The clerk cleared his throat. “I meant I needed the name of the ship you were on.”
“Oh,” Telbarisk said, “I apologize. I thought you meant you were interested in kouriya. The ship was called the Gueylard.”
The clerk scratched the name down. “And how long do you plan on staying in Gheny?”
“I am unsure.”
“Un…de…ter…mined,” he said while he wrote it down. “I would think of an answer to that, and quickly. If any official stops you and wants to see your papers, they will want to know what your plans are. And if you don’t have a plan, they will keep tabs on you. They may even bar you from entering the town or city. No one likes a rogue with no ambition walking about their places, possibly getting into mischief.”
“I don’t plan on getting into mischief,” Tel said.
“No, maybe not. But, they don’t know that.” The man stood and walked to the counter. He filled out a few lines on a prepared document, stamped it, and signed at the bottom. “Here you are. Welcome to Hanala, Mr. Nourabrikot. If I may make a suggestion, the hotel across the street would be a good place for you to stay. My brother owns it.”
Telbarisk nodded and accepted the piece of paper the man handed to him. Unsure of what to do with it, he crumpled it tightly and was about to put it in his pocket when the man grabbed his wrist. He retrieved the letter, smoothed it out, and folded it neatly before handing it back to the grivven. “You must keep this on your person at all times. Don’t get it wet, don’t tear it, and for Cyurinin’s sake, don’t lose it.”
He thanked the man before leaving the office and walking back towards the wharf. The sea breeze was cooling and the temperature very warm, even in the shade provided by the buildings. He had a thought that perhaps Jormé was lingering about and that he could talk with him. Maybe he could show Telbarisk the city, find him a place to stay. Or perhaps a job so that the people would feel he was valuable.
He sighed and shook his head. This was not following kouriya. This was letting fear and nostalgia guide his actions. Jormé had entered his life, had played his part, and had left. That was as it should be. He might see him one day, but that was not going to be now. He had to learn how to navigate these lands on his own.
He still paused to look out at the ocean and wonder how his family and friends were doing.
Telbarisk turned around and began to walk west, keeping close to the buildings like the people did. The smell of cooking food picked up his spirits. He was drawn by the aroma until he reached a market, full of people and carts and stalls and strange food. Here, again, he was bombarded by the frenzy of people. They yelled things, they argued, they bickered over prices.
It was nothing like a market in Nourabrikot. Tel wouldn’t say that people didn’t get passionate about bartering, but they never got angry with each other. A market was a place to reestablish relationships. Tel doubted anyone knew each other here.
It made him feel a little better. People were still giving him funny looks or reacting oddly to his existence. He’d smile politely, nodding his head, yet they still averted their eyes quickly. Children seemed to like him well enough, but they were either accompanied by parents that quickly shuffled them away or were in a group that wanted to play with him. He’d kindly answer their questions, as mean as some of them were, until a vendor would shoo them away.
After speaking to a few wary merchants, he discovered that many Ghenians ate flesh regularly. On Ervaskin, killing a sheep or cow was like poisoning a well or salting a field. They provided much more in life than they did in death. It was one feast versus the buckets of milk or the yards of cloth that could be attained. Perhaps, here in Gheny, they were so wealthy that it wasn’t a dilemma for them.
Still, he couldn’t bring himself to try any of the sticks of charred meat the vendors offered him. If a treasured animal grew old, they would kill and feast on the meat then, but even still Tel would pass on the flesh.
A man was selling spiced, grilled vegetables with wedges of soft cheese on a bed of rice in a large leaf. That was appealing. He bought this for seven of the brown discs and found a nearby park to sit and eat his dinner.
There were a few curious people who got over their initial confusion and fear to ask him a few questions. One couple consisting of a woman in a full length dress with half-sleeves and a man in a suit with a round hat spoke loudly about their interest in asking him questions. “Ask him why he’s so tall,” the woman said.
“You can ask yourself,” her husband replied with a little annoyance.
“No, I don’t want to…”
“Sir!” the man finally said. Telbarisk looked up at him from his seat in front of a tree. “Sir, might I ask why you are so tall?”
Telbarisk didn’t respond for a few moments. How did you answer a question like that? “Dear, I don’t think he speaks Ghenian,” the woman said.
“I am a grivven,” he said, startling the man who had turned to look at his wife, “and we are all tall.”
“Oh,” he said, “are there many of you?”
Again, Telbarisk was puzzled. What was many? He looked around the market. “A village would have as many people as I’ve seen here in the last half hour. There are many villages in the Valley of the Cold Winds, maybe fifty or so. And there are four valleys on Ervaskin.”
“I meant here, in Gheny.”
“I…don’t know. I think I am the only one.”
“Oh!” his wife said. “Starol, we’ve seen something rare. We must tell the Maskins at our next soire!” They left just as quickly, sauntering through the market. Telbarisk was left wondering if that was a good or bad exchange.
