Tothelea: Chapter 11

Trevor walked around a bit, at first.  Not looking for places to buy the
things he needed, not particularly, but trying to get the lay of the streets.
He wanted to make sure he could find his way back, before going too far.
After his panicked run from the docks, he wasn't even sure he could find his
way back there without many wrong turns.

He tested himself, going a ways and coming back, going a little farther, and a
little farther.  Three times he checked that he could find his way back before
feeling confident that he could do it.  Merlon's slope up from the river was
definitely helpful, as was the lighthouse which was usually visible without
much difficulty.  And as well, he encountered a few buildings that stood out
from the rest, that he could navigate by, a temple (he would have to remember
to go make an offering for their continued safe travel before they left), a
large and very noisy tavern, and a money-changer's shack with several enormous
and very mean looking fellows standing guard around it.

Then he began to shop in earnest, going through the list of things in his
mind, and finding places to buy each.  As he worked, he thought about the
problem of information.  How to get it, specifically.  In White Sands, you
knew everything about everybody.  If you needed to know something--well, you
probably already knew it.  But if you didn't, then certainly, you already knew
who to ask.  How did it work in a big city where nobody knew everybody?

The problem still puzzled him as he made his way into a tinsmith's shop to buy
a cooking pot.  Trevor had learned a little bit of tin work from Yun, who was
occasionally asked to fix pots and pans.  But mostly they had done iron work.
There was enough iron work to go around, so Trevor had learned quite a bit of
that.  Yun, being more experienced, had done almost all the tin work.

"Just a moment," the proprietor said to him as he entered.  The man was
indeed, it appeared, mending a dented pot.  His small hammer tapped away at
it.  The sound was very different from the sound of working on iron.  Tin
simply didn't ring the way iron did.  Trevor wondered what it was that
accounted for the difference.  He could hear Yun's answer to that question in
his head: they just are different, that's all.  Yes, but why, Trevor would
ask.  Ask Arelenoa, Yun would say, which was his answer to any question about
metal to which he had no answer.

The tinsmith finished his work, and laid down the small hammer.  "What can I
do for you, Sir?"

Trevor wasn't accustomed to being called "Sir."

"I need some cookpots.  For traveling."

The man showed him a selection, and helped Trevor choose.  That Trevor hardly
knew spout from handle of a teapot, let alone what made for a good cookpot,
didn't help.  But, the tinsmith certainly knew, having heard any number of
wives and mothers ask him for this or that quality in a cookpot.  And he was
free and convivial with his knowledge.  He helped Trevor select, and sold him
a couple of tin plates, forks, and knives as well.  Trevor chided himself for
not having had those on his list already.

He paid for the items, and took a moment to arrange them with the other things
he had bought.  Something about the man reminded him of Yun.  And because it
felt right, more than anything, he asked the man another question before
leaving the store.

"I wonder, could you tell me something else?  I need..." Trevor wasn't sure
quite where to begin.  He summarized quickly, the words coming out of him in a
rush.  "I'm not from here.  I'm from, well, someplace a long way away and very
small.  There's a foreigner--a Tithoran--who is after my sister.  He has a boat.
It's at dock number six.  He followed us here, and I need to find out more
about him.  He's a magician, or at least, I'm pretty sure he is, and I don't
know a single soul here in Merlon, and I don't even know where to start."

The tinsmith listened, a bit taken aback, but politely.  He thought for a
moment, while Trevor waited.  Color flushing in Trevor's cheeks after a
moment, thinking he had made a terrible fool of himself.  "I'm sorry," he
added.  "I'll go."

"No, no, wait a moment," the tinsmith said, halting Trevor in the process of
picking up his purchases.  "Let me think on it."

At length, he answered.  "If I were you, I would do two things.  First, you go
on down to the docks, down by his boat, and you give one of the longshoremen a
bit of money to tell you everything they can.  Don't believe half of it, but
the other half, well, that's likley to be right.  Next, you go find yourself a
tavern, and ask the barman if he knows any magicians you could talk to.  You
ever want to know something in a big city--not that Merlon is big, mind you--you
ask a barman.  Anyway, you find yourself a magician, and ask him about this
fellow.  Maybe this Tithoran of yours is well known."

"Thank you," Trevor said.  "Those are good ideas.  I'll do that."

"My pleasure, son.  My pleasure.  But son," he added, as Trevor was at the
door, "if you're in any sort of trouble, don't come back.  I don't need any
trouble myself.  Especially not if there's magic involved."

