A Rogue’s Tales: Big City Darkened Nights
By R.A.Lancaster 2005/19
A fall sun warms the aging farmhouse. The scent of porridge stirs Carr from slumber.
Taking in a deeper snort while opening his eyes spies Mother in the kithchen. Calmly she stirs the porridge in a pot over the fireplace fire.
Out of bed he puts on a pair of shabby boots.
Noticing the movement Mother remarks on the tardy waking, “ah, you’ve finally decided to join the living. Well breakfast is ready.”
“Great,” Carr stretches out standing, “did you feed the animals?”
Being late in the morning she softly shakes her head with raised brow, “well they weren’t gonna feed themselves.”
Using shadows of the window Carr gauges time, “Oh, must’ve over slept. Thanks Ma.”
Content with the boy’s labors of late she lets him know, “it’s okay. You’ve worked hard since you came home. The one field has another week, two or more for the corn.”
Sitting at the table Carr pours a cup of water. “I’m going to take the boat into the city today. Do you want to come along?”
“You know I don’t like it there. It’s crowded and the place smells like Wyvern’s breath.” She places two bowls of steaming mush on the table, “and they’ll try and put me in jail.”
“Jail?” Carr gives her a quizical look, “no body is gonna remember you. Hell, most of the city guards were just babies when all that happened.”
A mother points out, “it’s gonna rain anyway.”
Discouraged with her, Carr sticks to spooning up the porridge.
Patting his belly in between a mouthful, “this is pretty good. Where did you find the berries?”
“Northwest of here. About an hours walk.” She points to his pack, “I put your things together. Don’t forget to take your sword. The city’s…”
“A dangerous place, I will.” Carr gets up wondering why she’s being so pleasant this morning.
“I’ll pick up a few months supplies,” grabbing up his tattered, black scale armor, “maybe a new boat too.”
Half joking she sternly warns, “don’t be wasting all those gems on them city women.”
“Ah Ma,” Carr returns the humor suiting up, “maybe I’ll bring back a male slave for you.”
She laughs. “Yeah, get me a young strong one. With red hair.”
Shaking a smiling head he quietly ties up the coverings. Watching Carr lace up the armor she’s concerned with his nearing future.
Finished with her bowl she begins clearing the table, “how long do you think you’ll be?”
Armor and weapons in place Carr throws his prepared backpack over the shoulder, giving her a kiss on the cheek, “I’ll be back in about a week,” quickly turning for the door.
“A week?” She grabs his arm, “I thought you said you were going for supplies. What are you up too?”
“Nothing.” Stopped, Carr puts his hand on hers’ in a reassuring manor, “I’m after a new suit of armor. You want me being safe. And this thing barely covering my ass, is aging. You know it takes time to make a new one.” He gives her a hug, “don’t worry Ma. I’m not up to anything.”
Hugging him back she replies. “Well I hope not. You’ve had more than your share of adventure this year,” escorting him to the door.
“Just supplies Ma,” Carr walks away, “I’ll be back before you know it.”
Watching him round the farmhouse corner heading south she utters. “Use good judgment.”
Taking a small familiar path into the lightwoods Carr starts a long stroll towards the Great Swamp.
A pleasant sight the peaceful woods are still covered by changing leaves. Mixed within the sounds of birds and scurrying animals. Looking beyond the treetops dark gray clouds are moving slowly north.
Carr thinks aloud to the woods, “she’s right it is gonna rain.”
A long hour passes bringing him to the Great Swamp. The other side is barely visiable on the horizon. With so much floating vegation the water looks green in all directions.
Walking to a large group of tall reeds he spots a small ageing flat bottom skiff, where it should be. With a heavy heave he shakily rights the boat before shoving it into the water.
From the reeds a long pole is drawnout and placed in the boat along with his backpack.
With one last heave ho the skiff is pushed into the water. Managing to only get one foot wet hopping into the boat he begins the slow journey across the swamp.
