The Roc Song Company, Episode 2

The Roc Song Company | Episode 2 | Getting a Room

Zoiya: Getting a Room

Zoiya has arrived at Windreach, the last mark of civilization on her path up the Squall Mountains. She now climbs to the tavern to acquire a room for the night. 

The weather has relaxed during the time that I’ve been inside. The wind is no longer a constant force, but the occasional rise and fall, brushing over the mountain peaks. The snow falls straight down rather than being pushed straight into my face. I don’t waste any time beginning the climb, hoping I can avoid the worst of it.

The building at the top of the next short peak, which I assume must be the inn, is the largest structure in all of Windreach. From what I’ve heard of the town, its main use is as a resting point for travelers. People don’t stay long if they stay at all, wanting to move on to bigger and better things. I plan to do the same, but given how much I struggled just to get to Windreach, I’m nervous about continuing. It’s only going to get colder the higher I go. I may not be able to make it to the Peak and back down without purchasing gear fitted for this weather, but I’ve never owned coin like that in my life.

The inn appears more structurally sound than the rest of the town, though that’s not saying much. The higher floors have scaffolding-like supports on the sides that connect to the ground. The light from inside glows against the dark air of the storm like a beacon on this peak. Approaching, I hear none of the typical noise that surrounds such a place—jovial music and liveliness. It’s only the volume of casual conversation when I swing open the door.

The place is busier than I expect after walking through such an empty town. At least half of the tables are taken either by a small group or individuals keeping to themselves. Scanning the room, I notice most of the people are human or elven, which is to be expected so far north. There is one dwarf sitting by himself near the center examining papers splayed out on the small table, a couple smallfolk with backpacks and supplies piled on the chairs next to them, and one half-orc standing in the far corner of the room holding three rolls of parchment. A few patrons glance up as I enter, but don’t seem to find my presence interesting and quickly return to their drinks.

I head straight to the bar and order a drink from the human man with a dark braided beard. He doesn’t try to make small talk, just tells me the price and fills the drink. I’m not interested in conversation anyway. I pull three silver from my bag and slide it across the counter. This is the one drink I’ll allow myself to buy with my small remains of coin. The rest I have to save for a place to sleep.

“I’d like a room,” I tell the innkeeper, grasping the warm drink in my hands.

He grunts and pulls out a logbook wrapped in leather from under the counter. Running his finger across the pages as he reads, he says, “It’s a gold per night, for room and morning meal.”

I swallow hard. I expect high prices from the only inn for miles, but a part of me had still hoped I would be pleasantly surprised and could afford to stay more than only a few days here. But there are no other options. I don’t know how long I’ll stay so I’ll take it day by day, at least for as long as I can.

I press a gold piece down onto the page of his book.

“Only one night?” He asks, handing over a key.

“For now,” I say, tucking the key into my side pouch.

He records my name in the logbook and stashes it back under the counter. I clutch my drink and turn back into the tavern, looking for a place to sit. There’s a hearth on the entrance’s wall, and I immediately choose that as my seat. I sit on the stone ledge and set my drink down beside me, feeling the fire’s heat waft against my skin rather than wind. I unhook my wooden bow from across my body and set it in my lap, shielding it from the heat.

The half-orc at the back of the room unrolls one of the parchment scrolls and begins reading, shouting over the conversation.

“The Shiny Kettle is temporarily closed while Davver recovers from mushroom poisoning. Where he got those mushrooms from…no one knows.” The half-orc shrugs and continues.

“Much of the snow surrounding Polar Pass has fallen away. The road has been declared safe for travel, at least until the next large storm. Tread carefully, and remember to always travel with a buddy!

“The bard Tok is gathering fighters for his adventuring company, sponsored by Lord and Lady Ravenfall. Plenty of coin to be earned! Auditions for the company are tomorrow at sundown in the fighting ring behind the inn!”

I down the last of my drink and immediately wish I could have another, but it’s not worth wasting any more coin. One just doesn’t satisfy me as much as I had hoped. I sit back beside the fireplace, enjoying a moment of peace, until it is disrupted as an elven man in one of the groups reaches over and punches the man across from him.

