Big City Lanterns

Big City Lanterns: New Life – Act Two

Deri woke to the smell of breakfast as it drifted throughout the boarding house. He quickly demolished the food, even though he had no idea what it was. Although as soon as his plate was empty, Mrs. Brownstone took him to her friend, Mister Fowl, who owned a market butcher’s stall. After a long trek from West-Kanta to the market district of South Loven, she spoke to the butcher, who was looking for someone to cut the meat, weight it, and store the portions before they were sold throughout the day. The butcher examined him as he looked him up and down whilst he spoke to the landlady. However, he only hired the young lad from the country after he showed he could be of help. After a ten-minute trial, the overweight butcher who was missing his left eye had Deri promise (in writing) that he wouldn’t leave the city for at least a year.

That was almost fourteen months ago. And since then, Deri had learnt much in all that time. He’d poked his nose into the ethos of Nippa-kanta as they said the city was the centre of all culture in the Royal Kingdom. The place that everyone wanted to live in because of its art, music, and theatres, which had over the centuries been cultivated throughout the richer districts. The galleries were open twenty-five hours a cycle, thirty days a month, and five hundred ninety-nine days across the four seasons, only closing for harvest-day. Whilst all the theatres of Nippa-kanta produced plays across a spectrum of genres. Making sure that they put on something new nightly. Whereas the Royal Theatre only put on the best play of the month for the royals, the cities upper born and the rich businessmen of the modern era who could afford a ticket.

Deri had gone to look at every piece of artwork. All of it they said had been inspired by the royal society of Upper-Nippa. Before it was hung for all to see. So that the masses of the city didn’t rebel. (Again.)

He frequented taverns across the whole city. Whilst the hospitality industry made sure that brass bands played tunes to those who would pay to listen.

Along with what he’d learnt about the city, he delved into its history. A history he knew little about before leaving home. The long time ago, sort of history. And he’d ate up everything he could get his hands on about what was now known as the ‘Age of Conflict’. Something else he did that he’d never done before began to enter his daily life. As he began to read books based on the old kings of Nippa and the knights of the castle, which had been the only names on people’s lips back before the world had modernised.

Deri also quickly found out that (In the modern day.) those who were now gossiped about outside of the history books in the streets were those that some now began calling famers. After the slang for getting your picture framed by the guards. As he also began to gossip with his fellow lodgers about artists and actors.

– The dice rolled across the marble table. They bounced once and stopped. As the dice hung in the air, a card appeared in front of every player around the table. As the card settled face down for each of them, the dice bounced and showed snake eyes. –

Reaching for his tankard, Deri carried on ignoring the brass band as it played for an almost empty room as most of the locals had left to drink next door in the Foresters Arms main bar. He drank a huge glop and looked around. Unsure about what to do with himself Deri had taken to drinking after work and now as he watched the musical groups, that took to the stage butchering the work of others, he thought about returning home. What ever it was that had brought him to the city, didn’t seem to have the same hold on him. All his dreams of doing something, anything, other than cutting meat had also died. Now all that was left was a man who drank too much, but made an honest wage. His savings were also better than they were when he’d left home. So as he sat there, his brain couldn’t figure out what was keeping him in the city.

 As he drowned his tankard and went to get another, the thickset man and his group of brass players began completely killing the atmosphere. And as they were singing the same songs that every other band had been playing since the birth of brass music, more people began to leave the side room of the pub where the band stood on stage trying not to catch each other’s eyes. Deri had hoped they were going to be better than yesterday’s group of acapella singers. Although as someone began to boo, he agreed with their sentiment behind the noise.

The few who remained in the bar began to cheer the person who made the sound. After that, Deri joined in with the laughter, which caused the band to completely stop playing their brass horns. The thickset man dressed in what could only be called an old second-hand suit stared at the crowd.

“Do you know how hard it is to get up here?” He asked them almost, looking as if he was about to cry. The thick country accent that had come out of his mouth sent the crowd into a spiral of laughter though. Not one of their jokes was funny though, and it was, at this point, Deri stopped laughing at the man, who was now going red from embarrassment with tears running down his face. Although even the face of the man didn’t stop them all from laughing at him. As Deri sat at the bar and took a large sip from his fresh draft, someone from within the crowd now felt the need to shout.

“Make sure’ yose finds it harder next time.” This sent the ten or so men in the bar into a fit of drunken giggles. He suddenly began to think the room sounded like a comedy night. Although the comedians were drunk and weren’t all that good at heckling people off the stage.

As the band fled the stage, everyone left in the bar began to clap. Whilst the instrument players headed towards the door faster than a vagabond who’d found a coin purse, he kind of felt sorry for them.

Deri took another sip as he overheard the bartender telling the lead singer that they weren’t being paid. Then as the man walked away looking as if he was about to cry, the bells of the castle rang out to tell everyone that it was the twentieth hour.

“‘rink up and get out of ‘ere. Yose only get ten minutes t-a do so. Or I kick you out.” The threat from the bartender hung in the air, but Deri didn’t need to be told twice, he was like his father in that respect. The young man’s head felt like it was floating, and his legs swayed under him as the air outside hit him, but Deri managed to get back to his lodgings, still feeling intoxicated. His bed almost absorbed him as he laid down face first.

– A card was played. Someone played another card on top of that one. A female hand picked up both of them as he played her own. A laughter began to spread outwards across the multiverse, but it wasn’t anything you could hear unless you were more cosmic than biological. –

Big City Lanterns

Big City Lanterns: New Life – Act One

As Deri’s cart left the gatehouse, which led into the big city. The picturesque image that had built up in his mind shattered into a thousand different pieces. The streets weren’t paved with tuppence. Like he’d always been told. But with a thick layer of dirt and grime. Sacks filled with waste and groups of beggars were all huddled together. Their dirty clothing and faces were simply items amongst the sea of starving de-citizens though. And these vagabonds (the official term) were mainly hanging around the outside and alleys around the first four huge red brick buildings. Which lined the main road from the south-east gatehouse where his cart had entered.

