Thursday, November 17, 2016

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learning to burn part 11

Be sure to start at the beginning!

Over the course of a week, Ofonode learns the layout of the city. It is very simple in design and makes perfect sense, yet he finds himself getting lost each time he sets out to investigate and learn the city. If he didn't have Os with him, he would have to ask for help to return to Estie's place each time he leaves.
Each time Ofonode asks if she needs anything from the city, Estie finds something for him to get for her. He thinks she understands his need to learn about the city and beyond because he's pretty sure a few of the times she sends him on errands, she's stretching to find something she can have him do that isn't completely pointless.
Today's errand is to pick up a load of roses from the flower shop. Os accompanies him and quickly falls asleep on his shoulders. Ofonode is pretty sure the invisian is still recovering from their alarming experience and near escape their first morning on the surface.
The florist's shop is obvious from the main square, but finding its back entrance is a more difficult task. Ofonode feels confused and frustrated aftertwenty minutes of searching the area on the building around where the door should be. He plops himself down on a sturdy-looking crate, jarring Os awake.
I'll find it, Ofonode.” The lizard hops down and runs off. Because he was asleep during all of Ofonode's search, the boy is flabbergasted when the changeling returns only moments later and tells Ofonode to follow him. Os leads him directly to a dirty nondescript door that looks like the others in the alley, except there's no sign on it.
How do you know this is the right one, Os?”
I can smell flowers, of course. Go ahead. Knock. If it's the wrong one, you can ask where the flower shop door is.” As he finishes making his suggestion, he steps up onto the hand Ofonode holds out for him and climbs to his shoulder and perches there, a bit like
That's true.” Ofonode knocks on the door.
A thin frail-looking lady opens the door, “Yes.” the woman says in a strong silky voice that doesn't look at all like it fits in her body, “What can I do for you, boy?”
I… well, I've come for the roses. Estie sent me.”
Yes. I've been expecting you. Come in young man.” She moves to the side with a sweep of her hand as if she's inviting him in to a castle. “Everyone calls me Florabell. What's your name?”
Ofonode.”
I see. Good name. What would you like to ask me?” Florabell walks next to Ofonode and guides him down the hall toward a brightly lit large room.
Ofonode and Os look at each other, “How do you...”
This may seem like a big city to you, Ofonode. And I guess we are in some ways. But here in Trebukenan we are also very isolated. So, when a strange boy who works at Estie's goes around asking about how to travel away from here… combine that with the fact that most strangers get here and want to stay and do... Well, that makes a stranger wanting more information about travel a sort of curiosity, you see… that sort of thing gets around really fast and makes you particularly interesting. You've given us something new and unusual to gum about with each other. That's a gift around here. So ask me what you want to know.”
I mean… if you already know, why not just tell me what you know I've been asking about?”
Although that would seem the more efficient way to do things, it doesn't make as much sense as you think. You see, the words you use to ask me the questions you have will help me know what you really want. I've only heard what others think you want so far.” The two stop walking as they enter a workroom off to the right of the brightly lit large room, which is the main display area of the shop.
Are the two really so very different?”
Perhaps. Maybe not. I'll only know after you ask me what you want to know. So…” Florabell moves away from Ofonode, gathering roses from various bouquets sitting on three different worktables in the room strewn with flowers of all sorts.
Well, I was asking about the city, but I think I understand how it's laid out now. Currently, I just need to figure out how to travel… and where I should go. So far I believe I've learned that there are two main cities to the northeast. I think I understand that there are four towns linked by aqueducts fed by Spring Lake to the southeast. It seems like no one's really sure what's beyond the town on Mountain River because of the mountain range folks seems to believe is infested with bandits. I don't really know about the west at all.”
Florabell returns to Ofonode holding a wide and long open basket full of roses. A tinkling sound comes from the large display room. Sounding a bit anxious Florabell says, “You don't ask questions well, boy. So far you've told me what you think you know, not what you want to know. You'll have to return tonight when you're finished working at Estie's Place. Try to figure out what questions to ask between now and then. Won't you? I'll be able to answer questions if they are prepared, but I won't be fit for a long conversation. My bed calls quickly when my work is done.”
Feeling confused, Ofonode takes the basket Florabell is holding out to him. “I… uh… well… okay. It might be pretty late tonight.”
Yes, I know.” Florabell turns away and walks out toward the main shop, “You can leave through the front door. It'll be easier for you to find your way back to Estie's. Come back tonight that way, too. I won't have you wandering about in the alleyway after dark.”
Oh. Okay. Thank you!”
Hello, Jansellia, I'll be with you in just a moment.” Florabell acknowledges the woman looking around her shop. She holds the door open for Ofonode and quietly says, “See you tonight. Remember to figure out what questions you want to ask.”
I will. Thank you.” Ofonode feels slightly confused and bemused as he turns away from the flower shop and hears Florabell's big voice, “Now what can I do for you, today, sweetheart?”
Very interesting woman. I like her.” Os, spread behind Ofonode's neck and resting on both of his shoulders, in his favorite position, is smiling.
Yeah. I like her, too. She seems to know a lot, doesn't she?”
Most of the shop owners know a lot, Ofononde. They have to so they know how to stock their places.”
I guess so. But she seems to know a lot in a different way. I can't quite put my finger on it. I guess it could be partially due to the way her voice seems like it doesn't fit her body… but it's something else, too. Like maybe she hasn't always been here. I just have a feeling that if I can manage to ask her the right questions, I'll know what I need to do when I leave Trebukenan.
