The Roadhouse, part nine

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Arthur peered out on the street. Late to bed, late to wake he'd been told as a child.

Not bloody late enough.

He hardly had a chance to step outdoors before he was surrounded by three people. If you're kind enough to include an over two meter tall ape in the concept of people. He guessed he had to, no one else had complained the night before.

"What do you want?" he asked irritably.

No answer. A gigantic, hairy hand pointed at the door to the Taleweaver's inn. A telling gesture, and rather than start asking questions in halting De Vhatic Arthur nodded in agreement and joined the trio. He knocked on the door and didn't have to wait for long before they were allowed in. They chose a table in the tavern close to the stage where Arthur had made his performance.

"So, could you please tell me what you want?" he requested, anticipating the strange feeling of understanding spoken words as if they were native to him.

"We would..."

"I'd be honored..."

"Please, one at a time," Arthur interrupted. "I've had far too little sleep to do multiple conversations."

Silence.

"Oh, well, you first," he continued and nodded at one of the two men.

"Ah, wonderful, such splendid tact displayed by one in distress."

"Get to it!" Arthur growled.

"Yes, indeed, most definitely. I shall lay forth our humble wish immediately."

Arthur sighed. There was far too much embroidering and too little content in the man's speech for his taste.

"Last night's Weave has left us in a state of awe, a recognition of our shortcomings we could only have reached by means of sharing the Weave with a true master of the art. We have come to the decision that we must ask, no, humbly beg you, most wondrous of taleweavers, to accept our presence in your magnificent caravan."

Arthur tried desperately to cut through the flowery flatter and finally came to a conclusion. They wanted to join him because of his previous performance.

Bloody great! Now I'm supposed to bring along a mobile fan club.

"I don't see, how I could stop you," he answered tiredly. "You have to be aware that it's not my caravan. I'm just one partner. Harbend de Garak, wherever the gentleman is at the moment, has to accept you, and he'll request that you pay a fee just like everyone else."

The man bowed deeply and raised both of his hands so that his face was eventually hidden behind wide, brightly colored silk sleeves.

"I thank you, most gracious of men. We shall both proceed to set up a meeting with Lord Garak." They rose and backed away from the table. Deep bows and they headed for the door.

Damn, I've seen both of them, but who are they? Yes, of course, the men who appeared out of nowhere in the tavern and almost caused a fight. He shook his head. Oh well. He had done this to himself after all. Time to pay the consequences. He was about to rise when he remembered he was not alone.

"I'm sorry. And you wanted?" he asked.

"I'll use fewer words. I share their sentiment. I wish to join you, help in any way possible in exchange for an opportunity to learn how to master the art."

Arthur groaned mentally. His troupe of fans was rapidly changing into a menagerie.

"And what would that help be?" he asked, desperately trying to avoid offending something at least twice his own weight.

"I'm a mindwalker."

"Mindwalker?"

"Yes." The monster hesitated so clearly Arthur was able to catch the tone of uncertainty. "I walk with minds."

"Hold on, let's slow down a bit. I'm an outworlder, remember? Explain as if to an idiot."

"You're not an idiot. Treating you like one would be the gravest insult and a breach of honor."

"Thank you." Now what? He wanted to know. "Try to explain this to me as to an outworlder inexperienced in the ways of this world."

"You are an outworlder. There is no denying that."

I'm getting nowhere. He began to rise.

"I'm sorry. I insulted you."

"No you didn't. Please just explain to me."

"I am a Mindwalker. I can bring minds together over great distances. I can make those who do not share a spoken tongue understand each other as if they did."

Arthur brightened. "You mean you can duplicate the magic of this room?"

"Not really, but the part making us able to speak with each other, yes, I can do that."

"Consider yourself hired."

"Hired? I'm no mercenary."

"Now I'm the insulting one. You are more than welcome to join us. In fact I'm greatly honored by your presence." He hoped the last sentence would smooth over whatever bad feelings he'd invoked. Another thought struck him. "Would you mind telling me what you are, apart from being a Mindwalker, that is."

"I usually work as a scout."

"Oh, no I mean what you are."

"Forgive me my slow understanding. I know your kind does not easily see the difference. I'm female."

That was a piece of information he hadn't expected, but it still didn't answer his question. "Eh, no I meant, what do your kind call yourself?"

"Humans, of course."

What the hell? He thought rapidly. Why would she refer to herself as a human? She was... oh, no he was the one in error.

"What do you call our kind?" he asked to confirm his suspicion.

"We have several words for you. Skinless, dwarfs, halfmen, oath breakers and cowards are the most used."

"Now that's... that's just... ," he roared with laughter. "That's hilarious!" he finished when he got his breath back again. "Lovely! So, what do our kind usually call you?"

"Humans."

Arthur peered at her to find out if she was baiting him or not. Then he had an idea.

"Could you please repeat that word again, slowly?"

"H-u-m-a-n."

He listened and tried it himself. "Khraga."

"Yes, that's correct, human," she confirmed.

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