Nisa glanced at her empty plate, wishing that she had more fried fruit. They had stopped by the inn for lunch and fortunately, Urraka’a had agreed to feed them the rest of the day and let them stay one more night. By tomorrow at dawn, they were expected to be out of here, all without a meal. Which meant they had to figure out what they planned to do next within the next couple of hours.
Chris sat on her right and Oliver across from her—or as across from someone as a person could get at a round table, anyway. Susie sat on Nisa’s left with Bea in between her and Ollie. Bea ate slowly, properly observing every bite.
“So, what’s the plan?” Chris asked.
“Are we seriously going to try to find this place to get The Eighth Curse cast on one of us, just so we can break it and go home?” Susie’s eyes widened.
Nisa and Ollie exchanged glances. “I don’t think we should,” Nisa responded. She cleared her throat. “We don’t know anything about the Sage and whether he’s… well trusted. We need to handle this just like any other excavation—search for answers.”
“Except our normal excavations don’t include anyone who’s still alive,” Chris muttered.
Oliver chuckled. “He’s got a fair point.”
Nisa met Bea’s gaze. “Why don’t you go back to the warehouse and see if you can find Harkwei? Ask him what he knows about the Sage, all this Eighth Curse business, and if there’s another way home besides what the Sage said. I’m sure you’ll want to study his beast again, anyway.”
Bea gently placed another bite in her mouth with a firm nod. “I’m on it.”
Susie glanced back at Urraka’a, where she tended to another customer. “I can talk to her. She seems pleasant since we’ve been here.”
Nisa nodded. “Good thinking. The rest of us can just explore town and talk to the locals.”
“So, to refresh everyone’s memory on what we all know…” Susie started.
Chris met her gaze. “Right. Seven Curses have been cast in this land. The first traveled to earth at some point, fell in love, and the Egyptians killed him for it. The other six have been cast, so we should see if anyone else knows the history of the others, since we already pretty much know the first one.”
“That and we should probably find out how the first cursed man got to earth in the first place,” Nisa pointed out.
Bea nodded. “That’s the best idea. That and are we going to ask how to cast the Eighth Curse?”
Susie shook her head. “No! Only as a last resort. For now, we should focus on learning what we can about the Curses, but specifically on portals and how to travel… worlds, realms, whatever you call them.”
Oliver leaned forward. “But from what I’ve heard, the Sage is considered the most knowledgeable man when it comes to magic, at least here in town. If he thinks the Eight Curses are our only way home…”
Nisa pursed her lips. “We need money. Maybe there’s a wiser Sage in another town. We should ask around and see how much it costs to travel or how close the nearest town is.”
Bea’s lips turned up into a huge smile. “Maybe Harkwei will take us with him again on his next trip. We could travel with him and then unload his cargo at the next place he goes to.”
Oliver nodded. “Good thinking, Bea.”
Nisa gently smacked her hands on the table. “We all set?” After everyone nodded, they each took their plates to the basin in the back to wash them; typically, Urraka’a did it for the normal guests, but they each felt obligated to pull their own weight, so they had watched her this morning to learn.
Susie separated and walked toward Urraka’a who stood behind the counter on the left side of the inn again. Chris, Oliver, Nisa, and Bea all slipped out of the door. Bea headed to the warehouse across the street, while Chris pointed to a street to their left. “I’m gonna check this way out, since we haven’t been there yet.”
Nisa and Oliver waved him off and then Nisa met Oliver’s green eyes. A warm breeze blew his blonde curls behind him and it whipped Nisa’s hair around her face, which she found annoying. Good thing she kept a hair-tie with her. She quickly tied it back in a sloppy bun and then sucked in a deep breath. “So, where are we going? Should we split up?”
Oliver grinned at her and tugged her hand into his. “I finally have you alone, Ni. No way I’m letting you wander off on your own.”
Heat filled her cheeks, but she led him tug her down the street to the right. “You still didn’t tell me where we’re going?”
Oliver shrugged. “We should probably find a bar, or this world’s equivalent to one. Usually, that’s where all the information is.”
Nisa rolled her eyes. “Of course.”
Oliver ran his fingers through his hair. “Just don’t know how we’re going to find one.”
