Amongst the trees, Narika noticed a variety of colors. It seemed Mika wasn’t the only cat person. A wide array of homes decorated the treetops with their giant leafy roofs and wooden walls.
The trees themselves seemed to foster housing, as the homes included as much space from the inside of the tree as the outsides.
Narika and Elera looked around with wonder as the hustle of daily life filled this section of the woods.
Many of the people looked on with wonder as they entered, however- as it was non-threatening and more curious- they continued on as they were.
“What should we do about Mika then?” Elera asked as it was the main reason they’d come in the first place.
Narika wasn’t sure about it either. He thought about it.
“Well, obviously he doesn’t want to be found…” So that was that, Narika thought. He wasn’t going to force Mika if there was something to it and decided instead to just get supplies they might need.
Perhaps they could figure out why Mika was so intent on leaving in the first place.
“Well, let’s just get see what the village is like then…”
Upon looking around, it was surprisingly lighthearted, the people were going about their day-to-day with the normal hustle and bustle. Some cat people building houses.
Then they noticed something interesting. There was an additional race walking about… elves.
As they walked along the designated path, a peddler approached.
“Helloo Stranger! Care to take a look at any wares?”
“Uh…” Narika looked at what the vendor was offering. It seemed that this community was a hustle-and-bustle type, but the vendor looked a little too enthusiastic. In fact, it did look quite good. Food. A wide variety of different fruits and meats. “Not sure we have anything to offer…”
“Hmm…” the vendor eyed the two with their belongings.
“You two are Aqayan right? You must have something to offer… Ah, that sword!” he pointed out.
Narika looked at it.
You’d better not.
“hm… I wonder…” Narika thought it’d be more fun to tease the sword.
“Well.. yeah yeah. It’s decent,” the vendor spoke trying not to sound too excited.. “Honestly, you know. I could take it off your hands for a couple bags worth of goods.
I’ll have you know, I’m the strongest sword made by a grand wizard.
“A couple bags huh? Of anything?”
Narika looked at it as if considering the deal, “Well. I know it’s a piece of crap, but it’s kind of the only one I got…”
I’ll show you piece of crap..
“I’ll even throw in my own sword and shield to finish the deal.”
Narika looked at it again.
“Now Now, don’t let Jeffar take you for a fool…” another catperson up to the stand.
“Shhhh,” Jeffar spoke.
“Excuse me. I am the prince of the village, the chief’s son. We are honored to have such royalty as yourselves, Aqayans.”
Uhhh, was this normal? Narika wasn’t sure how to take the greeting, besides cheerfully.
“Thanks; are we royalty or something?”
“Well, Aqayans are highly revered for their abilities…”
“Oh i see…” Narika said, not really understanding though why.
Elera spoke up, “well, thank you,” she said politely. It was a first, but he saw Elera take on a more ladylike attitude around here- in a manner that became her.
“I know that you’re looking for some things, but you are invited to our chiefs house if you so desire…and tonight we will have a feast!” he handed over what seemed to be golden coins with a face of what could only be some important person, “here’s a little spending cash to make things easier.”
Narika and Elera both seemed content with the coins as they held a good weight in their hands.
“Ah well,” the merchant spoke up, “I’ll do the typical special then..” he handed over the bags of supplies taking two of the coins as trade.
“Well,” the prince or whatever spoke.. “it seems Jeffar gets to keep his side of the bargain anyway. I recommend a change of clothes however. We can get you suited with whatever you desire or so need….”
The apparel here used many colors. Different vendors strewn across a marketplace that was scattered amidst the branches and roots of the trees.
With currency in hand, they were the friend of all vendors. Elera excitedly looked around at the more artsy wares, while Narica was more interested in weapon shop. Both of them liked the food vendors whose scent filled the trees.
A lady fabric-maker pulled them in as they passed by the different shops strewn along the trees. It seemed as if it were a sort of bustling trade center without any customers.
“Here…” she spoke, waving them in.
The both nodded and approached the stand.
“You so pretty…” she spoke to Elera.
Narika suddenly realized as she spoke, that he’d been able to understand a few different people now despite it being seven-hundred years in the past… he figured he’s keep that in mind.
After changing in the vendor’s changing area, Narica saw a more colorful Elera come out of the changing room. Rather than the plain colors she’d been clad with- blue and white. Her vestige was now a lot more like a flower in bloom.
A green flower pulled into braided hair. Unique patterns flowered the vestige. A poncho-like garment covered a yellow ¾ leggings and a nice pair of sandals with a little bit of glow in the bindings. Reds and greens and oranges. To Narica, it was quite a sight. Elera looked at him questioningly.
