Getting Mugged (Day 53)
Tarcuna informed me that, as anyone knows, the best crompies in Dorday are found in a little waterside restaurant named “Billy’s”. Tarcuna has been very good for important bits of information like this, and a good deal else. She has lived in Dorday her whole life: as a child, then as a student at Dorday Academy for two years studying weapons engineering, then she dropped out and became a public friend about a year and a half ago. (She seemed a bit sad about that. I didn’t want to make my vacation sad, or torment the girl, so I didn’t ask any details.)
“I didn’t know that. What are crompies?”
“You don’t know crompies? A great gourmet like you, and you’ve never had a crompy?” She was quite glad to find an euphemism for “glutton” that she could use on me.
“I haven’t. Not by that name.”
Crompies are sandwiches, fried fish and chilis and shredded apples and sour cream on puffy bread. They are a Dorday specialty, and nobody in the universe makes them better than Billy’s.
“So let’s go for that boat ride with music in the morning. We’ll get back a little before eclipse, we’ll be right by the lagoon, and we’ll have lunch at Billy’s then.”
“Just to warn you, Spotty, it’s in a rather bad neighborhood. Sailors, dock workers, and criminals. Billy’s itself is fine, but the walk there isn’t really nice to do in the dark.”
I shrugged. “Dark and criminals really shouldn’t be much trouble.”
Tarcuna looked a bit worried. “Well, I want your vacation to be as trouble-free as possible.”
The boat ride was quiet and peaceful, except for all the hoven children running around and squeaking, trying to see fish in the lagoon, trying to attract gulls with bits of cookies. The promised musical entertainment was five hovens in odd costumes singing traditional Trestean childrens’ songs. The ones with the wordplay were pretty fun for me, since I hadn’t heard them before. The ones urging good behavior were tedious even to me. Tarcuna and I were the only adults without children listening, though. Then somehow two of the children tricked me into playing Pickle-or-Pie with me — it’s a board game where you move your pawn around based on which cards you draw. You never have any choice about what to do. I will take that as a sufficient excuse for losing a board game to a six-year-old hoven boy.
Billy’s wasn’t a little waterside restaurant any more. They’d moved a block away to somewhere much larger. And we still had to wait half an hour for a table; the eclipse started while we were standing outdoors in a line full of sailors, dock workers, criminals, and tourists.
“After lunch, we could go to the Garment District and get you a couple new outfits,” said Tarcuna. “You’ve been wearing that same tunic all week.”
“It’s not dirty,” I said. It wasn’t. It’s not a real tunic, it’s some of my scales shapeshifted, and that makes it easy to clean even if some dust manages to blast its brutal way through the Hoplonton.
“It looks like something a farmer from Churry would wear. Let me at least take you to look for something new. We’re next to the Garment District, clothes there are cheap.”
“I don’t care about cheap. I’ve got three-quarters of a million thurnies in my pocket, I can buy expensive clothes if I want.”
Tarcuna looked a bit nervous. “I wouldn’t say that so loudly right here. Would you rather go to Bisarello Street? It’s expensive there, I can’t afford shop there myself, but the boutiques are really something.”
“That sounds maybe better,” I said. I don’t like wearing real clothes generally, since they’re so easy to wreck with a careless movement or a stray fire breath. But Tarcuna could help put them on me. Then I could shapeshift into wearing them.
And finally it was our turn to get a table. Tarcuna didn’t blink an eye at me eating twelve crompies to her one (and they are really quite good, even if Tarcuna says they’re not as good as when Billy’s was just a little shack when she worked there). And headed out towards the canal, where we planned to catch a bus-boat to Bisarello Street.
And of course that’s where we got jumped. Three hovens were lurking in the doors of an ugly brick warehouse, trusting to eclipse’s shadows to hide them. But they smelled of sweat and excitement and their hearts were racing as we approached and their bodies whispered of feeble danger, so I’m not sure why they bothered hiding, except that they thought I was a hoven and unable to smell or hear very much. Two others had been following us from Billy’s. The last two were pretending to be engrossed in a game of cards.