After dinner, he tried to right his mind and listen to kouriya. Since he had no need for anything, he moved through the neighborhoods with no care. He didn’t have enough understanding to know the difference between a district with affluence or lowpence. Someone picked his pocket when he was walking through New Elebtor and he didn’t realize his misfortune until he was at the nicer docks in Quickheel.
There was a slight sense of loss that he had felt every time he had paid for something. Those discs reminded Telbarisk of Jormé and their friendship. He sighed while he watched the sunset, golds and oranges contrasting with the darkening blue sky. There was always some sense of loss with kouriya.
The breeze off the ocean was wonderful. Tel decided he would sleep in the nearby park. The trees, beds of flowers, and bushes seemed orderly. He didn’t understand the idea of landscaping, so he assumed magic was at play. He found a small area on the soft ground near some bushes to lie down. After weeks on a hard ship, it was blissful. He slept like a king.
He awoke to a man in a sharp uniform of gunmetal and burgundy poking him with a baton. The sky was light but only gray, no blue, no sunrise. “Sir, you can’t sleep here. Go to a shelter or I’ll have to take you in.”
The words didn’t match his tone. Taking someone in was normal to grivvens, a courtesy almost expected. The man, however, didn’t make it seem like it was an honor for either of them. Telbarisk apologized, stood, and left the park.
Other than the man’s suggestion, there was no shove towards an action that let Telbarisk know what he should do. The city held very little kil. It made him nervous. He wanted to leave, but wasn’t sure where would be a good place to go. Should he wait a few days for Jormé and sail again? Should he leave the city?
The clerk had suggested north as a place for farmland. This was the closest thing to a direction, though it was weak. Tel shrugged to himself and started heading that way, walking through the dark neighborhoods in the gray light of morning.
His stomach grumbled and a piece of fruit bounced off the cobblestones and rolled in front of him. He tried to return it to the nearest vendor, but he only waved him off, saying no one would buy it if it had been on the street. Breakfast, then, was a juicy apple.
He walked along a street of grand, but unusual buildings. There was a hint of something familiar about one of them, a darkly wooded compound with a gate around it, but he couldn’t place his finger on why. In fact, there was a warm chill that settled on the nape of his neck. It was the feeling as if one of his many sisters was being tricksy and sneaking up on him, hugging him from behind.
Telbarisk left the city gates in the afternoon. It took ’til the evening for him to finally come to a lightly forested area that had a healthy amount of kil. He felt the forest, the trees and brush, and listened. He found some nuts and fruits that he harvested and the extra he put in his bakinar, which was slung over his back. He slept in the woods, content and pleased with the accommodations.
He dreamed he was back on the Gueylard, studying with Jormé. He was teaching Tel a complicated series of words and Telbarisk was feeling upset because he couldn’t grasp their meaning. “And how will you teach your people if you can’t learn yourself?” the first mate said.
Telbarisk awoke with some half-formed thought growing. The world was changing for the Grivven and Tel understood there was no stopping the change. They could only adapt and learn what everyone else had to offer them. They couldn’t do that without information, without one of their own translating things for them. Someone like Telbarisk.
He was stuck in exile, but that didn’t mean he still couldn’t serve his people. He could observe and compile information on humans, then report back at the end of ten years. He would see the world, watch its people, learn their tongue and their ways, and return to Ervaskin enriched and ready to teach.
For the first time since he was exiled, he smiled at the world. He had a purpose in his punishment, a way to help his people for their future. He could be a diplomat, if that’s what his family wanted, or in the least train other diplomats.
His step was lighter. The air smelled sweeter. He picked apples from a tree in the morning and was yelled at by a farmer.
“You can’t go stealin’ food from other people’s property!” the man yelled,
Telbarisk had thought he was safe, since the apple in question had hung from a branch that was over the road. Still, he apologized.
“Where’d ya even get that? It’s ripe.”
Telbarisk pointed to the tree. “I can make another one ripe, if it will make us even.”
“Pfft, you make the whole tree ripe and I’ll call it even. In fact, I’ll pay you a gold coin if you can!”
This was a much easier task outside of the city. The kil was more plentiful in the field and the trees. Tel gathered and moved it to the apple tree and the farmer let out a long “ooo” sounds as the tree’s unripe fruit grew and reddened.
The farmer looked between the tree and Telbarisk several times. “Son, I didn’t think ya could do that. I don’t have a gold. Is there somethin’ else I could give ya? Why don’t ya come in fer lunch?”
“That would be kind.”
In the end, the farmer got several trees ripened early and Tel received a knapsack full of produce and the man’s silence on the matter. He left and continued on the road until he entered the small town of Wiyok.
He smiled congenially at the townspeople who stopped to stare at him. He wondered what kind of work he could find here when he heard a commotion up ahead. A very large crowd of people were in the square.
“Tall man!” someone yelled, pointing a Telbarisk. “See, like I told ya! He’s the one that killed Layrock! I saw him!”
Hands grabbed Telbarisk before he could say anything and hauled him to the center of the crowd.