Tothelea: Chapter 10

"Trev, wagons," Harmony said, shaking him awake.  She repeated the
information, and Trevor dragged himself up.  She pointed down the road towards
Merlon, and Trevor saw them.  Still a ways off, but not coming the way they
had come.  Trevor relaxed.  The sun was not high in the sky, and Morton was
probably in the middle of breakfast right now.  It would be probably three
hours before he arrived.  Certainly he would stop in Merlon for at least one
night, so there was no reason for him to push his horses to get there early in
the day.

Trevor shouldered his pack and helped fold Harmony's blanket back up.  Should
they hide from the oncoming wagons?  Trevor's reaction was to hide, but then
he thought about it, and decided there was no point.  Whoever it was wasn't
Morton, couldn't be Weilin, and was leaving Merlon anyway.

They started walking towards Merlon, snacking on the last of their cheese as
they walked.  Once they dealt with the business of Morton and his mysterious
box, Trevor would find them someplace to have a proper meal.

The oncoming wagons passed, with nothing more than a polite nod from the
driver.  They reached the first buildings of Merlon in less than twenty
minutes, poised just as the land began to slope down toward the river.  There
were very few buildings on this side.  Most of them were near something that
looked like a quarry, with a sizeable dock nearby.

The river below them was lovely in the dawn light, and their vantage point at
the top of the river's shallow valley allowed for an expansive view of the
rest of the city.  Trevor took a moment to see what they were in for.  The
river was very wide; Trevor had never seen water this wide except for the ever
present ocean.  That the river seemed so far across, and yet it was just a
river, made Trevor wonder how far it was to cross the ocean.  He traced the
opposite shore, and saw that the mouth of the river opened up into a harbor,
with several docks lining its broadly curved outline.  Far to the right, where
the riverbank gave way finally to the ocean, was a tall, narrow lighthouse.
It dwarfed White Sands' pathetic signal plinth.

And covering the opposite bank, rising up from the docs, were more buildings
than Trevor had ever imagined could be together in one place.  How would they
find their way around?  How would they ever make sense of such a place?  Well,
however they did it, there would be no avoiding it.  What they needed was
clearly on the other side.

He was still reeling over Merlon's sheer size when Harmony pointed down
towards the river.  There was a large, squarish, low-slung boat crossing
towards their side.  It was loaded with something, but was far too distant for
Trevor to make out what.

"Come on," he said.  "Let's see if there's a reeve or constable we can talk
to, and ask about crossing the river."

They walked down to the few buildings on this bank, and encountered several
men on their way to cut stone at the quarry.  They quickly learned that the
quarry's buildings were the extent of Merlon on the south bank of the river,
and that they would have to cross over to find a reeve.

"But you shan't have to wait long," a burly fellow told him, "Just take
yourselves and your coppers down to the dock.  The morning ferry'll be along
in a bit."

Trevor thanked the man, who continued on his way.  "Wait," Trevor called back,
another question popping into his head.  "How often does the ferry run?"

"Once in the morning, and again at night."

Oh.  That wasn't good.  Morton would know that.  And Trevor knew he wouldn't
want to sit around on the south side all day waiting for the ferry when he
could get an early start, catch the morning ferry, and get on with his
business.  The last thing Trevor wanted was for Morton to catch up with them.
Not now.

But how could he have known that there was a huge river to cross before they
could disappear into the vastness of Merlon?  He couldn't.  Well, if the ferry
arrived soon, and if Morton didn't arrive first, maybe he could talk to the
captain.  Maybe there was somewhere on the boat they could hide during the

He grabbed Harmony's hand.  "Come on," he urged, breaking into a jog for the
dock.  They arrived a few moments later, and ran out as far as they could,
watching the ferry approach.  It was much closer now, certainly more than half
way.  He could see two large, rounded housings mounted on either side.  He
puzzled over them for a bit until he recalled his father once telling him
about boats that didn't have sails.  Paddle boats, that sailed by something
like oars, driven by horses.  He hadn't really understood at the time, and of
course he had never seen one--no boat like that would ever set out into open
ocean to come to White Sands--but it made sense now.

