Passage to Ithorah

Chapter III

Discovery


Zaeden woke slowly, his cerulean eyes blinking until his blurry sight cleared and he could see the wrinkles of his sheets bunched near his face. He sighed in content; he loved waking from natural causes instead of the ship giving a jerk or Ryne annoyingly calling him to do something. It put him in a better mood when he did, it made his day oh so wonderful, and made grumpy Ryne much easier to deal with.

He stretched his limbs long and let out a loud yawn as he sat up, dropping his feet onto the floor and resting his hands on his knees. After a moment to collect himself, he stood and dressed quickly in loose beige trousers, tucking them into his knee high black buckled boots. He reached into the opened chest at the foot of his bed and pulled out a light metal armor piece, lined with supple leather on the inside and positioned it over his chest where it molded against his form perfectly, and secured the straps of the piece at his ribs. He ran his hand over the cool metal now resting over his front, over the dips and grooves, before he tossed a loose black tunic over it all, lazily tucking it into his trousers as he left his cabin.

Walking down the corridor, he passed into another where he found himself in the galley, surprised to see Ryne there already. Usually Zaeden would find him at the helm, stroking the control panels and cooing his good mornings to the ship. Usually on the rare occasion even finding him kissing the helm itself!

However, now Ryne sat at the rounded table up against the far wall near the domed window that gave a view of the bustling Aerodocks and bright Zaethian morning, nursing a mug of hot steaming tea between his rough, calloused hands. The pilot's slate colored eyes laid locked on the table, seemingly lost in thought. His usually broad shoulders were slumped, displaying his exhaustion and his head almost bowed with a pained expression marring his already gruff face.

"Ryne, you look like crap," Zaeden voiced his entrance, moving to the counter to fix himself a cup as well.

Ryne glanced up, his stiff neck throbbing from the movement. "Good morning to you too," he mumbled deeply, shifting himself in a different position in the chair to alleviate his sore body.

Zaeden took his cup to the table and sat across from his comrade, bringing it to his lips and blowing it quietly as he observed Ryne. Atop his not quite shaven scalp, a longer, thick band of dark sable hair, ran along the center from his hairline to the base of his head, and a tuft of it hung limply over his creasing forehead. The cut style flaunted the dark shade of a blue tattoo that was inked into the side of the pilot's head. The entire design was quite large, taking up parts of his shoulder, back, neck, scalp, to the tip of his temple. Zaeden had the same tattoo of specifically curved lines and swirls, of a much smaller scale, inked into the side of his head as well, though nowadays his hair covered it mostly. It was the ship's insignia. Zaeden's devotion to the flying piece of metal was not so much that he'd get the insignia to take up half of his upper body and head. But Ryne's obsession rarely caused him to blink an eye after so long.

Zaeden noisily sipped his tea, and said, "Shouldn't've taken the potion, mate."

Ryne scowled as he looked away. "I don't want to hear it, Zaeden."

"Yeah, I know." Zaeden rolled his eyes. "Never do, do yuh? I get that you're in pain, but you have to find some other wa—"

"There is no other way!" Rybe snapped angrily, his grey eyes flashing a dark silver.

Zaeden quieted smartly, watching Ryne huff and brood for a moment before he cooled again went back to staring at the table. "There is... jus' have to look s'all."

"I'm done looking... just let me be, Zaeden. I'll be alright by the afternoon," Ryne spoke quietly. He brought his cup to his chapped lips and took a sip of his warm tea, struggling not to wince from his raw throat in front of Zaeden.

But Zaeden saw, though he chose not to say anything about it.

They sat in the galley in silence, each lost in their own minds as they drank their tea. Zaeden knew better than to go on about it, so all he did was mentally shake his head.

He stood with his cup and walked it over to the sink before addressing Ryne again.

"Alright, I guess I'm going to head down to the Lowest District for the day. Want me to grab the part while I'm at it, or are you feeling up to heading down there with me?"

