First draft as usual so I am expecting you to criticise errors. Feel free - it's pointless holding back.
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"Mum, look over here. Muuuuum!"
"What?" an irate voice responded. "Oh."
There was a moment of silence.
Tam awoke with a slight start as he felt a hand come into contact with his shoulder to gently reintroduce him to the land of the conscious. His entire view was filled with the faces of two arlan, evidently mother and child from what he recalled hearing in the semi-wakeful state in which they had first come across him.
The faces drew back to afford Tam a wider view of his surroundings and the situation that had led to him sleeping on the bench came rushing back to him in painstaking detail. He sat up slowly, groaning slightly as he did so. He felt around on his bare head and peered around in confusion for a moment before spotting his hat on the floor. He bent down to pick it up and batted off the dust before placing it reverentially back in its rightful place.
Only then did he take stock of his surroundings.
The gurgling of the fountain behind him did little to conceal the gossiping and all too obvious whispers occurring amongst the small crowd who were gathered before him. They were all arlan, as far as Tam could tell, and he was glad that there were only a few around at this time of the morning to witness his embarrassment at being caught in this state.
"'Scuse me, 'scuse me."
The onlookers' mutterings redirected in annoyance as they were barged past by a knee-high being who emerged from the crowd before Tam's eyes.
"So it's true," the fellow tulai said, striding purposefully towards Tam whose face was reddening by the second.
He braced himself for the tirade that he was sure was to come.
"Rowlen?" he asked in a small voice.
"The very same," the tulai replied sternly. "And you are tainting the reputation of our race that I worked long and hard to attain. Follow me."
Tam rose hesitantly and dogged his new mentor's steps as he headed from the square.
"Show's over," Rowlen said gruffly as he barged his way back the way he had come.
The crowd parted willingly, their interest curbed by the tulai's evident ire. The dark mage led Tam through brightly coloured streets, more visible in the clear light of day, though hardly noticed as the young one contemplated what was to come.
The fast paced strides of his new mentor up ahead represented the failure that Tam had hoped to avoid, at least at the beginning. Rowlen led him through parts of the city that Tam didn't recognise, though he couldn't be sure - everything looked different in the daytime.
Everywhere they went people stared but amongst them Tam couldn't spot a single tulai. It wasn't what he had expected. Thankfully the number of people ono the streets, and therefore the number of onlookers to witness his shame, dwindled the further they travelled, as did the density of the buildings, until eventually they were walking along a well-trodden path. Herb gardens lined the way up to a circular hut, sat on a small hillock and sheltering in the shadow of a magnificent willow.
Rowlen didn't even pause as he reached the door but simply pushed it open and held it to allow Tam access. The older tulai unhurriedly lit several candles whilst Tam looked on in trepidation. He noted the various books stacked at odd angles on various surfaces and on the floor creating an obstacle course for anyone who wished to cross it. Plants in pots lined a windowsill and their shadow was cast across a table covered with a scattering of Lapiti Stones complete with a loupe for examining them in greater detail.
"It's not been the best start for you has it, young man?"
The question diverted Tam's attention back to his mentor and he shook his head slightly with eyes downcast when he noted Rowlen's stern, disappointed expression.
"Have you lost your tongue?"
"Don't sir me," Rowlen chided. "Understand?"
Tam caught himself just in time.
"Yes, Rowlen," he corrected.
"I've got things to do," said Rowlen. "And you've got a lot to make up for."
He moved over to a wall and picked up a broom, holding it out for Tam to take.
"For now I want you to get this place cleaned up. There's more things to do when you're done, have no fear of that."
Tam nodded and took the broom wordlessly. He did have a lot to make up for and at least his situation couldn't get any worse...could it?
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