As Deri passed these red buildings though, he realised they’d once been inns. Old worn signposts barely holding on as they hung from rusted chains. Although upon reflection, he realised the buildings looked as if they were being used as homeless shelters. But not officially so. Deri also noted how all the beggars were holding up signs made from cardboard waste. Although Deri avoided all their gazes, and felt no shame about doing so as he rode forwards. And even though it was far from true, he felt as if he was as poor as they were.

Horse stood on the horrid stone floor, wishing to leave this noisy overgrown destination. She’d been forced to pull up at another building. Which was dirty in her opinion. And smelt bad on the outside. But as she stood there, she watched as her master sold her for some dull, dirty, small metal circles. Horse felt nothing as she was sold though. Although as she watched her ex-master wander off without even saying goodbye, Horse began to get upset about this new development in her life plan. After all, she’d thought they’d been having a good time. Even if she came to that conclusion because the two-legged man had brought her carrots a few times and had been stealing honey for her. However, as Horse was led into the spacious stables. The smell in the air told her that she was amongst more of her own species. And as she smelt the air, she decided this new development wasn’t entirely to her displeasure anymore.

Deri walked away from the stables, as he thought about the dimensions of the Capital for the first time. Although it now occurred to him that fourteen miles by sixteen miles was a lot bigger than it had sounded. There were whole districts which existed within the city, which dwarfed all the large towns he’d passed through. And now that he was in the city, with its five floored red brick buildings and its dirt covered streets, Deri thought about how he reckoned he now knew what a dwarf experienced when passing through Ramston. Only because Deri felt like a dwarf at that moment.

-The sound of dice rolling across marble floated through time and space. A deep chuckle followed the roll. But the laughter stopped as a number floated in the air. A card was removed from the rollers pile. A look of fury spread across the roller’s face whilst the game continued.-

Deri followed the directions the stable owner had given him. And as he walked, the city hummed around him. Although this was mainly down to the lingering stench in the air. But as he rambled through the city, time froze. A weird feeling started in his teeth and went to his toenails in one movement. It was at the moment the feeling went to his toenails that all the thoughts in his head jumbled up though. And because of this, Deri missed his turning. The one that the stable owner had told him to take.

There was a brass sign nailed into the brickwork which drew his attention. It modestly read South-Kanta Gatehouse Road in thick black letters on a faded white background. Although as he read the sign, his feet took him back to the main road. As the butcher’s son glanced at the road his cart had travelled down. Deri was stood at the junction, almost unable to move for a split-second. Deri found himself glancing around though almost wide-eyed. His mind was still trying to figure out the stable owner’s directions. As his mind won’t accept, that he was lost.

As the lost lad couldn’t find the words needed from his perspective to describe the capital, his mind filed it all under hellhole. However, as he studied the streets, he began to walk forwards. All his attention as he did so began to wander. His eyes affixed themselves to the roofs of the cities buildings. As they weren’t made of thatch like he was used to, but of a grey flat rock. A type of rock that he’d simply never encountered before. Even this small wonder allowed his mind to forget how terrible the city was when you looked around. Deri’s mind began to look at the red bricks of the city with envy. Even though he didn’t know why. A departmentalised note noted the bricks were dwarven made, but were smaller than those used in the countryside. He then also noticed there was green moss growing on the bricks. In places, it was left to flourish, as it was the only green in the city. Although near the roofs, it had been left to turn yellow. As the forges’ pollution was killing the moss, which ventured upwards for space. Black soot over the course of time had also managed to cling to the mortar of all these large and tall buildings. Whilst it clung to the mortar, it stained the bricks held by the filling. And as his eyes came down to ground level, he noticed certain buildings were missing doorways. Which was when he began to hurry along the streets, trying to look as if he belonged.

-A card was taken from a discard pile. The cardholder announced that four dice needed to be rolled. Everyone around the table held onto the edge of the table as the dice were picked up. The dice bounced once, and with a sigh of relief from the roller, everyone smiled. Everyone else looked at each other as they left go of the table.-

As Deri strolled along the streets, he noticed people had painted images and words on all the walls of the district. Although, as Deri was raised, not to mention these sorts of words, he blushed and tried to look on. Whilst on some of the walls, he noticed there were wanted posters pasted over the top of original artwork. In line with humanity across the multiverse, they too had been vandalised. But on a much smaller scale, which included a lot of eyepatches and blacked out teeth.

The air was thick and began to smell offensive as he turned around another corner. As if there was a toilet backed up somewhere. One that the owner had carried on using after it blocked. Letting a few decades worth of excrement build up over time. Although as he strolled along the road, rushing to get through this part of town, his nostrils attempted to shut down. His eyes filled with tears as Deri realised the big city was merely a well-guarded cesspit. Unfortunately, he also knew that the money in his account wouldn’t get him back home. It also wasn’t going to be much if he didn’t find a job. He also knew that he wouldn’t find enough work on the road to feed himself. Although he also knew he wasn’t going to walk home.

