Good morning! Welcome to the next bit of my story, Heritage. Guess what! I found some title art that I actually like! The problem is that I have no idea who to credit for this image. The picture was being used on a role playing site to represent someone’s character, but they had found it somewhere else and didn’t credit it. Also, I’ve cropped the image and added the title to this piece, so it’s been changed a little. The point is, if anyone knows who drew this picture, please let me know and I will gladly give credit for it (the RPG folks wouldn’t answer when I asked, which means either they don’t know or they think I’m going to bust on them for using it – oh well).
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“Give us a minute, please,” Noshli said. She grabbed Althea’s arm and pulled her to the far side of the room, as far away from Gimlineth as they could get. A quick glance back at him convinced her that he would not try to eavesdrop. He looked determined to get their help, and if that meant providing them with some courtesy, he would do it. She still didn’t trust him completely – there was something about him that rubbed Noshli the wrong way. Still, if he truly knew her father . . .
“What should we do?” Althea asked, her lips barely moving. “What are you thinking?”
“My first instinct is to agree to his plan,” Noshli whispered back. “I don’t know if that’s a good idea or not, but that’s what my gut is telling me.”
“I can’t believe I’m saying this,” Althea muttered, “but I feel like we would be betraying Bella. And we met her first.”
“It’s not Bella we have to worry about,” Noshli said. “It’s Nadine. If she’s really trying to hold girls like Minellye against their will, then we need to do something. Besides, you saw how Bella reacted when she saw me. She hasn’t seen Minellye, that’s certain. And Bella seems to be there willingly, remember? She was practically gloating about working at the brothel.”
“You’re right,” Althea said. “So . . . we trust him?”
“I didn’t say that,” Noshli said, with another glance to Gimlineth. His face pointed towards the door, but Noshli could tell that he wasn’t really looking at it. His mind was far away. She wondered briefly what he had done to deserve banishment. “But he’s the closest lead we’ve had. We’ll try to help him. For now.”
Althea nodded. Noshli turned back to Gimlineth, who snapped back to attention at their approach. “We’ll try to get the necklace back,” Noshli said, “but we’ll need your help. And we need to speak to Minellye.”
Gimlineth winced, but nodded. “I didn’t tell her I was coming here,” he said. “She probably won’t be happy about it.”
“Gods above, don’t you see? She’s embarrassed! To be exiled was humiliating enough, but what Nadine did has crushed her spirits so badly, she can barely do magic anymore. Still, if you can help us . . .” His voice trailed off. His face still looked troubled, but he stood up and replaced his hat quickly. “We can go right away if you like,” he said. “She should be home by now.”
“Why would she be getting home in the morning?” Althea asked. “Shouldn’t she still be asleep? It’s so early.”
“She was working all night,” Gimlineth said shortly. “Let’s go.”
Althea’s face turned bright pink, clashing with her auburn curls. “You really should know better than to ask questions like that,” Noshli said. With a chuckle, she pulled on her hooded cloak and followed Gimlineth out the door.
The streets were nearly empty this early in the morning. They walked past the fountain they had passed last night, that had marked the street where the brothel was. Gimlineth turned down the next street, then immediately ducked down a narrow alley, coming out into a much shabbier part of town. Lots of people were sleeping on the street, makeshift tents on either side with campfires, still choking out smoke after burning most of the night. Gimlineth ignored them and continued until he stopped in front of a building that had the look of an inn, but one that had gone to seed. He opened the door and beckoned Noshli and Althea to enter. A woman sat in the foyer behind a counter of sorts. She didn’t look up when they came in, but kept her head buried in a newspaper.
“She got home a few minutes ago,” the woman said. She looked up and stared past Gimlineth at Noshli and Althea. “Probably in no fit state for visitors.”
“It’s alright,” Gimlineth said. “I can handle her. Let’s go.” Noshli followed him up the stairs, Althea staying very close behind her. She suddenly worried about what they would find.