Jed is sipping a beer in Henree's saloon, on the other side of the counter for a change. He's taking over for Henree, who's stepped out briefly to pick up a shipment at the train station.
Nick strolls through what should be Gumgeeville, if the map he purchased is anything like accurate, looking for a place to get some information.
Nick looks like a down-and-out manual laborer, with distressingly little of the spit-and-polish that the Tecton requires from its Donors. His nager, of course, has plenty of spit-and-polish, but fortunately Gens can't zlin, so Nick is pretty confident of his disguise.
Nick spots a sign that looks promising, and heads for it. He's well aware that a drinking establishment is the best place to make discreet inquiries, even though this particular saloon is not owned by a friend of the Tecton. He opens the door to Henree's, letting in a gust of cold air.
Jed looks up, and is surprised to see a stranger.
Nick does his best to look like a harmless drifter.
Nick: Good afternoon. Have you something hot on the stove, and a beer for a thirsty traveler?
Jed: Got some stew, and plenty of beer.
Nick: That sounds like just the thing. It's a cold day to travel.
Nick puts a worn coin or two of appropriately small denomination on the bar.
Jed dishes up a generous bowl of stew, fills a mug and sets it before Nick, scooping up the coins.
Jed: Here you go.
Nick: Thank you.
Nick takes a bite of stew, glad that he learned to eat meat during his decade out-Territory.
Jed cuts a slice of bread a good bit thicker than Henree usually does and sets it next to the bowl.
Jed: Bread comes with it.
Nick nods in a friendly fashion, having been taught as a child that it's impolite to talk with your mouth full.
Nick washes down the bite of stew with some beer, noting its indifferent quality. He decides that he'd better not request the porstan he knows Henree stocks.
Nick: That hits the spot.
Jed: Traveled far?
Jed wonders what this guy is doing in Gumgeeville, in the dead of winter.
Nick: Here and there, over the years. I've never managed to settle down in any one place for long.
Jed isn't real happy about this evasive answer, and waits patiently for more, having another sip of beer.
Nick: I did meet up with a fellow from Gumgeeville a while back, and he told me to look up a friend of his if I ever made it this far.
Nick: Do you know where I might find a gentleman by the name of Jed Mullins?
Jed searches his conscience. He doesn't remember any more outstanding debts.
Jed: You're looking at him.
Nick: But I was told the saloon was kept by a Mr. Henree?
Jed: Yeah. I'm just minding it while he's out.
Nick smiles, displaying his inherited charm.
Nick: Well, this is a stroke of luck, then. My name is Nick Reckage. I'm a Donor, and I'm looking for a place where I can stay for a bit with my channel, who's Hajene D'zoll's cousin.
Jed is rather startled by this news.
Jed: Henree'd never rent a room to a Sime, and I don't suppose a Sime would be comfortable living over a saloon.
Nick: Not if what D'zoll said about him is true.
Jed wouldn't mind bringing in the kind of money he got from that Seruffin fellow last year, but doesn't think Ma would be easy to persuade.
Jed: I'd like to invite you to rent a room from us, but we just don't have the space.
Nick: Probably not. There are actually three in my party.
Nick: We picked up a young Sime on our travels. He'll be going in-Territory when we can make suitable arrangements.
Jed: Can probably get that Marvin fellow to take him in with him.
Jed sips his beer and considers.
Jed: I think your best bet would be to carry on to Hannard's Ford and get Hajene Bibi to put you up at the Sime Center.
Nick: That might be a little... awkward. For Hajene Bibi and ourselves.
Nick: We weren't exactly planning this trip out-Territory. Until we can find out what our official status is, it would be best for everyone if we are officially out of the Tecton's reach.
Jed thinks this sounds kind of strange.
Jed: Uh, your Simes aren't killers, are they?
Nick: No, although our charge was very lucky that we happened upon him when we did. I'm the cause of our troubles, I'm afraid. We were unfortunate enough to run afoul of an old unfriend of mine. Until the legal situation can be cleared up, we have to remain on this side of the border.
Jed: And the Simes with you?
Nick: Kat wouldn't leave me, both because it helps my legal situation and because she's far too loyal a friend to desert me. Stubborn and pigheaded, but loyal.
Nick says this ~~ fondly ~~.
Nick: I'm hoping that my trouble can be resolved before her health is damaged.
Jed shakes his head. It's not at all clear to him what's going on, or whether this guy is trustworthy.
Jed: Well, dunno. Some of the women here have started up a kind of Church of Unity group, but mostly their husbands aren't too happy about it. Don't think most of them would be willing to put you up.
Nick's mouth twitches.
Nick: I see you have a talent for understatement, if Mr. Gegg's tales about them are even half accurate. I realize that I'm asking a great deal, but I've got a channel to care for who should never have been put in this situation. Perhaps we could follow D'zoll's example and stay at the Gegg farm?
Jed: Well, Gegg and his family aren't here -- they're spending the winter in Simeland, at least until his twins are born.
