Maiori's Journeys (book)

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Maiori's Journeys

I. Arriving in Mer'Kresh

Maiori thought he wouldn't like sailing. He was half-correct. Maiori hated sailing. The ship pitched; he was sick. The ship sailed smoothly; he was sick. Then once off the ship, Maiori got mugged on Ratha. That wasn't sailing's fault, exactly, but he couldn't help blaming the ship which brought him, because if it weren't for that ship (and his Guild Master in Crossing sending him on this awful journey), Maiori believed he wouldn't have been on Ratha to be mugged. Still, the attack had one positive as- pect: while at the hospital he met a brother Barbarian who gave Maiori just the right hint to help him reach his final destina- tion: Mer'Kresh.

Finally docking, Maiori stared at the busy port. There were ste- vedores hauling cargo up the gangplank, cursing and sweating. Some women ashore were waving at the sailors and shouting ques- tions in their strangely accented Common; he wasn't sure what they were selling, but the price sounded exorbitant. As a swarm of children threaded through the crowd, he noticed one steal some fruit while another child distracted the vendor. Absorbing these sights, Maiori thought he wouldn't like Mer'Kresh, either, but optimistically decided that the place at least deserved a chance. He trudged down the gangplank, glad to be upon what seemed to be dry land again, and set off to present himself to his new guild as his old master had ordered.

In short time, Maiori learned that the city was circular, with a platform and one ring surrounding it, but he kept getting lost nonetheless. One person would tell him to look for a Sijana's store, or Tavino's house -- which meant nothing to Maiori. "How can you be lost?" one old Elf asked crossly after Maiori had asked him for directions to the Barbarian guild a second time. "The guild building is on the center platform. Just walk around until you find it! Even a 'Tog can't be so lost!"

But Maiori was that lost. He had walked the roadway three times and not once heard a roar that would mark his guild. He had found plenty of other things. While looking into the clear, shallow waters of the canal he slipped and fell in, only to be chased by a swimming lizard with long teeth. Then local child- ren threw rocks at his head as he struggled to pull himself back to what passed for land. Once out of the canal, a donkey kicked him, and a seagull snatched the last crust of bread from his hand, slick as a thief snatching a gem.

Maiori wandered a little longer before finally sitting, feeling dejected and frustrated. He rubbed his bald head, and watched the mobs of people rushing about their business. They ignored him. All but one. As time passed, Maiori because aware of a tiny red-headed child watching him from across the street. He shifted, she shifted. He scratched his chin, she scratched her chin. He smiled, but couldn't tell if she did.

As he watched, the girl pulled a bit of bread from her pouch and started to chew it vigorously. Still hungry, Maiori glanced away. Then, at a squawk, he looked back at the child to see her fending off a seagull from her meal. He stood and loped across the street intent on scaring the gull, but stopped short as the child, unconcerned, plucked the bird from the air by its neck, jerked it as though cracking a whip, and threw its body into the gutter.

Standing silently in the middle of the road, Maiori, full of homesickness, realized she didn't need his help. Her eyes widened and she shouted a warning at Maiori. Jumping, he just avoided a cart bearing down on him. The carter passed by, yelling some- thing Maiori didn't understand, but the gesture accompanying the words was universal. That was the moment Maiori decided he hated Mer'Kresh as much as he hated sailing.

II. Celyn

Still chewing her bread, the little girl sauntered over to Maiori. He studied the child as she approached, but he couldn't quite decide if she was Human or Elven. Her facial features were delicate, like an Elf, yet her body looked more sturdy, like a Human. The beat-up cap she wore kept her snarled red hair away from her face and effectively covered her ears. She looked up at him and asked pleasantly, "Hey, you lost Escheni-tog?"

Maiori eyed her warily and nodded. "Yes. And hungry. And tired."

She smiled. "And some homesick, too?" she asked as she offered him her bread. "And some homesick, too," Maiori agreed, and after a moment's hesitation accepted her gift. The bread that would have made an entire meal for her, he finished in one bite.

"My name is Celyn." She looked at Maiori curiously, "Who are you? Why are you here? We don't see many outsiders."

Maiori replied, "I am Maiori, of the Crossing Barbarian Brother- hood. My Guild Master sent me here because he said I must if I want to be a true leader of the guild someday." Maiori paused a moment. "And perhaps a little because it is far away and there was an incident with some bards and a keg of Vykathi ale."

"What happened?" Celyn asked.

"I'd rather not talk about it," replied Maiori. He looked away, a dark green blush coloring his face.

"Soooooo... you're just wandering the city looking for the Bar- barian Guild," commented Celyn.

Nodding, Maiori asked, "Do you know where it is? I have looked and looked, but can't find it. There are no signs here!"

Celyn squinted at Maiori. "Why should there be? Everybody knows where everything is."

"I don't," Maiori responded.

"You would if you were from here," she replied reasonably.

Exasperated, Maiori asked, "Will you show me?"

Celyn pointed across the street. "Right there."

"I've been in front all this time?" he asked incredulously.

"All this time." Celyn smiled. Watching her, Maiori thought she wasn't smiling to laugh at him for being a "dumb 'Tog" like so many people smiled at his kind. Her smile was kind and invited him to share life's jokes with her.

Not knowing what to say next, Maiori said simply, "I should re- port to my new master." He paused a moment, "Would you like to come in with me? I am sure they would give you a meal for help- ing me find my way." Celyn shook her head. "Thank you for asking, Escheni-tog. But I'll wait until some other day to see if you want to share bread, once you know more about where you are and who is around you."

