THE HOLY HOLM
Light-brown stretched widely ashore, bounding a mid-sized island just by the mainland of the Holy Continent, separated by a body of water barely twenty miles wide. The island was mostly flat, divided into northern and southern Beaks, both connected by a two-miles wide natural bridge of cliffed roads and wavy paths. The climate across was universal, with hot and humid summers that lasted for nearly nine of twelve months a year, and three months of tender rainfall.
Named the Holy Helm, it was usually the first place newcomers to the Holy Continent would land ashore of, which is why most of the island’s business was oriented toward the newcomers. Only a single, larger city existed on the Northern Beak, with houses built out of sand and mud, hardly ever toppling three stories in height. Streets were laden with small and large-time merchants hollering at those passing by and trying to sell their wares.
Most natives had dark-copper skin, were rather tall with wide shoulders and well-pronounced muscles. Though they spoke the Common Tongue, they did so in a heavy accent, oftentimes swallowing vowels and blending three to four words together in a sentence, making them rather difficult to understand.
All around the island, one could find various statues built either of bronze or sandy stone, depicting numerous figures -- some human and some less so. It was a rather curious and wondrous place, depicting a rather homogeneous culture with little to no outside influence, at least on the surface.
Currently situated inside one of the few inns on the islands, the only buildings built out of sandy stone, a small entourage sat slumped on the floor, sweat glistening on their foreheads. Lino stood by the window, having paid for the top-floor chamber explicitly to have the overview of the entire city which was by no means too large.
He stood leaning, observing the world down below; this was his first first-hand experience with the Holy Continent, even if it was just an entry region of sorts. He always consciously prevented himself from trying to build an image of it from the rumors, as he hardly believed it was all that different from the rest of the world. Languages, cultures, religions and customs would certainly differ, but people would in principle remain the same -- which is what a few hours he’d spent here thus far had confirmed.
Everyone down below was trying to scrape by, some honestly and some less so; everyone was racing to find a way to better their lives, as was the rest of the world. It was all the same, really, though this was Lino’s first exposure to the existence of large-scale slavery. While not a stranger to it as a lot of Kingdoms he’d visited had practiced it to a certain degree, it was never quite to the extent where public auctions were held all the time, with most slaves being sold for dirt-cheap.
From what information Lucky had provided him with, it seemed most of the slaves either come from the Isle Nations surrounding the Holy Continent, especially down toward deep south, or are remnant loyalists of some fallen regime on the mainland. They were rather diverse, Lino noticed; skin ranging from snow-white to ink-black, tall and short, fat and skinny, young and old, men and women and children, though the latter were usually sold through bidding.
He sighed inwardly, looking away and into the room where his little entourage was melting. Most were unaccustomed to the massive heat; even with the sun halfway hidden behind the clouds, only ever so often perching through, temperatures were rather high, especially so for those who were accustomed to milder climates of the Central Continent.
Hannah was wearing a thin dress with deep cut over her neck, her crimson hair tied behind in a tail. She was rather enchanting, yet not a living soul aside from Lino dared even glance at her.
Sitting by her side were two other girls of the small entourage; Talleah seemed to fit almost perfectly with the native women, as she was even taller than them. Unlike Hannah, however, she wore thick, leather clothing, which made her sweat profusely to the point she was almost shining like the sun from all the droplets gathered on her forehead.
Next to her sat Vyena, who had her head plastered down perpetually. Hannah had just tied her golden hair into a tail, and after a suggestion of giving the girl one of the dresses, Vyena nearly collapsed -- after all, she was currently wearing full-body armor, hiding every inch of her skin. Just an image of wearing something like Hannah’s dress was almost too much for her.
On the opposite end were Edward and Jack who seemed to be handling the heat better than the girls as they had quite a lot of experience standing by the roaring flames of the furnace for hours if not days on end. Still, both repeatedly reached into their void treasures and took out gourds of chilly water, dousing themselves in it.
Next to them were two remaining youths -- Ion and Ryt. The former wore loose, elegant robes, his black hair practically mimicking Lino’s ponytail to a tee, as he leaned against the wall and copied Lino’s posture.
Standing by the door of the room was the last youth, one Lino had picked first-hand to become his ‘personal guard’; the boy appeared to be in his late teens, with ink-black skin and a pair of beautiful, bronze eyes. He only wore tattered pants to cover his private bits, being both topless and barefoot. He stood straight like a spear by the doors, his eyes never leaving Lino -- making the latter rather uncomfortable.
“How long will we have to stay here?” Hannah asked with a sigh, already questioning her decision to follow Lino here.
“What are you complaining for? You look sickly pale anyway. You may as well tan yourself a bit.” Lino shrugged, walking away from the window. He wore rather simple clothes, copying Ryt and going barefoot and topless, with a thin cloth wrapped around his forehead. “Besides, it’s not even that hot.”
