Xidra pushed the door open, revealing a large, open chamber. It was not the kind of grand room I would see in the Human lands. There were no glittering walls decorated with paintings. No gilded hallways branched out to the side. It was simple. Plain. And yet, it seemed sacred, somehow.
I saw a crowd of Kobold men and women, gathered in one corner of the room. They were in the middle of a quiet discussion— their whispery voices were actually whispering. Or wait… were they even in a discussion?
My ears perked up as I made out the words. It sounded like a chant, more than anything. I narrowed my eyes as I identified a Kobold woman leading the chant.
[Cultist - Lvl. 43]
I did not make another comment. I followed Xidra as she stepped into the room, her tail swishing behind her as she spoke.
“Salvos the [Mage], this is your first time back in civilization in years, yes?”
The question caught me off-guard. I blinked, wanting to correct her statement. However, I realized she was trying to cover for me. I hurriedly agreed.
“Yep! Haven’t been in Unaris in forever!”
“I have a lisp.”
The Kobold woman wore a puzzled look on her face. The confusion was evident. Did Daniel lie to me about people speaking weirdly? I shook my head and placed my claws behind my back.
“So… what are we doing here?”
“First, I’d like to return to my quarters and get changed.”
She gestured at her clothing— the torn and tattered robes that she was wearing— before turning to face me with a Kobold smile.
“Then, we’ll help you find your friends.”
Xidra started up a spiral stairway at the center of the room. I followed after her along with her escort of Kobold guards. We stopped at the middle floor. Halfway to the top. She dismissed Nav and the others following after us, before ushering me into the room.
“They will wait for you down below. Come, let us get you changed into proper clothes first. We will have to wait for my acquaintance to arrive.”
I paused, eyes drifting in the direction of the window. Light seeped in through a window with complex patterns on its wooden frame.
“Can I take a look around?”
“If you wish. Tell Nav to give you a tour of the city— that I told him to give you proper treatment.”
My eyes went round and I grasped her hand.
“Thank you so much! You’re amazing! I didn’t even have to argue with you about it!”
I was prepared to get into a prolonged discussion about the merits of letting me wander around the city. But she just said yes! She raised a brow.
Xidra gave me an odd look as I bounced on my toes, excited. I quickly threw on whatever nice clothing she prepared for me— although she forced me into a bath before I could wear them.
“This is the uniform of those affiliated with the Risen Dragons. You may not be one of us, but you saved my life, so you are our ally. Please do try to represent us with some elegance.”
“Wait— are you saying I’m some kind of Princess, then?”
“That is a Human Title. I do not believe we have much of an equivalent here. Perhaps my station would be considered something similar. However, I am more akin to your [Priests], and I am not here out of my birth, but my efforts.”
“Can I go now?”
I asked her as I tightened the regal robes around me. Xidra looked at me once over. She was approving.
“Yes. I will have to prepare myself. As well as call upon my acquaintances who could help you. They are [Diviners], so there is no need to show them your… compass. Those odd Human trinkets. All you need is to help them guide you, describe what you are searching for.”
“But… my companions are Humans. Won’t your friends get upset?”
“Of course not. Those of the Risen Dragons harbor no ill will towards the Human Species. We understand that they are lacking in what we know. What we seek is reconciliation— for the betterment of us all.”
“Huh. And this thing your Kobold Species knows about is… that Apocalypse thing?”
She nodded gravely.
“Yes. The Apocalypse. The death of the world. The end of all things. It comes, and only by working together can we stop it.”
Her grim gaze fixed on me, telling me how serious this was. I could feel the pressure— the weight on her shoulder— from here. It was almost palpable. I tapped a finger on my chin.
“I see— anyway, can I go now?”
Xidra blinked. Her mouth opened and closed. It took her a moment to find her tongue. Of course it did! If she kept poking it out, she would lose it eventually!
“Yes, you may. But be aware, us Kobolds do not end our days once the sun sets. You have noticed we do not need as much sleep as Humans. So, the city is still busy and teeming with life.”
“Even better for me!”
I started out the door, waving goodbye at her as I adjusted the collar of the robes she gave me.
“The First Dragonling asked us to accompany you?”
I gave Nav an eager nod, before twirling around and showing her my robes.
“Look, she even gave me fancy clothes and everything! I just wanna see stuff!”
He hesitated. The other two Kobold men with him jabbed him with their elbows and stuck out their tongues. He scowled and nodded.
