Chapter 45: Temple Visit
A steady stream of people., carriages and mounted riders was flowing through the open gates of [Thurgau].
Smells, visual stimuli and other kinds of exciting novelties had invaded the injured dragon’s world, she helplessly tried to process the overwhelming amount of information on the carriage as it was heading to the gates; the left side seemed to be meant for people waiting to enter the city, the right side apparently reserved for people exiting Leandar’s capital.
Three groups of soldiers were scrutinizing those that wished to enter the city, clad in the regular red and green uniform of the Leandar kingdom, not paying much attention to the people leaving as this task was that of their counterparts stationed inside the walls.
The queue was composed of individuals from races exotic to Nisha; it was a gloriously colorful maelstrom of hovering mana and aura. Although most of the people she saw were humans, the little girl could spot an occasional elf, or a barbarian, and many other humanoid beings she couldn’t name; all those people were carrying tens of different kinds of weaponry and hundreds of unknown items, making it thousands of new scents.
The spectacle had attracted her whole attention, but the distracted elven girl snapped out of it when Lance Corporal Hale touched her shoulder, a concerned look on her face.
“Are you alright? You suddenly stopped responding, you didn’t react when I called your name.”
As a medicus, the lance corporal had worried when she had seen her patient absentmindedly staring at absolutely nothing, and she was relieved to get a normal reply.
“Yes, it’s nothing … there are just so many people here! I thought the army camp in front of [Blackquarry] was big, but compared to this? It’s not even a pebble in front of a boulder!
Reflectively, many curious stares were also directed towards the carriage that had came out of the behemoth that was the gigantic wooden ship which had landed just a short while ago in front of the capital.
However, there were no signs that panic had started to spread, only some inquisitive glances thrown over the steady humming of whispers, a reaction akin to the angry buzzing of a giant bee hive faced with an intruder.
I hope they won’t treat us like those [Poisonous Honey Bees] treated me though. I still get goosebumps when I think back to that day …
As the carriage came closer to the gate, a small group of soldiers exited the city, heading straight towards them.
Anticipating their arrival, the half-elf slowed down, giving Nisha more time to gawk at the crowd massed in front of the wall.
[Thurgau]’s fortifications were different from [Blackquarry]’s, it was twice the height of an average soldier, but it didn’t look particularly sturdy or well maintained. The dragon estimated that she would be easily able to scale the wall without using aura reinforcement, by climbing from the cracks to the rifts in the stone wall.
The incoming soldiers were three, an officer in a messy uniform stained with various smudges of dubious origin, and two young males, one of them attempting to say something to his superior upon spotting the half-elf on the driver’s seat.
Unwilling to listen to his subordinate, the dirty leader brushed him aside and approached the party.
“I dun’ know who ya are, but I can spot a dirty Terus bitch from a mile away. Whoever ye are, turn around ‘and take your ship with you, we don’t welcome your kind around here.”
His shaky steps had reminded Nisha of something, and the slurred speech gave her the last hint she needed.
Regrettably this was linked to a somewhat embarrassing memory for her; she had pestered her grandfather as they were enjoying the warm summer winds to organize a barbeque in the cottage’s surrounding fields into sharing the contents of his alcohol flask with her, he had never allowed her to drink and she had felt it unfair, what kind of dragon wouldn’t handle its alcohol?.
With little to no resistance to the wine’s high alcohol concentration, the little dragon had only hazy bits of memory regarding that particular evening, but the shreds that had remained were enough to paint a deep crimson shade on her ivory cheeks even now.
Hale didn’t seem to mind the officer’s insult, her experience in the medical field denying her the possibility to ignore the man’s drunken state.
Luthais frowned, looking coldly at the man.
“And who might you be? To bar the way of a noble from your own kingdom? Especially when he’s escorting an injured family member to the temple, in urgent need of a healing? Are you a noble yourself?”
Realizing that Luthais was wearing a ring with his house crest, the guard paled before stumbling back and hastily bowing to the half-elf.
This is not going to end well for that stinking man.
“Please do tell, I’m very interested to know who dares drinking on his watch, and then stirs trouble for his marshal.”
