Gamman was up early. He had waited restlessly, and as soon as he heard someone was up he came out of the little room on the first floor, where Lan’kehr had left him to spend the night.


He explored three brightly-lit rooms before he found Hettar, one of the cousins, in the kitchen, where the counter top was illuminated by one soft light. The first words out of Hettar’s mouth were, “What did ya do to that bastard last night?”


Sorry – were you worried?”


Nah, I could tell by the way he was singin’ he was havin’ a good time. I could’na sleep though.”


A voice behind Gamman spoke up. “I bet you were wishin’ ya was in Lannie’s place, right?”


Hettar, who was nearly as tall as Gamman, blushed. “I just needed some relief, is all.”


The other man said, “Well, I coulda definitely used a woman. That was some shit, the sounds he was makin.’ What were you doin’ ta him?”


Gamman, undisturbed by the frank questions, said, “If you really want to know, I’ll show you next time – I don’t mind spectators.”


Oooh?” Shaff appeared in the doorway. “I am curious. If I could get my mate to make those sounds...


Shut up,” Hettar said.


The other cousin said, “Yeah, I’m sure ya couldn’t, and if she was makin’ that kinda noise, I’m sure it’d be pretty scary for all of us.”


Gamman watched as they moved around the dark space, pulling things out and carrying them through the open doorway. Outside there was a garden patio where a low table sat at the edge of a long, tub-like pool that, as he had seen yesterday, was filled with colorful fish. It was still so early that there was barely any light, so someone went around and switched on several soft lights that flickered inside of different types of containers, and someone else set a music cube to play quietly, which matched the pre-dawn ambiance.


Without asking his preference, Hettar handed Gamman a big cup of coffee. “Here. I figure if you don’ like ta smoke it ya don’ drink it either.” The fragrant scents of the local coffee and osana tea mingled together and hung in the air.


They sat for a while, eating bread and cheese. As they talked they watched colors appear across the landscape with the sun’s ascent behind the hills. They were facing out from the patio, across the pool. Underneath the branches of the potted trees, and framed by the smaller plants on the floor, was a vista of rooftops and trees stretching down to the water off in the distance.


The conversation quickly moved on from sex, and someone mentioned the presence of Thurinian military near one of the port communities on the west coast. Gamman said, “That’s a permanent installation, right? I’m surprised they haven’t built a transportation system through here, to S.O. Port.”


Shaff answered, “No need. Their main purpose is to keep suckers like you from taking over. If they build roads, all of a sudden all this coastline becomes more attractive to a whole bunch ‘a new outsiders just like you. I don’ mind giving you a tour, but I also don’ want ya ta bring friends an’ stick around.”


Is that why you don’t let them improve the airfields in the high ranges then?” Gamman had always wondered about this — in the centuries leading up to the Great War Osroes had developed its own heavy industry. After the war ended though they had devolved into a land of fishers, farmers and mountaineers with very small pockets of industrial development, mainly around the eastern port city.


Shaff laughed and looked over at Hettar. “You want ta tackle that one, Het?”


Hettar shook his head and said, “Ya know, it’s best ta show that one same way we learn it — through song. He’ll hear all ‘bout it on the festival nights.”

The mention of music suddenly attracted Gamman’s attention to the rhythmic song playing in the background. He asked, “Is that mountain music?”


Hettar replied, “Yes, that lullaby from earlier was my sisters, and this one we recorded one night earlier this year. Do ya like it?”


Gamman nodded, “It’s different… come to think of it, I heard there’s a mountain instrument we don’t have in Ginnie.”


Nobody responded, so he said, “I heard it’s enormous – the women play it.”


Ahh… the djiyatti. Yes, those stay put most of the time. I guess I never thought about the fact that nobody uses them other than us.”


Shaff added, “You’ll be with us during the winter festivals – you’ll get plenty of chances ta hear them played. Hettar, why don’t ya play him one of those?”


Hettar reached over and tapped on his cube until he saw what he wanted, and there was the sound of a man talking over a crowd, and then, when the music started, the whistling and talking died away. “There it is,” he said. The guitar and chorus were joined by strummed chords that had a strong, nasal timbre. “When they get three or four of those going at once, it’s really somethin’. Takes a strong voice – amplified – to carry out over it.”


Gamman was suddenly reminded that his destination was just north of the equator, and they were headed into winter — not summer, like they were here and at home. The temperatures in the high reaches were never that warm, not even in summer. But it was worse in the wintertime. He asked, “When you say I’ll be with you during the winter festivals – you mean the upcoming festivals, right? I’m not planning to stay all winter.”


Shaff laughed. “Once we’re home, we’ll be home until after Ishi’s harvest. I don’ know if you can find someone ta bring ya back down before we’re ready ta sell off.”


That wasn’t what Gamman had discussed with Tellurin before he had set out. His friend was supposed to put him up with family, and they were going to take just a short tour to Alter Rock and Tassa. The month of Ishi was five months away. “When do you come back down after Ishi?”


