Toloko, inhabitant of a secluded village on a distant tropical island originally only wanted to save his grandmother, but ends up trying to save the island from its many threats. Terrifying monsters deemed long to have been nothing but legends, gangs abducting pets, overly loud hip-hop beats and strange rhymes. – Written by Jute

Map of the islandMap of the village of Saavahai, Toloka's home

Chapter 1 – Chapter 2 – Chapter 3

Chapter 2: Joonen

Arrival in Joonen

After a few more eventless hours, the journey ended at one of the piers in Joonen. The bird travelling with Toloka was the first to get off the boat and waited for his human friend on a post used for mooring ships. Toloka had already jumped on land to follow the cardinal before the crew had even finished preparations for berthing, causing the boat to shake noticeably.

„Hey, don’t do that! Wait next time!”

– „Sorry! I’m in a hurry!”

„We’ll be here until tomorrow, you have plenty of time”

Toloka already wasn’t listening anymore and moving towards the main street leading away from the harbor. He saw a lot of people here, more than he had ever seen in one spot outside of assembly rooms. A lot of people were selling street food, shipping and sailing gear and other merchandise, so he wondered if this was the town’s market place.

As he walked past the various stalls, he took in the various scents and sights he had never seen before, one more curious than the other one. It was very noisy, with a lot of chatter, shouting of sellers and the sounds of various vehicles, bicycles, rickshaws and carts. Suddenly though, loud, weird music drowned out everything else. It was mostly very rhythmic and percussion-heavy, with no proper melody or words in it aside from ahh, ahh, tof fa, toho-toho, ahh ahh, tof fa intermixed with some solos of instruments Toloko had never heard before.

Wow, the town really is a strange place.

He then noticed people stepping to the side and the tires of bicycles squealing on the ground. When he went over to watch, he saw a group of teenagers and young adults on bicycles, wearing short black clothes with white highlights and skull motives printed on them. Their mouth and nose were covered by a bandana in the same colors and on their shoulders they were carrying huge boomboxes still playing the same tunes.

The first one, a blue-haired, twenty, maybe twenty-two years old boy demanded:

„Yo, yo, make room. Vutamatova coming through. Amafe a Vutamatova.

„Vut-Vut-Vutama-tova” the other ones were chanting in unison. As the first cyclist, they were bobbing their head to the rhythm of the music.

Toloka tried to get through the crowd to get a better view of this curious sight, but he ended up tripping and fell in front of the small bicycle convoy.

The blue-haired young man at its front put down the stereoblaster and first crossed his arms and then rammed them into his sides in a remarkably fluid movement.

„Yo, yo, I said make room.
Or you’ll face certain doom.”
Toloka’s bird friend was flying over the rowdy and chirped angrily at that, but was roundly ignored.

The two behind him stepped down from their bicycles, and did the same gesture with one hand, leaving the other to still play the same music. The first of the two exclaimed:

„Yo, listen, we show no pity.
We are the blight of this city!”

And the other one added:

„Yo, yo, that’s right, my man!
Leave this place while you can!”

He didn’t need to hear that twice and went to run down a street that seemed to lead downtown.

The plaza

After some minutes of running past various stores, food places, and what not, he came across a larger plaza with a well in the middle of it, occasionally being used by people to fill up buckets with water, and several representative buildings around it. They were all three or four stories high, had a lot of expensive-looking windows and elaborate ornaments decorating the walls and arcades at the bottom. One in the middle near the well even had two towers with bells in them, additional arcades at the second floor and a large clock at the front.

He had no idea what such elaborate and lustrous buildings were used for. Who would need them? Standing cluelessly in the middle of the street, rikshaws, bicycles and pedal buses, 15-seat bicycles with as many sets of pedals, driving past him with bells ringing, he tried to find a sign that would point him to something like the community center or a library, where he could expect to get some help in finding his way around this huge place. Everything here was so weird, and it was too much to take in for him.

„Are you looking for something, young man?”

Toloka didn’t react, still lost in thought looking around confused.

„Excuse me?”

– „Huh? Sorry, what?” Toloka turned around to who was talking to him, and elderly man with a cane in his hand.