Standing while taking the pole a misty rain sets in. Though dampness sets in quickly, Carr’s body warms pushing the pole through the swamp vegetation.
As the hair can hold no more moisture and begins to drip down the face he thinks, “at least the rain will keep the wee beasties away.” Surveying the area, “hopefully the big ones too.”
Far to the east, where the swamp meets the ocean cove he marvels at the high cliff that divides the cove from the ocean. Three broken sections, of the Akemi range stand tall out of the water, descending in size southward.
Halford city is visibible but still an hour to travel. Getting deeper the greener waters begin opening up to blue. Crossing the deepest part of the swamp Carr pulls the pole up allowing the natural currents to guide him closer. Sitting down to rest opens the backpack to see what Ma had packed.
“I should’ve gone to the well for gold. I might have a hard time trading these gems,” noticing only the basics are within his pack.
Sitting back gnawing on some dried meat he gazes at the broken sections of the mountain range dividing bodies of water. The middle and medium sized outcropping supports Halford’s watchtower. The last formation, having taken years of pounding from winds and crashing waves, resembles a gargantuan vase. Especially with trees still growing on top.
The faint sound of men working on the city docks causes Carr to look over. Noticing the plant life in the water again he stands stretching out.
Shallow enough to push on with the pole he focuses on the city. The walls and towers have been standing almost a century, surviving several sieges.
The strangest of all the cities on the continent, settled by King Halford’s family centuries ago. An actual name for the city has never been decided, and the past King’s have liked it that way. Most beyond the area call it Halford. Those rooted in the area refer to it with the King’s name in mind, Halford’s city
The Halford’s are known for fair and honest rule; bringing them respect and help from surrounding rulers. Once even an alliance with the Orcs and Hobgoblins.
Any race is welcome to visit and trade. One of the few land cities, Lizard-men will venture to. Even Giants occasionally show up, trading from outside the walls.
As a family promise to the Halfords, urges of thievery are to be curbed while within the city. Without knowing the real truth Carr believes his mother tried to kill the King. For the King’s pardon they had to make that promise and take on several jobs.
A welcome place for him to go is the Slaughtered Lamb tavern and Inn. Owned by an old family friend. A safe, place to drink, eat and bed down while in the city.
The misty rain continues weighing him down with moisture. Today’s trck is becoming tiring to him fortunately the city walls are near.
Past the city wharf the deep blue of the ocean spreads out to the horizon. No ships are moored but many small vessels line the city’s inner docks.
Beaching the skiff close to the last western dock Carr drags it onto shore. Flipping it over beside some other beached water relics.
Slipping his pack on surveys the city walls. Tower and wall guards pay him little attention. At the gates a familiar face on duty is pointing Carr out to fellow sentries.
Lowering the face to hide a grin, Carr removes a small gem from his pouch. Keeping the gem hidden between two fingers he walks towards the gates, trying not to stare at the stationed guards.
The familiar guard, a noticeably strong male calls out, “if it isn’t our swamp rat. Need supplies, do ya?”
Snickering at the comment Carr approaches the guard extending a gemmed hand, “yup. Hi Joxe.”
They shake hands switching the gem’s place.
The guard pretends to wipe his hand off, hiding the gem, “Carr. I trust we won’t have any problems from you. Hmm?”
Calmly Carr replies, “no. Just here for supplies and maybe some simple entertainment.”
Looking over Carr’s worn armor the guard notes, “looks like you already had some entertainment. You missed the minstrels by a few days.”
Not overly concerned Carr plays disappointed, “missed the minstrels again? Figures. A drink is still good.”
The men agree as the guard hints to him, “best to try the Slaughtered Lamb. I think the Dwarves are finally wearing out.”
That was on Carr’s tour anyway, “I just might,” he bows slightly to the guards before entering the city. Walking away knows they’re talking about him, especially when the men start laughing. Not minding he’s more content to be developing a reputation.
A.R.T.II Big City Darkened Nights