Carpathia III: Episode 56 - The Outlands

The River

After resting through the day and into the night, Jaze and Ryuu started walking again down the banks of the river. It wasn't long before the sun came up and the heat became stifling once again. The river flowed through a shallow valley, but it was enough to drive the humidity to an almost sauna-like level. That was, at least, what it felt like to Jaze. The air at the compound was as dry as an oven and he was used to that now. He certainly wasn't used to this and the more he walked, the more difficult he found it to breathe. They stopped frequently so that Jaze could splash himself with the cool water from the river and eat some berries from the bushes that lined the bank.

It helped for only a short time. It only took a few minutes for the water he splashed on his face to feel no different than sweat. The longer the morning dragged on and the hotter the sun became, the slower they progressed. More and more often, Jaze stopped to douse himself with water and it was less effective each time. Before long, he started feeling woozy and his stomach was churning like the high seas.

Jaze: I don't feel so good.

Jaze continued to trudge along in more and more of a stagger as Ryuu took a moment to fly up and look ahead.

Ryuu: We're almost to the village. Just a little further!

Jaze: I don't think I can make it.

Jaze sat down and held his head in his hands.

Jaze: Go find someone to help me.

With that, Jaze flopped to the ground.

Ryuu: Jaze!

Ryuu hesitated a few moments, turning back and forth between Jaze and the village. Finally, he flapped his wings hard and rose into the air. As fast as he could, he flew to the nearby village, hoping to find someone who could help.


The first thing Jaze noticed when he awoke was a massive headache thundering in his head. It took some time before he was aware of the rest of his surroundings. It seemed too painful to open his eyes, so he lay where he was for as long as he could. The next thing he realized is that he was laying on something soft, rather than the hard, warm ground. Suddenly, he felt a light jab at his ribs, and then another, and another. Someone was poking him.

Voice: Nita, I think he's waking up!

Voice: Now honey, stop poking him like that. Keep the fan on him.

Jaze was suddenly overwhelmed with memories of the compound and for a moment, was absolutely certain he was there again. He sat up suddenly from where he lay and immediately backed against the wall and surveyed his surroundings. A small boy who was standing nearby, holding a hand fan, jumped back in surprise. An older woman near a stove turned and looked at what the commotion was. Jaze immediately began looking around nervously for a way out and was happy to see an open door on the other side of the room. More and more, things didn't seem right at all. There was no Jump. No Mirage. The room was made of old, sun-dried, wooden planks and he was sitting in a bed. Finally, the older lady spoke as she slowly made her way towards him.

Old lady: Oh my, you gave us both quite a start. I'm glad you're awake. Are you feeling better?

Jaze relaxed only slightly. He was still on high alert, scanning around him for danger like a frightened bird.

Old lady: Try and relax, dear.

The old lady turned to the boy.

Old lady: Aten, would you go get him some water?

Aten: Okay!

Aten scurried off. The old lady continued towards Jaze and sat on the end of the bed near him.

Old lady: You're safe here, far away from the compound, Jaze. My name is Nita.

Nita reached over to a nearby end table and picked up a basket of vivid, yellow-green objects.

Jaze: H-how do you know my name?

Nita: Your little flying kitty friend, Ryuu, told us.

Jaze relaxed much more with this news. If she knew Ryuu, then he felt much more certain that he was indeed in a safe place.

Jaze: Oh, you know Ryuu!

Nita: He's the one who fetched help for you. Here, eat one of these. It'll help you feel better.

Nita held out one of the yellow-green objects. As he leaned forward to look at it, he guessed that it was probably some sort of fruit.

Jaze: What is it?

Nita: It's a kinro fruit. They're very good and they help settle your stomach. Your stomach is probably fine by now, but it certainly can't hurt to have one. Ryuu tells me you ate some of the purple berries along the riverbank. That's why you passed out. They cause all kinds of problems.

Jaze reached out and took the fruit from Nita's hand. It was fuzzy and soft, like a kiwi. He looked at it for a moment and sniffed it hesitantly. It had no smell that he could discern. Finally, he popped it in his mouth. He found it delightfully juicy and sweet.

Nita: I see you like it. That's good. Take as many as you like.

Nita placed the small basket in front of Jaze.

Nita: I know it's going to take some time to get used to the idea, but I want you to know, you are safe here. We are far from the compound from where you came.

Jaze swallowed quickly as his ears perked up with interest.

Jaze: You know about the compound?

Nita: Mostly stories from the people who escaped and ended up here. My grandmother told me that the compound used to raid this village, which is why they got together and dug the breach in the land south of here. I have to ask, how did you cross it?

Jaze: I have another friend who can fly. He carried me.

Nita put her hand on her chest and took a deep breath.

Nita: That is good news. I feared you walked across. The land has slowly been sliding into the gap over the years and I am worried that it will become easy to walk across soon.

From outside, they could hear footsteps approaching. It wasn't just Aten, for there were more than two. Instinctively, Jaze's body tensed as he pressed his back up against the wall again and started looking for a way out. He relaxed again when Ryuu flew in the door first, followed by Aten and a blonde man.

Jaze stared, transfixed, at the blonde man, realizing that he'd been at the compound so long, he'd nearly forgotten what a fully-mature adult looked like, aside from Thirteen. His sweaty, tan skin glistened where the light shone on it and Jaze couldn't help staring at his well-developed abs.

Ryuu: Jaze!

Ryuu flew fast into Jaze's chest. Jaze braced for a hard impact, but Ryuu arced up at the last moment and landed softly on his lap.

Ryuu: It's okay, this is a nice place. You can relax here!

Aten: I got the water!

Aten brought the water to Jaze, which he gratefully accepted.

Jaze: Thank you.

Blonde Man: Well, it's good to see you awake! Your little furball friend here asked me to help and I carried you here.

Jaze's ears sagged as he looked away from Jacob.

Jaze: I'm sorry for the trouble.

Blonde Man: Aw, don't worry about it. Something different to do besides picking veggies all day, isn't it?

Jaze smiled, finding the blonde man's demeanor, which he found disarming in its cheerfulness.

Nita: Jaze, this is Jacob. He escaped from the compound just like you did.

Jaze: Really?

Jacob: Ha! You seem surprised!

Jaze: Well, they tell you from the beginning that escape is impossible and that they'll hunt you down if you try. I'm ashamed to admit it, but I actually believed them for awhile.

Jacob: Don't feel bad about that. They are almost right. It's very hard. Until you got here, I was the last person who escaped... to this village, anyway.

Nita: Okay, okay, enough chit chat, everyone. I need you to help me with dinner...

Nita stopped suddenly and gestured at Jaze to stay where he was.

Nita: ...not you, dear. You need your rest. Then we can all talk over a nice meal together.

All of them went to work cooking. Nita and Jacob prepared the main courses while Aten put together a nice salad. Jaze felt guilty just sitting on the bed and not helping, but whenever he even thought about getting up to help, Nita told him to stay where he was. When everything was done, they all sat together at the table and Jaze at a meal that was more nourishing than he'd had in a long time.

Commissioned art in this episode from:

All city pictures from SimCity 4

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