Panting uncontrollably, the man slumped to the ground. His legs were screaming for release. Looking around, he saw a group of men just as exhausted as he was. They had been on the run for a week. Never being allowed to rest, they had not slept for more than two to three hours at a time. He couldn't blame his men for being so tired. His vice-captain, Olin, looked to be in the best shape. He called out to him.
“When everyone has rested up, take a few people and scout the area. We’re going to need shelter and a place to get water. There's a lake somewhere around here so look for that.”
Olin nodded and sat down to recuperate a little. A few minutes later he and four other people left their makeshift camp.
Seeing how pathetic his group was looking, he cursed his former allies. Their betrayal had cost him most of his men, all his equipment, and all his land. It was like they cut all his limbs off and threw him into the wild. Worse yet, if it was an external attack he knew he could have fought them back.
But this! Fyk. How dare they!
Hearing running, he immediately reached for his gun. Many of his group reached for their own weapons, weary of their pursuers. It was a very tense few moments if it was their pursuers they knew they didn’t have the energy to run. They’d fight, and most likely die, where they lay. To their collective relief it wasn’t their pursers, but rather the scouts that had left just a few minutes ago. They appeared happy.
“Captain! We’re right next to a town. From the farms I believe it's Bruyn.”
The captain wasn’t exactly pleased with the news that there was a town so close but there were potential benefits, “What are their defenses?”
“They don’t even have walls!”
A wicked smile grew on the man's face.
Bruyn, Alden Empire
Bruyn was a fairly underdeveloped town. For many years it served little more purpose than being a stopping point for passing convoys. The owners avoided paying the heavy tolls of the main road by passing through it. Over time, with the frequency of convoys and the general population in the area increasing, more people came to settle down. The abundance of fertile land, a quality that was lacking in the region, sparked a decently healthy economy. The wealthier families today were those who settled early and owned the most farmland. They were able to corner the local market on certain foodstock and made a killing off of it.
Even with the town’s newfound wealth, the awkwardness of its location coupled with the distance from any major cities made it rather difficult for the inhabitants to acquire much by way of technology or luxury. The convoys that passed through could only provide enough to keep the towns from feeling like backwater.
The baron that owned the town was a shrewd man. Bruyn was his main source of income, which was both a positive and negative for its inhabitants. He made sure the town didn’t lack in any way that would cause unrest in the common folk, but he also didn’t spend money on anything he didn’t believe was absolutely necessary to their livelihoods. Things like streetlights, a basic necessity in most places, were treated like amenities. He only had them installed a little over a year ago at the behest of a conglomeration of merchants that lived in or frequented Bruyn.
As stingy as the man was, he listened when his people complained. In fact, in the eyes of the people ignorant to his true personality, he was exceptionally giving. A kind soul. If one compared Bruyn to most of the towns and villages in the east of the Alden Empire, they’d understand why.
Opening his eyes to the familiar smell of his mother’s cooking, Kain sluggishly rolled out of bed. ‘Bed’ being an awfully kind description for the spring mattress in Kain’s eyes. He could swear one of the springs was actively trying to break his spine. He eyed the bed with a hint of disgust. He would much rather sleep on the couch, but his mother would give him an earful for it.
Town watch pay doubled recently, think I can sneak in?
If I thought wishfully.
They say you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.
A meaningless statistic if you miss 100% of the shots you do take.
Raising an eyebrow at the somewhat somber truth of that, Kain stretched a bit to wake himself up then slipped on his shoes. Heading to the well immediately after waking up had been his routine for the past few years. Passing through the living room, the living room and the kitchen being connected in Kain’s small home, his mother heard him coming and called out to him.
Kain. Good you’re awake. Deliver these clothes to Sandra," She gestured towards a basket of clothes on the dining table, "You remember where their house is right?"
Kain scratched his head, “Uhhhh. The house next to the blacksmith? Wait. No. The house next to that house.”
“Yes. On the left.” She turned and hugged Kain deeply, “Hurry back, foods almost ready."
