Calden had not been all that convinced about the choice of his host; he would have wanted a moment to comment the possible dangers; but there wasn't much to do when she decided on something now days. His point of view was't really the most ideal with a layer of clothes muffling the auras his eye saw. Some of the details (most of them really) in the scene like whether or not the men looked dangerous or friendly were all obscured. Astrid could be sure that Calden suppressed more than a few outbursts of bafflement.
The bearded man turned slowly to peer back and down at the base of the stairs from where a strange little traveler revealed herself. His friends eyes had gone to the girl right when she had come from around the corner and that shift in attention had been his cue to look at her too. Both of the men looked more surprised than anything and simply waited for Astrid to speak. Hilltown being a relatively small village, they had already heard rumours of the newest visitor, and though the men might not have shown it to Astrid they too shared a curiosity similar to Kate's. Travelers were something of a rarity in these rural areas and many - like these men - thought of them as something mysterious. It seemed at least one of these fellows in particular didn't fear the unknown though. The bearded man smiled openly - a white row of teeth shining in middle of the brown bush of hair - his friend was more disturbed as he had just been in middle of explaining something 'important'. "Hoo? What is it?" Started the bearded man with a friendly ring in his deep voice to try and help the fidgeting kid speak up. His arms shifted to a align with rest of the man's comfortably patient pose, crossing over his belly. The smile he wore soon rose to a grin. He answered immediately, "Aye, no problem lil miss. It's uhm..." The bearded man gave his bald friend a quick glance and idly scratched his tummy as his forehead tightened into a momentary ponder. "It is on the Elf Maiden's stairs no? Yes, it is!" He turned back to Astrid. The friend hadn't been particularly helpful in confirming his suspicions, it was more for mental support.
"Yeah! You go up these stairs to the very top and..." He said and began to explain in great detail the directions Astrid should follow to find Grumbles' bakery; it was the only one in town. Soon the reason why the bald one was so disgruntled by Astrid's interruption dawned. The bearded one, he was quite the talker actually once he got warmed up. No doubt the moments when he let his friend share his mind were rare and far in between and thus treasured. Soon enough the bald one was counting clouds and leaning his rear on the cauldron while waiting for the topic to shift from Grumbles' bakery to the only cafe of the village, then back to the bakery and finally trailing wholly off course to inter village trading and how the silver mine of Hilltown was a real pride of its people.
It was relatively easy for Kate to take advantage of the moment. She was surprisingly meticulous about this though. Many times her head peeked through the holes of the wooden rack, every time a little farther as she scouted out where the men were looking. When she finally moved it was a sneak move worthy of praise and would have went undetected by Astrid too had she not known where the tiny thief was hiding. There was a long shadow cast by a nearby alcove connecting two buildings. Neither men suspected anything as a small silhouette slipped into the alley and out of the scene. Astrid could hear Calden's approving 'hmph' softly from her shoulder. "Phew, nice. I guess you were right this time, but I would really like if you keep me up with what's happening somehow," he whispered, though quiet his voice was clear enough to be heard from below the workman's booming tone.
Eventually the witch could wiggle herself out of the conversation and leave. Kate had not stuck around to wait for her, but it was rather easy to figure out where she had gone, with what Astrid mentioning the bakery and all that...
A silver plate with the words 'Elf Maiden's stairs' engraved on it was bolted to the wall of a building at the very top of the hill. Steep stone stairs, not unlike many others in the town, trailed down in dizzyingly steep descend, curving slightly to the left so that the very end of the street was out of sight. The sun did not shine on this side of the town yet. The warm autumn sun was replaced by a blanket of cool shade that wrapped the streets in a light blue hue. Astrid had to squint her eyes to make out the small nameplates of each building, but the windows were really the biggest help. Even if they had not had a bakery back in home village, the witch should be able to tell where people were baking right? Maybe.
"Maybe the bearded man lied," Calden suggested when they had already went at least half way down the hill and nearing a corner on the Elf Maiden's stairs with still no signs of bakery in sight! "He did seem pretty sincere though... why would he-" He quickly shut up as a familiar voice hailed out from the very corner. Kate was there, grinning like she did so well, waving her tiny hand vigorously to get Astrid's attention. "Oi! Here! Here! Come here!" She shouted. The bakery was there, but pretty well hidden as Astrid could observe once she got closer to where the little kid was motioning her to come. The entrance
was at the very corner. No big windows, no nothing. The only indication that this was indeed Grumbles' bakery was tiny silver sign resting above the hard wood door.
Kate hurriedly opened the door and immediately Astrid was greeted by a whiff of warmth and pleasant aromas. The room was lit by a few burning candles by the window and bright oil lamps. The air was thick, almost suffocating compared to the fresh cold air outside with some flour floating about and the scents of bread and bakeries dominating everything. Although the entrance was small the room widened up and at the back was really roomy. A hard wooden counter dominated the space and cut the whole room at the middle. Behind it were against the wall thin wooden shelves on which rested pretty much as much food as the whole home village of the kids prepared for winter, and it wasn't even salted or dried; all of it was fresh.
Grumbles greeted the girls as they stepped in, "Afternoon girls. You must be Astrid eh? Hehehe... did she really let you sleep in her hideout? By the Gods that girl can be dumb when she wants to. To let a budding youth spend her first night in town in some scrappy nest. What sort of first impression are we giving here, huh?!" He was turning out to be a rather expressive man despite having very mild and unremarkable appearance from a lightly stubbled round face to the grey garbs he wore. His eyes went wide as if what Kate had done was a transgression comparable to blasphemy or something. The man continued, "Should've brought you here right away, but I suppose best sooner than never..."
"OI TRISTY, YOUR GIRL'S BROUGHT THE TRAVELER HERE!" Grumbles suddenly shouted towards the door at the back with volume that sent everyone's ears ringing.
Out came Kate's much talked mother. She was very short and very much like her daughter with perhaps a little longer hair. It did not at all bode well for Kate's dreams of growing tall one day, but at least she would remain the right size for her thieving hobby. She ran to hug her mommy right away and buried her face under her chest. Tristy patted the little girl's head and lifted her eyes to Astrid. She spoke very gently, but there was a tingle of something sad in her tone, "Hey Astrid. This here's Grumbles and I'm Kate's mother, you can call me Tristy. It's so nice to have people like you visiting our little town. How are you liking it so far."