Magician in captivity po.., p.1
Magician In Captivity: Power of Poses - Book Three, page 1
Magician In Captivity
Power of Poses
MAP OF PESTLE, BENNIN, AND COKASAN
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Magician In Captivity
Poses of Power ~ Book Three
TRAK CLUTCHED THE TWELFTH AND FINAL VERSION OF HIS LETTER to Valanna, but not tightly enough to crinkle the parchment too much. The ship would soon make it to port after five weeks at sea, and then it would moor in Homika for a week before returning to Amorim, the port in Warish from which Trak had started his voyage.
"Is that it?" the Captain said. The man leaned against the rail and looked out at the stretch of low green hills still some distance away. "Our destination is around that promontory, and soon you will set foot on Bennin. You have done well in learning how to speak the language. It’s a shame that Lord Lenis refused to learn with you.”
Trak handed him the letter, but he wondered if he should snatch it back. Would Valanna even want to see him if he showed up in Balbaam? Tembul had guessed that they wouldn't return to this port in less than eight weeks. That would make their trip over four months long, and she might not even be interested in continuing their friendship…if he could term it a friendship.
He wondered if the letter would end up even getting all the way to Balbaam. Maybe he could learn the Warishian tongue somewhere. The man who taught them Benninese told him that Warishian was closer to Benninese than Pestlan. Perhaps the Warishians originally came from the continent of Bennin.
Trak shrugged to himself. It didn't matter now since he would be in Bennin for quite a while. He wondered if he had been sent on a fool's errand, but then why send Lenis and Tembul? Since Sirul came from the western Toryan lands, Trak felt no one really cared about him. Tembul worked as a scout leader for the eastern Toryans and had a certain amount of influence in the Toryan capital city of Kizru. Lenis, although only a few years older than Trak, was well connected to the Toryan nobility, and that meant someone was very serious about the quest.
Finding and rescuing the princess of the western Toryans didn't seem to be an insurmountable task, but as Trak learned more about Bennin from his Benninese tutor, he realized they would have to travel from one end of Bennin to the other to reach Beniko, the capital city.
Perhaps he would keep his magic a secret until needed. That would be like a hidden asset. Trak shook his head and nearly threw his arms into the air with frustration. All he had were questions, and no one had any answers. At least his fathers weren’t rotting away in some Toryan prison. As long as Able could brew Pestlan-style beer and ale, they could survive and maybe even thrive in their captivity.
Tembul had never come up with a suitable reason why Trak had to go. Trak relied on him to lead the group, although as far as Trak knew, he was the only one who had been forced to journey to Bennin. Trak had grown to like the gruff middle-aged Toryan and considered him to be the uncle that he didn’t have. Sirul, the other Toryan in the group, claimed to be a cousin of the princess and knew her on sight, something that Lenis claimed, but Trak could never bring himself to trust Lenis.
The ship seemed to come closer to the shore where Trak hoped to find his answers. He hoped he wouldn’t have to extract them as if they were closely guarded secrets. Trak still hoped that seeking out the princess would turn out to be a great adventure, but a hollow feeling in the pit of his stomach told him otherwise.
Homika, the port of entry for foreign ships into Bennin, looked quite different from Amorim. The buildings were covered with colorful tile roofs. Trak couldn't see any buildings over two stories high. When they put into port, the odd architecture gave the city a distinctive feel, but not quite as different as the melted sand look of the older buildings in Kizru. But if the architecture was an indicator, the Benninese had a culture just as unique.
People scurried along the docks, ushering passengers and moving freight. Clothes matched the different architecture. Men and women wore short jackets over thin tunics. Trak noticed few trousers and men wearing shorter wraparound skirts than the women did, who tended to wear brighter colors, it seemed. Gone were the dark-haired denizens of the continent of Cokasan, where his companions were from. These people looked more like tanned Pestlans, with lighter hair, although the skin seemed to be stretched tighter on their faces, giving them a different look.
"Time for all of us to leave," Paka, their tutor and guide, said. He had exchanged sailor's garb for a silk jacket, worn over a cotton tunic. He wore a dark blue skirt and changed his footwear from boots to sandals. Paka would travel with them all the way to the capital. Trak never did hear how Lenis had found the man in Amorim, since they were only in the port for a few hours. "Homika is warm year-round. The dress changes the further south one goes because it gets colder, so don't trade your clothes."
Trak just about didn't hear him, so involved was he with the sights, sounds, and now the smells of the docks.
Tembul pushed him from behind. "Pick up your gear and get down the gangplank. It's time we got started." He spoke in Toryan, which Trak now knew with decent comprehension.
Trak looked back at his fellow travelers. Sirul nodded enthusiastically, a contrast to the constant scowl on Lenis's face. Trak picked up his pack and two bags, and then followed his companions down to the docks. He took a deep draught of the air. It certainly smelled similar to other ports he had been, but Homika still had an underlying aroma all its own.
They traipsed through the town, and followed steps that led up to smaller lanes since Homika had been built on a slope of the modest hills surrounding the port. He looked for a shiny white palace like the one Asem owned in Amorim, but couldn't find anything that particularly stood out. As their tutor led them up the endless stone stairs, they passed through squares and shops in flatter areas carved from the hillside. Trak noticed that most of the town had been built in terraces. He liked the look.
