Conscription

‘Okay, be brave. There isn’t anything to worry about. You’re just going to do what all men do at your age,’ the woman said.
The teenager, only of sixteen years, was standing in his finest clothes, bought from the earnings of his poorly paid work of a baker’s assistant. They were some cheap boiled leathers and an almost stripped cotton shirt. His doublet, jacket, and trousers were all from different trades-persons, all with a different quality of leather. His shirt was bought from the local market, with trades-persons selling either stollen or used goods. In his case, they were both stollen and used, with an emphasis on the latter.
His mother had done her best to bring him up on her own in the slums of Mentior, but alas, it was time for her beloved only son to stretch his wings and fly. Or in his case, take up sword, and swing. She didn’t care that he was conscripting to the Plysterian army, she was proud of the noble thing he was doing, but worried. Worried about whether he would return from battle, when the inevitability of war finally arrived.
‘You’ll always be my little…brave little boy, who I adore. I loves you, I really do!’ She said, tears bursting from her eyes.
‘I know mother, I love you too. I promise I’ll return!’ He said in his newly formed, adolescent voice, the sign he had come of age.
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Take a seat in a bar

A man of short stature, pig ears, and a scruffy black beard sat at his table in the bar, alone. The only vacant table in the packed bar. Filled with a myriad of people; all casks full to the brim, with the extras spilled and dripping down their torsos. The scruffy bearded man sunk into the little armchair in the corner of the pub; his fat, labouring over the arms. He scratched his beard, as he usually did whenever he was thinking. Today had been a good day, he had got approval to expand his, already vast expansion, of fishing vessels, and now, almost, had full control of the sea around Napes Rock Head. What a dream it was, he thought. Soon he would be harvesting in all the profits of his vessels’ catch, and would bed down countless women, drunk on ale. He was living the dream of the fisheries.
He lifted his ale to his mouth, taking in a gulp his mouth couldn’t handle. The extras just dripped down and through his scruffy beard. He didn’t care. He’d just go and buy more, exquisite, expensive clothes from Mentior, Praevalidus, or even Toraes. The Cranes’ citadel. Soon he’d travel down there, down the spine, and to the east of Pravum, and buy his clothes. Bask in the riches of the citadel.
He took another gulp. He spilled it slightly when he heard the excited scream of a woman. A quirky smile appeared, and he continued drinking in solitude. At that point, the doorbell rung as two tall men, slim in stature, wearing nothing but ominous boiled black leathers. Slippery leathers, the scruffy bearded man thought, ‘what do eels want in this place?’ was his second thought.
Eels were given the name to the men that went around, collecting taxes, enforcing law and legislation when no man wouldn’t. Napes Rock Head had no Order of the Knights of Faraday to keep the peace. No army, no soldiers, just a bunch of folk who calmly, or not, went about their own business, or not, to make ends meat.
‘What can I do for you, gentlemen?’ The man with the scruffy beard said in a non-caring voice.
The eels took their seats opposite the bearded man, boxing him in his corner.
‘I can assure you, I have no quarrel with you gentlemen, nor have I committed a crime.’ He said quickly.
The eels looked at each other. ‘We never asked you whether you had committed a crime.’ The eel on the bearded man’s right said.
‘But a quarrel, now that’s an interesting concept.’
The bearded man started to sweat. It was the heat in the pub, yeah, the heat in the pub, he thought. He took another gulp. ‘As I said, I have no quarrel with you,’ he said nervously.
‘You come here often?’ The man on the left said.
The bearded man nodded.
‘Thrice, four times a week?’ The right eel said.
‘Yes, now I demand to know what you want with me?’
‘What do you know of the recent sinking of Mr Hobbler’s vessels?’
The bearded man swallowed a larger gulp of ale. ‘I know it happened. Terrible business that, terrible. Someone ought to find the person responsible. I know Mr Hobbler, personally, lovely man. Real genuine,’ he said quickly.
‘Well, we you know what happens with criminals around here. Especially frauds.’
The bearded man nodded, ‘oh, yes, yeah…that I do.’ He scratched his beard.
‘What with Mr Hobbler’s fleet gone, you must have almost full control of the sea around Napes Head Rock?’
The man nodded, putting on a sad look, but with a slight smille.
‘Mr Hobbler has requested that all mongers help him re-establish his business…and will repay handsomely, of course.’
‘I have helped Mr Hobbler many times, and this will be no different,’ the bearded man said, cheerfully, infuriated that he had to give up his time to help that pathetic excuse of a monger.
‘Would you like to come with us, Mr Kollop? After your drink of course.’
‘I don’t usually leave here until after my fifth.’
The left eel placed a dagger on the table. Recently sharpened, shining. The metal forged in mountains of Four Peaks Rock. They were not messing around. ‘I’m sure it will be exactly the same as when you return to the pub, Mr Kollop.’ The left eel said, eerily. ‘Unless, of course,’ the left eel fiddled with the dagger with the fingers on his right hand. The bearded man scratched his beard. ‘It’s burned down for personal gain, but you wouldn’t know anything about that, would you, Mr Kollop?’
Kollop swallowed, nervously. ‘No…I, wouldn’t, wouldn’t know anything  about that.’
‘Good, so you have no fear to come with us and help Mr Hobbler,’ the left eel said with a sinister smile, putting away his dagger inside his black leather jacket.

