Naren – A Tale about a Wand

 

Mage Lord Athimas Melith’enddare smiled as his children entered the room. They had both tested positive for magical ability, practically ensuring that his line would continue to rule the small city state of Elenduil. They spent most of their time studying under the watchful eye of the adahis and elder mages of Thril Gandir. However, twice a year, once for each of their name days, he paid to have two adahis accompany them home. Tomorrow was Naevys’s sixth name day marking her first full year at Thril Gandir, and her second visit home since going to the mage city.

They both ran up to hug him as the large doors closed behind them. The two adahis approached much more carefully, each giving a bow before taking their place next to Athimas’s own adahi.

His son, Ellorian, who was the oldest of the two, having just had his eighth name day only two quarters ago, said, “I missed you. Is mother feeling better?”

“She hopes to be able to join in on the celebrations tomorrow. We’ll go up to see her and have supper in the suite later. You’ll have to be on your best behavior. Noise bothers her head and tends to make her worse.”

Ellorian and Naevys both nodded. “We’ll be as quiet as deer in the forest.”

Naevys agreed, “Like ones who don’t want the hunters to see them!”

Athimas smiled, “As quiet as deer then. That should do well. What shall we do in the meantime?” He knew the answer already.

“Tell us a story!” They both exclaimed.

It had become somewhat of a tradition, since Ellorian’s first visit home, to tell a tale. Sometimes, Athimas made up the tale, and others he embellished a true story.

“I think I’ll tell you a story that happened not too long ago. In fact, it happened only a few years before Ellorian’s first name day.”

“So it’s like history?” Ellorian scrunched up his nose.

“History is full of stories. I know it doesn’t seem like it so much when your class only wants you to remember dates and events, but it’s the stories that bring history alive.”

“Okay. I guess that sounds all right.”

His little sister was a little more enthusiastic. “So tell the story!” she exclaimed while jumping up and down.

Athimas smiled again, doubting that little Naevys was going to be able to be quiet enough to stay for a very long visit with her mother. They will get to see each other before… No, it was not time to think of that. They were here, and this was a happy time. “Well, as I was saying, it was just a few years before Ellorian’s first name day. The entire world seemed to be at war then. I had only just married your mother. It was a time when many of the cities began to rise up, unhappy with the way the king was ruling.”

“And the king died and that’s why we have city states now.” Ellorian said.

“Yes, but that’s not what this story is about.” He would have to have a talk later on about his youngster speaking out of turn. Even the slightest things like that could get him marks on his record at Thril Gandir. If he had too many, they may decide not to let him leave. That was not just for visits, but even after he graduated. However, now was not the time. Now it was time to tell a story.

“This story is about a magic wand.”

“Father, aren’t all wands magic?” Ellorian asked.

“Yes, but this one was made of diamonds and gold, and was enchanted in a way that all spells cast through it were enhanced. It took very little from the mage doing the casting, but was very powerful.”

The young boy didn’t look impressed, but his daughter was listening intently.

“As you may know, back then, our city was loyal to the kingdom. King Adinath called for all of the mages to gather and fight in his name. As your grandfather was still alive and here to look after the city, I left and joined up with the mages in Kingsfall, which was then called Kingsperch. Before I left, your grandfather gave me the wand and instructed me to use it with caution. It could cause great destruction if it fell into the wrong hands, but with my warding and healing specialties, it would greatly benefit the king’s forces.”

“You had the wand?” Ellorian asked. He sounded as if he really didn’t believe it was true.

“Yes, I did, and it worked just as your grandfather said it would. I cast wards around entire cities, and was able to leave them there with very little drain on my power. My healing spells were more effective without causing any ill effects from the speed of the healing.”

“I’ve learned some basic healing theory in class. They said you can’t do it too fast or it weakens the patient.”

“Exactly, and with this wand, I didn’t have to worry about that.”

Ellorian’s brow furrowed. “Well, where is it now then?”

