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"I've made up my mind. I'll keep it hidden for now."

It was in that moment that Amalthea realized who Solomon really listened to. Hadn't she stayed by his side from the very beginning? Hadn't she been loyal to him even before she knew he'd become the Hero? Why did he always listen to that gutless, pathetic, worthless peasant whose only claim on him was some stupid life debt? That girl was nothing but trouble from the first minute she showed up. She once tried to kill them both, but that's okay, because she had that stupid hair and rational ideas. Of course there was no way she might possibly try to betray them all! Solomon probably trusted her because she was so apologetic for having murdered him and gave him puppy eyes. It probably wasn't even the puppy eyes. It had to be her body. There was no other explanation. The subtle elegance of her figure made Amalthea's pronounced curves and bountiful bosom look like an escort's. Seeing her executed for treason would be a pleasure.

The princess trailed her fingers along the hilt of her sword. Her eyes narrowed slightly, and her cheeks reddened in anger. While she couldn't control those manifestations of her emotions, she fought with every fiber of her being to keep the rest of her body language neutral - and clamped her mouth shut.

Just you wait.

Solomon continued. "While we are on our way to the kingdom, and maybe even after, depending on how this all goes, I'll start learning. Every weapon, skill, strategy, and... maybe even some magic. After I learned enough, after I help people, after I'm worth bearing this mark, I'll start showing it. For now, however, I haven't learned all that much yet, and I have no skills that show any difference between me and someone without the mark."

He chuckled, then added, "Please tell me one of you grabbed my shirt because I, for one, did not."

Rose smirked a little. "Any volunteers, princess?"

Amalthea ignored her. Rose shrugged. "Guess not. Here." She pulled off her own cloak and draped it over Solomon's back as they walked. "Sorry about that. We can get a new one when we reach town."


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Solomon wrapped the cloak around himself. "Thank you. And don't worry. The old outfit was getting a bit red for my liking." He joked. "Also, Rose, since Amalthea will most likely teach me how to use a bow, do you think it's possible for me to learn some of that healing magic you know? The more people in our little trio that know how to heal like that, the better." He suggested, hoping it would get Rose's spirits up a bit.

She seemed somber for the most part. He assumed travelling with two people you murdered or attempted to murder would end up putting ones spirits down. It would be best for everyone if he attempted to keep the spirits of the group high. He remembered Amalthea's sudden silence. She was rather talkative moments ago, telling him how much she loved heroes... and him.

This made Solomon wince. It wasn't out of disgust, but of worry. Love was something Solomon had not felt in much too long. In fact, being this close to the two of them was a foreign feeling altogether. He seemed to be stuck with them both for the moment, for better or worse. In fact, he rather enjoyed their company, despite one of them killing him and the other being the first domino that caused recent events leading up to said death to transpire.
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Solomon wrapped the cloak around himself. "Thank you. And don't worry. The old outfit was getting a bit red for my liking," he joked. Rose chuckled with him. Solomon added, "Also, Rose, since Amalthea will most likely teach me how to use a bow, do you think it's possible for me to learn some of that healing magic you know? The more people in our little trio that know how to heal like that, the better."

Rose put a hand to her chin and pondered. "Becoming a healer isn't easy. In order not to kill anyone with healing magic, you'll have to have at least passing familiarity with human anatomy. Then you'll need practice - months, years of it. Most academies provide corpses to practice on. If I'm to teach you how to heal, you'll need to become just as good at killing so we have material to practice with. I hope you're prepared for that."
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"I mean, I know where pressure points, the vital blood vessels, and the heart is..." Solomon shrugged. "When you say working on corpses..." he shuddered. Sure, he had killed before, but to dissect them, to turn his former and defeated opponent into some magic practice. "I don't know. Maybe I will stick with learning the myriad methods of combat. When the time comes, however, I'm sure you will be an excellent teacher." he smiled at her.

