In fact, rather than food, their most pressing problem was to find water. Having not drunk since their appearance in the hot jungle, their tongues were horrendously dry and their lips parched.
Unlike what many people think, humans could survive much longer than two days without drinking if conditions allowed. The world record on earth was held by an Austrian man who was forgotten in a prison cell for 18 days.
The danger was elsewhere.
When the body lacked water, the blood would become more viscous, the burden on the excretory organs would increase, but above all the blood electrolyte levels would be affected. If this imbalance worsened, the most likely outcome was heart failure, which could hit sooner or later depending on the dehydrated person's health and nutritional status.
It had only been a day since their last drink, but Ikaris was injured and frail. Because of their extensive exposure to the sun, they had sweated a lot and their skin was reddish-purple from sunburn. Altogether, they looked terrible.
Ikaris tried to remember where the water might be in the village, but he couldn't even recall seeing a trough anywhere.
"Let's go back and ask the guards." He finally suggested with a casual, but rather downcast look.
"Okay." Ellie approved readily. Wherever he went, she would follow him. Right now, she just didn't want to be left alone.
The village was not large and less than two minutes later they were back in the central square. The thatched cottage, the altar, the kneeling prisoners and the three guards had not budged since they left. Recognizing them, a smirk appeared on the weathered faces of the three aborigines.
"Hello. Mind if I join you?" Ikaris greeted them politely.
"What do you want, boy?" Koko, another warrior from the party that had captured him the day before, took the initiative to talk to him.
He was a 35-year-old man of small stature, no more than 1.6 meters tall, with dry, yellowish skin like old parchment. His face was covered with freckles, moles and other dark spots warranting a visit to the dermatologist. With his big elephant ears, he looked a bit silly, but his speech was fine compared to most of the tribe's villagers.
His only weapon was a simple wooden pike about his size. At first glance, it was a long tree branch picked up somewhere in the jungle, the end of which had been sharpened and blackened over a fire.
"I would like to know how I can get food and water, including clothing if possible." Ikaris answered honestly.
Koko gave him a funny look, but the other two guards burst out laughing. The prisoners, who were rotting in the sun, were already intrigued by the boy and the young woman who looked different from those savages. Overhearing the boy's query, they couldn't help but pay attention to their conversation with the guards.
" You want food and drink? And some clothes as well?" Koko repeated queerly.
"That's right." Ikaris confirmed, undaunted by the other two Warriors' snickering.
"Look around you. Do you see anyone else in the village besides us and the prisoners?" Koko snorted scornfully. "If you want food or water, go get your own pittance in the jungle. Believe me, even if someone has food here, they won't share it with anyone. If it weren't for old Gralu and Malia, we would have long since started killing each other."
Ikaris frowned, but he quickly recomposed himself. He had already considered such a possibility. Nevertheless, it was one thing to consider it and quite another to verify his suspicions. This tribe was more backward and decrepit than he thought.
"In that case how do you get your own food. Is there a watering hole around here?" He then asked coldly.
Koko was surprised by the boy's composure, but he had no reason to lie to him so he informed him of what he needed to know to live, or rather survive in this tribe.
"There is a pond about 800 meters southeast of here. This is where we get our water. As for our food... Let's say we eat everything that is gatherable and edible. In other words, not much."
"You don't hunt?" Ellie couldn't help but exclaim, momentarily forgetting her shyness.
The three guards were tempted to snicker, but in the end only bitterness clouded their faces.
" Instead, we're trying not to be hunted." Koko ultimately explained, gripping his wooden pike tightly. "The situation is a bit complicated right now because of the Crawlers who climb over the Great Wall at night. The Great Wall is that big gray wall you see over there in the south. The Crawlers are those monsters that haunt the village at night. Animals and Demon Beasts that are too weak have long since been hunted to extinction by the other tribes and only dangerous predators remain now, ones that even the Crawlers dare not approach. Creatures, refugees and deserters are constantly flooding in from the south, increasing tensions and local competition for resources.
" Our Karragin village is located in an overexploited and unattractive patch of jungle known as the Barren Bush. As the name suggests, the area has little to offer, and anything that might have been of value has long since been consumed or hauled away. Because of our location, our circumstances are a bit precarious, but at least we're free, away from the obligations imposed by the Free Races Confederation.
"To make matters worse, in addition to our tribe, there are six other tribes competing for resources around us. Three kilometers to the east is Canburu and four kilometers to the north is Kwibilly. These are villages like ours, populated by humans. Although our relations are tense, we are not enemies. Conversely, the other four tribes belong to hostile races. The ones that pose a threat to us are Zeshbur, a kobold kennel four kilometers to the west, and Oggul a goblin tribe six kilometers to the south."
'Goblins and kobolds?' Ikaris and Ellie were stunned at the mention of these two infamous races familiar to all fantasy lovers.
The duo listened to Koko's introduction for a few more minutes, including a few tips and warnings before they left, thanking him for his helpfulness. The aboriginal must not have received compliments very often because he offered a "brand new" loincloth from his collection to Ikaris, under the pretext of taking pity on him.
"I know you're proud of your baby boa, but we're not savages here." The big-eared man chided him with a righteous expression.
'Sorry?! If you're not savages then no one is.' Ikaris sneered inwardly. Still, he did not forget to thank him for the loincloth.
At last, he was not naked anymore, recovering a semblance of dignity.
The duo, at the initiative of the boy then set out towards the pond pointed out by Koko. This would be the first time they would enter the jungle since their capture and the situation depicted by the aborigine had not reassured them at all.
For this reason, Ikaris returned to the only workshop in the village and stole a small, cracked stone axe as well as a bone knife that was mostly intact but had lost most of its edge. Following his example, Ellie picked up the small stone hammer and a sharpened stone.
With a gloomy face, the teenager swallowed anxiously, then mustered up all his courage and ventured into the jungle.
lightsnοvεlHe did not go far. As soon as he entered the jungle, he stopped at the first shrub and broke a large branch that could be used as a stick with a few kicks. Because of his injuries and tiredness, he had to rest for several minutes to catch his breath after that effort.
He then whittled the end of the stick with a few deft strokes, reshaping his branch of about 1.2m into an archaic spear. Inspired and admiring, Ellie tried to do the same, but her finished work turned out to be quite inferior.
"Why does my spear look so different when I'm the one doing it? It feels like you've been doing this your whole life..." The college student grumbled in a jealous tone.
"I'm just good with my hands." Ikaris replied evasively as he intently wielded his new weapon.
He practiced a few moves that he felt would be suitable for dealing with an animal or human attack, but again after a few moves he found himself panting with sweat.
'If I'm attacked, I'll only get one chance.' He sighed dejectedly.
"Are you okay?" Ellie inquired, giving him a concerned look.
"I'll have to be."
At a snail's pace, out of caution, but mostly because of Ikaris' injuries, the couple made their way towards the pond. On their way, they met three other villagers. One of them was foraging vainly for tubers while the other two were picking up ants one by one from a bustling anthill.
About 45 minutes later, they finally reached the pond, but when they saw the greenish, rancid, seaweed-smelling water, their expressions turned ugly.
" Hell with it! Do these retards really drink this filth? Forget the Spark, it's a miracle they're still alive." Ikaris cursed at the top of his lungs, losing his regal composure for the first time.
Ellie was also awfully pale.
As they wondered if they would really have to drink that foul water, the bush behind them began to rustle, causing them to turn around with a start.
A second later, a hideous humanoid creature barely three feet tall armed with a wooden club emerged from the bush and as soon as its bulging eyes landed on them, its body froze.
They had just met their first goblin.