Salis' Story

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: The Imaginarium

Chapter 2 (v.1) - Man of Knowledge, Mountain Descent

Submitted: August 24, 2019

Reads: 19

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Submitted: August 24, 2019

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Pali was impressed at the scene before him. Not only had the Terran child managed to construct part of a building by herself, albeit small, she had also built a working water wheel. He had no idea why she would need a water wheel but he hoped it was for something new and exciting Terran innovation she had knowledge of.

Pali looked at the child herself but was still too far away to get a good look at her. Upon moving closer the child noticed his approach and stepped outside of the building. He watched as the child look first at him, to Eliz, then finally scanning the rest of the area. From what he could tell she seemed truely disinterested in him, though if he remembered correctly she did not show emotion at all.

Now that Pali had a good view of her he took the opportunity to look her over. She had the classic white hair and skin of a Terran, her long hair also having a purple tinge near the ends that gradually got darker the closer it got to the tips. She had, from what he could tell at this distance, beautiful pale blue eyes.

The one thing that interested Pali the most was that of her physique. He had read about all the peculiarities of Terrans before and this was the one he wanted to see the most. This was the fact that her body was more squat and her arms were shorter and thicker than normal. He had also heard that Terrans were capable of greater strength than those of Calorin.

 

***

I had been working on some wiring for my heater when I had heard a noise behind me. While dangerous animals rarely came this close to the vilage I always made sure to look. I didn't want to become Salis Chow for some random bear. So, I got out of my future abode.

What I saw was probably worse than a wild animal. It was a man and from the looks of him he was pretty well off, even if his clothes were sloppy. My best guess was that he was a two legged leach that was here to steal my knowledge after he dragged me off to some fancy place and making me fat with good food and probably some bribes. The thought disgusted me. Being used by some noble for mere food and good clothes while they mades tons of money and conquered the world.

I couldn't let that happen. If anybody was going to do that it would be me. No way was I going to let a noble use me. Either I was going to use them or I was going to stay away from them as much as possible, but first I had to deal with this guy.

I knew he would soon make a case for me to come with him or something, but it was also possible that he was merely a distraction while others moved in around me and then kidnap me before I could do anything.

I quickly looked at the area around me. Standing next to the man was Momma Eliz. She seemed to be considering me and the man who was studying me. No one else was there as far as I could see. Just in case I looked at the forest behind them and then to the river on either side of me and found no one.

My attention was soon brought back to the man. He had apparently finished looking at me and was now ready to say something.

"Hello, Salis. I am Pali Candrar Bo, a representative of the Kein School of Magic and Kowledge." So it was a school that wanted me. "I am here to offer an invitation and a scholarship for my school. It would be wonderful if you would come with me and attend."

The man finished with an expectant smile, waiting for my answer. Since I had no desire to go back to school and probably be interrogated and studied I used my plan.

Without saying anything I entered my house and grabbed the wires that led to my generator. Armed with the wires I then put them in a conveniently placed pile of kindling and made the wires spark, causing a small fire that would hopefully become a big fire soon. I then detached my generator from the water wheel, placed it inside my bag, left my soon to be burning house, and after looking once at the man jumped into the river.

 

***

Pali was stunned. With no warning the child had jumped into the river. He had been uncertain of what to make of her going back inside the water wheel but when she had come back out and jumped into the river… He did not know what to do. Why had she run away? Certainly a life at the school was much better than life in this poor vilage.

Sadly he could only watch as she swam to the other side of the Porre River, which was fast flowing and surprising deep this far into the mountain. He also could not swim so he would be more likely to be swept down than she.

Pali heard a gasp behind him. When he turned around he saw Eliz looking at the water wheel. He saw smoke and some flames starting to engulf the small building.

Pali was amazed once again. The child had set a fire before leaving. Why would she do something like that? Was she trying to hide something? No matter why she did it he knew some things for certain. One was that if he wanted to get the child to come with him he would have to become very lucky. Second was that she was in danger being alone on the mountain at her age and size. Third was that he had a fire to put out and if he was indeed lucky he might be able to find something interesting.

***

It was not a fun swim across the river. While it wasn't terribly deep it was fast moving and pretty wide. If I had taken any longer I would have been swept into some rapids. Not fun. But I had made it and there was no sign of the guy from whatever the name of that school was.

While not having that guy follow me across the river was good news there was also some bad news. I had to drop my bag in the the river. It was just too heavy for me. My life was more important anyways. Still, all my money I had was in that bag too so not only did I lose my generator I didn't have any money either.

All I could do was move on. I had a long walk down the mountain ahead of me so I had plenty of time to think of ways to get me some food and money. I just wished I had spent more time practicing how to catch fish and other things. Salis is smart though, she'll think of something ingenious.

I had been running for a few minutes. Getting out of view from the village was all I could do at the moment. It was still a long way down to the nearest city and there was no way I would get there before nightfall and I was in no hurry so I decided to take my time. Maybe look for some food, scare any innocent animals I could find…

I heard someone yelling in the distance. I wasn't too sure who it was but it sounded slightly male and wimpy. Probably was Mr. Recruiter. I was surprised. I thought he would be scouring the burning wreck that had once been my house for treasure. Still, if he hadn't crossed the river yet that meant I had some time before the river slowed down and became easy to cross.

I decided to ignore Mr. Recruiter for now. Food was much more important. I wasn't hungry yet but I didn't know how long it would take me to find any.

I decided to start looking for berries. Momma Eliz would go into the forest from time to time to get some so I knew what they looked like. I just hoped there weren't some poisonous berries that looked the same. I also hoped that they were still in season. If they weren't I would be in trouble.

So began my search. I actually found a bush pretty quickly, but it was too late. The berries that were still left were rotten. Since I wasn't hungry enough to eat rotten berries I left them alone and started heading down stream. Hopefully there would be some ribe ones down where it was a little warmer. I needed to head that way anyways.

