The First Step Towards True Exploration
Guild Ouroboros shambles over to the commercial section of New Etria. It's early, but some shops are open twenty-four hours a day. They open their way into TT Trade-House. Upon opening the door, the sound of many boxes and pots can be heard falling.
"SON OF A B- oh, hi! Customers! Oh, it's you guys again, the first in the town to ever sell me monster parts! What can I do you for?" Tin-Tin asks, seemingly ignoring the huge mess of iron and dust behind the counter. Mary takes the monster parts and splays them across the counter. Mole claws, bug wings, bat fangs, and even worm goo. Tiny Tina's eyes light up as she begins to appraise the items.
"Oooh, more claws… and what is this, some sort of excretions from monsters? It's loose, but it's sticky… I wonder, when it dries, it could serve as an adhesive… and these fangs are very durable." She remarks, banging it on the counter with a small hammer, showing how it stands up.
"Yes, this is great! I'm going to take a loan out from the central bank and get a couple thousand Ental, I have a feeling I'm gonna need to expand with you guys feeding me all these materials! No more making pots and pans for this girl! I'm a dedicated monster artisanry, just like Shilleka!" Tin-Tin blurts out, catching Simon's ear.
"Oh? You know Shilleka's goods?"
"Know it? I'm her biggest fan! I visited Etria almost a decade ago to see her forge lined wall to wall with weapons and armor made from the most dangerous beings on the world! Items worth hundreds of thousands of En a piece! It was her inspiration that drove me to become a shopkeeper, and now that a Labyrinth has been discovered in New Etria! OMIGOSH I CANNOT EVEN HOLD BACK HOW EXCITED I AM! HERE, HERE, MONEY FOR THE STUFF!" She squeals, pushing coins over to them, not a lot of them, but colored coins, some gold and some silver, that signify large worth. After counting it out, it's 200 En. Abel and Karina begin to drool, but Mary looks over the counter.
"Do you got any new stuff?" She asks suddenly. Tin-Tin blinks once and looks around.
"Actually… I just might! I'll hire an artisan! You guys check back in a few hours, time is of the essence! I should make a bigger sign, TT Tradehouse is snappy, but it's not BIG enough!" Tiny Tina shoos them out of the store with coins in their hand and closes the door behind them as she begins to dance inside of her own store, giddy.
Kai yawns and stretches.
"Well we got a good day's pay, and there's a lot more where that came from. We should head to the inn and sleep one off. Afterwards, I suggest we head to the Explorer's Guild." Everyone nods and retreats to the Inn.
They enter to be greeted with the unsettling size of Chauncy. He is so tall that standing behind the counter, not a single one of them can see his face without looking up. He's wearing a frilly apron that says "kiss the cook" with a smiley face button on the front. They put a coin on the desk equaling the amount they need to pay, and Chauncy gives them a room key. As before, after they get in, they all go their separate ways. Abel is pooped and heads straight to bed this time however.
He falls into the bouncy bed and closes his eyes. His mind starts to drift towards sleep before someone comes in. They ordered four rooms to sleep in, one for each of the guildmembers, except he and Karina share a room. He looks over half-asleep to see her inside. Her armor is in her hands and she's wearing her casual clothes instead.
"Hey Abel. That was an interesting first day of exploration… I've never gone camping before."
"Heh, well, it wasn't so much camping as it was regaining our strength within a monster infested cavern." He chuckles, closing his eyes again as his aching muscles start to relax from the long night. Karina sits next to him on the bed, waking him briefly from the bounce.
"Hmm? What's up?" Abel asks. Karina looks over with a tired face.
"Do you remember ANYTHING about your father…?" She asks.
That strange question catches him off guard. He stretches and sits up, so he doesn't doze off again when she talks.
"I thought I told you already, I only know what my mom told me when I was very young. He was a highlander from a faraway land. A shamed one that ran away from his fate and nearly doomed the entire highlander caste. It was his hand-me-downs that I trained with, and why my weapon of choice is a spear." He says, mentioning his discarded weapon on the floor, one of the harpoons from the fish monsters that attacked them when they first arrived in New Etria.
"Why do you ask?" He continues. Karina closes her eyes and lies next to him, apparently also very tired.
