alpharaposa: (Tempor)
Tempor,

The enclosed letter of introduction makes clear that you are my representative at the Grante branch. You have my full backing in whatever decisions you make. Do whatever is necessary to bring their records into line with our standards.

With warmest regards,
Mores


----
Tempor hoped that he remembered the local language well enough from his lessons. He picked up his trunk with some effort, and walked inside the grim, grey building.

It took him a moment to see clearly once inside. The daylight outside had been sharp and glaring, but only a small portion of that light slipped through the dusty windows. A large lantern aided three clerks as they worked.

Tempor set the trunk down on the floor, uncertain of what else to do. One of the clerks glanced up at the sound, then leaned back and rapped on the wall behind her with her knuckles.

The dim light was unkind to the man who walked through the door. His florid face stood out like a rash among the gray stone and old wood, and his large frame would have been more at home somewhere with fewer walls. He sported a mustache that nearly touched his sideburns, but no beard. Tempor, having known a few dwarves but no humans before today, found the missing beard more distracting than the presence of the mustache.

"What brings you by?" the man asked. Tempor appreciated the polite tone of voice, and tried not to shrink beneath the gimlet stare.

Tempor produced the envelope from his pocket, pausing a moment to make sure it was the correct letter. "I'm Tempor Amuta. Mores sent me," he said simply. He hoped that would be sufficient explanation.

The man took the letter, then backed up by the lantern to read it. Tempor could hear him breathing through his nose. Finally, the man refolded and pocketed the letter with a scowl.

"I'm Rawlins Colborn. This is- was my bank. Elfreda, take Mr. Amuta to his office." With that, he left back through the door.

The clerk that had looked up earlier carefully set her quill down and dropped from her chair to the floor. Her cheeks were ruddy and her face was thin, but she managed to look cheery and natural in the lantern light. Tempor wondered how she could look so similar to the man and yet so different. "Come this way, please," she told Tempor. When he lifted the trunk once again, she frowned briefly. "It's upstairs," she said apologetically.

Tempor bit the inside of his lip and moved the trunk to the corner of the room, out of the way. Elfreda gave him a reassuring smile. "Don't worry. We won't let anything happen to it before you go home tonight."

That only reminded the elf that he had no idea where he would stay. He fought panic as the human woman led him up a narrow flight of steps. Where would he start looking? How would he know who was reliable? He barely paid attention to where they were going, and nearly ran into the door when she stopped.

"Are you alright?" she asked.

Tempor sighed and tried to sum up his thoughts in the unfamiliar language. "This is all very new," he told her. She seemed as confused as he was, for a moment.

"Oh, do you mean new to you? The building's been here a while, after all."

Tempor nodded.

"Well, I hope you manage to settle in," she told him, opening the door.

The room boasted a large window with light bars that may have held panes at one time. Now, the wind slipped inside easily, stirring the cobwebs that lurked in the corners. The desk and chair were much like the ones downstairs, and looked recently added. Dusty shelves stood bare. There wasn't a lot of room to move around, but the shelves added plenty of storage space for Tempor's needs.

"This is-"

"Oh, I know."

"Very good!" Tempor finished, wishing he knew a better word for his relief.

"It is?" Elfreda asked.

"Light!" he exclaimed, gesturing at the sunlight that gripped the edge of the desk. "And air!" he continued. "It's like home."

"You don't mind being on the third floor?" she asked, incredulous.

Tempor shook his head. "I love it," he told her. "I worked in a tree at home."

She stared at him for a moment, and he realized that the trees around here, however impressive, were probably nothing like the ancient giants at home. The thought of working on a tiny branch made him smile.

"Well, if there's anything you need," she began.

Now he found himself on familiar territory. "Please show me back downstairs," he told her. "I need an item from my trunk, and the books."
alpharaposa: (Tempor)
Read the first part here. Icon by [livejournal.com profile] djinni



Dear Father,

Grante is beautiful when seen from a ship. There are tall white cliffs to either side. They shine in the sun. Grante's harbor lies between them, like an open door. The tops of the cliffs and the land beyond the city is green.

The city itself is loud and ugly, though. I can't understand how so many people can live packed together like this.


----

Mores was right about one thing. Tempor would never forget the smell of the sea or the sound of the waves.

Elves never get seasick. While there were those who would have expected Tempor to be the exception, he found that the sea air agreed with him. The ship he traveled on was an elven ship, and he found he enjoyed the taste of freshly caught fish. Even the rice and dried kelp staples were intriguingly tasty with the right amount of salt.

