Chapter 3 Friends
Rose leaned into the wind and held onto her hat as she approached Steamy’s bath house. A sprinkle of heavy rain drops wet her face and splattered on the cobblestone road underfoot. The last light of twilight faded from the sky just as she entered the building, but neither stars nor moons could be seen. Storm clouds filled the skies to make it a truly dark night.
“Evening, Rose. Your friends are waiting for you in private room 3.” The night guard, an older warrior who still looked quite formidable, even if he did have a bit of a paunch, started to touch his cap, and then turned it into a pointing gesture toward a stairway leading down. “They already paid, so you can go right in.”
“Excuse me, must greet a regular customer.” Bitsyby, the ticket seller and bath house owner looked up from a scroll she was reading and waved at Rose. “Evening, Rose! Why so late? Your friends got here half an hour ago.”
“Ollahay, Bitsyby! I had to go see Grumbles in the Thieves Market and sell some junk weapons we picked up.”
“Ha! now there’s someone who should learn from you. He’d benefit a lot from a bath once in a while.”
“You know that kobolds are allergic to water, don’t you? They believe it is a deadly acid, only good for dissolving things.”
“And they’re afraid of dissolving themselves!” Both young women shared the laugh. Tam chuckled. Half the city knew Grumbles. What a character!
Rose slipped through the gate and headed for the stairs. The bathing pools were below the building.
“Do you know all your customers by name?” asked the stranger in line.
“Become a good customer here, Sweetie, and I’ll know your name too.” Bitsyby gave the wanderer a friendly smile. He was clearly a warrior with all that weaponry and armor draped around his body. The Adventurers Guild had probably sent him over, since they didn’t have bathing facilities of their own, but still demanded a certain level of cleanliness from anyone who wanted to lodge with them.
“I want to go where she’s going. How much for the private rooms?”
“Sorry, Handsome! Not tonight. Private party.” Rose headed down the narrow stairway. She took a lit candle from a tray full of them at the top of the stairs, and started downward, careful not to let any hot wax drip down onto her hand. Two flights down and she entered the great bath cavern. Overhead there was dark stone while beneath her feet a wooden floor covered the natural stone of the cavern. Mildly eroitc paintings hung on the wood-penelled walls of the corridor.. Behind her there was a bare rock wall and the stairway going back up. There were five private rooms in the hallway, and each had a lock and key. Rose went to the third one, and tried the handle. Yes, it was locked. She banged her knuckles on it in her private knock. One, four quick, one. The four of them each had their signature knock and several other knock sequences that were codes for various information.
“Rose is finally here.” The Dwarf’s raised voice penetrated into the hallway. “I’ll let her in.”
“About time. I’m getting water-logged,” chirped Petal.
Thorn opened the door, and Rose stepped quickly inside. Thorn closed the door again and locked it with a key.
“Good idea. There was a human adventurer buying a ticket, and he looked like he wanted to follow me. He might pay extra for a private bath also.”
“I don’t blame him. You probably look pretty good to other humans, though you’re much too tall for a proper Dwarf man to fancy.” Thorn padded through the changing room and stepped back into the warm pool. She took two steps down on the stairs that led into the pool, and then sat down, “Ahhhhh! Nothing better after a day of battle than a hot bath.”
Rose began undressing. Hat, boots, gloves—those on a shelf—vest, blouse, pants, camisole. She put her weapons in the rack on the wall, and her three money purses on the shelf with the gloves. She hung her vestments on a peg next to those of her friends.
“Calyx, you will use that spell to clean all of our clothing before we leave here, won’t you?” Elves, especially High Elves, had a mania for cleanliness, They had created spells to clean themselves up in even the filthiest situations—situations like battle. No spell was as good as a nice long soak in a hot pool of water, but, the magic was certainly good enough for getting the sweat and dust our of clothing.
“Of course, Rose. I’ll do it just before we leave.”
“You know, it’s going to be raining hard when we leave here. It was already starting when I came in.”
“I thought it would be. Thorn has been grumbling about an ache in her knees, and that always means a storm.”
“I wasn’t grumbling. A Dwarf never complains. We just state the facts!”
Rose paused on the lip of stone between the two pools. She was beautiful, a young woman in her prime. Her arms, face, and neck were a few shades darker than the rest of her body which was a pleasing shade of pinkish white. Full breasts, a firm, trim stomach, wide hips tapering down to long lithe legs and finely shaped ankles and feet.
“Which way do I go?”
“Warm water is the best for aching muscles.”
“You had better come into the cool waters with Calyx and me if you want to get clean.”
“Yes, Human Flower of Sweet Pink Petals, come join us, and I, even I, Calyx of the House of Calyxides, will wash your back for you.”
“And I’ll wash your front. That will be so much fun for both of us.”
Rose dove into the pool of cool water, aiming for a spot between the two elves. She spread her arms and slapped the water as she came down, making a tremendous splash, and holding her breath as she submerged. A spray of water flew high into the air, and some droplets got far enough to fall on the unsuspecting Dwarf.
“Hey! That’s cold!” Thorn submerged herself in the warm pool, and lay on the bottom for a minute. She was much too solid and heavy to float, but she stayed in the shallow end near the stairs, and when she couldn’t hold her breath any longer, she stood up. Then she climbed back onto a stair and reclined with only her face out of the water. “Aaaahh!”
Rose opened her eyes under the water. The glimmering white flesh of the elves appeared. She put out her hand and lightly stroked the inner thigh of the High Elf. Calyx gasped, and then purred. “Oooh, nice.”
Rose did a frog kick and moved away from them, then surfaced. She shook the water out of her eyes. Her cap of reddish brown hair clung to her skull, and trailed down her neck. “There is no House of Calyxides.”
“I mean to start one. You can be my chief retainer.”
“Oh, thank you, my lady,” Rose curtsied, submerging as she did so.
“I wanted to be chief retainer.”
“You can be chief huntress and forester.”
“You? What makes you think I’d have a dwarf in an elven household?”
“You’d better . . . if you hope to live long enough to start this mighty house.”
Rose surfaced again.
“Very well. You can be Captain of the Guard, Thorn.”
“Have all the chief positions been given out?”
“Yes, dear Rose. I shall be High Lady Calyx of the House Calyxides. You shall be Seneschal Rose d’Calyx. Petal shall be Huntress Petallifera d’Calyx. Thorn shall be Captain General of the Forces Calyxides. With a little plotting we shall replace Duke Throxeus and rule this fine city of Stormgaard.”
“And if your plans don’t work out?”
“Then, Rosie one, we will all remain your loyal lieutenants in the Raiders, and live a life of adventure and goblin slaying until our luck runs out.”
While they were laughing at the thought, Petal came up behind Rose, jumped on her and dunked her back under the water again. Rose went with the push, submerged, grabbed Petal’s ankle and upended her with a splash. The elf twisted as she went down, came back up quickly and grappled with the woman, laughing—both of them laughing.
“Children.” The High Elf’s voice held mock disdain for such rough and tumble antics. She got out of the cold pool, and went and draped her lissome form beside the Dwarf in the warm pool.
“Let them have their fun. You and Petal had yours before Rose ever got here. And I’m still waiting for mine.”
“We’ll take good care of you, Granddaughter.” The tall Elf leaned across Thorn’s body so that their breasts touched and gave her a deep and probing kiss.
Thorn sighed and enjoyed it.
They all enjoyed it.
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