“Yeah! I was shocked too, I mean, a ninth settlement? If it’s true, imagine what else the upper class have been keeping from us!”
It’s late at night. Draego just returned from a run into the city, Anna stayed up to see him return. He has gotten older, his body is worn, she worries for him far more than she did eight short years ago. Cyrilla is meant to be returning soon, too. She left over a year ago to do a round-trip of all the settlements to make sure she hadn’t overlooked any wildlife. Yet, this is no time for idle anticipation.
“Well… It’s true that none of our runners would ever go in that direction. It’s possible that it could exist but it’s strange we’re only finding out about it now,” Anna tries to parse the information she’s been given. On the table before her is a map that Draego retrieved which depicts a version of the continental map that she has never seen before. It’s mostly the same with the exception of some extra rivers and a city named Dabin to the north-west.
“The problem is, why would they go through such lengths to keep it hidden all this time? Could it be that there’s something important there?” Draego theorizes. There is no energy in his words, it’s clear to see that the run has taken a toll on him.
“Well, we can assume that Dabin has no R.U.N.N. base or anything similar given we’ve received no contact. The most likely explanation would be that this city was already taken by the wilderness, though…” Anna gently picks up the sides of the map with her fingertips and rubs the material. “This map looks as if it was made recently.”
“Which means it could be the opposite?”
“Yes, the recency of the map suggests that the upper class only found out about this settlement recently as well. The issue with that is it seems odd for this city to not have been mentioned in the history written by the original settlers. Either they had a reason to erase this city from history or it was founded by someone else entirely.”
“It’s unlikely, but there is an entire world beyond Fabula. It’s possible that others have come and managed to survive the wilderness but I wouldn’t place bets.”
“Yeah… There’s something else that’s been bothering me about this as well.”
“Even if this settlement does exist, that doesn’t explain how the upper class just suddenly found out about it. Unless they’ve been doing some spellcrafting there’re no scrying spells that can see that far and we both know they aren’t that competent. They still can’t even catch an old man like me,” Draego calls upon a second wind to give a pronounced laugh.
“That’s true… The only possibilities then would be they either sent out scouts, uncovered some buried knowledge of the original settlers or they were contacted by the people of Dabin.” Anna pinches the bridge of her nose, it’s too late for her to be processing all of this.
“Well, there is one way we could easily find out.”
Anna raises her head towards the man at the other side of her desk. The tattoos on his body have been restored countless times, some over scars that will never heal. Each mark a testament to his aging and to how much he was pushing himself. Much too far, he’s a man on the verge of burning away to ashes. An end he would be happy with, Anna thinks, but not one she wants. She takes it upon herself, as the boss she wants to assure that end is not met. That’s why she stopped Draego from any runs into the wilderness over two years ago. She exhales and says “Then I’ll wait for Cyrilla’s arrival and inform her-”
His eyes meet with hers. They both know what comes next but the words have to be said. Neither of them will be satisfied before then.
“We don’t need to bother Cyrilla with a place that might not even be real. I can handle this much, just let me check it out,” he implores.
“No. It’s too dangerous to send you out there now, you’re still an important asset and I can’t risk losing you,” Anna asserts.
Draego’s voice subtly raises, “I handled runs through the wilderness for years. I went all the way to Gaist and back before Cyrilla even stepped foot in this base. With everything she’s taught us since, it’s insulting to me that you think I can’t do this.”
Anna’s tone remains in harsh hushes, “There’s too much we don’t know. The creatures that live over there may be nothing like what’s been recorded in the bestiary. For goodness’ sake, this could even be a trap set by the upper class in hopes that you will trip up!”
“A trap set by the upper class? Out in the middle of nowhere? You understand how ridiculous that sounds, right? Those snobs don’t know what’s out there! You’re being over-protective and you know it.”
“Francis, I know what I’m saying. What I see before me is a boy who is just as rash as the day I took him in. A son who has always pushed himself too hard and will die because of it.” Anna stands, walks around her desk and clasps Draego’s cheeks in her hands. “And I will not send my son out to die. Do you understand?”
The two stand still in an emotional silence. Draego’s will to defy her word still burns and yet he can say nothing. This is a scenario with no ‘but’, he can only stand there looking into the stern eyes of the boss. What breaks the two out of this moment is a mutual noticing of Cyrilla awkwardly waiting in the doorway.
“Good to… See you both again?”