Trevor finished the last of his shopping, and realized he had best be getting
back to the inn.  He'd been gone longer than he had planned.  He returned,
making only two wrong turns on the way.  He made his way through the common
room, which was more crowded now with people settling in for supper, and up
the stairs to their room.  He knocked.

"Harmony, I'm back."

The key turned instantly in the lock.  She opened the door, stepped out of the
way, and let him in.  The room was much darker now, its windowless walls
proving to be a problem in the evening twilight.  Trevor set everything down.
He turned to tell her about his trip, but stopped.  She looked exhausted.  She
gave the key back to him, and went to lay down on the bed.  Oh, Aran!  Had she
been awake this whole time?

"Harmony, did you get any sleep?"  She shook her head, no.  She had, Trevor
reflected, probably been standing right there by the door, her hand clenched
on the key, the entire time.  He felt the key.  Yes, it was very warm.  Trevor
felt terrible.  He should never have left her.  This place--the bustle, and the
noise of it--must be terrifying to her.

"Oh, Harmony, I'm sorry," he said.  But she didn't respond.  She was already
asleep.  It reminded Trevor of his own exhaustion; he'd had only a single hour
of sleep since, he pondered, yesterday morning.  He stood, and locked the door
to their room, shutting out the light from the dim lanterns in the hallway.
He waited for his eyes to adjust sufficiently to the dark room, then as
quietly as he could, spread a blanket over Harmony, made a sleeping area for
himself on the floor, and lay down.  Won't hurt us to miss supper this once,
he mused, as sleep overtook him as well.

They awoke late the next morning.  Trevor locked their room, leaving
everything in it except their money, and the slip of parchment onto which
Trevor had copied the name of Weilin's boat.  Trevor mulled which of the
tinsmith's pieces of advice he should take first.  It was an easy decision.
He wasn't at all looking forward to going anywhere near the docks, so he opted
to try to find a magician.  After a quick breakfast, he led Harmony to the
large, loud tavern he had passed the previous day.

It was still just as large, but not nearly so crowded at this hour.  They went
inside.  A few people, the barman included, gave them curious looks as they
entered.  Some of the patrons looked to be rough characters, and none too
cheerful.  Trevor felt out of place, like he was intruding on their turf.  But
then remembered that this was Merlon, and there were strangers all around, for
everybody.  They didn't know him, he didn't know them, and what could be wrong
with that?  Best just to act comfortable and get on with it.  They walked up
to the bar.

"What'll it be, kid?" the barman asked.

So much for people calling me "Sir," Trevor thought.

"I was told you know what's what around here.  Where I might find a magician."

"What for, kid?"

Trevor explained, while trying not to explain too much, that he was trying to
find out anything he could about a Tithoran magician who had caused them some
trouble.  And, since it takes one to know one, maybe the barman could direct
him to a local magician who could maybe tell him something.

"Hm," the barman muttered.  He had a short, rough beard which he stroked while
thinking, making a rasping sound.  "Let me think..."

He thought for a moment, and added, "Could take me a while to recollect
anything.  Sure you wouldn't like something to drink while I ponder it?"
Another customer, sitting not too far away, chuckled.

"I'll have what he's having," Trevor said, indicating the other fellow's
drink.  The barman served him up a tankard of ale, which Trevor paid for and
sipped.  Passable.  "Well?" he asked.  "Think of anything?"

"There's a fellow named Barghast.  Comes in here sometimes.  He's a pretty
sharp fellow, I gather he used to do some magic.  Might be able to help you

"You know when he might be back?"

"Hm.  Would your, uh, lady friend like anything to drink?"

"No," Trevor said, getting irritated.  Was he going to have to buy drinks for
every question he asked?

"C'mon Tam," said the other fellow, chuckling again.  "Give the kid a break,
will ya?  Joke's not funny if you push it too far."

"Mind your own business," the barman snapped at him.  "Or help him yourself if
you're in such a generous mood!"  A few of the tavern's other patrons began to
laugh, although Trevor was entirely not sure at whom.

"C'mere, kid," said the other man.  "Name's Piet.  I've been to Tithora a few
times.  What do you know about this fellow?"

