Disclaimer: See Chapter 1
Blue Eyes, White Horse, and a Chakram
Chapter 59: Shopping
Gabrielle had just left the council room. She and Xena had decided that it would be best if Callisto wasn't present during the inquiry, and after Gabrielle's last encounter with the council she was more then happy to avoid them. Even though Xena reassured her that if it got to be too much she would leave, she was still concerned for Solan. He'd been thought a lot, and Gabrielle wasn't sure that he hadn't fully comprehended what happened yet. Asking the right questions, o remaking him second guess himself could have dire consequences.
"Well, kiddo" Gabrielle said, addressing Callisto. "It looks like it's just you and me this afternoon. Anything special you'd like to do?"
The little girl looked at her, as if thinking. "Could we go into the city? Maybe do some shopping?"
"Shopping?" Gabrielle asked, realizing that maybe in this child she had discovered a kindred soul.
"Yeah, why not?" Callisto shrugged. "Sometimes it's just fun to look around."
Oh yeah; kindred soul indeed, thought Gabrielle. "Sure, that sounds like fun," she responded with a smile.
Callisto beamed. She wasn't sure why she mentioned it. She remembered something; something hazy about being happy in a market place. Besides she was bored of just hanging around the room. Maybe if she angled it right, Gabrielle might even buy her something interesting to play with.
Together they returned to their rooms, and Gabrielle picked up a small bag of coin that she had been given. Apparently Heralds, even trainees, were given a small stipend every moon to attend to their personal needs and wants. So far she hadn't had any need or even an opportunity to purchase anything.
Ever since arriving in Valedmar, Gabrielle has been curious about the world and thought it would be interesting to get a closer look at the city itself. The idea actually surprised her, both because it was Callisto that had suggested it, and the fact that she hadn't thought of it sooner herself. Not that she'd had much time; they'd been quite busy, especially since the children had joined them. The idea of going into the town had more merit then just shopping though; she deemed it a chance to get to know more about the economy and the people who lived here in Valdemar. She hated to admit it, but the only real contact she'd had, besides the children in the school, was with Heralds or people who closely interacted with them. She looked forward to leaning more about what it was like away from the palace and Collegium.
As almost a second thought she decided to change clothes from the grey trainee robe that she had donned this morning into something more casual. If she wanted to gather unbiased information it would be better if she blended in more. She also considered Lysander. It would be faster to ride into the city, but he would definitely blow her cover. Grabbing her staff, she left a quick note for Xena and then hand and hand with Callisto they headed down into the heart of the city.
In her time with traveling with Xena, Gabrielle had seen a lot of cities. She had been through market places through half the known world and had realized that they were all pretty much the same. Some were bigger or smaller. Some had actual physical shops as opposed to booths or tents, but they were all filled with busy people; people who'd rush about on one errand or another, people who were looking for something or someone, and people who were selling things, calling out and beckoning others to look at their wears. The market place they ventured into was no exception to this rule.
Wandering down a major street, Gabrielle noticed a large variety or shops and booths. She saw everything from a jewelry story, to a smith shop, and even a perfume merchant. There were also consumable goods like fresh bread or vegetables. Having no idea about the local economy, she fingered her coin purse, realizing she wasn't sure how much money she actually had. So to test the waters, she bought a small pastry for both herself and Callisto. Judging the cost of the pastry, she could then use that as a measure for other things, and was actually surprised, figuring that she had a bit more money than she originally thought.
Her musings though were interrupted by Callisto, who had quietly pulled on her sleeve "You want to go watch the show?" Gabrielle offered realizing that the little girl's eye had caught the attention of a small puppet theater.
The bard and the child managed to find a space in the crowd with afforded them both a decent view. It was a cute show, meant for small children. Callisto seemed enthralled with it and they both laughed at the childish jokes.
After a short time the show ended and Gabrielle gave Callisto a couple of coins to throw into the hat that the puppeteer was using to collect tips. Gabrielle then surveyed the area, wondering about which way to head next. It didn't take long to make the decision as her eyes laid upon a bookstore.
"Hey, Callisto, let's go this way," she encouraged.
Entering the store the bard was impressed by the vast amount of books that it held. It was a virtual library all by itself. She quickly set to work browsing and investigating its contents. Callisto, who wasn't entirely impressed with all the books, had been delighted to find a small tabby cat that seemed to have taken a liking to her. Gabrielle, convinced that the cat would keep the child occupied for a while, took advantage of the situation to glace through a couple of interesting looking books.
"Anything I can help you with?" the store keeper asked.
Gabrielle turned to notice an elderly man in tan trousers and a light green shirt. "No thank you," Gabrielle shook her head. "I'm just browsing."
"Ok, if you need anything just let me know."
The store keeper then turned his attention to Callisto. "And you little miss, I see my 'Dite has taken an interest in you. She's usually not that friendly"
"Dite? Is that her name?" Callisto inquired.
"Yes, short for Aphrodite actually."
