The New World
Thangar was a small town when its scale was compared to the towns in the kingdom of Aversol. Still, it was considered a pretty decent place in Silvervale, where all the territories outside the four great cities were abandoned by the country’s leadership. Due to this political collapse, most towns and villages had to take initiative, become self sufficient and indulge in networking with other such places in the kingdom, so that they could survive without the help of the king.
Territories that were not as important, like these towns and villages were initially governed by the lords of the kingdom, who served the king. Each lord was allotted a sizeable region to govern where they would collect taxes, manage trade and implement security. But after the Waynecastle massacre the lords of Silvervale were denounced by the king and their wealth and estates were ransacked by the royal family to acquire funding to fortify the four great cities. With this, the remaining territories were semi-officially abandoned.
However, common folk were not as adept as the lords at diplomacy or commerce. They didn’t have the formal education or the financial backing to execute these tasks properly and one could say that there was plenty of mismanagement. Self-sufficiency was not easy as it would require a place to change its entire occupational makeup. That would require a lot of investment which nobody could afford. The gaps could be made up with trade but that was an arduous task in itself. Security was the biggest concern of them all. Most people would turn to crime and join bandit factions which would raid the small towns and villages. Simple villagers and townsfolk aren’t armed or skilled enough to deal with large bandit factions and they usually fall under their dominion. This way, most of Silvervale had collapsed.
Thangar fared much better than most of these places not only because of their larger populous but also because of their strong leadership. The most influential people in the town had banded together and formed a strong committee to micromanage the activities of the town and sustain it. They made good use of the Celrock they mined from the caves and practised smart and even trade with various other places to cover the needs of the people in the town. They had also managed to farm several unique crops which were more expensive by themselves and only purchased mainstream produce like wheat and corn which were much cheaper to acquire in trade.
They didn’t have to worry much about security because the towns closer to the great cities had a much lesser chance of being pillaged or invaded. However, that didn’t stop them from not fortifying themselves. They had acquired arms for every single citizen and provided all of them with basic weapons training in case they faced a dire situation and luckily, they hadn’t come under fire yet. One could say that things were working out just fine for the folks in Thangar. The same would apply to most of the towns close to the great cities. They were all larger in size and were occupied by educated and skilled people in diverse fields. It was difficult to say that they were well-off, judging by the standards of other countries but they were surviving unlike their kin and could go to sleep in peace and full bellies which was more than what they could ask for.
The trip had been extended thanks to the gruesome attack they faced on their way to Thangar, the town they were currently residing in. The original plan was to stop here for a night before starting off again for the next town but Ravenna had been injured too much during that battle because of which they had to extend their stay here. Ravenna had insisted on moving on but all of them knew that they could only depend on her for their safety and they needed her to be in top condition. She didn’t push it too much either because she knew that her body needed the rest.
Neither her nor Tyler or Mirriam would say that they were glad to kick back and relax in this place because they were all concerned about the ticking clock. Nobody could be considered happy except Edward. In fact, he was quite pleased with this vacation. This was the first time he had stayed at a place for more than a day ever since he left Vereen and he had all the time in the world to explore every corner of Thangar.
First off, he was really impressed with the name of the town. He told his mother that it sounded quite regal for such a small town and wished his own hometown had a better name. He still believed that this town was trash compared to his own but he was fascinated with several things here.
One of them was the nighttime illumination. Because celrock was a local product, they had a large supply of it. This town had almost thrice the amount of lamps compared to the last one they stopped at. The place was so brightly lit that it was hard to tell day and night apart. This also made the air thicker because of the subliming celrock in the atmosphere. It made him uncomfortable in the first two days but he had gotten used to it by now. He had wondered if this would make people fall ill as Tyler had said but the town had a few healers who had helped curing any sickness related to this.
