Tothelea: Chapter 22

They left early the next morning, following one last meal with the village.
The villagers were sad to see them go.  Or at least, thought Trevor, they're
sad to see Beleden and Harmony go.  Aside from Faralien, who was coming with
them, Trevor hadn't really made any friends here.  It was hard, when he
couldn't talk to them.

They left, past a throng of well-wishers and last minute offerings of food,
rope, and other things for their journey.  But in truth, their packs were
heavy enough as it was.Faralien led them initially east, up the valley's
shallow slope, and then around to the north.  

They encountered a subtle foot-path not long after.  Faralien explained that
it was the quickest path from here to the Trade Road.  The Fair folk generally
stayed in the valley, but once in a while some would venture out to trade for
things that could not be made there.

Mid-morning came and, to Trevor's thinking, they had not made much distance at
all.  It was much slower going than when he and Harmony had traveled alone.
The reason, of course, was obvious.  Beleden.  He was simply too old to match
the speed of the others.  This gave Trevor some worry.  It would take them
much, much longer to reach Olanton than he had figured.  Now that they were
out of the valley, Trevor's sense of being hunted returned to him.  Every
extra day, every extra hour, on the road was additional danger.

He puzzled over what to do for the better part of the morning.  When they
stopped for lunch, he asked "How are you faring, Beleden?  These mountains are
not easy going."

"I can bear up, lad.  I know I'm not as quick as I once was.  But I'll bear
up.  Don't you worry."  His voice carried a tone of forced lightness.
"Remember, I'm accustomed to going off by myself for a month or so every

"Still," ventured Trevor, "we have a long way to go and we have need of haste.
I mean no offense, of course, but I wonder if we cannot perhaps find a way to
speed up without over-taxing you."

"You seem to have something in mind, lad.  Well, let's have it."

"I can carry two packs, I am sure, as could Harmony and Faralien.  For part of
a day, at least.  Let us put you upon my back, and give your pack and mine to
the others.  Tomorrow, Faralien can bear you.  And so on."

Faralien asked someone to translate for him, and Harmony obliged.  He had
learned a few words of Hardalese from Trevor, during their mornings with
Galethane, and Trevor had learned a tiny bit of their speech as well.  But not
enough to converse, really.

The idea obviously rankled Beleden.  Trevor could tell he hated the thought of
being a burden to them.  But, this wasn't about his feelings.  This was about
getting to Tithora, and finding Monolshoeat, as quickly as possible.  Beleden
hemmed and hawed a bit, but in the end bowed to the logic of the situation.

"All right, youngster," he said.  "But not all day, every day, you hear?  I
can do my bit of walking too."

Trevor acceded to the compromise.  After all, Beleden had done well enough
when they had set out.  Perhaps he would strengthen as they traveled, and
would keep up better.  Or perhaps the travel would wear him down, and they'd
end up carrying him all the time.

Trevor handed his pack to Faralien, and Belden's pack to Harmony.  He hoisted
the old scholar onto his back, and they resumed the journey.  It was hard work
carrying Beleden all afternoon, but they made much better speed.

Beleden did harden to the travel as the days went on.  Indeed, four days later
he was able to walk at good speed the whole of the morning.  They reached the
Trade Road just after mid-day, and ate by the side of the road.  Trevor
estimated another two days on the road, assuming they couldn't find a wagon
train to ride with, before they reached Teton, at the base of the Spine
Mountains.  Beleden said that when he was younger, Teton was a modest town,
but that he had no idea what had become of it since then.  It was, however, at
the junction of the Trade Road and the Eagle Pass Road, which ran west along
the north side of the Spine.

Trevor had an impulse to suggest they travel east, instead of going north to
Olanton, and look for a ship once they reached the end of the Eagle Pass Road.
But he could see on his map that there were no port towns anywhere along the

After eating, they began the long hike down out of the mountains.  The going
was quick, downhill, and they went a long way before stopping to rest.  They
ended up walking the two days to Teton.  They passed several wagons and wagon
trains heading south, but none headed north.

Teton reminded Trevor of Derey, but larger.  A town with not much going for it
except wagon traffic.  However, there were three inns to choose from, and the
prospects for finding a ride here seemed excellent.

After finding lodgings for the night, Trevor walked around town, from inn to
inn, looking for someone who could carry them the rest of the way north.  He
went alone.  Beleden was too tired, Faralien felt uncomfortable around so many
humans, and Harmony, they all agreed, was best left unseen as much as

After some searching, he found a family, Lade Hemron with his wife and
children, who was heading for Kostun, and who agreed to give them passage.
Trevor insisted on paying them, and offering whatever protection he could
provide, in case they met trouble on the road.

