PS. Feel free to criticize and comment as You will - and do not be afraid to express Your opinions, as I am more pleased of a negative comment than not getting a comment at all.
The Downfall - Prologue.
Untold, a story, untouched by time and dementus
of dark, deep down, where no light reigns
of cold, caverns, with so black seas.
Foreseen, the need, by emperor long gone,
of prison, so huge, without an end
of end, of all, of all hope.
So it was, wizards, mighty and wise
were told, "Now, behold!
For I have thought!
I am the mist upon the mountains
My wisdom as high as the ridges,
I am the steel in the veins of stone
My strength as the foundations of the earth!
As though a blaze of the Sun is my gaze!
And I have seen, the rise of a peasant
of mugger, brigand, beggar, pirate
soreskin, filthy, courtesan
and gullible child!
Steel more trenchant than the sharpest words,
but should I slash the air, wish for death,
The blood of the cut ones calling out,
Civil war would be on us, no doubt!
Thus, go forth! go forth my wizards,
Find me a place to banish the misfit ones,
noble breed, who begs steals and crawls!"
* * *
Black water flowed by the slimy wooden posts sticking out of the river, just near the wharfs that were erected for sailors and fishermen docking their boats to the peaceful cove. A lizard screeched on the outskirts of town, a giant one. Torchlight flickered on the waves and ripples of the black water's coating and crackled away in the stagnant, moist, cold underworld's air, bringing about some much desired light and warmth for the passers-by in the darkness, where tons and tons of rock separated the banished humans and nephilim alike from the Sun's warmth.
An old man in his fifties wearing a worn tunic and scrawny pants thought merely about the coming meeting and had no time or interest to admire the views. He had to remain sharp. Infact, one could say that he was at his sharpest right now, sober and eager to trade. Truly, this slippery fellow of a man had the ears of a fox. Of course, his auditory senses were nothing compared to those of the nephilim, but he had managed to stay in the business of eavesdropping and gathering gossip simply because of the fact that humans caused much less suspicions and aroused much less attention on the streets of this small port town - the town was, after all, located on the humans' side of the Boneriver. Even with the amount of ale he had poured down his throat in his days hadn't softened his head none. When sober, he would sell the gossip he had managed to pry during his drinking sprees, and more often than not acted as intermediary for more than a few shady fellows who liked to lurk in the slums of the sparsely guarded Port Varib.
This evening was no exception. Streamy, as was his nickname aptly given to describe the way how liquid refreshments, money and knowledge flowed through him, walked sternly towards the meeting place between the two rotting boathouses, just behind the last torch placed on one of the walls to give the passers-by some light on their way back home.
Streamy clutched a long dagger on his belt and stuck his tongue to a gap in his teeth's lines - a habit that he sported whenever he felt awkward or nervous - and let his gaze sweep the alleyways and dark waters. He had got used to handling tough guys and ruffians alike as there were all too many outlaws who would rather cut Streamy's fingers off to gain the knowledge he bore than pay in coins, but not once before had anyone managed to go that far. The gap in his teeth was a sweet reminder of that. Even so, this night felt a little bit different from all of the others. Everything felt pitched, as though the darkness itself held its breath, waiting for something to happen.
Walking over the slimy planks, Streamy walked past the last torch and took a corner to his right, trudging into the shadows. He was eager to get the meeting over with so he could join with Marianne and Jeff, his trustiest companions, in Knockout, the local boozer for the poorer folk.
He leaned against a wall and stuck his fingers to one of his pockets. Searching around a bit, he surely enough found what he had longed for. He raised a small wooden box out into the cold docks' air and opened it. The small strongbox contained wax-like tobacco, ill-smelling and soft. He pried a small amount of it between of his fingers and stuck the stuff to his mouth, further sticking the chew, as it was called especially amongst of the sailors, to between of his lips and teeth. A tingling sensation spread all over his mouth, warming and pleasing the old man. Tilting his head back a bit, he quietly praised the value of money and things it could buy, such as luxuries like the chew, fresh from the surfaceworld.
Several moments passed. Streamy kept enjoying the chew for a while longer, hawked and spat into the darkness. The docks weren't exactly the warmest place to be, with the cold stream of water giving off a nasty draft as it went. Soon enough, Streamy took some steps and paced around. He was used to his customers being late, sometimes, as the life of an outlaw wasn't something to be hurried in.
Waiting for about a quarter of an hour, Streamy sharpened his ears. He heard boots stepping on the planks of the wharfs, coming closer from the opposing direction he had came from. The broker hugged the darkness and took a final glance around - he always picked the meeting places with care. There were at least three main routes leading out of the place, and he had some tricks up his sleeve, as well. It was time to exchange some information for some nice copper pieces.
The figure slowed down and quieted down his pacing even further, reducing the amount of noise to a near minimum. Streamy saw the silhouette of the hooded man turning into the alley, and heading straight towards him. There was an aura, a presence that made him immediately a lot more alert and cautious. He even considered fleeing the scene. His tongue found its way to the hole where a couple of teeth were missing.
