The Fifth Path (2/30)

Nabua’s Journal Entry for Nisan 6th

Lot to describe. Many things have happened. Got assigned to year long Awakening. Sets plans back, but opens new possibilities. Companions are ok. Both seem a bit slow. Baal child is better than most Baal. Named Uras. Is a twin and second oldest son of the Old Bastard. Thinks he is better than everyone, but isn’t a jerk about it. Actually paid attention in schooling. Knows a few languages and doesn’t need everything explained six times. Only thrice. Treats me a like a servant, but not a slave. Not a Hishtu hater. Bodyguard is a woman. Named Anatu. Pretty, and not terribly dull, but she doesn’t like me. Not sure why. Hope I can make both like me more. Journey is long, and traveling with enemies tedious. Neither knows anything about the outlands. At least they can speak Hishtu. My first time too, but I studied and I have spoken with out-men many times. Maybe they believe the lies, think that outland is cursed or not real. If not, don’t understand ignorance. Makes me more valuable though. Time to learn, for me and them. Must learn faster, if I want to maintain usefulness. Have maybe one months head start. Thinking I am smarter though, should be ok. Problem is usefulness means work. More work means less time to learn. Less work means more time to learn. Have to be careful. Enough with companions. Much time to speak of them.

Left after delays. Some kind of relparty. Very dull. Attacked twice. Drinking makes the hate more real. Glad for my quick feet and knowledge of grounds of palace. Invested all money. Not need it for a year. Hope wheat does well next year. Old Bastard took me aside. Gave me many names. Gave me maps. Gave me money and goods to trade. Promised to send a hunting party for my head if Uras died. Believe him. Party made planning harder, but gave more time. Long time since last year long trip. No records of where to go past the jade lands. Will need to acquire new maps and new plans as we go. First month smooth. After that, a mystery. Excited. Much for me to learn. Many ways to make life better on journey. Maybe I can stay in outlands. If I go far enough hunters can’t find me. If Uras returns, Old Bastard won’t care about me. Time will tell.

At last we left. Just me and companions. Ox cart travel was quick. Best trained oxen for Baal. Uras talked a lot. Likes to pontificate. Not terrible orator though. Could be much worse. Woman listened intently. Either fancies him or pretends to. Disappointing. Still, much time left. We made it to boat. Woman never seen outlander before. Reaction funny. Baal child has seen more. Outlander friend of mine. Named Eric. Had to hide friendship though. Not supposed to have talked. Eric not supposed to have been in our lands. Companions not know hand signs though. Also slow at Histu. Eric much better. We talk fast and sign for secret things. Eric not know about Awakening. Tell him that all rules gone, technology and magic is free for us. He is happy. Engine much faster than sails. Even Uras never seen engine before. Afraid woman would kill Eric. Seemed very frightened at first. Fear changes to wonder. Good reaction. Hope will continue. Woman becomes sick. Engine can cause in many people. Baal child tends to her. Much time to talk with Eric. Tells me about new changes. One of our destinations now controlled by aggressive religious leader. Might need to sneak through or skip. Need to see what companions know about outlander religion. Assume woman knows only about Bel, but maybe Uras knows more. Will need to teach or we will be killed. More info from Eric though. Not just political changes. New technology spreading. Explosive powder propels balls of different substances. Powder useful for many things, but mostly used for weapons. Most weapons are very large, used on ships. Eric says he heard of small version though. Kills like a bow, but needs less practice and is smaller. Ask about why small version is better than crossbow, but get no good response.

First night in ship is fun. We catch fish and eat them. Woman is basically unconscious, isn’t able to eat or talk. Uras good at stories, even when speaking in Hishtu. Talk about stopping at closer town because of sick woman, but decide it is safer to continue to original destination. Change course slightly to stay close to land if woman gets worse. Uras joins our conversation. We slow down. Tell him about different currencies. Exchange rate explained twice. Asks about appearance of outlanders. Tell him, but he doesn’t believe. Will see tomorrow. Thought he had seen many, but maybe only the pale ones like Eric. Ask Eric about plans. Tells me about chance to transport new powder. Make arrangements to buy some, and meet him on other side of island. We will travel across by land, see the capital of the island, then pass on and meet up with Eric. Time schedule made. Hope we can make it across in time. We wait too long and Eric has to leave. Other transport will be more risky.

Sleep ok. Fantastic dreams. Dream of lands I have read about. Chance to visit them is incredible. Even if I must return, glad I get this chance. Baal child seems to find wonder too. Maybe we can all run away together. Too soon to ask. Much too soon. Next day Eric is busy. Boat hard to steer close to land. Try to talk to Uras, but he is worried about woman. Sit down, plan, think. Long wait. We land in town of Imba. Trading town. Hub for many cultures. Rest of island controlled by Hashim, but Imba is free. Many Hashim islands close by. Again, must remember to tell companions about religions. Hashim are Kazim, which is not bad. Still need veils for travel though. Be careful with elements too. As soon as they wake up, I teach them. Still have time for a bit more writing though.

