Introductions were never easy for him.
For starters, he had only ever gotten out half of his name in Celn cities, and Cillandar was the worst of them, before someone cut him off or simply walked away. It took him a while to realize that Celns liked things said succinctly, even quickly, especially a person’s name. Mathusalinus became Thuse, Mellisandre became Mesilla–there was even a rumor that King Genoran went by “Gen” to some of his closest friends. When it came to names, Cillandrians gave you about 1.4 seconds, a quantity he had pinpointed after a survey of 168 random encounters. That had been a long day but well worth the discovery! For afterwards, he realized that if he could say his name in 1.4 seconds, he could complete his introductions far more efficiently.
He had practiced and practiced and tried repeatedly to say his name in that span of time, but try as he might he only ever got through the very first part of it. Mouth exercises, even certain imbibements had helped shave off a few tenths of a second, but not enough. It was an experiment he had never quite perfected.
Social encounters always took him far too long anyway, and before he knew it he was fixing the grammar of someone who was no longer there. It was a free service–they needn’t be worried he’d ask for payment.
But he got it. Sort of. They had things to do, people to see, dragons to slay. They were in the business of business, these capitol dwellers. Even in the days of darker skies, or maybe even more so because of it, Celns had little time to waste on introductions, much to his chagrin.
And to an artist like Timbol Thymbol the Third, Artificer of the gnomish hillock, Glu-gunk, great-great grand son of Zilmop Dorfiz the Twelfth, that meant he hadn’t made a lot of friends in these tough days, yet.
Unless of course you defined friends a bit differently. Timbol Thymbol the Third did–he defined it very differently.
The little gnome had come to Cillandar years ago. Times then had been good. The great lords of Alpha, in the northern cairn lands had perfected the art of brewing, and the city was alive with merriment, night after night. Great armies, marching to the green gilded drum of Cellinor, kept safe the goods and wares of faraway nations. A merchant could set up shop and find his fortune quicker than, well quicker than a gnome could say his name. He always thought that was a funny joke.
He had been young then, with thick mutton chops of curly blond hair, and he had made thirteen smart decisions, fourteen if you counted the bet he accepted once on the challenge of champions during the great festival of 89, and each had made him wealthy. And he had spent that wealth on his great passion, and more importantly he had kept it hidden, and kept it safe.
And as the realm grew, and King Borindin led Cellinor to victory after victory, his position in Cillandar grew and one day, sitting in a pub, he was mistaken for a noble. And that’s when he knew he had become rich.
In 93, the great journeys to the west began, past the still waters, and the trade that came back from those lands filled his pockets with coin, and filled his workshop with his great secret. To the west, although he had never gone himself, he heard of the wealth of the colonies, and so made even better decisions, and these made him richer still.
And then the Trebians attacked Alpha. And the great giant lands of the south, and Alamadins to the East rose, waging bitter wars. But Timbol did not mind such things, for his wealth was not in the coin in his well tailored pockets, it was buried deep beneath his mercantile warehouse, down long winding stairs of stone, deep in the heart of the city, where he kept his secret. That was where he was rich.
And so when the lord Genoran announced that the King was no more, that the Lords of Three Harbors, like the Lords of Alpha before them, had not been heard from, when the citizens of Cellinor felt the weather shift, and the sunlight dim, and the night lengthen, Timbol still felt rich. His blond curly mutton chops had been sprinkled with grey, and his hands had grown mighty calluses, and the ships in the harbor no longer carried the items he was known to sell, but he still felt rich.
And when fewer customers came, and even when his warehouse became a quiet, still place, Timbol felt rich, for he had his friends, and he had his secret. And it wasn’t until he needed to eat, that he realized it wasn’t just he who was now poor, it was everyone else too.
And that’s when he began to venture out into the city in the midday times and to introduce himself, and to do what was once the most simplest of things, but which now he found to be the hardest of things–to find food. For finding food wasn’t as easy as it was when he was flush with coin, and although he had amassed treasure that could give him coin, he could not be parted from any of it, could he? Now the search for food was personal, and he couldn’t do it without a proper introduction.
He had to be careful. He had to keep his secret safe. He knew the value of what he had, but others wouldn’t. Like scrolls used for kindling, his secret could be lost in a moment for a far less noble purpose.
So close to the discovery, but never there. And now reduced to a common beggar, searching the streets for food. How could he have known then, when he had lost nearly everything else, that he would meet the one person who knew what he didn’t–what he needed desperately to know.
Salaman. He had to speak with Salaman.
And with the bizarre emptier than it ever would be, this was the time to do it.