Hugh spent the next day with the twins, buying and arranging things for their home. They got a wash basin, jars for collecting and storing water, three wooden wardrobes, a couple tables, some couches, and a few tapestries and rugs for their rooms.
They took baths, arranged their new things, and went to bed late, struggling to sleep through the excitement.
The next morning, they were awoken by the sound of activity in their home. Over a dozen people were moving about, setting up for the party. Something smelled delicious, and they went into their kitchen to find people cooking meats over the fire and baking bread in their oven. Out back, more chefs were preparing other food, chopping vegetables and herbs, and preparing fruits and berries. Someone passed them carrying a large bowl back into the kitchen.
Henry walked up to them. “Hugh, we need you for a fitting for new clothes.”
To be fair, Hugh’s doublet didn’t leave much to the imagination since he had grown. He walked with Henry back to Walker’s estate, was measured, got a haircut, and went back home. A while after lunch, a luxurious set of purple robes with white fur trim were dropped off for Hugh. He tried them on, and he felt silly in them, but the twins assured him he looked like an enormous king.
Later in the afternoon, Walker arrived with a large entourage, and he made introductions, too many for Hugh to remember. Large platters of food were carried by servants as people ate from them in passing.
Walker and Nikomedes walked with Hugh through the home, pointing out features.
“I made sure it had plenty of head room for you,” said Walker. “Normally a home this big would have a second floor, but we opted for just the one, to allow for taller ceilings.”
“It’s really nice,” said Hugh. “The twins and I, we just love it.”
“I could still have a second floor added,” said Nikomedes.
“No, no, you’ve done too much already,” Hugh said.
“Maybe next fall,” said Walker.
A flute player moved around the room, and people downed glass after glass of wine poured from skins by servants. As the evening wore on, everyone’s speech got more slurred, the laughs got louder, and the music seemed to slow down. Before long, Walker clapped his hands loudly and called everyone’s attention.
“I want to thank you all for coming, and a special thanks to all of you who made this possible. But our biggest thanks go to Hugh, whose efforts have saved us from the savagery of foreign invasion. We’d all be hanging by our necks now if not for the greatest ally the city ever had. So, let us raise our cups in honor of the city’s savior.”
Everyone lifted their drink and shouted their thanks. Those near Hugh patted him on the back of the thigh or shook his hand. Hugh looked for the twins, finding them in the crowd, and smiled. They beamed right back at him.
“It’s time for the procession through the city,” said Walker.
Hugh and the twins looked at each other and shrugged.
Everyone filed out, and Hugh walked over to Walker. “Where are they going?” he asked.
“Oh, you’re coming, too,” replied Walker. “We never celebrate in just one place. Now that we’ve exhausted the food and drink here, we’ll walk through the city to my home, where another feast and more wine await. There’s also a little more space there for those who find themselves too exhausted to make it home. People will just sleep where ever they pass out, be it on couches or the floor.”
The whole lot of them made their way through the streets, some stumbling drunk and leaning on someone for support. On the way, Hugh spotted Theoson and waved him over to join them. When they arrived at Walker’s estate, several musicians were already there playing music, and the party resumed.
Theoson, Hugh and Walker were inside chatting with a group of noblemen about their sea trading operation when Theoson coughed heavily, then cleared his throat quite loudly. He glanced all around the room, craning his neck conspicuously in several directions as if he were searching for something, then he looked at Walker and spit right in his face. Everyone present just stared in disbelief.
“Sorry,” said Theoson. “I was looking around, and everything looked so nice. The varnished wood floors, the fine rugs, the vessels of precious metal… then… I saw your face.”
“How dare you!” shouted one of the nobles standing next to Walker. Walker shook his head and put his hand up in front of the noble to silence him before wiping his face.
Walker chuckled to himself before saying, “How much do I owe you for this lesson in humility?”
Theoson grinned. “By the looks of this party, you’ve paid enough already.”
Brad walked up, having witnessed the whole thing, and handed Walker a cloth to clean himself. He looked at Theoson, his head cocked, and said, “You know, Theoson, one of these days you will drive the city mad, and someone is bound to kill you.”
“Perhaps,” said Theoson, “Or, I will bring them to their senses, and someone will be bound to kill you.”
“Now, now, boys,” Walker said after wiping himself off. “I’m not worth fighting over.”
