Chapter 9: To Everon
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Andrew, Rah'asu, and Insu were waiting in an abandoned house by the gate they had entered earlier in the day. It was the best he had felt in a long time, waiting for nightfall. This was because it turned out silver was fairly valuable and five silver had bought each of them a new set of used peasant clothes, fresh food and vegetables for a week, and Andrew a new pair of shoes. 
 
Rah'asu and Insu had outright rejected getting shoes and were still barefoot. Andrew had had to throw his old shoes away as they were falling apart. All three of them had kept their old clothes.
 
"It's about time," Rah'asu said as she stared out a window towards the gate. 
 
"I still don't see how we get them inside," Andrew said as he watched a guard lighting the torches spaced on the wall. "Those torches light every part of the wall and the guards would notice if one went out."
 
Insu sighed, stood up, and left the house.
 
"Insu!" Rah'asu called cautiously. "Where are you going?"
 
Insu ignored her and walked directly towards the guards at the now closed gate.
 
"That rabbit! Gahh!" Rah'asu looked like her body was deciding to run or stay.
 
"I'll go, stay here just in case." Andrew exited the house and tried to catch up.
 
"Stop!" The guard closest to Insu said as soon as he saw him. "The gate is closed for the evening. If you need to leave you will need to come back in the morning."
 
"I'm not leaving." Insu smiled. "My master's friends arrived too late and are stuck outside."
 
"Then they too will have to wait..." The guard paused and stiffened when he saw Andrew approaching. "Lord Terran!"
 
"Sorry about that..." Andrew's heart was pounding. What are you doing Insu! "My servant was overhearing my... uh... conversation about how worried I was that I couldn't let my... uh... guests in tonight because the gates are closed."
 
"I'm sorry Lord Terran but the gates must remain closed after sundown." The guards all looked nervous.
 
"I know. I just came here to fetch my servant before he bothered you too much." Andrew scowled at Insu and let his anger show. "Insu, back to the house. You're lucky the guards didn't do something to you!"
 
"I just thought since you were..." Insu looked scared after seeing how angry Andrew was at him.
 
"No excuses. I don't want you going off on your own like that without talking to me first!" Andrew was nearly shouting at him.
 
Insu's head dropped. He looked angry but also scared. "Fine." And began walking back towards their hideout.
 
"Sorry about that. My guests can wait. We aren't in a hurry." Andrew bowed his head towards the guards.
 
"Don't worry about it." The head guard said. He and the other guards looked scared. "Just make sure to keep better watch of your servants."
 
"Oh, a scolding is the least he's getting," Andrew said and followed Insu.
 
Just as Andrew was walking out of earshot he heard one of the guards say, "That servant is sooooo dead."
 
By the time Andrew snuck back into the abandoned house, Insu had curled up in a corner. Rah'asu was standing over him with her arms crossed. "...be so stupid!" She said quietly and angrily. "You're lucky Andrew went and got you! Do you think the guards were just going to open the gate for you? Even if they did do you think the spider kin would walk casually through the gate by all those guards?"
 
"But Andrew is a Terran, I thought they would at least open it for him." Insu's muffled voice came from the corner.
 
"And what would you have done if they called the other Terrans? Eh?" 
 
"I... uh... didn't think about that.." Insu sounded defeated.
 
"If you have an idea just talk to Andrew and me." Rah'asu shook her head. "I knew something like this would happen. I knew I shouldn't have come with."
 
"She's right." Andrew stood next to Rah'asu. His anger fading at the sight of the pitiful Insu. "Using my Terran status might have worked. If you had told us your idea we might have been able to come up with a good plan."
 
Rah'asu looked at Andrew then to Insu. "Andrew's right. Something like that could have worked if you had told us your idea."
 
"OK." Insu sobbed. "I'll tell you next time."
 
I hope he isn't fake crying. Andrew shook his head.
 
Shimeirin thinks he really is sad. Shimeirin would be sad too if Andrew yelled at Shimeirin like that. 
 
I don't know if I could ever bring myself to yell at you, though I guess I would if you had done something that could have gotten you killed. Andrew wondered if that's why he had gotten so angry at Insu when he normally never got angry at anything easily.
 
Thanks. 
 
"Insu, we're only mad at you because we don't want you to get hurt or killed. What you did back there could have gotten you arrested at best if you had pushed the guards too much." Andrew sighed.
 
Rah'asu looked at Andrew. "Great, are we his parents? Scolding our crying child after we caught him doing something stupid." Rah'asu gave a sour expression. 
 
"Mental age seems about right for the child part." Andrew teased Insu.
 
