ATCv1 #6 of 25

5 03 2008

Please note that posts in this category belong to the old, discontinued version and as such will not any updates nor corrections.

The massive city walls seemed to scratch at the sky and in the fading
daylight the big sentry towers cast long ghostly shadows on the moat.
When Laiva and Mynor finally reached the bridge to the gate it was
already night, but by then the full moon had risen and bathed
everything in its bright light. The water below, however, was pitch
black. The gates had already been closed, so Laiva hammered her fists
against the ancient dark wood. There was no reaction, but Laiva didn’t
stop and after a few minutes a guard showed up between the
battlements.
‘Go away.’
‘But…’
‘Go away, I tell you. You are too late, we already closed the
gates.’
‘Listen, I…’
‘I don’t care. These gates won’t open until tomorrow.’
Having said this the guard disappeared. Cursing, Laiva crossed the
bridge over the moat once again; why would a guard refuse to let a
child into the city for being just a few minutes late? That was
murder. It wasn’t as if Laiva minded sleeping outside; in fact, she
hadn’t slept in a proper bed since leaving the elven city; but, as the
priestess had said, she was almost an elf and elves know the forest;
any little change in its song would have alarmed her long before any
danger could have come close. Anyway, she wasn’t going to give up that
fast. The gates looked solid and heavy; she didn’t have a chance of
getting through them. Magic was no use either; the pale green glow on
top of the walls surely was a magic barrier, blocking any attempt to
cast spells or cross the city borders by means of magic. She was quite
talented, but that was far beyond her abilities. That only left her
the choice of waiting until dawn or climbing the wall.

It had been a really stupid idea. She was hanging halfway up the wall,
the wind was freezing, the water below looked like a bottomless abyss
and she was completely on her own. She had hidden her backpack and
most of her weapons, and left Mynor with them; but there was no way
back, unless she wanted to jump into the icy water far below. Slowly
she pulled herself up again, loosened the grip of her left hand and
started groping for the next joint. A distant tolling. A second one.
And a third. So she had been climbing for about a quarter hour now;
she should be able to reach the top of the wall in another quarter.
Once more she pulled herself up. It would have been so much easier to
wait until morning. Time went on and Laiva climbed higher and higher
until she finally pulled herself into one of the gaps of the
battlement. The wall was about two metres wide with a handrail on the
opposite side, behind it there was a labyrinth of roofs and chimneys.
Slowly Laiva’s pulse returned to its normal rhythm. As long as she
remained in the shadow of the gap she was relatively safe, but it was
time for the next step. Carefully Laiva peered left and right; no
guards in sight. Silently she moved off the battlement and onto the
wall itself and some seconds later she jumped over the handrail,
landing on one of the roofs. Safe. Then a voice cut into the silence.
‘Down there on the roof! Hurry men! Hurry!’
Laiva looked back; a group of well armed guards were
approaching the part of the wall she had just crossed and some of them
had bows. She tensed her muscles and started to run.

On the bell tower of the cathedral, high above the city, a figure sat
and watched the scene. It was quite far away, but with the help of its
sharp eyes it spotted every movement of Laiva and the guards. She was
jumping from roof to roof, avoiding any arrows and extending her lead
with every step, while the guards could barely follow her in their
heavy armour. Finally the girl slid down a drainpipe and vanished in
one of the alleys and the guards had to give up their pursuit. She was
good, even without their heavy armour they wouldn’t have had a real
chance to catch her. The gargoyle ceased playing with the small silver
ring on its right hand and, unfolding its wings, pushed away from the
tower.

Laiva stopped and listened, but all she heard was herself gasping for
breath; she had shaken off the guards. For a few minutes she allowed
herself to rest and then continued her way between the houses that
looked even more shabby than the alley was dirty. So this was the
city; she had heard many stories, but none had mentioned such streets.
Then the alley opened into the main road and Laiva was overwhelmed by
the scene that presented itself to her eyes; the road was broad and
lit by uncounted lights hovering over it and performing a dance that
seemed without rules. Shop fronts bordered the road like glowing
pearls on strings. The most astonishing thing, however, was that it
was full of life. Even at this time there was an uncounted number of
people on the street, in the pubs and in the shops. Here, within the
safety of the city walls, life went on, something of which Laiva would
never when she left her village; there nobody left the safety of their
houses at night, nobody but her. Laiva sighed. Perhaps she should
write a letter to her parents, just to let them know that she was all
right. She followed the broad way to the center of the city, the
square and the cathedral. The market stands, as well, hadn’t been
closed yet. According to the stories she had been told the merchant
treks were the best way to get from the smaller cities to the capital
and they were to leave at this time of year. However, Laiva didn’t
know when exactly; again she cursed herself for leaving in a hurry,
but it was too late anyway. She chose one of the stands at random and
approached its owner.
‘Good evening Mister, can you tell me when the trek leaves for
the capital?’
‘The great merchant trek?’
‘Yes, that’s the one.’
‘I’m sorry, child, but they left two weeks ago…’
Laiva cursed.
‘…but if you just want to go to the capital, you could ask
old Niry. Over there in the hut with the green roof…’

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