The spring thaw had finally begun to work its way north to Otreta. Rivulets of melting snow rained down from branches spotted with the first budding green leaves of the season. Marzena pulled her black cloak around her. The sun was not so pleasantly warm just yet.
The scent of freshly baked bread reached Marzena’s nose. She wandered over to the window of the opening bakery, and purchased a few small buns filled with meat. The flaky crust cracked open as she bit into it, and she savored the warm contents. When she had finished, she licked her fingers, pulled a cigar from her pouch, and conjured a small mote of flame in her palm to light it. The smoke and her breath mixed in the cold air and drifted away.
Up ahead she heard a commotion. She wasn’t the only one—several townsfolk began making their way toward the center of town. There was a gathering of some sort, and judging by the sound, it was growing.
Marzena’s boots clacked against the cobblestone road as she quickened her pace. She came off the side street, into the central square, and saw what was causing the scene.
Three riders from the Verdant Glade, mounted on white horses dressed in barding to make them look like the unicorns the Glade protected and associated with. Marzena suspected Otreta may never have seen such a procession.
She took another drag of her cigar. Standing taller than most of the people in Otreta, she had an easy vantage point. One of the riders—the leader of their little formation—stood out.
“Shit,” Marzena muttered to herself. “Gweneth.”
The well-coiffed blond woman astride her horse looked over the crowd, too, and her eyes met Marzena’s. This wasn’t good. She signaled to the other two riders and turned her mount toward Marzena. The crowd parted easily before the horse, and it wasn’t long before the rider stood before her, looking down with dark green eyes.
“Marzena Drosta of Gwalenska,” she said in an authoritative tone.
Marzena exhaled a cloud of smoke, regarding the woman for a moment. “Gwen.”
“Commander Gweneth Caldrin,” she corrected, unamused. “It is interesting we should find you here. Tell me, do you have information on the whereabouts of the Oathbreaker?”
She meant Listell, naturally. “You know I don’t involve myself in the Glade’s politics.”
Many of the townsfolk were now staring suspiciously at Marzena. Naturally. Everywhere you went, the Verdant Glade were the heralds of righteousness and goodness.
“Listell Mayworth is a traitor, a murderer, and an aberrant,” Gweneth said loud enough for those around them to hear. Her eyes narrowed. “We of the Glade do not look kindly upon those who would harbor fugitives.”
“Well I’m not so tall she can hide under my cloak.” She flung an arm out and her cloak fluttered out. Gweneth’s hand fell to the pommel of her sword, but she just smiled.
“We are in pursuit of the Oathbreaker. I trust you will not hinder us.”
“I’m just one prodigal Academy mage. What could I possibly hope to do against three of the Glade’s finest?” It was brimming with sarcasm, but not untrue. The oathbound of the Verdant Glade had enough magic of their own, and were trained warriors as well. Marzena didn’t fancy her odds against a trio of them. “Besides, last I remember, we were not enemies. My association with Listell was no more than yours. Less, even. I was just a friend, not a sworn sister.”
And you all turned your backs on her, she silently fumed.
There was a brief flash of fury on Gweneth’s pale face, but she composed herself in front of the crowd. She gave a curt nod to Marzena and turned her mount once again, rejoining her sisters amid the murmuring of the crowd.
As for herself, she slipped away into the side streets once more. That little scene was likely to make her unwelcome in Otreta for the foreseeable future. It might be time to head elsewhere.
Nothing new, eh Marzi?
[Note: I am starting to develop a history and world for some of my characters, but all of this is very much in flux. I hope you enjoy my scribbles, but any of this is subject to change in the future. Feel free to comment, ask questions, or whatever!]