Tourism at Last! [22 Hispis 4385]
Lithia, Treacle-Eyes (Lost-Eyes got a new name), Dorze, and Inconnu strolled through the gate together, as the first tourists from Strayway. (I had insisted that Jyondre and Yerenthax be first, as the safest couple, which, in the grand Strayway tradition of obedience and strict adherence to the dictates of authority, did not happen.) Treacle-Eyes and Lithia were holding hands, in case anyone would get the correct but wrong idea about who was doing what with whom.
(We are not exactly sure what the Srineians know about our personal matters. The decoration on the outside of Strayway, which emphasizes transaffectionate mythic scenes, seemed like a very fun idea in Vheshrame. Down here, where we are not so well tolerated, the amusement value is less and the nervous value is greater.)
They passed through the gate, which did not notice anything strange or upsetting about them. (Eigrach's walls are not really very good. I made my scrying insignia to get around Vheshrame's walls, and I could have gotten away with much less effort had I believed that any prime city would have walls like Eigrach's.) They walked a few blocks down Via Hoglolo, peering this way and that.
Everything is different in Srineia: everything. Not vastly different, but somewhat. Inconnu knelt to inspect the street. It was not a boardwalk. Instead, it was paved with diamond-shaped blocks of wood six inches on a side, mostly but not all cut transversely, and set into the soil underneath. We do not do that in Ketheria. The paving along Via Hoglolo proved why we do not do it. The street can't be very old -- a few decades at most -- and already the paving diamonds are tilted and sinking.
A Herethroy street vendor balancing a big tray of bunnish sorts of things on her head waved to them. "You-dono must be welcome to the city of Eigrach and newly come!"
"We are!" answered Lithia, not quite daring to speak Srineian.
"Where you-huh from? Up the tree? Pordaal maybe? Dossemar?"
"We're from Vheshrame," said Lithia. The bun-seller waved her antennae blankly. "From Choinxeia, in Ketheria."
"Oh, you come a long way! You better have to be so hungry! Buy a bunn! Buy a bunn!"
"We just had breakfast!" said Inconnu.
"I want a bun," said Dorze. "Treacle-Eyes, do we have enough money?" He had just had breakfast too, of course, but he was being Canical.
Lithia produced a handful of terch. "My treat, and I'll have one too."
"You eager for the good Eigrach foods! I have genuine Srineian pea custard, sweet and spicy! I have chicken and mustard greens! I have honey oyster! Hey, get one for your girlfriend! Every Orren likes honey oyster!" The Herethroy took the tray off her head and presented it to the wrongfolk with a flourish. She was wearing a flat square wooden hat with pegs in the corners, which presumably matched holes in the bottom of the tray.
"I'll take a honey oyster, for I am a very good Orren," said Lithia -- which probably meant that she was a Rassimel at the time. The vendor skewered her bun on a two-pronged wooden fork and held it out to her with a mid-hand. "And Dorze?" asked Lithia.
Dorze looked. "Pea custard," he said, with a curl to his tail. I presume he was picking the cheapest one. The vendor skewered one of those too, and held it out with her fourth hand.
"Five terch plus three terch is eight terch for two sweet, sweet bunns!"
Lithia counted terch to her, "... six, seven, eight, and a ninth by way of thanks." She glanced at Dorze.
Dorze smiled, wagged, his tail, and took a bite of his bun. "Oh, this is delicious. Say, O honored Herethroy seller of buns, could you answer a simple little question for me?" This being what he and Lithia were actually buying for their nine terch.
"O honored Ketherian traveller, for you I will answer a question of a thousand!"
Dorze wagged his tail. "Since we're tourists and foreigners, of course we look stupid. Could you tell us what the stupidest part of how we look is?"
"Aww, you do not look like stupid! But I am so surprised you have no hats. In Eigrach, everyone wears a hat on each and every head!"
Four wrongfolk and several scriers looked up and down the street. Herethroy in bowlers and busbies, Cani in miters and berets, Rassimel in bicornes, tricornes, and Phrygian caps, and one fearsome Gormoror warrior with a massive confectionary straw hat covered with fake insects. "Oh! That's quite true!" Inconnu was wearing the hat that went with his livery, but Lithia prefers not to wear livery, and of course Dorze and Treacle-Eyes don't have livery. "Could you happen to recommend a good hat-shop?"
"Preferably a fairly cheap one? I'll ask a bun from Lithia, but a hat is a bit much," said Dorze.
"I recommend Tabshiobrasa! There, there! Walk down Via Hoglolo outwards, away from the gate and from the trunk, and then come to Via Ocken! On Via Ocken you must turn right, rollwards, a right turn upon Via Ocken towards the double arch. Past the double arch is a fountain were you may drink -- is that bunn so spicy, truly? -- and past the fountain is Tabshiobrasa! In that hat shop you may adorn your heads with both style and fashion!" said our informant.
"That way on Via Hoglolo, then right on Via Ocken, past the double arch and the fountain. Thank you very much!" said Lithia.
"And the bun is spicy, but it is a wonderful spice and a delicious one," said Dorze.
Back in the parlor, I flicked my wings. "Good thinking by Dorze. Where are the Assistants?" After a while, Ochirion, Feralan, and Quendry were assembled. "O Supreme Assistant, Extreme Assistant, and Grand Assistant, could you go tell everyone who's going into town today that they ought to wear a hat? Umbers, thou Assistant to the Assistants, could you make sure they don't get too distracted while they're doing so?"
Umbers looked at three children running eagerly off in fourteen directions. "I'll do what I can."