« November 2008 »

As tired as he had been, David was still awake before dawn. It didn't help that everybody else was also beginning to move around at that time but the sleep had been restful. He had ended up on a straw-covered area of the floor. David had refused when Mark offered his bed, which did look comfortable. He had said that his body was accustomed to the hard ground he had been sleeping on. That wasn't entirely true but he really didn't mind the floor.

When the others in the room saw that he was awake also, they wished him a good morning and promised to have another proper bed that evening.

The frames of the beds were narrow and a grass rope was run through several holes in the boards to make a grid that supported blankets or animal skins. This padding prevented the ropes from cutting into the skin of the sleeper. A few nights later, David admitted that sleeping on one of the beds was a bit like using a hammock with a solid frame.

The summer nights were warm enough that he didn't need a blanket. David had bundled his cloak into a pillow with the sword at the center. Even if Mark trusted everyone, he didn't yet.

As he buckled the leather straps in place that enabled him to carry his sword, it occurred to David that the fire they had sat in front of the night before was unnecessary. He decided that it must have been for cooking.

That thought also caused him to remember that he needed to find a way to wash his clothes and cloak. Two days of walking in the sun had caused him to sweat a lot.

Mark enlisted the help of a man by the name of Ynti to teach David the numbers over breakfast. Ynti had David practice the negotiation while he interjected new words periodically in an attempt to help. David's vocabulary had grown in the three weeks he had been in this country but he still saw the effort required, in order to remember everything, as a form of mental gymnastics.

By the end he had a good command of the numbers that were most likely to come up while talking to Auk'a. He hoped that his accent wasn't too bad. "If it helps," Ynti had said, "you could say that your mother is from the island nation of Ñawqe and that you have spent a lot of time growing up there." David had no idea where Ñawqe was. He committed the name to memory anyway.

There were a lot of other things to learn in addition to the words. It turned out that he even needed to know the common thoughts people held concerning slaves. This meant he needed to talk about slaves as though he had bought several before. It was a big mental shift that he wasn't sure he was ready for.

David was told not to appear over-eager to complete the deal. A lot of the tips were things he had learned in the open air or flea markets of a couple South American villages before their hike. There had been a love of bartering and one particular scene stuck out in David's mind. An older woman had somehow turned the price negotiations into a public spectacle. Her opponent, the owner of a small shop, had finally caved in to her demands in shame. David half hoped for a similar outcome but did not expect it. He was not a woman and did not speak the language all that well. He sighed at the thought that this part of the plan rested squarely on his shoulders.

By the time Ynti pronounced David ready, everybody else had left and begun their daily work. Ynti needed to get busy also and for a few moments the only people who remained in the room were David and Mark.

Mark looked at David. "Are you ready?"

"No, my head is swimming and we haven't even been up two hours yet."

"We can practice on the way."

"I'd rather not. Glad you were planning to come along -- it would take me all day to find that shop again -- but I'm going to need silence for a little while to sort everything out better."

"That should be fine. I've got more to plan anyway. Are you ready to go?"

David put on his cloak. "Yeah."

They headed out the door and made the two hour walk into Puquykilla in relative silence. Both men mulled over their prospective parts in the plan that would set the course for the next few weeks. David did his best to use his subconscious mind to store away the numbers and other words he was to use. Mark was lost in thought over the minor details of building wagons. He would need to find a blacksmith.

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