THE TENDRILS OF FATE
A Book of Laremlis
By Narcisse Navarre and Marzio Ombra
Copyright March 15, 2015
Jarle of Shadows
Venedi, Seventh of Sund’im, 445 A’A’diel
The thrill of wrongdoing was absent. Years of midnight skullduggery and daring thefts for the Mistress of Rats had soured Jarle’s stomach towards his trade. He had no intention of living out the rest of his days in the sunless alleys of Reyza’s criminal underbelly where lives were as short as a gossip’s silence.
Above the rooftops, the coral hues of sunset yielded to the velvety purples of twilight. Aeppia, the largest of Laremlis’ three moons, rose first, gibbous and bright, shedding her luster over the port city while her sisters Aeliah and Aeiad followed suit as envious crescents. With the last rays of the setting sun, the grinding of wheels upon well-trodden cobbles and the cries of merchants that echoed through the high and narrow labyrinth of streets faded away.
Bathed in moonlight, Reyza’s architectural jumble acquired a harsh ambiguity–as if nature and all of its pleasantries had been purposely shut out. Everywhere there was some fragment of whitewashed ruin harking back to the splendor of a bygone era. Edifices clung to the twin cliff sides that flanked the city like barnacles, stacked one upon the other, teetering on ancient masonry that defied the maws of time. Only the sound of the sea and its ever-crashing surf served to remind Reyzans that there was more to life than chiseled stone.
Crouched high upon the marble pediment of a Venestrae shrine, Jarle withdrew a flask of raska from his jerkin, uncorked it and took a deep swig. He was grateful for the ocean breeze that offered respite from the stench of fish guts, rotten vegetables and curdled milk mingled with endless streams of feculence from the abattoirs.
Jarle grimaced as the pungent liquor burned a trail of fire all the way down to his belly. If there was one merit to the poor man’s drink it was its ability to inspire boldness.
For all of the port city’s inequities, the grand dame had some advantages. Reyzans held no bias toward the manner of commerce within her walls. The city was a treasure coffer whose riches could be won by those savvy or daring enough to circumvent her draconian laws and ruthless merchants. The Mistress of Rats’ mercy came at the edge of a knife, but Jarle wasn’t about to let his fear get in the way of treasure worth a flotilla of galleons and a chance at a new life. His days of serving the gray-haired harpy were over.
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