Copyright© 2015 by Allan Kindred
Trididium is a city of about five thousand people, with another several thousand people coming in to do business on a daily basis. It is the focal point for the fur and food trade that comes from the valley, the fur, ores and precious minerals that come from the mountains, and the food and other unimaginable and remarkable things that comes from the ocean.
It gets sold, bought and processed, and then dispersed out into the rest of the continent. There is not a single type of person you won't meet in this city. You have the lowest forms of life that will kill you and take what is yours rather than to work for it themselves. Then you have scholars and religious folk that dedicate their lives to knowledge and helping other people. Mostly, however, you just have everyday people going about their daily lives. Working to raise their families, or to make a profit so that their later years can be comfortable ones.
Even though war hasn't been waged in the western part of Liladintum for nearly forty years, a twenty-foot high wall made of stone that can easily be manned and defended surrounds the city of Trididium. In these days of peace, security is a little more relaxed. All that guards the western entrance is a single half-asleep Valley Guardsman. It seems that the sight of Tracer wakes him up a little, for there is no doubt that he takes notice of him and his weaponry as he passes through the gate. Tracer nods in his direction. He doesn't stop and question Tracer, but he watches him as he goes.
It's funny that there are certain things that can remind you forcefully of another time and place. As Tracer walks into Trididium, the familiar smells and sounds remind him so much of his first visit here, that for a moment he thinks he is coming to join the Valley Guard again. Perhaps it's just a deep desire to have a second chance at life. I'm sure he's not alone in that wish. How with perfect clarity we seem to know that we could do things right this time.
The smell of baking food, the many people and almost as many animals, combine to make an odor of home and life in the big city. Kind of strong and pungent to the senses, especially if you were raised in a windy valley, but nonetheless it speaks volumes.
Tracer looks up into the sky, "Okay, well, it has mostly cleared since last night's rains and I figure it's about midday. There is still plenty of time to grab a meal and to start looking for a job." Tracer claps his hands together and rubs them for a second, eager to get his Life Quest underway.
The inn he chooses is a little hole in the wall establishment. The type of a place you are most likely to find people who would rather not be noticed, unlike the good citizens of the populace. Even though he hasn't been an outlaw for almost ten years, Tracer finds that he is still more comfortable around those types of people. As opposed to the types that consider themselves without sin, and have a tendency to judge all unfairly who do not meet their criteria for a decent human being.
Of course danger still exists for him in a place like this, because in truth he didn't just leave the outlaw world because he grew tired of it. One of the reasons he left that world was because he was having more and more conflicts within the crew. Once he killed a popular outlaw because he would not watch him beat and rape a woman who most definitely did not deserve it, things grew consistently worse.
Also, he would watch one of his criminal comrades get their ass kicked without trying to help them, because they deserved it. That always seemed to end friendships in that world. The ones he didn't help, deserved to have some sense knocked into them because the people they were messing with didn't deserve to be treated like that.
It wasn't easy to hold onto the little bit of honor that he did have as an outlaw, but probably more than anything thing else that is why he hasn't killed himself yet for his crimes. Because he wasn't happy with the things he was doing back then. He knew in his heart and soul, what's left of them anyways, that wasn't who he was and who he wanted to be.
The name of the inn is the Black Dungeon, and rightfully so. The entrance is just inside a dark and dingy alley. The only illumination is a single torch hanging from a scone on the wall opposite the door. Even though it is barely past midday, the sun does not shine its brilliance this deep on the shady side of the city.
Now, outlaws are naturally distrustful of people they don't know, and seeing Tracer walk in doesn't seem to change that feeling. Even though he is wearing his sword at his hip and his bow across his back, it doesn't seem to relax them much. Without seeming to, they keep a close eye on him. Now being that he is in his travel clothing of brown leather breeches and long-sleeve brown leather coat, it is hard to judge his kind. Especially with his brown hair cut short and his reddish brown beard trimmed neatly in its fullness.
It isn't until he takes off his coat and his tattoos come out for all to see, that they nod to themselves and go back to their own business, forgetting him totally. Tracer takes a chair at an empty table, which is off to the side and that is barely lit by a lazy hanging lantern. He puts his back against the wall after making himself comfortable and waits patiently for the barmaid to come by.
She's a cute little redheaded thing wearing a brown calf length dress. "Hello." Tracer says with his most charming smile.
Now she returns his smile, but you can tell this girl has seen all the techniques of men, and is not persuaded that he is going to be any different. "Good day, sir." she says in her musical voice. "What can I get for you today?"
