Katie ran towards the village and I followed slowly behind. I could have shown myself to the villagers but it would have led to more fear, questions, and who knew if they"d even listen to me. They could all very well just run away, thinking I was part of the raiders. Kaite, on the other hand, lived in the village and hopefully, she could calm them down, and then I could get my answers and be on my way.
From the bonds, I could feel that Sandra hadn"t moved further away or closer. She was still in the same position. With Misty and Zirani it was different. They were far fainter and at a much greater distance. Whatever that alchemist had done, had sent us not just to another world, but separated us.
If I found him, then after getting my answers, he was dead. What the hell had he even been trying to do? Had he been trying to go to another world, or open a portal? Something had gone wrong. And what were the Red Ribbons getting out of this?
So many questions and I doubted they"d be getting answered any time soon.
When I arrived back at the village, it was to the sound of raised voices, shouting, and the wailing of women. They had found their dead.
There was a large crowd gathered in what seemed like the center of the village. It was a circular space with what had been a small wooden tower at its center. Now it was no more than rubble. Bits and pieces of it laying about, though I noticed an odd object among the destruction. A large orb, thrice the size of a human head. Smoke swirled within and I might have inspected it for longer if it didn"t sound like Katie needed my help.
"Where is this man, then?" A voice full of skepticism rang out.
Katie looked annoyed and exasperated, but when she spotted me on a nearby roof, she relaxed. She opened her mouth to speak but was interrupted, by a weasely man.
"She"s lying. I saw it with my own eyes. They just died."
"Magic," a voice cried out.
"Yes, his magic," Katie said, pointing at me.
I smiled inwardly. Time to put on a show to quell the doubt. All eyes turned to me, and I jumped, using aether burst. I soared through the air and angled myself to land just next to Katie. I felt all the eyes follow me, and gasps rang out as I landed.
Katie looked stunned but less so than the villagers.
I let my armor fade, and after swinging my glaive twice, I put that back into my storage ring,
The villagers looked on with a range of emotions. It was what I expected. Awe, fear, surprise, and no small amount of shock. I spotted a child looking up at me in wonder. The type only kids usually express, even when in a dangerous and terrible situation.
"This is him," Katie said, looking to the weasely man.
"Allow me to introduce myself." I bowed. "I am Aiden Hawke."
"Is it true?" A voice asked. "This you kill the raiders."
"I did," I said.
More gasps and mutters.
"Why?" another voice asked.
"Katie hear was guiding me to your village. You see I"m not from around these parts and I have hired her to aid me."
Katie held up the gold coin, and to my surprise, they looked more shocked at that than they had when I"d jumped a dozen feet from a height that would kill any normal human.
"Are you noble?"
"No," I said. "I"m no noble or lord or anything of that sort. I"m just… lost. Now, before anything else. I think it best you round up the dead. I shall help you bury them if you wish and then I can help you… fix this place, in return for as much information as you can provide me."
Before anyone could answer there came a loud wail and we all turned to see a woman knelt on the ground, with the unmoving body of a child in her arms.
"Go, round up the dead. Actually, before that, who is in charge of this village?"
A middle-aged woman stopped forward. "My dad was headman, but… he went with our home."
She wore a dress that was half ripped. It spoke of something terrible that had almost happened. She had a tired and hard look in her eyes, not haunted like many others I saw.
"My condolences," I said sincerely. "I will speak with you after you organize your people."
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She nodded, and I moved away with Katie.
"We"ll speak after this is done," I said to her. "Go help them. I"ll find you later."
"What will you do?" She asked.
I smiled. "Some rebuilding."
I turned and began to walk, but a hand on my shoulder made me stop. I turned to see Katie giving me a look of gratefulness, but also utter confusion.
"Why?" she asked. "Why do any of this? Your powerful enough that you could just make us tell you."
"True, but I"m not that type of person," I said. "And I don"t have time to explain my morals and life viewpoint to you right now. We"ll talk later."
I walked off, not too surprised. I, a stranger with magical-like abilities had paid her a gold coin, which from the reactions seemed like a lot, and had in return only asked for guidance. Then I had not only saved her village, but I had also offered to help them. It probably sounded too good to be true, and in her position, I too, would be wondering why, but I didn"t have time to explain to her, not that I was ever going to. After I had my answers, I would be gone, and she could think what she wanted to.
I wasn"t planning on rebuilding the entire village with my aether, just the buildings that were destroyed. A lot of them were burned but not fully broken down, so they were easy to fix. My manipulation of wood wasn"t anywhere near Zirani"s level, but it was easily good enough for a job as simple as this.
Yes, I was using aether, but it didn"t cost too much. There was no ambient aether, but my cores still generated aether. It was odd, the complete lack of ambient energy, at least a type I could sense. I hadn"t realized it until now. But I could feel it, as though something was missing. Like a fish out of water except I was an arcanist out of aether.
The villagers gawked and watched in wonder as I fixed their village. Many stopped their tasks of dragging bodies to look, and one even gave me a quick tip. By the time I was done with that, the sun was setting. Time had gone by quicker than I realized.
I had sensed her approach. I turned to the new village head. Or so I assumed. Since her father was dead, and she had taken charge, I guessed she was their leader now. She certainly had the qualities and bearing. Her father had died, and not once had I seen her weeping or wailing. Perhaps she was just putting on an act for the others, but I didn"t think so.
"Yollana," she said with a genuine smile. A tired smile.
"Your welcome Yollana." I turned back to the last building which had been the largest of them all.
"Some of us have got some food together if you"re hungry?" Yollana said.
"Sure," I replied. "I can ask my questions as well."
I flipped her a gold coin, and she caught it deftly. She raised it to her eye. "It"s not Marik gold."
"But it is gold," I said. "Now show me to this food."
I wasn"t really all too hungry, but I could eat.
Some of the villagers had gotten together and had set up a meal in one of the houses that had come out unscathed. It was a very simple meal. Some very dry bread. What looked like lentil soup, dry meat, and some fruit. I hadn"t eaten food like this in a while. I"d gotten used to the food of the green court. I didn"t say any of this out loud and dug in slowly.
Yollana took a seat and a few minutes later we were joined by Kaite who had lost her armor and was now dressed in a simple pair of breeches and a white blouse. She still had on a belt which a sheathed dagger.
I took a sip of the drink, which was some sort of fruit-flavored water. It tasted bland as hell. In fact, compared to the green court good, everything tasted like ash. I tried not to show it, but I must have failed.
"Not up to your standard?"
I shook my head, deciding to tell the truth. "No, I"m afraid not, but I wouldn"t expect it to be. My standards are high, magically high."
"I see," Yollana said. "You said you had questions?"
I nodded. "Just a few. I mainly want to know about this nation. What did you call it, Kaite, Marik?"
"Yes. What do you want to know?" Yollana asked.
"Act as if I"m completely new to this place and I have no idea of anything," I said. "What would you tell someone like that?"
Yollana frowned, clearly confused. She glanced to Kaite who shrugged as she dipped some bread into her soup "Ok... let me see. Where to begin..."
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