Barlid lay on his pallet in the little room he and Meekee had found. He liked to look at the pottery he got from the mage Cefn An’derin for showing him the underground Temple of the Kiss of Courage. The pottery glowed in a beam of sunlight. He should have sold it after Cefn gave it to him, but, it reminded him of his mother. She had some of the same type of pottery. She had liked pretty things. That is why he had asked for it as payment for guiding Cefn to the Temple of the Kiss of Courage.
Since he had received the kiss of courage, he had no fear. It was strange. He had seen many of the others with no fear do dangerous things and pay the price with their lives. He stopped himself several times in his early days of no fears before he could do something that could have had tragic consequences. Having always been of a cautious nature, he had little difficulty in stopping to think before acting. He knew he would have to be vigilant for the rest of his life but felt that he could handle it.
He wondered what he was going to do. He couldn’t stay with the shadow boys much longer. He was getting too old. shadow boys could only get temporary work and mostly hard labor jobs. Because many would not hire shadow boys, he spent too much time looking for work and too little time earning a wage. He hated stealing so he rarely stole. When he did, he only stole from people who looked as if they could replace what he stole. He never stole from the merchants and never near them either. That way, when he bought food from them and he tried to let them see just a very hungry boy with very little money; some were sympathetic and gave him larger servings or better food. He didn’t avoid stealing just because more energy was expended on keeping away from the law as in working and seeking work. It was more because his family had stressed honesty when they had been alive and together.
He had no time to learn. His reading and mathematics skills needed to grow if they were to help him get anywhere in this life. His mother and father had both stressed learning. Living in Magnus then Armand, they had thought he could get a job like his father’s and work for the government. Even if there were government jobs here, he had no one to sponsor him. He would have to find some other method to make his way in the world. This was going to take some deep thinking.
He continued to stare at the pottery, he began to smile. Before he lost his fear, he would have let fear keep him from approaching the mage Cefn An’derin. He could not expect the mage Cefn An’derin to help him, but perhaps he would take some time and counsel him as to what to do to begin to change his life. It was worth a try. Cefn often went to the Inn of the Panther. Barlid thought that if he waited along the route to the inn, he might be able to talk with Cefn. He thought, “If not today, then sometime soon,” as he went to the door. He was patient. Barlid started off to see if he could find Cefn.
Cefn turned on Nochtur Street going toward Main Street and the Inn of the Panther, he noticed the shadow boy lounging at the corner. He recognized him as the one who had shown him the way to the temple a sennight ago. He recognized a difference in this boy and most other shadow boys. Though his clothes were tattered and stained, the young man was clean. When he had talked with him, he had been well spoken if a bit arrogant. He turned toward the young man. “Well met.”
Barlid stepped forward. “Well met, lord. I need to talk with you.”
Cefn knew this was because the young man had all fear removed. His interest was piqued by this fearless young man. “Walk with me. You may join me at the inn. We can talk over a mug of ale.” Barlid fell in with Cefn.
“Here, you, no shadow boys are allowed in here.” The bar keeper addressed Barlid.
Cefn turned in his direction. “The young man is with me. Bring us two ales.”
Sitting opposite the mage, Barlid looked at where Cefn’s face should be. Cefn again remembered that this young man had had his fears removed. This gave him the ability to look without flinching into the shadow of the hood that protected and hid his uncanny eyes from the stares of people. Cefn nodded. “You said you needed to talk.” He held up his hand. “Wait until the barmaid leaves. I don’t like my business overheard.” He gave an order for food to the barmaid when she came to the table to leave the ale.
They applied themselves to their food and drink. Once the barmaid took their plates and topped off their ales, they leaned back. “Now, I believe you said you needed to talk with me.”
“Yes, I do. You know that the kiss of courage removed all my fears. I think that I am the last remaining shadow boy who had that done who is still alive. That is probably due to my age. Even though I do not fear anything, I have always thought before I acted. From what I saw, the others acted on impulse and it led to their deaths.”
Cefn, nodded. “I see. You are able to think things through. You are correct in your assumptions. The less mature individual does tend to be impulsive; although maturity does not necessarily come with age. These thoughts lead to your reason for talking with me?”
“Yes. I am getting a bit long in the tooth for a shadow boy. I need to find a new way to make my living; hopefully, a better way that would allow me a more comfortable way of life.
