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Arrival in Mirrosby unknown
Night-time mists crawled over the bay, clouding over the mirror-like surface of the water that gave the city of Mirros its name. The large passenger ship glided across the harbour, and into a dock. Two crewmen pulled a gangplank from its hooks under the rigging and put it into place at the starboard side. Kule, first in line to get off, stepped lightly down the plank, glad to be done with her sea voyage. Walking down the dock, she noticed how different this place was. The buildings were taller, darker, and more cubic than she was used to on the tropical island of Nuar. She also noticed that there were a lot more stares from men than in her homeland. To her, the three inch wide strip of cloth on her chest with a vest and a short skirt was rather conservative, but all of the women here seemed to be wearing a lot more. As she did when thinking, she swept her flowing dark hair behind her shoulders, revealing more of her light brown face.
As she was passing the huge lighthouse that marked the way into the harbour, starting to head into the city proper, a man in a blue uniform stopped her and tied her spear into its sheath on the back of her sack, but left her daggers alone, and mumbled something in Thyatian, the local language. Kule knew little of the language, and was only able to make out the words, 'City law... no weapons... city walls...'
'I understand,' Kule said, somewhat clumsily, in Thyatian. The man mumbled something as she walked away, but Kule decided she'd probably rather not try to translate. She continued on into the city.
As she walked along, she saw more empty, locked buildings than she had ever seen before. Restaurants, shops, boutiques, general stores, and bakeries, were all as quiet and cold as death. She had always thought that the second largest city in the world would be bright and bustling, even at the midnight hour.
As she was looking into the window of a closed jewellery store, remembering the pearls of her homeland, a group of five men walked toward her, obvious drunks. They were stumbling this way and that, slobbering and singing off key. They saw her and started making remarks in her direction. One was talking quite loudly and, although she could not translate, she tried to remember the sounds to translate when she learned more Thyatian. '...got a pretty face, that one, and some nice--' As Kule would later discover, the rest of the sentence was too vulgar to repeat.
One of the men suddenly ran at her, arms open and yelling, 'Come to Papa, darlin'!' Immediately, a dagger was being pressed against the man's throat just hard enough to break the skin. More vulgar sounds and threats came from them all. She took out her other dagger, and gestured toward her spear, and the men were running like scared rabbits.
She made her way farther down the long cobblestone street, and, after many cold stares from women and rather warmer ones from men, she finally found an open building. Light and laughter flowed from inside. Kule looked up and saw a hanging sign showing two swords crossed behind a shield. She entered.
One thing was quite clear: the ale flowed freely here. Everywhere there seemed to be adventurers relaxing between heroic quests, apprentices and journeymen cutting loose after a hard day's work, and groups of people looking at maps, planning, plotting, and arguing.
'Just off the boat, hmm?' a deep voice behind her said in Nuari.
Kule turned around and saw, not another Nuari, as she first thought, but a pale skinned young local man, a lot cleaner looking than most she had seen. His coppery hair was cut short, and he was clean shaven. His sapphire eyes were sharp and clear, showing none of the bloodshot so common to the inhabitants of a tavern. Over his muscular form, he wore leather armour with metal strips and studs embedded in it, and a very strange leather helmet covering everything except his face, ears, and the crown of his head. He also wore an earring in his left ear, and a sword hung from his belt. His gloves were fingerless and had three sharp edges on the back of each. The overall effect was dramatic.
'You speak Nuari?' she asked.
'Yes. Did you just now arrive? Do you need any help settling in?'
'Yes to the first, and please, if you can, to the second.'
'Then step into my office.' He gestured toward the cleanest open table in the tavern, a booth in the front corner. They walked over and sat down. 'My name is Anax, and I'm a warrior by style and trade. Normally I go adventuring. You know, exploring dungeons and ruins, slaying dragons, killing evil wizards and goblins, the whole hero bit. But, the people I usually quest with are all off doing something or other. Dante's studying, Alandra's visiting family, and... well, who knows what Gregor's up to.
'Anyway, for the last few weeks I've been working here as a bouncer for a discount off the rent on my room upstairs. Until you find a house, there's no better inn for adventurers in town. 'Course, there are some nicer places uptown, but they cost way beyond the price range of anybody not in the royal family.'
Anax laughed at his own joke. 'There are a few rooms open upstairs. The rent's five gold royals a week, but, if you'll go adventuring with me, it'll pay for it easily with plenty left over for some more concealing clothes.'
'Yes, I think I'd like that.'
'The whole thing. Who do I talk to get a room?'
'I'll take you to him.' They both stood up and walked to the bar, where Anax asked for someone named Sergei. The large, middle aged woman keeping bar said something back in Thyatian with a smile on her face, and knocked on the bar three times in succession, paused, then twice more. A bald, bulky man with a droopy moustache came out of a back kitchen and grasped Anax's forearm. Anax returned the gesture.
