Marjoram had another, older name: the City of Spires. Any traveler who knew this name would immediately recognize the city from leagues away, even by sea. Marjoram was made up of about a dozen tall, majestic conical stone structures, like a series of enormous pointy hats placed on the curve of Temple Bay. They were natural formations, a product of wind erosion. The city’s inhabitants had carved their homes into the very stone itself, tunneling through the rock much like termites through wood, though the dwellings themselves were cozy and modern. Some had constructed wood-plank buildings which hung precariously off the sides of the stone spires, and the whole mess was made accessible by a network of ramps, catwalks, and wooden bridges which stretched across the gap between spires.
Waldo gazed upward, uninterested in the web of wood and rope above. He looked only for his escaped flying tarantula. Along the way, he passed shops selling clocks of every size, barbershops filled with bearded men waiting their turn for a trim, and robed holy men pontificating from atop overturned boxes. Mule carts stuffed with bolts of cloth and firewood trundled past, and he was almost hit by a postman careening by on a rattling bicycle. Old men huddled around tables in the shade, playing dominos or card games over powerful glasses of peppercorn tea, and somewhere, someone played a merry tune on a fiddle. Nearly every single Marjorami person in sight carried a handful of roasted pistachio-bugs, snapping them open, popping the crisp innards into their mouths, and tossing the shells aside. The discarded shells crunched under Waldo’s feet as he walked, littering the thoroughfare.
Waldo approached a crowd of men watching a particularly suspenseful game of cards. “Excuse me,” he said, pushing his way through. “There’s a very dangerous flying tarantula on the loose. Have you seen it? It’s about this big, yellow and black, with a big stinger and orange wings.”
The men frowned and stroked their mustaches and shook their heads, muttering to one another, but an old woman shouted up from the back.
“You there, boy!” She leaned forward on her broomstick and pointed at him with a claw-like finger. “Are you the little boy that hates his family?”
All eyes turned to Waldo. He went red as a cabbage.
“I…what are you talking about?” he stammered.
“We heard you shout it, all the way from your ship!” cried the old woman, and she pointed now to the bay, where the white windmill-sails of the docked Merry Mariner could be seen among the local fishing boats.
“That—huh? That’s not important!” said Waldo. The Marjorami whispered and glared and clicked their tongues. “This is an emergency,” he continued. “If we don’t find the tarantula in time—”
“We’re not interested in speaking to someone like you,” said a stern-looking man who smelled of tobacco. “Please be on your way.”
“You’re not listening to me!” cried Waldo, but they all turned their backs. “Well, then don’t blame me if you all get—oh, no, look out!”
A great buzzing announced the arrival of the poisonous flying tarantula. It descended upon the crowd, and before Waldo could do a thing about it, attacked without mercy.
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