Aroldo rolls his shoulders and supresses a sigh as he comes to Bleakbridge. The exorbitant toll has reduced the number of those seeking to cross between the two halves of Kintargo. Perhaps another reason is the increased attention from the Dottari and the occasional Hell-Knight keeping things backed up.
Observing the crowd while he queues, he notices more than a few people wearing sour expressions until they come under the gaze of the authorities. They go straight-faced then, with perhaps the odd sideways glance at a companion, the meaning of which Aroldo would like to think is displeasure at this turn of events, but he cannot be sure.
The wizard has a strange ambivalence about this. On one hand he’s pleased that people are beginning to feel the strangling grasp of the Lord-Mayor, on the other, a dull anger that most of these people have taken no further action.
The rational part of Aroldo’s mind soothes the emotional with the thought that the Free Kintargo Society might help change things. Still have a lot to do, is the consistent thought in his mind. Not long to go now, though.
Handing over his silver, the wizard is mercifully left alone by the Dottari and crosses the bridge in peace.
Making his way through Old Kintargo towards Belor’s, the wizard keeps his eyes and ears open, observing the crowd. He gains little from this; even the lower classes aren’t speaking of rebellion openly.
He does pause at the sight of a ragged poster he sees, recognising the crude sketch. He scans the writing below, a vague expression of confusion on his face. This is not the work of the Dottari, he is certain.
Another thought occurs as to who may have placed the poster. “By Calistria’s cold cunt,” he murmurs quietly to himself, rubbing dejectedly at an eyebrow. The poster’s author craving for infamy could very well be the Children’s undoing.
Aroldo pauses outside of The Sweet Tooth Patisserie, stomach rumbling and mouth-watering. His sigh as he opens the door is tinged with disappointment.
His eyes linger on the displayed treats, as appealing to the eyes as they are no doubt to tastebuds. It takes him a second to realise the proprietor, Leila, was asking him a question.
“Oh, I’m fine, just fine. Yourself, Leila?” he responds.
“Very well, I must admit. Lately life has seemed so… invigorating, I must say,” Leila admits with a bright smile.
“Well, that’s nice,” Aroldo responds, looking for a better response and coming up short. Rather rudely, his stomach interrupts by emitting a low growl, clearly audible over the other noises in the shop.
“Sounds like someone isn’t satisfied though,” laughs Leila as she pokes at Aroldo’s belly. The wizard hides his discomfort at being touched by a stranger with a polite chuckle as he takes half a step back.
“It’s going to be making that noise for a while, I’m sorry to say. Time to lose a bit of this,” Aroldo confesses, rubbing at his stomach where it was prodded moments ago.
“I think you’re in the wrong place!” the baker taunts. She glances down at Aroldo’s hand and spies his wedding band. “The wife on your back to lose weight?” she asks with a wink.
Aroldo clears his throat while he thinks of something better to retort with than “Mind your own damned business?”
With a slightly downcast face, he decides on "No, no, my Livia went to the Gods some time ago now.”
The baker pauses for a moment, having lost the initiative in the conversation. “Oh, I’m so sorry…” she begins but Aroldo waves at her as if it is no matter, and any attempts at a hug from the personal space invader.
“Well, perhaps there’s someone on the horizon, then?” she asks.
Aroldo shakes his head, thinking that it is perhaps for best he doesn’t explain that he’s concerned his weight may be a distinguishing feature for the Dottari to home in on.
“Oh, just some general self-improvement?” the baker asks, managing to inject the slightest tone of disbelief.
“Something like that,” Aroldo mutters, thinking it’s none of her business. In fact, Aroldo realises then that there is something about Leila making him uncomfortable, apart from touchy-feely way, although he can’t place his finger on it.
In an attempt to get Leila away from asking him questions, the wizard points to the display, “I was wondering if I could have one of those please?”
“Sure, but you’re not going to lose any weight having one of those!” Leila chuckles as she places a pastry in a brown bag.
“It’s not for me,” responds the man, forcing the slightest of smiles back onto his face. "It’s for a friend of mine, Bug, he works next door.”
“Oh, the little halfling fellow, from Belor’s?”
“Yes, that’s the one,” responds Aroldo. "I was also wondering if you could have, oh..” he trails off as he looks at the price of one and does some quick calculations, "say, one hundred and fifty more for pick up tomorrow?
