Salis' Story

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

Chapter 8 (v.1) - Summer Parting, Might of Wealth

Submitted: August 26, 2019

Reads: 9

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Submitted: August 26, 2019

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"Wake up Salis!"

I rolled away from the voice. I hadn't had to wake up early to meet with Iguana and wanted to sleep in.

I felt someone pinch my cheek.

I pulled my blanket over my head.

"Artua," it was Ferret's voice, "What is the best way to wake Salis up?"

"I do not know. I never tried." Came Arty's reply.

"I was thinking," Ferra said, "Does Salis' bed not look fun to jump on?"

"I does?" Arty said confused.

"Does it not look fun to JUMP on?" Ferret repeated.

"Oh," Arty said, getting the hint. "Yes, Salis' bed DOES look fun to jump on."

I felt someone begin to climb on my bed and stand up, the bed groaning slightly under the extra weight.

I took a peek out of my blanket and looked up and saw Ferret looking down on me, a mischievous grin on her face.

"Will you join me Artua?"

"I… I…"

I rolled over quickly and kicked at Ferret's legs.

Ferret yelped as her legs were forced out from under her. She then landed right on top of me before sliding off the bed and I could feel the bed groan in protest.

"Ow! Ow! Ow!" Ferret yelled as she rolled on the floor.

"Are you all right Ferra?" Arty said, looking down at Ferret with concern.

"I hit my knees into the floor when I fell." Ferret said, pain in her voice.

I sat up in my bed and looked at Ferret.

"Sorry." I said. "I didn't think that through."

I was actually pretty sorry.

Ferret sat up, a happy and surprised expression on her face.

"Did Salis just apologize to someone for the first time?" She said and poked me in the stomach.

I thought for a second. "To you, yes." I said.

"Oh?" Ferret said leaning forward, apparently having forgotten about the pain in her knees. "To who else have you?"

"Let's see… Helnion," For that big bruise the cannon gave her, "and… Um…"

"Just Helnion?"

"I haven't really apologized to anyone." I said, though there probably were quite a few that deserved one.

Ferret sighed.

"I will work on that with you when school resumes."

I got out of bed and began getting dressed.

"When are you leaving?" Ferret asked.

"After lunch, I guess."

"Good! That means we will have some time…"

"I still need to pack." I said.

I had purposefully not packed earlier so I would have at least one excuse to not get dragged off. Not that I had much to pack.

"Do you need help?" Ferret asked, as expected.

"No, I don't have much."

"I know! I will get Helnion while you pack!"

"She's probably already gone, she said her family was sending a carriage to pick her up this morning."

I just hope they didn't have too much fun waking her up after what happened last night.

"Aww… Why did you not tell me?" Ferret said.

I had finished changing into some light travel clothing and walked to my bed and pulled out a small chest that I would be using to pack my clothes and less valuable items in and started filling it.

"Wait! Did you even see her off?" Ferret said accusingly.

"No. She would probably have been too sleepy to realize what was going on as the maids carried her to the carriage." I said.

Ferret looked at me not sure how to take my explanation.

"You could have gone just in case." She said finally.

"I'm sure Helnion understands."

Ferret turned from me, a look of frustration on her face.

"Artua?" She said to the girl in question.

"Yes Ferra?" Arty said.

Arty looked a bit worried for some reason.

"Have your parents come back to Kein yet?"

Arty shook her head. "Not for another week or so. Their ship was caught in a storm and it had to stop for repairs."

"Are they safe? I hope they were not injured."

"No, they are fine."

"That is good to hear." Ferret said, her frustration from me now replaced by a smile of relief.

"Mmhm."

"What are you going to do until then?"

"Cleaning. Our house gets real dusty since no one lives in it much.

"For a week?"

Arty laughed awkwardly.

"No. Calren and I can do it in an hour. Our house is small."

"If I were not going to Darro…"

The chimes signalling morning meal started.

"I better go." Ferret said and headed for the door. "I will see you two later."

"Bye Ferra." Arty said.

 

***

I ate my breakfast and then climbed back into my bed and dozed for a few hours. About an hour before lunch, judging from the position of the sun outside the window, I decided it was time to begin packing my more valuable things into the large chest. In reality the only things I had to put in it were the things I had used last night so it was not much.

I pulled out the cabbage cannon from its hiding place under my bed and unwrapped the end. I then uncovered the end cap and removed the metal plate, revealing the partially exposed storage crystals. I extracted them, wiping them free of wax, and then dug out the wind crystal and threw them into the chest.

I then grabbed the bag with the communication crystal and lightning crystal and realized something. Ferret had never given me back the communication crystal I had given her. If I didn't get it back I would have to hide the one I still had somewhere I would not be.

I tossed the bag into the chest and closed it. I looked up and saw Arty had been looking inside the chest. She saw she had been caught and sheepishly made her way back to her desk.

I opened the chest back up and pulled out the communication crystal.

"Here." I said, walking over to Arty and giving it to her. "You can use one, right?"

Arty looked at the crystal, not sure what to do.

"The noisy one has the other one, you can use it to talk to her."

Arty smiled and took it. "Are you sure? Thank you!"

Now I didn't have to worry about fighting to get the other crystal from Ferra.

Arty held the crystal and turned it on.

"Ferra?" Arty said to the crystal several times.

Nothing happened and Arty put the crystal in a bag she kept near the leg of her bed closest to her desk.

I stood up and walked to the window.

"Are you not going to wait for Ferra?" Arty asked me in her soft voice.

"I need to get some things from that one place." I said to her and opened the window.

I had never taken Arty to Helnion and I's place but she knew we went somewhere.

