Baron Von Riker
Baron Von Riker woke up gasping on the floor of the inn he was sleeping in the night before. He looked over and saw that Vylasgarden and Llorva were sleeping in the same spots like before. Vylasgarden sat, legs folded and posture straight on the table and Llorva slept quietly in the bed. It was as if the entire day before did not happen. Riker’s head spun as he tried receiving a sense of time. It can’t be, he thought to himself as he sat up then looked through his knapsack. The raven feathers were gone. He checked his purse and found that his coins were still there. He and Vylasgarden did not buy the horses yet. Perhaps it was all a dream, he thought. Or maybe it had not happened yet, Riker thought suspiciously. Riker slowly stood up from the floor. It suddenly occurred to him that perhaps the gods had heard him and brought him right back to that moment in time and granted him his second chance. His eyes widened as he pondered, I did not think it was possible. “Vylasgarden, Llorva wake up,” Riker announced.
“What is it Riker?” Vylasgarden asked fully alert.
What if they don’t believe my story? Riker thought. He certainly was not sure he would believe it either, but if his prediction were correct he only had a short amount of time till constable Guerra and his men came charging through the door. “We should be going,” Riker decided to say, his tone calmer. It would be best to not mention my experience right now, he thought. At least not now while I was trying to orchestrate a new plan that would not get myself or the women killed. Like before Riker led the women down the hall and down the stairs, but this time instead of going through the front door he led them behind the innkeeper’s counter and into a backroom. Right as the three of them enter the next room, the guards entered the inn from outside.
“What is going on Riker?” Llorva asked near his ear. The sound of several footsteps fill the room just a few feet away from them.
“We need to leave,” Riker whispered back to her then turned behind himself to face the rest of the room. It looked like a bedroom of sorts. There was a cot in the back of the room, a table with a bottle of wine sitting on it in the corner, and a bookshelf of ledgers opposite to that.
“We cannot wait here. We would be sitting goblins,” Vylasgarden remarked.
Riker nodded then directed his attention to the doorway and listened. The footsteps marched their way upstairs to the floor above. “Now is our chance. Cover your eyes and follow me,” Riker whispered then peaked his head out and saw that a pair of guards awaited in the lobby. Let’s not repeat a mistake, he thought to himself as he rushed out into the lobby and played a low-pitched tune with his flute. His flute casted a blinding white light that blinded the unsuspecting men. They stumbled and one that stood near the stairs fell over from the first step while Riker pushed the second one over as he made his way to the door.
Once outside Riker sprinted for the docks with Vylasgarden and Llorva following behind. He finally stopped when he neared a distribution centers where sailors loaded and unloaded goods from towering ships.
“What was that all about?” Vylasgarden asked when she and Llorva finally caught up to him.
“I cannot explain it now but I will once we board one of these boats.”
“Why would we want to board any of these boats? What about the deal with the bounty hunter?” Llorva asked in bewilderment.
“Those men who came in this morning were there to arrest us for what I did to the innkeeper last night,” Riker explained.
“How do you know that?” Vylasgarden asked.
“For the mean time, you will have to trust me, but now we need to leave the ports,” he desperately explained. He then asked, “Are you with me?” and looked at Vylasgarden and Llorva directly in the eyes. The women looked at him with unsure faces. “Vylasgarden you want to help people. I can see that. I bet you feel that because the world sees you as a monster, you can never show people how important you are. I have seen what you are capable of and if you come with me right now, I will promise you that you will have your chance to have people see you the way you were meant to be seen,” Riker said pleadingly.
Riker observed Vylasgarden looking at herself. She looked down at her clawed feet, her monk robe, and at her blue reptilian skin. “You are the first person since I left the monastery to look at me without fear or disgust,” she began to say.
“That is because I see you as a person and not a monster like so many people make sarkany to be. I am your friend Vylasgarden and I will defend you so long we are friends,” Riker said then extended a hand to her.
She looked down at him judging his words carefully. She looked at his hand, took it into her clawed one and decided to side with Riker. “Llorva do you wish to join us?” Riker asked impatiently looking about for guards.
