The wagon was stifling and dark, the only light coming from the bars in the back. The bench was hard and the floor was covered in pieces of hay with a slight smell of vomit. When the wagon started moving, it jostled back and forth, banging into Telbarisk’s behind when the wheels drove into divots in the road. He had difficulty breathing the thick air and he would be sore after the ride, but he was happy.
He understood that the people in the town hated him for some reason, but he didn’t know why. And now he had two people in front of him that could answer that, and other questions. There was a chance he could live and serve his people.
Still, Jormé had told him to be careful and not tell people about his history and his powers. Jormé actually didn’t know how much Telbarisk hadn’t told him as well, being equally as careful with him as his friend had suggested. When should he tell people more about himself? What was okay to speak about and what wasn’t?
He wiped the sweat off his face and removed his bakinar as he thought about these things. Kouriya would show him the way.
“What was the issue with you not coming with me?” Al asked Anladet. “You didn’t seem like you wanted me to point you out to the men on the scaffold.”
“I was hoping to follow the wagon and spring you two out if there was an opportunity.” She lifted the flap over the window. “I wasn’t counting on this many people following us to the courthouse.”
Dozens of people were following the wagon on either side, booing and proving they were hostile in many ways. “You don’t have that much faith in me, do you?” he asked.
“I do, Al. I just understand how these things work out. Look at them. Do you think this is going to be a fair trial? You’re going to have to prove, completely and without doubt, that he didn’t do it. You have my support, but not my hope.”
“I know. I still want to try.”
Al sighed and turned to speak to his “client”. While he had a savage look to him, Al didn’t think he was close to that at all. He seemed very docile, complacent and meek, just as he had heard grivvens were.
To Telbarisk, Al looked disheveled, as if he had just woken up from a deep sleep. His thick, dark hair stuck up at odd angles and his expression seemed to start with surprise before it sank into calm. He seemed mousy and unassuming, underfed but possibly strong when he needed to be. It was hard for him to pin his feelings on the man, knowing so little about Ghenians, but he liked him thus far.
Anladet, however, brought him some ease. She had a gentleness to her that reminded him of the elves back home, an ability to move with a grace that he hadn’t seen since he arrived in Gheny. And then he peered closer and blinked in surprise. “Dawb-ka dan Bréed?”
Anladet was so startled she placed her hand on the bench she was sitting on to support herself. Her eyebrows furrowed in concentration. “Aw, I maw Bréed, kehe īmeweh wap baw lem kilik.”
They exchanged a few more sentences with Alpine looking back and forth between the two of them. “He’s speaking elvish,” Anla told him. “His dialect is different from the one I grew up with, but I can understand him. I can translate for you.”
“We should probably start out with introductions. What’s his name?”
“Telbarisk of Nourabrikot,” he responded. “It’s in the Valley of the Cold Winds, called Ashiafraubiner in Grivfia, on the island of Ervaskin.”
“Can you ask him if…oh,” he said, turning to look at the grivven. “That was you. You speak Ghenian? How come you didn’t speak it earlier?”
“It’s always a good idea to keep relations good between yourself and an elf,” he said.
Anla laughed lightly at that. “You are a wise person, Telbarisk. What is a grivven doing here in Gheny? My father always said that grivvens lived in Ervaskin and they never left.”
“This is true. I may be the first grivven to arrive in Gheny. I was picked up by a ship from Arouk that arrived a few days ago in Hanala. May I ask what you are doing off of Ervaskin?”
Anla blinked at this. “i was born here. Well, not in Sharka but in Ashven, northwest of here.”
“Elves live in Gheny? I thought they were only on Ervaskin.”
“No, there are quite a few actually.” She spoke of what her home had been like and explained a little of the issues involving human-elf relations, making sure to be neutral in front of Al.
“I don’t mean to interrupt,” Al said, “but I do need to speak with Telbarisk about the trial. Could you, uh…” He made a circling motion with his finger to indicate he wanted privacy.
Anla closed her eyes and nodded when it was all set. The sound in the wagon was echoed, like they were under an overturned boat. Al turned to face the grivven. “Tel- may I call you Tel? Did you do it?”
“I’m not sure what I did,” Telbarisk admitted.
“You’ve been accused of killing the mayor of the town. Did you? Anladet and I promise not to tell anyone if you did. I give my word that I’ll protect your confidentiality.”
“No, I didn’t do this thing. I walked into the town for the first time this morning. I only arrived in Gheny two days ago.”
Al smiled. “That’s good. You went to the inspection station and filled out the paperwork?” When Tel nodded, Alpine continued. “I’ll have to figure out when they think the mayor was killed or at least when his body was found. If it was before yesterday, then I can get someone to retrieve the paperwork or at least get an affidavit of an alibi from the clerk.”
“Why did they say I killed this man if it’s not true?”
“I suspect they needed to pin it on someone and a stranger was easier than someone in the town. You were just in the wrong place at the wrong time.” Alpine sighed. “I’m not going to be able to do any more work until I hear the details of the case.”
“Can you tell me what is happening?”
Alpine looked at the grivven and realized that, while he was a physically imposing man, he was naive to the point of being almost child-like. “The crowd back there was going to kill you for killing another man. They formed a lynch mob, which is illegal, and I stopped them by stating you had the right to a trial. That’s where we’re going now. It is my job, as your lawyer, to prove you’re innocent or else they can kill you legally.”
Tel blinked a few times. “In Gheny, if a man kills another man, he is killed in turn?”
“Depending on the circumstances, yes. Why, what do grivvens do?”
“It is rare that one of my people would kill. If they do, they are exiled, depending on the circumstances.”
“Since we’re stuck in here for a few more miles, tell us about yourself.”
Telbarisk began with the island, only admitting an ache and shame when it came to events prior. He spoke of the men of the Gueyland, arriving in Hanala, and walking north to the town. They were just broad strokes to fill them in a little. He still heeded Jormé’s warning and said nothing about his role in the ship arriving in Gheny, nor his past, nor anything else he could do.
“I think I understand how you got yourself into this situation,” Alpine said. “What is ‘kouriya’?”
Telbarisk struggled for a few moments before turning to Anladet and speaking elvish. She listened, then spent a few moments gathering her thoughts when he was done. “It’s a concept that doesn’t translate well into Ghenian and is complicated. Grivvens believe that there is a pull each man will feel towards his destiny. I suppose, metaphorically, you could say something like ‘a grivven following kouriya is like a swimmer being pulled by the tide’ or ‘going where the wind blows’.”
Telbarisk’s face broke out into a grin. “I haven’t been able to figure out how to say it. I think that explains it well enough.”
“So, you followed the kouriya and it brought you to Gheny, being accused of murder. I don’t mean to be rude, but maybe kouriya isn’t leading you to where you need to go.”
Anladet’s eyes flashed angrily at Alpine’s rudeness, but Telbarisk smiled. “You are wrong. It didn’t lead me to the trial. It led me to you two. And I have a strong feeling that my journey won’t end today. This is kouriya. This is what I believe.”