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Black Granite

By ChaseRobin All Rights Reserved ©

Fantasy / Adventure

Blurb

The City of Kardath is avoided by most and feared by all. It's a spot of the unknown in the world, and that attracts wary attention from afar. Hugh is on a mission to bring new knowledge back to his college, to earn his scholarly rank, and he sets his sights on unraveling the mystery of The City of Law. He joins forces with a wandering musician on the hunt for a good story, and a homeless girl looking for security, and together they travel on individual journeys of self discovery and internal disappointment. For not everyone gets to be the hero, most people aren't as noble as they'd like to believe, and some things are better left unknown.

I

There is no crime here.

The man rushed blindly through dark streets, tightly clutching the tiny purse he’d lifted from a passing figure in clerical robes.

It was the only person he’d passed since arriving in The City of Law as evening began.

He pauses, leaning on the corner of a stone building, doubled over against the stitch in his side. Behind him, a sound. A scuffle of motion. He didn’t wait to see what it was. He staggered into motion once more.

There is no crime here.

Those words had been carved in cold, black granite over the city gate, the letters picked out in immaculate, polished steel.

The streets were well-paved and clean, bereft of orphans with grasping hands and hopeful eyes, lacking street-side carts of meat pies and wandering women with baskets of flowers for “but a copper pip,” abandoned by painted women showing their wares at second-story windows to the loud delight of male passersby.

There is no crime here.

It was a sterile city, devoid of personality and life. A wanderer passing through, he’d had no knowledge of the city of its people, and this information was tightly held by The City of Law, which betrayed nothing by art or architecture the history or personality of its denizens.

He heard, behind him, the dry, scraping sound that had started his flight: the heavy striking of stone on stone followed by the crunch of footsteps on gravel.

It was a sound that spoke of ancient purpose, inexorable intent, and dark deeds.

It was the sound of the Greater Good.

There is no crime here.

He stumbled in the dark, tripped over his own nervous feet, and failed to stifle the strangled scream that escaped his throat to echo through perfect, empty stone streets.

His pursuer drew closer, heavy footsteps resounding through empty streets. The sound had a cold finality that terrified him into scrambling to his feet despite every fiber of his being telling him to give up, to lie down and surrender to the consequences of his actions, to give in to the Greater Good.

There is no crime here.

His breath rattled in his dry throat as he forced himself to run further. At sundown he’d lifted the small purse from the gray-robed figure hurrying in the vivid sunset light; now the moon had risen and was on its way back to the horizon as he panted raggedly on his way with no end in sight.

In another city he’d expect to see the predawn bustle in full swing. In The City of Law he saw only lit windows and locked doors. As he passed, pale faces peeked out from ground-floor shutters. He made eye-contact with fearful faces that swiftly vanished behind their flimsy wooden barriers. Fragile as they might be, he would have given anything to be safe in a warm house instead of stumbling through the predawn light in front of an unstoppable force that he hadn’t seen.

There is no crime here.

He took a chance and ducked off the main street, seeking refuge in the deep shadows of a narrow service alley. Too late he saw that the alley ended in a tall, brick wall. In disbelief he slowed to a halt. His whole body sagged in despair as he stared at the blank wall. Behind him the dreaded, tireless footsteps turned the corner.

He turned slowly, facing his fate. The purse fell from his frozen, nerveless fingers. It rolled onto its side, disgorging a few crude wooden tokens and a ceramic amulet onto the paving stones.

The last thing he saw was a black, featureless, stone face as massive granite hands reached for him and he finally found his voice.

His scream echoed through the streets, eliciting sighs of relief and grateful embraces from behind the locked doors of The City of Law as the sun rose over the hills.

There is no crime here.

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