“Good quality weapons for sale! Blades, maces, and armor!” Jothal shouted from a street corner in the bustling streets of Farthingsor. She had spread out her crafted weapons early that morning in anticipation of the daily traffic. The glistening metal had caught a few eyes so far, and Jothal smiled at her money purse, which was slowly filling with gold krets.
Her companion had left Farthingsor before sunrise, waking Jothal up to collect the sword she owed him and then vanishing past the doorway and out of the inn, into the darkness. She had given him an iron short sword with an ebony hilt. He had thanked her and promptly left. From the small window in Jothal’s room, she could see the man exit the inn, his pace quickening and her gift clenched firmly in his hand as he was swallowed up by the darkness.
“How much for the lot?” A gruff voice broke Jothal free of her reverie.
“The… the lot?” Jothal stammered in skeptical disbelief.
“Yes miss. I want every weapon you can sell me.” A stocky man with thinning hair and a full beard poking out from under a mouth covering rag stood before her. From his firm stance and unwavering expression, Jothal could tell that this man was serious.
“Well, certainly sir… That just seems a little excessive for one man.” Jothal shrugged. The man remained stoic, but gave a glance towards the sky.
“I don’t like the look of those clouds. I just know something’s coming. Most folks are getting nervous, too. King Kinthur isn’t doing anything, and my family and I are vulnerable. A few families including mine pitched in whatever kret they could spare… It’s best to be prepared.” The man’s eyes looked tired. “I don’t have much money with me, but we will take what we can get.” The man handed Jothal a bag filled with what must have been around 400 krets. Jothal sighed. That many krets would cover the cost of most of the weapons, but Jothal would be taking a loss if she let him take the lot. Yet, Jothal couldn’t imagine turning the man away. Perhaps it was the kindness shown to her by the outdoorsman the other day. Jothal gathered long swords, axes, daggers, and plate-mail into a large sack and handed it to the bearded fellow with a smile.
“Take care of yourself and your family, sir. I’m sure this whole thing will blow over in a few days.” The man nodded and walked away with the clanging sack over his shoulder. With no more wares to sell, Jothal decided to head back home to Mainstay earlier than planned. Even she had begun to develop a cough from spending so much time in Farthingsor. The smog of Mainstay and the musty mines near which Jothal had grown up had conditioned her lungs to cope with less than satisfactory air. However, Jothal was now convinced that the darkness enveloping Farthingsor was not natural. She thought it best to head back to the Temple early and allow the Ithoan people to prepare for the traveling dark.
Leaving the city behind, Jothal headed back for the crevice from whence she came. The darkness had grown larger, or traveled further, she wasn’t sure which, since Jothal and her companion had arrived the day before. The air felt dense, like the feeling one gets after being in a mine for far too long. Jothal shivered at the thought of failed past attempts at becoming a minor and clambered through the narrow passage. With every step she took under the dark sky, Jothal felt more and more trapped. She breathing became burdened, and she felt compressed by some unknown embrace. As stone after stone poked through her leather boots, Jothal remembered that she had forgotten to purchase better boots during her stay. Regardless, she carried on. She couldn’t turn back now.
Jothal stopped and leaned against the rough stone walls that flanked her path. Panting, Jothal brought a canteen of water to her lips and took a long drink. Something is definitely wrong here… Jothal thought. I’ve got to get to Mainstay quickly and warn them. Maybe the High Priest will be able to stop whatever this darkness is.
After many stops along the way, Jothal finally reached the entrance of the crack in the crag. The otherworldly darkness had not reached the fields yet. Jothal took a deep breath, relieved but exhausted. However, the darkness was replaced with nighttime. Jothal looked around for a safe place to rest, remembering her escort’s advice. Jothal laughed.
“Looks like you’re the one who needs protecting today.” Jothal sighed, rousing the outdoorsman from slumber, who had apparently collapsed from exhaustion after exiting the darkness a few hours prior.