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A child

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Chapter 2

We sat then in silence, It came to my attention how absolutely fatigued I was. I put my head on the table and tried to stay awake. I’ll have enough time to sleep once I was in holding, I thought to myself. I was too interested in what was going on around me to want to sleep. But alas, slumber took hold of me.

When I woke up, I was in a large, dark room. Soon enough, I could see that I was not alone. This room was by no means filled with people, but there were enough to make that little girl frightened. More people were living here than the population of the village, but only by a hand full, I figured.

Someone had hung up strings, and used towels, sheets, any hint of fabric, it seems, atached to these strings to separate the large room into many small alcoves. Some of them seemed randomly placed amongst the others.

“You’re awake,” said an old man not far away. ″They just flopped you in here not moments ago, some the other folk figured you were dead. But you just asleep.”

The man was an antique. He had thinning brown hair, green eyes and a hooked nose. Based on his thin stature, I imagined that he was under-fed.

“Where are my manners! My names Talos. Talos Airmaster before I got myself in here. But that was eaons ago.” Talos shrugged off his own remarks with the wave of his hand.

“Hey, Riydon, girls awake!″ Talos called.

A man appeared from one of the string-rooms and looked over at us.

“That’s Rydon, he’s the last to get here, besides you.”

Rydon shuffled over to where we were sitting, by the very large, metal door. This place must be truly ancient.

“What’s going on out there?” Rydon asked, looking at the door.

I shook my head to indicate that I had no idea.

″You can speak, can’t you?″ he asked.

“Hold on. Let the lady get herself together.” Talos told Rydon before addressing me: “Although, getting to know your name would be nice.”

“Azrah,″ I said, “what is this place?”

“Limbo’” said Rydon.

“Don’t frighten the girl,” said Talos, “This is where we wait for the audience with the Emperor. I’ve been here for over a decade. Some folk have been here longer. The Emperor doesn’t get much time to deal with us.”

“Get comfy,” said Rydon, walking away.

“Just ignore him,” said Talos, getting up to walk away. “Right now, you’re the only lady here, so you get yer own room. The longer we’ve been here, the coser we are from the door. So find the first open one you come to. That’s yours.”

I nodded. and stood up to find it.

The walls appeared to be made of the artificial stone that I later saw being mixed by great machines and poured in liquid state into a premade form. They were crumbling. In small areas, it appeared that someone had used brick to try and repair it. Paint, which I assume was used to seal the wall from further disrepair, was chipping off in large clumps. The farther I got from the ancient door, the worse the walls looked.

People peered out of their makeshift rooms at the new prisoner. The most exciting thing to happen down in Limbo was for someone to either come or to leave. For the first week, I was constantly being questioned by anyone and everyone. Was the Emperor still so and so? Did I meet this person or that? I couldn’t answer a single one. Once everyone understood that I knew nothing, they all left me alone.

I spent over two years in Limbo. Counting the days quickly became a chore. My room’s previous occupent left a small piece of charcoal, which I used to mark the wall. Twice per day, guards came with bread, sometimes meats, pudding, and drink. Always water. The first meal gave the option of coffee. The second gave the option of wine.

I found out that Limbo was the deepest area under the ground that humans have ever lived. It had its own oxygen generator

I explored deeper into Limbo once, and found after the gloom, far far far away from where we were kept, there was a bright light on the celing, and below it, a large amont of trees and plants. It reminded me of my village, and made me somewhat happy. I assume this was also for the oxygen we needed. But if not for the need of food, I would have stayed in the forest for the leangth of time I spent in Limbo.

Talos and I became fast friends. Possibly because I was afraid, and he was able to comfort me with his words. I didn’t like Rydon much. I know that I had learned everyone’s name in Limbo while I was there, but those names are now tucked away in some corner of my brain, collecting dust. I do not wish to disturb them.

Talos was the only person I care about to leave Limbo during my stay, but not to have an audience with the Emperor. He choked to death on a piece of bread, and his body was removed by the guards after a few days.

Talos was the one that was in charge of keeping the peace down in that wretched place. He left Rydon with that responsibility when he died. I didn’t even have time to mourn for him before things started to get chaotic.

Everyone assumed that since the boss was gone, and an uncaring bafoon was charge of the place, that they could do whatever they wanted. It took me a while to learn that.