Sergei started talking, and Anax responded, all in Thyatian. Kule made a firm decision right then and there to learn Thyatian as soon as possible. Then Sergei said something she understood most of: ' Ten royals up front. Five royals a week.'
A look of dread crossed Kule's face. She didn't have that much with her. Anax saw her face, smiled, and pulled out a pouch and opened it. Several gold coins spilled out on the counter. Sergei counted out ten and swept them off of the counter into his apron pocket. He nodded to her, winked at Anax, and walked back into the kitchen.
'The room's yours,' Anax said. 'I'll show you to it.'
He started walking up the stairs, and Kule followed, thinking, Why is he being so darn nice?. At the top of the stairwell, there was a long hallway with a door every ten feet or so on each side. They walked down the hallway to the fourth door on the right. There was a key already in the lock, and Anax turned it. The door opened, and they walked in.
The room was sparsely furnished. There was a bed on the east wall, and a table with two chairs on the west. In one corner, there was an empty barrel. 'What's that for?' Kule asked.
'I'll show you,' Anax responded. He walked over and pulled up a pump handle, then pushed it down again several times. The barrel filled with steaming water. 'It's connected to a hot spring. It's for bathing.'
'Oh.' Kule set her bag on the table. A cloud of dust rose into the air. They both coughed, then laughed.
'I know it doesn't look like much, but you're free to fix it up and get your own furniture. I can help.' Sounds of a fight came from the taproom. 'Duty calls.'
Anax ran out the door and down the stairs. A few seconds later, the sounds stopped, and shouts came from outside. Kule walked over to her window and wiped the dust off a section of it. Looking out, she saw Anax with a man in each hand. He dropped them in the street. One of them got up and drew a sword, violating the city ordinance. Anax slapped him on the face with the back of his hand, cutting him with the blades on his glove. The man dropped his sword and ran down the street. Anax walked over to the other man and said something that sent him running.
A minute later, Anax reappeared in her doorway. 'Well, that was fun,' he said, breathing quite normally for someone who had just been in a fight.
'You are a good fighter,' Kule said. 'In my homeland, a man with such skill could easily have a position on the king's council.'
'I thought Nuari positions of power were hereditary.'
'Only the throne. Council positions are gained by fighting the current holder in a non-lethal duel.'
'I'll have to move there in a few years,' Anax said, laughing. 'You want to take a walk? I could show you some places around town that you should know.'
'Sure. Let's go.'
They walked down the hall and then down the stairs into the taproom. Sergei was behind the counter. 'Anax!' he said as they passed, and made a signal with his hand meaning 'work' and pointed to a cloaked man sitting in the booth they had been in before. Anax explained what was going on to Kule and they both walked over and sat down.
The man was older, approaching middle age, with expensively cut black hair streaked with grey and an aristocratic look about him. He started talking, with Anax occasionally interrupting.
Suddenly, the man stood up, smiled, said good-bye, and left. 'Who was that?' asked Kule.
'Ivan Dmitrescu, a lower level aide to the minister of state. He was here to give me a job from the minister. He'll reward me, and whoever I get to go along, with four hundred Halavs if we drive out a tribe of goblins that's taken up residence in the Mirros sewers.'
'Did I hear that right? You are going into the sewers?'
'Yeah. I'm about to see where it all ends up. You want to come with?'
'No way! I am not going to walk around in raw sewage! Especially with nothing covering my legs.'
'That's why, on the way, we'd get you some armour. You'll be thankful for it when a goblin's rusty blade is thrust at you.'
'Oh, all right. I suppose I had to get dirty sometime.'
'Great. Why don't you get some sleep tonight, and then I'll see you in the morning.'
They both went up to their rooms.
Kule heard a pounding on her door. Must be Anax coming to wake me up, she thought. She climbed out of bed and stretched. 'Come in!' she yelled. 'It's open.' The door slowly creaked open. She walked to the window, drew the drapes, and gasped. It was still night-time, and Anax was supposed to come in the morning.
She whirled around to see three black garbed individuals entering the room, with swords drawn. Kule grabbed her spear and was able to hurl it at one of them before the other two restrained her. The spear landed in the man's gut, leaving him bleeding and moaning on the ground. One of the assailants held Kule's arms pinned to her back, while the other held his sword as if ready to strike.
'You never should have left, Princess,' the attacker said, just in time to feel a blade entering his back. He screamed and fell to the ground, revealing Anax, still in pyjamas, holding a blood covered dagger in his hand. He pivoted and slammed his fist into the third attacker's head, crushing his skull.
