet anyone else they knew along the way? Someone who was well traveled and knew things.
With a sigh, Essenin took his mug over to the table and stopped with a hand on one of the unoccupied chairs. The figure at the table sat hunched over his mug, his seven-stringed sewa on the chair beside him. Firelight and shadow gave his shock of red hair the look of dying embers and he smelled like he hadn’t bathed in some time.
“Hello Rolli.” Just how drunk is he?
Gray eyes turned toward him, blinking. Then Rolli let his head down on his arms with a thud. “Perfect. Now I’m hallucinating. Go away, hallucinationy Essenin.”
That drunk. “I’m not a liquor dream, Rolli. I’m here.”
“You could still do me the favor of fucking off and going away.” Rolli lifted his head and squinted at them. “No. Still here.”
“I would’ve asked how you are,” Essenin pulled out the chair across the table and sat. Any thoughts of asking Rolli about the sylvas would have to wait until he wasn’t stinking drunk. “But I can see the answer. Are you drinking your last coin there? Do you have a place for the night?”
Essenin sighed between sips of kelver and thanked the young woman who brought dinner, a mixed root pie with a perfect, flaky crust. After a day of riding, the smell was heavenly. They let Rolli wallow on the table in peace while they finished dinner.
They’d met Rolli on a job with Davitts, at the Brightwarre, come to think of it. He made his coin as a traveling musician, a rather good one, and he’d stopped there for a few days. Convenient since Essenin and Davs were waiting for a client to finish business. Rolli had been interested. Essenin had returned the interest. Davs had wished them well and waved them off.
It had been two days of glorious sex and when it was done, and they had to leave, Rolli found it difficult to say goodbye. Difficult was perhaps an understatement. He’d begged Essenin to leave Davs, as if they ever would. He’d gotten on his knees, and in the end, Essenin had needed to tell him no rather more sharply than they’d liked. Davs wasn’t attracted, so it couldn’t be long term, and they had obligations. They thought they’d explained everything well enough from the start.
Apparently, Rolli hadn’t paid attention.
It’s a bad idea. You should just go up to bed. Pretend you never saw him. But they wouldn’t be able to sleep knowing they’d just walked away from someone so obviously down on his luck. Essenin took their own pack and Rolli’s sewa up first, then came back and heaved Rolli out of his chair. They took a walk to the facilities behind the stables, where Rolli still had enough sense to piss without help, then up the steps where Essenin gave him a pillow and blanket and let him pass out on the floor.
He’d be safe from any rowdies looking to roll a drunk and more comfortable than he would have been when the landlord kicked him into the street at closing.
I hope I haven’t made a huge mess with this. And he’ll be less hostile in the morning. Though hungover. Not the best time to start a conversation. Goddesses help me.
Essenin used their own pack as a pillow and settled in as best they could. Tomorrow promised to be a long, strange day.
Angel writes (mostly) Science Fiction and Fantasy centered around queer heroes. Currently living part time in the hectic sprawl of northern Delaware and full time inside her head, she has one husband, one son, two cats, a love of all things beautiful and a terrible addiction to the consumption of both knowledge and chocolate.