-A card was withdrawn. The dice vanished off the table as the holder of the card smiled and placed it down. Making sure that the card was faced up. An egg timer appeared in thin air. Reluctantly, one of the players picked it up out of the air as the others laughed. The timer was then placed almost violently so on the tables surface. However, no matter how annoyed he was, the sand in the egg timer began to trickle into the bottom half. As the dice reappeared, they bounced on their own twice. Only falling to the surface of the marble table once the sand poured downwards. However, as the dice stopped, the numbers on the dice equalled ten.-

A driver of a cart loaded with vegetables began shouting at Deri. He looked about as he moved out of the way and began to walk on the sidewalk. Doing so as if he was only noticing the enormous flat square slabs being used by the other pedestrians for the first time. Without any target location in mind though, Deri carried on wandering around. However, as he walked, he at least tried to look like he belonged.

Each section of the city was sectioned off into districts. Which had happened long ago under the watchful eye of the third king. This though had restricted the growth of the old towns which had surrounded the King’s castle, and as they formed, the districts formed around what was profitable. As this happened, the cities less fortunate fell even further into poverty. Which they’ve never been able to climb out of since. However, the only signs of this integration other than the disparity in wealth were the old crumbling town walls. Which, if they hadn’t been integrated into the houses by some intelligent building, were still standing. Although the walls that still stood were all that showed the transition between the boundaries of the city. And this is what Deri should have been searching for.

What Deri didn’t know could fill this book. But then again he knew that it was the kings decrees that made everything worse over time. They’d stated that certain areas were only allowed to build certain types of businesses and buildings. And what they weren’t allowed to build. After this, certain districts were either void of investment or were barely holding on.

Deri knew how the towns got assigned though. He knew that Old Loven was the poorest town at that point in time. So, the king had split it into three locations. One became poor housing, whilst the other two became a market district and a dirty industrial zone. Which was on par with most iron age civilizations, but only a lot larger. Kanta, however, had served slightly better in the Capital’s formation. It had been a busy commercial town with shops and its citizens had trades. Along with its own magical college, it had more bargaining power than Loven. That was before it closed at the end of the age of conflict. But still, over the course of a thousand years, the businesses and trades had not been enough to save the districts of Kanta. Some still slowly descended into a predictable poverty, from which they now couldn’t escape.

Someone should have told Deri where he was walking around. Someone nice might have tapped him on the shoulder and say look about mate. But what he should have observed on his own whilst walking around was that he’d entered through the roughest district in the whole city. The part of the city where carts didn’t park up to wait. A location where those moving around did so in numbers. As walking around on their own would find trouble lurking behind every corner for them. Furthermore, the place had become more dangerous after the guards had permanently moved out. Although the South-Kanta guardhouse had been stormed three hundred years ago during the failed uprising and set alight. So they didn’t have a building to work out of anyway.

-The dice were past left. Taken with a smile, both of the dice bounced with a flick of the roller’s wrist. As they stopped rolling across the marble, time and space warped for a split-second. With nothing laid out on the table though, a card was placed down upon the shimmering surface with a smile. As the roomed groaned, the dice vanished.-

None of the candles in the wall-lanterns of the alley were lit. Although they also didn’t get refilled. In South-Kanta, the Royal Lantern-Lighters avoided the alleys like yellow-plague. They however did rush through the main roads, as they refilled every other lantern-post which lit the city’s worst district. And they only did that when they had an armed escort. Which was only done every other third day.

Four cats tried to hide behind a large mound of rubbish as they watched three figures. As they crouched behind four large leaking sacks of trash, they watched carefully. After all, some people caught strays for their pelts. But these three seemed disinterested in everything around them. They’d been following a newcomer to the city. And since a cart had nearly run him over, the cats were also interested in the glowing being who smelt different to all other humans they ran away from. No matter their social stasis, cats knew they were better than humans. So a glowing human confused them. But they were as unsure about him, as the three non-glowing humans were.

Although what the cats found enthralling made the situation. The humans in the alley found perplexing. And perplexing for the criminals wasn’t a good start. Nevertheless, even if they couldn’t see the glow, something about this newcomer glowed for them as well. And drew them closer.

All three of the criminals had names, but none of them knew each other. None of them had even introduced themselves. They’d sort of been pulled together. And now they were in one place whilst they watched what had drawn them. Someone who they knew they just needed to rob. As such, the natural born thieves lurked in the shadows as they waited. They’re unspoken agreement stuck them together like spit, but it held for the second. So they watched their target ignoring each other. They became like the alley cats chasing rats as the country lad walked around. But they held back. Only because they were still weighing up if this newcomer could take them on with ease. Or did he have no idea that he was in the district nicknamed Kill-anta.

As they followed him a little more using the alleys, the lad began to slow down. All of them were slowly sliding towards the fact the lad was simply lost because he did this. Then as one of them whispered something about how he only looked like he was trying to look like he could handle his own. A shimmer drew them closer to the edge of the alley.

After all, all three of them had watched the stable master rip off the country lad. Which was what the tallest of the thieves now mentioned in a quiet voice, as he was the first to speak. Which was only just below the level of actual speech, but way above a whisper. The shortest of them smiled as he mentioned how they’d watched the rube begin walking around the city aimlessly. Whilst the middle height criminal kept his mouth closed. As the three of them moved once more to keep their target in sight, they knew the lad was getting closer to the old burnt-out guard house. They also knew that they needed to strike. Or they would be forced to turn around and find someone else, as their target would soon enough be crossing into West-Kanta. Where they would likely be arrested, as the alleys were cleaner and patrolled. They all nodded. It was the only sign they needed between them at this point.

The lad from the country hadn’t thought about the alleys at all. Deri even guessed that other than being used to dump rubbish, no one walked through them. Because of this, he wasn’t paying attention.

As he strode past the adjoining alley between two rows of large terrace houses, Deri didn’t even turn his head. Unfortunately, this was his first mistake. His second mistake happened only a few seconds after that. As the sound of footsteps rapidly getting louder began to approach him, and he simply carried on trudging along normally.