'My hero,' said Kule sarcastically.
'I try,' Anax responded. They walked over to the assassin with the spear in his belly, the only one left alive. Anax felt the attacker's pulse. It was fast and erratic. The man grabbed the spear and shoved it farther into his body, killing himself. Anax looked at the body in shock. 'Why would he do that?'
'He is... or was, from the Luhaweku, the society of assassins on Nuar. If they fail a mission, they are required to kill themselves.'
'So why are they after you, princess?'
'You heard that part?' Anax nodded. 'Okay, I had to tell you sometime. I'm the...'
Anax interrupted, 'Princess of Nuar, adopted by the royals during the Thyatian occupation because the queen was unable to have children, but she later died and was replaced by a younger woman that could have children, so you were replaced as heir to the throne, and a few years later you left for Mirros, but a royal child running away doesn't look good, so these people were sent to either capture or kill you. Right?'
'Yes, but how could you know all that?'
Anax smirked. 'D'you remember two children that befriended you during their father's ambassadorship on Nuar?'
'Well, yes. The Kalamaronius family. A girl named Maximina that liked to be called Max, and a boy named Anahaxalius that preferred to be called... Anax?'
'Live and in person.'
Kule leapt onto him, locking her arms tightly around him. 'I thought I'd never see you again.'
'Aww, isn't that sweet! The happy reunion!' a gruff, sarcastic voice said from behind them. They looked over and saw a man that looked about Anax's age, but with a prematurely grey forelock of hair, wearing a leather vest over a baggy white shirt, and leather pants. 'How you doin,' Anax?'
'Fine, Gregor,' Anax responded, his voice flat.
'Aren't you going to introduce me to your friend? And perhaps explain the corpses on the floor?'
'All right. This is Kule. She's a warrior from Nuar, an island whose language you seem to know fluently. Kule, this is Gregor Tyne, a thief of my acquaintance.'
Gregor walked over to Kule, took her hand, and kissed it lightly. 'I'm unbelievably glad to meet you,' he said. Kule smiled.
Gregor walked over to Anax and whispered, 'Man, where'd you find her? And does she have a sister?'
'Downstairs, and no,' Anax replied
'Oh.' Gregor walked to the window and looked out. 'So, you got any missions lined up?' Gregor asked.
'Yes. We're going into the sewers tomorrow to fight some goblins.' Anax looked over to Gregor and smirked. 'Wanna come?'
'Oh, can I, please?' Gregor said sarcastically. 'I do need the money, though, so, yeah, I'll go.'
'Good. We'll meet in the taproom at eight in the morning.'
'All right.' Gregor went off to his room to get a few hours sleep.
Anax turned to leave, then said, 'Feel free to scream if you need anything.'
He ducked out the door to avoid an incoming pillow.
Anax and Gregor walked into the front room of the inn. The tavern had virtually changed overnight into a respectable breakfast cafe. The formerly shuttered windows now were uncovered and letting bright morning fill the room.
They sat down at a front table. Sergei brought them ham and rolls and their usual drinks (tomato juice for Gregor, tea for Anax).
They talked over breakfast. 'So, Anax,' Gregor began. 'What do you think Alandra's gonna say about Kule when she gets back?'
'I'd really prefer not to talk about Alandra, okay?' Anax snapped. 'Besides, it's not like anything happened. Kule's just a childhood friend that I'm helping get settled.'
'Damn, Anax... I thought you were supposed to be the one that's good with the ladies. Whether it did or not, Alandra's gonna think something happened, and you're not gonna be able to convince her otherwise.'
'What do you know about it, Gregor? None of your relationships have lasted beyond a night!'
'Ah, but what wondrous nights they were!'
Anax was about to respond when Kule walked over to their table. 'Good morning!' she greeted.
Anax and Gregor returned the greeting and finished their rolls, ham, and juice. 'Sergei!' Anax yelled. Sergei came out of the kitchen. Anax ordered breakfast for Kule.
Switching over to Nuari now, they continued talking. 'So Gregor, how'd you learn Nuari?' Anax asked.
'During the war, I was in the same unit as a pair of Nuari brothers,' Gregor began. 'While they spoke fluent Thyatian, I though it might be interesting to learn their language.'
When Kule had finished her meal, the trio walked out onto the street. 'Okay,' said Anax. 'First, we need to get Kule some armour.'
They walked to an open fronted shop four buildings down that smelled of smoke, sweat, and metal. Anax greeted the man working at a forge inside, and talked to him for a minute. The man handed him a few sets of leather and metal clothes, which he then handed to Kule. 'Go in the back room and try these on. When you find one you like that fits, come out.'
Kule walked into the back room and closed the door. Ten minutes later, she walked back out, wearing a black leather body suit and pants, as well as a helmet that covered the top half of her head and face. 'That's... armour?' Gregor asked.
