I stopped in front of a blacksmith, one of the apprentices had set up an array of knifes, swords, and axe heads. There were many and more practical wares at the stand, but I had no interest shovels and stakes. I still had the dagger I’d bought of the peddler three months back, but truth be told, it was a rather small knife. I gazed upon the swords with lust, but I knew it would not be practical for me to have one hiding in my room at the Church. However, there were some fearsome looking knifes available and you could more easily conceal. I was quickly brainstorming all the advantages of having one of those fearsome blades.
I’d made up my mind. “Apprentice, how much for the dirk,” I pointed at the weapon. It had a narrow, double sided, foot long blade of well forged steal. Its hilt was rather plain, but the leather looked soft and comfortable. The pummel looked well weighted. The boy scurried over and lifted up the Dirk and offered it to me to hold. I checked the balance, it was excellent. The soft virgin leather was a fantasy in and of its self.
“A lich,” the boy said as he watched me admire the dirk.
A lich was a pretty solid price for a blade of that quality. But I responded with, “Two Nicks, the weapon is plain,” a lord’s son may have said something along those lines.
“Two nicks? My master would have my hide! Are you dumb!” The apprentice replied.
“Three nicks and I’ll forgive the insult,” I was channeling Andre and how imagined he would barter. It seemed to be working.
“Yes, three Nicks then,” The boy agreed hastily. I smiled – tossed the boy the coins, and slid the dirk into my belt.
Proud of my new treasure, I was about to reenter the throng of pedestrians when I heard a familiar voice. “Dmitry! That knife is a little big for cutting steak!”
I turned to see Gemaeve heading towards me flanked by two Glren. She wore a pale blue dress, and the white Tabard of the Church of Ruah, which swung lazily as she moved.
“With this I can kill the cow, gut it, skin it and cut myself off a slab of steak.” My comment had the desired effect. Her nose crinkled at my comment.
“Are you alone?” She asked looking around me. I watched the Glren, I was not dressed as one of the church, but I was still secretly outside of church grounds, it would not be good if I was discovered out here.
“They didn’t offer you an escort?”
“They don’t exactly know,” I said in a near whisper, the Glren were almost close enough to hear. “Let’s walk.”
“You snuck out!” She said not too softly.
“Shhh! Quiet, you don’t want to find a new partner in Execution do you?”
“Dmitry…” She said at safer volume, “Why?”
“I didn’t want any one following me.” I said as we continued down random streets in Market District. The Glren did an annoyingly good job keeping pace.
She narrowed her eyes at me, “You’re not doing anything illegal are you?”
“What? Of courses not,” I raised my hands in false innocence as my purse bounced nice and full on my hip. “What are you doing in Market District?” I changed the subject, non to confident in the strength of my lie.
“Not buying murder weapons,” She said gesturing at were my new dirk hanging off my belt. “My brother told me that a man that carries a sword isn’t hiding that he’s dangerous, a man who hides blades in his clothes lies with every step, for murder is his trade.”
“He’s obviously never considered their self-defense potential.”
“A sword will do better to deter enemies than a concealed knife will.”
“But if I am attacked, the attacker would know were my sword was, he wouldn’t see the knife till I buried it in his chest. I also don’t think the Church would be too thrilled to have one of their students carrying around a sword.”
“And they’d be happy about the knife?”
“They don’t have to know about the knife.”
“I trust you won’t be saying anything about it.”
“Without me you couldn’t complete half of Speaker La’Turge’s assignments, admit it.”
“Not true, I remember multiple times beating you to the best words!”
“But it’s me who has to speak them,” I said with a cocky smile.
She scowled then asked. “Where are we going?”
“I’m going to Low Town; you’re the one following me.”
“I am not!” She said as I turned right. She turned right with me.
“See!” I said making my point.
“You don’t need to be an ass, I thought you were past that!”
“I’m not being an ass, I’m just going to Low Town, never said you following me was an inconvenience… yet.”
“I’m going to have to get away from your escort if I want to get back into the church, that means eventually getting away from you, no offence.”
“How are you getting back in?”
