Day became night. I lifted myself out of the litter I was buried beneath. I felt comfortable in the veil of the night, away from the peering eyes looking for me. I crept out of the dark alleyway. I had no money, no id and was covered in filth.
A soft bed and warm bath sounded wonderful but I doubted anyone would let me stay in their establishment the way I was, especially without attracting attention. Instead I navigated my way to the river that ran through the city. The ice cold water burned as I plunged myself into it. The night was cool so I sat wet, shivering as I waited for morning, waiting for the sun to dry me off.
I knew the nexus was in the city somewhere, probably near the king’s palace. I frowned as I thought about my plan with Cloud. We’d agreed to leave together but now I was alone. I was tired of this pointless war. I was tired of Crom’s disappearance, fighting for the Duke and his spoiled nephew. I was tired of being people’s slave. I didn’t care how the conflict ended. I just wanted to leave.
I climbed my way to the roof of one of the few two-story buildings in the slums. I watched the blood meridian invade the cold dark night, replacing the cold with warmth and light. I looked at the city walls, the tangled streets that wove their way through the city. It was early and people were starting to begin their day.
It was obvious where the city’s elites lived. Their buildings towered over the slums of the city. They were like a beacon, enticing me towards the nexus. The crowds were now filling in the streets. I jumped off the roof into the sea of people below.
I fidgeted while standing, waiting for the order. My palms were sweaty in anticipation, my nerves were shot from the lack of sleep the night prior. I gripped the pommel of the sword I was loaned. It was a formality really. With my magic at my disposal, I doubted I would be thrown into hand to hand combat.
Long lines of soldiers stood on either side of me. Their stern expressions hid most of their fear. It wasn’t often the front line of soldiers made it through a skirmish. I hadn’t heard of any serious battles where they had.
Archers covered the top of the city walls. Their bows’ strings drawn, waiting for the Duke’s army to approach. The loud sound of the horn signaled it was time to begin. I sprinted forward with the Duke’s army close behind me. Thousands of arrows rained down from above, striking unfortunate soldiers.
I activated my powers, flinging myself into the clouds. Some archers tried targeting me but their arrows fell short. I outranged them. I pushed icy winds at the archers manning the walls. They lowered their bows to protect their heads from the hail that pelted them.
I looked down to find that the Duke’s army had clashed into the King’s men. It looked even, both armies to giving up any ground.
A surge of pain penetrated my right arm. I fell a little before I caught myself. I looked at the glowing purple plasma that exuded from my new wound. The burning sensation was almost unbearable. My eyes darted along the wall to see where the cursed bolt had come from.
The pale alien-like wizard stood behind rows of archers. His black eyes were other worldly and matched the dark hood he was wearing. Dark energy gathered around his hands, clearly he was charging another bolt that would be sent my way.
I unleashed a torrent of icicles at the enemy mage, hoping it would interrupt whatever spell he was concocting. The wizard dove behind the wall narrowly avoiding the sharp ice graze past him, the icicles plunging into the archers behind him.
I turned my attention back to the archers lining the wall and troops being pelted below. It wasn’t looking good for the Duke’s troops. The soldiers weren’t able to block all the shower of arrows raining down onto them. The troops were being overwhelmed.
I strained as I pulled heavy winds towards the city walls, knocking the men on the walls off-balance. My head ached as I overexerted my power. My concentration faltered and I plummeted down towards the ground. I barely was able to push some wind upwards to cushion the fall.
Crunch. I felt my arm shatter into pieces as it collided with the hard floor. Soldiers scurried around me as I laid in the dirt, my mind burned from overexertion and the pain. I tried hobbling to my feet but was unable to pull myself up.
I winced as I was grabbed by my shoulder and dragged away from the battlefield. I groaned as my back was dragged over the sand-paper like stones and twigs that littered the floor.
“Don’t move. I’m going to bandage your arm. I can’t help you with the glowing plasma but I can stop the bleeding.”
I tilted my head and spotted symbol that showed he was a combat medic.
“Can I get some water.” I mumbled.
I heard the cap of the flask being screwed off. Water poured down around me mouth, going everywhere but in it.
“Thank you so mu-” I said before a purple flash blinded my eyes.
The medic’s body lay limp on the ground. Burns covered the corpse in front of me. I desperately tried to crawl away, in whatever direction I was oriented. My head was fuzzy, making it difficult to navigate my way through the chaotic mess of soldiers who were busy dying, running, and stabbing.
I kept my body low and crawled. It was all I could muster with the strength I had left.
