Great [Monster] Journey 9

RSanon Nov 25th, 2013 2,200 Never
Not a member of Pastebin yet? Sign Up, it unlocks many cool features!
  1. Wind rushing against him, Galen flew down the hill, grinning like a fool as he came to the city gates. He wanted to see everything all at once. His legs shook with anticipation, shaking off the weariness of his journey as if it was never there. Catching his breath, he started looking around. Directly ahead of him lay the gates, massive wooden doors of which one was open. Given their size, the trees that went into building them must’ve been huge. They stood as dark, sturdy and silent watchmen over the relatively-quiet area, though Galen could hear commotion beyond them. A small group of armored guards, about five, stood nearby, chatting with each other and keeping an eye on the surrounding area. To Galen’s right was a stable, empty at the moment but for a few clumps of hay and dried-up water troughs. He had expected there to be much more activity for the supposed population of the city. Maybe it was a slow time of day.
  3. Seira and Sybyll came up behind him, Seira checking out the area just as Galen had and Sybyll keeping her eyes locked on the guards.
  5. Stepping in front of Galen and turning to him, Seira pointed a thumb over her shoulder at the guards. “Word of warning. Getting in the city could be really simple or really difficult depending on their mood. Don’t provoke them.” She glanced behind herself. “And let’s hope they’re not the type who hate monsters.”
  7. “Why would they hate monsters?”
  9. “They don’t need a reason.” She gestured Galen forward. “You take the lead. They’ll probably be more amicable if they assume you’re the leader.”
  11. He narrowed his eyes. “But I am the leader.”
  13. Seira smirked. “Whatever you say.”
  15. He shot her a stink-eye before striding forward, keeping his chest up and posture straight. He didn’t want the guards thinking he’d crumple over for anything, but he didn’t want to get on their nerves. Confident, but not arrogant. As he approached, the guards took notice. Three stepped back to continue their conversation while two turned to face Galen’s group. Galen got a better look at their armor. It didn’t look to be the finest craftsmanship, but it fit them and didn’t seem like it would fall apart any time soon. The guards wore a chestpiece and a backpiece connected by leather strips on their sides, spaulders, bracers, helmets, and shin guards. Only their thighs, armpits and necks were vulnerable to any sort of attack. Galen wished he had cool armor like that. His leather vest, cloth pants, and shirt didn’t do much to stop weapons.
  17. One of the guards crossed his arms while the other grabbed his spear and planted the blunt end on the ground like a staff. The one with the spear shifted his mouth to the side, inspecting the newcomers with a careful eye before addressing them.
  19. “What brings you to Fullsburg?”
  21. Galen swallowed. He wasn’t very good with interrogations and was even worse at lying, so he told the truth. “We’re uh, looking for information.”
  23. “What kind of information?” said the cross-armed guard.
  25. “We’re trying to find Poseidon and a blacksmith.”
  27. “Poseidon? Ain’t that the monster of the sea?”
  29. “Mm-hmm.”
  31. “What you need to find her for? Are one of your friends looking for her?” asked the guard with the spear, pointing behind Galen.
  33. He glanced back at them. “Uh, well no, just me, actually. I was--wait, friends?”
  35. “You don’t even know who’s with you? The lizardman and the manticore. Surprised to see a lizardman myself, they’ve about disappeared off the face of the earth.”
  37. Sybyll and Galen exchanged glances. “Sorry, she’s just really quiet.” That was a good excuse, right? Galen pulled at his collar, feeling sweat on his neck. He hoped he wasn’t looking suspicious.
  39. “Eh, whatever.” The spear guard pointed to Galen’s waist where his swords were. “You’re looking a little young for those, and you got two of ‘em. You lookin’ to start trouble?”
  41. He rested a hand on the tip of Toneruth’s hilt. “N-no, sir. These are for protection. Lots of, um--monsters?--out there.”
  43. “True enough.” Galen fought to keep from sighing in relief. He thought for sure the guard would ask to keep the swords.
  45. The spear guard nudged his partner. “Got anything else?”
  47. The guard crossing his arms nodded. “Yeah.” He pointed at Seira. “I heard manticores ain’t exactly the nicest bunch. Kidnapping men, suckin’ ‘em dry and leavin’ ‘em out on the streets to be robbed or worse.”
