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After Fulmosk and Rin returned with extra rations, a couple torches, and other miscellaneous items they probably didn’t need including a new set of flint and steel, Tallo retired away from everyone to his room. At least, he attempted to retire away from everyone. Nina and Rin followed from a healthy distance, and Fulmosk completely missed the hint that Tallo wanted to be alone, and remained at his side. He kept listing the different types of food they found, including a bag of mixed nuts that had nuts he’d never even heard of before.

“I sent word of our travels so far,” said the redhead when they closed the door to their room. Tallo collapsed onto one of the twin beds, not bothering to take off his shoes or to peel back the blanket. Still, his assistant continued chattering on. “I would say it’s a success so far. Wouldn’t you agree?”

“If all there is to report is a new type of nut, I guess so,” said Tallo dryly. This bed wasn’t anything like his bed back at Castle Cudwi. He might as well have been laying on a sack of hay on a wooden board. And while I happened to put together that was exactly what he lay upon, it didn’t seem to connect for him. No matter how much he squirmed, a frown of discomfort remained on his face.

“No one seems to recognize you, at least.” Fulmosk went through the whole ritual of taking off his boots and outerwear, seemingly chipper from his shopping trip. He and Rin got along, at least. Tallo’s sour thought at his experiences so far made me almost pity him. “Although it seems like your protection detail is already on top of that.” Now the boy’s tone started to droop a little. “Is that weird?” Tallo shrugged. He’d been outside the castle walls of Cudwi less than Fulmosk.

“This is not a normal quest, anyway,” he said dismissively.

“Why are you going to the Wise Magi?” That question again. I sensed a forlorn twinge to the annoyance when Tallo pursed his lips.

“It’s safer you only know what you currently do, friend.”

Fulmosk began to fold his outerwear to place on the foot of the bed.

“I don’t know anything other than that you and your notes must get there for the betterment of the world.” The pause was palpable. “I don’t know, I think this world is pretty good.” Tallo’s doubt inspired me in a way more than rage at my Weft did.

“Do you?” came his challenge. At the edge of his consciousness I sensed a memory. “Do you think that? Remind me why you came to Cudwi? To the city of Santo, even.” Tallo looked to his assistant, his expression partially obscured by the light of the candle between their beds. “Why did you come to the capitol of your home’s enemy again?” Though the thought that they had to walk through the very home he spoke of, through Filmir, just to get to the Wise Magi, did cross Tallo’s mind, he didn’t dwell upon it. But I’d written enough stories to know that this was probably important.

“I mean,” Fulmosk started as he sat up on his elbows, “that was an accident. A bizarre celestial mistake. A quake like that—it’s not going to happen to anyone else.”

As Fulmosk described his origins, I had a vision of my Weft tamping the threads, of taking the wefted threads and pushing them tight against each other to the top of the tapestry. Is that what happened when we tampered our works? Were our worlds aware of their creation? But that didn’t feel right. And Tallo’s discomfort with the memory shook the idea from me.

“Maybe not,” was his answer. There was a note in the air, an uncertainty. “But I think—well….”

“That you can stop…quakes?” Fulmosk prompted. He should have sounded skeptical. But he wasn’t. It didn’t sound hopeful enough to be sincere, either. I sensed from Tallo that this wasn’t the desired response, but he ignored it. He was too annoyed, too overwhelmed to look into the details. It made me uncomfortable, though.

“I just want to help make the world safer,” said Tallo through a sigh. “And I think I can, with what I’ve discovered.”

“Discovered? Like, an element? Like alchemy?” From this prodding question, Tallo’s irritation grew.

And like a hunter scolding his dog, his voice rang taut: “Fulmosk.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Go to sleep.”


Maybe it was an hour, maybe longer, but eventually, Fulmosk’s gentle snores were the only sound coming from Tallo’s room. From the street lamps on the road below was a gentle yellow light, barely enough to make out the outlines of the sparse furniture in the room, but enough for Tallo to get up from his bed and make his way to the door without tripping over anything.

Fulmosk’s questions annoyed him to insomnia. So now he shut the door to his room quietly behind him and made his way down to the tavern with a couple of spare coins from Fulmosk’s bedside table.

With every step down to the main floor, a small weight lifted off of Tallo’s shoulders. Secrets were heavy, but no one cared who you were in a crowd. And it seemed like here, he could finally disappear. He hadn’t been able to do that, to go anywhere alone, in so long….

He did a relatively good job of hiding his excitement when he ordered his own ale. He even added an, “Oh, the ale is how much?” to try and sell the idea he wasn’t comfortable spending money. Watching his performance, how he forced himself to relax—or to at least look like he was relaxed—was a little perplexing. With Kimba, I seemed to know what she liked or wanted a little easier than with Tallo. With him, he looked like a performer more than a man guided by his trade. Perhaps that was something Kimba could sense, too. Maybe that was why she didn’t know how to think of him.