People glanced at me as I walked the gilded streets where the upper class of the city lived. I did not fit in. I was still covered in grime and the ragged clothes on my body were tattered. Only social politeness, kept the people walking the streets from telling me to go back to the poor section of the city that I was all to familiar with.
Maybe I wasn’t familiar with the capital, but I had spent my fair share of time scraping by in the slums. I was certain that the capital’s poor weren’t all that different from my own upbringing.
It was easy walking along the streets, if you didn’t mind what other people thought. They parted like the red sea, giving me an abundance of room to go wherever I was headed. To them, Rats carried the same diseases I don’t.
The buildings resembled the noble estates found in Cartinth, only here in the capital they were significantly bigger. Ornate gold trimming was commonplace, covering the edges of almost all the buildings in the area.
I could care less about these houses, who owned them, how they looked. I was looking for the nexus that was rumored to be in the Capital. If it was anything like the one in Cartinth, I knew it wouldn’t take long for me to spot it.
“You shouldn’t be here.” said a posh looking man who latched onto my arm.
I sighed in frustration. It wasn’t like this man could stop me but I didn’t want to attract any unwanted attraction.
“You don’t own the street. I’m just passing through.” I said as I pulled away from the guy who grabbed men.
“Doesn’t matter. Can’t have the filth of the city tainting these nice streets. Children live in these neighborhoods.”
“Children live in every neighborhood. I have somewhere I need to get to.” I said as I finally broke free from the nosy man.
I continued up the street, continuing my search for the nexus. I put some distance between me and that man. I couldn’t afford to cause any trouble.
“Stop. You’re coming with us.” said a group of guards who had snuck up behind me.
“I’ve done nothing wrong.” I stated.
“We’ll determine that” stated the Guard. “That man down the street.” said you were causing a ruckus in this upstanding neighborhood. You should be ashamed. Kids live in this neighborhood.”
I thought about using my powers to escape but I knew every guard in the city would be searching for me if I did that. I didn’t want to notify the King that an unregistered mage was lingering in his city.
“Okay, I’ll come with you but I do need to be somewhere.”
“Only place you need to be is back at the station for interrogation.” said the guard with a stupid grin smothered onto his face.
I was dragged into a small building, or atleast small compared to the mansions that surrounded it. It was a well-kept guard station. They strapped me to the chair inside and left the room. The longer I waited the more irritated I grew. This was a waste of time. I could always escape but it wasn’t worth the extra attention, at least not yet.
The guards exited the building leaving me alone. I stared at the boring grey walls, waiting for whoever I had to talk to returned. It was odd. I wondered why I wasn’t being interrogated immediately. Did some other issues rise up or was I not deemed a very high priority in their eyes? I didn’t know. I didn’t really matter.
A man unlike the guards entered the room. Instead of the leather and iron armour that was the hallmark of the capital guards, this man was wearing simple but well-woven robes. I was slightly worried. This certainly wasn’t the norm.
I shifted my body just in case I needed to escape. It was always good to be cautious.
“No need to be nervous. We know what you are.”
“Your powers are impressive. They caused quite the scene. We were definitely worried at first, but after some digging we found how you’d entered the city.”
“You found the wolf-men?” I asked.
“Oh, this is news to me. I guess they aren’t just normal slavers. That won’t do.” said the robed man before writing something in a small notebook.
“Look. The King needs mages like us keep the other Nobles in check. I’m sure you’ve heard rumors of the mad Duke rampaging through the countryside. The King isn’t perfect but he’s a lot better than the other options.”
“And if I don’t except?” I stated, trying my best to hide the anger. The King was no different than the Duke. He didn’t care about the people. He only cared about using those with power, locking them into their service.
“Well, we aren’t allowed to have rogue mages wandering the kingdom freely so I’d suggest taking my offer.”
“You could just let me go through the nexus. I’d be gone in an instant.”
“Maybe in the past that would’ve been viable, but there are too many unknowns to let you travel through the nexus. Besides you have more use here in the first realm than up in the higher realms. Here you’re special. Everyone in the higher realms has awakened some power, many you don’t want to trifle with. In fact, I know from first hand experience.”
“I’ll join” I said, while seething with anger. I didn’t want to work for the King and had no attention of doing so. I decided I would slip out the first chance I got.
“Very wise. I’ll show you around while the others are finishing up the battle with the Duke. It won’t be long befor the Duke’s army submits or they are slaughtered.”
I just nodded. My freedom was again short-lived.