Two sets of arms grabbed Deri out of nowhere. He tried to free himself as he struggled, but he couldn’t break free both of them. A dirty hand covered his mouth, and as it did so, all rational thinking went out of the wooden shutters. {As windows have yet to be invented.} He heard the voice of a man who sounded as if he was almost out of breath.

‘Ya gold or ya life.’ Another man who was also panting and sounded as if a heart attack began to laugh. Deri attempted to answer the thief though, but he couldn’t. And as he thought about what the man had said, he decided the question seemed kind of redundant. To the point that Deri almost began to laugh himself. This statement, as it had not been posed as a question, caused both of the other men to start laughing at their comrade. A deeper, louder and more aggressive voice spoke to the thief holding Deri.

‘Yose all-right in the noggin?’

‘Wot?’ Asked the original statement-giver. As he stood there, he pushed his knife under Deri’s chin, trying to seem more intimidating as his credibility was slipping away from him.

‘Sounds lick’ yose wants to be in the the-eat-re. All po-sh lik-e tho-se in Upper,’ a third voice said from behind Deri. Deri tried to think about what was said, because at that moment he simply had no clue to what they were on about. Or why the third voice was trying to talk differently. Whilst the speaker had been using a grating common sounding accent, which gave him an uneducated quality, in Deri’s opinion. But the conversation quickly seemed to turn back to Deri, and as it did, so all his thoughts went blank as they looked at him.

‘Just grab it all,’ the largest of them said, ‘we need to move.’ As the butcher’s son thought about what they were grabbing, his tunic began to be pulled about. Hands tried to get inside his trousers, fumbling for secret coin purses. They pulled on his bag, which was ripped off his shoulder as one of them swept his feet from under him. Although it was only as Deri was sent to the floor did his small black leather purse fall out of his sleeve where he’d hid it. And even though it was mainly full of tuppence, the contents began spilling everywhere as it fell. His clothes were also suddenly stretched across the floor. As he lay there, one of them began scooping up all his dirty clothing.

-As one of the players laughed, a hand shot out and played a card. The laughter stopped and three dice appeared on the table. Although as they were picked up and rolled once again, everyone held onto the edge of the table-

The three thieves stopped kicking him and disappeared back down the alley with everything he owned. Everything that was apart from his account booklet. When they’d pushed him to the floor and started grabbing at him, his body had fallen on top of the booklet. Which was the reason he’d not moved an inch and had allowed them to kick him.

As he stood up, a lost, broken, and slightly upset Deri passed through the crumbling wall into West-Kanta. Even though he was still shaking, he began to move faster and kept his head down. He also began to pay more attention to eye level. Although everything around him began to look different. The brickwork of all the buildings was cleaner for one. The people smiled at him, and one woman who was on her doorstep stopped him as she asked him if he was okay. That same pleasant lady even went into her building to fetch Deri a clay cup of water. After explaining to her what had happened, she pointed him in the direction of the district’s guardhouse. And told him to ask her husband not to work late with a small laugh.

Although in the nicest part of the city that Deri had seen so far, he noticed a sign. And as he completely forgot about the guardhouse, Deri knocked the front door. After that, he quickly found a cheap room to rent. The lady of the house, Mrs. Brownstown, allowed him to use his account booklet as evidence to the fact he could pay. And with only a promise that he would get the deposit, as soon as he found out where the bank was located, the key was handed over. Although Mrs. Brownstone insisted she helped him find the bank.

Mrs. Brownstone, the landlady of the boarding house, also wouldn’t allow him to go straight there. She forced him to sit down as she made a pot of nettle tea. Then the overbearing woman made him talk about himself and asked him how he planned to obtain money in the big city. Once the tea was finished, though she took him directly to the bank. And after she helped set him up with a monthly transfer of funds into her depositary, he was a city dweller.

Mrs. Brownstone even insisted he wandered back to her property with her. Although as they reached a cheap clothing store, she brought him a fresh set of clothing, when he asked, her not too. Telling him he could pay her for the flax tunic and trousers once he got his first pay check, she forced him to accept and compelled him to try on three different colours with her watching.

Big City Lanterns

Big City Lanterns: Journey – Final Act

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.

Big City Lanterns

Big City Lanterns: Journey – Act Two

The local village bank conducted all its business from a single counter from within the ‘King’s Royal Post Office’. Although, the tiny postal office was only a minute attachment to the side of the inn. And at night, the office was given back over to the inn for illegal card games. Which no one in the village cared about. As the village’s only guardsman was also the person who organised the snacks. And although all this implied, the rural village was a small nowhere place. It was larger than somewhere in the middle of nowhere should’ve been.

Ramston, as the villagers called it, was two main roads with around three hundred people spread out amongst the thatch roofed houses and the local surrounding farms. Still, even with so many residents, all that could be said for Ramming Stone (as it was called on the maps) was that its two taverns, a few shops and a tall red bricked inn, was a stop on the main highway for all the dwarven mountain towns. That moved their non-perishables to the big city.

As Deri wandered through the inn to reach the backroom, he ignored the deer’s heads on the walls. Whilst noticing his younger brother drinking away his inheritance. Margie, the half elf, stood behind the bar table, which served as the counter for all the village’s banking needs. And as Deri approached her, she smiled at him politely, before saying,

‘Hello Deri. And what can I do for you today?’ He smiled politely in return as he removed his account booklet plus the letter from his tunic, and replied,

‘I wish to add this into my account, please.’ Margie checked over both as she took them. Opening the letter first, she stared at the stamp. After she checked its authenticity, she began to fill out some forms. As his friend did so, Deri resisted the urge to tap his foot, and after five minutes, the half-elf was finished. After she stamped a new page in his booklet, she handed it over with a smile,

‘That is now twenty-five gold, ninety-seven silver, and thirty-eight tuppences in your depositary account. Is there anything else I can help you with today?’

