At the town’s entrance past its stone fortifications the girls parted ways with the merchant. Despite the hour growing late the place was still full of activity with footfalls of people and horse drawn wagons and carriages. For now they were on the lookout for a place to stay the night. Asking for pointers from their mercantile companion was a valid option, however Alicia wanted to avoid any further entanglements, especially with his growing interest in her. Or that was supposed to be the plan.
- “We need to go to the guild. I can send a letter to my family from there.”
Perhaps due to being in a familiar environment once again Rosalia was much more liberal now than she was anywhere else. With confident steps she led the way with Alicia in tow who had little grasp on the layout of the town and was willing to trust her, for now. Alicia herself was mentally caught up on communicating with her Araneae, thus she didn’t give it much thought.
Initially she was worried that she would have to leave the ones that couldn’t enter with the convoy behind, but then she remembered that they were Araneae which could crawl up the stone walls effortlessly and slip past the bored guardsmen manning the fortification leaving them none the wiser. Clearly the walls were intended to keep out a different type of assailants; she wouldn’t be surprised if the denizens of this world didn’t even know about an existence similar to her or her familiars. The huntresses who perched themselves atop the towers along the walls had an excellent view of the town, feeding their new information back to Alicia. Although recognizing the specific buildings were challenging, thanks to her engineering knowledge she could quickly pick up on the larger zones of the town.
‘Hm… so we’re near the south-eastern entrance currently in some sort of mixed use zoning of residential, commercial and guard stations?’
She instructed her Huntresses to scout out the town briefly, sticking to the rooftops for better vantage as well as to avoid any encounters. They followed the activities of the citizens about to wrap up their day.
‘Town hall and some plaza to the north… near the center of the town huh…
Main roads seem to be rich with small commercial buildings…’
Tough workers were finishing up their day’s work and were looking for a place to grab a cool ale.
‘South western side seems to be a sort of industrial zone… random residential buildings…
Temple grounds were quiet with solemn monuments and statues watching over them, a few curates tending to the premises. The bell-ringer got himself ready to let the masses know it was time for rest.
Religious buildings… Ah that’s what I’m looking for, the Commercial district.’
Merchants, vendors, peddlers and the common men alike streamed through the districts, their movements akin to the flow of coin changing hands. Their activity was centered around a single outstanding structure. It was hard not to notice it’s demanding presence without needing any more evidence…
‘Bingo! That has to be the guild building. Wait where were we going again…?’
- “Weren’t we going to the guild?”
- “Why yes, the guilds can send messages to local lords. I should be able to contact my family through them.”
- “Right… You don’t know where it is, do you?”
- “-! Ho- I mean, what makes you think that?”
Despite the fact that she tried to hide her alarm it was quite obvious that she was just as clueless as Alicia was moments ago; her faintly reddening face wasn’t helping her either. Furthermore, as if to add insult to the injury…
↳ ‹ Embarrassment… Panic… Confusion… ›
‘Really… her plan was to follow the main road until she came across it… While it’s not a bad idea and she would have eventually found the place, I would much rather take a direct path…’
- “Come on, follow me.”
Grabbing onto her hand Alicia turned around and started making her way to the Guild.
- “Wait how do you-”
- “This way, hurry.”
Without giving her a chance to protest they made a beeline to the commercial district.
Weaving in and out of the gloomy back alleys she easily navigated the slithering, mazing paths as if she knew the place like the back of her hands, thanks in no small part to her Araneae providing her with a bird’s eye view and guiding her along. In almost no time at all the Guild building was in their sights. Rosalia, however, was winded, gasping for air from trying to keep up with Alicia’s pace. She wondered how she could move so fast when she appeared to be only walking rather briskly. She didn’t even realize that she was in front of the guild until after she had her breath under control. She really wanted to ask Alicia several questions. How did she know where the guild was? How does she know there were paths in the mazing alleys? And most importantly… How in god’s name did she move so fast? Curbing her curiosity, she just focused on what she needed to do now.
First floor walls of the three storey tall grandiose timber frame building were made out of stone masonry, with the upper floors being constituted by wood. Each floor after the first were jutting out more and more towards the streets due to jettying to create more space. Considerable amount of free space was allotted in front of it. Many guild’s workers were going in and out of its doors. Jubilance of receiving well earned payment could be heard from across the street. Passing by a stream of people, soon they entered through the wide open doors.
As the day was about to end, the guild halls were filled with agents, workers collecting their recompense. A number of notice boards were lining one of the side walls, housing the remaining commissions of the day. A few wood slates and papers with something drawn and scribbled on them. Behind a long counter staff were processing the completion of said commissions from a number of windows. People were handing in various items and received a purse or a bag of something in return. With the distinct clinking of small metallic objects coming from it, one could easily guess what it was. Against the other wall were benches, round tables topped with glass and bottles, chairs were placed behind it. It was a sort of waiting lounge as the paperworks were carried out.
Finding a break to the people going to one of the windows, Rosalia quickly made her way to it. Alicia herself was keeping an eye on her from a distance while taking in the interior of the building. Chandeliers hung from the ceiling together with small windows to the outside provided adequate lighting. Number of wooden beams supported the building up. Behind the staff was a set of stairs led to the upper floors. As an engineer experiencing the architecture she could only find in textbooks and digital images authentically was fascinating.