Kain smiled, his mother never failed to brighten his morning. After picking up the basket of clothes he grabbed his hat from the door, it was the perfect cover from the sun’s deadly gaze and for his hair’s conspicuous nature, and headed out. He walked to the small brick structure they used to take ‘showers’ behind the house and got the large bucket. He’d get water on the way back home.
Walking briskly towards the center of town, Kain soon came up to the library. Privately owned and funded, it was rather unimpressive. There weren’t many in Bruyn who cared to peruse its contents. Peeking through the window as he passed by, thoughts of what book to read later surfaced. He had been reading a few nonfictions as of late and was pleasantly surprised at how interesting they could be. Mentally recounting one such nonfiction, the smoke rising from the blacksmith came into view. As Kain got closer, so too did a woman in what appeared to be pretty expensive armour. She was very casually leaning against the doorframe of the blacksmith.
I don’t recognize that armor.
After a few more steps in her direction he noticed the woman had no weaponry on her and her eyes were closed.
Now that's some confidence. Is she taking a nap??
Trying to glean some information about her body composition, Kain was openly staring at her body. She didn’t look particularly muscley, neither were her arms long nor her shoulders broad. She was slightly shorter than him too. He swiftly concluded she couldn’t get by with strength. Or size.
Technique is it? Or are you..
In focusing on the woman to his right, the path right in front of him was relegated to an afterthought. A mistake he paid for very quickly. While peering at what he concluded was a hidden dagger, he bumped into a man carrying a crate of fruit.
Momentarily dazed, Kain quickly regained his focus. He immediately readjusted his hat and helped the man pick up the few fruit he dislodged. Making sure to voice an apology, “Sorry about that, I lost focus for a moment. I hope your fruit is undamaged. Again. Apologies,” he left.
Not waiting for the man to recoil from the shock of suddenly being bumped and apologizes to, Kain hastily walked away.
That could have been bad.
You need to pay more attention to your surroundings.
That I do.
Sandra and Mark's house was approaching. Kain took a second to look over his shoulder to make sure the man he bumped into hadn't desired more than the quick apology he gave. Unable to see him, Kain breathed a sigh of relief and knocked on the door. Waiting a few moments, he soon heard the sound of light footsteps running down stairs.
Is Riley the only one home?
Mark and Sandra were the only two licensed doctors in town. They ran separate shops however. Mark was more of a traditional doctor, running what could be described as a clinic. Sandra, on the other hand, provided potions and ointments and the like. Kain couldn't fathom why they ran them separately, they paid more taxes and made less money that way.
After a brief moment Kain could see a cute little face pop up behind the window to the right of the door. He smiled and waved. The little girl yelled upon seeing him.
“Hi Riley. Can you open the door?" Kain showed her the basket in his hands, "I'm here to drop these off for your parents.”
Kain soon heard her scrambling to unlock the door. He chuckled.
Foods definitely going to be cold when I get back.
Riley was at the door of her parents' house waving energetically. Kain waved lightly back as he made his way back home. Looking down at the bucket in his other hand, he was a tad bit annoyed that he had another thing to do before he could get to his mother's cooking.
She’s probably started working already.
Feeling embarrassed that his mother was no doubt hard at work already and he was enjoying a casual stroll after playing a host of games with Riley, Kain quickened his pace. Reaching the well by his house, the line was much longer than he expected. Looking up at the sun, he had clearly lost the early morning advantage. Kain swiftly shuffled into line before it got any longer. It was going to be a particularly painful wait.
Today was one of those strange days at the end of the season where it got really hot before the cold swept in. Kain didn’t particularly dislike heat, but he did hate it when the sun decided to cook his skin. A few places in front of him, two men were talking about how they should soak in the sun. They lamented its upcoming departure and the cold that would replace its warmth. Kain quietly scoffed at them, he loved the cold. He couldn’t wait for first snow.
He couldn’t wait for the line to clear either. It felt like an eternity would pass before it was his turn. Even if he ignored his arms roasting, he was eager to get back home to breakfast. As he fidgeted with the bucket in his hand to distract himself, he noticed a few figures approach him through the corner of his eye.