Chapter 3: Induction
Aliya needed answers. None of what she was seeing and experiencing made sense but at the same time she was certain everything was real rather than some dream she'd eventually wake from.
But at that moment, her growling stomach and the thick layer of grime incasing every inch of her decided perhaps a bath and something to eat might be more worth her time for now.
From the balcony overlooking the piazza Aliya followed Pi down the long staircase towards the fountain. Her eyes were fixed on the enormous statue at its centre.
“Who is that?” Aliya asked curiously.
“It's the first leader of the Huntresses, Snez’hana.” Pi replied mechanically before continuing.
“She is believed to be one of the first to stumble upon this world which we now call Bridgeworld.”
“Did she come on the boats, too?” Aliya asked, her curiosity piqued.
“No, there were no rivermen before Snez’hana. The legends say she awoke one day, struggling to keep afloat in the water. Somehow she survived and made her way to the village, much like your journey today. As with all new arrivals she had no recollection of where she had come from nor what had brought her here.
It's believed Snez’hana worked as an assistant to the blacksmith, crafting and forging spades, hammers and rakes for the villagers. She would wander the fields, delve deep into the woodlands, and all the while ponder the mystery of the Star." Pi continued.
“The Star? You mean that massive thing floating above us?” Aliya interrupted.
“Yes, that’s what the early inhabitants called it.” Pi replied, a hint of disapproval at her interruption.
“So what is it?” Aliya asked excitedly.
“All things in due course. Would you like me to continue with your induction?” Pi said calmly.
“Induction? Oh, yes, induction. Yes please.” Aliya replied gracelessly as Pi’s calm and controlled demeanor blanketed Aliya's excitement.
“Snez’hana continued her ventures deep into the woodlands pushing ever deeper every time. On one of her excursions, she noticed a metallic glint on one of the ancient trees as the sunlight pierced the foliage crown above. Upon closer inspection she saw it was a wooden crate lodged into the hollow of the tree. The lock was old and rusted and came loose with little more than a gentle kick. The contents of the crate spilled out onto the forest floor and she found a strange collection of relics, coins and gems.
Over the months that followed Snez’hana redoubled her efforts to scour the woodlands, venturing deeper still with every trip. Her efforts were rewarded as she continued to find these trinkets and treasures. She begun by selling a few but most of them she kept in the hopes of finding a more valuable use for them. With her newfound wealth she left the smithy behind and continued her search for more treasures.
Snez’hana was the first Huntress, the first in a line that spans generations. Now you've been given the chance to continue that line Aliya.” Pi said with a slight expectation in her tone.
Aliya followed Pi in silence down the hallway of what looked like a building full of living quarters, all the while pondering the story of Snez’hana.
“Who left these treasures there? And why the weapons?” Aliya asked looking up from her musings.
“Bridgeworld is ancient, remnants of thousands of civilizations litter this world. Beings of all kinds come and go, and over thousands of generations there have been countless battles and wars. Empires rose and empires fell and all that remain are odd relics and ancient treasures. The Huntress eschews involvement in these battles, and instead scours the world for treasure. But there are a great many creatures that inhabit Bridgeworld and they have a great many lives over the centuries.” Pi let a brief silence fall before continuing.
“It appears we've arrived Aliya, this is your room.”
As Aliya stepped up to the door it unlocked itself and before Aliya could express her confusion Pi spoke. “The locks are paired to our personal signatures, and they will lock and unlock automatically in your presence or absence. You may come and go as you please, young Huntress.”
“One final thing” Pi said as she turned to leave. “That little pouch that you came with, which unlocked the Den’s entrance contains items of great value. Protect them carefully or lock them in our vault. They will be used productively there but not at risk of damaging or consuming them.
We shall meet again soon.” With that Pi walked out the door and the door shut behind her.
“Many more questions, and not that many answers”, Aliya thought to herself. As she laid down on the bed.
She looked around her new room, the walls were made of that same blueish-grey stones, the window looked straight onto the Piazza, at the side profile of the statue of Snez’hana. Shelves lined the walls, books on one wall and clothes, sheets and towels on the other. A desk and a kerosene lamp sat next to her bed, and on the other side of the room was a wooden door.
Aliya got up and opened the door, and found a bathroom with a tub of hot water already running.
“Looks like I got lucky with this little bit of luxury.”, Aliya thought to herself. “Sure beats the village. Well, I’d best get washed up at the very least. Something stinks in here and I’m pretty sure it’s me.”