I became very afraid after the first fight broke out. Not because of the violence of it, but because of what they were fighting over... Me. I was in my alcove of cloth when a man ripped down the makeshift door that I had put up for privacy. Under Talos’ reign, no one would have dared disturb me, but with Rydon not giving any cares about the way things went on in limbo, I became very easy prey for those bigger than me. Which was everyone, as it were.

“Hello, little girl,” the man said, with a scowel. “We’re going to have some fun today.” He grabbed me by the arm and tried to rip my tunic off me with his other hand. I was not happy. With my free arm, I hit him in the jaw as hard as I could, but still not hard enough to do any damage to him.

He laughed. “You have some fight in you, girl.” He then backhanded my face. I would have gone flying from the force of it, had he not been holding me fast.

“Hey, get away from her!” Said another man, running up. He hit my attacker in his side, causing him to drop me. I scurried away.

“Not so fast!” shouted the guy who I presumed just saved me. “You owe me now, and since there isn’t any money here in limbo, I demand your body as payment.”

The man who origionally attacked me had gotten back up and then punched the other man’s stomach. They started fighting in earnest after that, and I didn’t stick around long enough to see who won. I ran as fast as I possibly could to my forest. But I was persued by both of them. And they were faster than me, and caught up, only to resume fighting again.

I did reach the forest. I found a tree and climbed, and watched the fight below. The first man had a hold of a treebranch that had fallen, and was using that as a weapon against the first. He nocked the man out, and then turned to me.

“There you are!” he said. “You’re not going anywhere now.” This man said. “Come...” Climbed up, and dragged me off the tree. He threw me down to the ground, where I scrambled to get away. “No, no,” he said grabbing me again.

I realized then that he had to hold me in place using both his hands. So long as I kept attempting to move, he couldn’t do anything to me but hold me in place. That being said, I struggled with all my might. I was small, just a child. But somehow I broke free of his grip. Instead of running away, a futile effort, I got behind him, jumped onto his back and used what strenght, I do not know, to wrap my arms so tight around his neck that he stopped breathing. Not knowing what to do, he thrashed around trying to get me off of him. I held tighter and tighter to his neck, not knowing or caring what would happen if I let go. That simply wasn’t an option for me, at that point.

He stopped thrashing, and fell to his knees. Then, he slumped foreward onto the ground. I held tight, still not thinking of what would happen if I let go. I don’t know how long I held to his neck, but when I finally let go, everyone else was lined up for the first meal of the day. The bell had rung without me hearing.

The man lay at my feet, unmoving. I left him there. After a few hours, when he did not move, I went to get a guard, and I had to repeat the scene again to him. The guard followed me into the deapth. When we reached the man, he reached down and touched his neck.

“He is dead,” the guard said. “He tried to have his way with you? We took the Ignis out already, but this... We need to keep a guard on you. Two men in one day try to take you. That isn’t right.”

And so for the rest of my time in Limbo, I had a guard in black with a spear with me at almost all times. Rydon was technically the leader of Limbo, but no one dared to speak out against me, having killed a man and having a guard. For all intents and purposes, I was the emperor of Limbo.

One morning, while waiting in line for water a city guard interrupted the ritual. He walked into Limbo and said something to the servant pouring out the water. After receving a nod as a response, he called out a number that sounded familiar.

Then: ″Azrah, from a nameless settlement?”

All eyes turned to me.

I made eye contact with the guard and, after he motioned for it, walked toward him. It took a while for me to recognize him as the guard that brought me underground in the first place. Did I ever learn his name? I wondered.

Rydon shouted at the guard in anger. Their echo, over echo robbed his voice of any clarity. Whatever words they were, they frightened the guards enough that a dozen or so more ran in with drawn crossbows or braced spears. One, the squad leader I thought, had a light beam in her hand, ready to fire it and turn Rydon to dust. Surely he deserved it.

Seeing all this, Rydon calmed himself down, then said: “We were all here before her.”

“She isn’t going on trial,” the guard leader said, “there are other plans in the works for her.”

“Has something like this happened before?” a voice from the crowd asked. an older voice answered: ″I don’t think so...” before the room began to echo from the sound of dozens of conversations. I was then escorted out of Limbo by the guards.

We were several miles underground. I remembered having to go down stairs that seemed never ending to get down here. I wondered how close to the main floor I would get before passing out.

But the guard did not go to any stairs. He took me over to a stage, or platform, or something, I’m not sure what it was called... It was round, large enough for the two of us to stand on, (and maybe another person?) and was floating in Midair!

