Monday, 12 February 2018

London Bookshop Crawl 2018

Have you ever heard of a bookshop crawl before? I hadn't, before Rochelle asked if I wanted to join her on one. (You know Rochelle - my aerial friend and fellow bibliophile.) Like a pub crawl, but round bookshops. 

This was an organised event in London, running from Friday to Sunday. We could only make Sunday, so we met on the train early yesterday morning and spent an excited couple of hours planning our day and talking books.

View from the Train Station before I left

We picked our first route because it was the one with the most stops. It started in Soho, with Gosh Comics. They were offering 10% off on books to bookshop crawl participants, but we wanted to look at the comics. I was tempted by Moon Girl and the Devil Dinosaur and she with something from Wonder Woman but we both ended up with Buffy Season 8 Part 1 instead - fitting, seeing as I'm very keen to have her in my Buffy game when I finally run it...

Gosh Comics

From there, we walked round Chinatown to seek out the next stop, where I was hoping to pick up a book of Chinese folktales or mythology. Unfortunately, we couldn't find the shop! Still, with Chinese New Year coming up, it looked stunning and we weren't sorry for the walk, even if we'd have liked to have found the shop.

Red lanterns of Chinatown


Then past theatres to get to the next stop - including the one where 'The Cursed Child' is showing. The external set dressing was beautiful.

The cursed child!
And onto Foyles. Most of the shops were smaller, independent stores, and Foyles definitely isn't small! I loved it all the same. I wanted a reference book there, and spotted Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. It's a book Pterry says every author or aspiring author should have on their shelves, and is full of the sort of slightly random information I love. Rochelle also picked up some books on mythology and fantasy creatures, including one with beautiful illustrations. 

Inside Foyles, I think I found what I want on my gravestone

The last stop on this route was Forbidden Planet. I hoped they'd have some interested RPG or similar, but nothing caught either of our eyes and we walked away with their goody bag and nothing else. Still, it was exciting to get free stuff just for being on the bookshop crawl.

Forbidden Planet

The second route we wanted to take we'd chosen based on Twitter reports, so we headed to Charing Cross. I'd mentioned the crawl to Ronelle, a colleague who lives in London, and she'd mentioned her favourite bookshop was on Charing Cross Road and there were loads... The one officially part of the crawl was Any Amount of Books, and was the one we liked best of the ones we nosed in. It also turns out to be Ronelle's favourite shop! It was crowded for such a small shop, so we didn't get anything there, but I think I'll be back another day.

Any Amount of Books

The next stop was Persephone Books, which was the one Twitter had encouraged us towards. We were impressed with how pretty it was outside. Inside, all the books were bound in beautiful pale grey. They publish out of print books, primarily by female authors of the 20th Century. The inside of the covers has beautiful print from the year the book was originally published; they do bookmarks with the print on one side and the book blurb on the back, which crawl participants could pick up as many as they wanted for free, so I grabbed a couple for books I liked the look of. We both picked up a book of short stories (which I love as a way of finding new authors), and they offered a discount if you bought 3 books so I also picked up a short horror story, The Victorian Chaise-Longue, that looked suitably creepy. 

Persephone Books

Next stop was the London Review Bookshop, though by the time we got there we were both starting to wear out (or at least, I definitely was and if Rochelle wasn't she was kind enough to pretend to be). They have a cake shop attached that has a great reputation, but unfortunately it wasn't open on Sundays.

London Review Bookshop

There was also meant to be a stop at Oxfam Books, which we passed as we headed to the tube station. We were too tired by now, so instead made our way back to Waterloo, were we enjoyed a cup of coffee and a spot of people-watching until our train came in.

Then home. I messaged Husbit, suggesting he might like to meet me at the station (thinking he could carry my books home). We flicked through Brewer's Dictionary, trying to find the most interesting or amusing facts. As we got closer to Rochelle's stop, I messaged again to point out the car might also like to meet me... I was very grateful he agreed, because I'm not entirely sure I could have walked the 15min it would take to get me home!

All in all, a wonderful day with a lovely person. Now I'm just looking forward to working through my loot!

Sunday, 11 February 2018

Deadlands - Solomon's Birthday

I wake early on the 26th, and realise I'd slept through most of Christmas Day. A brief tingle runs down my spine as I remember: we defeated the Sin Eater. We'd done it. The fight still echoes through my body. I ache, I'm stiff, and I feel bruised all over, but we survived.

