Carpathia III: Episode 25 - Standoff

Unknown City, Marketplace

Artemis and Adell headed towards the large shop at the corner of the marketplace, nervously scanning the crowd around them for any sign of hostility. Most of the people they saw seemed to be more interested in gossiping with each other than looking at them, but a few took notice of the newcomers. Finally, Adell noticed that the people who did notice were not staring at them but rather turning their eyes slightly downward.

Adell: Artemis, is there room in your bag for Phobos and Deimos?

Artemis: Barely. Why do you ask?

Adell: I think they're the ones attracting attention, not us.

Deimos: We can confirm that the angle of the peoples' eyes looking in our direction...

Phobos: ...have generally been directed downwards. We concur that being out of sight would be best.

Artemis thought for a moment and then took off his backpack. He unzipped the top and set it on the ground. Without any prodding, Phobos and Deimos climbed inside and Artemis heaved the backpack on again.

Artemis: Jeez, you two are heavy.

Phobos: Deimos weighs more than I do.

Deimos: Shut up!

Phobos: It is a verifiable fact.

Artemis: Knock it off, you two! I think a talking backpack is going to be just as strange as seeing you two walking around!

The backpack immediately went silent and stayed that way until they reached the door of the shop. The sun-bleached, wooden sign hanging over the door said "Sra's Sundries" in a quaint, old-fashioned style, which they took as an encouraging sign as it might have a good variety of things they need. They still, however, had no means by which to pay for anything, as far as they knew, nor did they even know what sort of system the town used to trade goods. If they used currency exclusively, then they were in trouble as they had none. If they were at all open to bartering, then at least they had a chance.

Adell turned the knob and gently pushed the the door open. Right away, it tripped a small bell hanging above and it rang shrilly in the air. He took a step inside. The room was brightly lit and the store was stocked with many goods on shelves wrapped around the walls. The only gaps in the shelving were for windows and a counter on the left side. In the center of the store were large barrels and containers stocked full of items, though at first glance, neither Adell nor Artemis could tell what they were. Behind the counter was a door leading to another room and it was from there that they heard a voice.

Voice: I'll be out in a minute!

Adell: Take your time!

Adell and Artemis looked around and could see nobody inside, neither shopkeeper nor customers. Artemis checked the shelves on the wall while Artemis looked in the barrels. All the shelves along one wall were filled with various sorts of clocks. The largest appeared to be a wall clock, framed with an intricate wrought iron pattern inlaid with gold. The smallest ones were very tiny, the faces of which were no bigger than his thumbprint, and they were set inside delicately sculpted pedestals.

The rest of the shop contained raw materials. Cooking ingredients, layers of fabric, sheets of leather, and many other things lined the shelves. It was like this world's version of an all-purpose general store.

Finding nothing of use on the shelves, Adell walked over to the barrels and started examining the items inside while Artemis set his backpack down in front of them.

Adell: What in the world are you supposed to do with these things?

Artemis stepped over to the barrel into which Adell was looking. It had a small sign perched on it upon which was scribbled "Polpa, 84 San." He looked inside and there were several leggy, bulbous pink things that resembled four-legged, baseball-sized octopi scurrying around in the water inside.

Artemis: Maybe they're for cooking?

Adell: Blech. I hope not.

Artemis: And could "san" be what their money is called?

Adell: Maybe.

Shopkeeper: Ah, I see you've found today's special!

Adell and Artemis both looked up from the barrel to see what was perhaps the strangest looking person they'd ever seen before. He was quite tall and most of his height was taken up by his long legs. His ears were long and pointed, which reminded both Adell and Artemis of an elf, yet he had a tail like a nekohuman. The most confusing part, however, were the tiny black wings he had sprouting from his back. They were clearly too small for him to take flight.

Both tried not to stare, but there were just too many unusual things to look at. The ears... the tail... especially the wings. Both wondered what he was but dared not ask.

Shopkeeper: Hmmm, I've never seen you two here before. You must be from across the river?

There was a moment of pause as Adell and Artemis thought quickly. It wasn't difficult. Technically, yes, they did come from across the river, so it was easy to answer in the affirmative.

Adell: Yes, that's right.

Shopkeeper: Well, good to have you here then! My name is Sra. If you need anything, don't be afraid to ask!

Adell: Do you have any ready-to-eat food at all?

Sra's eyes widened.

Sra: Ready-to-eat? Does that mean without cooking? Hmmm... Unless you're referring to fresh fruit, then I don't think I'm familiar with such a thing. It's not anything we carry, that's for sure.

Adell: Oh, well then, we'll just have a look around then.

Sra: Sure, sure. Take your time. It's usually quiet in here at this time of day, so let me know if you need anything.

Adell returned to browsing, unsure of whether or not he had asked something he shouldn't have. Sra stayed behind the counter, eyeing them both suspiciously. The longer they looked around, the more Adell thought that his question had made Sra leery of the two of them.

Sra: So, which neighborhood are you two from?

Artemis: Neighborhood?

Sra: Yeah, what neighborhood?

Both of them were stumped as they had no sense at all of the layout of the city or anything about the neighborhoods.

Adell: Oh, like you said... across the river, right?

Sra's eyes narrowed and lips tightened as he looked them up and down.

Sra: Right...

Adell, as inconspicuously as he could, edged closer to Artemis as Sra sat down on his stool and folded his arms across his chest.

Adell: We should probably get out of here.

Artemis: Agreed.

Just as they were about to formulate something to say so that they could exit gracefully, Sra spoke.

Sra: You two are a little old to have just come through the portal, aren't you? I can't think of any other explanation though.

Adell and Artemis looked at each other. They had two options, truth or lies. At this point, lies didn't seem to be getting them anywhere, so Adell decided to go with the truth this time.

Adell: Well, we did, not long ago. We were on an island surrounded by waterfalls. We found a tunnel and made our way here. That's the short version, anyway.

Sra: That explains a lot, really. Everyone from Volcano to the industrial zones knows what neighborhoods are what around here. I heard you two wondering about what "san" means too. Anyway, this puts me into quite a difficult situation.

As Sra spoke, he reached underneath the counter. Finally, he pulled out what appeared to be a large, old fashioned musket and pointed it at the two of them. Adell and Artemis immediately put their hands up.

Sra: I'm sorry about all this. Please don't move. It would be best for all of us if you didn't.

Commissioned art in this episode from:
Atomic Clover

All city pictures from SimCity 4

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