He jumped up onto it as if he had done it a thousand times. The thing wobbled a bit from the impact, but steadied out rather quickly. He offered a hand to help me up, but It was too afraid to do anything but stare.

The guard then sighed, and made a motion to someone I did not know was present until then. Before I had time to think, that someone had picked me up by the waist and jumped up onto the platform. I started to struggle against that someone, but when the thing beneath our feet began to move because of it, I froze.

“Hold her,″ the guard said, right before stepping on a button.

The thing began to rise. This thing was magically lifting the three of us from the pit of the planet, up!

I screamed. I didn’t know I was afraid of heights before then.

“You’re okay,″ said the someone, “you’re fine. I’ve got you.” He rested his chin on the top of my head to comfort me. I was shaking. My heart felt like it was going to explode. This thing terrified me.

It took an eternity to get to the surface. I’m not sure if it was because the fear had made me experience time at a slower rate, or if it was simply that Limbo was just that far down. But this is irrelevent.

Once at the top, Someone let go of me. My heart was still racing. I was still very afraid. I did not hesitate to jump off the thing and run in whatever direction my legs would take Me. A circle, More or less. I ran into a wooden wall, got up and ran until I noticed I was getting close to another and quickly changed direction, etc. etc.

What my guard and Someone did, I don’t know. My presence of mind was far too inadiquet for me to even remember that they were still there. Although, they probably laughed when I ran into the wall.

I tripped, and fell face-first onto the ground. I stayed down, catching my breath for some time. No one did anything. Not until I felt in enough control over my actions and regained logical thoughts.

I sat up and looked around the room. One wall was made completely out of clear glass. A window for a wall. The light streaming through the glass burned my eyes. Two years in Limbo will do that to you. The rest of the room was wood. Darkly treated. It seemed a nice contrast to the glass. The door was painted red. The guard was leaning against the wall next to it, studying me, I thought.

″Are you well?″ he asked.

I nodded, and looked toward the glass wall again. My eyes had adjusted to the light now, and I could see what surrounded the building. There was nothing much to look at, though.

“Your name has gotten around,” said my guard, “someone with a hold in the government’s architecture wanted all the charges against you dropped. They demanded to speak to you as soon as possible.”

“When was that? ″I asked.

“The legal office got the letter about four hours ago.” He looked out the glass wall. “This system loves paperwork, I don’t know if you can comprehend the amount of paperwork we had to go through.”

“We?″ I implored.

“Yah. Kyne, the constible officer Leena, and myself. There were several times we needed to go to the Emperor’s chief Advisor for his signature.”

“Who was the other person?” I asked, motioning towards the thing.

“Just a lad I rented from his father. Many of the Veiin citizens could use any job they can get.”

I didn’t understand what he was saying, but I didn’t want to hear anything else. If he went on, I thought that I would get too confused. My questions were not worth the energy for the answer.

“Come,″ said the guard, “I need to get you out of here and into the Emerald Chamber of the Rain District’s Citizen’s Hall.”

He helped me to my feet and pushed on the red door, which had its hinges at the top.

I pondered as my guard led me through the buildings corridors and outside to the street.

There, we met up with the constible and two other guards.

“Streets get crowded without warning sometimes,” said the constable, “I would appreciate it if you stuck close to us, girl.”

″Dont climb any trees, either.” said one of the guards joining us. “You don’t look like you’re starving anymore. You looked like a skeleton when you fell over onto the pubs roof. I actually thought that you were one until I got a closer look.”

I could not think of no way to respond to that.

A flash-mob, as I have become fond of calling crowds that come out of nowhere, did fall upon us between there and the Citizen’s Hall. Before I had a chance to think, I grabbed one of the guards escorting me by the wrist. It’s contact that no one from the hamlet of my past would have taken offence to. In Limbo, it would have indicated a deep trust for whomever you grabbed. Based on the look I got from that guard, grabbing the wrist of another human being must have been an invasion of ones personal space as interpreted by the Veiin people.

I still held on to him until the crowd parted.

“Your name... Azrah?” he then said. “Azrah, never grab a guard by the wrist. We have been trained to understand such an act as an attack against our person. If I had been paying less attention, I would have moved without thinking, and potentially injuring you. Do you understand?”

I nodded.

