The drunkard wobbled to his feet, the prospect of being paid by a nobleman having done wonders for his sobriety. Esmina clenched her fists both in fury at her father and fear for what might happen.
Berold showed no concern for the situation or for his daughter. As the man shuffled towards him, he pulled out his coin purse and placed some coins into his eager palms. “That’s forty now. You’ll get the other half when you return with her safe and sound. And you take her wherever she wants to go.”
“Y-yeshir,” he slurred as he nodded a bit too vigorously.
Esmina was horrified as she witnessed this exchange. Her father turned to her and shrugged. “Be back at sundown.” And with that, he entered the Liar’s Respite. The coachman, lumbered after him, still struggling with Esmina’s trunk of clothes. Soon he too was gone, and despite the busy causeway around them, she still felt alone and defenseless.
Bracing herself, she stormed over to the drunkard, who looked like he was having trouble counting his money. As she approached, he seemed to notice her for the first time. “I can pay you the second half my father promised if you leave me to my own devices right now,” she offered.
His eyes widened at that. It would mean a free eighty dragon marks with no strings attached. Enough for a week of nice evenings, even with how poorly he probably managed his money. Instead of agreeing like she had hoped, though, a light shines in his eye. “You got more?”
Esmina blanched. That was exactly the worst question he could have asked. She was a terrible liar, and even with how drunk he was, she didn’t want to risk denying it. She guessed he was probably drunk a lot to be lucid enough to sense her desperation. “I can give you ten more.”
The drunkard tugged at his beard as a lord at dinner pondering which delicacy to taste first. “Fine. Ten marksh.”
Esmina opened her coin purse and, careful to keep the spyglass hidden, pulled out forty dragon marks. She dropped them into his hands, hoping he would either forget or miscount, and turned to go.
“Forgot some. You promised more!”
She cursed under her breath, but kept her promise. Ten more marks wouldn’t hurt much.
After some poorly worded directions and getting lost a few times, Esmina found her way to the Lyceum. It was the center of all academic study in Tal’Doraken, but rather than being one enormous building full of books as she had anticipated, the Lyceum turned out to be a wide, gated area with an elaborate garden in the center. She found the inefficient waste of space distasteful, but it was hard to be upset. She had dreamt of this moment for years.
The gates were open, and there was nobody nearby, so Esmina strolled right in. A girl her age wandering around unattended to was unusual, but if she walked with purpose people might assume she had somewhere to be.
The atmosphere was quite different here. The bustling of the busy streets wavered in the distance and was replaced by the sound of her solitary footsteps on the cobblestone. The sweet floral scent of Sorrowshade drifted into her nose as she roamed the garden. There were lots of flowers, bushes, and trees she didn’t recognize, but there were many she did.
Soon, she found herself at the doors to the main hall of the Lyceum, where she imagined the library to be. The doors weren’t large and the entire building couldn’t be more than two stories tall, but it was the largest here, and it was in the center, too. It was clearly the best place to start. Esmina took one last glance at the sun. She still had about an hour before the sun fully set.
She took a deep breath and opened the door.