The smells had changed and become even more exotic as Trak surmised that the Benninese cooked with different spices and fired up their stoves with a more aromatic wood than what they used in Pestle and Santasia.
They reached the top of the hills surrounding Homika to find that they led to ring of cliffs, and the land above was more of a plateau. Only one wide paved road led up out of the city. Paka escorted them to a cluster of buildings enclosed with a fence made out of poles.
"This is for foreign visitors," Paka said. "You will stay here until a caravan accepts you, and then we can travel south to Beniko, the capital. Permits will be granted at that time."
Tembul followed their guide into the largest building, while Sirul and Trak sat on a bench in the front. Lenis sat apart from them with his ever-present sneer never leaving his face. Trak wondered how the Toryan could have demeaned himself to join their party. He would just as soon have left Lenis behind. Trak liked Sirul, who was about the same age as Lenis, but without the scowl and with a consistently optimistic personality.
"Let's go," Tembul said holding papers. None of them really had learned to read Benninese because of their totally foreign alphabet. Trak had tried to puzzle out the characters, but he couldn’t make out a word on the pages that Tembul held.
A Benninese woman, shrunken like an old apple, led them around the buildings until she invited them into a dormitory with shelves filled with bedding and cooking gear. They stowed the bags in the empty spaces and sat down on the floor. Evidently the Benninese spent a lot of time sitting on the floor in their dwellings.
"You won't be using the coo
"What do we do while we're waiting for a caravan? Can we go back down to the city?" Tembul asked.
"Once you have registered, you are to stay in the compound unless you have deposited a bond or have found a credible job."
"Do we have enough funds for bonds?"
Tembul shook his head. "The Benninese don't recognize Toryan coins at a very good exchange rate. Instead of joining the caravan in a carriage, we will have to secure employment to get us all the way to Beniko. The functionary that runs this camp said she can hook us up as employees with a caravan in a few days."
Trak woke up in the early morning on the hard floor of their building. The sun hadn't yet risen, but he could see well enough to notice that Lenis had left their building. He crawled over to Tembul.
"It looks like Lenis has left us," he said.
Tembul rose from his comforter and looked around the room. "He has gone. The shelf holding his belongings is empty." He stood over a still-snoring Sirul. "Follow me."
They walked to the main building. A lamp burned at a desk inside. Tembul leaned over the counter and called out.
"Where are two of those that accompanied us?" Tembul said in Pestlan.
The attendant, younger than the woman from yesterday, stood rubbing the sleep out of his eyes. He had Tembul repeat his question. "They left in the middle of the night. The Benninese paid for your companion's bond, and then they departed. They said you were going to follow once you found work.” He spoke better Pestlan than Trak would have thought. “Shall we find you a caravan?
"Yes, but we want to depart as soon as possible," Tembul said. "We'd like to leave today. Are there any immediate openings in caravans heading south to Beniko?”
"Are you handy with weapons?"
Both Tembul and Trak nodded.
"Then you can always sign up as guards. A caravan leaves at noon today, heading to the city of Peskoa. It is midway to Beniko, and you can hook up with another caravan leaving for the capital from there. That is the fastest way to catch up with your friends."
"You are sure that the Benninese accompanied Lenis?" Trak said.
The attended nodded his head. "He did indeed, and paid for your companion’s bond after showing up with a carriage loaded down with provisions. It is a perilous journey for two, but..." The man shrugged his shoulders.
Trak looked at Tembul. He looked as angry as Trak felt. Lenis had been holding out on them. They had pooled their funds prior to leaving Amorim, but, obviously, Lenis had quite a bit held in reserve, or he had talked Paka into funding his personal trip to Beniko. One part of him gladdened to see him go, and another part worried about Lenis's motivation. What would prompt him to leave Trak and Tembul? At least, Sirul still could identify the princess for them. Lenis had started a race to Beniko, and he had seized a head start. In addition, they had to try to figure out what Paka's role in all of this had become. Perhaps he would be more than just Lenis’s interpreter, for he knew that Lenis wasn’t the type of person to strike out on his own.
Trak felt he had to win because of Neel and Able. Trak's biological and adoptive fathers were held in Kizru, guaranteeing Trak's return with the princess, and he had no idea what would happen to them if Lenis showed up with the woman, and he didn't.
The caravan didn't match Trak's expectation. He expected a flamboyant caravan master and a host of vicious-looking guards shepherding the merchants across dangerous lands. This gaggle of wagons didn't seem to be anything other than a group of merchants gathering together to travel through the verdant countryside, pooling their protection. One of the merchants had been tasked with hiring a few guards.
“Ah. You wish to help us on our way to Peskoa?” the rotund merchant asked. “Are you good with your weapons?”
The three of them all wore the swords they previously had wrapped up in their possessions. “Yes, we are. Do you need to test us?” Trak said. He hoped he got all of the words out properly in Benninese.
