Chapter 17 = Pit stop
Disclaimer: Although all characters here are of my own invention, the original idea of Yoshies, Birdos, etcetera, are copyright of Nintendo, and I make no money from writing this.
The sunlight was setting across the lands of Chyrus as the rain fell down in a steady stream from the heavens. Manny, still in the lead and marching fervently, spotted lights out of the darkness ahead, and called back to the others, waiting for them to catch up, before the group then continued onwards towards what turned out to be one of many travellers’ inns in the lands.
Many such inns had grown from what was originally just a single establishment, providing food and shelter to wandering travellers… for a price. Given that the people who visited the inns tended to be very tired from long travels, they were perfectly happy to pay slightly higher than average prices for rooms and food, since it was often a long way to the nearest city or town.
Manny pushed the door open and went inside, closely followed by his companions, who were equally eager to get out of the rain. They were greeted by the warmth from a nearby wood fire, and a pale yellow Birdo hostess behind a bar serving a pair of Yoshies who looked like they’d been there for some time. The Birdo, who was wearing a pure white silk bow, waved to them as Marcus closed the door behind him, and Manny went up to the bar in front of her.
“Please tell me you’ve got room for us… I don’t want to go back out in that weather.”
She nodded, and replied, “For the four of you? Yes, I’ve got rooms… would you mind sharing two twin rooms?”
Manny looked over his shoulder, but the others were already by the fire, warming themselves in its glow. The blue Yoshi chuckled as he turned back and said, “I think they’d stay even if we had to share beds.”
He paid her for the two rooms and collected the keys, before joining his friends over by the fireside. Holding up the pair of tagged keys, he jangled them to attract attention and said, “Okay, we’ve got a pair of twin rooms. Are we going to have to fight for who goes where or can we work this out sensibly?”
“Guys-girls.” Xenly said almost immediately. “No offence, but I’d rather not sleep in the same room as you, if it’s all the same.”
Laen nodded in agreement, and Manny tossed Xenly one of the keys. The elf and the Yoshi left, heading through the door marked ‘Guest rooms’, while Manny, still dripping rainwater, sat down on a sheepskin rug next to Marcus and slowly dried himself off in the heat of the fire.
Silence held for a moment, before Marcus inquired, “Well… are you going to tell me what’s troubling you now?”
Manny looked away from him, but turned back again after thinking for a moment. “I might as well… I can’t hide much from you, anyways.”
He took a moment to pick up a small log from a wood crate next to the fire, before throwing it on top of the other burning logs. He sat down again, and kept his gaze on the flaming wood as the flames began to lick at the bark and send curly wisps of smoke up into the chimney.
“You know the whole situation about me and Karin… we were never like you and Alziana, but we were still fairly close… I never thought that I loved her, and I never said I did, but after we lost everyone else… well, it kind of changed my perspective of her, and pretty much everything else for that matter… and then I lost her before I could fully comprehend what was going on…”
Marcus gave him a comforting pat on the back. “Well, you’re handling it better than me, anyways… I’m sorry I couldn’t save her, but I’m just not strong enough to pull two Yoshies…”
Manny narrowed his eyes, not taking his gaze away from the fire. “Yeah, well, nothing that can be done about that now.”
Marcus detected the haughty tone in his friend’s voice, and cautiously asked, “Manny… are you mad at me?”
Manny closed his eyes and looked away. “Not at you, Marcus… not at you.”
Both were silent for a few moments, then Manny sighed and got up to leave. “I’m going to the room… it’s room seven, just so you know… I’ll be there if you need me, okay?”
Marcus nodded, and Manny left him by the fireside as he went off to the room. Marcus looked over his shoulder and took a look around the inn lobby; the walls were mostly white plaster, and the way into the next room had a large wooden support beam in the middle of it. In the room where he was there were a few pictures on the walls, several wooden chairs and tables, comfortable cushioned chairs around where he was sitting, and the bar that the Birdo was still behind. No longer wet, Marcus got up and took a seat in one of the cushioned chairs, watching the fire crackle in front of him.
I wonder if Manny’s going to be okay…
Xenly was lying on her back on one of the beds, having taken her shoes off to relieve her sore feet; she didn’t like walking long distances at a time, since she tended to get blisters on the backs of her feet quite easily. Laen had taken off her leather mantle and was currently around the corner from Xenly, removing the rest of her soaking clothes and allowing them to dry. Xenly removed her swords from her back, dropping them onto the floor next to the bed, before rolling onto her front and burying her head in the two pillows in front of her, exhausted.
Laen’s voice floated around the corner. “You know, there’s something peculiar about those two.”
Xenly rolled onto her back again, leaning forward to unhook the bedsheets from her talons. “What are you talking about?” she replied as she fiddled with the cotton sheets.
“I don’t know… they just seem to be acting pretty strange for young Yoshies… not that I’m an expert or anything on you, but still…”
“They’ve lost all their families and everyone they’ve ever known. Of course they’re going to be behaving a little oddly.”