“Oh, now that’s the real story. You see, they sent me out to heal in the field because I was so effective at it. However, what we didn’t know is that the rebel cities had a secret weapon of their own. I had warded the healing camp, but as I was healing with the wand, the wards weren’t my primary concern. I did have an outer ward to block weak magic. Have either of you studied wards yet or warding theory?” He knew Naevys was still too young, so the question was more directed towards Ellorian.

They both shook their heads.

“Well, when a ward that you’ve cast yourself breaks, you know it. Do you know the feeling when something happens that you weren’t expecting? That jump? It’s like that, but there’s nothing there. It’s just the feeling. While I was healing a wounded soldier’s leg in the camp, I had that feeling. It was so strong, I thought my heart was failing. Time seemed to stop, though I don’t think it really did, and within moments, everything was on fire.”

“How did you get out?” Naevys asked. Her eyes were wide with wonder.

“I cast another ward immediately to block the fire. It didn’t stop all of it. This fire was very strong. I knew I had to find the caster, or the others and I would have no chance at all. There was fire all around, but I waited and watched while continuing to hold it off from the immediate area with the wand.”

Both children stared at him with wide eyes now.

“Then I saw it, a burst of fire rose up over one of the hills. I held fast against the attack, strengthening the ward where the flames fell. Then I cast a spell to translocate to the hill. I looked down the other side and saw him. He stood alone, with only an adahi to guard him. He started to cast again, but I knew if he got that cast off, the troops I had left behind would burn alive.”

“But you said you don’t know offensive spells.” Ellorian said.

“I don’t. I had to devise a way to use the pyromancer’s spells against himself. I quickly cast a ward around him and his adahi to reflect any spells. I hadn’t had the time to think that maybe he had taken time to ward himself. His adahi was unfortunately not warded and instantly incinerated, but the fire mage remained standing.”

“What did you do then?” Naevys asked.

“As you can imagine, he was a bit angry about incinerating his own adahi, but he didn’t know where I was yet. As he was looking around for me, I set to work unraveling his own ward just enough for it to fail. I did not get far when I noticed him looking right at me and casting another spell. At first my ward around him held, but I felt it bowing and bending, and finished a ward around myself just as his fire broke through. So there I was with flames all around me. I pushed back against them with my ward, and he pressed harder with his fire spells. Just as I felt they couldn’t get any stronger, I adjusted my ward to reflect. The fire returned to the pyromancer, and broke through the ward I had weakened.”

“Did it kill him?” Ellorian asked.

“Yes, it did, thankfully. I don’t think I would have survived if it hadn’t. As it was, the wand did not survive. With the last burst of power to change the spell, it shattered in my hands, and pieces of it fell to the ground. All that was left of the other mage was ash. I was fortunate to live, but we lost an advantage that day.”

“Wow.” Naevys said.

“And you know how the rest turned out thanks to your boring history classes, don’t you?” Athimas smiled as Ellorian rolled his eyes. He was definitely going to have to have a talk with him later. “But now, I think you both need to go get cleaned up for supper, and dress up nice to see your mother. I will join you in a bit.” He gave them each a hug and watched as attendants took them to get baths, their temporary adahis following as they left the room. It wouldn’t do to have them dirty from travel when visiting their mother.

His own adahi followed him as he rose and walked down one of the halls. He opened a door to reveal a stairwell leading down. The lower level of the castle was dark, but he cast an orb of light to float along next to him and his adahi as he walked down another hall. He stopped at a door and used a key to open the vault. His adahi helped push the door open, and Athimas approached a box kept on a pedestal in the middle of the room. He opened it and regarded the broken pieces of gold and diamonds in the box.

“Do you think one of them will be strong enough with their magic to put it back together?” his adahi asked.

Athimas sighed, “I can only hope so. I feel it will be needed sooner rather than later. The political climate isn’t as calm as it seems.”