Ryne swallowed painfully before he spoke, "No, I'd appreciate it if you'd do that. If not I should be feelin' better by tomorrow."

Zaeden waved his hand. "S'alright, mate. No worries."

Ryne gave a slow nod and with that Zaeden let him be as he made his way back to his cabin to retrieve his coin pouch, head out of the Aerodocks, and the long way down to the Lowest District.


"Hullo, welcome to The Hunter's Haunt… I'm Roeve, today's special is chilled Quasam Fervorta ale. Would you care to try some?" Roeve asked the two seated men at the corner table, unable to keep the absolute boredom out of her voice as she greeted them.

The loudness of the bar today was expected since the city had more and more foreign guests flocking in for the Celebrations. Tomorrow, Zaethius would be bursting at the seams during the ceremonies.

The main floor was lively, filled with laughing customers and upbeat music played by a small band who frequented the establishment. Five workers, including Roeve, tended to the floor while Hyule—the barkeep—tended to the drink making. If it were a quieter day, she may have been able to appreciate the way the afternoon light glittered through the wide berth windows at the front of the bar, bouncing off the dark, polished redwood floors and tables. The high stone walls, decorated much like the Hunter's guild, adorned with various creature busts and hides, while mounted whimsical bone carvings—the lovely work of an artistically inclined gild hunter— sat upon the shelves between. A curved, wide staircase led up to the second floor, a loft space with a few tables and couches, limited to guild members which overlooked the rest of the bar below.

A few of her fellow members were already up there, lounging about after spending most the day setting up the Arena for the Celebrations. Something Roeve highly preferred over bar work.

It was just past noon and she was already close to losing her mind, for all she wanted to do was get away from the loudness and inebriated customers and go somewhere quiet. But she still had a few hours to go, much to her disappointment.

"Why, what does it taste like?" the blond at the table asked politely. His slightly lifting accent and told her was not Zaethian native, a foreigner from a nation most likely stationed to the cold North. From the red hue flushing his fair white skin, it was a clear sign that his flesh had not been touched often by the penetrating heat of the Dalteric sun. His dark clothes did little to shield him from it, and only attracted the rays. Foreign indeed.

"Hot," Roeve said simply, "or so I'm told." Her eyes moved to the window panes making up the front of the bar as she waited, straining to keep herself from tapping her foot impatiently. She learned overtime patrons thought it rude and the idea strengthened from Jausep's ever present reprimands. Still, it was a habit she fought occasionally.

"Or so you're told? Have you not had any?" He smiled, a kind one she supposed.

She glanced at him, with effort to keep an impassive face. "I don't drink, unfortunately."

The men chuckled at each other. "But you work in a bar," the brown haired one stated.

"How very observant of you," she replied monotonously.

"How much for this special drink?" the blond asked, sharing a crooked grin with his table fellow. "I might see if I have a taste for Quasam ale."

"Ten Ribbys per mug."

"Ten Ribbys!" the other shouted, eyes affronted. A few patrons looked over and one of the stringed instruments faltered with an ugly, cringe-worthy sound.

"Yes ten Ribbys, would you care for a try?" she hissed, chagrined at the attention on them. A glance at the counter bar showed Hyule shaking his head at her. "It is seventeen Ribbys in Quasam so you are treated to a discount courtesy of Jausep. I'd take advantage."

They looked at each other across the table for a moment before the blond gave a reluctant nod. "Yes alright, two mugs of this Quasam ale."

"Wonderful," she mumbled under her breath while she walked over to the long bar and repeated the order to Hyule. "Two of the Fervorta, Hyule," she said as she leaned against the counter, watching the goings on in the bar while she waited.

Hyule nodded as he set to work and Roeve continued to wait.


Zaeden was walking down the large street with a parchment in hand containing the order he had just placed for the part Ryne needed, which would be ready in a few days time. Though he figured Ryne wouldn't be too happy about having to stay in blessed Zaethius longer than planned, he had no complaints. The city really was something. Well, if you stayed above the Lowest District it was—excluding the Arena and Hunter's Haunt.

