This is the first Canto of Book Two of this crazy adventure, wherein a bridge is crossed, a meal is had, and a thief is born. You can read the first 13 Cantos in blog form here or in one long webpage here. Also, if there’s any questions or confusion on names, the second site has a few links that will help. Above all, enjoy.
Book Two: The Roaming Years
The days passed without incident,
And truthfully the Hero found himself bored more than once.
He was far enough away from the caravan to keep a long eye on it.
He recognized the beautiful woman who’d stolen his heart,
The stooped blind man who’d taken him on,
And the silent, troubled youth;
seeing them so close was painful.
He wondered how long he’d been absent from Athins,
How long it had been since he’d been cursed,
But he could not guess.
He scratched at his face,
Covered with rough and unkempt patches of hair,
And once again wished he’d a blade sharp enough to shave.
If a god heard his wish, it went ungranted.
The Hero was wearing thin,
Exhausted and hungry.
Disadvantaged at having only his legs to carry him,
The wagon was always far ahead of him,
And since drivers changed on rotation,
They only had to stop for the horses to rest,
Which wasn’t frequently enough for the tired Hero.
Eventually the woods ended
and Oscambria knew they were near the Crossing.
He also knew that he’d be more exposed,
But there was little he could do about that.
Soon the Crossing was in full view,
Its mighty span crossing the whole of the Long Leg,
Ancient and impressive.
“Look at it, Mossy,” said the Hero in awe.
He’d never looked upon the old bridge,
And the site took his breath away.
Built in a time when the gods were more involved,
From the hands of both Man and God,
The bridge reflected brilliant light off its prismatic surface,
A serene and beautiful piece of practical art.
The wagon was well on the other side of the river,
Moving on toward Sparka,
By the time Oscambria made his way onto the bridge.
Made from a strong type of clear crystal,
The trek across the span would appear as if you were on air,
If not for the rainbow of lights
And the occasional milky spots of imperfection.
Slowly and cautiously,
Oscambria made his way across.
He tried not to think about the churning river below,
Or the long emptiness that separated him from the water.
The Crossing had stood for years,
And the weight of a cursed actor and a galleyrat wouldn’t break it.
Still, he tried not to worry.
Slightly more queasy than before,
He reached the end of the bridge without incident.
The wagon was too far ahead,
Appearing like an ant in the distance.
Sparka was still a few days away,
And anything could happen between then,
But Oscambria had no way of catching up.
The caravan would be on its own.
He’d abandoned his short post as a hired blade,
Leaving them to defend themselves in case of problems,
As if there was something he’d have been able to do.
The best he could hope for was to try and see them to Sparka,
And once there,
He’d collect supplies and head on to Feoga.
The days slipped by,
Melting into each other,
Indistinct and uneventful.
When he could sleep,
His dreams were filled with terrors and doubts,
Which was only slightly worse than being unable to sleep
Due to the pain and emptiness in his stomach.
Before he knew it he was in Sparka,
Wand’ring the streets and looking all the foreigner.
Many of the townsfolk eschewed the strangely clothed Hero,
Eyeing the tuxedo suit and galleyrat with mixed curiosity.
Not all, though.
Some complimented him on his attire,
But Oscambria knew not how to respond.
He laughed at the situation,
Wond’ring how the citizens would react if they knew the man
Beneath the outfit was the exiled and cursed Oscambria of Athins.
Or did they even know of his curse?
Had news yet spread? How long had it been?
Whether they knew of Oscambria’s doom or not,
He knew they would recognize the curse without the suit.
He had no coin and no means which to procure sustenance,
And he dared not try to steal anything so soon.
He stumbled into a grey clad man.
“I’m sorry,” he apologized hastily,
pulling at his clothes and looking away.
“It’s no bother, friend,” he replied sincerely.
Oscambria turned to go when he felt a hand fall on his shoulder.
“You look like you could use some help,”
continued the stranger,
“and I think I could offer you some,
if you’d take it.
Can I get you and your friend,”
He pointed down at Mossossopia,
“a bite to eat?”
“Can a mouse find its way through a maze for some cheese?”
asked the Hero, his stomach taking over his tongue.
“Can a dog lick its backside?
Yes, man! I’d love some food, a juicy, tasty, meal,
If it’d please you.”
The stranger looked more than confused at the uncommon choice of words,
But he smiled and stuck out his hand anyway.
“I’m Eidan, an Oracle of Juma,
And while I can’t get you a steak,
I can get you a fine burgermeat sandwich.”