 

 

***

Pali had been walking down the river looking for a way to cross. Fortunately he had managed to put the fire out quickly. He had hoped to find some interesting things but all he had found was a box with some wires in it. Just in case he had taken it with him. Maybe he could ask the child what it was for when he found her.

So far the river was still too much for him to cross. He hoped the child would not get too far ahead of him, but she would most likely be heading to Stutra. Since the city was at the bottom of the mountain and the river led to it it was the most likely place for her to go. He figured that she knew he knew this so she might go to a different city, but the next nearest city was pretty far away on foot and she most likely did not have enough food to get her there if she had any to begin with.

If Pali did miss her there were only two cities close to Stutra, aside from a few tiny villages. These were Soli and Kein. Since the Kein School of Magic and Knowledge was in Kein all he had to do was contact the school and have someone look for her for him. If she went to Soli… That would make things difficult. Soli was on the border next to Toa Mirr. If she escaped from Flaern to there then there would be no way to find her since he could not cross the border himself.

Pali was also worried about what Toa Mirr would do to the child if they caught her. Toa Mirr was not only extremely militaristic and had very bad relations with Flaern, as Flaern had once been a part of Toa Mirr long ago but had rebelled, but they treated any outsiders as potential spies and often executed them or at least put them in forced labor camps.

The child, being a Terran, might not get as bad a treatment but it would not be a good life. Pali had heard that any Terran found in Toa Mirr was forced into the military. This was because Terrans not only had stronger magical abilities than a Calorin but if they were not deformed badly then they also seemed to be slightly stronger.

Pali did not want to think about this any longer so he decided to concentrate on finding her on the mountain. He just needed to find a way across the river. Since he could not see one yet he continued down the mountain.

***

I had had no luck finding any food. It was just too late into the year for berries, and I had no way to catch an animal or fish. So I was either going to have to make a trap or weapon. I wasn't confident in my ability to kill an animal and I didn't have fishing equipment. Since I had lost my bag I would have to either forgo food until I made it to Stutra or I would have to make something out of things I could find in the forest.

Night was falling so I wouldn't have time to make anything until tomorrow. Since I had lived with a poor family I had become used to going with an inadequate supply of food, especially in winter when the road was blocked by snow. I wasn't looking forward to missing dinner but it was how things were.

Since there was nothing I could do about food I decided to cover as much ground as I could before it got dark. I also did this because I knew it would be harder for me to go on when I started getting weak from hunger. Unfortunately because I had never had access to much food on Calorin it wouldn't take long.

Thankfully I was in pretty good shape. While Porra-kel wasn't the most populous city it was spread over a pretty wide area and since I happened to live on the side of town opposite of the mine I had a respectable distance to cover. There was also the fact that there was a steep hill between where the village ended and the mine.

Then the thought hit me. I would probably never have to see that dirty town and mine again. I hadn't been ready to leave that place yet but now that I was gone I felt relieved. I knew it was going to be hard on my own, especially at my "age" but it didn't matter to me at the moment. All that mattered was that I was finally gone. What I would do next I could think about tomorrow.

As I thought about this night finally started to fall. I knew it would be hard to navigate through the forest when it got totally dark so I needed to find a place to spend the night soon and since I was worried about animals I decided it would be in a tree. Preferably one with a limb large enough that I wouldn't easily fall off in my sleep.

Being in a forest it didn't take me long to find a tree good enough for me. In no time I climbed that thing and wedged myself in good. Ignoring the ants and other insects as best I could I tried to sleep. I had never slept in a tree before so I had a hard time falling asleep. Not only did the insects keep bothering me, but trees are hard and I was worried about falling.

When some time had passed and I decided to pass the time doing something until I was more tired. I didn't have a good view of the sky where I was but I noticed Nirca, one of Calorin's two moons, glowing a pale red through the branches. It was still weird for me whenever I looked up at this moon. While it was about half the size of Earth's moon the fact that it was red I had never gotten used to. There was also the fact that Nirca supposedly belonged to the most evil of Calorin's Deities.

I heard wolves howl. They weren't too close at the moment so I wasn't worried. I only hoped that they would stay that way… Wait a minute. Wolves couldn't climb trees and I was in a tree so I would be fine, but there was someone else on the mountain and he most likely had not chosen to sleep in a tree. Maybe I could find a way to lure the wolves to wherever he was camped at.

Obviously I had never tried to lure wolves to me before so I had no idea if I could even do it. At the moment I could only think of two possibilities. I could either try imitating wolf calls or lure them with food. I didn't like the idea of using the wolf calls mostly because Mr. Recruiter would hear them if he was still awake and might figure out where I was, so this left me with luring them.

First of all, I had to find something to lure the wolves where I wanted. Since I was not willing to lure them with juicy Salis steaks I had to find something else. Unfortunately this lead back to the problem that I was no good at catching animals. So where would I find food? Either I would have to learn immediately how to night hunt or I would have to… Maybe there was an easy way to get some food.

I quickly climbed as high into my tree as I could. Since it was one of the bigger trees I barely managed to see over the majority of the other trees. With this view I could see all the way down to the still distant Stutra and the faint light from the refineries that were in it. Besides this I saw one other light, a fire, just a little bit down the river on the opposite bank. I could even see the figure a man resting next to it. It was Mr. Recruiter and he was sure to have some food on him.

I now knew how to fix my biggest problem. All I had to do was go to his campsite and search his bag for food while he slept. If he had enough I might even try using it to see if the wolves would follow a food trail or something like that. All I had to do was swim across a still swift river in the middle of the night and risk freezing in the cool night air.

When I had climbed out of the tree I made my way to the nearby river. There weren't bad rapids in sight so this would be a good place to cross. Fortunately the water wasn't too much colder than it had been earlier in the day when I had swam across. The water was still moving just as fast though so I was still concerned. I also was never a strong swimmer so there was that too.

On the other side I wasted no time. I knew that if I didn't want to start freezing I needed to keep moving. I also didn't want this to take long so I could find a new tree and go to sleep.