„Are you looking for something, young man?”

– „Uhh, yeah. The library or community center.”

„They’re here at the plaza, the large building with the clock and belltowers.”

–„Wow, that’s the community center here? Incredible... Thanks, mister.”

„Eheh, you’re welcome. You’re not from around here, are you?” He was leaning a bit on the cane.

–„No, I’m from a small village across the sea.” Toloka smiled sheepishly.

„Well, enjoy your stay in the big city” the man laughed and walked away.

Toloka decided to not waste any more time and run over the empty town square towards where he’d hoped to find more information, but when he stopped at the well to drink, he noticed a herb store in a corner.

Isn’t the big city supposed to have absolutely everything you could possibly want?

He decided to try his luck there. A bell ringed as he entered the store. The storekeeper was currently sweeping up glass and ceramic shards that were spread across the floor.

Toloka was startled. „Apologies, am I coming in during the wrong time?”

– „No, not at all. How can I help you? Sorry about the mess here. Bandits raided the store earlier.”

„Bandits? Did they steal anything?”

– „A bunch of pots with certain herbs. They were really careless and knocked over a lot of other pots, too. No idea how I’m going to explain that to my suppliers.” He sighed audibly.

Oh no. Of course not everything in a city could be great, I guess. Should have been obvious to me that it would attract less friendly people, too...

„I’m sorry that happened to you. If you want, I can help you clean up.”

– „It’s alright. Were you looking for something specific?”

„Yes, whiteberries and whiteberry leaves.”

–„Oh f..., I’m afraid the thieves took my entire supply of them. You might have more luck in another store, but from what I heard, these raids are systematic and trying to get all the whiteberries there are”

Toloka was bewildered. Why would someone need or want so much?

„Oof, thanks for the information, though.”

– „Sorry I can’t help you more.”

They give each other their goodbyes and Toloka returned to the plaza. Some doves could be seen on it now, one of them was apparently a carrier pigeon currently taking a break from delivering mail.

He stood still for a moment and thought about what to do next when he noticed his stomach rumbling. He hadn’t eaten anything yet after leaving! And his feathered friend was probably needing a snack, too. Thankfully he had remembered to take a bag with assorted seeds with him that he thought the bird would like, and as he pulled it out of his pocket and held it in front of it, he was proven right when it gladly picked out seed after seed. He reached through the holes of the box of the carrier pigeon to give it some, too.

I guess I should have tried to catch a fish with my rod while on the ship, but after seeing all that in the sky I completely forgot about everything else...

So he wanted to go back to the harbor to fish... until he remembered that that might not be the best idea after his previous encounter. Not wanting to face the same rowdys with their weird music and gestures again, he needed another place. But not knowing the streets and beaches of the city left him standing cluelessly in the middle of the street again.
After some deliberation, it seemed like there was nothing left for him to do than to ask someone for directions or find a map. Though asking complete strangers didn’t sit right with him, so he would probably have to go to the library now after all. At least he knew where that one was located, and it was sure to have maps or even guides for the city.

As he for a second time crossed the plaza, paved with beautiful cobblestone, he heard the bells ringing in the tower of the community center.

He reached the door, a massive wood portal almost twice as large as the one at home, and knocked. No answer. A woman feeding the doves at the plaza turned to him and said:

„You still have to open it yourself, they don’t do that for you.”

Ah right, of course.

He mentally slapped his forhead, and pulled the door open. Inside he found himself in a huge hall with white walls, a stone floor and beautifully decorated columns stemming the ceiling in the background. A stairway opposite him was leading to the upper stories. To the left he saw a huge array of benches with pillows on them, to the right was a door labeled „Administration” and a sizable pinboard with a map of the city. Nice, he wouldn’t even have to ask in the library now.

He slowly stepped towards it and took a look. His location was marked with a small red flag, but it seemed almost lost in the sea of streets and buildings. Some houses had a small red point on them, which a key to the map on the right explained to be representing more community centers, and he could see dozens of red dots on the map. So the city was actually made up of dozens of communities! His eyes went large from just how huge this place seemed to be.
At the bottom of the map he saw the coast and the pier he had arrived at, and a second pier was indicated a bit to the west, easy to find from here, and not much further from the first one. But hopefully more peaceful, he thought. It even had a fishing symbol attached to it.


