It was a truely remarkable sight. The ocean gleamed a bright crystal
blue, and the sun shone brillaint beams of light that made the world
sparkle. The air was heavy with wet salt, and the waves crashing against
hull creating a lapping calamity. I've been alot of places in my life,
but this might be one of the most peaceful sceneries that I've had the
pleasure to witness.
"Hey doc, you gonna stay up there all by your lonesome?" I glanced down from the mast I was sitting upon to the burly man yelling at me from below. He called himself a yeti, but besides from looking like he had muscles on his muscles, he seemed perfectly human. I had questioned him on this earlier, he explained that his people were born with tails, albeit small, useless apendages, but they tried to fit in with humans. Due to some of there burlesque natures, that seemed to be a bit of a challenge. They mostly kept to themselves and sometimes were a bit wary of travelers.
I jumped down from the beam and landed on the deck. The man gave a satisfied grunt and slapped me on the back. "You really are something Doc. I've never seen someone get along with so many of our people."
"Well Staug, I share your respect for nature. If we respect and treat it with dignity, it will care for us and provide for us. I hope some of those traps I taught you how to make come in handy."
"Yes, we like our hunting, but the traps will save energy. Bring more food." I nodded and we both turned to look over the ocean. The yetis were master voyagers of the great blue. Staug had told him of their ships when he asked about getting to Antiford. Between what he taught them about hunting, and the medicine he showed them how to make out of the local shrubbery, Staug was determined to help him to where he needed to go.
"So what lies in Antiford my friend?"
"Change I hope. Peace and change."
"Well I hope you hind your peace. You're welcome among our people."
"Thanks Staug." He slapped me on the back once more and turned to head down into the barracks. I looked towards the direction of Antiford. Honestly he didn't know why he was going there. He did want peace, but why Antiford? Something was drawing him there, and he couldn't ignore it's call.
The ship bobbed up and down near the beach. I did my check to make sure I had everything I needed. Staug felt bad that he couldn't take me further. Even the yetis weren't equipped to deal with the rough atmosphere of the desert. But it was just another adventure for me. I hardly looked back as I began to cross the sands. The further I got from the water the hotter the temperature was. I had some water and some fish packed away, but that was my emergency provisions in case I got somewhere with no food or water. You might think that would be my current predicament, but alas even the desert thrived with life and nourishment. You just had to know where to look.
There were plenty of crab lining the beach but I chose to forgo capturing any. Sea life tends to spoil quickly unless properly packed, and in this heat it would spoil before you could finish preparing it. Luckily, the fish was prepped on the open sea and well packed. It shouldn't spoil for a few days. It only would take 3 to get to Gearford, the capital, and there i would be able to procure any additional supplies i might need, although I was used to living off the land as it was. Anything extra was just a precaution.
I wandered forward for several hours following the path of the sun. Gearford was due west and I just had to keep the sun behind me to reach it. I sipped at some water I had and stopped to harvest one of the barrel cacti. The sun was beginning to set and I needed to prep camp. The barrel cactus was exceptionally useful as its contents contained water and could even be cooked into into a stew. It's spines could be used for fishing hooks and even served as shrapnel to certain IEDs.
First I had to start a fire which would be easy enough. I had gathered pieces of straw and bits of tumbleweed throughout the day and I laid them down in the tiny hole I dug. I build a tepee with the material and pulled a small round glass object from my pouch. I angled it to the sun shone through and magnified at the base of the tepee. Within seconds the straw caught fire and I nurtured it to a good health and set upon my other materials. I began to remove the spines from the cactus and then cut it into to separate chunks. With the first, I began ringing the now soft plant in my hands over a small Pot I had brought with me. Once I squeezed as much water as I could from it I tossed it as side and filled up a spare canteen with the liquid. I took the other half of the cactus and cut it up further into the now empty pot. I took out a small pouch that contained the meat from a decent sized armadillo I managed to snag with my bow earlier in the day. The meat was well preserved and I dumped it into the pot. I held it over the fire, letting It stew, and when it was done I enjoyed myself a nice meal.
I searched my pouch once more and took out what looked like a long, thin lead pipe. Staug had given it to me telling me that his people had developed this useful tool. It wouldn't start a fire, but acted as a good fuel to keep a fire burning for several days. I tossed it In as the fire roared a bit. I curled up next to the fire and closed my eyes.