“I know a way.”
“They’ll see you if you jump the walls!”
“I never said anything about jumping any walls.”
“If not the walls,” She then looked at me and her eyes lit up with adventure. It made me nervous. “You know a secrete way in!”
“Quiet,” I hissed.
“I said, quiet!”
“Show it to me, as your princess I command you to show it to me.”
“Ugh,” I sighed, “Some other time, not today, it’s not safe for you to come in through the side I’m going to.”
“Not safe for me? But safe for you?”
“I’m not a pretty little princess done up in her pretty little clothing.”
“Ass!” She cursed at me. “You still have to show it to me! It’s not safe from this direction but how about from the Church?”
“Uh, well if no one see’s us… you couldn’t dress like that though,” I said gesturing at her dress and tabard.
“But like you are now? Dmitry, I don’t only own dresses and gowns.”
“I wouldn’t know, that’s all I’ve ever seen you in,” I said with a smile.
She laughed, then looked at me with all seriousness, “So when can we do this!?”
Realistically the truth was tomorrow but I wanted time to try and wiggle my way out of this agreement. “Give me a month; I’m going to need to make certain everything is safe if I’m going to bring a princess of Ruaheon with me.”
“So I have your word?!” she said excitedly.
I reluctantly grumbled, “You have my word.”
“On Ruah’s name?”
“On Ruah’s name.”
“Say it with the Quatane! You can’t back out of that!”
Never swear an oath with the Quatane, painfully hard to get around. I swallowed and spoke the oath again. I didn’t feel any different afterwards, I just knew deep down in my gut that I wasn’t getting out of this now.
“Though in all seriousness, I need to get away from your Glren, so just wave to me when I take a right up here, and if they ask, I’m son lord’s son you got the hots for.” I smiled wickedly when I saw her get flustered.
“I don’t have ‘THE HOTS’ for any Lord’s son!” She said exasperated.
I laughed and took a right hand turn, waving farewell to her. She at least had the presence of mind to wave back.
The sun had set low as I passed through Low Gate into Coastown. It would be dark by the time I reached the Pantry Tunnel. I had a month before I had to deal with the pact that I’d made Gemaeve. A month was a good amount of time, I had thought.
I waited for Gemaeve on the edge of the fountain in the center of the Havens. I was clad in dark clothing, as I always wore before these weekend excursions. The sun was a couple hours from rising and it was as dark as it would get this night. Where I sat on the fountain I was nearly invisible. Lamps were lit outside the buildings around me making my little shadow appear darker.
My month old oath twisted in my stomach. It was very hard to lie with the Quatane; that’s where its power came from. With sufficient will you can say something that isn’t true and make it true. Unfortunately that it is much more difficult than it sounds. I had tried getting out of my oath. I’d given Gemaeve a rigid set of rules in which she would have to follow. First off she’d need to meet me a full half bell before the sun rose. She needed to dress in appropriate clothing and it needed to be dark. She would have to listen to me and do as I told, she had forced me to add, within reason, to the end of that, but within reason was variable. If she violated any of these then I could escape my oath.
I was waiting, hoping, praying, that she would over sleep, or not be able to get out of her rooms, or get kidnapped by a bear, anything! I pleaded with Ruah more earnestly than I’d ever had in Morning Prayer. I couldn’t be about to take a Princess of Ruaheon through my Pantry Tunnel into Coastown.
I knew the bell would come soon and had I began thinking that I was free of my oath when I heard foot falls and frantic breathing. A small figure in black scampered down the white stone walkway. Her hair was in a braid and bounced behind her as she ran. I stood still hoping she wouldn’t see me. I hadn’t told her that I would find her, just where I would be waiting. Stopping fifteen feet away from me she looked around nervously.
“Dmitry?” She whispered to the night. I stood perfectly still. Maybe she’d give up. “Dmitry?” This she said louder. “I’m not late!” she nearly yelled.
I jumped. She would wake someone up or alert a Glren or something. She saw me. I gestured and she moved towards me.
“I couldn’t see you! Were you really sitting there that whole time?”
