Chapter Sixteen: Pah Durik



by

Josie Beaudoin







Pah Durik devoured the horizon. After seeing a few ports during the voyage, the Landers had expected to see a score or so of ships crowded into a small semicircle of land. Pah Durik’s waterfront stretched on for miles, accommodating more ships than Morgan could count. Huge cranes loomed over the highest masts, loading and unloading cargo from ships which dwarfed the Eleli Rei without exception. Once again it became clear that the Lady was a tiny ship, built for speed. She carried some cargo in her hold, but only as a token, an excuse to dock and conduct other business ashore.

There was a jostling of ships as the Lady approached. The small ship was recognized, and room was made for her to maneuver right up to a dock and tie up.

“Does everyone in the world know this ship?” Kemen asked.

“Pretty much by reputation if not personally,” Jasper answered. “And we’re fairly distinctive looking. No one could really mistake us for another ship, even if they’ve never seen us before.”

“Then are you sure this is safe, Captain? Ilsho wasn’t safe, and this is even bigger. Come to think on it, Kaihiri wasn’t safe either. It seems to me that port cities are just dangerous all around.”

Jasper laughed as he steered the ship gently towards the dock. “You can fret all you like,” he told the Eraso, “but I’m not living my life in fear. We need to stop here, and here we are. I have business to attend to, and the Princess wishes to shop. Everyone wants to go ashore in Pah Durik, and it’s a very civilized place.”

“Isn’t that what you said last time?”

“It’s relative,” was the answer. “I can assure you, though, that Pah Durik is the best city I’ve ever been to, and since you’re not likely to see it again, you should appreciate it while you can. Take some money from my coffer and buy yourself something nice. Your clothes, for instance, are in tatters. Perhaps you should see a tailor, or at least buy yourself some fabric if you’d prefer a new uniform.”

“How can I do that without speaking the language?”

“Well I wasn’t suggesting you go alone,” Jasper said. He turned to Morgan who was leaning over the rail looking at all the ships. “In fact, none of you should. You’ll each need a Rian to accompany you, even you, Morgan. I know you speak Durikhan fairly well, but you’ll need a guide. Aah, here we are.”

The ship bumped gently against the dock, and ropes were thrown to people who caught them and tied the ship securely into place. Half a dozen crewmembers swarmed onto the wooden platform as soon as the gangplank was in place. Kemen raised an eyebrow to Jasper.

“They didn’t wait for permission,” he said.

“They don’t have to, they drew lots to go ashore first. We always do that when docking here. If we didn’t, the ship would be abandoned before we’d finished tying up.”

“It’s that good?”

“Well it’s a good chance that everyone in the crew has family here, or old friends. With all these ships in port at once, the odds of not knowing anyone are pretty steep. It’s a chance to catch up with people, sometimes ones you haven’t seen in years. I love my crew, we’re all very close, but sometimes you need to see other friendly faces too. Some folks even have Lander families to visit.”

‘Lander families?’ I don’t understand.”

“Well not all Ria are born Ria.” Jasper tied the helm in place and leaned against it. “If a Lander adopts our way of life and is vouched for by a priest, they can become part of a crew. You, for example, would be a fine Rian - you’ve learned shipcraft well and seem at home on the Lady. If Ruby vouched for you, I’d recommend you to a captain I trusted. Everyone loses crew from time to time, and they need to be replaced.”

“You’d recommend me to someone else? Don’t I know the Lady better than any other ship?”

“You do, but my crew is highly trained, Kemen. No offense, but I wouldn’t consider taking even a well-trained Lander. My crew would mutiny if I tried it. The captaincy is an earned position, you know, and it’s a position I intend to continue to deserve. Please don’t be offended, I quite like you, but it’s just how things are. You’d be a fine addition to most ship’s compliments, though.

