Chapter 6: VI

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

Reads: 35

“Calamity!”

Laina quickened his pace into the dining room, eluded by the commotion. Something was wrong, and Wilagras was soon to announce what it was. He burst from the larder feeling perturbed. The deep and smooth voice of Marneas asked calmly what the calamity was.

“The wine! There is no more! Nor any other liquid except water and tea! Furthermore most of the meat has gone bad, and so has much of the vegetable! Woe be unto me, for my negligence has allowed this to happen!”

“Calm yourself Wilagras, for you have been a faithful and excellent servant. Prepare what breakfast you can, and we’ll send out the apprentices for more. They could use some fresh air”.

Thus, breakfast was made. Laina took his usual seat despite arriving early, out of respect for the others. The last of the eggs and meat were used, and all that had spoiled was disposed of. There was plenty of tea to go around, as usual. Lessons were postponed for the next day; this would be an all-day affair. Laina and Anisé knew their fate. Laina was eager to explore the city above where the shops were, and to spend time with Anisé. Anisé was to show him around. She was disappointed by this task, as she would rather work on her own projects. However, she understood the purpose of this excursion. Laina needed more exposure to the city, and the shopping was best done in a team of two, so it would be these two.

Laina and Anisé, after breakfast, exited the manor. Laina let out an “oh!” as they walked through the garden. Anisé asked what brought about his exclamation, and he said as casually as possible that it was merely an epiphany about his research. It was an epiphany indeed: he forgot to water the pansies that night. He would do it this night for sure, and spoke not of his error. The two walked quietly through the undercity. Anisé led and Laina followed, for the footpaths were too narrow for Laina to intercept her and walk by her side. When the paths widened as they got to the city center, she continued to lead, for he was suddenly too shy.

Laina enjoyed the gardens and fountains and statues of the undercity, bathed in yellow light and warmth by the orb, but the beauty of this divine area was now amplified in the presence of Anisé. As he followed her, he felt as though he were in a dream of romanticism. There was something profoundly moving to him about the ever-increasing blur of the hedges and sculptures and elves in beautiful clothing, overpowering him with a paradisiacal impression. Yet this trance was only complete with the following of Anisé, for he was speeding past all these aspects of paradise so that he could be with her. He had found paradise and beheld that which allured him even more.

This sensation abruptly ended when Laina realized he was out of breath. Anisé had sped up, intentionally or otherwise, and Laina had naturally sped up to keep up the pace. Either way, they found themselves at the opposite end of the city center, and it was now time to ascend the residential footpaths to the stairs that would lead them to the surface. Laina silently swore to himself not to be a gentleman and overplay his hand. In fact, he looked back on his bliss with a little embarrassment. Was he delusional? This was a fellow apprentice, and his time at Dranistos was not likely to be passed down through the ages as a chivalric romance. He wouldn’t court her like in the folk tales. Yet he couldn’t bring himself to force away his amorous emotions. He decided to just wait and see. In the meantime there was a larder to replenish.

The ascent up the stairs was tedious. Anisé insisted Laina go first, and he had no reason not to. At no point during the climb did oblivious Laina guess that Anisé did not want to risk him looking up at her, clad in an elegant white dress. Sooner or later the two were outside, and both out of breath. The resulting endorphins made them more chatty, while they walked westward towards the markets.

“This is the first time I’ve seen the sky in a few days”.

“For me it has been longer” said the ever sly Anisé.

“How long have you been under?”
“Most recently was a month ago. This was to pick up the imports.”

“Do you not miss the sun?”

“Oh I certainly do, but I’m so preoccupied by the research that I don’t have the time or energy to come up here, except when necessary”.

“Is there anything I can do to help?”

“Other than watering the pansies, no, I don’t believe so”.

“Do let me know if you need assistance, I’d be happy to help”.

“Why are you so eager to provide assistance? Doesn’t Marneas work you enough?”

Laina did not have an answer for this that he felt comfortable sharing, but he was saved by Anisé’s quickness.

“By the way, you did water the pansies last night, right? I hadn’t seen you do it.”