Since there wasn't much to obstruct me on the river bank it didn't take me long to come upon Mr. Recruiter's camp. From a distance I could tell he had already fallen asleep so I decided to stay by the river where I could move more easily and with less noise. I could also quickly jump back into the river if he saw me.

Before long I found myself crouching behind a bush where I could get a better look at the campsite. Mr. Recruiter was indeed asleep, and aside from the fire all I could see was his bag. Seeing the bag I crept closer to him. He was not sleeping on the bag so I wouldn't have any problem getting it.

I soon found myself sitting behind Mr. Recruiter and was looking through his bag. I saw clothes, some smelly worn shoes, a money pouch, a thin slab of crystal, some food, and my incomplete heater. I immediately took out the food, ignoring the fact that he had my heater. There wasn't much food. All there was was a half eaten loaf of bread and some smoked meat. Not the most healthy diet but he was a man so it was to be expected.

I immediately set myself upon the bread. While the smoked meat did indeed look good I had other plans for it so bread was all I got for now.

When I had finished eating I looked through the bag one last time. Seeing nothing new I started to get up to leave when the thought hit me. I couldn't just leave just yet. That would be too boring. Mr. Recruiter was sleeping so defensively in front of me. No, I had no plans on hurting him or tying him up. I wasn't that mean. I knew that taking the last of his food should have been more than enough but I couldn't bring myself to leave just like that so I got to work.

A few minutes later I regarded my handy work. First I had put rocks in his bag. I had actually wraped the rocks inside his clothes so he wouldn't notice very quickly. I had also replaced all the coins in his coin pouch with some flat pebbles about the same size as the coins. No, I didn't steal the coins. I had mixed them with some mud and shoved that inside each of the smelly shoes, as unpleasant as that had been. As for the other thing I did… Let's just say that Mr. Recruiter easily slept through my application of mud on his face.

Now that I had finished that business I turned my attention to the wolves. From what I could tell from their occasional howls they had been getting closer. It was either a coincidence or something was drawing them near. I was fairly certain I had heard that wolves were attracted to fires but wasn't sure if that was true. I just hoped it wasn't that they smelled fresh Salis, though I had also heard that wolves rarely attacked humans so I might be safe. I was about to find out either way.

When my eyes had adjusted to the night I found it rather easy to move around. Not only was Nirca nearly full, the second larger moon Samma was now in view. It was not as full as Nirca but it cast off enough light to nearly smother out the redish glow Nirca would have otherwise made. Thankfully Samma gave off nearly the same glow as Earth's moon.

In what I guessed to be about fourty five minutes I had gotten uncomfortably close to the wolves. Not wanting to go further I pulled out the smoked meat and threw a piece as far as I could towards them. Having done this I began making my way back the way I had come, occasionally dropping a piece of meat. I didn't know if my meat was working but the occasional howl told me that they were heading in the direction I wanted them to be going.

Strangely I made it back to Mr. Recruiter's camp faster than I had gotten to the wolves. Since they were just as close as ever I decided that my job was done. When I had climbed a tree I threw one last piece of meat into the bushes closest to Mr. Recruiter and waited.

In a few minutes they arrived. The biggest wolf even went to the bush I had thrown the meat into and ate. Two of the wolves even came to the tree I was in and gave me a look. Seeing this I took out another piece of meat and dropped it, which was quickly eaten. When I had done that I broke some twigs off the tree and threw them at Mr. Recruiter. I had taken me a few tries but I finally hit him. It actually took some more throws and a second hit to wake him up.

Now by this point the wolves had stopped and were moving around the camp site, watching the fire. I wasn't sure if Mr. Recruiter was aware that there were wolves so close to him so just in case I threw a branch into a bush next to a wolf. It startled both the wolf and the man.

"Salis, is that you?" he called out. "Please come close to the fire. It is not safe in the forest at night."

It certainly wasn't safe and I was about to prove it to him. Pulling a chunk of my now nearly depleted meat supply I threw it between three wolves. The quickly fought over it before one ate it. The fight wasn't long but the wolves had growled at each other while they had.

Mr. Recruiter immediately backed towards the dying fire. He then noticed how low it had gotten and he had not prepared any extra wood so there was no way for him to build it back up. I had expected him to start panicking but instead he held out his hand and made a glowing ball of light appear above it. There was only one thing it could be. It was magic.

It was the first time I had seen someone use magic. Porra-kel was too poor and out of the way so no traveling performers ever came. The only thing I could think of that I had seen before that was possibly magic was those strange floating flames that surrounded me when I came to Calorin.

I soon noticed that the wolves seemed just as drawn to Mr. Recruiter's magic as I was. They had all stopped moving around and were now staring at the floating ball of light. If I was lucky they wouldn't leave until he put it out and they would be like that all night.

Since I was getting tired I decided that I would wedge myself in and at least get a nap while this standoff was in boring mode. If anything did happen then I was sure it would make some noice and wake me up. If not, then it was nothing worth staying awake for. I just hoped that I had concealed myself well enough that he wouldn't be able to see me in the tree if he managed to wake up before I was able to get away.

***

Pali woke up the next morning still very much tired. The wolves had not actually stayed long. When he ran out of magic power to light his light and his fire went out they had lost interest and left. Since he had ran into the river to get away from them he had also caught a chill and had been shivering all night.

Since he was still cold he got up and did some light exercises. While he did not exercise as much as many of the other teachers at The Kein School of Magic and Knowledge he still like to stay in shape. This was especially important to him because the few times he had let himself get out of shape he had suffered when he traveled like this.

When Pali had warmed himself up his stomach rumbled. He had not brought the best food with him because he had not been expecting to be out like this, but fortunately he had the habit of always keeping some food on hand. He just hoped it was still good.

His bag was still where he left it the night before. He had been worried that one of the wolves might have gone after the smoked meat inside but that appeared to not be the case. So long as other smaller animals had not crawled inside he did not have to be worried.