As he left the building and the plaza again, he noticed that most houses actually were very reminiscent of the ones he knew at home. They were largely made of wood, aside from the fancy ones at the plaza, they just all had several floors and were also all extremely close to each other. And they had many balconies.

Poor people here can’t even have their own gardens or fields. How do they grow their food? They can’t all rely on fishing.

He still couldn’t keep his eyes on the street and traffic, as on every corner there was so much for him to take in, to watch and to observe. So many different kind of people doing jobs he had never encountered before, so many different stores and other businesses and so many strange things were being shown and offered.

Eventually, he found the pier and took out his fishing rod. He sat down at the end, further away from the couple men and women that were already fishing and let the still brightly sun shine on him and enjoyed a bit of peace and quiet away from the loud and full city.
While he was waiting for something to catch, he thought back home and to his grandmother. Hopefully she would manage to wait until he can come back. Apparently it would take even longer than he had thought, with the robberies taking place here now. As if the city wasn’t already big and frightening enough, now there were gangsters, too, taking the one thing he so desperately needed. How he wished he were strong enough that he could just go and confront them, and take them down himself. Or have some brilliant plan that would stop their crime spree.

An hour later a fish biting his bait interrupted his sulking. He got it out and smiled for a moment until he realized he had no place to fry it and felt like a failure for not even thinking of that earlier. He got up and was ready to leave when another fishing man near him exclaimed:

„Hey, nice catch! Are you going to eat it as lunch?”

Toloka gave no answer and only sheepishly stared down at the fish in his hand, frowning.

„Something wrong?”

–„Yeah, sorry... I did plan to eat it, but I’m new in this city and don’t have a place to prepare it.”

„No problem! You can just come with me and prepare it at my place. Nice to have someone over for lunch to talk to.” He noticed the red cardinal fluttering next to Toloka. „Your small friend there can come, too!”

–„Oh, thank you! You are a very honorable man, I’ll gladly share what I have with you.”

„You’re most welcome.”

They had barely left the pier behind them, when a familiar tune was audible in the distance on the street. The same rhythms and beats pierced the relative quiet again.

Toloka’s new acquaintance sighed. „Here we go again. Let’s quickly go into the next alley, I live there.”

He ran down the street a couple steps and then turned a sharp left at the next corner. When Toloka had caught up with him and they were both walking at a normal pace again, the fisher continued.

„I can't stand these people. All around town you risk running into them, and they will demand food from you or something or else challenge to you a battle of martial arts.”

He stands still for a moment to check if he could still hear the music, and breathed a sigh of relief when he only heard the distant street noises before continuing.

„I mean, I think they are only trying to act tough and aren’t actually good at fighting and their rhymes are beyond mockery” He chuckled at the thought.

„But they are still annoying when you just want to go home. And this has been going on for weeks”

–„Oh, so they aren’t like a normal part of the city? I saw them earlier today and just thought that’s how people in the city behave.”

„Dear creator, no. Most laugh at them to, when it’s not them who are being rapped at.”

They both shared a laugh at that. A minute of walking later they had arrived at a lime green wooden house with four floors and a flat roof made of thatch. Some clotheslines were hanging from next to the windows, leading to the house on the other side of the alley. Vines were starting to climb the front.

„Come inside, before the gang can find you and show you their power of dancing.”

He unlocked a door with a key, another object rather foreign for Toloka he had only ever heard about, and stepped inside.

Toloka got another suprise when he noticed he wasn’t immediately in anything resembling a living room. He could only see a staircase and some doors, and asked:

„Wait, if this is where you live, where are all the beds and chairs? Are they behind the doors?”

– „Heh, some are, but not mine. My room is upstairs.”

„Is there no room where everyone of the house meets?”

–„Uh, no. Should there be?”

„Maybe not, I’m just so used to people in one house living together in the same rooms. My village doesn’t have your kind of buildings.”

–„Maybe I should come visit your house then some time and be similarly confused.”

They chuckled both, although Toloka felt a bit sheepish. He didn’t want to leave the impression of a completely clueless country bumpkin or anything.

