Prologue (7/7): Contracts

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The rest of the journey to Baldur was mostly uneventful. Even the job was an easy matter; the thief was a simple fellow and had not yet gone to hiding. A few threats and the goods were in her hands.

However, just before crossing into Baldur, Evalyn noticed a carving on a stone:

“If you wish to find a way into Lordaeron, seek a crystal that is not magic yet glows in the wind.”
Wayra

She stood in front of it a good several minutes contemplating its words before continuing her trek. It can’t be coincidence, she thought as she trudged on. And so after completing her task, she made a few inquiries about Lordaeron and Wayra and the tales and rumors began to pour forth from the people’s lips.

According to these rumors, Wayra was a traveler, the only person to enter Lordaeron and come back alive. Lordaeron was an ancient city on the recently rediscovered island of Lemuria, an island said to be full of death and treasure in equal, plentiful portions. Wayra had come back to the mainland, and every nation and organization with any power or influence scrambled to hire Wayra as a guide.

Every summons was refused. Bounties soon followed.

And Wayra disappeared.

People began to notice the very rock that led to Evalyn’s little investigation, and the search for such a crystal commenced, the bounties not forgotten but pushed to the wayside. Many claimed to have found it, indeed even some Evalyn questioned produced a crystal they insisted was the one. All proved fake in time.

Evalyn quickly became aware of the treasure she now held, the power it could give her.

She noticed, too, her tails. This time she knew it to be more than fearful paranoia; there were, in fact, people following her as she went about asking around regarding the writing on the boulder at Baldur’s border. She pretended not to notice them as she turned to an abandoned alley near the edge of town. Let’s see what we’re dealing with. She stoked the air around her.

And not a moment too soon. A dart clattered on the cobblestone behind her, redirected away from her due to her gust. She barely made out the small whistling of another and ducked out of the way. Cursing sounded from the source’s direction. She grinned.

“Why don’t you show yourselves. Maybe your collective cowardice is bringing you bad luck.” She drew her short sword.

A faint pat-pat of footsteps sounded ahead of her, creaking of wood above her to the left. “You’re a bit better than we were expecting. . . More than the rabble that makes up our usual targets, anyway.” A cloaked and masked man turned the corner into the alleyway.

“I can see that. Who are you?” She put on an air of ease but prepared her muscles for action.

“Wouldn’t want to spoil the fun. . .” He continued his approach, and the wooden creaking also persisted until it was behind her.

“I insist.”

“Why, you haven’t even asked why we’re here,” the man said, lines on his cheeks and around his eyes indicating a smile.

“We’ll get to that, although I’m sure I can guess.” It felt as if a noose was about to be tightened; still she stood her ground. Come on, give me something to work with. “You boys are after my super-secret spiced cake recipe, aren’t you. Well, you can’t have it.”

The man paused and gave her a brief confused look before scowling. “Maybe you aren’t better than the usual lot.” A muffled, impatient harrumph behind her followed by a sharp creak and the slight sound of fabric flapping in the wind gave her a split second warning, and she dodged to the side. In return, she swung her blade in an upward slice, and her assailant stumbled backward unharmed.

An inky substance coated his blade, dripping off the tip. Poison. . .

“I guess a more productive line of questioning would be who sent you,” Evalyn said, tightening her grip on her hilt. A light thump on the rooftop behind her alerted her of a new arrival, and she cringed inside. They were stalling.

The man at the entry of the alley chuckled. “What gave you the idea that we’re the type to hand out our clients’ information? The Darkblades are smarter than that.” She risked leaving an opening in her defense to give him an incredulous look. “Oh, you think I’ve slipped up mentioning who we are? Perhaps you think I made a mistake again by confirming it. No matter; either way, the result is the same. Even if it meant anything to you, it won’t when you’re dead.”

She knew in less than a few seconds, they’d pounce. And so she pounced first. She quickly ran up the wall and jumped onto the roof startling the hitman preparing to jump down. She swiped at him, and he attempted to dodge, losing his footing instead. His dagger clinked as it hit the stone pavement below. She grabbed a handful of his tunic’s collar as he started to fall, holding him up propped against the edge of the roof.

“You wanna tell me who you’re working for?” she asked him, pushing him gently a little farther. His foot started to slip.