“Yes” said Laina, attempting to conceal his awkward smile.

“Good, you must be stealthy then” said Anisé, although really she was astute enough to reason that he forgot. She would be more watchful that night.

“What was imported?” said Laina, eager to change the subject.

“A few uncommon varieties of orchid, some samples of ivory, some water samples with alchemical properties for study, and tea from Alanathia”.

“What varieties of tea exactly?”

“A few, mostly green with various flavours. Anything labelled as lemon is mine. Which do you drink?”

Laina wasn’t used to being asked questions by her, and had to think for an answer. “I usually go for black and add milk and squeeze into it juice from the oranges.”

Anisé didn’t say anything of that, but had a look of surprise, as though she never considered that combination before. They did find common ground in the addition of citrus.

“Where are we going exactly?” asked Laina.

“A winery to arrange for more kegs to be delivered. We won’t be carrying it back with us, they’ll send someone over”.

“And then where?”

“By then we’ll be at the largest market in Dranistos, and we’ll look around. You never know what pleasures we may find. I was given a fat coinpurse”.

Laina was brought to joy by this. He was not excited by shopping, but by shopping with her.

“What else?” asked he.

“Then once we are content with that, we’ll go to the importer for alchemical goods and pick up more. I don’t have anything for myself this time, but Jolanthea does. I think she has a project planned.”

“Any idea what it is?”

“Something about potions for plants. She wants to concoct a potion for them that will make them process light more efficiently, and she isn’t exactly sure how”

“What other potions for plants are there?”

“One technique we use is the addition of fertilizer and a potion that causes the plants to process the fertilizer more efficiently. It works like a charm!”

Laina was not an alchemist and did not have anything to say to that, but he did admittedly find it impressive. Suddenly Anisé turned a corner and Laina followed. It was a narrower road. Anisé called it a shortcut. Laina admired her confidence. The conversation ended as the noise of the crowds became distant. Another corner was turned. Around them were houses of multiple stories. There was an unpleasant smell. It was a relief when they entered onto a busier street, and before them was the winery.

“Here it is, follow me.”

They entered, and the interior was elegant. This was an upper class establishment, Laina guessed. A richly dressed and soft-spoken elf sought to address them, but Anisé spoke first. Laina wondered why she had to be spoken to first when it was him, but she took the charge when it came to strangers of higher status.

“We are from Marneas, we ran out of wine. Here is his list.”

“Ah, Marneas...”

The elf’s voice trailed off as he realized he couldn’t pretend to know him. He took the list and looked over it briefly.

“I will have this order fulfilled. Expect the delivery early this evening”

“Thank you” said Anisé with a grace that caught Laina’s attention.

Anisé jestured Laina that they would be going, and so they were outside once more. Anisé smiled playfully to Laina and walked south to the main road. Laina followed eagerly. They waded through the crowds on that main road and found themselves at the public square by the docks. Laina had looked around here on his first day in Dranistos. This was not the market that Anisé alluded to. Before them were ships and the river Naranios. Laina took displeasure at this sight, for it was a method of leaving this great city. Anisé led him south down another great road, and quickly they arrived at a vast and energetic open market.

“We are here! I don’t want you getting lost so try to stay by me, or don’t let me leave you by your lonesome”.

Laina was all too happy to abide by this: “I shall!”

The market was arranged as a grid. On the sides of this area were indoor shops. The two went down the rightmost lane. Their eyes were immediately everted by the sights of the stalls. Many goods from all nations could be found here. There were works of art of any number of mediums, and glass and ceramic wares, and teas and spices and food and jewelry and services and metal and more diversity in clothing for sale than Laina thought possible. Jentria, the imperial capital itself, has wonders of its own, but it seemed uncultured compared to Dranistos. At each stall they would at least glance, and every few they would look thoroughly, and one in each dozen would be purchased from. Anisé was quick to acquire a sack, and it became full as the lanes were each stalked by them. There were a few boxes of tea, boxes of chocolate, jars, a necklace, several dresses, shirts, a tapestry portraying ancient towers of Inathas, and seeds. Both were filled with glee, and if Laina hoped this would be a bonding experience, it was. Anisé and Laina then scoured the periphery. First was a bookseller. They entered.

