Journey to the South: Twenty-Eight of Thirty

Posted: March 1, 2013 in Fiction
Tags: ,

     The trip along the south along the western coast of the Yevij Sea was calm and swift, taking a week for us to reach the headwaters of the Tijhor River. We traveled several more days along the river before the towers of Sirr began to arise on the southern horizon. Constructed of marble and seeming to pierce the very sky, we were able to see even before we approached the city’s port that many of them were covered in ivy, vines, and other flowering plants. Brightly colored cloths flapped and fluttered in the wind from rooftops and poles, and Akar explained that these were prayer-flags, their intent to carry prayers that were printed on the cloth to the Harrimi on the winds.

    We sailed smoothly and steadily into the port, Chejir explaining that while one or two of the crew controlled the amount of force pushed into the sail by the conjured wind, others were controlling the density of the river-water at the bow, so as to expertly slow the Dancer and bring it to a perfect stop at the dock. The maneuvering was amazing to watch as some of the Ainur kept a slowly decreasing but constant force on the sail, while at the bow others slowly thickened the waters to a consistency approaching a gelatin before slowly thinning it back to normal as the Dancer slid into its berth.

     There was a small contingent of Sirraşi soldiers waiting on the dock when we dropped anchor. All of them Ainur, their heads shaved like those aboard the Dancer, though their hair was much shorter and unbraided; each wore breastplate, greaves, and bracers of a metal that gleamed like silver, though Akar assured me that it was a special alloy that Sirraşi metallurgists had developed centuries ago. The ambassador was the first down the gangplank when it was lowered and conferred with the leader of the soldiers before inviting the legionaries, my family, and I to debark and feel welcome in Sirr.

    The soldiers led us to a litter that was carried by four Ainur. The Sirraşi soldiers led us through the winding, cobbled streets of Sirr, our legionaries bringing up the rear. The children could not help themselves from staring out the windows of the litter as we traveled, gazing at the intricate architecture of the Tainir buildings, at the common folk who went about their business around us, at this strange new land we had entered after imagining it for so long. Akar rode in the litter with us, giving us commentary on some of the city’s districts that we traveled through and pointing out important buildings.

    “Now, Ambassador, when we get to the palace, you will not be given an audience with the Monarch right away. There will be a three night wait as the Court holds a feast in your honor. On this night, the first night, you will be seated on the opposite end of the hall from the Monarch. You will be expected to speak of the Moy and the Court will be extraordinarily joyous to hear such things.”

    “Because they are expected to be so?” I asked.

    Akar nodded. “Yes,” she said, “but also because many of them will be pleased to hear what you have to say of your homeland. The point of these three nights of feasting is a formalized ceremony…akin to a wedding, yes? Your people are celebrated on the first night, both of our peoples will be celebrated on the second night, and on the third night the Sirraşi will shine. So, on the second night, you will be seated in the middle of the hall, and on the final night you will sit at the Monarch’s table and the two of you will be united, symbolizing the union between our nations.”

    I nodded my understanding and Akar continued on. I was listening, of course, but my gaze was out the window of the litter, watching the ivy-covered marble buildings pass by us, as the distinct feeling of being a stranger in a strange land fully settled upon my shoulders.

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