VI – Square
Dasha kept glancing back to make sure Manny didn’t run off as she lead him towards Jaymus Square, named after one of the oldest family of merchants in the city going back hundreds of years though they were among the first to leave the city and as they finally entered the large square, she found it quite crowded, though she wasn’t surprised.
It was the square closest to the Red Gate and this large area allowed the last few residents of the city to easily load their belongings up onto the carriages and the necessary provisions being carted through the city to one destination made things simpler for everyone involved.
At the centre of the city stood an obelisk made of white stone inside a fountain, where a stone statue of an elderly and huge bearded man stood proud watching over the square and as the two of them walked past the fountain, Manny dunked his head in the water and rising up, shook his head as a dog would, spraying Dasha.
“Watch it” she said.
“What? It’s boiling” he said as he moved the hair away from his eyes. She cupped her hands and dipped them into the fountain before raising them to her lips and took long sips to refresh herself. The water was always pure, coming from the streams up in the mountains that flowed through ancient passageways that ran underneath the city. If the legends were to be believed though, this whole land had once been full of lakes and rivers.
“If we’re heading up the mountain towards this Banuto…” said Manny.
“…then why are we heading in the wrong direction? Shouldn’t we be going to the Red Gate?” he said pointing in its direction.
“I know” she said “But I’m looking for some people first, they should be around here” and Manny followed her as they walked about the square, her eyes peeled as they passed by families discussing what to expect on their journey with soldiers, children running about happy in bliss and people leading zebras by rope leads, when she heard the unmistakable voice of Wexell.
“Dasha” he called out and she turned round to see them sat on the steps of one of the governor buildings.
“Wex” she yelled out in reply and she motioned for Manny to follow her as she joined up with the rest of the group. Wexell dressed in his usual smart clothes was sat on the earth, Dakar was lying down on the bottom step with one foot dangling on the floor, a straw sun hat placed over his face and Isoka, dressed in her usual baggy clothes with her hair this time tied in a ponytail, jumped up to greet her.
“Dasha” said Isoka as she got up and hugged her friend.
“Dakar, aren’t you going to say anything?” said Dasha.
“Hey” said Dakar in a lazy voice as he gave a slight wave with his hand.
“So what’s the word Dasha?” asked Wex scratching his brown hair which grew longer down his forehead than the back and sides “I’ve been asking all day but none of the soldiers tell me anything useful.”
“I think we’re going to be okay. Decabia, they’re just trying to show off their strength, that’s all it is” she lied.
“If there’s no real danger than why have we evacuated the entire city?” said Dakar, his voice muffled “I swear, those Decabian barbarians, they’ve cost my dad a fortune this month. If one of them was here right now I’d…”
“You wouldn’t do anything Dakar” said Isa “You can’t beat me in a fight, let alone a trained Decabian.”
At this Dakar rose, the hat falling of him, his blue eyes wide at this insult and his face scrawled in annoyance “I so can beat you.”
“You ready to put those words into action for round sixty?” she said cracking her knuckles before turning to the smallest in the group “Wexell, where does the score stand at now?”
“I believe it was fifty nine wins for you and for Dakar I think he stands at…zero” he said with a mocking smile.
“Whatever” said Dakar laying back down and putting the hat over his face as everyone else laughed.
“Hey, who’s he?” said Isa, pointing to Manny with suspicious eyes and Dasha turned round to see had been trying to slip away, he had made it several meters from the group but he was quickly by her side once again as he fumbled his hands together, giving a weak laugh.
“Well, he has to do with the reason I was looking for you guys” she said turning back to the others“Akello has asked me to go and bring down Baruto.”
“That old man up half a mountain?” said Dakar “Count me out.”
She shook her head but she wasn’t surprised at his immediate refusal.
“We don’t know how long it’ll be until we can comeback here” said Dasha “And barely anyone has ever seen the old Nephlin sanctuary, let alone Baruto himself. I thought it’d be a nice journey to have before we leave.”
“Count me in” said Wex shrugging his shoulders “Anything to get me out this city and besides, I’ve been researching the Nephlin for a while, might be the old man can teach me a thing or two.”
“Yeah I’ll come along too” said Isa with a smile “That old man taught your brother when they found out he was a Magi right?”
“Yeah” she said, wondering how everyone else seemed to know about this story except her “Though he never bothered or tried to teach me.”
“Well, I heard he was a master swordsman maybe I’ll get him to teach me something to, he might make me his apprentice if I convince him” she said “So who’s the kid?”
“Oh, well this is Manniro…”
“It’s Manny by the way” he quickly added.
“….and he’ll be carrying what Baruto decides to take with him” finished Dasha.
“I am?” he said with shock.
“Of course you are” said Dasha with a smile and he wanted to object but found himself unable to.
“So Dakar, you coming or not?” said Dasha.
“Have fun” he said turning round, facing away from them.
“You’d rather stay here doing nothing for the rest of the day, then be with your friends?” she said.
“It’s a two hour walk up and two hour walk down, maybe some other time” he said.
“Fine” she said turning to the others “Looks like we’ll split the hundred gold pieces between us then guys.”
“Wait, what?” said Dakar bouncing up to his feet, suddenly alert and his eyes and nose twitching as if he had just caught a strong scent in the air.
“Oh did I forget to mention that?” she said trying her best to conceal her laughter as she turned round to face him, his blonde hair flat from the hat “Of course my brother wouldn’t expect us to do this for free. But I guess, what were your words, would rather do this ‘some other time’, right?”
“Wait” he said running towards her as she started walking off and he looked down at his fingers, counting under his breath and she heard him mutter “Twenty.”
“I’ve changed my mind” he said looking back up “So when do we leave?”
“Gather your things and we’ll meet at the Red Gate in say, twenty minutes” she said.
“Sure thing” said Isa and Wex nodded as they went off to get sorted for their small trip, Dakar was sorting out the numbers in his head and wondering out loud what he could afford with twenty gold pieces as he started to head towards his parents. Manny walked up to Dasha’s side as they left.
“I didn’t know there were twenty gold pieces in it for me” he said with a smile and she was sure she saw his eyes gleam the colour of those coins.
“Oh there aren’t” she said, wiping the smile off his face “Not for you, for me or for Dakar.”
“But you…you said” said Manny when it dawned on him “You’re not as sweet as you look are you?”
“Shut up” she said hitting his arm as she walked off, keeping her head down to conceal a smile before turning back to him “Now help me in getting something to eat for the trip. It’s quite a walk up the mountain.”