"I," sniff, "am not," sniff, "a child." Insu rubbed his eyes.
 
Rah'asu sighed. "I give up."
 
"Looks like you beat Rah'asu." Andrew looked from Rah'asu to Insu.
 
"I did didn't I?" Rah'asu sat up and a small smile appeared on his lips. His tears looked real.
 
"Just don't do that again, OK." Andrew looked Insu right in the eyes.
 
Insu looked away for a moment then returned Andrew's gaze. "OK."
 
Andrew turned to Rah'asu. "Do we even need to let the spider kin in this city? I don't recall them saying which one."
 
Rah'asu thought. "No, they didn't."
 
Andrew thought some more. "If we leave them clothes do you think they could just come in on their own during the day?"
 
"Hmm, I wonder. I don't know much about how these cities work so it might work?" Rah'asu seemed skeptical.
 
"They must check visitors somehow. If they could walk right in they wouldn't need us." Andrew wondered if it would be worth asking the guards.
 
"That's true, I never thought about that." Rah'asu sat on the floor next to the window facing the gate. 
 
"I say we ignore the spiders." Insu was still laying on the ground but had turned to face Rah'asu and Andrew, his head propped up with his hand. "What are they going to do? Come in the city and kill us?"
 
Andrew smiled slightly. "They would just wait for us to leave the city. Still, I made a promise and I don't want to break it."
 
Rah'asu studied Andrew. "I say we wait to go to the capital. If it is bigger than this there must be more ways to get inside. The spider kin will just have to wait longer."
 
"Sounds like a plan." Andrew shrugged.
 
"Where is the capital?" Insu asked.
 
"We'll ask a guard tomorrow." Rah'asu got up and began digging through her pack. "For now lets sleep."
 
Insu watched Rah'asu. "Hmm..."
 
Just before dawn, the group left their hideout. "Do we have to go so early?" Insu said as he rubbed his eyes. "We stayed up pretty late last night."
 
"No, but I want to get to the capital as soon as we can." Andrew was still sleepy but eager to go.
 
"I want to leave before the other two Terrans decide to find Andrew," Rah'asu said as she surveyed the street.
 
"I kind of want to see them," Insu said.
 
"I say we leave through the gate we came in and circle the city," Andrew said, scanning the streets as well.
 
"Certainly better than going directly through the city." Rah'asu began walking.
 
Do you think they will look for us outside the city? Shimeirin said.
 
If they're looking for us I doubt it but it doesn't matter. It wouldn't be hard to find someone that has seen me. Andrew had covered his head and face with his old clothes but his stature and build made disguising himself nearly impossible.
 
"Excuse me." It hadn't taken long to arrive at the gate and Andrew approached what he thought was the lead guard. "I was wondering if I could ask for directions."
 
The guard was one he hadn't seen before. He had no features of note.
 
"Uh..." Andrew immediately noticed the guard get uncomfortable. "Certainly. Where do you want to go?"
 
"The capital." Andrew had forgotten the name.
 
"Go out the south gate and follow the road until you reach Euver. At Euver head east. After that, you will pass through Iops and then keep heading east. Not too hard as long as you stay on the road."
 
"How long will it take to walk there?" Andrew hoped it was three days.
 
The guard thought. "About eight days? Depends on how fast you walk."
 
"Oh... Ah, thank you." Andrew was happy it wasn't in the month range but he was getting tired of walking.
 
Andrew turned to Rah'asu and Insu, shrugged and headed out the gate. The guard gave him a curious look but looked away as soon as he noticed Andrew had seen him. 
 
"Eight days isn't too bad," Insu said as he took the lead. 
 
"I wonder how big the human lands are," Rah'asu said as she studied the land around the castle.
 
Shimeirin wants to know too. 
 
"I bet the capital is near the center of the kingdom and right now we're near the edge... So... sixteen days to walk across?" It didn't seem too big. 
 
"Meh," Insu looked disappointed, "the Kin lands are a lot bigger than that."
 
Andrew thought about how far he had walked and as he hadn't started near the far edge, maybe. "How long have we been walking anyways? Three months? Two?"
 
"About that." Rah'asu sighed. "But another week won't hurt. After that, we'll find your friends and Insu and I will return home."
 
Insu shook his head. "I want to explore the human kingdoms. There isn't any place for me with the Kin anymore anyways."
 
Andrew recalled all the times he had asked Insu what he had done to get kicked out of his tribe only to have Insu refuse to talk about it. "Someday you're going to tell me what you did."
 
"No." Insu's brows furled. 
 
