Grinding Dirt

Story time! This week it’s a fantasy tale about a mage who is stuck in a city. Wanted to keep it short and in truth there isn’t much focus on magic. To a point that was intended. However, it is open enough that I could revisit this world and these characters in the future. Have to see. I make no promises. Depends on whether a story comes to me that I think fits and is worth telling. Regardless, I hope you enjoy Grinding Dirt!

Eric Farnmouth, a mage of considerable renown, slips into one of the many taverns that stand within the defensive walls of Parnem City. He does his best to keep a low profile as he slinks across the bustling interior of the tavern to a small round wooden table stuffed into a far corner of the room. The light levels are low there. He hopes that will help conceal him and the colourful robes he always wears. He regrets adorning himself in turquoise, gold and white now, not that there is much he can do about it. Even if he changed he’d be recognised eventually. Such is the curse of being renowned no matter where you go in the fifteen kingdoms. Still, he could do without his reputation at this moment in Parnem.

Parnem is a port city that is nestled against the coastline on the Henson Sea. It’s an inland sea and as such suffers very infrequently from any considerable tidal shifts. That makes it perfect for the trafficking of goods, which is why Parnem, being on the northern bank is such an active place. Not active enough to allow him to slip out of it’s currently barred and guarded confines as it is currently in the middle of a lockdown following a series of high-profile murders. What is especially troubling is that it has since been revealed, quite bluntly, that the culprit is almost certainly using magic to complete their murderous aims.

Eric, now sat on the rickety wooden chair, dips his head low. The wide brimmed dark blue hat that is perched atop his head helps to obscure his face in shadow. He nervously fidgets unsure as to whether he should risk placing an order, even if it is as benign as a jug of water. He settles, after a problematic back and forth with himself, that it is not worth the risk. If the tavern with its wooden walls adorned with hunting trophies, wall mounted candelabras and stained well worn floor were less busy it would perhaps be different. Yet, with him being devoid of any drink it might open him up to suggestions he vacate in favour of paying patrons. He shoves such possibilities aside, knowing full well that if he continues to dwell on them he might send himself into a useless panic. That is the last thing he needs at a time like this.

“What can I get you?” A soft female voice chimes loudly, managing to cut through the chatter from the patrons as they converse.

Eric at first ignores the question. It surprises him he can hear it so effortlessly and would under normal circumstances cast his gaze around to search out the source of its origin. Right now, he doesn’t feel willing or capable of either, especially as the query is definitely not meant for him, he is sure.

“Excuse me, what can I get you?” The soft female voice says again. The tone carries a small pang of irritation but is not the reason as to why Eric almost leaps out of his seat in fright. That is the result of a hand glancing across his shoulder. It was meant to get his attention and has definitely succeeded, but the mage had not been expecting it one bit.

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to startle you.” Eric hears a few seconds before overcoming his fright and angling his head just enough to get an eyeful of a young woman with short blonde hair and a pair of hazel eyes. She is dressed in a typical servers dress, stained by all the spillages. Most are likely the result of careless patrons unable to understand that they are far more drunk than they may wish to admit. Still, her smile is sweet and comforting Eric must admit now that he is aware she had been attempting to get his attention.

“It’s alright. My own fault. I was lost to thought.” Eric replies hurriedly. He doesn’t want this barmaid to think him odd or rude. Well, any more than she might already following him having ignored her and then jolted sharply at the lightest of touches. He can only imagine what must be going through her head, but to be truthful he was completely unaware that she was attempting to converse with him. He was sure she had been speaking to another. He can’t say why. It is just what he thought, assumed. He laughs in his head as he is reminded of what assuming something usually means for the one who is doing the assuming. Assumor? He is sure if that’s right. It feels both correct and incorrect simultaneously. What does it matter?

“You wouldn’t be the first.” The barmaid utters while firing off another warm smile that is meant to give Eric reassurance. It works. That surprises him, especially considering with how on edge he is about maintaining a low profile. That includes the panic he felt getting here, to this seat, which has now been forgotten, for better or for worse.

“Would you like anything?” The barmaid asks with a slight cocking of her head to one side. The look in her eyes suggests she recognises Eric but can’t quite determine as to why.