“I am sorry. If it be true, that the guards are after you for what you did last night, then I want no part in it. I have my own path to follow,” Llorva told Riker.
Riker stared and considered her seriously “I understand,” he replied plainly then turned away with Vylasgarden and the two ran down the cobblestone street leaving Llorva behind. After some time, Riker and Vylasgarden descended from the street to the docks below where they ran past many ships. Most of which were larger than the surrounding buildings and distribution centers.
“Which ship should we take?” Vylasgarden asked.
“Most of these ships will take all day to load. The guard will no doubt be inspecting for stowaways before they depart too. We need to find something that is leaving now like a cargo ferry,” Riker replied. The pair continued down the path looking for ferries. After several minutes, they reached the end of the docks and found a pair of ferries that were being loaded with crates and exotic goods.
“What do you think?” Vylsgarden whispered.
“I would guess that these ferries belong to some nobleman out east. They’re likely to go out of the cove and go upstream the Birthing River straight,” Riker said as they crouched behind a pyramid of crates.
“Thet seem to be ready to leave any moment,” Vylasgarden replied. “It seems like our only option.” V
“Right you are. How good are you at being stealthy?” Riker asked before looking over to see that Vylasgarden had once again vanished from his side. He sighed then looked over to the ferry and saw that she had already begun sneaking onto the boat. The ferry they chose to board was nearly twice as large as the second one and once they avoided the ferrymen and Riker caught up to Vylasgarden on deck, they discovered that the ferry had a hold below it.
“It is perfect,” Riker acknowledged quietly.
“Do you think she will be okay on her own?” Vylasgarden asked referring to Llorva.
“She made it this far on her own and if you can make it to the cove of the Green Province, you literally can make it anywhere as far as I am concerned,” Riker replied right before hoping down into the hold.
“Okay that’s it! You are a go to set a course captain!” one of the ferrymen cried out from the dock.
“We best make ourselves comfortable underneath before we are discovered,” Riker said calling up from the cargo hold to a hesitant Vylasgarden on deck.
She looked over to the cobblestone street hoping to catch a glimpse of Llorva but she was nowhere in sight. Vylasgarden sighed then plunged into the hold with Riker. Underneath there were numerous crates that nearly filled the hold. There was barely enough space for Riker and Vylasgarden to make their way through, but they eventually found a comfortable spot within the hold’s center.
“Where do we go once we get off this boat?” Vylasgarden asked before setting her belongings down on the floor.
“If this boat is going where I think it is going, then we should arrive between the Civil Kingdoms’ Province and the Zion empire. From there we go to the Zion empire’s capitol, the Shining City,” Riker explained.
“What is there?” Vylasgarden asked.
“Opportunity,” Riker replied. “We both have our personal goals, and the emperor of the Zion Province needs a favor.”
“Why is that important?” Vylasgarden asked.
“Because when a powerful man needs a favor, only then will he be willing to help the little guy,” Riker replied. “Like tracking down the person I am looking for, for example.”
“You really think he will help you find someone you are looking for?” Vylasgarden asked.
“There is only one way to find out and best believe that I am betting on that horse,” Riker replied.
“Maybe this emperor will help me find some people as well,” Vylasgarden followed.
“Who are you looking for?” Riker asked but Vylasgarden acted as if she did not hear him. “Are you going to make me beg?” Riker asked.
“If you refuse to say who you are looking for, then what gives you the right to know who I am looking for?” Vylasgarden asked defensibly.
Riker winced and said, “You heard that last night huh?”
“I did,” Vylasgarden replied. “It is amazing what you hear when people see that you are meditating.”
Riker scratched his head and decided to change the subject, “Is it true that most people do not see you any more than just a monster?” Riker asked as he sat on the floor with Vylasgarden.
“Children look at me like I am the creature of their nightmares. Parents will hold their babes close whenever I approach, and when I go into a market for food or supplies people will either refuse business with me or give me everything they have as if I would kill them if they refused me. I only found refuge among other dragonkin.”
