The wound wasn't that easy to pluck out from his skin. It was a gash that would leave a noticeable scar after it. Wiggling the shard of wound around in his flesh. The pain was some of the worst he had ever experienced in his life. Pouring alcohol out of his flask for disinfectant. Once the wood was jarred free from out of him, a great relief overcame him. But, like water from newly opened floodgates, blood began to gush out.
He walked around in his room. His fingers shook feverishly, and his mouth was watery from the sight of blood. His blood. That is really what did it for him. Blood other-wise didn't make for much of an issue.
The shack was not the safest place to be, but he didn't have anywhere else to go. His eyes sometimes looked at the door expecting for Christique to walk into the room like she did before. He wouldn’t be there for very long. If there was anything at all that he learned from the whole ordeal, it's that no woman that attractive could be trusted without having paid for her first. That, and he had no further interest in the sand. No interest at all. In-fact, he wanted to leave the Whispey Deserts as fast as he could.
In his shack, he took some cloth and managed it. Wrapping the peasant shirt around his arm and tying it in a knot. He worked around with his arm.
Throwing fake punches at nothing to measure his pain and test his mobility.
Wasn't too bad. It was at least something he could deal with while he healed.
The return to Acera was a fine one. Secrat was well acquainted with the Unprotected Wilderness, so, it was smooth sailing once leaving the desert. Part of him felt inclined to visit The Hills. A brothel that he had come to love.
Father Toucan Veras never really approved of it, but that hadn't stopped Secrat Copé over the years. He'd visit it next time, surely. He didn't really want any conflict. His arm ached and fatigue plagued him. No time for sleep and it wasn't like he'd be able to sleep in the first place. After escaping the fire, his arm was throbbing, and once after bandaging the wound, he knew he had to flee as soon as possible. The journey would be a long one, and there would be time for sleep once he was far enough.
Nevertheless, Copé knew the forest. Knew the trees. Knew the animals and the groups that wandered it. Some of them were friendly. Like the Satin people Christique mentioned. They would offer him no blockade or hassle. They were nearer to Hardan, which was a long way away from Acera. The troupes along Acera, Jalint, and Urgway were mostly friendly. Satin was a red herring perspective on the likes who encumbered the outskirts of Italina and Hardan. Satin's friendliness in The Red Flux was one of the several groups that didn't stay dormant or stationery for very long but was usually somewhere between Acera and Italina.
If Satin was considered the friendliest, and the worst was the worst, then The Red Flux was somewhere in the middle.
Copé didn't see too many people on his way. That was by design. And as night reeled itself in, he took shelter beside a large tree, slumbering between two roots. The tree was old and wilting and had nothing but deteriorating bark to show for itself. His body ached before and after. He slept wrong on it, his neck angled badly. But he was rested. That was something very valuable to him. The altercation with Christique and the journey through the forest left him feeling irascible to say the least. It was nice to clear his head, if only by a little bit.
He woke up to the sound of singing birds, inconsistent with their melodies, and his eyes opened to see some of them as well. He stood up to his feet. The tree behind him was dead, but when he looked at the rest, he saw nothing but greenness from the trees. The way the sun beamed down at him, and the array of wild-life made a pleasant picture of the wilderness. For all it's worth, The Unprotected Wilderness was a beautiful place. Looked like paradise. Wasn't. But it looked like it. Copé didn't take in the scenery. Didn't carry any admiration for it. In his world, beautiful had become mundane in time, and the ugly was dearly exploited. He did enjoy the shade from some of the trees and the freshness in the air.
The desert didn't have any of that.
He didn't eat anything on the way to Acera. Didn't need to. Wasn't hungry. Options were plentiful though. Apples, oranges, and berries were abundant, some of which were poisonous, but not many, and Secrat knew the distinctions. One of the many skills picked up with the Flux. If there was time and he needed nourishment, then he'd eat something at Acera.
Acera had Azlak Temps.
The first step in solving all of the problems he had been having. There was nothing else to it. Toucan Veras offered him pardon for his sins under certain conditions. He knew not exactly the extent of what he would have to do but fixing his mistake would likely be a step in the right direction. Didn't know if Temps was even still in Acera, but he hoped for it at the very least.
Once Secrat Copé arrived in Acera. He went scouting out and looking for him. Temps wasn't a hard man to find.
Acera didn't have much to say for itself in a lot of ways. The smallest of the five major cities, it was a humble territory that didn't cause too many ripples or waves. The wealthiest weren't really all that wealthy, and merchants weren't popular there either. There wasn't much of a purpose for any of them and there really wasn't a lot of a market for most goods. The merchants that were there made for modest earnings. But the earnings were consistent. Nobody trekked into their little territories, and they almost always had a decent flow of money to show for their efforts.
