Friday, August 6, 2010

The Zehrun Report, Part IV (Spring 898)

The rooftop area of the Bastok Metalworks was surprisingly clean and pleasant. The builders had obviously taken the time to make it into more of a relaxation area, with some planted greenery and even a running stream through the entire area. The stream terminated by flowing into the building, powering two large water-wheels on its way out.

Knowing Cid, the wheels probably powered the pumps to get the water up here in the first place.

I saw a number of building on the other end of the roof, some bearing the official flags of other nations.

"Those must be the embassies for Windurst and San d'Oria," I said to myself. Even further down, there was a larger building bearing the seal of the Republic of Bastok. I could only assume it to be the office I was looking for.

As I walked through a small garden area, I noticed a Hume girl on the bench apparently talking to herself.

"Yes...I know that...sitting in the gardens. It's such a nice day out.."

I watched her for a moment, amused, before noticing that there was likely more going on than appeared. She wasn't merely talking to herself, but also clearly listening to responses. Her head was tilted at a slight angle, and I realized she was 'hearing' whatever it was through one ear. I approached her, fascinated.

She looked up as I came closer, her young face lighting into a bright smile. "Hiya, mister," she said, swinging her feet under the bench. "Nice day, huh?"

"Hello," I said, nodding my head in greeting. "I couldn't help but notice you were talking to someone who...isn't here," I finished lamely. "Can you tell me how you can do that?"

She looked at me like I had just aged about 100 years in front of her. "You never heard of a linkpearl?" she asked incredulously. "You put it in your ear, and anyone with a pearl from the same shell can talk to each other. Here."

She raised her hand to her ear, worked something free, and held it out to me, palm up. Nestled in her palm was a tiny pink pearl. I could actually hear tinny voices coming out of it, as if whoever she was talking to hadn't yet realized no one was listening.

"That's...great," I said, trying not to sound as amazed as I felt. We certainly hadn't had anything like that on the farm, and I hadn't exactly been watching every movement of every passing adventurer. Besides, adventurers were kind of an odd lot, and I'm not sure I would have noticed one talking to himself as odd.

The girl smiled at me again, and slipped the tiny pearl back into her ear. "I have to go," she whispered to me.

"Thanks for the advice," I whispered back, a smile crossing my face. I would have to make a point to get one of those pearls for myself and Kuto-Lulu. Maybe I'd meet other people who might want one, too.

I continued strolling through the rooftop gardens, making my way over to the largest building. As I drew closer, I could see a Hume man posted outside the front steps. He was clad in dark scale mail, and had the look of a sentry. As I approached, he spoke in a bored voice.

"I'm sorry, but this area is off limits to-" He broke off suddenly, looking me over. "Would you happen to be Aspen?" he asked me.

"I am, actually," I said with surprise. "I have the report from overseer Makarim in the Zehrun mines. You must be Naji?" I asked hopefully.

He nodded, and extended his hand. "I'll take that report," he said with a smile. I noticed, however, that the smile never reached his eyes. They remained cold and assessing the entire time. "I understand this was your first mission," he continued with the same empty smile. "Not bad work. Normally we-"

He was interrupted by a deep baritone voice from just behind us, saying, "Is that my report, Naji?"

I turned quickly, to see a tall Hume man with long brown hair. He had a noble look about him, and I thought it was perhaps more than the fine doublet and hose he was wearing. It was more in the way he carried himself.

"Sir Lucius," Naji said, snapping a quick, neat salute, "this adventurer just brought the last one. I was just going to bring them-"

Lucius cut him off with a wave of his hand. "Of course you were," he said with a smile. "May I have it, please?" He held out a gloved hand, arching his eyebrows.

"Of course, sir," Naji said, obviously flustered. He handed the envelope over to Lucius, who examined it briefly.

"Did you open this," he mused, turning his attention to me suddenly.

"No..sir," I said, belatedly remembering to add the honorific. He merely nodded, broke the seal, and unfolded the paper that lay inside.

"I see," he murmured a moment later. He looked up to Naji, and said, "More Galka are beginning to believe in their Talekeeper's return."

Naji nodded his head, saying, "Talekeeper, sir? I was under the impression that he was but a Galka myth."

"If that were only true," Lucuis murmured, re-folding the paper and slipping it into a belt pouch. Addressing Naji again, he added, "We're received reports that the Talekeeper is already back among them." He paused a moment, and continued, saying, "Naji, if any more of these reports arrive, deliver them to me immediately. And do not bother the president with such trivial matter."

"Yes, sir!" exclaimed Naji, snapping a salute so hard I was afraid he would render himself unconscious.

"As for you," Lucuis said, turning to me, "you have done well, adventurer. Your republic thanks you." He turned, quickly walked up the stairs to the building, and disappeared inside.

I heard Naji exhale a sharp breath. "I'll submit your credit for completing this mission, Aspen," he said to me. "Make sure you go and see the gate guard when you want another." He nodded to me, which I took for an end to the conversation.

"Finally," was my thought as I strolled back toward the Metalworks entrance. "That was more trouble than it was worth. Now, what to do with the rest of my day?"

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