"A mug of ale and some fried potatoes should be enough, little lady." From the minute frown that appears on her beautiful face and the squinting of some truly beautiful blue eyes, he can tell she hasn't been called a lady too often in this place either, but she doesn't say anything. She just turns and walks off to fill his order.
Tracer has just about finished off his plate and is on his second ale, when a group of three men walk into the inn. Now what is odd about these three is that they don't have the look of outlaws, but perhaps mercenaries, or maybe even professional soldiers. They are well groomed and armed to the teeth.
As they are taking their seats at the table next to Tracer's, they make enough rattling noise from their weapons to wake the dead. Without trying to seem like he is taking too much interest in them Tracer studies them. They are all big. Bigger than him at six foot. But their uniforms he has never seen before. They are definitely not from the valley from which he hails. As thick and durable as they look, Tracer is thinking maybe the Dandum Mountains to the south.
"What are you looking at, sir?" Oops.
"I'm sorry, gentlemen. I meant no disrespect. I was just trying to see where you hail from, and maybe if I knew you."
"Our business is our own and we do not know you, so mind your own business, boy."
Now once upon a time being called a boy might have made Tracer a lot more upset than he is feeling right then, but still it seems to Tracer that they want to play.
With his most sarcastically sincere smile, he just raises his eyebrows up to them and stares for a few seconds more before returning to his mug of ale.
It seems to anger them for a brief second, but that is lost when the beautiful barmaid hurriedly comes over to get their order. Their willingness to let the situation go so easily tells him that they have other business to attend to, and can't afford the extra attention. In a different time that might have peaked his interest, but that was another life ago, and he is here to work and begin his journey, not to play with seasoned warriors.
The barmaid, after taking their orders and heading back towards the kitchen, takes the time to glance Tracer's way and shoots him a worried look.
Now Tracer's interest is really peaked. "I had been planning on leaving, but now I think I'll stay and order a few more ales and keep an eye on this very mysterious barmaid." You thought he was going to mention the warriors, didn't you. To hell with them, this girl has got him intrigued.
After his fourth ale he is starting to feel pretty good. So good in fact that he can barely feel his sorely aching feet. Now, back in his wilder days, four ales wouldn't have affected him so, but he hasn't partied much in these last years so his tolerance is low.
"At least one good thing has come from my recovery." he thinks to himself with a smile as he takes another drink.
Into his fifth ale, and to the point he knows he is going to regret it tomorrow, the pretty barmaid gets up and starts to sing a song, accompanied only by a small harp played by the middle aged chubby house maid. The music is haunting and the girl's voice is mesmerizing. About two verses into the song, Tracer's alcohol-laden brain starts trying to tell him something.
"Man, this song sounds familiar." Boom! It hits him like a blow from a two-handed battle-ax. "Hey! I wrote this song."
Well, he didn't write it as a song. It was meant as a poem. If you remember in his nightmare in the beginning of the tale, he told you his destiny sung to him to be a warrior poet. Perhaps not specifically what it always meant, but it does for him.
When the girl is finished and the place erupts into applause, Tracer is getting ready to motion her over to his table when a drunk scavenger of a man that has been sitting to his left, the warriors are to the right, grabs her and pulls her into his lap. She tries to pull away, but he just laughs louder and holds onto to her tighter.
"Come on, girly, sing us another song."
Tracer can tell that he is hurting her, and just when he is about to get up and take care of it, the bartender comes over and pulls her off his lap and starts throwing the man out.
The man jerks and twists out of the bartender's grasp and sticks a knife at the bartender's face. Without hesitation, Tracer draws his sword as he is getting up from his table. All in one motion, before the man even knows he is on the move, Tracer's sword point is resting just under his chin. He freezes and slowly glances Tracer's way. Tracer just smiles and raises his eyebrows. It's one of his favorite things to do in case you haven't noticed yet. He lowers his knife. Tracer does not lower his sword.
The bartender calls the man by his name, "Bray, go home and sleep it off." The man slowly nods, being careful not to impale himself on Tracer's blade. He slowly backs out the door. Tracer's sword never wavers until he is gone.
"Thank you," is all the bartender says to him before turning around and going back to work.
Now the warrior mercenaries are looking at him. He pays them no attention at all as he takes his seat again. His attention is on the girl who has somehow sung a song he wrote. She is also looking at him now.