It’s a look the mage has seen a million times. He hopes it doesn’t dawn on her quickly who he is. He expects it will but he feels he should keep hoping nonetheless. Doing so will bring no harm. Being discovered on the other hand might. Not because the authorities have shown any interest in apprehending him for questioning, like they have so many other actual and suspected magic users. Rather, it stands to reason that sooner or later they will want to speak with him for no other reason than due to who he is. That will be especially true if, more likely when, they find out Eric Farnmouth arrived in Parnem City only a few days prior to the first murder. Even he has to admit that looks bad. Not that he was aware of what was going to transpire. People pass through Parnem all the time. There is nothing unusual in that. And how could he know what was going to happen? He couldn’t. Whether the authorities will believe that is another matter entirely. One he would much rather not discover.

“Water would be lovely, thank you.” Eric is quick to reply. Not so quick that he might draw suspicion however.

He’s quite impressed that he somehow manages to keep his tone even and free of quaking or cracking as he speaks. Pleasant surprise and one he was confident would not be reality and instead indicate that perhaps something is wrong, that he is hiding something. It didn’t so keep your head, he says to himself before forcing a smile across his tanned cheeks.

Much of his face is still darkened by shadows as the barmaid does an about and then hurries away. A pang of worry stabs at him. He wonders if her suspicions have been raised, whether she has recognised him correctly and is now swiftly retreating to alert… someone. He isn’t sure who. The city guards seem the most likely candidates. After all, it is they who are posted at every one of Parnem’s gates. The very same gates that are currently locked and barred with great straight pieces of sea air dampened trunks of wood. It’s what they must have been before they were felled. No branch, of any tree, could ever get to the thickness of the pieces keeping Parnem cut off from the world beyond. But there are no guards present, he informs himself.

“Here’s your water.” The barmaid says upon her return. Her declaration rips Eric from his thoughts as she gently plants a heavy looking brown jug near the centre of the table, followed by a single tankard. Instinctively Eric gives her a silent glance that queries, why the tankard? “It’ll stop any interruptions from patrons. They know better than to bother a man drinking alone in a corner.” Eric smirks for a second and then nods. He is unaware of the etiquette. It wouldn’t be the same in other taverns across the fifteen kingdoms and for the first time since the lockdown he considers that he may be in the right place to wait this madness out. And it really is madness. Guards beating and butchering anyone who refuses to follow whatever orders they have been issued. Public executions of suspected magic wielders who it seems have at no point been considered to be the culprits for the murders but yet meet grizzly fates nonetheless. It shouldn’t surprise Eric. He’s seen it before. Streets running red with innocent blood. Not always relating to magic wielders though. Sometimes there are other reasons, equally as paper thin and disgraceful.

However, the response from any authorities and more troublingly the populace at large is often violence against those viewed negatively. It’s why he felt such a need to rush from where he had been, which was at the docks, to where he is now. It wasn’t a short or easy jaunt. Perhaps not even a necessary one. There are countless taverns in the city. He could have chosen any one of them to shelter in. He isn’t sure why this is the one he gathered all his bravado to dare enter. All forced, none of it natural. At any other time it might have been but not in the middle of a… He doesn’t know what to call this event which is happening here. Purge, maybe and yet that still doesn’t seem right somehow. It seems unlikely the guards, as overly heavy handed as they are being, have any secret agenda. They’re just brutes. Paid thugs for the most part. Honestly, the mage is basing that off of nothing however. It’s not like he’s spoken to the King. It would be impossible too as he isn’t in Parnem at the moment. Eric isn’t sure where he is or why. Local gossip is not of interest to him. He only came to Parnem for a quick stop to converse with some associates who have proven over the years very adept at locating once forgotten tomes of magic. Not all of them the sort you want those non-versed in the dangers able to purchase and then, if their fancy takes them, dabble with.

Eric has seen it a hundred times before when such things occur and it never ends well, for any party involved. Still, he doesn’t think that that is what has happened here with this string of murders. They don’t seem ill-conceived from what little he has overheard in passing since the sealing of the city. For some reason or another that event seemed to bring conversations on the matter to the fore. He hasn’t any inkling as to why. He would have suspected it to be the other way round. Parnem is a peculiar place.

Quite to the contrary the murders sound, from what little he has heard, as though they would need to have been meticulously planned for them to have reached the status of individuals that they did. To a degree it suggests they might be the result of jealousy from a competitor or individuals of lesser standing but greater vision who are no longer willing to wait around for a day that may never come.

“I’m Kara. If you need anything else just yell.” The barmaid, who Eric had forgotten about the presence of, informs with a quick flash of a smile, which comes prior to her having heard a loud demand from across the open tavern which diverts her attention away from the mage hiding in plain sight. In response she quickly shoots off leaving Eric alone once more. He’s impressed by the speed with which she not only departs but manages to weave between the tables choked full of patrons.

