I made a discovery once I lured the wolves above the canopy. They were faster than me. But they became much easier to deal with in the open air, because I was much more maneuverable. I barrel-rolled away from the first to catch up to me, continued over the top and through the roll, catching another wolf with a mortal slash to the neck as I returned to my original altitude. The first wolf then followed me in a fast climb, but I dove before he could reach me. He followed me down, so I held the dive as long as I could before pulling out.
Silly wolf. My wings have much more surface area than your skin flaps.
More surface area equals a faster pull-out. I zoomed upward while he plunged into the canopy, yelping all the way as he discovered he’d stayed me too long. Now with loads of energy built up, I was able to take out a third wolf on my climb back upward by catching him from below.
The remaining creatures broke away, gliding back into the canopy. They were monsters, not fools. They had lost four of their number, a disaster for a wolf pack, and they chose to cut their losses. I turned back toward the ridge of broken hills, which I reached quickly now that I was flying. The rest was just flying below hilltop level between the hills.
An hour later, I was staring at the massive walls of Cara Ita from my vantage point, a tree near the crest of a hill about a mile from them. At this point, I could not see any good reason for such a large town to exist in this place. I saw no farmland to support it, and no obvious commercial purpose, such as a large road carrying trade between the kingdoms.
Such a road existed elsewhere. It lay on a more direct path between Thuriben, the trading hub of Orestania’s far north extent, and Swarth, the capital of Hamagaar. The road I had been traveling on before I dove into the forest was a minor artery not worthy of a fortress town this size. At best, it called for a small frontier stockade housing a small cavalry troop. So there was something here I wasn’t able to see from this vantage point.
It was time to find Arken by “using what the temple gave us.” I was unsure why Arken stated it in such a weird fashion. It seemed obvious to me that the only thing that would fit the requirement was a talisman called a locator stone.
Locator stones are common, but our set was special. Instead of being a pair of stones that showed each other’s locations, it was a set of six. And ours only worked for the people the temple gave them to, to insure that an enemy could get hold of one and use it to track the other five.
Mine was in my travel pack. It looked like an ordinary pendant mounting for a semi-precious stone, but when I placed it against my forehead, my vision changed slightly. Everything grew slightly dim, except the brilliant point of light I now saw ahead, somewhere inside Cara Ita. All five fellow party members could have been in that one location– from this distance the stone couldn’t distinguish them individually– except that another brilliant point of light appeared, somewhere in the hills beyond Cara Ita. At least one member was not with those in the town.
I didn’t know enough about the town ahead to risk something like flying over the wall at night. I would go through the gate this time. But I didn’t want to show which direction I had actually come from though, so I took off and flew away from the town first, then in a wide circle around to the road coming from the opposite side.
On that side, the road was much better than the one coming from Orestania, which meant this place primarily traded with its own country. That meant it had some resource important to the country, and I already had a suspicion of what it would be.
I kept a good distance between myself and the city’s lookouts while circling, so it was quite a walk to the main gate. When I drew close, I stopped so I could use the locator once more. Now, I was close enough that it showed colors. Blue and Pink were clustered together near the middle of the town, beyond the walls. Red, Yellow and Green weren’t there… I turned my eyes toward the hills and soon spotted them, but it wasn’t clear where they were. They seemed to be underground, or in some deep hidden valley.
The discovery supported my suspicion.
The locators for Ryuu, Graham and Brigitte were in the hills, while Arken and Melione were in town. Probably, this was somehow related to his comment that those three would not be in my way.
Despite the rude way they had dismissed me, I was relieved to see that all five were alive. The stones would show a dull orange for a dead body, until the mana from the owner ran out. So, whatever the crisis was, it could be retrieved. Where there is life, there is hope, as they say.
I draped the locator around my neck and dug a card and a coin purse out of my pack, transferring them into the small wallet that was attached to my sword belt. I pulled a similar coin purse out and stuck it into the pack. The old one held Orestanian coins, the new one was stocked with Hamagaaran money that Carson had obtained for me the previous night. I then resumed my walk toward the front gate.
The guards weren’t being too difficult for those in line ahead of me, which was a relief. I mean, dressed like this, I’m clearly not a common farmer coming to town. To not seem like an oddball in strange armor, though, I had to become what Mother says I am. A real fairy knight.
When not involved in a war, these creatures of rumor mostly just wander around doing whatever seems interesting… and only a fairy understood what constituted ‘interesting’ to a fairy. In that sense, neither Tiana nor Robert had the right perspective, but the people of this city didn’t have to know that. They only needed to fear what the walking timebomb in the ero armor might do if they pissed her off.
Cranking Tiana Full Battle Mode up to eleven, I carefully painted on the intimidating aura she had learned to emulate on demand.When it was my turn, the guard handling the questions gave me a peculiar look, pretty much taking me in from head to toe.
“Your business here?” he demanded.
Was it not working? I avoided letting any surprise show on my face, and instead, merely raised an eyebrow that communicated, Who are you to demand answers, mortal?
“I’m on a journey. I am searching for something which may be here.”
He humphed. “Another idiot challenging the mines, huh?”
Bingo. It’s a mining town. I had guessed it right. If this were an RPG, it would be a dungeon town. But this guard still didn’t seem to be buying my act.
He called to his partner, in the guard house. “Get the ledger.”
The other fellow had been busy answering someone inside. He looked out, saw me and grew pale. “Ummm….”
“Come on, dummy, where is it?”
He handed a book over, but then looked into the guard house. “Hey, Sergeant? You better come out here!”
The first guard ignored him and simply asked me, “Name?”
“Tiana of the High Forest,” I stated.
He gave me a strange look, then shook his head and just wrote ‘Tiana’.
“Tëan Tír, in Relador.”
He was simply writing down ‘Relador’ when the sergeant emerged. He looked at me, also grew pale, grabbed the guard and pulled him away a few steps. But, I have good ears. I could hear everything.
“You idiot! You trying to get us killed?”
“Let me see this. Oh gods… is that really the only name she gave, or was it longer?”
“Well, she said something about a forest.”
The sergeant let out an inarticulate noise, then spun a little too fast back toward me. “Pardon us, Fair Knight. My man doesn’t seem to have quite caught the name of your clan?”
Perfect. Giving him a cold stare, I remained silent for two seconds, then answered, “… Clan of the High Forest.”
He turned back, and whispered “Write ‘of the High Forest’ after her given name. Do it!”
Yes I can imagine a fairy killing someone for ignoring her clan name when it was given. His reaction made sense.
Gesturing me through, he told me, “Fair Knight, welcome to Cara Ita. Our town is pleased that you are visiting.”
“Sir, she hasn’t pai…” The guard started, before the sergeant clamped his hand over his mouth.
“Pay no attention, Fair Knight,” he told me, oozing goodwill. “You may enter.”
I didn’t move yet. I noted, “Those ahead of me paid three silvers each.”
“No, no, you may enter. We are most honored that you grace our fair town with your presence and protection, Fair Knight.”
I strode in, satisfied with the outcome. Behind me, I heard the sergeant hissing at his man, “You damned idiot! If you ever stop a fairy knight again, I will kill you!”
“Not even to record their names? We’re supposed to record the names of adventurers.”
“She’s not some muddy ‘adventurer’! She’s a gods-blessed fairy knight!!“
That was as much as I could hear as I walked away. It was the outcome I wanted.