|In the Land of Min, Book 1: First Meetings
Author: Tuna Roll PM
Sunny Xuan, quiet Aine, snarky Aneska—three young women swept up in a whirlwind of adventure. Journey with them through their many adventures, from dodging jaws with three rows of sharp teeth to bulbous slimes prowling dark streets at night. And what about a rascally mentor who hits on (almost) everything he sees? Totally possible, because anything is in the land of Min! COMPLETEDRated: Fiction T - English - Adventure/Friendship - Chapters: 44 - Words: 104,302 - Reviews: 4 - Favs: 5 - Follows: 2 - Updated: 12-29-12 - Published: 06-06-10 - Status: Complete - id: 2814835
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Visiting the Archon
Archon Barend sat at his desk, frowning at the three people standing before him. His brow was wrinkled from much furrowing, the lines in his face etched in just as deeply. He bent his brown-and- grey-haired head to pinch at his nose bridge, eyes briefly closing.
Rem glanced around the room as if he wasn't listening. Now if he were an archon, he would have been much more surprised than Barend was upon hearing how weak the barriers of the city he oversaw had become. Ah, but showing such surprise to a mere group of Seekers wasn't going to do for a government official, eh?
The archon looked up, gesturing with his hand. "And what is it you want me to do about this?" he asked in a clipped tone, bordering on impatience. He still had to crane his neck to frown up at the giant man.
Enezi clasped his hands, looking neutrally back at the archon. That he could hear the whispers of the archon's thoughts was enough for him, even with the enchantments in the building dampening his ability. "What are you doing about it?"
Setiri studied the archon, brows slightly lowered. "This weakening has been occurring for almost a month. At this rate—"
"I know," Barend sighed tiredly.
Rem glanced at Setiri, the two exchanging a knowing look. Enezi couldn't glance at them or it would be obvious by their craning necks; hearing the other two's thoughts was sufficient.
Setiri looked back at the archon, frowning as he spoke softly but sternly. "As a representative from the forest of Arnumen, I would normally disregard the city's goings-on. But a weakening barrier is a universal threat that must be dealt with as soon as possible."
Barend smiled grimly at the trio. "So pinning a piece of paper in the Agora request board would do the trick? Shell out a couple hundred thousand gold pieces from our bare treasury to the lucky Seekers that manage to take care of a problem no one seems to care about." He shook his head, looking away as he frowned again. That he could speak to them this way only came from the fact that his interactions with them in his past term were positive…helping the city rather than destroying it did sometimes help one gain favor with the authorities. "You're correct with the location of the barrier weakening. It doesn't help that the area is on the border to the wilderness, as well as in the West End."
Rem finally piped up, taking his turn to frown at the archon as he crossed his arms. "So what you're sayin' is dat the ones addin' to the treasury ain't gonna worry about the poor folk 'til the beasties come knockin' on their own doors. Is that it?"
Barend nodded, sighing again. "I wish I could say it better, but yes."
Rem rolled his eyes, scoffing. "Pathetic."
At that the archon stood, glaring at the Halfling. "You dare call me that, member of the Shadow Guild?" The human man thundered at Rem in a voice he probably used in court. "I don't know where there's sand for you to stick your head in, but the Guild is also directly responsible for the filth that appears in the West End's streets." He leaned forward, fist on the desk as he scowled. "Filth I get to see every day in my courtrooms, buying their way out of justice."
Rem stepped forward, little brows lowered as he frowned back at the archon. "You 'aven't seen me there, 'ave you? So then shut the phrike up!"
Barend scoffed. "If you want a seat so badly, I could get it for you. But the Guild is still holding onto you, aren't they."
"They're not!" Rem snapped, fist clenching. What shit was this guy talking about? "I'm already eager fo' my invitation to the river's depths. I 'ate the phriking Guild!"
The archon nodded. "As our intelligence indicates. Well, good to know from the real source."
Enezi watched the two. The archon was no fool. Rem's independent, reckless streak was well known within the Guild itself, as well as among close friends. His departure with the Guild was a long time coming, but the question was when. Soon, it appeared now. How would the archon exploit this confirmed information? Knowledge was power. Barend was only prodding Rem, the most vulnerable to goading. Enezi would've sighed if he could.
Setiri ventured forth a question, his smooth voice a calm break from all the shouting. "Has your intelligence located the perpetrator behind the rise of the undead as well?"
Rem glanced over at Set. So cool and composed…guess he should calm down. He looked over at the archon, sneering, "Your intelligence should indicate the zombies are poppin' up in the West End, too."
