"Glad to see you're awake, you gave me quite a scare. Luckily for you, Mira gave us a few doses of her new antidote before we left or you would have been a goner. Not many can say they got stung by an Empress scorpion and survived." - Alexis
"I sure don't feel lucky." I say with a light chuckle
"Well lucky or not, you still have something to take care of before we head back to the city." - Alexis
"And what would that be?" - Thomas
"Your luck seemed to hold out for a while since Jareth managed to smash in the Emperor Scorpion's head before you passed out and he disappeared. Now you just need to make it your summon." - Alexis
"Oh right, totally forgot about that with all the acid burning through my veins. Guess I'll get to it a second, give me a little while before we start heading out. - Thomas
"Nope, you've rested enough, now get off your butt and sign the contract so we can leave." - Alexis
All I could muster was a groan because I really did not feel like moving at all with my head feeling like it got stuffed with Jello. I put my hands over my ears in hopes of ignoring her, unfortunately that seemed to backfire on me.
I felt something around the weight of a pug with 6 legs start crawling from my legs towards my chest. That was not a good sign, so I opened my eyes and came face to face with a small scorpion with a pink crown on its' head. I didn't dare move in fear of antagonizing the monster/summon.
"Alexis, please get this thing off of me, I've had enough of being stung for the rest of my life, I promise I'll get up." - Thomas
That seemed to assure her, and the scorpion skittered off of me. With a sigh, I pushed myself off the sandy ground and made my way past the dead campfire and came up to the mangled body of the Emperor Scorpion.
I couldn't really complain since I just felt a little sore all over, and I finally had another summon to add to my roster. This was one of the kings of the insect type monsters and was a powerhouse in close combat, its' shell turned it into a tank as well, and only Jareth's overwhelming might broke through his armor.
Having gone through the ritual a few times by now, I cut my palm with the knife on my belt and let the blood drip down on the core exposed through the now open cavity within the scorpions head. It didn't take long before the bond took hold and the scorpion reverted into a core that drifted into my storage.
Wanting to get to know my new ally, I summoned the Emperor scorpion and started patting his head roughly so he could feel it through his exoskeleton. He seemed to enjoy it and I didn't mind either as I got to admire the lethal potential of this impressive summon. I also knew I would need a name for the big guy and started brainstorming for something unique but fitting.
"Alright bud, I've decided that I'm going to name you Saber on account of all your weapon-like appendages." - Thomas
He didn't seem to mind and just pushed up against my leg like a dog for more pats. Deciding to humor my new summon, I gave him head pats until it was time for us to leave with the rising of the sun.
Coming back to the city was something else, it was unrecognizable as crowds of people in bright outfits wandered all over with mariachi bands and other native musicians adding to the atmosphere of the city-wide party.
Not just the sights and sound were amazing, but the smells from all of the vendors selling fragrant and hearty snacks to the festival-goers. We had no idea what was going on, so I decided to ask a small but stout Hispanic man with an impressive mustache who was off to the side of the party in the streets.
Trying to talk over the din of the music and yelling from the festival, "Excuse me sir, would you mind telling me what's going on with this festival?" - Thomas
He replied in a heavy accent, "You must not be from here, this is the festival of La Gran Supervivevencia or in the common tongue, The Great Survival. It is a festival commemorating the survival and recovery from the first monster break, everyone from the city goes out and enjoys life with their neighbors in commemoration of those who sacrificed themselves and for all of us who have survived. It is half a celebration of life and half a remembrance of the dead during this new era."
"It's quite something, we don't have anything like that in the North American city. My name is Thomas, and this is Alex." - Thomas
"Hello, Thomas and Alex, my name is Marco Espinoza. Since you seem so interested in the festival, why don't you join me and my family so we can show you around and help you experience the festival? It is after all, all about celebrating friendship and bonds, so why not make some new ones in the spirit of the festival." - Marco
"We'd love to as long as we aren't imposing on you and your family." Alexis chimed in from my side.
"Nonsense, we'd love to have you, let me introduce you to my family before we go see the parade." - Marco
He enthusiastically waves over a tall and dark-haired woman with three children around her. After they get to us, he starts introducing him. "Mi Amor, this is Thomas and Alexis, they are travelers who want to experience the festival so I thought I would have them come with us. Alexis and Thomas, this is the love of my life Esmerelda, and my three children; Julio, Jesus, and Maria." -Marco
We smile and wave to them all, and with the introductions out of the way, we follow the family through the streets lined with color and streamers everywhere. It is quite the sight to see and makes everything seem more lively, but I'm quite curious about the colors so I ask Marco about them.
"The colors are meant to represent celebrating that we are still alive, and the skeletons and skulls that are dotted around or you see people dressed as are meant to represent those who have died protecting us. There are many traditions and symbolism within the festival, but it is mostly meant to be a celebration so people try to do everything they enjoy to celebrate another year of surviving." - Marco
"That's quite unique, would you mind telling me some of what is done for the festival?" Chimes Alexis who seems to want to know everything about the festival since we have nothing close to it at home.
