Volume II : The First Sin
Chapter 49 – Eyes in the Dark[3367 words]
Mirieh replied coldly, “He’s Metatro’s friend. Metatro informed me to let him stay at the house and treat him well when he comes to visit… But he has been away for far too long. I’ve been running out of money… I have to turn to you. What makes you come so late?”
“Business is bad these days. I just laid in a new stock of goods and I’m strapped for cash too. I come to you as soon as I start to sell my goods and get my income.”
“You laid in new goods when business is bad? Don’t take me for a fool. I’ve always returned your money as soon as Metatro came home, can you deny that?”
Inoch replied reluctantly, “My dear sister, your husband has been away for too long this time. According to what he had said, he should have been home weeks ago. This has never happened before. I don’t want to say the worst, but perhaps he didn’t make it this time… You are married. It’s not a good solution to borrow money from the family all the time. I mean, you should think more for yourself.”
Mirieh’s face turned pale. Fear gripped her heart. She scowled and answered, “Why are you saying all this to me? I’m just asking you for a little bit of money.”
“My dear sister, I’m talking about your future. You used to be the most beautiful girl on the street. How did you end up with that good-for-nothing Metatro? In order to marry you, he gave out his last shop as the betrothal gift. Now you just have this old house. What if he never returns? Are you going to sell the house? I’ve been listening to the gossip from our neighbors all day. You are still young and beautiful. Don’t waste your time with Metatro. Think about your future! Please, tell me who that man is? Is he Metatro’s friend or his creditor? Or is he your man?”
Mirieh’s ears were stuffed with chatter. She was totally confused and lost her calm. Absent-minded, she whispered to her younger brother, “That lad is rich. But he pretended to be a poor man. He wore a thin flax robe and a pair of muddy shoes when he came here… But then he paid for the best room in the inn and bought expensive leather suits. He even paid two gold parans for my maid when I sent her to get my coats.”
Inoch was surprised, “When did he have such a rich friend? Do you know who he is? If he is as rich as you said, why did he come to you with worn flax clothes? Is he hiding something?”
Mirieh finally found a person to pour out her anguish to. She told him her new discovery today: Amon had left a bag in his room, in one of its pockets there were a lot of parangons and gold parans that were enough to buy some of the best villas in the city. Inoch’s face changed, “Show me… Oh my god, he isn’t a fugitive, is he? If anything has happened to Metatro and you were found to be harboring a fugitive, it would be a disaster!”
They went upstairs and went through Amon’s belongings once again. Inoch saw the treasure and the iron stick too. He was panting even after walking downstairs. He whispered to his sister, “This man is an outlaw. I can’t believe Metatro told you to harbor an outlaw!”
Mirieh was scared too, “He has the token. It’s said to be the token of a sorcerer. Would he be a sorcerer too?” Crazy’Ole’s real identity was the secret of Metatro’s family. But Metatro had mentioned it to Mirieh. And today Mirieh told it to her brother.
The two spent the whole afternoon discussing. They finally reached several “conclusions”: First, Amon was an illegal dealer. He was rich, he carried a huge fortune with him. Second, he came to the capital alone. No one else knew who he was, what he was doing and when he was going to leave. Besides, they were also convinced that Metatro must have met with some accident and was unlikely to come home, and Amon must be a sorcerer.
Their hearts were drumming. Mirieh was scared, but Inoch was trembling out of excitement. He whispered his plan to his sister, which almost made the latter faint. Mirieh shook her head, “I can’t do this. I can’t. I’m just a woman. How can I ever do that?”
Inoch consoled her, “My dear sister, don’t be so scared. All you need to do is to follow the steps. I’ll take care of the rest of the plan. Once he is out of the city, nobody knows him and nobody cares where he is going… Metatro is not coming home. What kind of life do you want to live?”
Mirieh faltered, “But…but what if… what if by any chance, Metatro comes home and asks me about him?”
Inoch shrugged, “Easy. You just tell him Amon tried to seduce your maid and entice you so you drove him away. You are an attractive woman and he is a young single man. It’s quite normal for things like that to happen. What you need to do is to convince Fossah. Once she testifies for you, it’s done. Just think about it. Do you still need to live with him if we make it?”
“But if he really is a sorcerer and notices our plan —”
“Sorcerer?” Inoch seized the corner of the table so hard that it started to crack, “He can’t let people know who he is! All he can do is run away from the city as quickly as possible! And don’t you forget that I’m a warrior too? How old is he? Sixteen? Eighteen? What can an eighteen-year-old sorcerer do? An unprepared sorcerer has no chance against a warrior right beside him. Not even a chance to flee. He will be chopped into pieces before casting his first spell.”
Mirieh covered her face, screaming, “Don’t you mention that to me… But what if he finds out you have your weapon in the first place? What if he’s prepared? ”
“What weapon? I’m just bringing a knife to a picnic. As a warrior, he won’t find it strange even if I carry a sword with me… Why would he suspect anything if we treat him well in the coming days? He wouldn’t have stayed here so long if he had suspected anything… But to make sure, I suggest you get Fossah to his bed and know more about his affairs.”