#
Work passes easily as Ofonode considers what questions he should ask Florabell. When Pollyanna comes by to pick up the orders for her customers, she is as friendly as ever. Ofonode notices, but doesn't pay her as much attention as he has during the other meals since he's arrived.
After the meal, Ofonode, with Os across his shoulders, looks for Polly as he has after every other meal. He doesn't find her readily and figures it's for the best because he really must get back to talk to Florabell. He rushes through eating and makes his way across the plaza.
Ofonode knocks and then tests the door. It's unlocked, so he pulls it open and hears the light tinkling he heard when he was in the shop earlier and someone came in. The main display room is very dimly lit now. He waits by the door, hoping Florabell will reveal her location before he wanders around the store.
A moment after the wish, she seems to materialize next to him, “Have you clarified your questions, boy?”
Nodding his head, “Yes, ma'am. I think so.”
Florabell flips something on the door, “Good. Follow me Ofonode.”
She leads him to the room across from the workroom she took him to earlier in the day. It's about the same size as the workroom, but this room's only flowers are in finished bouquets places artfully on stands and tables. This room is appointed for comfort. He imagines this is where Florabell helps people plan how to use her flowers at their functions. In addition to a comfortable-looking sofa and chairs, there is a large desk set across a far corner of the room.
Sit where you like, boy. I'm going to rest at my desk because my poor tootsies are very sore tonight.” She sits behind her desk, puts her feet up on it and leans back in her chair. Ofonode decides on one of the large overstuffed chairs and sinks into it. Os climbs to the top of the backrest which is well above Ofonode's head and stretches out. “Whenever you're ready, go ahead and ask a question. I need to get on to bed as soon as we're finished.”
Do you think I need to worry about what's to the west?”
That depends on what you're trying to find.”
Well, I'm looking for a village a friend of mine once visited. The people of the village are unusual. I'm not exactly sure how. I forgot to ask what made them so unusual, but I'm pretty sure anyone that lives near them would know.”
From all I know of Flindernan, it's people are pretty normal. Just to clarify, there isn't a city to the west. Flindernan is to the southwest. It would be a long journey to get there because you cannot travel through the Wasteland unless you are very well equipped. You travel light, so you'd have to take the really long way there. I don't think you need to try.”
What about the two cities to the north? Have you heard of any unusual peoples there?”
No. No, I haven't.”
So that leaves the towns to the southeast. Have you heard anything about unusual people from there?”
No. I haven't.”
His line of questioning exhausted, “I don't know what else to ask!”
Perhaps do not ask such specific questions. If you can ask a more general question….”
Can't you tell me what to ask?”
I cannot do that, my boy.”
Sitting still and silent, Ofonode tries to think of a question that is more general.”
You can ask your friend to help you, Ofonode.”
The boy sits up straight, his eyes a little too wide. “Wh-what do you mean? Lizards don't talk.”
If that was just a lizard, you'd be right. But I'm pretty sure you know, just as well as I do, that he's not just a lizard.”
When Ofonode looks back, he sees Os transforming into his humanoid form. “How did you know me, madame?”
I didn't know for sure. But I've never seen a real lizard so friendly with anyone. So, I guessed you might be invisian. There are many old stories of the friendships between us and invisians. It is good to see you!” Florabell is smiling widely, still resting back in her chair. “You are a handsome fella, aren't you! What's your name?”
Osaretin.”
Is that why Estie calls him Tin?”
Perhaps.” Os says.
Ofonode is feeling slightly confused and very interested in hearing more.
Why don't you help the boy ask me what he wants to know. I'm sure you know what he seeks.”
Given what you know he seeks, in what direction should he travel from here and why?”
Yes. That's a good question. I knew you'd be able to help him! I would suggest traveling southeast through the small towns' trade route. Once you reach the largest and last, you will cross Mountain River and then you'll be a day's travel from Bandits Mountain Range. Make your way to the mountains by heading southeast. There is a trail, but it is faint these days I'm sure. Going through the mountains will be easier than you think. Once you've passed through the range, you'll see the Crystal Mountain. I believe the people you seek are there.”
Crystal Mountain? I haven't heard anything about that. Why do you think they are there?”
I have information that most here wouldn't have a way to know. You can try trusting me. Or not. It's totally up to you. I'm just telling you what I know.”
We thank you, Florabell.” Os says and his voice rings with sincerity. “I'm sure we will do as you say.”
Florabell nods as she stands. “Your secret is safe with me, Oseratin. I wouldn't want anyone to give you any problems. And the boy needs to find those folks. He'll need you with him. I must get to my bed now. You two can find your way out. The door will lock behind you.” She has come out from behind her desk as she says it.
Os becomes a lizard once more and climbs to Ofonode's shoulders. The boy makes his way to the door and turns, surprised to find Florabell right behind him. “Thank you for your help. I do appreciate it.”
She nods her head and gestures for him to keep walking. Ofonode walks through the main door, Florabell no longer behind them, and hears a different sort of click as it closes behind them.
Half-way across the plaza, Ofonode stops at the fountain and sits. “You really thing we should make our way to the Crystal Mountain, Os?”
Yes. Of course.”
But why? No one else has even mentioned a crystal mountain, much less a place with that name.”
I don't know how she knew me, but you said it yourself… there's something different about Florabell. She knows things. You felt trusting of her before we spoke to her tonight. Why not now?”
Maybe it's because she seemed to know you're invisian. I guess that has me feeling sorta spooked.”
And that's why I trust her. Only people who know beyond knowing can recognize one of my kind. I think it's likely she has traveled extensively and that's how she knows about the Crystal Mountain. But even if she found out about it some other way, I think we should do as she suggests.”
Trusting you hasn't done me any harm so far. We'll go that way just because you think it's a good idea.” Ofonode says, looking toward Spring Lake, admiring the aqueduct that brings the water to the fountain.
#
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