The inn Slate took Novalee to was somewhere in the east side of the city, or maybe the south. Novalee wasn't sure which area of the city it was in. Central was a confusing mess of poorly marked, and twisting roads. The tavern was small and clean, though little more. Slate explained that the proprietor of the tavern gave him a room, food, and a little money in exchange for playing his fiddle in the evenings. He took her up to his room, which was small but tidy, without letting her see much of the tavern.
Once she was in the room he told her that she shouldn't leave. “People are looking for you,” he explained.
“But I was little more than one of the whores,” She said, “Why would they be looking for me?”
Slate locked the door for the night. “What'd you forget?”
“Oh.” she said, her mind going back to things she would rather forget about.
“Yeah, as soon as it was safe again, the survivors met and named a new high priest. He made it clear that you should be found.”
“How do you know this?” She asked.
“'Cause when they found me, they asked if I had seen you.” He lit the candles and closed the curtains. “They have offered a huge reward for you. I bet the Magpies would be very interested in it.”
“But Slate, they're my....”
“What? Friends? They are thieves. They will sell you out as soon as blink.” he took her hands. “Don't you understand? The priests will stop at nothing to get you back.”
Her eyes grew wide with fear, “Then I should leave the city!”
“No, no, you'll be safe here. And when they give up on you being alive, then you can leave the tavern and do anything you want.” He patted her face, and then put his hand on her belly. “You have to think of your child, after all.”
Novalee stepped back, “There is no child.”
“How do you know?” he asked,
“I got rid of anything growing there,” she said coldly.
“Oh,” he said, “Well you must be tired. I'll call for extra blankets.”
She spent three days with Slate. They were boring days. He never let her leave the room, and there was nothing to do. She spent most of the day alone. For the first day she spent time out on the balcony, which was over one of the tributaries that flowed though the city. The Julei River forked into the Marus and the Canus Rivers. Off of the rivers were several small tributaries, which kept water flowing though the city. She would play her ocarina and watch the sun play on the water's surface. But soon enough that gave her little distraction. Slate brought her a few books, which she read more then once.
On the fourth morning she was back behind the screen dressing when Slate came in saying, “Jade, breakfast is here.”
Novalee sighed. “I asked you not to call me that any more.” She stepped out from behind the modesty screen. She wore a plain dress which fit loosely. She breathed in the wondrous scents as she sat down and reached for the hot bacon.
“No.” Slate grabbed her hand. “You don't want to ruin your figure.”
Novalee laughed, “Of course I do. I never want to be hungry again, and if that means I gain rolls becoming so fat that I wattle down the street than so be it.” She tried to take the bacon back.
“I said no.” He slapped her hand.
She slapped him back, “I'll eat what I want.” She shoved the bacon in her mouth before he could take it away from her again. He was particular about what she ate and every meal was a bit of a fight. It frustrated her. During her time with him, she found her stomach growling again. She hated being hungry. He always ate his fill and left little for her.
After breakfast, Slate got out his violin and Novalee pulled out her ocarina. They played together for a couple of hours before Slate got ready to play for the other patrons of the inn.
“Can I come with you? We play well together and maybe if there are two of us Mr. Corey will give us more food,” she suggested.
“It's too dangerous,” he said. “They're still looking for you.”
“No buts, do you want to be back in a house?”
“Then be patient.” He took her hand and gently stroked her hair. “A few more days and they will move on.” He kissed her forehead. “I'll be back tonight.”
Next: Old Frinds Part Two