He passed the tall stone buildings of the Engineering District. Its structures did not follow the notable city designs found in the Market, Middle, Garden, and Empyrean Districts. But were built with convenience in mind with wide, double metal doors that took up most of their fronts, high oval windows, and smoke stacks puffing away into the sky. Many a grease stained people loitered these streets, carrying some equally dark stained gadget or part. Conversations over said parts and gadgets filled the air while harsh, clashing sounds of metal hitting metal echoed in the background in a few buildings.

Not his favorite place to be, especially due to the smell, an ugly scent of forever imbedded oils, heated metals and minerals lingered that made your eyes water and your lungs burn, but he figured he'd help poor Ryne out while he recuperated. He knew his friend would be giddy if he were there with him, jumping up and down, wanting to go into all the shops to see the new parts they had come out with.

Zaeden smiled and shook his head at the thought as he climbed down the stairs and made his way into the Market District.

The atmosphere was more to his liking and he watched the vendors attempting to rein in their customers with over exaggerated descriptions of their wares. The streets were exceptionally crowded today. He noticed all the docks occupied as they had flown in the night before, having to pay extra to secure a spot themselves. The Market District's streets were wider than most. While wealthier shop owners occupied the buildings, the lesser set up their stalls along the streets. And the streets were bathed in shadow because of it. Wide, brightly colored awnings of reds, and oranges, and yellows, mimicking the hot afternoon horizon, spanned from one side of the street to the next, held up by tall, black metaled posts every couple of paces. The buildings were not without their own colors, which they presented with cool-toned banners that hung down from their shops.

As he passed another large building, his eyes glanced up to see two blue flags flapping in the smooth breeze, three vials and a bundle of herbs behind them were embroidered in white at the center. His eyes dropped as the groan of a large wooden door opened. A woman came out with a basket and began to pull out bundles of herbs, placing them in more baskets that made up a display.

He took a few steps closer as he watched, his eyes scanning over the items curiously. The woman noticed him then and gave a friendly smile.

"Looking for something in particular?" was her greeting. "What ails you?"

Zaeden glanced at her. "No not me," he said, hesitating before he spoke again, "my friend, is in need of something... though I'm not sure if you have anything that would work for him."

She tilted her head, her ebony hair falling over her shoulder. The woman looked somewhat familiar, her features at least, but he recalled seeing them on someone else. A more masculine someone else.

"Is he wounded?"

"No... well yes... it's difficult to explain." Zaeden sighed while rubbing the back of his head.

"Try."

"I can't," Zaeden said quickly, almost regretting speaking to her to begin with. If Ryne knew what he was doing... he shuddered, not really wanting to think about it.

The woman looked at him for a long moment, sensing he would not speak more on it and gave him a nod. "Alright... hmm. Perhaps you can at least share some of his symptoms? I can then see if I have anything to sooth those at least."

"Well..." Zaeden glanced around, shoving his hands in the pockets of his loose trousers before speaking again, "Aches, he has a lot of ache."

"Ache... muscle ache?"

"And bones and… stuff..." Zaeden finished lamely. He wasn't exactly sure since Ryne never liked to speak about it.

"Muscle and bone aches, how old is he?" she asked curiously.

"Twenty eight, so s'not because he's elderly if that's what you are going to say."

"No, no." She shook her head. "You don't have to be elderly to have arthritis. Any severe injury could possibly bring it forth. I have some teas and elixirs that could help." She began sifting through the herbs before straightening up and looking back to him. "Come inside, I'll see what I can do."

Zaeden followed through the large door, closing it behind him quietly. The woman hurried off toward a long stone counter where he could see shelves and shelves of vials and glass bottles of colorful liquids, each giving off their own glow. His eyes scanned for a certain color, a deep dark red, but they didn't find it and he didn't really expect to. No one in their right mind would have that on display.