Some said that there was always something new under the sun waiting for you to discover. Some said that there wasn’t anything new under the sun, because you could always find traces of things that you’d already seen. Amon spent the day getting a tour of the capital. Mirieh and Inoch spent the day building a plan against Amon. What had happened in Som the other day had happened again, only on another stage, with other people.
Amon did have fun today. He visited a lot of places in the city and saw a lot of things that he had never seen before. He even bought gifts for Fossah and the driver. In the end, he went to the biggest shops and bought a lot of things that Metatro’s family might need during the winter, and brought them back in the coach.
He made friends with another “guest” when he returned to Metatro’s home. It was Mirieh’s younger brother, Inoch. Inoch was glad to meet his brother-in-law’s mentor. He was smiling all the time. His laughter seemed to be a little strained, but he was enthusiastic and jovial. He told Amon that he was more than happy to meet a foreign friend and sincerely invited Amon to dinner later in the evening.
Amon was surprised by this gratuitous hospitality. But he didn’t think too much about it. However, when he returned to his room, he knew that something was wrong. The iron staff had been moved, leaving a slight trace on the ground. The money and the parangons were still in the pocket, but definitely not in the same order as he had put them in the morning. His old clothes had been unfolded and folded up again.
Somebody must have searched his belongings when he was away, going through his treasures. What was their purpose? Amon didn’t want to make certain things known. He didn’t want to make a scene. He packed up his things and decided to leave.
What had happened to Metatro? He had been away for far too long of a time. Amon had been worrying about him as well. But he was going to leave a sum of money for Mirieh and a message to Metatro. Having planned all this, he went downstairs to dinner, as if nothing had happened.
Nobody in the house was as skilled on how to act calm than Amon. Mirieh and Inoch didn’t suspect a thing. Inoch was staying for dinner too. He ordered the servant to buy some nice beer and introduced it to Amon eagerly. The more they drank, the more they talked.
Inoch talked about his experiences in his past journeys. He asked Amon about his experiences too. He invited him to dinner again and again and said that he felt sorry he couldn’t have met him earlier due to his own business. He told Amon that he could play around in the city with Fossah in the coming days and that he was planning to take him on a picnic outside of the city. He knew a good place with a charming view, that he visited several times every year.
Amon took the chance and replied, “I feel uncomfortable staying here for so long. I should be leaving. If Metatro comes home, please tell him that I have already come by. If he wants to learn the craft that he hasn’t finished, he can go to Lynk. He will understand what I’m saying… If you need anything, I will be glad to help, as a thank-you to your warm welcome.”
Inoch tipped off his sister with a wink. Mirieh leaned in to Amon and grabbed his arm, “Please! Metatro’s been away from home too long, he may return at any time. You won’t regret waiting a few more days. Or do you think that living here makes you uncomfortable? Please tell me and I’ll improve it, or Metatro will blame me for driving you away!”
It was never easy to understand destiny. If Amon had left that night, everything would’ve been totally different. But looking at Mirieh’s imploring eyes, Amon changed his mind. Another important reason was that Inoch had made a proposition —
In two days, Gilgamesh, the Lord of Uruk, was leaving the capital and returning to his territory. There would be a grand ceremony. A revelry from day to night was planned and the city would come alive. Inoch suggested Amon to stay until the festival so that he and his sister could accompany him out of the city along with the crowd. They could then go picnic together in the countryside near the city before seeing him off.
Considering that he might be interrogated when leaving the city, Amon decided to wait two more days. He could also leave some parangons to Mirieh as a reward for the sojourn. She might have been merely curious.
After the dinner, Mirieh waited a good while till Amon returned his room. After a whole day around the city, he should be tired by now. She called Fossah to her room, shut the door and said in a low voice, “Are you willing to have your contract back, Fossah? Your parents sold you to us as a slave, but I now give you the chance to free yourself. You just need to do one thing for me. And, Inoch may even agree to keep you as his concubine. You know that my family is much richer than here.”
Fossah was more than happy to hear the news, “My dear, kind mistress! Fossah is willing to! Can I really be free?”
“Of course you can, as long as you do what I expect you to do…” She whispered the rest of the message to Fossah. The maid’s face flushed then turned pale. She seemed to be confused and scared, but at last nodded firmly. Mirieh patted her shoulder and added, “Remember, do exactly what I said. You have to make sure that Amon is totally into you. Reveal his ins and outs and gain his trust… That’s all you need to do in the days to come. I’ll have others do your daily work. Escort him and play around the city.”
Mirieh thought this conversation was secret. But Amon had already heard every word clearly. It was not that Mirieh was not careful enough. Even ordinary advanced mages wouldn’t turn their detection magic on aimlessly for all day.
Amon had never used the Detection Eyes at Metatro’s home. It wasn’t polite. But in view of what had happened earlier today, he decided to use it for the first time. And the results were shocking. Mirieh was asking Fossah to seduce him and pry into his background, and do her best to attract him during the picnic in two days.
More disquieting was that Mirieh asked Fossah to lie to Metatro. Once he was home, Fossah would give a testimony that Amon had tried to seduce her and Mirieh, and was hence driven away. According to Mirieh, Amon would never have the chance to see Metatro again, which meant that Fossah was just part of a bigger plot. There must be something that would be done by someone else to make sure he disappeared forever.
