Carpathia III: Episode 53 - The River
The outskirts of Nekramentia
Jaze and Ryuu found themselves on the end of a peninsula with the Arid Sea between them and the land on the other side.
Jaze: Now what?
Keast: I'm glad you made it.
Jaze was concentrating on Ryuu so much, he failed to notice Keast sitting down the hill by the bank of the Arid Sea. Ryuu swooped in for a landing.
Jaze: Keast! Thanks so much for everything and for making yourself a target earlier. You saved my butt.
Keast: You're welcome. Anything for one of Ryuu's friends.
Ryuu: That was good thinking drawing the guard's attention. I should have thought of that earlier.
Keast: We didn't have much time for planning, but I'm glad it occurred to me. Anyway, shall we?
Ryuu: Yes, we should.
Jaze: Shall we what?
Ryuu: I'm not big enough to carry you across the sand, so Keast has to do it.
Jaze: Oh, that makes sense. So, what should I do.
Keast: Just stand still.
Keast walked up behind Jaze and scooped his arms up under Jaze's armpits. Without a word, Keast flapped his wings hard several times, lifting Jaze straight into the air. Slowly, they began to move forward, descending little by little. Jaze watched as the Arid Sea passed underneath him. Keast held him tightly, flapping furiously.
Progress was slow, as Keast labored mightily to keep them both aloft. Finally, they reached the other side. Keast descended and placed Jaze on the ground where Ryuu joined him. Keast sat cross-legged on the ground and breathed heavily.
Jaze: Thanks again. I owe you a lot. Are you coming with us?
Keast: No, I'm not, but I wish you both the best of luck.
Jaze: Aw, why not?
Keast: The Imperial Soldiers don't come out this way very often, but I don't like to risk it. Unlike the kids at the compound, the soldiers have much better aim.
Jaze: Am I really safer on this side of the sand?
Keast: You are. I'm not. They don't like bats, for some reason. There's a village a few hours walk from here. Just go north until you reach the river and then follow it upstream until you reach the village.
Jaze: Wow, I barely know you and I know I'm going to miss you.
Jaze stepped forward and hugged Keast.
Jaze: Take care, and thanks again.
Keast: Just send Ryuu if you want to visit. I'll wait here for you.
And then, Keast took off and flew back over the Arid Sea. Jaze and Ryuu watched as he faded into the distance and they couldn't see him anymore.
With nothing left to do but continue their journey, Jaze and Ryuu walked north. With the danger behind them, Ryuu chose to walk alongside Jaze. As far as they could see, there was nothing but endless dirt and scrub that lay before them.
Jaze: How did you and Keast meet?
Ryuu: I was alone for a long time. After I was sucked into that black hole thing, I came out in the middle of nowhere. I spent most of my time looking for water to drink and small animals to eat. I was alone for so long, I thought I was probably going crazy by the time I met Keast. One night, I saw a light in the distance. It was the first thing of that sort that I had seen in who knows how long. I flew towards the light and there was Keast. I landed, sat beside him, and introduced myself. All he said in reply was, "I was wondering when you'd find me." We talked for awhile. He'd been alone too for a long time. We talked about him. We talked about me. I talked about my friends. That's when he told me about the compound and how he met someone there who was unusual because he arrived around the same time I did and and he was older than everyone else when they arrived. After he described him more, I knew it was you.
Jaze: Not a moment too soon.
Ryuu: It took a long time of planning to figure out how to get you away from that place. We were almost ready, and then they had to screw it up by making everyone attack that village. We even tried to go in and get you while they were headed back, but we couldn't even get close. Too many of them and too much gunfire.
Jaze: I'm glad nothing happened to you. That would have been horrible.
Suddenly, Jaze thought about Mitani and wondered if Ryuu knew anything about that.
Jaze: What do you know about the things that happened at the compound?
Ryuu: Only what Keast told me. Why?
It sounded as though Ryuu didn't know about what happened with Mitani. He wasn't interested in pursuing the subject any further, so he let it rest.
Jaze: No reason.
They continued walking, exchanging only a few words during that time, mostly pointing out minute changes in the landscape that seemed much more important considering how monotonous everything was. Jaze's legs and feet felt spectacularly weak and each step he took felt like he was lifting heavy weights. Eventually, the sun began to rise, sending rays of light slowly spreading across the sand, reflecting off the dancing crystals of the Arid Sea. Beautiful as it was, they knew they had little time left before the temperature started to rise rapidly.
In the distance, they noticed a rise in the landscape, which was the only interesting thing to see for miles around. Slowly, it came closer and closer as they walked. When they finally reached it, the sun was up and it was already becoming hot. Jaze started to climb the hill. As he got higher, he could hear the distinct sound of water flowing. Excited, Jaze climbed faster, eager to see if his ears were not deceiving him.
As Jaze reached the top of the hill, he looked down the other side and was delighted to see a wide river with trees and bushes along the bank. Suddenly, all the weariness drained away from him and he ran down the hill towards the gorgeous, flowing water. As he reached the thin forest, his exuberance almost lead him to run headlong into several of the trees and, aside from a few scrapes, managed to miss all of them. When he reached the bank, he gazed at the water, all the water, and laughed almost deliriously.
Right away, Jaze started stripping off all of his clothes, stopping at his underwear. When he took off his socks, his camera fell out. He'd forgotten all about it, but just let it lay where it fell. Then he ran gleefully into the river.
Jaze dunked his head under the water over and over, allowing it to cleanse all the dirt and grime of untold ages off of him. He spun around, dragging his hand in the water like a little raceboat, all the while, giggling like a schoolgirl.
Then, Jaze caught a glimpse of Ryuu on the shore, sitting on the ground and smiling at him. Jaze, overwhelmed with glee and gratitude, waded through the water as fast as he could towards him. When he reached Ryuu, he picked him up and squeezed him tightly. The warmth of Ryuu's fuzzy body on his wet skin warmed his soul.
Jaze: Thank you, Ryuu, for everything.
All city pictures from SimCity 4