The rest of them ate in silence from then on. They could already picture the thoughts of what happened after the battle. Nearing the end of their meals, Asura was the one to break the harsh tranquil atmosphere. “So I’m guessing you both fell unconscious to your injuries after, then Aisha must have found you two.”
“I guess so.”
“You know I’m surprised, Scarlett.” said Asura. She looked up and their eyes met. “Out of all of us here right now, you probably have the most stamina. It’s unlikely for you to ever go unconscious.”
“I did fight him for three hours.” Jin looked up at her. A bit of hatred melted away. “I missed out on most of the specific details, but that fight was just a huge hit and run. It was mostly chasing, hiding and counter attacking. That’s how much pressure he put on me.” she said sternly. Scarlett gulped down her anxiety.
“Well why didn’t you put that in when you told us about the fight?” questioned Kaleigh.
“I thought, it would be pretty boring,” Scarlett embarrassingly said. Asura grinned at her and finished his plate. “Hey guys, give me your plates. I’ll take them back.”
“Thanks man,” said Julius.
“No worries.” replied Asura, as he walked away with their dishes and utensils.
“So what now?” questioned Kaleigh. “Let’s just ask Aisha!” exclaimed Joyce. Before Kaleigh could question her, she had already called for her name across the room. A woman in the distance turned her head over, and after talking with several tables, Aisha finally came towards them. “Hey guys! You all done your meals?”
“Yeah we are. So, what exactly do we do now?” said Jin. It was the first time he spoke since he swore about Vega. Aisha stared blankly forward for a moment, before coming to her senses. “Ah yes! We have rooms for you guys!”
Julius popped up behind her. “We have rooms?” Aisha startled, trudged backwards. “Yes! There’s plenty of rooms here for all the fighters. Most of them are vacant right now so you can just help yourself to an empty one if you find it.”
Julius punched the air in excitement, and cheered aloud. “Come on guys lighten up! We can finally get some proper rest!” The thought entered their heads and they remained planted until it finally became clear. Joyce’s eyes lit up. “So girl,” she said in a smooth seductive tone. “May you show us to our chambers?” Scarlett nudged her elbow into her side. “Ow! Hey sis that hurt!”
“Cut it out Marie.” Scarlett said in a friendly manner. Joyce was overcome with happiness.
“Just go back to the entrance and take a right turn, then another left. You’ll be surprised when you get there. Just pick a door that has a vacant sign on it. Sorry I won’t be able to join you guys. I have some guard duties after I’m done serving here.”
“No worries. Sorry for the trouble from earlier,” replied Jin, referring mainly to himself.
“Don’t mention it! Alright then. I’ll be off. See you guys tomorrow!” Aisha waved towards them, as she walked away. The wizards got up, and walked in the opposite direction, waving back. Her curvy hips swayed as she walked. Julius’s eyes were glued onto her, as he walked backwards alongside the rest of the group. “Man. She’s damn cute.”
The wizards followed Aisha’s directions, and led themselves into another square room with two floors of doors surrounding them, and a large space in the middle that was littered with weapons, armor and crates. They scanned their surroundings. Not a single sign was placed on any of the first floor doors. The wizards continued their search and headed up a staircase to the second floor. “Wow! These wooden bars are so pretty!” exclaimed Joyce. He handled them and leaned over to gaze at the floor below them. “Watch out Marie. You might fall!” Scarlett pushed Joyce into the railing, and the petite girl scrambled in place running as far back from the railings as possible. “What was that for?” Joyce whined. “Just teasing you.” Scarlett chuckled.
Joyce pouted, and stormed forwards to the front of the group’s path.
Jin sighed. “Looks like this side is all full too.” He turned his head towards the other side of the second floor. Several signs hung on the doorknobs. “Come on guys. Looks like there’s some rooms up ahead.” Jin picked up his pace, and made his way to the first room. He took off the sign, and headed straight in. Asura and Julius made their way in, followed by Kaleigh. Joyce and Scarlett continued to tease each other, until they reached the end of the hallway at the final two vacant rooms, and headed inside.
Within the rooms, each of them eyed an identical architecture. Another room to their right as soon as they entered, serving as a bathroom. Within the main room itself, was a well-made bed on the side of the wall. Conditioned with a light cloth mattress on a wooden frame. Right beside the bed was a singular table and chair. As the sun finally set on the day, each of the wizards settled themselves in, removing any attachment to combat they had on them. With their weapons and armor said on the side, and their bodies laid in bed, one by one they drifted off to sleep.
Several hours later.