"No problem" he jovially says. "Most of what is done is people wearing or painting bright colors everywhere or dressing in some sort of costume. There are parades that go around featuring summoners and summons as well as some paper mache models of some of the more well-known monsters. We also eat all sorts of cultural foods and sweets, and after the sun goes down everyone gathers in their respective neighborhoods to hold a feast and drink while reminiscing." -Marco
"That's beautiful, I'm looking forward to the parade and feast later. Tommy and I love to try new and delicious food, so thank you for letting us join you and your family on this special occasion. Is there anything we should bring or buy for the feast later, we wouldn't want to just take when you've been so generous already." - Alexis
"Don't worry about it, we are happy to share some of our culture with people who are interested. If you feel the need to bring something, maybe buy a bottle or two of liquor, it's the only thing we can't have enough of." - Marco
"That works fine for us. If you don't mind, why don't Alexis and I stop at a stall to buy some festival appropriate clothes?" - Thomas
They assured us that there was no hurry, and so we went up to a large stall featuring all sorts of clothing for the festival. I quickly picked out an orange t-shirt with cyan jeans and a royal purple zip-up jacket. Alexis decided to dress up a bit and chose out a dark pink skirt with bright green leggings and a red blouse to complete her colorful look.
We quickly went into the changing area behind the stall and came out in proper festival colors. It would have been a weird look if everyone else wasn't dressed in various bright colors like we were. We caught up quickly with Marco and his family and went on our way to one of the parades that were happening near his home.
We eventually worked our way up to the front of the street and witnessed all sorts of summons with their summoners working their way down the street. In between these summoners were well-known tier 4 and 5 monsters that such as dragons and chimera's along with plenty of monsters from Latin American culture.
We were as delighted as Marco's kids to see this event and were a bit disappointed when it was over, and so we continued with the festivities by making it to a vendor and band area on the corner. Guitars were being strung and many folk songs sung in Spanish were serenading the crowd. Alexis and I were more focused on the food from the vendors lining the sidewalk and so we made our way over to snack on some food and fill our empty bellies.
The kids seemed to want these long doughy sticks with cinnamon and sugar on them from one vendor which I learned were called churros. They were quite large and so we got one for the kids plus Alexis and I, what made them even better were the chocolate and caramel drizzled on top before being served to us.
The kids dug in and devoured the tasty treats, but Alexis and I savored the unique tasting dessert stick before moving on to other foods. We didn't eat too much as there was the feast to look forward to later, but we snacked on several items from vendors even including fried bugs. We had strong stomachs from everything we had already seen and done and so we tried them without reservation.
They were mostly just crunchy with a hint of spice that was liberally sprinkled on the bug kabobs. The scorpions were my favorite, mostly because I got revenge on the insects that had almost done me in.
I couldn't forget to bring my contribution to the feast, so I picked up a yellowish and a clear bottle of tequila, that the stall owner assured would be plenty for the festivities.
We enjoyed the atmosphere and listened to music until it started to get dark. When that happened, we made our way back to Marco's neighborhood for the feast. Groups of families were already set up around plenty of bench-style tables laden with food all gathered around a large campfire.
The children were swinging around at monster-themed pinatas and playing around with their parent's summons, mostly the friendly and low tiered ones since the stronger ones were occasionally accidentally lethal. The adults were drinking and eating with leisure while talking and sharing stories. Marco and his family were well received by everyone and as a result, Alexis and I were accepted as well.
Seeing that the children all seemed to be having fun with summons, Alexis and I brought out some of our less intimidating summons for the children to play with. I brought out Brutus and Emett for the children to play around with and instructed them to be friendly and entertain the children, and for motivation, I promised an extra core if they did a good job. Alexis brought out her bydra Violet since she was still basically an infant as well as Holly the Harpy.
The children seemed to love them and had a fun time petting them or getting rides from Brutus. Violet seemed to be soaking up the attention and enjoyed getting pampered by the small children. Brutus looked to be having fun giving the children rides and shadow traveling with them every now and then. Holly looked to be putting up with the attention but entertained them in her own way by flying around and using fancy flying maneuvers.
Seeing that the festivities were already going and many had already had a few drinks, we decided to catch up and I brought out the two bottles of tequila to share. Everyone flocked around to have a drink and we were soon becoming friends and sharing stories with many of them. They seemed shocked when we told them about how we managed to get Violet and even more impressed that we got out alive with minimal injury against something so deadly.
By this point, we had each had a couple of drinks and I was definitely starting to feel the effects. My constitution seemed to give me a higher tolerance for alcohol, so I wasn't wasted, but I was definitely comfortably drunk. We had settled in and were just enjoying the atmosphere while listening to some of the older adults share their stories about some of the monster breaks.
One thing I did notice was that some seemed to reluctant to share some of their obviously haunting memories but after a few drinks and some encouragement they were able to share and seemed to feel better after that. It was apparent that this event was a catharsis for many and a point of hope for others, it seemed to remind them that even when things get hard or dangerous there are still things to fight for.
Eventually, the night wore on and my two bottles were finished. At this point in the night, I had already recalled my summons as I could barely focus, and many were already passed out or had gone home to sleep it off. With the bonfire burning low, Marco got our attention and gestured for us to follow him and his wife as they carried their sleeping children.
We managed to make it to their small but cozy home, but at that point, I was done as it was my first time drinking and had already had so much. I passed out on their couch fully clothed, and I'm pretty sure Esmerelda brought Alexis to a small guest room for her to sleep in. I would figure everything out in the morning, for now, I was intent on sleeping through the rest of my drunkenness. Hopefully in the morning, I wouldn't wake up with a hangover like I had heard Mira complain about a few times over the years.