"Hi Salis!" It was Ferret and she was sitting directly under the window with two of her friends. "I thought you would leave this way."

I closed the window immediately.

"You should check to see if she still has the other crystal." I said to Arty.

Arty nodded and headed for the window.

"Hi Artua!" Ferret said, now looking through the open window. "You ready to go somewhere?"

"You too Salis?" Ferret added loud enough for me to hear inside the room.

I turned to the door, certain there were more of Ferret's friends waiting outside.

I opened the door and was greeted by three smiling girls.

"Hi Salis." They all said in unison before grabbing me and picking me up.

 

***

I didn't try to struggle. I knew it wouldn't be any use. All I could do was hope they wouldn't take me some place weird.

I was taken up the stairs and to the second floor. From there I was taken partway down the hall and then into a room. This room, being on the second floor, was much like Helnion's and was more spacious. The furniture was much like Helnion's but was less ornate and decorated.

I then saw the table under the window. It was covered with food.

"You can put her down now." Ferret said to the girls holding me as she came into the room.

I looked at Ferret and then back to the table.

"We wanted to thank you for last night." One of the girls that had carried me said.

"Yes, you do not know how much doing that for us means." Another said.

"I wish you had done it sooner." A third said. "Having to watch them gloat at us all year…"

"We wanted to thank you." Ferret said. "And we decided a meal was something you would appreciate."

"Thank you." I said. "But you could have asked instead of ambushing me."

"That would have been no fun." One of the girls said and giggled.

I was beginning to lose track of who was who among all these girls and decided that I would have to remember their names when I came back.

"I was actually hoping for a chase." Ferret said, and poked me in the arm.

"Come now, sit down." One of the legion of girls said to me and starting pulling me to the table by my hand.

I sat down and noticed there was a second chair.

"We were hoping Helnion would be able to come too." Ferret said.

"She is probably eating a much better meal at her estate." I heard a girl say.

I looked at the food. There was far more here than I could ever hope to eat and consisted of basic things like boiled potatoes to an extravagant looking thing that somewhat resembled a pizza but had the tomato sauce replaced by some sort of cheese spread. There was no citrus fruit sadly.

"I hope you like it, we spent all morning in the kitchens making it." Ferret said.

"Took us longer to convince the cooks to let us in." Someone said.

I heard several girls laugh.

I began to eat and was glad to see that the girls stopped bothering me so I could enjoy my meal. Eventually several of them began playing music and sang songs about tales of great war heroes.

The food itself was hit and miss. Some of the items I could tell were made by someone that had practiced a lot and there were some I would not be surprised to find out if it had been their first time cooking.

"How was it?" Ferret asked me when she saw I had had enough.

Early into the meal I had found out it was best not to judge the dishes by the way they looked as some of the more fancy dishes ended up being the worst so I had tried at least one of everything just in case there was a hidden gem.

"Better than what I usually get, for the most part." I replied.

"Good!" Ferret said happily.

"What are you going to do to me next?" I asked.

"We wanted you to tell us some stories from Terra." Ferret said.

I thought for a moment. Was telling them stories worth the amount of speaking required?

"Maybe a short one or two." I replied.

Several of the girls cheered excitedly.

"What kind of stories?" Ferret asked.

What should I tell them? Sci-fi would be too difficult for them to understand, romance stories were something I had never cared for… fairy tales. Yes, they were not only short but made for children and were easy to understand. Perfect for these girls. I just had to hope I could remember them considering I hadn't read any since I was in grade school.

I decided on a few and began.

I somehow ended up telling them stories for almost an hour and was saved by the chimes signaling noon meal.

"I need to go." I said.

Several of the girls, the ones still awake, moaned. Arty was one of them.

"Salis is right." Ferret said, sounding a bit disappointed as well. "And some of us need to catch some carriages to go home."

One or two of the girls mumbled but several more jumped up from wherever they had been sitting and headed for the door, their expressions showing they had forgotten.

I too headed for the door.

"Thank you for the stories." Ferret said to me. "Terran stories are really interesting."

Several other girls expressed their agreement.

"Are you going back to our room?" Arty asked me as I opened the door.

"I need to go get someone to help carry my chest first."

Arty nodded then added, "I liked your stories."

I left the room and vowed to never let them convince me to do that again.

***

I left the building and found that several carriages had been parked in the space between the boy's and girl's dorm. Four of the carriages were regular wheeled carriages while the other four were of the levitating kind. Thanks to my heavy luggage I would be taking one of the wheeled carriages since the levitating ones were weight sensitive and charged extra for super heavy items.

"Which one is going to Stutra?" I asked one of the men handling luggage by the carriages.

"That one." He said and pointed towards the one closest to the boy's dorm.

I walked to the man attending this carriage.

"You need something little miss?" He asked me when I neared him.

He gave me an odd look and studied me for a moment.

"This is the carriage to Stutra?"

"Certainly is. You need a ride?"

I nodded.

"Any luggage or are you going with just the clothes on your back?"

"I have a large chest I need help with."

"How large we talking?"

"You'll need that pole." I said and pointed to a pole that was used to help carry heavy objects.

The man looked slightly confused. "Come again?"

"You will need that pole."

"Oh. I thought that might be what you said."

The man retrieved the pole.

"Where to?"

I motioned for him to follow me and went to my room.

"Hi Salis." Arty said when she saw me enter the room.

The man walked into the room.

"What do you need me to carry?"

I pointed to the chest at the foot of my bed.

The man walked over and tested the weight of the chest.

"What do you have in there?" He said.

"Lots of rocks." I said.

The man rolled his eyes.

"Let me go get some help." He said and left the room.

"I bet you could help carry it." Arty told me.

