The next day, after some preparation, Leo’s party left town with absolutely nothing. They are still severely under geared and under budget, but idiots don’t listen so yeah. They follow the Alexandria trail, the most well maintained road that connects the whole kingdom. Using the Eastern route, they plan to head all the way to the border. Since his party isn’t officially registered, Leo’s party doesn't have a salary (Note: Even if he does register, their rank won’t be high enough to receive salary). Passing by many towns on their way, the group do minor quests like hunting animals, fixing houses, simple chores like carrying heavy boxes to make money. They spent many nights camped out in ruins or sleeping in caves inside small forests. If they manage to save up enough, they would get an inn room in a nearby town. Of course Leo didn’t sleep with the girls, he gets the horse stable treatment. He also didn’t care about his hygiene so he didn’t bathe, but Natalie and Sophia did, so they constantly looked for small springs or pools to bathe in. Even though they didn’t have any good sleeping places or money, they still enjoyed their trip East. They spotted many unknown animals, with Sophia being the most excited as she spent most of her life in the forests.
After around one week, they arrived at the city of Abania. Nicknamed the eye that gazes into the Abyss, it's the home to almost 50,000 citizens. The nickname derived from the fact that it directly bordered the Darkened Abyss, serving as a major defense against voidling invasions.
“So the tales were correct after all. The sky here is purple, so mysterious yet beautiful.”- Natalie says while pointing up at the sky.
“The only mysterious thing here is the pain in my back.”- Leo says, still grumpy after having to wake up early after a night’s sleep on a rock.
“I’m sure the city is just past that hill!” - Sophia said, pointing ahead.
Walking past the small hill, the group gasps as the giant city comes into view. A long wall that stretches as far as the eye can see, completely surrounded the Darkened Abyss. Hundreds, maybe thousands of guards can be seen spaced out all over the wall, patrolling and keeping guard. The city itself has a circular shape and it connects directly into the wall. The plant life around here seems to have adapted to the environment and thus have very odd shapes, but still retaining their green colors. Some plants closer to the wall have a purple hue on it similar to the ground that it's on.
The group took a small break to admire the view, then started walking down the long winding path that leads into the city. After around 20 minutes of walking, they reached the city gates. The gate itself was very secured, surrounded by a big number of Imperial soldiers. Everyone that passes through has to present their identification, in a form of a piece of paper written using magic so no forgery can be attempted. Adventurers do not have to present paperwork, they instead have to present their necklace given to them by the guild. After waiting, the group’s turn eventually came and they presented their tag.
“You are only permitted to travel around the city and only the city. Any attempt to enter the abyss will have major consequences. Understood?”- The checkpoint soldier said.
“Of course sir. We are only here for sightseeing.”- Leo replies.
“And you.”- The soldier said. Turning over towards Sophia and handing her a small item.
“Elves are very connected to nature and thus are highly susceptible to corruption by the Abyss. Carry these stones with you everywhere in the city, especially parts that are close to the Abyss. We do not want to deal with a dark elf here.”- The soldier emphasized.
“Gulp. Understood.”- Sophia replies, putting the white rocks with small inscriptions on it into her pocket.
“You may now proceed.”- The soldier said, letting them pass.
Walking through the dark, quiet tunnel, the group enters the city of Abania. The sound of talking and activity immediately fills the air, completely surprising them. With the purple hue and the fact that the city is under constant attack by the void creatures, the group expected the mood to be heavier, but that’s completely untrue. The streets are filled with people, the marketplace is even livelier with many people of all age range conversing. They finally reached their meetup point, the Adventurer Guild, albeit a few hours early. Sophia figured that it wouldn’t hurt to get a look inside, to see the difference as every Guild building has its own unique regional style. Sophia entered, followed by Leo and Natalie. The Guild building here is the biggest compared to all the ones they had been to. Leo can only guess whether or not it's bigger than the one in the capital. The next thing that caught their eyes were the giant yellow banners with a black flower at its center, hanging all around the guild.