(Sorry for the small post)
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They reached Tinsdale shortly before dawn. The sky was still a deep blue when they entered the New Grog Inn, legs aching from the journey. It was nearly noon by the time they awakened. Amalthea took off on her own to "check out the shops," swearing up and down and on her pinky that she wasn't going to buy anything. Surprisingly, Rose almost told her it was okay to buy things, and even had half a mind to go with her, but thought better of it once she realized their adventure could get expensive.

Instead, she opted to stay behind with Solomon and spend all afternoon on logistical work. She counted the money everyone had in their wallets, listed every item they carried in the party, and calculated what supplies they would need for the journey to Midhaven and the estimated cost thereof.

When she finished, she put down her pen and turned to see if Solomon was still on the bed where they left him. Perhaps some of that promised training was in order.

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Solomon slept pretty well, despite the nightmares of his past death. Upon waking up, he could still feel where Rose stabbed him not too long ago. The fact the first thing he saw were Rose's eyes halfway across the room was a bittersweet thing. He rose from his bed rather quickly with a yawn. "Morning, Rose. Already up?" He seemed to not know how long he slept as he got up and put the cloak he borrowed from Rose around himself. "I guess while we're in town, I need to buy some new clothes... Maybe a weapon to go with my staff, should the smith here be good."

He had quite the list of things to do while the three had a moment to catch their breath in this town. He needed to buy clothes, weapon, food, camping materials, and healing items. Then there was planning their next route, training from the two... Solomon wasn't letting himself have a peaceful moment. In fact, he found it in these times where there was no battle to fight was when he was at his most worried. As a courier, he was always weary of a peaceful road when bandits could be lurking, watching him, waiting until the perfect moment...

He looked over at what Rose was doing. "Inventory? If that's the case, add this to the pile." He reached into his back pocket and pulled out a coin purse. "4 crowns worth of silver. I like to carry a larger number of coins." He took pride in the fact he needed incredibly little in terms of supplies when he delivered. His familiarity with many roads allowed him to discover numerous shortcuts that could save him hours, if not a day or two, meaning less food was needed. His return visits to lords like Fardsworth allowed him to become a trusted courier and request higher pay per mile. The only reason he didn't have more was because of he was something of a generous tipper to barkeeps that he became familiar with.
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Solomon must have slept well, because he got up out of bed quickly. "Morning, Rose," he yawned. "Already up?"
Rose made an exaggerated scowl. "No, I can do inventory in my sleep. What's on today's agenda?"
"I guess while we're in town, I need to buy some new clothes... Maybe a weapon to go with my staff, should the smith here be good."
She laid on her arm and smiled at him. "How about a sword? Heroes always use swords."
Solomon walked up to see what she was doing. He remarked, "Inventory? If that's the case, add this to the pile." His coin purse thumped onto the desk.

As he muttered something about coins, Rose leaned back her head to look up at him. His face was close. What would it be like to kiss him? she mused. Her lips parted slightly as she let her imagination play for a little. She could see him lean down, his lips just brushing hers as their breaths mingled like the calm before the storm. She would run her hand through his hair as he traced down her chin, her neck, and lower. He would hold her by the waist, and if he was feeling bold, slowly draw his hands upwards until he left her gasping for breath-

Pfft. Not gonna happen. Rose sat up and stared at the coin purse, finally realizing just how much he said was in there.

"Wait, four crowns?"

She stared some more. This guy is loaded. I think I'm in love.

"Four crowns," she repeated.

Rose turned around again to look at Solomon and raised her brow. "Are you sure the princess doesn't have any ulterior motives?" she joked. A teasing smile tugged at her cheeks. "To be fair, though, your purse will feel much lighter when you buy a new sword. Come on, let's find you a good one." Rose pushed back the chair and motioned for Solomon to follow.

There were a couple blacksmiths in town, it turned out, but a few probing queries to the locals narrowed their options down to one. Rose approached the blacksmith and waved. "Greetings! May we place an order?"
The blacksmith wiped his hands and put his hands on the counter. "Whaddya want?" he grumbled through his beard.

