Chapter 6: Searching the city
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Andrew looked around the ceremonial chamber when he woke up. It was this room that hundred of Shimeirin's people had been sacrificed. He could never forgive the Servant for doing that to them. Did those poor people even realize what was happening or was it only those that were in the circle around Servant? If they didn't know then those that had been turned into bracelets were evil.
 
Shimeirin didn't know so chances we that most of the others didn't either. If he couldn't return to earth then he felt maybe he should do something about them.
 
You saw? Shimeirin said as soon as Andrew woke up.
 
Yes. No wonder you want nothing to do with the Servant. Andrew said as he ran the events of the dream through his mind.
 
Shimeirin thinks they are all dead. My aunt, the others. Shimeirin became depressed.
 
Andrew wanted to tell her they were still alive, he hadn't seen any bodies, but the feeling of the light coming from the room... Maybe we shouldn't go search the city. Seeing it empty...
 
No, Shimeirin wants to. Shimeirin wants to see Shimeirin's house. Shimeirin added determination and reluctance to her depression.
 
I want to see where you used to live. Andrew wondered what her house looked like. It would also tell him lots about what kind of people she and her aunt were.
 
"Anyone up for some exploring?" Andrew wanted to distract himself.
 
"I think I will stay." Rah'asu looked exhausted. Andrew wondered how hard she had been pushing herself. He was pretty sure her wounds were still bothering her.
 
"I understand," Andrew said and turned to Insu, who was still asleep. "But first I'm going to eat something while it is still quiet."
 
"I'm just glad he doesn't snore." Rah'asu laid her head down and looked like she was going to get some more sleep.
 
"Ugh." Andrew could only imagine.
 
Andrew stood up from his sleeping spot and knocked on the door to the priest's room. "Edic?"
 
"Yes?" A voice came from outside one of the nearby windows.
 
"Oh," Andrew walked outside and met Edic by a decent-sized garden.
 
Edic was currently weeding, was no longer in his priest robes, and was wearing a simple long-sleeved shirt and slacks. His hands, feet, and knees were covered in dirt with a few smudges on his face.
 
"I was hoping to get my morning gardening out of the way before you woke up."
 
"I'm the only one up at the moment. Insu is still asleep and Rah'asu just went back to sleep." Andrew knelt by Edic and began to help him weed.
 
"I appreciate the help." Edic smiled at the help.
 
"Of course. If we're going to stay here it's the least I can do." Andrew would trade gardening for foraging any day. 
 
"After you finish your business in the city we will expand the garden. I have extra seeds." Edic began looking at the area surrounding the garden.
 
"We'll have to see how good rabbit kin are at using those legs at digging," Andrew said as he pulled out one of the sparse weeds.
 
An hour later Andrew was ready to go. He had woken up quite early thanks to the dream and Insu and Rah'asu still hadn't gotten up.
 
He decided he wanted to head out by himself. He wanted some privacy when he and Shimeirin went to her house. Edic also assured him the area was safe so he would be fine going by himself.
 
The city was only an hour walk from the temple but Shimeirin had led him around the edge and to the west. Here the houses were much farther apart than what he could see in the more densely packed parts of the city. The houses were all well made and looked much more advanced than those he had seen in the Wolf Kin village.
 
Did you live with your aunt? Andrew felt that there was no better time to bring up Shimeirin's past.
 
Yes. Shimeirin felt more comfortable about the subject than he thought. Still, her anticipation and dread were already at the forefront of her emotions.
 
Do you mind if I ask what happened to your parents? Andrew hoped he wasn't bringing up even more painful memories.
 
Shimeirin's mother died after giving birth to Shimeirin. Slight sadness and regret. Shimeirin's father, sadness, inadequacy, longing, gave Shimeirin to Shimeirin's aunt to take of Shimeirin after Shimeirin's mother died.
 
Andrew became angry after hearing her father had abandoned her. What kind of loser would give responsibility for his child to someone else? Maybe it was better that he had given her up so she wouldn't have been raised by him. Did you know him very well?
 
