A low fire crackled in the predawn several miles north of the segmented city of Moorhenda. Sytheis Tia Menrha, a young wordsmith, prodded the flames idly with a stick to keep the fire burning. It cast a red light through the trees around him, illuminating the sleeping forms of his unlikely companions.
Strange circumstances had him working the a Banndnori mason called Fortas Tillor, a beggar child known as Chipper and two street thugs known as Rantier Zalnot and Bibbi. Together they had entered the inner city’s sewers to hunt a monster but had ended up fleeing for their lives from Draknori warriors who were thought to be long dead. Their escape had left them in woods miles from the city with one less man than they had begun with.
The sleep that Sytheis had managed only served to stiffen his battered limbs. He had been set to watch the camp for an hour now and that time had been spent trying to loosen up his protesting muscles. There was little else to do. His journal and ink bottles had been destroyed and he had left his instruments back at his room. Luckily his Klash cards had survived inside their waterproof case but he had no desire to handle them in his numb hands.
The air was humid and warm even without the fire. Sweat prickled his skin. He stood up and stretched before walking a short distance from the camp to gather more wood. The sun would be rising soon but a meal of cooked rabbit before they set off would go down a treat. Rantier had assured them that he could catch something for them. Continue reading
Buildings shimmered sickeningly outside the window of a second floor room of an inn called The Rose and Thorn. The distant towering wall of Moorenda’s inner city was little more than an indistinct blur. Sytheis Tia Menrha stood by the window staring out at the city beyond. The sun hung heavily in the sky and only the most determined of people were out in the streets unnecessarily. The days were only getting hotter it seemed and Sytheis had no intention of leaving the shade of his rented room.
He studied his reflection in the glass for a moment, running a hand through his sweat-slick blond hair before slumping back into the chair at his desk. Papers lay scattered all across the surface and words were scrawled across every piece. Some of it was his own work while others belonged to other tellers or bards. He grouped them all together into a category that he liked to call ‘the competition’.
At the top of the pile was Moorenda’s most popular Venndi news pamphlet The Stag. Most of the issue was dedicated to the battle that had taken place outside of the city on what was now referred to as Queen’s Hill several days back. The centrepiece of the pamphlet was written by none other than Sytheis himself. It had been written under a pen name to avoid awkward questions but all of the coin had gone into his pocket. It was pure propaganda filled with buzzwords and emotive phrases but with little depth. This was what sold best though.
He had also sent another version to a Chalemite teller under a different name that outlined the events of the battle in a grim, unflattering light. It had been a commission from the queen of Chalem herself and had paid well. It was that bloodsoaked retelling of the battle that had allowed him to rent this room within a good district of the city.
Absently he flicked through the pamphlet, skimming over the pages about the battle and its political implications, until a rough sketch caught his eye. It depicted some kind of large animal lurking in the shadows. The artist had tried to make it appear terrifying while applying only the vaguest of detail to what the creature actually was. He read through the accompanying writing with growing interest. Continue reading
City walls of pale stone stood proudly on the horizon ahead. Around it rougher stone structures clung together in a hodge-podge of designs and materials like a cancer. Farmland covered the ground between the settlement and a lone hilltop many miles from it where a young man stood taking in the sight of the legendary city. Dense forests made a ring around it all.
It was early in the morning and the young man hoped to be within those walls come nightfall. He wiped an arm across his face to remove a trickle of sweat and grimaced at the smell that rose from his sleeve. He had been travelling by foot for over two weeks now without a single change of clothes. Washes had been few and far between and the summer’s heat had been like the innards of an oven for the entire time.
“If I intend to rejoin society today then I’d best make myself presentable. I smell worse than the old man’s attempt at cooking,” he said to himself.
Humming lightly, he made his way down the hill and veered toward a small stream that he had spotted from his vantage point. He found an area that was out of the way of the working men that dotted the surroundings and stripped off. The water was refreshingly cool but the man wasted no time with relaxing. He scrubbed himself clean then applied a flowery scented lotion from a bottle to himself until his entire body smelt faintly of roses.
He left the water then waited until the heat had dried him. The filthy clothes that he had worn were shoved into his pack and a fresh outfit of clean, well made wool was carefully donned. The clothes marked him above a peasant but they were still cheap and basic by any nobleman’s standard. He needed a shave but the slight beard and slightly too long brown hair did not detract from his handsomeness, simply adding a charming ruggedness to his already pleasant appearance. He would not be thrown out of any respectable establishment and that was all that the man needed.