Several more moments pass before the mage shakes himself out of his daze. It’s due to him having realised that he’s been staring and watching Kara like a hawk. He chastises himself and then dips his head hoping that no one has been alerted by his actions. He doesn’t dare cast his gaze around to find out for sure. He fears doing so might draw, if his actions have not already, unwanted attention to his presence.

The mage’s previously rapidly beating heart feels slower and beating at closer to what he would consider its normal pace now. He isn’t sure when it started to slow from its galloping but is pleased to know that it has.

Suddenly he recalls his ‘drink’ and the tankard alongside it. He hasn’t touched either. Suspicious, he tells himself. Have to look natural, normal, and thus far I am very much failing at that. Unfortunately, the more he thinks he needs to act a certain way the more he feels unable to. Finally, after what feels like a couple minutes, he succeeds in banishing such thoughts from his head. His eyes roll closed soon after and coincide then him taking a series of deep breaths. The sound of the tavern quickly dulls and then dies. It is still very much present but Eric is no longer aware of it. He’s filtered it out. Some might think this is some magical abilities but it isn’t. It’s a trick he learned a long time ago. This was many years before he showed any signs of having any aptitude in wielding magic. Back when he’d been a boy always on edge. You see as a child Eric had hated loud noises, of any kind, but cacophonies were the worst for him. It stems from the fact that he had been deaf for the first few years, eleven to be exact, of his life. To this day no one has been able to explain how such an affliction had been reverted. As he’d got older and learned magic that had always been the explanation he gave as to how the miracle had occurred. He only ever said such things to himself as no one in his life now had been in it back in those days. After all, his parents are both gone. He hadn’t been there when they had passed, either of them, and had barely known them by the time it had come. You see, they never agreed with his pursuit of magic. They were staunch believers of the Goddess Imara and the teachings of that particular faith decried the use of magic and so by extension all those that used or wished to use magic were also decried, outcast and labelled as heretics. Still, he wasn’t ejected from their lives before many questions, more demands, had been levelled at him by his parents however. Eric, truthfully, barely remembers the conversations now. They unfolded more than a century ago. One of the many benefits of magic being that death, naturally occurring only, is much less of a concern than it is for those who cannot or will not partake in the art.

Eric takes a hold of the tankard and shifts it closer to him without lifting it free on the tabletop. It’s cool to the touch, refreshingly so. He hadn’t considered that the tankard would be anything other than warm and after his frantic fleeing through busy streets it’s nice to have hold of something that doesn’t embellish the warmth radiating from his body.

He can still feel the sweat trickling down his back. It would also be running down his face if not for his hat and the no doubt twisted mat of brown hair he has under it. Another reason not to remove this from atop my head, he thinks as he carefully tightens his grip on the jugs handle. Seconds afterward he raises it barely off the surface of the table and then pitches it steeply so that the spout is perfectly aligned. Once the angle gets to a point which is too severe for the clear still liquid to stay put it sloshes out. The first few globs of water spurt, threatening to spew past the confines of the tankard. They don’t. Eric keeps it entirely under control, having used a silent spell of reflection to erect an invisible wall through which the stray drops could not breach. This continues until the tankard is two thirds full. Then, with his wrist feeling strained, the mage quickly plants the jug back onto the table top. In response to the setting down of the jug is a dull bang. It’s lost to the raucous laughter and back and forth from the bustling crowd. Eric dares to take a glance around as he lifts the tankard and pulls it toward his lips. Both hands are wrapped around the tankard. One hand continuing to firmly grip the long handle, like it had during the pouring of the water to keep it steady, while the other is planted firmly across the tankards smooth curved surface.

No one is paying any mind to the man in the corner, Eric discovers. The mage is thankful about that as the tankard reaches his lips. He sips carefully at first, for what reason he would not be able to say if asked. However, upon feeling the smooth, cool, tasteless liquid in his mouth, which he sloshes around eagerly, he feels a desperate urge to gulp and so he does. Five mouthfuls or almost a third of what had been in the tankard later Eric no longer feels thirsty. It was not until the water had hit his tongue had he been aware of just how parched he had become after all the unfruitful bartering and hurrying through the city streets.

Suddenly the room around Eric falls silent. The mage thinks nothing of it. Rather, he suspects he has tuned the sounds of the patrons around him out once more. Then he feels a tingle across his back. He knows the feeling well. He gets it whenever something is wrong. He wouldn’t say dangerous, just when something is not as it should be. He can’t explain it much more than that. The only way he’ll learn as to why is if he… He tilts his head to get a partial view, out the corner of his eye, of some of the patrons. He gulps.