"He probably ate someone." Rah'asu gave Insu an amusing look.
 
"Not saying." Insu closed his eyes, sighed, then looked at the road ahead. "I wonder if the next city is bigger."
 
***
 
"We're finally here!" Insu shouted excitedly as they crested a small hill and saw Everon, the capital city, on the other side. 
 
Everon was a massive city. Andrew had guessed as much judging on the amount of foot traffic they had seen on their way. 
 
Thanks to his vantage on the hill Andrew could see that the city was surrounded by a large stone and wood wall which ended only when it plunged into a large river that the city was built next to. The city itself was much like the other cities they had seen so far, just on a much grander scale. The exceptions were several taller buildings near the center and a large castle-like structure that was surrounded by its own wall.
 
Andrew studied the castle and knew that it would be the best place to look for his friends as well as the servant guy. Even if they weren't there he was sure there would be someone that could tell him.
 
Rah'asu looked to the late afternoon sun. "And we arrived a day early."
 
"I'm getting nervous." Andrew's hopes and fears played through his head as he studied the city.
 
Shimeirin hopes they're here.
 
I think there is a good chance. Knowing Lisbeth she won't go anywhere unless there is a good reason and I don't see Isaac going anywhere without her. Cameron might be gone though. Andrew wondered how much they had changed. 
 
Shimeirin wants to find Isaac first. 
 
Me too. Honestly, I doubt he and Lisbeth are still together.
 
Shimeirin... Andrew could tell Shimeirin decided she shouldn't say what she wanted to say based on the guilt he felt.
 
An hour later they arrived at a large gate. There were many guards posted here with most checking those who were arriving. All of them were holding a crystal the size of a marble. 
 
"Do you think they'll check us?" Rah'asu eyed the guards worriedly.
 
"They didn't in the other cities." Andrew was worried too. "You and Insu should stay as far away as possible while I get us in. We don't know how close you need to get for the crystal to detect a Kin."
 
"Right!" Insu nodded.
 
Rah'asu nodded as well. 
 
Andrew eyed the nearest guards as they approached the guards checking for Kin. Everyone parted ways to let him through, even the guards. When a guard began to approach Insu and Rah'asu, Andrew merely had to stop and stare at him to make him leave.
 
"Few..." Rah'asu said as they got past the gates.
 
"Seems like us Terrans have a lot of perks here," Andrew said as he looked at everyone staring at him or trying to ignore him. Andrew had an idea. "I bet I could just meet the spider kin outside and have them walk in with me."
 
Rah'asu smirked. "Such an easy solution. As it is getting late we should wait until the morning."
 
"Yeah, let's head to the castle and see if we can get a place to sleep and some food." Andrew nodded.
 
We're finally here! Shimeirin was extremely excited.
 
I know, it's been so long. I wonder if my friends will even recognize me. My hair has gotten pretty long and I've lost a lot of weight. Andrew glanced at his body and felt his hair. 
 
Shimeirin thinks they will. 
 
"Sounds good," Rah'asu said as she inspected the area.
 
"Food and sleep sound great," Insu said as he sniffed at a food stall.
 
Andrew looked at the two. They both looked tired and a bit too skinny. Andrew knew he looked the same. "Maybe a bath too." 
 
"Eh, I don't think we need to take a bath." Insu sniffed himself.
 
"You're sleeping outside if you don't," Rah'asu growled. "Haven't you noticed I sleep as far away from you as possible?"
 
"She's right." Andrew laughed lightly.
 
"I'm fine sleeping outside" Insu didn't seem to care that Rah'asu and Andrew were complaining about his hygiene, though this was a daily occurrence.
 
Rah'asu sighed. "Let's hurry to the castle, we can talk about your foul smell after we get inside."
 
The three didn't speak much on the trip to the castle. They were too busy watching their surroundings. Rah'asu made sure to keep an eye out for guards while Insu focused on the people and shops. Andrew was too worried about what would happen when they got to the castle and didn't pay much attention to anything other than not getting lost.
 
Hmm... Shimeirin seemed disappointed when they reached the castle gate.
 
Not as cool looking as the old castles on earth. Andrew noted the style was very plain and had little in the form of decorations. There weren't even any trees and the grounds were dirt or paved with stone. There was a large gate that was closed with a smaller gate to the left that was open to foot traffic. Several guards stood around it.
 
"Halt!" A guard wearing the heaviest armor Andrew had yet seen stepped in front of the group. The armor was not full plate and had chain mail and a heavy padded shirt. The armor itself wasn't decorated with much other than something that might be rank. "I do not recognize you, Terran."
 
