Tas woke in a small bed by the wall. His shoulder was asleep, so he took a few moments to roll side to side and stretch his legs, still very sore and tired from walking the days before. It had taken two to arrive in the coastal city and another to find the inn called “rest long, eat lots”. He had been disappointed to find that the inn did not have much food, had a curfew, and let the light in as early as the sun rose.
He met a man named Shatar. He told him how he had come to arrive and of his mentor, the old man who wandered aimlessly. Shatar laughed when he first heard Tas’ description, but hadn’t laughed since. He was a serious man, concerned with running his business well so that he could feed his dozen or so children, who helped around the inn. Most were boys, which seemed to be rather unfortunate, as the inn seemed to lack the proper care that a good resting place required.
But he was in no position to complain and was given a small room with a bucket, drain, and small living area. He was told he would be given water to wash in the morning. There was a small bed, barely raised off the floor in the corner with soft blankets and sheet and a few cushions underneath. So this small room was his home for the time being and he quite enjoyed being able to sleep on a cushion rather than the hard wood of trees.
He woke each morning to work. He woke when the others did, no questions asked, and left with the group to head to the docks.
He spent the days loading and unloading cargo from ships, while the taskmaster barked orders and generally harassed the lot of them into moving slightly faster. Tas wasn’t sure if it worked, but he kept up a fast pace so that he was never punished with the whip. Occasionally, it seemed that the taskmaster just didn’t like him. At the end of each day, he was given 4 silvers and he would give one of them to Shatar each night for food. But it was a perilous job, full of surprises and occasionally he would be forced to stay later, say if a ship came in a dusk. It was hard enough work during the day, so if they worked into the night they were given an extra two silver.
Soon, Tas began to spend two silver a day on food, one during midday when the sun was too hot to work, and the other at night, when he was done working. He would save usually 2 per day, sometimes only one because he had to clean his clothes or buy something new like sandals. He had bought a good pair on his first day and his feet had thanked him ever since.
The days were long and hard, but he could feel his body adapting. A large bag of rice cost 35 silver, and the spices and nuts that he needed were another 30. He knew that he would spend a month then return to the wandering sage he had pledged himself to.
But in the first week, he found himself out at night with a few of his coworkers and they walked to a dirty and lowly place with men out front smoking all sorts of contraptions, a rickety porch, and a crowded entrance. The four of them walked inside to see several women serving men drinks, as well as several other who were sitting and some that were even kissing.
Tas had never encountered such a scene in his life, as his village had been quite tradition. He stormed out of the lowly and dirty place in a hurry, and he went straight to his room to lay awake on his bed for several hours. For the next few days, he went to work without talking to his friends, but on the fourth day, they invited him to come with them once again. He no longer felt the same revulsion as he entered the rickety old body filled hut. His curiosity had taken control.
Again, as he entered he saw a man and woman begin to kiss, long slow kisses like he had never seen. He stared for a moment before Annu, his favorite coworker, pushed him forward. He nearly tripped over a broken stool and continued by a bar, replete with all different colors and sizes of concoction and labels that he couldn’t understand. He waved for one above, a luscious brown color with hints of amber. The keeper made a motion for 2 silver and so he obliged. Upon opening and sipping the liquid, he felt a fire and spit. His friends laughed and Annu bought one of the same. As he drank it, he coughed as well, to the enjoyment of the older members of the crowd. Then, a woman took notice of them.
She first caressed Annu face, pulled it to her own, then kissed his lips with a ferocity that Tas had never seen. Then she turned, seeing his staring eyes, and moved towards him faster than a bolt of lightning and their lips danced for a moment before they parted. Tas could hardly move, let alone speak. He felt something pulling him from the small shack before he could think and eventually found himself being pulled to benches near the water by Annu. The others were left behind.
“You would have given her all your money,” Annu said slowly, as if answering a question. “I know you keep it all with you.”
Suddenly, Tas became extremely self-conscious, in a way that he hadn’t been since he’d left the desert a week before. He didn’t know what to say.
“Come. We should sleep to rest our backs for tomorrow. God knows they need it.”
Tas looked up with a sudden remembrance and gave a hearty chuckle. God indeed! He supposed god was the reason he was here in the first place. But the old man had left him. What was he pursuing now?
“Yes, they do.” Tas would keep to himself for now.
“What do you save for?” Annu asked him, a strange veil had taken his eyes and blurred them.
“I save my silvers so that I can follow a man to find god.” Tas said, realizing for the first time the ridiculousness of his quest. What was he thinking? Was there any purpose at all behind what he was doing? What was the old man up to anyways?
Annu did not laugh. He looked solemnly at Tas. He seemed to decide something, then asked, “What is this man like?”
Tas laughed, “He is the queerest man you might ever meet and nothing he does makes sense. But he laughs at everything and smiles all day long.” Tas looked out into the horizon, waves moving seamlessly into the oblivion. “I don’t know why I follow him.” He admitted, “except that there is a certain curiosity that I have that I cannot explain and that tells me to learn from this man.”
Annu looked at Tas long and hard, and again, seemed to come to a decision. “Well, you are my friend now, Tas. If you need anything, ask me and I will do my best to help you with what you need.”
Tas took a long moment to reply, “can you get me another kiss?”
Annu laughed, this time in a heart-felt chuckle and rose, slapping Tas on the back. “Probably not, but we can try can’t we?” He grinned slyly at Tas hinting at mischief.
“We sure can.” and with the remaining 11 silver in his pocket, Tas began to walk back to the inn but stopped as he had a thought.
“Do you save Annu?” He asked, turning towards his new friend.
“Yes.” Annu said, a distance returned to his voice.
“I’ll tell you tomorrow,” Annu said with another grin, and he disappeared behind a moving cart.
Tas grinned as he turned to walk home. Tomorrow indeed.