Winds of Change

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He didn’t care if the wooden door slammed behind him. He couldn’t wait to leave the confines of the Academy. They had agreed before splitting up for their first week of classes that if they could, they would meet at the Sword and Stag on the following SixthDay, to share how their week went, how their classes were, etc..

Students were allowed off Academy Grounds only on weeksend days, and only before curfew, or during holidays. He was not scheduled to meet his comrades until fifthmark, but Rick was so tired of his roommates, he could not wait to leave, so he vaulted down the stairs and out the doors. Ah. Freedom.

Rick headed toward the West Academy Entrance, his brown cloak flapping behind him in his purposeful stride.

“Rick!” Surely that wasn’t anyone calling him here, he hardly knew anyone.

“Rick!” And Fiorra ran up to him, out of breath.

“Fiorra! What are you doing out here?” Rick asked, surprised.

“Have you seen the main entrance? It’s swamped with people going in and out. I thought I might try this entrance instead.” Fiorra straightened her green student robes and wiped her brow.

“No, I mean, it’s – it’s only thirdmark.”

“Oh, that. I have to go shopping for materials for my classes.” She held up a hastily scribbled list. “I thought I’d get them before I met everyone tonight. But what are you doing here?”

Rick threw a dark look behind him at the Weaponry Academy. “Just wanted to get out early is all,” he mumbled.

“Well good, then. You can help me acquire some of these supplies. I have no idea where some of these even are…”

Rick glanced over the hastily scribbled list that Fiorra thrust at him. He frowned as he read over her class requirements. “What is… a goat hoof?”

“Exactly what it sounds like,” Fiorra’s impatient tone snapped at him as she shoved her way through the bottleneck of Academy students at the gates.

“Do you have any idea where we’re going to find any of this?” Rick inquired doubtfully as he caught up to her and straightened his tunic. Handing her list back, he did not add that he could not recall seeing any such store back when they had been visiting during Spring Market.

“Of course. In the Kyor District. And you’re going to help me find it.” Fiorra smiled brightly and patted him on the shoulder.

Of course.

A half-mark later, after wandering through Terruth City unsure of what he was in search of, Rick was certain of one thing, and that was that he was thirsty. More so, he wanted an ale after walking all over town in this heat. Just as he was about to propose a temporary halt at one of the various and tempting street’s pubs or vendors, Fiorra pointed. “There. There it is.”

Rick followed her outstretched arm to a corner on the left. An ornate street sign, decorated by trailing ivy and blossoms glinted in the afternoon sun with gilt, “Kyor District”, pointing their way left. Healers, Sorcerers, Academy students, and well-dressed folk of any kyor bustled to and from with baskets and parcels, populating the street.

Rick sighed as Fiorra excitedly steered him across the street toward the Kyor District. Hopefully, there would be a pub down there.

They turned onto Capital Blvd., jumping aside to miss an oblivious lordling’s carriage as it clambered by. Rick found himself impressed with the quality of the vendors and the buildings. Even the street was freshly cobbled. He scanned the front windows of the businesses lining Capital Blvd. as they walked past. Their street signs were painted in gilt, their storefronts were well cared for, many with decorations adorning their walkways. Rick located with some excitement a Vintner, but Fiorra pulled his arm back and assured him that those vintages were likely not the sort he was accustomed to imbibing. He was out of his element in the Kyor District, so took Fiorra’s word for it.

Blvd Corner Books stood, as suggested its name, on the corner of Capital Blvd and Greymalkin Avenue. A stately bookstore, it advertised its wares to readers looking for rare purchases and Academy students both, providing books for readers of kyor’rashni and kyor’rishtan alike. Banderby’s Fine Tapers stood across from Fine Honeys and Teas, where a small sign in the window declared, “Jams and Jellies Sold Here.” To its side stood Plaid and Paisley: Fashion Designs and Accessories.

“There.” Fiorra grabbed Rick’s arm, pulling him across the crowded cobblestone street. He directed his attention in the direction of where Fiorra was steering him. Full Moon Emporium, read an enormous and ornately carved wooden sign hanging from a shop that appeared to take up half the block. Its gilded letters went on to read: “A Full Selection in Kyor Supplies for All Your Kyor Needs: Kyor’rashni, Kyor’rishtan, Books, Teas, Tapers, Fashion, and More.” A horizon carved into the sign above this announcement showed a full circle, or more likely, Rick thought, a full moon. Clever.

As they walked in, delicate door chimes tinkled all about them, announcing their arrival. Rick allowed his eyes to refocus from the bright sunlight of the street outside to the tapers and sconces of the Emporium. A mixture of incense and sandalwood floated through the air.

“Please,” intoned a low but courteous voice at their side, “take a basket with you.” A short shop attendant with grey hair fringing his head gestured with a woven basket. Rick accepted the basket with a tentative reserve and nodded. The attendant smiled quietly and seemed to melt into the background of the store.

Rick turned to find Fiorra several paces ahead of him, staring all about her with excitement. He hurried to her side, eying the oddities on the shelves. “Oh, good,” Fiorra grasped his arm in her enthusiasm. “The aisles are all labeled.” She took the basket from him.

Rick stared all about him, blinking at the dozens of aisles. “I hope you don’t need me to find anything for you,” he told her, looking doubtfully at the nearby rows neatly labeled for Seeds, Petals, Herbs, Spices, and Roots.

“Oh, no. I know where to find everything now. Just – just stay here and don’t – don’t get lost and don’t get into any trouble.”

“Me?” Rick pretended to be affronted as Fiorra scampered off eagerly, her list out.

He turned around, left to his own devices, and stared around the immense store. It was like a superstore for every kyor ingredient a person could possibly imagine. Immediately, he felt compelled to explore.

