The journey to Edessa's capital city of Weston took three days from the village of Coty. Faryn was amazed at how the road just kept going on and on. It seemed as though it would never end. She'd never realized how vast and huge the world was. She thought of her mother and ( )others back in Coty. They were so far away now, seemingly on the other side of the world.
Her thoughts also occasionally drifted to Arick. She hadn't seen him after his confession in the woods. She wondered what he would think when he realized she was gone. I suppose it doesn't really matter, she thought. He can get back to his life, and I'll get back to mine. She didn't resent him for anything, even though she was now being removed from everything she'd ever known. She could have stayed in Coty. Going to Weston was her choice, and she couldn't help but feel excited about it. At night, she dreamed of a glittering city by the sea.
The towers of the great castle in Weston were visible for some time before Faryn and her father reached the gates of the city. Faryn stared, wide-eyed and mouth agape, as they approached the fortified walls of Weston. It was even more massive than she'd dreamed. The walls rose like great cliffs, reaching 50 feet high. The guards looked imposing in their mail and steel, swords sheathed on their belts. Faryn's father had never carried more than a hatchet for protection. Faryn clung closely to her father as they passed through the gate.
So many people. Faryn had never seen such a sight in her life. The gate they'd entered, Sunrise Gate, opened onto a bustling marketplace. Booths lined the street and sellers shouted their goods at all passers-by. Vegetables, fruits, cloth, housewares, so much of everything that it was overwhelming to take in all at once. Faryn tightened her grip on her father's arm as they waded through the throng of people, staring speechlessly at all that was happening around her. Men and women bartered with the sellers as young children ran about unnoticed. A small boy sat on the stoop of a house and fed ( )ead to a mangy-looking dog. A disheveled old man, face flushed and obviously drunk, stumbled out of a tavern while a portly man shouted after him. He burped loudly as he passed by.
Faryn's father led her down a quiet street near the harbor, away from the noise of the market. A row of modest but comfortable-looking houses faced the harbor, and once again Faryn was overwhelmed at the sight. She'd never seen the ocean before, nor the large ships that traversed the watery expanse. She stopped and stared until her father started to chuckle.
"You'll get used to that," he said. "It's just water, after all."
"But it's so...much," Faryn sighed. "It just goes on forever."
"Not quite forever," her father laughed. "Sail in one direction long enough and you'll come to land somewhere." He pointed toward the east. "Couple of days that way and you'll find yourself in Anatruria."
It amazed Faryn that there was another whole country at the other end of the sea, and yet she couldn't see it. The world is so big, and I never realized it, she thought to herself.
The last house on the row had a small fence around it. Wildflowers grew around the stakes and a small path of flat stones lead up to the front door. A plump woman about Faryn's mother's age puttered about in the yard while a ( )ood of chickens pecked the ground.
"Meryl!" Faryn's father called out. The woman looked up and a wide grin spread across her face.
"Athan!" She called when she recognized him. She ran out and gave Faryn's father a friendly hug. "My dear cousin. It has been too long. What a wonderful surprise!"
"It is wonderful to see you again, Meryl," Athan replied. "This is my daughter, Faryn." He gently prodded Faryn to step forward. Faryn smiled shyly and made a small curtsy to Meryl. "I'm happy to meet you, Cousin Meryl."
Meryl swept Faryn up in a large hug. "We're family, no need for formalities here!" Meryl said excitedly. "Oh Athan, Jonas will be so happy to see you. And the boys too. I'm sure that Channery will be happy to have another lady in the house. What ( )ings you to town?"
Athan cleared his throat uneasily. "Village matters," he started, "and Faryn wanted to see the Teacher's Academy at the university. She's been studying for the past few years."
"Oh, a scholar in the family! Well, come right in. I expect you'll be wanting to freshen up after that journey you've had. I'll have Channery draw a bath for you."
They followed Meryl into the house. It was modestly but comfortably furnished. A small cooking fire burned in the fireplace and a pot of something hung over it. Faryn could hear the contents slowly bubbling inside. It smelled delicious.
"Got a stew going for dinner tonight," Meryl said. "I just had a feeling I'd need to make a big meal. Woman's intuition, you know."
"Of course," laughed Athan. Meryl led them upstairs. There was a small hallway with doors on either side. They passed the first. "The boys sleep there," Meryl explained. She turned to Faryn. "I've got three. Jonas, named after his father. We call him Little Jo. He's nineteen. And then the younger boys, Will and Dan. Will's fourteen and Dan is twelve. The three of them are out with their father right now ( )inging in the day's catch."
The next door was Meryl and Jonas' room, and immediately beyond that a room for guests. It had a small straw mattress in one corner, a table and two chairs, and a bathtub. A large window opened onto the back of the property, where the chicken coop and a flourishing vegetable garden were located. Athan and Faryn lowered their packs to the floor and a young girl about Faryn's age entered the room. Her face was lightly freckled and she had curly auburn hair worn loose about her shoulders. Her blue eyes lit up at the sight of Faryn.
"Ah, my lovely girl," Meryl said. "This is my daughter, Channery. Same age as you, Faryn. Channy, you remember your cousin Athan. This is his daughter, Faryn."
Channery smiled ( )ightly at Faryn. "So pleased to meet you," she said as she hugged Faryn. Meryl sent Channery off to collect water for the bath and then excused herself to finish the chores. Faryn sat on one of the chairs and looked out the window.
"They seem like a nice family," she said finally.
"I'm sure you'll be fine here," her father responded. He looked a little sad. "I wouldn't want to leave you in the company of strangers. Meryl and Jonas will look after you here. But promise me you'll also look after yourself."
"Of course, Father," Faryn said. She didn't blame her father for worrying. She was a bit worried, too. The city was so big, and everything was so frighteningly different from what she was used to. She hugged her father and almost didn't want to let go.