‘I want to be a knight!’ The little gnome’s sigh felt so heavy as if it held the weight of a world. Aria looked at the little guy leaning on the deck’s rail next to her. He had to stand on the tip of his toes but he managed to reach the top bar. A smile curled the thin lips of the adventurer as she studied the gnome’s innocent looking face. True, his sky blue eyes and blond hair would be envied by any knight but he was as small as a human child, and no matter how hard he trained for his dreams, that disadvantage seemed to be impossible to overcome.
‘Why a knight?’ Aria asked. The little guy often expressed this desire of his, and the young woman often wondered why he’d choose such uncommon path. The gnome looked at her with a smile full of joy and hopes.
‘Well, you know knights, Lady Aria. They are honorable. And noble. And heroic.’ Aria nodded with a small hesitation his companion did not quite catch.
‘Yes, I know knights.’ Some were like that. Others not quite. Still, she kept the bitter truth to herself. She tossed aside the darker thoughts and let the smile return her lips. ‘And for the umpteenth time I’m not a lady, Morphon. I’m just Aria.’
‘You’re being modest, Lady Aria. Weren’t you the one who had slain the many headed beast that threatened all the villages around the Mossy Bog?’ The young gnome looked at her with big, shining eyes. Aria just sighed.
‘Yes. With the aid of half a dozen other adventurers who happened to be in the area.’
‘And weren’t you the one who caught the notorious outlaw Redbeard?’
‘Accidentally. I got into a tavern brawl.’
‘And weren’t you the one who defended the caravan that escorted the young Lord Baelryth?’
‘I didn’t know the heir of a noble house was travelling with us in disguise.’ Aria shook her head but Morphon was still looking at her with clear and obvious admiration in his big blue eyes.
‘But you did do all these. You are a true lady in my eyes Lady Aria.’ The adventurer felt hopeless as how to explain she is not the type of person the Morphon thought she was. However, the young gnome’s words warmed her heart. She couldn’t help but to smile at him once more and gently nod her head in appreciation.
‘Thank you Morphon. However, you might not want to address me like that in front of a real noble lady. She might take it as an insult.’
‘I do not wish to insult anyone, Lady Aria. But I must take my leave. I want to check on Ser Bravemane before we arrive in the harbour.’
‘Give him my regards.’ The gnome released the rails, landed back on his feet and bowed as he left to see his loyal companion, Ser Bravemane the brown pony. Aria was still staring at him as he went down the stairs below the deck. A strange fellow he was, naive but good hearted. A dangerous combination.
She turned back to gaze upon the azure waters and the turquoise skies. The island kingdom of Ascarion awaited her and the other passengers. She heard many rumors about the strange land, many that felt exaggerated even to her. And she had had her fair share of adventures. Tales of magick pulsing through literally everything, mines that are refilled with ores and crystal in a few months time and burnt down forest that sprouted and regrew in just weeks. Creatures never before seen appeared all around the island and even extraplanar beings could pay a visit to the material realm there. Many of these tales sounded like bullshit to her, yet she wanted to explore Ascarion herself. Curiosity killed the cat… The ironic phrase that flashed in her mind amused her. After fighting so many battles, surviving injuries that would have killed others she’s going to meet her end because of stupid rumors.
Her trail of her thoughts continued to recall what she had heard about the kingdom itself. Those felt even more unbelievable than the ones about the island itself. The different races faced off each other in many-many wars filled with bloody battles and massacres yet in Ascarion they’ve cooperated unprecedentedly well and built a state where all culture could bloom as equals. Elves and their dark skinned kin, dwars, humans, gnomes, half-bloods and many others - they were all the same in front of the law regardless of their bloodlines. Almost all faiths were allowed to be practiced except for the darkest and vilest ones. Obviously even cooperating races wouldn’t tolerate worshipping deities that wanted humanoid sacrifices to be showed. The king himself was an aging dwarven warrior, or so Aria had heard; and a whole council helped his work while also kept the ruler under some kind of control. Aria had no idea how that could work, but after the first few decades of it’s foundation, Ascarion prospered.
A frown furrowed deep wrinkles on the young woman's forehead. She had been sensing magick emanating from the direction the ship was heading towards, but suddenly she felt it a lot stronger, as if only the faint vapors of the mystical energies had been tickling her so far and not giant waves of it have crashed over her. The sensation was overwhelming at first for a few seconds but her body and spirit got accustomed to it gradually. They must have crossed some kind of border or barrier. Her brownish red hair flew around her head and face as she made her way towards the front of the deck, her golden eyes fixed on the horizon. She could already see the mountains that crawled towards the skies on the farther side of the island. And she could sense a faint, unfamiliar pulsing of magical energies that was most likely nestled in the steep, rocky slopes.
‘Landsight!’ one of the sailors shouted up ahead.
‘Prepare for docking!’ another one shouted from the back. The so far calm deck transformed into a busy, orderly chaos as all the hands began to do the necessary preparations. It was time for Aria to go back downstairs, to grab her luggage and prepare her own steed for the disembark. After all, the island kingdom of Askarion was only a short sail away now. And it promised some interesting phenomenons to explore.
Thank you for reading!