sabremeister: (Author)
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There were no birds. That was what first struck the traveller as odd. Sure, this wasn't a very hospitable environment, what with the thin soil, the jags of ruins poking through it every few yards, and the scorching heat, but there were plenty of trees nearby, lots of bushes and tufts of grass-type stuff - places for birds to nest and find things to eat in, in other words.

There weren't any maps of this region - at least, none that showed any details. There were also no roads - roads required maintenance, and people travelling on them to define their route. There had once been roads through this land, and even now he was heading along what he guessed would have been a major one, running most of the length of this peninsula, if the tang of salt on the air and the foreshortened horizon was any indication of the proximity of the sea. So he had decided to travel into the Sylliku Wastelands and make a map. And with a map would come the people who wanted to see what was actually there, and if there was anything that could be mined or farmed or stolen in order to make them money. And with people would come roads.

He was aware of the history - that a thousand years ago, an empire that had once subjugated the whole continent had been beaten back until just their first city was left, and then destroyed. These ruins he was passing through were probably another of those cities, one of the ones that was wiped out by the invading army on their way to the capital. If the few maps that covered this region were to be believed, he was still just over halfway down the peninsula, and it would take another week's worth of travel through this Gods-forsaken landscape to get to the site of the final siege. That was where he was heading - the site of the final siege, the last stand of the Syllikun Empire, the capital city - because that was where the best treasures would be hidden.

He had two shovel heads and a pick head strapped to his backpack. They were for the digging that would need to be done. He could fashion a handle from any bit of straight sturdy wood, such as a tree branch, using the axe at his belt. There would be trees near the final city, he was sure of that. You can't build siege equipment without wood, after all, and there must be some because a thousand years is plenty of time for even mighty oaks to regrow.

It might be dangerous, doing this sort of work - after all, he couldn't be the only one who'd had this idea. He was tough, though. He'd grown up on the streets of Zarbel, been in a gang. He could handle himself. Whatever, it would definitely be safer than staying at home in Chalgan. Right before he left, some foreign King had come to the city to try and persuade King Aspartane to join his pointless selfish war away in foreign parts. Even-foreignier parts. Blow that! He didn't fancy dying for some other country or their cause! His own country and its' cause, maybe, but definitely not a foreign one.

He was still musing along this line when he crested the ridge that had been getting closer since he left the treeline three hours ago. Expecting to see more of the same sort of countryside, he stopped suddenly. The ridge was in fact an escarpment, and the far side was a sudden, massive drop of about five hundred feet. He looked around, left and right, and saw no easy way down, nor any interruption in the line of the escarpment's peak for several miles in either direction. He had some rope, of course, but it was nowhere near long enough to get him down the scarp face. He sighed. It was nearly sunset. He would have to backtrack to either the ruins or the trees (which were even further away) and find a place to camp for the night, then in the morning start heading away from the faint traces of the road until he found a route down to the valley beyond the scarp.

He decided to find somewhere to camp in the ruins of the city. It took him half an hour to find somewhere he liked, then he plonked down his kit and fished out some old twice-baked bread that was pretty much the last of his food. He'd been hunting small animals and finding nuts and berries and things occasionally, but he didn't like living off the land. It wasn't in his nature. As far as he was concerned, getting food was a result going into a shop and taking it (paying was optional).

There was not enough wood for a fire, but it was warm and he felt pretty secure from any wandering animals - not that he'd seen any bigger than a stoat since passing out of Hadin - in the nook he'd found, so he hunkered down under his blanket, with his pack for a pillow, and tried to get to sleep.

Less than an hour later, the sun had gone down and he was still trying. Then he heard something. He came awake and listened. He couldn't quite place it. It sounded a bit like someone - several someones - trying to walk quietly. There was something wrong with the sound though, it was ... it was ... too hollow, if that made sense. Creeping feet should make soft, solid noises, if they made any at all. This sounded like ... dunno, like metal poles being quietly placed on the ground in sequence, if that made any sense. Which it didn't. He sat up, readying his axe just in case. He had his back to a solid piece of masonry, which he slid along until his spine found a corner to wedge into. He got his feet in front of him, ready to stand.

Something reached from above his head, past his face and grabbed the neck of his jerkin. He felt himself being hauled irresistibly to his feet and tried to drop, but the grip was too strong and the pull too swift.

There was enough moon for him to see by. He could see what had grabbed him. His last thought, before something clonked him on the head and unconsciousness claimed him, was, "Bone! Of course! Bone would sound like that!"

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