In the previous episode, Gremlaw and his fellows find a camp of Lost Ancestor tents and Gremlaw gets information from one he threatened. Using this information to his advantage, readers voted for him to skirt around the camp and head directly toward the city of Gul-Maz.
Six days of riding took the trio ever farther northwards through endless miles of open grasslands, some of which was grazed by large, doe-eyed cattle who gave the least of curious gazes as they rode past. The city of Gul-Maz jutted up like a diseased blot growing from the purity of the greensward. Gremlaw sighed, recollecting similar feelings of disgust twenty years past when he had arrived in the port town of Gabech.
Outside the walls, which were crumbling and in a horrific state of disarray, was a mess of tents and temporary structures held together with string, horse manure and hope. Ragged figures in patched clothing picked over the hidden mounds not too far from the gateway and gangs of children looking thin and malnourished roamed at random between the collapsing buildings.
Gremlaw cast a look at his two companions, who also had expressions of disgust on their faces, deciding they were all ready. Black paint had been applied to the Lavashian woman while Gremlaw and Dornoyen wore long, hooded cloaks, the paint only visible on their hands.
“Let’s go,” Gremlaw ordered shortly.
Mar-Tshi-Srin led the way, her two guards trailing behind her as they rode towards the heart of this appallingly decrepit city. For a supposedly large city, there were very few people abroad in the streets. Gremlaw wondered if the stench of decay and clouds of flies buzzing around was to blame. Rubbish lay in heaps and piles where people had simply dumped it in the street, often left against the walls of their homes and the few people they did see hurried out of their way without making eye contact.
Approaching what appeared to be the heart of the city, Mar-Tshi-Srin halted, looking up the incline to the apex of the small hill this place had been built around. A castle stood at the top, stone walls reaching up to the slate gray sky. She could see a few figures pacing back and forth along the battlements and her heart sank as she knew, in her heart, this was where Gremlaw would want to go. She nudged her horse left and approached a squat building with a stable attached to the side. This close to the center of the city many of the properties were a little better maintained and this tavern was marginally less shoddy than others.
Once their horses had been taken, the trio made their way inside to speak to the owner, a squat man whose facial tattoos curled over his cheeks and down his neck.
“Two rooms, food for three, horses and supplies,” Mar-Tshi-Srin demanded as if the man was as low as something she had trodden in. The innkeeper’s eyes flicked over the two black cloaked men and back to hers,
“Four silver in advance,” his voice betrayed him. Mar-Tshi-Srin raised one of her eyebrows before turning to Gremlaw and hissing,
“Gut this thief!” Gremlaw vaulted the bar as soon as she had spoken, a dagger appearing in his hand as he reached for the man who flinched and tried to squirm away,
“Copper!” The innkeeper squealed, “I meant to say copper!”
“Acceptable,” Mar-Tshi-Srin declared, “Our rooms, now.” Gremlaw allowed the frightened man to pass, but kept his blade in sight.
They were led to a second floor and a pair of rooms at the end of a dark corridor, Gremlaw began checking for additional escape routes and hiding places as soon as the innkeeper left,
“I want to get a good look inside that castle,” Gremlaw said once he was satisfied he knew the room’s secrets, “Tonight,” he added. With no further discussions, the athletic man lay on the simple bed and tried to get some sleep, the married couple left for the other room.
Nightfall brought a few more people into the taproom and Gremlaw could hear numerous conversations as he dropped from the window of his room to the straw of the stable below. Checking no one had seen him, he slipped out into the night.
Concentrating, the black cloaked man adjusted his vision to see negative space, allowing his vision to pick out gaps and entryways others might not be able to see. Hundreds of shapes appeared, outlined in pale green, revealing an easy access route into the castle. Gremlaw watched the sentries as they paced back and forth, absently glancing around.
The athlete positioned himself at the base of a corner turret, noting with some satisfaction the mortar between the stones had crumbled and blown free, giving him plenty of hand holds. Five minutes saw him silently scale the wall and haul himself over the top.
A shadow slipped through a door, which barely opened to allow it in, and darted down a spiral staircase to a lower level. The shadowy figure made his way silently through the castle, making his way down through the darkening levels until he reached the deepest level.
Water coated the stones down here, indicating the shadow was below ground, moss and fungi cast their spores into the air making the atmosphere smell of mold. Silently, the dark shape moved around without detection, listening at the occasional door before opening it a crack to peer inside. Most were empty or filled with rotting furniture.
At the deepest heart of the castle, the shadow noticed the floor had been polished clean by recent footsteps and he followed the cleaner section of the floor to a cage-like door. Inhaling deeply, yet slowly, the shadow could not smell anything other than the mold and damp. Numerous plans flicked through the shadow’s mind as he contemplated what to do. It was obvious something important lay within this room but he had no way of gaining access. Vote below on what will happen next or if reading in email click Take our Poll.