Without delay, the first man was drenched. From above, a large vat of water had been poured. The man looked up to see who had done it. No one was there.
He heard the sound of something hitting the ground behind him. He turned to see the boy behind him in a squat. The boy who had jumped from the banister above. The boy with a wolf’s ears, a wolf’s tail, and silver hair. Va’il turned to look at the first man.
For a moment, the man felt fear. The knit brow, the straight tail, the extended claws, and the visible teeth that Va’il was showing almost frightened the man. But what gave him fear was the expression on Va’il’s face. It was the recognizable look of hatred and contempt.
The man quickly reached out to grab Va’il, but he was already gone. He had run out the front door of the inn. The first man ran a couple paces.
“Don’t!” said the third man. The first man stopped and returned to the table. Conversing in whispers that Ruby couldn’t hear, the men gathered their belongings and left the inn. Ruby and Shiroi looked at each other for a moment, and then quickly ran down the stairs and out the inn. The three men were moving away quickly, but soon they were forcibly stopped.
“Are you the ones?” Va’il asked. He was on a rooftop, yelling down at the three men below him. At his side was a jar.
“You rascal! Get down here and take your beating, whatever you are!” the first man said.
“You! Did you travel through the southern valley? Did you kill the wolves?” Va’il asked, his voice becoming choked.
“Wolves, ha,” the first man said.
“We don’t need to say anything,” the third man said. He was speaking to both Va’il and the first man.
“Gardos, just mind your own business,” the first man said.
“I don’t need to ask, I can smell it on your hands! You foreigners! Next time you mess with those in Rising, remember what to look out for. I’m a lupus, and I’m ten times better than you!” Va’il said. His words had an immediate effect. The first man got angrier, while the other two had worried looks on their faces. They looked around to see who had heard Va’il; there were not enough people around to care.
Va’il lifted the pot. The first man below just laughed.
“I’m already drenched. Come on down and play like a real man, the human way,” the first man said. He put his fists on his hips, held his head high, and gave a mighty laugh. While the man was still laughing, his mouth still wide open, Va’il tipped the pot he was holding.
Ruby and Shiroi had to cover their mouths to keep from laughing too loudly. They knew that the men were foreign, it was obvious. They had not recognized what any local would have. Va’il had tipped the vile contents of a well-used chamber pot on all three men. By the time they realized that the liquid coming at them was not water, it was too late. All three men were drenched with urine, and the first was on the ground, coughing. The men all looked down at the ground as they tried to keep the liquid of out their eyes. By the time they looked up, Va’il was gone, impossible to follow.
Gardos smelled the robe again.
“That putrid bugger,” the first man said.
“Your mistake,” the second man said.
“Enough you two. Eli, you’re the one who started it, your responsibility,” Gardos said.
“Nothing, I didn’t start nothing. That thing came out of nowhere, minding business that wasn’t its own,” Eli said. His shadow danced along the walls as he gestured.
“It’s your fault, Gardos. You’re just blaming Eli because you thought his antics wouldn’t matter. So we aren’t in the city yet, we are still in their nation. I’d have done it to, to those heretics. They don’t deserve better,” the second man said.
“I agree. Fine, I’m to blame. It’s my mission; I should have kept Eli in line. No, I didn’t need to. Eli, I’d have approved either way. It was beyond me to know that something would happen. Ridiculous as it was, strange as it was, we drew unnecessary attention. I may be your superior, but I’ll admit my responsibilities. Eli, my apologies,” Gardos said.
“You and your flowery speech,” Eli said. “Well, it was sincere enough. Accepted. Though, really we should be angry at that rodent.”
“Wolf,” the second man said.
“Lupus,” Gardos said.
“Heretics,” Eli said. “All unfit for the place they have here. Talking back, fighting back, and embarrassing us humans!”
“That’s what they are, and why we must keep subdued until our mission is complete. Our holy republic will spread ever closer with time, but I think our mission is instrumental toward something far greater. Something that will right things to their natural order,” Gardos said. He smiled and laughed softly. He walked over to a table in the middle of the room and sat at it.
“Shall I call the waiter? The one in this inn is human, at least,” Eli said.