I roll out of bed and spot a camera tucked there. I hadn't told anyone I celebrate my birthday today, but someone's figured it out. It doesn't seem likely Chin would know the significance of the Saint's day, and Tesla is too absorbed in lightning, so I think it must be Carson. I thank him at breakfast, and he seems almost shy about it. I delight in taking photos around Shan Fan while the others try and figure out our next steps.

Tesla suggests he can build a gizmo that would let him see through the eyes of that strange stitched-together, patchwork man if we can get hold of something he's touched - such as the gibbet lock it smashed apart. We head to Long Haired Tony, who fishes it out of his firepit. Tesla thinks it'll still work.

As we head back to the boat, we spot a mugging - two men pulling a third into an alley. Carson approaches ready to argue, and the muggers flee. The guy, Yuan Lee, offers to buy us dinner in thanks - not an offer we can refuse, so we follow him down a winding path of back streets and dirty alleyways to a local pub.

It's dark and smokey inside, lit by candles in paper lanterns that fascinate Tesla. Lee settles us at a table and talks to a barman who seems unhappy at our presence. Lee returns and tells us food will arrive soon. He asks what we're doing in town, and we tell him about the body snatching - he's heard rumours, but has nothing new to tell us. He's an adventurer, he explains, currently between quests. Tesla snaps "he's lying" before turning his attention back to whatever it is he's tinkering with this time. 

It's about then the barman throws our plates to the table; despite the rude service, the food is good. Still, Tesla's comment and the enclosed atmosphere are getting to me, and Lee... he's evasive. It's subtle, but he shifts the conversation back to us every time we ask about him. I look around; it's a lot emptier than when we arrived. Even the barman's gone, just us and four other customers - and as I nudge Carson, even they leave. When Carson asks him, Lee starts out pretending not to notice and says he doesn't know where they've gone. We've finished eating, so he gives us directions back to the main roads as he walks us to the door, and bolts it behind us.

It's dark as a cave, and the street is empty. We light lanterns, and Tesla flourishes the gadget he's been tinkering with. It's a headdress, of sorts, with a cover for his eyes and ears, a handle on the side, and the lock fitted to the top of his head. It looks ridiculous, but he is proud as a schoolkid. He secures it with straps under his chin. As he winds the handle, sparks of electricity flash from the exposed wires, and he falls to the ground in a fit. I wrench it from his head - to my relief, he stops twitching, but then sits up and points along the dark alley. Chin and I shine our lights that way: a group of men are advancing on us, menacing. They're not wearing Tong colours but look like they can fight. I cower against the doorway, but Tesla screams "He's in the middle!" and fires his lightning ray, electrocuting all but one. Lit up like that, the stitching is easy to see. He charges and Chin leaps in to attack - they both seems to connect well, but both shrug it off.

The smell of charred flesh makes me want to run, but I can't leave my friends. Fireballs fly from above me - Carson? - they seem to be helping, weakening the creature. I wrench down a clothesline and throw it to Chin to tie the creature up, then flee the alley.

I reach a wider street and lean against a wall, breathing in deep gulps, tears on my face. I know I have to go back. I slow my breathing, look to the heavens and pray for strength, then creep back to the others, fighting my fears every step. 

I get back to see Carson stepping from a shadowy doorway; Chin's punching the patchwork man while Tesla continues to pour lightning into it as it lies on the floor. They tie it up, and any of the men who'd survived. Carson says not to hurt them; he wants me to question them but I can't think straight in this tiny alley. He sees my distress and hammers on the pub door, yelling for Lee to let us back in. When there's no response, he starts firing those glowing green fireballs until the door explodes; he draws his gun and enters. I follow, and the others drag all the bodies in behind. The stench fills the room.

Carson heads behind the bar to investigate the other exit, while Chin heals up one of the survivors of Tesla's lightning, expecting me to question him. But the smell and the bodies and the small space and the pain I'm in - it's too much and I hide in a corner trying not to vomit, so Chin does his best. Carson reappears and joins Tesla in studying the Patchwork Man. They drag it outside, where I hear yelling and noise soon after; I crawl to the doorway to see Carson fireballing it to ash. 

