Ascension: The Coming Storm

Chapter 3: Hope of Safety

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Vasuki

Vasuki scratched at his right arm, silver scales shining through the dead skin. He wore his inn clothes, a fancy white shirt and black breeches. He picked the half empty bucket of water from in front of the horses and began to check the wheels of the wagon. After making sure they were fine he started testing the strength of the ropes and that they were properly tied to the horses. He quickly pulled the flap of the caravan back to check on the merchandise. Boxes full of wine cost a pretty penny, and it was hard for the inn to let go, but the trader, Illieza, who came in two days ago was pretty stubborn about buying it.

Illieza had an average frame and her skin was tanned. Her hair was a light brown, her eyes were a light blue but Vasuki could never remember that part about her. Not any fault of hers, just that he was forgetful about eye, and hair, color.

”I gotta say, I always hear these terrible things about Variants, so when I heard Nevenal was full of them I was pretty worried. ” Illieza said talking to one of the men that was escorting her. Vasuki knew it was meant to be a whisper but he couldn help himself.

”But after enjoying your lovely stay at a comfortable inn ran by Dragon Variants you can help but loveem. ” Vasuki said walking off the step from the back of the wagon. ”I made sure your wagon and its precious cargo was okay. Wheels and ropes check out, and your horses have been freshly watered. ” Illieza was wearing a green sleeve-less vest and a matching pair of loose breeches that reached down to her mid-calf. Her eyes watched Vasuki then pointed behind her, in shock.

”You heard that? ” She asked.

”Most Variants have pretty good hearing. And don worry I get the criticism, difference is pretty big for most people. ”

”You didn do anything to the cargo did you? ” The escort asked. He was a large man with dark skin, and deep brown eyes. He donned a shiny steel breastplate over a leather tunic and chain hosen under equally shiny steel greaves. A giant sword slung on his back was enough reason for Vasuki to not mess with him.

”Now why would I tamper with my familys own cargo. No of course I didn do anything to it. Where you taking all this wine to anyways? ” Vasuki asked. Illieza smiled proudly.

”You have any idea how much this wine is going to make for me when I get to the port? No one likes sailor wine so thats one barrel for the trip south. And the other four are for some of the richer folk near the Crimson Peaks. ”

”You have a long way to go then. No wonder you were so stubborn. ” Vasuki looked up at the sky to get a measure of the time. ”Middle of the day, your horses should be fine but it never hurts to double check, I don want that wine to get damaged. I gotta go, if you need any help Mai should be working at the Dragons Dinn, she will gladly help you with anything you need. ”

Vasuki ran towards the Dragons Dinn, a tavern that was nearly empty at the moment, despite being chock full of people that morning. The tavern was made of oak wood, and was decorated with a plaque on the top of the door with its title. The inside was large enough to hold 120 people if they pushed it, but could comfortably hold up 100 with tables alone. The circular tables were made of mahogany, so they were strong enough to hold all the slamming of cards and mugs they were accustomed to. On the far right side of the room was a large hearth that could heat up the entire main room during the winter, but for now it remained cold. Torches decorated the walls, with Nashatalian writing carved into the wood holding them. To the left of the entrance was a set of stairs that brought them upstairs into a hall built like a rectangle, along this hall was where the rooms were. Vasukis was in the far back corner of the long hall. He quickly opened his door and took his shirt off, the sweat dripping off him was going to ruin his work shirt.

Vasukis room was small but enough for him, he had to sacrifice the better rooms for the customers. The first room was a small living area, with a fireplace along the right wall a, green cushioned chair and matching foot stool. On the far side was a desk next to a window that overlooked the main road of the town of Nevenal, and the stables where Illieza and both of her escorts were talking. To the left of the desk was a small bookshelf with some books, on top of the shelf was a dusty book with a note on top of it. To the right was a longsword inside of a dark brown, leather sheathe, and a small circular steel shield. To his immediate left was his bedroom, which contained an extremely comfortable feather bed in the center of the room and an armoire at the foot of the bed. To his right was a bathroom, which contained a metal tub, a toilet attached to the aqueduct nearby, and a mirror.

Vasuki went to examine the note, it simply read Read Me! – Dad. The note was new, his dad probably left it for him before he returned from work. For the first time in nine years he decided to pick up the book and dust it off. His hands trembled as he read the title. Runes, Understanding Nashatal. Vasuki choked up as he opened the cover and read the words scrawled on the inside.

Make sure to keep up with your studies. – Anthea and Igon. Vasuki blinked away the tears in his eyes before he slowly put the book on the desk.

”Ill learn it, Mom. Im so sorry I haven yet. ” Vasuki said to himself. He opened a small jar that rested on the desk. Inside of it was a sickly green paste, with small red dots in the mixture, he scooped a dollop of it onto his fingers and began to rub the paste on the scales of his right arm. After he knew they were completely covering his scales he went into the bathroom and began to pour water in a metal tub, he knew the water would be ice cold anyways so there was no use in heating it up.

After Vasuki was finished with his bath he put his right forearm into the tub, making sure all the scales he had was inside he then washed the paste off, the dirt and grime that had made their way underneath his scales showed up in the bath water, thankfully no scale mites, which is what the paste was for. After lifting his arm from the bath he admired the beautiful sheen of his scales now that they were clean of the days dirt, the light from the window now reflected a beautiful array of colors.

