Unknown - Chapter 8
The fire cracked as Alen threw in more dried sticks. The air was polluted with the smell of burned woods and grilled bread. Enil threw a chuck of bread into the fire and saw the flame gnashed it to char. He laughed. The forest was silent save for the occasional screaming of the nocturnals roaming for food.
“First we slept in the mud, now in the forest” Alen smiled and shook his head. Enil looked at him. “At least it’s getting better” and they both laughed. “How many more days till we reach Humi you reckon?” Alen looked at his friend. “I don’t know, probably two or three days if we can get out of this damn forest” Enil threw another chunk of bread into the fire.
The two boys sat in silence as the night pass.
“Alen, let’s go” Enil’s voice woke Alen from his sleep. He rubbed his eyes and looked to his sides. The fire had died and the trail he slept on had dried. Enil grabbed his arm and pulled Alen up. He stretched and yawned and looked around. The forest had changed; it was no longer as menacing as it was yesterday. The trail they had slept on was broader and the light at the end of it lifted Alen’s heart.
The two boys emerged from the forest to the sight of cliff sides and the port town of Humi sitting just underneath them. “I guess that’s why we never saw the merchants crossing the forest at evening or night?” Alen points towards a camp of merchants having breakfast around the forest’s border.
The morning breeze sends chill to their skins but the warmth of the sun blanketed them with its graceful gaze. The two boys walked for awhile, watching the earliest of the merchants packing their belongings into the caravan towed by their small donkeys and big horses. The merchants that went pass them bowed to which they bowed back. It was a respect one merchant gives to another. The boys watched as the small port town of Humi emerged from underneath the land as they got closer to it. The cliff standing next to it contradicted the small town, like a dwarf standing next to a man on a war horse.
The old trunk of a dead tree served as the town’s name post as the two entered the town. The port was surprisingly busy with merchants coming from all sorts of places, some bartering for horses and donkeys and caravans, others set up small stalls to sell their goods. A two storey building made of wood with stone foundation stood next to the entrance to the dock. Drunkards and girls wearing exceptionally long and ballooned skirts wobbled out from the door. Alen and Enil frowned at the sight in front of them. “That must be the tavern or bar”, Enil points to the building standing next to the entrance to the dock. Alen nods.
The door to the tavern creaked and the music stopped. All heads, mostly old man with gruffy moustache and long hairs, although some were balding, turned towards the door. Alen and Enil gulped.
“Welcome!” a melodious voice of a female greeted the two. The heads around the tavern turned back to where they were and the music and dancing continued as if it was never interrupted.
A young girl, sweet faced and dark colored skin popped in front of them. Her exceptionally long and ballooned skirt sweeps the floor behind her. She bowed and held her hands towards the two who eyed her with weird awkwardness.
“Well?” she smiled. Alen and Enil’s eyes stuck looking weird at the young girl in front of them, not knowing what to do. The girl frowned but let her hands down. She turned her back to them and walked away towards the counter as if she never saw them.
“Okay, what was that all about?” Alen whispered to Enil who shrugged. The two walked to the counter and was greeted by an old man with sideburns that touched his shoulder and a hair that was neatly combed. His had no moustache unlike the other patrons of the tavern. He pulled a clear mug from the sink and gave it a rub with a white cloth with his huge hairy arms. “So” his voice jumps from the edge of his mouth. “What do you boys want for drink?” he smiled to the two boys in front of him.
Enil looked around. “Juice for us” Alen said leaving a weary smile. The old man laughed at him. “Juice?” he turned and look to the young girl who was working at the kitchen through his wine cabinet. “Juice!” he shouts. The younger girl chuckled and took a bottle of orange liquid from one of the cabinet in the kitchen.
Enil pinched Alen’s arm. The young man turned to him. “What?”. Enil smiled. “This place is only lightly decorated, you can hardly tell if it’s a storage room or a tavern had it not for the quintet playing at the corner there. And of course, the round tables and short chairs” he whispered to which Alen grinned. He turned to the old man behind the counter. He looked up and realized the huge fish hanging above the counter’s wall. Enil frowned. “Is that a real fish?” his eyes fell back to the owner who gave him a stern gaze with anger mixed into it.
“Of course it is real” he slammed the clear mug on the counter. The young girl cowered and poured the juice into the two mugs in front of the two boys with her hands shaking. “Are you saying I’m no fisherman?” his voice was heavy as he leaned his scarred face towards them.
“No, I just have never seen that kind of fish before” Enil’s took a gulp from the mug, his voice stuttered. “What is it called?” Alen shot the question trying to pull the old man’s face away from Enil whose legs are shaking. “Its called a swordfish” the old man answered simple. He called his head back and his eyes fell to the mugs in the sink. The two boys nods and finished their mugs.
“Mister…” Alen paused, looking at the old man. “Jor” the old man eyes still with his mugs. “Mister Jor, do you know how we can get to the port town of Kliph?” the old man’s hands stopped working. He placed the mug on his hand down and puts his hands onto the counter, spread apart. His face inched to Alen’s. “Why do you want to go there?” his eyes filled with fear.
“I need to meet someone there” Alen stuttered the words, frightened by the old man’s gaze.
“A sage named Orof” Alen glanced at his friend who glanced back at him. They both frowned.
“He’s dead” the old man answered simple.
“Dead? When?” Alen poked his head forward, almost shouting his words. Some eyes darts to him but quickly died.
“A long time ago” the old man placed another clean mug on the mug rack. He took another soap drenched mug and ram it into the running tap water.
“Is there a ship that travels there?” Enil poked the question.
The two boys slumped on their chairs. Disappointment carved on their face. Alen rubbed his forehead and sighed. He emptied his mug and gave thanks to the old man. Enil followed and paid the old man for the drinks. The old man shot a glance at the two boys and turned his head to the young girl who was busy cooking at the kitchen. He clicked his tongue and went back to work.
“Dead, wow, what a cliche” Enil sat beside Alen who was looking out into the sea. The outer islands decorated the horizons like rocks that jutted out from the ocean. He looked to his grim faced friend. “So what now?”.
“I don’t know…” Alen stared at the sea. The breeze blew through his brown hair and his leather coat pushed his body, hoping to ride the sea breeze into the sky. He pulled his hand closer to his body, tugging his coat inside.
“What about the book?”
“What about the book?” Alen looked at Enil.
“Did you try reading it?” Enil squints his eyes.
“Because I can’t open it” Alen eyes flew back towards the ocean. Enil frowned. “What do you mean you can’t open it?”.
“The book won’t open, why, how should I know, it’s not mine!” Alen’s voice filled with frustration.
“Okay, okay. So, what should we do know?”
Alen tilt his head and cocked his eyesbrows to his friend.
The two sat on the empty pier and watched the ocean as the sun began to dip behind the forest.
“I know of the sage and the ship that goes there”
The two turned around upon hearing the old voice. An old man holding a staff on his hand stood behind them. His face was made of crevices and folded skins and his lips were barely visible. His eye sockets were empty but he stood upright like a healthy man.
Enil and Alen looked at the old man with their eyebrows cocked. “And you are?”.
The old man smiled and gave the two boys a bow.
“I am what they called in the ancient tongue as the Fire Guardian”
The two boys looked at each other.
“My name is Edabu”