This was the second most fascinating aspect. Vereen didn’t have any healers. Instead, they had an alchemist who prescribed alchemical potions for any conditions. Healers used spirit medicines for treating wounds and curing diseases. When he asked around, he found out that alchemy was very expensive and thus, was not practical. This had come up as an alternative for alchemy but was not nearly as effective but this was all that people had. The use of spirits was said to age the body so it was recommended to not depend on it too heavily. There were also several side effects in the long run. He had spoken to the healer who had healed Ravenna and he spoke about soul-healing which had existed in the previous generations but was almost a dead practice in today’s age. He explained it as being something like healing magic which had enthralled Edward.
Then there were the morning drills in the town. Every man and woman would assemble in the town centre with their spear and sword and they would practice drills under the command of a retired soldier. He had even spoken to him when he came to drink in the inn where Edward was staying. He was the captain of a patrolling band in the capital. After the king abandoned the outside territories, he came back here to his hometown and decided to train and protect its people. He proudly spoke of how every person in the town was as able as a city guard in terms of training and he also told how he secretly wished a band of bandits attacked the town so that his people would get some combat experience and gain more confidence in their skills. He was very assured of victory in case something like that happened. After their hearty conversation in the inn, Edward had convinced the man to give him some basic training with his dagger.
“Why does a kid like you want to learn how to fight?” The man asked.
“It’s just that I don’t want to be dead weight in case we get attacked. I want to be more useful to my friends. I’ve created quite a few problems for the people around me and I want to be strong enough to handle the repercussions myself. I have to take responsibility after all.” Ed responded as he looked down at his feet. He remembered the past few incidents and wondered how things would have played out if he knew how to fight.
“Stop talking like a grown up. It doesn’t suit a child your age. Well, instead of training I would suggest you to not create trouble in the first place. I don’t think it will amount to much but if you’re that determined, wake up before the sun rises and meet me at my backyard. I’ll train you till the morning drills for the townsfolk begin.”
“Thank you Mr. Shane!” exclaimed Edward happily. He had then undergone a full week of training under the man after he woke up early in the morning. He made the most out of his time with him and spent the rest of the day practising what he had learnt. He received several praises from Shane like ‘you’re quite athletic for a kid your age’ and ‘your fundamentals need work but your tactics are very sharp’ after a spar. He told Edward that he would make a fine fighter as long as he kept fighting different people.
“You are the type that learns with experience. I don’t think you’re going to grow much with intense practice. But gathering experience isn’t easy either. You will have to gamble your life after all” he had said.
Edward had learned a great deal under his guidance. He had learnt various stances, lunges, pivots, dodging methods and strikes. His instructor repeatedly told him to keep his feet busy but Edward would keep his hands busy instead which disappointed his trainer. He couldn’t get around to improving his footwork no matter how much he tried.
I won’t give up that easily. Even Ravenna told me that footwork is more important than swinging your weapon. I’ll just keep working on it till I get it.
He had a lot of fun every time they sparred with dummy weapons even though he always ended up getting beaten up by the end of it. He found it quite exhilarating and the praises in the end of each session always made up for the pain. He could literally feel himself grow after each sparring session but he could still not even fathom barely beating his instructor. He had only managed to graze him once till now and judging by that standard, Edward had been stabbed, sliced and decapitated hundreds of times in comparison.
The past few days had been very good for Edward. He had seen and learnt so much in such a short span of time. He had spoken to many people and he thought that they were nicer than the people in his own town who usually ignored or slightly despised him for being a ‘jungle boy’. He didn’t receive any scornful looks or judgement from the people here. He had mentioned this to Tyler who then told him that people living in harsher conditions are generally nicer to their fellow men.
