Chapter 6 – The village

Nicodemus stared out the window at the rain for a moment then began a frantic house inspection. He started by kneeling down, placing one hand on the table for support, then bending over to look underneath it. After he eyed the underside of the table for a few seconds he stood back up and started pushing on the walls with both hands. The he put his ear against one of them and started at one side and slowly walked across it while tapping his knuckle on it repeatedly in a straight line. When he reached the corner he turned to follow it until he arrived at the window. He then began to tug at the window sill at every possible angle.

Suddenly he pivoted on his heel and faced Raymond again.

“So, do you want to know what’s in it for you?” He inquired. “I can’t believe you haven’t asked.”

“Well the thought had crossed my mind.” Raymond smirked.

“As if befriending your father’s friends and forcing your moral beliefs onto a beautiful girl aren’t enough?” Nicodemus snapped, but shortly followed with a wink. “I do have something else for you.
“You spent 200 gold coins on this house.
“Its true market value is about 700.
“Since living near the village is actually good for for you I would say it is worth 1000.
“However, I will upgrade it for you for absolutely free if you agree to do what I told you to.
“It will be worth 4000 when I am done with it.”

Nicodemus turned his back toward Raymond and stared at the front door. He sat down on the table, but on the side facing the door instead of Raymond.

“Of course I won’t wreck this house,” he started. “It’s a pretty good little house.
“I could put it in the village.”

“You’re going to move the whole house!?” Raymond exclaimed. “Where am I going to stay when while you do all of this?”

Nicodemus smiled, “I am a resourceful man, Raymond, when you come back from the village your new house will already be here.
“And look at that…
“The rain stopped.
“Go talk to Red Feather right now, Rose is here to make sure neither Blaire nor I steal anything.”

Raymond looked out the window but the rain had not yet stopped. Why would Nicodemus lie about something like this? Raymond opened his mouth to tell Nicodemus about his mistake, but the room started to get brighter and the rain began to fade. Raymond instantly shut his mouth and stared out the  window in amazement. Without saying a word he stood up and turned turned toward the back door. He left his house and went back into the forest where Brownie had mislead him before.

Without Nicodemus’s illusion blocking him, getting to the village was easy. Tents became visible on the other side of the forest almost immediately after Raymond passed the first tree in his back yard. Within a minute or two, he was standing at the edge of a stair-like natural hill with a river running down it. There were dozens of tents assorted on both sides of the water and three small houses at the very top. A few villagers were swimming in the river and others began peaking out of their tents and came outside as soon as they noticed that the rain had gone. Oddly enough, one of the village men who had kept out of the rain and stayed dry in his tent ran and jumped into the river when he noticed that the weather had cleared. This made Raymond chuckle.

A familiar figure appeared down near the river. Red Feather, still wearing his white robe, approached the swimmers with a smile and talked to them. Raymond headed toward him. As he got closer he realized that most of the river was extremely shallow, only the part where the villagers swam seemed to have more than a few inches of depth. Instead of mud or sharp rocks under the shallow stream, there were millions of tiny smooth pebbles instead. The water was crystal clear and the whole environment could be described as sterile. Raymond found a path around the deeper part of the river and the swimmers and eventually arrived at Red Feather’s side.

“Ah, Raymond!” Red Feather greeted him. “I was hoping you’d come meet us soon.”

“Aye.” Raymond smiled. “I wanted to see the place my father always came to visit.”

“It’s beautiful isn’t it?”

“Very beautiful, is a lot of Ascalon like this?”

“Well yes, in a way.” The bald man started, “I don’t know of any other really shallow rivers like this.
“This river just cleans your boots, the other ones in Ascalon will soak your pants.”

“Ah, I definitely like it this way.” Raymond professed.

“Well, look around for a bit.” Red Feather said, “I want you to meet my wife.
“She’s at the market right now, so I need to go get her.
“When I get back we have a lot to talk about, you and I…
“And her…
“I mean all of us, us three.”

“Right, yeah I got it.” Raymond grinned at Red Feather’s clarification attempt.

Red Feather smiled at Raymond then left to go to the market. Something about his presence was comforting, even back during the wagon ride. Perhaps it was the way he smiled. Maybe it was the amount of control and authority he seemed to have. Either way, he seemed like an honest and good man. The title “Father” would certainly make more sense on him than Nicodemus.

Raymond began to look around at the other villagers. Most wore very simple clothing such as robes, dresses, a plain shirt and pants or  on some of the men, nothing but pants. However, a few of the village men, who most likely lived in the three houses at the top of the hill, dressed in more complex clothing including vests and hats. None of the villagers seemed very busy. There were no farms for them to tend or herds for them to shepard. Instead they spent their time mingling and swimming in the deeper part of the river.
One of the young women was sitting up in a tree reading a book while two children sat underneath at the trunk trying to create some sort of miniature wall with sticks. Raymond assumed the woman was their mother, despite her apparent young age, until an older woman emerged from a tent and called for the children. They stood up and ran toward their mother, but the girl in the tree did not move.

He next assumed that she was their older sister, but he soon witnessed an old man approach the tree from the other side and say something to her. She jumped down and followed him back to one of the three houses on the hill top. The man went inside and came back out a few moments later with a bowl in each of his hands. A woman of his approximate age followed him out the door and sat down on one of four wooden chairs right in front of the house. The man and the tree climbing girl sat down next to her.

A few moments later Raymond noticed an Ascalon guardsman walk into the village. He wore a dark suit of armor lined with a very well shined silver metal and stood out compared to the villagers, but they greeted him as if there were nothing unusual about his visit. After a few moments talking with the swimmers in the river he headed up toward the three houses and met with the family who had just sat down for supper.

