Part 1: Relocation
Back in the library’s grand entrance hall, dozens of people bustled to and fro, just as before. Collins, unfazed as ever, strode easily into the crowd, greeting people briskly as he went. They’d left the cart out in the clear daylight; Collins had said someone would see to their things.
“This way. Don’t worry: your room’s much closer than my office,” he said, leading Kari and Tomas through the first door on their right. The subsequent hallway was practically identical to the very first one Collins had taken them down. This time, though, he led them up the stairs at the end.
“And here we are! First door on the left. I wanted you to have a window.” He said the last part as if he should be a touch guilty, yet he wasn’t.
Tomas smiled through his sleepy haze. “Thank you. I certainly like that better than the alternative.” A huge yawn overtook him before he knew it was happening.
Kari caught it almost immediately.
Collins laughed as he opened the door. “You two take that nap we talked about. I’ll let Alo know you’ve arrived. He’ll want to talk with you.”
“Who is Alo? You keep mentioning him.”
Kari was already dozing on the bed when he asked it.
“Oh, of course. Alo is our authority on… ‘culture’ North of the Mountains, as we call the Wheat around here. I’ll leave the full explanation to him, though.”
Tomas nodded, satisfied with that answer.
“I’ll get out of your hair now. When you wake up, I’ll meet you in the dining hall. If you follow the corridor past the stairs, you’ll find a bridge that’ll bring you right there. Think you’ll be hungry by then?”
“Absolutely, but won’t we need money?” Tomas sat on his bed. It was bigger and seemed more comfortable than his bed at Jolene’s.
“I’ll let them know you’re coming. You represent a special case; this room isn’t ordinarily free either. But there will be time later to explain everything. For now, rest.” He left, closing the door behind him. It wasn’t long before Tomas lost himself in deep, dreamless sleep.
* * *
When he awoke, the shadows had shifted, and his stomach growled noisily. Kari had pulled the desk chair over to the window and was sitting, looking out from where the sun wouldn’t shine in her eyes.
A deep yawn seized Tomas. Once he was free, he said, “What do you see?”
She shrugged. “This place seems different from what was around Jolene’s. Not sure how, though.”
Tomas swung his feet off the bed to face her. They didn’t reach the floor. “Makes sense.” He hopped down, rubbing his eyes as he moved toward the window.
It was late afternoon now, judging by the sun, and more people moved about on the street here than anywhere else they’d seen on their walk from Jolene’s. Even the square in front of the Church had been almost completely empty, though the tall front doors stood thrown wide open.
Here, though, people pushed carts into or out of buildings, some had packs like Kari and Tomas, still others had small bundles of papers or even nothing at all, but every door on the street seemed to lead somewhere busy.
Kari shook her head. “Collins will know. You hungry?”
Tomas stretched and nodded. “He said it was easy to get to food. Want to go now?”
“I’m definitely hungry enough. Is it far?”
Tomas was already pulling his shoes on. “He didn’t exactly say, but it didn’t sound like it when he gave me the directions. You ready?”
She nodded, so they ventured together into the hall. Kari locked the door behind them using the key she’d found in the inside lock, then pocketed it.
“Past the stairs,” Tomas said, pointing down the hall.
There were no doors in this corridor, but tapestries in many colors decorated the walls. They did not depict scenes, rather they were geometric and abstract. Occasionally, there was writing graven into the stone wall beside or beneath one, but Tomas was too hungry to stop and read any of the inscriptions.
“How’d you sleep?” Tomas asked to fill the silence.
“Better than overnight. No dreams, no nothing.”
“Yeah, me too. It was nice for a change, wasn’t it?”
Kari chuckled low in her throat. “Yes, it was.”
After about twice the distance of the depth of their room, the hallway stopped. Set into the right-hand wall was a door, which opened to the outside. A bluestone bridge, rails undulating as if in the breeze, ran over a very narrow street, connecting two buildings. As they crossed, Tomas could see that it wasn’t the only place the buildings connected.
Through a door mirroring the one behind them, they found another torchlit corridor running perpendicular to the bridge. Just around the corner, they came face to face with another door. Opening this one, they found a balcony, with tables and windows on their left and a railing on their right. They could see a staircase leading down to the main area, which was full of tables. Across the open air, they could see another balcony practically mirroring the one on which they stood, though there didn’t seem to be a staircase on that side of the room. Beneath that balcony was a wall with windows set into it, through which Tomas could just make out a kitchen, which reminded him of the one at Jolene’s. This one, though, was markedly bigger.
Most remarkable, though, were the smells wafting up to where they stood, making their mouths water and hastening their feet.