When I woke several hours later, sure enough the fire was still going strong. The pipe still seemed to be roughly the same size as well. Staug said the trick was to suffocate it, because it would be strong enough to withstand water. How much he wasn't sure, but wasting water out here would be deadly. I started pushing some of the sand around it and eventually I managed to put it out. Surprisingly the rod was cool to the touch, slightly smaller than what it was. I slid it back into my pouch and began packing.
I set out once again going through the same routine of walking and killing a few animals along the way. I had another filling dinner and plenty of peaceful sleep. On the third day I picked up pace knowing I'd reach Gearford before sunfall. Sure enough as the sun began to fall in the sky I saw the outline of a great city. The sun was behind it casting a silhouette into the desert. The city was massive. As I got closer I could see many buildings with giant cogs on their sides whirring and spinning away. Steam poured out the top of almost every building casting a large hazy cloud above the city. The city as a whole had a soft hum and the ground vibrated ever so slightly. He had arrived. But now that he was here, what would he do? He had been pulled here and now he had and uneasy feeling. He glanced around but merely saw the hundreds of people people shuffling to and fro.
I was distracted, but I grabbed the arm of a man passing by, who managed to slip a bag of preserved armadillo from one of my pouches. "You've got quick hands but sometimes there are people who will notice the smallest change in weight." I held out my hand and he dropped the bag gingerly into it. "I'm not angry, but as a debt you can show me around. How bout a name?" He seemed a bit shy at first, but when he realized I really wasn't angry he just shrugged his shoulders. "The name's Forence. First time ta Gearford?"
"Yes. First time in Antiford actually. I took a ship and then walked across the desert to get here."
"Ya walked across the desert? What for? You could have just had a ship land right here in the port." This time I shrugged my shoulders. I didn't feel inclined to tell him about the fleet of yeti I had sailed with, and how a few of their ships pulling into antiford might start a war.
"How'd ya survive out there anyways? Water's scarce to come by and it drops below freezin at night."
"Well there's always supplies if you know where to look."
"Well aint you just a ray of sunshine. You seem to be full of tricks mister...?"
"Bloom. Doctor Tobias Bloom."
"Oh youre a doctah? Plenty of people looking for some pick me ups if youre into that kind of thing."
"How about instead you lead me on that tour we were talking about?"
"Right right. Follow me. Ill show ya around."
He began walking and I took a real good look at him. He was short, probably close to 5 and a half feet. His clothes were drab. They looked like they were sewn from rags. Its no wonder why he was a pickpocket. His face was very round, and he had a very deep five oclock shadow.
"Good ol gearford is split up into 5 districts. What we're in now is the Saks district. Home to the Market. Its got two roads going parrallel through the city. This here is Portabello. On the other side is Rathbone. You'll find a bit more expensive items over there. They're good quality, if you have the dough. The other 4 districts are Rowe- Where the filthy rich live. Then you have the Horn where the bureaucrats and stuff reside. Barrett is where the working man goes to run the mills. Anybody that has some money but not enough works for a living there. And lastly, you have my district, the Mayberry. Its where all the street trash live, and some unruly Vibranni. Although that seems a bit redundant. Heh." He enjoyed a soft chuckle and seemed to be fine with his situation.
"Can you take me to rathbone? I'd like to choose from the best supplies I can get."
"Are ya sure? I hope you have some good riches on ya. They tend to get easily offended if they think you aint worth their time." I nodded and once again he just shrugged his shoulders. As we went he continued to talk, poitning out various people with no defining qualities. He seemed to have a story about nearly everyone. We reached the other road and he hung back.
"Are you not coming?"
"No no, I aint lookin for trouble. They dont take kindly to my kind runnin round here."
"Suit yourself." I turned to wander and looked at the wares that were offered. Immediately several eyes were upon me and people looked towards me with disgust. I did my best to ignore them. I saw a stall that had an assortment of different things. I wandered over and was about to talk to the keeper when a few men stepped in front of me.
"What the hell do you think you're doing here, Dirter?" I raised an eyebrow and said nothing.
