As I said in yesterday’s post, here is an excerpt from the first chapter of my upcoming science-fantasy novel, Reunification, set for release later this month. Here it is:
We sat at the table, opposite each other. The merchant rested his bag on the ground near his chair, which wobbled under his weight, and he then clicked his fingers. Not snapped; nay, that was not the right word. The merchant’s fingernails were long and sharp, allowing him to click them together like the chirping of a cricket.
‘Twas not a second after he clicked them that the disrespectful waitress from before appeared, like a spirit summoned by the gods. She held in her hands one of those strange tiny little handheld computers, a stylus in her other hand, the stylus’s tip hovering over the screen of the computer as if she was a scribe recording the Revelations of Waran-Una.
“What da ya want, sir?” the waitress said.
The merchant smiled at her, revealing blunt, short bluish teeth that looked like candy. “Whatever my associate here is having, miss.”
‘Twould have rolled mine eyes at the use of the word ‘miss’ to describe this woman, because I could think of no women less of a mistress than she. Wench, perhaps, or whore, for I suspected she slept with many men, based on how she initially flirted with me before I made it clear I have zero interest in romance or sex at the moment.
The wench simply noted that order in the computer and was gone again, the back of her red shirt disappearing through the Cafe’s front doors.
I shook mine head and said, “Brother merchant, I would have advised against this ‘genuine’ South Delanian tea. It is a mockery of the true concoction, a deceptive advertising ploy.”
“But I like it,” the merchant said. He sniffled loudly, like he was taking in all of the smells around us. “It smells so good. Besides, what does it matter if it’s the real thing or not? Taste and smell are the only things that matter to me.”
Under ordinary circumstances, I would have berated the merchant for continuing to support such deceptive business practices. His attitude toward the subject confirmed what I had suspected about the decadent Xeeonites; so long as they got their fill, they were happy, like pigs in a pen.
But now was not the time to discuss this. I leaned forward ‘cross the table and said, “Now, brother merchant, the letter ye gave me said you know something about my missing sister, Kiriah. Correct?”
The merchant leaned back in his chair and folded his hands behind his head. ‘Twas an annoying thing, what he did, because it seemed highly disrespectful to me, but Jikorians were said to be an easy people, so I tried not to take offense.
“Yep,” said the Jikorian, nodding. “That’s right. When your friend showed me those pictures of your sister with that man, I recognized her. That’s pretty good for me, because all you humans look the same to me. Not trying to be a bigot or anything; I just don’t think you humans are very distinct.”
I should have taken offense to that, but I cared not for his own nonchalance, for there were more urgent matters to attend to. Perhaps before this was all over, however, I would chide him for his inability to distinguish betwixt us humans.
Yet to be certain we were talking about the same woman, I withdrew from mine pocket an envelope containing the photographs showing my sister. As I did so, the merchant grimaced.
“Wow,” said the merchant, blinking. “I forgot that you Delans are so … quaint.”
I scowled. ‘Twas true that we in Dela still used paper for most of our dealings, whereas those in Xeeo relied mostly on digital and electronic gadgetry to conduct their business. Hardly mattered to I; Xeeonite tech was clumsy and brutish, aside from their Diamusk vehicles, which we Knights use to traverse Dela.
I placed the three pictures on the table and pushed them toward the merchant. He leaned forward to look over the pictures, which caused his stink to get even closer to me, but again I did not show mine annoyance because I did not wish to offend him.
The pictures showed my sister, Kiriah, sitting outside this very Cafe, sipping from an emerald cup, similar in color to mine. She was alone in the first two, but in the last one, she sat across from a large bearish man whose back was to the camera. I had already seen these pictures before, of course; had pored over them for even the slightest detail that might explain why my sister was here or who this man was, but I had found nothing, hence why I was speaking with this merchant.
The merchant’s beady eyes scanned the pictures before he leaned back in his seat. “Yep. That’s her, though I don’t really know her name.”
“But she looks like my sister?” I said.
“Yep,” said the merchant, nodding. “She doesn’t come here too often, but she’s hard to miss because she’s sometimes with that man in the third picture.”
The merchant tapped the third picture with one of his thin fingers, leaving tiny blotches of that disgusting gunk on it. I made a mental note to clean the photographs with the purest water I could find after this discussion was finished.
“What is that man’s name?” I said. “Do ye know him?”
“Yeah,” said the merchant. He looked over his shoulder so quickly that his head was a blur before he returned to looking at me. “I mean, it’s hard to tell from this picture, of course, because if you humans look the same while facing forward, you are indistinguishable from the back, but even I wouldn’t mistake that large back for the back of anyone other than who it belongs to.”
“Delay the revelation no longer, merchant,” I said. I glanced at mine watch. “I have little time to waste going in circles like this.”
“Fine, fine,” said the merchant, holding up his hands as if to calm me. “He’s Xacron-Ah. Ever heard that name before?”
I frowned. “Nay. ‘Tis a criminal?”
“Actually, he’s the Mayor of Xeeon,” said the merchant. “’Course, you wouldn’t know that, seeing as you don’t live here, but that’s who he is.”
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