The patrons really have fallen deathly silent. Worry wraps its tendrils around Eric. Yet, they make no attempt to squeeze him like he would expect. At least they haven’t yet anyway.

He slowly rests the tankard on the tabletop and waits. His eyes continue to glance out of the corner of his eye so that he is capable of assessing the reason for the lack of movement from those around him. I have to know why, he tells himself. He thinks he knows and yet he should be sure, he thinks. I don’t want to be sure, he tells himself.

The only reason he risked putting his tankard down is because other patrons had done the same. Stop being a coward, he orders. Fine, is the response he mumbles finally.

However, just as he reaches the point where he thinks he’s summed up the confidence and is able to raise his head everyone returns to their conversing. Eric stops. His breathing is laboured and he bites on the very tip of his tongue nervously sure that he has missed something. So he begins to count. He hasn’t a number in mind to stop at. He simply intends to count until he feels comfortable to… He lifts his head and glances toward the bar. Immediately he regrets his decision, but is careful not to make any sudden movements that might draw attention. Rather, he slowly allows his head to drop once more back to where it had hung previously. He thinks no one will notice his actions or pay him any mind. It seems few have since his entry. But can I be sure, he asks himself. No, is the succinct yet honest reply he gives. He sighs, silently, but cannot get the image of the city guards out of his head. He should have known that sooner or later they would start canvassing the taverns. Everyone knows it’s a perfect place to hide. It means they haven’t found the murderer yet. Well, he thinks that is what it means. There is nothing to say that for sure and truth be told these men might not even be guards. He’s heard of such treachery in other cities. Though, that had been during a coup in one of the smaller kingdoms. He can’t remember which one exactly. He just remembers it being one of those far to the north east. Out there few are larger than a single city or port. How they’ve managed to remain for as long as they have Eric has never quite been sure. However, he has to admit that it is impressive. Great kingdoms have risen and fallen and yet somehow those specks of independence have persevered. Most don’t even have the benefit, from what he has read, of natural defences. He really should venture out that way one day. If you make it past today maybe you can consider it, he hears his own voice remind.

“What you think they’re doing here?” Eric hears a nearby patron say. It’s the first time he’s been able to make out any part of a nearby conversation and what pulls his from his thoughts, which is probably for the best he thinks.

“Looking for that killer more likely than not.” Someone else replies sounding disinterested.

“Which killer is this?”

“The one who’s been killing counts and their like, that is said to be using magic. You know. You must have heard.” The voice sounds mocking. It’s as if they don’t believe the stories that are going around the city. It doesn’t surprise Eric, nor does the revelation that there might be more than one killer within the city walls. After all, wherever there is ‘civilization’ there is criminality. They go hand in hand, always.

“Oh who cares about them?” Is the reply that comes. It signifies just how little the normal people of Parnem care about what affects those who would consider themselves the speakers’ betters.

Again, this cynicism doesn’t shock Eric. It’s a pretty common thread you find across the kingdoms he’s visited, and not too hard to find either.

Common people die day after day at the hands of crooks and killers without the aristocracy doing anything about it, so it is inevitable really that when someone does the same to the aristocracy that the common people couldn’t care less. Neither understands the other. That is the reality. They never have and it is likely they never will. Both are too blame in equal measures. Though, each would seek to blame the other solely. It is, sadly, how the world goes. Those with power see the masses as the problem, after all the masses have numbers so why is it they cannot bring change? Meanwhile the masses see those with power as weak for not doing more to lessen the burdens of everyday life, which would allow change to be possible.

“True enough.” Someone else blares loudly before demanding a fresh round is delivered to them because they can feel their mouthing going dry.

Eric dips his head once more. He’s no longer interested in the conversation. It’s already changed to something about politics that isn’t really but is in the eyes of those debating it.

What now, he asks himself. He doesn’t know. Truly, he hasn’t a clue what to do. If he attempts to leave he’ll likely be followed or jumped before he can. If he stays he’s stuck. Inevitably the guards will grill all the patrons. It’ll probably be when most are so sozzled that their tongues will be loose and honest. The mage imagines such chats might result in at least some of them being detained as a result, though that isn’t his concern in the slightest. After all, what these patrons may say in whatever drunken stupors they reach is an issue for them alone, no one else.

