Morning came when the rooster crowed. Caldor sat at his desk surprised that he had forgotten to go to bed. He had spent the evening - after drinking the bitter brew - looking through Naygu’s almanac.
The book was neatly written, with beautiful pictures and diagrams all delicately drawn to display the steps for certain procedures and recipes. The book was written in the old, forgotten language of Morza. The words were all swirled together with no breaks between them, aside from the strange X like symbols, which was - Caldor believed - placed to represent a period.
Damn it. The sage had hoped that he could read it or at least translate some of the text, but what he had didn’t make sense. Translating the book would take a lifetime without someone capable of understanding it, and the only ones that did were gone.
Naygu had been the only person to keep the knowledge of the old language, and the chances that anyone at the university in La’reen could translate it in time for the prince were slim. He would have had a better chance just trying to infer the recipes from the pictures, which he was considering at this point. What was the medicine going to do, kill the boy? The prince was already dying and would be dead if they didn’t try something.
No, that is not in keeping with the code. Caldor ran his hands over his face, giving a heavy grunted sigh.
A beam of sun peered through the moth eaten curtain. A dusty haze danced over the uneven floorboards, while the cotton sheets and feathered pillows of the bed remained untouched. A chipped teacup rested before him on the desk, empty, with a small pale green circle around the bottom of the cup. The green tea hadn’t helped relax him, and neither did the chamomile he made afterwards. The tea only helped ensure his bladder worked.
Hot water steamed in the kettle on the woodstove. If he wanted to make some more, he could. There was time before Foe would come for him.
Deciding against making more tea, Caldor continued working on a translation. He didn’t have Naygu there to help, but with all the letters they sent one another, he believed he could figure out some way to understand the pages.
Heavy footsteps echoed in the hallway. Caldor turned just as there came a heavy knock. The door shook, as did the wall. Dust fell from the ceiling. Maybe he miscalculated the time?
His feet shuffled across the floor. Pins and needles shuttered through his legs.
“Yes?” he hadn’t wished to be disturbed so soon, but when the keeper stood in the entrance, Caldor forced a cheerier expression. “Can I help you, sir?”
“Yah posted something on the board?” the keeper asked.
“Yes?” Caldor felt unsure if he had been allowed to now that the keeper loomed in his doorway. The keeper appeared unimpressed with his stiff shoulders and crinkled brow.
“There are people waiting to talk to yah, downstairs,” the keeper grumbled.
The keeper had said people, meaning there were multiple persons who had seen the survivor. The door across the way opened, as Foe came into the hallway; his hair a mess. Dried drool stuck to his beard.
“What’s this now?” he yawned. They met eyes briefly before Caldor glanced back at the keeper.
“Keep up, there are people downstairs wanting to tell us about our ‘friend’,” Caldor replied brusquely.
“Really? Is this from yar lil advertisement on the board?” Foe yawned, scratching his cheek.
“Yes. Why?” Caldor could sense the man had something more to add.
“Nothin’. Just if yar gonna be a while, I think I’ll fly back to Demor. Charn’ll wanna know what we’ve been up to, and that we haven’ abandoned the prince. Also the missus may be worried,” Foe explained, ducking back into his room to grab his vest jacket.
“So you are leaving me here? Alone?” Caldor asked incredulously.
“Yar a big boy, Cal. I’ve got me duties, yah got yars,” Foe chimed, patting the old sage on the head.
Caldor smacked his friend’s hand away. He didn’t need to be treated like a fool. He knew Foe had other responsibilities.
“Then I will be seeing you here tomorrow?” Caldor wanted to make sure of their plan.
“Nah - in Downrow in four days. I’ve got a wee one yah know, and Vesper needs rest,” Foe turned to head for the stairs.
“And how do you suppose I get to Downrow?” Caldor spouted, following on his friend’s heels. “And why four days? It would not take that long to rest that beast - would it?”
“It won’,” Foe grinned, stopping at the bottom of the steps, “but, it may take yah that long to get through the people who answered yar call.”
The sage halted at the bottom of the steps upon seeing the crowd of people. They were in groups scattered across the boarded floor. Some were seated at tables, while others chose to stay standing against the white washed walls.
They all stared at him, their wide eyed expressions mirroring a stunned raccoon. There were some in the room no older than ten who clung to their parents like little leeches. The others were closer to his companion in age, while they whispered to one another continuing to watch him.
“Have fun,” Foe sang.
Caldor stumbled forward with a solid pat on the back before Foe hurried out the door. Foe had been right; he shouldn’t have put a reward on the advertisement. The chances that all these people saw the survivor were statistically impossible.