Carina had to park the truck a few blocks off of mainstream on account of the congestion and heavy foot traffic. The passengers poured out of the truck bed and began pushing their way into the crowd. The town center had a dozen small buildings rising above the packed streets. The eclectic shapes of the structures boasted near seven centuries of architecture. However, no one was paying any attention to the buildings. Hundreds of people were squeezing into the space at the center of town, all with the same idea in mind.
Many of the onlookers Avi knew, but more had come from the outskirts that Avi did not recognize. He scanned the audience for Amoli Patel. She had to be there, but it was impossible to see over the number of heads.
The mood of the swelling audience was joyful, even frantic. Shouts rang out from all around. Avi pressed steadily forward. He wanted to get a look and possibly even hear what was going on. He felt Margreth tug at his hand and turned to look at her. Her lips were moving, but the crowd was too loud to hear. He leaned in close to listen.
“It’s too crowded.” she was shouting.
“Margreth, stay with Momma,” Avi said. “I'll try to get a closer look.” She made a pouty face but obeyed her older brother. He released her hand and gave her a quick kiss on the top of her head. He turned and pushed his way through the eager gathering. Men and women all around craned their necks and stood on their toes to get a glimpse. With great effort, Avi worked his way to the epicenter of the activity. He emerged to the front line of onlookers, arranged in a circled opening. That's when he spotted them.
Two men with dark hair and deep-set eyes were sauntering through the crowd. Their clothes boasted the fashion of a distant land with customs all its own. Dark, rich colors marked their attire. Fine silk comprised their cloaks, which dragged the ground behind them. Avi had rarely seen such wealthy stock. Each of them wore a deep burgundy sash that signified they were on a royal errand. Their business had brought these two across two continents. Wild ideas of fantastic adventures played through Avi’s mind as he watched them slice their way through the crowded city street.
Men and women, young and old, grasped at the sleeves of these foreigners. The village communicated its welcome and warmth, but the crowd had a certain quality that was both charming and veracious. Outsiders, especially esteemed ones like these, were so rarely seen in Sundar that the locals did not understand etiquette. Considering that these two were from that race of people whom the Emperor had called his Chosen, the city was absolutely overwhelmed with frenetic emotion.
“Please, Sir, may we come with you to the capital?” One man said as he gripped the sleeve of the taller of the two. He hardly slowed as he turned to look at the one who had made the request. The second shorter man’s voice rang out loud and crisp.
“We are not currently on our way to the capital, friend,” he said with a smile. He was not placating the request but seemed to carry a genuine sense of concern for the man.
“May I come with you when you do return to the capital?” another woman requested. Before he could answer, a third person from the crowd was tugging at the hem of his cloak.
“Sir, can you teach us to entreat the emperor’s generosity so he may bless us as he has blessed you?” another asked. The capital man looked as if he would answer, but another gripped him about the wrist.
“Sir, what can we do to find favor with the Emperor?” yet another said.
“Sirs, why have you come to Sundar?” one shouted.
“Can you take my son to the capital so you can bless him in the temple?” one more said. With that, the requests multiplied and came so quickly that they no longer were decipherable. The noise grew so loud that they could understand no one.
The visitors stopped their forward motion and turned to face the crowd. The taller of the two royal men raised his hands high in the air and signaled the crowd to silence.
“Quiet. He's going to speak!” said someone in the front. The message passed like ripples in a choppy pond. Those gathered closest shushed one another and after a short, aggressive hushing, the crowd was quiet enough for his voice to carry.
The taller one spoke with a volume that boomed down the street and bounced off the adobe of the nearby buildings. Words came from his mouth, but Avi did not understand. He looked to those sitting around him and clearly they were confused. After an entire sentence of what sounded like non-sense, the second man spoke up. Avi understood at once. The speech of the first was being translated by the second.
“Friends of the Land of Tamesh, we bring warm greetings from the capital, and from the His Majesty.” The interpreter said. With the mention of the Emperor, the crowd could not contain themselves. Applause and cheering came in waves. When the noise had died down, the first of the two travelers continued. At the end of his sentence, he gestured to the interpreter.
“I am Yacob Bendavid, and this is my brother Eliah Bendavid. He has spent an entire day learning your language so we might travel through your land carrying a message from the King,” Eliah said in near-perfect Tameshi.
The crowd once again applauded, but this time they quieted quickly. Yacob and Eliah continued.
“We must meet with your shepherds on the morrow. However, tonight we require lodging and a meal if it is not too much to ask.” Even before the words were completely out of Eliah’s mouth, the crowd erupted with invitations. Everyone wanted the two royals to stay at their home. It was such an unspeakable honor that even Avi could not help himself. He heard himself yelling before he realized he was doing it. He tried to shout over the crowd, inviting the men to come stay with him. He raised his arms in the air, hoping to get their attention.
“Come stay at my family's farm!” Avi shouted at the top of his lungs as he waved his arms high in the air. The crowd drowned out his invitation with hundreds of shouts of hospitality.