Burf was true to his word. At noon there came a knock. When Devon opened the door he found several packages stacked just outside.
“Looks like our clothes have arrived,” announced Devon in a loud voice as he set the packages on the shoddy sofa.
Mat came out to find Devon pulling on the Druid robes. “I thought you gave up dresses.” Wide-eyed Mat walked around his friend as Devon tugged and pulled uncomfortably at the outfit, “That’s something.”
“Yea I’m not going to like this,” growled Devon as he saw a note attached to one of the other packages:
“I’ve included two outfits since you might not want to wear the more ostentatious robes all the time. My source tells me it’d probably be frowned on by the more stuffy Druids if you present in the less formal outfit. Though the travelin clothes might displease some, trust me I’ve seen countless explorers come through my tavern, and the less formal clothes are more the rule than the exception. He suggested, if you’re challenged to rebuff the person, look down your nose and say, “do you respect your craft so little as to disrespect your robes?” or something like that. It wouldn’t be uncommon for a high-ranking member of any profession to put on an air of superiority when challenged. It will also help keep people at arm’s length, which is what you want, I’m guessing. On both cloaks, the traveling and the formal is a seal, I had them copy one from a secret organization which is rumored to exist, but no one knows if it really does. They are called “The Xirians.” It’s very obscure and thus people will tend to not question it for fear of showing their ignorance. Good luck.
Opening the second package Devon found tights which were thick but as soft as anything he’d ever worn. A medium v-collar green tunic with golden brocade embroidered around the cuffs, collar, and hem. A really nice pair of lace-up boots, which like the tights were in a darker green. “Oh, this is better,” smiled Devon. Lastly, in the bottom of the pack were two full-length cloaks, each held a seal he had never seen before. Looking over at Mat, “The Xirians huh, well that sounds vague enough. What did you get?” pointing to a large package he’d drug in and left by the door.
Mat opened his to find a set of robes as well. Where Devon’s had been very ornate, Mat’s were more basic if you called a full-length black robe with sweeping arms embroidered in golden dragons plain. With a high collar and v neck front, Mat actually nodded his approval. Inside as well was a note:
As you will see, the same crest is on the chest of your robe as is on the Druids. I also had them embroidered in gold, the dragon, which is featured prominently in the crest of The Xirians. This will mark you as high ranking, as to your abilities. The color, unlike with Devons is significant, being dressed in black marks you as a practitioner of dark magic, the actual field of study of a mage is rarely divulged willingly. So whatever your choice, this will cause them to have a bit of fear, which having known you for the short time I have, seems fitting. I also had the tailor add in shielded sheaths in both the arms and down the back for your daggers. They will keep the metal from touching your skin, which I’m told is essential in some magics. They’re well-hidden, as you can see.
Looking up, Mat added, “that was simple, and my robe actually looks good.”
“Yea it does. You can also hide your hooves if that becomes an issue, which I’m not sure will ever be needed.”
“Knowing people someone somewhere will hate those who are different, and I’ll have to kill them,” smirked Mat as he threw his robe on the table and walked back into his room to dress. “Time to get dressed; let’s go check you in at the Druids.”
Looking back over his shoulder, “I guess I wear my normal clothes as a rouge. Let me get dressed, and then we’ll see if I have to kill someone before dinner. Never gotten to kill a tree hugger, though I’ve wanted to. This could be fun. Remember, be aloof.”
When they made it down to the inn, they found it busy but not crowded. When Burf noticed them, he gave an exaggerated look up and down at their clothes and nodded his approval. “Just as I thought they look very appropriate. That’ll be 17 gold, by the way.”
“Wait, what?” asked Devon.
“The gold we gave him was solely for his service and not expenses if I were to guess,” remarked Mat.
“See, this one gets it.”
“Can we pay you when we get back?” asked Mat.
“Oh yea, no worry, I’ll put it on your tab,” explained Buff. Mat noticed the barkeep watching something. Following his eyes, he realized Burf was watching Devon watch someone else.
“Who’s that guy? He’s sexy as fuck,” asked Mat.
“He’s one of the rent boys, not one of the more popular ones.”
“Why?” asked Devon, not taking his eyes off the guy.
“He’s a bit odd.”
“Odd, how,” asked Mat.
“Most people think he is touched, but in actuality, he is smarter than a whip and slightly off-center with his humor.”
“Well, he is cute…” remarked Devon as he shook his head, “that’s enough sightseeing for now, let’s get this over with.”
Burf raised an eyebrow as his eyes shifted between Devon, the boy and finally to Mat, “You wantin to say something there?”