Deri smiled as he took the booklet and asked,

‘Where does Goldthread Banking Group have branches?’

Margie smiled. As he smiled in return, her cheeks began to blush slightly. Whilst she answered him with two questions of her own,

‘Why? Are you leaving the village?’ Deri nodded,

‘I haven’t got anywhere to live.’ It looked like she was about to ask him a question-

-the sound of dice as they bounced across a cold, hard marble surface ringed out across the cosmos. A second in time jumped forwards on Caradesance. And suddenly-

-Deri’s lips were moving, although he couldn’t remember what he’d been saying before that very moment,

‘-well, Marx got the butcher’s shop in my father’s last testimonial. And I need to go somewhere that has a job to offer me.’

Margie looked kind of hurt, but nodded and said,

‘Well, I, I mean we’re going to miss you, I mean your singing on open-stage night.’ She blushed again whilst still looking hurt,

‘I’ll write I promise.’

‘Is that so. Well, as I said, the Group has fourteen branch offices in small settlements along the main highway. And of course, there is the main banking branch at Nippa-kanta. While I have to say the big city is the only place you’re going to find an actual job, they do say the streets of the big city are paved with tuppence. Maybe you can come back rich.’ Deri laughed. He nodded and said thank you and goodbye, before he then walked out of the inn. Although he didn’t understand her anger, but as with most thoughts linked to the human mind, his own mind quickly moved forward. And were helped along by turning the corner at the tailor shop.

As he saw outside his father’s butcher’s shop. Deri found Marx already putting his belongings on the doorstep. Taking only a bag of clothes from the pile, neither of them spoke. Deri hooked up the waiting horse to the cart in less than a minute. As he took one final glance at the butcher’s shop, a tear rolled down his cheek, and as it faded away, Deri began to leave Ramston behind.

The sun began to drop below the horizon as Deri’s cart began to draw closer to the last farm on the outskirts of the village. Whilst the cart rolled forwards, the warm summer afternoon turned into a breezeless chilly evening.

Red, who was pacing around his domain, surveyed his wives. He didn’t notice the horse, or the human, as the cart rolled closer to his land. His mind was elsewhere, as it’d been for days.

Red stretched his wings and then began to wander into his harem. Halfway up the ramp, he experienced the same feeling that he’d experienced three days ago. But, what with Red being nothing more than a simple rooster. He couldn’t figure out what caused this strange feeling. Before the rooster went inside his building though, something compelled him to watch a cart that rolled past. Whilst his wives wandered over to the fence to get a closer look. Consequently, a shiver rolled down the rooster’s spine, which caused his rear feathers to shake uncontrollably.

The horse as it dragged the cart didn’t notice the rooster either. Although admittedly she was thinking about food. Which for Horse was also nothing new.

Somewhere, just past the last farm leaving the village, Horse began realising that her new master still wasn’t stopping. She then began to wonder, how long this journey was going to take. The fields of grass were getting longer the further they travelled. Which she wasn’t going to complain about. Although, as the horse followed the stone road that ran through the meadows, she came to a sudden realisation that the cart was empty. And after some consideration, the animal then came to another realisation that told her that its luck must have been changing.

Although later that night, she would have disagreed with the earlier version of herself. As all there was to eat was grass. Whilst Horse pondered the prospects of only grass, she yearned for the young girl that would feed her carrots before bed.

The first two days on the road were lonely, bitter, and a walking nightmare for the animal. She missed her stables. She also missed the young girl, who she’d once surmised to be her master. She missed hay, which she never imagined she would think. And she wanted to stop pulling an empty cart. But at the first village, they came to the horse’s mood lifted.

The inn she knew housed people, whilst the attaching shed was loaded with hay for her to eat. A stick of honey was also hung in the corner. Which she attempted to devour in one. And the shed was a palace to the animal, who’d been kept in a small wooden structure, she hadn’t been able to move about in. The wooden shed was warm as well, and as she didn’t have to stand up to sleep whilst being attached to the horrid cart for another night, Horse was ecstatic.

However, Deri didn’t like the village. Or to be precise. He didn’t like the villagers. They were friendly enough to his face, but he heard them making jokes about him behind his back as he brought provisions.

So the next morning, after handing the inn keeper five tuppence coins for a breakfast, Deri wanted to leave. Whilst Horse needed to be dragged from the stables. As she kept trying to grab a honey coated stick in her mouth. Deri quickly caught on to the fact that she didn’t want to leave it behind. So in the end, as no one was around, Deri stole the sticky treat. And Horse soon followed him outside.

Although once they were both back on the road, her attitude further lifted as her master began to sing. And as he did so, Deri, unlike the only musicians he’d heard before (bards) composed his songs about what he saw. So as they left the village behind, the made-up song he sung was about the vast rose bushes in the meadows. Which for Horse sounded like a new food source.

That evening, when she ate them, she decided she quite liked the taste of roses. And her stomach agreed with her. Her own thoughts went more along the lines of,

‘So, I’m on a tour of the lands foodstuffs. Two down. I wonder how many more there can be left?’

The following village along the road wasn’t that much better. They were pleasant enough folk. It was even a little larger than the last. But they were like most this far into the sticks. Two-faced to the individuals who passed through and kept their own local council. Which was why Deri didn’t stay long.

