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Rated: 18+ · Chapter · Sci-fi · #2168087
138 years after the Prologue inventor Burtrend Stinehauk begins his adventure to Salatoria

When struggling to find information on an ancient and forgotten history, one must use any means necessary. Even the greatest historians are limited in their knowledge when forced to use only physical evidence, since the few records they can find predating The Great Tragedy are incomplete, in terrible condition, or biased. In my experience, an unsurpassed source of knowledge is not the moldy tomes hidden in lost libraries, but rather the memories of those that had lived at that time...

Chapter 1

Arc^1264, 13th Century, Vitar (136 years later)

Black water lapped at the dock, the waves barely highlighted by slivers of two moons. A dark figure dressed as dark as the water below separated from the shadow of the wall and approached Burtrend under the hanging glow-lamp. The light was dimmer than fire, but safer over the dry, aged wood of the dock planks. Other glow-lamps dotted the darkness out in the water, attached to the steamships that sat quietly, waiting for the busy dawn. It was enough light to show the crates and barrels stacked up, waiting to be warehoused. However, it wasn't enough light to penetrate the deep darkness of the man's cloak that walked up to him.

"You're late," the deep voice of the stranger spoke out of the hood.

"I'm here now. What did you find?" Burtrend asked nervously. The spy handed him a thick envelope in a leather satchel.

"I don't usually pry," the spy's voice was barely over a whisper, "but I don't understand why you needed to hire me, any adventurer would have sufficed."

"You are better than any blather mouth that would get drunk and spill whatever you find to every tavern you go to. I just hope it was worth the money to send you. I'm guessing by the weight of this you found people..." the spy slowly nodded his head, causing Burtrend to get even more excited.

"Yeah, and you might have a hard time believing what I've found." He sounded well pleased with himself. "The problem to your plan on keeping this quiet is the sailors that took me there and back."

"If it's worth talking about I'm sure they already have. If you believe they know more than they should, kill them before it gets out of control. Just be discrete, I don't want their deaths fueling whatever gossip they might have already spread this evening." Burtrend started a mental tally of the extra cost before the words finished leaving his lips. My meager coffer already took a big hit from funding this little expedition. How much more will I need to pay this man?

"Always appreciated," the man's gruff voice hissed, "Anything else?"

"Let me look this over first." The leather was soft under Burtrend's long fingers as he caressed it. "If I need you, I know where to find you."

Disappearing as silently into the night as he had appeared, the cloaked spy left Burtrend standing under the glow-lamp. He contemplated opening the envelope right there, but he knew he had risked being seen too much already.

The warehouses and gates leading out of the docks had their walls covered in war propaganda. The far gate led to the industrial sector. The second gate was broken on its hinges, gears rusted shut, and no guards bothered watching it. That one led to Bucquetrow, the housing sector of the working class. It was easy to tell the difference between the gates, even in the middle of the night. Memories of his childhood tried to worm their way up at the familiar sight of the Bucquetrow gate. He easily swept the ghosts of his past aside, being well practiced at it. The largest gate was open but guarded, if not very well, and led to the main road leading through the market district and eventually to Emerau Rise, the upper-class neighborhood of Bar.

He stayed in the shadows as best as he could while working quickly through the stacked crates and barrels. Sneaking closer to the gate, he spent time behind a barrel watching the droopy guards dozing on and off. Soon after Burtrend got there, one of the guards mumbled something about needing to empty his fluids and wandered off. The second guard simply snorted and closed his eyes again. Taking this to be his most advantageous moment, he slipped through the merchant district gate. He was grateful for the sleepy, inattentive guards he left behind. The night-wardens will not look kindly on his nap. Too bad I won't be here to see what happens when he is caught sleeping on the job. Such an important guard post... I wonder if the assassin drugged him? he mused.

Bar was a beautiful city, the capitol city where the High Council reigned. Emerau Rise was the emerald gem of the city, set within the gray setting of inner walls and surrounded by the grays and browns of the outer city like a crescent moon. The Great Temple of Korhan held Emerau Tower, seat of the High Council, standing like a beacon throughout the valley.

Burtrend made his way through the winding alleys, avoiding the main street and the night-wardens on curfew patrols. Finally, he found himself at the vines he used to climb over the Emerau Rise wall, since the sector gate remained closed, locked, and guarded with four very attentive guards. Without these vines he would need to sleep in a dark alley until the gate was opened at dawn.

The sound of boots stomping in rhythm echoed through the alleyway as a night-warden and his six-soldier unit rounded the corner. Burtrend quickly ducked behind a scraggly bush near a doorway and tried to blend into the deep shadows. He held his breath and closed his eyes, not even daring to watch the night-warden dressed in black armor from head to toe march past. Slowly the sound of the patrol faded around another corner, leaving him with his heartbeat pounding in his ears. After a slow, shuddering breath he opened his eyes. His heart continued to pound as he cautiously came out from behind the bushes and climbed the ivy up the inner-city wall and down the other side. He couldn't relax until he reached his apartment gate.

Many glow-lamps in the courtyard kept it well lit. He flinched as the old gate creaked open and then shut behind him. He turned two steps and his heart jumped into his throat, suddenly confronted by an eccentric short old man, Eligus the landlord. The man's hair frizzled out like wisps of clouds and his scowl was missing most of his teeth. Only covered by his sleep robes, Eligus was so comical looking that Burtrend would have laughed if his sudden appearance hadn't been so shocking.

"Signor," Burtrend cleared his throat. "Good evening to you." With a confused look, Eligus squinted through his monocle at the taller man.

"Aren't you out rather late?" he said with a sharp tone after he finally recognized him.

"Yes, and for that I apologize. I never meant to disturb you." He held up the leather envelope, "I was working late, lost track of time, and I still have much work to do, so if you would please excuse my rudeness..."

"Humph. You're lucky I don't call the night-wardens on you." Eligus gave him a foul look as he turned back to his personal apartment next to the entryway. Burtrend heard him mumbling about the disappearance of decency amongst the youth. Burtrend just chuckled as he unlocked his door. There was too much to think about to be insulted from the crazy old man.

His apartment was dark and quiet, a place of safety away from the eyes of the High Council and their pet wardens. He quickly found his way to his lectern and brightened the glow-lamp. Carefully he unfolded the leather to expose the papers. On the front page, drawn in black ink, was a city floating in air. It's real?

Scripted above the etching were the words: Investigations into Salatoria, a Guide to Salatine Society, Culture, and Technology. Amidst the following pages were drawings of people with wings and strange symbols, weapons with crystals that could shoot electricity. He read and read, re-reading it until he had nearly every page memorized. The morning sun hung low in the horizon, glinting gold light into the corners of his apartment.

Their crystal-based technology was instantly inspiring, but there just wasn't enough information to quench his thirst. He paced about the study to suddenly stop and stare hard at the pile of papers, now in a disheveled mess. How can I live knowing there's such an unknown technology on the other side of the ocean? Especially with a technology that may be equal or greater than our own? Can I incorporate their technology with my own and develop something even more powerful? I must go there and see this for myself. He suddenly sprang forward, shuffling the papers back into a neat pile and slid them back inside the leather sleeve: he had a lot of planning to do.

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