The hallways were clean and decorated with beautiful statues with pearls embedded in them. The pearls that signified worship to Aquana were everywhere. Several of the acolytes walked past them, all staring their direction as the guards led Cobal towards the center of the entrance hall. Here he had to wait for a moment before an elderly woman walked in from a door off to the side. “This way please,” she said to Cobal, before turning her back to him and slowly walking towards the large door in front of them. On the door was the same imagery of Aquana that they saw in the temple at the bottom of the sea, but in a perfect condition as opposed to disrepair. She knocked on the door and a moment later it opened up with a loud rumble. The doors led into a massive room that looked like a church hall. Rows of benches were placed facing towards an altar at the back of the room. Behind this altar stood a man that looked to be about Cobal’s age. He was wearing robes of the same blue color as the rest of the acolytes, but his looked more ornate and important. He also had a necklace with neatly polished pearls around his neck. At the center of this necklace was a large blue sapphire. He motioned Cobal to come forward until he was at around the edge of where the benches were. He motioned him to stop and stepped out from behind the altar to meet Cobal below the steps. He smiled and stood in front of Cobal, crossing his arms.
“My name is Kiiran Simalin, head priest of the sea floor church of Aquana. This temple, devoted to our fair lady, is under my protection.” He waved his hand towards one of the two tall windows. “This village of Arana is also my domain.” He looked Cobal up and down to judge him. “Speak, who are you and what brings you here.”
“Where is my companion?”
“That is not the question I asked.” Kiiran sighed. “Your companion is fine, now state your business.”
Cobal let out a sigh of relief. The priest seemed honest in his words, so Mana was probably okay. “My name is Cobal Blueyerd. I am the third son of the king of Blueyerd and currently me and my companion are on a journey to different places on the continent. At the request of my companion, we explored a story we heard about an underwater village. That is how we ended up in your temple, where your men seemed to have found us. We meant no harm nor disrespect and if our presence displeases you we will leave without question.” Cobal wasn’t happy about this, and he figured Mana wouldn’t be pleased with it either, but making sure Mana was safe was still his top priority, so that’s what he was considering.
Kiiran grabbed a large quarterstaff from next to the altar and tapped it on the ground twice. A moment later the door that Cobal came through opened up and the elderly woman that let them in looked through.
“Bring the girl here as well,” Kiiran said.
The woman nodded and closed the door again. They all waited for a while until after a few minutes the door opened again and Mana walked into the room. She walked all the way up until she was standing next to Cobal.
Cobal noticed that the people in the room seemed more excited about her than about him. As if they were in awe of her presence for some reason. She gave him a quick smile and then looked at Kiiran as well, awaiting what he was going to say.
“Lady Mana, hero of the realm, summoned one, Lord Might’s follower. I apologize for our rude treatment of yourself when you first appeared at our village entrance. We were unsure who you were and had to protect ourselves, I hope you understand.”
“As we talked about earlier, your appearance in this world was foretold many, many years ago. But I’m sure the person who foretold your appearance will tell you more about it when you visit them later.” He shifted his weight to his other foot and looked the two of them over. “Now, what brings you here to Arana?”
“I wish to speak with Miyara. I do not know who they are, but they should be able to help me in a certain way.”
Kiiran nodded. “Very well.” He looked at Cobal. “And you?”
Cobal cleared his throat. “I’m here as the representative of the Blueyerd royal family. My assignment is to help Lady Mana in any way she requires to learn about our world so that she may be of use in keeping our kingdom from collapsing.”
Kiiran squinted. “You know so very little about the ways of the world, young prince, yet you speak with the confidence of someone who is blissfully unaware of their lacking knowledge.”
“I beg your pardon.”
“In the brief moments that I talked to the Lady Mana, I learned about some things that I expected yet wished I was wrong about.” He had a stern, almost angry look towards Cobal. His tone of voice had changed from kind to harsh, and Cobal was unsure what he’d done wrong.
“The Lady speaks well of you though, which is why you are no longer in the cell. Know that Arana has no love for the Blueyerd royal family and that we wish you out of our home when you finish your business here, is that understood?”
Cobal nodded. “I am unsure how and why I might have offended you, and I apologize if I have. I will be here no longer than necessary.”