I have to remember to think before I talk and be at the best of my behavior, I kind of represent my community here, after all.

As they walked up the stairs, his new friend started talking again:

„What’s your name, by the way? I’m Duke of Net”

–„I’m Toloka. Uhh... just Toloka as far as I know.”

He mentally slapped his forehead. Dang it. I did it again. Everywhere I go, I will make people think I’m stupid or something..

„Well, I guess in smaller villages second names aren’t really needed as much, huh?” Duke said as he was unlocking the door to his apartment and wipes his shoes on the welcome mat.

–„Yeah, true.” was all that Toloka could say in return, trying to avoid another comment that might across as silly or something.

As he stepped in two steps behind Duke, he noticed how small the room was. A small rectangle with a window and a desk on one side, a bed with a nightstand on the opposite side and bookshelves, cupboards and a kitchenette on the other two. A table and a few chairs were standing in the middle of the room.

His new friend dropped the keys on the desk and then walked to Toloka again, arms extended, as if welcoming him to his new home.

„Here we are. It’s not much, but for me it’s enough. It also means less to clean up, which is always a plus for me.”

He pointed to the window. „And I get plenty of sunlight here every day, while the alley is relatively quiet.”

His guest put down his backpack with the carrier pigeon box attached to it. Those were a common sight with travellers so Duke hadn’t even remarked on them. Then Toloka walked up to the window and at first saw nothing but the blue sky and more five-story buildings on the opposite side, only a few steps length away. Then he realized he could see the street looking down, the few people that were walking on it, and the flowers and vines growing next to it.

„Nice view up here. I have never been up so high.”

Duke smiled. „Glad you like it. But you’ll enjoy it more with a filled stomach. Later I can show you around a bit more, if there are any particular places you’d want to see in this city.”

He turned on the stove and Toloka handed him the fish, and then sat down on a chair and watched him put it on a large pan and drizzle oil on top and to the side.

„How about some nice herbal tea to drink with it?”

–„That sounds great.”

„Can you fetch me some water then? Bathroom is on the opposite side, the leftmost door.”

After Toloka had done that and the tea water was boiling, Duke returned his attention to the fish. It was starting to brown and he added some herbs, and some tiny white fruits to it he had standing in pots on a shelf above his small stove.

„Hey, what’s that you’re putting on the fish? I haven’t seen that before.” Toloka asked with some curiosity.

–„Oh, that’s just dried whiteberries and their leaves.”

„Wait, really? That’s what I have been trying to find all over the city! Please tell me you have more.”

–„No, sorry. Those were the last ones I had. I can later show you the store where I got them from but I heard that there had been robberies. Weirdest robberies ever if you ask me, usually they steal something valuable, don’t they?”

„Well... they’d be very valuable to me. Our village healer told me she needed them to treat my grandmother who suffered from sudden paralysis illness which had made her collapse on the floor yesterday, so I came here to get some and now I see that they are not available here either...”

–„Oh, I’m so sorry. If I had known...”

„No, it’s alright, I think you need more for remedies than you had anyway. But I’d really appreciate it I could take you up on the offer and you showed me where you got it from, maybe that store still has enough left.”

„Sure, it’s right around the corner. Don’t have to walk far. Where were you before?”

– „The one near the community center. It had just had a robbery minutes before I had entered”

„Man, talk about bad luck.”

After he was done frying, he divided up the fish in two and served it in two bowls, offering some corn flatbread and dried vegetables on the side. He also poured two mugs of tea and then sat down himself.

A moment later, Toloka’s cardinal friend appeared on the table and chirped at the two.

„Oh, is there someone else here who is hungry?” Duke laughed.

Toloka fished out the bag of seeds he had with him a second time and tossed it on the table, letting the bird eat.

All three of them had their meal in silence, and after cleaning up went downstairs again, the bird flying next to them or sometimes resting on the backpack of Toloka.

Second attempt

„So, let’s go test your luck again” Duke said as he was opening the front door.

– „If this doesn’t work out, what could I even do?” Toloka asked. When they were both standing outside again, he took the book about the Samwati tribe out of his backpack and flipped to the page describing whiteberries, showing it his new friend.