Many minutes pass during while Eric considers the options which are available to him. At the end of it he has to admit he is no further forward than he had been previously. He certainly doesn’t have an answer and so is inclined to stay still, in this corner of the room where he is shrouded in shadows. It isn’t a decision he is at ease with, though it might seem it.  He does have to admit however that it does seem like the safest option. After all, there is less likelihood of him being beaten to a pulp while in the presence of so many witnesses. Or at least he hopes that is the case. He could easily be wrong. Maybe many of these patrons would wish to join in. He begins to panic.

“Can I get you another?” Eric hears Kara query some unknown time later. He recognised her voice immediately and it came while he was continuing to follow avenues which were in no way helpful or positive.

One upside is that he didn’t jump this time when she spoke to him. Rather, he slowly inclined his head so that he could get a partial look at her in the moments before he assures, “No, I’m good thank you.” He wonders whether he should say anymore. Ask about the guards. Why they are here and so forth, but he cannot. He’s too craven. “I think they’re looking for someone.” Kara declares out of the blue. Eric’s brow furrows. He realises it too late. Kara has already noticed. “You know because of the murders. You must have heard about them. Everyone is talking.” Eric breathes a silent sigh of relief. Kara, the barmaid, has thankfully taken his furrowing brow as a sign of confusion and not fear.

“I have.” He admits. The mage wonders why the barmaid is chatting with him. He finds it suspicious, out of character he would even go so far to say. How can you say that, you don’t know her? It’s true and yet something feels off, wrong. Should I use magic? No, that will draw attention. I know but… Don’t, just don’t. It’s not worth it. Eric sighs. You’re right.

“Are you OK?” Kara queries as she looks down at him. Her expression is that of genuine concern.

“I…” Eric begins. He angles his head once more to get a glimpse at her after having previously dropped his gaze to glare at the tabletop he’s leaning on. Instantly he spies the guards, from chest down, who are just behind Kara and freezes.

“Eric Farnmouth, we’ve been looking for you.” A strong dull male voice announces.

Eric winces but makes no sudden movements. He can feel the presence of three forms, in addition to Kara, nearby. His tongue flicks at his teeth. The flick is performed across a section where there is the slightest of gaps. Those he has asked have always said they see no gap in his teeth and yet he finds it every time.

“Don’t try and deny. We know it’s you. The robe gives it away.” The male voice soon adds as a result of Eric having offered no response.

Eric knows he could use a dazzle spell, then concealment and slip out the door, front or back, and yet he doubts that would save him. At least it wouldn’t for very long anyway. He’d still be trapped within the city walls. Not even boats are leaving the port. He’d tried to barter passage out on one only to be informed as such. No captain was willing to step on the wrong side of the aristocracy in Parnem. He couldn’t blame them. It made perfect sense and so if he used magic to evade the guards now it would only be a matter of time before they’d catch up to him. Plus, fleeing would only make him look guilty. That might lead to a price being put on his head. He’d seen the posters. Most had asked for this man or that woman to be found. Not always alive, sometimes dead. He isn’t inclined to risk his life over something so reckless, especially when he has played no part in the violence that has transpired here. Whoever is commanding these city guards has to know that. Don’t they?

“We suggest you come quietly, and not try any tricks.” Eric hears the warning, the threat. It’s less overt than he would have expected and yet you would need to be an imbecile not to be aware that that is exactly what it is. Eric nods and then lifts his head fully so that his face is, for the first time since he entered this tavern, not obscured in shadow.

The guard at the centre of the trio, a wide man with thinning black hair, a crooked fat nose and a wide gap toothed smile, stands confidently with one hand resting on the pommel of the sword as it hangs off his ample waist. He’s flanked on either side by a guard. Their faces are hidden behind helmets of grey which perfectly match the round bulbous armour plate that covers their bodies. The only hints of colour are those from the two headed animal Eric thinks is supposed to be a jaguar. The crest, as he would term it, affixed at the centre of their chest plates.

“And why have you been looking for me, sir?” Eric replies. He makes sure to sound humble and respectful as he speaks. He doesn’t want to give these guards any excuse to resort to violence. After all, he means no one in Parnem any harm. He was simply here on business; book collecting to be exact. The tomes nestled safely in the bag he has at the end of the long strap that runs across his one shoulder. The books in question would have been particularly troublesome if they had been permitted to make their way into hands not knowledgeable but perhaps curious of magic.

