I soon found out I had assumed Escait would be an entirely different sort of desert. Instead of a sandy desert like the Sahara, it was more like the Mojave. In some places the ground was still sandy, but in general it was more like dirt than sand. Plants grew, mostly small spindly shrubs and trees, but there were plants that weren’t cacti.
I didn’t really appreciate the difference, however. It was still dry and hot and very uncomfortable to traverse. I couldn’t wear my armor as I rode- at least not the plate part of it. Even then, I found myself with too many layers. I couldn’t imagine what it would be like if it were actually summer… but spring was bad enough.
In the cities I stopped in along the way- spaced approximately a half day or full day’s ride from each other- I learned several things I probably should have already known before coming. First, they used the same alphabet, including numerals, as Othya. That was good, because whatever magic granted me the ability to speak Othyan didn’t extend to other languages. This meant if prices were written down, it was fairly easy to figure them out… if I knew what the prices were for.
Fortunately most of the innkeepers spoke Othyan. At least, enough to get by. The language sounded somewhat familiar. It was sort of like listening to Spanish. Not that the actual language resembled Spanish- despite the area’s similarity to the Mojave- but rather it definitely seemed to have come from the same root language, whatever that was.
The prices for a bed and meals were basically the same- perhaps slightly more expensive, but still reasonable. I didn’t think I was getting ripped off, at the very least. If I was… I didn’t really care. I just wanted to try to find Kantrilla as fast as I could. However, the distance between the cities pretty much set the amount of time it would take me to reach Inassas unless I wanted to risk sleeping outside a city. Since I didn’t have any camping gear, I didn’t like the idea much.
Along the way I found myself attacked by giant lizards. Giant by the standards of Earth, anyway, but they were somewhat smaller than wolves still. From the road, it wasn’t hard to see them coming. The area was relatively flat and open anyway, but the road even more so. I had to stop and dismount Cass to deal with them, but most groups were driven away when I shot one or two with arrows. Only once did I have to use my heavy mace to attack… and I learned something interesting. It barely seemed to have any sort of magic at all. Not that it seemed to be out of energy or wearing out, but just that it had little effect. It was still magical, but its frost powers apparently weren’t much good with all of the heat and lack of moisture. It still did something but it no longer created sheets of ice everywhere it struck. It was good to find out I couldn’t rely on that in a somewhat safe fashion.
All in all, my journey wasn’t terribly exciting. Sure, any attacks by dog-sized lizards would have been notable on Earth, but here they were just… part of life. They weren’t a cause for concern, though I did my best to avoid taking injuries because I had no one to heal my wounds. I also couldn’t be sure if they were the sort of lizards with infectious bites, though I had the feeling those wouldn’t be common even here.
Inassas itself was a startling sight. It was built primarily on top of a mesa. The mesa itself was as if someone had talked about a mountain, but forgot to mention that they aren’t just a section of land that went straight up. The mesa, not knowing any better, was a giant area of reddish-brown rock that seemed as if it could almost be pushed back down into the ground. I could see the city on top, and the buildings near the edge. Up there, it had no wall. Not that it would have done any good, since anything that could climb up the side of the cliff faces could easily climb a bit more wall.
However, at the base of the mesa was the rest of the city that sort of spilled over the edge. It seems they had run out of room, and started building around the bottom, though it appeared to be on just one side so far. The lower city had a wall around it, made out of the same reddish-brown rock as the mesa itself.
Though I’d heard about the city, a description couldn’t do it justice. In addition to the buildings at the bottom and top of the mesa, there were a few areas carved into its sides. I imagined they would have a very nice view, though it would take quite a few stairs to actually access them.
At the gates I stopped to show the guards my identification. “Othya?” One of the guards looked at me and asked, then nodded and waved me through after glancing over me.
I headed for the center of the city, which I assumed would be accessed via the giant winding path I could see crossing back and forth up the side of the mesa. It clearly wasn’t natural- at least not entirely. Perhaps it had sloped more gradually, but it was clearly carved out further and further in before finally reaching the top after many back and forths. Cass didn’t seem to be having any trouble with all of the uphill motion, but I was going to make sure she got well fed tonight.
First, however, I had to find someone. The adventurer’s guild was supposed to be near the city center, and Timmy had said Kazik could help me. I didn’t know who he was, but I figured I should meet him first. As I moved through the city streets, I noticed a few walled off sections. Some of them seemed to just be large manors, but one of them was guarded and I saw just a hint of blackness peeking over it. A dungeon, then. I wondered if it came before the city or after, and what it contained but I didn’t have the time to go exploring at the moment. I had important business… and I absolutely had to succeed. If I couldn’t somehow rescue Kantrilla… I wasn’t sure what I would do.