“I am sure that that has been a hard life to live. I cannot imagine what you must go through daily,” Riker said to her.
“No. You cannot. How can you when society has decided that elves are the symbol of beauty and righteousness. The humans will admire your pointed ears whilst cowering at my pointed teeth,” Vylasgarden said slightly irritated.
“You are not wrong Vylasgarden. I do indeed have a privilege that many people like yourself have been denied for centuries, and because of things like feuding cultures from a millennium ago. But for me it is more complicated than having elven heritage,” Riker replied.
“Is that so?”
“Yes, you see I am half elf. My birth parents were human and myrkalfar elf.”
“It sounds like you have the best of both worlds,” Vylasgarden replied.
“Everyone thinks that that is the case with halfbloods, but it is more like having to embrace the worst of both sides. Humans will both idealize and condemn me for my elven heritage. I was superior but haughty in my nature growing up just because one of my parents was an elf. The elves will always see me as impure and unfit for many of their societies, and by the end of one-hundred and twenty-three years you learn to either hate yourself or embrace yourself.”
“Which did you choose?” Vylasgarden asked.
“I do not know yet, but I hope I figure it out one day,” Riker replied.
Suddenly the boat jerked forward.
“We must be taking off,” Riker remarked.
“I suppose you and I are not so different after all,” Vylasgarden said while fidgeting with her claws.
“No I suppose not. We’re both outcasts to some degree,” Riker said with a smile directed at her.
He then noticed scarring on his forearms.
What is this? he asked himself while examining both his arms. He recognized the scarring as burn markings in the shape of a metal chain wrapped around his forearm.
Hot iron… It was not a dream, he thought.
Riker rolled his sleeves down to cover the scars.
“I do hope that Llorva will be alright whilst we make our journey,” Vylasgarden commented.
“You should not have to Vylasgarden,” a voice said from the back of the hold. “Because I am here with you,” Llorva appeared before them from the shadows and joined Riker and Vylasgarden at the center of the hold.
“Well I will be a goblin’s bugaboo. You decided to come after all,” Riker said amused.
“How can I resist a good story to tell my children one day,” Llorva replied smiling.
“With us dear lady, you shall have the story of a lifetime,” Riker said standing up and shaking Llorva’s hand.
Llorva chuckled and Vylasgarden stood up and placed her clawed hand over their hands.
“To us!” Vylasgarden cried.
“To… companionship,” Riker followed and notice a spark in Llorva’s expression. She seemed to have had an epiphany.
“I have something for this occasion,” Llorva said.
“Is that so?” Riker asked curiously.
Llorva reached into her knapsack and took out a bottle of wine, “From the innkeeper’s room,” she said while holding it up in the sliver of light shedding from the cracks in the deck above.
“You son of a troll,” Riker said smiling. “I will drink to that.”
It took the entire morning for the ferry to exit the cove of the Green Province and began to sail east toward the mouth of the legendary Birthing River.
“Where does it get the name? The Birthing River,” Vylasgarden asked.
“Many elfish texts speak of how its banks are the cradles of life in Veterumterrum. The start of the first civilizations in the Green and Zion provinces,” Llorva replied.
“Of course, elves were not around for that,” Riker remarked.
“Oh?” Vylasgarden questioned.
Riker took a swig of wine from the bottle and said, “The elves came to this realm from one called the Twilight Realm. Something about the gods creating them for a thousand years or something like that.”
“Actually, the Twilight Realm came first before Veterumterrum could be named,” Llorva corrected and reached for the bottle of wine. She took a drink then said, “It is believed that my people were being crafted directly by the gods themselves for nearly millennia before being satisfied and blessing our existence among the other humanoids.”
“Ha! If that were the case, the gods made you in their own image,” Riker said laughing.
“Perhaps they did,” Llorva said with a wink and another drink.
“You must have read those sacred texts yourself,” Vylasgarden chimed in.
“Every one of them,” Llorva quipped with a smile. “So, what is the plan once we leave here?”
“We find a temporary place to settle down for a while then we journey to the Shining City in the Zion Empire,” Riker said.
