Sarah, Jason’s voice gently woke her mind. Verdas is just over the rise. It always looks best in the sunset.

Blinking her eyes, Sarah yawned and stretched. Amazingly she had actually gotten restful sleep. Something she’d never been able to do in a car. Not that she was ever likely to travel by car again.

Look, Jason interrupted her depressing thought cycle. Sarah looked and gasped. She could feel Jason beaming with pride. Behold Verdas, Capital of Vervell and seat of the Royal throne.

The setting sun lit the air behind the walled city, making it stand out in relief against the green hill upon which it sat. Slowing down the carriage climbed the winding path that led to the gates. Sarah stared up at the wall as they passed under. An iron portcullis hung menacingly above them, only to clang shut moments after they passed. Sarah watched as four burly men pushed the large wooden doors closed before turning her attention back to the city itself.  

It is also home to Phoenix Troop, he added, and of course my parents have a city house here for use when court is in session.

How are your men doing? Sarah asked, suddenly wondering what they were all up to.

Jason sounded a bit ashamed when he replied. I do not know. It has been over a week since I disappeared a bit unexpectedly to aid you.

Sarah gazed out the window as the horses clip clopped up the cobbled street. The path continued to wind up the hill, around a switchback, leading them through various open areas. It was oddly quiet for a city, Sarah thought.

“This is the market,” Lady Abigail spoke. Sarah glanced at her, but she too was looking out the window. “In the lower section all sorts of livestock are bought and sold. This section is reserved for produce.” The carriage turned another switchback and they came to a place with more solid buildings. “Here is where dry goods are sold. There’s a lovely mercer’s shop, where I am sure you will find fabric to your liking.”

Sarah glanced at Lady Abigail for a moment, one eyebrow cocked. The road turned sharply uphill and the carriage rolled through another archway. This too had a portcullis and heavy wooden doors that could be closed. Unlike the main city gates, they did not shut behind them. Here also came the sound Sarah expected of a city. Music wafted on the air and loud voices punctured the night.

“Our eating and drinking establishments obviously reside here.” Lady Abigail had sat back, clearly not pleased with some of the places they passed. “There are inns as well,” she mentioned as they rounded another switchback.

The atmosphere here was definitely quieter. But it was not nearly as quiet as when they passed through a third wall.

“How many walls are there?” Sarah asked without thinking.

“Five including the outer wall,” Lady Abigail smiled at her. “It makes one feel safe and secure, I should think.”

Or claustrophobic, Sarah thought. The road had begun to narrow and the buildings seemed to loom over them, though they were only two to three stories high. It wasn’t long before the road switched backed again and they were led though yet another gate. The fourth Sarah counted.

“And here we are in the noble quarters.” Lady Abigail sat back with a contented sigh. “We’ll be at our city house in no time.”

Before they hit another switch back the carriage turned down a lane and stopped along side a Manor house. Or was it a row house, Sarah wondered. No, the row houses were all in the section below. The houses here, she noted as Jason helped her alight, did not touch. They really didn't have the width or land to be a manor house. It looked more like suburbia with its large houses on postage stamp lots to her. The imagery made Sarah smile; suburbia in the middle of the city.

The End

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