“Yea, have that one come up to our room tonight after we get back,” answered Mat quietly as he watched Devon work his way through the room.
“If you get back,” corrected Burf.
“Well, if that happens, then we’re all screwed.”
“True, do you want him for a couple of hours or longer. He’s 35 silver for two hours.”
“How much for the night?”
“Two gold should cover it?”
“I’ll give you three, make sure he is fed, bathed, and send him up with a couple of bottles of the good wine…” leaning in closer Mat added, “…it’s been a while for him and I want to do it right.”
“Good friend you are, I’ll handle those details, you two just live through the Druids.”
“Thanks, see you soon,” said Mat as he slapped the bar and rushed across the room to catch up with Devon who had just looked back to see where his friend was.
“What was that about?” asked Devon when Mat caught up.
“I was just ordering take out for tonight.”
“Oh yes, I did. Let’s get this meet and greet out of the way so you can eat,” laughed Mat as they headed out the door.
Almost as soon as they stepped out, they froze in their tracks. This was the first day in this new city. Sure, they’d spent the night, drank with its residents but it was still controlled, safe and confined. Today they stood in the city itself, in daylight, and it was anything but controlled, safe, or confined. It was a city and like any city, they could feel the energy it contained. The streets were full of creatures of all shapes and sizes going about their daily lives, greetings people, shopping and doing what people do in a familiar hometown.
Smiling, they looked at each other. “I wonder if this will ever stop being fucking amazing?” asked Mat.
“I hope not. I like this feeling. By the way, do you remember the way to the gate?” asked Devon.
“I think it’s this way, we were running remember?” laughed Mat.
Together they made their way through the city, already wishing they’d gotten an earlier start.
“Look over here! We have to come back to this one,” barked Devon as he peered through a window.
“Damn right we do,” agreed Mat as he tore himself away from a window. Surprisingly he’d been the one to start rubbernecking first. He’d found vendors focusing in the dark arts, then a clothing shop with a more gothic feel and finally one selling weapons specific to his line of work. Devon, on the other hand, had found several bookstores they both needed to visit.
“We’ll never get there at this rate. Let’s get this done and tomorrow we can spend some time in town,” urged Devon as he too forced himself to return his attention to their reason for being out. His nerves were starting to get to him.
“If we’re still alive, which Burf doesn’t seem to hold much confidence of.”
“We’ll see, I can be diplomatic if I need to be. It can’t be that hard, or people wouldn’t visit the town due to the bullshit,” said Devon as they started walking again.
“I wanted people and boy did I get them. Did you see the minotaur?” asked Mat.
“Yup, he was with the fawn. Did you see how she looked at you?”
As they strolled down the main road towards the gate Mat pointed out several examples, “I’m starting to understand this uniforms thing. Look at that one, he’s clearly a mage or cleric, with those long robes. There, that guy, he’s a rouge if I’ve ever seen one, and there’s another. He just lifted something from that lady’s basket. Did you see that?” Devon looked where his friend was pointing then shook his head. “Yea, he was good and really fast. Still all these people in clothes of their profession.”
“You don’t like it do you?” asked Devon.
“No, I don’t, thank you. I, or for that matter anyone, doesn’t need to be broadcasting their talents. Already I’m glad we’re making this trip, I’m not dressing like everyone else, that’s just stupid. The city fathers want it so they can see what they're up against, well I’m the hidden soldier they won’t see coming. A rouge should look like every other person. You see someone dressed in black, their face covered, holding a dagger in a dark alley coming up behind you, guess what you’re first thought’s going to be “Oh shit a rouge.” That’s bullshit.”
Devon loved it when Mat got all wound up; he could rave for hours about something only to end up saying, “Oh well,” and moving on. It was one of his best features, he gets upset, bitches and then gets over it just as quickly. Devon noticed Mat kept looking at him as they wove in and out of the crowded street, there were no sidewalks as such. “What?”
“This is a discussion, not a lecture. What do you think?”
“Honestly, I agree with you. I’ve fought my entire life to get out of dresses, and I’m not ready to slide back into one. I’ll never, well maybe not never, wear those robes, please. I agree we need to find our style. But probably not in this city today.”
“But you will agree it was a good idea to not spend any more time in the cave?”
“Yes, Mat, I agree. What we thought we knew was only a thimble of information compared to the ocean that was really out here.”
As the two reached the main gates they waved at the guards and headed in the direction they’d been told to go. Both chatted jovially and tried to enjoy the day, but Devon was nervous and he knew Mat was as well. Every turn they’d made so far had led to new complications.