“Llorva nearly spat out her drink and said, We cannot go there.”
“Why not?” Vylasgarden asked. “Riker claims that the emperor is looking for adventurers to answer his summoning.”
“What? Really? What is he asking for?” Llorva asked anxiously and Riker hands her a block print flyer from knapsack. She began to read it when Riker spoke.
“The emperor is offering a decent reward for completing his task, however I am not considering this for the coin,” he told the women.
“What for then?” Llorva asked.
“I going to ask for his help in exchange,” Riker replied.
“To help find his missing person,” Vylasgarden followed but Llorva just stared at the flyer. It had the official Zion Empire stamp on it and Zion Province official block print font.
“Does this interest you?” Riker asked.
“Potentially,” Llorva hesitantly replied.
“You don’t seem to be fully on board with this plan,” Riker said to her.
“It’s just … how do we know the emperor will give us each a favor?” Llorva replied.
“Considering how I found this flyer as far as Unum Island, what the emperor will be asking of adventurers will outweigh any favor the three of us could ask of him over coin,” Riker said confidently.
“He seems to be quite sure of this,” Vylasgarden said.
“I guess it could not hurt to see,” Llorva quietly said.
“Do you know what you would ask the emperor?” Riker asked.
“I am not sure really. I feel if the ruler of the entire Zion Province was going to give you a favor, it is best nt to waste it on impulse thoughts,” Llorva answered.
“I will drink to that,” Riker said taking the bottle of wine a downing a drink. “Speaking of favors,” Riker followed. “I think we should learn a few more things about each other since we will be traveling companions. Vylasgarden have you lived in a monastery all your life?”
“No I use to be a merchant before I became a monk.”
“What happened to change that?” Riker asked.
Vylasgarden hesitated and though she seemed to be the soberest person there, she decided to tell them her truth, “I lost my family during a raid on my clan.”
“I am so sorry Vylasgarden,” Llorva said. The shock seemed to have sobered her a little. “What were their names?” Llorva asked.
Vylasgarden pictured the faces of her husband and children. The memories seemed so distant now, she thought. “My husband’s name was Rinshas, he too was a merchant. My son’s name was Ozzu, he was training to become a hunter before he died. And my daughter’s name was Binirex she did not know what she wanted to be yet. We belonged to a small clan of sarkany in the hills of the Heavenly Province.”
“How long ago was the attack?” Riker asked.
“Nearly five years ago now. The raiders slaughtered other families and friends of mine and burned our homes to the ground. We tried escaping but because my home was made of stone, they decided to collapse it with us still inside. I was the only one from my clan to survive the attack,” Vylasgarden said somberly. Llorva and Riker starred at Vylasgarden speechlessly.
“I am sorry for your loss. You must want to ask for the emperor’s help in finding your family’s murderers.” Riker finally said.
“Yes,” Vylasgarden replied. “And if it is all the same I would like to not talk about them and my previous life again.”
“Of course,” Riker said then cleared his throat. Vylasgarden watched Riker reached into his knapsack and pull out a beautiful lyre from within it. It was small and U-shaped. It glistened in the dim light as he began playing a dreamlike melody on blue strings. Blue strings, Vylasgarden thought. Strange, I did not know stringed instruments could have a set of blue strings. Perhaps these strings have some connection to his magic, Vylasgarden thought and after a moment, Riker began to sing a story.
“I was born to a house of wealthy spice merchants
I had all I could ever ask for:
A loving mother, an extravagant lifestyle, and even house servants
Oh, how sweet was my mother’s love
Jasmine and Angel’s Trumpet is what she smelt of
Though life did seem perfect then, I can tell thee
My relationship with my elven father was not too healthy
Once I had my sixtieth year my mother’s life turned drear
Soon she died and all that was left in me was fear
Love was never as sweet, love was never as kind
Till I met a love in a world of confined.”
Riker suddenly stopped singing and Vylasgarden noticed that he had stopped playing his lyre in the middle of his song. “I’m sorry that took a turn I was not ready to go down,” Riker said.
“No, it is fine to be vulnerable Riker,” Vylasgarden said.