She looked to Solomon for him to take over. As he described the sword he wanted, she spotted a bug on his arm and batted it away, thinking nothing of it. After the blacksmith considered Solomon's criteria, he picked out a weapon and set it on the counter. "Will this work?"
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When Solomon was asked what he wanted, he already had a crystal clear image of the blade that would best suit him. He hadn't used swords in too long, but he always had a certain preference which he would be circling back to now.

"A simple double-edged blade made of durable steel. Wide, about 3 feet long. Wide cross guard. The hilt about 7 inches long wrapped in thin leather."

The blade he described was one used to defend from attacks and to follow successful guards with heavy swings and stabs. That was his preferred method of fighting, Defensive with the punishment that follows suit. As he described the blade, Rose swatted an insect that was resting on his shoulder away. He thought nothing of the insect, but silently thanked Rose for the gesture.

When the blacksmith showed him the complete blade, he eyed it with wonder. "It's perfect." He said with a thankful nod towards the blacksmith. "Before I take the blade off your hands, how much do I owe you?" Solomon asked
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The blacksmith folded his arms and grinned. "You owe me a hundred sil, or one crown."
Rose raised an eyebrow. Not a bad price.
Once the trade was complete, Rose walked with Solomon back down the street. They'd skipped breakfast that morning, so it was high time they ate something. It totally wouldn't be a date or anything; she'd just buy them a couple meat pies and they'd eat them together while talking about stuff. Just a simple breakfast. Not a date. At all.

She stopped by a bakery stall, bought two meat pies, and handed one to Solomon. "Here, have one. So! Tell me more about your courier work. Don't you ever get tired of all the walking?"
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"At first, I was easily tired by a couple of miles, but If you keep your mind set on something like the sights and all that. As a courier, your head is either in the clouds as you travel, or you're facing some bandits wanting to auction off your deliveries. Haven't lost a delivery yet, though. Apparently, that's rare enough for me to be one of the more reliable couriers." Despite his rather humble nature, he couldn't help but have a little boast here and there given the rare opportunity to explain his work. He noticed he might be boasting a bit too much at the moment and cleared his throat.

"Anyways, how about you, Rose? I'd certainly like to know more about you." He smiled at her warmly.

Yeap. Totally not a date. Just a guy asking a girl who killed him about herself.
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"At first, I was easily tired by a couple of miles, but If you keep your mind set on something like the sights and all that. As a courier, your head is either in the clouds as you travel, or you're facing some bandits wanting to auction off your deliveries. Haven't lost a delivery yet, though. Apparently, that's rare enough for me to be one of the more reliable couriers."
Rose remembered the early days of her training, when she'd have to run for miles every day and come back with lungs burning and vomit pooling in her throat. Courier work had to be intense. Its only saving grace during those times, she agreed, would have to be all the new sights. During her short time in the Scouts, she visited more new and wonderful places than she'd ever seen in her life. Bandits were a nuisance, and could be trouble if they ever caught her alone, but she never went alone.
Her eyes lit up when he mentioned that he hadn't lost a delivery yet. "No. Way. That is incredible!" she gushed. "I can't- I can't even. My boss would love you. You're like the Super Courier! All the other couriers lose a package or two during their careers. No wonder you get clients like Lord Fardsworth."

