Carpathia III: Episode 10 - The World

The Unassumed Lands

Kaoru: Ooooooohhhhhh...

Light poured indelibly through the thin curtains and every moment of it was like searing, hot pain on Kaoru's closed eyes. Soon, the desire to see where he was overpowered his desire to keep his eyes shut for the rest of his life. Slowly, he squinted into the light, trying his best to focus through the pain and the throbbing headache. He did his best to take in his surroundings. He was in a small room with little more than the bed he was lying in and a small table next to it. Everything around him was made of a weathered, gray wood, like an old seaside shack, only sturdier. He avoided looking towards the window, the source of the light, for it still pained him and instead stared at the door with the battered, corroded doorknob on the other side of the room.

Still in his dazed fog, he made little attempt to move and desperately tried to piece together the last things he remembered happening to him. He remembered the dark void. He remembered walking for days through a bizarre forest like something out of a fantasy novel. As soon as he remembered getting shot, the pain in his leg instantly shot back into him. Existence, in general, was quickly becoming agonizing. By that time, he lost all desire to find out where he was or whether or not it was safe and submitted to the uncontrollable urge to lie where he was, move as little as possible, and moan incessantly.

It was soon after that the door opened and a woman came through pushing a rudimentary wheelchair. She was tall and slender, with long, black hair that shimmered like thin strands of silk flowing in a gentle breeze. He recognized her pointed ears as being similar to the girl and boy's ears whom he vaguely remembered meeting earlier. The wheelchair, if it could be called that, was really more of a regular wooden chair with a set of wheels nailed to it and a straight piece of wood attached to the front and it squeaked loudly as she pushed it into the room. Each squeak of the wheels reverberated in his head like he was standing next to a speaker at a rock concert.

Woman: Oh, you poor thing. You must feel perfectly awful.

Kaoru slowly slid his arms back and pushed himself up a little in the bed. The questions he'd been asking himself suddenly came roaring back into his throbbing head in a jumbled mash.

Kaoru: Who... Where...

The woman held up her hand and shook her head. Kaoru fell silent once again.

Woman: No need to talk. My name is Tarja. As for the "where," I'll let my husband explain that. It's sort of his hobby.

She spoke softly and kindly to him, and he was grateful for it. He had very little tolerance for noise and she seemed to understand that, allowing her soothing voice act like medicine on his afflicted brain. She turned her head towards the door and waved her hand towards it. Kaoru looked and saw Reuli peeking in.

Reuli: You're awake!

Kaoru winced at the sudden outburst of noise. He had no idea why his head throbbed the way it did. Its only benefit was to take his mind off the searing pain in his leg. Tarja raised her finger to her mouth, which instantly cowed Reuli, who swished his foot along the floor in embarrassment. He repeated himself, this time in an enthusiastic whisper.

Reuli: Sorry! You're awake!

Reuli, carrying a small bottle in his hands, tiptoed ludicrously across the room, taking large, exaggerated steps as he went. The scene was so ridiculous that Kaoru couldn't help but smile through the pain he was in. Tarja waited patiently for Reuli to traverse the short distance to where she was standing and took the bottle from his hand. She then turned and offered it to Kaoru.

Tarja: Here, drink this. I'm sure you have an awful hangover right now. This will help.

Kaoru took the small bottle and held it up to his nose. He sniffed it a little and found the scent to have a floral sweetness about it. He sipped a bit and it tasted as sweet as it smelled. A small part of him said that he shouldn't drink anything strange from these unusual people he did not know, but he was in too much pain to care and tipped the entire bottle into his mouth. The thick, molasses-like liquid slid down his throat and cooled his raging hot insides almost immediately. He licked greedily at the inside of the rim, taking in as much as possible before returning it to Tarja. Almost immediately, his head began to clear, though his leg was still in a great deal of pain.

Kaoru: Did you say, "hangover?" I don't think I've ever been drunk in my life.

Tarja put her hand on Kaoru's forehead, as though feeling for a fever.

