„Smittis, huh? I have been there a few times myself, slaying the beasts that ravage there. In all honesty, I think they are much more dangerous than the dynami.“
I was talking to an old man on a carriage that would be making a pit stop at Solaris before we head towards Tyrida. It was on the way to the capital, so it shouldn‘t take that long.
„And why‘s that?“
„Well you see, they can mutate themselves into much stronger bugs, and their queen is highly intelligent. Yes, we have been successful at keeping them from our door and shrinking their population. But I say their queen has been hiding some of her brood in many caverns.“
„Have you seen such a place?“
„Of course, a long time ago, though. I lost one of my friends there. He held an artifact that was a shield, similar to that one on your back, and he used all his last energy to stop the swarm from coming at us. We managed to escape, destroying half of the brood there, but sadly lost a great artifact hunter.“
Are every artifact hunter, that holds a shield, brave? I don‘t remember Ethan ever being brave to stop an entire insect hive from coming at his friends. Well, it has never happened before when he held the shield. Actually, he did stop Wilmer and his guild from coming at us when we were fleeing from him. I guess that is quite similar, he did say that he would try to hold them off longer, but I grabbed him and called him an idiot.
I gazed into the distance, seeing carriages that held ores going away from Solaris. Solaris is a small village, their income mostly comes from mining into Mount Kamlin. They have a few farms here and there, but it is mostly famous for gathering zettra stones and other lesser ores. The Dynami Empire have tried to stop the mining progress with small skirmishers going through the mountain, and actually managed to succeed once, stopping the mining process for months, but Stratos have strengthened the defenses more and more around Solaris.
As the carriage stopped, the driver asked, Amara and I, to help them load up a few crates onto the carriage. With nothing else to do I decided to stretch my arms and help.
Even though I do work for money, I still help out when I am bored when traveling. It‘s the same when I didn‘t have a spaceship, getting a ride and giving them small labor from me in return, planet to space stations, station to planets.
Amara, though, is different.
„I already paid for the ride, I am not just going to give you my help for free.“
She held out her hand, motioning for money. They ignored her and loaded up the carriage.
„You don‘t have anything to do, might as well show your muscles every now and then. Or do you maybe never work out?“
She moved her head in irritation, her helmet showing no emotion.
She jumped down and helped me pick up a crate, she actually held it up steady, while I was struggling a bit. The ores inside the crate were heavy. That damn armor of hers is likely giving her strength, it must be.
„Are you maybe the one that doesn‘t work out?“
As I was hopping off of the carriage in Tyrida, the driver handed me an ore, as thanks for helping with the crates, and as well for helping with the wheel that broke along the way here. Amara barely helped lift the carriage when we were putting in a spare wheel, after we unloaded the crates, of course.
I asked what it was, and he called it a dynami-ore. I was confused why it was called that but later found out that it was first mined purely by dynami, and dynami alone.
It was black and grayish, coated with small zettra elements. It has no use for artifacts. It wasn‘t that heavy, it was actually rather light.
Apparently, it can somehow coat the scales of dynami to make them stronger a bit. Dynami do call it something different, but here they just call it „dynami-ore.“ It barely has any use for us, but can be used to refine armor a little bit. I stashed it in my pack. I might do something with it later.
The guards didn‘t seem wary off me and Amara. We seemed to be in the clear.
„Let‘s meet at that tavern when I am done finding the person I am looking for.“
„Yeah, alright. Why can‘t I come with you?“
„I have to do another quick think before I find him, so just be a good man and wait.“
She dashed off into the crowd, disappearing from view.
As I walked to the tavern, I noticed a board filled with papers of recent events and other news. One read „Daughter of the Quenton family murdered, Artifact Hunters Guild is suspected high...“ and another read „An Elder Summon in Oxy found their artifact that leads them to space...“ I‘m guessing they are talking about Ethan on that one. Maybe some people saw the ship from afar as it flew towards the skies.
„Summons? Bah! Utter lies and nonsense these are,“ a man next to me said. He spat to the ground and walked off.
Some people really don‘t believe we are from a different planet, do they?