“It will cost 10 Dens…” the lady said. Narica and Elera looked at their coins. Elera looked as if she was willing to part with it. Whatever coinage they’d had, it seemed to be only seven remaining.
“See what you can get for this…” Narica said convincingly to Elera.
The lady looked at the coins. Elera offered to return the vestige.
The lady turned her head taking four of the coins, “You keep…”
She nodded as they waved back. Narica thought it a good investment, he was definitely with the prettiest girl in the village.
The new dress turned out to be an investment of sorts, because a couple more vendors gave out free souvenirs to them awed by Elera. They enjoyed walking about the village a bit more and then made their way to the chief’s house.
It seemed this city had two races – cat people and elves. The cat people seemed to be more involved in the trade, the elves it seemed were a sort of just ‘there’ self-governing- somehow with the financial backing and independence and magic to support themselves.
There were by far more cat people, but still a decent amount of elves. It seemed they got along relatively well, but kept to their own.
It was late- the meeting time at dusk was about to happen.
Elera and Narica entered the house.
An eerie sort of warmth came from it. It seemed a sort of lamp took a center table in the middle of a room. The faces of a few other Canjun, including the chief’s son shone from the glow.
By now it was dark outside, however a sort of ambient glow surrounded them coming from a lamp on the table- it seemed as if it were a magic fire- a solid flame, stuck in place- elf magic. It was bright enough to keep the room easily visible.
Being the first house they entered, the atmosphere was very unique. It seemed they made good use of the plants, everything was natural and yet artistic. Giant leaves, petrified or something to work as tables and seating. Vines that worked for hanging.
Surrounding a singular table of the main room. (It seemed that rooms were made in levels, looking up, Narica noticed rope in a corner going up and down to different levels.)
Inside they saw a few people. Among them an elf, the son, the chief, a few older cat persons.
“Welcome,” the son spoke.
“So, what’s going on?” Narika spoke.
“Let’s explain our predicament…” the chief- who it seemed was a cat person after all- spoke up as if explaining to someone who already knew what was going on – “the dragon has requested a meal, if we can’t get one by the end of the week, the truce will be up and he’ll leave us.”
Elera and Narica looked at each other… Dragon? Meal? Narica wasn’t sure what type of meal they meant, but were they expecting ‘them’ to fill the appetite?
“Uh?” Narica’s bewildered look caused the son to speak up.
“Well, didn’t the council send you to help us? You’re going to help us right? That boy ran off and now we don’t have a sacrifice for one… for two, it seems that the dark wizard wants to form a pact with the dragon…”
“They don’t seem to know anything…” the elf spoke up. Narika wasn’t sure how the one elf of the group played in this. Was he some sort of liaison?
“What brought you here?” the chief looked puzzled.
Elera took charge of the conversation as Narica was still trying to think of how to respond, “Look. We’ll help you with your little problem but we need some assurances…”
“Assurances?” one of the elder cat persons spoke. The mood grew considerably brighter after Elera said she would help. Narica agreed with Elera’s stance- it would definitely be better to steer the conversation away from how they’d gotten here.
“Wait, didn’t you say you came across the boy?” the youth of the group spoke. The rest of them perked up.
“We were going to leave him out of this,” Narica spoke. From what it sounded like they intended to make the boy the dragon’s meal.
“Even his family agreed to it! Everyone except the boy…”
What kind of parenting was that? Narika was outraged.
“Why would you sacrifice a boy?” Narika yelled.
“Ohhh, you’re misinformed I see,” the
“Sacrifices… Accelerated birthrates. After nine and a half years cat-people can reach maturity. Most of the time it’s a volunteer- like an older person- but this time we selected one of the abominations…” the elf spoke.
The elf explained it to them, “her mother was an elf…” he seemed ashamed, as if he knew the mother on close terms.
An elf also spoke.
Both Narica and Elera were confused by the statement.
“The boy is a unique breed in that he has a magic…”
“Yes…” the chief spoke, “the first in fact… of all the Canjun…
It wasn’t the boy who was the sacrifice… it was the half-sister. The boy they’d met had a special story. The Canjun were a recent race, made by a dark wizard on a whim because of an issue with cats. They are a sort of catlike human with the ability to transform.
The boy was a first generation Canjun, as this had been moderately recent. His father had a fling with another Canjun and he was the product of that. His mother and father split up as his mother wasn’t really into having kids.
Afterwards, the father raised him for a couple years and because he was such a good worker and he caught the eye of a female elf.
