A plump but energetic felid walks through his small neighborhood in Vacus Trium, a small town in the Life Belt of Karserus. The sun sits low in the eastern sky, but high enough for those living in the town to see without any troubles. With the sun and moon locked in the east and west respectively, the weather of Vacus Trium is cool and pleasant under a soft sun. The town only has a few locally-owned shops and rows of neatly placed neighboring houses. There are paths between each building, formed by the daily travels of Vacus Trium residents who know each other personally as friends in the small town.
The felid walks down the beaten path with a smile on his face. His tail waves with excitement as he opens the door to his family home. At the dinner table sits his mother, Apri, his father, Manx, and his brother, Horowitz. His parents look up with stress and worry while his brother stays comfortably in his seat.
Manx is the first to greet his son, “Bartholomew! What are you doing home so late?”
His wife puts a hand on his head of scruffy fur. “He’s an adult, you don’t need to get so worked up about someone without a curfew,” she states before looking towards Bartholomew with loving eyes, “That doesn’t mean we’re not worried about you though.”
Horowitz just snickers as his little brother sits at the table.
Bartholomew shoves him gently, “You really didn’t tell them anything?”
“Tell us what?” Manx huffs impatiently.
“I got a job today! I’ve been talking to Percey and I’m going to be helping him deliver mail. I told Horowitz I was leaving, but I guess he just likes to leave everything to me.”
His parents' ears perk up in surprise; all sense of frustration and worry faded.
“That’s wonderful!” Apri purrs, propping her elbows on the table and resting her head on her paws, “It’ll be good to have three incomes again!”
Manx chuckles, “I’d still be working if anyone would let me.”
“You know your lungs are too weak for it, dear.”
“Then I’d still be working if my own damn body would let me!”
Everyone at the table laughs. Bartholomew looks down at what was made for dinner - a soup turned cold with time. Even if it isn’t warm like usual, everyone eats happily together before bed. Though the sun hasn’t moved in centuries, the family of felidae still need their rest.
The brothers enter their shared room. Bartholomew tucks himself into his own bed while Horowitz closes the curtain, blocking the sunlight from interrupting their place of sleep. The two fall asleep with no trouble, as is routine, leaving the family house silent.
A sudden flood of light awakens Bartholomew. He jolts upright and looks at Horowitz, who has changed into his own work attire. The thin tabby has a clean, blue, button-down shirt with some nice tan pants.
“You better get yourself on a schedule, mailman.” Horowitz snickers.
“Thanks for waking me up.” Bartholomew mumbles while rubbing the sleep out of his eyes.
Horowitz leaves the room as his brother gets out of bed to get ready. Bartholomew is dressed in a cheap but comfortable short-sleeved shirt and shorts. Dressed for his new job, he’s ready to start his day.
He skips breakfast- as his family does more often than not- and heads out the door. He strides down the neighborhood’s beaten path, careful not to step on any loose rocks with his bare paws.
Just outside of the rows of houses sits a fairly small one-story building. Beside the door on each side of the entry wall, there are wide window panes that allow one to see the building’s main room. There’s a wall of mostly empty boxes and a desk with a floramin sitting behind it; Bartholomew knows this person as Percey, the owner of the mail delivery service in Vacus Trium.
Bartholomew opens the door, causing Percey to hop out of their seat to greet him. “Welcome, Bartholomew, thank you! Making the trips to the other Vacus’ gets hard on my old bones.”
“Oh, thank you for hiring me, I’m happy to help!” Bartholomew smiles leaning forward, seeming to waste no time at all getting to the point, “Though, you said you’d tell me about the Vacus District before I have to go out and about.”
“Ah, right, you haven’t left town enough to know. It’s about time we change that then! Follow me!”
Percey hobbles over to their desk and climbs on to the chair, giving them extra height to see the document covered workspace. Bartholomew stands next to the desk and watches his family friend, now boss, unfold a small map. This map doesn’t cover the whole of Karserus, only a handful of towns in their area. It looks very used, the edges of the map have small tears from constant unfolding and refolding, and the beautiful cartography has faded over time.
“Well, lets see here... My mailing routes are here in red, they go through the whole of the Vacus District.” Percey gently traces their finger over the faded lines, "As you may know, our small town is just one part of a larger district made up of five towns. We in Vacus Trium reside in the third sector of the district- hence the 'trium' part of the name!"