The others at the table cheer as the two men stand and rush towards each other in a flail of fists. The sudden noise has caught the attention of all the other patrons, and they watch the fight and shout. Both men have swords at their sides but only use their fists. It’s a common tavern brawl—at least, I hear they’re common—in the center of the quietest town I’ve ever seen.

The instigator of the fight is dressed in black cloth cut off at the shoulders to show off that he’s quite muscly for an elf. I watch as they wrestle in fists, peeking around observers to get a better view. I have witnessed many brawls in the tribe when arguments need to be settled, enough that I recognize that this elf is quite the skilled fighter. He breaks apart from his opponent to catch his breath, glances over, and sees me watching him intently. His eyes flicker over me up and down. He grins and winks, before swinging another fist.

I grit my teeth, wishing I could join the fight just to get a few punches on him. But while I was strong among my tribe, I never used that strength to train in fists. So I just watch as the elf throws his opponent around—noticeably drawing it out for the theatrics than with the intention of inflicting actual injury—until the other man raises a hand in surrender. The audience cheers as the elf steps away, wiping away the blood dripping from his nose. He accepts praise from the others before pushing through the crowd to approach the bar.

I didn’t expect to get a show tonight. I take my bow off my lap and set it at my feet. When I glance back up again, the elf man is standing in front of me with a tankard in each hand and a wide bloodied grin.

“Can I help you?” I ask.

He gestures to an empty end of the long table next to the fire. “Sit with me. Have a drink.” His voice is deep, yet friendly.

“I already had a drink,” I say, holding up my empty cup.

“Have another. You look like you could use it.” He sets the drinks on the table, across from each other, and sits down.

I scowl and consider refusing just on principle, but rarely would I ever turn down a free drink. I sling my bow back over my shoulder and accept the seat at his table.

The elf wears a strip of green cloth tied around his head to hold back long black hair. Several thin scars run down his cheek, clean like knife cuts. He wears a vest and bracers of leather and metal studs, actual armor rather than pieces held together to replicate it. My gaze is drawn to the green beads that hang around his neck, suspending a line of bear claws. If I was better traveled, I might be able to discern more about his background from my observations. All I can conclude is that he’s a lot wealthier than me and has fought a fair bit, with humanoids and creatures alike.

“That’s a pretty piece of craftsmanship,” he says, pointing to my bow.

“It was made by one of the elders in my tribe, for me.”

“You must be a good shot.”


We both drink. I break eye contact to glance back around the tavern. The crowd has returned to their business. This elf’s defeated opponent is sitting on a bar stool, cleaning the blood off his face. The half-orc returns to shouting the day’s news.

“My name is Zachary,” says the elf, brushing the tails of the tied green cloth off his shoulder. “I come from Coniston, south of here. What about you?”

I hesitate, then answer, “Zoiya, from the Blue Wing Tribe in Skygrove Forest.”

“That explains the tattoo,” he says. I look down at my left shoulder. My cloth wrap had shifted to expose where the outside of my shoulder to my elbow has been marked with blue art, symbolic to my tribe. The bird wings curve around my arm above an abstract picture of trees and waves of water. I adjust the cloth to cover my arm again.

“What brings you deep into the mountains?” Zachary asks. “Quite the feat to climb all the way up here on your own—I assume you’re on your own. You must have a compelling reason.”

I’m a little suspicious that he’s asking so many questions, but I can’t think of a reason to keep secrets. “I’m going to Astral Peak,” I say, taking another sip from my mug.

He swirls his drink. “Ah yes, of course. You and every other traveler.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

He sets both elbows on the table and leans forward, as if about to tell it to me straight. “Do you know how often people come through here preaching of Astral Peak like it’s Elysium? That’s basically the point of this damn town, housing travelers on their ‘quest for enlightenment’.” He scoffs. “Well, guess what? Astral Peak isn’t some magical place touched by the gods that will answer all your questions. People just think they can take the easy way out and still have a good time.” He jabs a thumb into his chest. “Not me. I’m tired ‘a sitting around. I’m getting out of this ghost town, and starting a new life.”

