Journey to the South: Seventeen of Thirty

Posted: February 18, 2013 in Fiction
Tags: ,

     In the morning I sent Cuahuatec to nearby market to collect, among other things, some Yevijiri pomegranates that we had dined upon the previous night after supper. We broke our fast alongside the priests, who were leaving for Akhem that morning, as well, and who accepted my offer to let them travel with us to the port-city. I had enjoyed the company of the priests the night before, particularly that of the elder priest, Rajai, and looked forward to continuing conversations with them over the next few nights. We were loading up our carriage when we first heard the commotion: a wailing man and the incoherent shouts of others.

    Feeling a pit open in my stomach, I advised Viro and the children to go back into the inn until we could verify what was going on. The three legionaries, the priests of Tule, and I stood by the carriage, a feeling of tense anticipation thrumming in the air as the noises came closer. Then, farther down the dusty road we saw a small crowd turn a corner, a man at the fore crying unto the heavens. In his arms was cradled a small, limp body – which as the crowd grew closer I saw was covered in fresh blood.

    At the sound of horses, I turned and saw Decurio Atam reining his mount not far from our carriage, the rest of the legionary escort with him. “What is going on?” he asked, his eyes on the approaching crowd.

    “No idea, sir,” replied one of the trio of legionaries that Atam had left with us.

    My eyes were locked on grieving man and the angry crowd at his back, and thus was not aware of Cuahuatec until the slave gently touched my hand. I looked down and saw his goggled eyes looking up at me, his other hand holding up a misshapen bag of pomegranates. “I have returned, sir,” he said, baring his teeth in a large, Gromothim smile.

    I remember opening my mouth to acknowledge his return and to tell him to attend Viro and the children inside the inn, when a wailing “There!” pierced the air. My eyes flashed to the crowd that had slowed not five yards from us, the man with the child pointing an accusatory finger at us.

    “There!” he cried again. “There is the little demon that killed my child!”

    I heard Atam breathe out a curse before he spurred his horse forward to interpose himself between our small group and the advancing crowd.

    “Halt!” the Decurio said in a voice the commanded obedience. “What is the meaning of this?”

    The crowd stopped before Atam’s horse and though I could not see, I heard the wailing man reply. “That…that creature! The hairy demon! It killed my daughter!” he cried.

    “What proof do you have of this?” Atam asked sternly.

    “My own eyes!” the man cried. “I saw the demon stab my little Ki’iri then flee, cackling madly! Evilly!

    Atam looked back at us with a deep frown on his face. “I know this slave,” he said calmly. “That does not sound like something that he would do. But, it is not within my power to render judgment.” He flicked his eyes to me. “Ambassador, if you would accompany us to the fort, we will have Legatus Ovrai weigh the matter.” He turned his gaze back upon the crowd. “You will follow behind us to the fort. There we will look into the justice of this matter.”


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