Wandering down the center aisle brought him to several new rows, Teas, Salves, Dried Berries and Fruit Extracts, and Oils. He made sure to keep his cloak tight against him so he wouldn’t knock any of the vials over or off their shelves. Fascinated by the amount of supplies the store held, he picked up a few specimens to examine more carefully. Most of the salves smelled just as horrible as those that Fiorra and Gabriella had smeared on him when his sword wound had been healing. Dried fruits hung in small net pouches and bags, rinds were clipped together in groups and displayed in bowls behind small prices inked on parchment. Gasper bark was nearly a sterling for just a shaving, while an entire section of berries were less than a copper.

Vials of oils were arranged carefully, from size to what Rick assumed was rarity, given that Sweetseed Oil was over a galleon. He glanced over his shoulder, then picked up a small vial of Sweetseed Oil. It looked nearly colorless. He scoffed. Harmless. What could make a tiny vial cost over a galleon? He screwed off its top and sniffed. Immediately Rick was sorry he had done so, as a fit of sneezing overtook him. He set the vial down haphazardly as he sneezed yet again and secured its lid. Not wanting to incriminate himself, Rick strode purposefully out of the aisle, stifling another sneeze.

He turned the corner and found himself on the far end of the store. A small sign read in a deliberate print, “Restricted Items”. Rick glanced into a small room beyond that and weighed the need to see what was hiding in there with the distinct possibility of being caught. Finally, caution won over his curiosity and he wandered on.

Passing bowls and boxes of various dried tails and claws and jars of pickled tongues and ears, Rick was glad to finally come upon a small table of what looked like simple snacks. Something normal! Cheese sat sliced on a small plate, next to neatly sliced wheaten bread with honey and butter to choose from. A bottle of wine stood ready to be poured into small sample cups, and various berries and fruits beckoned from a fine silver bowl. Rick smeared some honey on a slice of bread and as he bit into it, he contemplated the cheese.

The shop attendant materialized out of nowhere next to him, startling Rick.

“Spirgo cheese? It’s quite rare, very rich. Try some,” gestured the man.

Rick swallowed and accepted a piece of cheese. To his surprise, it was quite good, though a little tangy for his taste. He took a handful of berries to wash down the taste as the attendant poured a cup of wine that he assured Rick was an exceptional vintage for its Cycle, given the drought in Sharingseld at the time. Rick swallowed it down and took another, relaxing. A bowl stood on the counter behind him, small seeds, he wasn’t sure, but everything else was delicious so far, there was no reason these wouldn’t be as well. Rick decided as he poured them into his mouth that they were probably raisins, given their appearance.

He took one taste and immediately spat the entire content of his mouth out quite unceremoniously on the floor. “What – ” he choked as he reached for a cup of wine, “are those!”

The shop attendant merely stared at him, attempting to mask some sort of emotion.

Rick coughed and set his cup down.

“Muridae scrota,” replied the attendant evenly, a very careful mask in place on his face as he continued, “They are not – often utilized - for human consumption.”

Rick washed his mouth out with several more cups of wine and made his way down to the front of the store. Undoubtedly, kyor was not for him. He inspected some of the cloaks hanging on display and fingered over some of the crystals and finger rings. Then he came to a section of what appeared to be various kyor tools and implements. Inks and parchments that of what looked like a fine quality were exhibited carefully. In the midst of this, he found a rope.

Instantly, his curiosity was revived anew and he read the description of the rope. A fine hemp rope, it elongated to whatever length its owner required and would neither snap nor strain unless severed. As he perused the quality of the rope, the attendant glided behind the wooden counter top.

“Does this rope work for everyone?”

The attendant stared at him, masking disdain somewhat poorly. The man thought he was an idiot, Rick realized. “I mean, do you have to have kyor for this to work?”

Raising an eyebrow, the man looked down his nose rather sternly at Rick before replying. “It will ‘work’ for all who require it to. However, those with the gift of kyor will find its qualities more accommodating.”

Rick smiled for the first time since he had walked into the store. “How much?”

Fiorra scolded him as they strode back down Capitol Blvd. out of the K’yor District. “What ever are you going to do with a rope?”

“It can be as long as you want it to be,” Rick told her excitedly. “It will –”

“Yes, but what use do you possibly have for it?” Fiorra interrupted.

Rick groped for a plausible answer and came up with nothing. “I could sneak out at night,” he suggested winningly.

Fiorra glared at him. “Past curfew. And get Demerits, or worse.” She shook her red hair in disgust as her robes flapped behind the deliberate lengths of her stride.

“Well, at least that’s useful!” he returned. “I mean, what can you possibly do with Muridae scrota, or whatever it is?”

She glanced sidelong at him with sudden curiosity. “You mean ‘Muridae scrota’?” Fiorra corrected Rick’s pronunciation.

“Whatever, whatever. I mean, they taste awful!” He still had the taste in his mouth.

His disclosure was met by gales of laughter from Fiorra. “How would you ever know that?”

He detailed the story to her and demanded to know what she found so funny. In fact, he was downright irritated now. Fiorra leaned against the lamppost as tears streamed down her face at his demeanor.

“Do you even know what they are?” she managed to ask breathlessly.

“No. That’s what the shop attendant said they were. There was a bowl of them over by some cheese and wine.” He felt his temper rise as Fiorra laughed heartily, clutching at her stomach. “What! What is so funny?”

“You weren’t supposed to eat them,” she laughed. She saw that he was getting red in the face and attempted to compose herself. Then she told him what the common term for Muridae scrota was.

He immediately vomited.

Rat testicles.

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