Sitting next to the bag he opened it and started digging through his clothes to where he hid the food at the bottom. Immediately something felt off but he was not sure what it was. Ignoring this he continued on. Nothing. He could not find the food. Had he remembered to pack it? Since there were no crumbs from the bread or small scraps of meat it could not have meant an animal…

Was it the child? He had not seen any signs of her since he had started down the river, but that did not mean she did not know where he was. But when had she come? Had the wolves left her alone? He did not mind her taking his food since she most likely had none, but if wolves had gotten her…

He leaned on his elbow. Immediately he noticed something on his face. He rubbed his face and saw mostly dried mud fall off. Had he gotten mud on his hands and then accidentaly gotten some on his face when he touched it or had he maybe rolled into some in his sleep.

He went to a nearby puddle to clean his face. When he leaned over to the water he saw his reflection. What he saw was his whole face was actually covered in mud. How he had not noticed this much mud until now he could only attribute to how he was so tired, but it told him that it was most likely the child that had taken his food.

Now that he knew that she had been here and might still be nearby he decided it was time to resume his search. Not only was he now out of food, but there were wolves in the area and he wanted to be away from them as fast as possible. He also knew that even if the child had saved some of the food she had taken it would not last forever.

He worried how she would fare in Stutra by herself being so small. He also did not know if she had money and knew that it was not likely that she would get food or money from begging, though her status as a Terran might remedy that. It would also make her easier to find.

So Pali continued on. He was frustrated, and hated that he could not reach the other side of the river when the child could come and go as she pleased. All he could do was call out to her and hope she came to her senses. He just could not understand why she was making things so hard. He did not know how much farther he had to go to reach Strutra but the sooner he got there and that child got there, the better off they would be.

 

***

I had actually slept pretty well. I had been so exhausted from walking half the day that once I had finally started getting sleepy I hadn't had a problem. Despite this I was still pretty stiff and my legs were letting me know that I had used them more than they had liked and that they did not want to do it again. Too bad legs, we're doing it again.

I had woken up just before dawn. Mr. Recruiter was still asleep and very much alive. Since I didn't want to risk him seeing me I decided that I might as well get going before he woke up. Since he was apparently a deep sleeper it wouldn't be too hard. I just wondered if I had time to *play* with him before I left.

I decided that I would stay on this side of the river. I hoped that he would think I thought it was safer on the other side and had gone back, if he even figured out that I had even come over. It was best not to over think this so I went on my way, hoping I had made the right decision. Time would be the one to prove me right, wrong, or just needlessly worried.

Despite me having eaten the night before I found myself low on energy. I had saved the last bit of meat and eaten it before I had gotten out of the tree but it wasn't much and my stomach protested for more. I needed to get off this mountain as fast as I could and get food or find some. I was also now wishing that I hadn't used all that smoked meat luring the wolves.

The sun was now a good distance into the sky. My progress had been pretty good for the most part but I knew I couldn't keep my pace up for much longer. Not only was I super hungry my legs were reaching their limits. I just hoped that I would make it before nightfall.

When I took my first rest of the morning I saw that Stutra was getting very close. When I had started the day before it had looked tiny down at the bottom of the mountain but now I could see how big it was compared to Porra-kel. If I had had a good meal I could see myself making it there a little after noon.

This turned out not to be so. Not only did I have to take breaks more often as time went on but I had to rest for longer each time to recover at least some of my strength. By the time I had reached the halfway point from where I had taken my first break it had reached noon, or what felt like three or four hours. It was now that I leaned against a tree and took a nap.

 

***

Pali had reached Stutra at about one hour past noon. He was tired and hungry, but the first thing he did was to ask several people to keep an eye out for the Teran child. The second thing he did was to ask for the nearest food. It was good.

Unfortunately when he went to pay for his meal he found that he could not find his money. His coins had all been replaced with flat circular rocks. He also found out why his bag had felt heavier. Rocks had been hidden inside his clothes. He also found that his spare shoes had been filled with mud, which had been filled with his money. At least she had not taken it. Stealing bread was one thing to Pali but stealing money was just no good no matter what, or something like that.

Now that he had a full belly he bought some more food for the child and went to look for her. She would definetly be hungry so it would be a good bribe to get her to follow him. Maybe he would get some sweets too. Children loved sweets.

Pali found the tallest structure, a tower, near the edge of town and climbed to the top. He figured that if she had followed the river all the way down as he had then he might be able to spot her when she exited the forest no matter which part she came out of.

A few hours later Pali awoke with a start. He had fallen asleep as he watched the river as well as the city. His lack of sleep the night before had gotten him and in all likelyhood had made him miss the child's exit from the forest. He hoped that she would have been noticed by the townfolk and they could point him in the right direction.

***

I had reached the base of the mountain. While this was a big milestone I still had a good walk ahead of me until the forest ended next to Stutra. Since I was no longer going down a slope I hoped that I would make better progress, but I doubted it. If I made it to town before nightfall it would be a miracle.

As I slowly moved forward I soon found myself upon some men fishing. I figured that if Mr. Recruiter had seen them then he would have asked them to watch for me and if he had not come upon them yet then he would certainly ask them. So I decided to not let them see me.

It was at this time I took another break. As I watched them I wondered if it was possible to get some of their fish or to simply reveal myself and just ask for some. Or maybe I would get lucky and they would leave something behind when I left. For now I decided to wait and see before making a decision.

If there had only been one man I could have easily ransacked the bucket the fish were being put in when his back was turned to me but that wasn't the case. Since there was two of them and the river, while now wider, was not as deep and moving more slowly so someone could wade across if they were tall enough. Unfortunately the men had positioned themselves on each side of the river and were facing each other.

In the end I watched them until I had left. When they had gone I looked at where they set their belonging but found they hadn't left anything. I wished they had at least forgotten a line, hook, or something I could use but they had not. I had never gone fishing before so I didn't know how well I would do with that anyways.

Unfortunately I found that I did not have much time to do anything. While rested but hungry I noticed that I had at most two hours until sundown. Those men had been here for a few hours and hadn't caught too many fish, but they had known what they were doing. I, who had never fished before, would be lucky to catch just one in an entire day.

