Tothelea: Chapter 23

The next day, Beleden left to begin the search for a ship.

"Harmony, I just had a thought," said Trevor.


"It's almost your birthday."  Of course, Trevor's family had never known what
her actual birthday was--a date which was now, if anything, even more difficult
to define--so they had always instead celebrated the day that they'd found her
in the market.  Trevor did not add the other thought he had, that this was
going to be the last of her birthdays that he would ever get to share.

"That's right, it is!  I'm afraid I've lost track of the exact date while
we've been traveling, but you're right.  It must be close."

"Hopefully we will be well away from here, probably at sea, when your birthday
arrives.  So why not celebrate it now, while we're in Olanton?"

Harmony mulled the idea over.  "What did you have in mind?"

Trevor looked down at his worn and dirty clothes.  "I was thinking we could
use some new clothes.  I'll bet if we pull the rope, we can get them to send
us a tailor.  And besides, anyone looking for us won't be expecting us to
actually look decent."

Harmony laughed.  "You have to find the practical angle to everything, don't

Trevor nodded, and pulled the ornate rope.  It took some time, but a tailor
was summoned.  They explained that they wanted two sets of sturdy travel
clothes each, but ones befitting their station as assistants to a Laradan
dignitary, as well as fine clothes for each of them.  The tailor raised an
eyebrow at their request, as he eyed their present garb.

"We were waylaid, on the road," Harmony added, quickly.  "Everything was
taken, and we were forced to trade clothes with the ruffians!"

"I see," the tailor said.  Whether he believed them or not, he didn't let on.
But he measured them, and asked "How soon do you need them?"

"Well, the sooner the better," Trevor said.  "We're not sure how long we will
be here in the city."

"Ah.  In that case, might I suggest that you simply shop for some clothes
ready made?"

Trevor hadn't thought of that.  In White Sands, when you needed clothes you
made them yourself--or your mother did--or else you asked the tailor.  Again,
Harmony had the answer.

"Sir," she said, flashing him a winning smile, "we would be most grateful if
you could attend to this for us.  Our master bade us to wait here for him, and
we dare not disobey.  You understand, of course."

The tailor turned to Trevor.  "There will be a small extra fee, you

Trevor nodded and the man left, promising to return in the afternoon.

Until then, there was not much to do but look out the window.  Their room was
high up, on the third floor of the building, and looked to the east.  The
window gave a good view of the city, although Red Hall dominated much of the
scene.  Still, Trevor could see the harbor, easily, some of the canals where
the peeked out between the buildings, the lighthouse, and of course, the
Guardians.  Trevor watched people come and go, keeping a particular eye out
for Beleden and Aramathokoa.  He watched the ships, wondering which if any of
the ones he could see was the Amun Mesemat.

They checked the knife, hanging from its string, often.  It remained
resolutely pointed towards the docks.  It seemed that Aramathokoa stayed
mainly on his ship, waiting for word from his spies.

Beleden returned in the evening, in time for supper.  He looked exhausted.
After a surprised moment, seeing Harmony and Trevor dressed in their finery,
he told them what he'd found.

"His ship indeed lies in the main harbor," He led them to the window, and
indicated which dock he meant.  It was difficult to see, for that part of the
harbor was now in the evening shadow, but eventually Trevor saw the ship.  It
looked familiar, anyway.  It was so close.  Perhaps only half a mile from the
inn.  It made Trevor nervous, knowing that Aramathokoa was so near.  A thought
jumped to Trevor's mind.  What if he has something that once belonged to
Aramonea?  Then he would be able to track us here!  And then--but no.  That
can't be true.  If it were, it would have made much more sense for him to have
simply ridden us down on horseback as after we left White Sands.

"And did you find us a ship?" Harmony asked.

"I believe so, yes.  It is called Gale's Edge, and departs on the morning
tide, the day after tomorrow.  It is not bound directly for the east of
Tithora, but is headed there eventually.  We could stay longer, wait for a
ship with a more direct route, but I feel that it is best if we leave as soon
as we may."

They discussed the matter briefly, and agreed to Beleden's plan.  Beleden
pointed out which ship was theirs.  It looked dangerously close to
Aramathokoa's.  Only two docks away, in the direction towards the sea.