"Well, not much, really," Trevor told him.  "His name's Weilin--or at least,
that's what he said it was--and his boat's called, um..." Trevor couldn't
remember what the harbormaster had said, so he showed the man the scrap of

"Amun Mesemat," the man read the name out loud.  "You sure?  The writing's
Tithoran, but the words aren't.  At least, I'm pretty sure they're not.  They
don't sound Tithoran."

"The harbormaster told me it might just be a name."

"Could be.  Doesn't really sound like a Tithoran name, though."  The man
finished the last gulp of his ale.

"Can I get you another?" Trevor asked.

"Thank you, yes."

"You want this one?" he asked, offering his ale.

"You know what it sounds like?" he asked, after another sip of ale.  Trevor
shook his head.  "It almost sounds religious.  'a-MUN me-SE-mat'," he said,
intoning the syllables just so.

He was right, Trevor thought.  It did sound like some of the holy words he'd
heard Pious Jagob recite at weddings, naming ceremonies, and such.  "Could
be," he said.  Then he was distracted by Harmony's hand on his arm, squeezing
it rather firmly.  He looked at her, and something about her expression told
him they had to go.

"Thanks," he said to the man, taking back the slip of parchment.  "We'll, uh,
go find a temple and ask somebody there."  Harmony dragged him out of the
tavern and out into the street.

"What's the matter?"

She pointed to the parchment.  "Bad words."

Bad words?  They certainly didn't mean anything to Trevor.  How could they
mean anything to Harmony?

"I don't understand, Harmony."

She only shook her head, repeating what she had said.  For a moment, Trevor
started to wonder if she was all right.  If she was, more to the point, not
all right.  A little bit crazy.  But, she had been right about Morton's box of
drugs, even if she couldn't really explain it to him.  And with whatever she
had put into that wine.  He thought back.  No, there were lots of times when
Harmony just seemed to know things.  Maybe she was right about this "Amun
Mesemat" too.

He led them to the temple he had found while shopping.  They entered, and
found an acolyte tending to the shrines.  It wa a large temple, certainly
grander than Pious Jagob's small temple in White Sands.  There were shrines to
many more of the Aran than he had ever seen.  Most of them, in fact, he didn't
recognize, although the shrine to the Aravolir was of course obvious.

The acolyte introduced himself as Hinton.  Trevor explained briefly what they

"I'm afraid I cannot help you," Hinton said.  "If those are holy words, I'm
afraid I don't know them.  You should talk to the Pious.  That's Pious Garron,
or perhaps Pious Nera.  They both know much of the holy speech.  I must attend
to my duties, but you are welcome to wait and make your prayers.  I will take
you to see them when I am finished."

The temple was quiet and peaceful, and Harmony seemed at ease here.  It was as
good a place as any to wait.  They walked up and down the temple, looking at
all the shrines.  Trevor made small offerings at several of them, to gods and
goddesses that seemed most relevant to their particular plight.  Harmony went
first to the Aravolir, knelt, and prayed.  She visited several others, some
familiar to Trevor, some not, before settling at the shrine of Aremesoa.  She
stayed there a long time.  Of course, Trevor realized, the god of growth and
springtime.  He makes the flowers bloom.

Hinton returned, saying he had finished.  Trevor collected Harmony.  Her
cheeks were wet with tears.

"What's the matter, Harmony?"

She said nothing, but kept her eyes on Aremesoa's statue as they went with
Hinton.  Was she crying over the flowers she had planted?  The ones that had

"I'm sorry, Harmony," Trevor said.  He put his arm around her shoulder as
Hinton led them out of the temple's main room.  The went through a small
courtyard, walled off from the streets, and to a dormitory.

"Garron will be in prayers, but I'm sure he will want to hear what you have to
say."  He led them a little ways down a hall, and knocked at a plain wooden
door.  "Pious?  There are some people to see you."

A deep, but kind, voice replied "Thank you Hinton.  Have them wait in the
study.  Offer them refreshments.  I will be along shortly."

The study was a modest room, perhaps twice the size of their room at the inn.
A few chairs surrounded a small round table in the center of the room.  The
walls, however, were covered with shelves, and the shelves, with books.  More
books than Trevor had ever seen in one place.  Books of all sizes, scrolls,
loose sheafs of parchment tied together with leather straps.  Here and there
amid the volumes were small statues and other--presumably religious--objects
that Trevor couldn't identify.