Quickly Streamy pushed such thoughts back and thought of his reputation as an information's broker. He was not in the business of cutthroats and should not be treated as one - there were plenty of shadowdancers who enjoyed his services and would likely to be angered by the death of their informations' broker. If nothing else, at least one or two might consider robbing the murderer for the lack of better sport, dealing some selfish revenge, as well. With these thoughts, he steeled himself.
"Yer' lookin' fer someone?", Streamy whispered quietly from the shadows, and clutched a dagger in his left hand, casually yet firmly, willing to use it if necessary. He kept it out of sight to the best of his ability, as he didn't want to cause the meeting to go off with a wrong foot.
"I might", a hooded figure replied from the darkness of his mask. "You've something for me, I've been told."
"How do I now know yer not one of the guard?", Streamy hawked and practically spat out the last word.
"You don't", the figure replied coldly, and stayed quiet for a while. "This ought to pay off your doubts, however." The stranger took a pouch off of his belt and handed it over. Streamy took it cautiously and with the nose of an old merchant smelled that it was packed with silver coins. Propably stolen, but he didn't really care. No outpost or a barracks paid its soldier with silver, not out in the frontiers anyway, and since the thought of Cragsalt's city guard taking an interest in a small broker's actions this far out in the wild was impossible to even fathom, the broker accepted the stranger to be his weird customer he had been told about. He peered at the shiny coins inside and stashed the pouch away, nodding.
"A'ight, we're talkin'. State yer' business", Streamy sneezed and relaxed a bit, but still maintained his guard up - more than usual.
"You've something or not?", the figure asked, lowering his voice down. Streamy somehow got the impression that the man was in a hurry, or that he was impatient. Perhaps it was the way he talked? He couldn't be sure.
"Yeah, but I'd like ta'---", he started.
"How about it?", the figure cut in, clearly agitated.
"Eh", Streamy backed off a step. "If yer' gonna be like that, I ain't givin' you anything. My goods, my rules. I wanna' see the moni, first."
"As in cash?", Streamy shook his head in disbelief. For someone living off a shadowy life, the customer was alarmingly clueless to the jargon that the shadowdancers shared. "Man's gotta eat, feed 'is family."
Keeping his mouth closed tightly, the stranger unbelted a second pouch and dropped it on the floor. The chimes of the coins inside the pouch hitting against a planken floor clearly gave away the fact that the coins were echt. Streamy scrutinized the speed of the fall and the sweet smell - gold. This customer started to feel more and more out of his league, someone who had got used to getting what he wanted now, and the faster the better for everyone.
"A'ight, you good. Now I'll fulfill my end of the bargain", Streamy started to placate the man, as he knew that were this stranger to attack him, there would be no question of the winner. Putting aside the disturbing thoughts, he motioned towards a small box, just like any other, a few feet away from the stranger. There were some old rags, covered in mold, on top of the box. "There, open that one."
"I don't think so. You'll do it", the stranger replied back. His words chinked on the wharf like small chips of steel, cold and unyielding.
"Right", Streamy nodded, understanding the man's paranoia. This kind of shadowy business was a horrid tightrope of trust, suspicion and mutual respect, and this man appeared to have at least some understanding on how these things worked, even if he wasn't used to down-to-earth kind of outlawfulness. "But you keep yer' distance, a'ight?", the old broker snapped, in turn.
Speechless, the stranger backed off several steps and nodded at the dealer.
Streamy, in turn, stepped onward quietly and cautiously, thinking about the way he would end this all with his life intact. He remembered a small bottle of smokey liquid inside, one he had once bought from a weird witch living with a nephil on the outskirts of the slums. The bottle was to, when broken, cause a cloud that would distract anyone not prepared for it, Streamy remembered the witch's explanation. He had this bottle up his sleeve, in a handy contraption from whence he could draw it quickly, should the need arise.
Casting the moldy rags carelessly aside, the broker proceeded to open the box, keeping his eyes tightly on the stranger. The box had been exposed to moisture for a long time, but with some work it opened nicely. He grabbed the lid of the box and dropped it nearby, motioning for the stranger to have a look at the contents inside. Backing off, he gave space for the stranger to have a look.
The stranger approached the box as though it had been full of dangerous snakes, and peered inside. He took one of the scrolltubes, backed off a bit and opened it. The scroll within was written in low-quality ink on rough vellum, but it did its job. The corner's of the man's mouth twitched slightly. He hadn't felt this content in decades. Closing the scroll back inside, he approached the box and grasped the rest of the scrolls. At this point Streamy backed off to the T-crossing from whence he could leave to either direction.
"Yeah", Streamy nodded. "'twas a pleasure doin' business with ya'", and threw his wrist. A longsword appeared out of nowhere to the stranger's arms, but the old broker had faster reflexes than one could've believed just by looking at his rough looks. The glassen bottle shattered with a smooth ringing sound on the wharf and immediately fulfilled the entire alleyway with silvery mist, so thick that the stranger couldn't see the box he had just grabbed the scrolltubes from.
As the mist cleared, there were no people in the alleyway, anymore. Just some moldy rags, an opened box, and a faint smell of sandalwood.