Still, there were fish in that there river and I wanted to eat them. Was there a way I could catch something that didn't require a fishing line and hook? There was the easiest way, throwing explosives into the water a simply scooping the dazed fish out but I sadly didn't have any explosives. A shame really.

On a more serious though on fishing there were some other ways that I could think of. One was the second most fun looking and much safer, to the person, way. That was spear fishing. Unfortunately, I had neither the strength not the practice to hit something underwater like that and kill it.

This led to the last thing. Also the slowest, most boring, and probably most unreliable method. Using traps. Fortunately for me not only were there plenty of materials around for me to use I also had some ideas on how to make one. Hopefully quickly.

An hour later with the sky darkening I set my crude trap into the water with its juicy bug bait. I had actually surprised myself with how quickly I had managed to make the thing, though getting a few sticks and tying them together wasn't that hard. The hard part had actually been finding something to tie everything together. Young saplings had done the trick.

Now I just had to hope the fishies would take the trap. All they had to do was swim into the hole without realizing the pointy sticks would, hopefully, prevent them from going back out. Then, when I checked it in the morning there would be a fish smiling back at me, telling me how privileged it was to grace the confines of my glorious stomach. When that happened all I needed to do was figure out how to cook the thing.

With my trap done and placed the only thing I could do now was wait. Since it was almost nightfall I would be waiting until morning. I also challenged myself to see if I could make another trap before it got too dark. I didn't have much time but I figured that since I had built one the second one would be faster. It turned out that I did get the second one done but I had to fumble around in the moonlight to finish it.

The next morning I woke up to a furious stomach. I had never gone this long without food and it was letting me know that it was not happy about that fact. Hopefully my traps would be able to remedy the problem. I just hoped that I had built them right. I had never made one before so I had guessed about a lot of things. I also was not the best knot tier so there was the chance for them to simply fall apart.

Making my way to the river I found where I had placed my traps. I had no trouble finding them and immediately checked them for results. The first, bigger trap, was empty. The second had a fish. I had done it. My trap worked. Fortunately I was me so it was to be expected. I was ashamed at doubting the abilities of someone so knowledgeable and skillful.

On a more serious note I now had to decide on how to eat it. I knew of several ways to make fire but like building traps I didn't have any practice making one without matches. Since I had no matches I would have to resort to some other method. The ones I could think of were rubbing sticks, flint, and using my ego.

I didn't know if I had the stamina to rubs sticks together long enough to make a fire. I was also sure that it wouldn't be as simple as rubbing two sticks together anyways. I had seen people use what looked like bows to help out too. Sadly I didn't have anything to use for the bow string, nor could I see anything around me that I thought would be strong and durable enough.

Flint. Probably the easiest method next to matches. Simply smack flint against a rock and you get sparks. Unfortunately for me, despite my vast knowledge, I wasn't too sure if I could find some flint and identify it as such. I didn't even know if there was any to be found out here.

This left me with my most powerful option. My ego. I was sure it was more than strong enough to burst anything in existence into flames if I could figure out how to manifest its energy. I guess I could try. I was better than mere wood and maybe if I let it know how pathetic it was compared to my existence it would burst into flames for realizing its sad state.

In the end I figured I was going to have to eat the fish raw. At this point I almost didn't care about that. I just hoped the thing wasn't filled with parasites and diseases. I also hoped it wasn't filled with disgusting tastes raw. Raw fish. Raw fish! Never again! Never ever.

Mmm. Raw fish is so slimy going down~~. Yum Yum. That is all I have to say about that.

***

It was a glorious day! Pali had had a wonderful sleep and the morning was that perfect temperature with no cloud in the sky. He knew how easily he could go find a nice spot on a grassy hill and take a nap in the warm sun. Or maybe take a stroll down the river, looking for a frustratingly hard to find child that only looked like a child and was probably smarter than him.

Why was Pali so happy when he was having so much trouble? Optimism. He had decided that rather than worrying he would hope and plan for the best. He had told himself that worrying too much was unneeded and that he should just enjoy the day while he looked for her and if fortune shined upon him then that was how it was. If not then it did not.

So what could he do on such a wonderful day, while being productive in more ways than one? Shopping! He would prefer to do this with the child since he did not know her preferences and such but since the school opened in two days he had to get it done today and hopefully be gone tomorrow he would just have to do his best at guessing. Even if he did not get things right it was her fault for running away. Yes, that was a perfectly justifiable excuse.

So where would he go shopping first? That would be the first place where someone that had gone without a lot of food would go first. The market! There was no way Pali was going here for himself. No way he would see if they had managed to get any strange or exotic food this far up the river before it spoiled. Like that delicious fruit called pineapple they had the last time he had looked…

There it was. That strange looking yet somehow beautiful fruit. It was all he could do to keep himself from buying all of it and keeping himself to just one. If they were not so expensive he might have done just that. He would have then shut himself in his room until he had eaten them all and died happily as his stomach burst open and pineapple poured out. And now his apatite was gone. That last image had been too much.

Now that the pineapple was out of his way he walked from shop to shop, asking if they had noticed a Teran child or even a strange out of place child. When they told him no he said that if they or anyone they knew saw her than he would reward them for telling him. Everyone happily agreed to that.

The next thing Pali knew he had to go shopping for was clothing. He knew the child had had and bag when she ran away but it did not look to have much of anything in it, let alone enough changes of clothing to last her for more than a few days. The only problem with this was that he did not know what sizes to get for her. This meant he would have to guess. He figured it was her fault if he was too badly off anyways. He could probably exchange the clothes later.

At the tailor he went over what he wanted. The school's uniform was a simple one piece tunic that went from the neck to the ankles. It was a simple design but fashion had no place in a school. The school also happened to be a sort of temple to the Deity Candrar and Melche so respect was also needed. He would also be needing to buy some undergarments.

Pali discussed the sizing of the clothing with the tailor. Since he had not gotten a good look at the child he was not too confidant. There was also the fact that Terans were built slightly different than native born Calorin. This was the most difficult thing for him to guess for. Height was not too hard to guess but the rest of her measurements would be troublesome.

