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THE SILVER AND THE GREEN
The Chronicles of Tonath Book 2
BY MARI COLLIER
Three people struggle to find their Pathway in a wild province of their world. One is a Seeker of knowledge and old legends. One seeks the family wealth, and one seeks a way to ease the sufferings she has seen. One will become the new Teacher for all of Tonath, one will start to rescue the older, destitute women on the planet, and one will give his life to save the others. In the course of their journey, there are fights, wars, raids, and a fight for survival in a wild land.
Chapter 2: Fort Outpost
Brother Amos opened the door to the tavern. Like the town, it was small and mean, but a fire and food were inside. The place was crowded and a smoky haze filled the room. Since he was a Seeker, appropriately dressed in the grey robe with a brown, rope belt, the townspeople might question him, but they would do him no harm. He pushed back the cowl and revealed a round face with a black stubble. The Brothers were clean shaven, but he had had no spare water for the last week.
There were people at every table. Was this a celebration of some kind? Or were the townsmen so prosperous? He had discovered the farther westward he went the dialects and customs changed, the days were counted differently, and the economy and living conditions more primitive. Men in rough, homespun clothing looked at him. Women in dresses cut far too low and hemmed far too high, showed no interest. A Seeker bearing the staff would not pay for extra drinks or for their bodies. One youngish woman at a far corner beckoned him.
“Brother, there is an extra chair here. Come and rest.”
“I thank you for your invitation.” He settled himself onto the chair. “I am in need of food more than rest, however. Do they have any good sausages to go with their ale?”
Her eyes were a startling green color and her homespun butternut dress a respectable height over her bosom. Her tanned arms were bare and her brown hair was tied back. She looked to be about twenty, but it was difficult to tell. A small pinkish mouth opened to show small, well-formed teeth.
“They have both and they are filling.”
Brother Amos smiled at the girl and her male companion. The man was a masculine, taller version of the woman except his eyes were almost black in color. He looked to be a few years over twenty as wrinkles had started at the corners of his brown eyes set in an equally browned skin. He sported a fine mustache of matching dark brown hair.
Brother Amos dismissed the eastern tales of Halflings from the once Green World that existed before the Burning becoming mixed with the western Tonath populace. It was said that they could be recognized by their strange eye colors.
The man leaned forward and extended his hand. “I’m George Strauss and this is my sister, Venta.” In a lower tone he added, “Don’t let them charge you more than two geldens for two sausages and ale.” Then he leaned back as the server approached.
“What’ll you have?” Her voice was gruff and deep to match her height and girth.
“Two sausages, a loaf of dark bread, and a tankard of ale.”
She whirled away and delivered two tankards to the table next to them, picked up the empties, and headed for the bar area.
“The loaf will cost you another gelden.” George sounded a bit in awe. “I thought the Seekers relied on charity, if so you have picked the wrong table.”
Brother Amos smiled. “The last town I visited, a man was most charitable. I’ve traveled long and I thought I would share the loaf with two people who were kind enough to share their table. My name is Amos.”
“From where do you hail?
“Originally, the seacoasts of the Mechham’s eastern section, then at their capital, Anoth, to study at the Silver Star Institute, but these last few years I have traveled over the eastern half of our habitable continent. I’ve yet to gain the courage to take a sea voyage to the other continents although they say the towns and cities of Partha and Landings are quite civilized.”
The server returned, her tray laden with his order and more tankards. Her brow was sweaty and the dark hair wet against her full, flushed cheeks. Brother Amos hurriedly laid the three geldens on the table before being asked. Her hand swooped out for them, deposited the money into the depths of her leather apron, grunted, and left.
“As you correctly guessed, I am what the world calls a Seeker.” He deftly plied his knife to the loaf and handed a slice to the others before slapping the sausage on one slice and covering it with another.
“Do you plan to journey far in your search?”
“I plan to visit the prairies to the west of here as there is now a straight, level way between here and Beltran rather than going through the Bergman Mountains. I would like to visit the other towns in Brennan Province, and perhaps continue on to Port Haven in Greenland to study at their Green Institute. In the old days, before the Burning, it is said the mountains were called the Bergen Range and separated what we call Mecham. The maps named the Brennan Province as a new land opened by the earlier Star Shifts.
George drank from his own tankard and shook his head. “You can’t go straight through now. Our Mech army is on this side of the border and the BR army is on the other side. They won’t even clear people with papers or business dealings. Each side seems to think the other intends to start a war.”
Venta scowled. “Both sides are thieves. They’ll start a war on their own and everything around here will be burned or confiscated.”
“They are still talking.” George smiled at Brother Amos. “We have another Seeker in town, but this one is a secular Seeker, not a Brother. He is to join us here.”
“Are you actively searching out Seekers?”
“No, but I do have a small shop with leather goods, canvas, and heavier clothing. This one claims he will go over the mountains if necessary to avoid being trapped here. It is folly, but my shop contains what you will need if you insist on going by that route.”
“It is said that some of the people over there are quite savage.” Venta took a sip of her ale. “Some claim they are descendants of Halflings while the Greenlanders claim they have the true Way to the Stars.”
Brother Amos had to break in. “That can’t be. Halflings are something mothers use to frighten their children. If there ever were any such creatures from copula…, ah, merging between such creatures and Tonathians, it would have occurred long ago. I have traveled in the northern part of Greenland and talked with the people and Brothers there. They are just like us.”
