Sleight of Hemlock : Chapter 11
With squinted eyes and the last bit of energy I can muster up, I sit up from the bed and notice the sunlight beaming on the glass block windows. I gather my things, take another quick peak at the map, and make my way down the streets of this magical city.
Many inhabitants pass me by, some giving me a look of wonder, and some just nodding moving past in a hurry. I am struck by all the sights and sounds. Everything feels so alive.
As I make my way past the tall, oddly shaped structures, I notice a nice thicket of trees ahead, all covered in thick, heavy snow. Hearing a bit of laughter and commotion ahead, I rush over to see what all the fuss is about.
There's a large pond covered in a slick sheet of ice upon which many inhabitants are skating with each other, dancing around and sipping a wonderfully spiced glögg - some maybe having too much and spinning out of control, all in good fun.
I watch in amusement, time passing by swiftly. The sun has set, and I'm beginning to wonder where I might post up for the night - still tired with a bakrus from the night before.
I notice the moon is full, as the lights on all the buildings light my way, when all of a sudden, my nose is struck with a lovely and distinct smell of smoked meat. Remembering Cole Thumper's words, I follow my nose into a rather intriguing part of the city, full of hustle and bustle, alehouses, and merchants galore.
"Hey kid," I distinctly low voice catches me off guard. "Over here."
I turn to my left, and notice a very cool looking inhabitant wearing a beautifully tailored overcoat and sunglasses.
"You're not from around here, are ya?" They come out of the shadow into the light. "Names Fitz, Fitz Hemlock. Pleasure to meet your acquaintance..."
"Ø," I nod shyly and shake Fitz' hand. "May I ask, where is that delightful smell coming from?"
Fitz chuckles, "Ah you mean this?" They open their coat up to reveal some of the best looking dried cured meats I've seen since back home. The smell is so intoxicating, I can barely resist.
"Bowski's told me all about you" Fitz closes their coat back up.
"You've seen Bowski?" my eyes light up. "Where are they? Are they here?"
"Oh, no, not for some time." Fitz mentions while grabbing a large ceramic pitcher. "Here drink this."
Fitz hands me a pint of what they call "rustic" oatmeal stout, brewed with tangerine laced marigolds, and farmhouse yeast from my homeland.
"You must be hungry," Fitz mentions, putting their hand around my shoulder. "Let us feast!" We head down the block, and I am guided into another underground cellar where more encased meats are hanging from the ceiling. "Welcome to the stockyards, Ø," Fitz smiles with a sly grin.
After feasting on delicious meatballs and tender salt beef, washed down with more pints of oatmeal stout, Fitz calls me over to the back of the room, where I notice a bit of gambling has ensued. Fitz is winning every hand, laughing it off.
"You look tired kid," Fitz hands me a key. "Here, take this. There's some room on the floor in the packaging facility office. It's not much, but a floor's a floor eh?"
I nod thankfully, barely able to stand up. Fitz shows me the way on the map, and I make my way out. "Good luck on your journey kid. I'll see you around," Fitz gives me a hug goodbye and heads back into the cellar. I head off into the night's thick fog, barely able to keep my eyes open. I make a turn, barely able to see through the fog and continue pacing forward.
The fog grows thicker and thicker, the cold air making my body tremble. I've completely lost track of time and place. I begin to shout in desperation,"Bowski! Are you there?" I reach into my pockets and to my dismay, the map is nowhere to be found. How did I lose it? What is happening? Why isn't Bowski here to guide me? I begin to run frantically with no sense of compass, eventually going up a hill, thinking I might have a better vantage point from the top.
But by the time I reach the top I can barely stand up, and accidentally fall into a pit of gravel. Looking up, the full moon is hovering right above me, almost like it's laughing at me. I am lost, tired, worried, but tomorrow is a new day. I close my eyes and remember my journey has not ended yet. I must make it to Kernel Springs and reunite with Bowski. There is still hope.