“Yeah but I was not exactly ready for all that,” Riker replied.
“Well, at least we learned that you loved your human mother,” Llorva remarked but Riker said nothing. “Who is this person you fell in love with?” Llorva asked.
“Someone I care enough about to quit that job back in Unum Island,” Riker said as he walked away and disappeared behind the pillars of crates.
“That is a side of him that one does not see often I am sure. Should we see if he is okay?” Vylasgarden asked Llorva.
“I bethink the memories may have been a dram much for him. Perhaps he just needs some space and time to sober up,” Llorva replied.
“And what of you Llorva? What is your story?” Vylasgarden asked.
“A few weeks ago, I had decided to leave mine own home. I had felt deprived of freedom,” Llorva replied.
Vylasgarden kept her gaze. “Were you a slave?” Vylasgarden asked next.
Llorva chuckled and said, “Nothing of the sort. Let’s just say I have a very controlling father. If I learned anything about the world since leaving home, it is that there are so many kinds of people in the world. I have at several moments of my life have heard stories about goblins and orcs, but I never did imagine what those people did look like. And you vylasgarden, I never hath met someone like you.”
“Dragonkin?” Vylasgarden asked.
“A monk with a purpose,” Llorva said emphasizing her meaning. “I have never met someone who had not gone through so much loss and repurposed themselves to better the world like you have and I am fain to have met you.”
“When I met you, I thought you would treat me like every other elf and human I had ever met. Cold shouldered and self-loving, but you and Riker showed me kindness and equality. Because of you I feel more like a person and less of a monster,” Vylasgarden explained.
Llorva gave Vylasgarden a hug and Vylasgarden felt a warm tear roll onto her shoulder from Llorva’s eyes. “I turned one-hundred and twenty-one not too long ago and only now do I feel like I finally understand the world around me,” Llorva said crying.
“Llorva, I think you are drunk,” Vylasgarden said with a smile but Llorva ignored her.
“It seems like the longer I stay from the Province of Civil Kingdoms the stouter I am at resisting its ideals and influences.”
“It seems like this province of yours is not a very good place to live,” Vylasgarden replied.
“Neither does the Heavenly Province,” Llorva followed. “Was there justice for what those horrible people did to your clan?”
“No, the province is a neutral zone. It is rural and it is wild. Few villages and towns remain civil. Most old settlements fell from corruption and lawlessness,” Vylasgarden replied.
“The name Heavenly Province seems misleading,” Llorva said mid-gasp from crying.
“The name comes the renewed culture of the sarkany many years ago when the ancestors of my people adopted the ideology of inner and outer peace. Through this practice, it is said that my ancestors found direct access to the aether and all the ancient godlike dragons that predated and gave birth to the sarkany nation. Not all sarkany follow this but it is widely believed that the ancient dragons shaped my people’s livelihood. The sages will often say that the immortal ancient dragons taught my ancestors how to manipulate qi and breathe fire.”
“Do you believe that?” Llorva asked.
Vylasgarden focused and centered her qi to her forehead. It illuminated in the dark hold.
“I use to believe that the gods despised my people, but now I believe that my people in fact have been blessed. It just so happens that few will patiently harness the blessing. Besides, the ancient ancestors of my clan breathed lightning,” Vylasgarden said with a smile.
“Where are the immortal dragons now?” Llorva asked.
“Most are dead from waring over millennia ago, others are believed to have retreated to others realms to rule,” Vylasgarden offered.
Llorva smiled and said, “If your ancestors were immortal, then how could they die?”
“Their bones,” Vylasgarden said simply.
“Their bones?” Llorva asked.
“Their enemies would remove their bones and use their power from within to take their immortality away from them,” Vylasgarden explained.
“Incredible,” Llorva whispered. “I never knew this in all my years.”
