Chapter 6: Kingsport

I.

Two days had pasted since their mishap with the pirates, their short lived enslavement, and their run in with the dragon. By the time the sun rose, Aly and Andrew had already been awake for hours. Their bellies growled and their eyes were heavy. Aly pasted the time by idly chatting with the kind traveler, who said he was heading southeast towards the castle. When he mentioned that the journey would last over two weeks. Aly and Andrew seemed less anxious to accompany him. Luckily there was a town not too far away from the road he had to follow to reach the castle. The town was named Kingsport, which was named so cleverly because long ago the port city was favored by a past king.

When they reached their destination Andrew heaved a long sigh as the two friends stood on the outskirts of Kingsport, the next town along the east coast of Entrolith. The kind traveler left them on a steep hill that overlooked the town. He muttered something about the town being too strange for his liking. If Andrew looked in the direction they traveled from, he could still faintly see the columns of black smoke, from the recent destruction of Westküste, billowing from above the thousands of trees that separated the two towns. The black smoke tainted the air; making it difficult to breathe. Grey storm clouds lingered above the town of Kingsport; which added to the ominous air that surrounded Andrew and Aly. From on top of the steep hill, they had an eagle's eye view of entire town. Kingsport was a relatively small town; although not as small as Cazaeria.

Several ships were docked in the town's port and all were unloading what looked like thousands of pounds of fish. The amount of fish being unloaded from the ship seemed like an impossible amount for any settlement to catch in one day. Andrew at first believed that the fish could not be real, but then Aly pointed out that the fish were still flapping in the nets and on the deck of the ship

Andrew walked a little closer to Kingsport's harbor and discovered that the town's daily catch wasn't the only thing that was unusual about this peculiar town. Anyone who was seen walking around the harbor could be described as…perfect. All of the men were tall, muscular, and had a shade of golden hair. They only variation of these men were their different eye colors. The colors that they wore were drab and unappealing. They seemed to try to conceal any skin that was not necessary to be seen.

The women of this town were fashioned in the same way except that each seemed to have not an ounce of muscle or fat on them. Unlike the men of Kingsport, who seemed bulky and strong, the women seemed fragile. The women also wore dull colored clothing that was similar to the ones that the men wore. Grey and brown were the popular colors for clothing. The women's clothing was layered and covered most of their skin, only reveling their hands, and faces which some were concealed by a grey veil. It was somewhat eerie to see so many people of the same gender looking too much alike for comfort.

"I wonder why everyone here looks alike," Aly whispered to Andrew. She grabbed his sleeve and pulled him down the hill towards the small town. They pretended to ignore the stares from everyone in the streets. Their green tunics and black pants stood out against the townspeople's dull grey and brown clothing. As if the clothing was not enough, Aly and Andrew did not have hair that was similar to color that everyone in Kingsport wore with pride. Silently, trying not to draw attention to themselves, they made their way through the town I search of a store that sold supplies.

II.

They slipped into a shabby looking house with a sign on the outside reading "Shelby's Supply Shoppe". Once inside Andrew inspected the run down shop. Dust collected on the many shelves that were aligned throughout the store. The shelves were filled with various objects and odd looking toys. Towards the back of the store was a small fruit stand, filled with fresh, bright, and delicious looking fruit. Aly picked up a lush red apple and inspected it for any faults.

"How come the fruit are fresh? Everythin' else in this place is coated in dust and look so old," Aly said as she took a bite out the apple. Before Andrew could respond, a young man, not much older than Andrew, appeared from behind one of the many book cases.

"They are enchanted." The apple dropped to the floor with a 'thunk'. "They are quite special…they'll never rot, nor will the flavor fade," the man continued as he dusted off a small wiry object, which Andrew could not recognize "They are harmless, young lady. You may continue eating it, it's on the house," he added with a wink. Cautiously Aly picked up the apple; she hesitated before taking another bite.

"I'm interested in buying some supplies," Andrew asked awkwardly. The man placed the small wiry object on the bridge of his nose and pushed them up. His soft green eyes scanned Andrew's face intently.

"You two aren't from here," he stated, rather than asked. "It would benefit you greatly if you two would leave here as soon as possible, but for now, I shall help you out." He adjusted the wired object on his face. "Ah, it's still too big for me."

"If I may ask, what is that?" Andrew asked. He side glanced at Aly who was currently deciding on which fruit she should try next. The man pointed to the foreign object that rested on the bridge of his nose.

