The morning sun pleasantly peeked through Cobal’s window but once he kicked off the heavy bed sheets he was reminded why they were there in the first place. Shivering from the cold he quickly put on some clothes and some warm boots before making his way down the hall. It was pretty late in the morning already as he’d overslept a fair bit. He made his way to the guest hallway where he motioned over one of the guards. “Have you seen Mana yet?” he asked the young woman.
She nodded. “Lady Mana and her companion Lady Kimi’Thania requested to be shown to the archives for some research. Would you like me to call for them, your highness?”
Cobal shook his head. “No, that’s quite alright. If you see them, can you let them know I’ll be spending the morning in the city? I’ll be back somewhere in the afternoon.”
“Certainly, your highness.”
“Thank you,” Cobal replied, before walking off. The wind outside was stinging but the sun in the sky did make the weather a lot more pleasant than it otherwise would have been. The guards at the front gate said he really should bring a personal escort but Cobal waved away their worries. He’d be fine in town, he told them. They looked worried that they let him go, but they weren’t about to tell him what he couldn’t do. And with the palace behind him, Cobal made his way down the winding path through the city. The palace was on the northern side of town, near the outer wall. There was a small path that led to the merchant and noble part of town, before heading into the rest of the city.
Even though he wasn’t in a disguise or anything, he did make sure to wear some of his less conspicuous clothes. Anyone could probably still see at a glance that he was from the richer part of town but he didn’t think most people would assume he was a prince. He also hadn’t shown his face in the capital for a little while and his hair, especially his facial hair, had grown quite a bit wilder over time. He now wore a mustache on his face as well as a well kept but ultimately full beard. During their travels it was too much hassle to shave and by the time they got to Dionil’s home he had gotten used to it. Before he set off on his journey he would always get a clean shave each morning. With a polite nod to someone walking by here and there, he made his way to the town center without issue. The place was bustling as it would be this time of day. People were buying their bread and other necessities for the day and vendors were trying to peddle their wares to whoever would even slightly look their way. Cobal already knew where he was headed though and passed straight by all of the vendors. Or at least that was his plan. He quickly found himself standing in line for a pastry vendor. In his defense, the smell of slightly warm bread covered in honey was hard to ignore. He hadn’t eaten breakfast yet so he felt justified in his decision to get some food before carrying on.
“What a dapper young man you are,” the older woman behind the stall said as she handed him his pastry.
“You’re quite fancy yourself,” he shot back.
“You’ll make an old lady blush.” They both laughed.
Cobal paid the woman for his pastry and walked off. His destination wasn’t particularly far from the center of town. Just a few streets further, tucked away in an alley, was the shop he was looking for.
Sitting on top of a barrel was an old sign with Dorgan’s Jewelry Store painted on it. The paint had started flaking off and some parts were barely legible at this point. Cobal knew it by heart though, as he’d visited many times before. Right as he was about to open the door it opened on its own as a customer was just leaving. “Pardon me,” Cobal said, stepping aside to let them through. They didn’t acknowledge him and kept on walking. Cobal slipped inside before the door closed behind him. “It’s cold out there,” he complained. The man behind the counter has his back turned to him. “It does tend to get cold during winter,” he said. Cobal smiled. Dorgan was never one for small talk. “How’s business?”
“Same as usual. No matter what kind of unrest might brew in the world, folks will want to look good for their peers.” He turned around. “What can I help you with?” He paused. “Your highness, I didn’t know you’d returned to the capital.”
Cobal smiled. “We only got back here yesterday. How have you been, Dorgan?”
“I’ve been good. The back’s been acting up, but what can you do?” He chuckled. “How was your journey, your highness?”
“Stop that, you know you can just call me Cobal.”
“Force of habit.”
“But I’ve had a pretty good journey which unfortunately got cut a bit short due to, well, you know.”
“How’s that hero you left with? She seemed unwell when I saw you guys leave town.”
“She’s been doing a lot better as well. She’s become a good friend after a rough start.”
“That’s good.” Dorgan crossed his arms. “So what can I help you with?”
“I was hoping to talk to Selvia.”
Dorgan’s face shifted into a more somber expression. “She went on a trip to sell some of our wares in Marsolin before this whole thing went south. I haven’t heard from her in a little while.”
“Oh,” Cobal replied, unsure what to say. Selvia was Dorgan’s daughter and a good friend of his. Her family had sold jewelry at many important gatherings at the palace. When they were young, Cobal and Selvia would often run off and play together. They have been friends ever since. This wasn’t the first time Selvia went abroad to sell jewelry, she loved traveling, but the timing was indeed rather unfortunate.