He left the tailor not very satisfied. Since he had not been sure about the sizes he had simply purchased different sizes. He had gone for bigger sizes rather than smaller because he hoped that she could grow into them if they were too big. He was just happy that it was over. The only thing that been easy about the whole thing was choosing the color of the clothing. He had gone with white, hoping that the color that represented purity would rub off on the child. It was also one of the colors not associated with a certain Deity.

The last thing Pali was going to do was go to the cordwainer. He had not gotten a good look at the child's shoes but he doubted that they were in any good condition. Unfortunately for him, he did not know how big the shoes would need to be. He did his best to work with the cordwainer but once again he was only making best guesses. Fortunately the cordwainer said he could trade them in for different ones.

On a better note, Pali was quite proud of the shoes he had chosen. Like the clothes they were white, but it was the design that he liked. He had chosen a foreign design of leather boots. These boots were much taller than those normally found in Flaern and would probably go to just under the child's knees. They also had laces instead of straps. But the biggest reason he had chosen these was that they looked like they would be a pain to get on and off even if they fit. He also realized that since he had bought boots instead of the usual sandals he would need to buy some foot wraps too, which the cordwainer had.

With the shoes purchased Pali was now done with his shopping. Since his legs were still tired from his time on the mountain and with all the items he was carrying he decided that he would go back to his room at the inn and take a nap before returning to his search. He just hoped that it would all end today. He was actually getting pretty worried since she most likely would not have much, if any, food. He just hoped she was smart enough to come into the city, give up, and ask for help.

***

Now that I had gagged down the raw fish I felt the energy slowly return to my body. I was still very hungry and even felt a little queasy but I could now go on. Since I had reached the bottom of the mountain I also would have an easier time. My legs would at least be happy now that they didn't have to fight gravity.

The going was much easier. Before I knew it I had traveled who knows how many kilometers and was approaching the edge of the forest. It wasn't even noon yet so I had plenty of time to pillage the town before resting for the night. I just hoped I didn't run into any pedophiles or drunkards.

Since I had only seen Stutra from high up the mountain I had never really gotten a good look at it. Now that I was here I saw that I hadn't been missing much. Much of the city was smelters or something to do with the mine. There was plenty of smoke and some soot to go along with it.

The part of the city that wasn't mine related was better but still dirty. Unfortunately that seemed to be the norm on Calorin since they didn't have sanitation facilities and the like. I was just glad that it was still a town and not a mining village. I just hoped that I wouldn't be staying long here either. I had to find a way to get some money before that.

What surprised me the most about the town was how big it was. Other than the mine all it had going for it was the surrounding farms and some fishing. The only thing that I could think of was that since it was where the Porre and Lyn rivers merged meant that they must have had some trade going on. Maybe I could take advantage of that and stow away on a boat.

I had wasted too much time studying the town so I scolded myself and went in, doing my best to stay out of sight. Once I had gotten inside I immediately began looking for a disguise. My white hair was hard to miss, and even if I wasn't trying to hide from someone it would still attract unwanted attention. Good or bad I hated attention.

I soon found out how hard it was going to be to move around unnoticed. There just wasn't much of any place to hide and the fact that the houses were built circular instead of square meant that there were no corners to hide behind. There also was not much cloth of any size lying around, let alone something I could cover my head with.

When I had made my farther into the cleaner side of the city I found a large building. It looked like a fort but in a way it didn't. It was made of stone and had six towers around the circumference. It was also well decorated. Too decorated for a military building. Unless Flaern was weird like that.

I then saw them. The sickly and feeble looking people. They were crowded around what was most likely the rear most door, some with tents most not. I had no idea why they were gathered around this building, but I didn't was a disease or their stink so I decided to avoid them for now.

As I made my way carefully around the building I found my disguise. While it was brown, dirty, and a little disgusting it would have to do. When I had cleaned it off the best I could I gathered up my hair and covered it and my head the best I could. I hoped that my hair didn't fall out of the wrapping.

With my disguise ready I was now willing to go into the open. While I probably could find food in the spaces between buildings and near the roads there was no way I would ever eat anything I found there. In fact, I had already seen someone empty their chamber pot on the ground just outside their window. With the smell of the city the way it was everybody else did the same thing.

I was going to have to beg for food. I didn't want to do it, but it was the only way I could think of getting somewhat clean food other than stealing. Since I was above things like stealing, for now, I had to get people to give me food. Too bad I absolutely wanted nothing to do with anyone from Calorin, but to live it was a sacrifice I would have to grudgingly make.

My first stop was a bread store. The door was open so I went inside after a little bit of consideration. A man was standing behind a counter looking bored. When he saw me come in he looked at me suspiciously. He didn't look the type to give away food so doubted that I would get anything here, but I was going to try.

"Sir, could you spare some bread? Even your old bread will do."

He stood up. "Leave child. If I gave you bread the rest of your ilk will come. Please leave before you drive my business away."

Well, that had gone as expected. I wished I had been proven wrong, but I knew life wouldn't hand me everything I wanted whenever I asked for it. Now that I had failed here I would have to move on. Someone in the city must be feeling charitable today. I just hoped that whatever I got was clean.

I had been to several shops and stalls, each time being rejected. In time I came upon a friendly woman that seemed like she wanted to help but could not afford to give anything away. Despite this she gave me a tip. She told me that the Temple of Sorris often helped those in need and that I should be able to find shelter there, if only temporarily.

Following her directions I found myself back in front of the military looking building. Now that I knew this was a temple dedicated to Sorris the design of the building made sense to me, Sorris was the Deity of Protection after all. It now also made sense as to why all those people were gathered behind the temple.

Driven by my hopeful stomach I went inside the temple. The inside was actually pretty nice. There were several paintings in the entrance, as well as some suits of armor. The paintings themselves featured a beautiful woman in a sparkling armor inset with thousands of what I thought were crystals or diamonds. She was guarding peasants. A typical scene of the rich protecting the poor defenseless peasants to show that they have money AND power.