In the morning, Faralien took his leave to return home.  He and Trevor clasped
hands as Trevor thanked him for his help in their journey, and for the many
points of staff use Faralien had showed him.

They left Teton behind.  Trevor was glad to be traveling with other people.
Not only for the company, but because with the four Hemrons and Beleden, their
true number was concealed.  Anyone watching for them would, presumably, be
looking for Trevor and Harmony alone.  The three of them spent a pleasant
three days with the Hemrons before reaching Olanton.

Like Merlon--and Church, too, Trevor assumed--Olanton was split by a river.  As
they passed the outlying buildings and descended towards the city, Trevor
asked "Harmony, are you going to be all right?  Olanton is much, much larger
than Merlon was.  There will be even more people."

"Yes, I believe so.  I feel much more able now, in many ways."

Trevor sat in the wagon, taking in the view. The River at Olanton was much
wider and grander than any he had seen, making Merlon's river look like a
muddy ditch by comparison.  Like Merlon, too, Olanton rose up the banks of the
great river, although in this case the bank they were descending appeared
steeper than the far bank.  Towards the sea, he could see Olanton's great
lighthouse standing tall on a point of land across the river.  And near the
mouth of the river, were the Guardians.

"Harmony, look!" he pointed.  "The Guardians!"

"Quite a sight, eh lad?" said Beleden.

"They're... they're amazing."

They were.  Trevor had heard about them, of course.  The pair of great bronze
statues that guarded the port of Olanton, and it was rumored, Hardal itself.
But these were, well, these were simply enormous.  How had they been made?
Trevor thought of every metalworking technique he had learned from Yun, and
had no idea.  The great bronzes stood impossibly high, and shone in the sun as
though they had been made and polished yesterday.  Trevor sat, slack jawed,
gaping at them while the wagon moved on.  The two Hemron children gaped as

"Trevor," Beleden said, breaking the spell.  Trevor turned away from the
Guardians to listen.  "Look there, across the river.  See how flat the other
side is?"

Trevor nodded.  Beleden motioned for him to come close, so they could talk
without the Hemrens hearing.

"Straight across from us, see how the Trade Road runs right through the city?"

Trevor nodded again.  

"Now what else do you see?  Besides buildings and such, I mean?"

Trevor looked.  What was Beleden getting at?  There were more buildings than
Trevor had ever imagined being in one place.  Presumably, more people as well.
And those... What were those?  "I see wide, dark lines.  Are those streets?
Why are they dark?"

"They are canals.  I want you to be aware of that, because getting around in
Olanton can be troublesome at times.  You'll turn down a street, only to find
a canal in your way.  And then you have to find a bridge, and by then, you've
gone miles out of your way."

"Ah, I understand," Trevor said.  "If we were to run into Aramathokoa--or run
away from him, really--we would do well to know where the bridges are."

"Yes.  Hopefully, of course, we won't be in Olanton long enough for it to
matter.  But in case, I want you to know what to expect.."


When the wagon reached the edge of the south side of the city, where the
buildings became dense, Trevor and Harmony laid down in the wagon, and hid
underneath blankets.  No use taking chances.  Beleden narrated their journey
through the south side of Olanton, to the Ferry docks.  Olanton's ferry ran
more than once per day, which suited Trevor just fine.  

Once on the ferry, Trevor and Harmony came out of hiding.  Trevor could not
help but look at the Guardians during the crossing.  Once the ferry cleared a
small island, he could see that the Guardians stood on large stone platforms
jutting out of the water.  Connecting the platforms seemed to be a stone wall,
sealing off the mouth of the river from the sea.  Strange.  That didn't make
any sense.  He asked Beleden about it.

"Ah, yes.  The sea wall makes a lee for ships. When storms come in, they can
anchor there behind the wall in relative calm."

"But how--"

"I'm getting to that, lad." He pointed to the lighthouse.  "The lighthouse is
on an island.  When we get farther across, you'll be able to see that the
river splits.  The other fork goes north of the island, and is open to the

They rode with the Hemrons across the river, and a little ways through the
north side--far enough to get away from the docks--before making their goodbyes.

"Well," Trevor asked.  "Now what?"

"Now we find a ship, lad, of course."

"What I think he means," Harmony ventured, "was how do we go about finding

"An excellent question.  Let us find lodgings, first, and talk the matter

"Do you know of anyplace?"

"No, lad.  I haven't been here in many many years.  But--and please speak up if
you disagree--I believe we should not stay in a cheap inn.  That is, I believe
we should stay somewhere comfortable, and expensive.  Aramathokoa will not
expect this.  It will cost a bit, 'tis true, but I believe it will be safer.
And besides, as I said, we probably won't be here very long anyway."