“Not for you, maybe,” she growled. “You’re a fucking freak here. The rest of us aren’t.”
“Ah, calm down. We won’t be long,” Lino said, sitting by her side and taking out a bottle he had prepared before departing -- it was a medicine simply called [Misted Ice]. Rather rare and difficult to make, he was only able to procure four bottles altogether, so he quickly began hoping the weather would change once they got to the mainland. “I’ll run around the town for a bit and check out the local markets. I’ll also look at the ferry schedule and book us one.”
“... you’re not gonna go out with a shawl over your face again, are you? We’ve weirded out pretty much everyone we met.” Hannah asked, her tired expression quickly switching into one of bliss as she pressed the small bottle against her forehead, chilling her whole body.
“I can’t risk being recognized,” Lino shrugged. “And forgive me for never learning the art of the disguise.”
“This is why we should have just asked Lucky to come with us...”
“... uh...” a meek voice suddenly joined in, causing Hannah and Lino to glance sideways; Vyena met their eyes for a moment, scowling lowly and quickly hiding behind Talleah who tried to hug the girl rather awkwardly.
“Look at what you did,” Hannah grinned, glancing at Lino. “Scaring poor girls. Humph, you’re really a bad, bad man.”
“... come on V’, just speak your mind,” Lino said, corners of his lips twitching. “I won’t eat you. Not yet at least.”
“Dude!!” Hannah slapped his shoulder lightly.
“W-what?! I was making a damn joke!”
“Does she look like someone who’ll understand your dumb humor?”
“... don’t go there.” Lino suddenly warned in a serious tone.
“What is it Vyena?” Hannah ignored Lino and approached the young girl, smiling gently. “Don’t worry; I’ll protect you from the bad man.”
“... L-lord... L-lord Empyrean isn’t bad...” Vyena mumbled meekly.
“I think she wants to tell you lads that she can fix up disguises,” Jack, seemingly having lost patience, chimed in as he walked over. Even seated, Talleah was three his size, making him shudder for a moment; no matter how many times he’d seen the girl, he felt as though he’d never get used to just how tall she was. “She’s quite a star back in the fortress. We used to stage a few plays once in a while, and she pretty much did the whole make-up and costumes bit.”
“Oh?” Lino arched his brows, glancing at the girl with curiosity. “Won’t make-up just kind of, you know, evaporate in this heat?”
“... n-no... if... if I apply it carefully...” Vyena replied.
“Hmm, alright.” Lino nodded, stroking his chin. “I’ll head out with Ryt and Ion,” the two’s eyes lit up like lanterns as they straightened further. “I doubt anyone knows them, so we just need to disguise me.”
“Dye his hair in purple.” Edward chimed in from the side, snickering.
“And shave his beard.” Jack added with a grin.
“And his eyebrows. And dye his lips black.” Hannah added.
“... he he,” Lino suddenly snickered evilly, causing practically everyone in the room to shudder. “Just you joke. Once we open the smithy,” his eyes turned into night-dark orbs, lips curled up in a grin. “I’ll work you lot till your bones begin breaking on their own. And you, what are you doing, trying to use innocent girl to fulfill your weird fetishes?” he glanced at Hannah. “Black lips... no eyebrows... goddamn you’re weird.”
“... I’m weird?” Hannah quickly fired back. “As long as we’re airing out our fetishes, how about I air out some of yours?”
“Go ahead,” Lino shrugged. “I’ll openly admit any time of the day that I’m a pervert like no other. Listen here, younglings,” Hannah immediately groaned and collapsed, realizing she had triggered one of Lino’s long-winding monologues. Both Edward and Jack simply left the room, while the remaining youths focused carefully, especially Ryt and Ion. “There is no shame in exploring your desires, you hear?! Especially with a woman you love! Or a man you love! Heck, even a sheep you love for all I care! Look here,” he pointed at Hannah, pulling her onto her feet and by his side. “I love this woman! If regular sex with her is amazing, what do you think happens when we make it kinky?!”
“It goes boom man! It goes fucking boom!” Hannah had long since plastered her hand on her forehead, questioning her heart’s choice. “Listen here, alright? When you love someone, it’s only natural you want to do many stuff with them. Normal stuff, baby-making stuff, definitely not baby-making stuff, weird stuff, stuff weird calls weird, some real dark shit that will probably get you gutted if ever publicized... it doesn’t matter, alright? Love with all your heart and body, you hear? But, you know, don’t love random strangers like that. We’re not criminals, after all. Got it?!”
“Got it!!” both Ryt and Ion exclaimed at the same time, while two girls had passed out -- compounded with heat, Lino’s speech seemed too much for them. Hannah quickly pushed him away and went over to the two girls, pitying them from the bottom of her heart. She seemed to have forgotten that just because she’s used to Lino’s way of talking, most other women -- let alone girls -- were not. She suddenly became worried if they had a daughter... what would he turn her into?