Issue Two | Winter 2001
A Letter from a Friend in Tumíssa
by Malcolm Heath
I’m not at all sure what my next project will be; I’ve been writing some fiction, but it’s not quite ready yet, and I’m not sure if I’m up for a serial. But, just as a teaser, here is an excerpt:
Náshko hiTyélmu awoke on his sleeping mat, very aware that something had just slithered across his leg. While this was a normal enough occurrence for him, it was made even more annoying since he was sweaty, uncomfortable and sore. He waited a while, in case the creature was going to try to snuggle up closer to him, but it apparently went it’s own way, and Náshko stood up, and picked up the small oil lamp from the floor of his sleeping chamber.
Yawning, he managed to get his sticky tongue around the words of power needed to spark the lamp to life, and he stretched his lanky frame as the lamps flickering flame cast more shadow than light across the small room. Various small insects either ran towards or away from the light, following their destinies as best they might in the muggy Jakállan night.
Náshko sighed. It was nights like this that made him miss Tumíssa most of all. In his hometown, out in the mountainous forests of the Chákan Range, one could at least count on a light breeze to cool one off. But here in this great southern metropolis, in the summer, only by burrowing deep in the ground could one escape the heat, down deep in the sub-sub basements of the temples and clan houses. He was not yet high enough to warrant such luxury.
He looked at himself, standing rather stupidly in the small chamber. Lean and tall, with broad shoulders and narrow hips, he was clearly from the Chákas. His muscles corded under reddish brown skin, the hair hanging down straight from his head, jet-black. He felt sticky and in need of a bath. "Behold the mighty sorcerer" he thought to himself, sighed again, and decided to pass the rest of the night reading. No use waking any of the servants up, they would only be unable to get back to sleep themselves.
Náshko was indeed a sorcerer, and not one of small power, if one were to listen to the savants of the Temple of Ksárul. They had spoken amongst themselves, although none know who they were, or where they met, they had decided that the young lay-priest Náshko, of the Clan of Black Mountain should be offered employment in Jakálla. There were reasons cited. He had talent, and the right character. It was so offered. He could not have refused.
But as the hot Jakállan night continued to press down on the young scholar, and he sat leaning against the wall re-reading a scroll he had already memorized, he wondered if it was really the best thing that he could have done, and wondered again if perhaps his masters had made a rare mistake. Surely, for one of his talents, modest though they may be, a more active role might have been found? He had simply been told to come to Jakálla, lodge with his clan, and wait for instructions. Yes, it was true that writs of credit were issued to him regularly. He was paid amply, generously even considering his lack of activity.
But it was boring, and he was running out of things to entertain himself with quickly. More or less consistently devoted to his studies, he wasn't even interested in the exotic pleasures of this infamously sybaritic city by the sea.