“Shh! And yeah, be quiet. Follow me,” I looked at her clothing looking for something bright or ridiculous for which I could end this trip.
“Like them? They’re my riding clothes,” She asked, as if I were admiring them. “Yeah, sure, just keep up.” I was planning on doing as little as possible to follow through with this deal.
We cut through the residences in the southern Havens, then through the open yard and south of the Church. I kept our pace high and threw Gemaeve to the ground a couple times when I say a Glren.
“Can you give me a warning!” she complained as I pressed her against the back of the storage building that housed the Pantry tunnel. I had heard foot falls. Looking around a corner, I saw a church attendant exit it carrying a crate.
“In here,” I whispered as I dragged her through the front door. My silent steps were echoed by her not so silent steps. Luckily the building was nearly empty and large, so we were able to make it to the pantry entrance unnoticed. I tossed aside a bag of flour and opened the hatchway. I looked at Gemaeve and motioned her through. She was smiling brightly, like this was an amazing game.
“I can’t believe the…”
“Just go through,” I said in a whispered shout.
She gave me a frown and dropped through. I followed close behind and soon enough I was leading her through the Pantry Tunnel. The dry sewer and the tunnel that branched off it into Coastown were as it had always been. In the pitch black, I had to hold on to Gemaeve’s hand to guide her through the familiar route. Moments later I was pulling her out through the hatch onto Coastown. I stepped from the fallen building and stretched, looking at the dark purple sky. The sun would be rising soon.
“This is Coastown?” Gemaeve said coming up behind me.
“Yeah, that’s your palace,” I gestured up to where the Palace towers could be seen above Coastown upon its rise. “And, that’s the wall we just went under,” I pointed towards the wall to the north.
“Amazing! How long have you known about the tunnel?”
“Eh, for a while now.”
“Did you know about it before you came to the Church?”
I gave her a flat look. “Obviously.”
“Well… Where to now?”
We were in Coastown, which was about all I’d promised. “I took you through the tunnel, I‘m done.” and it felt amazing.
She frowned at me. “You’re an ass.”
“You’ve told me that before. Let’s head back, wah lah! Coastown!” I said gesturing around me. “Just as despicable as you’ve imagined?”
“I’m going to have a better look,” She said turning, “You can go back if you want.”
“You’ll get raped,” I said matter-of-factly, without any doubt in my voice. “Robbed; Murdered too, must likely. But if that’s fine with you, go for it.”
“You would let me go? Alone?”
“Do I look like a knight? I got you here on that oath. I’ve given you fair warning. I’m not fool enough to stroll around Coastown with a princess. I like not having my throat slit.”
“You make it sound like its lawless down here. You’re alive and well, and you grew up here!”
“My mom is to thank for my first ten years, then luck and Hari would do till I got into the Church.”
“So what was the point of this? Was your plan just to get here and turn around?”
“I could order you to show me… What’s funny I can!”
“Not here,” I said laughing.
“I could, stop being a jerk!”
“Not likely, what would happen if I didn’t listen? Are you going to enforce your word?”
“My father would hear about it.”
“Only if I let you go back to him,” I said, casually brushing back my cloak, revealing my dirk. “Here… you’re just a pretty girl worth a bit more coin than the average, and the only thing that might just keep you alive, is if someone cares enough to ransom you. And, they wouldn’t return you unmolested.”
“I… You…” She stared me down for a moment. “Well, I guess I’m just a foolish girl,” She said giving me a disappointed glare. She turned and disappeared into the fallen building.
I considered following her for a moment, but decided not to. She could find her own way. She was capable, I just didn’t want to let her loose here. I walked down Coastown till I reached the beach. The buildings ended just thirty feet before the sea at low tide. During storms, the sea would often flood these buildings. That’s why most of them had washed out first floors, with wooden or stone pillars going up them. The people would live on the second floor for what extra safety it offered.
The sun had begun to rise. Its rays could be seen streaking through the towers of the Palace. Little children were already about drawing buckets of water from the sea.
