Theeb was a quaint little town that had very few citizens, just like Aleyr had told them. So little that Nisa expected the thirty people who were all outside tending to things—large creatures, coverings, gardens, and more—to stare strangely at them, but instead, each of them grew smiles on their faces.
A fat man with white hair and black streaks hobbled over to them, wiping his dirty hands on his orange tunic. “Ah, travelers! Welcome to the city of Theeb! How can we make your stay more pleasurable?”
Aleyr hopped off his thoa and handed the reins to a group of women and men who stood behind the fat man. “Have our thoas tended to and get us a couple of rooms. You still have an inn here, right?”
The man inclined his head. “Of course, of course.”
Oliver helped Nisa down and she stared toward Aleyr to grab him and tell him not to be so bossy and demanding, but Aleyr’s next words caught her off guard.
“I’d also like to see my sister. She still owns this place, right? Or did she gamble it away like the last one?”
The man shook his finger in the air. “Ah, Aleyr, I thought that was you. Didn’t recognize you with the beard! Yes, Alina is still the owner—we did have a bit of a fiasco with a giant, but ah, that’s not the sky.”
Nisa lifted her eyebrow. The phrase didn’t make much since, but she brushed it off as a local saying and made a mental note to ask Aleyr about it later. After all, she had plenty of questions for him already.
Her translation device had been given a rest and she had shut it off along the way. Susie, Chris, Oliver, and Bea had all bought ones of their own, so they were all currently using Susie’s right then, to save the energy in all the others.
“Good. I take it Alina will be happy to see me. Be sure to get my companions some good rooms,” Aleyr said.
The man inclined his head. “Your sister is in the caravan house, as usual.” He pointed to one of the only buildings in the town. It stood in the center, standing at three stories high and made from the same bark-like material of the mushroom trees. Three other buildings made up the rest of the town; one on the right, made with one story but it was larger than all the rest, another on the left that had two stories and was half the size of the caravan building, and the last behind the caravan house which was circular shaped despite that the others were all rectangular.
“Follow me and we will get you a few rooms at the inn.” The man gestured for them to follow him and he led them toward the caravan house.
Nisa snatched Aleyr’s arm as they walked. “You mind explaining what’s going on?”
Ena came up on his other side. “Yeah, I’d agree with her.”
Aleyr grinned. “Told you. My father had a lot of children. Alina’s one of the good ones. She’ll house us as long as we need and I guarantee I can convince her to lend me a caravan for pretty cheap. We’ll stay here and rest while we wait for Vanmor.” He split off from them, heading to the two large double doors of the caravan house, while the man led the rest of them to the circular building behind it.
“What are these other buildings?” Nisa asked the man, eager to learn.
He smiled at her and pointed to the circular one. “This, of course, is the inn. We wanted it to look different than the others to attract customers, but we could only afford mushroom bark to make anything with.” He nodded his head toward the long building on the right. “That is where the towns people live. Behind that are the good fields, where our creatures all are herded and cared for since we couldn’t really afford a stable here. It’s the only grassy area that doesn’t have that cursed magic for miles and miles.”
“What about the last one?” Susie asked.
The man glanced at the one to the left. “That’s where the gambling den is. Not a very productive thing, I’ve always said, but Alina didn’t listen to me. She has a bit of a problem… Well, it runs in the family. Don’t tell Aleyr I said that.”
Nisa laughed. “Somehow that doesn’t surprise me.”
They reached the front steps of the circular building. The fat man opened the doors and gestured for them to go on inside. Nisa filed in with Ollie beside her. Chris and Susie were next, followed by Ena and Kor’ok, and then the prisoner. Nisa made a mental note to try to learn his name.
“I am Wadmar. If there is anything we can get you, please ask. The server at the front is Izza’a. She’ll accommodate you however she can. Izza’a!” the man called.
Nisa turned her head to the bar at the front. It didn’t look like it sold alcohol like ones on Earth, but it was more of a rectangular table that the woman stood behind. The room had two other rectangular tables, filled with about a dozen seats altogether. A staircase on the far left led upstairs, where Nisa assumed the rooms were.
The woman behind the counter had dark skin and leather wings. Nisa’s eyes widened. “Hey, she reminds me of the inn keeper back at the first town we stayed in!” she murmured to the others.
Chris lifted an eyebrow. “You mean Urraka’a?”
Nisa shrugged. “I can’t remember her name, but I remember her race was called Traimen and she didn’t believe in the Festival of Candles because of her beliefs in God.”
“That is correct,” the woman said, inclining her head. Her crimson eyes blinked at her with a smile. “My name is Izza’a.” She turned toward the man. “What do you need, Wadmar?”
“These guests are friends of Aleyr. Make sure they feel at home.”
The inn keeper nodded her head and gestured to the stairs. “You’re welcome to the five rooms we have upstairs. You’ll have to share beds. Sorry.”
“No problem,” Ena replied.
The inn keeper glanced at the prisoner. “We have devices that can replace your hands, if you’d like? Friends of Aleyr always get the best.”