"Maybe." I said. "But the hight difference…"

"Oh yeah." Arty said and looked down at me as if noticing my height for the first time.

I picked up the pole the carriage driver had placed and placed it through the two rope hoops that were attached to either side of the chest.

Arty walked to the side opposite of me and grabbed the pole. She then pulled up as hard as she could.

The chest moved slightly but no part of it left the floor.

Arty finally let go of the stick and sat on the bed, defeated.

I picked up the stick and decided to try lifting it myself. I already knew I could not pick the chest up by myself but wanted to find out how far I could tip it.

I pulled up on the stick. The chest was extremely heavy but I managed to lift my side off the floor.

I could feel and hear the gold coins shift inside the chest and lifted more slowly than I otherwise would have so they wouldn't shift too quickly.

"I do not think even Calren is that strong." Arty said.

It wasn't the first time she had seen me try to lift the chest, but this time there was less in it and I held it up more easily.

"Hey!" The carriage driver yelled when he came back into the room. "Put that down. 'Tis a good way to break the stick that is."

I lowered the chest back to the floor.

"Come now" a second man said entering the room after the carriage driver, "no way the chest is that heavy if a child can lift it."

"You tell me." The carriage driver said and beckoned the second man to try lifting the chest.

The man obliged and walked to the chest with little expectation on his face.

I moved away from the chest and let the man take my place. He grabbed the rope and lifted. It was easier for him to lift it than it had been for me but I could tell he had to put some effort into picking it up.

I cringed at the sound of the coins moving. I didn't want anyone knowing the chest was full of money and be tempted to steal it.

"What you packing in there, girl?" The man said, putting the chest down.

"Rocks apparently." The carriage driver said.

"Sounded like coins to me."

"No way a girl her age has enough money to fill that chest."

"She IS a Terran."

The carriage driver shook his head. "Best not to get into other people's business."

"Just curious."

The carriage driver took his place opposite the other man and both picked up the chest.

I picked up my smaller chest and followed the two men out the door.

"Bye Salis. Sorris protect and Vellis visit often." Arty said and waved at me.

I looked back to Arty and nodded. I wasn't too keen on Vellis visiting but only a fool would turn down Sorris' help.

 

***

"Let me take that other chest for you little miss." The driver said when he had stowed my chest in a compartment on the back of the carriage.

I didn't give it to him and instead opened the chest and gave each man a silver coin. Normally I would have only given them two copper coins but I didn't have any.

"Very generous of you." The second man said, nodded to me, and left.

"Wait inside the carriage little miss and we will leave as soon as the other passangers arrive and get their belongings sorted out." The carriage driver told me.

I did as he had asked and climbed into the carriage.

Just as I had hoped it wasn't full and only three other children and a parent were sitting inside. I didn't recognize any of them either.

I sat on the rear bench, it being the least crowded, and put my chest under it.

I looked out the window for the next few minutes. I was not particularly looking forward to the ride as it would be bumpy and long. We also would not be arriving in Stutra until well into the night.

I noticed the driver close the rear compartment and head to the driver's bench at the front. He was followed closely by Ferret, whom opened the carriage door and climbed in.

She sat down next to me.

"Oh, hi Salis." She said with a grin. "Are you heading to Stutra too?"

The urge to jump out of the carriage washed over me. There would be another one leaving tomorrow morning so I would be okay. Well, other than the fact my chest of gold was now locked in the back of this carriage.

"Are you heading to Porra-kel tomorrow?" She asked. "Of course you are! You must miss your family. I can go with you if you want and stay for at least a day. I really want to meet your family and see where you lived. Can you also show me the spot where you appeared?"

I looked out the window and watched as we started moving and pulled away from the dorms.

 

***

I had mercifully fallen asleep sometime into the trip and was not awoken until Stutra was in sight.

"Salis. Salis! Wake up." Ferret said and shook me until I opened my eyes. "We are here."

I stretched my neck. It was sore from the awkward position I had slept in. My butt was sore as well but I couldn't remedy that until I got out of the carriage.

"It has been a while, Stutra." Ferret said, peering out the window.

Ferret turned to me. "Are you going to stay at the same inn you did last time?"

I shook my head but said nothing.

Ferret looked at me thoughtfully but said nothing until the carriage pulled to a stop.

"We have arrived!" She said and jumped out of the carriage.

I grabbed my chest and followed close behind her.

"I do not think I will ever come to like being stuffed inside a carriage for so long." She said and began rubbing her butt. "They should at least put in softer seats."

I heard one of the passengers behind me offer their agreement. I didn't look back to see who it was and headed for the rear of the carriage.

I noticed that three men had exited a nearby building and were approaching the carriage. The carriage driver met them and the four of them soon began unloading the carriage.

"Gonna have to get your chest last little miss." The carriage driver told me as he opened the rear compartment.

"Did you bring that humongous chest that was in your room?" Ferret asked me.

She had a large bag slung over her shoulder that looked to have not only clothes inside but what I guessed to be a practice sword. She was also holding a stringed instrument she was so fond of.

"That she did." The carriage driver replied. "Not the heaviest thing I have ever hauled though."

Ferret's eyes brightened.

"Are you going to give it to your family? I knew you were not as selfish as everyone thinks you are. My family could live off of that much money for years."

I looked around to see who could hear Ferra. Most of the children in the carriage were no big deal but the older people might pose a problem.

The carriage driver noticed my reaction and said, "Best not to talk about that miss. Never know who is listening."

Ferret's face turned bright red.

"Oh, right."

"Besides," the carriage driver spoke again, "this here chest is filled with rocks. Is that not right little miss?"

"It's actually a dead body." I said.