“Anisé, where is the elven literature?”

She laughed and covered her mouth as if that concealed it. “It’s all around you!” she said cheerfully.

“Does Marneas have all of Zonean’s works?”

“Not yet, but we can look here”.

“Now?”

Anisé led Laina to where Zonean would be. There were a few. Laina was overjoyed at this, but Anisé was at first disappointed. Then she found just one that was not already available to her. She pulled it out and handed it to Laina, and explained that it would be a new addition. He was even more overjoyed. He examined it. It was titled Doctor Wardas. Anisé explained that it was the final work in the series. The two split up. Laina just walked around and took in the sights. He didn’t know what would be redundant so he picked out nothing else. Anisé returned to him with a few others, appearing proud of herself. The books were paid for and then they left. The pair, who could now be mistaken for a couple by any of the strangers, walked past the storefronts, and the boutiques did not interest them at a higher rate than the stalls. Once they had completed a full circle, Anisé had an idea.

“We shall eat. I’ll show you my favorite eatery, it’s this way!”

Laina once more followed her, and he was returned to the trance he felt in the undercity. He was curious where they went, but mainly he savoured the moment. They took a street away from the market headed west. They were now at a waterfront adjacent to the docks, and made their way south. This area of the city was one of the most beautiful, with many grand structures paralleled by a beautiful waterfront. A building resembling a boutique was among the fountains and steps of the waterfront. They entered. Anisé led them to a table.

A waiter quickly came to them and took their orders. This was not a place of perpetual stew, and it was but a pub compared to the most refined establishments in Dranistos. Anisé ordered a vegetable soup and Laina ordered the same for he was unfamiliar with the customs of this sort of establishment. Anisé found this amusing, and Laina blushed. The soups came and were eaten eagerly, for they were hungry. “Better than Wilagras’s cooking” they agreed, and that was in fact not an insult to Wilagras. They ordered pastries, paid and exited, and began their walk north towards the importer. It was several minutes later when they sat at a bench together, and ate the pastries. Both were lemon.

A ship passed by, and Anisé stood and watched as it passed. She continued to watch after it passed, gazing out at the river and the forest beyond. Across the river was the realm of Honicia, the largest and greatest of the realms of men in the east. Rindon was far greater than any other of the human nations in size and power. Honicia was merely a regional power. Unlike the men of Rindon, the men of the east were known to be more romantic and spiritual, and less pragmatic. As much as Laina and Anisé preferred their own land, they admitted that the men of the east had superior taste in the decoration of both space and time.

Laina took the opportunity to gaze at Anisé, for he had never truly done so. He could recognize her face, but he never examined her. Her hair was long, red and subservient to the wind. Her face was soft and unmarred as far as Laina could tell. Her nose was small, and her lips were perhaps the most perfect he had ever seen. Her neck was long and smooth. He was most enchanted by her eyes, which were full of expression. She appeared to squint when she took notice of something in particular, and she gazed lovingly when she admired the view overall.

Her dress was, although modest, more revealing of her form than usual. Her shoulders were narrow and soft, and her arms were as elegant as the idealized women made of stone under the orb. Her hands held all as the sun kisses the earth. Her waist was thin, and her hips were wider. She carried herself with pride and grace when she was in her element. Laina believed her to be the most beautiful example of her gender he had ever witnessed. He also examined her breasts, which to him seemed as though they were being restrained. He averted his gaze before he was noticed. He felt ashamed, and decided it was time to move on.

“We have imports to pick up, I believe”.

Anisé was a little disappointed by the interruption, but knew he was right. She agreed, and they kept walking. The winds of the river kept them cool and blew Anisé’s hair in the way that Laina was beginning to enjoy. Laina felt a little embarrassed and looked to the city. Anisé looked the other direction. He wondered what drew her to the river.


Submitted: April 28, 2021

© Copyright 2021 Alf McGuire. All rights reserved.

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