  49. “You heard correct,” said Seira, straightening her back to look down at the guard. “But you have nothing to worry about from me.”
  51. Galen felt like collapsing into a quivering mess of sweat. While Seira may not have been acting nervous, he had plenty of anxiety for the both of them. What if this guard hated monsters? What if he didn’t like how Seira looked at him? What if he provoked her? He bit his lower lip, looking between the guard and Seira.
  53. “That true? What’s with that wing, there, then? You get into a lot of fights?”
  55. She grimaced, glancing to her wing. “This is from several days back, and it was an accident.”
  57. “Didn’t know manticores were so prone to accidents.” He looked her up and down, trying to find another mark to exploit.
  59. “What if--“ the guard started, but his companion cut him off.
  61. “Damnit, Alex, stop trying to make trouble. Last time we got in a fight at the gates over one of your stupid monster comments we lost a week’s pay. There’s nothing wrong with ‘em and the kid probably doesn’t even know how to fight.” The spear guard gently pushed his partner out of the way and waved Galen through. “Now don’t make me regret this, kid, cause there’s plenty room in the jails.”
  63. “Y-y-yes, sir.” He wanted to defend his ability to fight, but caught between his nervousness and Seira’s warning about provoking them, he kept it to himself, instead walking timidly by the guards and through the great gates. Sybyll walked close behind, but Seira hung back a moment to shoot the paranoid guard a devious smile and a flick of her tail.
  65. For the second time that day, Galen’s mouth hung open in awe. The buildings on either side of the street loomed with incredible height, some made of stone, though most were of wooden construction. Thatched rooftops covered about every building, though some had flat or angled wooden tops. The architecture was incredible, arches and intricate angles worked into various structures to give them an unique, appealing look. He looked down at the street, tapping it with his foot. Even the streets were relatively smoothed-out and much more durable than the plain dirt roads back home.
  67. As for the inhabitants, besides a few stray looks, no one much seemed to care about the new arrivals. The majority of the population on the streets was human, some alone, some with a woman and others with monster girls. Most were wearing unique outfits, the cloth ones boasting particularly impressive stitching. Galen caught bits and pieces of at least a half dozen separate conversations. Only when his heart started to calm back down did the smell hit him, a mix of sweat and other wastes, far more concentrated than anything else of its kind he’d experienced. The stench bit into his enthusiasm, but only so much.
  69. “So, what do you think?” said Seira, laying a paw on his shoulder.
  71. “It’s so cool! I heard about building this big and streets like this, but seeing it is something else! And it’s so busy! There must be at least fifty people out in the street! That’s half of my entire village right there!” He clasped his hands together and turned to Seira. “Do you think they’re all friendly?”
  73. “Ehh,” she said, rocking her head back and forth, “I wouldn’t start a conversation with a complete stranger if I were you. Things work different in a city like this.”
  75. “Shucks.”
  77. “We’ll have to find a place to sleep for the night before anything else. Might be able to get some clues on where we can find the information we’re here for as well.”
  79. “Alright!” Galen pranced forward, bouncing through the street as he soaked up everything around him.
  81. He wanted to pick the first inn they came across, a flashy place right off the main street, but Seira said they should skip it. When he asked why, all she said was, “It looks off.”
  83. The second one they came to, and the one Seira approved, lay on a side alley, the sign over the door reading, ‘The Rugged Boot’. Galen took a moment to adore the craftsmanship in the sign, its lettering rough but unique with a distinctive boot carved out and stained dark beneath the title. The door swung open with a creak, banging up against its guard when Galen tossed it the rest of the way open. Seira and Sybyll followed close behind, checking the area for anything suspicious. Galen was too busy fawning over the view to care.
  85. The place was full of circular tables and chairs, stuffed so there was just enough room for a single person to maneuver through it. A thick scent of maple mixed with honey hung in the air. The activity from outside leaked in as muffled steps and distant conversations, less distinct than the mumbles from the people and monsters already inside.  At the moment there weren’t many inhabitants. The few that were there had either passed out or were enjoying a drink or bite to eat. When Galen’s group walked in, they collected stares from everyone around, most ended up being directed at Sybyll. Seira drew her claws, but didn’t let herself tense up. Any stare sent her direction she met with equal intensity.
  87. Galen, oblivious to his surroundings, walked right up to the counter ahead of him, slapping a hand down to get the attention of the burly man behind the it, and stated his intent.
