Crusader ~ Chapter I Part IIIMature

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    I had forgotten how hard it was to walk through Derynn's market at noon.

  Hundreds of Dragonborn and Humans packed the relatively narrow street to find deals on the obscure and worthless. Some came looking to spend their gold. Others came to take it. As for myself, the town hall was just past the market, so I was mearly passing through. That didn't stop vendors from trying to stop me to sell me their trinkets. 

  The roar of voices and the sound of so much money exchanging hands was almost deafening. As I weaved through the crowd, vendors yelled from their stalls, or blankets that had been laid out.

     "-Swooooords! Quality Swooooords!"

           "-Greatest prices in all of Derynn! Come on up..."

     "-Only place in Lokotz to have this- Uhhhhh..... Thing!"

   I walked by, careful not to make eye contact with them, lest they debate with me all day about how I should buy their junk.

    "{Young mannnnnn!}"

    I stopped dead in my tracks. That voice... It sounded almost serpentine. I've heard that kind of slithery voice enough to know that it belonged to a Kobold... I turned around.

    "{Yeah, Youuuu!}"

    The somewhat tall figure stood behind a table he had set up on the side of the road. He wore an ill-fitting cloak from which his boney, clawed, yellow hands emerged. I stepped a bit closer. He pulled back his hood to reveal his long, pointed head. His beady, reptilian, blue eyes were looking straight at me. He was the splitting image of the raptor, an animal I read about in history books, that roamed the world long ago.

   I bore no grudges against the race as a whole for killing my mother, but that didn't mean I enjoyed their presence. Surely, anyone could be nervous around the thieves. Kobolds lived almost entirely in Tyrmin and the far west, beyond the mountains, I thought. What was this one doing here?

    I walked over, so he wouldn't have to yell, as the Kobold continued.

     "{Youuuu look like a mannnn of good sensssse...}" He revealed his rows of small, sharp teeth in a smile that extended a little past his eyes. "{... As youuu can seeee, my pendentssss are quality craftssss-manship.}"

    "Uh, no thanks," I shook my hand at them and turned to walk away.

      "{-Ohhh, but your Egglayer will lovvvvve itttt!}"

   I turned back at him, confused. "'Egglayer'?"

      He paused, and his cat-like pupils thinned. "{I havvvve forgotten. Youuu Dragonbornnn call your females 'Womannnn'. Honesssst mistake...}"

   Our race didn't even lay eggs. In fact, Kobolds were one of the only civilized races that do. Although 'civilized' was a bit of an overstatement.

    "Yes, I'm sure things are different where you come from... How did you get into Lokotz, any way?"

       He shrugged his shoulders and looked back at me. "{With the warrrr as it isss, one man can be easily overlooked...}"

  I nodded my head. This Kobold seemed trustworthy enough, but that couldn't be said for the rest of the race. In the long twenty years since the war started, the raiding tribes of the Kobolds remained neutral throughout. Because they weren't taking sides, they looted both the Black Priest's and the allies' factions equally.

       Not what I would call 'neutral', I thought.

  When a rouge group of raiders attacked the capital, we weren't ready. Chaos insued, and many people were murdered and looted dry. Menzoberran scrambled to protect the borders better, and stationed more soldiers inside the country, hurting us out on the battlefield in Tyrmin. The Black Priest's territory started consuming what remained of Tyrmin like a fire consumes parchment, and it started to get dangerously close to Lokotz. What was I doing as this happened? At the age of fifteen, I was busy planning a funeral for my mother.

     He continued, "{The Darrrk Lord'sss army is too powerful to overcome... We neeeeed strong warriorsssss to reclaim our land-}" His pupils narrowed once more. "{Ssssomthing you Lokotianssss are not lacking...}"

   Actually, we were. Although, by nature, Dragonborn do not become unfit, the Elder Council deemed a fourth of us so. All the other men were drafted. Those of us who stayed were supposed to keep the economy going, but since then women started to stand up for themselves. They started taking jobs previously held by men, and good for them, too. Female carpenters out-numbered male ones two-to-one. 

    "The fear of Orcs can take a lot out of a man..."

       "{Yessss, but at leasssst we face it. Elvessss don't even care about the warrr. They are cowardssss! They are innnn the perfectttt position to attack the enemy from the ssssouth, but they do nothing.}"

    The Black Priest had taken over much of Tyrmin by then, with his army marching to the east, towards the mountains bordering Lokotz. Aether, the land of the Elves, was south of Tyrmin, so a well timed attack with their world-class archers would be more than enough to balance out the war to our favor. But they were neutral in a more traditional sense of the word. 

   "At least we have the Dwarves to fight with us..."

       "{-Dwarvesssss?}" He spat. "{A dwarf wouldnnnn't know to follow orderssss unlesssss you taught themmmmm. They jussst go besssss-erk on the battlefield... Alllmost as uncivilized as the Orcssss they are fighting....}"

   I looked down. That comment was completely uncalled for, I thought.  Some of the military's best men were Dwarves. A person slid in front of me to look at the Kobold's lockets, and I took the moment to to continue towards the town hall. I didn't know how much more I could take, talking to a reminder of my mother's death.

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   About an hour and a half passed before I got to the town hall. The sun shone bright as I looked up at the grand building before me. 

      A wide stairway led to the front doors, with pillars leading up to the crown of the hall. Gold accents ran up the pillars, but it flaked in places due to age. As I walked up the stairs, I saw two statues on either side of the walk way. Yondalla, one of the Exarchs of Bahamut, the Exarch of law and justice, stood on the left. Vannash, also an Exarch of Bahamut, the one of commerce, stood to the right. I nodded to each of the statues as I hiked past.

    When I got into the main hall, my steps echoed in the silence. Only the sunlight beaming through the windows thirty feet up lit my way. Normally this building would be almost as busy as the marketplace, but because it was a holiday, no politician or civil servant would waste their time coming to work. If they weren't going to work, I thought, the least they could do was send someone to light the chandelleirs.

    I followed the signs to the theatre, where Miss Norric would be speaking. As I walked down the rows of chairs, I noticed that there was almost no one there. It looked like there was a grand total of five people there thst day. Like myself, they probably had nothing better to do on that fine day.

   A visitor card stood in a holder on the chair in front of me. I picked up a pencil from the holder and signed my name. 'Lesovikk Droa'

~     ~

   After almost a half of an hour, Miss Norric finally got around to her speech. 

     She came through one of the side doors, carrying a mess of notes. Her blonde hair had gotten into her face, so she tried her best to blow it out of the way. She fumbled towards the pedestle, dropping papers despite her best efforts. She was young, I thought. She couldn't have been much older than I was. She tried adjusting her glasses with her shoulder while placing her mound of notes in front of her. She failed, however. Katherin's glasses smashed against the floor in a sound that echoed through the theatre. She seemed to be reassuring herself by muttering under her breath. Or she could have been frustrated, and was mearly swearing under her breath. Either way, I was sure I wasting my time here. Katherin began her speech quietly as I stood up to leave.

     

     But a flash of light and an unearthly blast changed that.

The End

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