24: A Traveler from Afar

Something like that, Itero said and took a step away from the Devourer. Yes, that’s quite it!

How would you know? The Devourer said.

I’ve got a great imagination, old friend. I’m thinking ragged and spooky. Isn’t that it?

Yes, I guess, The Devourer said. How the fuck would I remember?

And how the fuck would he know how they look? Pull the hood down over your face. Yes, like that, Itero said as he adjusted the hood and cloak.

I can’t fucking see anything, The Devourer said and tugged at it.

All you’ve to see are the pages, you wining brat.

Whining brat! When your grandfather’s grandfather was sucking his mother’s tit, I was already a couple of millennia old.

Being a whiny brat has less to do with age and more to do with behavior.

Shut up.

I think that’s it, Itero said and took a couple more steps back and looked at the Devourer. Incredible what a couple of old rags can do!

They went out of the door and locked it behind them and walked in the direction of the city. It was early morning, and the sun’s rays warmed their shoulders and backs still cold from the night’s air. The trampled dirt path went into the forest behind the cabin. A startled bird took off from the brush and flew into a tree where it sat looking at them pass beneath. Ferns grew along the path and created an impenetrable sea of green between the tree trunks. A wet mist so thick one could feel it covered the ground. The stones of the city wall were cut so precise they seemed to melt together. Nowhere could even a finger fit between them. The gates were still closed when they arrived at the city. They knocked, and a shutter opened. The guard on the other side looked at them questioning.

A bit early eeh? The guard said.

Perhaps, Itero said. Could you let us in?

Who’s that? The guard said, pointing at the Devourer.

A friend of mine. He’s traveled from afar, Itero said.

Don’t cause any trouble, The guard said as he closed the shutter. A moment later they heard the clicking of locks on the other side of the gate, and it swung open. Itero nodded to the guard as they passed him. The city streets were empty but for a couple of fishmongers pushing the night’s catch before them in wheelbarrows in the direction of the market. A man standing in the street corner smoking glared at the Devourer as they passed him. Another man came stumbling out the tavern and retched in the gutter in front of the smoking man that starting cursing. The lightkeeper went down the road with his extinguisher and killed one streetlight after another. At the door to the Academy stood the same guards as the day before. He looked at them approach but did not say anything.

Hello again, Itero said.

Good morning. What’s your business today?

That’s our business, Itero countered.

That’s my business, The guard said. I’m not letting you in if you don’t state your business in the Academy.

My friend here is going to help the Master Chronicler interpret some texts. The rest is classified, I’m afraid.

The guard stared Itero in the eyes for a moment as he weighed the words before he opened the door and said, Very well. I’ll let you pass.

Itero thanked him as they passed into the hall. A few apprentices were working this early in the morning. Some climbed ladders to reach the scrolls higher on the shelves, and others pushed wheelbarrows filled with them. A system of elevators lifted stacks of scrolls to the other floors.

Boy! The fat man called out, and one of the acolytes stuck out his head from between two shelves and said, Yes, master?

I want the one with the thick black cover and the golden text.

Shall be.

As the boy went to fetch the book, the fat man continued, I’ve found that the people of the Kingdom are of the same bloodline as the tribes of Citadel. They split from each other many millennia ago. It’s said a tribe got tired of fighting and moved along the coast eastward until they came upon the Misty River’s outlet into the sea. They began practicing agriculture in the fertile meadows around the delta and with time the Kingdom came into existence. Some went up the river and formed the Mistwood Glade as a hunting outpost. A few of them ventured even further north to the Borderlands where snow and ice reign supreme. They survive on the tundra through herding those big hairy, horned beasts. You see, one of them give enough milk to sustain an entire family. But i shouldn’t bore you with what you surely already know, should I?

The Devourer remained silent as they waited.