"Is that right." The carriage driver said.

"Whose is it?" Ferret asked, her eyes wide.

"Helnion." I said.

"Helnion! Is that why she was missing this morning!"

Ferret jumped into the carriage next to the chest and began moving it.

"Hey!" The carriage driver yelled. "Do not be stepping on other people's belongings.

Ferret ignored him.

The carriage driver looked at me.

"No way she believed you had a dead body in there, do you think?" He said.

"I try not to think about it." I replied.

"Can you at least get her out of there?"

I nodded.

"There's no dead body in there."

Ferret jumped out of the compartment, an actual look of disappoinment on her face.

"I thought so…" She said, and then began grinning. "You would never kill someone, right Salis?"

I ignored the question and turned to the carriage driver, whom had resumed unloading the rear compartment now that Ferret was out of the way.

"Any inns nearby?" I asked him.

Ferret answered instead.

"There, there and there." She said pointing to three different buildings.

"Which one are you staying at?" I asked Ferret.

"Who knows?" She said and looked away, trying to act innocent.

"Which one is the highest class?" I asked the carriage driver.

"Use your eyes, little miss. It is not hard to guess." He said, in the middle of passing a large bag to one of the waiting children.

I looked at the three buildings Ferret had pointed to. The first one was roughly adjacent to the building the men had come out of earlier and, while in good repair, was not the most comely building.

The second building was on the opposite side of the road from the first and was nearest to the edge of Stutra, only a few shops and homes past it before the fields started. The building itself looked to be a little more run down but not terribly so.

I turned to the third inn. It was much farther down the street, nearer towards the center of Stutra. If I had paid more attention earlier I would have noticed its more fine construction. Unlike the other two the building was square and built with wood, brick and plaster instead of the round mud and brick construction the more traditional inns used.

"You decided where you are staying little miss?" The carriage driver said, finally having unloaded all the other luggage.

"There." I said pointing to the third inn.

"Thought so." He said and then called over to one of the other men.

"Can I try?" Ferret said as the carriage driver began positioning the chest for removal.

"Be my guest." He said and handed the pole to her.

Ferret took the pole and placed it through the ropes.

"Be careful now." The carriage driver said. "Do not want you dropping it and hurting yourself."

Ferret grinned at him. "I got it! Instructor Benc makes us lift heavy things all the time."

To Ferret's credit she easily lifted the chest and pulled it halfway out.

"Who would have thought?" The man the carriage driver had called over said.

"With girls like you Toa Mirr will have no chance of taking us back over." The carriage driver said then turned to me. "The little miss here can do it too, but that is a Terran for you."

"Will someone get the other side please?" Ferret said.

The carriage driver moved first and grabbed the other side of the pole and lifted the chest fully out of the carriage.

"Best run ahead and get your room sorted out little miss." He told me.

I nodded and jogged to the inn.

"Welcome." I heard a man's voice say as soon as I entered.

It was an older man, with grey balding hair. The way he stood told me he had a somewhat proud upbringing.

"Oh?" He said after getting a better look at me. "How rare it is to see a Terran, and such a small one at that." He looked me over again. "Will you be staying alone or are there others with you?"

"Alone." I said, "Though some others are just behind me with my luggage."

"Your servants?"

"No, though I would be wary of the noisy one."

"I see."

I put down my chest on the counter the man was standing behind and pulled out my coin bag.

"I see I do not have to worry about payment." The man said. "What kind of room were you wanting?"

"I want your softest bed."

It would be welcome after that carriage ride.

"Certainly. And how long will you be staying?"

"Just tonight."

"Five silver."

"I'll give you a gold if you ask to charge that much to the noisy one if she asks for a room." I said.

"As tempting an offer as that is, it is against my principles to do so."

Great, I had probably found the one honest man in Stutra.

"Can you at least not put her in my room?"

"That I can do."

I paid the man five silver coins.

"Do you want me to take you to your room now?" He said.

I shook my head and looked to the door.

"Whenever you are ready."

I walked to the door and opened it. Ferret and the carriage driver were only a few steps away.

"Did you get a room?" Ferret asked me.

She didn't look the least bit tired and was smiling.

"I nodded."

I moved out of their way and closed the door after they came in.

"This way." The inn keeper said and walked into a hallway on the right side of the room.

Ferret, the carriage driver and I followed him down the hallway until he stopped in front a room and opened the door.

"Is there anything else you need?" He asked me as the other two entered.

I shook my head.

"Very well. If you need anything I will be up front for a few more minutes." He said and looked into the room before walking off.

I went to enter my room but had to step back as Ferret and the carriage driver came out.

"I best be getting to bed little miss. More driving to do in the mornin'. You two dream well." He said and walked off.

"Bye!" Ferret shouted.

I began to walk into my room.

"I better go get a room too." Ferret said and jogged off.

I closed the door. Like many doors on Calorin it did not have a lock but it did have a wooden bar that I could bar the door with, which I did.

I then turned to my bed. I was large and did indeed look very soft.

I set my chest on the nearest table, threw off my outer clothes and jumped into the bed. It was even softer than it looked and was only rivaled by the bed Helnion had in her room.

Despite sleeping almost the whole way to Stutra I soon found myself asleep.

***

I awoke the next morning to knocking on my door.

"Salis!" Ferret yelled through the door. "I have a carriage outside waiting for us! Come out! Wake up!"

I sat up in my bed and looked at the small window above my head. I found there was no light coming through and that it was probably before dawn.

"Excuse me miss…" I heard the innkeeper say, albeit greatly muffled. "Please do not bother the other patrons."

"Oh, Sorry." I thought I heard Ferret reply.

