I was twelve.
I was walking down the streets on northern Coastown when I saw what I thought was an all too common occurrence. A well-dressed Carplentarian looking man was walking through the market from one drift wood stand to another. I guessed he had five men tailing him. I started to follow.
The man kept walking even after the market ended. He looked behind him. The thugs weren’t being subtle anymore. The crowds had ended and the five of them were clearly walking straight for him. I was still a distance back. I was sitting on the edge of a dried-up garden trying to look disinterested. Hells, I was quite ignorable at that point: Skinny, wearing nothing more than make-shift trunks, my hair grey-brown with summer dirt.
The man did something really stupid and walked down an alleyway. The thugs chased after him, as did I. If the thugs left anything, I’d claim it. If he was badly hurt I’d alert someone after. If he was dead, then well, there wasn’t much to do about that.
“Want something?” The man asked the thugs as he removed a knife from his belt. The lead thug smiled and drew his own knife. I scampered up a chimney on the side of one of the buildings. I pressed myself to the roof and watched.
“Just shut up and give us all you have!” one of the thugs said. There were five of them.
“All is quite a bit. I don’t want to give you all.”
One of the thugs moved to blindside him with a club, but the man sidestepped it and cut his own forearm with his knife. He then proceeded to lift the wound to his mouth.
Before the tough could swing his club again the man said something, I couldn’t make sense of. It had felt like a heavy sensation in the depth of my ears, but no words, no memorable sounds. What I witnessed next baffled me. It was like the hand of Ruah had come down from the sky to flatten the thugs into the earth. But I’d heard and felt a vicious wind. It was over. The man had simply made a motion with his hand.
He sighed and kept walking. I continued to follow him. At the time, I thought I’d witnessed Speaking – the Quatane. I thought that he must be one of the great Speakers of Ruah. It was said that they could influence the world simply by saying the words of the Quatane. I’d read stories about them and their powers, from the infamous Blood Hunter Tonajuar Marquette, to the healer Sarah Amphora.
I followed the man for most of the day. He visited several shelters that housed the sick. I stayed away from the places personally, too many stories of people vanishing, or of abuses suffered for the services of staying.
I couldn’t say exactly what he was doing in these places, but he was treated well, and his stays were brief. I guessed he was a Speaker well known to the shelters. The final place I saw him travel to was a tavern. Here, all he did was sit alone and drink. I watched him through a window. He didn’t once approach anyone, and no one approached him. Finishing up in the tavern, he headed out. It was late afternoon when he stopped in the ruble of fallen and falling houses in the northeastern part of Coastown. Not far from the Wall over to the Church Grounds.
“So, you have nothing else better to do today, kid?” I froze. “You’ve been following me since the thugs this morning. Get down from there. You’ve been making me nauseous the way you run across those rooftops.”
I panicked and was about to bolt when he gave me a look that held me in place. He could do to me like he did to the thugs. I swallowed hard, and with serious effort, kept my hands steady enough to shimmy down a gutter. I slowly walked up to him. My eyes hurt they were so wide.
“I’m not going to kill you, kid. My name is Hari, I’m assuming you have one as well?” I watched him for a while before I found my tongue.
“Dmitry,” I said quickly.
“Dmitry?” he asked curiously.
“Demetrius Skagora, actually…”
“Demetrius Skagora,” he said it like he was tasting the word. “Dmitry is your short name?”
“That’s what my mother called me.”
“And where is your mother now?” He asked.
“Glren took her, two years ago.”
“Ahh,” Hari said. “I won’t inquire to deeply. Do you have a father?”
“My father is High Speaker Mikkel Andrews,” I blurted out.
“Well that’s interesting,” Hari said with surprising composure. He started a rhythmic speaking in a language I didn’t understand, but as he spoke dirt fell off my body. “Are you smart, boy?”
“What?” I was caught off guard.
“Are you smart?”
“I… I think so.”
Hari suppressed another laugh, “Can you read?”
“Really?” Hari lifted an eyebrow. He pulled out a slip of paper. “Read this to me.”
I went to read it then I stopped, “Soup recipe? Wait… that second part is just scribbles?”
Hari smiled. “My mother would agree with you, my hand writing is quite poor. She was from Carplentaria, that’s her language.”
“Where do you live?” Hari asked.
I shrugged. “Nowhere.”
“Not surprising I guess,” He said. “Set up a home nearby and meet me here at dusk tomorrow. Can you do that?”
I didn’t really know how to answer this, “Yes, I guess.”
“Good, I’ll have some books for you to read. Would you read them?” He asked
“I guess.” I liked books well enough, but I hadn’t gotten to do much reading since my mother was taken away.
“Good, I’ll see you then.” With that, Hari walked away. He started down a the stareway of a once basement.”
“Where are you going?” I asked.
“There’s a tunnel down here,” He responded. “Don’t ever use it.” He said as if knowing those words would be ignored.
Tyler W. Golec