I listen to him ramble on, forming conflicting views on the subject. On one hand, I want to tell him that he doesn’t know me at all. Leaving my tribe was taking control of my life. I’m ready to take risks and see more than the same trees and the same people and creatures every day. I came up here because it’s an essential part of my search for where I’m supposed to be.

On the other hand, he is giving voice to all my fears, that this quest is completely pointless and I will just end up feeling more lost than I’ve ever felt. Or worse—dead for a pointless errand.

But if I never make it up to Astral Peak, I will never find out for sure who is right.

“I’m going,” I declare. “And I’m leaving tomorrow.”

He leans back. “I’d ask you to tell me how that works out for ya, but I plan to be gone by then. Off on bigger and better adventures. You know, saving the world, and earning more gold than I can carry.”

I laugh at the absurdity. “Big dreams for one man.”

“I’m serious. After tomorrow, my life will be all uphill from there. And so, coincidentally, will be your treacherous climb.”

“What makes you think you’re going to get so rich?”

He leans in even further, and I have to stop myself from backing away, standing my ground without fear. He points at the half-orc in the corner. “Did you listen to him? An offer to join an adventuring company sponsored by the Ravenfalls. Selling your sword can earn you coin quicker than anything else in this world. Judging by the bow on your back and at the axes at your hip, I’m guessing you’re quite the fighter. Do yourself a favor, abandon this delusional mission, and do something actually worthy of your time. The auditions are tomorrow—it doesn’t hurt to stay another night and at least try.”

I don’t respond, clutching the mug tighter.

Zachary stands. “Speaking of auditions being tomorrow, I’m going to go sleep off that warm-up,” he nods towards the man still nursing his wounds at the bar stool, “and prepare for a real challenge. The good life begins tomorrow.” He raises his mug in cheers, downs whatever’s left, and slams in down on the table.

Zachary backs away towards the staircase at the far end of the room. Before turning around and disappearing into the crowd, he says, “I’ll see you at sundown, in the training ring behind the inn. Good night.”

I drink the last of the drink he gave me but barely feel its warmth. I sit there and stare into the fireplace late into the evening, buried in my thoughts. When the room has emptied, I walk up the creaking stairs to the second floor, where the inn’s rooms are. Finding mine, I turn the key and push open the door.

I haven’t stayed in many inns before. In fact, I’ve never stayed in an inn before. But I immediately get the sense that this room isn’t worth what I paid for it. It’s small, dark (there isn’t even a window), and empty save for a thin mattress tucked away in the corner, flat on the ground. Unfortunately, I, a young and inexperienced traveler with nothing to her name, am in no place to bargain the price. I shut the door, drop my backpack against the wall, and sit down in the center of the room, which puts my back against the edge of the mattress.

I lay my bow in my lap and stare down at it, long blonde locks falling into my vision from where they’re tied at the back of my head. The bow is made of beastwood, dark brown in color, that curves outward in both directions from the handle. The handle is cut thinner than the rest and wrapped with dark leather. The outer edges have points that curve back inwards. Within the dark wood, the elders had carved intricate markings and artistic patterns of swirls, then filled them with blue paint to shine. I’m not supposed to know what the patterns mean, at least not yet. They are said to write the story of my destiny, which will become clear to me as the ancestors take me on the right path.

I used to be fine with not knowing my destiny. Now the thought only brings fear, and an urgency to have answers. I can no longer wander blindly through this world without understanding where I’m meant to be headed.

I clutch the bow between my hands, close my eyes, and begin to pray to the ancestors. The action doesn’t nearly have the meaning it used to have, but there is so much uncertainty that I’m looking for anything to help me on this journey. I ask for a sign, something to show that I’m on the right path, that I’m doing the right thing. And if I’m not, guidance in finding direction to where I should be.

I only hope there are these “ancestors”, as the tribe believes…ethereal beings, gods, all-knowing creatures…that will actually hear me.