 

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World of Warcraft – A Walk to Magister Embersun’s House

Felarius caught himself as he stumbled over a raised tree root. If he didn’t know better, it was as if the forest wanted him to fall and mess up one of his few robes. It was bad enough already that he had to wash them every few days. He supposed he could ask Tik to do it as many of the other students did, but he preferred to do it himself. Tik had enough to do already.

He had to walk a bit further lately. When he first started studying demons in hopes of using them against themselves, he had only been studying with Magister Firewind, who lived somewhat close to the school, just off the estate grounds, and down an old path that looked like it hadn’t been used in years. However, shortly after starting his studies, Magister Firewind sent him to study with another summoner in the area once a week, and now he was sent for all three lessons to the other summoner.

Magister Firewind had initially said that learning from more than one summoner would give him two different perspectives to learn from instead of just one. He supposed that was true, but now he was down to just one again. Had Magister Firewind just told him that to get him to accept his new teacher more quickly? Did Magister Firewind really not want to teach him? It could be so, but then again, Magister Firewind had been busy lately. He was even skipping half of his lessons at the school, and having Maerista teach them instead.

It wasn’t that Magister Embersun or Magistrix Maerista were bad teachers, but he did feel abandoned by Magister Firewind. He had been there that night when he was almost too late to meet with the teachers here. He remembered running all the way from his job at the docks, to the small school set up in the Row. He couldn’t miss them, but they were supposed to leave the same time he was getting off work. He lucked out that they had been running behind, and entered the room just in time to stop them from teleporting.

He had recognized him then, and remembered seeing him standing on corners years ago. Felarius was just a child then, but Magister Firewind hadn’t changed much. He remembered, and knew he was one of them. It had immediately given him hope. Seeing someone who used to stand on street corners now work at a school was encouraging. If he could get out, then so could Felarius.

Felarius frowned as he came to the clearing. He had specific instructions not to go to the front door. There was a door in back which lead to the basement. He started walking around the house. It was a bit like the school, built on a cliff overlooking the sea, but much smaller.

He wondered if Magister Firewind would go back to teaching him two times a week after the wedding. Was he going to teach more at the school? He hoped the answer was yes. He opened the basement door and descended into the darkness.

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Naren – Kingsperch

 

The rebuilding of Kingsperch had been going well, but the search for the young prince had only turned up dead ends. A king’s counsellor was nothing without a king. Lord Cully leaned back in his chair and sighed. His brother had died in the uprising over three months ago, and had declared his only son as the heir to the kingdom. Cully could have contested it, but then his remaining brother and sister would as well. Besides, it was much easier to counsel a king than to take all the responsibility of actually being the king. As it was, if they did find the prince, the trio of siblings would still need to cooperate while raising the young king and teaching him all he needed to know.

A knock came at his door. He removed himself from his slouching position and sat up straight. “Come in.”

His younger brother, Rowan, and his sister, Dela Eden, walked in. Lady Dela Eden took a seat near Lord Cully. Lord Rowan remained standing.

He knew the answer by the looks on their faces, but he asked the question anyway. “Any luck yet?”

Rowan shook his head, “No. We’re still where we were from the start. We know someone slipped through the kitchen with him, but no one has been able to identify her more than as being a hooded woman. Furthermore, no one knows where she went after that.”

Dela Eden shook her head, “I’m afraid I’m losing hope, as are the people of Kingsperch.”

“You mean those who don’t want him dead.” Rowan interjected.

“Most of the rebels left after King Adinath was slain. They got what they wanted.” Cully replied. “I don’t know how many times I told him he shouldn’t be taxing the outlying cities so much. Now they’ve all declared themselves independent and Kingsperch is left without a ruler.”

“Kingsperch still has us,” Dela Eden stated. “Speaking of which, my informants from the streets say that most people agree we should form a ruling council until the time our nephew is found.”

“With just us?” Cully sighed, “Dela, you know I have no wish to rule.”

