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Chapter 2 – From Farther Dunes

Written by Nate

On June 10, 2020

Chapter 2 – From Farther Dunes

Written by Nate

On June 10, 2020

Staylong, Sypend – The State of Time Magic

       She waited, and for the first time in a decade, it didn’t feel like forever. A late evening sun caressed her dark bare shoulders the same as it did the towering sand dunes and cliffs in the distance, warming both perfectly. The cutting angle of it made the wide parasol She held useless, but Bezel wanted her to carry it, which meant that it would be carried.
       “For the look.” He’d always said.
       They stood together, She and Bezel, at the end of a wooden dock that extended far into the Northern Sea, the vast blue azure surrounding them. She was positioned almost entirely within Bezel’s shadow, which wasn’t a tough task as he was a very rotund, draped man, and She’s figure was well known citywide to cause tavern brawls from new visitors.
        Sunlight glinted off of Bezel’s many colorful jeweled pendants. Vivid turquoise and orange played upon the planks of the thousand pace dock underneath their feet, moving to the tune of the crashing waves and whistling wind. Waiting isn’t so bad here, She thought to herself. For once, it felt like time was actually passing, and it was welcomed.
       Bezel pulled out a small golden telescope from his robe and extended it towards the horizon, scanning slowly. She couldn’t see much in the distance, and wasn’t convinced that a telescope would reveal much more from where they stood, as the cliff-lined beaches of Staylong only provided so much of a view towards the rest of the seas.

