“I just want you to know that you are more than welcome on any ship I’m on,” the first mate said. “I hope you’ve realized that by now.”
Telbarisk shook hands with the man. “Thank you,” he said, “that’s kind of you.” He had no intentions on setting foot on a ship ever again, though not because of Jormé. He had been the one pleasant person he’d encountered since winter.
“Now, while you’re in port, you’ll need to register with the inspection officers on Wright street,” Jormé explained, walking slowly away from the ship. “Just tell them its temporary, since you’ll be with me in a few days.” The first mate phrased it somewhere between a statement and a question. “Tell them you were on the Gueylard.”
“I will,” Telbarisk said. “Will you be on it again?”
The first mate’s face clouded over for a few moments. “No. I’ll find another ship. The captain is more likely to take on the same crew and I don’t want to work with some of them again. They did as they were told, but there was a rot of morality that goes beyond what you find with your normal crew. I think you know who I mean.”
He knew. “If I weren’t on the ship, would it have been different, Jormé?”
“No. It wasn’t just the men, Telbarisk. The captain was complacent with things he shouldn’t have been. I don’t know if he was overly fearful of a mutiny or he is one to have a blind eye if profits are high, but I’m not interested in finding out.” He gave a shrug and smiled again. “It’s too bad. He’ll have to find another amazing first mate.”
“I’m sorry it came to that for you.”
“I’m not! Imagine if we hadn’t found your island, and you, for that matter. A good crew hold things together when in a crisis . That crew, well, I think we were lucky to becalm so close to land. Otherwise, I don’t know if I’d be here to welcome you to Gheny.”
Jormé dug a few shiny discs from his pocket. “Here. If they only knew what you did, they would have paid you so much more. Then again, knowing the captain, he would have sooner shackled you to the boat. Anyway, there will be plenty more if you come with me.” He looked around the port for a few moments and perked up “I see the Ibby Far is in port. I know the captain and the company he works for. If I can’t get on that ship, there will be others I can work on. Who knows, maybe I’ll even captain one myself.
“Either way, meet me here in three days, at noon. I’ll get you on a ship with me, I guarantee it. Maybe I can even get a rating for you.” He clasped Telbarisk’s forearm, bracing his elbow with his other hand. “I’d love to see nine, Telbarisk. I’ll bet with the winds and currents favoring us, you can get us there.”
Tel placed his free hand on the man’s shoulder. “I will have to see what the future holds.”
“Last thing. Be careful who you tell the things you shared with me. Not every man will be decent to you. They will try to take advantage of you because you are obviously foreign and unaccustomed to how Ghenians behave. I wish you good fortune, my friend.”The first mate gave a little wave as he walked away, a bag slung over his woolen coat. Telbarisk paused for a few moments, then slowly looked up at the city of Hanala.
There was so much to take in that he found it was easy to glance up, then look down at the cobblestones while he processed what he saw. It was incredible. There were buildings shaped from trees that grew horizontally and incredibly straight. Ice filled slots so that people could see inside the boxes. Mountains topped the homes. Some of the peaks were volcanoes, even, spewing smoke from the tops.
Telbarisk looked again and realized his mistake. No, they weren’t mountains. The tops were stone, but sat above for protection. The trees were cut and stacked, not grown. As for the ice, well, it was something he’d have to get close enough to see.
Tel had nothing but his clothes and the discs the man had given him. He put those in his pocket as he set forth towards the nearest building, painted white and red. It took him some time to wade through the crowd, not noticing how many people gaped or even startled at his appearance. He walked up to the ice, touched his finger to it, and was astonished to find it wasn’t cold.
He turned abruptly and spoke to the first person he saw. It was a man in fancy attire with a cylindrical hat and a baton. Perhaps he was a warrior, with a crude weapon and armor that made him appear taller. “Could you tell me the way to the right street?” Tel asked.
The man startled at the question, stopped, and slowly raised his eyes from Telbarisk’s chest to his eyes. It took a few moments. The man blinked twice, then scurried off, leaving Tel confused.
He was unable to get anyone else to help him. He tried with a dozen different people, most startling after they looked at him and walking away quickly. A few shrieked and one man shouted “no!” before he ran away.
