A dark-haired, dark-eyed Burillian man stepped
forward. “I will go first with the obsidian.” Cowan put out his hand. “I
shall take it far away.”
Kegan handed him two bags of gold. “Take the
first stone, my friend and go. When you reach your destination, call upon
Zerahemna and he will help you set three traps. Remember, Cowan, who you are
and what you are doing. I hope I can somehow make it to Jerusalem next year,
but if not, the others should be there. If something happens, Zerahemna will
know what to do. Obey him as you would me.” Kegan pried out the black
obsidian stone and placed it in Cowan’s hand.
Cowan looked at the heavens, trying to discover
what direction he should head; he chose southwest. “My ancestors are from
the western coast of Arabia. I shall head towards the land of my heritage.”
After getting his bearings straight, he walked off, his back to the rising
sun. He didn’t know where he’d stop and didn’t care. In one year he could go
a great distance, if he didn’t delay.
Sticking to the coastal road that the caravans
used, he traversed Arabia, stopping only to sleep and eat. The Red Sea
offered cooling breezes and a wealth of seafood. Cowan caught grouper,
stingray, lionfish, parrotfish and urchin. He feasted in the shade of trees
and watched Arabian leopards, Nubian ibex and gazelle wander through the
nearby woodlands. Figs were plentiful and the fertile land near the beach
was rich with date palms, gum and citrus trees. With the gold King Kegan
gave him he was able to eat well and purchase a camel, which he named
Isabella. Once he reached the Sinai he continued on to Alexandria, Egypt,
thankful that the capital had been moved from there to Cairo. He was able to
visit the less busy and less crowded Alexandria and enjoy the beautiful
sunsets on the Mediterranean. Cowan didn’t dare spend too much time there.
With luck he was able to catch a boat heading to Greece. A group of
fishermen needed a few extra men to help with the fleet and Cowan signed on.
He would work hard for his passage.
When the boats reached Greece, they went from
island to island. The waters were particularly rich in fish. The rocky
island of Hydra was their last stop before Athens. Most of the inhabitants
were fishermen, shepherds and farmers. He left the fishing fleet and took a
room in the village at the bay. From there he spent his days searching the
island for a hiding place. One sun-kissed morning Cowan wandered up the
steep narrow path to the top. There sat ruins of an ancient monastery. He
made his way there and stepped inside. “This is the place. Now where should
I hide it?”
Pond took his bag of gold and the reddish-pink
spinel and headed north. He too had been born in Burill and had the same
dark hair and eyes as Cowan. He marched to the northeastern part of Arabia
and then headed along the coast, hugging the Persian Gulf. He found humor
watching the dolphins leap through the water as they moved along in the same
direction as Pond. Opportunities to see and eat many new species of fish,
such as surgeonfish, kelpfish, clownfish, grunt and puffers came his way. He
enjoyed strolls along the beach and gathering seashells.
When he reached the edge of the Gulf, he headed
north to the Caspian Sea. There he stayed for several days, adjusting to the
change in temperature and altitude. Seals lay on rocks sunning before
leaping into the cooler water. Hare, rabbit, fox, badger, and wildcat run
rampant. Pheasants flew into the tall grasses, disappearing in the colored
straws. Pond was fascinated by the red leaves of the oak as they dropped
from the trees. The seasons never change in Burill. When he felt the need to
move on, he went in an easterly direction and came upon the Black Sea. The
weather grew bitter cold. Since Pond wasn’t used to such climate, he found
it difficult to travel. Reaching for his bag of gold, he searched for a shop
that sold appropriate clothing and found the journey more comfortable as he
headed across southern Europe. As spring came he joined a whaling fleet and
sailed north. When the ship docked in Heimaey, a smaller island off the
southern coast of Iceland, Pond parted ways with the whalers; his pockets
bulging with money.
“I am here. This is the right place. There is
nowhere on earth as remote as this.” He entered a roomy cave full of
volcanic rocks. Pond smiled and with spinel in hand climbed inside.
* * *
With the pearl in his pocket, Artur headed
south. He ferried across to the continent of Africa. The journey would be
much shorter if he crossed by land instead of hugging the coast, so he
headed inland, staying in a southerly direction. Black rhinos, zebra,
elephant and giraffe caught his attention as he wandered through the bush,
resting against baobab trees, termite mounds and evergreen. The further
south he went, the stranger the land and animals. Lions roared, cheetahs ran
past chasing gazelle and attacking water buffalo.
At last Artur reached the coast again. He stayed
on the beach for a while, enjoying the sea breezes instead of the stifling
humidity of the inland. One evening, an hour before sunset, a group of
native Africans headed his way, pulling a boat. The Arabian man jumped up
and helped the struggling tribesmen. One of them spoke Arabic, the language
of the lands surrounding Burill, of which Artur was familiar. He was able to
decipher enough to learn that these men were headed for a group of islands
approximately 1,600 kilometers off the coast to retrieve cinnamon for trade.
There were many small uninhabited islands they could stop at on the way for
water and food. Artur was invited to join them in their trek there and back.
Due to calm weather, they had no major problems as they sailed from island
to island. When they reached the Seychelles, Artur was surprised to find no
residents. The only other humans he saw were other cinnamon gatherers. He
and the men he traveled with went to several of the islands, picking
coconuts and gathering the copra. While they stayed on one island for the
night, Artur wandered around. “I know where I’ll hide the pearl.”
