Chronicles of Noctra: Age of Legends

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Chapter Ten

The food in her pack taunted her endlessly as she searched the streets littered with pubs and brothels abound. Reserving any judgment Amberosin hardened her resolution to find the bandaged man; his limp had looked pretty serious and given the dismal condition of the establishments she saw, it was fair to assume the stranger wouldn’t have gone down this street on a good day. Or, he’d come here on a really good day. Amberosin smirked at herself as she approached a large dirt patch with a lone boulder in its center, like nature’s own small stage was Lenny’s spot.

As always, he was sitting there with his head slumped, arms pulled into the shade of his tattered cloak, an empty bottle rocking back and forth between his thighs; wearing the same filth-ridden brown and black pants. Amberosin smiled eagerly and ran up to meet Lenny. If I can’t find my new friend, maybe I can at least get a story out of Len.

“Hey-oh’ Lenny. Have any stories about ghosts that limp about and leave behind little gifts?” Lenny silently moved the bottle back and forth between his muck covered thighs, head hidden down in the shadows. Amberosin tensed when Lenny didn’t reply. “No? About this high... Approximately, and well given his demeanor... Probably covered in guard’s blood.” The bottle stopped in time with the word “blood.”

Lenny still said nothing. Lenny always had something to say.

Amberosin peered closer, trying to see his face through thick shadows. Even though a torch was just above them she could only see the drunken man’s mouth; unnervingly enough, it was locked, frozen in a half-smile; not even a twitch at the corners of his chapped brown lips. The sight made the hairs on her neck stand straight like tiny needles, threatening to push through the skin at any moment.

Amberosin nearly leaped into the air and abandoned her sack when Lenny’s head snapped over to the left, looking from behind those off-putting shadows to where Amberosin had been only moments before. She attempted to follow his shaded gaze to the exact point though all she saw was a street full of shadows.

On her way through the first streets of the western sector, Wildlands as locals named it, she’d seen plenty of vagrants, drunkards, and beggars. There had been patrons of brothels and pubs darting about to their dens of desire only moments ago. Not many, but surely more than none. There wasn’t much that could scare off natives of the western sector, before or after The Fracturing. There wasn’t much that scared Amberosin either, but those cold, flat, patches of obsidian had a foreboding air. Cold sweats broke out around her hairline and dripped down her temple as she stood there, waiting in front of Lenny to see what the shadows gave birth to; legs tense and ready to spring.

Her nervous state started her mouth up again. “Well, Len, you know if you see something suspicious, you’re supposed to share.” The chuckle in her voice was pitiful enough to tighten Amberosin’s jaw and Lenny still refused to say a word. His head faced the same spot, so far as she could tell through the unnatural darkness beneath the man’s hood... But the bottle...

Len had stopped moving the bottle just before staring into the shadows. Chancing a glance away from the chilling darkness before her, Amberosin eyed the bottle once more. Initially, she thought it had stopped entirely, but the shadow of the bottle moved ever so slightly; no rhythm or fidgety shakes. It moved back and forth in a motion she could only liken to walking. Left roll, right roll, left roll, stop. Left roll, right roll, left roll….

Amberosin couldn’t see Lenny’s thighs moving or body rocking in any way. Has Len always been Es-Ad? She’d never seen the drunk cast before but he surely had the imagination for it if he could ever build up a supply of essence. The man knows nothing of the word impossible. A soft crunch in the empty alley broke her nervous meandering. Amberosin looked to Len hoping to follow his supposed line of sight back to a general area but instead found the man staring back at her from behind that seemingly independent darkness. Amberosin could feel the intensity of his gaze. He was absolutely trying to tell her something.

“Here you go Lenny, don’t go spending it all on ale and women ya scoundrel.” Amberosin laughed as she dropped some coins into the space between his thighs, directly next to the bottle with its own cryptic silence. Amberosin’s nerves were already wearing thin when she felt a familiar tension fill the air. Something she likened to the heat of an old fire, ready to roar again, Amberosin could always feel it, just before a fight. She had barely eaten any of her take, had starved for days before the planned heist, and if anything only wasted energy walking in search of the bandaged man; but she was still excited.

Refusing to put her pack down and chance someone running off with it Amberosin began using the belt of her tunic to wrap the pack to her back, trying her best not to think about how worn the old rope looked. Aware of how short time was she drew both daggers and held them out with blades to the sides of her palms, crouched low as she watched the shadows move. Before light had ever shone upon the approaching figure, Amberosin knew who it was. The bulking outline gave it all away; a fit, average-sized woman with humongous arms, covered in dreads of fur. The teeth shining under the torchlight drove the realization home.

“Oh, Heria. You big-armed buffoon the size of your shadow alone gives you away. You should leave the sneaking around to those of us less… unique looking?” Amberosin saw the woman’s mouth clench, causing her sharp underfangs to scratch against her upper lip, opening a cut just beside some other recent gash. “Yeesh. They tell me Uma’s are fairly savage… but I don’t think many have seen an Alta quite like you.”

Heria growled but kept moving forward.

Amberosin winked and sank low as the shadows enveloped the woman one last time. Waiting for the exact moment Heria first entered the nearest light, Amberosin struck. Even burdened by the bulging pack stuffed with foods and heaving pouches of coins Amberosin’s speed was ferocious. Had Heria not wielded such long and thick arms to guard with, the starving young Nomad would have had her life. Instead of falling beneath the swift blades Heria flung her arms forward and crossed them to meet Amberosin. The reverberating sound reminded Amberosin of when she’d helped her Uncle Ragoth chop wood for the evening and he bet her she couldn’t chop down a WilderOak in three swings; she had bet she could.

The pain that cracked crevices down her arms was much the same as well; only an older stronger Amberosin didn’t drop the vibrating blade as she had done the ax those years ago, she merely tensed her muscles begging them to push through the shocking sensation that came and screamed as she focused all her force downwards.

Fortunately, the minuscule serrations in her blades were able to cut deep through Heria’s thick hide. Amberosin landed crouching, striking at random on her way to the ground, and bounded backward to assess her work. Aside from Heria’s jarring arms and fang-like teeth, Amberosin had to admit the woman was beautiful and she felt a tinge of guilt for mucking up such a lovely, albeit odd, sight.

Heria stood still, arms fallen to her sides, and stared at Amberosin with a complete lack of concern. Any rage had been dulled by the pain it seemed and it was getting much harder for Amberosin to keep a brave face. “Ah. Almost had me there girly,” Heria cast a slight glow over her wounds and stopped the blood instantly, “But you’re a bit shallow for my taste.” Heria’s under-fangs scraped up to her eyes in a terrifying grin.

Shit. Amberosin knew what had to be done but she didn’t like it. She took a deep breath, stood tall, clenched her daggers still wet with blood... and ran. As she passed by Lenny she gave a sly smile and bounded up twice before landing on a rooftop across the way. Heria followed behind with superb speed, the air from her passing tossed Lenny’s cloak to his sides.

Beneath it was a man in bandages, already rising to his feet.

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