I sat down at the local tavern, ordering a drink. The alcohol on the planet isn‘t as great as on other ones. It‘s also not that strong, but I drank it nevertheless.
As I was sitting alone, waiting for Amara to show up with her friend, a familiar face appeared.
She didn‘t say a word as she sat down on the other side of the table, didn‘t even ask if she could use it.
„What do you want, Ivona?“
„That shield, it doesn‘t belong to you,“ she said with authority.
„Heh, this seems oddly familiar.“
I moved my jacket a bit to get ready to grab my blaster when I needed to.
„And why would you want it. You can‘t even go to where Ethan is, and you don‘t even know which planet he is heading.“
„Even though that‘s true, Ethan wouldn‘t want someone like you to hold on to it. What are you even going to use it for? It won‘t. . .“ She stopped herself, but then continued. „I will try to find a way to him before he falls.“
„Why? You barely know him. Why waste your time helping a person that will likely be a corpse before you even arrive at the right planet.“
„I hate you, that‘s all.“
I waited for a moment. Her angry expression barely changed, she glared at me. I took a sip from my drink and then glared back.
„I have no intention of giving you the shield. I don‘t care for your excuses for why you want to take it from me. And besides, I really need it. I am not going to tell you why, though.“
She sighed and stood up.
„You really are an asshole.“
„I know, it‘s quite obvious.“
I watched her turn to leave, and as she was moving towards the exit, Amara showed up.
„Hoh oh, what‘s this? Did little miss come talk with my handsome?“ Amara grinned.
Ivona didn‘t say a word as she kept going.
„Just so you know, we are going to Smittis with the extermination party this month.“
She hesitated on the doorway, then left.
„Why did you need to tell her that?“
„Just to see what she will do with that information, it‘ll be fun to have her with us.“
„Sure. . .“ I continued with my drink as I glanced behind her. Another familiar person showed up.
I immediately recognized the man. Just because he wore that cowboy‘s hat and had a mask glowing with red lines. He also held two artifact blasters by his sides.
„Your name is Braxton, right?“
An awkward silence, then Braxton only nodded and took his seat. Amara also took her‘s. His silence is really hurting me. He even ignored me back at the Quenton mansion.
„Riiight. He doesn‘t talk much, does he?“
„He is the silent type, you can just tell what he is thinking by looking at his face. He does say something when he wants to or needs to.“
I glanced up to his face. Which, of course, was hidden behind his mask. How am I going to find out what he is thinking? Amara must just be joking with me.
Amara had her helmet on, the coloring of her and Braxton‘s outfit really matched. With the black, and red outlines. I didn‘t fit here at all, my face was only shown. I was basically the black sheep of the herd.
„Uh-huh. So, are you two just going to have your faces hidden the entire time? Or am I just going to be the only one.“
„There‘s no need to show one's face,“ Braxton said with a hoarse voice. It wasn‘t really hoarse though, it might have just been the mask he was wearing, he did sound odd though.
„Okay, whatever. And is he the only one you know?“
„He was the only one I found. Some of my trackers broke and aren‘t working anymore, so that‘s why he is the only one here.“
„I‘m sorry, what?“
„Anyways, shall we start getting a move on?“
She was completely ignoring me. Did she want me to know that she plants locators on everyone? I‘m likely not going to get rid of mine, I have checked around my clothes and body, but found nothing.
„How exactly are we going to sign up?“
„We don‘t really need to, we just have to go to the Southern Fortress, which is the way to Smittis, and talk to some people there.“
„That‘s all? No papers we need to write down?“
„Not at all.“
We just walk up there and ask to join in? That‘s rather odd. I thought we should at least need to write our names down or something.
„Question, why do you want to come with us?“ I asked Braxton.
I could feel him eyeing me, but he didn‘t say a word.
„He‘s just bored, that‘s all.“
I glanced up to Amara with a questionable look.
„He‘s just bored? You‘re hiding something, aren‘t you?“
„He has his reasons, but he wants to keep them hidden.“
I really don‘t like the silent type, they annoy me. Not the people who keep secrets, but the ones that just barely talk. You just don‘t know what they are thinking through their silent words.
I finished my drink and grabbed my pack and shield.
„Shall we move and kill some insects?“