I watch the sun set on the horizon of Jerensi-a, the piss poor country I call a home. I sit on the branch of a tree, and I hear the wild life all around me. The rustling of the birds settling down for their nights rest and the small woodland creatures burrowing into their dens echoes throughout the woods. I look to the east and see the twin moons break over the snow covered peak of Mount Sovran. Its monstrous shadow disappears as does the sun on this the first Mundas of Hearth Fall, the tenth month of the year. The wind picks up. The dying leaves shudder in the wind and fall off the branches of the tree I’m sitting in.
The smell of dirt and evergreen rides the wind across my face to mess up the small, curly, red locks in front of me. My gloved hand pushes them away as I stare out to the upper sky. As the stars come out, silence befalls the peaceful and eerie forest. Silence can be so deafening at times, especially when all you have is your thoughts to fill the void. This is normally when I would do most of my work. I want to skip tonight and just sit under the stars, listening to the whistling wind and the forest sprites do their work to prepare for the morrow, and let them lull me to sleep.
But I can’t do that. The client won’t give me his money and until I have completed this job and brought back proof that it was completed. Being a mercenary isn’t an easy occupation. I am constantly dodging the guards, avoiding being spotted and making sure no one finds any evidence that I had been there in the first place. It’s a messy job, but one that I have to make sure stays clean of my presence.
I procrastinate a little longer. I can see constellations such as Moogar’s bear, and Nuutan’s bow. These are just two of the many constellations about the Divines. There are seven divines in total, but the only one I was ever taught about is the Divine I follow. Moogar, the Divine of the warriors. His sacred animal is the raging grizzly bear. He gives strength and protection to all warriors who take his oath. Some monks of Moogar have said that they have heard his voice speak to them and some claim that he has come to them in the heat of a battle to aid them. I will believe that when I see it. The Divines are always quiet to me, never once have I heard from them.
The Aaxeics are a different story. They are the deities of wrong doings and dark nature. While the Divines are hardly ever seen, the Aaxeics’ are known to frequent our world and tempt warriors and mages to their side. The most feared is Xeco, the Aaxeic of death and destruction. She is always seen on the back of her sacred animal, the mighty dragon. I hear rumors from the local inns of people seeing dragons here and there, the creatures attacking camps and burning down villages. I would know all about that.
I smell the hint of rain, it smells like dead fish. It’s a one I have come to learn, since it rains a lot in Jerensi-a. I need to get this job done before it rains.
I jump down from the tree onto the fallen red and orange leaf covered ground, landing in a crouch. I stand up and smooth out my leather pants, adjust my deer skin vest and flip the hood up of my bear skin pelt, letting the head of the bear rest over my curly hair. My sword is by my side, though by the time I start running it will grow annoying. When a person walks with a sword at their side it’s fine, but when they start running it smacks against their leg and becomes a hindrance when trying to escape the guards.
The twin moons give me enough light in the dark to navigate my way through the dense forest. The night is eerily silent, my nerves are on edge and I keep checking over my shoulder. Years of training and living by myself, has given me a paranoia that something always following me. Even if there was never anything there, the other guild members always told me to keep a weather eye open for any guards or hired thugs to finish me off. Jereseni-a is a cruel, heartless world. You either live like a rouge or die like a knight.
I pull out my journal and take a look over the notes the guild master gave me. Target is a male Kanonian, roughly six feet tall, and grey hair. Works at the local tavern and inn called the Dragon’s Den. Lives in the city of Creeten. I hate that city with a fiery passion. Creeten is the city where you have to keep your hand on your coin purse at all times and the other hand have your knife ready. It makes sense though, the largest thief band known to Jerensi-a resides in that city.
The forest ends with an abrupt change from trees to open grass land. In the distance, the lights of the city shimmer against the night sky and the rolling hills behind it. There is a nearby farm on the right side of the dirt road I am walking on. I could steal a horse. It would be a lot quicker than walking. If I stayed on this path, it would take me an hour to reach the city, but by horse I could cut that time in half. There’s just one thing though. I’m not a thief. With a heavy sigh, I turn away from the horse filled barn and head back to the city.
Roughly seven years ago, I made a vow that I would never have to stoop so low as to steal. Stealing is for the low life, selfish scum who want everything for themselves. I am better than that. I don’t take away citizens hard earned coin and valuables and then claim them as my own. I just take their lives and get paid for it. Yeah, makes a lot more sense than stealing. I feel my eyes roll in my head. This logic only applies to me, and myself alone. I’m sure nobody else would agree with me. Especially not a thief.