She frowned, “Nor do I, but we need to step up and take care of the people.”

Rowan shook his head, “I want no part of being on the council. I’m far too busy investigating not only the disappearance of our prince, but of the other cases we have open with the guard unit. If you absolutely want to do a council, perhaps my seat could be left to a vote for a candidate chosen by the people.”

Cully and Dela Eden exchanged a glance. Cully gave a slight nod to indicate that he was fine with it. Rowan was good at his job, and if he wished to continue doing it, then perhaps it would be best to elect someone to the third council position.

Dela Eden nodded once while looking back at Rowan, “I’ll check with my informants, and see what the people think of the rumor of an election for a seat. I don’t think it will cause much trouble. It may be good to have a commoner on the council.” She paused a moment before continuing, “There was another issue people are speaking about, and I suppose it may sound rather frivolous, but a lot of people say the city can’t really be called Kingsperch anymore. Afterall, we have no king.”

Cully raised a brow. He supposed it wasn’t untrue, but was the name of the city really that important?

Rowan replied, “What do they want to call it, Kingsfall?”

Dela Eden regarded him. “I’ve not heard of any suggestions, but I don’t think Kingsfall would be a bad idea. It would be a nice way to honor our fallen brother; to rename the city for him, wouldn’t it?”

Rowan considered it briefly and replied, “Perhaps it’s something you can speak of with the ruling council. As for the council, you will have it set up to step aside should I find the prince, correct?”

“Of course.”

“Good. I need to return to check with my men to see if they’ve found any new leads.”

“And I must go plant some rumors about an election and a name change for the city before setting things up for real. I want to make sure both ideas are well-received.”

Cully stood to see them both out. “Health and happiness to both of you.”

“And to you dear brother.” Dela Eden said as she followed Rowan out the door.

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WoW – Robe Shopping

“Why are we going here?” Hethurin asked as he followed Aeramin into one of the shops.

Aeramin sighed. Already, Hethurin was questioning his choices. It was going to be a long day. “They have robes here.”

“Sure, but they’re not wedding robes.”

Aeramin turned to face Hethurin, “I went to the wedding robe shop already. Their prices are ridiculous. I’m not paying that much for something I wear once, then hide at the back of the closet because it’s too nice to wear for anything else. So we’re going here.”

Hethurin twitched an ear, but followed Aeramin as he began to look at what the shop offered. It wasn’t as fancy as the wedding shop, but they still did custom orders. Or so the sign in the window said. Aeramin had to find something he liked first.

“What colors are you looking for?” Hethurin asked.

Aeramin hesitated to answer. Of course it seemed like an innocent question, and it was Hethurin who had told him in the first place that the colors needed to match. However, he wasn’t sure how much information he wanted to give before the plans were all finalized. He knew Hethurin wanted to help plan it. Allowing him to help pick out the robe was already enough in Aeramin’s opinion. Would telling him the colors give him the idea to start buying things in those colors for the wedding? Aeramin frowned, and answered, “Red and gold.”

Hethurin scrunched up his nose and raised a brow. “Are you sure?”

“Yes. Why?”

“It’s just overdone at this point, don’t you think?”

“Imralion will be wearing his armor. We need to match, right?”

“Oh. Well, yes. I suppose so. What is the accent color?”

“What do you mean? The colors are red and gold.”

“Those are the main colors. What is the accent color?”

Aeramin shrugged.

“You don’t have one.” Hethurin accused.

“Just red and gold.”

“Well, okay. Let’s just find some for you to try on. Are you sure you won’t go to the wedding shop?” Hethurin asked as he started looking at the robes they had out on the display racks.

“I’m fine shopping here.”

“I’ll pay for it.”

“No.” That was the last thing he wanted.

Hethurin had already picked three robes out, and handed them to Aeramin before he could say anything else. “Try these on.”

Aeramin started to look at the robes he was given, but Hethurin put his hand on his back and guided him to the changing rooms. “I’ll keep looking while you try those.”