They sat.  Hinton excused himself, and returned shortly with a tray of
refreshments.  He set down the heavy tray, laden with cups and a pitcher,
bread, dried fruit, and some cheese.  Trevor sat, unsure if they should wait
for the Pious to join them, or if it would be impolite to go ahead.  Hinton
motioned to the tray, saying "Please.  Help yourself," as he took a piece of
cheese to nibble at.

Pious Garron joined them a few minutes later.  He dismissed Hinton, who left
to attend to other things.  Trevor and Harmony stood.

"Pious Garron," he introduced himself with a polite bow.  "what brings you to
our temple, then?"

"My name's Trevor," Trevor said, returning the bow.  "This is my sister
Harmony."  Trevor started to explain about the boat's name and the Tithoran
who was after them, before Pious Garron cut him off.

"Please, let's sit.  Why don't you start from the beginning."  He poured some
water from the pitcher, and handed Trevor a cup.  Then one for Harmony.

So, Trevor started from the beginning.  When he reached their father's death,
Pious Garron offered condolences, said a prayer for Dannel's soul, and prayed
for Trevor and Harmony's hearts' ease.  Trevor continued, not leaving anything
out.  He was tired of not trusting people, and besides, if you can't trust a
Pious, who can you trust?

"So,"he concluded, "we came here."  He handed the scrap of parchment over.
"Does it mean anything to you?  Are they really holy words?  My sister thinks
they're something bad, but I don't know how she would know that?"

"Let's take one question at a time, eh?"  Garron read the parchment, thought a
bit, and nodded slowly.  "It does say 'amun mesema.'"  Harmony cringed at the
name.  "And yes, they are words of the holy speech.  It means, I would say,
'thread ender.'  An odd name for a ship."

Thread Ender.  Curious.  Something about the name seemed familiar to Trevor.
Garron continued, "Why not just name it 'Scissors,' or 'Knife' or some such?"

"It means Death."

Trevor and Garron both turned to look at Harmony.  Trevor, because he was
surprised she would talk in front of someone they had only just met, and
Garron, it seemed, because he was considering what she had said.  Then Trevor,
with years of practice at understanding her, got it.  Pious Jagob's words at
their father's funeral came back to him: 'Every life is a thread, which winds
and weaves, touching and turning around many others.  But every thread and
every life has an end.'

"She's right," he said.  "Thread Ender.  Death.  The ender of the thread of

Garron nodded.  "How did you know that, lass?"  Harmony shrugged, looking
uncomfortable.  Whether she didn't like the question, or the whole
conversation, Trevor wasn't sure.

He turned to Trevor, "Has she had any religious training?  Did she study at
the temple in White Sands?"

"No.  Although," he added, "I wonder.  She's not really my sister.  We--my
parents--adopted her when I was eight.  She just showed up in White Sands.
Mama and I saw her at the market, and we took her home.  We don't know
anything about where she came from before that."

Garron nodded, encouraging him to continue.  "Perhaps she was born in a
temple, or lived in a temple as a baby or something, and that's how she knows
some holy words."

"Perhaps.  But I wonder something.  Tell me more about this Weilin fellow.
Everything you can remember."

Trevor did, going over every encounter he had had with the man.  When he
finished, he asked, "Do you think he could be a magician?"

"It's possible, I suppose.  But in truth, no, I think he might be something
else."  Garron stood, and looked over the shelves until he found a particular
volume.  He returned to his seat, and began leafing through it.  "There is an
old legend," he said, turning through the pages.  "Or part of a legend,
anyway.  It's very old.  Let me see if I can find it...Ah yes.  Here it is."

He paused for a drink of water.  "This is written in Tithoran--I assume you do
not speak it?"  Trevor shook his head no.  "--so I will summarize for you.  It
tells of a god, Aramathokoa, whose province was death."

Harmony gasped at this, and gave a frightened little cry.

"What's wrong, dear girl?" Garren asked.  "Don't worry, you're safe enough

Harmony shook her head.

"Harmony," Trevor asked, "Would you prefer to wait in the temple while we
talk?"  Harmony nodded.  Trevor stood, saying "If you please, I'll be back in
a moment.  I can find the way."

"No, sit, sit," Garron insisted.  He called for Hinton, who arrived quickly,
and asked him to escort Harmony to the temple and stay with her.

"It's all right, Harmony," Trevor reassured her.  "I won't go anywhere without
you."  Harmony acquiesced, allowing Hinton to lead her off.

When she was gone, he added "Earlier, she seemed calm in the temple.  More at
home than I've seen her anywhere since we left home."