My sword is getting annoying. With each step I take, I feel the leather sheath lazily flop against my thigh. I’m not running from the guards yet and this is already a hindrance to me. I pause in middle of the road and move the strap around my waist to go around my shoulders and back. After securing another strap around the sheath, so the sword stays in place, I continue my walk toward the city.
As the city grows closer to me, I look toward the south east and I can almost smell the charred remains of Raymonia. A sharp inhale through the nose can still bring back the smell of smoke and dragon breath. The putrid and charcoal smell of a dragon’s fire breath is enough to knock a man unconscious. That dragon didn’t just happen upon that city, it was sent there. Probably sent by that same bastard who killed them.
The fire burned down all of the thatch homes of the small city Raymonia. I heard the thundering roar of a large beast we thought had been extinct for thousands of years. They weren’t extinct anymore. No, this one was so close I could have touched it. It perched itself on top of the city’s watch tower and breathed its harsh cinders around the city. The screams of the citizens were not loud enough to deafen out the dragon’s roar. Panic, chaos and fire. That was all I could see and hear in this city I used to call home.
The weight of my broken bed kept me pinned against the floor of my burning home. I shrieked and cried for my mother, my father or anyone who would stop to help a child. I heard the soft tender voice among the sheer panic. It was my mother. Her features were blurry from my tears, everything except for her piercing green eyes. Their color reminded me of a forest on the first day of spring. Full of hope and life. She pushed the bed off of me and pulled me from the burning rubble before the roof could cave in on top of me. Now in her arms, I can feel safe and I can cry. Her shirt was wet from my tears and her own fearful sweat. My nose pressed into her neck and I remember the smell of sweat but also honey and sugar. It comforted me in this moment of terror.
She reached the bottom floor with me in her arms. My father screamed something, it was hard to discern from the rest of the screams. Then another scream came. A high pitched, shrill shriek came from my mother. My small eyes opened and what I saw through my tears was a sword through my father’s torso. The crimson liquid tainted the edges of his lips and his eyes were wide with shock. My mother’s screams finally stopped and were replaced with sobs, when the attacker removed his sword from my father’s stomach and let the body slump to the floor with a thud.
Behind him was a man with striking red eyes that glowed underneath his dark purple hood. A scar was across his chin and over his left cheek. The sword raised once more and aimed itself at my mother and myself. I felt her chest quickly rise up and her hand pull a blanket over my head. My world went dark in that instant. I could hear her running, her panting breaths echoed in my ear that was still on her chest. One of her arms placed around my waist and another over my head to keep me close to her. The smell of smoke became stronger and the heat grew more intense. Her pants were replaced with fits of coughing. Her chest and shoulders shook and even though she cried and she ran, she still kept telling me that everything was okay and I would be safe.
Her arms loosened around me as I felt the world shift. The blanket fell off my head and I was now in a dark hole. I looked up to my mother, who gave me a soft and gentle smile. Her eyes were watered and sweat gleamed on her face.
“Be safe my child,” I heard her whisper before my world was again pitch black. She covered the hole up with the wooden planks. I could still hear the screams on the outside, and the roar of the dragon shook the ground.
I don’t know how many hours I was in that cramped, dirt hole. The screaming slowed till it was just the sound of the popping and crackling fire. My small hands pushed away the wooden planks that kept me underground. Light pierced the darkness until the hole was flooded in a blinding light. I poked my head out and after my eyes adjusted, all I saw was destruction. Every one of the homes were burnt down and the stone watch tower had toppled over and was just a mess of stones on the ground. I pulled myself from the hole and walked along the ash covered ground. Smaller fires were still burning in some houses, but most of it was just smoke. I walked along the cobble stone street back to what used to be my home. The only thing there was the charred remains of a grass roof and log support system. In the door way to the home was the blackened and burnt corpse of my father. Skin melted away and the muscles seared to the ground. Tears pricked my eyes but I was too shock to cry. That was until I saw another figure lying not far from the remains. I didn’t want to assume it was my mother, but when I saw the golden wedding band that matched my father’s, my suspicions where made true.
My throat choked back tears and my small hands clenched the shirt I was wearing. My red curls were flattened against my head from sweat and my eyes darted from building to building.
“Help!” I cried out, hoping and praying someone would answer. My hands trembled and my lip quivered. Tears washed away the soot on my cheeks and left strips of white in their place.
“Somebody!” I tried to take another step but I fell on my face. I tasted the ashes in my mouth and the tears that escaped gave it a salty flavor. The ash fell back out as I began to sob there in the middle of the remains of the place I once called a home.
“Help,” I cried.
But no one came.
