As Deri opened his eyes to the sounds of ravens, the morning sun rose. He thought it was strange, but it also wasn’t an unpleasant change to chickens. Which had plagued his journey so far. Although Deri forgot all about the birds as he ate his breakfast. After he brought travel food for himself and the horse, they set off on the main road. Although first he needed to steal yet another stick of honey. As the cart rolled along the stone road towards the big city-
-a card is taken. Two dice bounced. And a prolonged echo floated through all time and space-
-Deri started to call himself the honey bandit. Although in truth he hoped no one found out he was stealing. He knew that being caught would mean being locked up. And Deri didn’t want to be locked away-
-a miniature was moved, and a card was then played-
-time jumped. And the universe vibrated for a nano-second-
-he heard a noise. A cross-bow bolt barely missed his head. And as a second bolt flew through the air, the horse bolted forward with all its speed. The cart rolled onwards across the uneven stone surface of the road as she bolted. Deri held onto the reins, squeezing them as he did so. The song he was singing was now gone, as all that remained was fear. Another bolt barely missed him, and Deri wet himself as it stuck into ground.
Nevertheless, as the cart raced forward, Deri felt the need to look back. As he did so, he spotted four men riding huge mountain donkeys. As they attempted to fire crossbows holding onto the reins, Deri knew who they were. Although if Deri wasn’t so scared, he would have laughed at the sight of the Black Knights. But fear told him to out run them. Get to the nearest village. Just keep going. But none of the sentences or the voice in his head helped him at that time.
A bolt thudded and stuck into the cart. As the wheel hit the slabs at the wrong angle, his food bounced out. The only bag of food was gone. His hand shot up to his tunic and found his coin bag. The seconds flashed him by-
-the dice were rolled and the female hand took a card-
-the outlaws began to fall behind. They fired a few more arrows for show, but as these fell short, the riders began to give up. Deri nearly cheered, but he was afraid to give them reason to chase him again. After all, they already took his supplies, and he needed his money. Horse also wouldn’t slow down until she was out of stamina, no matter how much Deri tried to stop her. As soon as they slowed down though, Deri realized the wheel was almost broken. As they trudged onwards, he hoped it would hold until he reached the next stop.
The next morning, famished, with a cart about to fall apart, and after they’d slept in a field, Deri rolled up outside the blacksmiths. The man’s eyes lit up at the sight of the cart though. He began to wander around the cart as he nodded at the damage and said,
‘Ten silver be a few days lad.’ Deri nodded and paid the man. After that, his coin bag seemed almost empty. Although there was some luck as the local bank was his branch. And he took out seven silver asking for it in tuppence.
Five days later, once the wheel was fixed. The inn keeper and the blacksmith counted their blessings as they nearly robbed him blind. Withdrawing ten more silver, the butcher’s son left the village as he hoped he could make up the lost days on the road. Thinking about how he didn’t have much more than 10 gold left.
Deri could see the big city on the horizon long before he could see the walls of Nippa-kanta. As thick black smoke was sent into the air by all the forges of the capital. Whilst the smoke rose, it collected high above the heads of the city’s residents. Like a sign you merely needed to follow. Although the smoke wasn’t needed. Everyone knew after all that the ancient kings had ensured every stone road in the kingdom led to the capital. They, or the people who do all the talking, said that the roads had been built so that the world was connected. All Deri knew was it merely made tax payments easier. Which made everyone happy that it was the Lords who paid the road tax. Just as the lords knew that their families hadn’t paid taxes before the road system was laid. And as far as taxes are concerned, they don’t even go towards the network. The state of the highways told everyone that.
As the cart reached the queue for one of many gatehouses that was officially known as the Royal Capital of Nippa-kanta. Deri stopped gazing at the King’s Castle, sitting high above everything, and began to think seriously about turning around. There was a village not one hundred miles back, which was advertising a vacancy in the local butchers,
‘If not,’ he thought, ‘then I could start a market stall.’
Deri tried to calm down as he started to stare at the castle. While studying the immense red marble blocks that had a long time ago been salvaged from the sunken land of Letviana. Deri began to look forward to living in the big city. But the more he stared at the red castle, the more he wondered how the slabs were transported across the country. Because they were enormous. And as the city grew closer, he was overwhelmed by the sight of the gargantuan castle, which could be regarded by all those living within a radius of thirty miles.
As the king’s home grew closer though, Deri remembered his mother once telling him that it was the first king which built the mammoth keep with its four larger wings. While it was the fifth king who attached the tall towers to wings for defence. Deri’s mother had known nothing about the thick red marble walls, but Deri knew they were built to keep the riffraff out. And the nine towers that connected the thick walls definitely made sure that no one entered the castle without invitation. Deri also knew that everyone in the Royal Kingdom spoke about how the flamboyant king added the outer walls. Although the part they whispered in secret was how “he” was rumoured to have been a “she”, which Deri, of course, thought couldn’t have been true. As this would have violated the third royal law, which was established by the first king. On the other hand, Deri also knew that there were some people who, at least in secret, questioned its relevance. Especially since it was chiselled into stone and no one could even regard the royal laws (unless, of course, they were kings, as a king could do everything he wanted), but the times really weren’t all that much different.
[No matter what you say.]
What the inhabitants of the Royal Kingdom today described as modernity was in fact more in line and moving towards being only an expansion of the golden age of enlightenment, which moved only the arts forward. And caused the same people to talk about the future as if they were living it. Although these were also the same individuals who came to paint the king’s castle whilst drinking nettle tea from ceramic pots under its shadows. Talking among themselves about how the new age of peace was changing all modern thought. Which was simply not true. But even though the castle caused difficulties for local guards, as tourism always leads to crime, someone somewhere was obtaining money from it all. And that was the real truth of the modern society they lived in. But then they also said the King loved it.
The horse and cart grew closer to the massive grey city wall. Which was suddenly the only thing Deri could see of the city. As he gazed upon the three hundred metres of magically formed rock, all Deri could think was,
‘I wondered who fixes that? The builders or mages?’
After some waiting in a long line. Which only continued to grow behind him. Deri finally reached the front and was questioned by the local guard,
‘Eh, what’s ya business ‘ere?’ The tall almost round shaped guard in a lengthy black iron chain mail dress uniform said in a strong South-Kanta accent. The guard inspecting Deri began to determine if he could comprehend any sort of distrust in Deri’s face. As if it were something he could discover when he met someone new. The other guard began to peep in the back of his cart, and before Deri could answer, the younger, shorter guard spoke to his boss,
‘Eh Sarge. He’s got nuffin in his ‘art.’ Deri smiled,
‘I just arrived. I am looking for work and the closest stables to sell the cart and horse, if you know of any?’ The first guard frowned and then replied with,
‘Where yose from?’ Deri frowned and replied with,
‘Ramming Stone.’ As no one called it Ramston outside of the village. The round guard nodded and then said,
‘Wel’ ya lordship might find a buyer at the ‘horse stables. Tis left at the ‘nd of road. Just on the other side of tis wall. No-w move a-long your lordship.’ Deri snapped his reins while nodding at the guard. As the cart went through the gate, he hoped he understood enough of what the round man had just said to avoid going the wrong way. However, as Deri reached the stables, he realised the big city was certainly different from the countryside.