No. Shimeirin is too scared to go see him and he has never come to visit. Shimeirin's emotions gave Andrew a feeling that she had already accepted that her father wasn't going to be a part of her life. 
 
What was your aunt like? Andrew hated having to use was instead of is.
 
When she wasn't working she was always drinking. She wasn't mean and gave Shimeirin everything Shimeirin needed. Shimeirin's loneliness grew.
 
I promise I'll never leave you Shimeirin. Even after we get your body back I'll stay with you. Andrew wasn't sure if he wanted to cry or to hit something. He was all too familiar with this situation.
 
I was taken from my parents when I was four years old. He told Shimeirin. They were doing drugs and drinking. When a neighbor discovered the bruises from when my parents beat me they called the police and I was taken away. Andrew started shaking. For the next fourteen years I was placed with different families. Some were kind, but most didn't care. Some even ignored me. 
 
Shimeirin felt like she wanted to say something and hesitated for a moment. Shimeirin saw your dreams too. Shimeirin saw some things.
 
Andrew wondered which dreams she had seen. He still had nightmares from his time with his parents despite it being so long ago. I hope you saw some of my better dreams too. Like your dreams where you are flying over the ocean. I could sleep forever with those.
 
Shimeirin brightened slightly. It really is the best. Feeling the sun on your back and the warm breeze. Still, Shimeirin wishes she could spend time with your friends. Shimeirin was never good at making friends. Andrew's dreams with your friends were so happy. Shimeirin wants to experience that too.
 
Andrew thought to his friends. What were they doing now? If I can't go back to earth you might be able to meet them. 
 
Shimeirin worries. The others like Shimeirin that Andrew's friends chose.
 
I'm sure Isaac is fine. He is the best person I know, not the best at judging people, but he does his best. Cameron I'm not sure of. I only knew him for a few months but seemed like a decent person. Lisbeth, well... she's probably taking full advantage of everything. I hope Isaac is a good enough influence on her but... Andrew was pretty sure Lisbeth dropped Isaac the first chance she got.
 
Shimeirin wants to meet Isaac. Isaac was such good friends with Andrew. Shimeirin isn't sure about Lisbeth and Cameron, but wants to meet them too. Shimeirin felt guilty about something when she said she wanted to meet Lisbeth and Cameron.
 
Turn here. Shimeirin said when they approached an intersection. Shimeirin's house is by that stand of trees at the bottom of the hill.
 
Andrew turned the corner. The area was just at the outskirts of the village and he could also hear the waves from the ocean coming from the other side of the hill. At the bottom of the hill he spotted the stand of trees. Through the trees he could see a house though most of it was obscured.
 
Shimeirin became nervous at the sight of her home.
 
When Andrew reached the house he stopped. This was where Shimeirin had lived until a few months ago. It was one of the smaller houses he had seen after arriving at the city and it was a little run down. It was made of wood and plaster and looked remarkably like houses did on Earth, albeit a bit more old fashioned. It even had glass in the windows.
 
Andrew approached the front door. It was a sliding door and was made out of wood. On either side were small glass windows. He looked for a lock but didn't see one. It opened, but it almost got stuck several times.
 
Directly inside was what looked like the main living space. There was a fireplace, two wooden chairs, and a table. Behind that was a sort of half room and looked to be a kitchen and pantry. There were two doors to the right. The floor was made of wood.
 
Shimeirin's room is the one in the back. Aunt Ha'remi's room is the other one. Shimeirin felt sadness, nostalgia, relief.
 
I want to see what Shimeirin's room looks like. Andrew grinned and headed for the door.
 
He wasn't disappointed. It had a bed in the far corner, next to a window that looked to the side of the hill and trees behind the house, a table with chair, and wood floor with a rug large enough to cover most of it. The bed and table were covered with toys of various animals. Overall everything was worn but in good shape. The room was clean even after months of disuse. This is amazing.
 
