Friday, July 4, 2014

Roads of Bone, Chapter 9: Apprenticing

I am doing a little experiment.  I am going to write a series of chapters in a fantasy world of my creation and see if it goes anywhere.  Since I have not prewritten this story and have no outline, it will probably end up a convoluted mess.  I do not know how often I will be able to update this or if it will ever finish.  This is the link to CHAPTER 1.  (I have also found that I have to go back and clean up very broken sentences in previous chapters.  This is why I need an editor.  I understand what I am writing, but I need to make sure other people do too.)

Chapter 9: Apprenticing
            Pasgard sat at a table with three plates and a basket of pita in front of him.  One plate covered in tomato slices and cream cheese, the second a shrinking pile of toasted strips of sheep meat drizzled with white sauce, the third was empty and had been sponged clean by pita bread.  There was a gourd that had been hollowed out and filled with water, a cup of steaming tea, a pitcher of juice, and as Malachite approached the table he could see Pasgard signaling the waiter with his eyes to bring more of whatever had been on the empty plate.
            The restaurant itself was filled with people, shipwrights, milkmaids, pickers, planters, shearers, tanners, and a little girl hiding by the door looking over at Pasgard.  Though everyone seemed to notice Pasgard shoveling food into his mouth, at least they did until Malachite drew their eyes in his direction, and the whispering started to be about him a bit too.
            "Nice of you to order some food for me," said Malachite approaching the table, now the entire restaurant was glancing and murmuring about the two of them.  "How did you know I would find you here?"
            "I didn't, and I didn't," said Pasgard.
            "Oh," said Malachite sitting and gesturing for a pumpkin beer to the waiter who was bringing a plate of trout with the head still on (had Pasgard eaten the last one's head and bones too?)  "I managed to find us travel to the next town down the Color Line, we should find easier passage from there to Bone, then catch a free rafter from there."
            "Good," Pasgard was eating mouthfuls of meat, but stopped to reply and then took a moment to breath heavily.  "Excuse me, I am eating too fast and I need time to digest a bit.  I can feel it piled almost to the top of my throat."
            "Take your time," Malachite could see the man sweating.  "You want a beer?  It seems like the only thing you haven't ordered."
            "No," said Pasgard.  "Never got a flavor for it."
            "You mean 'never got a taste for it,'" said Malachite correcting Pasgard's words.
            "Taste for it, taste for it," repeated the wizard as he slowed his breathing and adjusted his sash with his thumbs.  "I never got a taste for it."
            "You'll forgive me," said Malachite.  "But that is akin to you telling me that you have been to the moon.  I have been drinking beer since I was twelve.  You could float a castle in the beer I have drank.  I love beer almost as much as I love women." saying this as he looked around the restaurant he got the eye of a woman who had been whispering while looking at he and Pasgard.  Malachite smiled and she looked plainly disinterested.
            "Or perhaps I like beer a bit more," Malachite continued.  "Wine then?"
            "I do not drink alcohol," said Pasgard
            "Saying that definitely would mark you as a foreigner on the Southern Fork," said Malachite.  "Everyone drinks there, most LLC's insist on a daily ration of alcohol be considered part of their pay.  Farmers and Brewers have professional rivalries and sponsor groups of lancers in jousts, hunting competitions, sword fights.  Like rich people controlling their own private armies trained under the guise of sport."
            "The Caliph sponsors that," said Pasgard.  "It is expensive, why would a drink maker do that?"
            "Mostly they just hold matches because they get to sell stuff on the day of the game: sandwiches, beer, slices of fruit, dips, and anything else.  Brewers are a part of life here, and that helps them to be.  Makes for a culture of drinking."
            "I understand, and had I been born in Orchard Town to a widow and my older brother had left to fight for Maunder, perhaps we would all drink but I was drafted and..." Pasgard gestured to Malachite to finish.
            "The state faith of the Caliphate prohibits alcohol," said Malachite.  "I am sorry, I was trying to relax you. and beer helps me do that."
            "I am sorry," said Pasgard. " I know I am clouded."
            "I think you mean 'gloomy' when you say 'clouded,'" said Malachite picking up a tomato slice and holding it till Pasgard nodded.  "Do you still follow the faith of the Oases?"
            "I have tried alcohol many times when I was in the lands beyond the desert, and it was like drinking... I don't even know, something bad.  Never got a taste for it," Pasgard started gulping juice until he drained half the pitcher and then again sat back a bit loosening his belly sash with his thumbs.  "That drink is very good, what is it?" asked the wizard noticing the bubbles in the juice and burping into his fist.
