Sara and Sye chattered their teeth as the boat traveled fast through a path at a speed they had never experienced. Sye sheltered Sara in a blanket as the bitter winds blew by. Sye called out to Valquire, to ask them when they would stop, but they were traveling too fast for any audible voice to reach his ear. Valquire stood tall at the front of the boat, his hand on the oar, watching the road ahead.
Sye awoke later to find the boat had stopped. He rubbed his shoulders to try and warm up his body. If Valquire felt the cold as much as they did, he did not show it. Valquire told Sye to gather the large blanket in the back of the boat and cover it. The blanket wrapped over the boat, and they staked the edge so it wouldn’t blow away. Sara, still half-asleep, watched them before sitting down and falling asleep again.
“Sara,” nudged Sye. “Wake up, there’s a town up ahead.”
Valquire, however, was not done hiding the boat. Removing the plastic barrier from his staff, he struck a tree until it vibrated and cracked, falling to the ground. After performing the same feat on more trees, Valquire placed the trunks and branches around the boat until none of it was visable.
“You must always take every precaution.”
Arriving at the entrance of Gaia, Sye noticed the differences from Atius immediately. It was not a large city, but a town of small houses. No building appeared more than two stories high except for the hotels. There were a few business at the entrance, such as hotels, a grocery, and a trading post for fur and liquor. The majority of businesses were hotels, as Gaia was never a place to visit, but a stopping point. A major independent country was in ever compass direction from Gaia, and so travelers were frequent. Gaia was one of the few independent countries without a ruler, as the economy of the city relied on visitors; the ones in power were those that owned the hotels.
Valquire entered the first hotel he saw, which was also the one that looked the cheapest. Inside, the owner was sitting behind a counter, reading. He didn’t realize he had visitors until Valquire spoke.
“We need a room.”
The owner was so startled by Valquire that he fell back off his chair and landed on the ground with a thud. He quickly stood up and pretended the whole incident didn’t happen.
“How many nights?”
“Oh no,” said Sye. “We don’t have any money. All of our money was lost in the fire.”
“Don’t worry,” Valquire said, turning to them both and reassuring them with a bag from inside his pocket, “Clandestine gave me enough for our journey.”
“Clandestine? You know the King? What are you doing here?”
“We are looking for Chavis. And we are here on official business. You need not know more than that.”
The owner looked away from Valquire, doing his best to avoid his gaze.
“Chavis has a room upstairs. He told me to send up anyone who asked for him. Room E2”
“We have lucked out,” said Valquire, “the search is done.”
Valquire marched up the stairs, but as they rose higher, Sye was troubled by Valquire.
“Did you have to intimidate him like that? He was just curious.”
“Best to stop him before he starts asking too many questions.”
Not speaking of anything else, Valquire went to room E2 and opened the door.
Leaning against a dresser was a walking stick. The dresser had a book and a spyglass upon it. A large red bag on the bed was unzipped. A man stood looking out the window, then turned around to greet them.
“Chavis, old friend.” Valquire and Chavis shook hands then leaned in and pat each other on the back. It was the first time Sye had seen Valquire so open and informal. “It’s been too long.” Valquire’s stance was less apprehensive and hard.
“Quite right. So these are the chosen ones?”
Sye glared at Chavis. “Please don’t say that.”
“Come with me.”
Chavis led the others to the entrance of the town, where a small, wooden gate was. Chavis climbed the pillar on the left of the gate, and pointed toward the forest.
“You see Sye, the rock is not what you believe. It does not predict the future. Instead, think of it as an advanced mathematical formula. It can search out every one on the land it is attached to, and predict the right combination of people to stop a certain situation. It is not a 100% this-will-definitely-happen spell. It’s a prediction of the right amount of variables upon a given situation.”
“I don’t understand what you’re talking about,” said Sara.
“Chavis jumped off the fence and landed on the ground, his feet bent. Valquire smiled and shook his head.
