After talking with Alkahest, I set the time on Earth to flow normally. What I needed to do now was to practice my Thousand Arms, Ten Thousand Threads martial art. Since it was available on the market, I had to assume that other Keepers had also used it, or something similar to it, in order to bring their mentality closer to that of the companions provided by the system.
More to the point, there were still several abilities of the art that I was just simply not able to properly utilize yet, due to my weak mastery over it. So, I planned to kill two birds with one stone, and devoted myself to the repetitive training task of sending out multitudes of threads in every direction. Only occasionally did I take a break to glance over the map and check to see if anything interesting was happening.
The sounds of children playing could be heard along the eastern shores of Tricarn, the land of the plainswalkers and the little-folk. These were the names that the centaurs and halflings had come to call one another. And although they did not particularly care to explore beyond the shores of their own land, they could often be found enjoying their beaches.
Yet, in the distance, a strange sight appeared. A behemoth of wood, a fish above the waves. The children playing on the sand gradually came to a stop and stared at the craft while it approached. And behind it, three more. One of iron, one of copper, and another wood.
One of the young halflings broke off from the group, hastily running towards the adults. “Mama, papa! Big water monsters!” He called out in a youthful tone, making the relaxing adults suddenly become alert. Centaurs rose to their hooves, halflings moving to the highest nearby rock to scan the horizon.
To their eyes, it was clear that these were not monsters, but the craft of man. The sails billowing in the wind, the figures atop the deck, it struck more caution into the adults than any monster could. Although it was no a distant memory, the memory of the great Blood War still lived on in their hearts.
“Everyone, off the beach!” One of the centaurs called out in a booming voice. Worry was etched in his features, and he backed up, unwilling to turn his back on the approaching crafts. “Make for the town!”
The Blood War had taught many lessons to both the halflings and the centaurs. Among them, perhaps the most crucial that both parties learned was never to underestimate people. Even the smallest of halflings could turn into a whirlwind of death, let alone these that sailed across the seas.
By the time that the boats arrived, the beach had been emptied. Only the tracks in the sand remained, soon to be covered by the tide. “Aha! I’m first!” Called someone from the lead boat, a stocky dwarf no more than thirty years old. When he jumped from the boat, it was with enough force that the entire craft began to rock slightly. However, with that jump he cleared the short distance to shore and planted his feet in the sand.
Tilting his head back, he let out a roaring laugh. Behind him, the four ships slowly moved into position. It seemed that none others were quite as eager as him to jump onto an unexplored land. “Turren, I’ve told you countless times, it doesn’t matter who gets here first!” A voice floated into his ears, the voice of his female captain.
Soon, she appeared on the sand as well, though her entrance was far more graceful. A golden bridge of light appeared off the side of the leading boat, connecting it to the shore. When a beautiful elven woman stepped onto it, she immediately appeared on the shore, as if she had traversed the entire distance in an instant. “We all signed up for this voyage. We don’t even know if this land is unclaimed yet, so calm your beard.”
“Bah!” Turren spat out as he was scolded, shaking his head. “What’sit matter either way!? Not like we can’t get along with people of a different race. Yer lot proved that a long time ago, didn’cha?”
The captain, Sirala Kine, let out a long sigh. “But we must make a proper impression. What will people think if they see a cannonball of meat jumping off the ship, huh?”
Turren only grumbled at that, refusing to retort. From the three other ships, similar bridges of light began to appear, and the crew of each started to unload themselves. Dwarves, elves, beastkin, all were present. The numbers were smaller, less than a hundred in total, but they had planned this far more carefully than the original voyage of the beastkin.
“Druids!” Sirala called out as she saw people approach. “Begin setting up the final gate! Engineers and artificers, make sure everything proceeds smoothly!”
At her words, there was a sudden flurry of movement, and nearly half of the gathered crew began to move back and forth from the ship, bringing boxes of parts onto the shore. A pair of druids leveled off a large rock jutting from the ground to make the foundation, and people began to build a large stone arch.
This was a device that had been jointly developed with the help of the dwarves, beastkin, and the elves. A gateway that could surpass a druid’s portal through the use of relay stations. Along their voyage, they had placed several of these relay stations, one at every island they encountered. In total, they had used far more than was necessary, but it was all in the name of caution. They couldn’t be sure when they would encounter their next island, after all.
Soon, the gateway had been built, and one of the druids urged the natural energy of their environment into the gate to activate it. A swirling blue field appeared briefly, a whirring sound of energies colliding heard from within the gate. They had tested this invention on their own lands already, but this was still the moment of truth.
Suddenly, the blue field within the arch disappeared, and all sound seemed to stop. However, through the arch was a different site. No vast beach, or endless seas, but instead the view of a large building. And on the other side, an anxiously waiting elven man. “It worked!” He cried out as he saw the people looking at him from the other side of the gate.
“Aye, it worked!” Turren nodded. “Now go get the scouting party ready, you twit!”
The man beyond the gate was briefly taken aback by the comment, before his excitement overcame him once again. Nodding his head sharply, he ran out of view of the gate, causing those on the beach to laugh.
“You know the drill, everyone.” Sirala said with a smile as she glanced around to the crew. “Those who are staying are welcome to stay. Those who wish to return to their families, now is your chance to do so.”
Most of the crew began to nod, not moving from their spots. However, there were a few among the druids and the crafters that had constructed the gate who began to move through it. Clearly, they had just been brought along in order to ensure that the gateway had been completed, and were now relieved that they would be able to return to their own homes.
