A day later, Boke Kin sat upon his horse at the top of a small grassy hill. Before him were fields of crops split by well maintained roads. Farmers of all sort toiled under the sun, yet did not seem displeased by their work. Faintly the sounds of song rose up to Kin even from his distance. Beyond the tended fields stood the impressive sight of Great Forks. Stone walls, made from fine marble or some other quality stone, surrounded the circular city. Despite their height, Kin could see the spires of great buildings behind the walls. Temple towers and the peaks of grand palaces alike reached toward the heavens. The sun shone in the East, behind Great Forks. Its warm early light made the figure of the place seem almost to glitter.
â€œWow...â€ Kin said under his breath. He had not seen anything so impressive, that was not tarnished by crime or military dogma, since he left his home in the Realm. Birds sang in nearby trees, grateful for the warmth of a new day. The last drops of morning dew clung stubbornly to a few blades of grass. Kin took in the loveliness of the world for a while before shifting the uncomfortable and enormous bulk of his new sword in his lap. Clacking of hooves slowly against the road from behind caught Kinâ€™s attention. He looked back and saw Meihi on her own horse walking up. â€œOh good, I figured youâ€™d catch up,â€ Kin said back toward her, â€œhow did the party with your new bandit friends go?â€
â€œIt was great for a while, but then they tried to eat my horse.â€ She pulled up alongside him. â€œHey, itâ€™s Great Forks...â€ Clearly she had not had much rest, but her half-lidded and blood-shot eyes also told a tale of too many inhaled drugs. Kin chuckled, and Meihi glared wobblingly at him. They rode together toward the grand city. Farmers waved as they passed, and the few passing guard patrols did not bother them as they walked their horses toward an massive open gate in the even larger walls.
At the gate, a pair of guards in heavy leather coats and carrying spears stood watch. â€œGreetings,â€ Kin said to one as they rode up, â€œmay we enter your fine city?â€
â€œWelcome to Great Forks,â€ the guard replied. â€œOh... I mean, yeah. Sure. Go on in.â€
Inside the city walls Kin beheld wide stone streets lined with services, homes and temples. The clean layout of buildings and quality of architecture reminded him of many of the palaces of the Blooded back home. A sense of power seemed to tingle in the air, which itself was filled with a thin haze. Unlike the cloying smell and smoke that hung over Nexus, this vapor smelled slightly sweet and wasnâ€™t unpleasant to inhale. In fact, within a few minutes Kin was feeling very calm. Meihi seemed to feel less worn out as well.
After finding a hotel and stable to leave the horses in, Kin and Meihi returned to the streets. â€œIâ€™m... gonna go find some new shoes,â€ Kin quietly declared. â€œMeet you back in the hotel, okay?â€ She nodded without word and loped off to their hotel room. â€œOkay, see you there then. Iâ€™m going to get some shoes.â€ Kin smiled, it was nice having at least one friend out in the threshold. Someday he vowed to tell Meihi that.
Sparks came occasionally from the edge of Kinâ€™s sword as he dragged it behind him down the street. Signs over each business and temple were listed twice, once in the River tongue and once in the language of the far East. Thankfully, Kin knew the language of the River. He found a cobblerâ€™s establishment and entered. Smooth wooden floors were a nice change of pace for his feet. Rows of shoes and boots lined shelves on either side of the main room. In the back of the room sat a figure who looked almost completely human, except for a pair of curving ramâ€™s horns on his head and a horseâ€™s tail protruding through the back of his robe.
â€œWelcome!â€ the ram-horse-man greeted pleasantly as he looked up from his work on another pair of shoes. â€œOh, please do watch out for the floor,â€ he pointed at Kinâ€™s sword, which was scraping along behind him.
â€œMy apologies,â€ Kin said with a bow of his head, â€œItâ€™s just so damnably heavy.â€
â€œHave you tried channeling power into it, harmonizing it with your body and soul?â€ The man-cobbler suggested idly.
Boke Kin looked down at his sword, â€œumm, no...â€ He focused and released power into the blade. On his brow the sunburst mark of the rising sun began to glow brightly. Trails of faint golden light flowed like a mist from Kinâ€™s hand and wrapped themselves tightly to the markings and gold inlays of the weapon. They sank into the blade and for a moment the steel seemed to shimmer with a golden light. As the light faded, as did the weight of the ponderous sword. Kin lifted it from the floor with one hand, no more difficult than hefting a regular sword. In fact, it seemed somehow lighter than he would expect from mortal steel, as though it were balancing itself specifically to his grip.
â€œI see you are a Prince of the Earth,â€ the cobbler remarked. â€œWelcome to my humble business.â€
â€œThanks,â€ Kin replied. â€œBy the way, if it isnâ€™t considered rude,â€ he paused for a moment, â€œwhat exactly are you?â€
â€œA shoe maker,â€ the man replied with a grin. â€œBut clearly you are new to the area and are asking about the other thing. My father was a road spirit, which is why I have such a striking look. I was named Traveler at the Crossroads by my mother, in honor of my divine father. Most simply call me Cross.â€
â€œWell met Mr. Cross,â€ Kin said as they exchanged a bow of respect to each other. â€œI am Boke Kin, formerly a member of a royal family in the Realm. After some problems in Nexus, I find myself in need of something new to protect my feet.â€
â€œYou are in the right place then,â€ Cross smiled, â€œit would be an honor to serve one such as yourself. Now will you be paying in silver or jade? I need to know for exchange purposes.â€
Kin reached for his coin purse, only then remembering that it had been stolen. â€œOh, I forgot... I donâ€™t have any money on me.â€
â€œThen Iâ€™m afraid I cannot sell you anything,â€ Cross said with a flat tone and loss of his smile. Kin looked to him plaintively. â€œJust kidding,â€ he grinned widely again, â€œbut perhaps once I make you something that will make your feet sing you could do something for me?â€ Kin listened. â€œCould you tell people you got your excellent footwear from me? Word of mouth advertising is everything in this business and the word of a Prince of the Earth would be even greater!â€
â€œOf course Mr. Cross,â€ Kin said with a deep bow, â€œif your sandals are as good as you make them sound, I will be delighted to help you out.â€ With that, Kin sat down in a chair and the half-god set to work making him a new set of shoes.