“Not yet. Calan, what do you think of the natives, so far?” Gardos asked.
“Strangely subdued. Intermingling species of all kinds, all races, genders, everything, without distinction. Rising’s human kings surely have placated them well. But it’s an illusion, of course. The strange part is that I have to ask why. Why do they stay together, when they are so different? That lupus helped a felis. Certainly, the northern wolves would never answer to a felis entering their territory, so why they help each other here is a mystery. It’s almost as though they don’t recognize the differences to begin with. Just my thoughts on it, no weight to it though. Heretical thoughts, but you asked,” Calan said.
“I think Welnic suspects that the illusion will drop quickly, now that their king has died,” Gardos said.
“Isn’t there a child though?” Calan asked.
“Possibly. That, we might find out once we reach Rising. And even if there is, ha,” Gardos said.
“It won’t matter,” Eli said with a half-smile.
“Can we trust this Jin though?” Calan asked.
“Shh!” Gardos said. He slowly stood while keeping a hand out, signaling silence. The other two obeyed.
The wooden floor creaked with each step. Gardos arrived at the window and placed a hand on it. He turned slightly and motioned for the other two to come over. The moment the two of them started moving, Gardos pushed open the window and jumped out onto the roof of the inn.
Gardos scanned the area as the two behind him arrived at the window as well. He saw them, thirty meters away, already on the next roof. Though it was dark, he recognized the silver tail that one of the spies had. And he could see that the other had long golden hair. Before he could pursue, the two spies had jumped to another roof and disappeared from view.
“That thing again!” Eli said. He started moving, but an arm from Gardos stopped him. “What?”
“We cannot chase,” Gardos said.
“What’s this about?” Calan asked.
“I made a mistake. I heard them once, and paid no attention. The second time, I realized it wasn’t random or an animal. It was them. They were here, outside this window, listening. We made a grave mistake,” Gardos said.
“Don’t bother yourself too much over it. They are just children. Vile creatures, but just children. We don’t have to make a ruckus in chasing them. They are inconsequential, right Gardos?” Calan asked.
“Hmm. Maybe. Back inside, I don’t want us to catch any more attention. The last thing we need is to be detained by the locals. For any reason,” Gardos said.
The next morning Ruby, Va’il, and Shiroi left the town as early as possible. Shiroi didn’t know of the small adventure Ruby and Va’il had while she slept, and the two of them had decided not to tell her. The rest of the return trip to Rising went without event.
Va’il parted with the girls once they entered the city. Ruby took her horse back, the one that Va’il had grown attached to. After giving a final wave, he headed home, a place he hadn’t seen for quite a while.
Mai’ou gave her son a big hug while smiling widely. She set up a bath, cleaned his clothes, and prepared a meal for the weary child. That night, Va’il told Mai’ou about the small adventure he had, which she listened to with great interest. She expressed worry about the lack of information about Darius. She nodded in quiet contemplation when Va’il related the story about the wolves. And she gritted her teeth in anger when she heard the few things Va’il could remember about the foreign humans.
Their night then ended, and that chapter in the lives of Va’il, Ruby, and the rest, ended for a while. Va’il engaged himself in schooling and playing with the rest of his friends. Ruby didn’t tell Jane more than she had to, and Jane didn’t ask for more, or care. Darius wasn’t a concern to Jane or Mai’ou anymore. Va’il’s doubts lingered, but he didn’t dwell on them. Ruby lost all leads that she had, and so she gave up on finding Darius for a while.
Every so often, Ruby would talk with Va’il in private about Darius and their small adventure, but neither child ever had any idea of what they could further do. They thought of the foreign men as well, but didn’t know what, if anything, they could do. So they continued living as well as they could without dwelling on things they didn’t have the means to figure out.
Va’il’s circle of friends stayed consistent. Va’il, Kelin, Pete, Zeick, Teena, Harnes, and Ruby were their own group at school and afterwards, occasionally doing events together. But the secrets that some of them had never became property of the group. As they shared secrets and adventures, Va’il and Ruby would often talk with one another, whether in the confines of their group or around the city.
This pattern of casual friendship continued. Though several items of importance did occur, the day-to-day life that they had was comfortable. In this comfort, two years passed.
End of part one.