I turn my back, intending to leave Koso to these people and their fate. Instead, Koso grabs my arm on reflex. His muscles pull tight, screaming for me to stop. I glance up, and his face is impassive, but his eyes glint their sharp edges at me. He will not reprimand me, he cannot, but if I go there will be hell to pay. I remain still, locked in place, neither turning to face these newcomers nor departing as I would have liked. Koso drops my arm and continues the conversation, now kept to strictly business terms.
“Tomas and I will assist in the removal of merchandise. I take inventory, we move your goods to the storehouse, and you get your payment.”
“Alright,” Isiore says, ”but is there a place we can sleep for the night? We’ve been on the seas for more than a week, and I’d rather bunk on solid ground.”
His words catch me off guard. Strangers never stay here, in this little nameless seaside town of outcasts. Some make this attempt, with tired, seasick legs, but after venturing into the town itself, they hurry back. They either sail home or stay in the makeshift one-room guest place connected to the porthouse, built a few years ago after a visiting merchant commented on his distaste for the town.
Were I a visitor, I would see the town as I would see a ghost- empty, still, and unnervingly alive. People bustle, chat, conduct their lives and livelihoods. Children laugh and chase one another across the woods. Yet the elderly are silent, staring at their world as though they cannot believe it. They move woodenly, old veterans of a war. Children know who not to approach, which of the old will not so much as look at a child, and which will take the young upon their laps and stare at them with long-lost sight. There is something hollow about the town, with the watching elderly and carefree children, with adults who whisper. There is a reason that the town has no name- there are no others around to name it.
Yet Isiore and his family are now following me, following Koso back towards the porthouse. Koso retrieves his inventory list, and gives the name of a family who might be willing to host Isiore and his for the night. Isiore sends Eravyn with a note from Koso, explaining the situation and asking for housing. None of Isiore’s children have spoken yet.