Aeramin sighed, and pulled the curtain shut. He briefly considered teleporting to just outside the shop and going to one that Hethurin wasn’t at, but that wouldn’t be nice. Hethurin was here because he had asked him to come along to help. He did value his opinion when it came to robes. Aeramin would rather not be in the shop at all. Hethurin was better at shopping than he was. That’s why he was here.

He looked over the robes now that he was alone. He wasn’t sure about any of them. None of them were the right colors, but he supposed if they could promise one in the same style and the right colors to be ready in time, that would be enough. He took the first one off the hanger and put it on. He looked in the mirror in the small room and scrunched up his nose. Knowing that Hethurin would want to see it anyway, he pulled back the curtain. “Well?”

Hethurin looked up from where he was browsing nearby. “No, not that one. It makes you look fat.”

Aeramin glared at Hethurin, but Hethurin looked back at the robes on a rack nearby.

“I’m not fat,” he mumbled to himself as he pulled the curtain shut again. He quickly changed, and put on the next robe. In the mirror, he didn’t think this one was any better. He opened the curtain.

Hethurin looked up again. He made a face and shook his head before looking back down at the other robes. Aeramin noticed he already had a couple more draped over his arm.

The next robe was the same thing except Hethurin gave him three other robes to try on before he went back to change.

Aeramin was beginning to think Hethurin was going to make him try on every robe in the shop. He quickly changed into the next one and stepped out again.

Hethurin looked up and considered the robe. “That one’s not bad. It’s a bit last year, but it looks good on you. You’ll need to get one in the right colors. Are you sure you don’t have an accent color?”

“There’s no accent. It could be black or white or something neutral, I guess. You think this one looks good?”

Hethurin nodded. “Have you lost weight?”

“Yeah, in the ten minutes since you called me fat.” Aeramin’s ear twitched.

“I didn’t call you fat. I said the robe made you look fat. There’s a difference. Turn around.”

Aeramin did as asked.

“Raise your arms.”

Again, he did as Hethurin asked.

“The fit looks good, so they won’t have to do many adjustments. Did you want to try on the others?”

“If this one’s good, then I’m done, aren’t I?”

“If you want to be.”

“I do want to be. Put the others back on the racks. I’ll change, and order this one in the right colors.” He could hear Hethurin sigh as he pulled the curtain closed.

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Naren – The Juppar

(( My prompt this week was ‘rich’. I have three characters who could be described that way from the start. I decided to go with Zaelith. ))

“Who is this?” Sylvir Starsurge demanded as soon as Zaelith entered the room.

“Father, this is my roommate, Aeramin Firewind. It’s his 20th Name Day as well, except his parents are unable to visit. I was hoping he would be welcome to join us.” Zaelith answered. The room had been decorated with tapestries and rugs from the western desert, where he had spent his first few years. The regular chairs of the room had been removed and low benches had been added along one wall. A female servant that his father had brought along with him, stood next to him holding a bowl of grapes. His father’s long, flowing robes had fine jewels and embroidery, and his headdress had a row of gems dangling across his forehead. His long dark hair was braided and hung over his left shoulder, slipping like a snake past his sharp features of his dark tan face. Each finger on his hand had a different ring. Zaelith tried to guess the gemstone of each as his father reached for a grape.

Sylvir looked at the other elf, studying him for a moment before asking, “Why didn’t he go to see them? Is he a seer as well?”

Most mages could leave to visit their parents, if they had a temporary adahi assigned to them. Zaelith was an exception as his rare ability to see the past with crystal clarity was well-protected by Thril Gandir. However, temporary adahis were not free. “His parents are farmers and cannot afford the cost of a temporary adahi to be assigned to him so that he can visit them.” Zaelith answered.

He noticed Aeramin looked down at his feet as he stated the reason to his father. He frowned slightly at Aeramin’s inability to follow directions. Had he not told him to maintain eye contact while discussing his presence there? Not doing so would be an admission that he was not worthy of being in the same room.