Chin hasn't managed to get much out of the man, just that they were hired by "the Creator" somewhere in Stinktown to rough us up a bit. Carson storms back in full of fury, and asks his own questions. From that, we learn "the Creator" wore a hood so they never saw his face, but he speaks Chinese "like a native". Tesla brings round the other two survivors, but there's little they can add. The Creator finds them when he wants work done, and the Patchwork Man looks different each time. That makes me shudder. Tesla says the hand, at least, was the same as the one that punched the lock, but that doesn't mean it's the same man overall - "like using parts from one boiler to fix another". It's not a nice thought.

We take the three to the Sheriff's office, where a deputy we don't recognise herds them into a cell.

Then back to the boat. My dreams are worse than normal, but it's a feeling like my chest exploding that wakes me. Tesla stands over me, cackling amidst the crackling lightning. I scream, and he pulls the giant metal stake out of my chest and runs out of the room. I'm too shocked to give chase, but I feel like I could - almost as good as new, in fact.

Friday, 9 February 2018

Angela Stannon - "The Angel Mariah"

Martin Stannon loved his wife. She knew he did, because he'd looked after her all their wedded years - she'd never had to work, had raised their two lovely children, had a nice house to keep. But now Lizzy and Peter had moved out - Peter to university, and Lizzy was starting a family of her own, at different ends of the country, and the beautiful house had become a prison, yet every time Angela talked to Martin about the possibility of her getting a part-time job, he'd take her hands in his, look into her eyes, and remind her of his promise when they were 19 that no wife of his would ever need to work. He'd kiss the top of her head, cup her face with his hand, and that would be the end of that conversation. He would go to his chair, flick open a magazine or pick up his tablet, and she would scurry into the kitchen to make him a drink.

Scurry. The words to describe her were the ones you'd associate with a small rodent or a bird. Slight and fine-boned, with a sharp, beak-like nose, she looked like the wind would carry her away. Fair skin, grey eyes, straight, dark hair in a shoulder-length bob, dyed to hide the streaks of grey. Years of shrinking into the background had made her short, maybe 5' 3", maybe 5' 4". She tended to wear plain, flat shoes and slightly oversized clothes.

And she could never admit it, but she was bored.

And then, somehow, she fell through, faded through into the other world. And somehow, she survived - more than survived. She thrived. She made friends, friends who struggled to pronounce her unfamiliar name, and Angela Marie became Angel Marie and eventually, remembering a childhood friend and hero, the Angel Mariah.

The words you'd use to describe her changed: strong, sinewy. She'd never be tall, but she stood to her full height. Her hair had grown out, long and silver-white. Her armour was made for her, and when she wielded her sword, her eyes flashed with steel.

She was a hero, a healer, a defender of the weak and unrepresented.