Vega was thrusted awake. He sat upright in a dark room. His legs felt the soft cloth below and on top of him, through newly woven leather sweaters and pants. I’m fully clothed, in a room, and my wounds, Vega checked all around his body. “They’re patched up…” he whispered to himself. Vega got out of the bed and stepped onto the wooden floor. He produced a small magic circle on his index finger. “Flare.” A small fire lit from the circle and illuminated his room. “A room fit with a bed, table and a chair. I’ll need to thank whoever put me in this heaven.” Vega spoke with a normal volume. He felt the air around the room, and the wooden walls that surrounded him. Cold to the touch. “It’s the middle of the night?” he said aloud, before covering his mouth. I guess I’ll have to whisper or just think to myself. He pondered about, scanning the room once more. He found his trench coat neatly folded on the table, and put it on and straightened himself. Vega stared at the gloves that laid beside where the coat was. Without thought, he entered a stance and began to channel his magic energy and recharge it. With all his might he gathered as much magic energy as he could. The process felt draining, and his throat and mouth began to thirst for any liquid it could find. He stopped, and took a moment to catch his breath.
Shit. I definitely over did it against Drilla. Drilla. That was his name, he told me before he died, and before I… blacked out. He jerked his head forward. Scarlett. He rushed forward towards the door, and thrust it open. Vega ran forward and his body toppled over a railing. He reached his hand up, gripping the railing just in time. The tiny bit of light from his small circle showed Vega the massiveness of the room, and the various doors surrounding him. He looked around in awe before he noticed his grip loosen, and he began to fall down to the first floor of the living quarters.
“Agh. That hurt but it wasn’t as high as I thought.” Vega looked back up. “Asura could definitely reach the tip of the floor with his hand. Maybe even pull himself up if he tried.” he whispered. Vega brushed off the sand on his clothes. He put out the smaller circle, and made a larger circle and flame at the palm of his hand. He guided himself, looking at each of the doors, patiently finding an exit. Finally, his eyes found a staircase leading down. He made his journey down the stairs and through the halls. His mind drifted back into thought. The survivors from the raid are probably in this building. I just hope the rest of us made it out alive. Vega reached the bottom of the stairs, and walked into another large open area. It was just as empty and dark as the lobby he was just in.
The faintest bit of light showed him multiple wooden tables and chairs, littered with dirty plates. As he walked forwards, he noticed the long bars and empty trays that left behind a pungent scent of delicious delicacies. Suddenly, a lone flame wandered in. It carried a calm and welcoming hum with it. Vega lit up two circles on his gloves. He could hardly feel any magic energy within him.
“Calm yourself, child.” the torchbearer said. He snapped his fingers, and suddenly torches all around them lit up. A chandelier atop of the room illuminated brightly. The room was filled with light, and the two could see each other clearly now. “You’re one of the children I brought in earlier. I’m glad you have such caring friends.” said the man.
“Who are you?” questioned Vega. He aimed his hand towards him as the man walked closer. “Pardon my rudeness. My name is Akshan. I believe you’re unaware of the situation here?”
“The Oasis was raided by pirates and-” Vega cut himself off.
Akshan smiled in pride. “So you were the most interesting out of all of them.”
“Interesting?” Vega was surprised. Not once in his life did the word ‘interesting’ ever describe him.
“Exactly. There’s something in you, that I sensed even as you were unconscious. Some sort of booming energy. A feeling of greatness.”
“I’m sure your age is getting to you old man.”
Akshan laughed and walked towards one of the tables. He gathered the plates and carried them towards the bar in the back. Vega walked towards him, intrigued by the visitor’s language.
“These buildings are part of the Underground Oasis. A large system of caverns like this one, that are used in events like the raid just days ago.”
“Days ago? How long was I out for? You mentioned my friends. Are they safe? How many were there?” Vega asked. With each question he leaned in forward and raised his voice.
“Slow down. Calm that fiery heart of yours.” Akshan placed two fingers on Vega’s intruding forehead and pushed him back. “Nearly two days have passed since the raid. This would be the second night. All seven of your friends are safe and sound. Wounds have been treated. So worry not, child.”
Vega felt the anxiety and worries rush away from him. He finally put down his magic circles, and collapsed into a seat on the bar. With his head buried into the table, he stared at Akshan as he cleaned the plates one by one, brushing them with rough cleaning brushes that were gripped by his palm. He circled the plates slowly, dipping them in and out of a tub of water. With a rhythm and pattern he cleaned, dried and placed the plates in a cupboard in such an orderly fashion. It was almost amazing to Vega. Like an orchestrated dance. A silent melody that played in the air. The silence was music to his ears.
“I’m sure you have more questions than just about your friends. A man like you has a certain desire for more.” Vega chuckled and straightened his posture. ‘You’re spot on. Can you give me answers?” Akshan finished with the last plate. He stood in front of it with his hands spread apart. His fingers delicately placed on the edge of the table. “I talk with people everyday. Hear their encounters, their journeys and adventurers. I nurture the fighters for the Oasis. With each injury comes a drop of knowledge.” said Akshan. His tone had changed.
“What’s your name, child?” asked Akshan.
He noticed Akshan shuddered for the faintest moment. “Well Vega, what would you like to know?” Akshan said smoothly. The tone of his voice was like a siren. Drawing him in, capitalizing on his desire for knowledge.
