The Torcher’s Tale
By Leonard C Suskin
This visit was the first time we saw the Roi. I was walking one of the stone-paved streets with my uncle Kahn when we saw two pale men walked side-by-side in the center of the street. They were, even paler than the Aleph-ya. They wore colored tunics and what looked like a narrow, tightly fit version of Aleph-ya’s long divided skirt. Kahn took a half-step to the left side of the street, but the two Roi didn’t stray one grain from their course. My uncle roughly pushed me out of the way as he sidestepped them at the last minute, and turned to look hard at them.
“Why Uncle? Why did you let them push us aside?”
He stared passed the place where the two Roi had turned a corner and vanished from sight. “They walk as if they own the city, Lohr. We might have new trading partners.”
Three week’s later I was still in the city, which was now called “Wothan”. We learned many things during those weeks. It was a long time to stay in one city.
We learned that the Aleph-ya no longer controlled their own city, that the best of the stone buildings were occupied by the Roi.
We learned that the Roi had come from across the same seas the Aleph-ya had sailed.
I learned the rudiments of the Roi’s writing. It was an angular, simpler shadow of the Aleph-ya’s written script. I’d seen the latter, but never learned it. I only learned this because Uncle Kahn insisted that I attend the “schoolhouse” the Roi held in what had been the Efaaplis’s upper market. Ged, of the Aleph-ya, sat next to me. He would glare at the teacher when he spoke of how his people were crooked merchants who had cheated the Roi at every turn. This was why the Roi had crossed the sea, why they’d moved the Aleph-ya into tent-cities while they took over the tall stone buildings, and why they were educating us. If young men like Ged or I learned about the rich culture of the Roi, of their ancient songs and poems and arts, then we would know how truly lucky we were to be treated almost as equals so we might someday aspire to such heights. If we knew these things, we’d never cheat them again.
“I don’t want you to think that we see you people here as all bad,” explained the Roi teacher, “it’s not your fault that you’re ignorant. We’ll teach you about the Gods and our songs and proper, clean writing. He looked straight at Ged. “Your primitive squiggles aren’t quite real writing, but they give you a head start over your sandwalking friends. And the cleverness you’ve shown in cheating us means you have the native intelligence to be good clerks and agents.” He turned to me, “And you, sandwalker, are a good-hearted and honorable people. We know we can trust you.” I was so full of pride at this bit of praise that I didn’t dare correct him and shatter the moment; our people were known simply as Walkers. After all, if one isn’t in a city what else is there to walk on besides sand?
- - -
I'm a full-time AV professional, full-time husband, and full-time father. In between these full-times, I like to scribble pretty words.
Labels: Leonard C Suskin