"What too good for words?" He pushed me and he laughed. "I never get tired of beating your kind. Once in a while one of you has the gall to wander over here, like you have something to offer. Ha! All you're good for is for some thrashing!" He lunged at me and I stepped back. He stumbled forward and I just gave hima kick on the butt that sent him face first into the dirt. A few people snickered, but he wasnt amused. "How DARE you! That's enough fooling boys. I want his neck!" They drew swords and I sighed. I guess peace would have to wait a little longer. I drew my sword, but kept it in its sheathe. The first lunged at me with his sword over his head. If he had caught me in a bad mood, well his kidney would be spilling onto the street. However, I was just tired, so he caught a thwack from the sheathe in his abdomen. The two others came at me at the same time and it was simple enough to parry their attacks. YOu'd think they never held a sword before! I got tired of the charade and sent one guy's sword flying and other I parried so it got stuck in the ground. He was trying to get it unstuck when the other tried using his fists. I swung the sheathe so it hit his leg and he rolled onto the floor. The other one saw me approaching and pulled out what I took to be a gun. A quick slap and the gun careened away from him and i used the pointy end of the sheathe to thrust into his solarplexes. He dropped right there and the other tried to get me from behind with a knife. I extended the sword from its sheathe just enough and buried the hilt into his face. He wasnt going to be standing for awhile either. The first one who had intiated the whole thing took one look at his buddies and started to book it. I quickly stowed my sword and pulled my bow. He was quite the runner and was actually getting quite the distance. Ahead of him, and above there was a vulture looking for its next meal. I quickly lined up my shot and let the arrow fly. It hit the vulture right in the chest and began its freefall to the ground. Of course the man running saw none of this, but he was greeted with quite the surprise when the bird landed on top of him and knocked him down. I smiled coyly and slid my bow back to its resting place. Up ahead a crowd gathered around the man and began laughing. A few of the people closer who were giving me looks just nodded their approval and went about there day. I walked back to the keeper and he gave a long chuckle. "To be honest, that guys a prick. We do get the occasional cheapskate, but most people who come to our side have something to offer. He just looks for trouble. Looks like he but off more than he could chew this time!" He let out a deep bellied life. "Alright stranger, what can I do ya for? I take it you have something to offer." "Well I'm new to the country, so I'm afraid I have no money. I was hoping we could barter for a few things." He looked at me skeptically and I began to empty my pouches. I put my canteen down and He opened it, assuming he'd find liquor. "Wait is this water? How the hell did you get water?" I looked up, this time surprised. "It's around if you know where to look."
"Are you one of those fellers that's found the Heartlong? I thought she was just a myth, and plenty of men have gone missin looking for her. But perhaps its true if you have some here!"
"I'm afraid I don't know what you're talking about. But I'd like to here more."
"Well that's a shame. But either way this will be a nice bargaining chip, if ya willing to part with it."
"Sure. If it means that much to ya." I handed him the canteen. He beamed with excitement. "Well take yer pick of the lot. Take what you need!" I shrugged and selected few metal rods, two small nets, a knapsack and some fishing line." He nooded his head in agreement and I began to pack it.
"Before I go, tell me about this heartlong."
"Well its surely a myth, but its been going around the somewhere south- towards the prodigious canyon, theres an oasis. Now As you know, water if fairly scarce, hence our deal. And people say they here voices calling to them in the night, telling them to look for the oasis. People say that there is some sort of creature waiting to give the man who finds her his wildest wishes. Theyve deemed her the HeartLong, cause she'll give the heart what it longs for. Many fools have left in search of her, and they never turn up again."
"Sounds like an adventure. South you say?"
"Oh not you too. You people are all crazy." He paused and seemed to contemplate me for a second." Then again you seem to be able to handle yourself more then any of the others Ive seen out there. take care of yourself, and if you do make it, try not to forget me!" I smiled and nodded and headed back for Forence. As I neared he perked up.
"That was quite a show you put on there doc. Not many men Ive seen able to handle those weapons like you do." I gave him a pat on the back.
"How bout an adventure Forence?"
"Where to doc?"
"Well no doubt youve heard about the Heartlong? WEll it sounds just like the thing I'm looking for. If you stick with me, I'll make sure you've had a more exciting and more enriched life then youve ever had here. I can teach you a few things and once you get back here to gearford, You'll know enough that you'll never have to live in the slums again. What do ya say?" He barely blinked before speaking.
"Normally, i'd say you're out of your flippin mind, but seeing the way you handle those guys, not to mention just having some water laying around, and to top it all off you caught me in the act, which i say you are the first one to do so, well it seems to point out that you are indeed not insane. So if there was anyone ever better to go on a ridiculous journey with, Id say it were you. And any man would tell you hes had enough of this life, When do we leave?"
"Immediately my friend."