Chapter no 35: A Parting of Ways

The Name of the Wind

THE WEATHER HELD FAIR, which meant that the wagons rolled into Imre just as the sun was setting. My mood was sullen and hurt. Denna had shared a wagon with Josn the whole of the day, and I, being foolish and proud, had kept my distance.

A whirl of activity sprang up as soon as the wagons rolled to a stop. Roent began to argue with a clean-shaven man in a velvet hat before he had brought his wagon to a full stop. After the initial bout of bargaining, a dozen men began unloading bolts of cloth, barrels of molasses, and burlap sacks of coffee. Reta cast a stern eye over the lot of them. Josn scuttled around, trying to keep his luggage from being damaged or stolen.

My own luggage was easier to manage, as I only had my travelsack. I retrieved it from between some bolts of cloth and moved away from the wagons. I slung it over one shoulder and looked around for Denna.

I found Reta instead. “You were a great help on the road,” she said clearly. Her Aturan was much better than Roent’s, with hardly any trace of a Siaru accent at all. “It is nice to have someone along who can unhitch a horse without being led by the hand.” She held out a coin to me.

I took it without thinking. It was a reflex action from my years as a beggar. Like the reverse of jerking your hand back from a fire. Only after the coin was in my hand did I take a closer look at it. It was a whole copper jot, fully half of what I had paid to travel with them to Imre. When I looked back up, Reta was heading back toward the wagons.

Not sure what to think, I wandered over to where Derrick sat on the edge of a horse trough. He shaded his eyes against the evening sun with one hand as he looked up at me. “On your way then? I almost thought you might stick with us for a while.”

I shook my head. “Reta just gave me a jot.”

He nodded. “I’m not terribly surprised. Most folks are nothing but dead weight.” He shrugged. “And she appreciated your playing. Have you ever thought of trying out as a minstrel? They say Imre’s a good place for it.”

I steered the conversation back to Reta. “I don’t want Roent to be angry with her. He seems to take his money pretty seriously.”

Derrick laughed. “And she doesn’t?”

“I gave my money to Roent,” I clarified. “If he’d wanted to give some of it back, I think he’d do it himself.”

Derrick nodded. “It’s not their way. A man doesn’t give money away.” “That’s my point,” I said. “I don’t want her to get in trouble.”

Derrick waved his hands back and forth, cutting me off. “I’m not doing a good job explaining myself,” he said. “Roent knows. He might have even sent her over to do it. But grown Cealdish men don’t give away money. It’s seen as womanish behavior. They don’t even buy things if they can help it. Didn’t you notice that Reta was the one who bargained for our rooms and food at the inn a few nights ago?”

I did remember, now that he mentioned it. “But why?” I asked.

Derrick shrugged. “There isn’t any why. It’s just the way they do things.

That’s why so many Cealdish caravans are husband-wife teams.” “Derrick!” Roent’s voice came from behind the wagons.

He sighed as he stood up. “Duty calls,” he said. “See you around.”

I tucked the jot into my pocket and thought about what Derrick had said. The truth was, my troupe had never gone so far north as to make it into the Shald. It was unnerving to think I wasn’t as world-wise as I’d thought.

I slung my travelsack over my shoulder and looked around one last time, thinking that perhaps it would be best if I left without any troublesome goodbyes. Denna was nowhere to be seen. That settled it then. I turned to leave…

…and found her standing behind me. She smiled a little awkwardly with her hands clasped behind her back. She was lovely as a flower, and totally unconscious of it. I was suddenly short of breath, and I forgot myself, my irritation, my hurt.

“You’re still going?” She asked. I nodded.

“You could come to Anilin with us,” she suggested. “They say the streets are paved with gold there. You could teach Josn to play that lute he carries around.” She smiled. “I’ve asked him, and he’s said he wouldn’t mind.”

I considered it. For half a heartbeat I almost threw my whole plan aside just to stay with her a little longer. But the moment passed and I shook my head.

“Don’t look like that,” she chided me with a smile. “I’ll be there for a while, if things don’t work out for you here.” She trailed off hopefully.

I didn’t know what I could do if things didn’t work out for me here. I was hanging all my hopes on the University. Besides, Anilin was hundreds of miles away. I barely owned the clothes on my back. How would I find her?

Denna must have seen my thoughts reflected on my face. She smiled playfully. “I guess I’ll just have to come looking for you, then.”

We Ruh are travelers. Our lives are composed of meetings and partings,

with brief, bright acquaintances in-between. Because of this I knew the truth. I felt it, heavy and certain in the pit of my stomach: I would never see her again.

Before I could say anything she looked nervously behind her. “I had better go. Watch for me.” She flashed her impish smile again before turning to walk away.

“I will,” I called after her. “I’ll see you where the roads meet.”

She glanced back and hesitated for a moment, then waved and ran off into the early evening twilight.

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