„This book says they can be found in the lands of the Samwati tribe. But they live in the norteast of the island. That’s almost as far from here as it gets! How would I even get there?” he continued.

Duke looked at the book and scratched his head. „I don’t know, I have never been far away from this town either. Once I was in Sitti on an errand, since my work needed a new device that had to be shipped in from abroad via plane, and Sitti is the only place that allows planes to land, but that’s easily reachable from here.”

– „Sitti, isn’t that even larger than this town? The largest on the island?”

„Yes, it’s about seven times as large as this one”

Toloka’s eyes went large at that. He could barely imagine any place being larger than this, let alone seven times larger. He packed the book away and they started moving again.

„Anyway...” Duke continued „I guess you would have to take a boat down the Tahoon a haad, the huge river running from Sitti towards the northeast or something”

The alley they were walking on wasn’t particularly beautiful, with them passing overflowing garbage bins at every other door and puddles on the unpaved ground, but at least it wasn’t too full of people either. Most buildings were in decent or at least an acceptable state, colored either yellow or green like Duke’s house. Occasionally he would also point at a blossoming climbing plant or a nicely done window ornament that some residents would have to to beautify the neighborhood a bit more.

A minute or two later they were arriving at a street corner where the alley merged into a larger street, and as they turned into it they were almost hit by a ball two children were playing with.
„Sorry, mister!” one of them said, wearing a white shirt and blue shorts on his tanned body.

–„It’s all good” Duke replied with a smile.

He and Toloka waited for some rickshaws and bicycles to pass and then crossed the street. The herb store was on the other side. They were just a few steps away from it when a black two-driver cargo rickshaw pulled up.

A men and a women wearing all black, black clothes, black bandanas, black skullcaps, and black sunglasses stepped out, armed with similarly black colored crossbows. They gave each other a nod and a finger gun gesture before walking swiftly and smoothly towards the entrance, past the bewildered pair of friends standing not five meters away.

„Yo, snow-robbery is a go-go.
We won’t be held back, no, no.” exclaimed the man as he was opening the door.

„We are here, meet me.
Masterthief, sweetie” the woman shouted out as she was walking through.

„What.” is all Toloka could get out. He was starting to raise a finger, as if asking a question, but Duke cut him off before he could say anything.

„No, that is also not normal in cities.” He couldn’t keep a straight face and quickly started to laugh.

Toloka joined in for a moment, but then pointed to the door.

„So, what–” His question was interrupted when pots could be heard breaking inside and fittings being turned over. Shouting emerged.

„What in the world are you doing?” a voice said, clearly the storekeeper.

– „Hand us over the stuff
Or else we will get rough!” both robbers said in unison.

Back outside the store, the Toloka and Duke were pondering what to do now.

„Maybe... we should come back later? These people looked dangerous.”

-„No, they probably only try to look that part. Or else you would have heard shots by now.”

Toloka just stared at Duke.

„I'm serious, it will be fine. Walk in, act confident, you will scare them off.”

He proceeded to go to the door and motioned for Toloko to follow him and do as he said, but Toloka stayed behind.

„Do you want the herb or not?” Duke put his hands in his sides and frowned.

Toloka sighed and slowly approached the door as well.

„Let's go! We will show them” his friend tried to motivate him, and shoved him right in before he could get second thoughts on it.

Toloka had no choice but to say something to assert himself.

„A-Alola, you two! D-Don’t think you can get away with this! Thieves are not welcome here and will be stopped, uh, imprisoned and ... ah, reconciled with society!”

It could have gone worse for a first time. Not much, but still, he thought to himself, cringing on the inside at what he had just said.

The black-clad duo just stared at him, the man seemingly raising an eyebrow and the woman suppressing a chuckle.

When with large step, heavy steps Duke now came in, too, they turned their heads toward him as he exclaimed:

„You heard him: Give up now and repent. Yield to our society voluntarily or be forced to submit”

– „N-no! You can’t force us to live in a society!” The male thief trembled slightly, but remained in place.

„Then go before we let the dogs out”

The intruding duo was visibly taken aback, eyes wide open.

