In a world in the middle of technological change, a royal assassination kicks off events that will change two young mens lives.
It had been roughly five years since I had gone north to the port city of Tanon in search of wealth. Many stories about the city had made their way to my ears, especially how easy it was to find a job on the wharf. Within the first year I had attained a managerial position on wharf four. It was still hard work especially getting the newer members to unload cargo quick enough and safe enough as to not hurt themselves or damage the cargo.
This year however one of the new dockhands had caught my eye. His name was Marcus and had been working on the wharfs for only a few months. However, he had the brains to listen to my advice and not get seriously hurt or killed yet, also no complaints had been filed against him (all extremely rare for new dockhands).
All in all life was going pretty good. Looking at the machine in the corner told me that the day was drawing to a close. I decided to go down and arrange some festivities for the night.
Walking onto the wharf the familiar feel of the treated wood groaned under my feet as the ocean tried lazily to dislodge it from the earth. Not much had changed about the wharf in the five years I had worked it. A few broken planks here and there but it was the same beast that had greeted me those five years ago.
Nearing the halfway point on the wharf I spied Marcus unloading a medium sized grey crate by himself. “Hey there!” I yelled to him.
“Whoa, if it isn’t the grand ol boss Fellessen here to the rescue.” He yelled back. “Gonna actually contribute to this little shindig for once instead of sittin on your ass all day watchin us do all the work?”
“Hey! It takes a lot of strength writing those reports for all the crates you’ve dropped!” I replied. The distance had closed and Marcus was only a few feet in front of me.
“Ah shit, you know I don’t drop any crates. But please feel free to keep sitting there while I do real work!”
I let out a little chuckle at that and began to help him lift a couple of the heavier crates off of the ship. I mean hell it’s a great way to keep in shape and I owed him after the drunken stupor that I acted out the previous night.
Even though not totally recovered I asked him “After were done off loading this ship wanna go to the Musty Sailor and grab some of that new import from Mumbril. I hear they added some extra zing to their new batch of ale!”
“Seriously? After last night you wanna go drinking again? I mean cmon you just about killed yourself in that pile of puke you conjured up! But yeah I guess, hopefully this time you’ll be walking me home though… Yeah I just realized the likelihood of that statement, ya drunkard.”
“Hardy har har, see ya there. I gotta go take care of a few administrational things first.” under my breath, but loud enough to hear me I muttered “like getting you fired”.
“oh, you bag of dicks” he responded. “Later, don’t get too drunk before I get there to drag your ass home.”
My feet propelled me back to the office at the end of the wharf. Once inside the small hut I began to get all the reports ready to hand in the next day to the “dock master”. By the time I had finished my paperwork it was dark out and the candle lit room cast shadows of all the odd bobbles I had collected over the time I had lived in Tanon.
Leaving the office the familiar smell of saltwater assailed my nostrils. I tried ignoring it but for some reason the aroma was intensely strong. Moving away from the docks the scenery began to change. The openness of the wharfs were disappearing behind me and the crowded city streets materialized to my front.
Approaching the quickest route to my dwelling, a back alley, I couldn’t help but to still notice the smell of seawater. There was no way the smell should still be in my nostrils. I was getting much too far away from the coast and, the breeze was east, towards the water. Something was wrong. The imposing stone buildings around me did absolutely nothing to quell that feeling.
Something was here. Something dark, it was following me. Looking around I could spot nothing. My residence was just up ahead. The darkness couldn’t follow me there could it? Running up the stairs my foot caught the ground. An appendage, my elbow had fire racing through it. Pulling myself upright I kept heading towards my room.
Quickly I hurried inside. A bang sounded from the force the door was closed with behind me. The darkness was gone. The smell of seawater was gone. What was I thinking? Darkness? Ghosts? That stuff didn’t actually exist, it was all old wives tales taught to scare the bejesus out of kids. Taking off my shirt an audible exhale released itself. Had I been holding my breath that whole time? No matter, changing clothes was a must. A dock worker in uniform at the bars was definitely not a good thing to do.
My feet stirred towards the door. Nothing a bit of Mumbril’s finest ale could cure! A gut sense overwhelmed me to grab the dagger off the counter. Never could be too safe. Attaching the sheath I headed out to meet up with Marcus.
