City's Center

                He’d run at least a quarter mile before finally slowing down to read the bit of parchment.

                Although he hated to admit it, his haste, for once, caused trouble. He needed to go all the way to City’s Center, and it was much too far on foot. He should’ve checked earlier, he sighed, and in fact he’d have to run back home to get himself a mount. As he wandered back up to the house he found his mother standing outside the gates with two saddled Ardock. Amelia was nowhere in sight, and was most likely off throwing a tantrum someplace or another.

                “Two Ardock?” Pine blinked.

                “I’m sending Tora with you.”

                As if on cue, the Cakumi woman exited the manor, buttoning up a black vest. She smiled at Pine and bowed slightly as she walked towards them. She was of a likeness to all their other servants, though she was smaller, and slightly lighter of color. She was also Duran’s wife, the second-in-command of their servants, and his nanny. Though he knew he should feel smothered by that fact, he didn’t at all mind Tora, and loved her as well as his mother.

                “Be safe,” Mistress Demasa told them, kissing Pine on the brow.

                At that, they mounted the horned creatures and set off towards the market. It felt nice to have errands to do and a pouch full of coins, even if they weren’t really his to spend. The jingling was pleasantly comforting.

                The further they walked from the core areas of High Block, the smaller the estates became, and the more congested the traffic was on the roads. Soon, the regal, red-shingled roofs and plaster walls turned to abodes of stone and muddy brick, though these smaller homes were still exuberant in size and had been considered for their aesthetics. Most High Block homes were ringed by high walls or raised walks, though these became gradually lower as they got further and further from the palace. Every once in a while, they would pass another of those grand homes; those properties had land that could swallow five other estates, and walls that could keep out even the most determined human thief.

                The clamor of merchants was growing steadily louder, and the gaudily colored tents soon popped into view. The watchmen didn’t bat an eyelash as they passed through Central’s gates. High block sat a hundred feet over Maurodon’s most bustling marketplace. The pathway from High block’s gate was not so steep, though it wound back and forth so that one could see a great portion of it from above as the descent was made. The crowd was filled with all kinds, humans and furfolk and featherfolk, and though fewer in number, those of the river. Though his mother would always take his hand or his reins at this point, Tora didn’t feel the need and simply rode closer to him.

                 It seemed as if all things were happening at once, over and over again. There were people pushing towards stalls or browsing the wares or weaving about in fierce determination…and then there were those who constantly rammed others with merchandise carts. There was the constant clink of coins, of items being dropped into bags, opening crates, the clopping of hooves, the assorted voices of both humans and pack creatures.

                City Center was a large, flat area filled with plazas and tall, level-roofed sandstone buildings. Garishly colored tents spun of Ardock wool assumed the center of each open area and the walls of all the permanent establishments. The long-time merchants, like the butchers and blacksmiths, had all been around for as long as Pine could remember. The walkways were done in a wide variance of materials, be they sandstone or slate or stone or glass. All were done in a masterly fashion and had been there from the time of the first kings. There was much maintenance on them, and tiles had certainly been replaced, but Pine could almostfeelthe essence of the first masons within them. Though the buildings of City’s Centerappearedold, they were all relatively new, having been gutted, or in some cases destroyed, and then rebuilt multiple times in the last several hundred years. The heat and moisture was never good for their structures.

                At its epicenter was what Pine believed to be the largest fountain in all Maurodon; a gargantuan feature with exquisitely carved marble statues and jets of water that seemed almost bewitched in their force. The depicted figures were extremely well known in their own communities, but it was largely dominated by Fahlhari culture. Pine himself was Fahlhari, and he always felt proud to see it. Standing tallest was the likeness of Idinaria, her arms outstretched. She wore a flowing gown and had flowers in her hair. There was a war hammer at her back, with carvings so intricate they must’ve taken a lifetime to produce. Upon her head was a crown of feathers and at her neck was a dense, crescent-shaped amulet, its jewel setting a brilliant star. Pine was always stricken when he saw her likeness. She was the creator of their world, of everything, of life.

                Next to Idinaria, the other figures seemed so much less grand. But nonetheless, surrounding the world’s mother were prominent figures of their history. Beneath her right hand was Diadonnas Audant, the first king of Maurodon, with his great sword. Beneath her left hand was Bandellear Audant, the first All-King of Falahr and namesake of Maurodon’s palace. There were more figures that surrounded the world mother, though Pine cared for them much less and couldn’t always place names to their marble renderings. Heroes of Amukai and Cakumi legend were also featured, as well as one who was Onhai.

                After spending a while ogling at the fountain, Tora finally decided that it was time to move on to business. With a sigh, he agreed and took another sidelong glance at the world mother.

The End

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