It didn’t take very long for Revis and Matticus to get back to the beach. It was the one place they knew how to get to. When they arrived, they were greeted by a smiling Goldfish. “Hello,” she said. “My name is Goldfish. Who are you two?”
Revis, who had been prepared to yell at the mermaid, was not ready for that response. He looked over at Matticus to confirm that he had heard it right, but the Jester merely shrugged. It was the exact same thing she said the first time she had met them. “I’m Revis. This is Matticus. We were just here two days ago.”
Shaking her head, Goldfish stated, “I think I would remember something like that.”
Insulted that they had questioned her, Goldfish dove underwater in a huff, leaving Revis perplexed on the beach. “You will have to forgive Goldfish,” came a voice from the side. “She does not possess the ability to make new memories. Had you followed the directions she gave you fifteen years ago, they would have led you straight to Bruges.”
Matticus was taken aback at the sudden reappearance of Rara the dragon. Revis seemed to take it in stride, however.
How does she move around so silently, Matticus fumed internally that Rara had once again surprised him. Then again, perhaps a dragon isn’t a sight you are supposed to get used to seeing.
“Fifteen years ago?” Revis sat on one of the rocks strewn across the shoreline. “What happened to her?”
Rara shook her head, “That’s her story to share, not mine.”
Matticus sat on another rock near Revis and looked up at the mighty dragon. “Can you help us find Bruges?”
Rara smiled, showing rows of razor sharp teeth. Despite the twinkle in her eyes it was still a bit disconcerting and the jester couldn’t keep from fidgeting uncomfortably on his rocky perch.
“Of course. Though, the directions are fairly complex and it might be easier if you have a guide. Have you heard of the mercenary who calls herself Ruta?”
“I’m familiar with her,” Revis replied. “I haven’t dealt with her directly, but I know her reputation.”
“Good. Follow the coast until the cliffs meet the sea, then turn east and look for the town of Tucson. Once there, she should be easy enough to find.”
Matticus and Revis opened their mouths to thank Rara, once again, but their words were drowned out by the beating of her massive wings and she took to the air to be about her business. Shaking their heads, they hurried to their destination, frustrated that they had already lost some time. By nightfall, they had reached Tucson. Revis said that his information was that Ruta could always be found in the back corner of a bar called Free Range. Into the bar they went, straight to the woman sitting in the back corner.
“Hello,” he began. “My name is Revis, and this is Matticus.”
“My name is Jenn,” she replied.
Revis was momentarily taken aback. Was his information about Ruta wrong? Or was this some kind of test? He decided to keep going with the conversation. “It’s nice to meet you, Jen.”
“My name is Jenn.”
“That’s what I said: Jen.”
“My name is Jenn, with two Ns. You’re pronouncing it with one.”
With that, Jenn slapped Revis hard across the face and stormed off. After she left, Revis looked at his companion and asked, “What the hell just happened?”
All Matticus could do is shrug, while trying not to laugh in his friend’s face. Off to the side, they heard someone clear their throat. They turned. Sitting at a table, in the other back corner of the bar, was Ruta.
The duo made their way to her table. A series of strategically placed lanterns provided ample light to clearly read from the abundance of books, scrolls, and leaflets spread across the wooden surface. Despite her obvious affinity for research, and the distraction of so much material, her eyes met theirs as they stepped up next to it.
“Are you Ruta?” Matticus asked. Revis was busy rubbing his sore cheek.
“Who told you about me?” Her voice was quiet, but it held authority that can only come with experience and wisdom.
“Figures. Well, in that case, yes, I’m Ruta, and I’ve very busy, so what do you want?”
“We are looking for a guide to lead us to Bruges,” Revis responded. “Rara, thought you might be up for the challenge.”
“That’s not,” Matticus started to say and then Revis elbowed him to get him to shut up.
“Challenge? To take the two of you to Bruges? Hardly. Surely Rara must realized I’m more skilled than that?”
“There’s only one way to find out. Will you lead us?”
After initially being irritated that his Knight had cut him off, and painfully at that, Matticus finally understood why he had done it. At the same time though, he recognized it was a very dangerous game that Revis was playing. Ruta recognized it, as well. “Did you really think that would work on me,” she asked Revis pointedly. “That might work on someone less learned than I, but I am a mercenary researcher. I do not go out into the field.” Matticus couldn’t keep the disappointment off of his face. Seeing the look, Ruta continued, “I do have a map that will show you exactly how to get there, however. If you’ll just give me a moment.”
She looked in a few different piles of her books and scrolls before coming up with a piece of parchment. She handed it to them. Without another word, Revis grabbed the map and walked away. Matticus thanked the mercenary before following him out. When they got outside of the bar, Matticus grabbed Revis’ arm. “What was that about,” he demanded. “She didn’t have to help us at all, but she at least gave us a map. Why’d you just storm off like that?”
Revis stopped and looked at his companion in confusion. “I don’t know,” he answered honestly. “I just got the feeling that if I stayed longer that I’d get slapped again.
Matticus snorted, tried to cover his mouth to hide the smile, failed, and then went ahead and let the laugher roll out of him. “Fair enough. That first slap did look like it hurt.”
When the Jester had settled down enough to regain his composure he pointed at the map that Revis was still holding. “Should we see if that can lead us in the right direction before we get ourselves turned around again?”
The Knight held the parchment, faded and stained with the use and misue of time and travel, so they could both look it over.
Pointing to the spot marked Tucson, Matticus asked, “Here’s where we are, right?”
He then dragged his finger across some very interesting terrain to the spot marked Bruges, “And this is where we are going.”
They spent the next several minutes planning a likely course , discussing options on how to break it up, how best to navigate the trickier aspects of the terrain, and how to make sure they stayed well stocked in food and other supplies. When they had finished they took one last look on the map to orient themselves before resuming their quest.
“Well, that doesn’t look too bad… It’s going to be terrible, right?”