He heard the clinking of glass as she brought a few onto the counter along with a few leather pouches tied with a blue string.

"These here—" She grouped three glass bottles holding a glowing teal liquid. "—will sooth his muscles and relax him, I suggest he take it before he sleeps for they are quite strong. This one— " She pushed a larger bottle with a golden glow near him. "—should numb his pain a bit, also contains an essence of Sun for energy, one sip should do it, you want this bottle to last as long as you can get it to. Not many apothecaries carry it. Even less if you travel beyond the regions of Daltera. And these ones—" She brought the last of the bottles, about six small vials glowing a calm green, "—these are your typical pain relieving potions. Now depending on his condition, they may work well, or they may not. The problem with these is his body will become tolerant of them after so many. I suggest he space out using them, so it doesn't happen, otherwise it will take three or four bottles to do what one would have originally, and that is just not healthy to consume so many at once."

"Right..." Zaeden muttered, already fully aware of that.

"So, as far as teas go, these are relaxants and soothers. Since I don't know his condition, I can't offer you any other."

"Yes, I understand. Thank you," Zaeden said.

The woman smiled and began wrapping up the items in a small basket.

Zaeden eyed the shelves of potions as he waited, only turning when he heard the door open loudly.

"Kole, just think about it! Imagine the amount of Ribbys you'd get for that! You could have anything you would ever want!" a blonde girl spoke excitedly to a taller brunette boy.

"Shut up, Davette! I'm not selling it, it's mine!" he snapped down at her, causing her to flinch slightly.

"Geez, alright, Kole," she murmured, her shoulders sagging a little. "It was just a suggestion, you're always complaining about having no Ribbys..."

He sneered at her. "I'm not selling it, I don't need your suggestions."

"Okay..."

Zaeden looked at the object of conversation which seemed to be a round thing covered by a cloth. When the boy walked, the cloth swayed and Zaeden got a glimpse of an orange shine. His interest caught immediately.

The boy walked the item over to a seating area off near the back room door, the two having not noticed Zaeden there yet.

The male placed the item on the low table between the chairs and pulled the cloth off slowly.

Zaeden's breath caught in his throat.

He knew what that was and he had not seen one in years. He watched intently as the boy started polishing the orange stone, almost affectionately.

"Alright then, everything is ready to go," the woman spoke, startling him from his gazing.

"What? Oh... right... how much?" he said as he shook his head clear.

"I'll give you all these for twenty Ribbys." She pointed at all the potions and teas. "But this one," she said slowly, touching the largest bottle that contained the golden glow, "Is twenty on its own, you understand why." She glanced at him hesitantly, but Zaeden only smiled.

He pulled his coin pouch from his belt and began sifting through to bring out the proper amount. She smiled politely as she took the coins and went to another counter to put it away. Zaeden grabbed the basket and turned to walk out of the door, pausing mid step and glancing over at the stone. He stared for a few moments and made up his mind. It wouldn't do to just walk away. His boots thumped quietly on the many rugs covering the stone flooring as he approached. The boy looked up quickly, his brows furrowing at the sight of Zaeden and quickly covered the stone.

"Aw, I wasn't done staring," Zaeden teased.

The boy sneered and the girl peered at him curiously, blushing when Zaeden gave her a charming smile.

"What do you want?" the boy asked angrily.

Zaeden brought his hand to his chin and leaned his weight on his left leg. "It's more about what you want, I suspect."

The boy frowned in confusion.

"Well, don't you want to know what that is?" Zaeden asked with an arched brow, jerking his chin toward the stone, his lips curving into a smug smile when the boy's eyes lit.


The bar was absolutely filled to capacity since it was the time most came from their days work.

She slumped down behind the long bar to rest her feet for just a minute, head taping back against the wood as her legs stretched out before her. Hyule, being used to her antics, merely stepped over her as he continued with his work.

