It wasn’t long before Kantrilla and I secured a position guarding a caravan heading to Ekralas, the capital of Othya, the country I had found myself in. It was about eighty miles away from Trona, about four days’ travel. It wasn’t a dangerous route for the most part, and they already had guards. We were just hired as extras, which meant we got little pay, but food and rooms at inns along the way would be paid for. It was an arrangement many merchant groups had with the guild. It didn’t cost them much and brought good will with the guild.
If there was actual danger the adventurers were obligated to help along with the regular guards, but also got hazard pay. The normal daily pay was just to make them remember they were to keep alert. As B rank adventurers, we would only get a few copper per day, which was basically nothing- but with our living expenses covered the effective pay wasn’t too bad. Besides for only a few days it didn’t really matter too much.
Most of the journey was just talking or watching the scenery go by. We got to ride on the wagons, so it didn’t even feel like work, though, I tried to make sure I kept aware of the surroundings at least.
Eighty miles didn’t sound like a lot, until I thought about it as four days of travel instead of an hour and a half by car. Fortunately, Kantrilla brought lots of enthusiastic conversation to break up the tedium.”So, Llyr, have you ever been to the capital? I hear it’s amazing. I hear it has hundreds of thousands of people!”
“Wow, that’s… a lot of people.” It was, I supposed. It would be the size of a few cities back in California… a few average ones anyway. For a country like this, I supposed it was very big. The thing is, the few cities would all be pretty much indistinguishable from each other, unless one saw the signs saying they changed cities- or how the street signs changed, sometimes. That made them effectively one larger city… or the whole area basically a megacity.
“I know, right? Have you ever been to the capital?”
I shook my head, “No, I haven’t.”
“I haven’t either. Actually, I haven’t really left Trona, except once. Father Thomas took me with me to Timeston. He was requested to go heal the mayor’s son. It was about the same size, but it was pretty different. The capital’s much bigger though, so it should be pretty exciting. It’s got a thriving adventurer’s guild and dungeons…” Her eyes sparkled in excitement.
“Don’t get too excited just yet. It’s still days away, and you don’t want to overhype yourself.”
“Aww you’re no fun at all. Aren’t you excited about going to a big city?”
“I’ve seen big cities, just not Ekralas.”
“Oh yeah? How many people lived in the biggest city you’ve been to?”
“Hmm, like a million maybe?” I didn’t really keep track of population numbers. If one counted the whole area, it was probably millions, but the city propers probably weren’t much over a million. No wait, was L.A. bigger, or did that count all the suburbs? Ah, whatever. I didn’t need to bring that up anyway.
“Pfwhaa-” If Kantrilla had been drinking anything, this is the time she would have spat it out- possibly through her nose. Instead, she just made a funny noise and tried to say what at the same time. “A million people? There are cities that big? I want to visit one~”
“Ah, sorry, you can’t.”
I shrugged, “They don’t exist.” For practical purposes, anyway.
“Ah! Imaginary cities don’t count.”
“Oh yeah? I guess you wouldn’t be interested in hearing about the buildings that are hundreds of feet tall, then.”
“… I might. Are they wizard’s towers?”
I shook my head, “No, just places where thousands of people work.”
“How do they fit?”
“They make them wider, obviously.”
“Doesn’t it get dark in the middle?”
“Well, they have big glass windows on all the sides. That lets in a lot of light, but the inner rooms have lights too.”
“Doesn’t it get pretty smokey?”
“Huh? Oh, no. They’re… magic lights.”
“So it is a wizard’s tower!”
“No, magic is just… very common there. They’re prosperous cities.”
“That’s wonderful.” Kantrilla was grinning, “With an abundance of magic, nobody would be poor or hungry.”
I frowned, “That would have been nice.”
“What, you’re saying it can’t be that way? This is an imaginary city! It doesn’t have to have anyone poor or hungry.”
“So, what else does the city have?”
“Well… The city is so big that people can’t walk across it to get to their jobs. Everyone took horses and carriages to get to their jobs, Then there were too many horses… so they just got rid of them.”
“But i thought people needed them to get around. How did they do that if they got rid of them?”
“Oh, they just got rid of the horses. Then they rode around in magic carriages that went very fast, but didn’t need horses.” That last part was a lie. Traffic was such a problem that nobody went very fast… but maybe the imaginary version didn’t have traffic.
“What’s the city called?”
“San… err, Saint Francis. He was the one who founded the city and led it to be so prosperous and full of magic.” I had no idea what the real Saint Francis had done, but he was definitely long dead before the city was built.
“I see. He must have been blessed by Imtar, the god of wealth and prosperity.”
“Uh, sure. There are gods for that kind of thing?”
“Of course! Well, they don’t give out blessings though. Only tangible things like Attributes get blessings, at least in any visible way.”
“Is that so? Luck isn’t particularly tangible either.”
“Sure it is! See this copper? If I want it to land heads up, it will!” She flipped it into the air, caught it, and laid it flat on her hand. The tails side was up. “Ah… Well, most of the time anyway.” She scratched the back of her head, “To be honest it actually fails more often if I actually try to demonstrate it.”
“That’s what makes it intangible.”
“Well, what about the other mental skills?”
I shrugged, “I imagine their effect can be measured… thinking speed, problem solving, mental resistance and mana totals, right? I suppose with luck you could measure, say, a thousand coin flips.”
“Oh, that might work! Or… it might not. Luck doesn’t always show up when it doesn’t matter. Err, it also doesn’t like being exploited.”
“Is that why your coin flips go wrong?”
“Maybe~” Kantrilla smiled. “Who knows?”
The fun conversation continued for the rest of the day, before we stopped for the night. The beds at the inn weren’t great- cheap, even, but they were good enough for the price I was paying. Maybe not for the price someone else was paying, but I thought nothing was a pretty fair price.