However, only one thing troubled Edward. He had no idea why he was here. Not Thangar in particular but outside Vereen in general. He had not approached his mother about this topic again and she hadn’t taken any initiative yet which was frustrating because she had promised him answers soon. Everyone but himself kept to themselves for most of the day and didn’t speak to each other except when they were dining together. Even these conversations were too plain and formal and Edward always wished he were dining with someone else. Even Ravenna was in a very docile mood ever since they got here as if she was sour about getting wrecked so badly in the last battle. He thought that she was putting herself down too much given that she had already done more than most people could. Shane had told him that even 10 of him couldn’t slay 30 zombies at once and that he didn’t know anyone who could perform such a feat except a member of the Astral Knights or the Reaper of the Vale.
Ravenna had told him about the Astral Knights. They were the legendary knights under the command of the Rilancian Emperor and even one of them wielded power equivalent of entire armies. He had never heard of the Reaper of the Vale but for some reason he didn’t want to ask his instructor about it after he had mentioned the name in a very factual manner. He thought that he would be laughed at for not knowing something so ‘obvious’ and decided to ask Ravenna later on. Still, his respect had shot through the ceiling for the woman as he wondered the magnitude of her strength. Even his instructor, who seemed like an insurmountable foe only paled in comparison to her.
I need to ask her to train me too. Once we leave this place, I’ll ask her to do it. If I do it now, it will probably hurt Mr. Shane’s ego. I need to learn as much as possible from her before she drops us back in Vereen. A small-town boy like me will never get another chance to learn from such a fine warrior.
As Edward looked forward to his combat training, he wished that his journey would last as long as possible. If it was possible, he would choose not to go back to Vereen and explore the places outside. He couldn’t remember when it started but lately, he had this urge of leaving home as if something outside was calling for him. However, he was bound by the laws of Vereen and also his dependency on his mother. Still, he felt that even if Randall hadn’t shown up that day, he would have left eventually. He wondered what his life would have been like if a weak kid like him travelled alone in the dreary world while he stared at the ceiling as he lay on his bed beside Tyler. He had gotten used to living with him by now whereas his mother still hadn’t. Tomorrow would be their last day here as Ravenna had finished recovering. He wanted to ask everyone to extend their stay here but he could clearly see that none of them wanted to. They all seemed to be in a hurry for something important which he knew nothing about. He immediately gave up on the idea because he didn’t want to face blatant rejection as long as he could avoid it.
Edward lay panting on a table at the diner. He used to eat breakfast right after his training which was much earlier than when the other three would. Ravenna would wake up an hour after him and resume her training despite the healer asking her not to. Tyler would wake up and just spend the whole day in his room except when he ate and Mirriam was the same as him. She would occasionally chat with either of them for a few minutes in the span of a day but there was not much activity apart from that.
There weren’t too many people apart from Edward in the diner as it was still to early in the day. This was his everyday timing for breakfast wherein he would relax and eat after an intense training session with Shane. Usually, the staff would be lax at this hour because of low demand but when Edward dined here, they would all be fired up and there was a very definite reason behind this.
Mirriam had given Edward a lot of money after he had lost his pouch to that group of thugs in Kirkpod. He himself didn’t consider it a considerable sum but according to the standards of others, 10 gold was a sizeable amount. Edward put this capital to good use by ordering the most exquisite meals for breakfast. He was unable to order the good stuff when Ravenna and Tyler were around because they frowned upon casual spending. Therefore he would spare no expense during this meal when nobody was around to stop him from doing so. Even though he never spent over 5 silvers a day on food, he was able to get the best they had to offer. Moreover, he was a generous tipper. He used to tip a silver to anyone who served him and also to the chef and such a large amount was unheard of for tips. Thus, everybody put in their best work while serving him not just because he was an extravagant spender but also because he was a well mannered, polite and lovable lad. He used to greet everyone energetically and talk to everyone politely and respectfully despite the difference in their wealth. He used to ask them about their day and their lives in general which not even their peers did. Thus, he was more popular in the town than he himself knew.