“To think, there are those who say you’re a philosopher,” said Brad, still staring at Theoson.
“Come now, I don’t agree with everything you say,” said Theoson, “But I wouldn’t accuse you of not even being a philosopher. I have no doubt that you are. Though, there is a difference between us: you philosophize at Walker’s request, whereas I do so of my own free will.”
“Perhaps because no one would bother to ask you,” said Brad.
“Come, let’s talk in private,” said Walker, putting his hand on Theoson’s shoulder. They went off down the hallway.
Later in the night, Hugh found himself talking to Herbert and some of his officers.
“You simply must join us in our hunt tomorrow,” said one of them.
“Um, okay,” said Hugh.
Herbert nodded. “Sadly, I don’t think there’s a horse in the world that could bear you, but you could be part of the dog detail. They go on foot, and it’s quite an exciting role. I was a dog handler for years.”
“Sounds fun,” said Hugh.
Theoson approached Hugh. “Come on, we’re out of here.”
Hugh cocked his head. “Oh… where are we going?”
“Don’t worry about it. It was Walker’s idea, anyway,” Theoson said.
As they walked out of and away from the estate, the music faded and it dawned on Hugh how drab and depressing the city was at night. They passed children sleeping in doorways and alleys, and Theoson pulled food from his satchel to give to every one of them.
Theoson led Hugh through the dark streets for a bit, coming to a building with a large, armed guard standing in front of it, who nodded to Theoson as if they knew each other. Theoson stepped into the doorway and turned back to Hugh, “Wait here… I don’t think you’ll fit inside.”
Hugh stood there, looking up and down the street. The guard stared wordlessly ahead, not even glancing at Hugh.
“What is this place?” asked Hugh.
The guard said nothing. Hugh looked down at his feet and sighed. “It’s a bit chilly tonight, huh?”
Again, the guard didn’t speak. After a short while, Theoson came out. “You aren’t trying to talk to him, are you?” he asked.
Theoson laughed. “The man has no tongue, a very important trait for a man of his profession.”
Women began filing out of the building and stood in a line.
“Choose one,” said Theoson.
“For what?” asked Hugh.
“This is a brothel, Hugh. What do you think it’s for?”
Hugh blinked a few times, confused.
“Which one do you want to fuck?” asked Theoson.
“Um…” Hugh stood there, glancing over them and trying not to make eye contact with the women. Some looked up at him, smiling, while others just stared blankly at the ground or in front of them.
“Come on, this is the kind of question that has no wrong answer,” Theoson said, leaning against the building.
One of the women stepped forward. “If I may, I would love to spend the night with you.” She wore a thin, gossamer dress and flowers in her hair.
“Oh, alright,” said Hugh.
Theoson walked up to Hugh and patted him on the thigh. “You’re a bit too big for the brothel or any of their beds, so it’s already been arranged for her to escort you home.”
She grabbed his hand and walked with him to his place.
“What’s your name?” Hugh asked.
“Khilia,” she said. “I know your name, of course. Where do you come from, Hugh?”
“A little island a few days journey from here,” he said. “It lies in a pond larger than most lakes, and my home sits next to a hill larger than most mountains.”
Khilia snorted with laughter. “That sounds ridiculous.”
“I suppose it is,” said Hugh, smiling
“What brought you to Polity?”
“I came to bury a friend at sea.”
“Oh, I’m so sorry. Were you close?”
“No particularly,” said Hugh. “I came with the twins, who are my wards. I suppose we also left so that they could see more of the world outside our small island. They’ve only left briefly before, and have never travelled this far. I sometimes worry that my reclusive lifestyle stifles their natural adventurousness. They’re at that age when it was just inevitable for them to want to get out and make their own lives.”
“Kane and Lang?”
“The twins, aren’t they named Kane and Lang?”
“Oh, I guess. I never named them, to be honest. I always felt like names were something parents give their children, and I’m not their parent, so it wasn’t for me to name them. Walker named them that.”
“Right, Chancellor Edward.”
“How can people go so long without a name? What do you call them?”
“The giant and the dwarf,” said Hugh.
“Aren’t they the same height?”
“Yes… I suppose they are.”
They reached Hugh’s home and entered. She walked into the garden ahead of him. “Nice place.”
Her dress dropped from her shoulders and fell to the ground before Hugh knew what was happening. “So, where do you want me?”
To be continued…