  89. “We’re here for a room!”
  91. As Seira and Sybyll stepped forward, The innkeeper looked over the three of them. “Three guests?”
  93. “That will not be necessary,” said Sybyll. “I do not sleep.”
  95. The innkeeper shrugged. “Figures for the lizardman.” He held out his hand. “Two guests is one silver.”
  97. “Oh, uhh…” Galen’s voice trailed off. Scratching his head, he gave the innkeeper a sheepish smile. “I didn’t really think about that.”
  99. His face soured. “I don’t have time for games, kid. Pay or scram.”
  101. Seira nudged Galen aside, laying a paw on the counter between them. “Surely we can work something out. An able-bodied man and monster must be able to do something for you.”
  103. The innkeeper’s gaze narrowed. “I don’t know you. What sorta reason do I have to trust you?”
  105. “We’re depending on you for a place to stay. Not only would we gain nothing from tricking you, but we could hardly run when you know where we sleep.” She set her other paw on the counter as well. “We’re simply looking for a mutually-beneficial arrangement.”
  107. He rubbed his chin, looking back and forth between Seira and Galen. After a few seconds of consideration, he nodded. “I’ve got a pretty big crowd coming in late most of the time. If you stick around here, make sure no numbskulls make trouble after sunset, clean up after everyone’s gone, and make sure your room is spotless before you leave, then I’ll let you stay without paying.”
  109. Seira leaned forward. “It may take us a little longer than a day to find what we’re looking for.”
  111. “We’ll see how tonight goes. You do well enough, I’ll extend our deal. Good enough?”
  113. She nodded. “That will work.”
  115. After shaking on it, the innkeeper handed over a key and directed them to a room down a hallway and near the back of the building. Galen grumbled about not getting a room on the second floor, as he’d never been to the second floor of any building, but Seira pinched him, telling him they were lucky enough to make a deal.
  117. As she opened the door to their room, Galen’s eyes lit up and he forgot all about the second floor. To the untrained eye, it was nothing more than your typical bedroom: a couple small beds, a nightstand, and a dresser. To Galen, however it was something else.
  119. “So cool!”
  121. Compared to his room back home, it was twice the size and the furnishings twice as nice. Everything was made of wood and stained so the rippled patterns stood out. The beds both had cozy mattresses and plain but durable blankets, as well as fluffy pillows resting against the headboards. Actual headboards! Galen ran his hands across the blankets, moaning in delight, then tossed himself on top of the bed and began rolling back and forth. It didn’t feel much more comfortable than his bed at home, but it was still much, much cooler. Next he grabbed the pillow and hugged it to his chest, grinning with eyes closed and humming to himself. So involved with his own little celebration he was that he lost track of how long the bed was and rolled straight off the end, hitting the floor with a considerable thud.
  123. Seira took a step forward. “Are you okay?”
  125. His grin returned and he let his arms flop out straight away from his body. With a sigh, he opened his eyes and stared at the ceiling. “I love this place already.”
  127. Seira walked over and held out a paw. “Let’s see if you’re still saying that tonight. We didn’t get this room in exchange for nothing.”
  129. Galen grasped her paw and got to his feet, brushing his shirt and pants off before giving Seira a thumbs-up. “I’m not worried.”
  131. “You should be.” She picked up the pillow on the ground and tossed it back on the bed. “I’m going to head out. There are a few things I want to look for myself here. I’ll keep an ear open for anything information on Poseidon or that blacksmith, too.”
  133. Clasping his hands behind his back, Galen leaned toward Seira and gave her a toothy smile. “Oooh, is it a secret? Where are you going?”
  135. “If it’s relevant to you, I’ll let you know. I’ll meet you back here at dusk.” She walked out of the room, waving before disappearing. “Bye.”
  137. Galen peeked his head out the door, watching Seira walk out the front door, her tail hovering in the air behind her. She still kept her secrets. He wished she’d at least give him some clue or something, so he wouldn’t be so curious or worried about it. He wondered if it was a manticore thing. They’d been together for several days now, wasn’t that enough for her to trust him with her secrets? The lamia had nearly killed him, didn’t he have a right to know about why they were chasing her? Still, he told himself he wouldn’t pry and let her come forward when she chose to, so that’s what he would stick to.
