To my darling child Eric,
I have sent our family knights away with your father to plead for mercy to the Prince of Northern Eire.
Our lands will nevertheless be taken away and your father stripped of his title and imprisoned for treason. I knew this the day we rebelled against the prince, but he needs to be stopped if we want to prevent another great war from happening. I pray that what we have done will be enough.
By the time you receive this letter, years will have passed and you will be a grown man with great ambitions and a kind heart. I know this because you are my child.
Please know that it was not my intention to allow this to befall you. May your path always be guided by radiance.
We love you.
Baroness of The Myre
The sun was up, streaking flares of inspiration through the morning fog here in the rainforest-city of Brule. The rusted mechanical roosters vainly screaming in alarm, waking up the morning factory farmers just to be thrown, smashed and smacked shut for another five minutes.
The continent of Eredium which this city was built upon was ravaged by the First Great War 500 years ago. Historical records mentioned that half the continent’s population of ten million were lost due to the war with hundreds of thousands fleeing their homelands to seek refuge elsewhere. By the end of that war, most of the land were poisoned and no longer habitable due to toxic radioactives with lakes and swamps turning into dangerous zones – breeding grounds for creatures of nightmares.
Brule is one of the few cities still standing today, though from the Great War it looks exactly like the scenes from a movie. Overgrown trees left unmaintained and thick vines snaking through cracks on the floor tiles and walls. With extremely limited available resources, the city and its 25,000 inhabitants quickly capitulated to become part of the Kingdom of Rivet after a brief two-year war.
“Wake up, Eric,” a hoarse voice said. “Your shift starts at first moonlight.”
I groaned awake and slowly sat up to stretch my already-sore muscles from training earlier today.
“Has the food caravan arrived yet?” I asked while tying my boots and strapping the sheathed guard’s blade to my waist. You would think that keeping your boots tied up when sleeping in the woods will keep you safe and prepared, but if an assassin shows up the last thing he would expect is a flying shoe.
The blade is about an arm’s length and is the most commonly used weapon in the continent. It is easy to wield one I admit, but because it dulls easily and chips after a few sword clashes, a swordsman will need to frequently have it fixed.
“Nope, they should’ve reached by now though. We got a couple of black bread loafs if you need something to eat. It might feel as if you’re chewing on brick, but it fills you up at least.”
“A couple of black bread is as good a weapon as any if you don’t have one to bash the heads of the nobles Rivet. No thanks, but I’d rather wait for the food caravan,” I said as I crouched beside Haron, the guard captain-turned bandit leader of Brule. Well, we are not exactly bandits since we only kill other bandits we come across, along with military escorts of caravans. We conduct raids on other smaller cities too, whenever we have a surplus of manpower and resource to combat the cityguards of the neighbouring nobles.
Now, I am not some robinhood of some ancient, dust-covered story who will ambush passing caravans and steal food to share with brick-eating peasants and be remembered as a hero. I would sooner gut you as the moment you touch my loot. However, I do sell all the scraps I can’t use albeit at a marked up price.
“They’re here! Get ready and make sure you don’t lose our baggage,” whispered Haron as he pulled the hood over his head, silently jogging into the woods with a recurve bow in hand and a quiver of arrows slung across his back, two other archers in our group followed after him.
The clopping of hooves resounded in the distance. A fat man at the front of the caravan was holding the reins of the horse-driven wagon and accompanied by a group of armed escorts, most probably hired mercenaries. Deep breaths, keep calm and stick to the plan.
I did another once-over to confirm that my disguise is as good as can be, put on my guard’s helmet and nodded at the three men with the same disguise. Looking at the mercenary group, there might be 20 of them – almost twice our number, most of them in leather armour. The only buffoon without a helmet despite wearing a chainmail must be the mercenary leader.
I slowly walked towards the caravan, displaying the proper caution for the disguise of a patrol guard with the rest of the group following suit.
“Halt! You are travelling on the road protected by Prince Leon of Rustar,” I shouted warily, displaying the fake crest of Rustar cityguards. “Looking at your wagons I see you must be a trader, show me your trading permit.”
The trader slowed down to a halt and flashed a beaming smile at me. “Good evening, sir patrol guard. You are a ways from the main road, I see. I hope we will not stop for long as we still have a weeks’ worth of travel to make,” he said as he slipped meaty fingers into the front pocket of his coat.
The group of mercenaries at the back of the caravan came forward to see what was going on and remained when they saw us, leaving at least 5 of them behind. Idiots, they’re going to get themselves killed.
“Ah, here it is! This pocket is too small for me you see –” the fat man coughed as an arrow pierced through his shoulder before screaming in pain.