“Brennan Province is an area where wild animals still roam and some of them are men. What else would you expect from BRs who work the mines and the oil wells and Greenlanders from the South?” Venta was adamant.
“Have you been there?”
“No.” She smiled at Brother Amos. “I’m repeating what the ones who went have told us.”
“They were probably drinking ale and impressing a young lady; and anyone else within earshot,” replied Brother Amos.
A lean, rough, clothed man carrying a stool stood at their table. “I see you gave away my seat so I’ve confiscated another.” He grinned at them, plunked down the stool, sat, and shoved his wide-brimmed hat back off his forehead. It was held by a leather thong wrapped around the hat as a band, the leather descending on either side of the face and knotted at the throat.
Brother Amos noted the new comer’s normal grey-blue eyes and wavy, light brown hair bleached by the sun. He was lean, yet muscular, and must stand over six measures. A large, sheathed knife hung casually at his side. This one was an adventure hardened, perhaps dangerous, man.
As if scenting fresh meat the server was next to him. “What’ll it be?”
“A tankard and three sausages, darling.” He gave a brief smile and turned back to Brother Amos.
“I’m Jack Donald.”
“This is Brother Amos, Jack. Like you, he wants to go to the land between mountains and the ocean. We’ve told him how much of a folly that is.”
Jack laughed. “Now, George, just because the BRs’ and Mechs’ road closures have cut into your trade, you needn’t take it out on wayfarers.”
Brother Amos leaned forward. “They tell me you are a Seeker. Why are you planning to go there?”
Jack looked at him. “Our family tradition states that we owned large land holdings not far from a Star Path Way Institute. I want to see if anything is left and if any records are still there.”
“If it wasn’t destroyed in the Burning, the BRs would have stripped it out long ago.” George was as dismissive of the quest as he was of the journey. “They are like that black goo they are named after. Black resin is foul.”
Jack laughed and paid the serving woman with a smile and a mark, rather than geldens. “That’s in case I want a refill. If not, it’s yours.”
Brother Amos was puzzled. Why was this man so free with his money? Surely the owner paid her something.
Brother Amos took another slice of bread and asked before biting down, “How do you plan to cross the border if it is so strongly guarded?”
“I’m not going by roads. I’m going south of here to get closer to the old mountain trails. There should be remnants of an old roadway there.”
All three were staring at him, and he shrugged. “It’s another old family legend that some sort of road for people and transporting goods went through the southern passes of the Bergman Range. They even passed down a map over the generations.”
“A map over a thousand years old? It would have crumbled.” Brother Amos as a Seeker knew about ancient relics. “Besides, any roadway was long ago covered by water, landslides, or dirt.
Jack remained unperturbed. “I didn’t say it was the original map. When needed a new copy was made. I’m not even sure how accurate it is. The road doesn’t go to the old Institute. It follows the contours of the mountains and pinpoints land several miles north of the old Institute. The road was supposed to be made of metal and may have withstood the elements.”
Venta’s eyes had assumed a dreamy, far-away cast. “They also talked about a silvery building on a hill serving as a beacon to all who travel there.”
Jack looked at her as though trying to gauge the truth of her story. “Do you know anyone who has actually seen it? Or, perhaps are you just dreaming of a place of safety?”
“Not safety, no something more, something, oh, I don’t know. Maybe I’m hoping that some of the old tales are true and that dreams come true. It would be worth the trip to find a place of peace and safety.”
“Why do you wish to venture into Brennan Province, Brother Amos?” Jack abruptly changed the subject.
“Like you, I wish to see if I can find a long ago legend. In my case, the old Star Path Institute. The legends say it was larger and grander than the one that stood in the east. The Teacher and Brothers at the old Western Institute brought peace and safety to all that lived in Tonath. It is said that someday a new Teacher will discover the old Star Charts.”
“It’s been well over a thousand years since the stars shifted and Tonath burned. It will be buried, burned, dismantled, or all of the three.” George was convinced they pursued dreams. It was better to dismiss such improbable legends.
“It hasn’t been much more than a thousand years since the Burning stopped.” Jack finished his sausage and took a large swallow from the mug.
“Not many people are aware of that.” Brother Amos looked at him. “Were you once a Way Seeker?”
“No, not me.” Jack gave that engaging smile again. “I gave up studying ways to use oil in something besides lamps about three years ago when it became evident that the BRs weren’t going to adhere to their treaty. Some say we Mechs were at fault,” he wisely lowered his voice. “Mendal Menchem tried to soothe the rhetoric, but both sides keep finding reasons to quarrel.
“Both will keep at it until they start the Burning all over again. We’ll never discover how many of the old legends were true.” Venta’s face grew grave and she seemed to be looking into the distance, not really seeing them or the others through the smoke in the room.
Mari Collier was born and raised on a farm in Iowa. From there she moved to Phoenix, then to North Bend, WA. When she retired, she found refuge in a small community in the high desert of California. She is an active member of the Twentynine Palms Historical Society and is on their Board of Directors. She writes two columns for the Old Schoolhouse Journal and enjoys family, friends, the local art galleries, and theaters. Earthbound, Gather The Children, Before We Leave, Return of the Maca, Thalia and Earth, Fall and Rise of the Macas, Man, True Man, and The Silver and The Green are published novels. Twisted Tales From The Desert, Twisted Tales From The Northwest, Twisted Tales From The Universe, and Twisted Tales From A Skewed Mind are her anthologies.
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