* * *
Kitar knew when he left King Kegan and the
others that he’d never make it to Jerusalem in a year without Zerahemna’s
help. He planned to keep going until he reached the ends of the earth,
wherever that might be. He chose to stay north of the Equator while he
traveled and had difficulty deciding if he wanted to go in a westerly
direction, or easterly. After searching the stars, Kitar made his choice. He
was going to head eastward, hoping to stop off in India and China. Adventure
raced through his veins, urging him onward.
The moonbeams beat down on his blond hair as he
hiked across rocky plains and through drifting sands until he reached the
port. Boats lined up at the docks, each ready to journey across the Indian
Ocean to far off lands. Kitar paid passage on a small boat heading to the
island Socotra to study the flora and fauna. He’d heard many marvelous
stories and wanted to see the island for himself. When the boat arrived,
Kitar jumped on the sand, happy to be on dry land after the rough ride. The
team of men explored the island, which was part of an archipelago.
Kitar learned that one third of all the species
of plants and birds growing and living there were endemic to the island. The
only mammals that he saw during his visit were bats. Dates grew in
abundance; cultivated by the nomadic tribes that wandered the wadis. Jagged
massifs plastered against a sky of blue fascinated Kitar. Streams roared
down the mountainsides before meandering past limestone plateaus. Dragon’s
blood trees, also known as bottle trees, washed the hillsides with their
pink flowers. Cucumber trees became homes to insects and spiders. Time
passed too quickly for the busy Kitar and soon it was time to leave. He
didn’t want to head back to Africa, so he caught a boat with a handful of
Indians heading back to their homeland in the southern tip of the country.
From there he moved northward, hugging the Bay of Bengal. During his travels
he sampled many types of teas and coffees, tried a selection of spices with
his meals, such as cardamom, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, tumeric, curry
and vanilla beans. He often thought of the caravans of camels that came to
Burill before heading to the sea to fill their packs with these same spices.
The knowledge that Kitar gained as he ventured from country to country was
more than he’d learned in a lifetime in Burill’s universities.
Leaving the warmer climate behind him, he moved
in a northerly direction, passing through China, where he saw his first
pandas and bamboo, and then on to Mongolia and northeastern Russia, stopping
when he reached the Bering Strait. Few men dared to travel that far north.
Luck was with Kitar when he met a man at an inn in Mongolia. They had spent
the night drinking wine and telling each other stories of different travels
they’d had. Yolk had passed the way of the Straits several times hunting
seal, walrus and polar bear. He offered, for a good price, to take Kitar
across the Strait to the next continent, promising him that he’d find most
of the land was unexplored and void of life.
The journey was harsh and the sea rough and
treacherous. When they landed on the other side, it was no better. The wind
howled with its icy tongue, licking their faces and fingers with frozen
breath. Yolk taught Kitar many ways to survive in the harsh climate and the
two of them made their way from island to island, heading south. While Yolk
hunted, Kitar searched for the right place to hide his jewel, an emerald.
The blues of the ice matched Kitar’s eyes as he
trekked across the frozen land. A river of ice flowed down the mountainside.
Kitar stood in the center of it, looking up at the mountains and down to the
sea. “A river made of blue ice. Now I can say I’ve seen everything.” He came
to a wide crevice and lay on his belly, peering over the edge. “This is
where I shall hide my jewel.”
* * *
Edwi, another Burillian, hesitated leaving and
crossing the globe on his own. He was used to being around others and wasn’t
sure how he’d like the solitary life that King Kegan was forcing on him.
He’d objected before they’d left and seeing his distress, Kegan asked
Zerahemna to go with Edwi for the first few miles, or until he had the
courage to go it alone. The man and the wizard left, heading northeast, as
Kitar had gone. After two days Edwi released the wizard to return to the
others, confident he could handle the rest of his journey solo. Instead of
traveling across the sea, Edwi stayed inland, cutting across northern India.
Curiosity led him on a side trip to see the tallest mountains he could ever
imagine. He sampled foods and spices of both India and China before heading
south to Malaysia, Indonesia and then across the Timor Sea to Australia.
A strange land greeted him with crocodiles,
poisonous snakes and creatures he’d never heard of or read about in books.
He traveled through lush green jungles and dry deserts, buffeted by
sandstorms and by winds, until reaching the southern coast. Several tribes
of aborigines had settled throughout the land, always welcoming Edwi and
eager to help him in any way they could. They warned him of sharks,
blue-ringed octopus, puffer fish and blue bottle jellyfish. One tribesman
arranged for himself and a few others to transport Edwi across the Bass
Strait, promising him an interesting adventure. They offered to bring him
back when he was ready, as long as they had time to go further south to hunt
penguins. In return he paid them well for their efforts.
Edwi decided to go with them on their hunting
expedition; he longed to see penguins. He told the natives about the tigers
and elephants he’d seen in India and delighted them with tales of his
journey. Though both sides struggled to understand each other’s languages,
they soon learned enough to communicate well. The penguins made Edwi laugh
as he watched their frolicking antics, diving, swimming, and waddling across
the rocks. After hunting for a week, they carried their catch north. While
the Aborigines rested, Edwi explored the area. He stopped in a field of
wildflowers and pulled the topaz from his pocket. “This looks like a good