Telbarisk was unsure what to do. The first mate had said it was important to go to the inspection office, but he didn’t know where that was. No one would help him, not matter how many people he asked. He leaned against the wall to the building with the warm ice and tried to figure out his next course of action.
“Are you a craveir?” a little boy asked him. “Could you tell me a tale?”
Telbarisk looked down at the lad. “No, I am a grivven. I could still tell you a story, if you’d like.”
“A grivven?” He looked confused for a moment, then his face lit up. “A straw man!”
Tel blinked at this. “I don’t suppose you know where the right street is? I need to find the inspection office.”
The boy giggled. “It’s not ‘the right street’, it’s ‘Wright Street’. You have to go to the red building and turn right. Go down that street until you get to the building with the sign with gold on it. It’s…”
The boy’s mother ran up. “Jaul! What have I told you about talking to strangers!”
“Thank you,” Telbarisk said. He would have paid the boy compliments through his mother, but she had hauled him away so quickly the boy began to wail from the pain.
The directions were easy enough; the red building was visible from where he stood. Still, he didn’t want to get lost and be forced to ask for help again. Ghenians thus far seemed skittish and generally unable to help with directions. Perhaps only children were allowed to do that task and he’d been rude to ask the adults.
He walked the street carefully, allowing his toes to press into the cobblestones as he kept the building in his sight. If he found nothing else in Hanala familiar, at least there was the sensation of cool stone against his soles. It almost felt like home.
A man driving a cart almost collided into him as he turned onto the next street. The man glared at him before his eyes widened in surprise. He looked away from Telbarisk and hurried along. Tel took the cue to move closer to the buildings.
He continued along Wright Street slowly, his toes still grasping the rocks belong him. He looked closely at each building, trying to take in the details as well as read the signs. Telbarisk could read a little Ghenian, but he was unsure as to what the letters for ‘inspection’ were. He puzzled it out and tried to match his guess to the wooden signs with gold lettering. Each was in a different font unfamiliar to him, which only made the process harder.
He stood outside the third business and decided to take a chance. He pressed on the door, noting they used wood to block entrances like on the ship he’d been on. Why would they do need to do that? It was summer, warm with a comfortable breeze off the coast. Was it an issue of security, then, or perhaps some command from the gods on how things must be?
“Close the door!” one of the men behind the desk shouted in an annoyed tone.
Telbarisk had to duck to enter and promptly pushed the door towards him. “Is this the inspection office?”
“What else would it be? Are you from a country that doesn’t…” The man cut himself off when he finally looked up from his work and saw Telbarisk in full. “Oh,” he said softly. “Um, sit and wait until your turn.”
Telbarisk took a seat next to another man who was in line. He was dressed similarly to the way Jormé had, in a deep blue, woolen coat and a hat of the same material. The man took his pipe out of his mouth and stared agape at Tel, who nodded in greeting to him. The man suddenly decided other things in the room were more interesting and he needed to look at them.
The hours stretched by in discomfort. Grivvens were narrowly hipped in comparison to humans, so the chair wasn’t the issue. It was the disrespect. The man beside Telbarisk went behind the canvas curtains to the left, then three other men who had entered after Tel had been taken before him. He was hungry and overly warm, sweating slightly in the heat. Still, he said nothing. He didn’t want to be rude and he wasn’t sure if interrupting the men at their job would be considered so.
Finally, the same man from behind the front desk looked up and beckoned him over. “Do you have the seven copper fee?”
“I…don’t know what a copper is.”
The man’s mouth hardened. “No? Then I’ll have to ask you to leave. No payment, no service.”
“The only thing I have are these,” he said, pulling out the discs the first mate had given him.
The man rolled his eyes and took a silver disc from Telbarisk’s palm. “Where did you get these?”
“A man from the ship I was on gave them to me. He said it was ‘for my work’.”
“You were paid then?” When Telbarisk said nothing, the man sighed and said, “Wages? Employment? Any of this ringing a bell?”
Telbarisk shook his head. “Where I’m from, we don’t have ‘wages’. I don’t know what ‘paid’ or ’employment’ are.”