Shimeirin was excited when Andrew looked at the toys. How many do you think we can take with us?
 
Andrew looked at all the toys. They didn't look heavy but there were a lot of them. To where? I guess we can stay and live here for now. It's certainly better than sleeping on the floor of the temple.
 
Shimeirin felt conflicted. Andrew could feel she was happy to be home but was also feeling regret about something. Yes, Shimeirin would like to stay here.
 
If that's what you want. Andrew had a pretty good idea about what her regret was. But only after we figure out what we will do about food.
 
Shimeirin's house might have some.
 
Andrew remembered the kitchen area. He doubted most of it would still be edible after sitting for so long. It was also possible pests had gotten into it as well. Do you think any is still good after all this time?
 
Maybe the ... or the ... Shimeirin said some words Andrew wasn't familiar with.
 
I don't know these words. Andrew repeated the words he didn't know.
 
Oh, one is like dust and the other is hard and dry.
 
Food that is like dust and one that is hard and dry? Flour and... crackers? Let's go look. 
 
Andrew left Shimeirin's room and headed for the pantry. It didn't have a door but was a small room filled with shelves. Most of the shelves were empty or had the mostly rotted remains of food. He saw rodents had also made some work of it. He did find two large sacks on the floor. The first looked like a hole had been chewed through it and was leaking a white powder. Flour? The other turned out to be rice.
 
Flour and rice. Andrew said in English.
 
Flour and rice. Shimeirin repeated in English as Andrew looked at each bag.
 
Can you make anything with this? Andrew might be able to work with the flour but he hadn't cooked rice before.
 
Yes! Shimeirin did all the cooking. Shimeirin thinks it will be hard to make something good with only rice and flour though.
 
We can try other houses but I doubt we'll find much other than flour and rice. Andrew thought.
 
Aunt Fun-na had ... Shimeirin used two words he didn't know.
 
I don't know what that is. Andrew said as he scanned the rest of the kitchen area.
 
Shimeirin made chicken noises and said the first word Andrew didn't know.
 
Chicken? Oh! Good idea. If they haven't starved to death we can get eggs! Andrew nodded.
 
Shimeirin mooed and said the second word.
 
Cow. Andrew repeated. Cows would be great too.
 
Uncle Enno who lives on the edge of town had some. I used to fly over them all the time. Shimeirin became nostalgic.
 
Cows and Chickens. Sounds great. Andrew nodded. Looks like we're starting a... Andrew didn't know the word for farm, place where you grow food.
 
Shimeirin and Andrew will live here for a long time? Shimeirin felt conflicted.
 
I don't know. Andrew had been too busy surviving for the moment and thinking about going back to earth. If I can't go back to earth...
 
If he couldn't go back to earth what would he do? Raise cows and chickens in this valley for the rest of his life? Could he be content with that? His thoughts turned to his friends. I want to find my friends. I know we've talked about this before but I think that is what I want to do.
 
Shimeirin felt happy. We can go look for them and come back here before Edic leaves!
 
Let's! Andrew smiled. He wasn't going back to earth without at least finding his friends. But first food.
 
Andrew and Shimeirin left the house and broke into several nearby houses. In each, they found usable rice and flour but nothing else. They even checked the house that had kept chickens but found nothing but mostly decomposed chicken corpses. Even the cows had managed to escape the small enclosure they had been kept in. They weren't anywhere in sight either so they grabbed a bag of rice and flour from the nearby house and headed to the temple.
 
"Anyone want some rice or flour?" Andrew said as he entered the temple.
 
"Welcome back," Rah'asu said and came up to them. "What are rice and flour?"
 
Andrew opened the bags and showed her. "You've never seen these before?"
 
Rah'asu shook her head. "My people only eat what we can hunt and forage."
 
"So you don't grow your food?" Andrew wasn't surprised.
 
"There are some that keep chickens." Rah'asu sniffed the bags. "Are you sure this is food?"
 
