Mareen stomped her foot in agitation. She should have known that those two would run off like this!
She was currently standing near the Mirana city south gates where she told the two men from Earth to wait for her. They weren’t there. When she first got there, she looked around and walked into nearby shops but she couldn’t find them. Eventually she asked around and managed to find an old woman who saw them walk off with a street kid down an alley.
They followed a street kid… down an alley. Mareen’s brain hurt. How stupid could they be? She was a farm girl and she knew better than that! Then again, these were the same men who attacked a cave full of goblins while armed with nothing more than sharpened sticks.
Mareen hefted her satchel and felt the lumps through the material of the satchel’s side pockets. She knew she was feeling the items that City Counselor Hirine had given her. She needed to find Henry and Jason. She wasn’t doing her self-appointed job of watching over them if they were running off with street kids; she needed to make sure they were safe. She also needed to follow through with her indentured servant plan before she started losing her nerve again.
She shook her head, hair whipping back and forth, no, she would definitely follow through. The honor of her family and her village depended on it. Not only that, a small voice deep inside =whispered that if she went back to being a farmer, if she turned away from the new path she was following, she’d regret it forever.
First thing was first; she needed to find the two men from Earth. However, she was not dumb enough to walk into some random alley after them and hope to find them. Based on her limited knowledge of the city, it looked like Henry and Jason might have been heading in the direction of the poor quarters or the industrial area of the city. Mareen began walking that direction taking the main roads, dodging the occasional horse droppings in the street and trying to blend in with other people despite her plain, rough dress.
As she walked, she decided to see what else the Guild clerk put in the satchel. She rummaged around for a moment and eventually exclaimed, “Oooh!” The clerk had been generous indeed.
The first item was a cork stoppered glass bottle full of red liquid; it glowed slightly, even in the afternoon light. Mareen immediately recognized it as a healing potion. The second item was a small red stone that glittered in the sun and felt warm; a fire magic stone. Mareen was excited, this type of stone was what powered all the technology on Ludus. Not only was it valuable, it was useful.
The last item in the satchel was unfamiliar to Mareen. It looked like a cylinder made of… horn or something. It had a little glass window on the bigger end and it had a small glass eye inside. She didn’t know what it was and decided to stop messing with it. The small glowing light on the back made her nervous.
After a while, she started to get tired; she had been walking almost from the time she got up already after all. She also realized her odds of finding Henry and Jason while just wandering around the city were not very good, but she didn’t know what else to do. She’d decided to bet her entire future on the belief that those two would accomplish great things and that she’d be able to help them along the way.
Mareen was growing increasingly frustrated. If she’d had time to give Henry his ring to seal her servitude, she’d be able to sense where he was at right now. The fact she kept catching whiffs of interesting smells and seeing interesting things in the city but couldn’t stop wasn’t helping her mood.
Deep down, she was worried that the two men might be in trouble.
Mareen was in a city square just outside of the market district when she stopped to take a break. There was a small but pretty park in the middle of the square where she took at a seat on a bench to rest. Her feet hurt. She was also becoming increasingly worried and foul tempered. Since she only knew the general direction Henry and Jason had gone, she took the long way around through the city.
Now she couldn’t go any farther without committing to a smaller district. She didn’t know whether to bet on the poor quarters or the warehouse and business area.
What do I do, what do I do? All of her determination would be for nothing if those two idiots went and got themselves killed before she could even help establish an adventuring company! Mareen really didn’t want to cry. She hated when people fell to pieces over problems, but she could feel unshed tears in her eyes as her frustration grew.
Get it together, farm girl! She clapped her hands to her cheeks and took a deep breath. I can do this. I just need to be patient. Knowing those two, I’ll see some sign of them before too long and…”
A large explosion shook the ground slightly and she saw debris and smoke shoot into the sky deep inside the warehouse district. People in the square were staring and a few children pointed excitedly. Then a second large explosion followed the first and a number of women screamed, shooing children into buildings.
