And here’s the third introduction to some of the Reawakening supporting cast. This is the last post which features members of Sethan Lattimar’s caravan, so I’m going to pause to talk about these guys for a moment. One of the decisions you have to make when writing a fantasy world is about that world’s attitudes to same-sex relationships. In Reawakening, just as in the real world, it varies between countries. In the north-west, where the story begins, same-sex relationships are legal but not always tolerated. Sethan is a bookseller by trade, but he also puts together caravans of independent traders, all of whom are QUILTBAG or allies and have had trouble being accepted in other trade groups. That policy also extends to his hiring of caravan guards. So, if anyone was thinking, “Hey, Amy, why is almost everyone gay?” that’s why 🙂
Here, in the silliest of these missing scenes, you’re going to meet caravan guard Dit, his colleagues Jancis and Ellia, and spice merchant Barrett, all of whom regularly travel with Sethan.
Dit (and accomplices)
Dittan Quickblade had always wanted to see the famous patterned rooftops of Rashamel from above. When he had formed that ambition, however, he had thinking of looking down from one of the guard towers in the higher town, preferably in the company of someone extremely good-looking. His fantasy had never involved the flagpoles that were set into the eaves of the grander townhouses.
Yet, here he was, dangling from a steadily bending flagpole, three storeys above the cobbled street, and bollocks-naked . It wasn’t even a nicely grubby street, which might have offered some straw or a heap of nightsoil to break his fall. This street was as smart, clean and rich as the house he’d been in only a few moments before.
At least it offered a good view of the roofs of the lower town, with their tiles made from the three types of clay that underlay the region and provided Rashamel with unique economic opportunities that would amply reward a discerning investor (the window he had just exited belonged to the treasurer of the potteries guild, and Dit could feign interest in anything for a man with such a promising smile). From a purely aesthetic standpoint, the roofs were indeed very pretty from above, covered with patterns of stars and crosses and interlocking circles.
Unfortunately, at this moment, as he slid further and further down the creaking flagpole, Dit was more worried about the not-so-pretty pattern his withering balls would make when they met the cobbles below. Frantically, he tried to swing his legs up and hook them around the flagpole.
Below him, someone let out a snort of laughter. Dit craned his neck enough to look down and found, to his relief and chagrin, that his friends had arrived.
“You’re late,” Jancis said calmly, only the twitching corners of her mouth giving away her amusement. “We almost left town without you.”
Ellia, however, was laughing openly, her hand over her mouth to muffle the giggles. The sun was only just up, and the girls were both far too well-mannered to wake up the good citizens of Rashamel, even for the chance to laugh at him.
“Are you just going to stand there and mock me?” he hissed.
They exchanged grins and Jancis said, “Sounds like fun.”
“Did you notice you were missing something?” Ellia asked, still snickering.
“My trousers? Yes, strangely enough, I did notice.”
“No, not just that,” she said, shaking her head slowly. “Your dignity. What happened?”
Dit would have winced, if his position hadn’t been so precarious. “His wife came home.”
“Oh, Dit,” Ellia said, her face falling. “Not again.”
“It’s not like they ever tell me that they’re married!”
“Do you ask?” Jancis wondered aloud.
“Get me down!” Dit wailed, because sometimes throwing himself on their mercy got things done a little quicker.
Jancis shook her head at him, but stepped away, saying, “Don’t go anywhere.”
Dit refrained from commenting on that, but he did say to Ellia, “The world is full of good and lovely men. Why isn’t there one for me?”
“There is,” she assured him. “You just have terrible taste.”
“He had nice eyes,” Dit said wistfully.
“You could try looking beyond their eyes,” she suggested. “More than five minutes’ conversation might be wise.”
“Who has time?” Dit said airily and then bit back a yelp as the flagpole creaked and bent a little more. “If this snaps, will you break my fall?”
“I could try,” she said dubiously. Fair enough. She was all lean muscle, but she only came up to his shoulder. The fact that she was willing, however, lifted his spirits. Good friends made life worth living.
Then Jancis returned, and not alone. She was perched on the driving seat of a covered wagon, one that barely fit along this road. Dit knew that wagon and he was torn between relief and chagrin. That was Barrett’s cart (and what was Barrett doing in Rashamel, of all places?). Barrett was a decent sort, and wouldn’t mock him too much, but Dit always had the faint feeling that he was a disappointment to the man.
The flagpole’s next creak was distinctly splintery, and Dit forgot his embarrassment to squeak dismay.
“Hang on,” Ellia said encouragingly and dashed back to help Barrett coax the horses up the lane. The wagon rumbled closer, wheels clunking against the cobbles, and Dit tried to will his palms to stay dry long enough to keep his grip.
“Well met, Dit,” Barrett said gravely from below him. “You ready to leave Rashamel?”
“Yes!” Dit hissed.
“When you’re ready, then.”
Dit looked down to see the wagon below him. Jancis and Ellia had pulled back the covers, and there was a good heap of empty sacks piled below him. Closing his eyes, he let go of the flagpole, curling up as he fell.
He hit the sacks hard enough to knock the breath out of him, and the flagpole went twanging back up. Jancis pulled the covers back over the wagon in one move, and Dit was left in the shade, wheezing for breath and surrounded by the scent of wood and spices.
Above them, he heard a window creak open and a furious female voice demanded, “What is going on down there?”
“I’m so sorry, madam,” Jancis said. “We took a wrong turning.”
Dit tuned her out. If she was doing the talking, it would all be smoothed over easily enough. At least one of them had an honest face. Sitting up with a wince, he reached out to pull a few sacks around his goose-pimpled legs. There had been quite a breeze up there, and it was only spring.
Barrett ducked into the back, smiling at him. His face was more kind than it was handsome, but Dit liked it. You always knew you could rely on Barrett.
“Thanks,” he said.
Barrett shook his head slightly. “Are you all right?”
“I think my balls have retreated all the way to my lungs,” Dit said sadly.
Barrett looked faintly flustered at that. “Ah, I’d offer to rub them better, but I suspect that’s the sort of thing that got you into trouble in the first place.”
Dit sighed. “Not that I’d ever admit it to the girls, but you may be right.”
“Oh, have your fun,” Barrett said and reached behind a pile of sacks to pull out a roll of clothes. “Get those on. Did you leave anything valuable in there?”
“No. Contrary to popular belief, I do learn from experience.”
“You might want a little less experience and a little more learning in future.”
Dit grinned at him, as slyly as he could manage with his teeth chattering. “You offering to teach me?”
Barrett threw the clothes at his head, blushing a little. “Get dressed, Dit, if you want a free ride to Hirah.”
Dit did as he was told. “Why are we going to Hirah?”
“Sethan Lattimar’s putting a caravan together.”
Now, that was interesting. He’d happily turn down better pay to work with Sethan again. “Where to?”
“Think he’s hiring guards?”
“On that run? Definitely.”
Dit nodded. Tiallat was an increasingly unpleasant place to visit, and Sethan was canny enough not to ride into a nest of fanatics without plenty of armed support. “You heading straight out?”
“I’ve got a shipment to pick up, and the girls have offered to retrieve your belongings from the inn. I’d be glad to have the three of you for company on the road.”
“We’ll protect you from wolves and lusty brigands,” Dit said, with a wink.
Ellia, leaning in from the front seat, grimaced at him, and then called out, “He’s fine. He’s flirting.”
“Of course he is,” Barrett commented. “He’s conscious.”
“Hey!” Dit protested, but he didn’t really mind. He had his friends around him, and the promise of an interesting job ahead. He’d take that over the patterned rooftops of Rashamel any day.