lone in a crowd*

The Lure of Prophecy
Posted Wed, Dec 1, 2004 by Sha'mad Conde

Koreauras stepped into the dimly-lit inn and looked around interestedly. He had not been inside of very many wetlander buildings, and the experience was still novel. There were a small number of patrons sitting at benches and tables within the room; apparently he was in a chamber that was for socializing and eating. From the look of the place, he was in what was called a “common room.” Patrons began to notice his entrance and stared at him, often times nudging their neighbor and pointing. He had never actually walked into a wetlander building before, he had always snuck in. Now, he felt rather conspicuous and uncomfortable. The others headed toward benches, with Torran gesturing to a serving woman weaving her way through the maze of tables and patrons in the place.

Koreauras moved over against a wall and crouched down, forgoing the benches and chairs that this common room offered. He may be in the wetlands, but he was not about to adopt wetlander ideals. As a boy, he and his brother Tornasan had once each sat in the chief’s chair that their father Erim had, the one he used when he was sitting in judgment. They had snuck in together and sat in it; the guilty feeling of getting away with wrongdoing made each of them jittery. He had thought that they had been completely unobserved, but their father seemed to know about what they had done that night. He and Tornasan had hauled rocks for days after that.

He watched Mallah and her white-haired Warder walk up to a man wearing a white apron, standing behind the bar. Quahlen had removed his strange color-shifting cloak and had apparently stowed it somewhere. Despite his having removed the eye-bending cloak, he still looked very formidable. Koreauras wondered where he had gotten that cloak: he would be stealthier than the best Far Dareis Mai with it. If only…

Sorilea’s words echoed in his mind: “Training and practice will keep you alive, not shortcuts.” He could imagine her distain at the thought of relying on a cloak for stealth. He shrugged inwardly, and kept watch on the rest of the room. The patrons did not seem to be inclined to talk to him, or even approach him, but he had not been forgotten either. The people at the nearest table had gotten up and moved to a bench on the far side of the room, and even the people he had arrived with were watching him. The Sheinaran named Jagar had outwardly focused a lot of his attention on Cueraina, but would occasionally glance in Koreauras’ direction. Koreauras had never battled against the Sheinarans before, but many of his fellow Aiel had. He guessed that this was why Jagar had held such animosity for him. The apprentice named Amahra was also watching Koreauras, but she seemed to be contemplating his very existence, rather than trying to figure out how to kill him.

His solitude had never bothered him while he was traveling alone across the Tree-killer’s lands and Andor, but now that he was really in amongst these wetlanders, he never felt more isolated. It was tempting to simply sneak out and make his way back to the rooftops, but his search for the Car’a’carn had not yet met with any clues, but he felt a sense that he was on the right track for… something. His restiveness was still with him, that yearning for the missing part of his life was still eating at him, but he had the feeling that whatever it was, he was now closer to it. He settled in, and watched the others in the room, unmoving. After a while, the patrons got bored watching him do nothing, and resumed their own drinking and conversations. Only his companions at the table seemed to remember that he was there; Jagar would occasionally glance his way with definite malice in his eyes, Amahra would study him with a look like she wanted to dissect him, and Cueraina looked at him like he was her next meal, and he was a flavor she had never tried before. Only Torran seemed to regard him somewhat normally, simply as a fellow warrior that had chosen a different society.

Author's comments:

Caira, my Bootmaiden, once commented while reading the Prelude that Cueraina was a "Man-eater."

...Its interesting how people's comments can lead to inspiration. Big Grin

-'Mad Crazy

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