“I’m sorry to hear that, but I’m sure she will be fine.”
Dorgan nodded. “Besides, nothing is really going on yet, there’s just a bit of tension. I’m sure she’s just selling our latest product like she normally would.”
Cobal nodded. He looked around the shop for a little while. “How much is that ring?” He asked after a ring caught his eyes.
“Which one?” Dorgan asked. Cobal pointed.
“As always you have an eye for quality.”
Pure coincidence, Cobal thought to himself.
“This piece was actually made by Selvia before she left. The ruby is one we imported from the far north and is of very high quality. The silver used to set the stone in comes from the mines near Terbesent. It’s one of the most expensive pieces we have right now.”
Cobal laughed. “I’m sure you say that about everything you want to sell.”
Dorgan grinned. “I do, but in this case it’s actually true. Are you interested?”
Cobal nodded. “How much is it exactly?” He looked the piece over one more time, inspecting the details. There wasn’t a single blemish to be found, the piece looked immaculate.
“That would normally go out for seven gold pieces, but Selvia would be mad at me if I didn’t give you a discount on something she made.”
Cobal smiled. “That’s what I like to hear.”
“How about five gold pieces and the next time you need some fancy jewelry for an event you come to me?”
“I was going to do that anyway, so that’s a deal. I might come by with Mana sometime, see if there’s anything she’d like to buy.”
“The hero?” Dorgan asked.
“I’d like to meet her, tell her she’ll get a discount as well if she buys from me.”
“I thought you said business was the same as usual, but I’m starting to get the feeling that it might be a bit slow, seeing how many discounts you are handing out in an effort to get customers.”
Dorgan chuckled. “I just think it’s good business to stay as the royal family’s preferred jeweler.”
“Fair enough.” Cobal paid for the ring and after Dorgan neatly put it away in a little box, he left the store again, back into the cold winter morning.
After leaving Dorgan’s store, Cobal wandered through town a little bit longer. He was pretty confident that no one would recognize him. Unfortunately, he was wrong in this assumption as a few streets away he heard a voice from an alleyway say, “I didn’t expect a prince to be walking around without a guard, what if someone would rob you.”
Cobal stopped. “Thimar, good to see you too.” He turned to look down the alleyway, where a man in his late teens was sitting on a barrel, deftly cutting the skin off of an apple. “How has life treated you?”
Thimar was a friend of his sister, Cyanna. They met when Thimar was a young merchant’s son. When Thimar’s parents were killed in a robbery, the young boy ended up on the streets. It was a complicated story with lots of betrayal and unfortunate events, but the end result was the man sitting in front of him. Throughout his more difficult days, Thimar kept in contact with Cyanna, to the dismay of Cobal’s parents and Cyanna’s attendant.
“Things could be worse, at least my dad didn’t start a war.”
Cobal swallowed the retort that popped up in his head and instead just smiled. “Have you managed to find a job jet? I recommended you to that blacksmith last summer, didn’t I?”
“It wasn’t for me, the man said I had no talents and kicked me out after less than a week.”
So he did give it a try, Cobal thought to himself.
“How’s she doing with all this chaos?” Thimar asked.
Cobal knew he was referring to Cyanna. “I haven’t spoken with her yet, I only arrived yesterday.”
“Typical,” Thimar responded. He nimbly jumped up from the boxes he was sitting on. “If you do see her, tell her I used up the money she gave me last time.”“Does she not come down to talk to you then? I thought the two of you were good friends.”
The boy paused, as if he wanted to say something in return but thought better of it. “I suppose she’s been busy. You rich folk tend to forget about the commoners when you’re busy.”
“Maybe you’re just not important.”
“That’s rich, coming from the guy who can’t even go and see his sister after being away for months. I thought they teach you manners when you’re a prince.” Thimar sneered. “You’re no fancier than me when it comes down to it.”
“I never said I was, did I?”
“It’s that arrogant air that always hangs around you.” He started walking away before looking over his shoulder and adding, “perhaps a bath will fix that.”
Cobal wanted to retort but he’d already turned the corner. It was always the same with this brat. Cobal couldn’t understand why his sister was so insistent on helping him out when all he did was repay her favors with disappointment. But it wasn’t up to him to deal with it, so he shrugged it off and made his way back to the palace. The wind was picking up again and it was getting a lot colder. Cobal was happy they were no longer on the road. Out in the open fields wind like this would be lethal to those who were unprepared. Even here in town, where the houses around him broke up the wind quite a bit, it was still colder than he could handle. By the time he got to the palace his fingers were numb. They were now truly in the dead of winter. Luckily most rooms in the palace had a hearth and when he finally sat down for lunch, he was all warmed up again.