Chapter Normal Magic Hexagon
Scene Two: Finding the CreekFrom Small Ephart to Lacti Thal and then from Lacti Thal to Dam Hollow, I lightened my pack. That was done by failing to earn food on the way.
Denario continued in his journal, The problem seems to be that folks on these farms and in the towns are becoming less like the Mundredi and more like traditional peasants. They are distrustful of the merchant classes. To the peasants in Easy Valley and Long Valley, I was merely a man who liked math. At the foot of the Long Valley hills, I was a novelty. Here, I have come so close to civilization that I am truly known by profession as an accountant. People expect me to be disdainful of barter. Many of them don’t want to talk with me. The only news they have of accountants comes from their taxes.
At Dam Hollow, I did at least find a small point of interest, a holy mound. The place stands at the border within the north wall. It is devoted to five gods. Already I've forgotten the other four but the fifth is Melcurio. His shrine takes the form of the number eight laid out in rocks. I decided it was in poor repair, so I did what I could by setting stones back to right, packing them in with earth, and watering grasses around the edge to hold the shape together. While I was working, a woman came to observe me. It turned out to be the Priestess of Haph-Penny.
The priestess offered me a job translating her oldest temple documents. The most important document she had in mind, unfortunately, was a ledger, which showed that Melcurio owed the Haph-Penny temple either 400 tuns of barley, which is a ridiculous amount, or '4 flying dogs.'
I admitted to the priestess that I might have mis-translated that last part. She said no, her temple had received a flying dog about twenty years ago and it was rumored that Melcurio had sent it. She felt the words made sense. Did I have another flying dog? she asked. I said no and I was sure Melcurio didn't mean to send any through me. She fed me anyway. It was the first meal I’d earned since Ruin Thal.
The priestess didn't recognize the amulet of the Old Muntabi Empire around my neck. Nor did anyone in the next town, Dam Shallow, which sits on No Map Creek so firmly that the oldest part of town is in the middle of the creek. The riverbed moved there, over time. Water cut a channel where the main street ran. Now, just after the spring thaw, it is deep enough that the citizens of Dam Shallow have to use a bridge to get to the town hall. By midsummer, they told me, the stream will run a few inches deep, twenty feet wide, and it will be filled with tadpoles. Children will play in it and young men and women will run across when they are in a hurry.
No one offered me work in Dam Shallow. Nor did anyone offer me a room except the brewery, which doubles as an inn, and they charged me two coppers for the night. The guards at Ruin Thal seem to be correct. The blue coin of the Muntabi royalty is not likely to help me further unless the Kilmun tribesmen on the other side of the creek acknowledge its authority.
Meanwhile, my supplies are dwindling.
Next: Chapter Nineteen, Scene Three