Percey exclaims with a big smile, pushing up their slipping glasses. They drag their finger across the map with a gentle hand, "Our little towns work together and all specialize in our own workings and trades to help the others get by!"
Bartholomew glances over the different labelled towns. Vacus Unum, the farming town, Vacus Parum, the carpentry and masonry town, Vacus Trium, the construction town, Vacus Quatum, the textiles town, and Vacus Quinum, the health town.
“But since our towns can't function without the help of the others, we all have a circle of deliveries that is very important to maintain!" Percey paces around their corner, “You’ll be delivering things to Vacus Quatum for their mail room to disperse, as well as delivering things to our own neighbors that we receive from Vacus Paurum. It’s a whole loop of us delivering things to each other. You don’t really need to understand how it all works as long as you know how to do your job.” Percey explains.
“Do I get to see the other Vacus’ today?” Bartholomew asks, looking at Percey with excitement.
“Actually… No,” they smile sympathetically as they present him with a single enveloped letter, “I actually only have this for you to deliver today, for a toy store in Aedelbark. It’s a neighboring town but it’s not part of the Vacus District.”
Bartholomew takes the letter in his hands, “It’s alright, easy first day!” He sticks out his tongue joyfully.
“I promise I’ll make you work harder soon,” Percey laughs and wags their finger in a playful stern manner.
They wave as their new employee exits. Bartholomew looks at the letter, then back up at the paths in front of him. It is his first time going to Aedelbark, but he intends to make it a good trip.
The journey is quite uneventful- traveling to a new town and going down a hill may be easy for most, but Bartholomew’s excitement turns it into a sort of “quest”. Pleased with the completion of the first half of his journey, Bartholomew looks up at a building called the Toy Store.
Brighter lights than he’s seen in a man-made structure glow through the windows and light up a key-shaped logo in big, yellow letters. The walls are painted brick; clean and white with violet accents. An awning is sprawled above the door in much brighter colors than Bartholomew is used to. His awe steadily becomes concern as he observes the handle-less glass doors he’s come up to
As he takes a cautious step forward, the doors whir to the side on their own, causing Bartholomew to jump back in surprise. The doors slide shut. He approaches once more causing the doors to reopen- slightly embarrassed- and steps inside, looking around to see who opened the door. To Bartholomew’s surprise, no one was there besides a man standing behind the register with a goofy grin on his face.
“Those are automatic doors! Neat, huh?” the man leans forward, resting his arms on the counter in front of him.
“Um… How do they... do that?” Bartholomew squeaks.
"Oh, just some fancy electronics- could get the same effect with arcana really! There's not much electric running through this part of the world, hm?”
Bartholomew simply nods and makes his way to the counter. He checks the man’s name tag and looks down at the letter in his hand, “Uh. Finley, I think this is for you.” He holds out the letter with both hands.
"Huh! Good timing, I was actually planning on packing up shop and moving towns tonight." Finley laughs, taking the letter, “Thank you very much, sir. Feel free to take a look around while you’re here!” He gives a friendly wink.
“Ah, thank you.” Bartholomew states politely.
Bartholomew turns to survey the store. The lights are bright, easily showing off the variety of different objects the Toy Store sells. The items are reminiscent of childrens’ toys, but their functions vary so widely that people of any age could easily find something useful to them. There seems to be something for everyone here.
During his walk around the store, fascinated with the colorful toys and trinkets, Bartholomew accidentally bumps shoulders with another shopper.
“I’m so sorry! I wasn’t watching where I was going and-”
“Hey it’s okay!” the stranger assures, grabbing Bartholomews shoulders and patting him down with respect, the same way a tailor might while having you try on a suit jacket.
Here stands an infernal daemon, wearing shorts and a vest with fur around the collar. Two red horns swirl upwards from the sides of his head, parting his messy dark hair. His long tail flicks back and forth, the feathery end swaying softly with each gentle pull. The daemon takes a small step back before extending his hand.
“B-Bartholomew… Is my name! My name is Bartholomew.”
Wicker laughs and takes Bartholomew’s paw shaking it firmly. Bartholomew's fur fluffs up as he avoids returning Wickers gaze and ends the handshake. Thankfully, Wicker is able to carry the conversation.