"The rice you need to boil and the flour needs to be mixed with other stuff," Andrew said. "Shimeirin knows how to cook it."
 
"I see." Rah'asu smiled. "I am in your care Shimeirin."
 
Andrew looked around. The temple was very quiet. "I guess Insu isn't back yet."
 
"No and I hope he takes his time getting back," Rah'asu said and closed the door.
 
"That reminds me," Andrew remembered his earlier conversations with Shimeirin. "Shimeirin and I have decided to go look for my friends after we rest here for a day or two."
 
Rah'asu studied him for a long time. "You know I can't go with you."
 
"I never expected you to. You've already fulfilled your promise of bringing me here." Andrew smiled at the wolf. "If anything I should make sure you get safely to a Wolf Kin village."
 
"I plan on staying with the spider kin. Despite their looks they are a good tribe." Rah'asu said. "If only I could return to my human for I could go with you."
 
"You don't think you'll ever be able to again?" Andrew was extremely curious as to what she looked like.
 
"I try every day." 
 
"Maybe you can come as my pet?" Andrew said this more for Rah'asu's reaction.
 
Rah'asu stared at Andrew. She looked like she wanted to reply to it but instead said, "Leaving the day after tomorrow sounds fine."
 
Shimeirin wonders if Shimeirin can help. Shimeirin has been thinking about how to help Rah'asu for a long time. Could Shimeirin give Rah'asu strength from Insu and Andrew?
 
"Shimeirin just thought of a good idea!" Andrew loved it. "We can try giving you strength from Insu and I and see if that is enough to let you transform."
 
"I see. I had considered it before but we needed to focus on traveling I didn't bring it up." Rah'asu said.
 
"You could have at least said something." Andrew wished Rah'asu would share more of her feelings and ideas.
 
"We'll see."
 
The door to the priest's chamber opened and Edic poked his head out. "Ah, I thought I heard your voice Andrew. Find anything good?"
 
Andrew picked up the two bags. "Just rice and flour."
 
Edic looked at the bags. "Ah yes, I found a lot of that too." He looked to the rice. "So that stuff is called rice? They don't have it where come from."
 
"Where do you come from?" Rah'asu asked.
 
"A country called Sativ. It's pretty far north and a bit east." He thought as he spoke.
 
"They speak the same language there as here?" Andrew asked.
 
"Ah right, you don't know about this." He pointed to the purple choker on his neck. "It is one of Lady Melche's marvels. Whoever wears one can speak and understand any language."
 
"I wish the guy that brought me here had given me one." Andrew wondered if his friends had been given one after they arrived. "Though I don't mind because I had fun learning."
 
Edic smiled. "A good attitude to have, though I imagine having that rabbit around you would have gotten plenty of practice whether or not you wanted to learn."
 
"Yeah, I wouldn't be nearly as good as I am now if it wasn't for him," Andrew recalled how fast he had learned with Shimeirin and Rah'asu as compared to when Insu had joined them.
 
"Probably the only benefit to letting him join us," Rah'asu said with a huff.
 
"You know you like him." Andrew teased the wolf.
 
"I was always afraid he would draw unwanted attention. I guess he did help keep things less boring though." Rah'asu mumbled the last part.
 
"I wonder if he will be getting back soon or if he will stay in the city." Edic glanced at the door. "It's not much longer to dusk."
 
"Oh, he'll be back," Rah'asu said with certainty. "He loves talking too much."
 
Andrew's stomach growled. "I want to try making some food with Shimeirin."
 
"Feel free. If you need the stove or oven there is plenty of wood in the kitchen." Edic said and began heading to the priest's chamber. "It's just inside and through another door."
 
Once inside the chamber, Andrew looked around. It wasn't the same as he had remembered it from his shared dream with Shimeirin. Books were scattered everywhere and many were still open. The hole in the wall where Shimeirin had hidden was much more visible from this side but he could see how Shimeirin had hidden there in the shadows. He then looked at the door that most likely led to the stairwell. There were two other doors, one to the left of the door to the stairs and another on the opposite wall. Edic led them to the former.
 