“Most outside of dragonkin do know this,” Vylasgarden replied. She looked at Llorva, this child. Though the elf was a life time older than her, she felt Llorva still needed her mind molded and perhaps she could be the one to mold her. “Come meditate with me,” Vylasgarden offered. “With focus and breathing, it can enlighten you.” Llorva sat next to her and together they sat in silence and let the aether take over. As the afternoon carried on, the ferry sailed into the Birthing River. On the west shore of the river were the tropical forests of the Green Province and on the east shore were the woodlands of the Province of Civil Kingdoms. Llorva’s heightened hearing allowed her to hear the noises above. She heard the voices and footsteps of the ferrymen on deck, the sound of debris knocking against the boat in the water, and she noticed the sound of creatures she has never heard before near the shores.
Birds perhaps, but maybe the chirping and croaks of frogs too, she thought to herself. She then heard the approaching footsteps of Riker’s boots. He came and sat next to her and said, “You know the very first time I saw you many years ago I did not think much of you.”
“What are you talking about Riker?” Llorva replied.
“I am talking about how I know who you really are and that you have been keeping your identity from us.”
“What? You are being ridiculous!” Llorva stammered.
“Am I?” Riker asked playfully.
Llorva’s eye widened in disbelief and she swiftly brought a hidden dagger to Riker’s head but he dodged it just in time. The blade stuck centimeters away from his face into the crate behind him.
“Whoa! No need to take my head off!” Riker said.
“Are you going to expose me?” She asked nervously.
“Your secret is safe with me alright,” Riker said with his hands up in a defensive stance. “As far as I am concerned your name is still Llorva.”
She began to relax a bit then brought the dagger back up. “Do not make me regret this,” she said with a snarl.
“Sure thing. Just do not expect me to treat you any different than the next creature we meet on a street corner. I mean it, no special treatment from me,” Riker replied.
“Of Course! I don’t want special treatment!” she exclaimed.
“Okay, sure. Now can we put the dagger down now? I am not going to reveal your secret,” Riker insisted. Llorva calmed herself after a moment of pause and took a good look at Riker. How did he recognize me, she thought. Maybe it was my features, but plenty ljosalfar women look like me. Perhaps I need to take off my signet ring. I must admit it is quite alluring; but I cannot chance losing it.
Llorva sighed and asked, “What gave me away?”
“You know, it is a miracle that no one has robbed you yet, or came close to recognizing you like I have,” Riker said to her.
“Have you already forgotten that I am the one holding the dagger?” Llorva growled. Riker thought about her dagger and gave Llorva a second look and noticed that she kept her dagger in her right sleeve. He then saw that she steady kept a second dagger in her left sleeve.
“Hey,” he responded to her.
“How handy are you with those things anyway?”
Baron Von Riker
That night the trio found themselves needing things to occupy their time. The boat drifted down the river as the hours went by. Vylasgarden went between practicing and improving her combat skills and meditating alone while Riker challenged Llorva to a duel with their melee weapons.
“Are you sure you want to do this?” Llorva asked.
“You may have a couple of daggers, but are you proficient with them? I want to find out,” Riker replied with rapier in hand.
“Alright,” Llorva leapt forward welding a dagger in each hand.
Riker deflected the attack with his rapier and gave Llorva a smirk. Llorva then charged him a second time and cut his white barding coat. Riker takes his free hand and uses his magic to mend the tear.
“You move bard knave,” she said with a returned smirk.
Riker thrusted the rapier toward Llorva and she scooted back to avoid the blade.
“Watch yourself,” Riker said.
Llorva leapt up into the air and brought the daggers down above him. Riker used his rapier to block the attack but fell over under Llorva’s weight.
“Thee gaze thyself,” Llorva said giving Riker a wink then helped him to his feet.
“What does that mean?” he asked.
“It means you spend too much time worrying about yourself and not your opponent,” Llorva replied as she and Riker walked over to take drinks from their waterskins. “Mine own parents made sure my sister and I were well trained in combat. But not so much that we knew how to square, but rather that we had something to do while we were locked in our towers every day.”
“Is that why you left? Because you parents kept you locked away?” Riker asked. “Seems contradictory that they would have you train in fighting.
“Mine own father, more so than mine own mother. I just wanted an out and experience freedom for the first time. You know?” Llorva replied.
