This story is part of a series, this is the twenty-fourth part.
You can read the first story here: The Wanderer, Part 1
and the most recent story here: The Wanderer, Part 24
The Wanderer Continued…
They walked all morning while the sun rose over the horizon and then proceeded to cross the sky changing from a deep red to an outstanding whitish yellow that Tas couldn’t stare at. The snow around them reflected the bright light, but it was still freezing on the hilly paths. Most paths that they had taken were completely frozen over, and occasionally they would see a hut built into the side of the mountain as they climbed.
Yao whispered behind him, “these are Bahar’s nobility.” As they passed several built together, then they could see a bigger group of what must have been 7 enormous huts built into the mountain. They turned a corner to the right, on their path around the mountain and Tas saw a huge castle-like structure and surrounding townhouses looming in the shadows of the giant mountain that rose above it. There were many spires, but of them only two were high enough to travel at least quarter of the way up the huge mountain to stand against its imposing majesty; they were attached to a gargantuan cathedral build into the side of the granite cliff-face with stained glass windows to play with the light of the sun. Tas could tell it was the kings’ castle, but also enjoyed seeing the capital town as a whole.
The buildings in the city were only a couple of stories, except for the three that were much larger than the rest, but most of the others looked like they were different parts of the same building. The castle, the tavern, and the stables were larger and far more detached than anything else and the castle imposed its huge spires over the rest of the village. As Tas and Yao walked through the small city they found a tavern and Yao moved inside while Tas chaffed at his heels. Yao immediately moved towards the back of the bar with his head lowered; Tas followed the old man into the shadowed corners at the far side of the bar.
As soon as Tas sat, Yao made a motion for him to stay seated, then got up to buy drinks, most likely the local ales. Yao would likely come back with enough beer for them to drink as much as they wanted and then would share only a small dinner. But instead of coming back with just beers, the barkeep came as well. The beers the keep carried were large though.
“So you’re Tas, Yao’s charge?” Tas nodded at the burly and muscular man with hair growing particularly long out of his shoulders and back.
“He is my teacher.” Tas said happily, smiling at Yao and not giving way to any of the ways that he felt betrayed to left behind; he didn’t have time for those feelings right now.
“I’m Sarjin, I own the bar here in Bahar. Nice to meet you, Tas, nice to meet you. I hear you are quite the student? You have traveled far with Yao, haven’t you?” He waited for Tas’ reply.
Tas initially nodded his head at everything Sarjin said, but when it became his turn to speak he could, or wouldn’t; either way, he was silent. Yao scoffed.
“He travels where and when he wants with me Sarjin. How do the details concern you my friend?”
Sarjin shrugged. “They don’t.” The way he spoke made Tas hair stand up, as if Sarjin wanted it to mean more than what he said. “I was just hoping to make a friend.”
“Well my name is Tas.” He was sick of Yao talking for him; it was time he made some friends of his own. “and I’ll be your friend.” Tas stuck out his hand to grasp Sarjin’s. The hairy man laughed, then gripped Tas’ hand hard enough to completely stop blood flow.
“Good to meet you boy. I’ll be your friend, but probably the only in all of Bahar.” Sarjin let out a chuckle as he let Tas’ hand go.
“No.” Tas said simply. “Yaina is my friend too.” She is my favorite friend.” Tas looked down at his hand “She doesn’t hurt me when we talk.”
Sarjin looked at Tas with a peculiar glance, one that Tas couldn’t explain or understand. Yao took over the conversation.
“I am going to meet my cousins right now.” Yao took a step closer to avoid being heard by anyone other than Tas. “Is there anything I know should? Any recent…events?”
Sarjin took a moment from pouring another man’s beer and took his money into the register. Then he leaned back over to Yao’s ear, “Its been oddly silent up there, old man. I’m not sure what is happening, but I’m sure its unusual.” He nodded at Yao, then said loudly, “thanks for stopping by old friend” and went back to serving. Yao left looking pleased, but also a bit confused.
They continued for a time to a large steel gate that led to the top of one of the tallest spires. Tas looked straight up along the heights of the pole to see it rise into the sky. Three guards waited at the gate and asked Yao what his business was. But all Yao had to do was say his name and they let him pass. Tas walked in behind him, boots clanging on the hard stone floor.
They walked through a dark corridior for a while, the only light came through the small slits on the side of the walkway. Then they came to a flight of stairs. It was unending. Yao set off first, looking like he was avoiding thinking of the innumerable steps before them altogether. Tas followed, but more curious as to how many there would be rather than dreading the walk.
They arrived at the top after about 30 minutes of climbing, each was panting, though both were weathered by their long days hiking through the mountains. Another decorated guard waited for them at the top, then took them through a corridor and into a waiting room. They walked over a velvet purple carpet that looked pristine in the candlelight. There was minimal sunlight because of the massive stone walls.
After another few minutes, a guard entered through the door at the other side and took them into the courtroom, bigger and more extravagant than anything Tas had ever seen. Two men, both iron clad and in full raiment greeted them, obviously the kings. Yao bowed to his knees and Tas followed suit.
Each had a fur cape, one was dark blue and the other dark red, but each had an unmistakable silver crown adorning their shortly cropped heads. They also had sleek steel armor connected by fur coated leather joints.
“Oh get up you old goat. What a pleasure it is to see you uncle!” The one in red embraced Yao while the second waited his turn.
“You’ve gotten older since we last say each other.”
Yao frowned, “you have obviously gotten stupider! Iril you should know by now never to insult those wiser than you.” His eyes twinkled with mischief as he spoke.
“Yes, Iril, I’m afraid I have to agree with Yao, you have gotten rather idiotic lately. He has a new girlfriend.”
“And you don’t Adal?” Iril smirked and waved his brother off.
Tas didn’t know what to think of these two men. Yao hadn’t told him anything about them besides that they were his cousins.
“Come you two, join us for dinner.” Adal said and led them down the stairs at the end of the hall, his heavy armor clunked down the stairs.
Tas looked at his master, who smiled, shrugged, then followed his two cousins down a much shorter staircase to the dining room.