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from The Way by Linda James

Chapter 4

Zeke woke with an agonizing shock from the sudden pounding of a fist upon the door. Zeke found himself leaning against said door. He pulled it open. “Mayor?”

“Where is your mistress?” He asked looking around in a panic.

Bru came in from the other room, neat and tidy as ever. “Mayor?”                               

“We must do something,” he said.

“I agree, it has become too dangerous.” They looked at each other for a long moment, and each nodded.

“You must order the evacuation of the village.”

The mayor nodded again.

“Make sure the people know they are running for their lives. No valuables, only food, water and other necessities.”

“Zeke, finish the packing, then hire two zorses and a lume, no, two lumes to carry us and our belongings.” She spat the instructions as rapidly as any busy CEO on his way to board meeting. She tossed him a purse, “Meet me with everything at the Mayor’s by midmorning.” She grabbed her cloak and staff and disappeared out the door with the Mayor to begin the evacuations.

At mid-morning, he finished tying all the packages to the lumes, the lion-headed dray animals with the dark green tiger stripes. They were calm, gentle, and cooperative. This wasn’t the case with the two zorses, small long-haired ponies with long brown manes and dotted tan and white and brown. He struggled with the saddles longer than the ponies were comfortable, but after an hour or so he was satisfied he’d not fall off, and made his way at last to the mayor’s residence.

 

 

It was getting toward evening when he entered the port town through the West Gate. People were everywhere. It was like East Port market day, only bigger and drabber. He kept his head down and his hood up, fearing every moment that he would be found out. Certainly by now the city folks knew about the events in the Fortress? No one paid him any attention and he relaxed somewhat, but he scanned faces, eyes, clothing, always searching for the red sashes of the Guard of the Fortress. A ship was the only way off the island so he headed down unfamiliar streets to find the docks.

He stopped near the town plaza and looked around. He found himself in front of a store window and stared inside at the amazing variety of items, when he caught the sight of someone he thought he knew. He turned quickly to look but there was no one. He turned back to the window and gasped. His own mother would not recognize him. He barely recognized himself! His hair was a matted mess, full of leaves and bits of straw. When he reached up to pull them from his hair, he noticed his hands. Full of scratches, torn skin and ragged nails. His clothes torn and dirty. His face was sun burnt, gaunt, with a hint of a black beard. “I need a bath,” he thought as he neared the docks. The air smelled like home; salt, seaweed, and fish. He draped his cloak on a bush and took off his shoes. He sat a moment enjoying the sounds of ropes creaking, his feet dangling in the water. Suddenly he stood. “If my own mother wouldn’t recognize me, how will anyone else?” He lamented the loss of a bath, but thought, “No bath, but I can dust my clothes off and wash my hands and face.”

Tristam saw several sailors lounging among the casks and boxes and talking softly among themselves. He could smell pipe tobacco and hear occasional laughter. He approached cautiously, watching for their reaction. When no one took offense, or in fact, took any notice of him, he lay down on his cloak behind some boxes thinking to fall asleep as he listened to them.

“My friend told me it ‘twas a pterosaur that got her,” said one man in a whispery voice.

“I heard it was a gargantua,” said another.

“Aye and we be seein’ mermaids next, right mate?” responded a gravelly voice, followed by a smattering of laughter.

“What about the tyro?” asked the first voice.

“He’s the one killed her,” added a fourth man.

“No tyro could kill Kahi. She was youngest and strongest of all the wizards in the Guild,” affirmed the gravel-voiced sailor with long greasy hair and braids in his beard.

“Then what happened? And where’d her tyro go?”

“Dead,” said a third voice heavily accented.

“How do you know?” said whispery.

“Small island. Big danger for little man alone.”

“He ain’t been seen,” agreed whispery. “Can’t fly off the island. Can they?”

“Can who do what?”

“Wizards and fly.”

“How the fuck should I know?”

“Thought you knew everything,” shrugged whispers.

The sailor sat up a little straighter, “I can’t be expected to know everything, and no one knows much about wizards but wizards.”

There was a hush and all Tristam could hear for a moment were the waves lapping against the ships, and the squeaking of their ropes.

One of the men suddenly noticed him. “Oy, you boy, what’re you doing lurking about in the dark?”

So startled was he to be addressed, he tripped over his own feet and fell headfirst off the pier. Laughter erupted from the sailors as they fished him from the sea. As he stood there dripping and shivering, the laughter died down he straightened up and looked the leader in the eye. I wasn’t lurking.”

“Looks to me you was watching us from the darkness,” growled the big man with the braids in his beard.

“I was just sitting.”

“All the better to eavesdrop,” said the shortest sailor, and the fourth voice. A young man, very slight, but with terrifying eyes.

“No, I wasn’t, I mean… I didn’t mean to listen, I was just curious.”

“About what?”

Tris turned to the ...






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