Here's another chapter. I figured I owed you one pretty quickly, since I didn't give you anything for awhile and when I did it was kind of boring and expositiony. This chapter should at least be somewhat more entertaining.
I don't own ToS.
After many days of walking the four comrades arrived at the continent's southernmost town. The village itself was as small as most of the other town's they'd come across; it's layout, however, was different. Instead of facing a main through street all the houses sat on the beach and looked over the ocean. There was a single long dock that stuck out into the deep and a number of small ships bobbed alongside it.
It was a sunny day and the town looked cheerful. Children ran along the beach, barefoot and laughing. Watching over these youthful games were a few gossiping teenage girls who were busy repairing expansive fish nets. One of the ships was beginning to move away from the harbor manned by a crew of women. The job was probably one that they had taken on in the absence of men. Nonetheless the women seemed cheerful. They laughed and shouted to one another as they adjusted sails and prepared nets. There was only one thing ruining the picturesque view.
"Ugh, this place wreaks," Yuan groaned. They had been smelling the town for quite sometime now. It had been growing stronger as they approached the village and now it was nearly unbearable.
"I suppose it's something that one adjusts too," Martel said, trying to sound cheerful despite the fact that she was plugging her nose. Kratos grimaced and held tightly on to Noishe who was growing excited. He was certain that if he released the protozoan that he would end up rolling around in rotting sea life.
Only Mithos seemed undisturbed by the stink. He was staring at the ocean in amazement.
"It's so… big!" he said in shock. "And look at the ground; it's so weird!"
He ran forward toward the water, before stooping and grabbing a handful of sand. He watched it drain through his fingers, his eyes so wide that one might have thought he was looking at gold. Still excited, he pulled his shoes off and ran into the water. The sun shown down upon him and his long hair flashed in the light.
"It would seem he's never seen the ocean before?" Kratos said, smiling at the child.
"He certainly couldn't remember it," Martel answered. "We crossed the sea between these two continents once before, but he was just a baby then. That was the only time I ever saw the ocean myself. When did you two see the ocean?"
"Well, we took one hellish journey over the water when we were still on the human side. We were in steerage, which meant we were crammed in with all manner of impoverished humans. It was really unsanitary, and to top it all off we spent the entire time convinced that someone would figure out that I was a half-elf. Of course, that was a much longer expanse of water, so this won't be nearly as bad," Yuan told her.
"We also spent a couple of Summers in a cottage by the seaside, back when I still lived with my parents," Kratos added.
"Cottage is a tremendous understatement if I ever heard one," Yuan said raising an eyebrow, "That thing was huge."
"It was smaller than the mansion."
"So is this town."
"Martel, look, I found this for you!" Mithos came running up brandishing a large seashell.
"Thank you," his sister said, excepting the gift with a smile. "Now why don't we see if we can find someone who will take us across the water."
"Kratos, go ask those girls who we should talk to," Yuan told the human.
"Why me?" Kratos asked with a raised eyebrow.
"Because they're checking you out. Now go!" Yuan pushed Kratos forward onto the beach. With a miserable backward glance, the human made his way forward to the girls. They started giggling uncontrollably.
"Excuse me. Could I trouble you with a question?" he asked. They continued to giggle and slid into an argument.
"Come on you ask. You're the oldest!" The oldest didn't argue back and instead glanced up at Kratos. She couldn't have been more than seventeen but her stare made him uncomfortable.
"You're one of the heroes right?" she asked, biting her lower lip to stop herself from giggling.
"Yes. I suppose that's what they've been calling us." The girls began to twitter all the more. Kratos decided to kill Yuan later. "Would any of you know where my comrades and I might procure passage across the ocean?"
"You're the most handsome human I've ever seen!" the youngest girl squealed and then she buried her face in her hands.
"He's the only human you've ever seen," the other two chided.
"Please girls, this is urgent," Kratos urged, his patience growing thin.
"Well, I don't think anyone actually ever goes across the ocean. But the old widow who lives in that house has a ship that no one uses anymore. She doesn't want to burn it or break it down because it belonged to her husband who died in the war. But she might give it to you, since you're the heroes," the oldest girl told him after calming herself down.
"Thank you very much ladies." Kratos said with a bow. At this the girls broke into another fit of giggles.
"I'm afraid I don't have anything to serve you," the old woman said with concern in her voice.
"That's not a problem at all," Martel told her gently, "We really just want to speak with you."
"Still I feel like I should give you children something." She continued to hobble about her kitchen, her white head bobbing up and down as she searched the cupboards, "Ah, here we go!"