I lay back down in the bed and pulled the blanket over my head, trying to ignore the next few knocks on the door.

A few minutes later I got out of bed. I was wide awake now.

I changed into a new set of clothes and left my room.

I peeked up and down the hallway to see if Ferret was hanging about and when I saw she was not there I went into the check in area.

"Good morning Miss." The innkeeper said. "I sincerely apologize for the disturbance earlier."

"I pretty much expected it." I replied.

"I see. Thankfully she just left with all of her belongings and will most likely not be a bother again."

"Do you have any books?" I said, changing the subject.

I wasn't planning on leaving for another few hours and I couldn't think of anything better to do at the moment.

"Books? Why yes I do have several. Were there any subjects in particular you were interested in?"

I wondered if he had any fiction, but I had seen almost no fiction books in Flaern other than the recordings of folk stories and such. I really wanted to read some good real fiction. It had been years.

"Any with interesting stories?"

"Certainly. I have several my wife used to read to our children."

Oh great. Children's stories. At least they wouldn't take long to read.

The innkeeper entered a room that was behind the counter and came back a minute later holding several small, worn books.

"Since they are so worn and unsightly I will not charge you a copper to read like I normally do." He said and handed them to me. "No need to bring them back until you check out." He finally added. "My wife will be bringing you your morning meal in about an hour."

I nodded at him and took the books back to my room.

 

 

I managed to read two of the books by the time the innkeeper wife came with my morning meal. I dropped the book I was currently reading and ate. The meal was better than I had expected and it left me feeling satisfied.

I turned off the small crystal light stand and looked back out the window. Light was coming in now.

I decided it was now a good time to leave and left the inn.

Normally I would have been perfectly fine walking across the city to where the wagons left for Porra-kel but I had my chest to worry about so I looked for a carriage.

It turned out that the building the men had come out of last night was one of the storage buildings for carriages and I found one easily and in no time was checked out of the inn and on my way to the northern side of Stutra.

The ride was quick and uneventful and I was soon at the staging area for the trip up the mountain.

I looked around the staging area for Ferret. I had been fully expecting her to be there ready to ambush me but I saw no signs of her. I wouldn't be surprised if she had gone on ahead without me or, hopefully, had headed straight to her hometown of Darro.

I decided I would find out when I got there. It wasn't worth it to me to ask around.

I looked around and saw that there was hardly anyone here. There wasn't a wagon either. I would have to wait.

A half hour passed before I saw an outgoing wagon pull up to the horse changing area. I immediately went to it and sorted things out. I also found out the driver remembered me, which also meant he knew not to talk to me unless necessary.

Not much later I was on my way up the side of the mountain.

I gave the mountain one long look. It had been a long year and it felt strange thinking it had been not that long ago that I had nearly starved myself walking down it.

I also noted the winding course of the river. Thanks to following it I had taken days to descend instead of hours and cursed myself for sticking to it instead of going straight down.

My view was soon cut off by the forest that started at the base and I resigned myself to sitting in the back of the carriage and pretending to be like Helnion and watch for anything that moved or looked out of place then stare at it for longer than necessary.

 

***

It was late afternoon when the wagon pulled into Porra-kel.

"Think the boss will mind if I make a stop at your house?" The driver asked me.

I didn't need to answer as he had already turned down the road where my family lived.

"Salis!" Ferret and Momma Eliz yelled, running out of the house to meet the carriage.

Papa Garen and the children followed soon after.

"I am so glad to see you safe!" Mama Eliz said, pulling me off the wagon and hugging me tightly.

"Me too!" Ferret said and joined in the hug.

Papa Garen laughed. "Still as stoic as always, Salis. You two look like you are hugging a dead fish."

"I'm not a fish." I said.

The two put me down.

"Are you still speaking like that?" Mama Eliz said. "I was hoping they would teach you to stop you mashing your words together like that."

"Oh they tried." Ferret said. "It drove Instructor Nila crazy at first from what I heard."

"So even the teachers at school cannot force Salis to do something she does not want to." Papa Garen said.

Papa Garen's attention was caught by the carriage driver as he approached and the two began unloading my chest.

"Oh my." Mama Eliz said when she saw the chest. "What did you put in there to make it so heavy?"

"I earned a bit of money." I replied. "Thought I should show you my thanks for taking care of me."

Everyone followed the chest into the house.

"Exactly how much money is in here?" Papa Garen said as he let the chest onto the floor.

"I best get back to work." The wagon driver said.

I could see he was curious to see what was in the chest as well, but he shook his head and left the house.

I opened my small chest and pulled out the key.

Everyone gasped as they saw the money.

"Should be about five hundred gold pieces." I said and quickly pulled out the sack I had put the crystals in.

"Five hundred!" Papa Garen, Mama Eliz and Helnion all said at the same time.

"Where did you get this much money?" Mama Eliz asked.

"She tells the school stuff from Terra and they pay her." Ferret replied. "But I did not know it was this much."

Everyone, including the older children crowded around the chest and looked inside.

"Are you sure you are fine giving us all the money you earned?" Papa Garen asked me.

"I kept enough for my needs." I said.

"Thank you Salis." Mama Eliz said. "Now we can get proper clothes and food for your siblings."

"This should last us years." Papa Garen said, sifting his hand through the coins. "Even if I stopped working in the mines."

Papa Garen patted me on the head.

"Maybe you could move to Kein." Ferret said. "Then Salis can live with you."

Papa Garen and Momma Eliz looked at each other but then turned to Ferret and smiled.

"We have lived here our whole lives." Momma Eliz said. "Living somewhere else would be too strange."

Papa Garen nodded. "All of our family is here. We cannot just leave them like that."