But what of your sister?” Riker asked.
“I shall go back for her once I find a place for us to live. Come to think of it, will you help me get her Riker?” Llorva asked.
Riker spat his drink. “You want me to help you kidnap your sister?” Riker asked.
Llorva’s hopefulness faded from her green eyes. Realizing her disappointment Riker started to reconsider.
“Tell you what, if you can help me get to the Shining City, then I will help you convince the emperor to help you receive your sister. How does that sound?”
“I believe that is very fair,” Llorva replied.
The two shook hands.
“It is a deal. Now how about a rematch duel? I surely underestimated you the last time,” Riker said putting his hand on the hilt of his sheathed rapier.
“Unguard then!” Llorva replied then equipped both daggers in hand.
The two went at it again and this time Riker went all out, giving Llorva all he had into his rapier. She swiftly and elegantly avoided or deflected his attacks and it soon became apparent to her that his moves were predictable. She then took the offense and clashed one dagger with his rapier then brought the second near his neck. She stopped herself just cintemeters away from his trachea.
“Have at thee,” she said pleased with herself. “You are predictable Riker. Perhaps I should teach you how to adequately use a blade.”
“I hate to admit it but I think you are right,” Riker replied with a bit of panic.
Llorva brought the dagger away from his neck but as she brought it down its edge grazed Riker’s forearm. The cut was deep enough to cause perfuse bleeding.
“Augh!” Riker cried.
“Riker! Vylasgarden Help! He is bleeding!” Llorva called out.
Vylasgarden quickly rushed over. “What happened?”
“I accidentally cut him with my dagger,” Llorva said.
“Okay, stand back Llorva I am going to try and help the best I can,” Vylasgarden took one of her clawed hands and used it to cover the wound to stop the bleeding. She pressed hard and Riker cried out in pain. “I know it hurts but you are going to have to trust me like I have trusted you, okay?”
Riker nodded while gritting his teeth.
“Llorva go keep watch and make sure no one on deck has heard us,” Vylasgarden instructed.
Llorva hesitantly walked over to the ladder that lead up to the trapped door above and began intently listening.
Vylasgarden took her second clawed hand and hovered it over Riker’s forearm.
“I am going to try to focus your qi energy now. It should heal your wound,” she said looking Riker in his pained eyes.
Her hovering hand began to create circular motions and Riker’s entire body began to illuminate. After a moment, the illumination channeled itself to his right arm then condensed itself to his injured forearm. The light that came from his forearm was so intense that it nearly blinded Vylasgarden and suddenly it stopped.
Vylasgarden looked down and saw that Riker’s forearm had healed completely; all that remained was a scar that was where the wound had been opened and the burn scars from the iron chains.
“How do you feel?” Vylasgarden asked.
“I feel… Amazing. How did you do that? Are you using magic?” Riker asked then remembered his alternate timeline where he witnessed Vylasgarden healing herself from the cockatrice attack. Now he knows that she can heal others as well as herself. Riker’s eyes wide and body pulsed like adrenaline had taken over him.
“I focused your life force to your injury. It is a form of vitality magic. The concentration of qi rapidly healed your arm. I never practiced on anyone other than myself before though. I was not sure it would have worked properly on you.”
“I am forever grateful that it worked. Thank you,” Riker said with a smile.
Llorva came over from the trap door and said, “All seems fine above. None noticed us. How is he?” she asked Vylasgarden.
“Look at what she did Llorva,” Riker showed Llorva the healed scar.
“How did she do that?” Llorva asked.
“She used her monk mumbo-jumbo and, poof! Good as new!” Riker replied.
“Well it is more complicated than that, but essentially yes that is the gist of it,” Vylasgarden said smiling at Riker’s giddiness.
“I am so sorry Riker. I should have been more careful,” Llorva said.
“It was an accident and we were using dangerous weapons. It was just as much my fault as it was yours. Let us just be glad Vylasgarden was here to mend the pieces,” Riker replied.
“Which reminds me, be very careful you two. I can only do that a limited number of times in a day before it drains and weakens my own qi,” Vylasgarden commented.