  139. Besides, he had something to ask Sybyll.
  141. “So apparently people can see you now without having to touch Toneruth,” he said, turning to her.
  143. Sybyll had walked over to the dresser and laid a hand on it, staring at the patterns in the wood while Galen had been busying watching Seira leave. On his statement, she shifted her attention away from the dresser to Galen. “Yes, it does seem that way.”
  145. “That means I’m getting better with Toneruth and you, doesn’t it?”
  147. “It is a result of increased synchronism with the blade, yes.”
  149. Galen slumped his shoulders and let his arms hang limp. “Uugh, you make it sound so boring. It awesome, isn’t it?”
  151. “It is a natural result of training and determination. It was bound to happen eventually.” She paused. “Though it may be a bit earlier than last time.”
  153. Galen pumped a fist. “I knew it! I am that cool! Now c’mon, we need to find some information before dusk.”
  155. They departed the inn and hit the streets. Galen was again struck with the awe of being in a city, though dulled this time. If he didn’t have any responsibilities, he would’ve gladly skipped around town, soaking in the sights and making a big deal out of everything, but that information came first. He wished Seira was with them, as she seemed to have an element of confidence in the city that Galen lacked due to ignorance, and Sybyll, while having been to a city before, didn’t have much in the way of tact. He started hunting for information with the most direct method, asking people on the street where he might find a good blacksmith and where Poseidon might be, but he ran into a problem. When asked about blacksmiths, he got several different answers, and when he asked about Poseidon, all he got were blank stares. Apparently the queen of the sea wasn’t as well-known as he thought.
  157. With the names of all the blacksmiths in town, he made a trip to each smithy, asking if they knew how to craft a magic sword or if they knew someone who could. Only one blacksmith had the skills, but in further questioning Galen found he hadn’t learned it from a master of the trade, but rather books. He admitted with a blush on his face that he had nowhere near the skill to touch anything old or advanced. Galen thanked him for his time and went back to asking on the streets. After an hour of walking around the city, drilling those two same questions and getting nowhere, he thought his search had hit a wall.
  159. The next person he approached was a tall man in a dark coat, leaning against a wall, watching the streets with his arms crossed. He hovered just out of the eyes of typical passer-by, keeping to himself. Instead of clinging to the shadows, however, it appeared as it the shadows clung to him. Galen figured someone looking that mysterious had to know something. When he approached the man and asked his two typical questions, however, he received not an answer or a blank stare, but another question.
  161. “That a lizardman you’ve got with you?”
  163. Galen raised an eyebrow, looking to Sybyll then back to the man. “Yes?”
  165. “Hmm. And you’re looking for a good blacksmith and Poseidon.” He grabbed the cuff of his coat and straightened it out. “Well, if you were looking for a local blacksmith, I’d have figured you’d already investigated them, that right?”
  167. “That’s… right…” Galen’s cocked his head, unsure of what the man was getting at.
  169. “Well, I don’t have the information you want, but I can get you in touch with the person who does. You just need to bring that lizardman with you and be willing to answer a few questions yourself.”
  171. Galen’s face lit up. “Really? That’s great! Where are we going?”
  173. The shadowed man shook his head. “Woah, there, kid. I’ve got to ask if the boss is willing to meet with you. I’ve got a good feeling she will, but I can’t speak for her. Come back here tomorrow morning, I’ll tell you if she’s decided to meet you or not and we’ll go from there.”
  175. “Okay, can do!”
  177. Now back in high spirits, Galen hopped away, wondering where he could go next now that his business had been taken care of. There were still plenty of shops he hadn’t visited, and he wanted to go to the second story of a building for sure before leaving. He remembered his father telling him about bustling markets and auctions in his stories--he definitely wanted to see one of those if at all possible. The city might have interesting events like festivals or competitions, too. From where Galen stood, the possibilities were endless! Something still bugged him, though.
  179. Galen turned around and began walking backwards to face Sybyll while he talked. “I wonder why that guy wanted you to come along.”
  181. “I believe you have just enlisted the help of an information trader.”
  183. “What does that mean?”
  185. “It means you are very likely to get the information you want, but the trader will want information in exchange or something else of equivalent value. Should you not have such information, you will be denied. Or worse.”
  187. His walking slowed. “Worse?”
  189. “Information traders do not take kindly to being fed false information.”
  191. “I just won’t lie, then.”