“Very well, if Xidra the [Herbalist] asked me to, I shall act as your escort.”
I corrected him with a wave of my silver claw.
He was about to retort, but I grabbed him by the arm and dragged him out of the large building. Nav was large for a Kobold— burly even. He stood taller than me in my current Mortal Form. Almost as tall as Daniel! However, he was not exactly especially tall. Not compared to Jaakko, Addan, or even Haec.
Lucerna was another matter entirely.
The red-scaled Kobold was a Level 93 [Warrior]. He could have resisted, yet for whatever reason he let me pull him from the Risen Dragon’s Shrine. We stood out in the middle of a street surrounded by orange houses intersected into a field before I stopped. He cleared his throat.
“Salvos the [Mage], may I inquire as to whereabouts you wish to visit?”
“I’m not sure…”
I trailed off, casting my gaze around the city. I pointed at a tower in the distance.
“What is that?”
“That is… a minaret.”
“I know that!”
I scoffed, shaking my head with my hands on my hips.
“I mean, what is that place? Is it like your shrine place?”
“It is. All the minarets you see here belong to different factions in the city. What you’re pointing at is the Shrine of the Winged Warriors. That over there is the Shrine of the Hollow Claws. And that large one there? That’s the Shrine of the Scaled Sentinels.”
My gaze rested at a decorated minaret. Its base structure was not as wide as the one belonging to the Risen Dragon’s, and neither did it have a large area of crops surrounding it. What it did have was the tallest tower in the city. It did not rise up above the clouds like a mountain, however it certainly was taller than any building I had seen— the Human lands included.
“Are these different denominations or something? I thought you— we worshipped Dragons?”
“The Old Gods are our forefathers. We will always sing praises in their name. However, they did not leave us any rules of governance. It is up to ourselves what we wish to do, so we form our own groups.”
He narrowed his eyes.
“Every Kobold child knows this, Salvos the [Mage]. It is strange that you do not.”
“I am… uncivilized?”
I scratched the back of my head. He wanted to press me further, but I quickly changed the subject.
“Anyway, do you know of a Cyclops man who came to this city? He’s my friend. He’s about this tall— green skin, one eye?”
“...every Cyclops looks like that.”
“His name is Adan. And he’s a [Trader]!”
Nav let out a small sound of understanding.
“I believe someone just like that is currently visiting Unarith, yes. Do you wish to meet him?”
The mostly empty streets of Unarith were not devoid of life. It was the exact opposite— people were not acting like monsters were prowling the street corners, like in a Human city. They went about their day rather casually. It was just that the city was not very densely populated in the first place.
Nav brought me to a ramshackle hut at the edge of Unarith. I peered through its window to see a familiar green face standing behind a counter. Various goods, items, and equipments were spread out behind him and at tables around him. He was in the middle of a conversation with a Kobold woman when I threw the door open and ran in.
“Adan! You’re actually here!”
I wrapped my arms around him, beaming. The Cyclops man exchanged a look with the customer he was talking to.
“Apologies, Miss. But do I know you?”
My shoulders sagged as I backed up.
“Aw. You don’t remember me?”
His single eyebrow lifted up and he placed a hand on his chin.
“You do sound familiar, however I will get to you in a moment. I have a customer to attend to.”
I dejectedly walked back towards Nav. The Kobold man had his arms crossed as his gaze fixed on Adan.
“Are you sure this Cyclops is your friend?”
“...yes. I guess he doesn’t recognize me because I look like this.”
“By ‘this’, do you mean washed and well-dressed?”
I shot him a glare, and he coughed into his claw.
“Apologies, I don’t know what came over me. That was rude.”
I crossed my arms and huffed. A Princess is always well-dressed no matter what she wears. Because her attire is herself, not what she wears! I waited for Adan to finish up his transaction with the Kobold woman. He handed her what seemed like a magical tablet, receiving some precious jewels in return, before she left.
When he was finished, I approached him and stared up his way.
“You don’t remember me? At all?”
“I apologize Miss, but—”
“It isn’t Miss! It’s Salvos!”
He frowned, placing a hand on his jaw.
His eyes grew wide at the realization. Adan understood what happened, placing his hands together as if he were piecing together a puzzle.
“Ah, Salvos. It has been a while, I almost did not recognize you.”
“It has, hasn’t it!”
I grinned and clasped my claws together.
“How have you been?”
“I have been well. I arrived in Unarith not too long ago. I… did not expect to see you here so soon.”
Adan looked over my shoulder at the Kobold man following me, speaking hesitantly.
