We wound our way up a steep hill, across the rocky scree, to an elaborate gate set before a short tunnel. The guards at the gate, stout fellows carrying the same type of crossbows that the sentinel had, gave Sentinel Rytar salutes, and one pulled a lever. The gate moved back smoothly, and we passed through.
Trommel sat on a rocky promontory on the edge in the foothills of the Bounder mountains. I’d called it a city, but Sentinel Vytar considered it a large town. Its streets and buildings were made from the same rocks that slid down the hill that we’d crisscrossed. As I followed him through the city, I noticed many other mechanical devices being used by its citizens as if they were everyday occurrences. One girl filled a bucket with water from a pipe that stuck out of a wall. She stopped the flow by turning a handle. She walked in front of us, causing us to stop and she spilled some water on to the street, which flowed into a metal-covered ditch on the side.
Sentinel Vytar saw me leaning over to look in the grate and said, “The sewage system is modern, I can assure you, my…I am certain it will be an improvement over what you’ve seen recently.”
“Undoubtedly,” I said, grinning and marveled at the wonders I’d only read about becoming real before me.
We passed a low-roofed building with a painted sign showing a brown drill and a pile of rocks. A boy sat on the steps, whittling a piece of wood.
“The Rusty Auger,” the sentinel said in explanation and dismounted. The boy jumped up and came to take our mounts. I attempted to dismount and couldn’t. The sentinel raised an eyebrow at me and I struggled down, my legs shaking. Recovered I was not. I grabbed my saddle bags and watched my tired horse be lead around the corner, presumably to the stables. The boy returned to take the horcine and didn’t flinch at all when the whirring beast tromped after him. Sentinel Vytar gave him a coin and hovered behind me as I struggled up the steps and into the building.
“Is this the inn you spoke of?” I asked as he helped me to a bar stool.
“No,” he said with a laugh. “I just thought you might need a drink.” I confirmed that with a grateful nod and soon a cold amber-colored beer appeared before me along with a steaming bowl of stew.
The tavern had white washed walls and a polished floor, and the tables beyond the bar each had linen table clothes and small flower vases. That reminded me of my vase. The sentinel stepped away for a moment, so I took that opportunity to pull the vase out to make sure it had made it through the trip okay. I wish I’d put the elemental in it. Looking around to ensure that no one was watching me, I poured a bit of my beer into it and gulped it down and then put the vase back into my satchel. Immediately I felt better.
A loud group of miners, from their dusty appearance, came in and filled the seats next to me.
“What you looking at, freak?” The one who’d taken Sentinel Vytar’s seat said.
“You’re sitting on my companion’s stool,” I said.
One of the other’s laughed. “He says your sitting in shite, Bartol.” The group laughed and Bartol narrowed his eyes at me.
“You looking for a fight, freak? Are you?” He puffed up, flexing his notable muscles.
“I’m really not,” I said.
“You look like a drowned rat and you smell of the midden.”
I sniffed my sleeve and nodded. “It’s been a long day.”
Bartol bared his teeth at me like a feral dog and grabbed my shoulder to pull me off my perch.