The Mysterious Coin (Ebook)
The Mysterious Coin (Ebook)
Book 2 in The Dragonspire Chronicles
Everyone in Yaz’s village has vanished.
The only clue, a strange golden coin marked with mysterious runes.
Can Yaz and his friends figure out what the coin means before it’s too late? And what are the sinister Dark Sages up to in the northwest? It can’t be anything good for our heroes.
It’s a race against time to rescue the missing villagers.
Eighteen days after leaving Dragonspire Village, Yaz, Brigid, and Silas reached the outskirts of The City of Bells. Their mercenary disguises had held up so far, sparing them from any more fights with bounty hunters. It also spared them any unnecessary conversations. People took one look at their rough exterior and went the other way.
Though he regretted it, Yaz and Brigid had left their ironwood staves in the village armory in exchange for spears. Not an ideal swap, but the best they could manage. They had also left Rum behind. There was plenty of game and water so the dog should be fine. Brigid had cried a little but accepted the necessity.
Yaz had never visited a city. Even from a distance it was clear the place dwarfed Dragonspire Village. Dense forest surrounded the city on three sides, but it had been cut back far enough to give archers a clear shot at any approaching force. Not that anyone would be approaching from the north or east, a sheer cliff protected the city on those sides. It would take a highly skilled climber to make it up that face then over the wall above.
Smoke filled the sky and a handful of buildings rose high enough to look over the massive stone wall. Silas didn’t look especially impressed, but he’d been here before. A helm with a full-face mask hid Brigid’s expression, but he assumed it was as amazed as Yaz’s own.
A slum of shacks and hovels constructed out of little more than sticks and torn canvas had been built outside the walls. Figures in rags lined the road to beg passing visitors for a spare scale. Yaz clenched his jaw and kept a tight grip on his coin pouch. They had plenty of money now, but he didn’t know how long it would have to last so he ignored the beggars’ pitiful cries for alms.
Noon was fast approaching and under his battered leather armor sweat drenched Yaz, sticking his underclothes to his body and making him itch. As he guided his horse through the hovels it took no great effort to twist his expression into a savage snarl to dissuade the beggars.
They hadn’t stopped at an inn or village once during their travels and the smell wafting off the three of them made his eyes water. Fugitives or not, they were getting rooms and taking baths tonight. No way could they show up on the coin merchant’s step looking like this.
Silas assured them that a glimpse of the rare coin he found would get them through the door and maybe it would, but Yaz feared Brigid might kill them both in their sleep if she didn’t get cleaned up soon. He might have even welcomed it after a couple more days.
The slum ran eight rows deep, but they finally made it to the city gate. The doors were wide open and the portcullis raised. A squad of six guards inspected each group and collected coins from them before stepping aside to let them through.
“I’ll handle the guards,” Silas said.
Neither Yaz nor Brigid argued. There were three parties ahead of them, a group of eight travelers, a pair of traders leading laden mules, and a farmer’s wagon filled with early vegetables.
Each group paid and was allowed to enter. When Yaz and the others stopped beside the lead guard, a grizzled veteran with a droopy mustache and tired green eyes, Silas said, “Good day, Sergeant.”
The sergeant grunted and looked them all over, including pawing at the supplies on Thunder’s back. Wicked, Silas’s undead familiar, hid in the bottom of one of the panniers. If the guard found a hatchling dragon’s skull with glowing red eyes, Yaz figured the questioning would be a sight tougher.
Fortunately, the search was only cursory, then the sergeant said, “A silver scale apiece and welcome to the City of Bells.”
As welcomes went, it wasn’t the most enthusiastic, but Yaz kept his opinions to himself as he urged his mount through the gate. They’d barely entered the city when scores of bells rang all around announcing the arrival of high sun. The cacophony set Yaz’s teeth on edge, but it ended soon enough.
“I hope they don’t do that at midnight as well,” Brigid said, just a little too loud.
“Don’t worry,” Silas said. “The bells are silent after sunset. I’m not certain why the city became obsessed with bells, but it’s been like this for years.”
Silas and Brigid both looked at Yaz who shrugged. There weren’t any books about the modern city in the tower library, only an old atlas that talked about it in imperial times, so he had nothing to add.
When they were out of earshot from the gate Silas asked, “Do we want to go directly to Carnack’s place or find an inn?”
“An inn.” Brigid and Yaz spoke in unison.
“Okay. I know a place that isn’t too expensive and more to the point the owner has a complete lack of curiosity about his guests.”
“Sounds perfect for us,” Yaz said. “Lead on.”
The buildings weren’t that much different from the ones at home, but Yaz had never seen a cobblestone street before, except for drawings in books of course. It seemed like upkeep would be a nuisance, but it made for smooth traveling.
Silas kept well away from the city center, instead turning toward a crowded part of the city filled with two- and three-story buildings jammed in so tightly Yaz figured you could climb to the roof with your feet planted against one and your back against its neighbor. Not that he had any desire to attempt that feat.
A babble of voices filled the air from hundreds of open windows. A few haggard women sat on stoops, sweating and bouncing little kids on their knees. Everyone gave Yaz and his friends a long look, but when they made no aggressive moves the locals dismissed them.
At last they reached a two-story inn sporting clapboard siding, a wrap-around porch, and cloudy glass windows. There was no attached stable so Yaz wasn’t sure where they’d keep their mounts.
When he mentioned it to Silas, the wizard said, “Once we check in, we’ll have to take them down the street to the stable. Most people don’t ride in the city, so it’ll be less conspicuous if we don’t either.”
Yaz didn’t care much for leaving his horse behind. If they needed to get away fast, a good horse would be an advantage. On the other hand, given the narrowness of some of the alleys they’d passed, a mount might be more hindrance than help.
They tied their horses to the railing and marched up the steps. Inside, the common room had a good crowd. Two-thirds of the tables were full, keeping the trio of serving girls busy. The only other member of the staff was the bartender.
Yaz didn’t know why it was always the bartender in charge of the inn, but so far that seemed to be the rule. They worked their way around tables and servers to reach the polished oak bar. The portly barkeep finished pouring two mugs of ale for a waiting girl then gave them his full attention.
“We need rooms,” Silas said.
“No problem. A single and a double or three singles?”
“A single and a double,” Brigid said.
Silas frowned and Yaz shot her a curious look.
The barkeep waited and Silas finally shrugged. “A single and a double.”
A pair of keys were produced. “Rooms six and seven. Baths?”
“Yep,” Silas said.
“Wise decision,” the barkeep said before waving a hand in front of his face. “Total for the rooms and baths will be twelve silver scales.”
Silas counted out the money and collected the keys which he gave to Yaz. “I’ll handle the horses and join you two later.”
“Which one’s the single?” Brigid asked.
“Room six,” the barkeep said.
Brigid handed that key to Silas.
“Sure you don’t need a hand?” Yaz asked.
Silas looked from Brigid to Yaz then grinned. “Nope, I’ll manage. You two have fun.”
Yaz watched him hurry out of the inn and shook his head. Silas seemed to have the wrong idea about his and Brigid’s relationship. Oh well, it didn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things.
Brigid led the way upstairs. When they were out of earshot of anyone that might be listening Yaz said, “We’ve got enough to afford three single rooms.”
“I know,” Brigid said. “The thing is, I’ve gotten used to having you nearby when I sleep. And after what happened at the inn in Sharpsburg, being alone in a strange place doesn’t appeal to me. I’m sorry. I didn’t even think that you might want a room of your own.”
Yaz didn’t especially care one way or the other. “It’s fine. At least we won’t have to argue over who gets the bed this time.”
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