Demitiri knew that he was getting nowhere. She was still nervous and using long, complex words and sentences that were totally over his basic understanding of the human language.
He could smell salt in the air and knew that they had to be near a large body of water. He wondered how close to the town they were and how much more time he had to get this woman fell comfortable around him.
"You want know why I no seen human women? I tell you. Oupusi, my people, have no women. We made out of plant. It called Rajasi. I no knew people made from inside woman. Then I meet Xalic. That why I no know you woman. Understand?"
"Er... yes, I think so." It was all rather strange. How could there exsist a race without male and female counterparts? Without procreation, such creatures could hardly continue their kind... unless they never aged or died... or perhaps they were hermaphrodites? But that was absurd. This man looked every bit a mammal, not plant or invertebrate.
I frowned in thought as I continued walking, loosing myself in thought. "I think you may find that most creatures of this world require males and females to continue their kind. There are even plants that play distinct roles in procreation."
"Pocretation? What be that?" Padme threw a glare at the man before she began pulling at my skirt again, her ever jangling staff perfectly loud.
"Well... er... I suppose your kind might refer to it as mating, Padme."
The creature frowned in return, shaking her head in denial. "Häschen no pocretation, Padme know that."
"Ah! The sea!" I pointed to the first sign of sparkling blue peering through the trees, anxious to change the subject.
Demitiri almost laughed at the antics of this strange woman. It was quite obvious that this was not a safe topic either. Not because it was a bad subject, but because it was one that she found uncomfortable to talk about. Why that was, he could certainly guess at. She probably found the idea of humans creating more humans through the act of procreation as she called just seemed so gross!
Turning his gaze towards the sea, he basked in the beauty of the day. It was much like his home, except the vegetation and creatures were a bit different. It made him miss the forests of Garea. How he missed soaring through the trees, the breeze whipping by his face as he hunted an enemy or ran from his pursuers.
Sighing, He moved through the trees, studying them and longing to swing up into them and be free for a while. Unfortunately, that would be rude to his guide and he needed her. He would need to come out here before he found his way home and let loose. How good that would feel he thought with another sigh of longing.
"Yes." I outstretched my arm, pointing to a crowd of bright little boxes a good few miles further down the coast. Even the scaffolding of the docks was visible from where we stood, turning into gray pavement as it ran up the mountainside.
"I imagine we shall find hunters quite easily on the outskirts of Keithon. Shall we?" And I took another step forward, climbing over the rocky shore to begin the last portion of our journey.
He now noticed the wooden structures jutting from the shore and the gray stone that ran from the shore up the mountainside that must house the town for which they now headed.
He looked around for the nearest tree and ran up to it and in the same leap caught the lowest tree branch and flipped himself up. Landing on the branch, he began quickly ascending to the top until he could see through the branches and make out Keithon.
A great stone mound is the only simple way he could explain what he saw. It was larger than any town or group of people he had ever seen. Branch like structures jutted out of the top the mound and he could see people going in out of the entrance like ants in an ant hill. He was glad that he had a guide, for he would surely get lost in this great beast of a town.
Oh, Leonna! he thought and he descended rapidly through the branches, swung himself down and ran back to her. She seemed a bit confused and so he figured he might as well explain his outburst. "Sorry. I like trees. I live in trees long time. I try and see town. It is big rock!"
His explanation made me giggle, and I offered only a smile in return. "No, I understand. Once we roam into Keithon, however, it may be best to stay close. It is quite easy to become lost in such a place."
Padme frowned, ears perked up as she stared at the far off city. I could just barely hear the low growl emanating from her throat--there were few places she hated more than crowded human settlements.
"Come now, we were quite close." And I again started towards Keithon, carefully stepping over the slippery rocks of the coast.
As they moved along the shore, Demitiri felt confident that somehow he had made a small dent in her off-handed behavior towards him. She had giggled at him. He of course was unsure what he had said to make her laugh, but he believed it was a good thing nonetheless.
If he could continue to keep her in a semi-light-hearted mood, maybe she would further help him in getting back home.
"You live in town all time? You like big rock town or you like trees?"
"Well, I..." I knew the answer quite well. Yet even as I formed the words to speak, I realized I had never before spoken what my heart had felt all its life. "I love the forest, the trees, the creatures. That town, those places of stone are confining labyrinths, both in form and society. Their abstract limits, their sense of lines and hierarchy... it is not... natural."