“Think of it this way: a Rian might manage to earn the trust of Landers, and might be permitted to join the military, but they’d never be allowed to be an Eraso, would they? You’re the elite, the best in the land. My crew is the same, and I would not change that if I could. I need the best on the sea, and that’s this crew. And my sister’s crew, of course.”

“Of course.” Kemen twisted the little gold ring on his smallest finger. “Thank you for putting it in perspective.”

“Assuages your ego, does it? You’re a good man, Kemen, and I quite like you.”

“It does, yes,” Kemen blushed. “Am I that obvious?”

“Your face practically crumbled, my friend. Now why don’t you go help furl the last few sails?”

“Yes, Sir.” Kemen jogged off to assist the crew.

*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*


Jasper chuckled as he watched the Eraso work. He watched for a few moments, then headed below to see to his other guests. As he passed down the corridor to his cabin, the door to Emmy’s cabin opened and Brand poked his head out.

“Good, it’s you,” he said. “Will I be allowed ashore this time?”

“It’d be a shame for you to miss it,” Jasper said. “I was just telling Kemen about the wonders to be found in Pah Durik. I tell you what. I’ll let the crew vote and see what they think. If more than half of them say yes, you can go.”

“You have got to be the worst captain in the world, letting your crew dictate your decisions,” Brand scoffed.

“Perhaps if I were the leader of a Lander military platoon or squad or whatever your terms are, yes,” Jasper agreed. “But a Rian ship is another thing entirely, and this is how it works here.”

“Surely you can’t be concerned I will run away?”

“Not at all. I know you’d never abandon your cousin or strand yourself in a land where you were alone without rank or even language. Nor am I currently worried about our water supply. What concerns my crew and myself is whether you’ve earned the right to have fun yet. If the decision were mine alone I’d allow it, since you’ve paid for it with your stripes, but there are those on this ship who hold grudges, and they should have a voice as well.”

“Including the children?”

“Including everyone but your fellow passengers,” Jasper said.

“Children get to vote but Paige does not?” Brand was indignant.

“Take it or leave it, Brand. I could just make a summary decision to keep you on board. No one would object to that. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to talk to the others.”

Brand slammed the door behind him as he turned back into Emmy’s room.

“Well I’m sure you’ve all noticed that we’re here,” Jasper said, coming into his own cabin. Galen was working on his lessons with Vmaa curled up near him, Paige was changing the baby and Ashia doing fancy needlework on her mistress’ latest FreeLander-style gown. Paige’s wardrobe had increased dramatically in the past few months. “Morgan’s already on deck, he’s just waiting for the rest of you. Who wants to go ashore? Ashia, will you come?”

“I-I’m busy, Sir,” she said.

“There’s no slavery in Durikan, dear lady,” said Jasper. “They might figure out where you got your scars, but they’d never consider capturing you. You really should get off the ship for awhile and see the sights.”

“Go on,” Paige urged. “You can go with Jasper and Bartok, no one will give a thought to abducting you then. Can’t she, Jasper?”

“Of course.”

“They wouldn’t then, would they?” Ashia said in a small voice.

“Not even if it were legal, which, I repeat, it is not. I would be more than willing to escort you ashore, and the shopping is something you really should not miss.”

“I have no money to spend, Sir, but I will go see the sights.”

“You wound me. I would be grieved if you did not allow me to purchase you something. I doubt you would like necklaces or bracelets,” he mused, “but perhaps a ring or earrings, or if not, some fine clothing or shoes? Mind you, I won’t be naysaid on this.”

“I suppose I could buy some fabric,” Ashia allowed.

“Then it’s done,” Jasper said. “I’ll go find Bartok and we’ll be on our way. Everyone remember to put your shoes on bef- oh nevermind, you Landers always wear your shoes. Ashia, I’ll meet you above in a few minutes.”

*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*


Bartok was more than happy to be selected to go ashore so early in their stop. His drawn lot had him going ashore the next day.

“Morgan, would you like to come with us?” Jasper asked his brother. “We’re taking Ashia to the marketplace and are going to deck her out in finery like a princess.”