Ferret returned their smile. "I comepletely understand. I cannot wait to finish school and go back to Darro and live near my family again."

"Oh, that sounds nice." Momma Eliz said. "Are you going to apprentice under someone there?"

Ferret nodded. "The captain of the Patrician guard for Darro has already agreed to apprentice me."

"Ferra, you must be very good if someone of that position is willing to take you in." Papa Garen said. I could see a new respect for Ferret in his eyes.

Mama Eliz turned to me. "Salis, have you decided what you are going to do for your apprenticeship?"

I shook my head.

"I personally think someone in Flae will take her in. Probably some boring old man that records every thing he can." Ferret said. "Although she has gotten good at fighting too so if she gets as good as me I bet some grouch from the King's Guard will take her."

"Do you really think so?" Mama Eliz said.

I noticed my oldest brother tug on the hem of Ferret's sleeve.

"You can use a sword?" He asked her.

"I sure can!" Ferret said proudly. "Do you want to see?"

My brother nodded excitedly.

Ferret went to a corner of the room where her bag was sitting and untied it. She then pulled out two practice swords and tossed one to me.

"Come on Salis, let us put a show on for them!" Ferret said and began heading toward the front door.

I looked at everyone in the room. Aside from the younger children everyone was looking at me expectantly.

I decided it was worth it and left the house behind Ferret, with the others close behind.

"Ready?" Ferret said when I had positioned myself in front of her and everyone else had found a spot to watch.

I nodded.

Ferret held her sword in front of her in a defensive stance, waiting.

I knew I had no chance at beating her, but this was Ferret so she would go easy on me for a while so those spectating would have a nice long match to watch instead of one that would most likely end in a matter of seconds.

I stepped forward and prodded at her with my sword. She knocked it out of the way easily enough and then countered lightly. I easily deflected her counter and then lunged at her, hoping to use my strength against her.

We did this for about a minute before Ferret went into flashy mode. She was still not trying to defeat me and instead began to show off her more advanced techniques, even if she exaggerated the movements.

"That should do." Ferret said, knocking my sword out of the way and put the tip of the sword in front of my chest.

Papa Garen and Momma Eliz clapped.

"That was amazing you two." Mama Eliz said.

"Yes it was." Papa Garen said. "And to think you have only been doing this for less than a year, Salis."

"Of course she is!" Ferret said. "She trains hard every day. Not to mention that extra Terran strength she has."

Ferret poked me in the arm with her sword.

Papa Garen looked at my arms closely. "And I thought she had just gotten fat."

He poked my arm.

"That certainly is muscle."

Mama Eliz slapped him on the back of the head.

"You should not speak about her like that!"

Papa Garen rubbed the back of his head and grinned.

"I wonder if all Terrans are short and wide like her." Ferret said, looking at me. I could tell she wanted me to answer.

"I'm not fat." I said.

"I wonder what a fat Terran looks like." Ferret said.

I turned towards the house and headed inside.

"Wait Salis! I am sorry!" Ferret yelled.

She didn't follow me and stayed outside.

I couldn't wait to get to bed.

I looked at the sun. There were still a few hours until the sun went down.

I should have waited longer before coming up the mountain.

***

"Is it really safe for her to sleep up there?" I heard Ferret saying as I woke up.

"She has not fallen out of it once." Mama Eliz said.

"I would be too scared to even try." Ferret said.

"Me too."

I sat up in my hammock. I had been happy to see that it had not been thrown out.

"Did we wake you?" Mama Eliz said.

Did I even have to answer that?

Ferret laughed. "She always did like to sleep in on days off."

"Really?" Mama Eliz said. "She was always up before the other children."

I pulled myself out of the hammock and hopped to the floor.

"Why a hammock Salis?" Ferret asked me.

"Easier to keep clean of fleas and lice." I said and began taking the hammock down.

"Oh! Smart!" Ferret said. "I guess no one lives here that knows how to use magic to remove them?"

"There is no reason for a skilled magic user to stay here, though some do come from time to time." Mama Eliz said.

"I bet Salis spent all her money on them when they came." Ferret said.

"Oh yes. She always did her best to keep herself free of lice but she always got them back eventually."

I scratched my head. The thoughts of becoming infested with lice again made my head itch. I would have to visit somone in Flae that could remove them just in case.

"How long are you two planning on staying?" Moma Eliz asked Ferret and I.

"I should leave in an hour or two." Ferret replied. "I need to catch a carriage for Darro in the morning. My family will get worried if I take too long to get home."

Both of them turned to me.

"Soon." I said.

"You are not going to stay the summer?" Momma Eliz asked.

I shook my head. "I have some things to take care of in Flae."

"What are you going to do in Flae, Salis?" Ferret asked before Momma Eliz could.

"I'll come back if I have time." I said.

I sat down at the dinner table. Food had already been spread out and I started eating.

"I wish you would not evade questions like that Salis." Momma Eliz said but shrugged and sat down on her work stool.

"I will try to fix her of the problem when we go back to school" Ferret said.

***

The rest of the morning was uneventful and I soon found myself on my way back to Stutra and the next morning I finally rid myself of Ferret and was on my way to Flae. Even with the more speedy levitating carriage it took me three days to arrive.

I looked out the carriage window at the fading light of day and watched as the city approached. All I could say is that Flae was huge and even with the fading light there was activity everywhere and unlike the two largest cities I had seen yet, Stutra and Kein, the busiest of the streets had been lit by torches whereas everywhere else went dark.

Upon entering Flae I saw that it was remarkably clean. It still stank but I had been expecting a place this populous to be filled with trash and other discarded materials. I also saw that the buildings were generally well kept and almost never rundown.