Kiiran nodded. “A sensible response, now go do what you must and be on your way.” And with that he turned around and walked behind the altar, going into a different room behind the main hall. Mana and Cobal were led back outside by the elderly woman who had let them into the room in the first place.
“Excuse me, but could you perhaps point us in the direction of Miyara, the seer?” Mana asked the old lady.
The old lady thought for a moment and nodded. She grabbed one of the nearby acolytes and whispered a few things to him. In a nervous voice the acolyte said. “Follow me, I’ll lead you there.”
Mana and Cobal followed the young man through a few streets until they reached what looked to be a restaurant. “Miyara is the owner of this establishment, if you ask for her here you should be fine.” The acolyte turned to face both of them, then looked at Mana. “Will that be all you require from me?”
Mana nodded. “Thank you for your help.”
He nodded in return and started making his way back to the temple, leaving Cobal and Mana in front of the restaurant.
Mana turned to Cobal. “Are you alright? You collapsed after they whacked you over the head.”
Cobal nodded. “I have a bit of a headache, but I’m fine otherwise. What was that all about?” He asked.
Mana hesitated. “I found some notes from the previous hero when I was staying in the palace. There was some information there about the people here, and how they’d predicted that long after Might disappeared, a new hero would appear. The one who supposedly predicted this, Miyara the seer, is someone who’s met with the previous hero.” Mana looked at the restaurant they were standing in front of. “I hope she can tell us a little bit more about all of this, since it’s also still very confusing and new to me.”
Cobal nodded. “I understand as much, although it surprises me those notes were available in the palace. You’d think someone else would have found them by now.” Something pushed into the back of his mind, doubt spreading. Mana wasn’t telling the truth. “And why am I not welcome here, do you know about that?”
Mana shook her head. “They told me that your family didn’t care much for them when they were still an island, but it seems strange to me that they would hold a grudge about that for so long.”
She looked nervous. Cobal sighed. “Let’s go inside for now.” They entered.
The interior of the restaurant was dim compared to the almost blinding outside. Different tables were set up with screens dividing them into small areas with a little bit of privacy. The furniture was made of soft wooden planks that gave off a calming kind of atmosphere. Dim lanterns were placed on the walls above the tables. The tables were lower than in normal restaurants that Cobal had seen, and instead of chairs there were groups of pillows to sit on. Two attendants, a man and a woman, were standing behind a small bar, cleaning different glasses and plates. The bar had several cups standing on it, ready for drinks to be served in. Behind them was a shelf that seemed to have several bottles of alcohol as well as pots and baskets filled with all kinds of leaves. The man put down what he was doing and walked up to Mana and Cobal when they entered. “Good afternoon, what can I do for you.” He looked them up and down. “I don’t mean to be rude, but you don’t seem to be from around here, am I right?”
Cobal nodded. “That’s correct, we only just arrived in your town.”
“We wish to speak with Miyara, if that’s possible.”
“I can ask if she has the time, what are your names?”
“My name is Mana, and this is Cobal.”
“Mana and Cobal, I’ll see if she has time for you. In the meantime, have a seat and Melissa will take your order.” He looked at the woman behind the counter, who nodded. He then went up the stairs that were to the side of the entrance and after a moment they could hear him yell. “Grandma, are you awake.” Followed by a very faint. “I am now.”
They each took a seat at a corner table and waited for the woman to come collect their order. There was a menu on the table and Mana thumbed through it. It mostly consisted of tea and different cakes. Mana looked at Cobal. “I don’t have any money on me.”
“I’m sure we can work something out.” Cobal replied.
“What can I get you?” The woman asked.
“I’ll try this Honcha,” Mana said.
“Make that two then,” Cobal added.
“Very well, I’ll be back shortly.”
“What peculiar drink names,” Cobal remarked. “I’ve never heard of many of these before. The tea I know is very simple.”
Mana smiled. “I have my suspicions how they got a hold of these ideas.”
“I’m not sure I’m following,” Cobal replied, but before Mana could explain they heard footsteps coming down the stairs. The man they talked to earlier, who didn’t give his name yet, came back downstairs, followed by a very old, yet strong looking woman. Her gray hair was put in a bun and although she was walking with a cane, she looked to be more muscular than most people on the street. Without saying a word she barrelled towards their table and grabbed Mana’s hands.
“Oh sweet child, how long have I waited to meet you.” A smile across her face and tears in her eyes. “Welcome home,” she added.