“The place is a little crowded,” Morgan said. “As long as you don’t die again, I’d love to go ashore. It looks fascinating from what I can see of it.”

“Climb in the rigging you’ll see much better,” Jasper suggested.

“No, thank you, I think I won’t. You and Paige are the climbers, not me. I’d fall down and break my neck, and then where would you be? I think I’d best stay on the ground, or what passes for the ground here on board the ship. But the marketplace does indeed beckon.”

“With those long limbs you’d be a natural,” Jasper said.

“Only if I had the grace to accompany them. You know how clumsy I can be.”

“True enough. Do you think you can manage the gangplank on your own? No overplanking needed this time.”

“Very funny. I’m not that hopeless.”

“Well come on then, daylight’s wasting.”

*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*


The bazaar was truly magnificent. Morgan had appreciated the marketplace in Old Ilsho with its FreeLand booth and other exotic items, but that was nothing compared to this. Here, there was a FreeLand quarter, selling everything that could conceivably be exported from Krisadon and the other nations of the North. It amused him to think that these objects, so everyday and familiar to him, were considered “exotic” in this far off land on the other side of the world. They also made him extremely nostalgic and homesick.

They were all, including Morgan and Ashia, dressed in traditional Rian clothing, with pants for both the men and women, and the merchants saw them as nothing more than ordinary Ria. The selling frenzy would have been ten times worse if the merchants had known that these people were in fact from another land. As it was, they shouted their wares over the din of the crowd, each shopkeeper trying to be heard over the other.

“Do people really buy these?” Morgan asked, looking at a cart which sold quite plain goose-feather pens. The costermonger waved a handful of the ordinary quills at him expectantly.

“There are no geese in Djanara,” Jasper said. “Those are common as dirt where you come from, but an exciting rarity here. They do quite well, and are easy to transport. We have a box or two of goose feathers aboard the Lady, they take up so little space for such a valuable commodity.”

“You’re joking, right?”

“I’ll show them to you when we go back, if you like.”

Morgan shook his head, bewildered. Goose feathers. Beside him, Ashia giggled at the idea of a land with no geese in it.

“You should see some of the birds they do have, though,” Bartok said. “Exquisite animals. Beautiful plumage, but not suitable for writing. Here, they use a sort of stiff grass made into paintbrushes to write with. It’s plentiful and strong.”

“Bamboo?” Morgan asked.

Jasper nodded. “That’s right, I brought you some bamboo brushes one year. I’d forgotten.”

“I still have them, or did. So this is where they come from, then.”

“I’m sure you still have them, brother. Your family won’t have thrown your things out during your absence.”

Morgan said nothing, and they moved on from the goose-quill booth. They left the FreeLand quarter and the Erlayan quarter next to it, and headed for more “foreign” sections, including the local Djanaran market.

“Look,” Bartok said plaintively. “These Djanaran carpets sell for one gold piece each here. We generally charge the Erlayans five each and they turn around and sell them for twenty. I’m telling you, we should charge at least ten each. I earned a small fortune as a carpet merchant back in Kaihiri.”

“Each of these is worth twenty of me at home?” Ashia asked, wide-eyed.

“Not in the least, dear lady,” Jasper said. “No human being is worth money. Their labour, their time, certainly, but not their bodies. You are priceless, Ashia, and nowhere near a lowly carpet.”

“Besides, your last master wanted five for you,” Morgan added. Jasper glared at him.

“That’s really not the point, Morgan,” he said.

“No, I know that. Call me foolish if you wish, but I truly don’t think she understands your perspective. I was just trying to explain it in hers.”

“I understand,” Ashia said. “Each of these is worth four of me at home.”

“No, that’s not what I meant, I was just - oh, never mind. Jasper is right, and I’m explaining it wrong. You are beyond value, Ashia, and not equal to anything here, not a carpet, not a goose feather, not anything. You cannot be bought or sold here, you are a human being.”