       Bezel’s brow furrowed slightly as he folded up the telescope and shoved it back inside a pocket. “Well, he should be here soon. I was told he would arrive by sundown today, and Ceradans aren’t known to be late.” He said, still looking around.
       She continued to stare at the horizon, revealing no emotion. It was the first time that Bezel had mentioned anything about why she was there. A Ceradan was coming, and he was important enough to bring her along to receive him. Whoever he was, Bezel wished to make a good impression, which meant there was something in it for him; of which there always was.
       Bezel curled a long white beard between his middle finger and thumb. Twisting it impatiently. She knew that Bezel hated waiting, and could hear his long exhales that only came out when he was focusing heavily. The Ceradan, whoever he was, could be as late as he wanted. She was greatly enjoying the change in her daily routine. Waiting was always better than serving. Even here…
       She’s black silken hair tossed in the wind as she looked backwards at Staylong, the resort city standing behind them. Palm studded beaches wrapped around the land, with pristine golden sand meeting the bright blue water. Children and parents played together, splashing in slow waves in front of the many curved buildings. Lovers laughed on long walks, lost in each other as the sky exploded with color. It was very much a heaven, for those fortunate enough to visit.
       After ten years behind the gates, She wondered what it was like to merely visit Staylong. What it was like to arrive for the first time, or leave for the last. One day she would find out. One day she would be truly free again.
       “Come, She. Let’s go back. I don’t see any boats on the horizon, and if he arrives later in the evening the dockhands will alert me. Every moment we waste here waiting is time we could spend for Staylong.” Bezel said, wheeling about and starting his journey back down the lengthy dock.
       “Yes, Bezel.” She said, trailing him as soft waves crested around them, swishing at the thick wooden supports of the dock.
       Twenty or so boats were tied up to different slips. Some of them were owned by Bezel for resort purposes, but most were the vessels of resort guests. Bezel and She approached a monstrous longship, covered in light and dark blue wood stains that ran the entire length of the ship that was clearly built in Rybo. No State mastered the waters as they did, and their ships were immediately recognizable, albeit hard to spot when seabound due to the colors they were so often cloaked in. Bezel noticed She looking at the boat, which admittedly would have been tough to miss.
       “Tuula the Flood may grace us with her presence in Staylong soon.” Bezel said as they passed. “A representative of Rybo is here right now experiencing our dear city and making sure that it would be…fit for a Champion. Which it of course will be.” 
       She took extra notice of the wooden wings of the ship which had seats hanging out over the water so that Coreborne crew could propel the ship by manipulating the waves underneath them. She wondered if they were indentured as well. 
       What a funny thought, She contemplated, being Coreborne, yet still a slave. What was it like to be so lucky to work with the world’s magics, yet still not really be free.
       “It will be the first time a Champion comes here, which means that it won’t be the last. This is just the beginning, She.“ Bezel said as he bumbled along towards the docking gates of Staylong. Two massive arches rose out of the sea and over the dock, marking the border. Glowing turquoise and orange jewels made up the keystones, mimicking Bezel’s many accessories.
       It was a fleeting trip beyond the gates, but that was to be expected. The two crossed under the arches, back once again inside the magical perimeter of the city. She wondered when she would walk outside of the gates again.
       Tam, a man who’s golden feathered hair laid over his shoulders traipsed out of a small building by the dock as the two approached.
       “Bezel, a runner just came by. You’re needed at the Desert Gate…The Ceradan didn’t take a ship to get here it seems.” Tam said.
       “He came through the desert? It’s a 10 day trip at least…” Bezel said, shocked. “He’s going to kill his horse like that.”
       “Apparently he’s just walking. So either it died already or he walked the entire way.” Tam replied, shrugging.
       Bezel twirled his favorite length of beard once more between his fingers and looked at the fading sun briefly. “Right on time….Very well. We must receive him properly. She, come.” Bezel said as he took off through what was the Staylong’s main thoroughfare.
       She’s purple silks rippled in their hurry, helped in tandem with the slight sea breeze. Small taverns and shops lined the road, each unique and colorful. People sat around with loved ones and friends, enjoying their time together with food from the street vendors and drinks.
       She noticed one small group of people all drinking together, a ravishing woman with braided blonde hair and blues draped around her laughed with the group. The representative from Rybo, surely.
       Another group shared a palm frond filled with spice-roasted fish filets, one of Staylong’s many specialties. The addicting smell wafted all the way through the main corridor, attracting more and more patrons; however, it disappeared immediately as the two rounded a corner at the end of the street and were met with the unforgiving space of open desert. The manned gates of the city not far off, sitting under two arches identical to the ones standing over the dock.
       Sand whisked through their feet as they reached the gates. The guards ignored Bezel and She as they passed through in lock step, something She would only experience while in Bezel’s tow. Had She tried to leave through the gates on her own, she would have been laughed at by the guards. She savored the feeling of being free, even if only for the moment, as it was such a rare occurrence. 
       The two of them climbed to the top of the Welcoming Dune, a towering shift of sand that resort-goers would often climb to get the best view of Staylong, and the picturesque lands of Sypend. It was no doubt one of the best viewpoints in the area, even if it was unfortunately just outside of the city’s perimeter. Guests were always saying it was well worth the time spent.
       She’s calves burned like the sun as they reached the apex of the dune, and she wasn’t out of shape by any means. At least the time seemed to go by fast as they climbed. If the Ceradan walked all this way, his legs must be about to fall right off.
       She was especially surprised that Bezel made it up to the top without keeling over and rolling back down to the bottom, as he wasn’t exactly known for his physical fitness, and his round nature would surely make stopping his momentum near impossible once he got rolling. His excitement was unmistakable, though, as was his panting.
       Sypend opened up to them as they stood on top of the tower of sand. The golden desert shone bright with mirages against the pink laced sky. Massive crags rose from the ground sporadically, and between all of that, a man could be seen walking towards the gates.
       Bezel pulled out his telescope once more, getting a closer view of the traveler. She could barely see him at that distance, and was hoping Bezel would be grateful enough to let her look this time. If not, she could wait. She was used to it.
       “Yes. This is exactly who we need…” Bezel said, handing over the telescope with his leathery hands. “Go ahead, She, take a look and tell me what you see.”
       She took the telescope from Bezel. It was surprisingly heavy in her grip, and the ornate coiled metals on the exterior felt pleasant on her soft palms. With the piece now aimed at the traveler, She could see him plain as day. He was a huge man, strong in every way one could think. Ceradans were often joked to be “rock people”, but this man led She to believe that there was more truth to the joke than it previously seemed. 