Crap! I was hoping the guards would just let us pass like all the others. Andrew's nerves came in full force.
 
Shimeirin felt more nervous than he did. Just talk to him?
 
"Yes, this is my first time coming through here." Andrew stuck to the truth.
 
The guard studied Andrew more and then looked at Insu and Rah'asu. "Where did you come from Terran? I was told there would be no more new arrivals from now on."
 
"I, uh, didn't arrive here when I came from earth." Andrew was wondering if he should start lying.
 
The guard squinted. "Strange, from what I've heard the Servant brings all new Terrans here."
 
"My friends should have come here a few months ago, though. Isaac, Cameron, and Lisbeth." Andrew hoped the names of his friends would help.
 
Recognition showed in the guard's eyes when Andrew said the names. "Ah yes, those three."
 
"Are they here right now?" Andrew hoped.
 
"Not in the castle, no. I don't know where the two men went. The fat one left for the forest cities to fight the vermin. The other one..." The guard seemed to consider what to say, "well, he left when Lady Lisbeth had a fight with him. I think he is still in the city somewhere as I haven't heard anything about him leaving. As for Lady Lisbeth... she's still in the city. Just came back a few weeks ago after personally wiping out two vermin cities in the forests."
 
Andrew wished Lisbeth wasn't the easiest one to find. "Can you tell me where to find Lisbeth? It'll be nice seeing someone familiar from earth." Not really.
 
Shimeirin thinks we can look for Isaac instead.
 
But we have no idea where to start. And we should find a place to stay first, food as well.
 
Shimeirin felt reluctant. How about here at the castle?
 
Maybe?
 
"I believe Lady Lisbeth recently bought a manor in the East District with her reward money." The guard looked like he was uncomfortable talking about Lisbeth.
 
"Oh, would it be possible for me and my companions to stay at the castle or at least rest?" 
 
The guard thought. "I couldn't say. We make most Terrans leave after their training." The guard turned to a different guard, "Hey Lan, you been listening?"
 
The guard, Lan, hadn't been looking directly at them but had seemed to be listening, "Sir, yes."
 
"Go ask the Captain what we should do with..." The guard turned back to Andrew.
 
"Andrew."
 
The guard turned back to Lan, "Ask him what we should do with Andrew."
 
"Yes Sir!" Lan spun around and jogged through the gate.
 
"You said no more Terrans were coming through?" Andrew was curious how many had come. He hadn't counted how many bracelets had been left in the servant guy's bag but it had been at least eight or nine.
 
"Yeah, the Servant said he was done bringing Terrans to Calorin. Stopped about two months ago." The guard thought.
 
"How long was he bringing them over?" 
 
"A little over a month. Your friends came a little through the middle. I'd say a new group came once a week."
 
"How many came in total?" Andrew hoped it wasn't many.
 
The guard thought. "Twenty four."
 
Weren't there more than that at the ceremony? Andrew recalled the dream. He had been sure there was at least thirty.
 
Yes. Shimeirin was certain.
 
"I see." Andrew wondered where the extra six or seven went.
 
"Most are helping with the vermin though a couple help with executions at various cities."
 
"Yeah, I met one named Eric a few days ago." Andrew shivered at the memory.
 
"Lord Eric? Oh, I think he was in the first group. Heard he killed a lot of vermin in the north forest." The guard seemed like he wanted to ask something but stopped himself. "Now, I should get back to my post." The guard gestured to the side of the gate. "If you don't mind, you can wait over there for the Captain."
 
Andrew nodded. "Thanks for the information."
 
The guard nodded back then stepped in front of the small gate.
 
"So only one of your friends is here?" Rah'asu asked after the three of them stood where the guard had asked.
 
"Lisbeth at least. Isaac might be here too." Andrew wondered if he still was.
 
"I remember you talking about this Lisbeth occasionally." Rah'asu thought. "I always got the feeling you didn't like her."
 
"Really?" Insu appeared to be thinking. "I don't remember."
 
"I try not to talk bad about people." Andrew was disappointed in himself that he had let his distrust in Lisbeth show.
 
"Sometimes it is good to warn others about potentially bad people." Rah'asu leaned against the wall.
 
"Thing is I don't have any proof that she ever did anything bad. Just feelings." Andrew admitted.
 
"Sometimes those feelings are more right than we would like to admit." Rah'asu seemed to be recalling something. 
 
"Oh!" Insu seemed to remember something. "This Lisbeth and your friend were interested in each other, right?"
 
"Yeah." Andrew shook his head.
 