The great Salix

As Isaac rode through the Lyntherian Forest, he spotted the Great Salix; a sacred tree to those born and raised in Praevalidus, especially the Fermatas. The Great Salix was something else, growing to a massive height, then the weight of the branches flattening the top, creating a curtain around the trunk. It provided a homely and safe environment for any traveller. Their thick branches with spearhead leaves blocked out the rain, making a lovely dry patch of lushest green. The spearhead leaf was the leaf on the Fermata sigil, hugging the Great shield and sword of the Imperium, and Irax; the Dragon God of War and Peace.
It was believed, that during the Guardian Age, when the Dragon Gods ruled the land and sky, that they flew to find the Great Salix, mate, and raise their young within the vicinity of the curtain branches.
‘So lovely and majestic,’ thought Isaac. Being one with nature, raising your young in the comfort of nature. So calming.

Arrival at Mountain Fall

It had been a long enough journey for the cavalcade, especially for the simple soldiers that were alert all day, everyday. Ever since the mighty cavalcade left Praevalidus to head to Mentior, the soldiers and Guards protected the myriad of horses, carriages, advisors, and leaders. It ached their minds, and ached more that they still had another four-hundred miles to go until they reached the capital.
In-between Aromania and the cavalcade stood the Dythe Mountains. Monstrous, mighty, something that only the gods could create, thought a soldier, too tired to admire the grand yet bleak architecture of South Mountain Fall.
She wondered what North Mountain Fall was like, compared to the southern city. She didn’t really know what to come them. Were they cities or gates? They had big gates that separated Ice Passage from the north and south, and that was the whole reason for the construction of the…things. Gate cities, she would call them.
Or were they strongholds?

The art of magi

Within the bowels of the Praevalidus Stronghold, Nade Darus stood in the main hall of the Tower of Mages. A tall, spiralling tower, opposite the Guards’ Tower. Within the tower existed a myriad of papers, books, and alchemy, with the power to do good and evil.
Nade Anton Darus, the most esteemed and respected mage in Pravum, established the School of Mages. Anton stood on next to the wall with a large portrait window that looked down onto the rest of the Stronghold. His expression was blank. It usually was when he thought about his past. He arrived a long time ago, when he was only a small child, only of five or six years of age. The times he spent learning the art of magi, performing a trance to understand how to find the epitome of peace and tranquillity, and to find the easiest routes into peoples’ minds.
He was proud of what he created, endorsed by the Nade Commander of Praevalidus at the time, before Isaac’s grandfather died. Anton wanted to find and help people who had the same experiences and indications of becoming a mage.

Red of roses

Rulie, one of the cranes in Praevalidus, sat herself down at her desk. She sighed from tiredness, and pushed her black hair back, which, usually, gently graced the tops of her shoulders. Her crane’s robes cuddled her body, keeping her cosy in the cool evening.
She’d been out in the wilderness all day, collecting oils and sap and water from various flowers on the edge of the Lyntherian Forests.
Cranes often made their own ointments and medicines from the local wilderness. Luckily, for Rulie and the other cranes in Praevalidus, the Lyntherian Forests provided ample amounts of plants used for medicine.
Rulie had picked all she needed to create large amounts of medicine, particularly red of roses, an ointment mixed with oils from the reddest and prickliest of roses and sap from oak trees. Used as an antiseptic and painkiller for deadly viruses and external wounds.
Rulie remembered the time she first mixed a red of roses ointment. Back when she was a child, during a plague of Waters’ Kiss, she ran to the fields outside Smoking Mouth, and found the most vibrant plant, and used its oil to help her sickened brother.