„Curse you” the girl shouted, threw a smoke bomb and escaped with her partner while Toloka, his friend and the storekeeper, who had been silently watching the scene unfold, had to cough to get the noxious gas out of their lungs.

When everything had settled, it wasn’t just the thievery duo that had disappeared.

„Oh no, now they have escaped with the whiteberry leaves pot!” the storekeeper exclaimed.

Toloka and Duke ran out, but could only watch as the tandem rikshaw got away.

Faven. What now?” Toloka wondered aloud.

The storekeeper now came out, too, and said: „I’m sorry, I guess if you still need the whiteberries and their leaves, you’ll have to get it at the source now. I heard that even the stores of other towns had been robbed, and that this one had been the last to still have some.”

He sighed, and looked into the distance and then on the trail the rikshaw had left behind.

„This means you’ll have to travel to Sitti to join a trip to the Samwati lands, where it grows.”

–„To the huge city? But how do I even get there?” Toloka asked.

„Go to the railway station, some streets north of the main plaza and then take a train to Sitti. There you need to find a transport leaving for the northeast of the island. It’ll have to be on the boat, as there is no other way of getting there.”

Toloka found himself speechless for a moment, his eyes wide. After a few moments, he could only got a single thing out.

„Sorry, what is a train?”

It must have been a stupid question for sure, probably something that is really normal for everyone from a town and in this moment he wished he had done more research to not look like a village idiot again.

The storekeeper just looked at Toloka with an eyebrow raised, now speechless, too. Duke chuckled audibly.

„A train is just a boat on land going on two metal lines instead of the waves.” he replied with a wide grin on his face, putting a hand on Toloka’s side.

–„That sounds really weird. Does it have sails, too?” his friend replied.

„No, it works differently. Uhh, I ... I think I could show you at the station. You probably would need someone to show you where exactly it is anyway, right?”

–„Yeah, that would be nice. Just let me send the pigeon with my letter first.”

He put his backpack on the ground and fetched a piece of paper and a pen from inside, using the store wall as a pad.

„Honored healer,

I have discovered that some group of thieves and thugs seems to be stealing all the whiteberry leaves, and I now need to get it from the source, which means going to the Samwati tribe, down the Tahoon a haad river. Don’t worry about me, I will get it. Hope everything in the village is fine and my grandmother’s condition hasn’t worsened.
I hope you stay healthy yourself,

He rolled the paper together and tied it to the pigeon, which he had taken out of the box. Then he let it fly.

After that, he turned to the storekeeper.

„I’m sorry we couldn’t stop the robbers. Is there anything we could do for you now?”

– „Ah, it’s alright. After what I had heard about these raids I should have expected this and done more precautions myself. You did what you could.” With that, he waved goodbye and went inside to clean up.

Duke shrugged in response, and turned to Toloka again.

„We should go to the stations right now, then. Better still, let’s get a bicycle bus or a rikshaw ourselves. It’ll be much faster, and it’s simple, too, just look for one with empty seats coming in your direction and raise your hands to tell them to stop.”

Leaving the town

In that moment, one such muscle-powered bus had just come across the corner. Ten people were sitting around a box in the middle which held luggage, bags and more, nine of them pedaling, with one elderly lady at the side currently just sitting. At the front, the vehicle had a driver steering the bus.

Before Duke could do anything, his friend from the countryside was already waving at it and shouting:

„Hey, sorry, could you take us with you?”

The driver braked and gestured towards the open seats. „Sure”

So they got in, stored away Toloka’s backpack and started pedaling, and drove down the streets, passing more colorful houses, book and flower stores, lunchplaces and then entering the main plaza with the library and community center, where some more pigeons had gathered now. The driver had to honk to get them from leaving his path. After that, they were into what seemed mostly residential quarters with less shops.

Some fifteen minutes later, another huge building became visible. Painted in a pale yellow, with huge windows at the front above and next to an already large metal portal, small towers on both sides and columns supporting the roof of a porch below them it was no less an impressive sight than the buildings at the plaza.
Behind it, large massive vehicles colored red and black could be seen puffing out smoke out of their chimneys while standing on the metal lines Duke had mentioned earlier.