Mareen didn’t move and just stared in the direction of the commotion. Finally she blinked and shook her head, “You have got to be kidding me. There’s no way… right?” She called after the fleeing people, “Right?” They ignored her.
Mareen studied the rising smoke and sighed. She hefted her satchel and began walking in the direction of the warehouse district, slowly shaking her head in resignation. She wasn’t a gambling girl, but if anyone in this city was blowing stuff up, she’d bet money Henry and Jason were somehow involved.
Henry couldn’t see a thing. The smoke was almost a physical weight and he could barely breathe. He stumbled around, tears streaming down his face as he tried desperately to find breathable air; it thinned towards the floor, but the smoke there was still foul and acrid. He had no idea where anyone was. He stumbled into someone in the hallway and after taking a second to verify it wasn’t Jason or one of the prisoners, he absent mindedly stabbed the person with a wrist blade and tossed them down the hallway behind him.
Fighting fair was for chumps. Then again, fighting at all was probably futile at this point since they were all going to die anyway. Henry knew he was probably only still lucid due to his Endurance 1 skill. He still thought it was silly to think of his skills as “skills”, but he wasn’t creative enough to come up with an alternative. Maybe he should call it, “kick ass, magical parasite endurance”. Would that be lame?
But they were more like powers than skills. Should he call them powers? Henry realized his thoughts weren’t making a lot of sense and he was probably not getting enough air. There was nothing he could do, though. If he were a normal person, he probably wouldn’t be even be conscious anymore.
Without warning, Henry felt a small hand slip into his and start pulling him forward. He quickly let his arm guards disappear. He couldn’t accidentally cut up the tugboat! He chuckled. It wasn’t actually funny, but thinking so just made him laugh harder. He was laughing and coughing so violently he would have thrown up if there was anything in his stomach.
Time had no meaning in the smoke. Henry couldn’t see anything. His world revolved around holding the small hand and moving forward. After what seemed like an eternity, Henry burst out of the burning building and tasted blessed, wonderful AIR!
He tried filling his lungs but that just set off a coughing fit again. He doubled over and felt the small hand patting his back. He eventually got himself under control and wiped his eyes, straightening up. He saw his savior, Bezzi-ibbi grinning at him.
In the afternoon light, Henry could see that Bezzi-ibbi truly looked like a leopard boy. He had spots around the sides of his face and small ones on his cheeks. He also had small whiskers above his upper lip and his nose turned up slightly in a feline way.
Bezzi-ibbi nodded at Henry and growled, “Family.” Henry stared back at Bezzi-ibbi for a few seconds and then glanced around. His life had been awfully strange for the last few weeks, but dealing with Bezzi-ibbi was even odder than usual. The kid reminded him of the wild child in “The Road Warrior” but with the addition of fangs and cat ears… and wearing a dirty suit.
Henry saw he was on a wide street and there were larger buildings all around, probably other warehouses. In the distance he noticed a wide gate with wagons moving in and out. He could feel the heat of the fire behind him and a large crowd of onlookers had gathered to watch the warehouse burn.
Not good, he thought. Henry was painfully aware of the fact he was new in town, heck new to this world, and he’d just killed some people in a building that was currently burning. It probably wasn’t the best situation to be in. He quickly grabbed Bezzi-ibbi’s hand and began walking away when a voice rang out, “You there, stop!”
Henry kept his head forward and didn’t turn around. He needed to get away. But before he could take a dozen more steps, horse hooves rang out on the flagstone road and he was stopped by a man in a red uniform. Behind them, a group of similarly uniformed people wielding spears surrounded Henry after he was stopped.
The man on the horse hollered, “In the name of the Mirana Guard, what is going on here!?”
Henry tried to stall, “Uh… what is your name?”
The man blinked in confusion. Henry noticed he was younger than he’d first thought, probably in his early 20’s or late teens. He could even be as young as 16. The man drew himself up proudly and said, “My name is Timothy Boone of the main branch Boone family. I am a lieutenant of the Guard and I will have answers!” Timothy’s otherwise handsome face was pointed in anger under his dark hair. “Who set this fire? What were the explosions?”