  193. She shook here head. “It is not that simple. How do you know everything you know?”
  195. Jerking his head back, Galen gave Sybyll a confused look. “What kind of question is that?”
  197. “It means--“ She cut herself off, running up to Galen to grab his shoulder and stop him.
  199. “Woah!” He was about to ask why she stopped him when he turned around and saw he’d been about to walk into a horse-drawn cart. The man in the cart, a stout man without much hair, squawked at Galen for being an idiot, checking cart’s cargo before turning back to the road. Scratching his neck, Galen gave Sybyll a guilty grin. “Guess I shouldn’t walk backwards, huh?”
  201. “I should’ve thought that self-evident,” she said, grilling him with that cold gaze of hers. She picked up her explanation and started walking again after the cart went by. “As I was saying, you know what you from either seeing it, hearing about it, or deducing it, correct?”
  203. “Yup!”
  205. “Of those, none are truly reliable. Hearing something from someone else relies on their information. If it is flawed, then the flaw passes on to your knowledge. If you deduce something, you are determining an event’s probable, logical cause, but you cannot know if your explanation is correct.. Your eyes are likely the most trustworthy, but magic can still create illusions to deceive you. Do you understand what I am getting at?”
  207. He cupped his chin, looking at the ground. “Uhhh, are you saying there’s more than what meets the eye?”
  209. “That is… part of it,” conceded Sybyll with a slight nod. “However, you must acknowledge your own flaws and gaps when it comes to knowledge. For example, that cart you almost ran into, what do you know about it?”
  211. “I saw a man delivering,” he paused, thinking back to what was in the cart. A red fruit. Apples? Probably. “A man delivering apples!”
  213. “No. You do not know that.”
  215. Galen gestured back to the spot where the incident occurred. “But I just saw it!”
  217. “No, you did not. Tell me exactly what you saw.”
  219. He frowned, but answered anyways. “I saw an angry man on a cart delivering a bunch of apples.”
  221. “No, you did not.”
  223. Seizing his hair, Galen groaned. “What do you want me to answer? That’s what I saw!”
  225. Sybyll held up a finger. “Consider what I just told you about flaws and gaps in knowledge. Assume nothing. Tell me exactly what you saw and nothing more.”
  227. “I saw… hmmm… I saw a horse-drawn cart with apples in it and an angry man.”
  229. “Much closer. But not quite. You are unconsciously deducing still.” She glanced behind them. “You saw a man, driving a cart drawn by a horse with something red in it. He also yelled at you. That is all you absolutely know for sure, assuming no illusions were present.”
  231. Galen crossed his arms. “So you’re trying to say it’s easy for me to make assumptions that aren’t true.”
  233. “And it’s even easier to believe those assumptions strongly enough to defend them fiercely, even when you have no proof you are correct. That man may not be delivering those red objects at all. He may have stolen the cart and is taking the cargo home. He might not have been angry at you, but rather has a loud voice and is used to talking to people in that manner. You cannot know for sure.”
  235. “And because I can’t know for sure, I have to be careful about what I tell the information trader. Even if I think something is true, it might only be a false conclusion.”
  237. “Exactly. It would be unfortunate if my master came upon ill circumstances so soon after acquiring Tellus.”
  239. “Aww, you do care about me!” Galen slapped her on the back. “That’s what I figured, with people being able to see you now.”
  241. “What did I just tell you about assumptions?”
  243. Grinning like a fool, Galen wagged his finger at Sybyll. “Heh heh heh, but I don’t think this one’s wrong.”
  245. When Sybyll looked back at him, he could swear he saw the faintest hint of an exasperated frown. “I feel as if you are being difficult on purpose.”  Looking up, she pointed. “There, the inn. It is nearly sundown and we have an arrangement to honor with the innkeeper.”
  247. Galen slumped over, checking the sun’s position. “Man, I wanted to see more of the city. Guess it’ll have to wait till tomorrow.”
  249. They walked to the inn, Galen stepping inside first. Before he had even let go of the door handle, he froze in place.
  251. Three large, intimidating, and very familiar lamia were inside, sitting around a table, talking amongst themselves.
  253. His blood turned to ice.
RAW Paste Data
We use cookies for various purposes including analytics. By continuing to use Pastebin, you agree to our use of cookies as described in the Cookies Policy. OK, I Understand