Chapter 30 = Loose threads
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.
Around the time that dawn broke, while the four travellers behind Dave and Visali were almost sleepwalking, trying to keep going despite the protests of their legs to stop, the red-orange Yoshi turned back and shouted, “Look! We’re almost there!”
Rushing up to him, they stood and looked out down into the valley; the mountain range ended within a few hundred yards or so, and after that a well-maintained road began, leading into a walled city after approximately a mile. The city had a river running through the centre of it, and many ways in and out besides the one they were about to take, with heavy traffic on the roads as carts made their way through the gates and into the city.
“My home.” Visali said, with an air of smugness about him. “The city of Corvan. And on our left, just past the river, is the university complex, though you can’t quite make it out from here.”
Manny gave a groan and asked, “You mean we still have to walk all the way through the city?”
“Well, first, it’s only halfway.” Visali answered. “Secondly, the city is laid out in a grid system, so it’s not too hard to get there or find your way around. And finally, the university’s halls of residence are on this side of the river, overlooking the university itself. Come on, if we get going now we can get there within an hour or so.”
Spurred on by their goal being in sight, they set off along the path, which became a road after a short while. They reached the city walls within half an hour, and had to stop at the pedestrian entrance so that a pair of armoured guards, one grey Yoshi and one yellow Yoshi, could search them for any illegal goods before they were let through.
Visali, Dave, and Manny got through quite painlessly, as was Marcus once he passed off the octagram as being a fake, reasoning that he couldn’t be a divinely chosen saviour and clearly wasn’t going to try and sell ‘such an obvious imitation’, not to mention that it was ‘missing’ five of the gems. Shiala had her backpack searched and was questioned about the knife, but after saying it was a dragon’s tooth blade they laughed and let her past, clearly unbelieving. Closing the gate again, they were about to sit back down when one of them snapped his fingers.
“Hey, weren’t there six of you?”
“You’re right.” The other one said. “Where’s that white female gone? She looked like she had attitude.”
“Maybe she went to another entrance to cut the queue.” Visali suggested, and the guards sighed, before nonchalantly going back to waiting for someone on foot to come along.
They started off down the road with Visali in the lead, and Marcus noticed that there had been a cunning switch; Visali was now helping Manny walk along, and as they passed a dark alley Xenly calmly walked out of it and tagged along the back of their group. “Uh…” Marcus began, but she put a finger to her lips to indicate for him to be quiet, giving him a knowing wink and taking Manny off of Visali.
Marcus never did work out how Xenly had gotten past the guards, but figured the reason for wanting to avoid a search was her extensive collection of needles, throwing stars, daggers, poisons, pins, and whatever else she had concealed in her saddlebags.
Walking through the cobblestone streets, Marcus noticed that there were lots of shops on either side of the street selling varying items, plus lots of side streets and back alleys going off of the road they were on. Shiala was incredibly interested in the city and kept slowing down inadvertently to look at things, and was intrigued as they passed through a large square with benches and a water fountain.
“Hey, Visali, how does that work?” She called out, and he replied, “Water pressure. They force water from the river down the pipes and it’s forced out the fountain, under enough pressure to arc up into the air like that. The water at the bottom drains back into the main sewer system and is pumped out into the river further down. It’s straight from the river, so you could probably drink it, but I wouldn’t do it myself.”
Three streets on, Visali led them down a side street and stopped at a multi-story block of flats, while Dave fumbled in his pockets for a key, eventually finding it and letting himself in. They quickly went inside and the door closed behind them, locking again with a click as the door shut, before following Visali up a flight of stairs two floors, and down a corridor. They came to a room with a plate on it, reading ‘Room 204 – Visali Lestan / David Skiller’.
“This is it.” Visali said, unlocking the door and pushing it open.