His father did not hesitate to seize upon the moment, “I think your friend should go celebrate with the other farmers who are too poor to leave or have visitors, don’t you?”

Zaelith opened his mouth to protest, but Aeramin was already heading towards the door. He sighed lightly. It would have to be something he worked out with him later. There was no time to go chasing after lovers when his father was here visiting.

He waited for the door to shut behind Aeramin before speaking again. “I missed you. How are my brothers and sisters?” He had two of each. Both of his brothers were older, and his sisters were younger. He was the middle child, and the only with any magical ability at all. The trips to visit him were long, but his family still did it.

“They are well. Your mother is still too ill to travel, but she asked me to pass on her wishes of health and happiness in your 20th year.”

Zaelith nodded. He wished he could see her. His father was good to visit with, but his mother was much less formal. He had her soft features, blond hair and light skin, though hers was freckled and tanned by the sun. The only thing he got from his father was his bad eyesight and blue eyes. He admitted there was irony in being a seer who couldn’t see very well. Luckily, the glasses his father had purchased from the dwarves in the mountains bordering the desert worked quite well.

“I’ve brought something for you.” He picked a package up from the bench beside him and handed it to Zaelith. Zaelith sat next to his father and began to open the package. It had been wrapped in a simple brown paper, but what he pulled out was anything but simple. It was a long flowing robe, much like his father’s — no, even nicer. He was speechless. Only adults who passed their trials wore an outfit like this.

“I spoke with our council about allowing you to wear the juppar. They did not agree at first, but I was, at last, able to convince them. Do you like it? Your mother picked it out. She said it would go well with your eyes. I was hoping it would be a surprise. I had it wrapped in a enchanted paper which should have prevented magical meddling, perhaps even by your gift.”

“Like it? I love it! I had no idea! Father, thank you so much. I wish to go try it on now. May I?”

Sylvir nodded. Zaelith grinned and went to the nearest empty room to change.

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World of Warcraft – The Rainy Night

 

The next night was rainy. I hate rain. Alinash had to be careful not to slip on some of the more slick rooftops, and climbing down the wall into the back courtyard of the large house had been easier to do when he was drunk. Lightning flashed and a few seconds later a loud crack of thunder ripped through the night. He hoped Harrier wouldn’t wake to find him gone.

He’s kaldorei. They usually sleep during the day. I bet this stuff wakes him up really easy. It had taken him longer to get to sleep tonight than usual. He sighed quietly, realizing he would probably have to explain where he was. Easy, if I have my trinket in hand.

Or so he hoped. He hesitated going to the back door of the house. Was the mage just going to hand it over? Certainly, she was going to want something in return, but what? He had nothing to give. He could maybe translate things from Thalassian to Common or Common to Thalassian, and his handwriting had improved greatly while he was at the school. However, she was Sin’dorei, and obviously knew Common quite well. She wouldn’t need anything translated.

He looked up the wall he had just climbed down. It wasn’t too late to leave and pretend he forgot. Maybe he didn’t really want to find out what she wanted.

But the stupid bauble. He had to. Not only that, but if she had found him on a rooftop once, she’d be able to find him again. He wasn’t sure how, but she knew where he was.

While he was still contemplating running, the back door creaked open. Well, it’s too late now. He stepped forward towards the door, not seeing anyone inside at first, not until he was in the doorway himself. She wore a black robe and was hidden in the shadows of the hallway, watching him enter.

She whispered, “Close the door quietly, and then follow me.”

He did as she said, following her down the hall and up two flights of stairs in the dark. She led him into an even darker room. The curtains had been drawn, and it wasn’t until after she shut the door behind both of them that she lit up the candles with a whisper of magic.

