Part 17:

The Ones Who Have to Wear These Stupid Outfits

The morning sky was a deep grey. It almost looked like it was going to rain, but Tekole knew better. Rain was rare in Uruda, even in the middle of the flooding season, which it wasn’t, and the air tasted too dry for a downpour.

Tekole looked around, for the first time calm enough to take in the sights. He never really got to this part of the city, at least not before everything that had happened the past few days. Although to be fair, he never really went to most parts of the city. Almost his whole life had been confined to the same twenty minute stretch. He began to ponder this, and found it to be quite a depressing thought.

“Hi Tekole!” shouted Kajulan, leaping out from behind him. Tekole jumped.

“Kajulan!” he exclaimed, putting a hand over his chest. “You scared me!”

Kajulan deflated a little bit. “Sorry.”

Tekole looked around. There weren’t any other streets intersecting at this point, so she must’ve been hiding somewhere. “Kajulan?” he asked. “Were you waiting for me?”

Kajulan didn’t respond for a moment, but quickly regained her confidence, shrugging and smirking. “Yeah. I mean, I didn’t want to be going and reporting to Jethin by myself. That sounds miserable.”

Tekole frowned and raised his eyebrows in concern. “I don’t think we’re allowed to talk about him like that.”

“Yeah? Well we’re the ones who have to wear these stupid outfits, so I’m okay with hurting his little feelings.”

“I was more worried about him killing you or something.”

Kajulan smiled, trying to come up with a witty reply, but failed. She started walking, and Tekole followed.

“So . . .” began Kajulan. “Did you have a good night?”

“Yeah,” replied Tekole, although he hadn’t really understood the question. He never did. How could his night have been good or bad? He was asleep during it. He looked over at Kajulan, and squinted his eyes quizzically. “What about you? What happened to you last night?”

Kajulan returned his quizzical look. “What do you mean?”

“It’s just your outfit. It’s all messy and wrinkly.”

Kajulan looked down at herself, lifting the poncho piece up slightly as she observed it. “Oh, yeah. Well, the fabric’s really crappy and stiff, and I slept in it, so . . .”

Tekole gave her a sad look. “Kajulan. Why would you do that?”

Kajulan nudged him with her elbow. “Come on Tekole. You know I’m a bit of a vagabond. And I’m not carrying around sleepwear everywhere I go.”

“I know. It just seems really uncomfortable, is all.”

The two finally arrived at Jethin’s base of operations. It didn’t seem nearly as big and intimidating as it had before, less like a towering citadel and more like an abandoned and slightly dilapidated hotel. Which of course was exactly what it was. A single tajkyn woman sat outside the entrance, a small crate in front of her. Neither Kajulan nor Tekole recognized her at first, but as they got closer she was easily identifiable as one of the bodyguards who had been flanking Jethin at their initiation. Her mail sleeves were still visible beneath her black tunic, but she had removed her bowl like helmet, revealing a head of short, curly red hair. She was bent over the crate, apparently engrossed in a solo game of cards. She looked up as they approached.

“What are you two doing here?” she asked. Kajulan and Tekole looked at each other, neither quite knowing how to respond.

“Well, going to work, I guess,” Tekole finally said.

“I didn’t hear that Jethin sent for you.”

“I don’t think he did,” Tekole continued. “I mean, I think we just assumed that . . .”

The woman sighed, although in a way that was more tired than rude. “Look, you don’t need to report in everyday. Just when Jethin has a job for you. And the way things are starting to go, I don’t think we’ll have much need for two greenhorns.” The woman sighed again before continuing. “Don’t get me wrong. Plenty of the crew just hang around here all the time. But I figured the two of you probably had better uses for your time.”

Tekole looked confused. “I don’t understand. How do we know when Jethin does want us?”

The woman looked back down at her cards. “Oh, believe me. If he wants to see you, we’ll find you.” She stopped speaking, stroking her chin in deep compilation of the cards.

“Wait!” she cried out suddenly, despite the fact that neither Kajulan or Tekole had moved. “Might as well give you your pay since you’re here.”

“We get paid?” asked Tekole. Kajulan gave him an incredulous look, one that was matched by the red-haired woman.

“Yes,” said the woman. “We get paid.” She produced a large sack from beside the crate, and began sorting through it. “I tend to handle the pay around here. Jethin knows I won’t embezzle anything. Of course, Debon wouldn’t either, but he would probably lose it!” The woman let out a loud laugh, as if she had just made a hilarious and biting observation, but Kajulan and Tekole had no idea who she was talking about. The woman finished with the sorting, and handed the money off to them. “Alright, there’s that. Now you two kids have fun.” Immediately the woman returned to her cards, while Kajulan glanced over at Tekole’s outfit, and then down at her own.

“I guess we should get changed then,” she said. “I’m not wearing this stuff if I don’t have to.” She looked back at the woman. “Can I run in and grab my clothes real quick? I left them in there when we got kidnapped.”

“Sure,” replied the woman. “I don’t care.”

Kajulan looked back at Tekole. “I guess I’ll meet you afterwards, then.”

“So just come back here?”

Kajulan thought for a moment. “No. How about that pier we went to a few nights ago? That’s pretty close to your place.”

Tekole nodded, and Kajulan smiled before running off.