The backdoor open, and due to Roeve's inability to have any luck what so ever, none other than Jausep sauntered in. He paused when he saw her sitting on the floor, not doing her job, and scolded her with his green eyes.

She pushed herself up, gripping the edge of the long bar to help her. Hyule smirked at her and Roeve sagged her shoulders as she made her way back onto the floor.

"Aye, Roevie," a leering voice traveled down from the loft above. Roeve paused mid-step to glance up, noticing Zeke leaning over the railing and grinning slyly at her. His droopy eyes told her he was past drunk. When the last time she'd seen him after taking her break up there, he was only sipping some of the special ale from Quasam, alert but tired from working in the Arena. They'd conversed for a bit, he filled her in on how he got to handle a new beast that was brought in earlier in the week. A vectian. She knew it was the one she'd accidentally led to the roads.

"He's almost broken," Zeke had said. "The bastard still doesn't know that he's got no more teeth. Chompin' his gums at me and what not. He'll learn quick though."

Her mood had since depleted.

Roeve now made to ignore him, looking down from the loft and toward the tables on the main floor.

"Roevie, m'up here. Come up, Roe. I wanna tell you 'bout this vectian m'trainin'," he slurred, leaning more heavily against the railing and letting his arms dangle down.

"You already told me, Zeke. Go sit down," she replied, watching him warily.

"Then come up and play some cards."

"I'm serving people."

"Tell Jausep to fuck off," he whined loudly, his eyes closing in his comical frown.

A few guffaws came from the surrounding tables she was next to. Zeke was then yanked backwards and he protested loudly. A clash traveled down and a few yells were spat at each other. Roeve knew it was Jausep up there, chiding Zeke. She could hear the guild leader telling him to 'Stop distracting her and sit your ass down before you fall off'.

She smiled slightly when Zeke's loud whining continued, but drew her attention back to the main floor when the door opened and in walked the one person other than Jausep that could make her day worse; Kole. But with two others this time. Roeve, not surprised any when Davette walk in after him, giving the girl a small smile when she noticed her. It was the other that caused her to tilt her head.

He wore high black buckle boots, coming up to just below his knees that looked as though they could use a shining. His trousers, tanned and tucked into the boots. His tunic was black, though a bit faded, lay open near the top where the strings had been left untied. She caught a glimpse of silver, guessing he wore a chest plate underneath. His hair, a sandy brown cropped short, even shorter near his ears, where she could make out a patch of dark curving lines, looking like a tattoo of sorts. But that was all she was able to see when they continued into the bar and found a seat at a small table near the fireplace.

She'd never seen Kole walk around with someone like that. He looked very much like the brigands she'd heard some of the patrons murmur about; the tattoo spoke of it if not the attire.

"They don't stick in once place," they'd say. "Slippery fucks, makin' you think they're genuine sellers, than by the time you fetch for your purse, they've already snatched it and are flying their asses outa the city before you can blink."

A shove to her shoulder brought her out of her gazing and she turned to see Hyule nodding toward the new customers.

"Well? Get to it, Roe," he said as he passed some drinks over to a few tables. Roeve walked over to Kole's table with disdain.


Zaeden sat with his side to the giant, unlit fireplace. He glanced around the bar, noticing all the people occupying it, he even caught a glimpse of the guild leader, Jausep, arguing with someone up in the loft. The man reminded him of the healer he saw earlier, he mused. His new acquaintances, Kole and the pretty female Davette, sat across from him, the covered stone resting in the center of the table.

She was quite pretty, Davette, though very clingy he noticed as she tried to wrap her arm around Kole's only to be shrugged off in annoyance. Zaeden smirked at that, giving the girl a wink when she glanced at him across the table, causing another blush to dust her cheeks. She smiled as she lowered her eyes to her hands in her lap.

Kole looked up to see the approaching tender, a scowl marring his features. Zaeden glanced up as well, watching with interest as a burgundy haired girl approached.