Foods in the woods

‘Take a bite, I promise you won’t die.’ The woman said, growing tired of the persuasion.
‘But it looks so strange, I’ve never seen fruit like this before.’ Replied the man, somewhat sceptical about eating something that didn’t look edible.
‘Hells’ Fire, Josyph! Just take a bite out of the fruit, and see what you make of it! I’ve been eating them all my life, and look how I turned out!’ The woman said, sternly.
Taking the time to glance at the woman, she did in-fact look the part. She was in her mid-forties, or so she claimed to be, although he couldn’t question it, even if he tried. The man wondered how he ended up in this situation in the first place. Initially, he had been chasing a deer across the lands, which then went into the woods. After many hours of pursuing the deer, he gave up, but didn’t realise where he was. That’s when she appeared, out of no-where, holding, what she claimed, was a piece of fruit. ‘I’m still not sure. I’ve only met you, and you already know more about me than some of my friends.’
‘Josyph, I’ve known you for a long time, don’t you remember? We used to play together when we were younger.’
He tried to remember his childhood. Thinking back, he did remember someone he used to play with, but she was older than him, far older, and someone who looked like they didn’t come from the same area. She was wearing tight, purple and red robes, which came down to her thighs, and black, boiled leather trousers and sturdy black boots. On her wrist were a collection of rings that she had acquired over her life.
‘Come on now, you’re hungry, and this’ll do you good.’ She assured.
‘All right then.’
Josyph took a bite, and a few moments later, his vision started to change. His surroundings became wavey and liquidised, until eventually, he collapsed on the floor laughing.
The woman looked at him with an evil smile. ‘The simple ones always fool for it.’ She  remarked, and started carrying him away.

A special Daily Prompt from the next book, ‘Arrows of Fire’.

Moxie – Daily Prompt. Excerpt from ‘A Monarch’s Gamble’

The two investigators made their way into the Record Keep and Library, the silence and composure hitting them like a hammer. The jog turned into a quiet, fast paced walk to Rela’s office. Palt didn’t care about formality and politeness at this point, so instead of knocking, burst into her office. Asheran, slightly stunned, looked around at the Keep before entering.
Rela jumped out of her skin, her focus and tranquillity brutally interrupted, ‘General Palt, do you have any etiquette or basic manners?!’ she said curtly, standing up behind her desk, clenched fists on resting on the blueprints she was drawing, ‘do you want your armies to sink? Because I can make that happen you know! Doesn’t take much to draw a hole on a blueprint!’ she exclaimed, holding up her work.

Cavalcades in the plains

The plains of Integer stretched out before her. She had never in her life seen such a vast landscape, filled with nothing but grass and cascading hills that filled the infinity of nothingness. Her party hadn’t long been travelling. They had left the capital, Integer, to pursue a life of peace in the Free Lands, far to the east. Virtus, the city of strength, and where the esteemed Virtus soldiers were trained, was out of the question. The peaceful city of Crimeare was most likely where they’d go, although, she wished to travel to the lands of Mathyres. Her family had said no, stating it was too far away from civilisation.
She didn’t understand their logic, why leave the capital to find a peaceful life, only to travel to another city over one-hundred miles away? She kept quiet, knowing that her parents knew best. There was a long journey, and many miles to cover still, but she would endure the bumbling along the Caphile lands on her little horse.

The world around us

‘It isn’t right that we should be burying him at this age. No, it’s not right, nothing is right in this world anymore,’ the farmer said, bitterly. He looked down at the dirty mound that enclosed his son, a boy of so much promise, only to be brutally murdered by the very people that were to govern Pravum.
‘There was nothing you could have done. They would have killed both of you, and where would that have left us?’ His wife said. She tried to be strong, but failed to hold back the tears that filled her eyes.
‘He should have lived. He shouldn’t be in this position. I will never forgive those that murdered him. I will never support the king.’
‘What shall we do now, papa?’ The farmer’s daughter asked. Too innocent to contribute to the disparagement.
The farmer looked away to the distance. ‘They want us to farm for them, but we won’t. Pack your things, we’re going to the Southern Reaches. We’ll be safe there.’