She still thought of home, often, and hoped to find her way back... but if she ever did, could she survive there?


~~~


I've still got a lot to work through with her, mostly relating to the world she's fallen into. I need to figure out how she ended up there, and why; how she survived initially, who she met to help her; had she been there before, and if so when? What warning did she get before fading through? I feel like maybe she faded through a few times as a child, or someone from there faded to here and became her ('imaginary') friend, but I don't know who they are (I think a tall, slender man of indeterminate age dressed in green - not Drop Dead Fred in anyway, but fey, amused and dangerous nonetheless). Did they drag her through this time? I think she maybe faded through a couple of times and recognised what was happened ("Oh God no, I thought it was a fantasy"), so had time to prepare a bag for when she faded through and became trapped. I'm not especially interested in the family left behind, except in a distant way, but I like the idea of the confusion as the police and husband try to understand why she took the items she did - a couple of kitchen knives, for sure, but no significant amounts of money, and nothing that couldn't be kept in her coat or handbag.

Wednesday, 7 February 2018

Exalted - Nexus and the Emissary

Nexus is a busy industrial and commercial city on a spur of land projecting into the river, riddled with canals. We were surprised to see no slaves within the city walls. Most inhabitants seemed to be armed, and there were bureaucrats scurrying in every direction. It was easy to spot the Nighthammer district, the industrial heart of Nexus, by the fog from the forges and smelting pits. The deprived areas were marked with a mismatch of architectural styles using wood, straw and reclaimed metal and stone, while the wealthy areas were all in a beautiful yellow-cream stone, with floral designs, minarets and high walkways and bridges connecting the buildings. We looked hard, but saw no stone like the statues at the border.

The laws in Nexus change frequently and can be very specific, and this was our first visit so we hired a child a couple of years younger than us, Lawrence, to keep track of them and make sure we didn't break any. Punishments were said to be severe: wide-eyed, Lawrence, told us how the Emissary had once exploded a person with a snap of his fingers. He then led us to his Aunt Sue's establishment, "The Wistful Badger", and arranged us rooms for our stay, then took us on a sightseeing tour of his city: Anathema tombs, said to cause instant, horrid death to anyone who got too close (dangerous even in death); a small Wyld incursion; the arts district; all while avoiding the marketplaces where the Emissary gave the laws, remembering the Empress's warning. We then headed to the docks to look for threats to the Guild.

At the docks, we spotted someone leaving a boat carrying a small box, then followed by four others in similar bland dress. They weren't looking furtive exactly, but they caught our eye nonetheless and we followed to a busy warehouse. Two stood watch at a slight distance, but the other three - including the one carrying the box - went in. We went in shortly after, and made mental note of where they stored the box. Kito knocked over some other crates as a distraction while I quickly picked the lock and looked inside: thin gold ingots, unstamped and with no paperwork. The metal seemed familiar, but I couldn't quite place it - gold, but more perfect than gold. I slipped a bar into my pocket and left.

Kito joined me outside. Unimpressed with my theft, he nonetheless suggested finding out where it came from. A quick bribe later, and we learnt the boat had travelled from the port of Chiaroscuro in the south, and the cargo had come from Gem before that. The Guild is marked as the receiver, though they're probably just a middleman. Gem's far to the south, in the desert and volcanic region near the Elemental Pole of Fire. Realising that, Kito took another look at my loot and declared it to be a magical material, so I hid it deep in my bag. It wouldn't be easy to work with, requiring heat equivalent to a volcano and special, custom made mirrors and lenses to focus sunlight. It seemed unlikely anywhere here would have the requisite items, but Chiaroscuro is famous for its glasswork so the parts could have arrived separately...

We went for a walk, to see which buildings were tall enough to get the sunlight needed in the crowded city. Several buildings dating to the Shogunite era looked like they might be, but the tallest building was the white stone tower used by the Nexus Council. We reached it as someone was leaving. They were dressed in robes that hid the shape of their figure, and a smooth, androgynous mask: the Emissary. We felt stupid, having promised to avoid him and then walking straight to where he was likely to be. Stupid, and then frightened fading into bemused as he spotted us and came over, greeting us by the same names as the fey had used: Resplendent Blade Resonating Eternal for Kito and Dawn's Dancing Butterfly for me. His voice was distorted by the mask. He told us we'd taken a long time to get there, and that we had the taint of the Realm. So much for keeping that relationship secret. With that, he left us. We let out our breath as we looked at each other. After the meeting with the fey, his words left us with a lot to think about.

We wanted to get to the bottom of the 'gold' bar, so once he was out of sight we bribed the guard at the tower door to let us onto the roof balconies. We were enjoying the view, trying to spot anywhere else that got anywhere like as much sun as this tower, when we were joined by the Emissary. This wasn't a council building, it turned out, but his home. He started out by telling us he would train us, but our expressions made it clear we needed more context. He talked a lot about a tapestry "they"'d stolen from heaven to protect us, then told us we were anomolies because we've only had one previous incarnation.