The name stunned Gabrielle; making her wonder if it was just a coincidence. "Aphrodite? That's an interesting name," she tested.
"Yeah, it's unusual. My daughter actually named her. She was quite a reader. After a story in one of the books. Some fancy Goddess of Love, if I remember right."
"Really? Do you happen to know what book?" Gabrielle asked.
"Hmmm…" the shopkeeper hummed. "I think it was from one of my special collection," he further mused, leading Gabrielle over to the far end of the store and opened a glass fronted bookcase. He skimmed over the shelves and pulled out a dark blue volume. "I think this is the one."
Gabrielle took the book from his hand, turning it over and seeing the cover she nearly dropped it. In a fine silver embossing there was a perfect replica of Xena's chakram. Visibly shaken, she ran her fingers over the edge of it.
"Where did you get this book?" she asked.
"Well, let me see. I've had it a long time. Actually I'm not sure where it came from. It was here when I inherited the store. Store used to belong to my Uncle. When he passed, he handed it down to me."
Gabrielle nodded. That's too bad; she really wanted to know where it came from. Maybe she could do some research and try to find out more about it. She opened the book and flipped through a few pages. Somehow she was expecting it to be in Greek, but it wasn't.
"How much do you want for it?"
"Well, it's an old book, but no one besides my daughter ever took an interest in it. I could let it go for maybe six silver coins?"
Gabrielle thought about that. She really didn't have any idea of the real value of the book. Six silvers seemed like a lot, and it was more then she had. "I don't know," she said handing the book back to the man and pretending not to be interested in it.
The shopkeeper could sense he was going to loose a potential sale. "Well, I suppose I could let it go for five silvers."
Gabrielle pretended to be interested in the book once more. Picking it back up, she flipped though a few pages. "The pages are faded. Even for an old book. I'll give you three for it."
The man seemed to consider that. "Three and a half," he counted.
The bard smiled. "Deal." She fished out the silver and some lesser coins that amounted to the aspired sum.
The shopkeeper thanked her and Gabrielle turned to collect Callisto. Her eyes flowed over the empty store. "Callisto?" she called out, getting no response. She called out again, louder. Still nothing. Franticly her eyes searched the store. Not seeing the little girl anywhere, she exited the store, quickly searching up and down the street with her eyes.
The shopkeeper met Gabrielle at the door. "Don't worry, lass. I'm sure she just wandered off."
Gabrielle nodded. "I hope so. Do me a favor if she comes back, don't let her leave."
"Sure thing, lass."
Gabrielle opened up her mind and called out to Lysander. Nothing, Damn it! She was too far away. She knew that her MindSpeech was limited, but this is the first time she'd ever been out of range. She then tried to open up her shields and mentally search for the child. Bad idea, she had to quickly slam them down again. All the people around her were causing so much interference and the overload was too much bear. Damn it, she cursed again. Not sure what else to do, she started asking the people around if they'd seen a little girl.
Xena sat with her arms crossed over her chest. She was trying very hard to keep her anger in check. The interview with Solan hadn't gone so well. She had a feeling that if he wasn't having problems with his actions before, he certainly would now. The nobles had asked several poignant questions, several of which were causing Solan to second guess his choices. She had been proud of him, for he had taken the stand and answered their questions truthfully and with courage, but she could tell from his somber demeanor that he hadn't taken it well.
Quinn was now on the stand giving her rendition of the battle. As Xena listened she felt a rush of emotion run through her. It was subtle, very odd, and only lasted a fraction of a second. She shook it off, thinking her imagination was getting the best of her. She focused her attention back on Quinn but soon felt a wave of… panic? Wow… that was odd. And then it came again; a definite sense of panic. She sat up in her chair, her attention now on the emotion.
:Kaylin?: she called. :Is everything alright? Is Gabrielle ok?:
:Gabrielle? I don't know: her companion called back.
:What do you mean you don't know? Where is she?: Xena replied, now feeling herself start to panic.
:Lysander says she and Callisto went into town. She's out of our range.:
:What? Lysander's not with her?: Xena called back to Kaylin.
"Xena, you ok?" Samuel, the Herald-Mage sitting next to her asked.
"Yes. Do me a favor and keep an eye on Solan for a bit?" she whispered
:No, she told him to stay. He's on his way to find her now,: Kaylin sent back.
Xena turned to Solan. :You hear that?:
:Yes, Mother.: He replied sheepishly, knowing that he'd just been caught eavesdropping, again. :Can you reach her?:
:No, already tried. She too far away.: he answered, with a frown.
:Ok, stay with Samuel. I'll be back soon as I can,: Xena replied with a nod to her head. She quickly got up from her chair and without any explanation or ceremony, she bolted out the door.
:Kaylin?: she called again.
:I'm on my way, Chosen.:
As Xena bolted, the council chamber suddenly stopped. Garret looked to Solan and Samuel who had each been sitting on either side of the warrior. Solan realized that he was the only one that knew what was going on. He smiled at Garret and shrugged his shoulders.
"Sorry, she had to go," he replied.