I watched outside for the next few minutes until the carriage came upon the wall marking the inner city.

It was not the largest of walls and, strangely for the academic mentality of Flaern, looked more ornamental with intricate carvings and the occasional statue.

Upon passing through one of the equally ornamental gates I saw that the homes and other buildings took on a more important and rich vibe, while the streets were even more well lit here than they had been outside.

"Welcome to Flaern." The carriage driver said, opening the door to let me and the other passengers out.

I was the first to exit and since I now only had the small chest with me had no need to stay and could find myself an inn at my leisure.

The carriage had pulled inside a large building and I could see several other carriages parked here as well. Two of them were even being recharged and for the first time got to see the guts where the dozens of storage and levitation crystals were stored. Near them was a guard and several dozen peasants hoping to earn a copper recharging a crystal.

I seriously doubted there were many peasants that had enough magic supplies to fill one but it didn't stop them from trying. The carriage companies didn't turn anyone away even if they could not and would charge those that couldn't a copper every other day and one would also earn a copper for every four partially filled crystals.

I looked at my hand and wondered if a few coppers would be worth spending my time on.

Maybe later.

I walked out of the building and found myself an inn.

***

The next morning I was fairly excited. It was finally time to visit the royal forges and get things sorted out for my sword. I would have been completely excited but I would be spending so much money it was hard to be.

I left the inn and walked out onto the street. It was much more lively now that it was daylight and many people, poor and rich, filled the streets and as usual everyone stared at me.

It didn't take me long before I flagged down a small carriage and got on my way to the castle.

Somehow I got stared at even more in the carriage than I had when I was in the middle of the crowd. It was strangely fun watching people as they pointed at me and I even threw a few copper coins at those that got a little too excited. Nothing like a well aimed piece of metal to the forehead to quiet them down, or get them to chase the carriage angrily. It was fun either way though the carriage driver began giving me worried looks after a few times.

I was finally pulled away from my the crowds when the castle came into sight.

I had never seen anything like it and that was what I could see over the walls. Even the walls were a sight to see. Like the walls I had passed through last night it was covered in carvings and statues but this wall was made out of what looked to be marble at the gates and a lesser but nearly as striking blue stone everywhere else.

The carriage pulled to a stop outside of a gate where I disembarked.

"Hold!" A guard dressed in ornate crystal forged armor said as I approached.

The guard looked as if he were going to say something else but instead looked me over throroughly.

I pulled out a wooden block I had tied around my neck and handed it to the guard.

The guard took it and inspected it closely.

"Business with the royal treasury?" He said after a moment. "Do you know where to go or can I get you a guide?"

"I should be fine." I said.

"Very well." The guard said and opened the gate.

***

I entered the gate.

Inside I saw what I had only read about and I could indeed tell that the construction of the castle and its ground were designed by accolites of Usui and Vellis.

Almost all of the roads and walkways were lined with trees and flowers and I saw several servants tending to them. The roads themselves were made with polished stones and that easily reflected the sky and these too were being maintained by servants.

I walked down the main road, almost scared to ruin the polish these servants worked so hard to maintain, but the sight of others walking down it unconcernedly I felt stupid and pushed the thought out of my head.

Until now the trees had mostly blocked my view of any buildings but now found my view blocked by another wall.This wall was entirely made of marble but looked more defensible and lacked the statues and carvings. It was also surrounded by the most unique moat.

This moat, instead of being a hole in the ground like those I would expect around the castles I had seen in movies and books, was slightly raised above the ground, the water a near perfect mirror. I looked at the moat curiously and saw the along its entirety water leaked over the edge and fell into channels that took it down behind the flower beds and out of sight.

I looked inside the moat and saw that it was deep enough where even the tallest Calorin could not touch the bottom. I also saw what looked like holes for pipes. There were also many ornate fish swimming inside.

I moved back to the road and crossed the bridge that arched over the moat where I was met by a set of guards at attention on the other side. Neither of them even so much as looked at me as I passed through.

I took one last look at the area I had just gone through. Helnion would go crazy there.

***

I turned back towards the inner castle yards. In front of me I saw that this area had forgone the extreme amount of vegitation and had a more romanesque vibe to it. Instead of the shiny cobblestones the paths were made of fine marble blocks. Interspersed at various intervals on the path or in the middle of rock gardens to the sides were marble statues that were in the likenesses of people and the occasional animal.

The buildings in the area were also mostly made from marble and took many of their features from roman architecture yet still held a Flaern vibe to them with their more rounded foundations and walls.

The castle itself was probably the biggest structure I had ever seen on Calorin. It was only two stories tall but took up most of the field of view in front of me. It too was surrounded by a decorative moat.

I turned from the castle and looked around to see if I could tell which building the royal forge was in and easily found it. The building I had spotted was attached to the wall I had just passed through and had several chimneys that had smoke coming out of them.

The building itself was more rough looking than the others and more worn but was still decorated with many statues, most of which were men holding various forge tools.

The building looked to be a few minutes walk from where I had entered but I didn't feel like tiring myself so I walked at a leisurely pace.

Upon entering the building I saw that hardly a soul was in sight so I headed through the nearest opening.

"May I help you?" A deep male voice said.

I turned to see who had spoken and saw an older man that looked like he had been body building his whole life. He was holding an unfinished sword pommel.

I pulled off the second wooden block that I had tied around my neck and handed it to the man.

The man took it.

The block contained all the specifics of my order including the smith that was making my sword.

The man looked me over.

"I see. I thought you were the Terran that had hired out Dormas. Follow me."

The man put down the item he had been working on and motioned for me to follow him.

I followed him through several rooms before finally coming to a stop.