“I don’t think I’ve seen you around before, Bartholomew. Where are you from?”
“Vacus Trium, I’m only over here delivering mail...”
“Oh, you’ve got a job with travel! That’s pretty cool, man.”
Bartholomew nods, unable to keep the flustered smile off his face, He manages to stammer, “It’s very nice to meet you, I haven’t talked to many people outside of my hometown.”
“That’s alright, we all have to get out sometime.” Wicker shrugs, glancing at the Toy Store’s doors, “I was actually about to head home if you wanted to see a little more of Aedelbark with me?”
“Sure!” Bartholomew’s tail flicks excitedly.
He follows Wicker towards the doors, which cause them to slide open. Finley calls out a friendly goodbye as they exit, then the two of them are on their way.
The buildings in Aedelbark are taller than those Bartholomew has seen in the Vacus district. While he was used to one- or two-story buildings, those currently around him could be three- or four-stories high. It appears that multiple separate people and business can be under one roof.
“I had no idea two towns so close together could be so different. Does this place get busy?” he inquires, looking around with bright eyes.
Wicker nods, “We tend to have some travel through here, so it can get busy during holidays. A lot of people tend to capitalize on that, I guess. Houses around here are usually smaller, at least. Unless you’re implying buildings in your town are even bigger!”
Bartholomew laughs and shakes his head gently. They continue down a path, taking in the sights of Aedelbark. Along the way, Wicker begins to fish something out of his vest pocket. Bartholomew watches curiously as his new friend pulls out a rolled cigarette and a lighter.
“You don’t mind if I smoke, do you?”
“No, yeah, that's fine!”
Wicker holds the cigarette in his mouth and flicks the lighter on, holding the flame to one end. A small stream of smoke begins to rise as the cigarette ignites. Bartholomew looks away to see that they’ve come to a group of houses. They are built similarly to those in Vacus Trium, but larger.
With the cigarette still held in his mouth, Wicker puts the lighter back in his pocket and exchanges it with a silver key. Further down the path, Wicker takes a sharp turn and leads Bartholomew up to his front porch. The key is swiftly slipped into its slot and the door is pushed open, leading to Wicker's living room.
Wicker holds the door open, he smiles and gestures for Bartholomew to enter first. He steps on the soft, carpeted floor and looks around the room. There's a red-striped rug laid out on the ground and dark wooden planks on the walls. In the corner sits a table with an unlit lantern atop it.
Wicker takes his vest off, leaving him in a dull green tank top. He hangs it on a coat hook next to the door, which he then pulls closed. Light filters in through the windows, giving Wicker’s home a comfortable warmth.
“Take a seat if you’d like!” Wicker offers, nodding towards a soft, maroon couch.
“Thank you,” Bartholomew takes a seat and continues glancing around as Wicker sits next to him.
He puts the cigarette back in his mouth and breathes in gently, letting the smoke flow out. He takes it between two fingers again and glances at Bartholomew.
“You ever smoke?”
“I haven’t thought about it before. I haven’t even had the chance, really.”
Wicker extends his hand towards Bart, presenting the cigarette. “Well, I guess you have the chance now.”
Bartholomew looks at Wicker’s hand that presented the cigarette to him. He looks up at his new friend with uncertainty in his eyes.
“Oh, it’s alright if you don’t want to,” Wicker reassures, “Didn’t mean to put you on the spot like that.” He reclines lazily with a subtle grin on his face.
Bartholomew’s face heats up with embarrassment, “N-no, it’s okay! I just wasn’t expecting the offer.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yeah! I think it would be worth a try.”
The cigarette is passed between hands, still glowing faintly from one end. Bartholomew looks it over for a moment, then puts the unlit end in his mouth, taking a breath in. He stifles a cough, handing the cigarette back to Wicker.
"Ope, sorry- Should have warned you 'bout that," Wicker puts his hand to his mouth in a failed attempt to hide his amusement.
“It’s fine, I promise!” Bartholomew chokes, “It’s something to get used to.”
“You wanna keep going?”
“I don’t see why not!”
Time passes as the both of them chat, trading the cigarette back and forth. Bartholomew works through the initial discomfort, reveling in a new feeling. After about 25 minutes of chatting, Bartholomew says his goodbyes and starts to head home. As he walks, everything around him turns slow and fuzzy.
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