Luthais’ frosty tone sent a shiver down Nisha’s back even though he wasn’t talking to her, she knew him well enough to understand how important duty was to him; the drinking soldier shouldn’t expect any mercy.
“Sir, I had no idea! Please forgive me, my name is Amasar, Captain Amasar, I’m the one overseeing the east gate today.
You can pass the gate straight away, no need for a search.”
Perspiration running down his brows in a steady stream, the captain was cursing his luck as the shock sobered him up, his subordinates were having a hard time suppressing their grins.
“You are fortunate to see us hurry, the injury is grave. We’ll enter the city, now, I take it you won’t make things difficult for us?”
“Of course not, sir, go ahead, sir.
Raising his hand and gesturing to the guards at the gate, the captain continuously bowed to convey his gratitude while his soldiers were stopping the people pressing to get ins the city to let their carriage go through the heavy doors first.
That kind of stern military interaction interested the dragon, however the conversation between the half-elf and the soldiers was buried in the marvels that revealed themselves as the cart penetrated the city’s defenses.
From beyond the walls the upper halves of some buildings had been visible, they were mostly wooden constructions painted in different faded colours.
If the herd outside [Thurgau] had already disturbed Nisha’s senses, then the broad main road leading deeper inside the city was a complete sensory overload.
Her head was turning left and right, trying to watch everything at once.
So many people … scents … feelings. This place is making me dizzy.
Road stands lined the path, merchants were shouting, praising their wares , each contesting as to who would be the loudest among their neighbours.
A sea of people was flooding the street, heads were surging up and down, countless citizens hurrying to their destination.
Annabelle, Lydia and Hale were conversing , the dragon was able to pick up snippets of their discussion through the deafening tumult, however she couldn’t tell what they were talking about.
Being in a place with so many life forms was a first for her, everything felt breathtaking for a country girl like her.
While the girls were chatting and Nisha was busy dealing with the multitude of feelings raining down on her, the half-elf on the driver seat led his company towards the temple.
Another wall appeared on their path – Nisha still unable to tell if the journey took forever or only a moment due to the immense information bombarding her – this time far more sturdy and well maintained.
The second wall’s guards had a neat look, one of them recognized the marshal and let them through without asking for Luthais’ signet ring.
Beyond the second wall the scenery completely changed again, most buildings were built out of solid stone rather than wood, and there were no street vendors anymore.
They were apparently replaced by various stores, their goods lined behind large glass fronts.
Grandpa told me about those shops. I always wanted to visit one. Maybe I can find a present for Hale, she really helped me out.
She had no idea how a store was working nor did she know that Hale would be much more delighted to be gifted one of the weapons or armors in her [Soul Space], the prospect of shopping simply enticed her because of the stories her grandfather and her older sisters had told her.
Advancing further from the checkpoint of the second gate, the buzzling first area’s noise quieted down, enabling the dragon to calm down and regain a semblance of normality.
The ground was free of the mud that had littered the outer district, the people traversing these streets wore clothing of a higher quality and the stone buildings had been erected to last longer than just a single lifetime.
With each step, the decorations on the houses and the clothing were getting more extravagant until the carriage stopped in front of a large building made of white stone, a seven pointed star hanging above the entrance, that was big enough to fit ten of the likes of Luthais’ carriages side by side.
Not only did the construction have glass windows, it was even coloured and shaped into various mystical creatures, seemingly flying towards an unlimited freedom, in a large glass fresco framing the central star, when the warm sunlight was playing over it.
“We’re here. Lance Corporal Hale, Anna, Lydia, please accompany Nisha inside. I will take the carriage and head towards the third gate, I’ll send you another carriage to fetch you when you are done, my servant will find you.”
Pulling his ring from his finger and throwing it to the lance corporal, the elf continued.
“Show the temple’s retainers this, and the high priest will probably see you.
I need to inform His Majesty about my father’s death, and about the end of the siege as soon as possible. I also have to hand over the letter the Terus commander handed me, so you might end up waiting for me for a while.
See you soon.”
Not leaving any time for anyone to question his decision, the half-elf vanished into the streets with the [Strider Deer] and the carriage.