“Why are there banners here? Most Guild buildings we have been in don’t seem to have any.”- Sophia asks.
“Um...All I know is that the banner belongs to a guild named Elqium. Other than that, I don’t know anything else.”- Leo replies.
“You guys must not be locals.”- An adventurer behind them says, surprising them. The three look back at him as he waves at them.
“They are a S tier guild stationed here in Abania. Their numbers go up to like 200 members and they do constant raids into the Abyss. It usually would take them days, maybe even a week, but they always bring back many riches for the city. That is what allows them to have so much influence here and their reputation is quite well known to adventurers. They are one of the top 5 guilds in the kingdom, I’m surprised you guys haven’t heard of them.”- He explained.
“Well, she is a newbie who started 2 months ago. Still got a lot to learn you know.”- Leo says while laughing.
“You didn’t know much about them either, you idiot.”- Natalie says, hitting Leo on the head with her staff.
“Well, you guys are in luck if you want to see them! They left for their raids 4 days ago and should be returning soon. I would assume maybe around 2 days. If you guys stay here for a few days, you all can take the chance and meet them. Maybe join them too if you are lucky enough to be liked by them.”- The adventurer said.
“How about you? Are you with them?”- Sophia asks.
“Unfortunately, they rejected me. But I figured if I hang around here long enough, they will see my values and accept me next time.”- The adventurer said, giving a forced laugh and a depressing look.
The three thank him and after looking at the time, realize that they are now 15 minutes late to the meeting time with Ingrid. They hurried outside, seeing him standing there drinking some kind of beer.
“Sorry about that, we got too caught up with talking and forgot about the time!”- Leo apologized.
“It’s fine. I’m even happier that you guys actually showed up. I have met many groups who backed out at the last second because they were scared. AHAHAHA. I knew I had the correct feeling this time!”- Ingrid said lividly.
Ingrid then instructs the group to follow him as he leads them to an abandoned building at the very edge of the city. To their surprise, as they get closer, the building looks very normal. Entering the place, they can see that it’s well furnished and well maintained. Ingrid then spent the next two hours explaining the different creatures and giving them tips about the abyss.
“I know it's late to ask, but what is your reason for going to the Darkened Abyss?”- Ingrid said.
The group looked at each other, and after a brief pause, replied in unison:
“We don’t really know.”
Ingrid laughed his ass off and say:
“I LIKE YOU GUYS. NOW THAT’S THE TRUE ADVENTURE SPIRIT.”
He starts slapping Leo’s back, the force of his slap sends Leo to the floor in pain. Sophia and Natalie laughed their ass off, pointing at Leo. Ingrid explains that there is a tunnel right below the house that leads directly into the abyss.
“Wait a minute.”- Ingrid said as he dug around the closet, pulling out a lantern item with a strange black flame inside.
“This flame will always point towards the opposite way from the center of the Abyss. Follow it when you are lost and it will bring you guys out of the Abyss.”
He also turns over to Sophia, handing her a larger green rock.
“I’m sure the guard already gave you the Abyss repelling rocks, but those won’t do you any good if you go directly down into the Abyss. This will give you better protection. If at any point, you get very bad headaches, just leave early and head back to the surface.” - Ingrid advised Sophia.
As the group finishes their preparation, they head down to the tunnel under the house. It’s a long, old tunnel made of bricks, with wood framing to reinforce it. The tunnel stretches all the way to a pitch black door, presumably the entrance to the Abyss. They are now ready to head out for their journey.
“Just wondering. Who really are you? Why do you know so much about the Abyss?”- Leo turned around and asked.
“Haha. Just a bored old man with too much time on his hands.”- Ingrid replied.
“No time to waste, off you go!”- He said, waving at the group. He then shut the basement door behind them.
The tunnel is now filled only with darkness.The path lit only by the lights emitted from their staff and some old lanterns hanging on the ceiling. With some deep breaths, the group started walking forward. After walking for over 2 hours, they finally reached their destination, the Darkened Abyss.