Story for the Day: The Baracan -- Part 2

Next week sees the release of our next novella, The Baracan, will be available in digital format. Until then, the Leaf Flute digital version will be on sale for everyone. Below is the second excerpt from the upcoming novella. Enjoy:

Twenty minutes were gone before the captain reached the high street, for though was sent out by
parcitular design to find something interesting for their dinner and was in a way to be famished, trying to remember what he had eaten since the morning, he was too amused by all the minutiae of the Sesternese marketplace to think seriously about eating. The old women crambling down slender lanes, the shimmer of sandstone buildings, the Sesternese hucksters hawking their wares bore a semblance to the markets he had grown up with, but it was not exactly like the markets at home; it was more wordly but less refined, it had more people but less variety, less of the Lucentian open manner that was so prized by market-goers in the capital, but the planning of the market, the style of it, with its short streets buffeted by stalls on both sides, its iridescent brocades garlanding across the rows, reminded him looking out on the old Lucentian markets from his old guildhall, standing on the threshold and reveling in all the sights and scents of the Giponja-Midon crossing, the two longest and oldest market streets in the Lucentian capital. There he had stood for many an hour, inspecting the food carts as they rolled by, spying on the florists down Primlico street, watching artisans at their working, baking breaks and cakes and stacking them within view, and granting his patronage to every craftsman in his lane, whether roasted pork or fried dough was offering while he was there. The Sesternese items, though good in their way, were not the same; Sesternese tastes leaned more toward subdued than savoury, their national fare wanting the richness and sumptuousness of a Lucentian palate. Danaco wondered where the error was here; the Sesternese came from the Lucentian peninsula thousands of years ago, thought of as being the unwanted and ill-behaved sculsh amongst the old tribes, but the Sahadin now seperated the two countries, giving Sesterna a milder climate and a shorter summer. Surely the distance of one desert and few millennia could not be responsible for such conspicuous alterations, but there was thought to be some Old Livanese in the cultural development, and there must be the origin of the change. The language had changed considerably as the millennia passed on, and distinctly Sesternese voices, with their snoaching vowels and slurred consonants, cried out above the canopies, but while the food and language lingered about on the precipice of imperfection when standing against its northern neighbour, the air of the Sesternese market with its bustle and animation, its musicians piping out lilting tunes on every corner, its drinking halls blaring with raucous raillery and high revel, its teahouses tinkling with the clink of busy cups, its strident scents of ground spices did offer a something of home. Danaco could never love Sesterna, the country being without the majesty and splendour of the grand fountain, the redolent tinge of guildhalls, the flutter of satin-gowned attendants hastening after their charges, the officious brume of smoking dens and gambling halls, the alabaster palace and even his father’s house, but there were times he did not despair of Sesterna. The two nations were ancient cousins; something of the Old Lucentian sentiments must survive the long years of separation, and Danaco navigated the stalls, searching for a something to ease the curmuring his of stomach as much as it would appease his desires of home.
                Sesternese faces greeted him with unaffected smiles, a polite nod or two was sent his way, and merchants beckoned and patrons pleaded for better prices over the last of the day’s wares. To ease his agitation and satisfy his self-imposed despondance, Danaco imagined Lucentian features and voices, his mind recreating his home from memories to make up for everything he had lost. He liked Sesterna, was pleased to see it attracted such a superfluity of people from surrounding nations, and though he did not have a decided preference for Lucentians as friends and associates, he must miss them, he must long for their particular sensibilities; the easy manners, the playfulness of conversation, the quickness of wit and strong opinions so decidedly Lucentian were found nowhere else. He missed his people greviously, missed the yudaro makers and rumani mongers, missed his guildmates and the servants in his father’s house, he even missed the nobility, with their snurling aspects and unforgivable airs, but he had the conversation of the Lucentians amongst his crew to look forward to, and there was some alleviation. His father’s influence, however, the good humour and dry wit of Lucentia which he was used to practice with everyone at home was a legacy never to be supplanted or suppressed. “I am alive and well, and yet I must lament,” he said, seemingly to himself. “It is but the hunger affecting me, but I really must own, there are times when I am so abominably Lucentian. Yes, I know my father is responsible there, my little minnow,” patting and looking down at his sword, “and you may tease me all you like, but I am rather shocked that my mother’s influence should have been so suppressed by my father’s heritage. Everyone can see that I am Lucentian, but the moment I open my lips to speak, all the Marridonian comes tumbling out. Being so long from home has had its effect, I perceive. I begin to wonder if anyone outside of Lucentia will be Lucentian enough for me.” He touched a hand to his brow and closed his eyes. “I must find something to eat,” said he, turning down an adjoining lane. “I can feel the headache coming on. Oh, do not plague me about my habits,” tapping the hilt of his sword. “I had business this afternoon, consequently important business. Perhaps it is being in this country too long that pains me. It is grown damp this time of year.” The corners of his mouth curled, and the soft line aroud his eyes deepened. “I hear you, my sheathed pocketpiece,” he murmured, smiling at his sword. “Being around Bartleby for more than an hour together is enough to make anyone tremble, but I am quite resolved not to let you have your way with him, and so you shall keep your sentiments tucked away in a place where only you might cherish them.