Tarja: Frankly, I'm glad you don't seem to remember anything. I removed the bullet from your leg and stitched you up. I'm a fair doctor when it comes down to it, but nevertheless, it seemed prudent to fill you up with plenty of whiskey first. It dulls the pain.

Kaoru: Anesthetic would have been better.

Tarja tilted her head and frowned.

Tarja: What's that?

Suddenly, Kaoru was relieved that he didn't remember anything from the night before.

Tarja: I'm going to put some medicine on your wound later, but don't worry. It won't hurt this time. Not like last night, certainly. I imagine you want something to eat though, so we can start there. Ixon is dying to talk to you anyway.

Kaoru: I am a little hungry.

Tarja turned to Reuli.

Tarja: Can you help me get him into the chair?

Tarja slipped her hand under Kaoru's shoulder and gently pushed, nudging him upward. Reuli pushed the rudimentary wheelchair next to the bed so that he could slide into it. Slide, he did, slowly and arduously, with Tarja's help, into the chair. Once he was in the chair, Reuli grabbed his foot and slowly moved his wounded leg onto the plank that extended from the front of the wheelchair. His one remaining foot on the bed, he simply slid to the floor by himself.

Once he was in the chair, Tarja started wheeling him out of the room. Reuli lead the way, darting from the room like an excited dog. Tarja wheeled him through the doorway into a vast room that seemed to serve as a kitchen, dining room, and den all at the same time. In the center of the room was a large table full of papers, scrolls, and an old-fashioned electric lamp. At the end of the table sat a man with the same pointed ears that the rest of them had. He had neat, blonde hair and was dressed in red, creating a stark contrast to all the gray wood surrounding him. As soon as he saw Kaoru, he stood up clumsily, nearly knocking over a cup and an inkwell. He frantically tried to clean up the mess and greet Kaoru at the same time.

Man: There you are!

The man rushed excitedly over to Kaoru, frightening him a little. He snatched the chair from Tarja, who seemed more amused than annoyed by the man's excitement, and pushed him to the table. It was then that Kaoru suddenly noticed a fantastic smell coming from just under his nose. He looked down to see a plate of eggs, meat, and vegetables. The eggs had red yolks, the meat appeared to be ham, but it was succulently marbled, and he didn't recognize the vegetables being like anything he'd ever seen before.

Man: I'm Ixon! I'm so very happy to meet you!

Kaoru: I'm Kaoru. Kaoru Romanov.

Ixon: Yes, yes, I heard. Quilyon told me and I think you might have mentioned it once between your screams last night during surgery. What a racket that was! I think you could be heard all the way to Amphitrite! Let's see though, judging from your name and appearance, I'm going to guess you're from Carpathia, right?

Kaoru looked at Ixon in amazement.

Kaoru: I am! But how did you know?

Kaoru wasn't sure if he liked Ixon, though he couldn't help but find his enthusiasm and jumbled train of thought amusing.

Ixon: Well, first off, you're human, which means you're most likely from Earth, Mars, or Carpathia. Your name sounds more typically Carpathian, so I guessed that. I'm very pleased I got it right! Oh, but you want to eat! Go ahead, go ahead! I'm dying to know more about you, but I'll let you ask me anything you want first and then, if you don't mind, I'll ask you a few things.

Ixon returned to his chair and sat, leaning forward and putting his elbows on the table like an eager child awaiting a story. Kaoru had many questions, but his first was simple and obvious.

Kaoru: Where am I?

Ixon: Wow, you really are fresh out of the black portal, aren't you? Hmmm...

Ixon leaned back in his chair and put his hand to his cheek, trying to decide where to begin. Kaoru thought about asking him about the "black portal" he just mentioned but instead waited for him to finish thinking while he took a bite out of his egg.

Finally, he leaned forward and started shuffling through the papers on the table, pulling out a large map and placing it between them.

*click the picture for full resolution*

Ixon: You are on Yseri, a desert moon orbiting a giant, blue planet known as Amphitrite. What you see here on this map is the only known area that has enough water to be habitable.

Kaoru continued eating as he listened with great interest, now having finished his eggs and starting on what appeared to be the marbled ham.

Ixon: I've made several of these maps, so I can give you this one. I'll write down important things so you can remember.