Xenly heard water hitting the basin of the sink in the room as Laen wrung her clothes out. “Yeah, good point. You know, I never expected to be travelling around Chryus with three Yoshies for friends, but you can’t predict the future.”
“Hey, I thought I’d be an assassin all my life…”
“Yeah, what happened to you? Why’d you get exiled?”
“Long story.” Xenly replied. “A botch on my part, really… normally, after a job, I hide in a different place to where I normally live, but I was still packing my things when they caught me in my flat. I got taken to court and tried, but there wasn’t enough evidence against me, so I was exiled after being proven to be an assassin.”
“Hmm… how many people had you killed by then, anyway?”
Xenly paused for a moment, trying to think. “Well, I’d been there since I was about ten… I finished my training and got hired a few times that year…” she went silent again as she attempted to count her jobs, but the numbers eluded her. “I really can’t remember… but at least three to four hundred people.”
Laen gave a whistle of admiration. “Nice. I can imagine you made a lot of money for that, huh?”
“Kind of. The guild took a lot of it, but there was still a substantial amount left over afterwards… a comfortable life, but I earned my fair share of scars.”
Laen came back around the corner in dry but extremely wrinkled clothing. “I can imagine. It’s pretty late… I think I’m going to get some sleep.”
“Yeah, me too. ‘night.”
Laen closed the curtains and blew out the candles, before making her way to her bed and slipping under the covers. She could hear Xenly’s snores, but fell asleep a few moments later regardless.
“You’ve been there for half an hour.” The Birdo said, tapping Marcus on the shoulder with a claw. “Are you alright?”
Marcus snapped out of his daydream. “Huh? Oh, yeah… I’m fine.”
“Hey… what’s with your eyes?”
“Nothing, nothing… I’m not sure myself, but they’ve been like that as far as I can remember…”
“Oh, okay… anything I can do for you?”
“We-ell…” Marcus said, thinking for a moment. He suddenly realised he had no idea what time it was, and asked, “Hey, what’s the date today?”
“Thirty-fifth day of Lazrin. Why?”
The Chyrusian calendar consisted of ten months, each forty days long. The original calendar had coincided with the movements of the two moons, but later it was considered easier to take the round number of days that it took for one of the stars in the sky to appear in the west and do so again the next year, since it was bright red and stood out from the others.
Marcus registered what the date meant. “Whoa… hey, that means I’ve been seventeen for three days. To think I spent most of my birthday in a prison cell…”
He stood up and headed for the bar, while the hostess overtook him and went behind the bar to serve him. It seemed that the place had filled up a little since Marcus had arrived, but he still managed to grab a stool as he reached into his saddlebags for some money. He pulled out a handful of change, some of which he’d taken from Manny before they made the crossing, and looking at the bottles behind the bar, he spotted a bottle of wine and asked for it.
A delicacy among Yoshies was wine made from fermenting melons rather than grapes. It was a lot sweeter, and came in a variety of strengths, not to mention the wide selection of spiced wines and other similar things. The bottle Marcus had just ordered was full strength, and the Birdo uncorked it for him before moving on to other customers. Marcus poured some of it out into a separate glass, and gave a silent toast to himself, before taking a sip of the sweet liquor.
Manny was tossing and turning under the duvet, furiously trying to get to sleep but having no success. He had no idea how long he’d been lying there, but gave up and whipped the duvet off of himself, frustrated.
Almost tripping over his equipment that he’d dropped down next to the bed, he got up and went to the window, parting the curtains and looking out into the night. Rain was still beating against the plate glass, and the clouds were obscuring the view of any stars or moonlight that may have been out there. Manny scratched his saddleless back as he looked out into the darkness… had it stopped raining since he’d lost Karin? It didn’t seem like it, and the weather was starting to wear him down; if it was still raining in the morning he’d probably pay for another night.
He turned around as he heard a knock on the door, followed closely by a suppressed hiccup. Manny opened the door to find a sorry looking Marcus standing outside; his red eye outlines had dilated to at least double their normal size, and he seemed to be having trouble staying on his feet. He staggered in the room, mumbling something, and Manny could smell the alcohol on his breath as he passed.
Why didn’t I think of that? Manny thought, I should’ve gotten sloshed and forgotten about Karin for a little bit…
“What’s the booze-up in aid of?” Manny asked, closing the door.
Marcus groaned, slurring his speech badly. “I’ve been sheventeen for three daysh… I kinda overdid it shelebrating…”
Manny rolled his eyes. “My only consolation is that your low tolerance means you probably didn’t spend too much. How much did you have?”
“Two bottlesh… full shtrength, of coursh… I think I’m gonna lie down and shleep thish off…”
In the dark, Manny heard metal clinks as Marcus undid the buckles on his saddle, before letting it fall to the floor along with his saddlebags, then he removed his shoes and fell onto the bed, falling asleep within seconds.
Manny sighed as he got back into his bed. He didn’t know if he’d make it all the way to the end of their journey… he didn’t even know if he wanted to any more.
To be continued…