I awoke early the next morning to get ready for the meeting at the Bat's Lair Inn. I washed quickly, and got dressed in my customary favorite blue tunic. True to his word, Moguri had patched the few minor tears and cleaned the garment for me.
"Moguri," I said, walking towards the door, "I'm headed out for the morning. I should come back with some gil for food and-" I broke off suddenly, spying the Moogle asleep on the chair by the fire.
"Poor little guy must've been up all night," I said with a chuckle. I grabbed my pack and my staff, and slipped out the door quietly to avoid waking Moguri.
It was still early enough that the streets of Bastok were nearly empty as I headed to the Bat's Lair Inn. There were just the usual guards performing their usual patrols, and the normal crowd at the auction house.
"I should really remember to sell that chunk of mythril," I muttered to myself. As luck would have it, it was currently sitting at home.
"Talking to yourself, Aspen?" came the voice from just behind me. I jumped slightly, and turned to see Kuto-Lulu standing there. "I saw you from over there," he offered, waving his hand toward the residential area, "and decided you can accompany me to breakfast." He giggled, and began walking for the archway to the Bat's Lair.
"Oh, may I?" I asked, rolling my eyes and following after him. "It has long been my every wish to attend the great Kuto-Lulu at his breakfast."
"Enough with the sarcasm," he responded, trying to sound intimidating. "We meet Garrick and hopefully get paid, so you can't be mean." He giggled again, and stepped through the small archway.
"Allow me," I said, taking a lond stride forward to open the door. The pleasant aroma of baked goods wafted out, instantly igniting my hunger. "Ooh, bretzels," I said longingly.
"Patience, my chubby friend," replied the Taru, ducking through the door with a laugh.
"Chubby?" I asked, with mock indignation. "I'm not chubby. I'm actually quite lean." I walked into the eating area, looking around for an open table. "If anyone's chubby here, it's you," I added with a laugh.
"Taru are chubby by nature," offered a large man in a rumbling voice.
"Garrick," I said, nodding my head in greeting, "good to see you here." I slipped into a chair across the table, leaning over the table. "Did our skins sell? And did you talk to your associate about my training?"
Garrick held out a hand, palm outward to signal for my silence. I suppose my mouth was running away without me again.
"One question at a time," he said, lowering his hand. "Aye, we sold our lizard skins, and even got a bit more for them than we had hoped." He pulled a pair of large bags from his belt, and placed one in front of me. "Five thousand," he offered in a low tone.
It took a moment for the amount to register. Five thousand gil? That amount took my parents almost two months to scrape together, and we had made it in two afternoons.
"Seriously?" I asked, hefting the bag. "We made fifteen thousand gil in one afternoon?"
"Aye," responded the large man with a smile. "Well," he amended, "a little more, but I took a small seller's fee. Costs money to list and such." He turned to Kuto-Lulu, who was climbing onto another chair, a bretzel gripped firmly in one hand. "Your cut," he offered, sliding the other bag over to the Taru.
"Thanks," replied Kuto-Lulu, around a mouthful of bretzel. He picked up the bag, shook it gently, and dropped it into his pouch. "I heard five thousand?"
"Aye," replied the large man. "Not bad. We'll have to go again soon, but we can't risk flooding the market." He stroked his chin for a moment, then added, "How about we go out once a week? Maybe on Icedays?"
"Sounds good to me," I answered. "I'm heading up to get a bretzel." I slipped the small bag into my pouch, drawing the string tight. Five thousand gil a week was almost unheard of back home.
I walked up to the counter, where Griselda was standing. "Good morning, Griselda," I said with a smile. "I'd like one of your bretzels, please." I turned from the synthesis process, surveying the rest of the room quietly.
It was mostly empty, which wasn't surprising considering the early hour. Besides our group, there was a pair of Elvaan in the corner, discussing something in low tones. A small group of Galka in mining gear occupied the largest table, presumably getting a bite to eat before the work day.
At a dim table in the corner was a solitary Hume male, garbed in a voluminous grey cloak. The hood was lowered, revealing his long greying hair and lined face. We made brief eye contact, and I smiled, nodding my head in greeting. His expression never changed.
"Here ye are," came Griselda's voice from behind me, startling me out of my reverie. I turned, accepting the steaming bretzel and counting the gil from my pouch. I started back toward the table, doing my best to ignore the Hume in the corner.
"So, if we start up on the high ridge," Garrick was saying, tracing designs on the table top, "and work our way downward, we should be able to separate the lizards. Them bastards'll never know what hit 'em." He smiled, and relaxed back into his chair before noticing I had returned. "Aspen," he added, turning to me, "I brought the man ye wanted to meet." He motioned just behind me.
I turned my head, and was surprised to see the Hume in the grey cloak standing just behind me.
"This is Aramis," Garrick continued. "He might be able to help ye better with yer problems."
"Very nice to meet you," I said, extending my hand toward Aramis. "My name is-"
Aramis cut me off with a scowl, looking me over briefly. "This is the one?" he asked, directed to Garrick. His voice sounded low and raspy from disuse. "I would not know how to train one so old." He shook his head, his hair flowing behind him. "Do you really wish for me to try, Garrick?"
"Aye," responded the other man. "I owe him a debt. He saved our wee companion there, and I told him I would introduce ye." He shrugged, and took a large bite of his bretzel.
The cloaked man sighed briefly, one hand lifting to his brow. "As a favor to you, I will do what I can." He appraised me briefly again, and then said, "Be at my house tomorrow at dawn. Bring a staff, a sword, and a cold meal." He turned without waiting for a reply, and strode from the room, his cloak billowing behind him.
"Aye, that's the Aramis we know and love," added Garrick after a moment. He continued talking about plans for the next visit to lizard coutry, but I barely heard a word. I was already looking forward to my training.