He smiled, and then said: ″Thank you, though, for not getting lost in the crowd.” His eyes went to the constable for a second. He then leaned in close to my ear. “With the people who I think want to see you, it is extremely possible that we could be killed if we lose you.”

He quickly straightened out and gave a sideways glance to the constible, who looked back at him with suspicion painting his face. The guard then looked directly back with a completely innocent smile.

Politics. No one can trust anyone but themselves.

I stepped on a dead rat, and suddenly had an overwhelming desire to own a pair of shoes.

We got to the Citizen’s Hall, which is less of a hall, and more of a small building set slightly underground. I was surprised to learn that it was only two stories. To enter, people go up a small set of stairs and into the top floor. The Emerald Chamber was the entire floor beneath this.

“The building is so small,” the constable said after I asked, ″because very few people live in the Rain District. It covers a large area, but the settlements are so small, and far apart. The town you lived in was one of the largest of the District.”

I still find the constables statement hard to believe..

“That’s my office,” he said, pointing to an old, rounded door.

He led me down a staircase three guards following after me. I didn’t expect the staircase to be as long or steep as it was. The door at the bottom was massive, and made of no material I had ever seen before, I was surprised by how light it was. I could have picked it up and ran away with it if it wasn’t four times my height and width.

Two men were in the room when we stepped through.

One man looked me in the eye and smiled.

“Azrah, I presume?” he asked. ″Welcome!”

I made a small nod with my head to return the greeting. He seemed friendly enough. His hair was black and had a certain shine to it as if it was completely covered in ink. It hung off his head as water might, would it be made to long strands. In conjunction with skin that seemed lighter than possible, it made the hint of red on his cheeks and across his nose took anything but slight. He had kind, gray eyes that had small streams of blue running through them. I could read laughter and profound sorrow in the age lines that had carved over his face.

The guard that whispered about these people looked ready to run for his life at the sight of him. The more I studied his face, however, the less I understood where this fear was coming from.

The constable was afraid as well: ″What do you want with her?” he snapped.

“You know her actions,” the other man said, “we could use someone like her inside the Order.”

This man was much younger, and Iignis. Unlike his companion, the hair atop this mans head looked to be made of pale yellow wheat. His face was darker and seriouse... I could almost go so far as to say cold. The skin on his palms was close to black, fading its shade up his arm. I guessed that the color of his shoulder matched the slight tan of his face and hand-tops. Besides being tall and wide at the shoulder, he was a small man. His dark green eyes had a lock on the constible’s with an expression of power that took up more space than his thin body.

This man, I was afraid of.

“At this moment, however,” said the older man, “we just want to speak with her. Right, Morro?”

This passive-agressive reminder worked, for soon, Morro dropped his eyes to the floor, submitting to his elder.

“Yes,” he said, “My Master speaks truth, We wish only to speak with her and come to understand her.”

“She is safer here with us than she has ever been.” the Master said.

″I don’t believe you,” the constible said. “Your presence here is a direct threat to her life. As a Rainian citizin, her safty is my responsibility, and I will not risk leaving her alone with you.”

“No one said anything about her being alone with us.” Morro said with venom. “Just that we speak with her. If that is a problem, we can easily arranged meeting where you do not interfere. Otherwise, I suggest we take a seat and be civil toward eachother.” The guards’ faces drained of blood. The constibles was red from the anger he had conjured to keep fear at bay.

Something was happening... I didn’t understand the neuanses of the situation. It was obvious, though, that what happened next ultimately came down to what the constible chose to do.

As he turned around, the master gave a warning look to Morro, who didn’t notice. Morro had put his right hand under the large black cloak he had on. What he was reaching for, he found immediately keeping it hidden there, but watching the constible’s every step with the focus of a mountin cat hunting a rodent.

What he was preparing for, I couldn’t know. The constible had been in search of a chair. Several had been strewn across the room, half-hazard in the way they set upon the floor. The constible found a wooden chair, styled in such a way to allow the seated person to appear more powerful. A throne, I suppose you would call it.

Morro pulled an empty hand from his cloak and sat in a couch that first had to be flipped off its arm, and onto the pads on which it should have sat.

Tension had been removed. Everyone else found seating they liked and arranged them in what someone might have called a circle. The master made sure to stay close to Morro. Most likely, I thought, to smack Morro for one reason or another.

