Late in the afternoon, they finally passed through the city gates and into Hessler. Just inside the gates, people were littered everywhere! Each was talking to one another or moving about their day. All the activity generated noise that was loud enough to hurt Adam’s ears. He covered them with his hands as his face scrunched up at the mild pain.
“It’s loud!” He nearly shouted over the din.
Vivienne tried to comfort him: “We’ll be moving on soon. It gets a little quieter further in.”
A small ways down the main road, it opened up into a large bazaar. The hustle and bustle grew even more as people shopped and haggled over goods. The caravan parked in an empty spot before everyone started jumping off the wagons. Trask spoke to Dallen: “I guess this is where we part.”
Dallen nodded: “This is our end destination, but we still have to figure out just what we are going to do. Vivienne has a solid plan for her and Adam, but the rest of us are still unsure as to what Hessler has to offer us.”
Trask handed Dallen a pouch full of money before saying their final farewells. Dallen walked over to where everyone was gathering around Vivienne and Adam. He tossed the bag between his hands as he said: “Well, we got our payment. It’s something to start us out. You said you had a place for us to stay Vivienne?”
She nodded: “I don’t know that they will let you stay for an extended time, but I’m certain they will be able to make room for you. Follow me.”
Vivienne tucked a wooden pole under her arm as a crutch. For the distance they needed to walk, a splint wasn’t enough. Despite all the noise, the hollow thunking sound of the pole hitting the cobblestones echoed the loudest to Adam. ‘Why hasn’t mom talked about it…’ He knew her leg was broken. He had picked up on it easily enough; however she would never talk about it.
Slowly, the din of the bazaar and the streets dimmed. Adam could hear the many passers-bys still around them, as well as the occasional carriage going by. The others in their group remarked at the buildings as they passed by. Some had beautiful stonework, others ornate carvings. A rather reputable bank even had gold gilding on the front door! But none of that matter as much to Adam as that continuous hollow thinking that resounded in his ears.
With Vivienne needing to take a few breaks along the way, it took over an hour to reach their destination. Before them, there laid a rather large complex built around a grand garden courtyard. There was a large two-story building plainly visible and easy to access. A little further away was another building that was rather small and slightly obscured by shrubbery. A third building that was just about as large as the first stood the furthest away, hidden by trees. Behind everything, there was a dividing wall behind which one could just barely make out another building. Everywhere one looked, lavish work could be seen. There were stone artworks and beautiful garden arrangements throughout the courtyard. Adorning the buildings were ornate decorations and deeply colored draperies. The insides of these buildings promised to be just as lavish as the outsides.
At the entrance to the garden courtyard, there was a large gilded sign that read: Madame’s Tavern and- “Does that say bro-” Vivienne quickly elbowed Dallen before he could continue. “We aren’t going to that side of the business, now shut it!”
Adam was confused about what Dallen was trying to say, while everyone else was giving Vivienne a weird look. She simply said: “It’s not like I welcome the fact that that place is attached to the home where I grew up!”
Continuing forward, she said: “You guys should wait here while I meet with the Madame.”
Dallen and the others found a place to sit in the garden, while Vivienne led Adam forward by the hand. She didn’t head toward the two-story building that was the tavern but towards the smaller one. She knocked on the french glass doors as she entered. Just inside, there were a few desks with papers and organizers everywhere. It seemed to be the place where the business part of Madame’s was run from.
An old man looked up from the desk where he was working. His gaze halted for a moment when he saw Vivienne: “Vivienne, is that you? What happened to your leg!?”
The old man quickly got up and brought a chair over. Vivienne sat down while gratefully saying: “Thank you.” She sighed before flashing him a smile: “And it’s good to see you too, old man.”
Vivienne gently pulled a confused Adam over. “This is my son, Adam.”
Ignoring his blindfold, the old man took Adam’s hand in a shake and said: “Hello, Adam. My name is Friedrich, though everyone around here calls me old man.”
Turning back to Vivienne; “We’d heard about what happened at Fort Erich and were worried about you… I don’t see that young lad you married yourself off to.”
Vivienne turned downcast: “Alaric and my daughter died…”
“Sorry to bring it up.”
Vivienne shook her head: “Is Madame Irene in? I need to speak to her.”
Friedrich shook his head: “Irene passed a few years ago. She passed her mantle onto Janette.”
Vivienne was stunned for a moment. ‘Irene was getting on in her years, but still…’ And then the last bit clicked in her head: “Wait, you don’t actually mean Janette is Madame now, do you!?”
Friedrich laughed: “She certainly is, and doing a better job than any of us thought she would too! Though, only by a little.”
Vivienne shook her head at the thought of it. “Well, is she available then?”
Friedrich used his thumb to point at a door further in; “She’s just loafing around in her office. Head on in.”
Vivienne led an uncomfortable Adam forward. He’d had nothing to add to the conversation and had no idea what he should be doing. The small talk about his father and sister also turned him pensive.
Janette was leaning back her luxurious chair while having her feet placed on her desk. She looked nothing like a refined lady one would expect from the clothing she wore and the office she worked in. When her door suddenly opened, she scrambled to make herself look decent, nearly falling backward off her chair! When she finally saw who was coming in, she was stunned: “Vivienne!?”
Vivienne gave a smirk as she asked slyly: “Sorry, were you in the middle of something important?”
“Yea, uh important stuff. Is that your son?” Janette quickly diverted.
Vivienne laughed: “This is Adam, my son.”
