Tales From the Universe Tree: The Children of War, Part Two
The Throng Held Its Breath.
(Continued from Part One)
The throng stared at the small boat with wonder, holding its breath as it approached the dock. Risa sat in between four of the Durrannian sailors, two muscle thick men with neatly trimmed beards and two women. One of the women eyed the crowd, sniffed and hawked into the sea. “wot they lookin at?” one of them asked Risa conspiratorially. Her Jontalian accent was rough, like a dog trying to speak Gilanrian. Her breath reeked of cheap brandy.
Risa turned to face her, the gold rings that held her bangs on either side of her face clinked softly against her temples. “Me,” she whispered. They were more than half-way to the dock by then, and there was no way they were close enough for anyone on shore overhear, but it never paid to be careful.
Keep Your Wits About You.
“Whys that?” one of the men, a Durrannian in his early twenties, asked. His head twitched from one side of the dock to other, as if trying to watch everyone at once.
The other man, a rough-faced Jontalian, sniffed derisively. “You ever seen a Degian wench with blue hair before?” His accent was smoother than his countrywoman’s, but it was still thicker than she would have liked. “It’s not natural to them. Makes them feel like flies are buzzin in their belly.”
“I suppose,” Risa agreed with a nod. “Though I think a strange Warship anchored in their harbor may have more to do with it.”
“And one carrying a woman,” the second woman sailor added. She was the youngest of the four, Rofinin with ebony hair, and quite cute despite her rough features.
“Several women,” the Durrannian man added, suddenly uneasy. “I mislike this. I wish we had brought Gyger with us.”
Risa gave the young sailor a vexed look, “That would have been impossible.” She remembered Gyger, one of the finger-fulls of Gilannri that served on the Man-O-War. “Dega hates Gilannri, and Gyger’s presences alone may cause a riot. All of you know that.” The boat bumped into the dock abruptly. Risa stood and tugged her vest over her shoulders. “Keep your wits about you.”
This Was Just Gibberish.
She strode onto the dock and was immediately greeted by a richly dressed ball of a man in a gaudy coat. His arms were outstretched as if he meant to sweep her into his arms. Fat gold rings adored each stubby finger. Beady soulless eyes fixed her with a hungry look that churned Risa’s stomach. She tightened her jaw to stop herself from spitting. Fucking Merchants. She thought. The throng stared at her. Risa sniffed. What were they expecting her to do? Probably grow a hundred feet tall and stomp around their city into the ground.
“Welcome, my lady,” roared the fat merchant jovially. His wide smile split his face like a knife cutting a melon. “Welcome to the Kingdom of Dega! Welcome to Seifer, the greatest city in the world. Malkma Shealms Shall Mo Matee!” The man paused expectantly. But Risa blinked. Was that Gilannrian he was speaking? It didn’t sound like it. Gilannri was a harsh language and sounded like someone gurgling marbles at the best of times. But this? This was just gibberish. She glanced over her shoulder at the Sailors, but they looked as confused as she felt. After a long moment, the fat merchant’s face fell, his fat cheeks flushed to a dark crimson. He cleared his throat. “Er, f-forgive me, my Lady. Your homeland has always held a passing interest to me, and I was merely trying to…well that is not important. I hope that I did not offend.”
Risa swallowed, “uh, none was perceived, sir.” Sweat was soaking through her scarf and she suppressed a sour look. Why do southerners place so much value on frivolities? Did they have no manners at all?
“Governor.” The fat merchant corrected. “Governor Geddowyn Showin. At your service.” He bowed awkwardly. His great girth seemed to burst out of his coat. He straightened, wobbling a little before he finally found his footing. Risa frowned, The Tree help me. Geddowyn chuckled politely, “Ahh, but forgive me, my lady. You are no doubt tired from your long journey.” He gestured to the carriage. “Come then, my carriage awaits us. Let us continue this out of this dreadful heat.”
(Continued in Part Three)
© 2017 Will English