Chapter Twelve

on December 11, 2009 in Evermist

© 2009, Patrick Hester.  All Rights Reserved

Chapter Twelve

The city of Southport lay flat where Valles was built upon hills.  Like Valles, Southport had a fort to divide the port from the city proper and that fort cut back and forth, with multiple gates to provide defenders with opportunities to fall back when needed.  Though no one had attacked a port city in a dozen generations, the forts still stood and the Militia was still vigilant.  Also like Valles, Southport had a bustling trade district inside the walls of the fort closest to the docks where traders could load and offload goods from ships directly into their shops and warehouses.

As Eli and his friends stepped away from the ship, their names were entered into the book by the harbormasters assistant.  Each Militia leaving the Seaspray had to register to be allowed past the gates and into the trade district.  Just as in Valles, the risk of desertion was high, so they would not have passes allowing them deeper into the fort or beyond it into the city.

Eli looked out, imagining that he could see past the fort walls, past the inner city with its too close, too tall homes, past the fountains of the Plaza with their dizzying display of water jets that fed from one statue to the next, out beyond the cobblestone streets where the roads were hard packed clay and lead to the outlying ranches.  His maternal grandparents lived out there, on a ranch with horses and a thousand places where a boy could find one adventure or another on a too bright day when no one particularly bothered to look for him and he was free to roam and explore.

With a smile, he found himself wishing that he could see them while here.  They would only be in port two days and he wasn’t sure that there would even be the possibility of getting a message to them, let alone have them come into town.

“Ah, home,” Narut said with a smile of his own.  “Come!  I will show you the best place to eat.”

“Don’t mention food,” Fyet moaned.  “I just want to be on solid ground again!”

“Not even you will be able to turn down this food, my friend,” Narut said with a smile.

He led them out past the guard houses and into the cobblestone lane.  Eli noticed there were a lot of businesses here; cobblers, blacksmith, chandlery – he even caught a whiff of a tanner somewhere nearby, though he did not see them.  He paused now and again, staring in windows or to see what street vendors were offering and remembering what it was like to walk these streets as a young boy away from home for the first time.  Some of the excitement came back and he couldn’t help but grin.

“Welcome to The Lady Elle,” Narut said with a broad grin.  “Best food in all of Southport.”

Eli stared up at the place; like most of the buildings in Southport, The Lady Elle was narrow and tall.  He counted five rows of windows above the main floor.  The walls were painted a yellow/white with green trim along the windows and a darker, wood grain door.  A wrought-iron fence with an intricate pattern stood no taller than his knee and a similarly designed sign with the image of a woman in a dress twirling an umbrella behind her creaked on a pole jutting out above the door.  A chalkboard covered in a fine, flowing script, showed the menu to passersby.

Narut ushered them inside where it was just as bright and inviting as the outside.  Several empty tables were spread around the room, longer than it was wider, and a young boy with a bored look on his face sat near a pedestal staring into space.  When he looked up at their group, his face went from bored to shocked to utter excitement.

“Narut!” he shouted, diving off the stool and into the other’s arms.

“Ravi,” Narut said with a smile and a hug.  “Where is momma?”

“In the kitchen!  I’ll get her!” and the little boy was off.  Eli and the others looked to Narut.

“My father is a fisherman, but my mother runs this place,” he grinned.  “I promise you, the best food in town.”

He stepped deeper in and Eli followed him with a grin.  “My family lives in the apartments above,” he added, waving them to a table.  Soon enough, a round woman with a red face and bright eyes pushed through the only other door and quickly enveloped Narut in a bear hug that took the breath out of him.  Pushing him to arms length, she stared him up and down, then poked him in the stomach with a large wooden spoon.

“What do they feed you?” she tsked.  “Skin and bones, is what you are.”

“Momma, these are my friends.  This is Eli, that is Broat and here is Fyet.”

She smiled at each in turn, a little sadness in her eyes that quickly vanished as she began giving orders and more children who looked very much like Narut started dashing around them, laying out dishes, cutlery and all assortment of bottles and cups.  Eli’s stomach growled when two steaming loaves of bread were placed in the middle of the table.

Narut’s mother took one of the larger bottles and pooled something thick and oily onto a small dish, then repeated it on two more.  She followed this up with pepper from a mill, then told Narut to teach them how to eat bread and butter before disappearing back into the kitchen with a ‘whump’ of the swinging door.

With a smile, Narut tore a piece from the warm loaf nearest him and dipped it into the ‘butter’.

“It’s olive oil,” he told Eli when he asked.  The flavor was rich and earthy, the pepper strong but not overpowering.  Smiling, he tried another piece, then another and soon, they had all managed to finish every scrap of bread and every drop of the oil and pepper.

“Did they teach you to shoot a gun?” Ravi asked.  “Do you have it with you?  Can I see it?  Oh, please let me see it, Narut!”

Laughing, he replied, “Yes, they taught me to shoot it, no I don’t have it with me and besides, they taught Eli here better than me.  He is a marksman, Ravi. He can shoot the wings off a fly at a thousand paces!”

Ravi stared, wide-eyed, at Eli for a moment, then insisted on seeing to his every need for the rest of the evening.

“Where is poppa?” Narut asked around a mouth of food.  Eli was staring down at the widest bowl of pasta he had ever seen in his life.  It was filled with all sorts of fish, vegetables and fresh spices in a cream sauce and he had absolutely no idea where to start or how he was going to finish it.

“One week gone,” Ravi said.

“He promised to bring me a shell from the Sea People,” a little girl with dark hair and saucer eyes said solemnly.  Eli couldn’t help but smile at her.  Narut said her name was Lalli and she was his youngest sister.

“Well, if poppa said it, then it is true,” Narut answered.  Ravi rolled his eyes and said, “There are no Sea People, Lalli!”

“Poppa says there are!” she argued.  Another dark haired child whipped through and cleared away some dishes.  Altogether, Eli had counted seven children of varying ages since they’d entered the place.  They all came and went but only Ravi and Lalli were brave enough to spend any time with them; Ravi hanging on Eli and Lalli clutching Narut’s arm or leg in one hand, and a ragdoll with frizzy yellow hair in the other.

“Poppa brought me a shell from the Sea People once,” Narut said to soothe his little sister.  “It was very difficult to get because they don’t leave their underwater cities often and they don’t trust many sailors, so you must cherish the one he brings you, Lalli.  And do not let Ravi play with it, since he does not think they are real.”

“Okay, Nari,” Lalli said primly.  Ravi looked disturbed; half wondering if he’d been wrong and was going to miss out on something and half wondering if he were being teased.  Eli couldn’t help but chuckle.

Looking down, Eli realized that he’d cleaned his bowl.  Shocked, he stared as Ravi snatched it away and replaced it with something layered brown, white and black in a clear dish.  He took a bite and found it sweet, cool, fluffy and rich all at once.  Eyes wide, he took another bite and smiled.

3 Responses to “Chapter Twelve”

  1. K. Godwin says:

    just fyi…it says Chapter Twelve and then Chapter Eleven

  2. Patrick Hester says:

    Uh… *changes some stuff*

    I have no idea what you’re talking about…

    (and thanks!)

    No idea!


  3. Clifton Hill says:

    In a future where mankind has lost much of their technology on a far and strange world they have managed to retain the art…of Italian food. 😉

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