I smiled sheepishly back as I continued hiking over the rocks, feeling the crisp breeze and regretting each step I took. It did not take long to reach the outskirts of Keithon, where the trees thinned and the buildlings grew larger. The echoing voices of sailors and merchants crashed against the trees, hailing us as we finally stepped beyond the treeline.
Demitiri was not sure what all the words that she used to describe the town meant, but he did understand that she and he were of like spirit. They both like the forest and only out of necessity now did they venture towards the crowded and noisy throng of humans bustling in and out of the giant stone mound.
As they breached the last line of trees, he found it hard to breathe. Before them swarmed more humans, more living beings, than he had ever seen. The noise from the mass of people was overwhelming. Curses being shouted, Offers being made, Laughter, Crying, Screaming, Singing, Growling. It seemed to all mix together into a roiling mess of sounds that assaulted his senses.
He rested his hand on Hassan's hilt and prepared himself for what seemed to most definitely be the worst fight he would ever face. He almost wished he was back fighting the huge Daemon, or running from Kranton or Baldus and his thugs. Even if none tried to attack them, they still had to find someone who knew of Xalic and the stone mountain fortress. This task, upon actually making it to Keithon, seemed near impossible. How could they find anything in such a huge crowd?
"Um... Leonna... you know human know Xalic? This is big. How you find stuff here? This no look good."
I cast an uneasy smile back at Demitri, hesitating at the edge of the port. "Not knowing quite what you are myself, I cannot be sure of someone who would. There may be some hunters or fishermen about that have traveled far or lived long enough to have seen very strange things. I hope one of them may be able to help us."
Well, I certainly could not leave him now. He looked exactly as I felt, eyes wide and confidence buckling. It was a great deal to take in at once, but I knew of no other way to help him.
"Come," I offered my hand to him, taking a further step forward, "we shall have to start somewhere."
Taking her offered hand, Demitiri let himself be lead towards the overwhelming crowd. Weaving their way through the mass of people, for the first time in his life, Demitiri felt a bit claustraphobic. Like the mass of humans was closing in on him and trying to confine him within the large throng of people.
As they moved amongst the crowd, he noticed that people began staring and whispering amongst themselves. Some turned glares upon them: Some simply stared wide-eyed and open-mouthed. Very few seemed not to notice their passage and most who didn't notice at first were alerted shortly.
Demitiri began to feel his fear that he would have to fight their way out beginning to mount. He reached into the pouch on his belt that held his throwing knives with his left hand, slipped one up his sleeve, just in case he needed one in a great hurry, and kept his fingers bent and the handle in his palm.
He slipped his hand out of hers and placed it upon the hilt of his short sword. He moved up to Leonna's side and whispered in her ear. "This no look good. They bad humans? They no hurt us, yes? They no look happy to see us."
"O-oh, oh no." I shakily patted his hand, still rushing towards the quieter neighborhood near the port. There we might find a fisherman or hunter willing to talk. "They are merely surprised... I doubt anyone would attack. Only theives do such things."
He was having a hard time believing that these men would not attack them. They seemed to have pure hate plastered on their faces. Hate that he feared would lead them to do something reckless.
Leonna kept hurriedly pulling him through the crowd, trying to avoid the glares and crude remarks. Few moved to follow them. This comforted Demitiri, if only slightly. If there was to be a fight, he hoped that he would not have to take them all on at once. He considered throwing a smoke bomb and having them escape that way, but he did not know if she would be able to lead them through a smokey haze to any relative safety if he did.
He hoped that she found an alley or escape route soon, otherwise they would run out of options and he would have to act fast if he was going to keep her safe.
"You know place go? We need place go away from bad humans."
"Er... right. There is a tavern near the edge of the port where many hunters and fisherman gather. I doubt it will be very busy during such hours--most finish and begin their days in the early morning and early evening." Ignoring the strange glances we recieved, I continued to lead us past the busier areas of the port, finally reaching more narrow, winding roads. Once again, the forest began approaching as the houses thinned, and I knew we were close.
"You shall have to explain to whomever we meet precicely what you are looking for. I am not entirely sure I know myself..."
As they hurriedly made their way along the crowded streets, Leonna dragging Demitiri in the appropriate direction as he constantly scanned the crowd for any immediate threats, Demitiri could not help but stare in awe at the new and strange sites that continued to bombard his senses.
A street vendor was yelling about some strange fruit that he waved around at every passerby and trying to persuade any and all to by his product.
Five feet away from that man's stall, another merchant was yelling just as loudly to be heard over his fellow merchant. He was selling fine silk clothes and would let the passerbys feel the clothe to assure them that it was smooth and of a peerless quality.
