(this scene was incomplete, Chapter One, Scene Two (cont.))
“Of course, Neelath! Of course! Anything you need. My wife thanks you, as do I. We do not know what we would do without your cooking. Truly. It is remarkable! Who knew that one woman could feed so many people?” Wohad went on gushing to Sylith’s mother, Neelath. Wohad was her chief supplier of the cured meats so commonly used in her bakery. Many of their neighbors had soured when he had had to turn their business away; most of his product went to Neelath. Once those same neighbors discovered what Neelath was doing with the cured meats… Well, those frowns had turned the other way.
Neelath was a hand shorter than Sylith, but they looked much the same. Oval-faced, wide blue eyes, full-bodied lips, and a strong nose to balance it all. Long, wavy brown hair spilled over her shoulders and tumbled down her back. Neelath wore a prath-cloth wrap of deep blues and aquamarine, the thread of gold woven in elaborate designs at the hems. It was a gorgeous dress, all the more impressive when one considered the fact that you had to actually picture what you wanted your wrap to look like while you were putting it all on.
Sylith loved his own prath-cloth. It was one of the many wonders of Bibliomancy. The process of creating the cloth was not very complicated, not if you had more than a rudimentary understanding of Bibliomancy. Once the appropriate charms were worked over a bolt of cloth, the wearer only need wrap it around their person and hold an image of what they wanted their clothing to look like. The prath-cloth would then shape and change it’s self accordingly. The cloth itself did not need to remain in a wrapped fashion on its wearer, but that was the fashion in Ma’Bagi.
Today, Sylith had formed his own prath-cloth into a traditional wrap; it was wound around his torso three times before being draped lightly across the right shoulder. The top layer of his wrap was a deep shade of maroon, while the underlayers were varying shades of teal. Leather sandals dyed in a deep shade of mahogany protected his feet from the dirt of the road, and a gold woven belt sat upon his hips completing the ensemble. He had been very proud of it all.
Neelath proffered a sack of coins to Wohad, who took it discreetly into his own wrap. His smiles grew wider and he took both of Neelath’s hands into a generous shaking of hands, even kissing the tops of them twice. Neelath was just as gracious in her own manner, thanking Wohad in turn and assuring that her bakery would be nothing without him. Her voice was all sugary sweetness, enough to give one a toothache. That was Neelath’s way. She did not believe in an unkind word or gesture unless it was warranted. Sylith’s mother was easily one of the most well-liked people in all of the Domzi clans.
“C’mon, mom! We’ve got to get my Pilgrimage supplies still!” Seraph said urgently as she tugged at Neelath’s wrap. Seraph, Sylith’s younger sister, was much too old to be acting so childish in public. Wohad was very polite about the entire scene by ignoring it completely and offering Seraph nothing by smiles and sweetness in return. Sylith really liked Wohad; but, really, there weren’t many in the village he didn’t care for.
“Of course, Ser, of course. I am so sorry, Wohad, but we do have other errands to attend to today,” Neelath said to the merchant.
“Surely. It is of no bother, Neelath,” Wohad said before turning to Seraph, “Good luck on your journey, young one. I pray that you find much of value for yourself and for the clans.”
“Thank you, Wohad. I’m planning on going to Shu Muqi! I know everyone goes there, but they have the largest library in the world! The Royal Library of Shu is my first stop on the road. I can’t wait to get my hands on some ancient tomes! Just think of the things they hold! Why I think I might discover enough to come back and be Keeper of the Clans myself!” Seraph said, bringing her fists to her hips in satisfaction.
Wohad chuckled and nodded to Seraph, “Of course, child. We would be lucky if that were so! Do us proud, young one!”
The trio left Wohad’s shop amidst smiles and well wishes. Not many merchants had actual shops in the Market, most just had stalls propped up against houses, but Wohad made enough revenue to set up a permanent site for his business. Wives, Sailors, and children scurried along down the dirt road that was the Market. Past the shops were the stalls, and past that was the Harbor. From what Sylith had read of other countries, the market of Ma’Bagi was quite small. There were about 15 merchants at any given time. That was nothing. Places like Shu Muqi held hundreds, if not thousands, of merchants from all over the world.
A particularly fetching young Sailor caught Sylith’s eye. He was tall, sun darkened, and well muscled. Judging by his shaved head, Sylith assumed the young man was from the Sandsone Clan. They enjoyed warm relations with the Sangzet, Sylith’s own clan. Thoughts of approaching the young man danced in Sylith’s head, but the fantasy was quickly chased away as he realized Seraph was talking to trying to get his attention.
“Do you hear me, Sy? I asked why we never see any sailors from other lands?”
Sylith rolled his eyes, “Really, Ser? Do you pay that little attention to your tutor’s lessons? If Abrex were teaching you… Oh, you’d come home crying every night.”
Seraph stuck her tongue out at Sylith, Neelath did not notice. She was already 10 paces ahead of them, dealing with another merchant. Not for the bakery, of course, it was for Seraph’s pilgrimage. She was probably securing a few casks of pickled herring. Seraph loved herring.
“You know as well as I do that there are only a few times throughout the year that we let outsiders in, mostly traders and merchants. The Eye of Mara rages must of the year, there are only a few windows where we can use our magicks to quell the storm long enough for travel to be possible. Why do you think you had to wait until next week to leave for Pilgrimage? If it were easier to leave our little pocket of the world, I am sure we would have a more diverse population… Why? Are you not happy with Aagaa and the other islands?” Sylith asked of his sister. He was a little tired of the islands himself. He could not fault her for such feelings.
“Well, yeah, but that’s not why I was asking. Even though I’ve spent my whole life here, I sometimes think it’s strange that we never see a new face. Sure, there’s some random clan members, that we don’t know, that pop up from time to time… Like that boy you were looking at earlier. I can go talk to him for you, if you want,” Seraph said, making doe eyes at Sylith.
Sylith spluttered at her and stammered out, “W-what!? O-o-of course n-not. Don’t be s-silly.”
Seraph just stared at him. Sylith blushed and quickly changed the subject, “Really, I think Ma’Rosi likes the fact that the clans are secluded… I’ve seen what she can do with Bibliomancy… Really… I find it absurd that someone of her power cannot calm the storm when she wants, much less make vessels that can withstand the storm…”
“That’s what the Caravans are for, stupid!” Seraph said, playfully pushing him to the side as they waited for their mother to pay for the product.
Sylith mused at the thought. The Caravans of Mahima were another artifact of an age long forgotten, much like High Tongue. They very well could withstand the storm that was the Eye of Mara, but there were only so many of the Caravans to go around. The Caravans were not even conventional vehicles, they were magickal covered wagons that were summoned into existence by enchanted quills. No one, not even Ma’Rosi, knew how to craft new quills, thus they only had a few dozen to go around. That meant that Domzi youths leaving on Pilgrimage had to leave in groups of 5 or more, all sharing a Caravan until they found their way to their respective destinations.
Ma’Rosi was very tight-lipped about how many quills she and the other Elders had on hand. Sylith had tried to discover the answer through less than honorable means, but Ma’Rosi had caught him sneaking about before he even reached her locked rooms. That was one of the only times she had punished him.