In the dark and secluded alley evenly lit and secluded alley, the booming, heroic voice of Darayn could occasionally be heard filtering through the crowded streets. However, the cheers, whoops, whistles, cat-calls, and other sounds of assent usually drowned it out. It spoke of wondrous things, but unfortunately, Umi was otherwise occupied, and thus not fully appreciating, or even listening to, what little tibits he actually heard.
". . .spoke of artifacts in the decrepit cities of our distant ancestors. . . "
After a good deal of extremely awkward conversation, Umi had learned that the person who had attacked him was a man interested in learning of the ancients' ruins, and that he believed for some reason that only Umi would be able to unlock the secrets of the ancients because of his shadow.
That makes a lot of sense. . . .
". . . led an expedition to excavate. . . "
The man also told him that due to the fact that they'd really rather he not die trying to do this for them, they had hired him some protection. Locals.
Help of the hired sort had a reputation in Asadiea for being extremely rude, untrustworthy, smelly, and generally vile. Umi did not look forward to associating with such people at all, let alone trusting them with his life.
". . . successfully retrieved and restored technology. . . "
"The mercenaries have been led to believe it is you personally that have hired them, as escorts for an expedition that the elders requested you partake in. They will answer to you and not us, but trust me, we are watching you. If you try anything, we will know, and you will die. Understood, Ubra?"
". . . firearms beyond anything we've ever dreamt of. . ."
"Yes," said Umi glumly.
". . . completely unique as of yet. . ."
"Good," said the figure, "Then we'd best be off. You'll want to travel during the night. It will be cooler." Although it did not get dark at night, the light was different then, and it didn't carry the same heat it did when the sun was in the sky.
". . . given to me as a gift for my help. . . "
"Wait! We're leaving already?! I need time to prepare!"
". . . demonstration. . ."
"The more time we give you, the more likely you'll find a way to escape. You leave tonight. Now come, we must meet the mercenaries."
Umi did not budge. The figure had been right not to give him time; he would have used every minute they gave him to ready himself to try and find some way out of this situation. He knew that as soon as they left this city, he would be out of luck. He had to act now.
The figure noticed his hesitation. "Come, now." he ordered, stepping closer to Umi.
The crowd had gone mysteriously quiet, and Umi could hear Darayn clearly now.
"You may want to cover your ears."
A sharp stacatto of small explosions erupted just then, sending most of the crowd to the ground in fear. Darayn had just opened up with twin automatic rifles, shooting recklessly into the sky. He was grinning like an idiot as he did so, obviously very proud of his new possessions.
* * *
The people of Grienor Village were pretty simple folk; the bulk of them were farmers and merchants, nothing fancy. Still, most of the people who lived there had seen a gun before, nearly everyone had heard one, and not a single soul that wasn't a young child was entirely unaware of their existence.
However, the guns they were used to were very primitize; they had been made by their own generations, not salvaged from the ancients. They generally fired one shot at a time. Revolvers were (in parts of the word) relatively common, but it didn't go much further than that.
So, you can probably imagine the fright the villagers would feel upon hearing so many shots fired at once. As far as they would be concerned, what they would hear was an entire army of gunman all firing nearly simultaneously. An understandably scary result.
* * *
The cloaked figure that had captured Umi was not immune to the shock from this noise, and, body-language screaming his confusion, he dove and slid on the ground, trying to avoid imagined bullets.
Umi only barely managed to keep his head, urged to run instead of hide only by the strong desire to escape. He sprinted out of the alley an into the crowd, headed for the only destination his brain could comprehend at the moment; the stage.
This meant running straight at the source of all the commotion, but Umi had a spot of good fortune then; Darayn appeared to have finally noticed the reaction of the villagers and had slowly stopped firing, looking immensely silly with the guns held slack at his sides.
But Umi's eyes were elsewhere. He was looking backwards, at the cloaked man that was now following him. Apparently the man had also overriden the urge to hit the deck pretty quickly, because he wasn't too far behind.
Umi looked forward again and pushed through the crowd, much of which was beginning to get to its feet again already. Before he knew it, he was bounding up the stairs to the stage. Only to be abruptly halted by Zarqi, who was, for once, only the second-last person in the world Umi wanted to see.
"Going somewhere?" came the young man's snide voice. A certain malevolence seemed to glitter in his eyes, and Umi realized that Zarqi was working with the other man too. It figured that he would be right about Zarqi, that snake.
His path forward was blocked, and the other man would be upon him in no time.
He was trapped.