“Over the time I have lived in Dargon, I have observed that some people are better problem solvers. You, sir are one of the best that I have observed. I was hoping that you would help me figure out what to do.”
“I think I could. Let us walk. I find my mind works better for a bit of exercise.” Standing, Cefn turned toward the door.
Barlid, followed. Cefn observed him pausing and handing the barmaid a coin and saying, “Thank you for your service. I wish it could be more.”
She smiled at him and walked over to the bar.
The bartender asked, “What was that all about? Do you want me to rap him up the side of the head?”
“No! He just paid me a complement and tipped me to boot. That is not a shadow boy.”
No one could see Cefn’s smile.
Once they were walking, Cefn started talking. “Out of sight, out of mind, you need to get out of your present room and change they way you dress and look. Within a sennight, people will get used to you being absent and stop looking for you, even stop thinking about you. Then if they see you, they will not recognize you.”
“I can see that. With the disappearance of the little ones, people aren’t even talking about them anymore.”
“If you have anything in your room that you need, go get it and meet me where we met today. I need to run an errand so wait if I have not returned by the time you arrive. I know of a place you can stay for the time being and I have some clothes that should fit you that someone left with me. A different haircut will help also.”
Cefn walked toward Market Square. Once he was near the booth he found a shadow boy to carry a message to Corambis. Soon the sage came out of the booth and walked toward Cefn. “Come walk with me, Corambis, I will buy you something to drink.”
Laughing, Corambis spoke as he came up to Cefn, “I have customers lined up outside my booth, and you want to take a walk.”
“This will not take long and you can tell those in the line that you had to consult with a colleague which will be the truth. I have need of your knowledge. Do you want lemonade or wine to drink?”
“I would get lemonade for Thuna and drink one myself. If I started drinking wine, I might not want to go back to my customers.”
Cefn stopped and turned toward Corambis. “What do you know about a shadow boy named Barlid?”
“Barlid …? I have found him to be a reliable messenger. He appears to be intelligent but at times is a bit arrogant.”
“My assessment also though based on a limited view of the subject. Can you tell me anything else of him?”
“Hmm. I am getting curious about your need for this information. You will inform me of your interest at some time in the future, won’t you?” At a noise suspiciously like a chuckle from Cefn, Corambis continued. “A few days a sennight Barlid has sat in my storeroom and read or practiced mathematics. He a very good reader and is building his mathematics skills.”
“Now, that is interesting. Thank you, my friend.” Cefn turned and walked back the way he had come leaving Corambis holding three cups of l lemonade. Shaking his head, Corambis walked back to his booth.
When Cefn got close to the meeting place, he saw Sergeant Cepero of the town guard talking to Barlid. Barlid did not look afraid of course but the sergeant appeared confused. Cefn thought that it was not often that a shadow boy talked to a town guard without being held by both arms. Walking up, he asked, “May I be of assistance sergeant?”
“Thank you for your offer, lord. This young man said he was waiting for you. He also says that these lovely pieces of Corathin Pottery are his. Since the first claim was correct could you tell me if the second is also correct?”
Smiling a smile that no one could see, Cefn replied, “Yes, sergeant, the pottery does belong to him. He earned it by completing a task for a client.”
“Well with all the strange things going on since the causeway fell, I don’t see why this should be any different. I will bid you both a good day. I need to keep moving. The incidents needing the guards’ attention are increasing.” He walked off toward the marketplace.
“Let us go.” They started off eastward walking down the Street of Travellers. They stopped at Market Street and turned toward Cefn’s house on a hill right at the corner of the crossing. The two passed behind the house to a smaller building.
Entering the building Cefn left the door open for light. Barlid saw eating and cooking utensils by a fireplace. A table and chairs sat close to a window. A bed was built into a back corner of the room. “Wait here. You can put your package on the table and open the curtains for light. I will be right back.” When he returned, he handed Barlid some clothes. “I think these should fit you.
“There are two sets. You can wear one set while the other is washed. I don’t have any boots but yours look good enough. There is a wash tub at the back of the house, bring it down here.”
Barlid nodded and left the room. When he got back he placed the washtub outside of the door. Cefn told him to start hauling water. He would fill the tub and pots to heat water for a more comfortable bath.