Demitiri had never experienced so much yelling and shouting in all his life and yet he seemed to be the only one who noticed that the level of noise was deafening. Oupusi merchants were rare and spread far apart. They were rarely ever conspicuous and were only known to all as merchants for none other than merchants would horde so many goods at one time.
The sights and sounds were beginning to bother Demitiri's nerves when he noticed that Leonna was leading him towards a dirty, worn building with large letters that had been painted on the building's face over the door long ago, though now the majority of the letters and paint had faded away with the weather and salty breeze from the sea.
I nodded. "We can certainly hope. I would not know where else to look." That said, I carefully stepped into the old tavern, a small bell attached to the door tingling as I entered.
Just as I had predicted, the tavern was nearly empty. The men that were here were mostly cloaked, wearing heavy belts and boots. None bothered to conceal their knives or bows, but there was hardly violent activity here. One man sat smoking by a fireplace, another sitting alone at the bar with his drink, and a group of three men were quietly talking amongst themselves at a table in the corner.
The only one who looked up to see us approach was the barkeeper. He raised a curious brow at me as he polished a glass, but didn't seem to have any immediate questions.
"Well," I leaned closer to Xalic in a near-whisper, "perhaps we should start with one of these men?"
These men!? Demitiri thought, These men look even meaner than the men in the crowd and far more prepared for battle. He shook his head and steeled his resolve. He had no choice but to try. If Leonna said these were the men to talk to, then he had to trust that these were the men to talk to.
Moving toward the long table in front of the man that obviously ran the facility, Demitiri nodded to him and took a seat a couple seats down from the man who was also sitting at the bar. "Hello, ser. I look for man. He kill demons. You know men who kill demons?"
"I've heard of a few demon hunters, to be sure. Which one you lookin' for?"
"His name Xalic."
"Never heard of him. Course, I don't know all the demon hunters in the world. You might want to ask a few of the men at the table over there." He jabbed a thumb in the direction of the group of three men sitting around a table and conversing quietly. "Might be one of them knows your man."
"I thank you, ser." Demitiri nodded and got up from the bar. Turning to Leonna, he shook his head and headed towards the group of three.
As he started to make his way towards the group of men, he felt someone grabbing for his right arm. Instinctively, he reached for his short sword but stopped when he saw that it was the lone man sitting at the bar and that this man was not, as of yet, holding any weapons.
"Who is your friend, buddy?"
"Yeah, no ****. That ain't what I asked. Who is she?"
Demitiri pulled his arm away from the man and squared off in front of him. " You no need know."
"Heheh. You are a feisty one, aren't you. Looks like you need a lesson in manners, boy."
The man rose from the bar and Demitiri moved back in front of Leonna. "I no want fight." Even as he said the words, however, he was not so sure he was going to have a choice real quick.
The man sneered and spat on the ground in front of Demitiri. "Looks like you and I will have to dance later, buddy." With a wave of his hand and a snort, he quaffed the last of his drink and stalked out of the bar.
Demitiri relaxed and let his hands fall to his sides. Turning to Leonna, he noticed the frown on her face and felt a little ashamed. It was clear that she wished no quarrel with anyone and to be rid of this place. And here he had nearly started a fight. " Sorry. No want fight."
With that they headed for the group of three men in the corner. The one facing them looked up as they approached while the others kept their heads down. "Well now, friends. What can we do for you? You see that we are in an urgent meeting here."
The other two snorted at the last remark. "Finias, if this is what you consider an important meeting, then you must consider every drinking session urgent business," said the man closest to Demitiri. That drew a chuckle from the one leaning against the wall.
"Well, Segraht, what if I do? Plus, this is tradition. We had a successful hunt and now deserve the rewards, uninterrupted. So, that brings us back to why you two interrupted our important meeting?"
"Oh sit down, Finias. You're making an ass of yourself. You're just mad because you lost the bet," said the man leaning against the wall.
""Hardly, Pontius," Finias said with an air of indignation, "I simply wish to continue the tradition without any unwanted delays."
"Aye, and you're mother is the most beautiful woman in the whole of Keithon."
This remark was too much for the one named Sergaht and he burst out laughing. "Sit, Finias," he said with a smile still on his lips," and drink your ale. I am now more than curious as to why these two would ask anything of such an obviously intelligent group."
"Sorry, sers," Demitiri said. " I look for demon hunter. His name Xalic. You know him?"