The desert seemed to stretch on in every direction, only ending when it reached the mountains that sketched themselves o'er the horizon; the barriers that separated Satriani and Gabriel. Satriani was a desert oasis. A long road cut itself through the thick crust of alkali. There was no sand in this desert, only an endless, pure white, monotonous, and flat ground. The ground was marked by crisscrossing lines that dragged themselves like jagged scars across the Earth's face. The sky spanned for eternities above; a purple, orange, and blue span of ocean in the sky. It wasn't dark blue, nor light, but the color of a day that was nearing it's end. Various hues of blue, purple, and orange lined themselves across the skyline of mountains. The moon was appearing at one end, as the sun began to fall in the other. The clouds drifted lazily across the sky, massive giants filled with moisture not meant for this desert.
This beauty is only skin deep. Beneath all of it's beauty, it's the signal of a change. The sun and moon don't move from their position. They're stuck in time, not quite over and not quite beginning. The moon has the face of a man on it, grinning evilly, whilst the sun gives off the feeling of a loving mother. Neither of them move.
A man walks down the road that cut through the alkali, wearing only a long coat, a red cattleman hat, and a white shirt. His jeans are also black and ripped all along the legs; clear signs of his travels along the desert highway. At his hip is a dusty brown bag that jingles and sings with each step, for inside of this bag are all of his magical potions. He has no other possessions other than these glass vials filled with colorful potions. Thankfully, though, there were no marauders on this long span of road; there was simply no place to hide out.
The traveler walked on across the desert span, his blue eyes were pinched, squinting, at the land, trying to make out any sort of sign along the path. He was sweating, thirsty, but in a vague sort of way. He wanted to reach for the glass bottle of water in his bag, but part of him said to wait. There were more pressing matters. Yet, the thirst won out and he took a long drink from the bottle. It was nearly empty, and it was his last one. He'd left several of these behind.
Finally, in the distance, he spotted a single wooden sign that poked out of the dirt like a spear. He had no way to tell how far it was or even if it was just an illusion that the desert was playing on him; it was no secret demons roamed this land.
As he neared the sign, he could clearly read it. In huge, scratched in letters, it said: WELCOME TO HOVEL. He couldn't see a town, there were no hills that could be hiding it from him. Strange. He kept walking, looking for this supposed town when he found it.
Beside the road was a trap door, a dusty arrow pointed the way to it, and he needn't question any further. He opened the trap door, musty air shot out immediately, covering his body in white dust and dirt. He wiped away the fog afterword with his land, still squinting. A hand reached out for him and he fell backwards onto his backside immediately, scooting away until he realized the hand was beckoning for him to come in, and that it belonged to a beautiful set of emerald green eyes that poked out from the darkness.
Slowly, cautiously, the traveler leaned forward a little bit, grasping the hand oh so tenderly, and being led inside. There was a steep staircase that led down into the town of Hovel. Narrow corridors split off into different areas of the town like the branches of a tree. Occasional gas lanterns lit the way, but the travelers eyes were having trouble adjusting to the dim light of the corridors. After a while, he noticed the person that was pulling him along was actually a very young girl, probably ten at the oldest. She was very pale. She probably never saw the sun or the moon and lived down here her whole life. Lucky girl. Her hair was blonde and braided down the center of his back. She had dirt covering his elbows and cheeks, which gave her an almost cute appeal instead of a gross one. She wore a dress that was equally dirty.
She spoke to the traveler, her voice was very soft and very small, but echoed through the corridors. "What's your name, mister?"
"Er, Stark. Allen Stark."
"Alright Stark, you get to meet the House Keeper!"
"The leader, silly!"
"Why the strange title?"
"The town's name is Hovel. A hovel is a type of house, there's a bottom part that keeps the cool air in during the hot days,"
"So the House Keeper is the leader because this place is basically one big home!"
"What's your name?"
She didn't speak anymore and let go of his hand once they reached a giant, open, chamber. In the center of the table sat a man with a crown of rocks. One leg was propped up on the poor excuse of a throne with the knuckles of one hand touching the ground. Cynthia ran up to him, hugged his arm, and then dropped to his side, motioning for Stark to get closer.
Stark did, he stopped a few feet away from the House Keeper and already he could smell the alcohol on his breath. It was strong. Whiskey.
"So," said the Keeper. "My daughter says you were wandering through the desert..."
"Aye, I was."
"Beg my pardon if I ask why?"
"Kai, it's alright. I'm searching for the fabled town of Lonte."
"Lonte? Ah, I've heard of it. They say it comes to those who have perfected the wizarding arts. Have thee?"
Stark was silent a moment. Wizards weren't exactly welcome company. "Yes, I have."
"Hmph, I see then. You may rest here a day, but after that we'll kick your a** out onto the road."
"Fine. Do you have water?"
"Some. Though I thought you could summon water from your magical powers."
"Doesn't work that way."
The Keeper shooed him away, turning his attention to a glass of whiskey beside him. He took a long swig, then motioned for his daughter to come to him. She did, and he struck her with an open palm. He asked why she hadn't gotten more already. She apologized. Stark left.
It wasn't his business what this man did to his children. So long as he got his water and a place to rest was all that mattered. After a few moments, Cynthia came back to him, latching onto his arm. She had tears at the corners of her eyes, but managed to smile still. She asked if he needed a guide. Stark said he did.
They maneuvered through the tunnels and cavern hallways, until at last they came to a huge door, there was something scratched into it but Stark couldn't read it. It appeared to be the Old Language, talk that been long since dead. Perhaps these people hadn't made this place but just found it. Cynthia led him inside.
Stools were set up against a huge wooden table. Smaller tables were scattered all about without any noticeable pattern. Three giant barrels were sat against one side of the room. It didn't take much else to tell Stark he'd be staying in a bar tonight. The woman manning the desk had one elbow crooked against the surface and the other turning the page to book. Stark doubted she could even read --- and was proven when he realized it was an old coloring book. Cynthia had disappeared from his arm. Maybe she wasn't allowed this area of the underground town. There were four others sitting at the tables, all of them were covered in dirt, wearing long coats and scarfs. They had hats with metal plates at the top. Miners.
"Oi," said the woman, "you gonna buy somethin' or just stare at my tits."
"I'm here for a room," said Stark.
"Course ya is. Ten silver bits if ya have 'em."
Stark placed a single crooked gold piece on the table. It's oily shine caught the eyes of the miners at the table. They licked their lips, watching the gold piece closely. The woman picked it up with gentle hands, like a mother picking up her baby. She stared at it, smiling. She looked back at the miners and yelled at them.
"It's mine! Hear me!? Mine!" She turned back to Stark with a smile spread on her face that hadn't been there before. "Follow me, it's just down the stairs."
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