Nick: Which should be soon, I gather.
Jed: I don't think anybody would be real pleased to have you move in without their permission.
Nick: I got to know them pretty well at Sat'htine, and I honestly don't think they'd mind, but you're right that it would be a little awkward.
Jed: Really? How's old Gegg getting along there?
Nick: He's made more progress than even D'zoll had dared to hope for. He met his son Mik a few months ago, and he was able to hug him without fear.
Jed is amazed and delighted.
Jed: Son of a bitch. Good old Gegg.
Jed shakes his head.
Nick: He might never be that comfortable with other Simes, but still, it's amazing.
Jed: Son of a bitch. I'm real glad for him, and for his boy Mik, too. And is Toria getting along all right? And Sanda not causing too much trouble?
Nick: Toria is fine, although the last time I saw her, she said that she'd be very glad when the twins are born. Sanda was born to cause trouble, but she seems to be satisfied with telling True Stories of the Wild Gens to the Sat'htine youngsters for now.
Jed: I'm real glad to hear all this, Nick. Gegg's not much for writing letters. I haven't heard from him since Year's Turning, and he didn't have much to say.
Jed has another sip of beer.
Jed: Look, tell you what. Why don't you go see Miz Virla. She started all this Church of Unity business, and she's a widow and has a good sized house. If she can't put you up, she may be able to find someone else to.
Jed doesn't mention that she's Henree's daughter. Why complicate things?
Jed: She's even got a Sime daughter. Hajene Seruffin who was stuck here last year gave her First Transfer.
Nick: Miz Virla. Where can I find her?
Jed gives Nick directions to the house, which is only a short walk from the centrally located saloon. Gumgeeville is small.
Nick finishes his meal and beer, and shortly thereafter is knocking at Virla's door.
Virla gets up and walks over to the door, figuring it's one of her Church of Unity friends. Not many other people come to see her these days. She opens the door and is surprised to see a stranger. He looks like a casual laborer, but the look in his eyes isn't consistent with that.
Virla: Hello, I'm Virla. Can I help you?
Nick: Good afternoon, Miz Virla. I'm Sosu Nick, and Jed Mullins thought perhaps you might be able to assist me.
Virla: Why, of course. Come in, Sosu. And where's your channel?
Nick: She's waiting for me outside town. We weren't sure what kind of a reception she'd have.
Nick: We could use a place to stay for a few weeks, until we can return to Sat'htine.
Virla: Of course, of course. Well, naturally you're both welcome here. Can I offer you anything, food, water, tea? No trin, I'm afraid.
Nick: Thank you, but I've just eaten. If we can rent a room or two here, I should get back to Hajene Kat and give her the good news. She's Hajene D'zoll's cousin -- I believe you met him?
Virla: I certainly did. A fine fellow -- for a Farris channel.
Virla twinkles at Nick.
Nick grins back.
Nick: Well, Kat happens to share that same deficiency, but I'll admit to being fond of her even so.
Virla: Oh, dear. I hope I haven't offended you?
Nick: Not at all.
Virla: Well, this house is much too big for just me, and I'm well-off, at least by Gumgeeville standards, so there's no reason why you two shouldn't just stay here as long as you like.
Nick: I do appreciate that, more than I can say. I will have to impose on you a bit more, however.
Virla raises an eyebrow.
Nick: We are traveling with a young Sime, whom we found just in time. We're responsible for him until we can see him safely across the border.
Virla gestures broad acceptance, Gen-style.
Virla: I'm sure that will not be a problem. He does have retainers?
Virla takes it for granted that Sosu Nick's channel does.
Nick: He doesn't -- we've been traveling where they aren't available. Kat does have retainers, however.
Virla: [concerned] Oh dear. That doesn't worry me, of course, but -- well, the law. I certainly wouldn't want the boy to be shot. Perhaps you could escort him to Hannard's Ford on the train and then return here? The train crews are quite used to escorted new Simes, I believe.
Nick: I hope we can take the boy to Hannard's Ford before long, but in the mean time, we have suitable clothing for him. I doubt anyone will spot him as a Sime; he looks just like any boy his age when his arms are covered.
Virla: Well, all right. Still, perhaps it would be best for him to stay indoors here.
Nick: I'm sure he will be grateful. His people live a very isolated life in the deep woods, from what I gather. He's not used to towns.
Nick is perhaps being a little overly generous in referring to Gumgeeville as a "town".
Virla: Well, that's fine, then. Perhaps you'll need to show him a few things about living in a house, in that case.
Nick: We'll do our best to make sure that none of us is a burden to you.
Virla: I look forward to meeting him, and Hajene Kat as well.
Nick: We are very grateful that you are willing to take us in. Kat, especially, has been missing a real bed.
Virla: Well then, what are you waiting for, young man? Go and fetch them at once!
Virla smiles broadly at Nick and makes shooing motions.
Nick gives an elaborately courteous bow that contrasts with his scruffy appearance, and turns to go.
Virla watches Nick walk off for a bit before closing the door.