The man asked Tel to follow as he led him behind the curtained area. He gestured for Tel to sit in a chair while he sat across from him at a desk with forms. “Name,” the man asked.
“Telbarisk of Nourabrikot, which is the Valley of Cold Winds in…”
“Telbarisk,” the man repeated, writing the information down with his quill and ink. “Where do you hail from?”
“Nourabrikot, though I was most recently living in Ouayid Island.”
“Nour-ab-rih-kaht,” the man sounded out. “Where is that? I’ve never heard of those lands.”
Telbarisk thought a little more about the question. “I believe your people call it ‘Ervaskin’.”
“Oh! The, uh, the big island in the northern Gamik Sea.” He wrote the name after Nourabrikot, a pleased smile touching his lips. The clerk was the sort of man who prided himself on trivia and he was delighted he remembered such an obscure piece of information. “Judging by how this is going, I think I’ll start your physical examination before we continue this form. I will need you to strip to your small clothes so I may inspect your body for disease and infestation.”
Telbarisk believed he had no small clothes, since he wasn’t quite sure what they were . He wore wide-legged trousers, a loose shirt, and a heavy shawl around his shoulders. He had taken off the bakinar a few minutes after sitting in the warm office. Without any hint of embarrassment, he stripped and placed his clothes on the desk.
“Oh, oh my!” the man said when he turned back around. He averted his eyes and handed Telbarisk a towel, which he draped around his mid-section. He was learning so much about how these Ghenians acted. Prudish or very shy. It was as if they weren’t a people, but more like persons in a group, less connected than he was was his people.
The man had calmed down and was back to his business manner. “Sir, I need to inspect your scalp. Could you remove your tie?”
He didn’t want to, not after losing it once recently. But, he also didn’t want to insult the man by not allowing him to do his job. He tucked the towel in so that it would stay in place and gently took the silver chain out of his hair.
The man ask Telbarisk to lean down and used a stick to lift up sections of his thick and coarse hair. It was dark brown and resembled more a horse’s mane than a human’s tresses. There was a slight kink to the strands with a few pieces growing out at odd angles that gave the illusion of straw sticking out of a hay bale.
The man lifted each of Telbarisk’s arms and looked in his armpits. Then, he stood on a chair to look closely at his neck, shoulders, and the start of his arms. Tel almost jerked away when the clerk ran his fingers down his sides, sliding quickly over his ribs. The man finished by patting down Tel’s legs and looking at the bottom of his feet.
When the man finished, reacting in a pleased manner, he indicated that Telbarisk could put his clothes back on. Tel tied his hair back first before redressed. “I’ll need you to stand with your back against this wall,” the man said.
The clerk stood back and eyed the situation, looking puzzled for a few moments. He scratched the trimmed whiskers on his face, then grabbed a piece of twine and a stepladder. He placed the end of the string against the top of the chart, unspooled it to the top of Telbarisk’s head, and then made some calculations. “Sir, you are quite a tall fellow. Seven feet, two and a half inches. You’ve definitely set a record for my office.”
Telbarisk didn’t know what to think. He had never been called “tall” before. Quite the opposite, actually. He was rather small statured for a grivven. His older brother could rest his chin on the top of Tel’s head and had often when they were children.
“Let’s finish the form,” the man said as he sat again. “We have name and origin covered. What is your occupation?”
Jormé had said to be careful telling people about his capabilities. “Are my answers confidential?”
The clerk looked surprised. “What I write will be filed, but unless there’s an issue, no one will bother reading it. And I certainly have no interest in repeating what I hear. It’s not confidential as such, but I don’t think you need to worry about anything.”
Telbarisk spoke lower. “I am a farmer.”
“Such worry! Sir, we have plenty of farmers here in Gheny. I’m unsure if this is a matter of shame in Ervaskin, but here we depend on and cherish our farmers. You’ll want to head north from the city to get to farming land, if you plan on starting out as a hand before purchasing your own land,” the man said as he wrote. “Any family with you?”
“And any indenturements? Contracts, warrants, or future employment opportunities?”
“And how did you arrive here?”
“Kouriya,” he said and explained.