Tallo nearly finished his drink in peace. No one bothered him, asked him if he wanted anything, or questioned his motives. No one even looked at him twice, as far as what he could tell.

Well….

“A smart man would walk away, a gambling man would leave. Care to make a bet?” Tallo jumped at the sound of Kimba’s voice beside him. But when he turned around, she wasn’t talking to him, rather, someone behind him.

In a scrappy, beige cloak stood a man with fewer teeth than fingers—which was saying something, because he clearly had less than the average person based on the knots in his gloves. The skinny man snarled, but eventually he took his sour stench with him and retreated somewhere else. Tallo might not have seen Kimba’s dagger at the stranger’s thigh, but I did. She hid it just as fast as she took it out, and leaned on the counter to look directly at Tallo.

“What are you doing out of bed, Prince Charming?” she asked, slower than usual. She rested her cheek on her fist as Tallo caught up to the moment. He wasn’t the drunk one in this conversation, but he was a lot slower. He wrinkled his nose at Kimba.

“Surprised you could tell it was me after that lake of whiskey you’ve ingested.” He kept his gaze away from her. And although I was distinctly aware of how he felt, the disgust and the annoyance, I could feel the dull disappointment from Kimba.

She let out a loud raspberry. “I could tell it was you if it was an ocean.”

“What?”

To answer his question, Kimba reached over to him, sloppy, but slow enough that he could have pulled away if he found her movements unseemly. But I got the sense he was a little too surprised that she grabbed his hand with hers, held it up so he could see his own palm, how she rubbed it so delicately with her thumb. He’d never felt a sensation like that, the way she dragged her thumb over each bone of his knuckles. A comforting, warm feeling. From that little movement burst through the reds and yellows and browns of their similar skin tones. To me, it felt like a light bursting through, like a relief. The story showed itself to me, showed how important that unintentionally tender moment was.

To me, this was a moment immortalized in a tapestry. A work of art. To Tallo and Kimba, it was a moment where their hearts only skipped a beat, and their lives moved on.

“Do these look like a worker man’s hands to you?” asked Kimba. She dropped his hand almost immediately, and turned to the barkeep on duty, a plump woman with rosy cheeks and a smile that lit the room as much as a chandelier.

“Another glass, ey?” the woman called. Kimba nodded, and just as soon as she asked, one appeared in her hands and a copper coin rolled onto the table. Tallo just grimaced, and looked to his own nearly-finished tankard with a lost appetite for ale.

“I came out here to be alone,” he said quietly. Kimba snorted.

“Not really a thing you can do for another two months.” The way he didn’t address what she said gave me an odd twinge. It clicked for me while the two drank in silence, a sad realization. The trip to the Wise Magi involved him, sure, but he didn’t seem to intend to return. And after that burst of breathtaking art from just their hands touching for a moment, it was a little sad to think their encounter would end so prematurely. Though it was also an odd question…. Why pay a mercenary for the trip back, if the escorted party wasn’t joining? Even if the secrecy of the whole thing mattered just as much, wouldn’t a stipend be more effective? But with the both of them there, thinking of each other but not looking at one another, made my thoughts cloudy and muddy. I couldn’t think much past their desires—or maybe it was the other way around. How much influence did I have, if I didn’t create the wanes and cartoon my Weft used as a base?

Tallo finished his ale and set his empty mug on the bar. “Why did you drink so much?”

Kimba shrugged, still halfway through her own drink of much less, but much stronger, indulgence. “Why not?”

“What if we were just attacked?” he asked with exasperation.

Another raspberry from Kimba. “We were.”

“What?” He wasn’t a stupid person, but he couldn’t see the world for how it was the way she did. He just didn’t know.

“Listen,” Kimba said, swaying. “I don’t tell you how to write books.”

“Is that what you think I do?” Her guess made him amused, the closest thing to a smile he gave her yet.

“I don’t know.”

“Are you going to ask?”

“No.”

“You’re smarter than you act.” Kimba sighed, then knocked back the rest of her whiskey.

“And you’re dumber than you think.” Although I could feel Tallo’s surprise, the irritation at what she said, it was really funny to watch a man so smart be teetered on his perception. She rose from her barstool and gestured with her hand. “Back to bed, pretty boy. That cutthroat couldn’t see your hands, he was looking at your fancy cloak and your clean shoes. Now, unless you want to see me fight drunk, we’re going to bed.”

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About the author

Aly

Bio: eLearning developer by day, daydreaming writer by night. I'm also over on Inkitt.com/Aly2

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