Trevor glanced around the dock.  There was no one else waiting for it.  Not
yet, anyway.  How much would the fare be?  Couldn't be much.  The man had said
"coppers,"not silvers.  And if it was very expensive, the man would probably
have said the exact price.  Trevor was reminded of several of Morton's
stories, in which money had been exchanged for favors that weren't illegal,
not exactly, but were certainly questionable.  Perhaps this was one of those

He fetched two gold pieces out from his purse, shaking his head.  It was more
than he had paid for all the stuff he had bought in Derey.  But if it bought
them secrecy, it was well spent.  He clutched them in his hand as he watched
the ferry approach, making frequent glances back up the road, watching for
Morton's wagon train.

The ferry was close enough now that Trevor could see it was in fact weighed
down with horses and wagons headed south.  Well, it was springtime.  Derey,
White Sands, and even Sunset would be in need of cloth, farm tools, and all
such other things after the past winter.  He remembered prior springs, he and
Harmony and their mother going to the market, buying bolts of cloth, new pots
and pans, and infinite other odds and ends when the traders would come in the
spring.  It was funny, he reflected, he had never really thought about where
those people and those goods had come from.  They just appeared, as
predictable as the spring itself.

Trevor began to fidget as the ferry got closer.  He shifted from foot to foot,
willing it to hurry.  At last, it docked, and workmen made busy securing the
boat to the dock, and extending planks so the wagons could disembark.  As soon
as the way was clear, he pulled Harmony after him onto the ferry, and asked
for the captain.  He was pointed to a man whose whiskers reminded him of the
innkeeper in Derey, but who was in nearly all other ways very different.  Wire
thin, for one thing.

"Excuse me, sir," he said.  "How much is it to cross?"

"Six copper for the both of you," he answered.  Trevor took another look back
towards the shore, and his heart sank.  Wagons, a whole line of them, coming
over the crest of the bank, headed down for the docks.  A single man riding in
the lead wagon.

"How much to cross quietly?" he asked, placing the two gold coins in the
captain's hand.

The captain gave him a sideways look.  He glanced at the wagons approaching,
and then back at Trevor.  "You in some kind of trouble?"

"No, it's just, the man leading those wagons.  I don't trust him.  He can't
know we're here.  How much for your silence?"

"What's this about, then?  You steal something from him?"

"No, and unless you have a reeve on board I can speak to, I'd prefer not to
discuss it.  Can you hide us on board or not?"

The captain considered, stroking his chin.  "Well, if you're asking to speak
to a reeve, you must be on the level.  You can tuck yourself away in the
wheelhouse there."  He motioned with his thumb.  I'll not say a word to them
about it."

"Thank you.  He likes to tell stories," Trevor added, the idea popping into
his head.  "Get him talking, and he won't think about us at all."  The captain
nodded, and they hurried to the the wheelhouse.  It was just a small room,
really, with a door in one side and a large window openings facing fore and
aft.  It wasn't going to be easy to hide in here, but it was the best they
could do.  They closed the door behind them, and sat down to get below the
window sills, pressing themselves into the corners of the small space.

Trevor heard the captain giving orders, preparing the ferry to sail back the
other way.  Something about switching the paddle gears.  Trevor wished he
could take a better look at the boat.  He was curious about it.  But not now.

Trevor snuck a glance out one of the windows.  The wagons were reaching the
dock now.  They'd be here in moments!  He prayed that Morton hadn't seen them
talking to the captain.  Prayed that they had been concealed well enough in
the bustle and business of unloading the other wagons.  Prayed that Morton was
not, after all, really looking for them.