Edward was oblivious to most of it because he just asked people everything he could so that he could learn more about people outside Vereen and he found it quite intriguing. His only major takeaway was that he used to get special treatment if he tipped. As he ate the delicious blueberry meat pie, he pondered his final training session with Shane. Instead of practising movements, his instructor had given him a long lecture about the things he needs to keep in mind and also told him what was important to learn in the near future.
“Remember kid, it’s not about one’s skill with a weapon but one’s ability to stay sharp and be ready for anything when they’re on the move. Always stay alert when you’re on the road. Also, if you start to feel weird about a situation, slowly assume your fighting stance and reach for your dagger. It’s best to be inconspicuous when you’re in a face-off.”
“Always fight from a position which is advantageous to you. People generally ignore this aspect of fighting. You have to measure you surroundings and fight from the best spot that gives you an edge over your opponent and helps you focus on combat without worrying about other things. As long as you’re aware of your opponent, your surroundings and your footing, you should be good to go”
When he asked what he should learn further, Shane told him to learn how to dodge attacks. When he inquired further on how to train that skill, he simply told him to “get beaten up by sparring with a pro.” As Edward ran these pieces of advice through his head while chewing up his pie, someone joined him on his table and sat across to him.
Unaware of common mannerisms, Edward didn’t immediately mind it and instead imagined that such a practice was commonplace. Thus, he was also willing to engage in conversation with this stranger.
“I certainly love that pie. Nobody makes meat pies like that hag” he began.
“You’ve tried this too? Nobody else buys it” Edward responded. He concluded that the man was a resident in the town given that he knew who the chef was.
“Yes, that’s the only thing I eat when I dine here. It makes you feel a little bloated after the meal though. That is why I try not to eat it too often even though I love it.”
“Here, you can have a tiny bite if you want” Edward offered a quarter of the pie as he sliced it off.
“Ah, what a kind young man. Forgive me but I have to refuse. I’m working right now so I can’t treat myself during my shift. However, now that you’ve tempted me, I’ll definetely be eating some after I’m done with my work.”
“So you’re not here to eat? Oh well, you can join us for lunch. By the way what do you do? It must be tough if your work starts this early in the day.”
“I don’t have the most ideal job. In fact, I should say I’m overworked as I almost work all day. But I don’t think that’s a bad thing. I do love my job to a certain extent. Being able to do something that most people cannot makes you feel quite special” he said with a grin.
“Are you an artist?”
“Hmm, that might not be the worst approximation. Yes, I think I am an artist in some ways”
“You’re being so vague mister. Please, tell me what you do. I’m really curious now.”
“Well, you made it clear enough yourselves. You can call me…. an artist of death.”
This was one of my favourite chapters to write. I still feel that the experience of lore crafting was better in chapter 10 and the experience of writing full-fledged action in chapter 14 was thrilling in its own way, but this is something else. If you’ve noticed, the writing style is a bit different from the rest. This is more of a narrative description of events rather than elaborative and conversational. This helps compress the story appropriately and improves the pacing, which has been my biggest concern so far.
I plan on continuing this style of writing wherever possible because the story is insanely long. If I build the world and the story with conversation, I’ll probably break my keyboard in the process because it would take tonnes of dialogue.
I loved exploring Edward’s psyche in this chapter. I feel like it has developed his character so much more than the previous 10 chapters have done combined. Yes, it has been 10 chapters since we’ve seen Edward’s perspective in the story. Given how he was so held back and isolated in Vereen, he has had no growth as a person. He’s spent most of his time in the forests so he’s still like an overgrown baby at heart. Only ever since he started roaming around has he begun learning about places, people and practices. I would love to explore his growth moving forward. But beware, he is not a predictable character even if he seems so. No matter what your image of him in the future is, I shall shatter it. Thus, I can confidently say that he is no ‘plain’ protagonist.
I am taking out the immersion levels by talking about this stuff in advance but I still like doing it. Well, we have a new weirdo troubling our little boy. However, something feels different about him than the previous folks. Let’s see what awaits for us in the future.