“I think I'd starve to death in Laka,” I said when I went back inside and Ili giggled. He had all his crisps eaten and was dabbing bread into my akopo-e, the non-spicy one. I leaned back away from the food. “You two have some of mine. I’ll eat later.”
Gannara looked up at me from the table “No, no, I can’t take yours from you! Now I’m cursing myself for getting you to eat kri.”
The server, a sympathetic young man came with a jug of water. “Here, kere, don’t let him,” he jerked his thumb at Gan who smiled, sheepishly. “…feed you any more of ‘ssat’.” His Enchian accent was thick.
Gan said, “Kere, sivya…” but I couldn’t get what he ordered other than a single word ‘chama’.”
“I’m not hungry, Gannara, It’s all right. No harm done.”
“I just ordered something that should help.”
“What, to re-grow my tongue?”
He didn’t pick up on my smile, but took me too seriously. “No, this is for your stomach.”
“Gannara... thank you.” I managed to grin at him. “How would I say ‘I’m the idya for eating this?’"
"Sh'idiya pesi machira," he said, "That's how you say it," just as the waitperson brought back a fragrant, steaming cup. It was a ginger tea of some kind. The server grinned at me learning that phrase but didn't say anything to us, just set the cup down.
“Thank you," I said to him before he left and sipped it. It did settle my stomach a little. “Kere… could I have this packed for later. It would be good cold.”
He grinned at me and signed chalk. “I’ll wait till all you fellows are done…” he nodded at Ili who giggled. “Then I’ll be back to pack it up.”
In our room later, Gannara sat with the map-book in his hand, shaking. He couldn’t open it. His eyes were full of tears. “What if it's not there? What if it’s gone like Shakora? What if all my family is dead?”
I sat down and folded him into my arms and Ili piled in on the other side, he only hugged him for a moment before going off to play with his bears but it helped. Gannara cried and I held him.
He cried wordlessly, shaking, fighting the pain the Mahid had put in his mind, the fears that had grown up since. “It’s all right, Gan. There will be someone there. There was only one Shakora. We’ll find the town or city, we’ll get there, we’ll find your family. It’s all right. I’ll be there. I’ll be there, my brother. I won’t abandon you. You won’t be alone.” He let the book go and clung to me, to my arms and hands. “No matter what, my brother, you won’t be alone, I promise to the last breath I have. I swear on what’s left of my soul. I swear.”
“Hey, Gan," Ili piped up. "If Min is your brother does that mean I’m your little brother?”
He shifted from tears to laughter in a moment. “Sure, Ili. I…” He froze again, this time in that horrible stillness the Mahid had forced on him.
I tightened my arms on him and he turned his head into my shoulder like a doll, barely breathing. “Weep, little brother, cry," I said. "It’s all right. It’s all right if you can’t remember your sibs. You have more sibs not less.”
He trembled once, twice and then that awful stillness broke again. “Min… Ili!” He wailed and clung to me. “I don’t remember!”
“It’s all right, Gannara. It’s all right.” He wept himself out before sitting up straight and wiping his eyes and nose.
“I’m fine, Min. I’m fine.” I didn’t let go of him.
“Yeah. I know you’re fine.” When he quit shaking I let go and buffeted him on the shoulder. “Like the Haians say… ‘you are good. When you know it, I will let you go.’" I did my best Haian accent and he smiled a watery smile at me.
“I’m good," he said shakily.
I handed the map book back to him. His hands shook but he took it, cracked it open and folded the map of Yeola-e open to show the coastal towns. Ili brought Indispensible Bear to overlook the map with him. “I can pop his mouth open to scare off the monsters, Gan,” he said. “Should I?”
Gannara ruffled his hair and petted IB. “No. That’s all right. I’m all right.” He took a deep breath, the desperate yearning in his face came up. “I’m the idiot.”
“So, why don’t you start with the ports along the Miyatara?”
He looked at me. “I thought you wanted to go upriver? And then to Vae Arahi?”
“Later. Now we need to get you home and I have a hunch.”
He shrugged and bent his head to the page. “Selina... where we are.... Should I do every little village?” He stared down at the page. “I guess I should.” His finger trailed down to the next little dot on the page. “Kimicha... Firiholila…” He stopped and swallowed.
“Why do you think I need to do ports along the Miyatara?”
“I have a feeling you might find something along the coast.” He looked at me, eyes big around, younger looking than his second threshold.
“The way you understood the sailors. The way you knew what they were doing… like that sailor throwing the thing off the front to check the depth. You in the rigging. You on a ship is like you’ve been doing it since younger than Ili. The Yeoli road guards in Arko saying you had a coast accent maybe? Things like that.”
“I... I... guess I wouldn't know those things if I were from inland.... would I?”
“’tai,” I said, flipping my hand up. “The server spoke differently from the shopkeeper and both of them spoke differently from you. But I don't know what that means. And different from someone from Vae Arahi.”
“Who do you know from Vae Arahi?” He shut the book and looked at me. “I thought I was the only Yeoli you really knew.”
I’d never really told him a lot about Chevenga. Before I’d told him bits and pieces but nothing enough to get him in trouble if 2nd Amitzas truth drugged him. “You know, you’re asking me this to distract from finding your home.”
“Yeha. But I really do want to know and now you can tell me all of it.”
All of it? It was my turn to draw back and get up and pace. “Gannara,” I swallowed and found myself fighting tears. I sat down in the window and looked out over Selina. From this angle mostly windows and walls and the occasional windowbox. “I… don’t… I…” I swallowed again. “I should tell you. I should tell you all of it. You deserve to hear about it. But… but… I’m scared.”
I sat down. Ili put his bears down and came over and put his hands around my neck. “’S’ok, Minis.”
I put my arms around him and buried my face in my little brother’s neck. “Thanks, Blob.”
He punched me. “IT’S ILESIAS AKAM! Not 'Blob'!” I smiled and held him close.
“Yeah, Ilesias Akam. I love you, little brother. I… need to tell our other brother Gannara all about how I learned to love you and him and how to be polite and kind and sane and I’m scared, thank you.”