“No, no. The last few caravans who traveled to Peskoa weren’t molested at all. I have a contract for each of you. I will sign, and you will sign, so you can obtain travel documents at your alien retention center.”
Track had never been exposed to so many forms, and he couldn’t read a word. It reminded him of when he arrived in Pestledown, virtually illiterate. Perhaps the lawyer who had handled his initial inheritance needed to navigate through so many. Santasia didn’t operate on so much paperwork, but Bennin certainly seemed to.
They hurried back to the building where they had to leave their possessions hostage and exchanged both papers and coinage to get travel permits that would allow them to be in Bennin for six months. Then they would have to provide more employment proof after that.
Once they had returned to the caravan assembly ground, they found the caravan loading up.
“Do we walk or ride horses or what?” Tembul said to the merchant.
“No horses. The merchants like the guards to help them drive. Closer protection,” the merchant said chuckling. We will also carry your possessions on the wagons. If you had horses, your duties would have been the same… close protection.” He smiled again and offered Tembul a ride.
A woman, dressed in linen rather than silks walked up to Trak. “You can ride with me, boy, as long as you are good with that sword.”
Track grinned. “I am, and more.”
The woman’s visage darkened. “Don’t tell me what ‘more’ is. Stow your possessions on the fourth wagon and take the reins. I’ll join you as soon as I’ve had a word with my merchant friend.”
Trak’s smile slid from his face. He really had no idea what he had said to offend the woman. Perhaps he pronounced ‘more’ incorrectly. He walked back and climbed up on the wagon. Sirul waved to him as he put his gear in the wagon just ahead of Trak’s. He looked back at the curving line of wagons and saw men and women wearing swords on board most of the other wagons, and every so often he noticed a mounted guard or two.
Not all of the merchants were as confident as the one who had contracted with them. Maybe the woman who had taken him would give him a more accurate idea of what dangers he might encounter.
She returned to the wagon. Her face didn’t look very happy. She grunted a greeting and nodded as Sirul’s wagon began to roll. Trak looked over at his employer. He estimated that the woman was Neel or Able’s age. She wore her hair pulled back in a long ponytail, showing white that had just begun to replace the blonde hair sweeping back from her temples. If the expression on her face wasn’t so fierce, Trak thought she’d be a handsome woman among the Benninese, even better looking than Esmera, Honor or Nullia.
“How long to Peskoa?” Trak said. The woman didn’t reply and looked off to her side, avoiding his gaze and his question.
He hadn’t handled a wagon since his first escape from Santasia, but he had plenty of practice at Able’s inn, The Blunted Sword, in Greenbrook. Pestle seemed so far away in space and time at the moment, but the feel of the reins soon came back, and he settled in for the ride.
They spent the next hour passing through the sparsely inhabited fringe of Homika, thick with fields and farms. They passed shops in clusters, hugging the road as they continued.
“Get your papers ready,” the woman said. “The city gate is just ahead.” She began to rummage around inside an old leather satchel that sat between her feet. Trak’s papers were still safe inside the pocket of his coat.
Trak looked up from watching the horses following Sirul’s wagon and noticed the stone wall jutting up ten paces high and running as far as he could see in both directions. He had never seen a wall that enclosed farms before. If the city thought it needed to protect its farms, then Bennin didn’t seem very safe. The caravan might be a better mode of transportation than the carriage that Lenis had taken after all.
VALANNA ALMOND WATCHED THE SHORE OF THE PUSUUN RIVER from the carriage that clattered on the long, wide, cobbled road that ran from Amorim to Balbaam. Much of the ride had been in sheer emotional misery. How could she have let Trak leave the Ferezan palace like he did? Kulara had not been kind when she gave her opinion of how Valanna had botched up the reunion.
She had to agree with Asem’s second wife. She had been so distraught when they landed in Amorim. Asem warned her that it didn’t matter what she did in Santasia when she set foot in Warish. Women weren’t respected the same way, and Valanna had made the mistake of forgetting.
By the time Trak had shown up from Torya, her confidence had shriveled, and she behaved poorly. Valanna didn’t blame Trak for his behavior. She realized once the three of them were on the road to Balbaam after seeing his ship dwindle as it sailed out to sea, that she might have acted exactly the same way. The fact that he was gone for six months or more only made matters worse. She couldn’t exactly send him a letter of apology.
She sighed after a large bump in the road, for there were many along this stretch of riverbank, and realized that she likely had seen the last of Trak. She wiped away a tear of sorrow, one of many in the past, and there were likely more to come in the future.
“Don’t be so sad,” Asem said. “You are both young, and neither of you are tied down to a single location. I imagine Trak will intrude on your life some time in the future. I rather look forward to it.” He turned to Kulara at his side. “Don’t you?”
Kulara pursed her lips. “She will hurt for some time, Asem.” She punched her husband in the shoulder. “You insensitive beast.”
Asem let a smile drift across his face. “But I am your beast.”
“You are, for better or worse.”
“Oh, it’s always better.”
Valanna looked up and smiled. Their banter had long since ceased to shock her, but it always lightened Valanna’s heart. “I’m better for now.”
by Guy Antibes / Fantasy / Fiction have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes