Rhazin took a sip from his now-empty waterskin and threw it on the ground.
It had been almost four days since they had left the oasis. They had gone through half their supplies, even finishing off the fruit Rhazin's master gave him.
“Why is it so hot!?” Valeria whined. Rhazin just breathed heavily. He had long since ran out of energy. Using Void, though, would do that to you.
“I can't use the heat shield anymore, Valeria.”
Valeria looked at him pleadingly. Her black hair was tied up to keep her cooler, but the tie was coming undone, making her hair look messy. Though she didn't mind at the moment, she would when it fell and she had to deal with her heated hair.
“Why don't I show you how to do it, then?” Rhazin said, feeling annoyed. It was a mistake to think he could keep the heat shield up for the rest of the desert walk.
“Ok, then,” Valeria shouted, pulling her stuffed rabbit closer, “Show me then!”
Rhazin sighed. The heat shield was complicated, but it wasn't dangerous to try. The worst Valeria could do was make the breathing air go away for a moment and that wasn't dangerous at all, really.
“Ok, but you'll need to concentrate and follow what I say.”
Rhazin explained for about half an hour how to selectively negate the heat and leave the air. Rhazin had learned the ability in half an hour, having to only hear a five minute explanation. Valeria, however, lacked the basic training. Rhazin had to explain several other things as well.
Rhazin climbed over another hill of sand and felt the air grow cooler.
“Well done!” Rhazin said, truly amazed. Valeria would be a prodigy in later years. Especially since she could become an Immortal.
“This is tiring though...” Valeria whined. Rhazin smiled, an idea forming.
Picking Valeria up, he sat her on his shoulders. The bags on his back balanced her out. Rhazin cringed slightly under the extra weight, but endured it. This was less tiresome than the heat had been.
Valeria just smiled widely. Rhazin tried not to show her how heavy she was. Women were always tempermental about their weight. It wasn't too farfetched to believe little girls were as well.
“Hey, what's that?” Valeria asked. The heat rose slightly, before dropping once more. The girl was doing good with concentrating, but she wasn't too great yet. With her age and background, though, this much was impressive.
“That, would be a wall....” Rhazin's eyes grew wide. In front of the two were incredibly tall white walls. The design was amazing, so much better than the books described. Every stone, from what Rhazin could see, was organized into intricate patterns that interlocked perfectly and sealed with some kind of grey metal. To the left was the enormous gate, just as well made as the wall it allowed entrance through.
The huge stone doors stood wide open and Rhazin saw several figures standing guard.
“That, Valeria,” Rhazin said with a bitter-sweet feeling, “Is Murdos City, Capitol of The Isles of the FirstBorn, and home to the FirstBorn herself.” Valeria shouted out in joy and patted Rhazin's head.
“Go go go go go,” She said excitedly. Rhazin took off, syncing with her enthusiasm. They were out of the last stretch of that wretched desert at last.
“Halt!” the large guard yelled when Rhazin approached. They were a dozen of them exactly, all wearing similar clothing to the HighKing's guards with the exception that these men and women wore bulky armor under their uniform.
“Is there a problem?” Rhazin asked. The guards looked at him sternly, as if examining him.
“Are you Rhazin,” one of them asked him. Rhazin was confused. Had the HighKing told them to watch for him or was it that these men had heard the news of Faerein's late king. Either way, Rhazin didn't want to go with these men.
“Did the HighKing send for a Rhazin?” he said, acting like he was drunk. Creator knew had the experience to trick these men.
“Yes, are you him?”
Rhazin straightened and sighed. “I guess so.”
“Right, let's go then.”
Rhazin followed the Guards, Valeria still on his back and the heat shield still up. Thankfully, she had not stopped even when they were being questioned. Rhazin didn't think he could take the heat at that moment.
The duo walked behind four guards, watching as they passed by Several dull buildings. What part of the city were they in? From what Rhazin had read, Murdos City was absolutely beautiful. It was covered in flowers and statues of all the Great Heroes, or so the stories went.
“Why does the City look like this?” Rhazin asked a guardswoman. She turned and looked at him like he was an idiot.
“The Outermost portions of the City are guard towers and storage buildings,” she told him, “You were thinking of the Inner City, Rhazin.”
Valeria, still on his back, started getting excited for some reason. Rhazin was just wondering why the woman talked to him so casually.
“Lara!” Valeria yelled. Rhazin remembered then. The guardswoman had been with the HighKing a week ago.
“Well, I didn't recognize you,” Rhazin said. Lara just ignored him and smiled to Valeria.
“It's good to see you too, dear,” Lara said, slowing her stride to walk beside Rhazin, “How have you been treated by your brother?”
“Ok, I guess,” Valeria said, sounding pitiful.
