After passing the gate, Delias and the skunk saw miles and miles of various plant farms; and the road in front of them was cobbled, leading deeper into the city.
As the two travelled along the road, they passed open wooden cylindrical houses. A sweet smell filled the air. Each cylindrical house oversaw one type of plant. Most of the plants were strange, with some having fruits; others, vegetables; and the rest of the plants were clearly potent herbs.
Time flew. Delias and the skunk had traversed halfway through the first section of the city. The strange thing was that they had still not seen a single person. The wind blew. Birds chirped here and there, and there were insects, some buzzing about; there were signs of life, but it still seemed eerily quiet.
The sun dipped low, and night took over. The two stopped at the side of the road and camped. The skunk did not dare infringe on the plant houses and ask to say the night. Delias did not know why, and the skunk would not say. Delias was not averse to not following the skunk’s direction as he did not know much about the city. That, including how silent the place was, it creeped him out to go knocking on any doors.
They did not make a fire that evening. It was unlike in the Eastern Forest where they they had other worries. Now, they could not possibly lit a fire so close to a plant farm. Delias sighed, lost in thought.
“I hope it’s not like this as we go on; it’s too quiet.” He mumbled.
The skunk glanced at Delias, but did not respond.
“It feels like I haven’t seen another human in a long time. I wonder if they’re women in this city?”
The skunk jumped up startled. “What did you say?” It whispered, the first words it had said for over twenty-four hours. The skunk disappeared, reappearing on Delias’s shoulder. It grabbed Delias by the chin and looked into his eyes. “What. Did. You. Just. Say?!”
“Uh..” Delias stumbled. He too, was startled, but obviously because of the skunk’s sudden aggressiveness.
“You… You… You’re human?”
Delias swallowed. “Umm… yeah?”
The skunk threw Delias back. It landed on the road, and started mumbling to itself.
“Dammit. Dammit. Dammit! How did this happen? A human? Of all the things… wait.” The skunk turned to Delias as he was getting up. “How did you get through the first gate? Those guys would have noticed if you were human! Or they already did and have some convoluted scheme going on. Dammit. Dammit. Dammit!”
Delias brushed the dirt off of him as he got up. “You mean you did not know I was human this whole time? What did you think I was?”
“Some stripe-less ugly motherf*, that’s what!”
Delias frowned. “Apparently you’ve never met my kind before. So what’s wrong with me being human?”
“Humans and Averati have never gotten along. There are deep blood feuds at the frontier. Even though we are not at war, the tension between our kind is no different than two countries that are.”
There called Averati, huh. “So… ”
“So if anyone here figures out you are human then you’re dead, and I am dead for having travelled with you… This is where we part. Have a nice day.” And the skunk started walking off into the night.
“Wait. Wait!” Delias called out. He chased after the skunk. “If I get caught, what do you think will happen then? They will remember you being with me at the gate, and as soon as they ask me, I will talk. The best thing to do now is help me. I just need to know how to get to the frontier. I can probably sneak across the border back into the human world and make my way back.
The skunk stopped turned around at this. “Hmph. You would sell me out?”
“Would I need to?” Delias lifted an eyebrow. Even if he did not talk, the gatekeepers on top of the wall would remember two people being chased by giants near the city limits.
The skunk seemed a bit solemn. He sat down and closed his eyes, thinking. Delias sat down, but he never looked away from the skunk, a part of him afraid the little stinker would vanish a soon as he was distracted. And just like that, the night went by quickly.
Just as the sun broke the night sky, the skunk opened his eyes. “Wait here. I will be back.” And as he finished, he vanished.
Delias waited where he was, his eyes bloodshot. He did not want the skunk to go like that since he realized he obviously still needed him. If the skunk decided to just leave, or worse, decided ratting him out sooner than later is better to get on the good graces of the rest of his kind, Delias was doomed.
Fifteen minutes passed, then an hour. Delias was getting increasingly nervous. He could not chase after the skunk since he was so tired that he did not even see how the skunk just disappeared like that, showcasing the skunk’s incomparable speed.
It was then that Delias saw the skunk walking up the road. It carried a large pack on its shoulders that seemed quite heavy. Delias was a bit startled. The next gate was not for miles, and it would take them longer than an hour to get there. Furthermore, the skunk had shown that he did not want to trespass or bother anyone from the plant farms, if there were any. So where did the skunk get that pack. But Delias did not put much heart into it. He that at the back of his mind, and was just glad that the skunk returned and without an army at his back.
When the skunk reached Delias, he dropped the pack and went in it. Bringing out a small black container, he said to Delias, “Put this on.”
Delias looked at the container warily. He did not trust the skunk, but he did not trust anything more than it for miles. He knew the position he was in.
Taking the container, Delias opened it. Inside was a red cream.
“You mix it in your hair. One scoop should last you a few days. Also…” The skunk searched deeper in his pack and brought out a black pen with a golden nib. “I will mark you. By the end, you will look different and passable as a kind of Averati. Though we are far from the frontier and probably wont meet anyone here who had met a human, there are still some people who have lived near the border, especially some powerful individuals who went there to train.
Following the skunk’s instructions, Delias put the red goo in his hair. He then took some water that the skunk gave him from the baggage and washed out any excess goo.
After that, he was tattooed with pen ink. Symbols were scrawled over the back of his hands and one was drawn on his neck. The skunk proceeded with connecting the ones on his hands with tiny ones that stretched in a line all the way to his back, which then the skunk drew very complex symbols.
When the skunk was done, he gave Delias a mirror and smiled. “My finest work.”
Delias took the mirror. He was stunned. This was the first time seeing himself since those two men practically tore his body apart. Delias was young. A lot younger than he was before. He looked to be about sixteen, maybe seventeen. His eyes were dark as before, but his hair was a blood red, an obvious aspect attributed from the goo he was given. His skin was pale, and the tattoo markings on his hands and back were so intricate, so detailed, it made it beautiful.
“What am I supposed to be?”
“To be? You’re to be not human, that’s what you’re to be. There are many of us Averati. Though a lot of us have clans and species that are similar and can be grouped, there are many that don’t, and are even considered rare. If anyone saw you now, they would think you were just that rare kind, and hopefully there are no powerful individuals that won’t sense the human off of you.
Delias was nervous. He sighed, trying to calm himself. Though he knew he was no hero or no brave man, Delias knew he would do what was needed to survive. And this was just that. A way to survive.
Delias and the skunk set out on the road again. By late afternoon they came to the second wall. The wall was not as high as the first, but it was sturdy still, made of white stone and thick.
This time there were no black robed figures with masks on top, but there were guards on each side of the gate. They looked like men, but were not men. The two were more than seven feet tall, and were dressed in some kind of heavy type armor. The armor was pitch black with finger length spikes on the shoulders.
Mandibles extended from the guard’s mouths; their irises glowed green and their scalera was pitch black, contrast to the white part a human had; and their long burgundy, almost purplish hair danced in the wind.
Delias and the skunk swallowed and walked forward.
“Wait!” Delias yelled within a whisper. “Won’t they figure out what I am by seeing you with me? I may be disguised, but you’re not!”
The skunk pointed to his upper lip and sneered. “You think I’m stupid like you? See here…” He pointed to a mole on his lip. I marked my lip with the pen. Now no one would recognize me.”
Delias nearly choked on his spit. This stupid stripe-loving idiot. That’s not a disguise. Who would be fooled by that? Dear God. I’m Dead!