Riker and Llorva nodded.
“We should get some rest. The boat should be pulling into a port some time tomorrow,” Riker said.
“I agree. No telling where we shall end up,” Llorva followed.
“My guess is it will be somewhere north of the Province of the Civil Kingdoms. All this stuff must belong to some noble family that relocated to a wealthy village,” Riker suggested.
“I guess we will find out when we get there,” Vylasgarden said while getting in a meditation position.
Later during the night Riker was the only one still awake. He reached into his knapsack and pulled out a copper oil lamp. He had purchase it from a merchant from the Zion Province a few days ago before leaving Unum Island and this was the first time he was using it. He poured the oil into the lamp then lit its wick from the nozzle.
Riker’s mind was flooded with memories from the day that had happened before. Was any of it real? What would have happened if I had not prayed to the Phoenix? These were just a few of the questions he asked himself as he sat against a large crate and starred at the chain burn markings of his forearms. Suddenly he received a vision, he was in the aether floating about when he noticed a large celestial bird of prey flying toward him. The bird screeched and a cone of flame hurled Riker’s way from the bird’s beak. Riker gasped awake. He felt the flames engulf him in the aether but there he was, in the hold of the ferry unharmed. It was especially hot and humid that night but Riker’s sweats came from a fear inside himself. That night Riker did not sleep, he just stared awake into the flickering fire of his oil lamp.
The next morning Llorva taught Riker how to throw her daggers. She demonstrated by throwing them herself and using stacked crates as targets.
“The idea is to throw it at the right time. Not too soon and not too late,” Llorva said while lining her blade.
She held it by its tip and balanced it between her fingers. She would bring it overhead then flung it forward. The blade stuck into a crate twelve meters away.
“Impressive,” Riker stated.
“Now you try,” Llorva said handing him the second dagger.
Riker widened his stance and like Llorva brought the dagger overhead and flung it forward. The dagger came a little short from where Llorva stuck the first blade but it was enough to surprise her.
“Very valorous Riker. You should make an excellent sharpshooter once I am through with you,” Llorva said.
Riker smiled at the compliment and out of his peripheral he noticed Llorva’s signet ring again.
“You should take your ring off before someone else recognizes you,” He told her.
Llorva looked down at the ring.
“Is that how you recognized me?” she asked.
“It was one of many, but certainly one of the defining tells,” he replied.
Llorva took the ring off and placed it in her belt pocket. “Thank you, Riker.”
“Of course, and make sure to never lose it. That ring is the only thing that will save you in a time of struggle. Showing that ring to any official in the world will prove your legitimacy,” Riker said before Llorva called out to Vylasgarden whom was meditating from across the boat. Vylasgarden joined them and saw that the crate that she and Riker had been using for target practice had been leaking salt from the cracks the daggers created upon impact.
“What do we have here?” Riker commented.
He opened the crate and found that it was filled with salt preserved lamb shanks.
“Is that what I think it is?” Llorva asked.
“I believe so,” Vylasgarden replied.
Llorva went around and started opening other crates. She found one crate full of apples, another full of bananas, and a third full of carrots.
“Holly black bird! Most of these crates are full of food!” Riker exclaimed.
“Would it be wrong to take some of these?” Vylasgarden asked.
“Yes,” Riker replied then start filling his knapsack with food items. “Look, we are low on currency and we are entering a different province with its own money. Some settlements may not take union coins, so I suggest we take what we can now and pay it forward later,” Riker explained with a mouth full of cabbage.
The trio filled their bags with food that could sustain them for several days; and that evening they feasted and filled their bellies with lamb, cheeses, and the rest of the innkeeper’s wine. After a while they noticed that the boat had changed course and was slowing down.
“We must be at our destination,” Vylasgarden commented.
“We should collect our things then,” Llorva followed.
As they prepared to leave, the ferry pulled into a dock on the east side of the river. The ferrymen were securing the boat when Riker and the women decided to emerge from the hold and stealthily exited onto land where they realized that they were not in the Province of Civil Kingdoms.