"I find it calming myself.  Now then," Garron continued, as if there had been
no interruption, "I will not be surprised if you are not familiar with
Aramathokoa.  You can understand, certainly, that few people are interested in
building shrines to him or making offerings to him."

Garron paused for a while, reading through the text, refreshing his memory of
it.  "This text here is unclear on many points--it is only part of a larger,
older text, which sadly we do not have the whole of, and it is written in old
Tithoran, which is changed from that which is spoken in Tithora today."

"Really?" Trevor asked.

"Oh yes, quite.  Just as the Hardalan we speak here is changed from that of
Old King Hardal's time.  We call it Hardalan, of course, because it was the
speech used in the Old King's court, and since his day it has replaced the
several older languages that were spoken throughout the different parts of
Hardal.  Those that the Old King first unified.  But, in replacing them, it
could not help but adopt bits and pieces of those other languages.  Words here
and there, different patterns.  Indeed, if you could meet Old King Hardal
today, I doubt very much that you would understand a word out of him.

"Tithoran is the same way.  But regardless.  This text tells of Aramathokoa,
and how he lost his station and was cast out of Ararsel.  The text isn't clear
as to exactly why but what is clear is that Aramathokoa believes himself
wronged.  He, apparently, was cast down to live here, among mortals.  Now
then, it is not stated so in the text, but to read this I am given the belief
that Aramathokoa is quick to temper.  That he does not forgive easily.

"Now," Garron continued, "Why do I regale you with old Tithoran stories, hm?"

"You think Weilin might worship Aramathokoa?"

"No, not exactly.  I suppose after a fashion, you might say that.  But no.  I
think that perhaps Weilin is Aramathokoa."

Garron let the words hang there.  It was an outlandish, and terrifying,
thought.  Trevor didn't know whether to take the man seriously.  But nothing
in his manner belied his seriousness.

"Consider," Garron went on.  "I think this old story, this myth, is probably
true.  After all, many of the legends of the Aran are holy truth.  As real as
the rising of the sun.  Just because this one is old, and written in Tithoran,
and has parts missing, that doesn't mean there's no truth to it.  So, if the
story is true, then Aramathokoa walks among us.  And," he paused, letting
Trevor absorb what he was saying, "there is something else about Aramathokoa I
haven't told you.  Something that makes me sure he and Weilin are one and the

"What?" Trevor wanted nothing more than for this old Pious to be wrong,
somehow completely mistaken.  But he was terrified that the opposite was in
fact the case.

"Aramathokoa isn't--well, wasn't, I suppose--wasn't the god of all death.  No.
His purview was death at the right time.  At the time decreed by fate.  That
is to say, if someone died by accident or was murdered, or otherwise died
before their time, that wasn't Aramathokoa's doing.  But, when a soul reached
the end of its fated time here--in other words, the end of its thread--then it
was Aramathokoa's duty to convey that soul into Aramanamoa's keeping.

"So you see, he is not the ender of threads, but rather, he who comes at the
natural end of a thread."

"Ah."  It did make a certain sense.  But on the other hand, "If you're right,
then he has changed.  He killed our father--accident or no--he ended our
father's thread.  And he's trying to do the same to Harmony."

"That is indeed worrisome.  If the legend is true, then he has probably been
here, confined in mortal form, for a very long time.  I do not think that our
flesh and bone is sufficient housing for a spirit of the Aran.  It may be that
so much time, or so much confinement, stripped of his former powers and
station, has twisted his mind.  Well, who knows the mind of any of the Aran,
let alone one cast out from Ararsel?  Whatever his state of mind, he presents
an obvious danger to Harmony and to yourself.

"I think that somehow, in his mind, Harmony is caught up with his own
unfortunate fate.  I told you, I do not believe he is one to forgive easily.
Perhaps he seeks revenge, and somehow believe he can exact it upon her."

Trevor sat, thinking.  Garron helped himself to more of the fruit and cheese.
At length, Trevor asked "Then, what do we do?"

"That is an excellent question, Trevor.  I will pray on the matter, and give
it what thought I can.  For now, though, I do not think it is safe for you to
stay in your present lodgings.  We have rooms enough here where the two of you
may take refuge.  I will send Hinton to fetch your things."

"Thank you.  You're most kind,"

"You're welcome.  But in this case, something tells me that it is my duty, as
much as my pleasure, to assist the both of you."