"These? Oh, it's an invention of mine that I think will be very useful. I call them glasses, they help people see. Now what are you looking for? I can provide the two of you a safe place to stay for the night, provided with a nice meal, for a small price."

"Can we see the owner?" Andrew interrupted; he did not find himself comfortable making a business deal without the owner of the place. The man let out an aggravated sigh and pushed up his glasses,

"I am the owner,"

III.

Andrew, Aly and the young man all sat at a very small table with a feast on it. Andrew peered at the food suspiciously; he had not doubt that this food had a hint of magic in it. About ten minutes ago, the owner of the shop had called them out from the room to announce that dinner was ready. The man had finally introduced himself as Ires at the dinner and explained that Shelby had been his late sister.

"Then where are your parents? You seem a bit too young to be out on your own," Aly asked before taking a bite of the delicious food that Ires had presented them with.

"I could say the same for you two, I'm actually older than I look," Ires peered at her from above his glasses, because they were beginning to slide down his nose. "I am twenty-two; my sister was twenty-seven before she passed. We moved to this town almost a year ago; we were looking for a new start, a new chance after our old home divided itself." Andrew cautiously tasted the food by taking a very small nibble. Soon he began stuffing as much as he could into his mouth.

"Where did you live?"

"A place called Spartathens, it's actually the next town over," his glasses slid further down his nose. He let out a gentle cough, indicating he wished not to elaborate on the subject further. "How did the two you end up in a dreadful place like this?" Aly picked up on the hint and kept the conversation going as she recalled their story. Andrew stopped eating, to pitch in information every once in awhile, but Aly mainly told the story. She was very vague about their involvement with pirates; after all they had just met this man, telling him everything would be a very stupid thing to do.

The man ran a hand through his disheveled beige hair. He raised his hand to his nose to push up his glasses but then Aly snatched them from his nose. The shop's owner looked quite surprised. The metal, she examined wasn't made very sturdy and was quite flexible. She pinched the metal part, between the two pieces of glass, together gently before handing them back to Ires. He placed them back in their rightful place and was pleased to find them tighter. They were still a little loose but it was an improvement. He gave her a thankful smile before turning his attention back to his food. They ate in silence.

Andrew reached forward to grab a roll but yelped when another popped up in its place.

"The hell?" Andrew blinked furiously in an attempt to make the strange roll to go away.

"The food is enchanted," Ires stated with his eyebrows raised. "But the food is perfectly okay to eat."

"You know magic?" Aly asked in amazement. Ires took a bite of his food before giving a small smile and stood up.

"That is a question I will answer another night, but now I must excuse myself. Please keep your voices low, I do believe I have customers." He walked away from the table to the front of the store.

"Do you think he is trying to poison us?" Andrew whispered to Aly.

"I doubt it, he wouldn't have kept us here that long if he wanted to kill us," she whispered back.

"I don't trust him."

"You don't trust anyone," Aly hissed.

"You trust too much," Andrew hissed back. Aly ignored him and took another bite of her food.

"I wonder what he meant earlier," Aly asked in a low voice, "about how we should leave here as soon as possible…"

IV.

"Hello, welcome to Shelby's Supply Shoppe, how may I help you?"

"Why, hello Ires," the customer answered.

"How are you this fine day, mayor?" The mayor was a man of about forty. His bald head shone brightly against the candles that lit the small shop. Baldness, in Kingsport, was a sign of great power. Only men who held high positions in the town were allowed to shave their heads. His cold, calculating brown eyes examined Ires with an unusual interest.

"I'm doing fine; the real question is, 'how are you?' I've heard that strangers were seen wandering around town. Have you seen them?"

"No sir, I've been keeping shop all day," Ires added a smile. "I'm sure the whole town must be clamoring about them. It has been awhile since the last visitors came into town."

"You know as well as I do that visitors are not welcome." Ires looked away.

"I'm very aware of this fact." The mayor took a step closer to Ires.

"It would be in your best interest, Ires, to keep an eye out for them. We can't let them taint our purity, as your witch of a sister once did." Ires' eyes widened at the thought of his sister, Shelby. "You were lucky enough to be born with just enough purity. Although, you are still an outsider and you always will be. Remember Ires, you are trapped; like a mouse caught between a cat's paw. We have you and we will never let you go. G'day," the mayor let with a brief nod. Ires raised a shaky hand to his face and pushed up his glasses. The candle light reflected off his glasses and hid his eyes from sight. The sheen of the glasses seemed to give off an eerie aura. With a flick of his wrist, all the candles blew out, and a second flick bolted all of the shop's doors shut.

"But alas, the mouse always seems to escape."