12-3

Barrows-by-the-Sea was one of those delightfully literally-named places right by the sea on a rocky overlook above a salt marsh. It was located in Veltable, a spit of land that formed a small neighborhood that shared the aesthetic of weathered wood, many paned windows, and small signs plastering the first story of each business. The restaurant, therefore, blended in and would have been hard for Raulin to find on his own, even with detailed instructions.

It served soup. The menu idea wasn’t something that seemed interesting at first, as soup isn’t exactly an interesting option, but Al assured them it was worthwhile. “This place serves some of the best soup in the city, trust me. I mean, their minestrone is fine, though a little on the bland side, and I don’t care for their burnt onion soup, but the chowders and bisques are amazing.”

They were seated at a square table with the middle portion sunken down and lined with quilted and stuffed cotton in a pattern of lighthouses and sea creatures. There was an uncovered, raised section in the middle lined with tile. The idea was to order canteens of soups that would be set in that section so that everyone could ladle whatever they liked into their bowl. Raulin let Al choose a seafood chowder, a squash bisque, a beef stew, and a chicken vegetable soup.

The waitress brought out two hunks of bread and a variety of crackers right before two waiters brought the soups, strapped to a yoke as if they were bringing milk pails back from the stable. The soups were good and Raulin lavished his praise on Al for his excellent choice in food.

“Baradan is diverse and provides everything you need,” Al said. “It might not be a place for the best fine dining in Gheny, but it will make you happy and satisfied.”

“Oh, there was a metaphor here!” Raulin said. “And I asked for a good place for a newcomer to eat at first, so this was wonderful.”

“Yes?” Al wondered aloud.

“Yes. In the future I will ask for all Baradanian feasting advice from you.”

Al sopped up the rest of his chowder with his bread and ate it hungrily, as if he hadn’t just had five bowls of soup. “Do you want to go to a briarch later?”

Raulin knew what that was, since he’d been to Br’vani, but he looked at Anla quickly, who seemed confused. “I don’t know what that is, but if it involves food, then I’m likely a ‘yes’.”

Al brought them to Harbor Beach for a few hours until the sun began to set. Tel loved it, especially since Al pointed out that this was likely the closest he’d be to Ervaskin while on Ghenian soil. Anla and Raulin sat next to each other, talking on the beach and trying to stay warm while the wind whipped their hair around and the temperature dropped.

Since Baradanians tended to work hard and work late, many left their offices after the sun set. Briarch restaurants catered to those from six in the evening ’til one, even two, in the morning. They served lighter food and drink that people might find at a cocktail hour, often with a theme of some sort. The one Al took them to looked like a weathered apothecary shop with drinks served in bottles and beakers, shrimp and mussels served on gold, weighted scales, and dips served from mortars.

The next day was a full breakfast, cold sandwiches, and a roast dinner with ventures to Aberli Park and the Maritime Museum in between, happily planned by Al. The day after was much of the same with dining out three times and exploring places and events in Baradan and the surrounding neighborhoods. And the third day, as well.

As they walked from lunch to a fruit-picking excursion, Raulin took Anla aside. “I’ve been patient,” he said. “I appreciate what he’s doing, but I have to get my work done. I haven’t had a minute to spare to do any preparation.”

“I know. You’ve been very kind to him. I’ve been meaning to chat with him, since I keep feeling like there’s something he’s not saying.”

“You think he’s setting a trap?”

“No, no, nothing like that. I don’t think he’s being intentionally malicious, just pensive.”

“Well, if we could do this the nice way, I’d prefer it, but after today I’m going to have to work on my contract.”

They bought two burlap sacks and began harvesting apples. “We’re not going to eat two bagfuls of apples, Wizard, not even if we stayed in Baradan for a month.”

“We can sell the bags back to the orchard when we’re done,” he explained. “We’re paying to have fun for an hour or two, maybe eat some fruit.”

“There aren’t any apples on the lower branches of these trees. We might be here for hours.” He paused. “On second thought, I’m going with Tel and I’m holding the bag.”

Anla was about to climb the nearest tree when Al said, “No! You can’t do that! You’ll break the branches and the owners will get angry.”

She dropped her hands. “How do we get the apples, then?”

“You have to hunt for them. Let’s go this way, to the back.”

Away from the intermingled groups of poorer and richer folk, they found several trees with enough red and green speckled apples to fill their sack. “So, where are we going for dinner?” Anla asked.

“Oh, I thought I’d see how you guys fared with real Br’vani food. There’s a place not far from our hotel that serves roasted pilash like my mother used to make. Or, well, that I had at home. You guys will love it.”

“And what are we doing tomorrow?”

“There’s a nice boardwalk near Estique Heights I thought I’d take you to. It’s not as large as Calaba’s, but it’s still good. And then there’s a winery we can go to in the evening.”

“And the day after?” she asked, taking a large bite out of her fruit.

“I’ll come up with some things for us to do, don’t worry.”

“Well, while we’re enjoying it, I’m wondering why you’re keeping us so busy.”

Al’s eyebrows furrowed as he turned to face her. “Raulin said to take everyone to restaurants and places in Baradan.”

“Yes, but I think he meant a day, maybe two. We’re on day four now. Raulin has to get to work so that he can…”

“I know why he’s here,” he said, twisting an apple to pop it off the branch.

“So, you know that, while we’ve enjoyed our time here, he has to finish his contract.”

“What if I know who it is he has to kill?” He paused for a few moments. “What if it’s my mother?”

“You know he has no choice in who he has to kill. He’ll have to do it anyway,” she said, before realizing Al’s motives. “He has to do it no matter how long you stall.”

“I’m just…afraid to ask,” he said, kicking a rotten apple. “I’m stuck between wanting to know and not wanting to know.”

“Well, prepare for the worst. If Raulin’s target is your mother, what would you do?”

“I’d…I’d go to the police.”

“And tell them a trirec is operating in Baradan? Would they arrest him on suspicion of murder? There’s no proof. And he’d have to be released at some point, then he’d kill his target anyway. No, I mean what would you reasonably do? You have the opportunity to maybe tell the future, but not to stop it. If you looked out upon the sea and saw a storm coming that you knew would kill your mother, what would you do?”

“I’d help her.”

“Good,” she repeated. “That’s a fair thing to do. You can warn her, you can watch over her, you can do what you can to save her. But, you might want to think about seeing her before you do that. Until then, we’ll go out to dinner, if you still want to, but I think we’ll pass on the winery tomorrow. Raulin can’t drink, anyway.”

“Okay,” he said with a sullen tone.

The two meandered in the orchard in silence. While Anladet had found a few good trees with ripe apples, Al was busy thinking. After some time, she approached him. “Are we done with the apples?”

He looked down at the bag, only half-full. “I think so. I’ll just have to get creative when we’re on the road again.”

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