“Hello little one.” came a calm voice. I turned to look at who had talked to me and it turned out to be a young man dressed in red robes. If he wasn't a priest I don't know who would be.

"I always have loved that picture of Sorris. It reminds me why I decided to become a priest here." So the painting was of Sorris? Yep, it was definitely a picture of a rich and powerful person, or deity in this case, that just had to show they had to be there to protect the poor "defenseless" people.

"I was expecting you to be wearing armor." I said, being the first thing that came to mind. It was true anyways.

The man laughed. "We get that a lot."

Moving on to more pressing matters I asked, "I noticed all the people outside. I wanted to know where they got their food."

"We help those who need it." The priest paused, "Do you need our help?"

"If I said yes would there be food involved?"

The priest laughed and then asked me, "Tell me everything and we might help you. No lying either."

“Don't worry I don't lie.” I said, “I just tend to leave out the parts I don't want anybody to hear.”

“Some still consider that lying. So, please tell me everything, even the parts you do not want me to hear or I won't promise

any food."

At this point I didn't care what would happen so I told him all that had happened over the last few days. I also told him about Mr. Recruiter and that I was a Terran. When he asked me why I had run I told him it was because I didn't want to be exploited.

"Alright, I will go get you some food, but only if you let me find the man from the school. He deserves to know that you are safe, I believe he is the one that was offering a reward for the safe return of a certain Terran child. I am also going to send a message to your family in Porra-kel letting them know that you are safe."

I wasn't happy. "I thought you said you were going to help me. Getting the recruiter won't be helping me."

The priest smiled at me. "I am doing what is best for you. Even if you do get exploited at least you will have food and a nice home to stay, not to mention an education that some people would be more than happy to be exploited."

Well, he did have a point. While I would prefere to do things on my own, going to this school was much better than staying in a boring mining town. I would also have better opportunities to get money. Money, money, money. I was just going to have to do my best to keep the amount that they exploited me very low. Maybe I would even be the one exploiting them.

"Alright, you can go get him. Just please hurry with the food before my blood sugar goes even deeper into the negatives…"

The priest looked at me puzzled when I said the last comment. "Blood sugar?" he said to himself, before saying, "Here, I will take you to the kitchen."

"You better give me half the reward." I told the priest as we headed to the kitchen.

***

Pali was surprised when he heard a knock on his door. He had just finished napping and was thinking of something to do for the rest of the day. He hoped that it was welcome news. Something about the wherabouts of a certain child or even the child herself. He would see soon.

When Pali opened the door he saw a young man in red robes, probably in his early twenties. He was slightly shorter than Pali, and had the brown hair and eyes common in Flaern. His red robes also probably meant the he was a priest for Sorris. He was smiling, a smile that Pali thought said he knew something good.

"Welcome, Priest of Sorris." Pali said. "What can I do for you?"

"Are you Pali Candrar Bo?"

"That I am."

"I have come with news regarding a child that seems to be causing you a bit of grief."

"A bit…" Pali sighed. "What news?"

"She is eating at the Temple as we speak. I even made her promise not to run and to meet you for the food."

"I see, this is good news indeed. This will also be a good way to relieve my boredom."

The priest laughed. "Oh, yes. I do not see getting bored easily when that girl is in a mood."

Pali sighed again. "Lead the way."

With that Pali and the priest left the inn. Fortunately Stutra was small and it did not take long to get to the temple by carriage. Upon arriving he noticed the plain, yet fortress like appearance thanks to the six buttresses evenly spaced on the outside. While it was one of the biggest buildings in the city it was not large compared to some of the other temples dedicated to Sorris. Upon entering the temple Pali noted that it was decorated much the same as the others he had visited on rare occasion. Even the suits of leather and metal armor were much the same, as well as the portraits depicting Sorris protecting innocents.

Pali shortly entered what was obviously the kitchen. He looked around but did not see the dirty Terran child that had brought him such annoyances. All Pali saw were some well used but well maintained wooden tables and chairs, all in a modest kitchen with a stove and some assorted pots, pans, and cooking utensils. Aside from a few priests there were a few haggard people quietly eating bread and some kind of soup.

Pali walked up to a priest wearing a dark robe that was covered in flour and asked, “Do you know where the Terran child that was eating here went?”

The flower covered priest looked at the young priest that had been escorting Pali, who was standing behind hi,, then back to Pali and said, “She was looking through the door you came through but suddenly ran through that door.” The flower covered priest pointed towards the door opposite the one Pali had come through.

“She was watching for us apparently.” said the priest.

Pali sighed. She was not making this easy for him. He almost wanted to just leave her but there was no way he was going to miss the opportunity to study a real live Terran. So he went through the door the cook had pointed out. He just hoped that all this chasing was worth it.

“This should be interesting.” the young priest said to the flower covered priest with a slight smile on his face. The flower covered priest simply shrugged.

The child was certainly not making this easy and Pali had to quell his growing annoyance. In his pursuit he had talked to several priests who told him that they had seen her pass by only a few minutes earlier. This in of itself was not what was annoying him. It was the fact that she was going around the circumference of the temple as if she were playing with him.

Fortunately the chase did not go on for much longer. Pali was soon directed towards a room that led to one of the six buttresses. He was certain that the door was the only way in or out. This meant that she was giving up or Sorris only knew what, if Sorris could even know what went on in the child's mind.

Hoping that the chase would end soon Pali entered the room. As soon as he walked in he noticed movement above him. The child was looking down at him from a hole in the ceiling. Immediately he noticed that the ladder was missing. She had pulled it up behind her so that they could not follow her up.

“Oh, this is great!” said the priest, who had still been following Pali, laughing. “What are you going to do now?” He said looking at Pali then at the child, who was staring down at them.

 

***

The final chase was on. While I had finally decided to go with the recruiter from the school I forgot the name of I had decided that I wasn't going to let it finish that easily for him. I also wanted to see if I could exploit the situation since he obviously wanted me to go with him badly enough to follow me this far.