                The sword rattled in its sheath, and Danaco turned into the main square of the market, still trying to reconcile himself to being away from Lucentia’s shores for so long. He wondered how it might have been if he had not been forced to leave home: he should still be in his father’s house, lord of the kingdom’s most prominent guild, serving as the king’s right, performing the same office that his father had done as an agent of the regining family. He would not distress himself by thoughts of how it might if only his father and General Telnis were alive; they were gone, and he was exiled, and though he must confess himself fortunate to be alive when Reneldin would have him otherwise, he must allow for bitter lamentations. If only Reneldin had not been allowed to take the throne… The greatest wish of Danaco’s heart was that young Prince Lamir, Lucentia’s most deserving successor, should rise to distinction and claim his birthright, to remove Reneldin and renege his ill-made judgments, to avenge General Telnis’ death and rebuild Lucentia as the prosperous and celebrated nation that it once was, to reconstruct the kingdom’s alliances, revive her economy, and restore her to all her former glory, but how it could be done, how Danaco or Prince Lamir might bring about such alteration without Reneldin putting down the revolution was the question.
                These reflections accompanied the captain to the merchant’s row, the same row of the market where he and Bartleby and Rannig spent their morning, and all the remnants of the holiday that reigned over the better part of the afternoon were rapidly clearing away. The shawled parishioners were ambling off to teahouses, stalls that had been shrouded in the shade of tall buildings were now well lit with amber evening light, and the food vendors with their carts had arrived, to offer an evening meal to those who had spent the day in quiet jejunation. Vendors wheeled by, offering rose-flavoured jelly, lavender licorice, fried dough asperged with cinnamon, maize cakes stewing in savoury broth, buckwheat strands simmering in garlic and oil, olives stuffed with aged cheese—it was a chorus of aromatic melodies, and Danaco’s eye fell everywhere, his gaze guided by a stomach charmed, until a familiar scent, carried to him by the gentle breeze of a passing vendor, drew his immediate attention.
“There is a spice I can never forget,” Danaco declared, his eyes blazing in a fever of exultation. His ears twitched. “Someone is making something with chujaro, and I will find them out.”
The faint tinge of Lucentian red pepper wafted across the row. He followed it, hastening down the lane with joyous alacrity, his heart leaping in feverish expectation, but the scent was soon lost under the influence of a fish cart wheeling by. He stopped to find the trail again. He inhaled, his nose raised and busy, and tried to distinguish the scent the scent he had so lately lost, but instead of recovering it, he suddenly found himself across from the clothing stall, the same stall he had purchased his sash from that morning. The old woman who sold it to him was still sitting behind her counter, threading a long piece of needlework and seemingly uninterested in anything else, and without noticing any patrons who passed by her stall, and without any apparent disguise, she glanced up from her work and gawped at the captain, her hands still at work, her eyes beckoning him to come and speak with her.
“Ah, there it is,” Danaco thrummed, smiling to himself. “I knew I should find you out at last.”