Since these two groups were arguing about me, I tried to stay as far away from anyone as they would allow. Nor did I sit in my chair, but simply lean against the back of it.

“So... Who are you?” asked one of the guards: my guard.

“They are merchants of death, and you damn well know it,” said the constable.

My guard ignored him and looked at the Master.

Morro nodded.

There were stories about assassins in the village, more down in Limbo. Each I had heard, however, were so vauge or nonsensical that I had thought them no more than stories. But here in front of me were these rumors. No longer did they exist souley in the words between paranoid townsfolk and mischiviouse children, but as flesh and as blood.

“Assassins,” I whispered under my breath.

Once again, Morro nodded.

“Why shouldn’t I aresst you here and now? This building is in the territory of the Rain Distict?” asked the constable.

“If you try, you are outmatched,” said the Master, ″and we have not committed a crime.”

″You are assassins.” the constible answered, ″I need no more reason than that.”

“Would you arrest a man on the streets, claiming to be a thieft based only on his words? Would you not seek to see if in his possessions lies stolen artifacts, or catch him in the act of stealing first?” replied the Master, clearly enjoying the conversation.

“You have no proof that we are who we say we are,” said Morro after confused looks were exchanged.

For a quarter hour or more, there was silence.

“So, Azrah,” the Master addressed me, “We know your name, do you wish to learn ours?”

“I know that he is Morro...” I responded.

“Yes ” this was Morro speaking now, “Morro Bladesling, as I have come to be known as.”

″Master Burkett,” the Master said, indicating with a slight bow of his head that he was referring to himself.

I nodded.

“You are comfortable with silence?” asked Master Burkett.

“When there is nothing to say,’” I answered.

“I’m curious,” Morro started, “What race are you?”

“I don’t understand,” I said, feeling slightly embarrassed.

“Night, Ignis, or Terra?” he asked.

“Was that supposed to help me?” I asked, feeling flippant.

“Okay, let me explain...” He told me about the three species of humans. More details than I have previously gave. He asked if I would be interested in knowing my species.

“I don’t care,” I said bluntly.

Master Burkett smiled.

“We have a lot more to talk to you about” he said, “but I believe we have places we need to go.” He stood up and gave Morro a look. Morro didn’t want to leave, but he and the Master had business to attend.

That was that.

I stayed at the Citizen’s Hall for the next few days. The constible was very worried that the assassins would come back, but with more hostile motives.

I was not allowed to be out of his sight, with few exceptions.

I learned that his job was very dull.

“Not much crime happens in the Rain District,” he told me, ″Once every so often, I walk through to every settlement to check on the citizens. Most disputes are worked out by themselves. Not through strictly legal means, but if no one is hurt and the problem has been solved, I have no reason to intervene. I have to write reports on any of those incidents, with as many details down as precise as possible. That is what I spend most of my time doing.”

“Paperwork,″ I clarified.

The constable nodded.

He took me to the market place a few times. I was given a few tunics on his coin. It was nice to get out of the trousers and cotton shirt I had worn for two years straight that I spent in Limbo. Most ladies in Veii wore dresses. The Constable wanted to get me a few so I could be a proper lady, but I found them far to uncomfortable. Hense the tunics. Despite the disapproval of the constible, I got also two pairs of trousers. One of those I thought to be made as light armor, for they were made of thick leather that was reinforced at the knees and where the main arteries in the leg would be most vulnerable. I smiled thinking of that.

The best part was shoes. I had never owned a pair in my life. Before, I had just found strips of fabric somewhere and wrapped them around my feet. They would stay there until the parts under my feet frayed and worn down to nothing. I was excited to put them on and finally be able to walk without avoiding potential hazards. The cobbler frowned after seeing the condition of my feet.

I had to sleep in the Citizen’s Hall. There was an empty room on the top floor, where a few guards helped me drag a couch into from the Emerald Chamber below. The constable had checked the security of the entire building. If there was a lock that he could pick, it was promptly replaced with a new one. Wooden braces were put on every window. Any place in the outer walls that appeared weak were coated in some quick-drying substance that was near impenetrable when dried.

“When you’ve decided that I am no longer threatened by the assassins,” I asked, “will I have to be sent back into Limbo?” I did not want to go back there for even a moment.

“No,” replied the constable, “they had arranged somehow to have the charges against you dropped.”

“How did they manage that?” I inquired.