"Oh yes, Trevor!  Lets!"

The idea sounded good to Trevor.  Somewhere with real beds.  Clean beds.  And
good food.  "Very well then.  Where?"

"Before, all the good places were a ways up, around Red Hall.  I imagine
that's still the case.  Come, it's not far."

They walked the half mile or so up the Trade Road to the district Beleden
remembered.  As they walked, Trevor was painfully aware of his staff, and the
way that it was such a distinctive thing to be carrying.  He could just
imagine Aramathokoa paying every thief, cutpurse, and con artist in town to
"look for a kid with an iron staff."  He wondered if perhaps he shouldn't do
something to disguise it.  But what?  He'd have to think about that.

Red Hall was, not surprisingly, a large, and very grand building made of some
kind of reddish stone.  Belden explained that it had been Old King Hardal's
palace, centuries before, and that even today, it was the center of political
power in Hardal.

Facing Red Hall on the other side of the Trade Road were a number of smaller,
but similarly ornate, buildings.  They walked until they found one that was an
inn.  Trevor was glad to let Beleden do the talking to get them rooms to stay
in.  Everything about Olanton was big, and busy, and felt much older than had
everything in White Sands.  Trevor felt very out of place, as though everyone
around them were aware of and living by hundreds little rules that he had no
inkling of.  Suddenly, Beleden seemed so much more worldly than himself.

Beleden passed himself off as a dignitary from Larad, with Trevor and Harmony
his assistants.  The innkeeper looked suspicious at the state of their clothes
and their hair.  Beleden smoothly implied that it would be more profitable not
to ask too many questions, after which, the man treated them like gods.
Which, Trevor mused, was appropriate for one of them.

They were shown to rooms much nicer than anything Trevor had, quite literally,
ever seen.  Trevor gulped to think what it must cost to stay here.  Hopefully
it would be as short a stay as Beleden seemed to anticipate.

Once settled in, they turned to their plans.  "This is a lovely place to
stay," Beleden began.  "I think you should leave the ship-finding to me, while
the two of you stay here safely out of sight."

Trevor rankled at the notion of not being able to do anything to help, but he
knew Beleden was right.

So did Harmony.  "I had much the same thought myself," she said.  "Do you feel
we will truly be safe here?"

"As safe here as anywhere."

"I suppose you're right," said Trevor, "only I'd feel better if we actually
knew where Aramathokoa was."

"So would I, lad, so would I.  Harmony, now that we are here, do you have any
sense for that?  If he were near enough, could you feel his presence, do you

Harmony considered.  "No, I don't think so.  When we were in White Sands, he
made me uncomfortable, but that was different.  That was because he was
accusing me of our father's death."

"Unfortunate," Beleden muttered.  "But, hardly your fault, lass.  Hardly your
fault.  Perhaps I can make some discreet inquiries while I am searching for
ships.  Certainly, I can find out if the Amun Mesemat is docked here."

"Well, it's settled then.  You two rest, and I will pursue that errand in what
is left of today.  I gather that if you pull this rope here by the door," he
said, indicating an orante red rope hanging where Trevor hadn't noticed, "that
someone will come up and see to any requests you might have."

Beleden turned to go.

"Beleden, wait!" Trevor exclaimed, suddenly.

"Yes, lad?  What is it?"

"I just remembered.  We found you because Pious Nera put an enchantment on
that old necklace of yours."

"Yes, what of it?"

Trevor rifled through his pack, until he found what he was after.  He held it
out for Beleden's inspection.  "I have Aramathokoa's knife."

"Ah!  Clever lad!"

"Can you do what she did?  The enchantment?"

"I don't know, lad, but I will certainly try.  It will take some time,

They all agreed that knowing their pursuer's whereabouts was more important
than Beleden rushing off right away.  He took the knife, and retired to his
room saying that he would work better in isolation, but that he would return
as soon as he knew anything.

Still, Trevor was angry with himself, and blurted out "I should have thought
of that weeks ago!"

"It's all right, Trevor," Harmony said, absolving him of his error, "We are
here.  We have come this far in safety.  If Beleden succeeds, we will be safer
yet.  If not, nothing is lost."

Trevor sighed.  "You're right."

When Beleden returned, it was night.  He looked fatigued as he gave them the
news.  "He is here."


"Somewhere in Olanton.  That much is certain."  He handed the knife back to
Trevor.  "Hang this from a string or something.  It should point towards him.
While you are here, you can watch it.  We may get some sense for his actions
by watching its movements."

Trevor did so.  The knife pointed southeast.

"The Harbor--the main one--if my memory is right."