Quinn sat on the wide ledge of the windowsill and looked toward the Nevers. A funnel of black smoke had shot up, so dense that it was discernible from far away. He wondered what had happened in that accursed land, and then wondered no more. Other things were on his mind.
He was planning to leave.
He was planning to leave because there was no reason to stay. He’d return to Larnes and seek out old Eulie, the elder who sat in the Seat of Wisdom in his village, and tell him he couldn’t have been more wrong. There was no shining road before him, nor had he the power to change hundreds, no, thousands of lives. He’d be a farmer like his father and his grandfather before him. Farmers weren’t meant to be dreamers; farmers watched the weather and planted crops. And like the farmer he was, Quinn was aware that a mighty storm was coming. It wasn’t quite noon, but the rain would be coming down before one.
Yes, he was a farmer and he’d a farmer’s feel. He scanned the city and saw a cloud, hardly bigger than his hand from where he sat. It was hovering across the city in the old part of town built by King Revel. He’d been to that section once, and hoped he’d never have to go again. Built below sea level, the streets were treacherous. It was where the Heelers lived.
After the King had ordered them from the Great Throne Room, he’d skipped the feast, knowing that Elymas and the other acolytes would shun him, plus, he’d lost his appetite after seeing how Elymas had baited the Heeler. The man had been begging for the lives of his people! Why hadn’t the King called halt at the start? Why allow humiliation?
For the fifth time or maybe the fiftieth, he wondered why old Eulie had chosen him. He could still feel the blindman’s hand on his head — hot, yet dry. His is for the glory! His is for the crown! The Shining Road will appear at last! He will walk the Shining Road!
And to make matters worse, Quinn had believed it.
He’d come to Casoria, only to have Elymas, the renowned Earth Skyll, hate him on sight. True, he was a country bumpkin, but so were all the rest. The King had ordered invitations to only the poorest of villages this year, and Larnes had been at the top of the list. Eleven other boys had come, Quinn the twelfth, and at a glance, he’d fit in. It was true he was a red head, but that shouldn’t have made a difference. One boy had two different colored eyes; another was enormously fat. He’d looked like the rest –poor and scared. Elymas hated him for himself. Quinn couldn’t change that.
Upon arrival, each boy had been washed and checked for chats, and given two pairs of breeches and two tunics, both made from undyed wool, ranging in color of gray to brown. Leather shoes; some had better fits, and hose to wear when working in the castle, broad straw hats when working out of doors. They were showed the pump and the privies and told to keep themselves clean.
They lived together in an oversized room, probably what had been designed as a royal nursery, and slept on pallets stuffed with straw. None were given pillows but all were given blankets. The blankets were the same color, more or less, and so no one ever knew if he was using the one he’d used the night before. In time, it no longer mattered. Everyone had a covering and no one complained.
A few boys had brought a wicker basket to store their goods, but most had rusk sacks. Quinn had had a rusk sack filled with the best that his poor village could offer. So proud of hm they were. He’d started on his way with plenty of bread, cheese and apples, and drank cold water from the clear parts of streams.
His most prized possession hung about his waist; his rulla dice and his rulla pouch. The dice had been his father’s and his father’s before him, but the pouch was of his own making. A rabbit hide tanned and soft and tied with leather string. It formed a soft pouch and he always kept it attached to his belt.