Early the next day, Robert and his friends are walking on the plains, out of the Jigdha’uthul swamp, heading south. From Chris and Carolyn’s faces, we know at once that they’re still fatigued and sleepy due to lack of sleep. Andreas is rather tired too but his chubby face and thick beard hide his expression and make him look as though he’s smiling.
But even Iris, the most vibrant of them all, is the first one who throws her complaint.
‘Tell me one thing, Robert. You mean you asked us to abandon the Uthul frog job and go on a dubious mission because some dragon asked for your favor in your dream?’
‘Yes, that’s so,’ says Robert, ‘and she’s not some dragon. She’s Algaban, the most ancient of dragons in our world and age!’
Andreas adds, ‘We know about Algaban, Robert. But we still can’t trust her until we actually meet her.’
Carolyn also adds, ‘Maybe she’s an impostor, trying to lure you into a trap.’
Robert answers calmly, ‘Yes, I’ve thought of that too, but I’ve decided to help her. So, in a way or another, we go to Mount Hvalgarr. All I ask of you is to get prepared for anything. If she’s indeed an impostor, we’ll kill her. And if it’s a trap we’ll clear it up so no one else will fall into the same trap like we do.’
‘Aye, that’s very noble of you, lad,’ says Andreas. ‘But I feel we’ll be fighting forces beyond our comprehension!’
‘Didn’t we always?’ says Robert, ‘in our jobs, missions, in Enia’s Sanctum?’
‘And it’s worth dropping other jobs… even going home,’ says Chris. Carolyn stares at Chris with worry. Chris looks totally messed up, exhausted from sleepless nights. Carolyn says,
‘You said Algaban asked us to be on her side in a week, isn’t it? I suggest we better fetch our horses now, and return to Barc’vadon to rest and resupply. It’ll only take two days, max. And then we’ll ride all the way to Hvalgarr so we can reach Algaban in time.’
‘Sounds like a good plan,’ says Iris.
Robert looks at his friends one by one, and concludes,
‘I’m glad we are all agreed to this. Now let us hurry, we much reach the stables before sundown.’
As evening comes the next day, the streets in Barc’vadon, the capital of the Kingdom of Bresconnor are dark – except the dim candle lights from the houses and buildings there. It’s a grim city, no doubt about that, with grim-faced, rude people living there. Most of the buildings are shabby and some of them are even beyond repair and in the brink of collapse.
Many said the condition in this ‘grim slum city’ is the outcome from a nation ruled by corrupt, tyrant nobles and an incompetent king, Chivron van Kreulen. Because of high taxes and lack of resources, the people of Bresconnor only want to survive. They don’t give a damn whatsoever about honor, justice, aesthetics and the good of the society. They are nothing but selfish, dumb and violent brutes, the exact contrary with the lavish landlords.
But of course, not all peasants there are brutes, and not all nobles are corruptors. There are still a few nobles who are really noble, and parts of the population are good, hard-working people who uphold justice, decency and honor above anything else, like our friend here, Yemima Genilda.
Genilda, a widow in her forties, plain but cheerful looking, is standing in front of her flower shop, the tidiest house in her block. The streets in this block are practically deserted now. Genilda looks around and sighs.
‘Jolly holly, looks like we will be together again one more day,’ Genilda speaks to her flowers as though they are her own family.
Then she hums melodiously, humming some Bresconian folk songs and enjoying her work, watering the flowers and shoveling the earth around them to make it loose. Tulips (only found in Bresconnor), roses, dandelions, and various sorts of flower plants native to Aurelian Continent are neatly and orderly kept in big vases in the front of the shop. Butterflies are sometimes seen flying around them, supplements of the beautiful scenery. Thanks to Genilda’s care, the flowers in this shop are always fresh and somewhat radiant, like their counterparts in the wild.
Genilda sighs a bit while humming, thinking. What use are pretty fresh flowers if no one’s buying them? No one cares about beauty here anymore. Even a man only presents bread to propose to the girl he loves. If I don’t love my flowers, I’ll abandon them and move to Lore for my kids’ sake. But thanks to my friends, I now have extra income for a year and a half now; it can cover up all my expenses including taking care of my flowers. And I don’t have to go adventuring again – after the loss of my honey hubby, Kluyvard.
Kluyvard’s widow pauses for a while, thinking back about what happened in Enia’s Sanctum. After a brief moment, suddenly Enia is snapped back to herself. Well, my job is done, and I’ll call it a day then...
But wait! I think I see people coming from there. Ah, yes! It’s them, all right.
The friends whom Genilda referred to are Robert, Chris, Carolyn, Iris and Andreas, the party of five. They are walking towards Genilda’s shop in a hurry. Genilda greets them, saying,
‘Rob, guys, glad to see you back safe and sound. What’s taking you in such a hurry?’
‘We have an urgent thing coming. We’ll talk inside,’ says Robert.
‘After supper, I suppose,’ says Chris. ‘Man, I’m so hungry I can eat a whole cow!’