Because the Canjun have been relatively magicless, and their catlike properties, although swift and able to run away quickly, fending for themselves is difficult. Elves are given the responsibilities of certain areas, but in lawless territory like this, away from the capital- it’s more of a support then full defense. Elves are given stipends from the capital to live. They take on a more elitist role- as they are considered a high race.
After a fling, the female elf was taken back to the capital, and his father remarried his mother. Races that have become tainted by dark magic are expected to remain within their own species, such as the Canjun- to mix with a high race is considered an abomination- thus his sister was a mistake. To keep the bloodlines contained and pure abominations are either fixed or in this case, sacrificed.
it seemed, had a sort of ‘construct’ magic… with it, he’d been able to seal away his ‘sister’ inside of a special orb and ran away despite everyone else’s wishes.
Without a sacrifice, the dragon would take one by force, as was his custom to help humans keep their promises. Initially – they were told the dragon would eat the little bit of farm animals that they had- but considering it was swampland forest, it wasn’t possible- so the villagers started to give sacrifices.
The five or so elves in the area would take care of more minor threats while the dragon took care of the more immediate predators such as the dark wizard clan, ogres.
Overall, except for the sacrifice aspect: it was a working system.
Narica wondered where the boy was now. If they killed the dragon… then the protection would be gone.
But what if they killed the threat?
“What does the dragon protect from?” Narica asked.
“Hmm, well- the dark wizard clan for one…” the chief spoke, “also the man-eating ogres that work as their army…” the chief went on to explain how that without the dragon, almost everything was a threat. As much as stopping the dangers that attacked them would be nice, it seemed like a pipe dream- and afterwards, the Canjun were sort of the bottom of the food chain when it came to humanoids they explained.
“Where is it that you come from?” the elf asked.
“Oh… well…” Narica said. What would be the best way out of this question… Time travel would be a bad answer considering how it could rewrite history and who knew what would happen if they wanted to take advantage of Narica or Elera.
“-We come from the south actually…” Elera spoke. “we are vagabonds as it was a dangerous area…”
“Wow, even further into the lawless land?” the elf said, “and I thought that the Ancients all lived in the Derantis Nation.
Narica finished, “yeah… we were born separate from the other Ancients…”
Perhaps… Narica had the thought. They could persuade the dragon not to eat someone? Perhaps, some sort of barter system with animals from the capital or something.
“If we wanted to talk with the dragon…” Narica spoke.
“That would be dangerous…” an older gentlemen spoke, “he only responds to power… if you don’t pass the first encounter, he won’t even grant you the time of day…”
“And most likely he’ll be dead…”
Narica looked at Elera who nodded, “Let’s do it.”
Elera followed Narica’s lead, “Prepare us with your best equipment.”
The Canjun looked at the couple strangely and with whispers, but did as requested.
The sacrifice it seemed would be in two days. The journey from the village to the dragon wasn’t too long- half a day. Along the village, a mountainside semi-circled the perimeter of the village. Supposedly the dragon would be at the top.
Narika and Elera moved ahead. They found the forest moving towards the dragon somewhat emptier. In fact it was almost eerie. Of course little critters scattered along the forest floor, as if without a care. The lack of predators was the interesting part.
“Well,” Narika said. “Let’s hope their warnings were ill-founded…” Narika said
“I’ll follow you,” Elera smiled at Narika. It seemed that she had strong faith in him. Narika wouldn’t want to do anything to make her second guess her trust. He kept his eyes open.
“You’re going to see the dragon?” the familiar voice of a young boy came from behind Narika and Elera.
From the shadows of the forest, Mika appeared. It seemed he’d followed them, but neither Narika nor Elera noticed until now, which was an impressive feat considering the sparseness of the wood.
“Whoa, where did you come from?”
“Well, as one of the Canjun- we have a knack for being mobile,” he spoke with pride.
Narika thought it interesting that as a kid, he had pride in his race. He wondered what it took to change the attitude of the adults.
“Where have you been?” Narika spoke.
“Me and my friend were hiding along the edges waiting for you to show up…” he replied.
Amidst the shadows another figure appeared. Their own age it seemed, a young adult with dirty brown hair appeared.
“uh…” the figure waved hesitantly.
Elera looked crooked at the figure, while Narika tried his best to grasp the form. Nothing too crazy stood out by the person, although it seemed that the person was at the very least humanoid, looking human. Somewhat a familiar appearance, but he couldn’t grasp why… nothing really stood out warningly to him.
“Who’s your friend?” Elera said suspicious-like.
