The town of Ormpe in the month of Kythorn, 1368
Even the water in Ormpe came at a cost, the stuff worth drinking at least. During the rainy season, there were plentiful streams and rivulets that would descend from the Curna Mountains, but these waters carried with them sand and dust and the detritus of mining spoils washed by rain.
If you were poor but wise, you knew, at least, to drink from the streams south of Ormpe, nearer the mountains, before the transient runoff flowed past the town. These waters were cloudy and gritty with sand, but they quenched the thirst with no ill effect.
Some poor, less wise than the others, drank of the waters north of the city, nearer the sea, where the runoff had combined with the effluent of householders and shantytown dwellers alike. These waters were cloudy with substances worse than mere sand. Newcomers often made this mistake. Their retching the next day was almost a rite of passage.
Of course, the rich, wise and foolish alike, merely bought their water from the water chaka, who maintained enough wells and cisterns year round to quench the thirst of all who could pay. The Durpari, however, are not a people without compassion.
Ashvath the Carter carried wagons of water to market each day in Ormpe on behalf of the water chaka. Often, he would return from market with a single unsold barrel of water. He explained, as any good Durpari would, that it made little financial sense for him, as an independent contractor, to carry a single barrel back to the cistern. Better instead, he explained, that he reimburse the water chaka for the loss of a single barrelful from his own purse and spend the last hours of daylight fulfilling other more profitable deliveries.
Instead, at his own expense, he would set the barrel down amid the begging children of the Quarter of No Hope, pick up the empty on a later passing. He did not bring them water every day, mind you; he did not care to attract too much attention and cause a riot. But he visited often enough that the children all knew the name of Ashvath the Carter.
“Lies! Lies!” Pak-Pak trilled quietly in Sahil’s ear, perched upon the boy’s shoulder. Sahil and his newfound feathered companion watched together as children gathered around with cracked vessels and broken potsherds, jostling for position to scoop what clean water they could from the open barrel.
Sahil laughed, “He lies with his words to preserve his honor as a tradesman. The water, however, speaks the truth he cannot say aloud.”
“True! True!” the songbird sang.
Later that day, Sahil performed his first miracle.
The city of Assur in the month of Eleasias, four years later
Outside the temple of Lucha, Sahil observed with no small wonder the lines of those who had assembled here in search of work. Years ago, similar rumors had gone out from the town of Ormpe, rumors of profitable labor. A much younger Sahil had watched in silence as crowds lined up in hope of finding employment. Many were turned away, his own father among them. “Perhaps I should grow a beard,” he joked briefly before his face turned somber. “Godsdamn dwarves.”
There were dwarves here too waiting in Assur, as well as halflings and gnomes and humans of every description. Durpari mostly, but Halruuans too in their billowy garments, grandstanding with their arcane tricks; Shaaran savages, talking among themselves and clutching bone knives; even the occasional Shou or Chultan, each with their own exotic dress and unusual armaments. An elephantine Loxo shifted uncomfortably while waiting in line, and Sahil quickly stepped away quickly to avoid being trod underfoot.
“Water! Water!” Sahil shouted, “Free for those who thirst.”
Most of the Durpari looked at this boy, just now on the cusp of adulthood, with a skeptical frown. But a few, perhaps not aware of this land’s customs tentatively extended a jug or waterskin. Sahil touched the rim of each, closed his eyes and said a brief unintelligible word in supplication. The vessels filled to the brim with clean, fresh water.
Those who received the water, almost without exception, nodded in acknowledgement, perhaps uttered a word of thanks in Durpari if they knew the tongue. To Sahil’s astonishment, however, few looked impressed.
Sahil turned to face the one who had addressed him. By his dress, he was an acolyte of Lucha, as near as Sahil could guess, or else some minor administrator associated with the temple.
“Are you here for work?”
“I am here to obey the will of the Adama.”
This acolyte or administrator or whatever his title merely crinkled his brow. “No one knows the will of the Adama. I just need to know if you have any skills.”
“I can heal the sick, provide water for the thirsty, encouragement for the…”
“A healer, then. Fine, fine, thank you. Join the line there, and you will be seen in a moment.”
Sahil joined the line, somewhat silenced by the irreverent treatment he had received by one whom he had assumed to be a person of faith. Not long after, a familiar white bird alighted upon his shoulder.
“It wills! It wills!”
Sahil sighed. “Fine, then, we shall see what the Adama holds for us. You will join me on this venture, I assume?”
“I will! I will!” the bird tweeted, as the two were ushered into a temple chamber to meet their new companions.