That time of year we only want ta travel once. Once we’re done pullin’, takes about two weeks before we travel.”


Gamman leaned back on his hands, and looked at the sky, framed by the dark green leaves of the potted plants. And THAT is exactly why you guys need better transportation systems, he thought. He had been planning to be away for four months, at most. Surely Andyne and Sheydareh would have located his little brother by now; but he was absolutely bound to make it to Tassa, no matter what.


He thought about the weeks leading up to his departure from Ginnie with Shamahan. The revelation that Geldan was his half brother, and the fact that he was dead, and Aya was dead, and both under mysterious circumstancesjust that much would have been too much. Gamman wondered how his mother was holding up.


Is it a mistake to go with them? He had made the decision to leave certain personal tasks up to Durban and Tellurin. Durban would do his part, and then some, if for no other reason than that Fah’reh had ended up in Gamman’s household. But Tellurin….


Gamman wondered whether Tellurin already knew where he had ended up, and the fact that he did — probably — made Gamman’s skin crawl. After the attack at sea Gamman kept having the nagging feeling that he shouldn’t have trusted Tellurin. He was the one person who could have pinpointed where The Greyfax was, along their route, at any given time, without needing to access the Tharig’s data. The people who had attacked Gamman and Shamahan out on the water weren’t there by mistake.


He didn’t want to believe that Tellurin would betray him, but he couldn’t say for certain that he had not. Now he had to worry about whether Tellurin’s family, if he found them, could be trusted.


Shaff spoke up, bringing Gamman’s attention back to the conversation. “Well, plus, ya was wantin’ ta find Master Daenan, too, an’ that’s gonna take some time.”


One of the other men said, “Count me out on that. If yer gonna go traveling between the soaring ranges, yer gonna travel before heavy snows, and ta do that, yer gonna hafta miss the festivals. I got family I need ta take care of.”


Gamman nodded slowly and said, “Is Lan’kehr not up yet?”


Nope, han’na seen ‘im.”


I need to get down to the marina.” Gamman wanted to talk to his brother before they set out. “Where do I meet you?”


Shaff told him, and after he looked in on “Lannie,” he set off.




Gamman stopped by the docks on his way to Tander’s room. It was a lively place early in the morning, and several people recognized him from the day before and called out compliments on his new clothes.


He wanted to see The Greyfax one last time, but only after he was on the deck did he remember that Tander had locked the hatch. He cursed to himself and wandered back along the wooden walkway, past folk who were preparing to head out across the bay into the open sea. He soon found himself walking against the tide of people coming down along the wall from distant neighborhoods, who were eager to get to the day’s business in the area that spread out from the marina.


Having been awake half the night, Gamman felt tired by the time he found Tander’s door. He knocked, and, receiving no reply, he pounded on it and called out, “Tander! Shamma!” He made his way down the walkway and tried the next door, and then the next, which opened. Fennery peered up at him with dark eyes and asked, “Wa’s wrong?”


Before he could answer, the previous door opened, and Jissuh came out, and said, “Put a shirt on, Fen.” Pulling his door shut, he looked at Gamman and said, “Mornin’,” and turned towards Cormany’s door, which he easily unlatched. “Hey, get up,” he said, into the dark entrance.


Eyes narrowed, Gamman followed and asked, “Where did Tander go?”


Jissuh looked up at him and said, unapologetically, “Gamma-sa’s brother went out last night afore we got back – sounds like a friend of ours needed help with somethin’ and brother-sa offered to go with him. So Tander had to go after him.”


Go after him? Shamahan wouldn’t have just gone out to help someone — he’s not helpful and he’s not that stupid either. “Where did they go?”


Down at the Wes-side Harbor, sounds like.”


How far is that?”


A fair way. Tander told me ta tell ya, wait here for him.”


Take me there.”


Jissuh laughed, and suddenly he seemed small, and discomfited. “’s too far. Tander prolly got a vehicle ta go down there. You dun’na have anything like that. An’ even if ya did, you need ta be ready to go soon, right? We just have ta wait. They’ll be back soon.”


Do you know who it was that Shamahan went with?” Gamman was trying to read Jissuh’s expression but he couldn’t tell if the boy was holding back information.


Yeah, it was Miko. Don’ worry, Gamma-sa, Miko’s a fair good guy.”


A fair, good guy.’ What the hell does that mean? Gamman wondered. Aloud he asked, “Do you know when to expect them back?”


Mmm, by tonight, I’m sure.”


Shit. “And do you know what it is that Miko needed help with?”


Uh-uh,” Jissuh shook his head. Usually if he needs Tander, is ta help with a boat though.”


Gamman thought to himself that, at least, Shamahan must have been feeling better, if he’d been willing to go out. If someone asked him to help with a boat, he’d have been confident he could do it. He sighed heavily. “Look, we need to leave in a few hours. Do you know any way I can either get down there quickly or at least get in touch with Tander?


Ya gotta have money ta get down there or make a call. I’m sure they’ll be back soon.”


About the author


Bio: sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you don't

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