Barend sat down, shaking his head. "No, they haven't." He frowned up at the three of them. "We're not sure if the two matters are related or not." His frown darkened. "And we're not sure of how much we can rely on you three this time, considering you've all taken up students now."
Rem gaped at the archon. "Are you stalkin' us or somethin'? Creeeep."
Barend smirked at Rem. "Only keeping an eye on future assets."
The Halfling snorted. "I'll tell my student to steer clear of you."
"Not if the junior chronicler drags her here first."
Enezi raised an eyebrow at the archon, picking up slight interest from his teammates as well. Xuan, of the three of them, would probably do just that, if only to have a look at the architecture or to demand an audience with the ruler of the city (for what purpose, Enezi did not want to imagine). That Barend's intelligence noticed group dynamic…perhaps he was just bluffing. The half-giant smiled faintly down at the archon. "Your intelligence then should know that my student does not have enough strength for a feat like that."
Barend chuckled. "In time. Actually, perhaps after a couple months. The akesomnos exam is in two months, is it not?"
Setiri answered back a little tightly. "It is."
Barend smiled widely at the group. "Then I'll see them afterward."
Rem rolled his eyes. "I'm not sure your confidence in us is reassurin' o' not."
The archon reorganized the papers his fist had made fly. "You three aren't quite known for failure."
The subtle challenges and goads…politics were just so interesting. Enezi glanced at the two men. Mention of the exam had them on their toes now, impatient. The half-giant nodded at the archon. "We appreciate your time."
"As I yours," he replied absently, already busy with city work.
The three men turned and walked out of the office, entering the administrative wing's hallway, smooth stone now under their feet. Suddenly all three of their heads—that messy mop, the one with the clacking beads, and that golden-haired one—turned to the left, eyes falling on the two people in their presence.
"Upton," Rem uttered through clenched teeth.
A tall, lanky young human man stood by the wall wearing a light brown tunic bearing Arcolia's emblem, a red circle on the front with a brass dragon in the center. Three blue wavy lines spread from the center—the three rivers connecting at Arcolia. The man's blonde hair was tied back at his neck, and he gesticulated with thin fingers. "And after you take Nike out for a ride I can't believe what she leaves behind in the stable for me to muck out! And it's only me there, and…" He threw up his hands in the air, smiling. "…what the hades!" Then he proceeded to gasp in short bursts, sounding like a contorted snigger-laugh…which it probably was.
A gloved hand imperiously waved at the squire to shush him. The human man the hand belonged to leaned against the stone wall, also wearing a tunic with the city's emblem similar to the squire's but sewn with much more detail. The dragon glittered in the globelight as the knight stood. His cheeks possessed a permanent blush that made him appear youthful, although he was around Rem's age of twenty eight. What stood out about the warrior, though, was his hair cut short near to his scalp, dramatically different with the style typical of human knights. His dark blonde hair spiked near his forehead, and beryl blue eyes met the eyes of the three men. The squire also looked at them from across the knight's head, eyes barely visible. (That the knight's short height was the most noticeable thing about him was often left unsaid.)
Sir Upton smirked, eyebrows raising. "Greetings."
The squire waved from behind the knight, watching them from above Upton's head. "Hi."
Rem frowned at them. "Don't you two have any errands to run?"
Upton looked back at his squire, turning almost completely around. "Jack, do I have any?"
Jack shook his head, grinning. "Nope! None!"
The knight smirked back at the men, hooking his fingers into his belt. "I have none. And what about you three? Off to do the archon's bidding yourselves? I haven't seen you guys around much here anymore…" His blue eyes narrowed at them. "Busy, I hear."
Setiri raised a golden eyebrow at him, speaking a little sharply. "What of it? While the city looks to the ground the walls crumble before their ears." His brows lowered. "What will you do about it, Upton, if the city does nothing?"
Rem added, "Better not be just the city's dog."
Upton looked over at the Halfling, still smirking. "Go back to the university, Halfling. The guards are the dogs. Us knights are more like the…" He paused, frowning in thought. Then he turned to Jack, murmuring, "Hey, help me with this. If guards are the city's dogs, what are knights?"
Enezi rolled his eyes. The knight was known for his cockiness, but to even be oblivious to his own shortcomings in this way…it was embarrassing to watch, let alone hear his thoughts.
Jack frowned as well, then shrugged, saying simply, "I dunno. Something cooler than dogs."
"Cats," Upton supplied himself, looking back at the men, smug like one. "Quick and precise with the job."