It appeared to be a study. Bookshelves lined the walls, and two leather chairs sat opposite of each other at a small table with a book laying on it. Statues and oddities were set out on display on some shelves and pedestals. She walked to one of the chairs, and gestured to the other before taking a seat herself. He understood and obeyed, taking his seat across the table from her.

She whispered, “I’m sorry about the need for stealth. I neither want to alert the guard or my lovers.”

Alinash raised a brow slightly at the plural, but quickly moved past his surprise. “You didn’t invite me here just to chat.”

“Not exactly.” She smiled. “I invited you here to chat, and to give you this.” She opened the book sitting on the table and laid it flat for him to see.

His bauble. It was here in front of him now. He started to reach for it, but he stopped and looked at her. “What is it you want in return?”

“Not much. A friend, I suppose. I came here to be with Jonrich and Thurgryd, but as I’m sure you have noticed, there are few Sin’dorei in the city. It was starting to feel lonely, thinking I was the only one. It didn’t matter how many human or dwarven friends I made. They saw me as human. Only Jonrich and Thurgryd know, and now you.”

“Oh. What does that entail?”

“Just friendship. Stop by once a week, and we’ll chat.”

“About what?”

“About anything. Tonight, I would really like to hear the story of how you came to live in Stormwind, Thal’inas.”

She had remembered the name he had given her the night before. “I go by Alinash now. Thal’inas is my old name. What is yours?”

“Zarellina, but everyone here calls me Zar. So tell me, how did you come here?”

He began to tell the tale of how he decided that Stormwind was safer than Murder Row, conveniently leaving out the part about being wanted for murder in Silvermoon and painting the Row as a dark and dangerous place instead. Well, it was, but that wasn’t exactly the reason he left. He told her of the book and how he had to translate it. How it took so much time he was late on the rent and the landlady took his stuff and sold it.

She laughed quietly at his jokes and agreed that his old landlady could go suck it. At the end, she picked the silver filigree pendant up out of the space carved in the pages of the book and handed it to him. “Thank you for tonight. I’d ask to know more about you, but it is late. I do hope you’ll be by next week, I think I’d like to know why this pendant is important to you.”

He took the bauble and nodded. He didn’t think it was too much to ask. He was grateful for the return of his trinket. “I’ll be by next week, same time.”

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Naren – The Little Gem

(( My prompt word this week was ‘poor’. I decided to write a story for a girl who starts out in the books living in the slums of Kingsfall. ))

Ruby Brightblaze, as she was known in this area of Kingsfall, walked past the makeshift shelters. Most had been built with a combination of wood and piled rocks. Some of the fancier ones had doors, but most of them had a ratty old cloth covering the doorway. She and her father were lucky to live in one of the bigger ones, but even it had just an old blanket over the doorway.

“Hey Ruby!”

Ugh, creep. Don’t look.

Most of them had learned not to bother her by now, but this one persisted.

“Ruby! Did you think about it yet?”

Sorry creep. Temporary loss of hearing. Keep walking, Ruby.

She spun around as he grabbed her arm and lifted her knee to his crotch. He let go, and before he could even utter his next words, she was running.

“Bitch! I won’t even ask next time!”

He said more, but as he was still clutching his sore gonads, and she was still running, she didn’t hear it.

Her father had taught her to survive here. He’d had problems with some of the creeps as well, thanks to some of the work he used to do while he still lived with his mother, a prostitute. She suspected her mother was too, but he never spoke about her. He would only say she was gone. She’d given up on getting him to talk about her long ago.

She slowed down as she reached a wall. Kingsfall was one of the few cities in Naren with an actual sewer system. The infrastructure for it had been finished over ten years ago, thanks to the dwarves for sharing their inventions. She supposed it wouldn’t be too pleasant smelling if everyone pooped in the same cave.

She neared a circular hole in the wall. It had been covered with a grate, but the people of the slums were a resourceful lot. They had managed to loosen it enough that it could be pushed aside, while still appearing to cover the opening.