“The goose feathers are only worth two silver.”

Morgan and Jasper rolled their eyes, while Bartok looked away, embarrassed. Ashia still made him uncomfortable. Her belief in slavery was so deeply ingrained it had so far been impossible to re-educate her. Attempts made to explain left her baffled and everyone slightly upset.

They moved on through the bazaar, looking at everything from silken gowns to horseshoes to canaries in cages and little orange fish in glass bowls. The last made Jasper laugh.

“Can you imagine a Rian keeping a fish as a pet?” he said.

“It is a rather strange idea. I could easily see a Lander keeping them, though,” said Morgan. “I would find it endlessly fascinating. For you, I think the cats make better pets.”

“Cats earn their keep, they’re not pets.”

As Morgan and the others had learned when they boarded the Lady, the Ria kept many cats aboard their ships - the bigger the ship, the more cats, the better to keep down the rat population. Rats climbing down ropes and stowing away in merchandise were one of the hazards of dealing with Landers that the Ria had learned to counter. The cats seldom had much difficulty keeping a ship clean. More often than not they were spoiled pets rather than working animals, despite Jasper’s claim. It was never long after leaving port that the Rian cats reverted to eating fish with the rest of the crew.

The proprietor of the pet fish booth coughed.

“These fish come from lakes high in the mountains behind us,” he said. He was rather more heavily dressed than was needed in the heat, and there was a sheen of sweat on his brow. “I brought them here myself.”

“You mean you bought some of their ancestors and bred them here yourself,” Jasper corrected. “I’ve no doubt they come originally from mountain lakes, because this is obviously fresh water, but you hardly look like you could climb a flight of stairs, much less a mountain.”

“Rian, you’re not going to buy a fish, stop wasting my time,” the merchant said.

The group moved along to another part of the fair, where ladies’ gowns and dress fabrics were to be had. Ashia was determined that if she must buy something, it would be some fabric to make herself a gown, but Jasper insisted she be fitted for a gown on the spot and after she had chosen a modest fabric, he dragged her to a tailor’s tent. With a meekness left over from her slavery days, Ashia allowed herself to be measured, and with dismay she saw Jasper order two dresses, one in the simple cotton she had chosen, and one in a silk brocade. It was clear they were both for her, as her mistress was of a quite different size.

“Return in four hours,” the tailor said as he handed the packets of cloth to a journeyman. Ashia blushed, but Jasper only looked at the sun and nodded.

“Four hours,” he said. “We’ll be here.”

Next they visited a district of jewelers, and once again Morgan was overwhelmed with the vast variety of styles and ornaments. Ashia could only stare, wide-eyed, while Bartok and Jasper watched their guests with amusement.

“Jasper, look over here,” Morgan said. “A whole booth of your namesake!”

He had, indeed, found a merchant who sold nothing but jewelry made from different types of jasper.

“One of my favourites,” Jasper said. “In fact, if I’m not mistaken... ah, yes. Good afternoon, Naffin.”

“Your Highness,” the merchant bowed. “Is there anything I can get for you today?”

“Naffin here is the very fellow I bought that ring from, the one I gave you for our birthday.”

“Oh yes, I remember that. Well you do very fine work, sir.”

“Thank you,” Naffin said.

“Now, I’m in search of a lady’s ring today,” Jasper said.

“How will you know if it fits her?” Ashia asked.

“Why, because you’re right here. Bring out the best ones you have, would you? None of the cheap stuff for the tourists, now.”

“Your Highness, I’m hurt. Surely I would not offer you anything less.” Naffin coughed into his sleeve. “Forgive me, but I cannot seem to loose this cold.”

“The ones in summer are always the worst,” Jasper sympathized. “Now this fine lady needs a ring, or perhaps a pair of earrings.”

“A nice necklace to go with it, perhaps?”

