Two: Downhill

Still in a bit of a daze after he finished working in the fields (due to the previous incident), Umi didn't immediately notice the hubbub that had overtaken his normally sleepy village. It wasn't until he bumped into an ageing man (not that most men weren't ageing) playing the Vere Horn that he bothered to really take a good look at his surroundings.

What he saw was nothing short of an all-out fiesta. There were jugglers, Fype-tamers, musicians, jesters, and plenty more congregated around the general area of the town square. There were even a few conjurers awing the crowds that had gathered with marvellous illusions.

There was a short moment during which Umi puzzled over the cause for such celebration, but nary a moment later he spotted the last person he wanted to see standing on a raised platform, waving to the ecstatic crowd, and his memory was jogged.

Scowling slightly now, but still curious, Umi made his way closer to the stage, his eyes never leaving the man who stood upon it.

"People of Grienor Village, hear me!" Zarqi began regally, for it was indeed Zarqi, Umi's arch-enemy, who was at the centre of all this. "Many harvests ago, one of our own left this peaceful existence we know to seek out his fortune as an adventurer in the wide world of Asadiea. As I'm sure you all know, this man was Darayn Viklo, my elder brother."

The crowd erupted in cheers just then, for whatever reason, and Zarqi had to wait until the noise died down before going on. Umi, meanwhile, simply rolled his eyes.

"Thank you, thank you," he said graciously, taking a bow. "But back to the story. Much time has passed, and now Darayn has returned from his travels with many spoils, riches, and amazing tales to tell."

The crowd was positively popping with excitement by this point.

You'd think he was some sort of saviour of our people. I bet all he did was find some ancient buildings and fight a few monsters.

"Bringing much fame to our normally unheard of village," Zarqi went on, by now forced to shout over the din, "please welcome back... Darayn Viklo!"

With another sweeping bow and elaborate hand gesture, Zarqi backed off of the stage so his brother could take his place. Darayn raised his hands in the air, first in acknowledgement of the praise he was receiving, and then in an attempt to quiet the crowd that he might speak.

I think I may be sick...

"I thank you for you kindness, Grienorians. As my brother has said..."

Darayn's speech went on, but Umi had, by now, completely lost interest in the theatrics, and had turned away from all the action, deciding he would be much better off just going home.

Unfortunately, someone else had a different plan for him, and as he walked from the crowd, a cloaked figure pulled him into an alley, extending whatever means of cloaking it was using onto Umi's body as well.

Umi barely had time to manage a startled "Oh!" before the other roughly clapped a hand over his mouth and spoke to him in a dark and menacing whisper.

"If you value your life, you'll keep your mouth shut and do as I say."

Unfortunately for the pair of them (though admittedly more so for Umi), he lost his footing just then (probably due to the rough handling he had received), and fell right on his behind, also managing to knock his head rather hard on the wall of the building beside him. This resulted in him abruptly losing consciousness.

* * *

Am I floating? I feel like a butterfly. What's that stinging? Am I a bee?

With a mighty groan, he raised a hand to the source of the stinging, and upon doing so, realized that he was able to move his hands. Which meant he was conscious again.

He was, however, pretty undecided on whether or not this was a good thing. This was partially due to the fact that he had just been mauled, and partially due to the peculiar and altogether unpleasant stinging sensation his cheek was experiencing.

The source of the stinging became evident when the cloaked figure slapped him across the cheek, presumably for at least the second time.

"Hey!" Umi protested. "What's that for?!"

"To wake you up," the menacing voice said, as if it was the most obvious thing in the world. Then it delivered a slap to Umi's other cheek.

"Cut that out! I'm clearly awake already!" Umi whined, in a tone not very befitting of a twenty year old man. But now that the stinging was fading, he was becoming aware of a dull ache where his head had hit the wall, and he didn't quite like that either.

"You're not supposed to be talking," the voice said. The way it said it made it sound as if the person speaking would have had a stern look on their face, but seeing as the figure's face wasn't visible, it was pretty hard to tell for sure.

Umi opened his mouth to complain about this, but the raising of the hand that followed his lips' movement prompted him to give up that course of action. So, he instead just shot the figure a questioning look.

This day just keeps getting worse.

"Me and my colleague need your help with accomplishing a certain task. It's quite likely you'll die trying, but I'm sure you'll want to give it a go regardless."

After a long enough pause that Umi guessed he was expected to speak, he glared at the man and asked why that was.

"Because if you don't, we'll just kill you anyway."

. . . This day just keeps getting worse.

The End

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