It was extremely untidy inside the flat and had the mark of a university student’s living space; the main room they were looking into had a plain blue carpet, a small dining table and two chairs, a large sofa next to a large but low table, several bookshelves, and a few other odds and ends scattered about. There were three other doors around the room, though two of them were closed and the third led into what appeared to be a small yet functional kitchen. Scattered around on tables and occasionally on the floor were scraps of paper and vaell, and Marcus even noticed several small metal parts for something strewn about the tables. Hanging on one of the walls in the living room was a portrait of an orange Yoshi in between a grey male and a green female, which Marcus assumed could only be Visali’s family, though they looked a little familiar…
“Okay, here’s the deal;” Visali said, picking up the pile of mail on the floor on his way in, “We can get one person on the sofa, but the other three are going to have to get a hotel room somewhere. Seeing as I doubt that Mr and Mrs Marcus there…” he remarked, waving a hand towards Marcus and Shiala, “…are going to let themselves be separated, it’s a choice between Manny and Xenly.”
“Flip a coin.” Manny said immediately before Xenly could so much as utter a word. “I feel like Karshina’s on my side today. The winner gets the peace and quiet of the sofa and the other gets woken up by things that go hump in the night.”
“Hey!” Marcus snapped, “How many times do I have to tell you that me and Shiala have only been sleeping next to each other? Honestly, Manny, just keep your dirty mind to yourself…”
“Call it.” Xenly interrupted, flipping a bronze coin up into the air with a flick of her thumb.
“Tails.” Manny said, and bent down as the coin landed on the soft carpeting without a sound.
“Tails it isn’t.” Xenly observed smugly, picking up the coin. “Enjoy your company, cripple.”
Cutting in between them, Visali spoke up, “Which reminds me, I’ll go find Sira and go bring her back here so we can hack that cast off of your leg. Be right back!”
He sprinted out the door, and Dave sighed as he handed Manny and Xenly each a spare set of keys. “Sira’s his girlfriend, as you probably guessed. Watch your step when she shows up or we could be carting you off to the university to look for some other magi-medicine students to put you back together.”
“Gotcha.” Xenly said, making herself comfortable on the sofa and taking a further opportunity to rub it into Manny. “Wow, this is comfortable… nice and soft… all I need is a blanket and I’m set for a snooze.”
Manny grated his teeth for a moment before Marcus grabbed his arm and dragged him out of the room. “Now look here,” he said, “I refuse to sleep in the same building with you if you’re going to be so bloody immature about this. Me and Shiala are NOT, I repeat, NOT going to be doing anything under the covers of a hotel bed except sleeping, you got me?”
“Why, do you prefer the floor?” Manny quipped, and Marcus threw his hands up in exasperation.
“I give up, I really do. You’re the one with the cash, pay for two rooms if you can’t stand being in the same room as us for more than two damn seconds.”
“Look, I…” Manny started with an apologetic tone in his voice. “You just remind me a little of Karin, that’s all… plus you’re my friend and though I can’t resist taking shots at you… it’s all in jest, you know. Remember how I did that when you were with Alziana?”
“Too well.” Marcus murmured. “I also seem to remember you taking it that one step too far and trying to break us up…”
“I apologised for that!” Manny protested. “I know it was a stupid thing for me to do, not to mention selfish and underhanded, and I regret it to this day.”
Marcus shook his head. “Just forget it. Let me get Shiala so we can find a hotel.”
“Right. Once Sira’s fixed up my leg, of course. Do you have any plans after that?”
“Sure, I… Shiala!” Marcus said, calling Shiala over to him from where she was, trying to make sense of what Dave was saying to her.
“You called?” she asked, and Marcus gave a nod.
“Once Manny’s leg is fixed up, I’m going to take you to the nearest store that sells Yoshi gear and get you some stuff to wear… you’re going to stand out if we don’t.” Marcus said in Yoshian.
Shiala glared at him and replied, “I’m not going to wear anything! I’m perfectly happy as I am, thank you very much, and I don’t care if people stare.”
Marcus chuckled for a moment, then put on a serious look. “Uh, no. It’s just while you’re outside… we don’t want to draw attention to ourselves if we can help it. Besides, if you want to be in a city you’ve got to not look like you just came from the middle of the wilderness.”
She folded her arms and looked away from him, and he gave an exasperated sigh. “Can you do it for me?” he asked, putting a hand on her shoulder. “Please?”
She continued to look away for a moment, before closing her eyes and turning back to him. “Oh, alright…” she said, opening her eyes, “but I get to pick the clothes.”
“So long as you wear something.” Marcus muttered.