She stopped near Davette, giving a small smile to the girl and receiving one back. Zaeden openly gazed at her and noticed her gloomy teal eyes find his blue for a second before she shifted them elsewhere. His head tilted at that.

Something about her seemed vaguely familiar and it nicked at his brain.

"Hullo, welcome to The Hunter's Haunt... I'm Roeve, today's special is chilled Quasam Fervorta ale. Would you care to try some?" she asked in a dreary voice. It did not get past Zaeden, the utter boredom dripping in her tone, if not radiating off her person.

Davette snickered as she looked up at the other girl. "We know your name already, Roeve.

Roeve was her name, he thought. Still didn't explain why she seemed familiar.

Roeve looked down to Davette and smiled a genuine smile. "Juasep makes me do it, even when I'm serving his table. Most likely to take a piss—" she cut herself off as she glanced at Zaeden, "… um anger me..."

His gaze followed over her face, his brain sifting through memories, yet coming up with nothing. She was too familiar! But not familiar enough. He couldn't place it. But his eyes narrowed when he listened to Davette ask her mindless questions and the girl's answers.

It was her speech that caught his attention; it was a bit unique, in that her pronunciation sounded a bit off. He listened further, picking out each word she said and sat back in his seat with a curious expression.

She covered an accent, one he knew well, one he had himself. But he could hear her trying to cover it up, muffling it, but it was there, she carried an underlying accent, one not at all native to the Lowest District of Zaethius.

"And what of you?" she said suddenly, he blinked and realized she was taking his order.

He straightened in his seat, resting his forearms crossed on the table. "The special, I'm not one to pass up Quasam imports." He gave her a charming smile, one of his best, only to get a bored, unimpressed nod in return as she spun slowly on her heel to get their drinks.

His blue eyes trailed after her, watching as she stopped suddenly and looked up at the loft. A man was leaning dangerously over the rail, speaking to her in slurred tones. He'd seen him a few times, heard about him more often lately. Zeke, his name. Apparently he was a favorite in the Arena. Protege of Jausep and rumored to be next in line as the guild leader when Jausep retires from it.

Kole brought him back to the table after a moment.

"She said the drink was ten Ribbys, a bit much, should have gotten a different drink."

Zaeden shrugged, ten Ribbys was nothing. He knew for a fact that drink drew a larger amount in Quasam itself. Glancing back to the girl at the long bar, he asked, "What's her last name?"

Kole frowned, his eyes looking at Roeve before returning to Zaeden. "Roe?" Zaeden nodded. "Thelle…" he mumbled, stared at the table for a while before snorting, "At least that's what she's been going by."

"Kole!" Davette gasped and slapped his shoulder in shock, Zaeden raised a brow, interest piqued. "Minep is going to kill you."

"'Been going by' you say?" Zaeden prodded. "So that s'not her real name?"

Kole looked over Zaeden, noting the interest, before letting his eyes travel to Roeve, his features scrunching in distaste. "Nope, it's not."

"What's her name then?"

Kole smirked, looking at Davette to see her shaking her head frantically and tugging his arm. He shrugged her away from him before leaning over the table, tilting his head for Zaeden to come closer, which he did.

Zaeden listened to the low words Kole whispered to him, his brows shooting up at the information. He slumped back into his chair, noticing Kole's smirk.

His heart had definitely faltered for a second, and he swallowed hard. It couldn't be, he must have heard wrong. But when he looked over at the bar, and noticed the girl, and the familiar tug his brain was giving as it sifted through memory after memory in its search. It just may be true.

Her eyes glanced back over to the table, catching his. The teal, he'd seen them before, though on someone else, but still the same none the less. He didn't know what to think about it, he just didn't know…

"I thought she looked familiar..." he said lowly, almost in a daze as he stared hard at the stone in the center of the table.

Ten Ribbys for a Quasam drink was nothing to him right now, he needed that drink, and he needed it right now.


Author's note: Any feedback will be greatly appreciated! Thanks for reading!

Sombrette