Their parents or employers would separate the fresh water from the salt, or just use the salt water for bathing. I had done this myself for extra coin when I was younger. Coastown wasn’t all bad. I remembered the nice old women I’d collect water for. She would always have a candy for me to go with the Half Penn.
I watched the sea for a while. Coastown looks directly out Prong Bay, and wasn’t as sheltered as dockside was. Waves still crashed ashore here. Not so large but enough to wash away the filth that the city leaked into it.
Eventually the term came to an end. Speaker La’Turge pulled me aside to make me an offer. “How would you like to apprentice under me over the summer? It would earn you credits.”
“I… What would I be doing?” It wasn’t like I’d planned on doing anything.
“Research, like we’ve been doing.”
“Why not, that would be fantastic,” I answered. I noticed Gem listening to our conversation.
“Speaker La’Turge,” Gemaeve’s voice sounded politely beside the blind Speaker.
“Princess?” Speaker La’Turge answered her.
“I was wondering if you could make a similar offer to me. We did all the same work this semester. I will also be in Ruahden this summer.”
“Well?” Speaker La’Turge seemed to contemplating something. “Alright. So long students.” He smiled and left the classroom.
“Cool, I get to spend my summer with you.” I sighed and left the class room as Gemeave stuck her tongue out at me.
It was the beginning of the fifth month of the year. Classes had been done for a couple days. I was in my room lying on my bed while Kevin Packed. He was going back home for the summer months.
“So, you’re just staying here between terms?”
“Well, that’ll be pretty boring. You can still come up to the Vail.”
“Thanks, but Speaker La’Turge wants me to apprentice under him. I’ll get extra credits for it.”
“And you’ll be with the Princess,” Kevin said laughing.
“By Ruah though! You’re with her a lot!”
“I have classes with her; we were forced to be partners.”
“Whatever, she swings over here looking for you often.”
“We have projects…”
“That you can only do with her, alone…”
“We go to the library, that’s not alone.”
He shrugged, “Whatever you say.”
I rolled my eyes, “You need help with anything?”
“Nope, the Glren are also good for carrying things apparently.”
“Cool, I’m going for a walk.”
“See you later.”
It was warm outside so there was no need for a cloak. The trees in the Havens had flowered, adding to the beauty of the place in spring.
I turned to see Speaker Larissa Saving. “Speaker,” I said, respectfully acknowledging her.
“I haven’t told you, but Speaker Atique asked me to keep an eye on you before he left.”
“Oh, thank you. Have you heard anything about Speaker Atique?” He was still out Blood Hunting. I hadn’t heard anything since he’d left.
“No, but I’d expect him back before second term. However, he probably won’t be back for long. I haven’t been hearing anything good from near the Jahzn border.”
“Don’t look gloomy, Hari will be fine. Come and walk with me.”
I nodded and fell into pace next to her. She was short but took quick strides.
“Speaker La’Turge has great things to say about you,” She said. I smiled in response. “I also hear from Speaker DeMikkel, that you are often caught sleeping in Mourning Prayer.”
I scowled. After the entire term I still hadn’t learned the name of the Speaker that led Morning Prayer. “I don’t sleep. He just thinks I do.”
“I’m sure. But Dmitry, you may be talented with the Quatane, but that isn’t all there is to being a Speaker.”
In my opinion, it was the most important thing, but I wasn’t about to voice that. “I know. I just enjoy it more.”
“Speakers are the voices for the Creator, so we need to be trained in his ways.”
“I know a lot about Ruah’s religion.”
“I’m sure you do, but there is a difference between knowing and partaking. You are young, and it’s forgivable. But you’ll have to put in the effort to grow your connection with Ruah and the Creator if you ever wish to grow as a Speaker. The Quatane is the Creator’s voice.”
“Yes, Speaker Saving,” Granted I liked Speaker Saving, but I had heard this speech before.
We had reached the more Luxuries dorms in the northern part of the Havens. “Thank you for the walk Dmitry, may Ruah watch over you.” She left me at the entrances of one of the Large Dorms. Larissa was right about one thing, being a Speaker is about a lot more than speaking the Quatane.
Tyler W. Golec