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The boy asked Durbar if he would like something to drink, and Durbar asked him for some cider. He then sat quietly all alone at the front table while trying to keep calm and avoid eye contact with anyone. Klaud returned and filled his goblet. At least he now had a place to put his hands, and he clutched the drink with both of them as he sipped it. He kept his eyes down so as to not make eye contact with anyone in the room. At first all was well, but his strategy of avoidance was soon tested.
A woman at the party noticed Durbar sitting nervously by himself. She immediately found him interesting because he was obviously not used to formal situations, and she had never seen him before. She herself was an attractive woman, a little taller than most with flowing brown hair and deep blue eyes that were like two dark pools of water. She was a fair lady, but not meek or fragile. She decided to approach Durbar after studying him from a distance for a time like a hawk tracking a squirrel.
She walked over to where Durbar was seated, but he did not notice her because he was staring into his goblet. She paused for a moment to give him a chance to notice her, but the young bowman did not waver from his strategy. Soon she abandoned the subtle approach and addressed him directly.
“Hello,” she began, distracting him from his drink. Durbar heard her and even suspected that she was talking to him, but really hoped that she was not. He waited a moment to see if anyone else answered her, but when no one did, he concluded that she had in fact spoke to him. He looked up to make sure, even though it betrayed his plan and saw the woman standing only a couple of feet from him. She was staring directly at him. He froze when he knew that she was talking to him. She was socially experienced and so she sensed his fear and tried to put him at ease.
“I haven’t seen you here before? Are you new to Harmon?” she asked.
“No. I mean yes,” he stammered and then cursed under his breath. She smiled at his shyness.
“My name is Verayzija, but most people call me Vera. I am a merchant here in Harmon and elsewere. What is your name?” she asked.
“I am Durbar,” he mumbled breaking eye contact. Verayzija knew that he was unused to social situations and so dismissed his rudeness for not standing up and sat down in the seat next to his instead.
“What brings you here?” she asked.
“I came here to compete in the games.”
“Ah, yes, of course. And you must have won something because you are sitting at the head table. Am I correct?”
“I won the archery competition.”
“Oh my. You are the Sureshot then, aren’t you?” Durbar smiled when she mentioned his nickname. It appeared everyone knew it by now.
“Yes, that is what Prince Rothan calls me.”
“I heard about you obviously,” she continued, now fully understanding his unrefined manners. “You beat Tarbon. He is very good I understand. I think he usually wins the archery match. I missed the games this year myself. I didn’t make it back from Golak until late last night. Still, you did very well I hear and congratulations are in order.”
“Thank you,” he murmured, wishing the conversation would end. However, Durbar continued to talk to Verayzija until it was time to serve dinner. She talked about her travels around Dirka and some of the people she knew. Durbar learned that her father was a merchant, and she learned everything she knows from him. She talked a little about some robbers that were harassing caravans in Dirka and what they were doing to try and stop them. She said that she was trying to convince someone to send some troops to capture the bandits but so far was unsuccessful.
Durbar actually began to relax around her. She had a way of making people feel more comfortable, and it helped him to open up a little. He told her about how he was living in the woods by himself and how he met Rothan there. Then he told her about the tournament and how he found out that his father was in the garrison, but was careful not to tell her too much about his father, even though it was difficult to avoid. The revelation was still fresh in his mind so he could not help himself. It felt good to talk to someone who didn’t know more about him than he did. She in turn gave him some etiquette tips for dining and what to do when the royal party was announced. She was just explaining this very thing when someone came out and blew a horn announcing that the duke and his family would be entering. Verayzija thanked him for the conversation and took her seat at one of the side tables.