Solomon looked ashamed of himself for having boasted. He cleared his throat and tried to change the subject. "Anyways, how about you, Rose? I'd certainly like to know more about you," he asked. His warm smile and undivided attention made her feel like a million crowns. She folded her hands behind her back and changed her gait to a playful march.
"How much more?" she replied. "I mean, I could tell you about healing work, army jobs, and such, but all the really good stuff you're dying to explore is locked behind a ring, three words, and eight letters." That teasing smile of hers tugged at her lips again. Easy on the innuendo, girl. This isn't a date.
Rose laughed and added, "I'm just messing with you. Let's see, where do I start?...oh! Did you know I was a noble's daughter? It's true. We didn't have much land holdings, though, and we were perpetually poor. But I am thankful that we weren't in debt, because it would have been a royal pain in the neck when our parents were killed in the war. Father was a soldier and mother was an alchemist, and they were both serving together on the battlefield when they were caught and killed in an enemy ambush. I was ten at the time. I wanted to follow in mother's footsteps, so when I finished basic education, I entered the Tamren Academy of Sciences to study alchemy. Healing magic was more my thing, however, so after finishing he first year of chemistry, I transferred to Durvain University and never looked back."

She elbowed Solomon in the arm. "Your turn. I have to hear more about your courier work. Can you reveal which clients you worked for, or is that secret? No, I'd better not pry about that. How about this: Do you get lots of high-profile clients? Do you get jobs that would raise more than a few eyebrows if word got out?"
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Who would use a ring and a phrased riddle to hide secrets like that? Solomon questioned Rose's words silently, the true meaning of what she said escaping him. Couriers: quick on the dirt; slow in the head.

Then Rose began to tell her story. Of all upbringings, he did not expect her to be of noble descent, not even a poorer noble. After mentioning her parents dying in the war, his smile was replaced by a pitying frown. "I'm sorry to hear about your parents. People tend to forget both sides lost loved ones." He sighed. Solomon knew a thing or two about loss, and was certainly no stranger to it. Everyone lost someone in that war. You could see it in the eyes of most of those that survived the front lines.

After going over her parents' death, Solomon couldn't help but notice a sort of enthusiasm towards her talk of studying healing magic and alchemy. "It's a noble study. While I'm more of a physical creature, I cant help but have some fascination in studies like that."

Once she asked about him again, his eyes lit up. Not enough people could possibly ask about his courier work before he was finished telling every tale. "I've had clients from all over. Nobles, Commoners. Warriors, scholars. Everyone needs a message delivered every so often." Solomon started. "I've gotten too many special deliveries to count. There was a surprise delivery to a brothel... I should probably not start with that one..." I hope she never asks about that one again. He chuckled. "How about this one? I was told to deliver a sealed letter. From one posh noble to another. The delivery almost got me killed, by both bandits AND the recipient. Apparently, the letter had a simple sentence on there, but it was laden with so many insults that I wouldn't dare repeat them in your company." For once in a blue moon, Solomon was enjoying himself in conversation. For someone that stabbed him not too long ago, Rose was rather agreeable, but Solomon could not help but feel a wave of anxiety when he looked into her eyes. Was it the fact those were the last things he saw before he died, or another reason entirely?
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"I've had clients from all over. Nobles, Commoners. Warriors, scholars. Everyone needs a message delivered every so often. I've gotten too many special deliveries to count. There was a surprise delivery to a brothel... I should probably not start with that one..." He chuckled. Rose's brow lifted with her grin. She had half a mind to ask about the brothel delivery, but then again, she didn't want to know whether Solomon took advantage of their services. So she focused on his next story instead. "How about this one?" he was saying. "I was told to deliver a sealed letter. From one posh noble to another. The delivery almost got me killed, by both bandits AND the recipient. Apparently, the letter had a simple sentence on there, but it was laden with so many insults that I wouldn't dare repeat them in your company."

Rose's brow lifted. "What did the letter say? I bet it was from a jilted woman to a man who left her."
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Solomon shook his head with a smile on his face. "It said, and I am going to paraphrase, 'I had relations with your sister.' From the guilty look his sister gave him as he read it, it wasn't just a groundless insult. With that said, the recipient lord did not believe in the idea of not shooting the messenger, and I had to flee his land. I have not set foot on even the farms under his control since. From what a fellow courier in the fold told me, he has a portrait of me in a black book he carries. This courier also told me I am not the only courier in it. The feud had been that petty and laden with so many angry messages back and forth." Solomon laughed.

