Only days ago, I awoke on an abandoned battlefield with no memory of anything before that moment. The only clue to my identity was the tattoo on the back of my hand displaying a snake
Only days ago, I awoke on an abandoned battlefield with no memory of anything before that moment. The only clue to my identity was the tattoo on the back of my hand displaying a snake wrapped around a sword surrounded by a ring of fire. Because of it, some have tried to help me, others have tried to kill me, but none have told me what it means.
You can read what’s gone before Here, and the ongoing tale below.
The stone was still warm as I carefully climbed out of the pit. It was dark, and the melted street offered few good hand-holds, still I was able to pull myself out on only the third attempt.
The north wind greeted me first, cold and harsh against my bare skin. I shivered but remained undaunted. The clouds shifted with the wind, covering the stars above me, but revealing a pale moon which shone weakly down on the ruins of Tirradon.
The city looked as if the gods themselves had sent judgement down upon it. And perhaps they had. The serpent of Tirradon was nowhere to be seen among the scattered stones and ruined buildings about me. Even the great temple of Ishtir in the distance had cracked, and a huge section of the upper levels had fallen away.
How long was I…dead?
The wind whistling over the corpses of buildings was the only sound. Indeed, if not for the workmanship evident on the stones one might not know that men had ever lived in this desolate place.
I took shelter against a short wall. It was impossible to tell if the side I rested against had been an interior or exterior surface, but it blocked the cold north wind, and I was grateful for that. My stomach growled.
I struggled to my feet again. There must be food somewhere in this city. I headed deeper into what had once been the Serpent Quarter.
As I strayed farther from the dragon’s path, the destruction lessened. Low buildings still stood, though their contents had been plundered. The lavish feel of the district was gone, consumed by the serpent’s fire and the marauding swords of the War Dogs.
Eventually, I came across an intact cellar door, partially obscured by fallen debris. A few minutes of hard labor cleared the opening. The air inside was stale, but promising. I descended the short staircase into the darkness below.
The soft moonlight barely reached the bottom of the steps before fading into blackness. I peered into the room beyond, straining my eyes to make out shapes in the gloom. The deeper shade was impenetrable, but a few feet away I could just make out a small box. I stumbled a little as I ventured into the darkness to retrieve it.
Bringing it back to the moonlight, I hoped to find food, but I was almost as happy with the small candle, flint, and steel. A handful of attempts and I had my own light with which to explore the rest of the cellar.
The room was mostly bare rock, with a few shelves against one wall. They were largely empty except for a few small loaves of hard bread and some slightly moldy cheese. I devoured these like a beggar at a king’s banquet.
As my hunger subsided, I took stock of my candle. The wick had burned low, leaving me maybe a few minutes of light, but the small flame danced slightly as though in a breeze.
I examined the area around me; there were no obvious outlets of air. On a hunch, I pushed against the nearby wall. It swung inward easily, revealing a small closet. The centerpiece of the collection was a sheathed sword which hung on the opposite wall.
I tore a strip of cloth from a nearby tunic and added it to my candle, buying me a few more minutes of light. In the short time I had, I found a few sets that would fit, as well as a sack to carry the extras. The clothes were all of a grey-brown that would serve well as camouflage in rocky hills. With the last of my candle, I grabbed the sword and retreated up the short stair.
Outside, the moon was beginning to sink into the West.
I hope these clothes are warm enough. Ulstir had told me the nearest safe settlement was several days to the north.
The sword was well-balanced and sturdy, with a plain pommel. But when I drew it, a serpent was etched along the length of the blade. I gave it a few practice swings. The sword felt at home in my hands.
Behind me, a pebble tumbled down from a pile of rubble, echoing in the eerie quiet of the dead city. I spun, sword outstretched toward the sound. Three men in dark furs crested the ruined hill. Each held a broad-bladed axe in their hands. Dark blood coated the axe-heads.
The leader, whose head of brown hair was almost as shaggy as his furs, called down to me. “Whom do you serve?”
Images of Ishtir and the War Dogs flashed through my mind, followed by the dying faces of Anasei and Ulstir. I raised my sword. “I serve not Ishtir, and what of you, who so eagerly challenge, whom do you serve?”
“I’ll ask the questions, stranger.”
They advanced, axes at the ready. But as they approached the moon cast a final dying ray of light upon the scene.
One of the axmen, a straw-headed youth, pointed to the mark on my hand. “Look.”
The leader took in the serpent entwined with a blade surrounded by a ring of fire. At once he dropped his axe and fell to his knees, pressing his face to the ground. “A thousand apologies, my lord.”
Behind him the others followed suit. “We meant no disrespect.”
I sheathed my sword. “And none was given. All must be cautious in these dangerous days.”
The captain lifted his head, but did not rise. “By your leave, lord, we have been commanded to bring any we found in the city back to our camp.”
How much can I trust them? I glanced around the ruins. They seem to fear me, for now at least, and I won’t last long scrounging like a rat in this desolate place. “Very well, I’ll return with you.”
To Be Continued….