Leila blinks as Aroldo slides over some gold coins. “What’s happening? Is there a party or something happening tomorrow? And I wasn’t invited?”
Aroldo casually wanes a hand in dismissal, “No, no, nothing like that. It’s for Bug’s friends.”
“Oh, Okay then. I wondered if Bodeen needed them to cater for the beer-hall.”
Aroldo shrugs non-committedly. “I suppose he’d have Tapo take care of that, but I’m honestly not sure. I have to admit I don’t know Boden as well as the old owner, Titus.”
“Really? That seems a pity. I mean, Titus was nice enough, in his own way, he could be a bit drunkenly boorish and crude at times though.”
Aroldo keeps the smile on his face as he shrugs slightly. Bodeen may be a little more polite, perhaps, but he seems just as fond of a drink as much Titus was.
“And Bodeen is much cuter than that Titus fellow. When Bodeen smiles…” Leila trails off with a sigh and seems lost in thought.
Again, Aroldo shrugs and smiles as he heads towards the door. “I’ll, um, tell Bodeen you said ‘hi’ then,” eager to get away from the clearly infatuated woman. “Bug will come past tomorrow.”
Thankful to have escaped the Patisserie, Aroldo heads next door to Belor’s, keen to say hello to some of his co-conspirators and complete another task for the day.
Walking into the beer-hall without any disguise, he’s clearly recognisable as himself, so he nods at a few of the regulars drinking, giving Mercia a wink as she waves cheerily at him. Sliding onto a bar stool, he makes eye contact with Bodeen, who finishes polishing a mug and saunters over to the wizard.
“And how are you today, Aroldo?” asks the priest-barman.
“Good, my friend, no problems but a little thirst, which you can help with,” smiles Aroldo, his response letting Bodeen know there isn’t any pressing rebellion business. “Just the usual.”
As Bodeen turns to fill a mug with Aroldo’s favourite ale, the wizard looks around the tap room for Bug, but fails to see the halfling.
Bodeen brings back the filled mug and Aroldo slides over some copper before taking a long pull from the mug. Letting out a satisfied sigh, he asks in the most casual tone says “Leila says ‘hi’, by the way. And where’s Bug?”
“He’s out back, Tapo has him peeling vegetables.” replies Bodeen. “It’s his break soon, though.”
“Can you send him my way when he’s free?"
“Sure, no problems,” replies Bodeen before he heads down the bar to serve others in need of a refill.
Aroldo only manages to make it halfway through his ale before Bug emerges, wiping his hands on a rag.
Aroldo gets up from his stool and waves Bug over to a vacant table.
Clambering up to seat himself on a chair, the rogue greets the wizard, “Hey Aroldo, what’s up? All good?”
“Yeah, all is well, just thought I’d stop by and say hello, as well as show my gratitude.”
“Oh? Gratitude?” responds the halfling, suddenly sitting a little straighter.
“Yes, I’ve been told that this list of places that you gave me for those… meetings have come in very useful.” Aroldo smiles as the nods and gives the thumbs up.
“I thought I’d give you these,” the wizard reaches into one of his pouches and retrieves a small pile of cards, as well as a smaller pouch.
Bug picks up one of the cards and flips it over to find the words. His eyebrows furrow slightly as he reads the words. “An address?”
“As well as an invitation,” The wizard leans forward, and lowers his voice slightly, "For the Free Kintargo Society. Pass them along to those who you think would be interested, as well as trustworthy.
Bug then picks up the other pouch, hiding his disappointment at the lack of metallic clinking. He peers inside, partially removing a decorative mask. He shoots Aroldo a questioning glance.
“To go with the invitations. People may understandably reluctant to reveal their identities at first.”
Bug nods in understanding at this, before pocketing the lot. Aroldo then hands over a paper bag. The halfling reaches in and withdraws a large apple and raspberry Linnorm pastry.
Bug eyes it greedily before beginning to stuff it into his mouth. “There will be one hundred and fifty ready for you at the sweet Tooth Patisserie tomorrow morning. I’m sure you know a lot more deserving people who could use a bite, or a tasty treat at the very least. I’ll leave that to you.”
The wizard pats Bug on the shoulder as he gets up from the table. He waves goodbye to Bodeen and Mercia and walks out of the beer hall, onto his next distribution point for the invitations.