Maiori shrugged. "If that is what you want." He added help- fully, "You can find me here, but my name is Maiori, not Ezsheny- tog."

Celyn chuckled. "Yes, I suppose it is." She waved, and then melted into the crowds jamming the street.

Maiori looked up at the massive guild building, with its blocky stone statues. With a determinedly positive mindset that he would like the guild (even if he hated sailing and hated Mer'Kresh), he swung open the guild doors and bounded inside.

III. The Brotherhood

Maiori roared a greeting to his brother barbarians. Not a big roar, just a soft "Here I am!" roar. The sound echoed through the silent guild, but nobody appeared to greet Maiori.

Puzzled, Maiori wandered through the sparring pit. The sand was fresh and untracked. He gave a slightly louder roar that made the weapons on the walls vibrate, but still nobody came to greet him.

Growing more and more perplexed at the quiet, and a little alarmed, Maiori went out the guild's backdoor. He paused at the sight of a well-tended garden courtyard. After a moment, he rec- ognized the cone-shaped fire fountain as a meditation flame and felt more at home. Thinking nobody heard his soft roars, he let loose a full-throated bellow, loud as he could muster. One of the rocks cracked. The plants shook and the sand danced. And... a group of barbarians roiled from a bamboo hut at the other end of the sand garden straight toward him.

"Heyo! Heyo!" Maiori cheerfully called to them. He had a moment to realize they were all clad in loose, hip-length tunics and wore their hair shaved around their ears and head with the re- maining long hair pulled into a ponytail; however, about the time he noticed they were all Elven and Human, the biggest of his newly met guild brothers tackled Maiori and tried to shove his face into the sand.

Taking this as an invitation to play, Maiori laughed good- naturedly, grabbed the fellow by the neck and planted him head first in the sand. Maiori grinned and again greeted them cheer- fully, "Heyo! I am Maiori of the Crossing!" The rest of Maiori's guild brothers paused and studied him quietly.

Maiori shifted uneasily. None of them had yet said a word, or returned his smile and greeting. He noticed slight hand motions, and realized they were signaling their next attack. One feinted to Maiori's left, another circled behind, a third approached him straight-on. The others hung back, silently observing.

Throwing himself into this spar, for that is what he considered it, Maiori was on the verge of subduing the three when a woman strolled out of the hut, spinning a water globe upon her index finger. She smiled at Maiori, took a sip of water from her globe and settled herself upon a rock to watch the sport. Startled and puzzled at the mage's obviously comfortable presence in a Bar- barian guild, Maiori's momentary distraction gave his opponents the opportunity to pin him to the ground. At this point, Maiori decided that he hated the Rissan Barbarian guild as much as he hated Mer'Kresh and very nearly as much as he hated sailing.

As Maiori roared and struggled to throw off his captors, a pleasant masculine voice said, "Enough."

Immediately the three barbarians released Maiori, nodded to him wordlessly, and bowed to the newcomer. Peering at the voice's owner, Maiori saw a dark-haired Human man, face wrinkled with laugh lines and green eyes alert. The man studied Maiori, now sitting up and shaking the sand from his ears.

Smiling, the man said to Maiori, "I am Guild Leader Sendovil Casparas. Tell me what you have learned."

Maiori sprang to his feet gracefully, then bowed to the Guild Leader as he had seen the others do.

"I am Maiori of the Crossing." After a moment's hesitation Maiori continued, "I learned there are lizards here that chase you. I learned there are no signs to tell you where you are. I learned people here don't show much friendliness to strangers. I learned nobody here roars and you all stay in that hut over there instead of the sparring pit."

One of the Barbarians interrupted, "That's the library."

Maiori stared at the other Barbarian a moment, puzzled, then mo- tioned at the Warrior Mage. She still sat upon the rock sunning herself while listening. He ended his recitation of lessons with, "and you don't mind mages being in the guild." She smiled at Maiori, traced a heart in the sand with her toe and winked.

Sendovil nodded when Maiori finished, then turned to the group of Barbarians. "Tell me what you have learned."

There were a few moments of silence before they began to speak.

One said, "He is reckless, coming into a strange environment without knowing what dangers may be present."

A Barbarian that had been part of the group of three attacking said, "He is easily distractible. When Maggie came outside, he was totally vulnerable."

Other Barbarians spoke, "He announced his origin." "We knew some of his weaknesses from that knowledge alone." "He is trusting." "He held back his strength." "He displayed care toward us out of guild brotherhood." "He has a sense of humor." "He's awfully big!"

Maggie added as the other comments faded, "He has a kind face and a good-humored smile."

Sendovil nodded. "Welcome to the Rissan Guild, Maiori. You will find many things here to surprise you, and some of our teachings may seem heresy in light of what you have already learned from your old master. For instance, we do not fear magic, nor hate it. We believe it is too unreliable for a true warrior. We be- lieve that physical strength is important, but that the single best weapon you possess is your mind. You must train yourself to think first, strategically and tactically. That training is as important as training your blade or your bow."

Although his expression was mildly disbelieving, Maiori nodded to Sendovil. "I will try my best."

The guild leader nodded. "That is all I ask. Now, you must be hungry from your travels. Come. It will be an honor to break bread and share drink with you."

Maiori gazed at the other Barbarians. They seemed much more friendly; one explained the invitation to break bread and share drink were ritual words of invitation to a peaceful meal. As he re-entered the guild hall with his new guild mates, and the very odd warrior mage, Maiori decided he liked the Rissan guild.