Both volumes contain incantations and spells for the dark art of necromancy, a disgusting kind of practice that would be best lost to the sands of time due to the depravity that can result if performed. Just thinking about what is scrawled within the leather-bound confines is enough to make Eric’s skin crawl and his stomach knot. He’d have burned them already if not for the city lockdown and his desperate attempts to extricate himself from these walls.

“Your presence is requested.” Is the guards’ succinct reply to the mage’s question.

“By whom and for what reason, sir?” Eric asks a little irritated by the lack of detail offered in the guards’ response.

“By the duke and that is all that I’m at liberty to say.” It’s not much but Eric gets the distinct feeling that that really is all he is going to get.

“And if I were to refuse?” Eric has no intention of doing so and yet feels compelled to ask nonetheless. Morbid curiosity? He doesn’t know.

The guard shrugs, a dissatisfied and mildly disappointed expression appearing across his face before he assures, “It will happen either way as that is the Duke’s want.”

That doesn’t sound conducive to Eric’s continued good health or future freedom one bit. It doesn’t surprise him. Though, he is sickened by it.

Regardless, he’s heard tell of stories where uncooperative mages and their like have ended up in permanent unwilling service to aristocracy. Eric doesn’t intend to add his name to that list. Yet, he has never served aristocracy in any meaningful form. A few brief lines of advice here and there but nothing more than that. Even those had commonly been delivered in passing. It’s how he prefers to deal with people of that… He doesn’t want to say calibre. It feels wrong.

The mage smiles briefly. All eyes, he can feel, are very much on him. It’s uncomfortable. Yet, it seems the guards aren’t judging him, unlike some of the patrons who most certainly are. It is clear they don’t like him almost certainly because he’s a mage. Eric is used to it and casts his glance over the faces turned his way. To his surprise Kara is still smiling. He can’t fathom as to why. It isn’t really the time, he thinks. Still, he offers a brief smirk in response to her smile and then cognisant to not delay too long and risk ending up with the less hospitable version of whatever the Duke ordered of these guards, announces, “I will gladly be escorted to the Duke, sir.” He bows his head as he finishes speaking. It only seems right. This way I give them no excuses to be cruel or primitive.

“Prepare him.” The guard orders much to the mage’s confusion, which lasts only moments and is banished when Eric catches sight of the sack fashioned from dark thick cloth.

“Is that necessary?” Eric questions. He knows full well the purpose of the sack, though would prefer not to suffer through it as he doesn’t like being confined.

“It is. There is a killer on the loose after all.” The guard has a point and Eric knows it. So following a quick trio of nods the mage lowers his head and waits as the black cloth sack is wrenched down over his head. Thankfully, the helmet wearing guard does not fasten it. If he had Eric is sure he might have erupted into a panicked frenzy that likely would have ended in him needing to be clubbed. In some ways that would be easier. Though, again he would admit not a pathway he wishes to walk.

“Clear the way!” A strong male voice, which the mage is pretty sure belongs to the helmetless guard, orders loudly and with a great deal of conviction.

A round of scraping and skittering sounds suggests the patrons comply. Some begrudgingly so it seems when Eric catches grumbles, not all of which are aimed at the guards, as he passes them by, while physically held between the two other armour clad men.

It takes only seconds, it seems to the mage, for them to have exited the tavern and now be trudging, awkwardly for him, down the street. Eric hasn’t a clue which street. That is especially the case after the first couple of seemingly too close and quick turns which he is made to perform.

You could use a spell to reveal your pathway and render this hood worthless, he tells himself. He feels no such compulsion. It might be a risk. After all, Eric has never been a good liar and if, however unlikely, he is asked where he is he doubts he would sound convincing with any lie he may utter. Still, he wishes these guards were a little slower with their pace. They might be able to see but he most certainly cannot and has already stumbled and needed hauling back to his feet twice. Sad to say both have thus far occurred not during any of the sharp turns but on what feels like straight sections. Alas, it is unavoidable, he tells himself now acutely aware of the smells around him. They are of dough. That gives him an indication of where in Parnem he might be. Until the sweet smell of baking turns foul and putrid. His nose curls and he tastes vomit in his mouth. He holds off on actually spewing up what is threatening so mercilessly what would be a humiliating fate.

Several more turns, not at all close to one another, are performed before the foul stench is lost. What replaces it is… nothing. There is no odour to the air. Eric counts himself lucky and then trips. He grumbles to himself but is hauled back to his feet and then forced to march, in step, with the guards once more. They aren’t the talkative types and keep deathly quiet as they continue to wind around the city heading to who knows where.

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