She held her breath as she stepped up inside the tunnel. Of course they’d leave the sewage to drain right into the slums. At least she didn’t live too close to one of the drains.

As she moved further in, it got darker. She tried to breathe without smelling it as she felt along the wall. She knew the way, and wasn’t worried about getting lost. She was worried about stepping in something gross. She really needed to find a better pair of shoes. These leaked when they got wet, and her father complained if they smelled. Luckily, the sewage was just a small trickle tonight as it hadn’t rained lately.

She took the first turn and walked along. Light from grates above trickled in, allowing her to see a little more in this section. She came upon the first ladder and climbed up, pushing the metal grate that covered it aside.

It was one of the easier ways to get in the other parts of the city now. It used to be you could walk in and out of the slums at will, but in the past few years, guards had been posted around the slums. Many of them asked for proof of being a registered citizen of the city. Since she was never officially named, she couldn’t provide proof. Nor could her father take her to be officially named. He could not provide proof of his either, and Kingsfall had hefty fines for anyone not registered as an adult.

She replaced the grate and walked along the street, now in the proper city where people had real walls, real doors, real homes and real names. It was true that most of the people in the Kingsfall slums were nameless. Even the ones who could prove they were registered with the city had difficulty leaving. Her father had stolen a priest’s outfit from the local temple and used it a few times as a creative way of leaving. The guards didn’t bother the charity workers who tried to help the nameless. The sewer worked well enough for her.

She turned down an alley, and scampered up the side of one of the buildings, using the uneven corner bricks as footholds. Once she was up, she went across to the other side and waited.

Five minutes later, something brushed her arm. She knew it was him.

“Did you have trouble getting here?”

She whispered back, “No father, I took the sewers.”

“Good. Are you ready?”

“Yes.”

“I’ll lower you down. Be fast. They’re usually back from the temple in about fifteen minutes.”

Ruby nodded. Tomorrow would be an early morning as they rushed to sell the items before they were reported missing. That’s if there was anything worth stealing. Sometimes this part of town paid off, sometimes not. Stealing from the market stalls was much more exciting and efficient in her opinion, but she couldn’t really argue with her father. Once his amber eyes lit up with a new plan to make a few silver, there was little that could stop him. According to him, the sellers at the market were starting to catch on anyway. She didn’t know how he knew that. They had never been caught.

She held his wrists as he lowered her over the side of the building to an open window on the top floor. She let go as she got her foothold on the side of the window frame and gently made the rest of her way down to the window sill.

They had been watching this place for a while, and this window was always open in the summer. The building was too smooth on this side to reach it from the bottom, but lowering from the top gave her the footholds she needed to climb down. The couple who lived here went to the temple every week at the same time, but her father was right. They would be home soon.

She climbed inside, allowing her eyes to adjust for a moment before opening dresser drawers. Always check under the mattress. There was nothing there. She did find some jewelry left out on one of the nightstands. She slipped it in her bag before leaving the room.

The bathroom was the next room to check. Sometimes more jewelry was left there. She didn’t find any necklaces, but she did find some fancy hair clips. Those also went into her bag. She hurried down the stairs and found a fancy dining area. There was a tray, possibly made of silver. It was too big for her bag, and normally that would stop her, but she took the table cloth and wrapped it around it. She put some candle holders in her bag, and managed to find the silver too. Anything that looked remotely valuable went into her bag. She checked the sitting room and found a desk, but nothing important was in the drawers. She did find a nice pen though. Was it gold? She’d let her father sort that out when she got home.

The bell at the temple range once, signaling that they were closing their doors for the night. She hurried to the front door and unlocked it to let herself out.

She walked naturally down the street, trying to hold the platter covered with a table cloth like she was meant to be holding it.

She ducked into an alley near the grate to the sewer as there were some people passing. After she was sure the coast was clear, she pushed the grate aside and climbed back down the ladder.

She hurried back to the shack she shared with her father. She knew he would already be waiting there for her.

 

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