Rem waved a hand, frowning. "Whatever. You're pretty much useless when you're lyin' around takin' catnaps."
"And with sharp hearing, might I add." Upton smirked. "It's not hard to figure out why you three are so busy all of a sudden, and with no quests being fulfilled at the moment."
Enezi sighed mightily, looking dully down at the knight. A few strands of beaded hair clacked in his face as he spoke in his deep voice. "Our quests consist of taking care of problems." He frowned. "Problems pop up all the time."
Rem stepped forward, fist clenching as he snarled, "Yeah, like that goddamn manticore of yours. It could've killed my student!"
Upton raised an eyebrow at that, smirk lessening. "Some student."
The Halfling scowled, saying tightly, "She hasn't even had the akesomnos yet, Upton. What does your phriking code of chivalry say about that?"
The knight's blue eyes widened slightly. " 'She'?" he repeated with a frown. "Well, that explains it."
Setiri asked in a low, heated murmur, "What do you mean by that, Upton?" His lowered brows warned the knight.
Upton's own brows shot up in surprise. "Yours, too?" He grinned. "We have ourselves a nice little Amazonian troupe here, have we?" Chuckling over his joke, he flapped a hand at the men. "The manticore was nothing." He smirked. "I mean, I caught it, didn't I?"
Jack murmured behind him, "But didn't it knock you out afterward? I mean, all the spells Brighid used—"
Upton opened his mouth to argue when someone else cut in.
A brown-haired slender woman around Upton's age strode up to the group, her ponytail waving behind her from her energetic steps. Rem's eyes widened. That cleric robe fit her well, a little tight around the hips and chest but he wasn't complaining. Made the three blue rivers extra wavy, he thought. Her delicate womanly face didn't hurt, either…
Brighid glanced over at the men with a raised eyebrow. Upton gestured to them, saying quickly, "Brighid, these are three fellow Seekers, Enezi, Rem, and Setiri." He turned to the men with a slight smirk. "This is my cleric, Br—"
"I'm Brighid," the woman cut in, smiling brightly as she walked up to the men and offered a hand to each. She shook their hands with a strong grip, even Enezi's, then stood back with a smile.
Rem looked a little confused. How did Upton land such a lass like this? The universe wasn't fair at all, was it.
Enezi looked pointedly at Rem before addressing the woman. "I am Enezi." He gestured to her. "Without the introductions I could tell you were a healer. Where were you educated?"
Brighid grinned up at him. "Oh, I'm not from around here, so not the Apollo school." Her voice rang loudly in the hallway, and her nose slightly wrinkled. "I didn't want to be stuck in an asclepion all day, so I found myself someone who could teach me."
Enezi nodded. "I know exactly what you mean." She seemed very energetic, not one to be cooped up in such a place. He was hoping Xuan could be similarly diverted, although if it weren't for the school she wouldn't have come to Arcolia…
"Okay, enough of the cleric stuff we lay people don't know nothin' about," Rem cut in, hand flapping and a look of disdain on his small face. Even if the cleric woman wasn't with Upton in that way, she was still "taken" and so he had no further business here. "I have my own date with some pretty girls that I'll be late to, so cheerio, good bye."
Upton snorted. "Are you talking about those students?"
Rem scowled. How'd he know? Lucky guess. "So what if they are? We might as well be celebratin' that they're not dead because of your godsdamn manticore." Then he stomped off down the hall without another word, curly hair bouncing.
Brighid gasped, blue eyes widening at Upton. "Tell me he's joking."
"Unfortunately, he is not," Setiri informed her with a tight smile. "I also will be taking my leave." He bowed slightly toward the cleric before walking off after Rem.
Enezi looked neutrally at Brighid. "It was an impressive capture, but with the weakening barrier, I'm afraid the creature escaped." He bowed his head. "Good day." The half-giant left as well.
As soon as the men turned around the corner Brighid whirled on the knight, ponytail waving wildly and eyes narrowed. "You said nothing bad was going to happen at the menagerie!" Her voice rang through the halls.
Upton cringed a little, which made him look even shorter than her. Those guys better not have heard…"Hey, if the barrier was working nothing would have!"
Jack sniggered. "C'mon, this is Arcolia…nothing works here."
Brighid glared slightly at the squire before directing the glare back at the knight. "You have to apologize to the students."
The knight raised his hands, frowning. "All right, all right…" Then he smirked. "I hear one of them's got quite the curves…paying a visit shouldn't be too bad."
Brighid bopped him on the head as the squire gasp-laughed.