"Dormas. One of your clients has arrived."

"Is it her?" Another man replied somewhat excitedly.

Door Mouse poked his head out from a room farther on. He was younger than the man I had followed and was a bit shorter but was just as well built.

"I will leave her to you." My escort said and left the room.

Door Mouse walked over to me. He looked me over carefully as he did so.

"Good timing. Just in time to customize before forging the crystals into the blade."

He walked around me more and I could hear him commenting things quietly to himself.

"Yes. Saphire should do nicely for the pommel gem. Matches the eyes. Ivory for the handle. Matches the hair. Purple lightning crystals instead of yellow. Also matching the hair."

Door Mouse stopped.

"Are you sure you want fire crystals on the blade?" He asked me. "Ice would suit you much better."

He nodded to himself.

"I'll stick with fire." I replied.

Fire was much more dangerous than ice was as far as I was concerned. There was also something else that drew me to fire that I couldn't quite make out.

The man looked at me with disappointment but didn't try to change my mind again and instead began circling me.

"If ice crystals are no good than maybe an engraving of the snow woman? Hmm, hmm. Or a snow covered mountain. Girl seems stubborn and unmovable like a mountain and cold." He shook his head. "No, a mountain does not feel right. Yes, yes, add non functioning crystals everywhere there is no lightning or fire crystals. Make it look like a blizzard in the light."

Door Mouse stopped and thought.

"Need at least one engraving on each side of the blade and hilt." He turned to me. "We normally engrave the familly crest on the blade, hilt and scabbard but since you are a Terran that is not possible."

I thought. I didn't particularly care if my sword was decorated at all.

"You can leave it blank." I finally replied.

Door Mouse looked at me with disappointment again.

"Do you not have family crests on Terra" He asked me.

I shook my head.

"Terrans are different as I thought, though without a crest you will be no better than a peasant. You should at least have something."

What was a good thing to use as a crest? Most of the ones I had seen were not particularly complex and ranged from ones much like the European crests to straight up animals.

"How about an animal?" I said.

"Good idea." Door Mouse said.

He began walking around me again.

"What kind of animal… what kind…"

I thought as well. No way it would be a dog or any reptile or rodent. Cats and I never got along so they didn't work either.

"Something white. A white animal?" Door Mouse said to himself.

I had long gotten sick of the white theme people kept putting on me no matter how much I understood the reasoning.

"A flower!" He said all of a sudden. "Yes, a flower."

I didn't object. I would much rather have a flower over some dainty bird or cute critter men seemed to associate girls with. They did it with flowers as well but I was willing to let it pass if I didn't have to think about stupid engravings anymore.

Door Mouse hurried over to a table and began writing on a piece of paper.

"Good. Now I need you to do some sparring." He said and exited the room.

I followed closely behind him and soon exited the building and found myself in a sparring field where several boys, men and a woman were practicing.

"Maffat!" Door Mouse yelled.

A man in his mid twenties replied and jogged over to meet us.

More Fat glanced at me quickly but spoke to Door Mouse. "Yes Master Dormas?"

"The usual." Door Mouse said holding his hands out showing the length of my sword and then headed for a bench next to the wall of the foundry.

More Fat looked at me. "A Terran, huh? I take it there is more to you than you look?"

I didn't reply.

"Quiet one I see." He turned and pointed to a small open shed that I could see housed several racks of swords. "You will be trying out several swords, each with different balance. Maffat will be watching us spar and see which one you do the best with."

I nodded and he led me to the shed where he handed me a sword. I noticed it was longer than the one I had requested.

I ended up sparring with six different swords and indeed could feel a difference.

"You surprise me." More Fat said when we finished. "So much strength in such a small body. Make sure to spar with me again when you are fully grown."

He bowed his head to me and left.

"Good." Door Mouse said when I approached him at his bench. "You still have much to learn with the sword but it is no matter."

"Is that all?" I asked.

"Yes. Come back in a month or so and I will have your sword ready."

I nodded.

"Since you already paid in full you can just drop in and pick it up." He added.

"I already paid?" I said, confused.

"The royal treasury took care of it for you." He said.

That made things easier. Now all I had to do was withdraw what I had left and do the rest of my shopping. After that I guess I would see what sorts of amusement a large city had to offer.

I turned and looked at those practicing nearby. I wondered if they would let me practice over the summer. Two of them were even training with poleaxes. I hadn't gotten as much training as I had wanted with them in Kein so maybe now would be a good chance.

I walked over to More Fat and he stopped training when he saw my approach.

"Does Master Dormas need me for something else?"

I shook my head.

"I was wondering if I could train with you while I wait for my sword." I asked him.

More Fat considered my request.

"If you can convince the captain of the guard I do not see why not. He is a bit stuffy though and I doubt you have a chance."

"Where can I find him?"

More Fat pointed towards the gate that led inside the castle.

"Ask the guards there and if you are lucky they will take you to him."

More Fat smiled at me in a way that said he thought I had no chance.

"Oh," I said remembering something, "where's the royal treasury?"

I needed to get my shopping money out.

More Fat lost his smile.

"Ask the guards at the castle gate and they will show you the way. That is if you have a pass."

I turned from more fat and headed to the castle where I easily got past the guards and was escorted by a servant to not only the royal vault, which was underground, but also to the captain of the guard.

To my surprise the captain readily agreed to my practicing with the others by the forge. Apparently he thought it would be amusing to see them sparring with someone a quarter their size.

I immediately headed back to More Fat and told him the good news. I couldn't tell if he was happy for me or if he cared at all.

Now that I had that out of the way I had my summer mostly set and I just need to make sure I didn't spend all of the money I had left.


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