“No, she doesn’t need a necklace.”

Naffin said nothing. Royalty could be maddeningly arbitrary. No necklaces. He drew them over to a flannel-lined display box of rings.

“These are my best ones,” he said with pride. “Is this the lady?”

Jasper nodded.

“Might I suggest you look at this leopardskin jasper I just got in? It’s not your usual, it’s much darker. I think it would go well with the lady’s complexion. Or perhaps some star jasper? Hmm, maybe not, the green is a bit off for her. Shame, this one is lovely.”

The men dickered over the jewelry, trying first one, then another ring on Ashia’s reluctant fingers. Bartok, seeing the nervous look in her eyes, stood around and glowered menacingly at passersby, playing his role of bodyguard to the fullest.

“Well which do you prefer, Ashia?” Morgan asked her at last.

“S-sir, I don’t -”

“-need a ring, yes we know that. Rings aren’t about needing, they’re about wanting. Which one do you want?”

“I-I like that one over there,” she said, pointing to one dark stone in a silver setting. “The gold is too much for me.”

Jasper and Naffin exchanged knowing glances.

“You don’t want the gold?” Jasper asked.

“No, sir, thank you.”

“Very well, then,” he said, and set the ring she had chosen onto her hand. He then turned to Naffin and began speaking to each other. Ashia did not understand any of what was said, but at length Jasper drew out from his belt pouch three gold coins and handed them to the shopkeeper. Her jaw dropped.

“But,” she said, “I thought jasper was not that expensive.”

“It isn’t,” Jasper said, “but the platinum setting is.”

“This isn’t silver?”

Jasper shook his head, and Morgan and Bartok were grinning.

“I don’t want it,” Ashia said. “It’s too expensive.”

“Too late, it’s paid for now,” Jasper told her. “And I told you, cost is not what it’s about. You deserve some nice things of your very own, Ashia. You’re not a slave anymore.”

Morgan coughed. “This air is dry here, the dust is in my throat,” he said. “Let’s go get something to eat, and a few drops to drink. Besides, I think I’m getting a slight headache. I’m sure food will do me good.”

“You’re always hungry,” Bartok agreed. “But you never put on a pound.”

“Oh, he certainly has,” said Jasper. “You just didn’t see him a year ago!”

The foursome wandered off, following their noses to a tent tavern. Ashia clutched her bejewelled hand close to her side, hoping no one would see it.

“So how about magic supplies?” Morgan asked. “Is there a magician’s quarter here at the bazaar?”

“Oddly enough, I don’t know,” Jasper said. “Besides, I thought you used all kinds of things you found at hand to do your spells.”

“We can, when we must, but having the right ingredients helps a spell significantly. We’re limited in what we can do if we only use what’s at hand.”

“And if I buy you supplies, do you promise not to do a spell so big that it blows a hole in my ship?”

“I am not letting Galen exercise his spells, only to study them. Practice is for ashore. You know that perfectly well.”

“Barkeep!” Jasper called out.

A tall, thin man walked up to them, looking a bit like Morgan. “What can I do for you?” he asked.

“We’re looking for a magic shop,” Jasper said. “Some place that sells things for magicians. Are there any here?”

The owner looked almost offended.

“This is Pah Durik,” he said. “There is everything here. Magic supplies are five rows downhill and three avenues to the west. Is there anything else?”

“More ale.”

“More ale, coming up,” and the barkeep strode off on his long legs.

“Keep eating, and one day you’ll be as sturdy as that fellow,” Jasper said to his brother. Morgan gave him a withering glance.

“I’m doing the best I can,” he said. “Five down and three west, right? I’d like to go as soon as we finish here.”

“Alright, but don’t be too long. We have to make our way back to the tailor’s pavilion soon.”

“But it’s only been a few hours.”

“And it’ll take us at least an hour to walk back that far. You may not have noticed, but we’ve covered a lot of ground today.”

