The Flight of The Draykes
Idly pushing the book I was reading away, I glanced around the empty library. Stretching myself while sitting in the chair, I yawned hugely, and thought of the past days with a shudder.
I had endured hellish training for close to a month and a half now. It had made me bigger, faster, stronger, and - most importantly - it made my ‘operating’ time longer.
We had coined the term ‘operating’ based on the regular infusion of warforce that I required.
While still dependent on the warforce infusions, I had become closer to being able to operate for a full day without any external aid… that was as long as I didn’t use warforce.
Any longer was pushing it, but the longest that I had lasted so far was two days. That too, with the teacher pumping what he claimed was almost half his warforce into my body while the calm teacher watched with his heart in his throat.
The most surprising thing was… It seems that the force stone could no longer accurately read my body’s warforce.
For one, the first day after I had endured the failed advancement to iron rank; The force stone had shown that I had dropped to awakened 2 stars, when previously I was awakened 5 stars.
The teachers had taken this as further proof of their container theory, and said it was because my warforce now had to fill additional buckets, as compared to before when it had saturated the available container.
I somewhat agreed with them, but at the same time, I didn’t know what to feel. I was walking on a new road, but it was a narrow road. I could not advance without painstaking toil, and there was no guarantee that I would not hit a dead end.
My solace in the past month and a half had been Sia… who had taken to holding my hand every night as I slept off.
If I was awake, we would sleep on the terrace of the Hoard. But more often than not, I was sound asleep, since my training time had been shifted to midnight onwards.
This was done, so that I had enough warforce to last out during the day for my jobs. Of course, this also meant that I was severely sleep deprived, but not enough to dampen my spirits.
Fondly thinking of Sia, I lost myself in daydreams. Daydreams which I was jolted out of when a dustbin sized hand slammed the table in front of me, sending the shelves quivering.
Startled, I looked disapprovingly at the big guy and pointed to the front of the library where the “Keep your silence” sign hung, only for Alden to shrug and seat his bulk down opposite to me; causing the chair to again squeak alarmingly.
“How goes it,” Alden inquired.
Thinking back to my previous thoughts, I opened my mouth and closed it again, before I grinned and said, “All goes well.”
Chuckling, Alden spoke, “At least your spirits haven’t been crushed. That’s what matters, you know?”
Nodding, I agreed with the big guy. Spirits were what prevented a person from sliding into oblivion. Not the drinkable kind of spirits, but the intangible kind.
Then Alden pushed across a thick scroll, and softly he said, “Take this. It’s genuine and I can vouch for it. It might be of help to you,”
Puzzled, I took the scroll and opened it, only to gasp as I read on.
It contained the names and drawings of many plants that I didn’t recognize, as well as their descriptions on how they had to be mixed to form medicine.
Scanning it rapidly, I looked at Alden with a choked expression because all the medicines had one thing in common.
They were warforce supplemental potions. Essentially, they were like portable infusions of warforce.
“Ho-” I started, but Alden cut me off with a quick, “Don’t ask. Galen asked me to find it, and it took some digging and bargaining, but I finally got it. Now go! Get the plants, find Galen, and ask him to create the medicines.”
Taking a long look at the big guy, who peacefully stared back, I got up clutching the scroll gently, and bowed to him.
“Thanks big guy… You might just have saved my life,” I said.
Waving his hands generously at me, the big guy was about to say something when he choked as I continued to say, even more generously than him, “This month, you can keep the two coppers.”
Sputtering, the big guy looked at me before he erupted into booming laughter that threatened to send the library crashing down.
Joining in with the laughter, I passed underneath the “Keep your silence” sign while pointedly ignoring it, and with a backward wave, I took off toward the market.
Standing at the entrance to the market, I scanned around and saw a multitude of stalls that stretched onward in a tight circle around a small open space where a platform was.
Moving away to the side, I scanned the scroll again before cursing and running back to the library.
As a bemused Alden watched, I quickly scribbled the ingredients into another scroll, and then waving goodbye to the big guy again; I trotted to the market again.
Reaching there, I headed straight for the platform where a bored-looking man stood.
Attracting his attention, I asked, “Do you make announcements to the market for items?”
Impatiently looking at me, the bored man asked me in return, “Do you think this platform and I are here for show?”
Choking back the words that threatened to spill out, I quickly shook my head and put on an ingratiating smile as I pushed the scribbled scroll to the man. “Can you make an announcement for these herbs?”
Opening the scroll, the man sniffed as he saw the names of many common herbs and plants, before he squinted as he took in the occasional foreign name amongst them.
Then he looked at me and held out his hand, “5 silvers.”
“What!” I yelped.
“5 silvers for the announcement,” he repeated.
“2 silvers,” I haggled.
“3,” he returned.
“2 silver 50 copper, final price!” I said as I looked resolutely at the man who slapped his palm and said, “Deal!”
Then he moved to the edge of the platform and I saw behind him the words, “Announcements - 1 silver only.”
Jaw dropping, I turned to the man who, without turning, called back, “No refunds allowed, it’s written underneath the price.”
Looking back at the words, I did indeed see that “no refunds allowed” was written underneath the announcement's price.
This time, I didn’t choke back the string of profanities that left my mouth, but I had to keep quiet when the man turned a disapproving look at me and gestured around the serene marketplace.
Then, the man took in a deep breath, and like a bullfrog; he began shouting as loudly as he could and soon there was a line of people underneath the platform who stood as they discussed before a few came up and stood in front of me.
Scrutinizing them, I saw they had honest faces, every single one of them. They looked at me with such piety and hope for the world such that I immediately regretted my decision to come to the market.
Sweat running down my back, I shifted one coin in my pocket to the left, and lo-and-behold, the piety filled eyes turned to where the coin had gone.
Shifting it to the right, the piety filled eyes rotated over there too and I knew I was baling in trouble.
“We have what you need,” they chorused as I took a step back.
Gritting my teeth, I walked forward a step, and then I charged! Toward financial ruin.
Those honest salt-of-the-earth merchants would have taken my underpants too. But they must have had a little bit of pity in them. That’s why they only took all the gold I had on me and my pants.
As I stood there shivering, the pants thief hesitantly looked at me and then at the pants, before he held it out to me.
As I gratefully reached out for it, he spoke in a small voice, “You can always pay me later. Just 1 silver would do.”
Snatching the pants out of his hands and glaring at him, I walked off with prideful and purposeful steps, until the wind blew and I shivered again.
Shrugging on the pants quickly, I turned back to the marketplace and flung my sleeves, or I would have had I had any sleeves. But they had taken my shirt as well. So I contented myself with a muttered “Bal!” and, bare chested, I walked back to the Hoard.