“What’s going on with the Jaw Pirates? I’ve heard that they mainly stick to their territories.” said Vega. His fingers played a song on the table. He tapped away as Akshan responded to him with the rhythm of his song. “You’re right there child. The Jaw Pirates stick to themselves mostly, staying within their waters and their sovereignty on Redwake. Although in recent times, conflicts have been spreading towards Frostmill, our neighbors on Sandfall, and Elm Island.”
“Why is that? They have no reason to expand.”
“You see, times change child. The Kingdoms are exerting pressure on the Bronze Sea even more now. First they use these peaceful waters for mining operations, but the freedom of trade and undisrupted movement of merchants are now being targeted. The pirates are low on resources. They’re running out of options.”
“So they resort to, plunder…”
“Precisely. The Jaw Pirates are not like most feral pirate groups. They’ve maintained order and also protection from the Kingdoms. But unrest in the Kingdoms, means unrest for them as well.”
Vega thought deep about Akshan’s words. The invasion of pirates. The people he saw die, the screams and blood on the streets. A bustling city of trade with flourishing goods. He saw it being torn down before his own eyes as he fought.
“Would you like a drink?” offered Akshan. He walked over to a shelf holding multiple crystal glasses. Akshan produced a large bottle from below the bar, and poured out a bright purple liquid into the glass.
“Thank you. For everything.”
Akshan smiled and poured a drink for himself. “You need not to thank me.” The two drank together and rested their glass on the table. “The Kingdoms have always been in conflict. Constantly warring with each other, forming alliances. Keeping their treasures safe and sound, and using their most prized and destructive warriors as a form of their might. Ordeals with trade, political issues, and also domestic issues within their own Kingdoms. You hear about it from most merchants.” Akshan continued.
“So the conflict must have escalated then. If the Kingdoms are running out of resources, then trade is disrupted and they’ll begin to hoard from merchants. If the pirates use the merchants, then resources will be an issue for them too… It’s an endless cycle of greed that only leads to death and plunder.” Vega ranted. The thoughts of the raid on his village came to mind. The words of the now deceased General, and the crest of the familiar Terragon Empire.
“You’re a wise one. So easily able to figure complex standings and ideas about the world. A good choice to adventure, but a bad time indeed.”
Akshan took the two glasses they drank from and began to wash them in the tub of water. The atmosphere grew darker. Vega began to sweat. A pulse of magic energy put his hairs up, and goosebumps formed on his skin.
“Akshan… what’s-” Vega looked at Akshan. He was calm and soft, washing the glasses delicately. Yet Vega could feel as if they could shatter at any moment.
“However, this whole ordeal with the kingdoms,” Akshan gulped down a ball of saliva. “It’s no coincidence, of course. Conflict, that is. But you can feel it can’t you? No matter where you are, how far away you are from these constant warring kingdoms. Curse users, magic warlords. You just don’t feel safe.” Akshan paused, and picked up a wet glass.
He wiped it clean and set it neatly on the shelf behind him, before turning back to talk. “We’re all like these glasses. All is simple and tranquill. We fulfill our purpose during the day, we work, adventure, go about our daily lives. But let’s say someone nudges this shelf a little too much. All of a sudden, a couple glasses might fall off and shatter.
That’s our world. People around us die everyday. Get caught up in the conflict.” Akshan wiped the second glass, and set it on the shelf. BANG! Akshan slammed his hands on the bar table. The rocking of wood was the only sound present, as the air shifted and a glass fell clean off the shelf and shattered.
Vega stumbled back. He picked himself back up as Akshan said his next words. “There’s a growing force. An anomaly. Soon enough, there’ll be a force great enough to bring all the glasses down at once. Not a single kingdom will be able to contest it. Far beyond our waters, there’s a darkness stirring. That’s truly why kingdoms are angsty.” Akshan whispered.
“Angst spreads, like a disease. These pirates, are just the bottom chain of it all. I should warn you. Adventure if you please. But the War Seas will not be kind to you.” he finished. His last words were endearing. Almost like a challenge. The thought stuck to Vega like Kaleigh’s mud magic. Until it finally left his mouth. “I accept,” he stated confidently. Vega realized his sudden outburst, and covered his mouth in embarrassment. Akshan sighed, wiping the table clean with his cloth.
“You have a lot of desire in you child. I suppose there might be no stopping you now. That fire magic of yours, put it to good use.” Akshan walked out of the bar and stood face to face with Vega. Suddenly, he got down and kneeled before him. Akshan muttered a phrase in a language Vega couldn’t understand. Must be a native language. Vega bowed before him, muttering “Thank you.” Akshan nodded back. “I enjoyed our talk child. Do visit sometime. Tomorrow I’ll have your equipment and supplies ready for your leave tomorrow. Adventure doesn’t wait right?”
“It sure doesn’t.” laughed Vega. The two took their leave. Vega headed upstairs back to sleep, and awaited the new day.