“Still the same old Chavis. Almost forty five years old and you still act like you have the body of a twenty year old.”
“Yes, whereas you have changed the most. How has the rule of Atius gone. I’ve heard nothing but great things of your and King Clandestine’s rule.” Valquire tiled his head down to avoid Chavis. He did not speak. “It’s the fire isn’t it?”
“I did not tell you that in the letter.”
“No, I saw it with my own eyes.”
Chavis placed his hand on Valquire’s shoulder. “I’m sorry. I can’t imagine how it must feel to create a kingdom, only to watch it end so suddenly.”
“Atius is not at an end, it will be rebuilt. But it might be rebuilt only to be destroyed again.”
Looking up the path ahead, a stagecoach approached the gate.
“We had better return to the room. Don’t want any ears to catch our conversation.”
Back in Chavis’ room, Sye sat down and leaned on the wall. Sara sat on the bed, while Valquire stood. Chavis took a chair, turned it backwards, and sat on it the opposite direction.
“Quests. Adventure. Magic. All this ended long ago. It should have. I don’t see how comets could be the enemy. Usually it’s someone powerful. I think it’s the war that breads northwest in Octom, but that is my theory.”
“Do you know anything about the names on this list?”
Sye pulled a piece of paper out of his pocket, but Valquire quickly snatched it from his hand. Sye, surprised, slouched his eyes.
“This isn’t important at the moment.”
Chavis looked at Valquire; he knew his friend well enough to know when he was lying.
“What are you trying to hide from me?”
“I can’t hide it from you. It will come shortly, but for right now, I don’t want you to read this list. You might have get a false sense of hope.”
Chavis stood up and paced over to the bed. “I trust your judgment, Valquire, but the names on that list, I don’t think we should seek them out. If this spell works how it should, they should come to us.”
“Why us?” asked Sye. “Out of everyone in this world, why us?”
“I already told you, it must see potential in you two, and the two of us.
“But Valquire isn’t on the list.”
“I’m only helping you get far enough until you can handle yourself.”
Chavis stepped into his bed.
“Now, I’ve had a long journey, and now I’m a part of the quests I’ve often told as one in my profession does. But, we only travel south, that’s it? So let’s go directly south until we hit something. Discussion ended. I’m going to sleep. You will find your rooms on the same floor; E1 and E3.”
Chavis pulled the blanket over him as Sye and Sara stood up and wondered what to do. Valquire escorted them out.
The next day, Valquire led Chavis to the hidden boat.
“This can outrun anything?”
Valquire nodded then punched a tree with his fist.
“I had no idea you had such supernatural strength,” he said laughing.
“I don’t,” said Valquire, lifting up his glove and displaying the spiral symbol.
“Amazing, you have an enchanted item.”
Chavis removed the glove from Valquire’s hand. Valquire did not respond, as Chavis’ reaction to artifacts like this were nothing new to him.
“Where did you get these, King Clandestine’s hidden vault?”
Sye sat up. “How do you know about that?
“Valquire and I are, very old friends.”
“You carry more of these items, amazing.” Chavis had regressed to a child, finding every magical item more intriguing than the next.
“You really enjoy these don’t you,” asked Sye.
“Come now Sye,” said Valquire. “He is a historian, haven’t you guessed his specialization.”
Sye smiled, as it was hard to keep a straight face as Chavis inspected every item as if he had never seen one before. He threw Sara’s ball and caught it on the return. Valquire showed him how to break a tree with his staff.
Sara approached Sye while Chavis told Valquire the exact reason the magic from each object still existed.
“This guy is a historian?”
I know, I usually expect them to be more serious.”
“We have these things, Sye, as weapons, but he treats them like toys.”
“I’ve never seen someone so fascinated with magic. Most people in town, if I asked them if they ever remembered what it was like when magic existed, they would tell me it was a ‘bad time for all’ or something absurd like that.”
“I wonder what it would be like if magic did exist, how different life would be.”
“For us, Sara, it does still exist.”