“Lara, I would like to speak with you later, if you-”
“What has he done?” Lara said, interrupting Rhazin. He tried hard not to assert himself and yell at the woman.
Before Valeria could answer, though, the group walked into a massive street, filled with people. The stonework here was intricate, like the walls of Murdos City had been. Flowers and trees filled the streets, along with wagons and strange animals Rhazin identified as horses. He had never seen one before, but quickly ignored them as he saw the first of the Great Hero Statues.
In the middle of the street, in front of a massive building that a sign identified as a library, was the Great Hero Arkheem. His spiked hair and intricate armor looked almost real, though his face was carved marble. It was rumored that after he stopped the Great Lizards from invading his homeland and killed one of their leaders, that he disappeared into the night, to fight again when needed. Obviously, he had just died in battle and never been found, but it was a great story, nonetheless.
Rhazin started to tel Valeria the tale, but she seemed to be preoccupied looking at a stand that sold candy. The girl loved her sweets.
Rhazin placed her on the ground and took her hand. No need to let the crowds drag her away.
“Come,” another of the guards said. Some people stared as the group of guards led two people down the street. Others didn't even glance.
Rhazin felt like a kid again, seeing all the historic landmarks and famous sites. This city was centuries upon centuries old and Murdos had watched over it and protected it all this time, preserving the natural beauty. It was like a candy cart for a kid. At least for Rhazin it was.
The street branched out into a large plaza with an enormous set of stairs leading into something amazing: Murdos' castle.
It was simple, yet elegant, having four towers shooting into the air around the main building. The main building had a domed top and pillars around the entrance, along with thousands of flowers, trees, and bushes. Some of them, Rhazin had never seen before. He wasn't too knowledgeable about plants, but he would remember seeing some of the exotic trees and flowers the castle had.
“Amazing,” Valeria and Rhazin seemed to say at the same time.
“Yes, it is,” A guardsman said, urging them forward.
The group climbed the stairs, heading up to the castle that housed the last of the FirstBorn, the Scarred Father's fist born children. Rhazin felt nervous. She might want him killed when she found out what he had done. Unless the HighKing had already told her, of course. Was the HighKing with him or against him, though? He hadn't seemed like he was on Rhazin's side or against it when they had met the week before.
Rhazin gripped his leg to calm himself, a habit he had thought himself rid of.
The large doors, decorated just as intricately and beautifully as the castle, opened as they came near them. Rhazin shivered as he saw a large room revealed. It had grand pillars making a pathway to a throne. On the right side of the throne sat a laughing man – the HighKing, Munito – and on the exquisute throne sat an armored figure that Rhazin knew to be Murdos, the FirstBorn.
“Come forth, ye split one,” a powerful voice said. Rhazin was taken back by it's magnitude, but walked forward alone, leaving Valeria with Lara.
As soon as Rhazin reached the throne, he knelt down. He needed to be as respectful as possible when dealing with potentially the most politically and mystically powerful being in the world. The HighKing had just as much political power as Murdos, sure, but he did whatever she said, so it did not really matter.
“What would you have of me, FirstBorn Queen,” Razin said as evenly as he could.
“Dost thou not have need of me?” the powerful voice of Murdos said.
Rhazin shivered. Somehow, it seemed like he was exposed all of a sudden. Was she reading his mind? “I wish to join the Great Race, so that I may gain political standing.”
“For what reasoning dost thou wish this?”
No way he could lie his way out of this one without offending his only hope, so Rhazin sighed and gave in. “I wish to prove my innocence, FirstBorn,” he replied.
“Is man ever innocent, my child?”
“Of certain things, I am certain.”
“So, thou simply wishes to prove thy innocence? Innocent of murder?”
“And thou will prove thyself to me to do so by competing in my Race?”
“Yes, FirstBorn.” Silence. Behind him, Rhazin heard Valeria shuffle away from him. She hadn't known about the crime, so it wasn't surprising.
“Well,” the FirstBorn said, breaking the silence after a moment, “Thou must prepare. Off with thou!”
Rhazin stood and left, feeling drained.
Valeria watched in shock as Rhazin walked toward her. How would he explain this to her? He hadn't told her about the Darkness within every Void user. He feared it would accelerate it's growth inside her.
Surprisingly, Valeria had not been looking his way. She had been looking toward Murdos.
“Rhazin...,” the little girl said, “I heard a voice in my head.” Rhazin stopped, looking to the guards. Was it early symptoms of the Darkness?
“The FirstBorn can not speak,” Lara said as she ushered them out of the castle, “So she has to talk with people using her Telepathic Mystic.”
