The Man entered Dynas. Every single one of his failed hunts had started here, it was where the Council had found him, it was where he was hired, it was the closest thing he had to a home.
The capital city was large, slightly over-populated, and clean. Too clean. It was as if someone or something went about at night and scrubbed everything until it was shining. All manner of sensations assailed him, the shouts of the people at the market, bartering and haggling for their means of survival, the bark of dogs, the sounds of livestock, but something was off. Something that wasn’t there to be noticed. It’s absence announcing it’s exiestience more than it’s presence.
Smells of smoke from nearby fires, various foods and drinks sent out their fragrances, enticing some to buy, and some to steal. The one thing that was off, the thing not to notice, were the smells that should be present with the large number of animals that were there. The only smell that was in place, was the sweet grass that they ate.
‘So much has changed since I was here last, the Royals must be grasping at straws for some semblance of control’ he spat on the ground ‘Fools, all of them. They are merely puppets for the Council to make dance.’
The war had stripped the Royals of any true power, the the fact that they had called the Necromancers into service, had sealed their fate. No one in the land ever trusted them fully again. Both the Royals and the Necromancers would have benefited from a victory, the Royals would have crushed the Revolution of Light, as they called themselves, and ended the war. The Necromancers would have been able to show their faces in public and been able to practice their craft with less fear.
It was not to be however. The Revolution of Light won, installed the Council as the governing body and disappeared. The Royals’ power crumbled and they became secluded and rarely, if ever, left the palace grounds. The Necromancers had all but been destroyed, only a handful of them made it out of the war alive. They lost their city, their titles, their lands and nearly lost themselves.
A master priest had gathered their survivors and began to wander the land, always looking for a place to call home. Everywhere they went they were driven away, shunned, persecuted, and killed, they became strange, absolutely violent and hostile to any but other Necromancers.
The Man continued to walk up the main street, then down an alley leading into the darkness, to where he and his kind were welcome.
The wooden sign read ‘The Crooked Crown’ but the bottom half was obscured by a torn canvas banner that read ‘The Black Blade Inn’ written in red. He scoffed at the name. Here, this close to the main market, was a den of assassins and thieves. No guards patrolled, prostitutes were free to practice their trade, although they didn’t get much business. The only regular traffic in this alley were people who had business at the Inn.
As he pushed open the door, he pulled his hood over his eyes. A profound lack of light met him. It took a moment for his eyes to adjust to the crypt-like gloom. The windows were blacked out with heavy shutters and curtains, small guttering candles at each table cast wavering shadows on the walls. Whispers were all around.
He strode over to the bar, reached into a small coin purse and placed three silver coins in the light of a candle. They were immediately taken by what seemed to be an extension of the surrounding shadows.
“Well, Upahan, it’s good to see you.” he said aloud.
The whispers stopped. The candle seemed to float to eye level, a face materialized from the shadows. A dark skinned man looked with questioning eyes into depths of the hood the man wore.
“Only three people knew my name up ’till now, and two of them are dead.”
The man lowered his hood, a small gasp went up from around the other patrons.
“Yes, it’s me. And those coins weren’t a gift. I need a drink, and information.” he said.
Upahan snapped his fingers, and the sound of a dragging chain began to move closer. A girl of about ten years came into the light, her skin and hair were pale, as if she had never seen the sun. She wore a simple dress and worn out shoes, her left ankle was gripped by an iron shackle, the chain led back into darkness. Her eyes, large and staring, were fixed on the candle.
“Girl, go get our guest a drink” Upahan ordered. She bobbed a small curtsy and stepped out of the light.
“So, that is one of your requests taken care of. Who or what do you need information on?”
‘I can’t reveal too much, if anyone finds out that this hunt is open, I’ll have to take drastic action to keep them away’ he thought. Then said “I have a job to find someone, my last lead turned into a dead end, I need more reliable information of where to look next.”
“That isn’t much to go on, can’t you say anything else?”
“The target is a spell caster.”
“Well, that does narrow it down, hmm….how is it that he eludes you?”
“The target is very adept at making false trails and decoys.”
“Now there is something I can use!” Upahan exclaimed “Your target is a Geomancer!”
He got no further, it would be difficult for anyone to speak with a poisoned dagger sticking out of their throat. Upahan gasped, and struggled for air, then fell to the ground.
“Fool, your powers of perception worked against you this time.” he said as he removed his blade. He cleaned it off on Upahan’s shirt. Then added to the whole room. “Thanks to this pig-brained idiot, we have a bit of a problem, two if truth be told.” Just then the girl returned with his drink, which she placed on the bar, she stood back, staring at the candle.
“Problem one,” he continued, “I still don’t have the information I need. Problem two, you all have heard to much.”
“I wouldn’t worry too much about that.” a strong female voice said from the corner of the room.
Loud boot steps walked toward the man and a tall woman stepped into the light. Blonde hair cascaded down to the small of her back, sparkling green eyes looked out with a sense of haughty authority. Port red lips curved into a small smile. A lean form filled the clothes she wore, as they looked to be made for someone half her size. It left little room for anything else, and even less to the imagination. A small knife handle peeked out from her waist.
“Out of my way, girl!” she said as she pushed the child back into shadow. “Yes, I wouldn’t worry. Everyone here knows what you do to jumpers. If I were so foolhardy and did, I might avoid you, but not for long.”
“And you are?”
“Lussana, an assassin specializing in seductions.” she said with a slow wink and a small smile. “As for your information, I might be able to help.”
“I’ve heard through the Network that roads between Banholm and Far City are being repaired at astonishing speeds, no work crews were seen, no people hired from nearby, but they have been repaired nonetheless.”
“You are sure of this?”
“The Network never lies.”
The Man paused, and picked up his drink. ‘If he’s already in Far City, then he will will be heading to the Three Cities next’ he thought. “I thank you Lussana. If I succeed or fail, I’ll be sure to remember you.” he said with a none too friendly smile. He drank deeply, and finished after a few long pulls.
“Girl, take this.” he set his empty flagon on the bar “Now that your master is dead, that makes you free to go if you wish.” The girl shook her head quickly. “Very well, as is my right and the one who freed you, I give you to Lussana, along with the Black Blade.”
“I don’t want to own this rat hole! Or some mute slave!” Lussana shouted.
“Feel free to give them to someone else then, neither are my concern any longer.”
He stepped back into the alley and the sun. He began to walk before his eyes had adjusted fully, he finally had a place to begin, the Three Cities.