“Oh. I hadn’t noticed, no. I still can’t believe how big this place is.”

“You haven’t even seen the city beyond,” Jasper said as he sipped yet another glass of ale. There is some of the most elaborate and beautiful architecture in the world up there. Perhaps if you’re interested we could go see the city tomorrow.”

They finished their food and made their way down to the magic stalls. They ran into a familiar face.

“Galen!” Jasper said. “I should have known you’d head straight here. Who are you here with?”

“With me, of course,” Ruby said, peeking around from Galen’s other side. “I saw you take Bartok as a guide and I didn’t see any reason not to do the same. Just two magicians, out perusing the booths and discussing the business. I would have asked your permission, Archard, but you were already gone. I hope you’re not upset with me for taking your apprentice for a jaunt.”

Morgan scowled, but shook his head.

“No,” he said, “it’s alright. I was just regretting he was not here. This place looks more than a little intriguing. How long have you been here? Jasper says we can only stay a little while.”

“Well you can always come back tomorrow,” Jasper said.

“How long are we going to be here?”

“A few days, maybe a week. Look, I know you’re in a hurry to get home, but the ship needs some maintenance. It’s time to have her belly scraped. It’ll take a little longer, but she’ll sail better if we take the time to take care of her now.”

“You’re the captain,” Morgan said with a shrug. “I’m not in nearly the hurry you think I am. Here’s an idea: why don’t you two take Ashia back to get her dresses and I’ll spend some time here. Ruby can get the two of us back to the ship.”

“I have to admit, as a layman it doesn’t look that intriguing,” Bartok said.

“He’s clearly insane, brother,” Morgan said. “You should get him away from the public before he does any damage. This place is a magician’s dream. I wonder if they have any grimoires here? Ruby, have you ever seen any here?”

“No, but I haven’t looked. Most Lander grimoires don’t work very well at sea, and the Ria have our own system. It shouldn’t be too difficult to find out for you. Let’s ask that bookseller over there, she should know.”

Morgan, Galen and Ruby spent several fascinating hours exploring the magician’s quarter of the fair. Finally the lamps were lit and merchants began closing their shops.

“I think we’ve done all the shopping you can do in a day,” Ruby remarked.

“But there’s still so much I haven’t seen yet,” Morgan protested.

“And there is tomorrow and the day after that and the day after that. You heard the Captain, we’ll be here at least a week. At the rate you’re going, you’ll clean out Jasper’s coffer with your acquisitions. I hope he knows what he set loose on the bazaar.”

“What he set loose? Didn’t you bring Galen here yourself?”

“Hush, lad. I’m your elder and therefore right.”

“Now you sound like Uncle,” Morgan said. He was coughing again.

“I liked your uncle very much,” Ruby said. “I was sorry when news reached us of his death.”

“Was that before or after my monumental failure?”

“Before. And don’t be so harsh on yourself, Morgan. It wasn’t your fault. Laric set you up for that, he’d clearly been planning it since before you were born.”

“I shouldn’t have let it happen. I could have prevented it.”

Ruby looked at him shrewdly in the dusk.

“No,” she said after a pause, “I really don’t think you could.”

“It is all I was trained for my entire life,” he wheezed out through a coughing fit that left him shaking. “I shouldn’t have let it happen. There is no other way of looking at it.”

*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*


“I don’t feel good,” Mjarni said. Her cough was increasing.

“It sounds like you’ve got a cold, or maybe the flu. Why don’t you go lie down for awhile?”

“I don’t want to lie down, I want to continue the research.”

“You know this isn’t that critical, I’m just tinkering.”

“You know, despite your annoying ways, I do love you,” she snapped. “The gods only know why. So I want to spend time with you while you’re tinkering.”

“Well I could have someone bring a bed so you can lie down in here,” he suggested.

“Or you could come to the bedroom and spend time with me.”

“And what would I do in the bedroom but lie beside you while you bellyache about how bad you feel and let you cough all over me? I don’t want your cold.”

