They sat on the deck overlooking the shoreline of the rushing river of Menk. The water deafened all noises aside from the conversations going on around them. From what they had gathered from speaking with the villagers, the pellar hadn’t visited the mountain village, nor had the girl.
Even after that discovery, the two decided to rest a few days before travelling farther north to Bay’s Lake. The old sage knew his friend would prefer to have returned to Demor, but Caldor couldn’t allow that. Not now that the survivor was the grandchild of Naygu. For the old woman’s sake, Caldor had to ensure the girl’s safety.
Pouring himself another glass of blackberry wine, Caldor peered across the table at his large companion. Foe straddled the bench facing the river. The water pushed over the small stone wall that protected the houses along the shoreline.
Upon their trip up to Menk, they saw how much the valley below had flooded. At the time, they believed the eighty meter dam above Menk had burst. When stopping at the villages below Menk, they heard rumors that the village was no more. The two shared the same concern.
Luckily, that hadn’t been the case. By the looks of things, Menk was in wonderful shape. The people welcomed them with open arms, and their accommodations at the inn trumped their stay in Irbet.
A young child with white hair stood five meters from the guard wall watching the rushing water. No one else dared to go near the rushing water, which looked white as it tore through like an unstoppable force.
“I’ve never seen the water so bloody high,” Foe grumbled, lifting the glass stein to his lips before putting it down.
“We had a good snow last winter and the spring gave them a lot of rain,” Caldor replied. Moist air sprayed up from the river. The smell of cooked meat danced in the air. A woman pranced towards their table with a platter of steaming dishes.
“Lake trout from the upper landin’, wrapped in salted kale. Rabbit skewers with rosemary, and fresh root vegetables from the village o’er,” the woman bowed, “Enjoy.”
“Thank you, dear,” Caldor muttered, bowing his head in return. Her bright orange hair - a common Dermite colour - framed her youthful face.
“Don’ get sweet. Yah could be her grandfather,” Foe jested, sliding his legs under the table before taking a skewer.
“Only grandfather, not great grandfather? You are being nice today,” Caldor jabbed, ignoring the meal.
Foe chewed the meat on one of the skewers instead of replying.
Looking back at the river, Caldor admired the Dermite for their determination. The Dermite chose to live in the most difficult of places.
A great example of Dermite perseverance was Demor. Nothing had grown in the rocky soil, but that hadn’t stopped them. Demor built a city and found ways to bring life to the rock. When asked how they had altered the land to be inhabitable the Dermite replied: ‘with enough bull, even the desert could grow something’.
Menk had a different challenge. They had a great source of food and water from the river. It fed the lakes and rivers of the valley. The issue was the unpredictable swelling. With the small area available for building, those of Menk built the majority of the village within the flood basin.
They had rebuilt Menk four times prior to building the dam because of the village’s location. Twenty years had passed since Menk had last been rebuilt and from what the sage could see, it was thriving. Merchants praised the village for their friendly people and good food, making Menk the place to visit if one was passing through the valley.
Even though there was no sign of the pellar or the girl, that didn’t mean they had wasted their time. The change of atmosphere would distract them from recent events.
So far, that idea hadn’t worked. Relaxing only made Caldor reflect on his failure to find the girl, for which he now felt responsible.
“I am sure we will find them in Bay’s Lake,” Caldor muttered, ending the awkward silence that had begun to make his ears buzz. “That woman said that Bay’s Lake was a possible choice for the pellar, and if he has family there, we might be able to find her before they head elsewhere.”
“Or,” Foe drank what remained in the stein before continuing, “we return to Demor. It’s been weeks. We ain’t gonna keep runnin’ around like chickens with missin’ heads. We need to think of Derm.”
“By thinking of Derm, I suppose you mean the prince?” Caldor sipped the deep burgundy wine in his glass. The bitter sweetness made his tongue fuzzy, while the deep liquid stained the lip of his mustache purple and teeth pink.
“He’s the only one that can take his father’s place,” Foe growled, raising the stein towards the woman who had brought them their food before taking another from her tray.
“Hurrying back with no solutions is not going to cure the prince… and you know there are other options if Cáel dies,” Caldor stated, his voice stern while he moved the glass in a circle.