"So, we stay here one more day, then leave," Trevor concluded.

They rang for supper. After eating, Beleden said "If you two don't mind, I
think I shall retire to my room and rest.  It has been a long day for me, with
much walking."  They bid him goodnight, and soon went to bed themselves.

Much later, Trevor lay awake.  The bed was comfortable, the room more
luxurious than anything he had ever known, but he was simply not tired.  He
had been cooped up in this one room all day, with none of the arduous exercise
he had grown accustomed to.  Harmony was blessed with the gift of easy sleep,
and had nodded off as quickly as ever.  Trevor tossed and turned in his own
bed, restless.

At length, he gave up and went to sit by the window, looking out over the
city.  Lanterns hung on poles around Red Hall gave a weak light to the quiet
street below. Lights shone in windows, yellow jewels in the darkness.  The
dark band of the river cut between the lights, and lights from the opposite
shore reflected and twinkled on the water.  It was really quite pretty, and
Trevor was tempted to wake Harmony, to have her look.

He turned to gaze at her, still sleeping peacefully.  Trevor realized that
since the discovery of her true identity, she had been sleeping quieter than
before.  He had not really noticed it right away, but now that he put his mind
to it, he could not remember her muttering in her sleep even once since they
left the Fair folk's valley.  Watching her lie there, he could not bear to
wake her.

He was about to turn back to watch the city, when his gaze fell on
Aramathokoa's knife, hanging from its string.  Trevor studied it.  Was it
pointing a different direction?  He looked closely.  He couldn't tell.  Only a
little, if any.  He turned back to the window.

Sounds of the city floated up to him.  A door closing.  Someone laughing, loud
but far away.  A horse, clopping slowly along a darkened street.  Trevor
checked the knife again.  Had it moved?  Still, he could not tell.  I should
have marked where it was pointing, he thought.  Stupid, stupid.  He took out
his own knife and stood it upright on the windowsill, balanced on with the
blade up.  He adjusted its position until it rested along the line of the
other knife.  Then he waited.

Slowly, ever so slowly, the knife moved.  It swung to point to the left of his
own knife, then paused, and moved slowly back.  He watched it for several
minutes, as knife rotated back and forth, pointing towards its deadly target.
The swinging grew in amplitude and variability.

He woke Harmony.  She sat up, rubbing her eyes.  He pointed to the knife on
the string.  "It's moving.  I'll get Beleden."

He knocked loudly on Beleden's door, until he heard the old man stir.  "What's
this then?" he asked, when he opened the door.  Trevor told him quickly what
he had seen.  They hurried back to join Harmony so Beleden could examine the

"He is definitely moving," Beleden concluded, almost immediately.  The knife
had swung a few degrees to the right, and was now moving slowly leftward.  "I
think he is coming here."

"Are you sure?"

"No, but it will be safer to assume so.  Pack your things, quickly!"

Trevor helped Harmony stuff their new clothes into the backpacks while Beleden
continued to watch the knife.  When they were through, Beleden said, "Trevor,
you've seen him before.  Close the shutters down to a crack, and watch the
road.  If he's coming here, he'll be coming from the right, up from the

Trevor did, his heart pounding.  How did he find us?  Magic, or simply someone
making a quick copper or two on having seen us?  "If it's him, let him come,"
Trevor said.  "I beat him before.  I'll do it again, only this time, I'll
finish it.  Let him see what it's like to be reborn with no memories."

"That trick probably won't work twice, Trevor," Harmony said.

"She's right, lad.  If he comes, he'll be prepared for you.  No, we need
another idea."

"Wait, I see something!"  Trevor peered into the darkness.  Something, or
someone, was moving up the street.  But they were too far from the lights of
Red Hall for him to tell.  The three of them waited anxious moments for Trevor
to see more.

"No, it's three people," said Trevor, when the people were close enough.

"Yet the knife is still moving," Beleden added.  "And faster now."

Trevor spared a glance at the knife, then back out to the street.  His heart
sank.  The people were just about exactly in the direction the knife
indicated.  The people continued to approach.  Two of them were large, burly
men, and the third--in between the other two--was thin and shorter.

