Continued from the previous chapter, here, and with apologies for the delay.
𝔗he mail-clad man looked agog at the green-clad man he followed. “This cannot be the same place we left,” he said, “for the very air is different, and none of the people are the same. The ground has changed, as well, for I saw no stone roads where we trod before, and I stand on such a one now–yet how could one have been laid so quickly?”
“How, indeed?” replied the green-clad man. “Yet I said this is the glory of the place, and would you say that what you saw is the glory of any place? And if it were, how sad must such a place be, that such gloom and ruin would be its height?”
The mail-clad man considered what it was the green-clad man had said, and he shrugged, for he could find no response thereto. And then the green-clad man bade him follow, so he did, and they walked out among the stone-paved streets and the strange-speaking people. The mail-clad man watched them as they went, and he noted that they watched him in turn, their faces betraying surprise at his appearance and wariness of the sword on whose hilt he still rested a hand. But they did speak to the green-clad man, and he answered them in the same tongue, speaking as fluently in it as in the knight’s own or the speech of those in the forest before.
Their talks seemed friendly enough, if tone and gesture were any indication, but the mail-clad man knew he did not know the words. He did, however, mark the gestures made toward him, and he thought the green-clad man might be excusing his presence in a part of Anderitum that he still did not think could be. And he was concerned that his presence needed to be excused, that he might well not be welcome in the place where he found himself–and that he knew of no way to make himself seem such. So he did what he thought was best; he remained silent, and he strove to place upon his face a pleasant expression, and he took his hand away from the hilt of his sword. And he noted that when he did, he still attracted attention, for the way in which he was dressed was unlike that in which those he passed were, and that which is unalike always draws the eye, but the eyes he saw turned towards him were far less wary than they had been before.
As the green-clad man proceeded, the knight looked about, and he saw strong stone buildings surrounding wide stone-paved roads and green plazas, rising high above the height of a tall mounted man riding a taller horse. The courses of stone were even and true, and there was but little mortar between them–and the roofs of the buildings were of tile that seemed almost to glow in the sun. It seemed a place of peace and plenty that he walked through as he followed the green-clad man, and he asked him what sort of people were they who could build such things as they saw. And the green-clad man answered that they were the people from whom he was come, people who had long lived in such places but who only rarely did anymore–although they might well again, did the mail-clad man help him.
“Is that the task for which I am charged to aid you, then? The restoration of your people?” asked the mail-clad man, and the green-clad man he followed nodded his head in answer. “Then I am glad to do it,” the knight added, and he looked about at the kinds of things he would be working to preserve. And there seemed to him to be much beauty about him, and many people who seemed folk of peace and prosperity, and he marveled that they would be so hidden and would be so rare, for it seemed to him that such folk should have no difficulty in maintaining themselves. He asked then of the green-clad man what cause required such restoration, and the green-clad man said in reply that he would answer more fully when they were come to a particular place in the town, towards which he directed them as they walked, for some matters were not fit for discussion under the open sky in the light of the day. And the mail-clad man accepted the answer, although he was not glad of it, for it seemed to him that such matters could not be to the good.
Yet he followed through the fair and open streets until he and the green-clad man he followed came to another door, one with strange symbols upon it, and the green-clad man said “This is where we would be, and when we are within and rested as we ought to be, I will say to you what needs to be said, that you may be the better able to help me in that which I must do to restore my people to what you see from what you have seen. For we are yet in Anderitum, even though it seemed to you to be as it seemed to you, full of filth and squalor and small minds that barely understand what they have seen.”
He opened the door and motioned the mail-clad man inside, and the latter saw that the place they entered was like that they had entered in the Anderitum he had known before, furnished and decorated in the same wise, and with servants clad in green tending to matters as they might be expected to do. And they greeted the green-clad man with words that sounded happy, although they were in the same strange tongue that the rest of the fair town had spoken, so that the mail-clad man did not understand them. But the green-clad man guided him to a room and had him seat himself, and when he had also sat, he said “I will say to you now what must be said, and once, so that you know the enterprise wherein you find yourself and what will need to be done if I cannot do it. For the task has fallen to me, and while I know I can do it, I do not know that I can get to where I need to be to make it happen. And for that, then, you are obliged to me. So listen well, for I have only once the power to say such things as you will hear.”
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