As they were leaving, unbeknownst to everyone, a young centaur appeared on a nearby hill. Her skin was as smooth as silk, her torso covered with a black gown. Her black hair flowed down past her shoulders, and blew softly in the wind. Along her black pelt were frequent purple markings, some of which seemed to form patterns and others which appeared completely random.
The girl’s eyes held an age to them that her body didn’t match, and her lips curved into a soft smile as she watched the people below. Unlike the children who saw the ships as monsters, or the adults who feared a second Blood War, she simply watched them. Her presence went unnoticed until one of the crew turned away from the portal, and saw her figure upon the hill.
Just as he began to shout out that he had found someone, she turned and retreated behind the hill. Several members of the crew felt a warm burst of power erupting from where she had left, but it vanished just as quickly. “A priest…” A white-haired kitsune muttered, recognizing the familiar traces of divine energy, though not of any deity he had recognized.
“Looks like we got some new neighbors!” Turren let out another roaring laugh as he said that, realizing that the presence of a priest and a clothed girl meant that the people here should have some form of civilization as well. “One’a yours?” He asked playfully, looking towards the kitsune priest.
“I have never heard of a beastkin with the features of a horse.” The man shook his head in denial. “And the Sisters always refuse to speak in times like these. Even if there was a fifth, they would make us learn it ourselves.”
Turren let out a low grumble when he heard that, shrugging his shoulders. “Well, let’s wait for the scouting party nonetheless.” Turren rubbed the back of his head as he spoke. Although his race did not have a nasty conflict like a Blood War when they first met the beastkin, the brief scuffle that they had was enough to make even the rowdy dwarf wary of provoking a conflict.
It wasn’t long before a group of people began to pour through the gateway, the designated scouting party for the voyage. When they arrived, they were briefed on the appearance of the girl beyond the hill, and how there was likely to be civilization nearby. Some of the scouts were excited by this news, while others instead seemed disappointed that this new land had already been claimed by another.
Either way, the party began to head out, each carrying a communication artifact to report their findings in real time. On the other end of those artifacts was Sirala, standing at the shore and ready to evacuate everyone should this turn into a battle. As much as they wanted to explore, it was not at the expense of her people.
With everyone from the scouting group fanning out, it wasn’t long before reports of tracks came in. Some looked like the hooves of horses, which would match the report of the unfamiliar girl, but others appeared to look like the feet of young elves. Another twenty minutes later, and the first scouts began to report signs of a village in the distance, built along the edge of a rolling field.
From within the village, figures could be seen moving back and forth, hastily preparing something. These figures were those of the reports, having the torso of a man atop the body of a horse. And with them, small figures that could be mistaken for children, if not for the even smaller ones accompanying them that were no doubt the children of that race.
According to the scouts, the two races were busy preparing what seemed to be defenses. Archers and shieldbearers lined the walls of the village, its gates closing once no more could be found rushing into the village itself. Sirala couldn’t help but frown hearing the news, since it seemed that a peaceful talk would be impossible. Just as she was preparing to order everyone back so that they could set sail again, another report came in.
“Miss, the girl that they saw, can you describe her again?” A voice spoke up from the glass orb in Sirala’s hand.
“Her body was that of a young horse, black with strange purple markings. Similarly black hair, and a matching gown covering her torso. Why?”
It took a moment before the answer to her question came back. “I think she’s approaching me. She appears unarmed. You said that she was a priest?”
Sirala gave a brief nod. “That’s right. Are you familiar with the procedure for first contact?”
“Yes, Captain Kine. I wasn’t given a translation book, but I know the procedure.” Sirala couldn’t help but curse under her breath. Translation books were special quest scrolls that only a high level scholar could create. This was because it required them to put their entire language into a single quest scroll, causing it to take the form of a book. And only a scholar could process that much information at once.
“If you can, try to lead her back here. I’ll have a book ready for you by the time you arrive.” Due to the difficulty of production, translation books were still quite rare. Most were given to schools as a way to educate children about the language. For their trip to this new land, they had only been granted four, one for each ship. As such, she quickly rushed back to her ship, and moved into the captain’s cabin to retrieve the thick tome.
In it were the languages of the dwarves, the beastkin, and the elves. Among the three, the beastkin language had actually become the ‘common tongue’ when communicating between races. This was because only the beastkin had made contact with both the elves and the dwarves before the two races met each other.
By the time she had found the book and made it back to the shore, the report was coming in from the scout that he had managed to use an improvised quest scroll to convince the girl to meet everyone. Sirala let out a breath of relief as she heard that, and quickly memorized the girl’s name that was reported.
While the pair returned, the rest of the scouts continued to watch the village, ensuring that they did not launch any form of attack against the beach. Even if it appeared that the two races had gone purely on the defensive, Sirala couldn’t take any chances. They had found their first point of contact, and could have her help them meet the others.
Soon, the elven scout arrived, accompanied by the black-haired girl. She kept smiling as she looked around, as if all of this was somehow exactly what she had been wanting. Or maybe that she was just excited to meet new people. Either way, Sirala approached her with a warm smile as well, handing over the book as well as a quest scroll.
‘Thank you for meeting with us, Alme. Could you take this book back to the people of the nearby village, and let them know that we don’t mean anyone any harm?’ These were the contents of the scroll as the girl scanned through them, and she gave a small nod of acceptance.
Seeing that, Sirala let out another sigh, before turning to the scout. “Alright. Escort her back to where you found her, and make sure that she gets into the village safely. I don’t want any random monsters spoiling our chances here.”