She pulled a plate of dubious looking cookies off of a shelf and set it before the friends at the table. They stared at the plate nervously, not wanting to offend the woman, but not wanting to touch the cookies that had sat out of reach long enough to have been forgotten.
"Mithos, why don't you try one of those lovely treats," Yuan suggested pushing the plate towards the child. Mithos glared at the blue haired man, but reached forward and grabbed one anyway. The cookie was disturbingly soggy, as though it had tried to go stale but was far too full of sea air. Nervously Mithos nibbled it slightly.
"Mmmmm," he said looking as though he had just swallowed something rancid, "It's delicious you should try one Yuan."
Giving the child a death glare Yuan's hand shot out and grabbed a cookie. His face turned pale and he gagged slightly.
"It's delicious," he said.
"I'm so glad," the old woman told them. "Now what is it that you wanted to speak about?"
"We heard you had a ship," Martel began.
yes," the woman interrupted, "It belonged to my husband. He was an excellent seaman back in the
day, but he went off to join the war effort and never returned. That was eight hundred years ago; I've
kept it all this time."
"Woah, wait. This boat is eight hundred years old?" Yuan asked, simultaneously slipping the rest of his cookie to Noishe. There was a hacking noise from under the table that Yuan covered by continuing to speak, "Is this thing even sea-worthy?"
"Aye," the woman answered very seriously, "I went fishing in it myself until about a hundred years ago. It sails like a beauty!"
"So this ship hasn't been used in over a hundred years?" Kratos asked.
"Don't say it like that. It may seem like a long time to your kind, but the ship is sound. You can trust that." There was silence for a moment, "Why are you so interested in my vessel?"
The four friends glanced at one-another, each hoping some one else would take the hit and speak up.
"We were interested in buying it…" Martel told her quietly. The woman looked shocked.
"I'm not sure I'm interested in selling. There's nothing you could pay me that could equal what it's worth to me," the old widow said soberly.
"Please! We're trying to stop the war that your husband died in. Doesn't that mean anything to you?" Mithos pleaded. The woman looked at him and sighed. She seemed unsure.
"I'm sure your husband would have wanted his fine ship to be used in such a way. He'd want you to live to see the world free of war," Martel said to her gently.
"Do you know how control a ship?" the woman asked. The four shook their heads, "Well, then I'm going to have to teach you."
A day later the four heroes left in the rickety old vessel. It wasn't a bad ship, despite its age. It had clearly been cared for diligently and, as Yuan observed, it floated which was all that really mattered. The woman had painstakingly explained the workings of the boat. Yuan and Mithos had understood the directions relatively well and were bickering over who should truly be in control. Martel and Kratos were happy to let them fight, so long as they were useful. The boat had a small cabin in which they could sleep, a luxury they hadn't quite expected for such a relatively short journey.
They spent most of their time in doors, particularly Noishe who was not entirely fond of sea travel. On the second morning of their trip, Kratos stood out on the deck watching the gently rolling waves. It seemed strange that there could be such peace in such a war torn world.
"Kratos, can we talk?" Yuan asked coming out of the ship's cabin to join his old friend on the deck. The human gave him an odd look, but nodded anyway. It was very rare for Yuan to seek him out like this, particularly when Martel wasn't busy with something.
"What is it that you wish to speak about?" Kratos asked him.
"Sex," Yuan answered simply. The human stared at him in shock, and Yuan rolled his eyes. "For crying out loud, we're both grown men; stop being such a prude. I mean really, you'd think you still lived the stringent upper class life style."
"Well, fine then. What in particular did you want to discuss?" Kratos said trying not to look uncomfortable.
"It has been eight years since I last got laid. Eight years! Martel's to- I don't know-pure."
"Whom did you sleep with before?" Kratos asked in mild surprise.
"I don't know. Random people," Yuan said with a shrug. He glanced at Kratos, only to discover that he was receiving a very strange look. "Don't look at me like I'm dirty; I'm not the weird one you are!"
"I fail to see what is so strange about me," the human answered simply.
"You're a twenty-eight year old virgin; how is that not weird? You don't even have a good reason. I mean the only reason I've been abstaining is for Martel's sake."
"Wait, she's a virgin too, correct?"
"She's only a year younger than us! Why am I the only strange one?"
"I dunno. On her it seems like a virtue. On you it's pathetic."
"So what do you want me to do about your little predicament?" Kratos asked, trying to deflect the conversation from himself.
"I dunno. I just wanted to complain," Yuan said with a sigh, "So you've really never had sex Kratos? I mean there were plenty of chicks in the border villages who spent most of their time checking you out. You know, like those girls from a couple days ago."
"They were children! And anyway, why does this subject interest you so much?" Kratos hissed in frustration.