The sound of splashing and chatter carried through the air from the river as Raymond waited for Red Feather to return. The wind calmly brushed through the trees between the village and his yard. He wondered what Nicodemus was doing to his house on the other side. Not a sound could be heard from across the woods, either the mysterious man had not yet started his work or he had a silent way to move a house. Raymond began to stare blankly in the direction of his yard as he imagined what was going on over there.

His stare was interrupted when Red Feather and his wife emerged from underneath the trees. Red Feather’s wife was very small, even shorter than he was, but pretty nonetheless. She had bright whitish blonde hair tied up into two buns by long ribbons of parchment. She wore a light blue vest matching her eyes and a white and gold dress underneath. Next to any other villager, she would stand out just as much as the guard did, but next to Red Feather she seemed to match. The colors helped, but it was more than that. Somehow they just gave off the vibe that they belonged together. A great quality for a married couple.

“This is my wife, Sierra Aurora.” Red Feather started.

Sierra smiled at Raymond and respectfully bowed her head slightly, Raymond returned the bow.

“Your people don’t seem to do a lot of work around here.” Raymond mentioned to Red Feather.

“Father Nicodemus has provided for us since Caerise Corner banished our rights to farm land.” Sierra answered instead.

Her voice, though moderately pitched and easy on the ears, was louder than Raymond expected. Most of the small women in Navaden were energetic, so it may have been the same case in Ascalon.

“Why did they do that?” Raymond asked.

“No good reason, that’s for sure.” Red Feather started, but Sierra continued, “We did not come here first, nor have we ever asked more than any other neighborhood has asked, but the locals treat us as if we are an ancient culture rooted in this area.
“Our neighbors act as if we would be easily offended by what they say or where they step.
“The city council sees this as an easy excuse to change the rules on us.
“If we didn’t mostly live in tents, people probably would not act so weirdly around us.
“It’s worth it though, it really is.”

“Why DO you live in tents?” Raymond inquired.

“Because the story in our village tablets depicts a group of settlers who lived in tents.” Red Feather explained, “Don’t get the wrong idea.
“We aren’t just a crazy village who does everything exactly like our tablets say, but we really weighed in the advantages of living in tents.
“It really opens the whole settlement to a closer more family-like feel.
“We don’t want to live private selfish lives.”

“Hey!” Raymond snapped, “I grew up in a house and didn’t have a private selfish life.”

“I did not mean that people who live in houses lead selfish lives, just that it is less likely in a neighborhood of tents.” Red Feather responded.

“Right, no sorry.” Raymond apologized, “I know what you meant.”

“So tell me about these tablets.” Said Raymond.

“Glad you asked!” Red Feather lit up. “Are you prepared to talk about religion with people who you’ve just met?”

“Sure.”

“OK Raymond, but let me start with the other religions around here.
“The most common in Ascalon is the belief in the five gods.
“Under that religion, Nicodemus would be a powerful disciple of Lyssa.
“A master of the mind.”

“Yes, yes I know about the gods.” Raymond interrupted.

“Let me finish.
“This is where the names of the professions at the Academy come from.
“Warrior, Ranger, Monk, Elementalist, Necromancer, and Mesmer.
“We use the same names in the village, but do not believe in the five gods.
“Here in Caerise Corner, however, the Ascalon Academy hardly affects us compared to the college.”

“So what makes the a college differ from an academy?” asked Raymond.

“The College of Trades teaches ambassadors, scribes, traders and crafters, while the Ascalon Academy is more military based, training in the six professions.
“I’d PREFER to have the Academy.
“The College does not teach loyalty, honor and respect and a lot of the people there are of the Pelican faith.
“This is a very bad thing because that religion is confirmed false.
“Nicodemus’ father was present when it was created.
“He says travelers from another realm crashed into ours and suffered mental damage, yet a group of people took everything they said very seriously.”

“So its just sad to see so many people fall for what you know is deception?” Raymond nodded, “I can understand that.”

“No that’s not all.” Red Feather frowned, “They have been known to turn to acts of violence.
“However, the people who live here ignore that because they believe the charr are a bigger threat.
“Right now it’s a time of war.
“The locals believe the five gods created them but not the charr.
“The Pel believe their two gods created all things.
“And I don’t know what to say for the charr, I hear they like burning things.”

“Like an Elementalist?” Raymond smiled.

“I know people like to give Elementalists credit for that, but I am pretty sure burning is more of an everybody thing.”

“True.” Raymond nodded.

“Finally there is the village tablets,” Red Feather continued. “I am pretty sure your father believes what we do so you probably do too.
“We have one god who the village worked closely with in the past.”

“Yes, I know the history.” Raymond interrupted, “I am not sure how much of it I believe though.
“Just how important are these tablets to the village?”

“Well,” Red Feather rubbed his chin, “Without them we wouldn’t be a village.”

“Couldn’t someone break the tablets and ruin everything?”

“I am wearing them in my hair.” Sierra pointed to the ribbons in her hair, “We copied them down all over the place, we don’t need the original tablets.
“They are nice to have though.”

Raymond smiled, he had almost forgotten that Sierra was standing there the whole time. Red Feather’s conversation was more engaging than Raymond expected. He always felt pressured inside to get his religion straightened out, but never got around to doing it. Perhaps all it would take is a guy like Red Feather to help him finally sort it out though.

“There is so much more we have to talk about, but I bet Nicodemus talked your ear off already today.” Sierra grinned at Raymond, “Please do come back soon.
“It was great meeting you, when you get settled write your dad and tell him to come visit.”

Sierra must have noticed the sun setting just over the treeline.  Raymond shook hands with her and her husband, then turned to face the woods between the village and his yard. Nicodemus promised earlier to have a new house moved in by the time Raymond got back to the village. It was time to see if he could keep that promise.

<< Chapter 5 | Chapter 7 >>

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