When Chris woke up, he was surprised by two things. First, he found himself lying on the ground instead of a bed with tall shrubs all around. Second, he was feeling ravenous. He squeezed his eyes shut and reopened them to focus his vision. The steel glass kept beside a tree made him remember that he had come here after talking to Sarah. Elanya had brought the glass... and they had talked for some time. He had been lying on the ground while she had sat beside him. He didn’t remember watching her go, and didn’t remember what the last thing they had been talking about was. He must have fallen asleep while talking.
For a moment he wanted to bury himself in the ground, embarrassed by thinking what she would have thought of him when he fell asleep during a conversation. But the feeling of mortification passed and hunger made itself felt with quite an audible rumble. Then he got up, picked up the glass and emerged out of the Seyara. He took a moment to get his bearings then headed straight for the inn. He requested the innkeeper to get the glass washed for him and asked for tea and the biggest thing available for breakfast which made her look at him and chuckle.
“You sit over there, beside the third window, and I’ll have your order sent to you.” She pointed out the table to him.
The inn was occupied by only four more people, so accommodation was hardly a problem and a table was empty nearby. But Chris did as he was directed and sat at the table, and was soon presented with a loaf of freshly baked bread, eggs resembling almost those he used to scramble at home, and a cup of herbal green tea. The maid who brought his order observed his hungry expression with mild amusement, and laughed out loud when he asked for another loaf, buttered this time- and more tea a few minutes later. “You do be a grand eater, Master Earthborn. The grandest I’ve ever seen.” She said as she brought another loaf for him from the kitchen.
Chris looked down at the bread. He had hardly waited to see the dimensions of the previous one he had eaten, but her comment made him pause and inspect. It was considerably large, about a foot in length and four inches in width, and almost four inches tall. The tea had settled the bread in his stomach, and he realised that he possibly couldn’t eat another full. Embarrassed, he politely asked the maid if she would take it back and give him just a half.
She laughed again. “Don’t you worry Master Earthborn. We won’t run out of bread.” His cheeks reddened.
“No, no...I seriously mean it, er....?”
The maid looked at him curiously, and he realised that she obviously did not realise that he was waiting for her name.
“What’s your name?”
“Yes. I’m Chris- uh-Earthborn, as you seem to know already. You are?”
“Well, Zanya, I really want you to take it back and give me only half of it.”
“As you wish, Master Earthborn.” She bent forward to pick up his plate.
“And call me Chris.”
She paused in the process of taking the plate away.
“I possibly can’t do that, Master.”
“Why?” Chris sipped his tea.
“No one ever addresses a customer by his name in Arendil. It’s a rule.”
“And is there a rulebook as well?”
“No, there isn’t. But it’s not proper.”
“Don’t bother me with what’s proper. A customer is always right, right?” She looked at him as if she was caught between going away or staying and explaining the things to him. She nodded her head after some time.
“All right Master Chris.”
He ate the half loaf brought to him slower than his first one, and after finishing his third cup of tea he went out, but not before overhearing Zanya tell the innkeeper that Master Nephtherborn was strange and spoke one word twice. As he stood outside the inn’s door he tried to clear his confusion, and started walking towards the house he had been allotted yesterday. He saw Sarah coming out from Elanya’s house and moving towards him. He stood there and waited while still thinking over what Zanya had said.
She was barely a few paces away when he suddenly remembered saying “right, right?” He was looking at Sarah when he started laughing.
He’s mad. Her thought came floating to him, and for some reason he could never understand he laughed again for a minute more before stopping.
Maybe because he was full, or maybe a night’s sleep had done him some good. Either ways, when he finally straightened and faced Sarah, he knew he was in a good mood.
“Wassup?” He asked.
“Where were you in the morning?”
“At the inn, why?”
“I didn’t see you going there.”
“I fell asleep inside the Seyara.”
On that itchy grass.... eww!
It wasn’t that bad, honest.
So we’re cool now?
What made you think we weren’t?
She raised an eyebrow, and automatically his behaviour the previous day hammered itself into his mind from the subconscious regions of his brain, as if the eyebrow movement had been a cue to start the hammering.
“Yes, we are.”
“Good. Because we are going to-”
Chris, there’s a man looking out of your window. The feeling of just how alarmed she was crammed into his mind along with her thoughts.
WHAT? Chris quickly suppressed the instinctive urge to turn around to look at the house.
Sarah was also looking at him now, and he could tell that she was straining to keep looking in his direction.
What do we do?
I’ll go inside and see.
No, he could be armed- he could- Sarah stopped, but as always her thoughts floated into his mind. Hurt you.
Sometimes she confused him endlessly. But now he knew it was just concern, in a good friend kind of way. He couldn’t believe he had thought that Sarah would like him- she was the Sarah at college after all.
Don’t worry. You go ahead and find John and tell him what’s happening; I’ll see who it is.
Are you crazy? I am staying right here.
What if he gets both of us? Don’t be stupid, at least tell Elanya.
O...okay. You be careful, and don’t go inside unless I get her.
Sarah turned around and ran towards Elanya’s house. Breathless, she jumped the stairs and slammed the door open. She turned to look before she went inside to see Chris moving towards the house slowly.
You...! I told you to stay! She felt her thoughts ramming into a wall. “Elanya! Elanya!” She glanced once inside the kitchen before running upstairs and met Elanya as she came down from the bedroom.
“What is it?”
“There’s someone inside Chris’ house, so he asked me to get John. I told him not to enter before I returned, but he... he...” she clenched her fists so hard that the knuckles turned white. “That jerk just won’t listen! C’mon, let’s go.”
“I will get John, you go and check on him. But don’t enter the house, it might be dangerous.”
“Who cares?” She paused while Elanya ran downstairs and went out of the house. Her statement could mean either way. Either she was not caring about what happened to Chris because he didn’t listen to her and was stupid enough to enter. Or maybe it meant that she didn’t care if it was dangerous to go inside, because she had to go after Chris. For a few moments she couldn’t decide what way her voice had sounded. Then she turned on her heels and ran out of the house.
She couldn’t decide which way she had meant it either.
As soon as Sarah was out of sight, Chris shielded his thoughts and walked towards his house. He pushed open the door and saw an old man sitting at the dining table and smoking a pipe. Clad in a green overcoat with golden embroidery and brown leather shoes, he deduced he was a wealthy man.
“You live here?”
“Yes. Who are you?”
“My name is Faroze, and I am a Stargazer. I have something important to tell you.” He spoke in a manner that suggested that man was in a hurry. He was now standing, and Chris saw that his eyes seemed to change colour. Or maybe they weren’t coloured at all, refracting light like marbles. They could have been transparent.
Faroze beckoned for him to sit in front of him, so Chris slowly walked forward and sat on the chair. The man was at least five-six inches taller than him, and he was carrying a sword at his side. Chris felt like a coiled rope, sitting in front of an armed man and in no position to defend himself.
“This is the only house I saw since coming here that was empty in the morning, so I came in. You are new here- I presume from the lack of any signs of staying here. You know Jenna Seymar, the Guestkeeper?”
“Yes, but she doesn’t live here, I do.”
“I know. Listen, I have to tell you something very important, and it is of utmost importance that you tell this to her as soon as possible. Can you do that?”
“I guess so.”
A minute later Chris felt blood drain away from his face.