As he went to get the first bucket of water, Cefn laughingly said “You might prefer to bathe in the room rather than outside where the neighbors would get a show.” Cefn followed him toward the well which was between the smaller building and the house.
Cefn went on toward the house. Before Barlid finished filling the bucket Cefn came from the house carrying two large pots and a large bag which hung from his shoulders.
“If we only fill the three pots half full, they will heat more quickly. Once we have the water heating, you can run an errand.”
Cefn was emptying the bag between the table and the bed as he talked. A couple of small pots, candles and some folded cloths were put on the table. He laid bedding on the bed.
The errand was to Market Square to get some meat pies and juice. Cefn had noticed how quickly the young man had completely emptied his bowl of stew and figured he could stand to eat again. They ended up eating under the trees outside because of the heat in the room. “Well are you ready to begin your transformation? I will cut your hair out here to keep from having to sweep the hair out of the house.”
Cefn left after cutting his hair. Barlid took his bath and donned his new clothes. He felt like a new person. Cefn would allow him to stay in the building for some work around the grounds of the larger house. The building had been used as a house before. He put his pottery on the mantle above the fireplace. All in all, he was better off than before.
He cleaned up his small house. He used a broom found in a corner to sweep the water out the door. He put the tub and both buckets out beside the house. With a new bucket of water, he washed the table with some of the stronger soap Cefn had brought in one of the pots. He also wiped down the mantle and all of the furniture in the room. Barlid put the bedding onto the bed.
The work on the grounds would take very little of his time, so even if he did not get a better job he still could get part time work as a message carrier for Corambis and others. He could work on his skills in mathematics at Corambis’ place as before. The coins he got for those jobs would meet his needs. If he was careful, he could build up a savings which may be helpful. He needed to stay around his small home for a sennight at least before he went looking for a job.
After the help Cefn had given him, all Barlid had to do was find some type of work that would give him a future worth working for. Before the kiss of courage, he worried about the future a lot. HIs greatest fear had been that he would be old and still on the street. Now he did not fear the future. He was confident he would find a position that would develop into a vocation.
Cefn had given him a start; it was up to him to keep going to his new future.
The sennight had passed so slowly. If he had not had the yard work to keep him busy, he might have gone crazy. He had not seen Cefn since the day he moved into the little house. He had decided to go to Corambis to ask him about available jobs. After washing, he dressed in the better of the two sets of clothes Cefn had given him. The short damp curls on his head appeared more red than brown in the light. He doubted anyone would recognize him even if they got close.
He walked down The Street of Travellers to Nochtur street where he turned toward Coldwell Street. He turned right on Coldwell and proceeded toward Market Square. He had tried to get here before Corambis would have a long line. Ever since the causeway fell, people wanted to have their fortunes cast. It was great for Corambis.
Corambis heard Thuna’s voice. “Oh, well met, Corambis said for you to go right in.”
At the sound of the door closing, Corambis called out, “Come in here.” Corambis was bent over behind his table trying to shove a folded piece of parchment under one of the table legs to stabilize it. He was mumbling to himself.
“Take a seat.” So saying, the sage turned and sat himself down across from the young man. He thought he recognized the young man but was still distracted by the wobbly table. Smiling, he spoke, “Well met. It has been a while since we have met.”
The young man smiled and responded, “Sir, I have just arrived in Dargon. You must have me confused with someone else. My name is Karrel, Karrel Latte. My mother died. My oldest brother had married and moved away. My father brought my older brother and I to move to Dargon. Just outside of Dargon they were killed. I have been staying with an acquaintance. You were recommended as a strong and learned mage and sage. I need to find a position where I might be able to move upward as I prove myself. I hope you might guide me to such a place.”
Grinning and nodding back at Karrel, Corambis coughed. He now realized this was Barlid with a new persona. “Yes, I believe the position you want will be found at the shipping, trading, and storage company called Fifth I Merchants. If you will hand me a piece of that parchment behind you and the quill and bottle of ink, I will write a recommendation. Based on my long acquaintance with your family, I believe I am qualified to do that.”
Thuna came in and handed Karrel a mug and tried to give one to Corambis. “Use your head Thuna! You see I am writing. Greet Karrel Latte and take the mug to drink yourself. Bring mine when Karrel leaves.”