The Oracle led them to a small bistro
—Michelangelo Donaldolla’s, or Micky D’s for short—
And ordered two combo meals,
Chatting away with a pleasant voice.
“I’ve made it my purpose in life to serve Juma,
To spread peace and compassion all across the lands,
As deemed holy and good by the God of Peace.
Here in Sparka there’s a flock of us that follow the Great Lamb.
We make it our business to help out all in need,
From the ragged and wretched to the lost and weary traveler,
Even if he is oddly dressed.
“Juma gives peace to all,
We who do not deserve his love,
And his grace is never ending.”
The Oracle continued speaking,
But the Hero lost attention in the words,
Instead occupying his time looking around the bistro,
Staring at the other patrons waiting in line.
A family with a crying babe.
An old croon, bent with age.
A dirty boy with a bag full of coins.
Oscambria jumped in his seat,
Ducking behind the Oracle
And causing the speaker to stumble.
“Dear man, you gave me a fright.
Is there something a-matter?”
The silent youth appeared not to notice the commotion
And Oscambria lurched his eyes back to Eidan.
“No, no. Nothing’s wrong, just…”
The Oracle turned to follow the Hero’s stare.
“What are you looking at?”
“Nothing! I just thought that I recognized someone, that’s all.
Wrong person though.”
The lie seemed to please the man,
And Eidan launched back into his sermon.
If Arca saw the Hero he did not act,
Much to Oscambria’s thankfulness.
Nonetheless, he kept the boy in the corner of his vision.
“And that is the truth of the matter,” finished Eidan,
Taking a long drink from his cup.
“What about you?”
The question caught the Hero off guard,
And he wasn’t sure how to answer.
“Me? Wh-what about me?”
The Oracle furrowed his brow.
“Who do you serve?
You’re not one of those new pagans are you?
Full on belief that the gods no longer exist?”
Oscambria chuckled softly.
“No, of course not. I serve the gods,
Same as anyone with a brain.”
He watched Arca take a table and order.
“Good, good. And who—”
The waiter returned,
Setting a platter of two burgermeat sandwiches down before them.
The aroma of the food was enough to make the Hero’s stomach moan,
Loud like a dying dog on a lonely, cold, and moonless night,
Howling at the ink black sky in defiance or despair.
“Dear Juma, was that your innards making that noise?”
Oscambria blushed, but he didn’t care.
He picked up a sandwich and began eating,
Sharing bites with Mossossopia.
The meal was finished in silence,
With only the soft din of cutlery on plates making any noise.
The Hero leaned back in his chair,
Content and full.
In the sweet afterglow of the meal
the Hero’s eyes wandered to find Arca.
They fell upon the lad,
Who was staring intently at Oscambria,
His mouth half-opened and his young brow wrinkled.
The Hero felt his face grow white.
Arca’s eyes grew hard and his lips formed a thin line.
Thinking fast, the Hero doubled over,
“Forgive me, Eidan,
but this burgermeat seems to disagree with me.
Long has it been since I’ve had such a meal,
And the food perhaps was too much. I thank you for your kindness,
And may Juma bless you.”
Oscambria rushed from the table,
Mossossopia fast on his heels,
And took off running.
He ran for the bath-house district,
But turned aside to an alley before he entered.
He breathed heavily, hoping Arca had stayed back,
And continued running.
‘Ere long he was lost.
Sparka wasn’t a large city,
But it was a foreign city,
Filled with winding streets that formed a labyrinth to those unfamiliar.
Tired, he leaned back against a wall and panted.
The curse, it seemed,
Also drained him of his stamina at a quicker rate.
He was in the market district,
Evidenced by the plethora of carts and vendors,
Shops and stores,
And the throng of people.
“A perfect place to get lost,” thought he.
“I’ll have to steal some supplies, Mossy, as much as I don’t want to,
and then we’ll get out of here.”
He turned and entered the closest store,
A moderate sized building filled with denizens.
Stocked fruits and nuts lined the walls.
A gaggle of women cooed over some exotic dresses.
Oscambria cast a quick glance about the room
And quickly stuffed a few goods of food into his tuxedo suit,
Sweating and hoping the act went smooth and unnoticed.
If anything, though, the strange outfit made him stand out,
Like a black speck on a white sheet of parchment,
But if anyone saw his deed they kept their mouth shut.
He sighed in relief,
Glad to have picked such a busy store.
“Come on Mossy,” he said,
and turned right into the path of a scowling guard.