Foe glared from across the table. That hadn’t been the answer his friend had wanted to hear.
“Those other options are bull,” Foe growled, before slamming his stein onto the table. He stood, running his fingers through his hair before banging both hands on the table. “Why the hell are yah worryin’ more about a westy lass and not about the bloody future king of Derm?”
“I am not,” Caldor sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose, “Cáel is sick. At the moment, I have no knowledge of how to help him. No one knows what he is suffering from and, as a result, we cannot find a cure. Naygu shared with me some knowledge but not all her secrets. The book I took may have something. Unfortunately, I am unable to translate the bloody thing because I do not understand the language it is in.”
“La’reen might. Why not take it to them?” Foe sat down, folding his arms on the table’s edge.
“The prince may not last long enough for them to find a translation, and besides, if I do not know, I am certain those of the Glass Tower will not.”
Caldor had been one of the only Council Members in La’reen to make a good impression on the leaders of Morza. His friendship with Naygu had given him insight into the West that his colleagues at the university only dreamed of knowing.
“If yah and the uni can’t read it, the book would make better tinder,” Foe grumbled.
“No, the reason I am so set on finding the girl is that she will know how to read it. Her grandmother was its keeper, which means the girl was likely taught how to read it,” Caldor poured himself more wine.
“And know what actually happened to Morza,” Foe added.
“That too,” Caldor agreed.
He worried more about the girl than he did about knowing the truth surrounding Morza’s demise. Yes, he was curious to know the reasons and the events that took place outside of what he had already deduced, but all that was useless without the girl. Nothing could be done to erase the horrors that took place in that city. The girl needed to be found, not just to give Naygu peace, but to save the prince with what little remained of the Morzi.
Caldor took a skewer and picked off the pieces of rabbit. The juicy meat dripped down his chin, staining his pepper beard brown. The rosemary had given the rabbit a robust flavor beneath the bold ginger and sweet honey. Nothing he had eaten over the past weeks could compare to the selection of food before him.
“What about what Talia said?” Foe asked.
“About?” Caldor’s mouth was full, but he could utter out at least one word. His blond haired friend stared into the stein.
“The lass bein’ gifted.”
“Naygu wrote about the girl having a good eye for detail and being a natural with people,” Caldor stated dismissively. The old woman had shared stories regarding the girl’s popularity.
“Talia talked like the child was a seer,” Foe added.
The sage’s brow knotted and nostrils flared upon hearing the word. People believed seers had the power of seeing future events, although in Caldor’s mind such ideas were hogwash. The only way someone could do such an impossible feat was through manipulating the veil - the division between the Eternal, where the Gods lived, and the mortal world of Gaitan.
From what he knew, certain times of the year or cosmic events were believed to weaken the veil. The 200 Year Moon for example, could allow the Gods to use the veil to travel from the Eternal to Gaitan with ease. If seers existed, they would have a way to control the veil. No one but the Gods were able to do such, and therefore seers were believed to be a hoax by serious scholars of the issue. Those who called themselves seers were nothing more than opportunists and charlatans.
“Talia cares for a person who believes owl pellets cure the common cold and dragonfly wings chase away bad luck. She is not the most reliable of sources,” Caldor countered, sipping his wine before eating the last piece of rabbit off his skewer. “You know what is reliable? Evidence. I will remain skeptical of those people until I have irrefutable evidence that they are real. All I need is knowledge - like how I know that there is a herbalist in Bay’s Lake that has an extract I have not used on the prince that could help with his pain.”
“Is that all we can do?” Foe asked, cracking his knuckles.
Caldor wished he could do more. If only he could lay his hands on the boy and heal him with thoughts. Whatever was happening to him was painful, and all Caldor could do was ease the boy’s pain.
“I wish I could do more, Foe.”
Caldor placed his hand on his friend’s. He sympathized with the Steward. Foe had helped raise Cáel when Charn couldn’t. The prince, in a way, was a second son.
“I know,” Foe moved his hand away before finishing his drink. “This herbalist might have somethin’ though?”
“That is what an associate at the university told me,” Caldor replied.
“Then the missus will have to wait a lil longer, eh?” Foe stood from the bench, stretching his arms out before resting them on his waist. “We’ll rest for the night and head to Bay’s Lake in the morn?”