Village after village rolled by as the cart began to cost Deri in wear and tear. A wheel replacement here. The reins and leather attachment straps for the cart also snapped more than once. And then, as the summer air began to get warmer, Deri crossed out of the ‘Britstana Uplands’ where he was born, and crossed over into ‘The Dales’. As he did so, the people got friendlier. Although he still wasn’t sure about them-

-a hand covered in jungle vines removed a well drawn picture card that held words unreadable to mere mortal men-

-Deri’s cart pulled up outside the first town that his eyes ever laid sight on before, not remembering having turned off the main highway-

-two dice echoed across time and space, three cards were picked up by a female hand, and a miniature was pushed across the marble surface-

{It appeared to any observer watching from outside the situation. Like myself. That time just jumped forwards by a few seconds.}

-Deri entered through the gates of Grof. As the gates were already open, it appeared as if that was the easy part completed. But he couldn’t figure out why he even considered that. Then, as his cart rolled onwards, he studied the nomads hanging around the entranceway. And marvelled at the small farming plots stuck between the two walls. Although the inner walls held no towers, whilst archers sauntered along the ramparts as they looked menacing.

Grof, was once an ancient vampire stronghold in the age of conflict. Which was captured during the prolonged one-thousand-year long war by some almost forgotten Lord. Whose family still ruled the whole county to this day. And Deri was impressed. So impressed, that at first he thought the place was Nippa-kanta. The tall outside walls, with its ramparts, nine towers and two enormous gates, were a marvel to the simple butcher’s son. Although once the guards let him past the inner locked section of walls. Deri was further amazed by the lack of the familiar looking round cottages. As every building was constructed using the newish red bricks which the dwarfs sold.

The people of the town even smiled and nodded at him as they went about their business. Whilst inside the inn, the keeper even struck up a conversation with him as he asked Deri about what he could do in the way of work. After Deri answered him, the man’s eyes lit up and said,

‘Well, if you’re looking to settle down here, we have three butchers in town, and two of them are hiring. We also have a boarding lodge if you can stand to be around trolls. Or you can stay here, locals get a discount, that is, if you plan to stay local.’ Deri sounded a little taken aback as he replied,

‘I was heading to Nippa-kanta.’ The inn keeper nodded in an understanding manner,

‘So is everyone these days. One room for one night, then, is it?’ Deri almost said two. But paid for one before he went off to explore the town.

At first everything seemed charming, welcoming, almost inviting-

-the dice rolled-

-but as he reached the Lord’s Manor House, everything changed. Outside the manor house were four criminals in stocks as a crowd gathered around them. Every person in the crowd was also throwing fruit, and not the soft variety. Carved into wooden signposts hanging under each of the criminals were their names and their crimes. Which to the travelling butcher seemed barbaric. And illegal by order of the king, no criminals should be shamed and should be treated with respect.

[This Lord must not have got the memo.]

Deri read their crimes in his head. As he stared at them in horror,

‘Jie Cobbler refusing to pay local tax. Alley Cat Sarin refusing to lay with the local lord for free. Bosin Thatcher sexual relations with an elf. Twiein Colegate sexual relations with a human.’ Deri quickly left the crowd and returned to the Inn. That night, as he slept, he dreamt about being locked into the stocks for kissing Margie. And in the morning, he left as swiftly as he could.

Other towns along the way were worse in some respects. In other respects, they were better, or all the speciesism was entirely hidden. Whatever the reason, Deri didn’t understand what he’d seen in Grof. And he was pleased about that. But simultaneously, he couldn’t help but conclude that where he came from was the only place that didn’t have hatred for others. Which for the butcher’s son came as a surprise.

As he proceeded through the land, his savings began to slip through his fingers. Whilst the summer breeze began to get colder as the days got shorter. But as the journey so far had taken five cycles of the moons. The leafs were beginning to fall off the trees as the cart rolled up to the last town before the capital. There were no walls here, like the other towns. And there was no need to build them. Although this was down to the fact that the land wasn’t owned by a lord, but by the King. And no one was going to go to war with the King. On top of that, all the land beasts created by the gods were killed in the age of heroes. Which was long before the age of conflict had even begun.

{Although Lords are known to war between each other all the time. Seizing land, losing land. Killing each other for no good reason whatsoever.}

The town named Friemium was practically a ghost town though. As the cart stopped outside the Inn Deri thought about the name. He knew in Elfen the word translated into sunshine village. But this place wasn’t close to the true meaning of the word. Especially, as the word meant the happiness place. Although all the new buildings that replaced the cottages of the earlier age appeared to be in need of repair. And they also seemed downright miserable, as did the locals, who kept their heads down low and avoided his glances.

The inn keeper eyed at him up as he entered,

‘Off to the city?’ Deri nodded and replied with,

‘I am. I need use of the stables and a room for the night.’ The inn keeper made a noise in response. But said,

‘Stables, well they’re free to use they are. But I’d tie your horse up around ‘ere. The room is five tuppences a night, and food in the morning is an extra five.’ Deri paid for it and asked the inn keeper,

‘Anywhere I can get some food?’,

‘Here, or you can buy some food from the farms for travel, if that’s what you mean.’

‘No butchers or groceries?’

‘Nah, not round here lad. Local goods get brought from the farms, or we send a joint three-week expedition to the capital. It’s so close, see that we don’t have the need for shops.’ Deri began to think about opening a butcher’s,

‘What happened to the local butchers?’

‘He went bankrupt, then moved to the big city. Or that’s what I heard. I could be wrong. Businesses around these parts don’t survive long. Like I said, the city is so close we can get it cheaper by going there. And the farms around ‘ere sell at cost.’ And just like that, the idea of staying in this miserable place died. The innkeeper looked at him and said,

‘Why are you asking?’ Deri shrugged in reply and said,

‘Merely wondering is all. Is it possible to get an all-day breakfast? Please.’