"I just started thinking. I knew your mother when you were still very young, I'm like your big sister… and I wonder if your dad is still out there somewhere… you know? It would be a shame if something happened to us in the labyrinth, and we never got to meet him…" She says, drifting off to sleep. He sighs and lies next to her and closes his eyes as well.
"Dead or alive doesn't matter much… he's been outside of my life for as long as I can remember… mom died, I was in an orphanage, he never showed up… I have no father." Is all he says as they both go quiet, falling into a deep slumber.
Mary and Simon are in another room. Though they both have individual rooms, Mary has visited Simon's room. He called her in to ask her a question. He turns around and asks his question bluntly.
"How are you able to ring that bell?" He asks. She cocks her head.
"What do you mean? Don't all hexers ring their bells?"
"Yes, but you don't ring it like they do. They have their arms, hands, legs, and feet bound. But yours are free, their bindings are a symbol of their surrender to their faith, and that faith powers their bell. What powers yours?" He interrogates. Mary honestly has no idea, in fact she seems a little frightened by his directness, but he sighs and shakes his head.
"Sorry, I'm just… curious. I'm kind of a scholar, or scientist. Something like this is extremely interesting to me. Do you honestly not know?"
"No, no I don't. This is just how I've always done it…" She stammers, her eyes darting around. She's hiding something, but Simon drops it.
"Alright. I'm sorry if I scared you. Have a good night, Mary."
"Y-Yeah… good night, Simon." She says, slinking out of his room. Kai is in the dining room enjoying a cup of extremely hot and bitter tea, but his face remains stoic and unchanging. They catch sight of each other and she walks up to him.
"You're not going to sleep?" Kai asks her.
"I don't sleep that much. I can go off of only a few hours. Our tent in the Calcium Mines was enough for me."
"Mmm. Indeed. I don't eat much either. Do you drink tea?" He asks. She shakes her head.
"N-No… it's too bitter."
"I see. Well, I have juice for you if you'd prefer." He says, taking something out of his pack and draining it into a small cup. She looks over and sniffs it.
"Wait… this is… orange juice." She says, her eyes going wide. He raises an eyebrow.
"You… know what an orange is? Only Lagaard has any mention of oranges, and they are extremely rare… and expensive."
"Yeah… my brother used to find me some back in High Lagaard a couple of years ago, before he disappeared in the Forbidden Woods. That's why I'm an orphan now. He would always bring back oranges and yuzus. He said they were extremely dangerous to get… I didn't understand until he was gone just how dangerous it was." She sadly laments, but accepts the orange juice and drinks it.
She begins to sniffle.
"It tastes good…" The young hexer says, her brown hair spilling from out of her cowl. Kai pats her on the back as he continues to drink his scalding tea. Soon both of them will need to retire for a small spell as Abel and Karina get some rest. They are not used to adventuring like Kai and Simon are, and they are not as youthful as Mary is… so the rest of the group needs to adapt to their slower pace.
The early morning burns away into the afternoon and the next day truly begins.
Eli summons Marion to the Explorer's guild and speaks to her one on one.
"I think I found the land of your birth." Is what he says as soon as she arrives. In a suit of full armor, she appears to not react at all. Remaining composed, she responds.
"Is that right? Where is it?"
"Far to the west, beyond an impenetrable and never-ending blizzard. There is a city of dragon worshippers. I recovered a single book years ago from Midgard that correlated with your story you told me when you arrived a few days ago, about how there was a nation of your birth that disappeared off of the maps. At first I simply thought it was Gotham, but you said your adoptive nation's crest was that of an Eagle… well, that was Gotham's." He explains. She nods, allowing him to continue.
"This of course means that Gotham was not the nation that disappeared off of the maps… Gotham was destroyed- by Simon's reports- by something called GUNGNIR… but that doesn't account for your home city. Traders from Fort Chicano to the south and the Virgin Lakes to the west have reported that a relatively new city, resistant to outsiders, is placed beyond the impenetrable blizzard to the west. This lines up with the disappearance of your home town."
"Then how can we access it? If the blizzard is impenetrable, we cannot reach it by airship, and being landlocked we cannot reach it by boat. Neither Armoroad nor Tharsis would be able to find such a place." She explains.
"True, but here in New Etria, we have adapted trade caravans for use in the singular purpose of exploration… the landship initiative opens today, and all able bodied explorers will be expected to partake of the expedition. We will find your city, and scout out the rest of this dangerous and untamed continent."