When he finished writing, he pointed at an area at the southeastern corner of the map.

Ixon: I hope that makes things easier for you. You are here, in what we call the unassumed lands. Honestly, it doesn't have a name. Mostly it's forest here and pretty underpopulated. We don't attract much attention from Zhail that way. We make our living hunting animals and selling their pelts and meat to the farmers across the bridge from here. Quilyon is out hunting right now. Indeed, she left early today. Too afraid to face you, I'd say.

Next, Ixon swept his hand over the entire upper portion of the map.

Ixon: There are two nations here. First is the Kingdom of Zhail, which is the largest. They control most of the known water on the world and they are also very hierarchically structured. On top are the people who live in Zhail City. They are the aristocrats, if you will. Next are the farmers, who are given many privileges on account that they control most of Zhail's food supply. Next you have your service workers, who run shops and whatnot. The lucky ones do business in Zhail City itself and though they are of a lower class, they enjoy more privileges than most. On the bottom are the factory workers. Most people in Zhail fall into that category.

Ixon ran his finger to the lower left portion of the map. Kaoru sliced another piece of meat and put it in his mouth before he leaned in to get a closer look.

Ixon: This is the Nekramentia Compound. Not much is known about it, but I can tell you what I do know. It is rumored to be lead by a man named "Maelstrom." He's very mysterious. Nobody even seems to know what he looks like. The rest of the compound is populated almost entirely by children and teenagers as far as we know. Most are soldiers, but some work in mines or factories. Other than that, everything else is rumor. I've only known one person who's ever been near there and he didn't see much.

Kaoru finished chewing and swallowed just as Ixon finished speaking.

Kaoru: You said this was the only area on the moon with water?

Ixon: Other parts have some, but not much. Much of the moon is covered by the Arid Sea, which is a sort of sand ocean. There is a tremendous amount of electricity flowing through it. Nobody knows why it exists nor what is sustaining it. There are boats for it, but they're rare, since they're hard to build.

Kaoru: How did I get here?

Ixon leaned back in his chair and adopted a thoughtful expression.

Ixon: Ah, now that's the question, isn't it? No species here is native to Yseri as far as I know. My grandparents arrived here the same way you did, most likely. They told stories of disappearing into a black void before coming out somewhere on this moon. The strange thing is, almost everyone who arrives through the void, some describe it as a portal, are male children. When did you get here anyway?

Kaoru: A few days ago, I think. I'm not really sure. The days seem really long here.

Ixon: You'd be the oldest I've ever known to come through. Most were mere children when they arrived.

Kaoru: I was with five of my friends when I... uh... left. Have you seen any of them? There were... two nekohumans, a human, a tokki, and a dragon.

Ixon: I haven't heard anything, but I'll put word out. Before I do that though, what's a tokki?

Kaoru was surprised at first, and then remembered he was in a place where the people might not know the same species he does.

Kaoru: Well, they don't look much different from humans or nekohumans, except they have really long ears and a little, poofy tail.

Kaoru spread his hands apart to emphasize the length of tokki ears. He grew worried at the look of concern that played across Ixon's face at that moment.

Ixon: A rabbit! Oh my goodness, I've never seen a rabbit on Yseri in my life! Dear boy, you'd better hope he didn't come through the portal with you. For a thousand years, the standing law of the land has always been to kill all rabbits on site. Nobody knows why, but at least it's a law so old that I believe most have forgotten it. I sincerely hope so, at least.

Kaoru's stomach twisted in a knot and he suddenly lost his appetite. Ixon seemed to notice the sudden change in demeanor and stood from his chair.

Ixon: I promise you that we in the unassumed lands submit to neither the authority of Zhail or Nekramentia. If your rabbit friend is here in the unassumed lands, we will make sure to keep him safe! In the meantime, you are free to stay here for as long as you want. We take care of each other here in the woods. That's how things work.

Kaoru slumped in his chair, reassured, at least, that he was safe, but worried about his friends.

To be continued...

Commissioned art in this episode from:

All city pictures from SimCity 4
Map by Jporter

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