The prisoner’s eyes widened. “Those devices are too expensive—a thousand ikrii at the least!”
The woman smiled warmly at him. “My daughter was born without her hands and used them all the time. She—she recently died, but she would want someone else like her to have them.”
The prisoner inclined his head. “I would be most grateful to you, Izza’a.”
Nisa turned toward him as the group sat down around the table to the left. She sat down on the left side of it, closest to the door and Ollie sat down on her left. Meanwhile, Susie had taken a spot directly across from Nisa, with Chris across from Ollie. Ena sat on Ollie’s other side, with the prisoner beside Chris, across from Ena. That left Bea on the prisoner’s other side. “What was your name again?” Nisa asked the prisoner.
“Teho. Teho, Teho. Teho. Teho.” Nisa kept repeating his name and then glanced up as the woman came in from a back room behind the bar that Nisa hadn’t previously noticed. “And her name was…?”
“Izza’a,” the woman repeated. She sat one of the devices down on the table in front of the prisoner and held the other one up. As Nisa repeated her name over and over again to try to remember it, Izza’a gently grabbed Teho’s right wrist. “I used to do this for my daughter all the time. I hope you don’t mind?”
Teho shook his head. “No. Not at all. Y—you’re being so kind.”
Izza’a smiled at him as she opened the cylinder-shaped device and slipped it on his wrist. “It is what the One God asks of us. How does it fit? Comfortable?”
Teho nodded. “Very.”
Izza’a clicked it into place and the top of the cylinder folded over, like a fist. “You use your mind to control the energy within it. They do need to be recharged with magic every month, but they go for quite a while. You can use your mind for the basic commands—they do bring out fingers, made out of the same material—a mixture of sand copper and steel, I believe. It also lets you shoot out a few bursts of magical energy if you want. My daughter did it by accident once.”
Teho smiled and closed his eyes as Izza’a slid the second device on his left wrist. The right one extended outward with metal fingers, just like Izza’a said and then the left followed. As Izza’a stepped back, Teho opened his eyes and fingers on the left opened up as well. He bent them and clenched them and then reached out to table the table. “This is—this is a miracle. I can never thank you enough, Izza’a!”
Izza’a smiled and Nisa gently patted the woman’s arm. “Thank you so much for everything, Izza’a.”
Izza’a’s wings fluttered and she walked over to the bar. “Let me get you some food. Is water alright? It’s about all we have to drink here. At least our wells are rich.”
The group laughed at that but it was interrupted by the doors bursting open. Horror filled Nisa and for a moment, she was terrified that the guards from Lifa had somehow found them.
Instead, Aleyr stood in the doorway beside a familiar face that made Nisa sigh in relief: Vanmor.
“Vanmor!” The group jumped up from the table and it was Nisa and Susie who reached him first. They embraced him and then made room for Kor’ok and the others. Everyone spoke over the other, asking him dozens of questions, so Nisa lost track of the conversation as Vanmor tried to talk over everyone and share about his escape.
Nisa found herself staring at Aleyr leaning against the wall by the bar. She walked over to him, lips pursed.
He glanced up at her as she walked over. “Here to remind me how you don’t trust me?”
Nisa shook her head. “Nope. I am curious about your sister, though.”
Aleyr shrugged. “She and I sailed with my father. When he died, I took over his ship. Alina loves me, but we’re twins and she couldn’t bear the thought of obeying my command, so she left with a man who ran a small caravan. They decided to make one to help people cross the way. Until then, the only way across was by paying a Sage, if they agreed to take you, so few people could even get from the east side of Glacea to the west and vice-versa. Then, she and that man bought a few more mumbies and started this town.”
Nisa lifted an eyebrow with a laugh. “Mumbies?” she asked.
Aleyr chuckled. “Yeah, the creatures the caravans use.”
For a moment, they both stayed silent and she tuned in to what Vanmor was saying.
“… took a while but I channeled his energy inside me. That gave me enough to break out of the casing and I teleported out of the city. He followed me, so it was fight of teleporting away. I led him in the opposite direction and then ran on foot for a while until I lost him. Took a page out of your book, Aleyr,” Vanmor said, looking at the pirate with a smirk.
Aleyr’s lips pulled into a grin. “Wise choice.”
“So, your sister is going to help us?” Nisa asked.
Aleyr nodded. “Yep. I saved her life a while back so she owes me one. Plus, she has no love for the Sages. They can’t arrest her, but they don’t like what she did here. The more they have in their control, the better and this…”
“… took control away from them,” Nisa finished.
Aleyr nodded. “Yep. Look, I’m sorry, for—you know, getting you arrested and almost killed.”
Nisa’s lips pulled into a huge smile. “Is the pirate actually feeling a bit of remorse?”
Aleyr snorted. “Don’t hold your breath, sweetheart.”
Nisa placed a hand on his shoulder and gently squeezed it. “You already apologized once, Aleyr. And I forgive you.” With that, she headed back over to sit beside Oliver and visit with the others.
Aleyr followed them.
For once in this strange, new world, Nisa not only felt like she had a new home, but a new family as well.