When he reached the gates of the city proper, Maios had to wait in line. People wanted within the walls, as if they’d find something better within than whatever was outside. Most of them were peasants, although some were merchants, traveling with their carts, with their wagons, or with their oversized backpacks. It was easy to tell which was which. The peasants looked tired and simple. The traders often had an armed guard around them, and donned fancy clothes. One of those merchants was the wagon encountered back at the road. The merchant was busy explaining something to the guard, somewhat agitated. The guard read through some papers, surely manifests of some sort, lost in thought. The stock had been unveiled as cut marble, ivory in color.
Maios killed the time by suffocating it with his cigarettes. The tobacco he had bought from a traveling merchant was called Black Turtle, although Maios called it Black Death. For a reason. To call it aromatic would be an insult. The only thing the tobacco shared with a turtle was, surely, the sensation of a 200kg turtle smashing your testes with every drag. But it was cheap, and Maios had gotten used to it. Those around him had now; they were already getting the black lung as if they mined for coal. Mining for coal would be safer.
Maios’ turn came after about half an hour. The routine was standard. The baby-faced guard asked him his name, his place of residence, and his reason for wanting into Rharne. ‘Visiting a friend’, Maios had answered. The guard ruffled through his bag, although most of his attention was captured by the bloody axe. It had some dry blood on it, drawn from one of the killed wolves. The guard did not know that. There was little he knew. Were it up for Maios to judge him, he would’ve guessed the guard and his thin moustache were in that stage in which yes, they knew they had a cock, they knew it had a purpose, but they couldn’t quite figure out what it was. They asked him about the blood. Maios told them he had found travel. They asked him about the route he took. Maios rolled his eyes and said he took the road.
Another guard joined in, a veteran by the looks of his bored, tipsy face. After some murmuring between them, and the outrage coming from the queue behind, they let him in. They did tie a white ribbon to Maios’ axe, their bullshit law, as if this piece of fabric could stop the axe from splitting a man. Then they let him go.
The Earth Quarter. What a shithole.
Few would’ve made such remark after seeing the Dusk Quarter. Hells, the sight of a proper street or the lack of hanging genitalia was a grandiose improvement. The place was swarming with guards. They there mostly for the gate mind you, but it nonetheless felt like a secure place. The crowd within the quarter were hardworking as much as drunks could be. You only had to squint to see how almost everyone carried a flask with them, a wineskin, or a bottle. That was only in the belt. Only Illaren could know just how much booze they carried in their stomachs. Nevertheless, they had found a use for themselves. The main road that followed the gates within the city were littered with market stands. Once upon a time, this was a forbidden practice. However, the will of the people, so eager to ascend the mountain of both Rharne and wealth, had changed the laws. As long as the road was two wagons of width, the guards wouldn’t interfere.
The stands respected this, but those gathered around them did not. Poor were the souls trying to traverse this ocean of bodies. Poorer were those that traversed it and expected to not have a headache from the turmoil. All sorts of merchandise was for sale, and the tenders made sure to tell you as loud as they could. Repeat it a hundred times to cover for the length of the road, then double it to account for the tenders on the other side. Then add in the crowd, three per stand - a low number compared to the current number. Cylus had kept them hidden, but now that Ashan was here, the yokels came out to spend coin.
Maios, aware of the danger, placed his coin purse within his pants beside his biological currency. Were he more patient, he would’ve chosen to take a detour to avoid the masses. They weren’t against cutting a hole into your backpack and looting whatever they found inside. He knew, because he had done it in the past. But, in all honesty, he couldn’t be fucked to do so. There was something for in him in this city; not a friend, not a foe. It was an objective, a next step in a stairwell.
Whether this stairwell went up or down, he didn’t know. He didn’t care.