He listened, his heart pounding, while Morton's wagons came on board.  He
could hear Morton's deep voice hollering commands to Berl and Jagob, and
making remarks to the captain.  Harmony, for her part, seemed calm enough.
She sat in the corner on the other side of the door from Trevor, fiddling with
the hem of her dress.  Well, I guess I have enough worry for the both of us,
Trevor thought.

Harmony started to hum, softly, and Trevor shushed her.  "Morton can't know
we're here," he said.  She nodded, and stopped humming.

They waited for what seemed like ages.  The wheelhouse door opened, startling
Trevor.  A sailor came in, and took the wheel.  He glanced very quickly down
at Trevor and at Harmony, and said in a low voice "it's all right.  The
captain told me."  At last, Trevor heard the captain order "cast off," and the
ferry began to move.  The order was followed by "All ahead", and then Trevor
heard the sound of horses' hooves clopping on a wooden surface.  The boat
lurched a bit, and began to rock softly as it travelled.

After a while, Trevor began to be uncomfortable, packed into the small space
and not hardly able to move.  He tugged on the sailor's trousers, and mouthed
"how long?"  The man answered, quietly, that it would be about an hour.  Well,
he could bear it if Harmony could, and as yet she looked to be at no
particular unease.

The crossing progressed, and after some time--surely they were half way by
now--he heard Morton and the captain talking, Morton launching into one of his

When the hour was past, the docked on the river's north shore.  "I'll come
back and tell you when they're gone," the sailor whispered as he left the

Morton and his wagons disembarked.  Trevor strained to hear, but if Morton had
any suspicions, he didn't let on.

When Morton was safely away, the sailor poked his head back in and gave them
the all-clear.  Trevor unfolded himself from his hiding place while Harmony
did the same.  Before disembarking, Trevor went to speak again to the captain.

"Thank you," he said.  "I really appreciate your help."

"Not at all," the captain replied.  "I'm happy to help.  But if you don't mind
my asking, what was the problem?  He seemed a decent enough fellow."

"Did you see a box, covered in linen, in the back of his wagon?"  The captain
shook his head.  "He picked it up in Derey.  It's full of some sort of
brownish powdery stuff.  My sister says it's poison, and I think he knew we
found out about it."

"Ah," said the captain, nodding.

"Yeah.  That much poison, he can't be up to any good.  So if you can tell me
where to find a reeve, or a constable, or somebody we can tell about it, then
we'll be on our way."

The captain told him where to find the harbormaster, and that he should hurry,
because if Trevor was right, Morton would be heading straight away to the
Mersey docks where most of that shady sort of business happened.  Trevor led
Harmony away, doing his best to follow the captain's directions.  It took a
bit of doing, in the unfamiliar city, and when they found the harbormaster's
office, they had to wait for a while to see the man.

Trevor explained as best he could.  The harbormaster stared at him from across
a wide wooden desk, not saying anything.  Trevor was afraid he wasn't making
any sense, what with not knowing what the poison was called or what it did or
anything.  Somehow "it's brown, and you smoke it, and my sister says it makes
you sick," just didn't sound all that serious.  Maybe it wasn't.  Maybe he was
blowing it all out of proportion.  But, no, he just had a feeling Harmony was
right about it.  She had been so adamant about washing Trevor's hands, and she
never did stuff like that.

When he was done, the harbormaster asked him to clarify one or two other
details, and then said "It's not poison."

"It's not?"

"Well," he said, considering, "I guess it is.  But not the way you mean.  It's
a drug.  It's called 'paradise.'  She's right, though.  It will make you
really sick.  You tell me as much as you can about this trader fellow, and
I'll send for the reeve.  He's probably gone already but we'll do what we

"I'm sorry," Trevor said, "I wanted to tell someone on the other side of the
river, I did!  But there was nobody over there who could help."

Trevor described Morton, Berl, and Jagob, and the five wagons in as much
detail as he could, before the harbormaster sent someone to fetch the reeve.

Trevor stood up to leave, and then remembered something else.

