The sound of trumpets echoed throughout the city of Alden, announcing to its inhabitants that the festival of peace had at last begun. Parades, painstakingly planned for months, now flowed through the city like a river of mirth and celebration. Dancers, musicians, and wizards all performed along the way, to the cheers and applause of the adoring audience. Children sat with their parents, their eyes wide in awe and wonder and the sight of it all. This was not an event to miss.
From the front gates of the city, Brayand could hear all of this, his heart yearning to participate in the celebration. And yet, duty’s pull was stronger yet.
Before him, carts pulled by massive beasts brought freshly quarried stone into the city. Brayand couldn’t place their species, but he recognized their obvious strength. Their thick, leathery skin covered powerful muscles, bent entirely towards the task at hand. Their enormous feet sent tremors through the cobblestone roads with each step, jarring numerous onlookers.
The creatures were led by a wizard, their minds tied directly to her will. Obeying her every command, the beasts stepped in unison, without the slightest deviation. It was necessary, Brayand had been told, else the stone would shift, and the wagon could break into pieces.
The wizard herself stood out among those of the citizenry that she passed. Where they wore simple clothes, she wore dark blue robes, covering her form completely. Thick leather boots covered her feet, and matching gloves shielded her hands. Her long, blonde hair was braided in the manner of the highlands, a form held together by magic alone. Those she passed by quickly moved from her path, but continued to stare at the spectacle before them.
Beside Brayand stood High Mage Liatur, his arms crossed across his chest. He wore a red cloak today, lined against the early morning cold. Its intricate patterns were so many, that one could follow them with the eye forever and never find where they repeated. Upon his shoulders remained the embroidered silver feathers of his rank.
Brayand held great respect for the high mage. He had been assigned to Alden during a time of political turmoil, nearly resulting in open conflict between the houses. Liatur had pulled them together again, and then ensured the authority of Brayand was not usurped.
Today, Liatur’s features were etched in worry, his brow furrowed. “What is on your mind, high mage?” Brayand asked.
Liatur lowered his head for a moment, his eyes closed. “I am concerned about our last council meeting,” he finally said.
“I am always concerned about our council meetings,” Brayand said, smiling faintly. “I try not to let it bother me.”
Liatur nodded, but did not return the smile. “Things have been shifting lately among the houses,” he continued, then stopped.
Another azure-clad wizard walked through the gates, as the last of the wagon trains came through. He carried a dark walking staff, with a small, blue gem encrusted in its point. As he walked, a hazy purple glow seemed to trail behind his staff, nearly hidden by the motion and distance.
“This has always been the way of things,” Brayand responded. “Lord Telinstrom’s focus is on his own duties. He cannot comprehend why another portion of the city should come above his own requests. It’s the same reason Lord Dausilund continues to haunt my steps to expand the stables and meadows for his horses.”
A large shout came from the festivities, ringing throughout the streets. The wizard directing the animals paid no notice, directing them down the street towards the tower. The passersby moved aside, granting plenty of room for the caravan to pass.
“What is there to be wary of?” the governor continued. “So far as I can tell, the harshest winds come from either Nostovol, or Arhals.”
Liatur smiled. “I wouldn’t call this a wind,” he replied, gesturing towards the animals. Brayand chuckled. “I do not know of any threats, if you are wondering,” he added, his face grim again. “Only a feeling. Messages from Arhals have become fewer over the recent weeks. I was only told of the caravan’s arrival two days ago, just before I informed you. This is not like them.”
The wizard guided the caravan around a corner, onto the major avenue of the inner city. Normally it would be crowded with merchants and travelers, but today it was nearly empty, perfect for such a task. No need for more people crowding the beasts than necessary. Even spellbound to her will, they could break free and stampede given the proper stimulus.
Brayand looked out the gate, towards the highway. “I don’t believe there is anything to worry about,” he said calmly. “Perhaps they have taken time to relax and celebrate the holiday as well.” He turned to face Liatur, smiling slightly.
Liatur scoffed. “I don’t believe they even know what day it is,” he said, looking towards the sky. “Up in their towers above the city, where the only light is that of their own design. It’s so easy to forget the world below when you’re up there.” He signed. After a moment of silence, he added, “Do not think that I regret my assignment here. I have come to feel as if Alden was my home, and much of that is thanks to you.”
Brayand clapped the high mage on the shoulder. “Then let’s not worry any more. Once our task is complete, we’ll join the celebrations.” Slowly, Liatur nodded in agreement.