I approached the alley. Something was bothering me. A feeling I just couldn’t shake, it was prodding me to turn around. Spinning I saw it, a blur of purple running straight towards me. My hand went for the dagger, but too slowly. Stars appeared above and pain rocketed through my body. The bastard had run straight into me. Regaining balance a glint of moonlight reflected off of a metallic object being drawn from his torso. My hand went for the dagger again, this time successful in pulling it out. A wave of nausea shot through me. My body involuntarily hunched, following that a burst of pain shot out from my side. Looking behind me I noticed the attacker had been as prepared as I. He was on the ground nursing a bloody leg.
Pulling myself up I took the opportunity and rushed him. Taking two steps a quick lunge brought me on top of him. My arm thrust forward connecting the butt of the dagger to his forehead, it didn’t knock him unconscious but allowed me to smack his sword away from his hand.
I yelled into his face “Why are you attacking me!” The sound he uttered was that of a mad animal trying all it could to break free. Oddly it wasn’t me he was trying to break free of. It was like something inside the man wanted out, or control of the body. I repeated my inquiry.
His face turned savagely red but it looked like something was winning over and he managed to mutter through gritted teeth “Heh help me”.
What? Help him? The damn fool had just attacked me. Suddenly an insect whizzed by my ear and warm liquid splashed in my face. The Attacker had stopped moving altogether. Wiping away the warm sticky fluid from my face I was able to see that the man had acquired a new weapon. A small throwing knife jutted out of his neck.
Before I could process what was going on, a contingent of guards had appeared from the northern section of the ally. Some noises wafted in my direction. Nothing was making sense. Why had this man been murdered? To protect me? Surely not, why wouldn’t my ‘savior’ show himself? The guards had moved closer. My hands and legs moved quickly the former scooping up the fallen sword and the latter setting a pace that few could match.
The alley was about to end. Had to lose those guards. They wouldn’t believe I hadn’t killed the man. Sharp turn left, then right then left again. My surroundings were familiar. It was the orphanage. Quickly jumping into one of the back lots I pulled an old blanket over my head.
The thing stank like death, the smell of saltwater had suddenly overpowered it. What the hell was happening? I thrust it from my mind, more important matters to attend to. There were things in my house that could implicate some my friends, I needed to get back there and destroy the evidence.
Carefully picking my way through the streets I made progress towards my abode. No guards outside, good. My feet were much more careful this time in ascending the stairs into the room. Closing the door gently behind me the nerves set it. The shaking started in the hands, It spread quickly. There was nothing to do about it. A dull thunk came from my right side. The sword! The one I had pilfered from my attacker. Quickly glancing it over my stomach began to rebel. This was a royal sword. Only the princes were given these.
Why the hell had a prince attacked me? Didn’t matter, the city and soon the whole Tamultan kingdom would think I had murdered him. A clinking from outside broke my train of thought. Rushing to the window my heart dropped right into my feet. The Guard was coming, and in mass. Smashing the incriminating evidence and making sure nothing else would lead to anyone I knew I began to pack a bag. Not much time left, I began throwing anything and everything I thought would be needed into it.
Screams erupted from below. They had begun to search the building. “Shit shit shit!” I whispered. There was nowhere to hide where they couldn’t find me. They would do a search of every room. The clank began to grow closer. The bed, who would check under the bed! I belly flopped onto the floor and jammed myself under the bed brining the bag with me.
Minutes passed by then suddenly a crashing sound. The door had been brought down. My ears were the only tools of observation I had. Things were being broken all over the room. They were looking for something.
“Find him!” One guard ordered in an oddly high pitched voice. He repeated himself “Quickly check the room! We have to catch this guy or we are the ones on the chopping blocks.”
My heart had found a way to go even lower down my legs. I was so stupid, who wouldn’t check underneath the bed. A goner, soon I would be executed for treason and go down in history as a prince killer.
“He’s not here” one of the other guards said sourly. My heart rose back to its proper place.
“If he’s under the bed that you forgot to check, you are a dead man!” My heart stopped beating for a second.
There was a shuffle and a head intruded into my shelter. I don’t know if it’s because he took the threat literally and really did not want to find me or if it was just blind luck, but the guard only looked at the bottom half of the bed. He left my sanctuary and reported “nothing down there, no one is stupid enough to think that hiding under a bed will keep them hidden”.
They hadn’t found me! Oh dear god what a miracle. How lucky was I to evade that! No not lucky, this was the opposite of lucky. I was framed for murder. Crap what am I supposed to do now? Most of this continent was thankfully not under the control of the Tamultan kingdom. Crossing the Andrine Mts. to the east would leave me home free and able to get to the southern cities assuming I survived the wastes.
That’s what I would do. That is what I had to do.