Xen walked alone now. The caverns were entirely dark, but Xen found his way through the twists and turns effortlessly. He had taken this route enough times to know it by heart. The caves opened up to a room lit by a soft glowing light coming from nowhere. In the center was an egg carrier, made of ivory, gold, and crystal, expertly crafted in elaborate Fae style. It carried nothing.
He took out a journal, this one his own. Its pages, filled with writings and drawings, were glowing without Xen channeling flux through them. They depicted the nature of Lycans, Vampires, Dragons, and the complex relationship they shared. Detailed drawings of Naga and their eggs were put alongside those of thistle. One depicted a gruesome dissection of a fully transformed Lycan human with the word “Werewolf” written across the top. Another had a map of the maze-like tunnels behind him, not that he needed it. He dwelled on one page, featuring three large, head sized eggs, each with a red, thistle-like structure wrapping around its shell. He sat down at a nearby desk, took out a writing utensil, and began taking notes and adding to drawings. After he was satisfied with their detail, he pulled some scrolls off a nearby shelf, packed them in his coat, and left just as quickly as he arrived.
When Xen emerged from the caverns to see Ivory and Grimsley walking away, talking about getting some food. She’s in good hands.
Mystics, like pyrats, were servants of the underworld. Normally, precognizant mages worked for guilds and royalty, or spent their days writing manuscripts in the Arcane Heights. Some believed mystics had equal capabilities to those celebrated mages, able to sense the future with such accuracy so as to build their lives around their predictions. Others called them frauds. The reality was probably more muddled than either party wanted to admit, with mystics being incompetent individuals, never afforded the opportunity to refine their craft to the same degree as those in the Arcane Heights.
“Oooooh, three of them?” A fae-naga mix looked curiously at Xen, momentarily distracted from her crystal ball. “That’s right. And I know exactly where to look.” “Where-where? Do tell!” She focussed her attention back on the spherical crystal, hands on each side. “Veracity.” The halfbreed froze. “They’ll know I looked.” “I know. I need this as a favor…”
One could hardly call it a city. “Town” would be too gracious, even. Calhearth was a bazaar of scoundrels, filled with criminals of all persuasions. Stolen goods, crafted poisons, medical supplies, weapons and armor, slaves, illicit substances, and sex. If it can’t be found in the cities, it can be found in Calhearth. Lawless as it was, however, it presented a danger to anyone in need of its services. Without the proper protection or reputation, visitors are likely to lose their coin on the best of days, and their lives on the worst. Brawls, turf wars, and the like broke out regularly, but trade carried on.
As the Cerberus came into port, its crew moved like clockwork. The ashen tying up sails, the humans picking up cargo, the naga tying them to the docks, and the pixie already out of sight, having slipped through the crowd unseen.
“Stay close” were the only words Xen said as he walked with purpose off the vessel. The crowd seemed to make room for him, as if they knew who he was. After a short walk through the crowded streets (streets is being generous), he knocked on an unassuming cellar door. The moment after seemed to linger on for too long, with a sense of fear beginning to overtake Ivory, until suddenly it ended and the door opened. He entered the dimly lit cavern and breathed a deep breath, relieved to be inside. Ivory wondered who opened the door, but her attention quickly shifted as she entered the room.
The walls were crystalline, but only just. To the inexperienced mage, they would seem no different from the slick walls present in the Delterian underground. But to a mage, they afforded a type of comfort. Flux echoed between the walls, amplifying itself as the cave deepened. Xen had already disappeared out of sight, but Ivory continued on...
The inn was positioned right at the mouth of the Delthair River. Ivory had already checked in and was waiting in the pub with Caeleo. Tarkus and Tavren had gone to the shops during the day, wheeling and dealing with the various merchants of the Delthair Strip. Just as Ivory returned to her and Caeleo's table with a drink, Tarkus came bursting through the door.
"Tarkus!" Caeleo exclaimed, happy to see someone else had found their way here.
"Not so loud, you git." Tarkus spoke in a hushed tone, glancing around the pub before sitting at their table. "The whole damn order is here in Lothair, not just Tavren. He tells me they have an interest in ithica as well. They've sworn allegiance to Rolark."
Ivory sat silent. She was more preoccupied with her egg than with the politics of Y'vera at the moment. Caeleo's metal face was emotionless, but his tone of voice betrayed his uneasiness, "That's not good. If an order like those clerics have sworn allegiance to Rolark, he must have promised them something. Something powerful."
"It gets worse. In a few hours they're planning on burning the port. They don't want anyone getting on that island."
"Then we have to go!" Ivory stood up. She wasn't about to lose access to ithica, the crystal, and Elk when she was this close.
Caeleo and Tarkus stood in agreement, "Where's Tavren? Igneous? Sapphira?"
Tarkus began walking towards the door to the streets of Lothair, "I sent him to the port to get a ride ready. I haven't seen the other two, thank the gods."