"Feel free to use anything you see, though don't expect much of anything fresh," Edic said as he opened the door.
 
Andrew walked through the door. The kitchen was bigger than the one in Shimeirin's house and had more storage space. There was a stove and a brick oven that was built into the wall on the opposite side of the room. The room itself was well lit from several windows on the wall to the left. A long table with chairs hugged the left wall.
 
Edic touched a glass fixture on the wall near the door and a similar fixture on the ceiling lit up. When Edic saw Andrew's reaction he said, "All of Melche's temples have at least one light crystal though this is the only one in this temple for some reason. They're in my home temple, even the wealthy have them."
 
"Cool," Andrew said. "How do they work?"
 
Edic considered Andrew for a moment. "How much do you know about magic?"
 
"Not much. Rah'asu knows a little but she's told me the animal kin aren't so good at it. I think she said the humans in the cities to the east are pretty good." Andrew tried remembering.
 
"I see." Edic thought. "I talked much with Rah'asu today but it's hard to get information from her and she always looks so tired."
 
"Yeah. When I met her she was badly injured. Because I helped heal her she guided me here as thanks." Andrew was sure he would be dead by now if it wasn't for her.
 
"And what about Insu?" Edic asked.
 
"He found us on the way here. We were cooking a rabbit Rah'asu had killed and he asked us if we would share." Andrew smiled as he remembered.
 
"A rabbit eating rabbit..." Edic's expression looked the same as the first time he heard that Insu ate rabbit.
 
"We don't let him eat any unless he is in his human form." 
 
"You know I still haven't seen either Rah'asu or Insu in their human forms." 
 
"Rah'asu can't because of her injury and Insu seems to like being a giant rabbit more than a human."
 
"I see." He said, "One more question before I let you get to your cooking."
 
"Hmm?"
 
"Who is Shimeirin? I've heard you mention the name several times."
 
Should we tell him? Andrew trusted Edic but still wanted to get Shimeirin's permission first.
 
Yes.
 
He wasn't sure how much detail he wanted to go into but he might be able to get some answers. "Ready for the full story about how I came to Calorin?"
 
"If you don't mind." Edic looked extremely interested.
 
Andrew told him everything. Edic paid attention to every word. At one point he even asked Andrew to stop and he got a quill and parchment to take notes. He glanced many times at Shimeirin and even drew the bracelet.
 
"I think I have heard of this Servant. Before I came to Nael I spent a few days in Lady Melche's realm and heard some gossip about what was happening here. Lady Melche has been working with a Servant that fits your description for over a millennium here on Nael. They didn't seem to know exactly what they are doing here but considering there are no beast kin anywhere else on Calorin I would say they are another one of their projects, much like the rings you say were made here." Edic tapped his quill on the table they had sat down at. 
 
"Do you think it's possible to give Shimeirin her body back?" Andrew looked at the beautiful bracelet.
 
"That is something you will have to ask that Servant or Lady Melche. I'll ask around when I leave Nael but I don't think Lady Melche will appreciate it if I did too deep into something she has been keeping secret so long." He sighed. "I better let you prepare some food."
 
Andrew watched Edic leave the room. Maybe we shouldn't have told him. He might get into trouble if we told him something he shouldn't have.
 
Shimeirin felt concerned. Should we tell him to not say anything?
 
Probably, but he might be our best chance to return you to your body. Andrew thought of another option. If we find my friends we might find the Servant again. If anyone can turn you back it would be him.
 
Shimeirin shuddered. Shimeirin does not want to see him again.
 
I don't either but I'm willing to if it means getting your body. Andrew touched the bracelet.
 
Rice for dinner? Shimeirin's feelings of discomfort told Andrew to drop the subject for now.
 
Andrew turned to the pantry. Rice it is. 
 
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