The wheels creak ceaselessly as the farmer's wagon slowly teetered along
the cobblestone road. A chilly wind sweeps accross the slowly moving Invex from the north,
rustling the worn countryside clothes of the aged driver, who pulled a wide-brimmed straw
hat low over his head and urges on an equally aged mare trotting in front. It was a clear
sign that it was turning fall and Ereal had already begun to distance himself from mother
earth. Already the trees were of red and gold hues, and even the stoic Dursc were
beginning to shed leaves. While the beauty of the countryside was striking, the cold air
and withering plants only convinced the young man hitching a ride in the back to resolve
not to become a starving street urchin come winter.
Crouched uncomfortably between a barrel of fig wine and several bushes of hay, the boy pulls his weather beaten sagum closer around him, his fingers trembling slightly as he clutches a crude wooden spear resting on his shoulder. Between chattering teeth, the boy softly mutters a prayer for warmth. In front, the old man turns his head slightly, peering over bony, hunched shoulders. He chuckles.
"Not used to the wind of the plains, I see."
The young man's shivering form was reply enough.
"Heh. well, I'm seeing more of your type coming down this road. Ye know, Argosian folk and all." The old man's speech is crisp and surprisingly clear, crackling through the cold air.
Over his knees pulled up against his chest, the boy gazes down at the muddy bank beyond the cobblestone, watching reeds slowly float down the river nearly in pace with the wagon. His eyes close and he speaks solemnly, "If Argosius was what my grandfather remembers it to be, when the forests were vast and deep and the towns were few, I would have stayed."
"You speak smooth, boy," said the old man, grinning, "like one of the priests."
"My mother prided herself on the education she gave us." A warm, if slight smile breaks out over the boy's lips, "She taught me how to read."
"Oh, she a priest?"
"No, a seamstress."
On the distant horizon ahead, the great grey walls of a vast metropolis stand boldly against the dark orange sky, like the defiant cliff against the waves. The rooster cries across the countryside begin to reach a crescendo.
"Your mother taught you how to use that, too?" The old farmer nods his head slightly at the spear laying slanted on the boy's shoulder.
"No." The young man's eyes open gradually and his fingers wistfully run over the sanded shaft of his childhood spear. ". she did not."
"Yer pa then?"
The boy continues to run his hand absentmindedly over the spear. His dark eyes seem distant, as if not hearing the question about his father. A few moments pass and the farmer shrugs, turning back to the front. He nods politely as a small group of peddlers walk past. The chirping of birds and the gentle sound of the Invex soon overcome the fading roosters.
"So. why do a lot of Argosians carry spears? Buncha wild beasts in the forest?" The old man asks as he pulls out an apple and rubs it against his tunic.
"Yes. Wild boars mostly. Some bearcats." Replies the boy, whose eyes are fixed on the river.
"Whatsa bearcat?" mumbles the farmer between bites.
"Like a bear and a cat."
The cloudless sky slowly lightens into a pale shade of blue as Ereal continues his climb. The dark grey form of the unraveller hangs over the path behind them.
"Looks like we're finally here, lad." The old man spits out a seed to the side, taking another bite. The boy gazes up at the great walls ever gaining in height as they approach and begins to slowly move his weary legs, which have long since fallen asleep. His eyes turn back down towards the gates, catching the glimpse of a bustling hubbub of wagons, carts, horses and men moving along the road in both directions. The distant hum of the city becomes ever clearer.
The young lad hops off, steadying his sore feet on the uneven cobblestones. As he reaches for his spear, the aged man stops him, pulling up his straw hat to reveal a shrivelled but strong face, criss-crossed with scars.
"One piece of advice before you head off on your merry way, boy. No matter how good you get with it, that weapon of yours will not be able to solve every problem you come across." A partially destroyed lip grins widely, "Ten years in the Legio has taught me that."
The boy shrugs and smiles back as he hefts a sack over his shoulder. "No matter, I think I am going into weaving anyway, like my mother."
"Ha. ah really?" The old man chuckles, his veteran eyes filled with mirth, "Watcha going to weave with a spear?"
"Who knows? A story, perhaps?." He waves as he is consumed by the crowd, leaving a grinning old farmer to ponder what will become of the boy from Argosius named Atua in the eternal city of Iridine.