Places to Go and Places to Stay (Princess in the Tower #4)

The happy families don’t last long. Soon, they are gaunt and lounging dejectedly in their houses. I know almost immediately what ails them. Homes do not make a community. Being stuck in this tower, I know this quite well. People need places to go just as much as they need places to stay, and they needed something to do to motivate them like the Blank Room motivates me.

The great house I’m still standing in fades away, immediately replaced by another empty building. And, wings or no wings, there are certain businesses that every civilization requires to sustain its people. This store grows full of racks of cloth, and nearest to the door are several showcase frames. I call up a winged person to man the shop, and a woman appears, steadily built, her wings tucked in to avoid knocking things over.

Because I cannot see my own wings, I use this oblivious woman to determine how clothing might work for those who have a massive extra set of limbs to inconvenience them. Much of the cloth on the floor, after some consideration on my part, fades into more lightweight material. Upon close examination, price tags appear on each type of fabric. The thicker the material, the more expensive. Working class will spend most of their time in the air, and heavy cloth will make for difficult flight. The people who can afford to spend money on thicker fabrics will be those who are rich enough not to fly extensively. This makes sense. Winged people land on the perch to find some new clothing.

The building fades out, replaced by another empty building. When I look outside, I don’t see a true landing area, but the doorstep has wooden slats lying flat on the ground as a sort of porch. I step out, and there’s a small alley to the left of the building. With a mere thought, I raise fences along the wall, and another door appears. Large domesticated livestock-birds inhabit the various pens.

When I step back inside, I condense the front of the store into a much smaller work-space, with meat displayed in protective cases that keep the flies away. Count Saber suddenly gets very excited. It begins to smell, slightly, and I do not care for it. But the shop must be finished or else it will be lacking. So I open a door that leads to the back room where all of the unsavory business of butchering takes place. Quickly, I picture tables, sharp knives hanging on the wall, hooks to suspend meat while they’re cured…

A man steps in from the backdoor that connects to the alley. He’s broad-shouldered with great, muscled arms. In one hand, he’s got a protesting chicken. His wings are tucked tight, but it seems almost instinctual for him. I do not stay long enough to watch him with his task, hesitating only long enough to swipe a small chunk of bloody meat off the counter for Count Saber’s enjoyment.

He tears into the meat so fiercely that he does not seem to notice the scene change yet again. We’re in a shop rather low to the ground, perhaps only two or three stories up. This is the last place I want to build before I leave. Every time I have read an adventure story, the heroes always seem to find themselves at inns at some point in the story. It seems to be a meeting place for all things strange, and I sincerely want something like this for my world.

It is a relatively nice inn… low to the ground because drinking and flying are a bad mix. All such places, I decide, should be low to the ground in this world, to avoid fatalities. And, as a place for people with wings to unwind, it ought to be spacious, with lounging areas along the fringes of the room. Near the bar are stools for those in it simply for the drink, but the rest of the space is for those seeking company. And in various cubby places are singular seats for ancient, traveling wanderers to smoke their pipes and grimace at the frivolity around them. Those ancient travelers are always the best characters in a narrative, I think.

The innkeeper here can afford the space, so I make extensions to another building as I’d done for the relatively-rich man as I’d built his house earlier. In this space are great barrels of alcohol, storage space for food, and plenty of room for cooking and storing kitchen tools. The innkeeper and his wife are busy with preparations here. They cook and clatter around, and the innkeeper grabs a great container of ale to pour drinks with. I follow him back across the bridge, Count Saber hesitantly at my heels, and find the common-room full of people. The downstairs of the common-room building are part of the inn as well, and are for staying the night.

It’s been a long day, and a headache that began to develop shortly after the Cloth-Dresser shop has now grown into a decisive pounding. With a sigh, I let go of the magic that lets me make this world real. The darkness of the Blank Room snaps back into place rather than fade away. “I think I spent too much time in here today,” I tell Count Saber, rubbing my fingers across my temple. “Come on. Let’s go find some sleep.”

Rather than travel all the way up through the tower, I go into the lower levels of the library, intent to just collapse on some chair. But the library provides me with a cushioned bench — such appearances I’ve long since stopped finding strange, and now take it as simply a quirk of the magical tower — and within moments, I’m fast asleep, my arm draped across a resting Count Saber.

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