"If they were interested in each other why aren't they still together?" Insu began to think about something.
 
"Well," Andrew looked at Rah'asu, "if my feelings are right. She was only staying with Isaac until she found someone or something better."
 
"I know those types." Rah'asu sighed. "So she left your friend as soon as she came here because she didn't need him anymore."
 
"Pretty much." Andrew shrugged.
 
Insu nodded. "I understand. If you guys weren't so fun to be around I'd leave and find another, more fun, group."
 
Andrew rolled his eyes. "No one else would take you. You smell too bad."
 
"Please leave so I don't have to smell you anymore." Rah'asu seemed mostly serious.
 
Insu laughed. "You know you would be bored without me."
 
"Sometimes I think boredom would be better." Rah'asu cracked a smile.
 
Tell Insu Shimeirin doesn't want Insu to leave but also to bathe. Shimeirin felt amused.
 
"Shimeirin says she wants you to stay but to bathe." Andrew relayed.
 
"Are you sure Shimeirin? I think the smell is part of who I am." Insu sniffed himself.
 
Shimeirin is sure.
 
"She's sure she wants you to bathe." Andrew smiled.
 
"Fine," Insu grumbled. "If even Shimeirin wants me to bathe..."
 
Rah'asu's head jerked towards the gate.
 
When Andrew looked over to see what Rah'asu saw he saw an armored man walking briskly towards them, flanked by two guards. His armor was almost the same as the other guards but had more markings and his helmet had a plume in it. He was also older but it was hard to tell exactly through his helmet. It was most likely the captain.
 
"I assume you are the Terran that requested my presence?" The Captain said as he came to a stop a few paces away. He briefly glanced at Insu and Rah'asu before he settled his gaze on Andrew.
 
"Ah, yes. I'm Andrew."
 
"I see. You are the one Lord Isaac, Lord Cameron, and Lady Lisbeth said went missing." The Captain studied Andrew more closely. "So tell me, how was a Terran under the guidance of the Servant separated from his group on his way to Calorin?"
 
Sorry, Shimeirin. I'm going to blame you. Andrew couldn't think of a good excuse other than what had happened.
 
It's OK. It was Shimeirin's fault. Shimeirin didn't feel guilty.
 
"My, uh, bracelet pushed me at the last second and I didn't exit through the portal. Instead I... well... I exited through the blackness next to the portal." Andrew cursed at himself for stumbling through his words.
 
"I see. And where have you been the whole time?"
 
"In the forest to the west. I've been walking to here almost the whole time." Andrew only realized after he said this that it put Rah'asu and Insu into a bad position.
 
"And the Servant never found you? I heard he has ways of keeping track of the Terrans and can see them whenever he wants."
 
"No, not unless he disguised himself."
 
"Hmm, the Servant didn't stay in one place for long but I know one thing for sure, he loves testing you Terrans in different ways. It would make sense he left you in the forest to see how easily you survived surrounded by the Shifters." The Captain looked at Insu and Rah'asu. "And what of your companions?"
 
Andrew began to feel a cold sweat. "They found me. If it wasn't for them I would have starved to death."
 
The guard looked at them more suspiciously. "I see. So long as they don't cause trouble I won't pry into them too much. As for your request. I will have to deny it. The King only agreed to host Terrans until you were all trained. Unless you have legitimate business I must ask you to leave."
 
"Um," Andrew hoped this worked, "I haven't been trained yet."
 
The Captain considered, "Perhaps, but the Servant or other Terrans aren't here to train you. My advice is to find your friend Lisbeth. I believe she became rich off of bounties for killing Shifters and bought a manor."
 
"You wouldn't know where Isaac is? I'd much rather see him first."
 
The guard smirked, "I don't blame you. I liked Isaac, the little I saw of him, but I'm sorry to say I don't know where he is. That Lisbeth... well, it's not my place to say."
 
"I see." Andrew was extremely disappointed.
 
"Here, I know about where Lady Lisbeth resides." The Captain gave Andrew directions. 
 
"Thank you," Andrew said.
 
"Now, I will take my leave." The Captain nodded to Andrew and left.
 
"I guess we're seeing Lisbeth?" Rah'asu said. The look Andrew saw on her face showed him she wasn't too happy.
 
"I wonder what kind of person she is." Insu smiled.
 
Do you think she will be happy to see you? Shimeirin felt uncertain.
 
I doubt it. She knew I didn't trust her.
 
Shimeirin became nervous.
 
"Well, let's go see how much Lisbeth has changed." Andrew doubted it was for the better.
Here's to hoping Insu takes a bath, all three of them probably need one.
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