1 – The Deal
â€œSit,â€ Adijan grumbled, flipping a frail hand at the seat beside his on the veranda. He rolled his eyes when the stout courier bent over and peered at the woven leaf frond seat, then flicked out a kerchief of cloth, laid it over the seat, and sat down.
Adijan quickly faced the forest, mumbling under his breath.
â€œIâ€™m sorry?â€ asked the courier, a Tyik named Rhennik Iza. An average specimen of his race, Â he was rather heavier and squatter than Adijan, though not obese, and he stood with the wide stance so common of his Bann-Heru countrymen, somewhere between determined confidence and defensive preparedness. Instead of the traditionally simple clothes of his distant plains-folk, though, he wore the fashionable, multi-colored layers of loose, feather-light wraps and headscarves which were so essential to the Feililiem tropical forests. He wore them like a coat of thorns, however, and despite the layered protection, he swatted and flicked at every mite and midge within his reach.
â€œNothing,â€ Adijan replied. He focused briefly on the jatru on the backs of Rhennikâ€™s hands. Like all Tyik, his forearms and the backs of his hands bore bony protrusions. In Rhennikâ€™s case, Adijan saw a flat shard of bone stuck an inch or so out from the top of each of his knuckles. Formidable assets in close quarters, the jatru also prevented Rhennik from straightening his hands out flat. Their corners were also making a mess of his gauzy wraps, and he struggled to fend off the insects while keeping himself untangled.
Adijan distractedly fingered his own jatru, a crown of short bones circling his head that declared his own Hennish bloodline. In his youth, theyâ€™d shone like porcelain spikes after his annual sharpening, but now, at his extended age of one hundred and forty six, they were little more than half-inch studs, worn by time and his constant fidgeting.