„Are those the land boats you talked about?” Toloko asked.

–„Yes, and the building in front of them is the station! Excuse me, we need to get off here.” his friend replied.

The bus stopped, Toloka got his backpack and they walked towards the large doors serving as the entrance. Before they had reached it, the portal went open and a lot of people came through it.
Duke took a look at the clock above it.

„Looks like we are just in time, too! The train to Sitti just arrived.” he exclaimed.

–„So, wait, I have to get on that thing? And you’ll stay here?”

„Yeah. Sorry, I’d want to come with you and help you out more, but I have work waiting for me here. Be sure to write me, though.” Duke fished out a piece of paper from a pocket that had his address handwritten on it and held it high.

Toloka’s red cardinal friend fluttered over to Duke, snatched it out of his hand with its beak and then flew back where Toloka could take it into his own hand.

„Oh, looks like it’s not just carrier pigeons that can deliver messages, huh?” Duke laughed.
„This card tells you where to direct your next pigeon mail to. I usually give these small contact cards to work partners and such, but I honestly want to stay in touch with you, too, even if we only met some hours ago.”

–„Ohh, alright then. Please just show me how to climb on that thing, I have no clue.”

„Sure, I can walk with you to the platform at least. Let’s go quickly, before the train leaves.”

They stepped on the porch in front of the entrance and ran past the flower pots set up at left and right, towards the portal. A door made of massive metal, it had many ornaments on it, depicting railways, trees and orchids. Thankfully, it wasn’t as difficult to open and swung easily to the side.

The arrival hall had even more ornaments and was a stunning sight to behold. Toloka stopped to look around for a full minute, mouth open. Even gold and silver could be seen at the walls and the window decorations and the stairs in the middle of the room that led to the platform on the other side were a pure white with blue rails.

On the left side, a small newspaper kiosk stand was visible, and next to it a pancake stand, offering sweet and savory treats for the journey. A third stand had books and notebooks on display.

Duke however pointed to the right side.

„Hey now, hurry, or you’ll have to wait hours for the next train. The door to platform with the train to Sitti is there, behind the information desk, the stairs lead to the train going in the opposite direction, for trains arriving from that city.”

–„Oh, sorry, this is just all incredible”

„We really need to meet again sometime so I can show you more of the town. It definitely is beautiful. But now, run. See you.”

Toloka did but when he was still a step away from the open door he heard a whistle being blowed loudly.

„All aboard” a station attendant shouted.

Oh faven.

He started a sprint to the nearest, still open door on the train, but just a second before he reached it it started closing and the train slowly moving, rumbling and hissing as it went along. Still, Toloka tried to jump aboard, and almost slipped, but had managed to grab the handle at the side of the door and could use it to pull himself on the train. His bird friend had it easier and effortlessly flew on board.
The conductor that had been trying to close the door gave both a stern look but then stepped aside to let Toloka enter the train properly.

Inside, he could see rows upon rows of narrows wood benches where people sat side-by-side. It didn’t look very comfortable, but he didn’t expect anything like that. If this thing could bring him to Sitti and with that closer to the herb he was looking for, then that was good enough for him. He just hoped for a safe, eventless journey, not wanting another encounter as he had on the way to Joonen.

After having gone past all the rows, he realized there wasn’t a seat left. He had no idea how long the journey would take, but it would have to be hours. He decided he would just go to a luggage area and sit down on his backpack, probably read some more in the books about the Samwati in preparation. Outside he could now already see the open countryside passing by. He regretted not having waved goodbye to Duke, but at least he had his address now.

He probably wouldn’t be able to find him in the city with it alone, but carrier pigeons tended to be good at those things.

Faven, he thought. It’s not going to get easier in Sitti. If I already had so much trouble in this smaller town, how will I be able to find my way through something six or seven times as large? I don’t even have a real place to go to. How will I ever become a dragon catcher at this point?

He felt the scale he had found near the beach in his pocket.

Maybe I should give it someone else... But no one else there will have seen what I saw, and understand. And everyone trusts me to bring back the medicine, and so it’s on me. I have to do this. It’ll have to work somehow.

Chapter 3

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