‘Oof, that sag isn’t normal, something heavy must have been placed over there; nothing a nice strongback can’t fix… And there’s some wood decay on the corners, they should really take a look at that, small things add up you know… Is that a burn mark…?’
Some habits die hard…
Regardless of their unusual getup not many people paid attention to either of them. After all, the guild halls were almost no different than a public space for both workers who carried commissions and the general citizens to make requests. Assistants of merchants, various apprentices, eccentric mages, all kinds of people gathered here and they fitted right in. Not long after, Alicia noticed Rosalia beckoning her though she looked somewhat distressed almost as if she couldn’t find her. Before Rosalia knew it Alicia was already next to her, it seemed as if she just appeared out of nowhere. Even the clerk seemed to be surprised.
- “Everything alright?”
- “I… have no crowns…”
The woman behind the counter quickly recomposed herself asking:
- “Excuse me, miss, are you with her?”
- “Yes, what is it?”
- “Ah wonderful, the courier service to Kostranald requires four bronze crowns for delivery.”
‘She was about to send a letter wasn’t she…? Right, she’s broke…’
When she placed a silver coin the clerk was even more surprised and confused. The courier service was often used by the townsfolk to send letters to their villages. However it wasn’t rare for some merchants, wealthy citizens and low class nobles to use it either. She could tell what kind of standing someone had from their payments alone. Foreign and some careful local merchants, - despite being part of the guild - often paid the exact amount, not trusting them with their money to prevent any chance for skulduggery. Those of the peasant class often struggle with bags of copper they scrounge up for payment, sometimes overpaying or underpaying. Although she herself didn’t get involved, in cases of overpaying, she has heard that others in her line of work were pocketing the extras without raising attention. Nobles often sent their servants to make use of the service.
- “Ahem, please excuse me while I process the payment…”
The clerk had assumed they were some nobodies sending a message to their no name rural village since one of them even forgot that they carried no money. That changed when she saw the silver coin; silver was out of the reach for most commoners, while merchants primarily dealt in silver amongst themselves. From her experience no sensible one would use it for something as small as the courier network. They simply didn’t fit into any of the usual suspects that used the service. She only knew that they were wealthy and didn’t care about the small currency of copper and bronze and she had to be careful with dealing with them. Displeasing someone important would end their life as the guild would simply cut them off to save face. After triple checking the change, she returned it in a small bag back to them.
- “Would you like to have it transcribed?”
One of the most fundamental skill requirements of the guild’s clerks was that they should possess basic scribe’s abilities to be able to read and write as they needed to process transactions and other formalities in paperwork. Merchants often disliked writing themselves and had an assistant do it, same with nobles, but many peasants couldn’t read or write at a high enough level and that’s where their work came in. She has written many letters to home, family and whatnot in stead of others and could boast without a lie that she knew the lives of almost every kind of peasant.
- “No, I will compose it myself. Papers for two letters, please.”
And that was the last confirmation she needed to know for sure that she was working with powerful people. After she handed them paper, ink and quill the first girl started writing. Just by looking at the speed and penmanship that had qualities of almost calligraphic precision, it was clear as a day she wasn’t no comparison to her. She was just thankful she didn’t dismiss them. Heads would’ve rolled… She noticed that the letter was done after the bright yellow hair girl imprinted something with her thumb… She felt that there was a sudden draft of wind around her. She had seen similar cases before… Magical sealing, a type of authentication in place of normal seals. There were various advantages and disadvantages to using it, but it was one of the favored methods of proving the writer’s identity.
- “Where will it be addressed?”
- “Please deliver one to the Kostranald castle and the other to the Manor of house Valtima.”
Her heart stopped; she couldn’t believe her own ears… Rather, her ears were fine. Her mind just couldn’t accept what she had heard. Someone sending letters to the local lords was rare, especially to the Valtima who were the cream crop of the aristocracy this side of the kingdom.
- “U-Understood! Is there anything else you wish to do?”
- “That will be all, thank you.”
Remembering that they still needed a place for accommodation Alicia took over after Rosalia.
- “Know a place where we could stay? Someplace average grade is good enough, preferred even.”
- “Of course, right away!”
- “I guess now would be a good time to use this… Our acquaintance wanted us to show this if we decided to visit this place, here.”
It was an unassuming note, but with a single look she froze in shock, recognizing the seal of the Albertini.
- “What now?”
- “For now we can wait. My father should send someone as soon as he receives the letter. Or we could start heading towards Konstranald.”
- “Then let’s stay for a day or two… I want to see what this town has to offer.”
- “So be it.”
‘I think I saw a library… few a noble estates… There’s a lot of things I want to see… Oh and I might be able to bulk buy some salt finally…’
They arrived at the recommended place without much trouble. The bag of coins Alicia stored away garnered the attention of a few daring thugs hoping to swipe or burgle them as they exited the guild, but they quickly lost track of Alicia’s whereabouts in the alleyways that they were supposed to know the best… The letter would go on in its way the next morning; time would tell whether it would reach its intended recipient…