About five minutes later, Visali showed up with his girlfriend in tow; she was a pink Yoshi, her skin tone a few shades darker than Alziana’s had been, and she had a pair of bright blue boots as well as a pure white saddle but no saddlebags. Short eyelashes were above her eyes, and in one hand she carried a long, thin stick of wood, which Marcus assumed to be a magic wand, and Visali directed her to Manny’s leg.
“Ah, no trouble at all to fix up.” She said in a deep but feminine tone. “Okay, let me see… Oralia Fractura!”
She tapped Manny’s cast, and Marcus saw him grit his teeth for a moment before relaxing as Visali used Manny’s sword to cut off the cast, splitting it into two halves and letting it fall to the floor. Manny flexed his leg experimentally, and gave a cheer as he found it was fully healed.
“Thanks, Sira, you’re the best!” he cried, and she gave a broad smile. “Oh, well thank you, I do try…”
Turning to Visali, who was putting an arm around her, she asked, “Did you get my letter? It ought to be with any other mail that was there…”
“Err…” Visali began, and she gave him a stern look. “Visali… you did read your mail, right?”
“I only just got back… I was going to do it later…”
Before the startled eyes of Marcus, Manny, and an even more bemused Shiala, Sira grabbed Visali by the flesh on his chest and hauled him into his room, slamming the door behind her. She began shouting very loudly, but the door appeared to be partially soundproofed and they couldn’t make out what she was saying, not that they particularly wanted to.
“Uh…” Manny began after a few uneasy moments, “I’m going to go find a hotel… I’ll meet you back here later, okay?”
Marcus gave a slow nod. “Yes… I’m going shopping with Shiala now… see you in a bit.”
“Oh, uh…” Manny muttered absently, reaching into his saddlebags, “here’s a little spending money… keep the change if there is any.”
He handed Marcus several gold coins and took off, closely followed by Marcus as they headed out of the building.
“And another thing,” Sira shouted, “Who on Chyrus is SHE?”
She was pointing a pink finger towards Xenly, who was lying stretched out on the sofa with her hands behind her head and her legs crossed, watching them with mild interest. Visali answered, “She’s with Manny and the others… a traveller, like they are.”
“Assassin.” Xenly corrected, and Visali went quiet for a moment.
“An assassin?” Sira cried, enraged. “You let an assassin into your flat?”
“I didn’t know!” Visali protested. “I only just found out now!”
“I don’t believe you sometimes…” She muttered as she let go of him and shook her head, opening the door and walking out of it.
“Wait, Sira, come back!” Visali called, chasing her out the door and out of sight.
Uncomfortable silence hung in the air for a moment before Dave sighed and said, “Don’t worry, they’ll make up, they always do. I can’t wait to hear what she says about him not winning the money from the contest in Lince, though… you want something to drink?”
“Yeah, sure.” Xenly murmured, still looking out the door absent-mindedly.
After a few minutes, Dave came back and handed her a small cup of tea, which Xenly took and drank happily once it had cooled down slightly. Tea leaves grew in the mountains down in the southwest of Chyrus, along with several other plants unique to the mountainous landscape there in a territory simply known as the Kaftata Mountain range, named after the most precious plants that grew there that could cure almost any disease when properly prepared. However, as trade in the leaves was restricted to stop them being completely uprooted, the cure was very expensive and often only available in small doses or for the extremely rich.
“Is it that bad that I’m an assassin?” Xenly asked.
“Well, sort of.” Dave replied, taking a sip from his cup. “You see, his parents were killed by an assassin, so he’s been even more afraid of them than normal… it’s the whole reason he came here and enrolled on the University’s weaponsmithing class, so that he could come up with something to use to hunt down the assassin and kill her himself.”
“Her?” Xenly inquired.
“Yeah, he doesn’t like to talk about it… all I ever got out of him was that it was a female Yoshi who was having an affair with his father, Vick…”
The empty cup slipped from Xenly’s hands and fell to the carpeted floor, undamaged by the fall. She quickly picked it up under the questioning gaze of Dave to hide her face from him, and pushed past him into the kitchen, looking away from him the whole time as she washed out the cup.
“In the names of all the gods…” Xenly whispered to herself, “Vick’s son… the one loose thread I never tied up…”
To be continued…