Nisha’s curiosity had made her forget about the pain induced by the wound tugging at her shoulder and torso, unconsciously replacing the ache with excitement, and the prospect of walking in a magnificent building for the first time since she had left the cottage in the hunting grounds was no different from the previous thrilling encounters.
It’s the first time I am in a temple.
Taking Annabelle’s and Lydia’s hands, Nisha curiously headed inside, her golden eyes wide open, marveling at the elegance of the building, the humongous straight pillars carved out of the same ivory white material as the walls standing like millenary trees, forever unmovable.
The main hall was leading to seven smaller halls, each entrance decorated with the seven pointed star under a sign; Nisha recognized four of them, flame for fire, drop of rain for water, small rock for earth and gust for wind.
The other three halls bore respectively a small black spot, a white pillar and an hourglass.
If all elements are supposed to be represented, then the dark mark stands for the darkness element and the pillar for light. But what is the hourglass?
“Let’s look for a priest, we should find one at the hall of light.”
The lance corporal’s voice rang from behind the three sisters, the woman was pointing at the light pillar’s chamber.
“If we can’t find one there, we’ll look in the other halls.”
“Have you been here before, Hale? You seem to know the way.”
Annabelle’s observation made sense, and Lydia and Nisha also looked towards Hale with interest.
Revealing a small smile, the soldier shook her head.
“I’ve never been here before, but all of the [Church of the Aspects]’s temples have the same layout. One hall for each god. One god for each element.”
Leading the way, the party silently crossed the main hall where all sounds were muffled, there were a few other people pacing in the quiet temple, heading mainly towards the first four elements, a few going to the white pillar, but every single individual avoided the hourglass.
There was a solemn atmosphere inside the building, a silent pressure weighing on the visitors that seemed to inform them about the holiness of this place that couldn’t have been felt in the outside world, as imposing as the streets and shops might have been.
The dragon, who was able to perceive more than the others, felt her shoulders stiffened under that formless air.
Thick clouds of aura and mana were circling around the hall, and winding on the pillars before exiting through the roof, a big white stone dome with the ever present seven pointed star painted in gold on it.
The streams were originating from each of the elemental sections, matching the respective colour of their element, acting like living beings.
Akin to the energy duct Nisha had discovered on the [Novus Terram], she could only see these energies as having no origin, as, in her mind, the only things that could generate such powers were living beings.
Intrigued by this oddity, the otherwise lively dragon remained silent and entered the [Hall of Light] without uttering a word, staring in wonder at the snakes of power that sometimes touched one of the visitors, but were mostly staying away from them, dancing in the air according to a mystical choreography.
The hall itself was nothing special, a simple chamber filled with benches in front of a large stone block, various white candle stands scattered around.
A few people were sitting, their heads lowered in prayer, while others – clad in white robes – were wandering, talking to the praying ones in low voices.
However, the thing that immediately caught Nisha’s attention was the large hovering figure floating above the stone, a delicate humanoid with three set of white, dove-like wings on its back.
The being was visibly brimming with power and was the origin of the mana and aura lines, dispersing them throughout the room, its eyes closed in some kind of serene expression. Merely being near to the angel was saturating Nisha in a feeling of peace and bliss.
One of the immaculate robes drew closer, casting an insecure glance at the armor and weapon Lance Corporal Haze carried, before crossing the last step between them and bowing curtly.
Before he had a chance to ask them about the purpose of their visit, Hale pulled out the half-elf’s heavy ring, presenting it on her open hand.
“We have an injured member of this house with us, we want to see the high priest.
Is he here?”
Being attacked without being given any room to retaliate, the priest’s eyes darted from the ring to the Terus emblem on Hale’s breastplate, then back to the ring, visibly wondering how the deer that was cut into the gem stone could have ended up in a Terus’ woman’s hand.
“It will be done according to the gods’ will mam, would you follow me? I will tell the honored high priest that you request an audience, but his holiness’ time is precious, I will pray for you to behold his presence promptly after your request have been made.”
As he was about to turn around and walk away, the lance corporal grabbed him by his arm, turning him to look into his eyes, the thunder in hers almost sending sparks flying.
“I think you don’t understand lad. He will see us if he is here, this is not a request but an order. Now go.”
Terrified by the rough treatment, the priest scampered away, running to the door at the end of the hall.