Ultra, the bread seller, is happy to see us and thankful for Merlin's assistance once again. She's saddened when Merlin tells her this is the last day she's going to be able to help at the stand, however. I resolve to sneak her some gold before the end of the day. It's evident that Merlin has been helping her out a lot. Maybe she'd be able to hire someone else to help if she had a little money?
Nikola and I agree to let Merlin handle things at her part-time job. We go out to explore the market. There's a few more stalls than on the previous days, and now that we have money I try to look at things more thoroughly. We need to figure out what we may need to survive here. There's no telling how much lodging will cost overall, and the air has more of a cool nip to it this morning than yesterday. I haven't seen much greenery around the city of Centrum, so I can't tell whether it's a seasonal change or just a freak cold front. It could be that it's autumn, however, which would mean we should prepare for winter.
"Rhys, are you alright?" Nikola asks.
It seems I lost myself in my head in front of a booth full of iron cookware next to the booth selling water skins that Nikola was browsing. He stands still, a large leather water skin he evidently just purchased in his hand, and a look of concern on his face.
"Sorry," I say. "Just, thinking about the future. Where we'll stay, how we'll survive. What we need. Where to start looking for an actual wizard. It's just...a lot."
"Perhaps, we should delay thinking of such plans?" Nikola asks.
I knit my brow. "We can't do that," I say. "The air is cooler now than yesterday. We need information to know if the seasons are about to change. We need supplies for when it does. We need a map. We know the city we're in is called Centrum and the country is Regno, but nothing else." I lean forward and whisper. "We don't even have any weapons besides the pocket knives I had in my bag."
He raises an eyebrow. "And your cane."
"Yeah, sure, and my cane," I shake my head and turn around looking over the bustling market. "And my thirty five pound backpack. I could just hit someone with it and kill them."
"Shall I carry it for you?"
I turn back toward him to find him smiling warmly. Earnest.
"I appreciate it but I can handle it," I say. "I'll take a break in a bit." I glance down at his shoes, they're leather but their high polish is a bit dusty now due to the streets. The soles seem rather thick and the edges of them are chipped. "What is up with your shoes?"
Nikola looks down. "Oh, yes. These were what I was wearing during the demonstration. The bottoms are made of cork, which hasn't fared too well on these cobblestones. They were not designed for this much use."
"Then we get you new shoes while we look for a map," I say. "It will help to know where a cobbler is so we can get Merlin something other than football cleats."
One step at a time, I think to myself, no longer drowning in the what-ifs of how little we know about this world.