Rhazin felt relieved. “See?” he told Valeria as the huge doors closed behind them, “Nothing to worry about!” Rhazin hoped his own fear wasn't showing. He knew the FirstBorn was powerful... But to communicate with the Telepathic mystic was extremely hard from that distance. Murdos must have been well above the rank of master. Maybe even close to a sovereign...
“Rhazin,” Lara asked, “What of Valeria? She can't go through the race with you.”
“That's why she will stay with you,” Rhazin said, “Oh, and Valeria, you can stop using the heat shield. You don't want to drain yourself.”
Valeria looked confused. “I stopped before we entered the city, though...” Rhazin looked at her odd. Was this whole city covered in its own heat shield then? That was impossible, no one could cover the span of a city.
“Murdos and the HighKing take turns keeping it up,” Lara said, “And since when sis you assume I would watch the girl?”
Rhazin smiled. They reached the bottom of the steps and he stopped, causing the others to follow suit. “If you don't want to, I can always take her with me.” He didn't like threatening, but he knew this woman would take care of Valeria. He had had Valeria watch all of the HighKing's group with her Telepathic mystics that night. All of them had been truthful, with the exception of the HighKing, who had kept his distance.
“I have room, I supposed,” she muttered, causing Valeria to cheer and hug the woman. Drakmor fell from her hands as she did, however, causing Lara to pick the stuffed rabbit up. “And who is this fellow,” Lara asked Valeria, obviously avoiding any word meaning cute. The rabbit was covered in stitches.
“Drakmor!” Valeria exclaimed, realizing that Lara had the stuffed rabbit. Lara handed her Drakmor, which Valeria clung onto after snatching it up.
“Ok, Valeria,” Rhazin said kneeling down, “I have to go now.” He reached in his packed sack, pulling out the bag of gold. He had plenty, so he could afford to spend some. “Here is my last gift to you.”
Rhazin handed her five bronze orbs, which was enough money to buy a house in full. The little girl got wide eyed, then started crying. Rhazin embraced her in a hug, telling her to shush.
“I'll see you again, ok?” he told her earnestly.
“But.... but...” she sniffled. Rhazin hated this, but it had to be done.
Rhazin stood and gave Lara a nod, then picked up his sack and left, bag of orbs still clutched in his hands.
Rhazin opened the letter from Exceed. Maybe he wanted to meet up again? The man could be a useful partner in the Great Race, especially with all his experience.
It took him a minute to read the script. Rhazin was a very well-disciplined writer, knowing all the Mounseiken Alphenitical and Numerical Runes, so it was irritating to read such horrid runescripting. Yet, after what seemed like a long time, he managed to decipher the poorly written note.
Rhazin, the note read.
Meet me at the Marked Man, in the central district of Murdos City, when you can. I'll be waiting.
Rhazin had to ask directions more than once, but he managed to find the tavern. It took him almost an hour to find it, though it was his fault for staring at the different sites in the city. Rhazin had to try hard not to walk into a library or museum.
The Marked Man was made with the same intricate stonework the rest of the city had, but it was a much larger building than others around it, reaching into the sky just as much, if not higher, than the Castle's towers did.
Rhazin nearly walked in, when something caught his eye. There, in the park down the road was a familiar statue.
It was his masters statue.
Rhazin ran through the crouded street, bumping into people as he went. They cursed his way and some even shot him with a blast of Air mystics, signaling he was being rude. Rhazin just ignored them. He needed to see his master's statue. He did not know why he felt this way, but he had been feeling like this since he entered the city gates.
Arriving in the park, Rhazin stopped at the base of the statue. The figure, made of bronze of all things, stood twice as high as Rhazin and wore a black painted robe of a Void user. The face, Rhazin was glad to see, was identical to his masters, except younger. He would have to tell his master that, when he saw him once more.
'If you see him again...' a dark thought whispered through Rhazin's mind. He ignored it. His master could survive anything, so there was no need to worry about him getting killed.
On the pedestal on which the statue stood, was an engraving.
THIS MONUMENT STANDS IN MEMORY OF A TRUE HERO
JEROHA HERON DOMINOS KERSHA
THE ONLY MAN TO EVER COMMAND THE SERPENTS OF THE OCEAN
THE HERO OF THE GREAT WAR WHO FOUGHT AGAINST THE GREAT LIZARDS
AND LASTLY, A TEACHER TO ALL WHO LISTENED
MAY HIS ETERNAL SOUL BE CLENSED OF SCARS AND SENT TO THE GREAT CREATOR
Rhazin stared in awe. The fact that his master was in fact THE Jeroha Kersha had just hit him fully. He had only half believed it when his master claimed the name via letter. Rhazin always needed solid proof, so it was only natural that he have doubts. But to think he would find the proof of this was unexpected. Rhazin had thought his master was delusional or something. Now he knew better.