"Aran!" Trevor cursed, softly through gritted teeth.  "It's him.  With two big
fellows in tow."

"You two," Beleden ordered, "take your packs and get down to the second floor.
Find someplace where you can't be seen from the stairs.  Go!"

"But, what about you?" Harmony asked.

Beleden yanked the knife off the string, and held it in his right hand.  "I'll
tell them... I'll think of something."

"No," Trevor protested, "we can't leave you behind!"  But even as he said it,
he knew it was a lie.  He would do what he had to do, and Beleden was right.
Their best chance was to get out while Aramathokoa and his muscle were on the
third floor.

"No, I'd just slow you down, and we can't have that.  But I'll be fine, lad!
Don't you worry," Beleden said, rather too jovially, "I'll meet you at the
ship.  Remember, the Gale's Edge.  Now Go!"

They grabbed their packs and Trevor snatched up his staff as Beleden shooed
them from the room.  The ran down the hall, down one flight of stairs.  The
stairs opened onto a balcony overlooking a large, high-ceilinged lobby that
took up much of the ground floor.  Across the lobby from them, stairs wound
around the outside of large room, up to the second floor balcony.  Opposite
the balcony railing were doors to the first several second floor rooms.
Trevor and Harmony paused, peering down to the left into the lobby.  To the
right, a hallway doubled-back against the stairs they had just come down,
leading off to other rooms.  They made their way down this hall, until it
turned a corner, and hid there, waiting.

Trevor stood hiding just past the corner, with Harmony past him.  They'll have
to go through me, he thought to himself.  He slipped off his pack and held his
staff at the ready.  They listened, scarcely daring to breathe.

Then, Trevor heard footsteps in the lobby, and the familiar voice calling for
the night attendant.

Trevor listened as Aramathokoa described Harmony and himself, and asked the
attendant what room they were in.  Trevor heard coins tinkle when the answer
was given.

Oh, Beleden!  You should have let me fight!  This isn't fair at all.  The knot
Trevor's stomach became a lump in his throat.

They heard heavy footsteps marching up the stairs from the lobby.  Trevor
prayed that Aramathokoa could not himself actually feel Harmony's presence.
Prayed for the trio to continue upward, to where poor Beleden waited.  Trevor
had an urge to steal quickly and quietly down the hall, towards the stairs.
If I could time it just right, he pondered, I could step out behind
Aramathokoa, just after he mounts the stairs for the third floor, and bash his
stinking head in.  But no.  It was too risky.  He had no way of knowing
whether Aramathokoa walked in the lead, or in the rear.  Or in the middle.
Trevor held his ground, listening as the men marched along the second floor
Balcony.  He listened for footsteps on the upper stairs, sweat building on his
palms where they gripped his staff.

With relief and grief in equal measure, he heard the footsteps go upward.

"Now, Harmony!" he whispered.  He grabbed his pack, and they walked as quickly
as silence would allow, toward escape.  He peeked quickly up the stairs, to
make sure the men had passed, and down the stairs they flew.  The night
attendant stood up from his desk when he saw them coming down, and stepped out
from behind it as if to stop them.  He's probably been paid to raise the
alarm, thought Trevor.  Trevor caught the man unsuspecting with a blow to the
jaw as he ran past, and was rewarded with the satisfying thump of the man's
body as he hit the floor.  He had a momentary pang of guilt over leaving the
inn without settling their bill, but in an instant it passed.  Let that be the
price they pay, he thought, for selling out their guests.

And then they were gone out into the street.  They paused, just long enough to
decide which way to go.  From the window above them, they heard Beleden's
voice, shouting "Intruders!  Help!  Thieves, Ruffians!  Help!"  Then a more
guttural cry, and silence.  Harmony voiced a sob as they ran.  They ducked
around the nearest corner of the inn, into the safety of shadow, out of the
lights from Red Hall.

They made their way down alleys, between buildings, and even through a
graveyard, until they were well away from the inn.  They held hands, for
comfort as much as to make sure they stayed together.  They were both crying.
Poor Beleden!  And how, Trevor wondered, will we make our way in Tithora
without him?