“Is this your companion?”
“Nope! I just met him.”
“Ah, I see.”
Putting his hands together and bowing, Adan greeted Nav courteously.
“Greetings, [Warrior] of the Risen Dragons.”
“At ease, Adan the [Trader]. I am Nav, and I am simply accompanying Salvos the [Mage] for her tour around the city. You do not have to address me by my faction.”
“Thank you, Nav the [Warrior].”
The pair of Kobold and Cyclops exchanged pleasantries as my eyes were drawn to the myriad of shiny objects put on display at the countertop. I ignored those, instead focusing on a dull-looking rock.
I identified it, but it didn’t tell me much. Adan smiled.
“Ah, that is a piece of stone from the Ring of Fire. The earth that Dungeon is said to be enchanted, with magical properties that can cure disease and illness.”
“Huh. You have so much new stuff!”
“Apologies, Adan the [Tradert], but I have not heard of such rumors about these rocks before. Do you mean to tell me they can cure the blight from the Dead Zone?”
“Not at all.”
Adan laughed, facing a perplexed Nav.
“It is what the Humans say. I was paid this for a previous transaction from a Kobold man who just returned from the Ring of Fire. If I return to the Human lands with this, I could sell it for a hundred gold.”
“...I am not sure what that equates to.”
The Cyclops man turned back to me as I sorted through his variety of goods. Most of them were just shiny, aesthetic things which I did not care too much about. Not unless I wanted to dress fancily. Perhaps I would get them if I was headed back to the Human lands. But while I was still here out in the Plaguelands, I would have to get things that actually mattered.
The enchanted equipment he offered were mostly the same as before. He did not make much sales since I last saw him on that front. And they were not really things I needed. One of them helped with using weapons better, but I already had [Passive - Weapon Mastery] maxed.
My claws were hovering over the goods offered when Adan spoke up.
“See anything you like, Salvos? You seem keen on buying something. I am willing to offer you a discount.”
I glanced up, scratching at my scaled cheeks.
“Well, I’d like to shop for some stuff since I’m here. But a discount? Aw, you’re not going to give it to me for free?”
“I am a [Trader] first and foremost. What is a trade if one side does not receive something?”
Pouting, I found myself staring at the wall full of items hanging on hooks. There was an ivory horn sticking out. It drew my vision. Or perhaps it was my [Passive - A Hunter’s Sense] telling me to get it. I identified it as I pointed it out.
“What is that?”
“That is a Horn of the Caller. It is for those who are lost and seeking civilization. Its blare can be heard by someone up to ten miles away. It is not loud on the ears, nor will it scare away monsters. But it can help someone find your general direction.”
“Huh. And it is Medium Grade too.”
I considered its uses. It would certainly help Daniel and Edithe with finding me if I were lost. It did not help with fighting enemies, and it could even draw the attention of angry monsters my way. But I had a Skill that did exactly that, and it had been useful so far.
“I’ll take it!”
Adan was pleased. He rubbed his hands together as he nodded.
“Of course. What would you offer for this? It was quite an expensive trade, you see.”
I patted myself down, trying to find if I had anything to give him. I produced a compass and he shook his head.
“That would not be worth the price of anything in this shop.”
“I don’t really have anything else… unless!”
I hopped over to Nav.
“Nav! Can you help pay for this for me, please?”
The red-scaled Kobold— who had been off to the side, picking at his scales— was caught off-guard. He opened his mouth.
“Xidra said you would help me! I saved her life, you know? The First Dragonling!”
He mulled over it for a moment. He looked like he wanted to argue, however something led him to decide to eventually acquiesce.
He sighed and started for the counter. He produced a bracelet from the pocket of his robes— it had a sigil adorned on it. It looked like a Kobold with wings breathing out fire. Except, it was oddly shaped and had a larger body and small hands.
“This is a bracelet given to every member of the Risen Dragons. It is made entirely out of eloxite— an expensive material in the Human lands, yes? And it protects the wielder from poisonous gasses, something I am sure a Dwarf [Alchemist] would want if you decide to visit their lands. Will this be enough for payment?”
The Cyclops man held it up with an appraising gaze.
“Why yes, Nav the [Warrior]. This is indeed a fair transaction.”
He accepted the bracelet, pocketing it before unhooking the Horn of the Caller and giving it to me. I took it and wore it around my neck like a necklace. I stared at it, then at the pair standing before me.
“Now I won’t get lost anymore!”