Azlak Temps was one of them. A wheel on the barrel that neither really shined nor excelled in his efforts.
"Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls of all ages. Are you ready for your whelm to be over? For your ex to be cited?"
Azlak spoke with a vigor and excitement, unlike any sort of enthusiasm that Copé had seen before. He admired it, or at least, he appreciated it. Secrat watched him on the side of the town's square. His back leaned against a wall of the Sidian Inn. There was a man, a heavy-set fellow, with a barrel filled with fruit. He'd sell one or two on occasion. An apple. An orange. But wanderers other-wise walked passed him.
The barrel looked rusty and unsanitary but Copé was more taken by the way the heavy-set man made no attempt to make a sale. Copé almost missed the charisma that the merchants of the Trade Network brought with them. Only almost though. Secrat smiled some.
The square belonged to Azlak Temps, even if he wasn't going to have much to show for it at the end of the day. There wasn't a table for him. There wasn't a whole lot of anything. Unlike the merchants that Secrat saw in the deserts. Azlak didn't sell in bulk. That wasn't his game, at least not this go around.
He stood. His hair parted on both sides, and his smile from ear to ear, entirely oblivious to the disinterest of the crowd surrounding him. Their aloofness only made him even more enthused. He wore clothing that looked neither intricate and elegant nor inexplicable and like that of a peasant. Rather, he wore a dark green tunic with buttons at the neck; unbuttoned and exposing a white shirt beneath it. At the waist was a black belt with a large buckle. His belly was round but not necessarily large. Unlike the other man Secrat had mistook Azlak Temps for before. Gray trousers were beneath that, with leather shoes woven together in an unfashionable way. Attached at his belt was a scabbard, but there was no sword sheathed within it.
He was selling that sword. And having it in at his side wouldn't add for the scenic appeal.
"I know the children of Acera have learned this under the watchful eyes of
Misses Sairyn Althea, but for those unaware, you might be wondering what I have that is so out of the ordinary and so special that it will have you jumping up and down like crazed baboons! All of you are likely aware of the story of the Aeonians, when Verdicine, one of the five, dispatched himself to the heavens, casting a much-needed veil over each of the major cities, he appointed Mathew Lapool to be the sole individual to harness his power." Behind Azlak Temps was a sword with a sapphire on the handle, other-wise though, it was a regular and everyday sword. "Mathew Lapool accepted the offer with grace, and once claiming the title as king of Acera, he named various men to stand below him. He hadn't been married, and desired that one of these men would be the heir to his thrown."
A small crowd of individuals gathered around him. It wasn't a lot. A mere handful. But it was a testament to his storytelling ability. He moved his hands with a certain charisma. A certain oomph that made it easy to rally behind him and kept everyone hanging on his every word. As a matter of fact, even Secrat Copé found him curious about the origin of the sword, albeit not because he was interest in having it for purchase.
"Each one of these men accomplished hefty tasks to the benefit of the king, his intentions at the time unbeknownst to them. He, looking to find a man or woman that would offer him unconditional loyalty, neglected to inform them they were contesting themselves as potential candidates for the throne and the power of one of the Aeonians!" The man's excitement was unrelenting. "Years afterward, the king began growing sickly, yes, quite, very sickly, and he named Charles Tertius as the heir to the throne. Charles, of course, became married, and his family has held leadership over the city ever since." Azlak Temps' large smile still hadn't gone away and as a matter of fact, it might even have expanded by one or two inches. "Behind me, stands that sword."
The crowd held down their excitement, but there was some rumbling from many of them. Mumbled words and shouted whispers, none of which could be made out by Secrat, however. Copé looked at the sword. He couldn't see anything about it out of the ordinary, but a lot of the most expensive items were entirely ordinary. What made them expensive was the individuals' perception of them. When they perceived themselves as in the presence of some immaculate item, they might as well have been. Copé watched carefully. The sword was in a glass case, beneath the sword was velvet cloth, entirely meant to offer up the image of being a piece of royalty. The case was closed. No locks were on it that Copé could see.
"Ladies and gentlemen, I don't think I need to tell any of you how much of a precious heirloom this is. Can you imagine yourself having it above your fireplace, or better yet, could you imagine fighting as an Acerian knight with the actual sword once used by a former king? I know you're all excited, as I knew you would be, and I don't want to yammer on for any longer." Secrat Copé felt like the opposite was true. "Without further ado, I think we can start the bidding at five hundred coin!" Azlak shouted those last words loud enough for everybody to hear them. Nobody jumped at the offer, but that's likely because nobody in Acera really had that sort-of money to spend on something such as a sword. Five-hundred coin was a decent sum of money, but it wasn't a whole lot.
For example, Copé assumed the flask in his leggings to be worth more