            "Sparkling fruit juice," said Malachite looking at the remaining food.  "You are going to eat all this?  This is a meal for a small family."
            "Yes, the restaurant is going to rename the dish to the "foreign wizard", though I would settle for just having the drink named after me."  Pasgard sighed.  "Malachite, am I just some crazy old man?"
            "I had assumed that you were," said Malachite.  "But that isn't all you are.  Though it is a little crazy to be going where we are going at your age."
            "Thank you for that honesty," said Pasgard dryly.  "I was disappointed with myself and wanted to fill my guts to feel a bit better."
            "Because, I never got a," Pasgard paused remembering. "Taste for alcohol.  So drinking myself to good feelings is not something I can do."
            "I meant, why did you feel disappointed?"
            "I was putting on a little show at that tea house and met a little child," said Pasgard.  "She asked me how the show was done."
            "Did you tell her?"
            Pasgard looked at Malachite incredulously.  "It takes years to teach it properly.  It is not something that can just be answered over a cup of tea."
            "You probably could have just said: Magic," Said Malachite.  "And that would have satisfied her, she is just a child after all."
            "It is not about giving the easy answer," said Pasgard.  "Very few people ask 'how'.  When you find someone who does, it is like finding a good gold mine.  There is a great wealth there, but you must spend money on tools, work, time to get to that wealth.  With a child you have to teach them.  Those who are curious are too few, and make the best wizards."
            "Did you tell the parents?" said Malachite.  "They could do something in the future to help him learn."
            "The child was a girl," said Pasgard.  "But she didn't have parents it seemed, and that is not the important thing, why I am eating is because when I was younger I would just make her an apprentice.  I have had a dozen, but now I am too old."
            "A little girl?" asked Malachite.
            "Like the one who has been spying on you?"
            "I noticed her when I came in," she is hiding over by the door," said Malachite gesturing with his eyes and smiling.  "She must be waiting for another show."
            "She should have one," said Pasgard.  "Though now that I have been followed by an unnoticed child I tried to vanish away from I feel older.  I used to be a man of shadows and fear."
            "You are the only man wearing a gold turban in the town," said Malachite.  "You are not going to be hard to find in a crowd.  Disappearing mysteriously is not going to be your strong suit in this part of the world."
            "That makes me feel a little better," said Pasgard.
            "You're welcome," said Malachite.  "Wait here a minute."
            "You keep telling me to wait," said Pasgard as Malachite got up and headed for the door.  "I don't know why you can only do things while out of my sight."
            Malachite walked to the hiding spot of the little spy.  "Excuse me young lady," he said to her as she hide behind an empty table.  He loomed over her, and her simple clothing contrasted greatly, he felt almost like a bully confronting her.
            "Hi," she said.
            "Why are you spying on my friend?" he asked, taking a knee so as to look her eye to eye.
            "I don't know," she said.  "Waiting for something amazing I guess."
            "Can I ask where your parents are?"
            "You may," she said.
            Malachite waited before realizing she was waiting for him to ask.  "Alright, where are your parents?"
            "You probably know as well as I do," she said.  "Not at all."
            He couldn't tell if she was teasing him or not.  "What is your name?"
            "That is adorable," said Malachite.
            "Thank you."
            "Is there anyone who takes care of you?"
            "I can see why he liked you," said Malachite looking at her quizzically.  She had said it so flatly that it had to be true, but at the same time it was so sad it was almost funny.  "Come with me."
            They walked back over to Pasgard, who had emptied the plate of toasted meat.
            "This is Pasgard," said Malachite to Apple.  "Pasgard, this is Apple.  She is coming with us."
            "Is that wise?" asked the wizard.
            "She's homeless and you said yourself you wanted her as a student," said Malachite.  "Seems like a good idea in my eyes."
            "She's homeless in one of the most well fed cities in this part of the world," said Pasgard.  "We are going to a dangerous part of the world."
            "That is a fair point," said Malachite.  She probably did manage to eat well in a city that had such a surplus of food, or she could be the only one not eating.  "Let me ask her.  Apple?"
            "Do you want to leave your life of being homeless but surrounded by food to go on a secret adventure with a mysterious wizard and a flashy knight, learning magic and sword fighting along the way."
            The girl seemed to tremor with excitement for a half second and smiled.  "That maybe sounds fun."

            Malachite looked right at Pasgard.  "Adorable.  She's coming with us."

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