Brutus Ess was first to notice Italina's gates as they came to view. Or, at least, the first to say something about it. Samuel Syi undoubtedly would've noticed. "That took forever and then some," Ess ushered out with a fierce, loud inflection that broke into the long-lasting silence like a broadsword into a loaf of bread. It was always him to break the silence.
Samuel Syi said nothing, focused; he threw a thumb in the air to let him know he was aware. The horse's direction started to sway off from the gates and did so early enough to appear inconspicuous from the guards.
As they neared Italina, the forward encumbered itself with horses and men. Carriages and wagons. Some men on foot. Soldiers from all Maharris visible, each distinguishable by their emblems and sigils, skin-pigment and demeanor. They accumulated so fast, and for an instant, it seemed as if horses outnumbered the men and women.
Once they made it to where they were headed, they would have their wagons searched. The thought of how difficult it'd be to smuggle items felt more readily apparent.
Samuel swayed away from the ongoing herds; the horses starting to slow themselves off, either by command or by the fatigue setting into their legs.
As the troupe closed in on the walls of the coveted city, Secrat arose to one knee, inspecting it with a keenness he never offered it before.
The granite walls a bleak grayish color with speckles of white. All the other times Secrat had visited, he assumed the walls were smooth and without blemish, but as he looked now, he could see the jagged edges and indentions.
Not by design, but because the time endured.
Copé felt his balance disrupted as the wagon's flooring became rickety. He kept from falling, and once they were far out enough, stopping was at last feasible.
At the end of their journey, the sound of the horses galloping was quieted. It felt strange not to hear it. But with a neighing sound, the horses were allotted the means to rest.
Secrat climbed from his knees and up to his feet. His legs wobbled for a moment. His knees began coming in together, but after a small and less than graceful stumble, he steadied his stance.
A small chuckle came from Brutus, "This ain't no time to be dancing, Secrat!" That might have brought laughter from at least one of the other members of the Flux, but the rest of them were startled by his abruptness, including Secrat, who flinched. Brutus was too absorbed with his own self indulgence to notice, however.
Secrat left the wagon and the others soon followed, all except for Taison.
Taison sat with a relieved look on his face that made Secrat wish he COULD'VE been like The Carvers, if only for a second.
Secrat met Samuel on the side of the wagon. "Are you alright?" Secrat inquired with a look of honest concern on his face.
Samuel Syi's eyes looked bloodshot and like hadn't slept for days. And while Secrat knew that wasn't true, he knew Samuel was a lot less rested than the others. "The thickness in the air ... every time I am around here .... it always bothers me." Samuel's voice had more annoyance than what Secrat had come to expect from his laid-back demeanor.
That's what exhaustion and dirty air did to the best of them. Italina wasn't that bad though. A small, but sudden change that wouldn't be noticed for more than an evening's time. It was a lot worse when they neared Hardan.
Maybe it was the minimal agriculture; the grass, a sickly yellow, or either none at all, and the trees absent. Maybe that was it, but beside some slight sensitivity to the eyes, none of it was too much of a burden. Secrat had become accustom to sand in his eyes after all the time in the Whispey Deserts, Italina was a breeze in-comparison.
"Do you think guards will be an issue?" Secrat asked, his ears awaiting the sound of Samuel's voice more than anyone.
Samuel didn't answer him at first, he rubbed the outside of his eyelids, but that only seemed to worsen his discomfort. "You afraid they'll search us on our way out?" Samuel inquired knowingly, for which Secrat answered with a nod.
Samuel began walking his legs, needing them stretched out and awoke. "If we don't do anything foolish to draw attention to ourselves, that shouldn't be an issue. They don't usually stop to search the common-folk walking on foot. It'd take ages, and that's why we aren't bringing the wagon." Samuel leaned himself forehead, reaching his hands down to his toes. He arose back to a straight form. "They might stop us on our way in. They might even search us. But when the Aer Festival has started, there will be a lot of back in fourth, and so long as we don't make ourselves out as special, I see no reason the guards would think other-wise."
Secrat followed Samuel Syi to the back of the wagon. It felt chilly outside, but Secrat felt the moistened sweat of the day's travels. Samuel Syi's dark skin shined as well, and his hair was slicked back. Secrat watched as Syi's eyes went over to Taison, who sat with that fat, unassuming face Secrat already found himself hating.
"If you have any reason to believe you are in-danger of being found by a guard, or if you feel like you are being stalked by someone in the wilderness, relocate to the other-side of the wall. We will find you afterward and another of us will be set aside with you."
Taison's eyes became larger than before, as if he only now realized the small amount of danger for him. He nodded fast and asked, "What do you mean by stalked? I am just somebody in a wagon, nothing else about it?" His words; unsteady and worried, like they should have been statements, but his fear crippled them by force and made them questions.
"I don't think anything will happen, Taison," Samuel Syi assured. He sounded soothing and levelheaded with his words. An easy-feat for Samuel. "I don't think anything will happen, but the Aer Festival is Italina's one major event, and I can't exactly say how much it will fill out. But, there's always a chance some might see you. The Red Flux isn't the only troupe, but we might very well be one of the nicest. Remember that, and react," Samuel advised.
A small dose of fear set into Taison's mind; a small shivering up his spine to stress severity. Samuel had a small manipulative side to him, one he likely inherited from his time with Father Toucan.
Secrat smiled at the thought. Taison didn't.
The Red Flux & the Wunderkind THief
Chapter One (1 - 2 - 3)