Nisa’s gaze shifted to the street corner, where a man shouted out random news so loudly that sometimes the translator in Nisa’s pocket glitched and didn’t fully pick it up. “I think that’s a town crier.”
“A what?” Oliver frowned.
“They didn’t have Twitter or the Internet to spread news back in medieval times. Other than letters, town criers were the way of finding out news. I’m guessing it works the same here,” Nisa explained. She pulled him along beside her as she walked up to the man.
He paused as they approached. “What can I do for you folks?”
Nisa smiled at him. “I was wondering if you could point us in the direction of a bar? We don’t exactly read.”
“A what?” The man frowned.
Nisa mentally smacked herself. “A… tavern or a pub?”
Realization finally dawned on his face. “Ah, uh, down this street, at the very end on your right. You can’t miss it.”
“Thank you!” Nisa called.
Nisa turned to the left, down another side street, and followed the man’s directions. It was longer with what looked to be shops on every side. They had signs hanging in front of them but they were different colored than the ones in the merchant area they had passed with Harkwei the other day. These were the same color as the sign of the inn. Nisa found herself wanting to stop and study them. Did different colors mean different types of public areas?
“It’s a good thing you’re here. If I’d have been teleported here alone, I would probably be screwed.” Oliver chuckled, slinging his arm around her shoulder.
Nisa leaned into him with a smile creeping up on the corner of her lips. “Probably. Then again, you’re going to protect us, so, call it even. Oh, there it is!” Nisa pointed to a sign on the right at the end of the street. The building was colored differently than the other cream buildings bordered with red. This one was colored bright purple and outlined in gray.
“Odd color,” Oliver muttered.
Nisa shot him a look. “Don’t judge. Maybe it’s to draw people in.” She started toward the door, but a man that was at least six feet tall—or even taller—towered in front of it. His blue skin contrasted the purple wall and her eyes widened at the sight of him. The man literally had a tail on his back and two horns sticking out of the top of his head with bright golden eyes—brighter than Harkwei’s was—and orange pupils.
“No one gets in without gettin’ checked,” he rumbled.
Nisa swallowed deeply and glanced at Oliver. The man gave her the shivers.
“We’re actually just here looking for information,” Oliver said. “Maybe you could help us.”
The man stared at him.
Oliver briefly met her gaze so she nodded. So far, he was doing pretty good. If the man started to look angry, they could always leave. “We’ve visited the… village Sage and he told us there isn’t any magic that could take us home. Except for something about Eight Curses. We—we were wondering if there were any other magic users in town. Do you know any?”
The man pursed his lips. “I may know someone.”
Oliver narrowed his eyes. “How much do you want?”
“What?” The man blinked at him.
“How much do you want us to pay you to tell us who it is that could help us? Or to take us to him?” Oliver kept his gaze on the man’s the entire time.
The man shook his head. “I don’t need ikrii. There is something you can do for me, though.”
“What is it?” Nisa crossed her arms. What in the world were they getting themselves into?
“There’s a bounty hunter after me. Always ends up finding me. Get him off my back and I’ll be in your debt. I’ll tell you all about my magic friend.”
Oliver and Nisa exchanged a long look. “What do you think?” Nisa murmured.
Oliver shook his head and shifted his eyes back to the man. “How do we know we can trust you?”
The man shrugged. “Humans can use magical items. Should be pretty easy for you to get the bounty off my back. ‘Course all humans are the same, so it doesn’t surprise me that you won’t help.”
Something about the man’s bitter tone made Nisa’s chest ache. “We’ll see what we can do,” Nisa blurted.
Oliver stared at her but she shrugged and tugged him back onto the street. “Ni? What? We don’t know the first thing about magical items, let alone how to get a bounty off him!”
“I don’t. But you do. Go back and see what you can find out about the bounty hunter, like where we can find him.”
“And where are you going?” Oliver frowned.
Nisa grinned. “I’m going back to the warehouse to speak with Harkwei and Bea. If anyone knows anything about magical items, it’s him.”
Oliver sighed, rubbing his eyes. “Fine. But let’s just hope we’re not doing all this for nothing.”
Nisa didn’t think so. Despite the man’s scary appearance and tough exterior, sometimes his tone sounded… sad almost. None of them had any right to judge him without knowing the full story.
She only hoped that they weren’t helping out a criminal.