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Rated: E · Serial · Fantasy · #2028494
...At least the carving knife was sharp, and the compass was true.
The straps of the rough leather backpack were pulled tightly, securing a meager collection of tools and food supplies. At least the carving knife was sharp, and the compass was true. Even in the short time spent exploring around the Glittershore fortification the compass proved it's worth more than once. It seemed such a waste to let a corpse rot in the sun when good meat and glands were at hand. Although Blackbird hadn't been trained in culinary arts - he could at least make a palatable assortment of cooked meat fillets. Thank goodness for the bartender who called the fortified walls his home. More than one meal was spent at his table the last few evenings.

A home. That was almost laughable. Blackbird McAllister peered over the thick stone walls from his vantage point high on an embankment. Surveying the guards and traders who settled inside these walls, with the bartender, Blackbird wondered who stayed by choice - and who stayed by force. A large assortment of the settlers who came to this place were once the everyday rabble living in the streets and shanty towns of Elevation's mightiest cities. A bit too late on the landlords cut, caught stealing a loaf of bread to survive, or winding up on the wrong side of a crooked captain of the guard landed you here. Desertion. Now home. And it was home to a few old acquaintances with whom Blackbird intended to reunite.

The western shore line was shrouded in a thick fog. The dense salty fog poured in regularly from the vast open sea farther to the west of this small lake fortification. The relative safety of Glittershore was pressed from time to time - but the thick wooden palisade gates held. Often the alarm would be raised as a massive crocodile edged from the lake shore and approached the walls. The guards and a few settlers within range would put the foul lizard down in short order. But Blackbird McAllister never felt completely at ease within these walls. Even with the presence of the guards, corruption followed from Elevation and found fertile ground on Desertion. On this morning, as the sun brightened the sky and burned off the fog, the palisade gates were breached and swung wide as Blackbird left Glittershore to the west.

The Glittershore Desert rested between the vast salty sea and a land locked lake surrounded by wild creatures and lurking danger. Crossing the desert was another challenge - and yet necessary. The backpack was readied the night before, and the small amount of supplies and tools should carry him until a secure camp could be established. Blackbird made a bee line for the western shore of Glitter Lake. Once there, with the sun glaring down from it's highest perch, he rested and had a small meal of dried fish and bread.

The smell of the treat must have carried further than expected. The familiar growl of wild cats came from the north and was returned by a partner to the west. It was time to pack up and move on once again. Quickly stowing his provisions, Blackbird skirted the lake shore further south. Taking note of the land, and any shelters in the immediate area which local beasts called home, Blackbird finally reached a grove of trees. At the edge of the stand of trees a massive pole and battered wooden sign was clearly visible. Moving deeper into the grove Blackbird could make out the remnants of an old settlement or homestead. Off in the distance rotting fence lines, and cleared fields told the story of a once active but now abandoned farm. Upon reaching the sign, Blackbird was pleased to find engraved on the heavy wood the word 'Greyholme'. He had reached his initial destination at long last. But the elation was short lived - as it appeared no one was present to welcome him into the fold of a thriving community.

Stowing some supplies at Greyholme, Blackbird continued to explore the immediate area. Nearby was a rough, and crumbling cobblestone road heading up toward a steep mountain pass. Ascending the hillside, Blackbird reached the top of the mountain pass to find an abandoned outpost. The walls of the once strong lookout were crumbling worse than the road that lead him here. Off to the south was the tell tale crown of a guard tower. Poking around a bit, Blackbird located the door of the tower. Overgrown and swollen with the damp sea air rising over the face of the hillside, the door was a chore to open. Once inside however, Blackbird found the area not quite as abandoned as he'd expected.

From high up in the tower one could see for miles and miles. To the north, and halfway down the slope of the massive mountain was a guard walking his patrol. Blackbird knew it would do little good to wave or draw the guard's attention. He simply made a mental note of the presence of safety should he need to call on it for aide in the near future. The stance, swagger, and build of the guard was a bit unsettling. In total, the guard reminded Blackbird of the captain and crew which manned the knarr he so recently disembarked.

