Journey to the South: Five of Thirty

Posted: February 5, 2013 in Fiction
Tags: ,

     Despite the season, the weather did not impede us and we entered Tarahn five days after leaving Kravnu. While the Imperial City is magnificent and awe-inspiring due to its newness and the magnitude of its construction, Tarahn is a city steeped in the majesty of history. Its spires and temples rise high above the rooftops, marvellous not only for their size and architecture but for their age. The Towers of Tarahn were being raised at the same time that Jarutu Nohn Kriiv was uniting the clans, for the I’igaruu had been quite rich in metals and stone due to the hilly nature of their countryside, and ever since they had been meticulously cared for by the populace of Tarahn. In fact, it is said by scholars, that when Hijamahneeli Gharan Udo was uniting the Kravri beneath his banner during the Years of the Warring Clans, the Clan Fathers of the I’igaruu agreed to an armistice so as not to risk damage to the city. While many I’igaruu at the time felt the move cowardly and weak, it was at least wise in the respect that such priceless heirlooms of Kravri artistry and craftsmanship were preserved for future generations.

    And those heirlooms rose upward as we entered the city’s main gates, seeming to scrape against the steel-grey winter clouds that filled the sky above us and held the threat of snowfall. Decurio Amat led our convoy to an inn and hostelry that he informed us was regularly used to quarter legionary troops passing through the city, and that it would be acceptable lodgings for the next day or two as we replenished supplies for the journey south into Tijhor province. The legionaries were kind enough to haul our belongings up to our rooms as Amat negotiated with the innkeeper, the Decurio insisting that we rest by the inn’s main hearth-fire and fill our bellies. As we did so, one of the innkeeper’s children, a girl of no more than nine years and thus of an age with Rajak, appeared alongside her mother when the woman presented us with our meals. The two children quickly took to one another and when he was finished eating, my son was able to wheedle assent from me to let him go play with the girl, whose name was revealed to be Kamalla.

    I look back at that day and wonder if, perhaps, I had not let Rajak go play with the girl then perhaps some of the tragedy of our journey would have been averted. But, as it was, I did let the boy go play, thinking nothing of the games of children.

    However, when Rajak and Kamalla returned some two hours later, my son was covered in scrapes and bruises and the two children were escorted by one of the Gromothim. Though I think it unlikely due to their near ubiquitous presence within the Moy these past few centuries, for those who have never seen one of the Gromothim, I shall presently provide a description:

    Members of the race are by-and-large short of stature and this one was no taller than Rajak. Generally covered in a thick pelt of brown or black fur, the beings resemble some of the small apes of the Southern Yevij, and were it not for the fact – attested by some of the Moy’s most eminent scholars, mind you – that the Gromothim actually hail from the Encircling Mountains far from the shores of Namshivah, one might make the mistaken assumption that they were related to those impish beasts of the tropical forests. The Gromothim mostly dwell underground in caverns and caves that they make more hospitable with their own masterful stone-working, and thus when they walk the surface in the daylight they tend to wear goggles of leather with darkened lenses. Their dress is more akin to that of the Yevijiri than of the Kravri – again, a point of contention among the ignorant who believe them related to Yevijiri apes – in that both the males and females generally only wear sandals and skirts of linen cloth, usually dyed and covered in geometric patterns. Some adorn themselves with jewelry of obsidian and lapis lazuli and other stones, but this particular specimen was not adorned in such a manner. No, he wore a rather threadbare winter cloak over his people’s traditional skirt and sandals, and not much more from what I could ascertain at the time.

     “What has happened?!” I demanded, my gaze going from Rajak, to Kamalla, to the unknown Gromothim.

    It was the girl who spoke first, relating the following story:

    After the children excused themselves to go play, they left the inn and took to a vacant lot not far away. There, they played several games of seek-and-hide along with other banal entertainments that children invent to keep themselves occupied. But, before long, they were confronted by some other children in the neighborhood who did not like the wealthy look of Rajak’s apparel and attempted to intimidate him into handing the clothing over. My son – I must say with no small amount of pride – would have nothing of the sort and faced down the leader of the small, juvenile band. Unfortunately, while Rajak has the heart of veteran legionary, he had not the skills or strength, and the other boy soon had him on the ground, where Rajak was given a pummeling.

     It was then, Komalla said, that the Gromothim interceded and drove the young bullies away.

    “I happened to be walking by, on an errand for my master,” the male said, somewhat bashfully as his goggled eyes never left the floorboards of the inn’s main room. And then his head snapped up with realization. “My master!”

    One of the more impish servitors of Keitu must have been watching over us that day, for just as the Gromothim said this, the inn’s main door slammed open and in strode a furious looking man. He had a thick winter cloak of bear’s fur, trimmed with wolf’s fur, over his shoulders and covering the regal-looking robes he wore underneath. His hair was dark and long enough to have small ringlets, such is the style for I’igaruu men not serving in the legions, and his eyes while green blazed with a fiery-heat as they alighted upon the Gromothim.

    “Cuahuatec!” The man said angrily, striding over to the Gromothim male and towering over him. “I told you to go the butcher’s while I shopped for clothing, now I find you here?! Explain this adequately and I may go light on the lashings you receive, you cur.”

    At that point I felt moved to speak up, and cleared my throat which drew the man’s attention. “I believe your servant here–”

    “Slave,” the man said flatly. “This creature is not so graced as to be a ‘servant’.”

    Viro tells me that I grunted somewhat unhappily at this moment, but truth be told I do not quite recall. I do remember the following: “Well, sir, this slave of yours happened to be upon the errand which you sent him, when he came upon my son here and his friend being harassed and assaulted by some local youths. He came to their defense and I believe escorted them back to here so that they might be safe. Believe me, that he – and you, of course – have my gratitude.”

    The man made a somewhat disgusted sound. “And who are you that I should be thankful to have your gratitude?”

    I cleared my throat once again, standing from the chair that I had occupied and leveling my gaze with the man. “I am Chief Ambassador Tamojahneeli Gharan Kii, of the Bureau of Foreign Relations,” I said calmly and matter-of-factly. “Who, pray-tell, are you, good sir?”

    The man’s face fell ever so slightly, but he recovered quickly. Looking back, I assume that his temper gets the best of him quite often and he is no stranger to having to smooth over his actions around those of important station. “I beg your pardon, Ambassador,” the man said. “I am Natallu I’igaruu Jaa, eldest son of the late Martale I’igaruu Jaa, Father of the Jaa.” He glanced down at the Gromothim, Cuahuatec. “This creature vexes me quite often and raises my ire, but I know that I should not let my emotions control me so. Please, let me make it up to you in some way.”

    I held up a pacifying hand. “There is no need…”

    But Natallu was not listening, instead he was looking around the inn. “I know!” he crowed. “This is such meager accommodations for one such as yourself, I insist that for however long you are staying in Tarahn, that you stay with me. I have a small estate not far from the city that is quite a bit more…how should I say it?” he dragged the tip of his boot through some dust and dirt on the floorboards. “Equal to the expectations of one of your station?”

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