After he ate in the empty bar, Deri went to bed, and as he slept, he dreamt of working in one of the theatres his mother used to tell him about. Surrounded in his dream, by tall walls and regiments marching through the streets with the red, white and blue striped flags of the Royal Kingdom.

Big City Lanterns

Big City Lanterns: Journey – Act One

Astra and Apollo carried on orbiting Caradesance. Whilst the two moons sunk below the western horizon for all those who called the Royal Kingdom home. As they did so, Heilbronn rose over the eastern horizon, bathing the nation with a slow-moving warmth. The planet itself didn’t notice the change in the day and night cycle. As far as the world was concerned, it merely continued to orbit Heilbronn and carried on bathing itself in what it called parental love.
The orange parent star, and the only star of that colour in the tiny universe, {the size of a large nebula} insisted on spitting waves of raw magical energy towards its children. Whilst the goldilocks planet was the only child that enjoyed the warmth its parent supplied. The star ignored every event happening in the Cosmos. And simultaneously the planet of Caradesance. After all, interstellar balls of magical plasma do not make great parents. All you need to do is ask the five children Heilbronn had already ejected.

The sphere that was larger than Earth continued to hurtle through the void-sea, never learning about the lifeforms which lived on its surface. Whilst the planet’s grandmother captured a random lost comet, that was basically travelling from nowhere and going nowhere. Caradesance’s grandparent wasn’t a star like its mother though. Instead, it was the entire magical force that held all three hundred stars in one place. Never allowing the stars to drift apart. So far, every object scooped up in the void was safely captured by this force. And these same objects circled around some of the planet’s aunties, playing with its cousins. As they interacted with its relatives, the cosmos carried on expanding. And the orange star resided comfortably in the centre of its own miniature universe.

Certain prominent names in all time and space continued to observe Caradesance from the home of the gods. And as they watched, two D-9’s bounced across a marble table.

A warm morning summer breeze commenced its travel plans across the planet without thought. And yet, as the wafts of air moved, it absorbed the energy coming from the orange star. The raw magic collected by the planet’s weather cycle was usually deposited by light showers, but occasionally more independent breezes could form into colossal storms with magical properties. Which would then become erratic natural forces of nature, creating only destruction. Today was luckily not one of those days.

{Sat on the thatch roof of Old Man Whistle’s farmhouse. Watching the eastern horizon in the morning. You would have seen the sun lazily rising over the tall misty mountains. And if one processed good enough eyes, then one might have been able to see the light pink specks of magic falling. As the planet’s atmosphere slowly captured the specks. Ah. I would love to climb up the village roofs, as a child, to watch the morning sun. Experience the warmth of summer, as the rays bathed my face. To smell the pollen, as the magical flowers open for the warmth. Mmm. Describing it to you now brings back so many memories. Ah well, I suppose I need to move on. Or I’ll be talking about the weather the whole time.}

As the rays of first light hit Old Man Whistle’s breeding coop, a simple rooster was awoken as his finely tuned internal alarm clock went off. Whilst the animal woke up, it began to eyeball its surroundings. The rooster knew something was different this morning. Although the brawny male chicken by the name of Red simply didn’t know what. Going about his normal routine because he might never know what had changed whilst he slept. Red began flexing his wings, as he glanced around the coop once more.

The rooster began to head outside whilst it held its head high. As the animal quickly decided to glance back inside the harem. {Which is what he called the coop filled with his wives.} A strange feeling went down his spine, and Red decided there was nothing wrong. There couldn’t be. Every other morning so far in his life had gone as planned. So his mind, with this point at the forefront, followed his normal routine. Even though the rooster could sense something was off.

Red knew nothing about where he lived though. He knew nothing about what his species was. Or where his life would take him. These sorts of questions, after all, are all the sorts of questions that intelligent beings ask. And this athletic, but simple male Welsummer breed of chicken could only know what his genetics told him. Which were telling him; now that the sun was rising into the sky, that it was time to announce his presence to the world.

So, without any thought about what he was doing. The rooster strutted over to the fence which surrounded his harem. With a simple bit of mad flapping, with a half jumping action, and a lot of kicking at the ground, Red was stood on a corner post overlooking his land. He didn’t have any time to take in the view though. As there were natural urges that he couldn’t ignore screaming from within. So without any thought, Red then began to let out a loud, almost screaming monologue. The words (in High-Male-Chicken.) were mostly bragging about the size of his domain. But as the rooster obeyed its genetics, Red managed to get louder of his own accord.

As old man Whistle forced his both his eyes open. The sound coming from his rooster outside got louder and louder. Which only caused the farmer to bury his head under his pillow. Everyone else in the medium-sized village, that existed along the King’s Main Highway, was roused from their beds as more and more roosters joined in with the choir…

The local butcher however couldn’t wake himself.

{I couldn’t.}

No matter how hard he tried.

{And goddess did I attempt to.}

As the ghostly figure stood surveying the husk of his former self, the almost transparent shape of a butcher finally said something,

‘Damn. I should have laid off the roast beef dinners.’ The apparition of the butcher had been eying his body, since his heart had given out. Which happened at some point in the middle of the night.

{I didn’t even notice it happening. And couldn’t tell you when either.}

As the ghostly figure stood there for well over another hour in silence. People outside in the street began to go about their business. Which some might say, when compared to the butcher at that moment, was simply the business of breathing. But still, what is a ghost meant to do in that situation.

A microscopic ball of bright white light began to form just in front of his bedroom door. As it grew, the ball began to spark with tiny white electrical zaps. Which cascaded across itself as the light began to grow ever larger. The ghost of the butcher was still gazing at his body though, and he felt like he needed to say something,

‘I should have sorted out my affairs,’ was all he managed.