I’m standing in front of the gates to Creeten. The smell of feces and hormones penetrates my nose and I’m not even inside the city yet. I give a sigh and shake my head. My eyes glance back up to the wooden gates and I give a firm push. Most of the buildings in Creeten are made of stone. Different from homes in most other cities which mostly consist wood walls and hay covered roofs.
My hand instinctively moves to hold on to my coin purse and my left hand rest on the head of my dagger. The people eye me down and that doesn’t do a thing for my paranoia. I feel like they know why I am here even though they have never seen me. I flip down my bear hood, as to not attract attention to myself. I take a deep breath through my nose, but my body doesn’t show any give in stature.
I ask a local homeless man the way to the Dragon’s Den. The old man is bald on top of his head but there is long white hair around the base of his skull cap. His face is covered in wrinkles and the poor bastard doesn’t even have any shoes on. He raises up a boney finger and points me in the direction I need to go. I open my coin purse and pull out a gold round and hand it to the man. His tired eyes light up and prays that the Divines give me their blessings. I just give a half smile and make my way toward the tavern.
I see a stone church up some steps on my left. Before the church is a small market place where a woman is selling jewelry and a Felidalen mother and her kits buy some meat for their dinner most likely. The kits look to me, the ears on their head twitch and the whiskers move up to give a smile. The black and white furred one waves to me but the brown kit hides behind the obvious older one. The brown one has his tail wrapped around his waist and into his fur covered hands. I return the wave as the mother turns around and reaches her own furred hand toward her children for them to follow her back home. They would seem like a nice family if it wasn’t for the fact each of them were wearing a dagger around their waist.
A row of small shops and homes are on my right. An apothecary, a general goods store and a weapons and armor store all line each side of a narrowed stone road. Everything feels so cold in this city, even though the fire from the armor store forge is to my right. The sound of rushing water from the sewer underneath the city and the murmur of people prick my ears. A Dreemur is leaning against the wall of the wooden tavern, the only thing made out of wood in this stone city. His grey skin almost blends in with the dark of the night, but his gold eyes stand out against his skin. His hand reaches up to scratch one of his pointed ears then walks inside of the tavern. That elf was obviously royal or at least noble stature in this city. His clothes were too fur lined not to be.
I push the door open and I am greeted with the only warmth I have felt in this city. Candles glow on each wooden table and the bar maidens dance to the joyful music that fills the air. People clap their hands and stomp their feet to the beat of the drum and the rhythm of the violin. Drunkards are doing their best to sing along with the maidens but they fall short every note. I make no one aware of my presence, moving past the festivities and toward the wooden bar where a young lady is standing. She is wearing the typical bar attire, a long red skirt with a matching corset top. The tops of her breast and cleavage are made to be seen as to attract other men to the bar for a late night drink. I sit on one of the wooden stools and turn to face the crowd of people, trying to see if my target is among them.
“Can I get you anything, sir?” Her accent is odd to my ears. It almost sounded like she added a ‘-ch’ to the end of get.
I look up to her and shake my head. “No, I’m fine. Thank you.” She walks away to try and service the next costumer she sees. I’m not here to get drunk, I’m here to find a target. Up above my head are wooden rafters, perfect for over watching the entire area to try and find my target. I wait until no one is looking my way and I push myself from the seats. Up the stairs to the upper level where the inn rooms are, is a small balcony overlooking the floor below. From this angle I cannot see many of the faces, just the tops of their heads. I jump on top of the railing and propel myself toward the nearest wooden support beam and perch myself up there like a dragon watching over a city.
My eyes scan the floor for any signs of the Kanonian male. I see many different people from the small Lalinos to the larger and more civilized Ogre. Some Elves and Felidalens are dancing in circles with each other but I don’t see a single Kanonian. My shoulders relax and give out a short huff of annoyance. The client wanted this dog dead before the sunrise and if I don’t get this done I won’t get paid.
I lick my dried lips and my eyes catch the color grey. There he is. The target. His furry ears stand up right on the top of his head and his bushy tail sways behind him. His grey muzzle wears a smile as he greets a Lalino male. As they talk his tail wags back and forth, unaware of the danger he is in. I reach to my side and to pull out a small throwing knife. My eyes are locked on the target and my hand feels something firm. My head jerks back to see someone else has joined me up on the wooden beams. My eyes narrowed and brow furrowed. His eyes are widen with shock and mouth slightly agape. He has blonde hair with bangs pushed to the right side of his slender pale face. A thief, whose hands I had caught in my pockets. I grab his wrist firmly and a sound comes from his mouth which sounds like a bird squawking in danger. I pull his hand behind my head to where his pointed nose is less than an inch away from my rounder one. My eyes glare into his fear stricken green eyes.
“What the hell do you think you’re doing in my pockets, thief?”