Tempor loved to stand near the stern of the ship, enjoying the breeze as he watched the creatures that would play in the wake. He made some attempts to catch fish alongside the crewmen assigned to the task, but soon left off as his efforts were a waste of bait. They only had certain windows of opportunity for fishing, and it was best to let the experts take advantage.

Tempor resolved to try it again when he got the chance.

The crew was informal with him and each other. They called him Oyster at first, because he hadn't wanted to come out much. Then it was Mouse. None of it was harsh, though. Even when some difficult weather blew through, the elves of the crew savored every moment.

Tempor wasn't sure they were all sane, but they loved their work fiercely, and it made them good at what they did. For his part, Tempor stayed below during the storm. The ship sailed through as if it was charmed. Which it was, of course.

Still, he was glad when it was safe to walk on deck without mountains of water dropping on it. He liked the sea, but he didn't love it the way the crew did.

Tempor's first glimpse of Lond had caught his breath. From that distance, the sharp, bright colors dazzled in the sunlight. He watched the other ships pulling in to the same port, but his eyes would steal away to the sheer white cliffs as if of their own accord. He wondered what it would be like, to live in a building made from that stone. You could catch the moonlight in a window, spill it across the floor, and it would gleam, alive.

The port city of Grante, on the other hand, was many colors, most of them some shade of grey or very dirty red. The houses were made of primarily brick or weathered wood. The buildings were squat and square.

Tempor hated the thought of leaving the clean ship and the wide open sea. He could not bring himself to leave the pier and enter the noisy, busy city. Everybody seemed to be going somewhere, doing something.

How would he fit in, here? Where could he?

"Don't just stand there like a chick without a hen." One of the crew, an elf named Iovial, picked up Tempor's modest trunk. "Come on, let's find you a nest."

Tempor followed Iovial into the crowded streets. The smell of the sea gave way to fish and humans as they passed the fish market. Then, even the smell of fish was overwhelmed by the stink of people going about their business. A few stalls in the street sold flowers, and Tempor would have liked to linger, but Iovial seemed to have a destination in mind.

The clerk stuck close to the sailor, and they finally pulled free of the narrow alleys near the markets. The streets seemed to fall away into a grand plaza that was packed with horses and coaches. They paused for a time in front of tall, stone buildings, dropping off passengers or taking them on. The people here carried fewer things but seemed in no less of a hurry.

The stone was not the bright, clean white of the cliffs to either side of town. Instead, it was a dingy gray, streaked with dark stripes that matched the taste of soot in the air.

Practically everybody wore hats. Iovial and Tempor's bare heads with bright hair seemed entirely out of place.

"Here we are," Iovial proclaimed, setting down the trunk. "Formerly the First Bank of Green Downs, now the Grante branch of the Folkhoarding Bank." He flashed a grin at Tempor, not at all disturbed by how little he matched his surroundings. "The captain said to thank you; you were a model passenger on the trip."

Tempor tried to reconcile this somber, dirty building with the Folkhoarding Bank he knew. "Er, thank you," he told the sailor. "I don't think I would have found this on my own."

"Glad to help," Iovial proclaimed, and then he headed back towards the pier and the sea, a bright smudge amid the brown and grey.

Tempor watched him go, then looked up at the bank. He told himself that this was his bank, even here, that it belonged to Mores and was not all that different from the bank back in elven lands.

He was not very convincing.
alpharaposa: (Rumex writing)
This is something I've been writing off and on, for fun, during stray moments for a while.
____

Tempor Amuta was boring, an unusual trait in an elf. He had no hobbies to speak of, and never went adventuring. Though most elves changed professions every few decades, he was nearly two hundred years old and did the same work with the same company since he first apprenticed there as a youth of seventy-five.

The Folkhoarding Bank was one of only a few elven banks. Elves were not known for money-counting and investing, but many of them accumulated projects or interests in their long lives and it all added up eventually. Tempor spent every day making updates to the ledgers, calculating returns and occassionally losses as news of this or that venture arrived. His desk and chair were worn as if carved for him, as comfortable as his routine.

Tempor's hair was bright and blond and held back in the same ponytail every day, with a few strands that always worked their way loose by the time he took his lunch. His face was unlined and pale, with grey eyes the color of a snowy sky. No matter the weather, he took a walk every evening just as the stars began to appear in the sky. The bridges and gardens of his home town had a few subtle marks where he tended to stop every time to appreciate a particular bend in the stream or lean over to smell a favorite flower bed. His home was a modest apartment high in an old tree, cool and quiet. His siblings sporadically sent him new clothes in an effort to spark a taste for variety in his life. He wore them, but that's all the further it went. For Tempor, the change of the seasons was all the change he needed. The daily rhythm of his work was its own music that carried him through the years as sweetly as a waltz.