Ivory headed the opposite direction, calling back to the pair, "I'll be right back. I have to get my things." Tarkus rolled his eyes and took the opportunity to finish the drink she had left on the table. He gave Caeleo a devilish grin, "Shame you can't enjoy this stuff, Caeleo. Some men live for the taste of good drink."
Caeleo kept his composure, even though he was a bit disappointed he couldn't enjoy the pleasures of good food, "And what do you live for, Tarkus?"
"Hah-hah-hah!" Loro let out a loud, deep, hardy laugh. "I knew when you devoured that vermincake that yore stummick'd be hatin' yah for it."
"It was so delicious, though." Ivory didn't want to offend the gentle giant. "It was the most extraordinary roll I've ever had."
"Glad to hear I haven't lost my touch. It's been a long while since I cooked for anyone other than the crew." His speech was as slow as his movements as he pulled something out of an oven. "You ain't got a taste for rat, though, if that's what yore thinkin'."
"What do you mean?"
"What type of magic user are yah, miss?"
"It's Ivory.... And I'm a healer and apothecary."
"I-vore-ee." Loro tried sounding it out but had trouble. "How about just Ivy?" Ivory smiled. His slow pronunciation was actually kind of endearing. She didn't mind having a nickname; it was a welcome respite from the journey she had been on thus far. "Ivy is just fine."
"Well, Ivy the Healer, I'm a cook." Loro channeled magic through the plain looking bread. Suddenly Ivory was overwhelmed with the smell of fresh bread. Her mouth watered. "Well, Loro the Cook, I think we're going to get along just fine."
Location:Lothair Notes:So long, and thanks for all the fish.
Sapphira had forgotten the fairynapping pandemic of Lothair and was blissfully unaware of the danger that pervaded around every corner of the Delthair Strip. It was one of her favorite places in all of Y’vera, with the exception of home. The Fae architecture had her quite homesick for Tarver, but the feeling quickly faded with every new shop that promised a new peppermint flavored sweet. Peppermint, surprisingly, was not a Fae creation, but rather a Dudleyan one. The farmers there use their unique brand of magic to grow all manner of mints, spices, and crops on the isle of Cretia. It was one form of magic that Sapphira failed to grasp, one of the woes of being a “master of none.”
It wasn’t until she was sitting down on the terraces of The Strip, enjoying peppermint tea and peppermint biscuit amidst the constant foot traffic, that she remembered she had Caeleo’s wallet. “Damnit!” She gulped down the last of her tea and put the biscuit snuggly in her pouch. With a hop and a skip, she soared down the strip from above, gliding through an airway full of other Fae floating about.
The harbormaster spotted her as she arrived and gave a shout over her way. “Hey there, fairy. Sapphira, is it?”
“Who’s asking?” she replied, slightly wary.
“A shiny golem mentioned you had something for me.” He tossed a bag of graal around in his hand.
“Oh! For the boat?” She let her guard down, feeling more at ease that Caeleo had already spoken with him. She pulled out the wallet. “How much?”
Sapphira began to dig through the bag of tiny gemstone slivers.
Igneous sat at the shore nearby. The crashing of the waves in front of him drowned out the sound of the streets behind him. His peace was disturbed by the fairy behind him, and he decided it was about time he regroup with the others. As he turned to face Sapphira, he saw a shipping crate and an Ashen on top of it where he expected to see her. He picked it up and handed it to the harbormaster in exchange for a bag of graal. Igneous realized what was going on when he heard her muffled cries for help coming from inside. He sprinted towards the fairynapper, but was crippled by the sound of another earthquake. By the time he had recovered, the box and harbormaster were out of sight in a freighter. He could still faintly hear Sapphira’s screams inside.
Igneous stood by the entrance to the boat and assumed a robotic position. As the harbormaster came out, he walked in. A guardsman stopped him at the door. “Ay, ‘old up there mate. What’re you coming in for?”
Igneous dutifully and dully responded. “I’m model igneous-7. I’ve been assigned for transport help by Veracity.” The only thing he knew of Veracity was that it was a trade guild. He hoped it was enough.
“Ah, I was wonderin’ when they’d send us some extra workers. Come on board. Start with section 3-C...” Igneous despondently walked on board, hoping he can free someone from the life of captivity he experienced.
The rest is another story, for another time. The rest of the ithica bound travelers were just meeting at the inn, discussing the severity of that last earthquake over some food and drink. Tarkus had learned the conflict on the island was about to brew over, threatening access to it. It was time to leave.
The sound of Ivory’s voice right behind Xen broke his concentration. The glowing pages faded and he snapped the book shut. He responded without turning to face her.
“Let me make one thing clear, my dear. This is my ship. You don’t enter the captain’s chambers without permission, and especially not without announcing yourself first.” Ivory felt a tinge of fear run down her spine. Even though Xen’s voice was calm, she could tell he was displeased.
“That being said,” he turned to face her and followed up before she could respond, “You look pale. Go find Loro in the galley. Tell him you need something without rat in it and that the Cap’n says you’re lodging with him.”
