She only has the name of her contact and doesn't know when he'll find her. As it was getting late, she returned to her inn.
That night Joshua ate supper at the Tipsy Tankard as he had been doing for the past two weeks. Eventually that courier would arrive, and, without options, would inevitably end up here, the only inn in town. Joshua was actually surprised the courier had not yet arrived, and he was beginning to wonder if perhaps he should take the package back to Forellia himself. He hadn’t quite been convinced this scheme was a good idea yet, but he did know one thing- he couldn’t take much more of what the Tipsy Tankard called “food.”
“Heavens, it can’t be,” said a voice behind him. Turning, he saw the blond girl from the night before, and a grin spread across his face. “It is you,” she said. “What are you doing here?”
“Why, enjoying a nice home-cooked meal from a reputable establishment, of course.”
The girl made a sound of doubt, “the Tipsy Tankard neither has nice meals nor is reputable.”
“You’re here, aren’t you? Perhaps I came knowing that this establishment tends to attract interesting characters of good conversation.”
“Seeing as this is the only inn in town, I can understand how you could figure it would attract interesting characters, anyway.”
“Well then, won’t you join me and regale me of tales of your travels?”
“Regale? I don’t know about that, but I will join you,” she said as she took the seat across from him. “As it happens, I am in the mood for good conversation.”
“Ah, you see? We both came to right spot then.”
“Listen,” the girl said, leaning forward. “I want to properly thank you for last night. I was in a sticky situation, to put it lightly, and you put yourself unnecessarily in harm’s way for someone you didn’t even know. That was astoundingly heroic, and what did I do but be snippy and ungrateful? So… thank you.”
Joshua’s grin grew wider, and he said, “So does this mean I can get that kiss now?”
To Joshua’s surprise, she smiled and said, “Don’t push it.”
“How about I just collect it later on then?”
“You are insufferable.”
She smiled, and, after ordering some stew, asked, “So what do you do around here?”
“A little of this, a little of that,” Joshua answered vaguely, waving his hand in the air to indicate nothing of importance. “And why, pray tell, have you come to visit the small town of Juroosh?”
“Oh, you know,” she looked away, saying, “came to visit a relative.”
“Really?” Joshua muttered, spotting the lie and deciding to pry. “Who are you visiting? I know most everyone in town so I’d probably know this… relative.”
She coughed, “ah, you probably wouldn’t know him. He’s kind of out of the way…”
“Um, ok then…,” she looked around the room as if searching for inspiration. “Randall?” Her eyes lit up as she decided on a relative. “Yeah, Randall, the bald guy with the weapons? Do you know him?”
“Randal is your…”
“Uncle,” she supplied.
“Is that so. As it happens, I’m friends with Randall. We get along rather well. You know…” he tilted his head in a thoughtful way. “I think I remember him telling me he doesn’t have any family.”
She laughed, “what, really? That Randall, such a joker. I was just over there today, and… and—hey, you’re the lad!”
“Randall was talking about a lad he liked who agreed that Juroosh may need to protect its border one day. You’re the lad, aren’t you? You have a bow, you must go over there to buy arrows. That’s how you know him; you’re the lad.”
“I suppose I am. I’ve known Randall for about three years now, and it’s funny that’s he never mentioned you.” Joshua veered the conversation back to the girl, although inwardly applauding her attempt to change the subject. “That seems kind of strange—to have a beautiful, capable niece and not to mention her once.”
With a blush she looked down, “ok, that’s enough conversation about me for the time being.” Joshua did suppose he had made her fidget enough for tonight. Suddenly she laughed, “You know, I still don’t know your name. Is it still too important to trust with me?”
“Oh yes, my name is one of the most important names in all of Forellia. Although I usually play it down quite a lot, wouldn’t want the power to go to my head or anything, you understand.”
“Ah, yes, right. You wouldn’t want to be arrogant,” she starting ticking things off on her fingers, “conceited, cavalier, or a braggart, would you? You want to be humble.” Joshua nodded like this was exactly it. “Ah-huh. I thought so. There’s just one thing— if not your name, what do I call you?”
“Hm, how about I tell you my alias?”
“Your alias,” she laughed, “yes, why not tell me your alias if you won’t tell me your real name.”
“Around here I go by the name of Joshua. Joshua Reed. It’s a pleasure to make your acquaintance mademoiselle.”
Joshua Reed? Celeste thought, dumbstruck. My contact? It can’t be. Surely he’s joking. But Celeste couldn’t think of a reason why he would be. He would have to know she was the courier, which he obviously did not, and then he’d have to have some reason for lying to her. There was no point though. He would have nothing to gain, but really? Could this blithe man be the one from whom she was to get a package of utmost importance to take back to King Damias himself?
“Hello in there,” Joshua waved his hand in front of her face to bring her back to earth. “That was my alias, remember? Not the ‘important’ name.” He said important with air quotes to emphasize his joke.
“Joshua Reed.” Celeste said, just to confirm.
“Yes… Do you know someone else with that name or something?”
“Well, there are no other Joshua Reeds in Juroosh, right?”
He narrowed his eyes, leaning forward, suddenly discarding his nonchalance and becoming serious, “no there are not. Why? What do you know? Why is that name important to you?”
“It is because,” she paused. “I think you have a package for me.”
Understanding dawned on his face, followed swiftly by surprise. “You’re the courier. You’re the courier? You’re the one Damias chose to take my package? Really? But why you?”
Celeste, confused by this sudden change in personality and a little offended at the evident shock that she could be capable enough to carry his precious package, growled “yes, me. I’m the courier. I don’t know why King Damias chose me to get your package—for all I know, he just delegated the task to the couriers and Felicity chose me. Why does it matter so much that I’m the courier?”
“Well,” he spluttered, “you’re not exactly—“
“What? What am I not?”
“You can’t deny that you’re not the most capable person in the world, can you?”
“I’ll have you know that I am a skilled swordsman, an expert shot with any kind of bow, and fairly capable with three other weapons.”
“None of which helped you last night when I saved you after you were captured by bandits!”
I was- I was taken by surprise,” Celeste stuttered, “outnumbered, outmaneuvered- what was I supposed to do? Fight off fifteen guys after they ambushed me, and I was thrown from my horse and tied up? Why’s this package so important anyway?”
Joshua nervously glanced around, seeing a few gruff men sitting at the bar looking back at him and Celeste with their raised voices. “That’s enough,” he whispered. “We can’t talk about this here. Come with me.” Without waiting for a reaction, he stood and walked out of the inn, leaving Celeste to reluctantly follow him.