“If this is just tinkering, you can take time off from it to spend time with your wife, can’t you? Honestly, Baqeas, sometimes I think you love your magic more than you love me.” Her tirade degraded into another fierce coughing fit.

“Don’t be silly, Aliseas, you know I don’t.”

“Stop calling me by that silly name. You keep changing our names, and I hate it. You know I hate it, but you still do it anyway.”

“I know, but it keeps you feisty. Besides, the Durikanni chose the names, not I. I think ‘Aliseas’ is pretty, don’t you?”

“‘Pretty’ is not the point. It’s not my name, and ‘Telles’ is not yours, Baqeas. Doesn’t your real name mean anything to you?”

“Not really,” he admitted. He got up and went over and held her. After a few moments he said, “Listen, Love, why don’t you go lie down. You feel all clammy, and I think you have a fever. You’re shaking, are you chilled?”

“Why don’t you cure me, oh master magician and god?” she said sarcastically.

“I’ll see what I can do. Now go lie down.”

Nodding, no longer fighting, Mjarni left the workroom and wended her way through the palace to their bedchamber. Once again her husband had been declared a god-king, and his subjects had therefore built them a magnificent dwelling - a palace, really - far beyond their simple needs. The fact that she, with her pale skin, blond hair and immortality was also considered divine she shrugged off without paying much attention to it. Baqeas was always the centre of attention, for nearly two thousand years now.

Mjarni shivered as she slipped into the bed and pulled the blanket up around her chin. She knew it was too warm for her to be feeling so cold. I wonder if I have a fever, she mused as she drifted off to sleep.

*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*


“I think I’ve found it!” Telles called down the hallway. He came bursting into the library with a bowl of a thick, pungent potient in one hand.

“Found what?”

“The cure for your cold.”

“Baqeas, that was a month ago. I’m fine.”

“But you’ll get another cold eventually. Surely there must be someone with a cold I can test it on... I’ll send for one.”

“You’ll send for one. Just like that. I swear, Baqeas...” she caught his glare and corrected herself, “... ‘Telles,’ you treat people like they’ve no value at all. Test subjects and nothing more. Why do you not experiment on animals instead?”

“Because animals are different in how they react. And who cares if a few people die in my tests? They’re going to die anyway, they’re mortal. The knowledge I’ll gain from their deaths will endure with me. That gives their deaths meaning. And besides, who says this is going to kill anyone? It’s a restorative. I’m only trying to help.”

“You’re always trying to help. You never quite manage to, though.”

“Never quite... why you wretched ingrate! You look perfectly healthy to me. Did I not quite manage to help you?”

“If it weren’t for your meddling I wouldn’t need help in the first place.”

“I can’t live without you, Aliseas. I just can’t.”

“And if it weren’t for your meddling, you wouldn’t need to. You’d have died ... well hopefully you would have waited until the boys were grown, but you could have just killed yourself instead of bringing me back to life.”

“Suicide? Give up on life? You know I could never do that. Ali, I didn’t know what would happen, so I couldn’t have chosen differently. Ye gods, how many times can we have this discussion in a thousand years?”

“Two thousand,” she said quietly.

Telles turned on his heel and went to find a sick person. There was no way to win an argument with Aliseas. She would never admit to being wrong about anything.

*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*


“Morgan, are you alright?”

Morgan stood up from the coughing fit that had doubled him over and made his eyes water. He was gasping for breath, and his forehead was clammy.

“My head hurts,” he said, wobbling on his long legs. Galen reached out and held him by one elbow. Morgan leaned on him heavily.

“Let’s get you back to the ship as quickly as possible,” Galen said. There was no hint of panic or worry in his always calm, always soft voice. Beside him, Ruby also began coughing.

Galen looked over at her. “Oh no, not you too,” he said. “Come on, let’s get out of here. Do you need a hand?”