Thuna smiled at Karrel and said, “Well met, Karrel. It is nice to meet you.” Corambis started mumbling so Thuna took the mug and went to the front room.
“The drink is called hot chocolate. In Beinison they drink it without milk or sweetening and it is nasty. The merchant who sells this got the recipe from me. He found a large amount of the raw beans it is made from after the Beinisonians were driven out. He has a good business now. Do you like it?” Corambis smiled and mouthed the name Barlid.
Karrel nodded and took the parchment Corambis handed him. “I thank you for this introduction.”
“It is the least I can do.” Pointing, the sage gave directions. “Go to the corner and turn left. Just a little way down the block is a long, narrow, storey-and-a-half brick building. The offices to Fifth I Merchants are located there. The owner is Master Percantlin, and his assistant is known as Heerans. I wish you well. Come back when you can and let me know how you do.”
It took almost no time for Karrel to be standing in front of Fifth I Merchants. The office stood at the front end of a long and solid warehouse. Warehouses stood next to this one, behind it and across the street from it. It was a warehouse district because it was so close to the Coldwell River and the docks.
Karrel walked up to the door and entered. There was no one seated at the reception desk just inside the door. A substantial looking young man was coming down the stairs and asked Karrel, “How may I help you?”
“Good morning. I have a message of introduction for either Master Percantlin or his assistant Heerans.”
“I will see that Master Percantlin gets it. You may have a seat. He pointed to a bench to one side of the desk in the entrance hall.
“Thank you.” Karrel sat to wait patiently as the other young man disappeared into an office on the next level.
Inside the office, Percantlin thanked Heerans as he took the note. “Have you read this?”
“Yes and I found it interesting. I cannot remember a single time Corambis has written an introduction before.”
Walking back to his desk and sitting, Percantlin nodded. “He has sent us several people over time and he just told them to tell me he sent them or told me ahead of time he was sending someone. I walk past his booth every day.” Pausing he nodded his head. “Yes, this is interesting. I will see this person. Send him in.”
Karrel entered the office to see Master Percantlin sitting behind a desk. “Well met, Karrel Latte. Have a seat.” Percantlin gestured toward an upholstered chair in front of the desk.
“Well met. Thank you Master Percantlin. It is nice to meet you.” Karrel sat in the chair and looked Percantlin in the face.”
“According to this note from Corambis, you are a responsible young man who will work hard for my company and be an asset to us at Fifth I Merchants.”
“Corambis is known for speaking honestly. Everything he says of me in the note is true. I will work hard for your company. It will benefit the company and me. There is one problem.” Pausing, Karrel nodded. “A lie of omission is still a lie and I cannot base my new future on a lie.”
“If Corambis did not lie in his note, where is the lie?”
“It is my omission, sir. I need to let you know of my past. Before the war, my mother died and my father decided to come to Dargon. The war broke out as we traveled and my father and older brother died just as we came into Dargon. After the fighting, some other orphans brought me into the shadow boys.”
“So, you were an orphan and a shadow boy. Is your seeking a job at my business a sneaky way of getting into the warehouses in order to steal from us?”
“No sir. I am looking for a position in order to build a new future for myself. I stole rarely in the short time I was a shadow boy. Once I stole from a man and felt guilty. I ended up taking what I stole to the person I stole from and apologizing.”
Smiling, Karrel continued. “It happened to be Corambis. He took me back to his booth. He cut the apple I had stolen into slices and shared them with me. He even gave me the knife when he found out I did not have one. I carried messages for him and soon for other people he knew. I was usually able to eat without stealing.”
Pausing again, Karrel looked up right into Percantlin’s eyes. “I owe him a lot. He and his friends accepted me as an honest person even though they knew I was a shadow boy. I have changed how I dress and how I look so that the shadow boys will not recognize me and respectable people might not be prejudiced against me.
“If you give me a position, I will work hard for you. I will be honest and trustworthy. You will be proud to have me in your company.”
Percantlin looked deep into the young man’s eyes. “It took a lot to tell me your story. You were right to do so. If I had discovered this secret, I would have assumed the worst. Now that I know the truth, I feel that you may work out in Fifth I Merchants. I want to start you out as my office boy. Come back tomorrow and we will fit you with a uniform.” Standing Percantlin reached out to shake Karrel’s hand.