“Cusal! It won’t matter anyway,” he said, his voice faltering only slightly. He tried to sneer, but it didn’t look sincere with his fear in the mix.

“Hm, thanks.” And she let go. It really isn’t that far of a drop, she thought as he fell. Coward.

She ran, working her way to the city gate, jumping rooftop to rooftop before scrambling down near the main street. The sun was setting, and the last few travelers for the day shuffled in. She tried to maintain a casual pace to the gate. The guards gave her a look but waved her through, closing the gate behind her.

Knowing that her assailants would be sure to follow and realizing it was going to be a long night’s trek to the next town, Evalyn broke into a steady jog. The Darkblades. . . The name did mean something to her. The Darkblades were a bunch of assassins and thieves, mercenaries not that different from the Shadowstriders. The Shadowstriders didn’t murder people if they could help it, however. The Darkblades also had a reputation of being a cheaper option, the hidden cost being they might unofficially give themselves a raise. But it wasn’t as if she herself hadn’t done that, now that she was on her own.

Evalyn made it to the next town in the early morning hours with no sign of her pursuers and purchased a room for the day. However, after sleeping lightly for just a few hours, she woke up to her window squeaking open, a Darkblade attempting to sneak in hanging on the frame, eyes wide in surprise at having been caught. She laughed quietly and plucked his fingers off the edge. She jumped down after him, landing nimbly on his chest when he failed to recover on time, and ran off to the next town.

The sun was setting when she reached it, and she eagerly collapsed into another inn’s bed. She fell asleep immediately and managed to get a few more hours of sleep before waking with a start as the floorboards outside her door loudly creaked.

This time, it wasn’t so amusing.

Tired and irritated, she leapt out her window yet again and took off down the road. I know they’re just trying to fulfill their contract, but I wish they’d just give up already, she thought. I may end up having to kill them, though they’ll likely just send more.

In this manner, Evalyn made her way back to her client to satisfy her end of the deal and collect the rest of the payment. The man was a lot less twitchy this time around and actually greeted her like a friend. As an afterthought as she was leaving the tavern, she turned back and asked, “Do you happen to know anything of Lemuria?”

“Lemuria? . . . Hmm. . . Lemuria. . . Sounds familiar. Why do you ask?” He smiled from ear to ear. People and their beloved belongings. . . she thought reflectively.

“Oh, don’t worry about it. I heard some rumors about some island lately. Just slipped out.” She turned to leave again.

“Wait, yes, now I remember. There’re boats taking adventurers to that place up in that port city York a couple days’ journey from here. . . Maybe you can get more answers there.”

She turned again, flashed him a grin, and flipped one of the coins he paid back to him. “Thanks. Again, pleasure doing business.” He looked baffled, fumbling to catch the coin as she walked out the door.

To be greeted by her three recent least favorite people.

“Why, heelllloooo,” she said, forcing her smile to stay in place.

They leapt into action. Her leather armor blocked the first blow, she managed to dodge the second, but the third scratched her thigh. She hissed and rolled between them, running down the street. Just what that new wound needs, she mentally groaned. Dirt.

The cut was small, but her thigh burned as she navigated alleys and roads before halting in an alcove to catch her breath and survey the damage. She heard pounding feet, but they took a wrong turn. After waiting a few more minutes, she peeked around and, encouraged by the lack of murderous, cloaked mercenaries, cautiously stepped out, making her way to the city wall. Using her grappling hook, she managed to climb up and over and ran from the city. This is starting to become a little too common for my taste, she thought bitterly, heading in the direction of York. No one likes a worn out song.

It’s time to change the tune.

. . . Or something. I don’t know, I’m not a bard.

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Published by

faintolist

So you want to know about me? If so, I'm surprised and humbled. There are so many people you could bump into on the vast expanse of the internet, yet here you are reading MY words. I am one who was fooled by the system into getting a college education only to find out I would have been happier without it. And after realizing this, I returned to it like a dog to its vomit. Thus, I find myself pining after my childhood dream of being a writer while sitting on a Bachelor's degree in Mechanical Engineering and attending to a Master's degree. You know how the saying goes: "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me." Joking aside, I like what I do, but I still want to write and eventually publish my work. I see no reason why I cannot do both.

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