He led us into an observatory, where we had a strange vision of another life. We're in a golden room, given praise for landing the final blow on Malfious during the Primordial War; our tutor, Azure Titan, is very proud. Then we're on a battlefield, with the two of us (we knew it was us the way you know in a dream, even though we didn't look like ourselves) racing across it. We ducked behind a rock to prepare spells, then jumped up and loosed them into the Primordial Malfious.We snapped back to the present.

We asked about him and his mask, and he explained it hid him from people who would otherwise hunt him - people who would hunt us. He could never take it off, or they would find him.

We talked about our childhood, told him about Derren's Ford. It was strange, we didn't normal talk or even think about it, but something about the experience today made us open up. He said our parents had probably chosen Derren's Ford because it's over a manse we'd built together (but advised us against hunting for it just now, as it was filled with traps). Our parents wouldn't have known, exactly, but he advised us to ask our mother if there were white mice when they moved in - he said he'd help us rescue Mummy, Han and Yee from the slave camp. Then we could go back to the Empire and return to him later or not, but we should be aware that one way or another we would become Anathema and the Empire would hunt us. I felt a chill run through me.

He let us stay in the tower that night. I dreamt of a spar against Ashen Forest, chosen of the Water Dragon.

Tuesday, 6 February 2018

Deadlands - Death of a Sin Eater

We return to the Rabbi in the morning of Christmas Eve. Our Blessed Blade is ready. We go over the plan again, and decide to find graves on Angelfish Island. It's nearer the Isle of Ghost Tears than Shan Fan is, meaning we'll have more time to get everything done before sunrise, and it's abandoned, which means we can head over now and prepare the graves. The Rabbi comes with us, helps us select our sites and dig. We nap on the boat until the evening; he stays on Angelfish and we head to Ghost Tears.

We land at the same beach as before; no sign of the old man Ginjaya this time. We head to the centre, to the pagoda. As we pass that grove of trees, the one with the spirits that scared us so much last time, Carson spots a raven that reminds him of the bird we saw on the beach last time, the one Ginjaya scared off and told us not to listen to. As we points at it, it flies off to the centre. Straight as the crow flies. We follow.

As we get closer, we can hear a woman's voice singing in Chinese. Chin and I aren't familiar with the dialect, but Carson translates. It's a folk song, full of sorrow. When we reach the pagoda, we see her: pale, as if seen through mist. Her dress is more elegant than we've seen in Shan Fan, an idealised form of traditional Chinese dress. She and Carson talk - I can't follow the conversation but she sounds really sad. As their conversation ends, ghosts surround us, then disperse and she returns to her song. Carson turns to us and explains: she doesn't know the old man, nor where the "wolf" is; she does know where the glyph is, and will help us get to it if we get rid of the wolf (which we assume is the Sin Eater). She also promises the ghosts won't hurt us if we don't hurt them. As if realising where we are in our conversation, she stops singing and looks east - towards Shan Fan. We walk that way. From time to time, we hear the raven but don't see it again.

At the eastern beach, we see an old man walking into a cave. We follow. Around the mouth of the cave are warnings in Chinese - "fear the wolf, set us free" - and in English "God help us". It's a few hours to Jesus' birthday, so I offer Him a prayer as we enter. There's a firepit and some wood ready for it. We go in deeper, lighting our way with wavering lanterns. There's no light ahead, but Ginjaya's voice calls out, asking why we're in his cave. He doesn't know anything about a wolf and sets about lighting his fire to cook a seagull for his dinner. He doesn't seem to react as we sing Meng's song, but becomes frustrated with our presence and hurries us out of his cave.

We stand on the sand outside, whisper-debating our next steps. I spot Carson sneaking back in and follow. Ginjaya's building up the fire, and the dancing shadows remind me that Carson said the Sin Eater's deformities include shadows under the skin. I raise my lantern, shine it into the old man's face. Carson does the same, and as our beams swing into line we see he really is an old man - but the shadow behind him rises and engulfs us. All the lights blink out. It feels like my soul, my very essence is being sucked out. The next thing I know, I'm falling onto the sand outside, held by Carson. He'd teleported us to safety. 

"Sin Eater!" We scream. Chin leaps forward with the sword as Carson throws fireballs at the shadow-creature emerging from the cave. The blade can do nothing against the shadows, so Carson shouts at Chin to go into the cave and find the body. I'm blinded as one of Tesla's devices explodes; I follow where I hope Chin's gone as the shadow sucks at us again and feel Carson throw some kind of spell at me. 

Back in the cave, the shadows suck back into Ginjaya. He fires a shotgun, and we realise we can see again. Carson and Tesla follow behind us. We fight hard, three of us distracting the Sin Eater while Chin does the real damage with the blade.

Once it's over, Carson and I look at each other, thinking of the glyph. Carson wants to go by himself, but I point out he'll need someone to watch his back. Tesla and Chin agree to deal with the disposal of the Sin Eater on Angelfish Island and return for us in the morning.