"If you please, sir, may I ask one more thing?"  He took a crumpled piece of
paper from his pocket, and smoothed it out.  It was battered, but the writing
on it was still clear.  The markings he'd copied from Weilin's boat.  He
handed it to the harbormaster.

"A ship with these markings came to White Sands recently.  That's where we're
from.  Can you tell me anything about it?"

"Well it's Tithoran," he said, upon seeing the foreign markings.  "I can tell
you that for free.  Let's see..."  He inspected the paper, muttering to

"It reads 'Amun Mesemat.'  I don't know what that means.  You?"  Trevor shook
his head, "But...  Let me check something."

The harbormaster turned and pulled a leather volume from a small shelf behind
him.  He flipped through it for a moment, and said "Like I said, I don't know
what 'Amun Mesemat' means.  I don't speak that much Tithoran.  It's probably
just a name, anyway.  But a ship with that name docked yesterday, over on dock

Trevor's heart felt like someone had plunged it into icy water.  The
harbormaster added "Maybe it's the same ship.  Head on down there, it's
probably still here.  Dock six is..."

But Trevor didn't hear the rest of what he had to say.  He had grabbed
Harmony's hand and was already running.

He ran, taking random turns, pulling Harmony after him.  She protested, but
they had to go.  Get away.  How was Weilin here?  How could it be?  Could
Carlu really have fixed his boat that fast?  He must have sailed directly
here.  How long had he been here?  He could be anywhere, and--

Trevor pulled Harmony into the next quiet-looking alley they passed.  This was
stupid.  Trevor reprimanded himself.  He had promised, no more rash decisions.
No more acting without thinking.  Yes, Weilin could be anywhere.  And running
blindly through this strange city only increased the chances of him seeing
them.  Trevor breathed heavily, catching his breath.  He needed a plan.  A
real plan.

He thought about it.  They needed someplace to stay.  Someplace safe.  Weilin
could be anywhere, so they would have to take some chances to find such a
place.  There was no avoiding that.  They needed to find someone who could
tell them more about Weilin.  That would, probably, be someone down at the
docks.  Damn.  Trevor cursed himself for running.  For not getting all the
information he could while he was already there.  Now he would have to risk at
least one more visit back.

First things first, though.  There had to be an inn, or a tenament, or
something like that nearby.  He moved to the mouth of the alley, watching the
people on the street.  There was someone.  A woman who looked to be about as
old as his mother would have been.  She looked kindly enough.  Taking
Harmony's hand, they followed the woman and quickly caught up to her.

"Ma'am?" Trevor asked.  "Excuse me.  Can you help me?"

"Get away, beggar!" she hissed.  Trevor involuntarily skittered back a step.

"No ma'am.  I don't want money.  Please, can you tell me if there's an inn
nearby?  We need somewhere to stay."

She paused, and looked Trevor and Harmony up and down.  But warily, and she
kept a generous arm's length between them.

"Three streets down," she pointed, "Go left.  Green sign with a sheep on it."
She continued on her way.

"Come on, Harmony," Trevor said, somewhat taken aback, as they went in the
indicated direction.  Was everyone in Merlon like this?  People in White Sands
were--had been--so much friendlier.  He hoped not.  Then it occurred to him, he
had known everyone in White Sands.  These people were all strangers.  That
woman, she lives here, and yet even she must be surrounded by strangers.  The
thought of living in a place like this, so big, where everyone was a
stranger--where there were simply too many people to know--made Trevor feel very

They found the inn without much difficulty.  The woman may have been rude, but
she had been honest, anyway.  They went inside, and blinked at the darkness as
their eyes adjusted from the sunlit street.  Trevor sought out the innkeeper
and asked for a room.

"Three silver a night," the man told him.  "Two gold for the whole week.
Meals extra.  How long'll you be here?"

Trevor considered.  How long would it take to conclude their business here?
Two days, maybe?  With Weilin around, he didn't want to risk staying very
long.  "Two days," he answered, handing over the money.  "Maybe three."

