Collection: Of Greater Shadows, Chronicled by: Valhel
Our hero was, as you might expect, not the sort folk would see as a hero. In fact, when I had first met her, she was no more than a petty thief…or so we believed.
She dashed through the streets, zig-zagging between baskets and bustling merchants in a panic.
“You there!’, came a cry,’Stop her!”
In the golden light of a radiant sunset there was no shadow afforded to make an escape, if our thief was to keep herself out of the stocks then speed was her only chance at escape. Leaping up and over crates and carts, she did her best not to disturb the merchandise or perusers, though consistently failing in this endeavor. So too did the thief’s pursuer, though as the thief had toppled displays and baskets, he managed to topple bystanders.
Her name was Lore. Scuffed brown boots, tattered beige pants, a tunic that had been stitched and restitched, all cut from rough cloths made up her dress. She carried no pack or satchel, thinking it better to stash her belongings elsewhere while she ran the risk of a chase through town.
Lore was about to turn a corner, this road would take her away from the last light of day and into the cover of night, and then she saw a glint of silver down the street. More guards, their armor shining, were patrolling toward her. It would not be long before the one chasing her would draw their attention, Lore darted the opposite way. This path would take her away from the crowded markets but then leave her at the edge of the city’s wall.
The city was carved into the face of a sheer cliff, thousands of feet tall. This cliffside was the face of the city, at its base were massive iron gates, ramparts and turrets. Above them rose prestigious housing and balconies, terrace gardens and spires. The Wall, as it was commonly called, was nestled between steep and jagged mountains that provided a natural defense against attackers. These mountains wrapped behind the Wall and created a sheltered valley where the rest of the city sprawled. And atop the wall, a grand temple fortress stood where the nobles held their court.
The level Lore was on housed many of the wealthier citizens, there was scarce a place for her get out of dodge as many patios were either gated or occupied. The light of the setting sun gave way to the glow of the evening torches within the blue dark, and up ahead Lore could see the golden horizon of the fields that lay before the Wall, gleaming in the last moments of sunset. She was fast upon the edge of the cliff now.
“She went this way!”
The shout was not from too far off, Lore hadn’t the slightest idea what to do next. Hoping to deter the guard she decided to abandon the spoils of her efforts. Lore threw down the loaf of bread she had stolen. Perhaps the guards would give up once they saw she had surrendered her prize, or perhaps they would take pity on her and turn back. At the very least it may buy her a few moments to discover a way out.
What next? Where could she go? Lore ducked into the shade of an alcove to catch her breath. A statue too, took refuge there, the stone likeness of a seraph wrapped in dried vines and leaves.
“This way, men!”
Lore darted back out from her cover into the open street, bits of leaves and twigs pulled away with her from the seraph. Before her was the edge of the terrace, the cliffside of the city. There was no where left to run, she could hear the hurried march of the guards about to turn the corner, and then the sound of a door being thrown open. Before Lore could turn to look over her shoulder someone took her by the arm and pulled her into a darkened house.
That someone shut the door and leaned upon it as if listening intently, Lore fell to the stone floor, finding the hilt of her dagger before her footing. The stranger was tall, clad in a long dark, hooded robe. Gesturing to keep still and silent, the stranger continued to listen through the door. Footsteps and spears could be heard clattering by and Lore’s host relaxed, finally speaking, “Put your knife away, you are safe here.”
The hooded figure turned and the candlelight revealed a pale face, though eyes and brow were still obscured by the hood’s shadow. A braid of golden hair hung from the hood, resting over her right shoulder, silver ornaments glistened in the braid by the firelight as the stranger leaned close to Lore.
“What is this?”, Lore asked, hand still on her dagger.
“So it is you…do you not remember?”
“Remember? Where am I? Who are you?”
Standing, the stranger extended her arm to help Lore to her feet, “I will explain another time, Lore. For now, please make yourself at home.” Lore took the hand, rising up to nearly face to face with her host, but still Lore could not see her eyes.
“You may call me Nycerra, Lore. I have urgent matters to attend to this evening and I must leave you now.”
“What? Why pull me in here? What is happening?”
“All will be revealed in time, now please, rest and eat. You are free to retreat anywhere you wish in this home, but I must take my leave.”
Lore turned to look at her surroundings and then latch of the door clicked and Nycerra was gone. Scrolls and maps were scattered across a table. Food was set out in a bowl next to a flask of water. Bed rolls, a pillow, and a ring of keys lay at the foot of the table. Lore was obviously expected, and Nycerra's intentions were completely unknown. But with her host absent, food upon the table, and roof overhead, Lore could not argue that her fortunes on the wind swept streets of the Wall would be much better that night. And so she decided to stay, or at the very least, she decided to stay and explore before Nycerra returned.
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