Ati continued to stare at his full mug. At the urging of the other men in the tavern who claimed it “boosted their dexterity”, he had tried alcohol. It had only taken one sip for him to realize listening to a bunch of drunk Hunters hadn’t been the best of ideas. He looked up, and realized there was a Hunter sitting in the chair across from him.
“You gonna drink that?” The man said, pointing to his mug. Ati shook his head and pushed him the drink. It was easier to talk to a drunk man than a sober one. Instead of drinking, however, the man continued to talk. “Y’know,” He said, “If ya like this, might wanna consider joining the Hunters, eh?” Ati gave no response. The man leaned back, looking a little confused. “Look, in the Hunters we don’t care where you came from. We’re all just ‘avin a good time, y’know? The closest to war we even get is fighting off those bandits over at the Gauntlet, and they barely stand a chance, not when we got our knives! You’ll never ‘ave to-”
“I don’t want to join you. You’re just like the rest of them. Don’t think I don’t know what you do to the rubees and the whales around here.” The man frowned.
“Look, kid, it’s just a few bees and some fish. What harm can it possibly do?”
“A lot, actually. You wouldn’t be able to live here without them. Anyways, I don’t want to join you. That’s the end of it.” The man thought for a few moments, then grunted.
“Fine, suit yourself.” As he got up to walk away, Ati caught his arm.
“You haven’t seen anyone bringing mushrooms through here, have you? The walking kind?”
“Nope. Sorry kid. The others might be able to help with that if you joined up, though…”
Ati shook his head.
“Nevermind. I’ll ask someone else.”
Ati didn’t understand. What was it with these people and animals? They seemed inclined to kill everything they touched. They even murdered their own farm animals, allegedly as “sacrifices”. On the short trip from Nilgarf to Port Fidelio, he had already seen people eviscerating dozens of chickens, hogs, crabs, bats, rubees and whales, and nobody would even give him a good reason. “That’s just the way it is,” They’d say, or “They would do the same to us given the chance.” What kind of an excuse was that? He was almost ready to conclude that the Warriors had been taking baby mushrooms just to stifle the mushrooms as a species. At least now he had somewhere to look; he’d bribed a smuggler using stolen money and been told that, apparently, shady things like that almost always passed through the sewers of Nilgarf at one point or another. It was a little frustrating that he’d finally gotten through the hunter checkpoint after days of planning and trickery, only to immediately go back the way he came.
The smell was the worst part. Ati was breathing through his mouth, and he still felt as if he could somehow sense it. Maybe it was just so bad that the memory seemed real. He thought he might have been misled, as this didn’t seem like the sort of place for an illegal operation; it was, somehow, just as populated as Mushtown. Everywhere he looked in the main tunnel there were Mages and Warriors slaughtering bats and rats and such. When questioned, they told him that the city guards bought the corpses in an attempt to clean out the sewers. He still didn’t see how any number of animals could sustain this amount of hunting, but he wasn’t here to judge. As he reached a fork in the tunnel, he turned to the right but stopped as he heard a noise. Faintly, emanating from the tunnel he had picked, he could hear yelling.
“I’M THE RAT KING! BRING ME THEIR HEADS! AHHHHAHAHAHAAAA…” Ati pivoted and turned left instead.
“Could you do whatever it is you’re doing a LITTLE FASTER?” The mage exclaimed. Ati was rummaging through his bag. Lightning streaked from the mage’s staff, shocking bats that came too close. It wouldn’t last; an entire swarm of the beasts was blocking the hallway, and the lightning only stunned them a bit. The mage turned as Ati finally spoke for the first time in the last few minutes.
“Can you make a bubble?”
“What- of course, but why? It won’t hold against this many for a moment. And besides, it’s a lot harder when I’m moving, so-”
“When I throw this, just do it.” Ati told him, pulling a round object out of his bag. He then took a small matchbook out of his pocket and struck a match, holding the flame to a tiny string sticking out of his orb. After a few moments the string ignited. He then threw the orb into the cloud of bats, scattering them. The air began to shimmer slightly before Ati’s eyes as the mage created his shield. Moments later, the entire room was filled with a cloud of whitish-green dust, and the bats began to flail randomly in confusion. Most of the dust stopped short at the edge of the mage’s shield. Ati grabbed the mage’s arm and began to pull them through the cloud of disoriented bats.
“What was that?” The mage asked in his nasal accent.
“Spores. It won’t do much. Come on!” He pulled the mage faster, and soon they were back in the main tunnel. Ati exhaled. He hadn’t realized he’d been holding his breath, and when he started breathing again he made the mistake of using his nose. As they walked away, Ati decided he probably should have thought twice about running down a random dark tunnel on a tiny lead. He had found a trace of dust at the start of that tunnel that he had thought might be spores, but nobody could have gone that way. It was a dead end, and apparently also filled to the brim with bats.
“You know,” The mage said, “That was a pretty good trick back there. A smart one, too. You’d make a fine mage.”
“Fine. I’ll join if you can tell me why the Warriors are stealing baby mushrooms.” The mage frowned.
“Warriors? I’d not heard of them being involved, but some archaeologists from the Dunes went on an expedition to collect specimens. We have rather close relations with those folk. Last I checked, I think they were headed back towards the Dunes to-”
“Great, thanks! See you around!” Ati took off. The mage’s frustration echoed behind him.
“Hey! You said you were going to join the mages…” Ati grinned. Finally, he had a lead.
gosh darn dialogue making my paragraphs look messy lol