"Come on then," he said, leading them to a room.  It was much like the inn had
been in Derey, except bigger.  Two storeys, the upper floor being a hallway
running the length of the building, rooms all along either side.  The room
itself may as well have been a twin to the previous inn.  Except that the bed
was in a different place.  And there was no window, but enough light came in
through the cracks in the walls that it hardly mattered.  And, Trevor was
pleased to see, there was a lock on the door.

The innkeeper held out a key, saying, "One gold piece deposit for the key."

"What?" Trevor asked, confused.

"You'll get your gold back when I get my key back, you understand?"

"Oh, yes.  Sorry," Trevor stammered, as he fished out another coin.  They
exchanged coin for key, and Trevor asked "Can we get a meal at this hour?  We
haven't had anything since this morning."

The innkeeper grunted an affirmative, and left them to get back to whatever
business their arrival had interrupted him from.  They set down their meager
belongings, and went down for some lunch.  The innkeeper seated them at a
small wooden table whose four feet were slightly uneven, and which wobbled a

While they ate, Trevor mulled over what their plan should be while here in
Merlon.  They were here, after all, to try to learn more about Weilin.  He's
probably been here before, someone probably knows him.  But how to find such a
person?  And how to do it without Weilin finding out.

All this sneaking around!  I'm not good at sneaking, Trevor thought.  I'd much
prefer to just tromp down to his boat and demand to know why he's after
Harmony.  If there were a way to make it safe, that is.  But no, there
wouldn't be, would there?  Not with magic on his side.  Trevor thought briefly
about finding a magician to hire himself, but then remembered the lightness of
his purse.  At the rate they were spending gold on meals and lodging, they'd
be broke before Harvest Fest.  And a magician was sure to be expensive, if he
could even find one.

Regardless.  The problem of Weilin wasn't going to go away, and Trevor wasn't
about to be caught unprepared a third time in case they had to leave quickly.
Which was a very real possibility.  No, the very first thing they would
do--this very afternoon--was properly provision themselves for traveling.  And
hang the cost!  What if they had to hide out in the wilderness to throw Weilin
off their trail?  They could be on their own for a very long time.

Having a concrete plan for the remainder of the day eased his mind.  He told
Harmony that they needed to go out to buy some things they were going to need.

"No, Trev!  Stay!"  She grabbed at his arm across the table, holding his
sleeve as though he meant to leave that very instant.

"Harmony, there are things we need to buy."  He explained that he didn't want
them to be so unprepared, like they had been.  She shook her head, a look of
worry in her eyes.

"Stay, Trev.  Please."

"What's the matter, Harmony?"

She glanced through the open door to the inn, out into the street.  "Big town.
So... busy."

It was all the strangers.  And, he reminded himself, she's tired, I got her up
at midnight, and she didn't get a nap this morning.  Which, in fact, might be
the solution here.

"Listen.  How about you stay here, up in our room, and sleep while I go out?
I won't be gone long, and we can lock the door so no one can get in to bother

She didn't look convinced, but as he thought about it, the plan had a lot
going for it.  She could sleep, Trevor could probably get the shopping done
faster, and if anyone were looking for them, they'd be looking for a pair of
people, not just Trevor by himself.

They finished eating, and he led Harmony upstairs.  He showed her how to work
the lock, and gave her the key.  

"Okay, when I leave, you lock the door and go to sleep.  Don't open the door
for anybody but me."  She nodded, although he could tell she wasn't
particularly in favor of being left on her own.  He took some money with him,
just a few coins, and left the rest with her.  If something should happen to
him, well, she'd have to make her own way and better that she not do it
destitute.  He kissed her forhead, and left the room.

"Okay, lock it," he called back, through the door.  He heard the key in the
lock, and a solid-sounding thunk.  He tested the door, and it was indeed
locked.  "Get some sleep, Harmony.  I'll be back before supper."

He listened for a moment, then turned to go.  He was halfway down the hall
when he heard, very softly, "Bye, Trev."