“No, thank you, my throat is just dry. I’m fine.”

*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*


Telles heard a coughing from the hall.

“Aah, there you are,” he said as a Durikanni came into the room hacking and snuffling. “How long have you been sick?”

“Baybe a - a - choooo! baybe a weeg or zo,” the man wheezed.

“Well that’s just about perfect. You’re well and truly sick, and no sign of symptoms letting up?”

The man shook his head in miserable silence.

“Good. Well, not good for you, I suppose, but it will be soon. I think I have the cure for your cold, my good man. In fact, within the hour you should be clear of any symptoms. Please, come here. I want to put a dab of this on your tongue.”

Compliant to his god, the Durikhanni approached and opened his mouth. Eyes closed, he extended his tonuge. Telles dipped his finger into the bowl and put a small blob of the potient on his patient’s tongue.

“That’s it,” he said. “Now I want you to sit here and wait, and tell me how you feel. You should start to feel changes soon.”

The man sat where his god had indicated, and waited as told. Within five minutes he was feeling faint. Within ten minutes his convulsions began. Ten minutes after that he was dead, swollen lumps on his neck, his chest and back covered in small spots.

“Huh,” said Telles. “That shouldn’t have happened.” He turned to his work table and threw the failed potient out a window. He cleaned out the bowl, rang for someone to take the body away, and began anew.

Under his window, the grass began to die. When the gardener came by the next day, he examined the dead patch, looking for causes, but could find none. Half an hour after that he stumbled into the servants’ kitchen coughing up blood and covered in spots. A huge pustule was found in his armpit.

*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*.*


The scene at the docks was a ghostly one, Galen thought as they approached in the gloom. Every ship in port had backed away from the piers and stood out from shore, lit only by lanterns. There was no way to get aboard. A large crowd of Ria stood around, some lying down, most coughing. Men, women and children stared miserably at their ships, so close yet far out of reach. A child in her mother’s arms was crying, but the rest were silent, understanding.

“What’s going on?” Galen asked Ruby in a whisper.

“It’s as I feared,” the old priest said. “It’s plague. They won’t let us aboard. We’ll have to find shelter in the city itself or sleep on the dock.”

“What? What about Morgan? We can’t just leave him out here all night. He’s si- oh, no. Are you saying he’s– ”

“I’ve got the plague,” Morgan said. “That’s what she’s saying.”

“As have I,” she answered. “Come on, let’s see if any of the Lady’s crew is stranded here with us. They should be over near where the Lady was docked.”

The threesome wended their way through the crowd of dismayed, quiet Ria to the pier the Eleli Rei had occupied when they had left earlier. Manty was there, as were Obrad and a handful of others he did not recognize. Bartok was easy to pick from the crowd, and with him were Jasper and Ashia, huddled between them for comfort.

“Is everyone here sick?” Morgan asked. “Is that why they won’t let us onboard?”

Jasper turned and hugged his brother. With a chill, he noticed Morgan’s shaking limbs.

“Not everyone,” he said. “But all of us were ashore when the outbreak was discovered. The ships won’t let anyone on board for at least a month, possibly longer. It depends how long the plague goes on, really. I think the morning will show several ships gone. They’ll need to reprovision and keep life going, and they can’t do either here. They’ll come back later to see if their crewmates survived.”

“That’s a bit cold, isn’t it?” asked Galen.

“Quarantine is nothing new on land or on sea,” Jasper said. “It’s necessary to keep the healthy alive. Of course it seems cruel when you’re the one being shut out.”

“I think everyone’s here who’s going to be,” Ruby said, “and they all know what to do. We’d better find lodgings for your brother quickly. Morgan’s not doing well, I’m afraid.”

“Alright. Eleli Rei crew, we stick together. Come on, we’re going inland. How many are sick? Help each other, people. Everyone, you’d do best to stay with your own shipmates, you know that. Sick or healthy, look after each other. Alright, crew, let’s go.”














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