But even the longest waltz yields the dance floor eventually, and one day he finished his work, closed the last ledger of the day, and was met at the door by the owner of The Folkhoarding Bank.

"We purchased a human bank today," the old elf told him, "And you will be our representative in their main office."

Tempor stared at him in shock.

"Mores," he said, "I couldn't-"

"I won't hear it." Mores said with a thump of his walking cane. "You've earned this position. Who else could we send to help organize the accounts but our most dependable clerk?" He began to walk and Tempor walked with him. "Your travel is paid for and the ravens will deliver corrrespondence weekly. Your salary will be increased to match your new responsibilities."

Worms of cold crawled under Tempor's skin. "Travel?"

The old elf gave Tempor a kind look and told him, softly. "The office is over the sea, in Lond." Then Mores returned to his enthusiasm, "Ah, to travel on a ship again! You never forget the smell of the sea or the sound of the waves."

Later, when Tempor went back over the events of the day, he remembered the rest of that conversation. All the details, the arrangements, the names he would need to know. But for the rest of the walk, he couldn't bring himself to think of it. The curve of the buildings around him were suddenly dear as life to him. Every tree and branch was precious; he could not bear to look away. He was cold, and the warm spring night could not cure it.

Still seized by this chill, Tempor's evening walk took him to his parents' house. He hadn't lived there since he had been able to afford his own apartment, and yet now he wended his way to it like a child with a bruised knee. The old tree was as solid as ever, and Tempor walked inside the door and up the spiral staircase, running his fingers over the polished, living wood. The air was full of the comfort of vanilla, the tree's own scent deep in its heart.

Illis, Tempor's father, was on the first landing tending to a brace of owls. One was perched on a bark-covered glove, obedient as a well-trained dog.

Illis nodded to him as Tempor approached. "These two are fairly promising. I hope to try them in a few weeks."

His father's passions had tended towards animals for as long as Tempor could remember, though every couple of decades Illis tried a different species. The owls were new. Tempor made an effort to show some interest as Illis told him about the soft feathers that muffled sound and the excitement of hunting at night under the stars.

Finally, his father put the owls in their cage with some bits of meat to keep them happy and sat on the bench carved into the side of the tree.

"What brings you here, Tempor? You don't usually visit unannounced."

Tempor half-settled on an elegantly carved chair. "Mores wants me to oraganize a human bank he recently acquired. It's overseas."

His father nodded. "Are you going to go?"

Tempor sighed. "I don't know if I can." He sat dejected while his father looked up at the sky, as if some star could peep down through the branches to provide insight. The silence stretched on, with tickling spring breezes carrying the scent of violets up from below.

"This little village is a long way inside our kingdom," Illis said at last, standing up. "Only elves live here, and we make our homes in trees that live for over a thousand years." He caressed the bark for a moment. "You could almost believe that nothing ever changes here, that this place merely cycles through the same days, the same seasons, the same years over and again, for ever."

The older elf looked at Tempor and smiled. "It's an illusion. Everything changes. Some things change so slowly that you would need the most careful measurements to find a year's growth. Some things change so quickly that it seems absurd to even try to measure it once. Some flowers bloom for one day, and the bees rush to take hold of their bounty. Others bloom a month or more. But not a single blossom lasts an entire year. Sooner or later, everything comes to an end."

Tempor held himself carefully, holding back tears at the thought of the valley and its great trees dying. Illis paused for a moment, then leaned close.

"But change isn't always an end, or even so terrible. It's merely new, which means we have to learn new things when we see it. When you stop learning, though, you don't make yourself impervious to change. Instead, you become like the old tree on a bank that is worn under by the stream. Eventually, the stream cuts you from your support, even though you never did anything different from what worked before."

Illis placed a hand on Tempor's shoulder. "It's not wrong to put down roots, but you're not bound to one place. You're not a tree, Tempor. Go learn new things." He smiled. "Write me about it. I'll be here to write you back."

Then Tempor cried, but in his parents' house there was nobody to see who didn't love him enough to make it okay. He stayed long enough to speak with his mother, who cried a little bit too, and then he went back to his home.

A few days later, he visited the elf who had been his landlord for so long and settled accounts. Tempor didn't know how long he would be away, but there were other, younger elves who might like to stay in the little apartment. It felt wasteful to keep it for himself.

What few things he wanted stored went to his parents' house. The rest fit into one trunk, and then Tempor left the only place he ever knew to go over the sea to Lond.

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