"Sorry about that. It's not too often I have someone to tell a story to. It's refreshing." It bears no need repeating that he was enjoying Rose's company,
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"It said, and I am going to paraphrase, 'I had relations with your sister.' From the guilty look his sister gave him as he read it, it wasn't just a groundless insult."
"Oh ho ho ho, someone's in trouble! That sounds like a recipe for war. How'd he take it?"
"With that said, the recipient lord did not believe in the idea of not shooting the messenger, and I had to flee his land. I have not set foot on even the farms under his control since. From what a fellow courier in the fold told me, he has a portrait of me in a black book he carries. This courier also told me I am not the only courier in it. The feud had been that petty and laden with so many angry messages back and forth."
"No way! Wow. If he keeps that up, no other couriers will deliver messages for him. Which might be a good thing, because when all the available couriers run out (no pun intended), the messages will stop coming and he might think everything blew over. But honestly, is it worth risking your life over? I mean, if you were paid a cartload of money for it, heck, even I'd risk my life over that, but it doesn't sound awfully rewarding."
"Sorry about that. It's not too often I have someone to tell a story to. It's refreshing."

Rose reddened a little and scratched her neck. "Well, you know, that's what I'm here for. I'm just a bundle of refreshing. Oh gosh, what am I saying? I'm making it awkward. Why'd you have to go saying nice things like that?" She gave him a playful shove on the shoulder and chuckled.

A shrill call got Rose's attention. She looked back to see Princess Amalthea wave at them. The princess jogged up to them and wrapped herself around Solomon's arm. "Hi everyone! I have had the most wonderful time exploring Tinsdale. You and I absolutely must go shopping, Solomon. The downtown market is positively stuffed! Shopkeepers were offering samples, letting me try out their wares, and being all around wonderful people. You should come!"

Rose folded one arm and looked away.
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Solomon's cheeks showed a bit of color. "Well because I-" He is then interrupted by Amalthea, giving him a little bit of an invitation to join her in some shopping. He stammered for a bit, being a bit overwhelmed. "I- uh- yeah. Alright. It has been a while since I have visited a larger shopping area." Solomon nods. "Rose, would you like to join us?" He asks. The last thing he wanted to happen was make anyone feel like they were being left out, though he remained somewhat unaware of any other motives the girls had other than enjoying themselves.

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"I- uh- yeah, alright," Solomon stammered. "It has been a while since I have visited a larger shopping area. Rose, would you like to join us?"

Amalthea had a split second to work out how to keep Solomon for herself. Drag him away faster than Rose could respond, overwhelm Rose during the shopping trip and make it joyless for her, or give her something to do elsewhere?

"Rose, why don't you go start getting lunch ready for everyone? We'll all be starving by the time we get back."

Rose looked for a moment like a deer caught by a hunter. Then her face brightened as an idea struck her. "I do need to find foodstuffs from the market, after all. It's settled then! Very well, Princess, I am joining you on the shopping trip."

Princess Amalthea inadvertently let her jaw drop. "O-oh, okay then..." Rose smiled and strutted to the front to take the lead. As they walked, the princess found her voice and made to speak again. "So- uhm, so, Solomon! What do you think of this- of this- um, town?" Her foot fell in a puddle of suspicious brown mush. She tried to wipe her foot on the dirt as they walked, but it was a little hard to concentrate at the brisk pace Rose was taking them. "It's a...lovely place, don't you think?" she continued, trying to stay upbeat. "So many- so many wonderful sights..." She finally got the large gob off the side of her boot. It was still an ugly black-brown, but at least it was tolerable.

Ugh, could this date go any worse? she whined inside.

Rose glanced back. She considered making a snarky comment, but decided against it. Besides, Her Highness just suffered the indignity of stepping in a pile of dung. It might be fun to watch her try and retrieve her dignity.