“Oh! Allow me to introduce my friend, Venu. He’s an Aqayan too!”
Narika could tell that Elera was as surprised as he was.
“Actually, we’ve known each other for a season now…” Mika replied, “When I told him I was on my way to Darantis, he asked if he could follow me…”
It seemed that Venu and he had been friends for a few months. His mom and he left the nearest Aqayan village after some sort of conflict- that’s what led them here a few years ago. Venu and Mika became friends during this time- as Mika explored quite often.
However, Venu’s mom had just passed away.
“Sorry to hear that…” Narika replied after finding out about his mom.
“Well, that’s the gist of it,” Mika. Venu was around Narika’s and Elera’s age. He seemed somewhat built- like he was used to physical labor.
“So, you’re an Aqayan?” Elera spoke.
“Uh…” Vienna replied, “I am… but I may not be as strong as you think…”
“How did you manage to get by on your own?” Elera spoke. Unlike Narika it seemed that Elera still wanted to test him.
Mika spoke up for him, “Venu doesn’t have a power… but he’s REALLY smart…”
Suddenly things clicked for Narika- being ousted for not having a power was something he understood. The ousting- losing his family.
Elera replied, “If I may be so bold…” she spoke more pessimistically, “why weren’t you given a power Venu?”
The question seemed to make everyone a little tense.
Both Narika and Mika wanted to respond in defense of Venu, but held their breath and waited for Venu’s response.
“I hate to say it, but Aqayans don’t lack power unless there’s a reason… that’s part of their natural existence.” Elera responded.
“Uh…” Venu spoke. A few moments passed, “well… there is a reason…”
In the instance, they all heard rustling from the bushes.
Everyone started laughing upon seeing an elk-like creature move in the brush.
“Oh well…” Narika said. He put his hand out towards the new person, “a friend of Mika’s is a friend of ours. It’s nice to meet you Venu.”
Elera gave a sort of half frown looking at Narika- but acquiesced.
“Well, Elera and I are off to meet the dragon…”
“I’ll help,” Vienna spoke. “I know this area somewhat well…”
“Oh good- I wasn’t quite sure where to go,” Narika was glad things worked out like they did. When facing a new enemy it was probably for the best to have as many Allies as possible.
Vienna took the front of the group awkwardly, trying his best to be polite about it
“We should be there in a few hours…” Venu spoke and then continued, “it generally comes back to sleep around dawn…”
“How do you know so much about it?” Elera spoke.
Mika answered for him, “Venu’s one of the only people to actually talk to it!”
Elera and Narika were somewhat flabbergasted.
“Uh- well it’s not like I faced it or anything… more like it chose not to eat me…” Vienna spoke humbly.
They continued walking.
“I know that if we get on its bad side however, he’ll probably roast us alive… a dragon is a big threat…” Venu spoke.
“What can you tell us about it?” Elera responded.
Mika inserted, “well, it’s gignatiiic…”
“That he is,” Vienu spoke, “his name is Dragnel- I’d say he’s more of a recluse… although he can be patient and has a wonderful color when you ta-“
Elera stopped him, “Does he have any weaknesses?”
“Oh…” Vienna spoke, “does a dragon have a weakness?” he pondered to himself, “Well based on what I’ve seen… no? They’re immune to magic in general- they’re given more control over their elements than even most Aqayans. It’s been rumored that dragons are immortals- created to establish balance between humanity and earth… our best chance of convincing it of anything would be to get on its good side.”
“Well, it can’t be the case that they’re immortal,” Narika spoke to himself more than the others- regarding the dragon’s immortality considering the fact that there weren’t any during his and Elera’s time… Dragons were listed as noble creatures extinct from long ago. “I’ve seen a world without dragons…”
Mika inserted again, “I guess Narika’s seen the future or something…” he explained to Vienu with a tone of sarcasm, “they told me they were from the future.”
“Oh…?” Venu looked at the pensively, not entirely dismissing the idea.
“So which element is Dragneal?” Narika posed.
“Oh… Earth, fire, and wind…”
Narika listened trying to gain as much of a head start on their obstacle ahead.
Overhead, the sky suddenly became overcast- a gust of wind followed. Narika looked upwards to see a giant shadow cover the entire landscape. It was a floating mountain it looked… but upon closer inspection… the moving ‘mountain’ was actually a gigantic creature.
The scene was breathtakingly intimidating.
“Oh… it looks as if Dragnel is early…” Vienna spoke.
How on earth could they defeat a creature immune to magic and that took up an entire mountain-side?
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