“I don’t know,” he said, “but they must have some powerful allies up in high positions to manage that.” He paused for a moment. “There arn’t many people that could be. The Emperor himself, his chief advisor.... Can’t be too many others...”

“What do you think will happen to me?”

“That is up to you,” said the Constable. “You could go back to your settlement, you could find an apprenticeship, or a job and your own home. I can make arrangements for you to stay in the city under a guardian. The choice is yours.”

I nodded. I had a lot to think about of the time I was to spend in the protective custody.

Or so I thought.

I went to sleep a few nights later on the couch that had become my bed, only to wake up, still on that couch, but in a completely different room. I was just outside the city walls. I thought that the building was built into the walls themselves. (Later, I learned that this building, Castle Nessus, had been standing long before Veii. The walls we’re originally built, still long after the castle itself, to enclose its grounds. Large portions of these walls fell, and eventually, what remained were rebuilt, not for the castle, but as the start of the city walls.)

The room, the entire castle, actually, was made of polished stone. It looked more like glass. The floors we’re a dark stained wood. The window’s glass was warped with age, making the view of the city look as though it was beeing seen through water. My couch was positioned so the windowed wall was to my left, and a grand fireplace in front. The place took up the entire wall, its flames burning low, but warm. The wall to my left had an arched and large metal door, positioned right at the center. When this place was built, that door was just a design element, most likely. Close to one million years from then, it’s the focal point of the room.

Forgive me for this tangent: Metal exists, yes, but its inaccesable. According to the legends, the people who inhabited this world before us, of whom the current people are descendents of, bled the land dry of many of its resources-metal included. They altered everything and polluted even the air in the process.

This was not the entire problem. They adapted to the changes just fine. The problem was how the world was divided.

In this time, the world is technically ruled by a single person. His or her words are law. Because of this, he or she is chosen very carefully.

Second rank is the Chief Advisor to the Emperor. This person is usually someone who has been directly appointed by the Emperor, and is there there to give advice on things, and has no power other than what the Emperor gives them. Its common, though, for the Emperor to place a lot of power upon their sholders, especially when rebellions break out and the Emperor is busy stomping out their existence. The advisor can have any number of Underlings employed, but usually more for information gathering than any power.

Next is one person for each area of the world. One for each area, and then two for the City-State of Veii. They manage their guards, law and people.

Legend holds that millions of years ago, this planet was severely overpopulated. But they had split themselves up into many groups, despite being all the same species. Each group had its own system of government with its own leaders. More often than not, two different groups most powerful persons disagreed with each other for Sol knows why. This was a seriouse problem for the citizens; If the people in the seats of power couldn’t peacefully resolve their disputes, the two groups would go to war. Unlike us, they had no single person who had the right to end the disputes with their words alone.

Constant war, or the threat of it, drove many to find better or more efficient ways of eliminating entire populations of people.

One of the most dominating empires, whose name has drown somewhere amongst the rivers of time, found the most brilliant scientists amongst its large population and commissioned them to create or alter a disease that was incredibly contageouse and of whitch a cure for it would be would be nearly impossible to obtain.

The disease they started with was ancient already back then. They chose it, despite the fact that its cure could be found anywhere, because if left unchecked, it could kill many people within a few days. Whatever these people did, they exceeded the empire’s expectations.

The empire put it to use immediately, wiping out an entire civilization. We don’t know what the motives behind this was. Rumors claim that there was some kind of energy source under the land they owned. Some say it was treasure. Some think it was just the quest for even more land. Others yet say it was because of the religious differences. But whatever the reason, their weapon, the sickness, worked far better then they planned. They had killed the population they intended to, but the weapon could not be contained. Anyone infected died. This is a black mark on the pages of History. For every single person that lived to see the end, several thousands were dead.

Before this pandemic, the war had been called the War for Fear. Those who survived renamed it the Black War. The illness they called Black Death.

Metal had been the main building material for the people of this time.

Anyone that survived, and all their decadents and sucsessoes, us included to a point, kept far away from the ruins of the cities. After a long enough time, Nature reclaimed them. Earthquakes buried them, or tsunamis destroyed them, or plant life simply grew into them until only dust remained.

Fragments still remain everywhere-But so does Blach Death. You do not go in search of metal to build with. Any who do, do not come back.

There is more to say. You will know, in time, more of these ancient places, But as I said, in due time. I wish to continue the story.

That room had another occupant: Morro. My couch was facing away from him.