Amon felt a chill in the air. But he didn’t want to take a revenge on Mirieh. Let her and her servants dream with their big plot. Amon decided to leave silently. He started to pack when suddenly the Detection Eyes caught traces of a familiar figure outside the house.
Metatro had finally returned home. He had gained a lot in his travels. Lynk’s tribe had collected a huge amount of iron ore sand after the end of the flood. They found most of it around the pool where the king Ironback used to live. What had amazed him the most was that the king Ironback and the four big ones had been captured and became the guardians of the tribe!
It was a miracle! Even though he hadn’t seen Amon’s feat, his admiration of him grew to the brim.
He had spent a lot of time waiting for the cavemen to forge the ore sand into ingots. Meanwhile, he persisted in asking Lynk to teach him the new magic skills. His sojourn was a month longer than he had planned. But when he bent his steps homeward with a full sack of Damasc iron, all he had in his mind was excitement and wistfulness.
Amon was an amazing being, kind and generous. Metatro couldn’t help envying Lynk every time he thought of the elegant and powerful staff he had got from Amon. Though Lynk had told him that Amon was travelling to Bablon and would probably visit him, Metatro was not that worried he would miss it, since he had told his wife to keep Amon as a guest and entertain him well until he came back.
There were so many places of interest and novelties in the capital. Amon was definitely going to have a good time.
Metatro entered the city just before night fell. He first went to see the dealers of Damasc iron and cleared his sack. He got two parangons and a dozen of gold parans. Both parties were happy. They even went to a local inn and celebrated the deal. When he arrived home whistling tunelessly, the time was already late.
Mirieh must be mad to see him and the money. Should I show her the money first or after she gives me a big hug? He pondered.
Looking at the gate of his own house, he subconsciously started to accelerate his pace, but stopped suddenly. Someone was watching him under the high wall behind. He grasped the handle of his sword at his waist with one hand and tried to get out a parangon in his pocket with the other hand.
“Don’t be afraid, Metatro. It’s me, Amon.” A familiar voice arose beside him. Metatro loosened his hand from the sword in a surprise. He turned around and strode towards the source of the voice.
“Oh my god, Amon! How come you are standing here? What a surprise! Are you just arriving at the city too? I’m just about to go home. Please come with me!” Metatro came to Amon and greeted him, then tried to seize his arm and bring him home.
Amon grasped his wrist, “Don’t hurry. I’ve been staying in your home for a month. I was about to leave when I noticed you coming. To tell you the truth, I am leaving the city tonight. Please say good-bye for me to your wife.”
Metatro was astonished, “Why? Did someone offend you?… What happened?” He just noticed that Amon had cast a simple yet delicate spatial magic to cover up their presence. They seemed to dissolve into the shadow of the wall and became imperceptible.
Amon could leave the house without letting Mirieh know, but he must explain everything to Metatro. He didn’t owe him anything and didn’t like to see Metatro be deceived and hate him. He decided to tell him the truth before he heard the other story from Mirieh, Inoch and Fossah. If Metatro wasn’t that worth befriending, he would just leave him forever.
“It’s not safe to talk here. Follow me and don’t make any noise. I have to tell you something.” Amon beckoned to Metatro, then turned about and went out of the alley.
They went across several blocks, then found a big hotel. Amon ordered a double-room deluxe suite with a vestibule, entered the inner room and closed the door. He took out some parangons and built a sound-proofing formation, then put out the Terroculus on the table and pointed at it, “Listen.”
A whisper arose to Metatro’s ear, he heard the conversation between Mirieh and Fossah. Amon had recorded it when he noticed something wrong with their talk. His skill on information magic certainly couldn’t be compared with Crazy’Ole’s, but keeping a short conversation for a while was not very hard for him. The Terroculus that Crazy’Ole had given him was the best message carrier.
Metatro paled. He drew out his sword and tried to rush out. Amon stopped him putting a hand on his shoulder, “Calm down. I want to let you know what I’ve heard. But I’m not expecting you to do anything about it. Don’t blame them. They won’t admit anything, because nothing has happened yet. And that’s what I’d like to see. I’ll leave before anything happens.”
Metatro suddenly turned to Amon and kneeled to him, “My lord! Please forgive me!”
“Why are you doing this?” Amon tried to get him up, “It’s not your fault.”
“How can I ever dare to look you in the face again if I let you leave like this?… You may leave all of this behind in silence and feel relieved, but it will become the shackles in my mind.”
“Nothing has happened, and nothing is definitely going to happen. It could just be a wild thought in their minds. People can have evil ideas, but that doesn’t mean they are criminals. It’s just the temptation from the devil in their hearts.”
“If it is the case, please let me see the devil’s true face. My lord, please promise me one thing, or my mind won’t have peace.”
Amon gave him an examining look. “Say it.”
The night passed. Metatro didn’t come home that night, and Amon didn’t leave. To Mirieh and Fossah, everything was just as usual. They never thought that Metatro had already met their dear guest.