Journey of the Messenger Cycle 1 Part 7a

Journey of the Messenger Cycle 1 Part 7a

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Part 7) Ijah

 

Warm sunlight woke Ijah. She enjoyed the sensation, she remained abed and reflected on what they had learned over the past few days about the unusual little nation known as the Republic of Caffern.

Pleasantly, it was a very orderly and clean place, as were the people who lived there. Most were well educated as compared to other places in the freeholds, they cared about civic responsibility and possessed a strong national pride. All persons, regardless of sex, race or creed were considered as equals and anyone, from anywhere, could become a citizen.

Citizenship was not free, however. A person had to be willing to serve, either in the military or as part of the engineering corps. A decade of service guaranteed citizenship to any foreign person so inclined, while those born within the Republic were expected to do five years of service, with the additional options of serving in bureaucratic or educational positions.

Slavery, debt and indentured servitude were outlawed. Murder, assault and other forms of malicious actions were punishable by the loss of citizenship, exile and in some extreme cases execution. All citizens voted for representation within the government and for judicial positions. In theory, all citizens were equal within the courts, regardless of perceived status, material wealth or ability.

Ijah knew that she only had a cursory understanding of the Republic, but she could not fathom how her people had missed the existence of this place. No families had been sent here as part of the second phase of the Great Plan and, to her knowledge, no one had surveyed this area during the first phase. From what she had learned, the Republic of Caffern had been founded nearly two hundred and fifty years ago.

Ijah would definitely be including her observations about the place in her report, she regretted that she had so little time to spend here. Her injuries from the encounter with the wyrm and the recovery time, despite the welcome help from the Goddess of Mercy, had cost them most of an eight-day of travelling. Still, under the circumstances she supposed that she should be thankful she was able to continue on at all.

She was certainly thankful for the bed she had spent the night in and had, uncharacteristically, slept well past the dawn. She stretched out and considered staying put a while longer. She knew that Berri had wanted to track down Odeena’s family while they were here in Little Moat, Ijah had given her the morning for that task. Osran had found herself a lover the previous evening, another half-blood with a quirky sense of humour. Her companions were busy. Ijah sighed, rolling over so that the sun warmed her back. There was no rush to get up.

With the help of the two clerics of the Goddess of Mercy, Ijah had made a full recovery. She was a bit disconcerted about having had two infections over the past month or so, as a result of wounds she had received. She was thirty, she had not suffered such illnesses since the great voyage that had brought her and her family to this northern land. Though, that had more to do with adjusting to the new environment she had come to. Many of her people had been ill throughout the voyage, some had died.

Ijah had spent an unusual amount of time reflecting on the fight with the wyrm. She would not have been caught off guard by such a creature at the age of twenty, nor would it have overpowered her so easily. Recently she had also noticed a couple of grey strands of hair, or more accurately, Berri had noticed them and pointed it out. A warrior’s path was one of self discipline and often hardship. Her training gave her the tools to mitigate the emotional and physical toll that her profession exacted. Mitigate did not mean negate, few of her people were warriors for much more than a decade, almost none were so for two decades. She wondered if she would ever see the islands of her homeland again.

With a sigh she rolled out of bed. When her thoughts turned maudlin she found that vigorous exercise and some meditation typically allowed her to move past such feelings. Ijah began her stretches and considered the public bath, it was not far from the inn. Having noted that these republicans were firm believers in depilation, she decided to see what services the bath offered, after she had done some training.

Ijah took her sword then went down to the yard behind the inn. The area was spacious, only three other buildings shared the yard; the neighbouring tavern, a candle maker and a bakery across the back. Two small gates led to adjacent yards. Even with the bee hives, a couple of apple trees, kitchen gardens, a well and a few small sheds, there was plenty of space. Ijah placed herself between the well and the stone bench, she started her exercises.

It was not long before a couple people from the tavern stopped to watch her. Ijah transitioned from limbering exercises to unarmed forms, she noted there were a couple more people in a window on the second floor of the inn watching as well. Around the time she was ready to to take up her sword, someone from the tavern came out and scolded the two young women who had first started watching her. The fellow who had done the scolding then decided that what Ijah was doing was interesting enough to take some time to observe. A youth and a handful of smaller children came out from the candle makers place, full of curiosity, they gathered under one of the apple trees.

For the most part Ijah ignored the others until she was nearly finished. She was feeling good, there were no issues from her injuries. Between her activity and the fairly warm summer day Ijah had worked up a good sweat. She finished with a showier sword exercise, more dance than martial routine. There were a few exclamations from the children as Ijah finished with a wide, lunging swing. She smiled with pleasure, not so much for the appreciation of her audience, she was pleased that her body had recovered as well as it had. She gave a small bow to the children, much to their delight, before returning to her room.

Ijah gathered a few of her belongings, leaving her sword behind with the messenger’s satchel, and went out. She went to a market and perused the wares that were available. From one vendor she bought a wide, shallow basket with an overly large handle. From a friendly older gentleman she purchased a couple lengths of good quality hemp cloth, with a fine weave that was so soft she was surprised it was not cotton. From another place she bought a few jars of preserves, she noticed the uniformity of the glass jars and asked the woman, “Where do you get your glass?”

“Impressive, is it not? It all comes from the bottle factory down in Capital City. There’s a big glass industry there, originally started by a couple from Maldorn, near a hundred years ago. You might enjoy this,” She gestured to a row of bottles, “Goblin jam, made this spring.”

Ijah picked up the jar and looked at the contents, she wondered what a factory was, assuming it was a workshop of some sort. She looked from the jar to the vendor, “What is it?”

“A kind of minced meat, prepared with bitter berries usually, very tart and tasty. I also put dill in mine and am told it’s the best goblin jam in the district.”

“Sure, I’ll take a couple, as well some pickles and some apple jelly.”

“Eighteen copper.”

Ijah was a bit surprised by the price, but thought it had to do with the glass jars. She paid the woman and thanked her. From another fellow she bought some bread and a hunk of cheese as she was leaving the market. Sitting near a low wall that defined the boundaries of the market, she watched people go about their business as she ate.

She was surprised by the lack of destitute people. There were still folks about that did not look overly affluent, but she saw no beggars or street kids. After she had finished her food she went over to a small shrine, dedicated to the Goddess of Mercy, and took the time to thank the goddess that had helped mend her. She left one of the jars of goblin jam and a handful of copper coins. Then she made her way back down the street, past the inn to the public baths.

The bath was built with granite and finished with marble, it was an impressive building and as with most of the other public structures she had seen in the Republic of Caffern, it had a number of columns across the entry. A large door was the main entrance, two smaller doors also granted access. Both men and women came and went from the main entry, the left seemed to be only for women, while the right was for men.

Ijah entered through the smaller left doorway. She could smell soap and clean linens. Pausing a moment she looked around, a small number of women seemed to be attendants, dressed in short white gowns. A couple of the young ladies started towards her, but a word from another woman around Ijah’s age stopped them. She was attractive and had a nice smile. Ijah said, “Hello.”

“Good day, mistress. Do you need any assistance or special services?”

“I believe so. I think I’d like a bit of everything.”

She appeared pleased with Ijah’s request, waved a couple of the waiting women over to her, “You can pass your belongings to Litha, she’ll see to them and fetch anything you might need. Doyya here will take you to the bath and assist you as you desire. Once you’re clean, we’ll see what you’d like next.”

Ijah smiled and passed her basket to Litha, “Sounds delightful.”

 

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