“You have awakened,” he said. “You sleep like the grave.”

“Is everything going to be likened to death around here?” I asked.

Morro laughed. “I like you,″ he said, “If you pass our test and survive our training. you’ll make a wonderful addition to our little family.”

The polished stone walls made every word echo.

“Are you not going to inquire about the test?” asked Morro after I remained silent.

“I just assumed you were just going to tell me, and then boot me to do it.”

“Very well,” He sighed, ″There’s a chest behind me that contains the Orders initiate’s garbs. Your target’s name is Gemna Riverfist. She lives here in Veii, so you won’t have to travel far. Master Ahren will fill you in with more detailes, as well as accompany you to evaluate your performance.

“Don’t get yourself killed. From what I hear, this Riverfist is pretty deadly.”

He nodded his head and left.

I got up from the couch and to the chest he indicated. Opening it, I found a short black tunic, slightly worn leather armor pants, boots, gloves, arm bracers, a short, hooded cloak, and a utility belt thing, I quickly put these on, finding then all an ill fit, before wondering if I should open the large metal door, or wait in here for someone to find me.

I chose the former. The door, upon my opening, was far heavyer than I would have guessed.

The hallway I stepped into upon my decision was long, with arched celing above it.

Not knowing which way to go, I simply wandered aimlessly, studying the wallpaper or artwork strewn across it. Wherever my wanderings took me was where I went.

The place seemed empty to me. I went down many hallways and got myself thoroughly lost before seeing a soul.

Yes; I was looking at an irrelivant picture of a cityscape, one of the ones built when finding metal didn’t mean a quick death of immense pain. A time before the Black Death held damnation over an entire species of humans.

But still... The pictures scene held a statue of a woman, tall and confident she stood, rivalling the reach of the surrounding structures. A great lady, she must have been, for upon her head set a great and glorious crown, In her hand, she bore a torch. I couldn’t tell you what the great lady statue was made of. Someone once said it was a kind of metal, but the coloring looked wrong.

“Are you having fun, perusing the gallery hall?″ I didn’t know who said that; just a voice come to interrupt my thoughts.

This man knew he had startled me. The look on his face when I turned to face him was one of minor amusement.

“I heard we had a novice brought in to perform a test, and perhaps join our small organization,” said the man, ″This pearson I hear tell about couldn’t be you, could it?”

He stepped back and looked me over.

“Come, we must be prepaired the moment we leave this castle.”

I followed as he swiftly strode down another hallway and into a small room much like the one I had woke up inside. No fireplace, however. Where my couch had been, there was a desk. neatly organized.

“Are you Master Ahren?” I asked timidly after he had seated himself and grabbed a quill and paper.

“Indeed, I am” He smiled a bit. ″You are Azrah.”

I did not need to nod. He wouldn’t have seen it anyway, for he was busy writing something.

“If you pass this test, we will need to arrange for your things to be brought over here, But that doesn’t matter right now.” He looked down at my feet. “What does is finding you a smaller pair of boots. Can’t be rumored as Silent Death when your shoes are so big, they’re clunking on the ground too loudly. You also should know what this guild wants you to do.″

He put down the quill and motioned for me to have a seat on The chair opposite him.

“You don’t like making eye contact with anyone,” he said, ″I have noticed you look away every time I have tried.”

I looked up at him, looking at his nose to give the illusion of looking into his eye.

“Quiet, too.”

″Well, how exactly am I supposed to respond to that?” I asked, ″or to anything you have said?”

“However you wish.” he said, now appearing to study my reaction.

“That response was... very helpful.” I rubbed my forehead, just over my eyes. My brow.

He smiled, slightly. “Sarcasm does not become you.”

“Are you done amusing yourself at my expense?” I asked.

“Of corse,” his smile vanished as he nodded. “I did say we needed to get down to business. I believe Morro has already told you the name of your target?”

When he paused, I nodded. waiting for a response.

“She lives within the original wall, of the city-state. These streets don’t have names as they used to, so I will have to show you on a map.-”

“I wouldn’t be able to read the signs, anyways,” I interrupted.

“He gave me a hard look. ″You cannot read...” the Master remarked.

It wasn’t a question, but I nodded anyways.

Master Ahren looked down at his desk.

“That will have to change if you pass.” he said, slowly. “You lived in a miserable little hamlet... You will need a proper education. Thank Luna that you are still young.”

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