The horses galloped fast. Everything was back in motion as it needed to be, and The Flux thieves would be arriving at Italina in due time. From there, it'd be about finding passage beyond the gates and doing what else needed to be done.
Secrat didn't know exactly what needed to be done though. And that brought an uneasiness in him, a feeling of angst he had to smash down to the bottom of his stomach with the help of sips from his flask.
He leaned his back against the side of the wooden wagon as it rocked back in-fourth. The Thief had doubts any of them knew what to expect. It seemed as if nobody could offer insight about the Aer Festival as nobody had been to one.
Even the meaning behind its name was cryptic and obscure, Copé hadn't even the faintest of guesses. The Festival was meant to celebrate Maharris' triumphs and successes as a whole. Italina deemed itself the capital of the entire region and had an entire museum dedicated to Maharris. They invited men and women from the four other cities to join them. That's all Copé knew about the event. Didn't even know if Italina's invitations were ever accepted.
Samuel Syi was once more at the reins, and everybody found sanctum in their designated seats, the same as last time. Lukas Lewis did, however, seem more rested. In-fact, Lukas looked at ease and like the weight of the world was off his shoulders. That's how he looked at first glance, but Secrat didn't take any more than that, and for all he knew, it could have been his own suspicions creating a mirage.
The sun's rays became fainter, a full day's worth of travel. Beads of sweat no longer accumulated as fast on Secrat's brow.
That's what happened when they neared Italina. It became cold, even in the summer-time, whereas Acera was hot, even during most of winter. But the countless bodies roaming throughout the festival would likely offer restitution in the form of body heat.
"I remember the first time I met Toucan," Brutus said, looking over atSecrat, "This was before The Red Flux even existed."
Copé looked over to Brutus, giving him his attention, but found his eyes taken again by the scenery around him.
The trees as they closed in on Italina were all dead or dying, some of them only a little thicker than the average stick.
In some instances, branches hung down from the trees from high-up only to limply dig into the dirt. In the times when the branches seemed thick, Samuel would navigate the horses around them, but in other times, he'd simply let the horses snap through them.
"What you must know about Toucan is, he was always THAT intimidating of a figure. Nobody ever picked a fight with him. Ever. Plain and simple, you didn't do it. And, it was easy enough, Toucan kept to himself, was quiet and distant. Like Sero over-there," Brutus said, looking over to Marc at the end of the wagon, who was not listening to Brutus' banter. "I once picked a fight with him though, back in Urgway." Secrat's eyes wandered over to Brutus', curious.
Brutus smiled, "He and I were botanists. That's what you did if you were from Urgway, you went underground, you dug, or you worked on the plants."
Copé chuckled, "Underground?"
"That's right," Brutus answered back. "Urgway grew plants underground. Strange ones, kinds that didn't need sunlight. Special black fruits that tasted like ash. Those were our food, the ones we ate. How we were paid."
"I never knew that," Copé answered back. "Toucan never told me about that."
"Wasn't exactly something one wants to remember. Like everywhere else you go, you have the richest ones and the poorest ones. We ate ashes for breakfast and dinner, and the rich ones ate their heart's desire. Some of us were sick more than not," Brutus explained. "We grew other things too, down there, and moth cocoons let us make silk."
"I remember though, one night though, I was angry and drunk, and what you need to know about me is I do stupid things when I am angry and drunk. One of the things was trying to fight him. One of those stupid things was trying to fight Toucan. Now, we weren't friends back then or nothing, nothing except casuals bumping into each other from time to time. Didn't take it easy on me." Brutus laughed. "I don't even remember what I thought he did, but I remember what he did when I confronted him though." Ess smiled larger, and this time, however, Copé noticed all the gaps in his mouth where teeth were missing. He smirked some at the thought of Brutus being pummeled by Father.
"A few months went by and I stayed clear of him. Didn't make eye contact, didn't say nothing. He had that fear in me that he gives. But we had these men, Urgway leaders and high-ranking officials, they'd come down and observe our performances. An older woman, ... she couldn't move fast anymore. Her bones were brittle and her body terribly malnourished. One of the Urgway leaders kept yelling after her, over and over again. Telling her to work faster, telling her to do this or do that. And, finally, he struck her. In the back. She fell." An uncharacteristically sad look went on Brutus' face, the fedup look Copé always saw on his Father's face. "It took one hit to cripple that woman. Toucan didn't like that none too well. He threw him at the wall so hard I thought the whole thing would cave in. More knights came out next, wailing on Toucan. And, I don't know why, maybe I was drunk and angry again, but I made the decision to try and help fight the knights off. They overpowered us, and the consequence was three straight days in the hole."
Brutus let out a loud sigh and looked at Copé with watery eyes. "Long story short, we escaped Urgway a little after that, and we've been best friends ever since!" Brutus exclaimed, letting out a forced laugh.
Secrat laughed awkwardly as well and laid his head down. Their arrival was readily approaching, and he welcomed it with anxious anticipation.
The Red Flux & the Wunderkind THief
Chapter One (1 - 2 - 3)