Chapter Five

Errux.

The second-largest island in Jade, it houses a large residential area, a bit of pine forest, and more importantly, the Erruxian Markets, which are so big they take up half of the island. The Markets are filled with merchants from all around Jade, and even some from off-world. They always smell of spices, road dust, and exotic food. The overwhelmingly large amount of merchants shouting at you tends to be confusing, so here's a general rule of thumb: the more popular a stall is, the less worthwhile its wares actually are. Stick to the small, mysterious-looking tents, however, and you'll find treasures.

We weren't there to browse, but I needed to be distracted, and besides, Jaxx was actually up for it. We meandered through the markets at the pace of a lazy turtle, stopping to buy a trinket here or there or sample the cuisine of an enticing food cart. Life was good.

When this war is over, I thought, I'm taking Leonora out here. She'd like that…

I was absentmindedly playing with a tortoiseshell comb when commotion broke out a few blocks away.

"Get down, scum!"

Collective suppressed gasps. A few murmurs.

"DOWN!"

A heavy thud sort of noise, like someone or something being hit with a blunt object.

Jaxx gave me a "let's go" expression. I shot a look at him in return, and we padded over to the area, where quite a commotion was taking place.

There was a largish circle around two figures: a Tombstone soldier brandishing a hand-club, and a small lizard-girl, who was bent double around a loaf of bread. The crowd looked uncomfortable; they didn't like watching, but they didn't want to draw the eyes of the Tombstones.

"Owwww…" said the girl. She did not uncurl from the bread.

"Give it here! Or do you want to be locked up?"

The girl finally straightened. She was tall for her age- maybe fourteen, no more -but she still was not eye level with the soldier. Her green eyes flashed with defiance.

"Locked up? For being hungry?"

While this had been going on, I had been quietly holding a white smoke-orb in my cupped hand. The guard took a moment, as if he was trying to come up with a clever response. I sprang into action.

The small orb exploded into a cloud of white smoke that smelled faintly of rainstorms. Chaos broke out.

Jaxx marched straight into the cloud and came out with the lizard girl, whose eyes were watering. We ran; she followed. Once at the edge of the markets, I turned on my heel and looked at her.

"What's your name?" I asked.

"What's yours?" she shot back.

"Fair enough." I replied. "We can take you to Danzi- we have a resistance group there. If you were interested, then perhaps you could even join it."

Jaxx snarled irritably. "We have no idea who she is." he warned.

"So we watch her, carefully," I replied, "and if anything happens, THEN we do something. Not before. She was beaten by a Tombstone; I saw it, you saw it."

"Hm." murmured Jaxx.

"I'm still here." said the girl.

"Indeed." I said. "Are you coming or not?"

The girl considered. "Coming." she declared.