"Wow, this is too weird." Besides friends and family, Tracer didn't think anybody else knew he wrote poetry and songs, and he certainly never did any for public hearing.
He is pretty sure he doesn't know this pretty girl. She is barely in her twenties. How could she come about one of his poems? Tracer's curiosity is killing him. He just has to know.
He motions her over. "Yes, sir."
"Do you have a moment to where I could ask you a question?"
"I guess so." she says in her sweet and innocent voice.
"Where did you learn that song you just sung?"
"My mother taught it to me when I was younger. I'd say about seven years ago."
"Who's your mother?"
"Why," she asks suspiciously.
"I wrote that song you just sung." Now that takes her by surprise.
"My mom is Sherry, and she always told me it was about my father who died as a warrior. The song is about a lost warrior, is it not?"
"In a way." Tracer says smiling. "Who was your father?"
"His name was Toldrum, and he died in the service of the Valley Guard fighting outlaws."
This is just getting weirder and weirder.
Tracer doesn't think he knew either her mother or father. "They must be in their late forties or early fifties, shouldn't they be?"
"My mother is, yes. My father would be if he was still alive."
"Do you think you could ask your mother where she learned the song?"
"I will ask. If you come back tomorrow night I will let you know what she says. Now I have to get back to work." she says as she is walking off. Then she stops and turns around, "Thank you for your help earlier." and then she goes back to work.
Now this girl has got him totally mesmerized. Not just about the song. If outlaws had killed her father, then why would she be working in a place frequented by them? Wow! Tracer figures his journey might just turn out to be interesting yet.
"So much for looking for a job today. Maybe I'll get a room here and start looking tomorrow morning. Yeah, I'll stay here where the pretty girl works."
There was once a warrior who dreamed of doing wonderful deeds.
But he got lost along the way.
A warrior poet did his destiny sing.
His paths were perilous.
His light dimmed it seemed.
Caught between worlds of pain and pride did this warrior ride.
The battle within took its toll on him and it seems he died a thousand times.
Always to rise and ride again until he found his way back home.
Only the scars in his eyes told of the stories he lived to ride.
A warrior destined to fight on the good side.
Perhaps it was that war that took the greatest toll on him.
Always in battle until he dies.
With a groan Tracer says, "Oh, I shouldn't have drunk so much last night." With every creak of the stairs he walks down into the dining area of the inn, his head reverberates painfully.
The fact that he didn't get much sleep last night didn't help, either. It's a small inn. It has only six rooms for rent on the second floor, and as it turned out the three warrior mercenaries are also staying there. Every last one of them must have had a lady of the night with them until the early morning hours, and the wooden plank walls were no insulation from the noise at all.
"It's ten already." Tracer figures he'll grab some breakfast and then go out to find a job.
"Great! The first time in more years than I care to count that I'm actually trying to do something with my life, and I'm going to do it with a killer hangover. Figures."
The food doesn't look too appetizing. Then again it probably isn't the food. It is probably the fact that his stomach is doing somersaults. So he just nibbles a little bit off his plate. Tracer looks around for the redheaded girl, he never did get her name, but she isn't there at the moment.
"Oh, well, hopefully I'll see her tonight. Ugh, that sun is bright." He doesn't remember this city being this noisy yesterday.
Being that he is already there, he asks the barkeep, "There wouldn't happen to be any work to be found here, would there?"
"I'm sorry, we just get by with the four of us."
"No matter, it's all good, besides the less I'm in places like this the longer I'll stay out of trouble."
"I am actually sorry." Tracer nods his head in appreciation for the kind words.
He may have become distant from the world, his friends and family, but at least he hasn't hurt anybody in the last decade, at least physically.
"Either spring is wearing on into summer, or the close confines of the city are making it seem exceptionally warm. Of course, I am wearing my long sleeved coat because so many people have a hard time seeing beyond my tattoos." Tracer often talks to himself.
"Well, there's something you don't see everyday; a mortuary. I guess the dead have to be properly dealt with within the city walls. Out in the valley we just say our farewells and bury them at their favorite spot when they were alive. No matter, it should be a quiet place to work.
"Excuse me, sir. My name is Tracer and I was wondering if you have any work available?" He expected a response, but not the one he got.
"You're hired! Can you start right now?"
"Um, sure. What do you want me to do?"
"Go over to the incarceration prison and pick up the two bodies of the outlaws the Valley Guard hung last night. The horse and cart are out back. Do you know where the prison is?" Tracer shakes his head no.