We find Meng at her pagoda. She nods, and leads us to a cliff edge. It's a long walk, several hours, and it seems every step another silent ghost joins us. She points to a cave entrance in the surf: it'll be underwater by dawn, but our glyph's in there. We scrabble down the treacherous surface to find the cave dry, a winding passage with the glyph at the end. I take a defensive stance, mimicking Chin as best I can, but this time nothing rises as Carson bleeds. He looks pale beneath his tan, weakened but hiding it well. He reckons it's worked. 

We reach the cave entrance to find the sea lapping already. The climb back up the cliff is harder than the descent; we're both exhausted by the time we reach the top. I want to head back to the other beach immediately, but Carson makes me wait a few minutes while we recover. The delay doesn't matter: by the time we reach them, the others have been waiting hours, their task successful.

We're all exhausted from the night's work. Chin pilots us wearily back to Shan Fan, where the Rabbi leaves us and I find a shrine to offer thanks, it being Christmas Day. Then I return to the boat and sleep until St Solomon's Day.

Sunday, 4 February 2018

Exalted - The Journey to Nexus

We left Lookshy early in the morning, Kito physically recovered from his mugging, but still barely talking. It worried me; knowing his love of sailing, I'd hoped embarking on the Shining Beak would bring him back to his excited, caring self, but he remained taciturn.

The crew were brightly dressed - Lorenzo Bagni, the captain, in an amber vest with a bright blue hat, jacket and trousers. Perched in the hat was a purple feather, a symbol worn pinned to hats, boots or clothes of all the crew.

The second day, I spotted a boat following us. It was still there the next day, so I pointed it out to Kito. He watched it in silence for a while, long enough I thought I'd again failed to raise his interest, before telling me the other boat was sailing to catch us up. He thought they'd reach us by the evening. We showed Lorenzo, who agreed it was a concern: it looked like a warship, but was flying no colours. After a quick discussion, we decided to show off our sorcery skills to alleviate the problem: Kito summoned a cloud and whisked me into range, where I took out both masts with one burst of obsidian butterflies. I felt smug as we returned: I hadn't spotted the essence ballistas until they turned them on the Shining Beak. Great bolts smashed through our ship, tearing it apart. Most of the crew dived and swam for the shore, but Lorenzo was determined to go down with his boat. I argued for a bit, thinking it a stupid idea, but gave up and followed Mi Yung and Jia into the water. Kito stayed longer, trying to reason with him. A final bolt flew at them: Lorenzo pushed Kito out its path and the boat exploded.

We made it to shore, cold, wet and shocked. Mi Yung and Jia tried organising the sailors to light fires and take care of each other. Most of them scattered; the ones who remained sat like empty shells on the beach. Giving up on that, our servants led us deeper into the forest, finding a tumbledown stone house, using its shelter to light a fire and dry ourselves.

We'd wandered into the Wyld, but didn't realise it until Jia investigated a noise and didn't return. Mi Yung followed, then Kito and I went when she didn't come back. We got separated in the weirdness but found each other again as we reached the lair of what Kito recognised as a hobgoblin. It told us a lot of strange things I didn't understand: what stuck with me was that our souls weren't from here, but somewhere it called the "panopticon cataclysmic", and our names weren't our names. It called Kito "Resplendent Blade Resonating Eternal" and me "Dawn's Dancing Butterfly". It let us go in return for the story of our life to that point. When we made it back to the stones, Mi Yung and Jia were asleep, with no memory of any excursions in the night. 

We continued to Nexus on foot - when possible, making camp with other groups at night, but found we made faster progress travelling by ourselves.

We came across a series of tall statues facing out, right hand raised in warning or defiance. They appear to mark a perfect circle along the border of the Nexus territories. Dramatic, imposing. We think they're obsidian and look brand new.

Once across the boundary, we started to see armoured guards on the paths. We found an impromptu market, entered the tearoom and watched as we drank. One guard wearing a white tabard marked with a midnight blue hammer embossed with twinkling stars was turning people away - it wasn't clear why.

The tearoom was cool and quiet, in stark contrast to the market outside. A small group of seemingly wealthy merchants drank tea in the corner. All the visible staff were young women, although we could hear male voices in the kitchen. The decor was minimalistic - smart and pleasant, but not expensive. Likewise, the food was good, but not as good as the price suggested. We wondered whether it was just here, or Nexus in general, but realised there was something of a captive audience: the tearooms were spaced around 8 hours apart, as a caravan travels, so they could charge more or less what they wanted. It would be very expensive to stay there over night.

We stayed drinking tea until evening, then went for a walk as we decided what to do next; we were still two or three days from the city proper. The market had gone, vanished as if it had never been there. We saw a few patrols, but otherwise it was deathly quiet. We decided

Further along the route, we met up with travelling merchants and obtained supplies for far less than the tearoom prices. They also warned us that camping was very much "discouraged", so if we wanted to avoid the tearooms we should move far from the path and not have a fire. Kito and I exchanged a look; after our last camp far from the path, we opted to stick to the overpriced tearooms for the rest of the journey.