       He was covered in the tans and browns of Cerada, a long cape extending from his hood trailed flippantly, and a large crate was slung across his back. As he traversed the desert, he manipulated the sand in front of him into large stepping stones with ease, making the journey a thousand times easier, as there were no roads in the unmanned desert.
       Initially, She figured that the Ceradan guest would be yet another wealthy consort; this time merely wealthier. However, it was clear by looking at the man that he was a builder, and an incredibly skilled one, at that.
       She pulled the telescope from her eye and handed it back to Bezel, thinking how best to answer his little idea of a test. While it did help to play dumb on occasion in his presence, She could only stand that game for so long.
       “I see new additions to Staylong before Tuula’s visit.” She said.
       “Quite correct, She.” Bezel replied, smiling at her deduction. A bit of joy began to infect him as he trudged down the front of the dune, kicking up tufts of sand. She followed him once more.
       “Finding workers here has never been easy, as I’m sure you’re well aware.” Bezel stated mid-stride. “Now, let’s go meet the man who will help us change the face of Staylong, forever.”
       She delicately hopped down the dune behind Bezel, taking extra care to use the now compacted footsteps that he left behind. It wasn’t long before they reached the bottom, and fortunately it was a less demanding trip. Nevertheless, Bezel had to steady his breathing as the traveler finally reached the two of them.
       “Kind sir of the famed State of Cerada, welcome to Staylong, the greatest resort in all of Ismet. I am Bezel, and I take care of everything here.” He said in a joyous welcoming tone that She had heard too many times to count.
       “It’s my pleasure. Always happy to have work. You may call me Regis.” He replied in a deep, slow tone from his cavernous chest.
       “Well, Regis, we’re always happy to provide work for those who are looking for it. To be truthful with you, it isn’t the easiest of times finding people to work here. Have you been told why that is?” Bezel prodded.
       “I have not. This is my first journey into Sypend. Osgoode simply tells me where to go, and as long as there’s rock, I build when I get there. I’ve yet to be stumped by any project, so whatever you need, I can complete it for you.” Regis answered.
       “Oh I have complete faith that you have the skills to build anything I could dream up, and as you can see, we have no shortage of rock. However, there’s an extra little element here that makes finding the most talented builder possible a priority.” Bezel said, now looking back at the lands behind them.
       “You see, while the resort behind you is beautiful, our climate perfect, and our food delicious…none of these reasons are why our guests come to visit Staylong. People from all across Ismet come because when you walk through the gates over there, it will feel as if time has slowed down.” Bezel continued.
        “Oh. Shit…” Regis said.
        Bezel let out a small laugh. He always relished in people’s first discovery of the secret power of Staylong. “Oh, shit indeed. This magical facet of our city allows our guests to take the greatest possible advantage of their visit to this utopia, making it an incredibly memorable occasion. Alas, as you can guess, staffing is…less of a delightful experience.”
       “I see.” Regis said, staring at the glittering gates.
       “Of course, those who work hard here, get to reap the rewards of Staylong as well.” Bezel said, missing She’s tiny eye roll. “I can promise you that your stay after the build will be the pleasure of a lifetime.”
       Regis shifted his gaze to the other buildings of the resort. “You don’t need to sweeten the pot, Bezel. I’m a builder, and I take great joy in the fact that people admire my work. Here, people will be able to enjoy it for even longer. Staylong’s magic is no deterrent to me. Not in the slightest.” Regis reasoned in his low hum.
       Bezel rejoiced. “My friend! This is exactly the spirit of Staylong! Yet I assure you, I’ve no desire to sweeten the pot, only to supply you with the true Staylong experience. This is exactly why She is here…” Bezel said, gesturing towards the shimmer in purple. “With her, you can relax as you please after your long journey…and you’ll have all the time in the world…”
       She stepped forward a pace towards Regis and stopped with a small bow. Looking up, she met his dark eyes.
       At least he was handsome.

Next Chapter – “Fig’s Tavern”

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