Henry scratched his head and said, “I didn’t see anything, I guess I’ll be going now.” He took a step before realizing how lame that probably sounded when he was covered in char, blood, and obvious just came out of the burning building. Uh oh… The Guard members around him levelled their spears at him.
Without warning, Bezzi-ibbi jumped in front of Henry, bearing his fangs and making a sound like tearing cloth. He crouched down, retractable claws springing from his finger. The strange, smiling little boy was gone and in his place stood primal ferocity on two legs with lots of sharp pointy things aimed at the city guards.
The man on the horse, Timothy blinked and opened his mouth to speak, but before he could say anything another Guard officer on a horse rode up. “What the hell is going on here?”
The new guard sat her horse with casual skill, her hat sat on her head at a rakish angle. Henry started as he realized she was the same race as Uluula, an Areva, but with some obvious differences. Where Uluula was fair, this woman was dark. She kind of looked like… well, a Middle Eastern elf.
Henry thought she was fairly attractive, even in her uniform, but her eyes looked out of place in her youthful face. Her eyes, framed with slight crows feet seemed to regard the world with the type of curious boredom that Henry had only seen in elderly people before.
When Henry didn’t say anything and the Guards just stared back at her, the woman sighed and dismounted. She cautiously approached Bezzi-ibbi who stood still and growled deep in his throat. She looked at him a moment and her eyes widened, “Bezzi-ibbi?” she asked. Then she fired off a question in a hissing, yowling language. Bezzi-ibbi answered in the same language. The woman quickly replied and Bezzi-ibbi seemed to relax, coming back to stand by Henry.
Henry breathed a sigh of relief.
The woman turned to the lieutenant on the horse and asked, “Did you ask them their names?”
Lieutenant Boone opened and closed his mouth a few times, “Well, no… did you just say that little boy is the missing Bezzi-ibbi, Captain? But he’s been gone for a week!”
The woman nodded, “I just confirmed it.”
“But Captain Haili, what about the man? He’s covered in blood! We should arrest him!”
The woman snorted, “Bezzi-ibbi said this man saved him and is part of his Family. I’m not in a hurry to piss of the Jaguar Clan more than they already are, are you?” She hopped back up on her horse and hollered, “Guard, stand down! One of you… you, Private Tilsen! Go tell the Jaguar Clan to send a carriage. We’ve found Bezzi-ibbi!”
Then Captain Haili shouted, “Get the fucking water mages over here! We need to contain this fire! You, you, and you,” she pointed to three uniformed guards, “go get buckets, have the mages fill them, and water down the surrounding buildings. Move!” Then she pointed at Henry and said, “I will come to the Jaguar Clan house later, either tonight or tomorrow to debrief you. Don’t go running away on me.” After that she rode off, probably to yell at someone else. Lieutenant Boon watched her leave, glanced at Henry, then sighed in resignation and went after his superior officer.
Henry sat down on a nearby curb, his adrenaline was fading and he was suddenly very tired. He knew that physically he could probably keep going due to his unnatural endurance, but he was mentally exhausted. He was less tired from fighting, and more from the talk Jason insisted they have in their jail cell. He had to deal with some of his issues, he couldn’t pretend otherwise anymore.
“I really hope Jason is still alive,” Henry sighed. He gestured to one of the nearby guards over and told her his friend was missing. The young woman took out a pad of paper and asked him to describe Jason and detail the situation. After Henry got done describing Jason and Uluula for good measure, the guard took off at a run to spread the information.
Wow, they really take their jobs seriously. Henry was actually impressed. He slowly scanned the scene in front of him, taking in the chaos. Bezzi-ibbi gave him a fanged smile and patted him on the back, “Family! Jaguar Clan!” he said.
Henry looked up at the clouds. The sky seemed familiar, but he was definitely not on Earth anymore. He wondered how much more weird shit he’d encounter in the next few hours. Probably a lot, he thought. He really, really hoped Jason was still alive. Henry didn’t want to be stuck in this weird ass world by himself.