“I’m not paying two odes for this,” I said. These merchants were getting bolder and bolder by the day.
“Two odes or you put it all back,” he shrugged, not batting an eye.
“Two months ago I could buy all this for half that!”
“Two months ago there was no tariff on raftheads. You want your damn Kitsuyan vegetables you can get on the next boat headed there.”
Ruder by the day, too. I forked over the two gold coins and stalked off, groceries in one hand and staff in the other.
The causeway through the main streets of Kalisport was as busy as it always was this time of day, and even with the oceanic breeze it was still hot out. People were amply coated in sweat as they heaved carts and goods through the market, going about their day with a smile on their face.
I never understood how people could be so… happy.
Feeling the warmth on my pale skin, I remembered why I was in such a hurry. Being in the sun too long always gave me horrendous burns. I learned very quickly why Kitsuyans don’t often leave the isles: we melt.
I stepped into a shady alleyway to catch my breath and cool off a bit. I set my things down to examine the damage. “By the Mist and Tides,” I cursed. “I’m already burnt. I’ve barely been out twenty minutes!”
Glancing down the alley, I was hit with a sudden sense of…
All the commotion of the thoroughfare nearby was suddenly gone. It was just me. Here. Alone.
An impossible gale of wind flooded through the narrow path, tossing up papers and refuse and anything else. As it rushed towards me, I thrust my hand out to combat it, but no magic came. What could I do against wind? Against the Silence, my old enemy?
It crashed into me, pushing me against the wall with the force of a freight golem. Before I knew it, the Silence had passed, the sound of the nearby street was back, and I was huddled right where I had stopped, weeping speechless tears.
It had been years since I had had one of these attacks. I still lived with my aunt back then. I thought it was gone for good. This one, as minor as it had been, was an ill omen.
Well, I wasn’t the powerless little girl anymore.
With a huff to gather my composure, I stood and grabbed my staff. I wasn’t about to let the Silence once again wreak havoc over my life.
After a conspicuous but determined jog back to my little apartment, I threw all the windows and doors open and stepped out onto the balcony. Heat and burning be damned, I couldn’t risk another attack, I needed noise.
I was met with the full view of Kalisport, rows upon rows of buildings, the floating spires in the distance one direction, the tranquil Xal Deer Sea the other. I focused on the sound of the people below as I watched, picking out as many strings of words as I could.
Then, two quick knocks on my front door, and my heart skipped a beat. Had I been followed? I recalled every footstep I made between going to buy groceries and coming home. I hadn’t noticed anyone tailing me, but then, I hadn’t been in the most stable of mindsets. I didn’t have any friends here, and the people I worked with wouldn’t knock. I clenched my staff tighter. Whoever it was, they knew I was here.
I thought about the soft thumps of my boots as I walked across the floor to the door. The Silence could still come back if I wasn’t careful. I had to focus on the sound.
“Who is it?” I called through.
“An old friend,” a male voice responded. I recognized it, but the memory was faint. Old.
“Older than I’d like to admit.”
I opened the door to see Khuros. The imaginary friend that saved me from the Silence.
“You left these in the alleyway,” he said, holding up my basket of groceries.
I wasn’t sure what to say. Everyone has imaginary friends when they’re kids, don’t they? I struggled to come up with a greeting but instead…
“You’re not real,” I muttered, out loud I realized too late.
He shrugged. “Neither is the Silence, and yet here we are. We need to talk.”