So Rose smirked instead. Amalthea covertly gave her the finger while looking at Solomon for an answer, anything to inject a little happiness in this increasingly wretched experience.
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Solomon nodded in agreement, incredibly oblivious to both the dung and the hostile feelings the other two were feeling towards each other. He looked around the town as he answered. "It's larger than most, with a good sized market, a number of blacksmiths... I wish I visited this place during my courier runs!" Solomon smiled at Amalthea. "Did you ever visit markets like this before recent events? Forgive me, but until i met you, I always thought of royalty as kings and queens sitting comfortably on a throne for hours on end. You've proven me wrong of course, but..." He trailed off, his question still standing. If he said more, he thought he would be saying a bit too much.
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Solomon nodded and looked around the town. "It's larger than most, with a good-sized market, a number of blacksmiths...I wish I visited this place during my courier runs!"

His smile sent the princess's heart aflutter. For a moment, she forgot her dirtied boot and gazed up into the face of happiness, while her hand found its way over her shoulder and started twirling her hair on a finger. Amalthea failed to restrain her own smile and looked down at her feet to hide it.

Then she noticed her dirty boot again.

It would stink up a decenly clean room, let alone any close encounter with His Heroship. His smile would turn into a sneer. And it would kill her. Honest-to-God heroes didn't show up every day, especially ones this young and handsome, and if that redheaded criminal thought for one minute that she could keep him away...this moment wouldn't last, would it?

Angry tears welled up in her eyes.

Whether or not Solomon noticed her turmoil, his attempts at conversation distracted her. "Did you ever visit markets like this before recent events? Forgive me, but until I met you, I always thought of royalty as kings and queens sitting comfortably on a throne for hours on end. You've proven me wrong of course, but..."

Now grateful tears welled up in her eyes. That was the single greatest compliment she'd ever wanted to hear. Nobles showered her with meaningless flatteries, like "how radiant you are," "what magnificent poise," or "you're like the loveliest rose in spring." But behind her back, they called her "prissy bitch" and "mouthfooted whore." None of them could see all the work she put in to exploring her kingdom with her own eyes, to learn about this land she was to rule before she had to rule it. She didn't want to become an armchair queen, who never knew or cared how her policies would affect her people. And indeed, that was how most folks perceived royalty - how they would perceive her.

You've proven me wrong, he'd told her.

Amalthea sniffled and lifted her chin. "Thank you. I try. Yes, I did often visit the markets before I was forced to run. It was better by far than listening to some stuffy old coot drone on about economics. I spent more energy staying awake and secretly wiping drool on my sleeve than learning anything useful. I learned so much more by going out and seeing it all for myself."
She chuckled, adding, "I remember, back when the concept of 'money' still sent my head spinning, I once asked a fruit vendor whether I could have an orange. He replied, 'That'll be a copper.' When he saw the confusion on my face, he launched into an essay on why they were such a steal at that price, and I'll never forget his expression when I asked what a 'copper' was and why the orange would turn into one. He had this...off-blank, slightly scrunched-up look that seemed like he wanted to laugh, cry, and hug me all at once. That old man taught me more about money and economics than any tutor ever could. I aced the exam that week, if you were wondering."
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Solomon laughed with a smile. "It was nice for that old man to teach you so much. Not the first teacher, but the one selling oranges. Your story of learning how money works is better than how i came to know the value of copper. It's a bit how yours was... but i sort of ran before i could get the price on the 'orange,' so to speak." He admitted. "I was sort of on the low end of things growing up. Saw life through a gutter until i learned the value of picking something up in one place and putting it down somewhere else. Thus, I became a courier and messenger boy." He finished with a smile

Solomon remained reluctant to tell the rest of his story. It was already enough confessing that the girls' hero was at one point a thief. That was all they needed to know for now, especially given the good mood they were all sharing."Anyways, how about we stop by the food stalls? We could get the ingredients we need for our later meal, and maybe i buy a few oranges for us?" He offered.
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