Vasuki left his room an hour after he had entered it, now dressed in a dark gray linen shirt and black loose-fitted breeches. He donned a leather breastplate, the longsword hung loosely on his left hip, his parma shield was wrapped around his left wrist. Nevenal was a small town that had become popular for retired soldiers, thanks to its scenery. The main part of the town was a giant stretch of land with shops lining both sides with dirt roads that led to homes and other businesses surrounded by woods. On the far left side of the marketplace was a large lake that was popular among fishermen and people who enjoy the serenity. A small island was in the middle of the lake with a lone tree, no one knows how it got there and no one asks. Another thing that many knights find enjoyable is seeing such a diverse populace, most of the residences were Variants, some had ears of beasts, some had tails, a few wings here and there, and in Vasukis place; some had scales.

Vasuki was going past all of it, he wasn looking for a fancy dress shirt or a freshly sharpened sword. He was going to someone that was there when his mother died, someone that could chisel away the weaknesses he had to reveal the power he could one day possess. He approached the wooden cabin and gave the door three quick knocks, he could smell the woman approaching, from where he didn know…he never knew.

The woman opened the door letting out a deep yawn, while dressed in a white sleeping gown, a stark contrast to her dark skin. Her auburn hair was a mess, as if she had just woken up. Her green eyes were barely open enough for him to see their color, the ears that were perched on top of her hair were barely visible underneath the mess.

”Vasuki Odol- ” She let out another yawn. ”To what do I owe…the…pleasure? ” She asked before giving a wide smile.

”Cabana, you told me to come here on the 6th don you remember? ” Vasuki asked, then he smelled the alcohol coming from her breath. He swiped the scent away from his nose. ”Someone was drunk. ” He pointed out.

”Was…come on in Ill go get ready, then we can head to the lake. Ill tell you all about it. ” Cabana joked.

”I think I can go without another story. ”

”Ughh, you are no fun! ” Cabana complained, as she walked away from Vasuki and into her bedroom. Her home was comfortable, and rustic, but held obvious signs she was a retired knight. There was a cushioned chair with a foot stool in the center of the living room, in front of a stone fireplace. The wall next to the door held a large window and a couch up against the wall. A door to the left led to her bedroom and a door to the right led to the bathroom. Across the open room was an attached kitchen. Along the walls of the living room were wooden prongs holding up weapons, he knew that Cabana probably made these in the shed behind her home.

”So did your dad end up selling to that trader yet? What was her name? ” Cabana asked from her bedroom.

”Illieza, and yeah eventually we agreed on a price. 270 gold per barrel, 1080 gold in total. ” Vasuki commented sitting on the chair and propping his feet up on the stool. ”Her asking price was 150, theres no way we could sell 3 year old wine for anything close to 150. ”

”Not many people bargain like your dad does. ” She leaned on the wall next to her door, she wore a wrapping around her breasts and black leggings. Vasuki furrowed his brow at the amount of scars that covered her muscular body.

”Listen, I know a lot of influential people and if they met your dad hed be the one running their part of Tristal. ” She said before heading back in her room. ”Whered she say she was taking it? ” Cabana asked.

”Near the Crimson Peaks in the south. ”

”The people there are either drunks, rich, battle hardened warriors or a mixture of the three. Shes going to be getting a lot more than 270 per barrel. Id wager 350 each. That is if she can get it sold before a Croak shows up out of nowhere. Speaking of the subject of monsters. ” She walked out of the room wearing a tight orange shirt with a dark gray vest over it.

”Did you go over the monsters in the book? ” Cabana asked.

”I went over Goblin Ecology. ” Vasuki snapped, inadvertently. Cabana shivered.

”With you around I might have to bring a coat instead of a vest. ” She pointed out, ”You need to get your magic under control. When you get stronger that cold air could really end up causing damage. ” She exhaled deeply, ”Did I tell you about some of my older students that I used to mentor? ” Cabana asked, ”One of them was just like you, she would get stressed and a wave of heat would just wash over everyone. For years she couldn get it under control, then one day she saw her best friend die and she lost it. She set everything ablaze, she killed thirty people in a few seconds. She got her act together, proved herself to her fellow Royal Knights, and now she leads them into battle. ”

”What are you trying to say? ” Vasuki asked through the tightness in his throat.

”Im saying that you can become so much more than you are now, youll hit that peak. And then youll protect everyone you care about. ” Cabana said sorrowfully.

”That would be…one hell of a way to make it up to Mom. ” Vasuki said, smiling while a few tears fell down his cheeks. Cabana put her hand on his shoulder and gave it a quick squeeze.

”Youll be okay, Vasuki. Now lets get down to the lake. We can take the horses from the barn to get their quicker. ”

Vasuki held the door open for Cabana when the sky lit up with an unnatural blue flare. Cabanas pupils dilated.

”What is that light? ” Vasuki asked, somewhat worried.

”A warning beacon. There was a threat nearby, Knights handled it but there are signs of more. ”

”Wheres that coming from? ” Vasuki asked, his breath getting heavy with excitement and fear.

”Looks like Kiaveen, 6 hours on horse if you don take a break. We
e not going to check it out. Just keep your eyes peeled for anything that seems suspicious. Our schedule will go on like usual. ”

”But we don know what monster it was, it might be a threat to Nevenal. ”

”Im sure someone from Kiaveen will make their way here to tell us all about it. ”

Vasuki knew Cabana was right, if it was serious people would flock to Nevenal for safety. And theyd have a room ready for them at the Dragons Dinn.

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