We stay at inn. Able to barter us two nights for some well made shirts. Prepare to exchange money on next day. Talk to innkeeper about where to go to get a guide to capital. According to map, there is a desert between us and capital. Turns out paying a guide might be too dangerous. Better to join a caravan heading that way. Ask about locations of both. Ask about money changing and precautions for desert travel. Ask about local dangers and anything a foreigner might not know. Tells me a lot. Helps that he is Histu. In retrospect, first outlander Hishtu I have met. Rare outside of the homeland. Books tell me that we all came from the outlands, but that Hishtu were mostly killed. Homeland is the only place that we were safe, though treated as slaves. Had not thought about in a long time. Always think of homeland as original place. Meet innkeepers wife when he invites me for dinner. Another shock. She is not Hishtu. Or she is not Hishtu race. She is Hishtu religion, but has the skin tone of those of the far southern lands. In homeland mixing is rare. Always Hishtu converts to religion of Bel. Never considered conversion other way. Dumb of me. Need to think like an outlander. If I can’t I will be useless. Dinner tasty. Spices I have never tried. New vegetables. Some kind of twisty bread with salt. Good times. I slept well.

Next day is crazy. Talk to Baal child in the morning. Says we need a guide and not a caravan. Something about the presentation of a ruler. First time he has done anything too stupid. Maybe we die and it never happens again. Try to explain, but doesn’t listen. Shake my head. Woman is awake and feeling well. She and Uras go into town together to explore. Stay behind. Talk to innkeeper for a bit. Head into town to find guide, get supplies so we don’t die. First, need to change money. Have a huge amount now, but keeping it all for a year might be hard. Take very small fraction for now. Can trust this innkeeper to watch stuff, but will need to be more cautious in the future. Erik mentioned something about banks, but I don’t understand yet. Find money changer. Much negotiations. Homeland money is rare. Hard to spend. Made of valuable metal though. Have to trade at only little above metal value. Still, should be enough. Will be harder to change money as we get further. Need to expect melting value. Change mostly to Hashim money. Little bits of others too, just in case. Agaan practitioners only take money printed at their temples. Money sorted out, I head out to find guide.

Even guides don’t want to go without a caravan. Many bandits. Something else too. Some kind of insect or spider. Dangerous if not in big group for some reason. Search long time. Find at last. Very young woman. Almost a girl. Test her knowledge though. She draws the whole island from memory. More detail even than my map. She says she can get us to capital, and then get us to port on other side. Reasonable prices. Agrees to help buy supplies. Very businesslike at first. Becomes friendlier when I switch to Hashim. Says accent is terrible, but praises grammar. Named Hadia. Reminds me of sister. Have not seen in years. Family can’t afford to visit capital. Too busy to visit them. If I don’t return, never see them again. Must consider. Hadia is better at bargaining than I. She speaks to the merchants, and we get the supplies in no time. Wonder if companions will balk at veils. Will be important for protection and for talking with Kazim. Almost all Hashim are Kazim. In retrospect, Hadia not wearing veil. Strange. Ask her about it. Says she doesn’t wear in the city. So many faces, demons won’t steal hers. Always wears in the desert though.

Finish shopping. About to return home when jumped. Wish bodyguard woman was here. Hadia distracts them. Leads us up on roofs. We escape. More respect for Hadia. Hope others like her. Sun is going down. Hadia to meet us in the morning. Return to inn. Others already asleep. Store supplies. Talk to innkeeper about animals to ride. Hadia said we would need at least one to carry supplies. Think we have enough for all to ride. Innkeeper has cousin in capital. We can rent some of his and give to cousin to return. Thank him profusely. Make the sign of male god. Returned. Talk late into the night about the turning of the world. When at last I move to retire, innkeeper stops me. Gives me a gift. Says to open once out in the desert. Am moved. Give him my family crest. Only one token of home remains. Can’t sleep. Too much to think about. Consider the morrow. Drift to sleep.

Dreams are strange. I am a bird flying high above the desert. My wings seem to extend forever. My shadow covers the sand and provides shade to my companion. Hadia flies before me, also a bird, one with bright plumage, colors not from this land. A feather falls from my wings and lands before my companions. They use it to fight bandits. Apparently my feathers are strong as steel and sharp as an axe. Wake up. Is early. Go down to prepare the beasts of burden. Am told they are called camels. Strange beasts indeed. Bizarre shapes, as if built to hold riders. We get three for our journey. One for our baggage. The other two to carry two passengers each. With the baggage stored, I return upstairs. Companions still sleep so I write. Now they are waking up. Perfect timing.

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