'I'm not sure,' answered Anax.
'You don't like?' Kule asked.
'No, that's not it. Trust me. That's not it at all.'
'Well, I like it,' Kule said. Anax sighed and tossed the armourer two large silver coins. They walked out and headed towards the nearest sewer entrance.
'Anax, we've been down here for hours!' Kule complained as they sloshed through green muck. 'We haven't seen a single goblin, although those rats were about the right size. Couldn't the minister have been wrong?'
'I highly doubt it,' Anax responded. 'Let's keep looking.'
Suddenly, Gregor put his hands out to stop the other two. He put his finger to his lips and sshhh'd them. He listened intently for a moment, then whispered, 'Something wicked this way comes.'
Soon, a group of about twenty goblins rounded the corner, saw the three, and stopped. Then, practically as one, they started yelling and screaming in a futile attempt to scare off the humans.
'Well, I'm intimidated,' said Gregor. He turned to Anax. 'You?'
'Huh?' Anax said, confused. Then he got it. 'Oh. Right. Yeah. Damn my cowardice.' When the goblins were sufficiently confused, the three attacked.
After a short, amazingly one-sided fight, all three humans were alive, but only two goblins. The two ran. The three followed.
They chased the goblins until the creatures suddenly stopped, turned and yelled an incomprehensible series of sounds. Then, suddenly, a form looking like the goblins, only all white, rose from the muck. Actually, it wasn't all white, considering it had just been in raw sewage. 'Watch out, humans!' one goblin said. 'That's a wax golem! It will kill you all!'
'Wax?' said Anax, laughing. He took his torch and put it up to the golem's chest, and it started to melt. In a few seconds, the thing had no torso, and the rest of it fell into the river of refuse and floated away. The goblins cursed.
The three chased the two goblins all the way to a chamber deep in the sewers in a section not even used anymore. The goblins ran into the darkness inside and the door slammed shut.
Gregor drew up to the door and listened. 'We're sorry master, it will never happen again,' two whiny goblin voices said.
'You're right, it won't,' said a loud gravelly sound that was more roar than voice. Gregor heard a roar, then a hiss, a sizzle, some high-pitched screams, and finally a gurgle. 'All of you, idiots! A huge waste of my gold are you! But no longer will I have to worry about that.' This time, it was a roar, a hiss, a big sizzle, lots of screams, and a very big gurgle.
'Uh, guys,' said Gregor, sounding worried. 'I think somebody just took care of that little goblin problem.'
'Then we'll have to thank them,' said Anax. 'Or kill them, if they pose a threat.' Anax threw himself against the door, and it flew open. Torches flickered on, revealing a huge black serpentine form. Its muscles were so huge it could have ripped Mirros apart by itself. Its fine jet scales created an armour so strong it probably could have easily withstood anything they could have thrown at it. But of course, being their heroic selves, they tried anyway.
Gregor rushed it, curved scimitar flashing. The beast clawed at him, throwing him into the goo that used to be a tribe of goblins.
Next was Anax. He charged the monster and managed to jam his claymore into the thing's neck before it swallowed him whole.
Kule took out her spear and threw it at the beast's face. It landed in its eye, and the thing howled in agony. Kule, thinking as fast as she could, slipped up to the sword, grabbed it, shoved it farther into the neck, and twisted. The monster swatted her, and she landed a distance away. The thing was somehow able to talk, barely, through all of the injuries to its throat, and screamed, 'You little bitch!'
Kule saw something come to the top of the thing's throat. It looked like acid. That must be what killed the goblins, she thought. It looked ready to project the acid at her. Then, something went wrong.
Kule could only look on in horror as the wounds in the beast's neck caused the acid to seep back down into its body. Its flesh started to disintegrate, first in its neck, then its chest. As more of the thing's insides were revealed, Kule saw Anax, still alive, in its digestive track. He ripped his way out of his flesh prison, and dropped to the ground. His armour and parts of his skin were damaged by digestive juices. He coughed up a large amount of the thing's body fluids. Looking at the goo all over him, he gasped out, 'Yuck,' before he fell unconscious.
The beast was clawing at the source of its pain when it clawed at the wrong spot, and ripped open its own heart. The monster fell to the ground, dead. The fall made the room shake.
Looking around at the mess, Kule realised that she had to do two things. One: get Gregor and Anax to a healer, fast. Two, she had to get back to her own peaceful, quiet kingdom, and lead a long boring life there.
No, she thought. I came here to make a life for myself without servants and subjects. I have to stay here. I have to make myself stay here.
She picked Anax and Gregor out of their respective piles of goo and headed out into the city, one over each shoulder.