"I don't know. It's just so weird. I can't believe you've never had sex. You are missing out man." Yuan grinned. "I bet you won't be able to hold out that much longer."
"I'd take that bet," Kratos said in annoyance.
"Seriously? I bet you a hundred gald you won't be able to hold out."
"Until when," Kratos asked in a bored tone.
"A hundred gald a year until you get laid," Yuan said holding out his hand. Kratos shook it with mild disinterest. A moment later he sighed.
"This conversation is inane, and you do realize that there is no down side to this bet for me. There is no way I'll ever end up paying you."
"Oh, damn! I didn't think it through," Yuan whined. They were quiet for a while as they stood leaning over the ship's railing.
"Do you intend to marry her?" Kratos asked suddenly. Yuan blushed and said nothing, "That's the real reason you started this conversation, isn't it? You wanted me to tell you to marry her, because you're too damn uneasy with your own masculinity to admit that you'd come up with a romantic idea such as that on your own. So you came over here to get 'the prude' to come up with the idea for you."
"You know me to well… And I am not uneasy with my masculinity," Yuan snapped. Kratos raised an eyebrow at him. "Well okay fine! Maybe you're a little bit right. But it's a lot easier to be unconcerned about those sort of things when you're six feet tall and manly."
"You think I'm manly?"
"Gah! Can we just pretend this conversation never happened?" Yuan begged leaning on the railing and burying his head in his arms.
"Fine, but I still want my money," Kratos told him. Silence fell over them again as Yuan glared at the shining waters gloomily. Kratos looked at his friend and smiled slightly. He was glad to know that his friend was this easily effected by his feelings for Martel.
"Did you buy a ring?" Kratos asked quietly. Yuan didn't lift his head at all, but Kratos knew he was feeling somewhat cheered.
"Not yet. I don't know where to get one," Yuan mumbled into his arms.
"You could have one made by a black smith," Kratos suggested.
"She deserves better," Yuan said softly, at last looking at his old friend.
"I don't mean to sound elitist, but you're not going to find much better over here. What exactly are you looking for?"
"I don't know. I mean the only rings I ever really saw belonged to your mother. They were all so nice…"
"Even if they were available on this side of the border there's no way you could afford something like that," Kratos told him. Yuan looked down again as though he were ashamed. "She'll love what ever you give her. I really don't think the ring itself is the point."
"The ring has to be perfect, Kratos. Martel is perfect she can't have a crappy ring!" Yuan said, suddenly standing up straight. Kratos sighed and looked away.
"I've given you all my suggestions. I don't know what else you want out of me," he told his friend.
"Do you think they sell rings in Heimdall? I bet everything the elves make is beautiful," Yuan asked.
"I don't know; I suppose that it's possible. I don't know much about elven culture. Do you?"
"Nah. I'm at least second-generation, so I never had any contact with Elves. They sound like total pricks, but I bet they make all sorts of cool things. They sound like the sort of beings to invest their time in art and stuff like that."
"Haven't you ever spoken to Martel about them? She did grow up amongst their kind."
"A little, but it's kind of a touchy subject, you know? Neither of them seem particularly happy about going back." Yuan turned around so that he was leaning with his back to the ocean. He looked at Kratos and shrugged, "This'll certainly be an interesting little venture."
"Hmmm," Kratos agreed staring out over the ocean. He had no idea what to expect from the elves and the mysterious third culture that he had yet to experience. It lay somewhere over the ocean.
They left the boat on an unpopulated shore vowing to return to it. Off across the sand they walked, unsure what to expect in this new land. It was quite possible, they realized, that news of their heroism had not traveled quite this far. Even if it had it was possible that details would be missing. Finding villages that would feed and welcome them for free would be considerably difficult. They had very little money to spend, even considering that the old woman had given them the ship for free in honor of her husband.
They were not too far from Heimdall, and decided to avoid the stress of any other villages. The group was very quiet as they traveled through fields and forests. Each of them were lost in their own private thoughts, and did not realize the sadness of the others. Martel and Mithos stuck together, quietly understanding one another's fear of the Elven city. For his part, Yuan was worrying himself over rings and the perfect way to propose to the love of his life. Kratos was simply concerned about coming to a place where he would once again be ostracized. Noishe picked up on his master's problems and empathized, as good pets so often do.
It was in this bogged down mentality that they arrived outside Ymir forest. The four comrades looked at the shadowy entrance and steeled themselves. Their personal concerns would all be faced once they headed through those intimidating boughs.
I hope you enjoyed this somewhat random traveling/seaside chapter. They're going to Heimdall next; so exciting!