[Sh. This is my entrance.]

A voice answered him. Which the butcher wasn’t expecting at all. Whilst the voice spoke though, the tiny ball continued to grow. Until the inverted ball of light was roughly about the size of a watermelon. The voice though also caused the butcher to turn around. As the ghost did so, he noticed the floating bright rip in all known reality for the first time,

No time for that.‘ The voice said. Whilst the butcher, who was still staring at the light as it grew, didn’t know what to say in reply. So, as is the case with floating balls, it spoke to him for a second time. And as it did so, the ghost began to tilt what would have been a head for some one formed of matter,

Now. If you would be so kind as to climb into the light. We can be off. I am running a bit behind schedule, as you might say.’ The butcher, who’d never speak in such a manner, still didn’t know what to say. Although he also didn’t need to be asked a second time. Especially as the body was beginning to creep him out. The face that looked up at him seemed so familiar. But as the blank face stared at him, all memory of whom this person once was seemed to be fading fast. Then, as the butcher climbed inside the light, someone began to knock on the bedroom door.

Deri Roge was tall. He was also wide shouldered, with a pastel skin tone, long red haired-

[Which is basically the same for every human in Britstana, so move on.]

That was unable to use magic. Although that wasn’t a problem. Only about half of each family could use magic, and no one had ever discriminated against him for being a non-practitioner. Most mages were also so stuck up that Deri couldn’t have cared less about what they thought of him. Which he also knew, because both his brothers were mages, and he didn’t care what they thought of him.

{He’s never gotten on with his brothers.}

[Tell the story, or I pull the chair’s functions.]

Deri’s current issue, or the one that most pressing. Was that his father’s butcher’s shop was just signed over to his older brother Marx. And as this freckly human sat in the attorney’s humble office, which was situated above the local blacksmiths, the middle-born butcher’s son was beginning to get annoyed,

‘So after working for him for the last eighteen years. For no wages, I might add. I am to get next to nothing?’ Deri didn’t feel apologetic about asking. His father had sent his brothers Marx and Prog to a private mage school. Leaving him to work, and basically grow up in the shop. So naturally, Deri had always assumed he would at least own the place after their father’s death. Which also happened in the form of a heart attack, whilst the old man had been asleep three days earlier. They buried him the day after, and then gave the old man a better send off than it appeared he deserved that night.

The elf, who was the only attorney for fifty miles, shifted around uncomfortably in his seat. Somehow he was managing to ignore the looks that he was getting from the three Roge brothers,

‘As I have already told you. According to this last testimonial, you are to be paid ten gold. Then you are to be given your father’s horse with the cart. That is all it states for you.’ Deri frowned at the elf’s answer. In his mind, what he was getting was nothing at all. Which not only hurt a little on the inside. But was beginning to appear on his face. What particularly hurt though was that he’d been helping the decrepit man with almost everything since their mother had died. Whereas his two brothers, who sat either side of him, had been getting the finest education money could pay for.

Still, as the three of them stared at the elf with twigs in his hair in almost disbelief, Deri took the opportunity to use the quiet room to ask,

‘Is that all?’ Marx, his eldest brother, went to say something. Whilst it was Prog who shook his head, and began to talk over the top of Marx,

‘After taking rent and food into account, it is more than your due.’ Deri went to reply, but the attorney cut him off,

‘There is no point in arguing. So if I can just move this along. Then we can all go our separate ways.’ The elf did not look comfortable. No one said anything either, and as such, the attorney smiled before he carried on talking,

‘Now Prog. It says here that you’re to be given five gold. And that you’re to go live with your grandmother. After that, lad’s it says nothing else at all about you three individually. As such, the bank account attached to the butchers is Marx’s, as he was given the shop, and that is the law in these matters.’ It was then Prog’s turn to be angry, as the younger brother imagined his last two years of higher education was still going to be paid for. Although Marx sat there as quiet as a mouse, since all three brothers knew how much the only butcher’s shop in the village earned in yearly profit. Their father, after all, hadn’t died a poor man. Merely a disorganised one.

The attorney sat up straight as he brushed his thick fur robes before saying,

‘I am sorry. But this testimonial is the last wishes of your father. And as Lord Herman Vin Burglan has signed the document. Then I am sorry to say it’s unfortunately the law in these proceedings.’ Prog said something under his breath. The attorney smiled weakly before he replied,

‘I’m so sorry that there isn’t more that I can do for you all. But I simply can’t suggest anything off the top of my twigs. Now I must be hurrying you out. I have two more appointments today that I need to take care of. Oh, and a wedding license to process for the Sheltons. Do you know Mara and Boddi? Such a lovely couple. Their big day will be such a wondrous event.’ Deri couldn’t help but nod. Everyone knew everyone in the village after all. Whilst Deri nodded, his younger brother stared at the elf, who appeared to be oblivious to the threatening expression. The wood elf though simply said,

‘Anyway, here is your paperwork. And you all know what happens next?’ As the attorney showed them the door, Deri felt like hitting Mister Doir violently in the face. Instead, he put his head down and walked out without saying a word. The three brothers didn’t speak as they all marched down the stairs. And as they walked single file through the blacksmiths to the street outside, there was a growing silence between them. Although not one of them even glanced at each other, whilst the absence of sound only grew worse between them. But as the three of them stopped near the inn, Marx finally went to open his mouth. But before he could do so, Prog simply turned and stormed off towards the inn. Marx’s mouth stopped itself from forming words, as he was now left alone with Deri. And whilst the eldest brother began to look worried, Deri surmised it would be better to step away from the situation.