The single knarr entered Tower Bay being rowed against the strong western wind. The warm air was thick with salt and humidity. A strong scent of pine and cedar carried with the breeze as well. The air had scooped along the face of the southern mountains was firing out the mouth of Tower Bay with force. Blackbird McAllister leans once again to the cadence of the caller. His sore back and tired arms unable to find relief on this journey. Next time, Blackbird told himself, he'd book passage on the comfort of a merchant's caravel and travel in style.

The massive cargo ship skirted through a deep canal and into an unfamiliar harbor. Everything here was unfamiliar. From the lay of the land, to the customs of the people, to the purpose of the expedition - everything was different. Once moored deck hands and those manning oars began the arduous task of unloading the ship. Large carts, laden with supplies for fortifications dotting the wilds of Desertion, had to be dragged onto docks by hand. Horses would be acquired from a merchant in the market by the ships captain - already well on his way to the tavern for a drink.

Late in the afternoon, resting beside a strange but simple altar under the swaying branches of a willow tree, Blackbird McAllster was jolted from slumber by the swift kick of a crew member. Barking orders and pointing to a long caravan of large carts the man didn't let up until Blackbird was seated on one of the vessels. The entire train of settlers and supplies was pointed north. To what destination was unclear. That Blackbird was more than along for the ride was apparent.

Rounding a bend at the foot of some growing foothills a fork in the paved road forced the caravan to split. Several of the carts continued north while others veered off to destinations unknown. Blackbird tried his best to relax against the rough and bumpy ride. His soreness would subside, but not likely on this overnight ride through landscapes unknown. And sleep was out of the question. With danger lurking so close at hand on these wilderness routes, everyone was expected to be on guard at all times.

Blackbird's group of large carts narrows down to just three large carts. The trailing cart carries several barrels and large storage bins, a driver, a guard, a handful of settlers and him. The party reaches the fortified walls of Glittershore and are released from their obligation to work for passage. The destination reached, the indentured servitude expected on such long journeys is rescinded. The caravan is unloaded with the help of local guards. Some supplies are quickly offloaded by merchants, and a few settlers are reunited with waiting relatives. The displays of affection of overwhelming and begin to stir emotion in Blackbird's heart. At these far distant outposts, the companionship of community can never be underestimated or undervalued.

Leaving the guard tower, Blackbird heads down into the valley below the mountain pass and locates an open mine. Exploring the small mine yields several large food storage units with a smattering of supplies. There is enough to help get started at any rate, and a large rain barrel about half filled with cool drinkable water. Blackbird begins the task of flattening out a small area of land for a tiny shack. Once the rickety outpost is constructed, Blackbird leaves the valley to the east seeking supplies. Salvage and abandoned gear is always plentiful along roads and near abandoned settlements. Leaving in a hurry because of the onslaught of lava spiders, or packs of lurking wolves doesn't leave one much time to pick and choose what to keep and what to abandon.

Was that the case with Blackbird's charges? Would he just as soon find them living fat and happy on some remote deed overseeing a mine of gold and diamonds, as he would locate their dead and forgotten corpses? Whatever the case, it was his sole purpose to discover their end. It was his reason for living now - like it or not - and it was his only reason for being on this wilderness known as Desertion.

Lost in his thoughts, Blackbird almost passed a sign post in the road pointing into a stand of thickly overgrown trees. A glint of light caught the corner of his eye, and he turned in surprise half expecting the glint to belong to the glistening tooth of a massive bear. The glint of light soon pulsed again, and made itself known. A glowing, pulsing signpost made of a very rare wood indeed. The light emitted from the post would make it very easy to spot on a dark night in this deep forest. And that thought alone gave Blackbird reason to suspect it's importance.

Following the prompting of the sign he headed along an overgrown path next to rusted and collapsing iron fences. A few more paces and the grove of huge old trees opened up to reveal a fortress clear of growth. The wooden palisade gates removed or destroyed were not present to greet or deter Blackbird, so he entered unhindered. Poking around the grounds Blackbird was unable to assemble any reasonable story for how or why such a massive fortress was lost to time and nature. However, it was lost, and now it was open to salvage. Locating the primary store house Blackbird uncovered a huge collection of silver ore among the many storage bins. There were many other useful items as well. It would take time to salvage this entire storehouse, and he would need a secure location to store his find. Blackbird made a note of the location and continued east to survey the area near his small valley shack.
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