He got up and showed Ivory the door, presenting her with the journal he had been reading. After she took it, he added: “By the way, we don’t tolerate stowaways. We have a small hard working crew. If someone doesn’t pull their weight, they’re a stowaway in our book.”
The door shut. Ivory felt slightly confused as to why she didn’t even get a word in during the entire exchange.
Caeleo and Sapphira were fighting their way to the docks through crowds of people moving every direction. Everyone had agreed to meeting in a couple hours, but he wanted to make sure a boat was ready before then. The people of Lothair weren’t perturbed in the slightest by the earthquake. They kept moving and selling and buying as they were moments earlier, as if it was just a minor disturbance. They quakes must be more regular here.
“That’ll be fifty graal.” The harbormaster was writing Caeleo’s name in on a sheet of paper
“Alright. Sapphira…?” He trailed off as he looked around for the Fae. She must have wandered off in The Delthair Strip when something nice caught her eye. And ofcourse he had given her the wallet to carry since he had no clothing to speak of. If his observations of other Tarver natives were anything to go by, she’d probably spend every last cent. He turned back to face the harbormaster.
“My Fae is missing. She had my wallet.”
“Like I haven’t heard that one before. Let me guess, you want me to spot you the 50 graal and she’ll be back to give it to me?”
Caeleo gave the man a confused look. He was puzzled by his apparent generosity. “That’s perfect. Thankyou. If you see her before I do, tell her we’re at the inn.”
And so Caeleo went to the inn nearby and waited for his friends. Could I call them friends, yet? He thought to himself.
Xen was returning to his quarters when he spotted Ivory fast asleep next to his door. Crumbs of Loro’s biscuits were scattered about the floor, and another could be seen peeking out of her bag. Xen reached in and grabbed it. Vampires got hungry for more than just blood, after all. He sunk his teeth into the familiar taste of rat blood. Delicious, he thought to himself as he opened the door.
His room was full of artifacts from times past, decorated as regal as one would expect from a Captain’s Quarters. He put hung up his weapons and coat and pulled one of Celderon’s journals out of its pocket. He sat at his desk and ran his hands over the aged leather volume, bound pages sticking out at unequal lengths. It had been a long time since he left them in a shop, hoping to leave his old identity behind. He opened it up and slowly turned its pages, periodically pausing to channel flux through its pages and reveal glowing characters on an otherwise blank page. Ivory had just woken up and was peering inside the room...
As the orcs approached Caeleo, he realized he could smell. It wasn’t a sensation he was familiar with from his life in The Sky, and the stench of shit and sweat made him wish it had stayed that way. He was completely caught off guard when one of them began speaking to their horses in the Primal tongue. Caeleo did a quick translation in his head:
“Hey girl, journey’s almost over. Here, have a snack.” He pulled an apple out of a large pouch on his belt. “Ogren give you strength.”
It wasn’t often you heard people speak in Primal tongue. It was fabled to be the language of the gods, which wasn’t terribly far off from the truth. Certain magic users were able to communicate with animals using it, but nobody else, not even other Primal speakers, could understand it. Caeleo just found out he was the exception. He was glad he could give them a proper introduction:
“Greetings, sons of Ogren.”
The smell of whatever paper the smaller one handed him hit him full force. It was covered in a mix of dirt, trash, and feces, but still barely legible. The Ogres slowly continued their walk past them as he held it out to look at it. The others peered over his shoulder.
“A kidnapper of Fae?!” The fairy was terror stricken, but Igneous wasn’t sure why.
“Why would someone want to kidnap a Fae? Golems make better labor, and brothels run wild in ports, right?”
“Their wings,” Ivory replied, “They make a drug called ‘Pixie dust’ by grinding them up.”
“Well why did they give us that poster if they were being paid to take them down?”
The group collectively gave Igneous a confused look. “How do you know that?”
“I heard them. You didn’t?”
“Your creators must have given you good ears. Maybe you can hear the Lothair market from here?” The port city Lothair was the melting pot of Y’vera. It was close to nearly every major faction, with the Fae to the east, Ocan and Ogren to the northwest, Delteria to the south, and Syren’s Isles to the west. On most days, humans were outnumbered by every other race. The Lothairian Strip, built up around the Delthair river running through the city’s core, was brimming with oddities and exotic items from all around the world. They were at its entrance, looking up at the tall architecture that made The Strip seem imposing and claustrophobic. A bit of Delteria’s stonebrick architecture was present, but was overshadowed by Fae crystalline structures, Naga woodwork, and large metallic Ogric pieces. People were bustling between buildings and stalls on bridges and walkways suspended far above the rivers. Some sellers even set up shop on the river itself, floating down the river serving delicacies to the many residents of Lothair.
“I’ll get us a boat. We’re ahead of the rest, so we can take a small vessel by ourselves.”
Just then, the ground shook, and a large boom hit them like a shockwave. Items fell from shelves and plates of food fell from the walkways into the river below. Igneous covered the sides of his head where his ears would be, obviously in pain.