When I had finished eating I had stood by the door to the kitchen. There I waited for the priest and Mr. Recruiter to come back. While I was watching I noticed many people stop and stare at me. Since I had taken off my nasty head wrapping my white hair was just as noticeable as ever.

I tried to ignore them, and to my relief the two men I had been waiting for had come. As soon as I saw them I ran through the door on the opposite side of the kitchen. Since I had no intention of getting away from my pursuers I merely ran around the temple in hopes that he would get frustrated.

When I began to tire I decided it was time to confront Mr. Recruiter. Since I didn't want him to get close to me yet I opted to run inside one of the towers that dotted the circumference of the temple. Once inside one of these I saw that there was a wooden ladder leading through a hole in the ceiling. When I had climbed into the room above I found that the ladder was not attached to anything so I pulled it up. Luckily things were lighter on Calorin so I managed to pull it up without too much trouble.

Not long after I had pulled the ladder up I saw the door to the room below me open. Through it came Mr. Recruiter and the priest. As planned Mr. Recruiter did not look too happy. On the other hand the priest looked as if he were thoroughly enjoying the situation, which was soon confirmed, because when he saw me he laughed and said something not worth noting to Mr. Recruiter.

"Child, please come down from there." Mr. Recruiter asked. I said nothing. Seeing this he went on. "I promise that nothing bad will happen to you. In fact life at the school is akin to life as some of the wealthier merchants. You will get good meals, clean bedding, and the best education Flaern has to offer."

"She does not seem to want to talk to you." The priest said to Mr. Recruiter.

"Can you at least tell me why you ran?" Mr. Recruiter asked. "At least say something."

I still said nothing, but things would probably get annoying if I stayed quiet too much longer.

"If I do not know what is bothering you I cannot help you."

"Fine." I said.

"She speaks!" said the priest.

"Alright, I will listen to what you have to say." Mr. Recruiter said, ignoring the priest.

"I can only think of two reasons why someone would be interested in a girl adopted by poor peasants out by a small mine in the middle of the mountains. One: I've heard that Terrans like me are better at magic than most Calorins and that they are highly sought after by the military. Two: You want to get as much information about Terra as possible, especially anything that I know how to make that doesn't exist here on Calorin. Saying that, I want to let you know that I absolutely do not want to be used by the military or the government."

Pali looked up at me thoughtfully and after a few moments said, “Those things may be true, but is it not worth getting away from your poor background and having the opportunity to get an education and a better place in the world?”

“I'd rather risk living off of the forests and mountains and live freely than be used by whoever gets to me first. I even caught a fish myself yesterday.”

“Then why are you here getting food when you could get it yourself?”

Of course Mr. Recruiter had a point. “I'm still a beginner.” I said.

“I will not stop you then. I will even tell the local hunters to keep a lookout for you to bury you if you stay a beginner.” He looked at me smugly while saying this. “You know. If you come with me I promise that we will not make you do anything you do not want to do, but before you answer could you please consider anything you would be willing to share to us about Terra?”

Since I had already decided to go with him none of what he said about me staying in the forest mattered so I only answered his last question. "Even if I do decide to go I don't think that I should say anything about Terra, but I might change my mind…"

Mr. Recruiter looked like he was thinking when his face suddenly lit up. He then shuffled through a bulging cloth sack he was carrying. When he noticed me watching him he smiled and pulled out some cloth. "I bought some clothes for you to use if you come with me. I guarantee it will be much better than anything your family in Porra-kel could afford."

"Bribing me won't work."

“I was not trying to bribe you. I just thought you were interested in what I had here.”

I knew he had started looking through the bag intentionally hoping that I would take interest in it and bringing him the opportunity to bring the contents into the conversation innocently. I was about to restate that bribes wouldn't work on me when I say him pull something out of the bad that I had thought I would never see again. It was a pineapple. A delicious pineapple.

“I also bought you some food.” He continued. “I thought you might find this fruit interesting as it does not grow around here. I personally find these fruits…”

My full attention was now on what he was holding in his hand. The citrus fruit was one of the most beautiful things I had seen in a long time, but I was soon brought out of my trance by the laughing of the priest that was still standing by the door. It was then that I noticed That Guy Pali wiping something from his forehead. It was my drool.

Mr. Recruiter was looking back up at me and now had a grin on his face. He then reached to his belt and pulled out a small knife. I watched as he started cutting the pineapple. Soon he held a large piece of pineapple in front of him then slowly and methodically put it into his mouth. I watched as he slowly chewed the pineapple with a euphoric, but obviously fake look, on his face.

I knew he was doing it on purpose but I was suddenly hungry again. The food I had been eating these past eight years was never good and had gotten boring after the first week they began feeding it to me. I then began thinking about what kinds of food they would be serving at the school, and how it would likely be worth joining just for that.

Deep in thought about food and with more drool dripping down towards him I failed to notice that in my desire to eat the pineapple I had been leaning forward farther and farther until I fell from my perch in the tower and landed on my butt in front of a startled Mr. Recruiter and priest. Still, ignoring the pain in my butt, I reached towards the pineapple. Mr. Recruiter handed me the knife and pineapple, which I grabbed from him and greedily started eating.

“Does this mean you will come with me?” Mr. Recruiter said after recovering from shock caused by my fall.

I didn't say anything but continued to eat the pineapple.

“I will take that as a yes.” he said somewhat triumphantly and then turned to the priest, who looked like he was still enjoying himself, and asked, “Could you call a carriage for me?”

The priest nodded and then as he was leaving laughed again as he noticed Mr. Recruiter start dragging me out of the room as I ate the pineapple.

“You are not going to run away now are you?” Mr. Recruiter asked as he dragged me out of the temple entrance.

Now, mostly having had my fill of pineapple I replied, “If you promise that I can leave whenever I want and you won't make me do anything I don't want to.”

“Yes, that is what we had planned from the beginning. If you had only listened to me instead of jumping into the river…”

“I know.” I said cutting him off before adding, “The pineapple was worth it though.”


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