“Welcome to Madame’s Tavern and Brothel, Adam.”
Adam cocked his head to the side. He faintly remembered the word, but couldn’t call it up; “Brothel?”
Vivienne quickly waved it away; “Don’t worry about it Adam, it’s nothing important.”
Janette shook her head: “He will learn sometime, Vivienne.”
Vivienne quickly moved on; “Anyway, we… our home was lost to us.”
The mood turned somber. Janette responded: “I’d heard about Fort Erich. We were worried… you and Adam are welcome here, of course… Alric didn’t make it?”
Vivienne simply shook her head. Janette quickly got up and went around her desk to hug Vivienne. “I’m so sorry.”
Janette looked at Vivienne and Adam. “We should get the two of you to see Healer Edward. I imagine it has been some time since you had your injuries last looked at?”
Vivienne nodded, then said: “Also, there are others who came with me. I was hoping there was something Madame’s could do for them.”
Janette put on a thinking face; “Possibly, but I don’t have many positions open to take in adults. Take me to them, and we can see what can be done.”
Vivienne led Janette to where the others were waiting. Even from afar, Janette started appraising them: “Oh, I like the big gruff one there. We have a bouncer position open. You think he would fit the bill?”
“Definitely, his personality is just about as gruff as his exterior.”
“As for the others, we have more than enough heavy lifters and cooks… Ooo, is that a baby!?”
Janette quickly ran over to Sarah, who was holding Claudia and began ogling the baby. Vivienne could only shake her head at the antics. After a while, they finally started talking about business. Janette said: “I can put you guys up for a little while, but it won’t be anything permanent. Probably a month at most.”
A month was still very generous, and everyone took up the offer. It was at least something to help get them started. Putting her hands together in a clap, Janette then said: “Well, it’s getting late. How about dinner?”
She led them to the tavern that was bustling with people. The insides truly looked high class. The first floor was large and meant for the common folk who could enjoy a lavish environment at a fairly reasonable price. Above, there was a second-floor balcony all along the edges. Curtains hung lazily in artistic patterns across the balconies, to dampen the noise from the first floor. There was a main dancing stage in the center of the tavern. And musicians could be found dotted all around the fringes of the first floor, in addition to a few along the balconies. The music maintained a calm grace and nobody was speaking loudly. Despite its larger size, compared to The Dancery, it was a fair bit quieter.
The evening flew past Adam. There was pleasant music he was unfamiliar with, good food, and nice company. Before he knew it, he was settling down on a bed in a room he was sharing with his mother. She helped to tuck him in, saying: “Get some rest. Tomorrow, we will see Healer Edward. He’s one of the best in the city!”
Anticipations swelled in Adam’s heart. Excited, he said: “Good night mom!” Before turning over and trying to fall asleep quickly. Vivienne gave a warm smiled and kissed his head; “Pleasant dreams.”
Adam was waiting impatiently with Vivienne. The night had passed far too slowly for Adam. His excitement had kept him from sleeping for quite a while. Now, they were waiting in a room where Healer Edward worked. Every moment seemed to stretch on forever as they waited for him to come and examine them. Adam thought for the hundredth time: ‘I hope he can help my eyes. I’m tired of seeing nothing but this empty void.’
It wasn’t much longer before there was a knock at the door. The door opened, and an older man appeared: “Hello Adam and Vivienne. I have heard about your injuries, who would like to be examined first?”
As much as he wanted his eyes to be healed fast, Adam was rather concerned about the state of Vivienne’s leg. She had kept him in the dark long enough; “Look at mom’s leg first!”
Edward chuckled: “Well, the lad’s spoken. Why don’t you lay down on the examination bed and I’ll take a look.”
With no reason to refuse, Vivienne laid out as Edward started running the tips of his fingers around the area her leg had broken. “I take it you’ve been walking on it with the splint?”
Vivienne nodded. Edwards shook his head: “I know you were on the run, but you shouldn’t have been doing that with just a loose splint. Hmm…”
He frowned as he continued. “The break was pretty bad. Even if it had been properly set, all your walking shifted the bone. It’s started to heal the wrong way. I recommend rebreaking the bone then reset it. We would also put on a proper cast so the bone won’t move during the healing process.”
Vivienne was a little apprehensive. ‘It was painful enough when that Ghul broke my leg. To break it again…’
Edward saw this and said: “We have sedatives we can use to knock you out while we do the breaking. It will still hurt when you wake up, but you’ll avoid the worst of it. Think about it. You’re on Madame’s bill, so I imagine you must be a dancer. If we don’t re-break the leg and set it right, your dancing will be heavily affected.”
“O-okay, but can it wait?”
“Of course, we would have to get everything ready beforehand. Let’s set a date before you leave. Now, to Adam.”
Edwards gently unwrapped the bandage around Adam’s eyes. They looked better than they had at first, but there was still faint redness to them. Edward stretched his eyelids and peered closely at Adam’s eyes. Edward asked: “When were your eyes injured?”
“A few weeks ago, back in Einar, First Month of Spring.”
Edwards gave a small sigh and shook his head. “There’s some good news and some bad news.”-Adam’s heart started to sink- “The good news is your eyes themselves are healing fine. A worry about these injuries is that often the eye gets deflated and has to be removed. You shouldn’t have to worry about that. Unfortunately, there is nothing more I can do to help you recover your eyesight back.”
Adam was stunned as it felt like he was sinking into a deep dark hole. ‘I’m stuck with this void for the rest of my life!?’