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Even if he finds out, what would he do? the scribe thinks as she double checks her bag. Spellbook, regs, notebook, ink, pens. Go to bank for some gold, then it's time to go!
The guard captain drops by once a day. The scribe planned to leave as soon as he left, which wasn't until mid-afternoon. Nightfall was her deadline to return. She wasn't afraid of night time in Umbra, at least not more than a little, but Stark would know where she was if there were no lights on after it got dark. And it would be dark. The shadow moon would fill the sky this night.
He came, then went, then so did she. She popped into Luna, withdrew some gold, and stood before the pulsing blue glow of Luna's moongate.
One step, and she'd be there.
Her rapidly pounding heart accompanied the slow rhythm of the gate as she hesitates. The stories always sounded like stories. Exaggerations. But they were hard to wipe from her mind no matter how hard she tried.
She takes a deep breath as the quiet hum of the moongate calms her.
The moongates were discovered centuries ago, when Luna and Umbra were pieces of the great kingdom of Britain. Everyday gateways vanish moments after formation, but the moongates are permanent. They've stood strong for centuries.
The first was discovered by accident. An experienced mage stepped through his gateway, much he'd done many times before on his way home. But to his surprise, he appeared on a deserted island.
He returned through a second gateway to understand out what went wrong, only to find the original still standing, even after the second vanished.
He stepped through again, and appeared in a swamp. Again and again he returned, alone at first, then with others. The destination would change, but the special gateway remained constant.
Word of the occurrence reached the ancient city of Wind. The Council of Mages sent Scholars to investigate. They quickly determined it was the location that made the difference, and not the caster nor what he used and how he used it.
Some apprentices were sent across the land forming gateways one pace after another. After some time, the second was found, and a flood of mages oined the search. One after another they were discovered. First, near major cities, then towns, then villages, and then the wilds. The benefits to trade were obvious, and new cities bloomed where none had existed.
These gateways were connected. Step through one, and appear out of another. As each was discovered they became part of the network. The destination depended on the phase of the moon, and so they became known as moongates. Eventually even that limitation was lifted.
Then Britain shattered, factions split, tensions flared, and the paladins and necromancers went to war. Luna tweaked it so travel from Umbra's gate was blocked, and Umbra replied in kind. But the seals have been released.
A proposal was made, the Reunification proclaimed, and the gates have been opened.
Well... here goes. Melfina exhales and steps through.
She coalesces, takes a look, closes her eyes, and gives her head a little shake. She opens them again and it's still the same. Barren wilderness.
Where's the city! The scribe quickly turns around and the city enters her view. Oh. Yeah, Melfina thinks, slightly embarrassed. Luna's moongate was the only one located in the heart of the city, right next to the bank. At least Umbra's was within the city boundaries.
She pulls out her notebook:
The city is bleak and lifeless. Everything is made of the same charcoal colored stone, both the buildings and the roads, with touches of red here and there. The roads are randomly arranged. Trees grow throughout the city, yet are only an imitation of life as they remain leafless despite the fact that spring has already arrived.
She puts the notebook away and let's her gaze fall over the city. Hmmm... which way... She shrugs and heads north.
While she sees a few people off in the distance, the city seems as lifeless as the trees. The ringing of hammer on anvil is the only sound to prove otherwise.
Melfina walks up to the smithy and pokes her head inside. No friendly greeting, no smiles of welcome, not even one head looking up to acknowledge her presence.
"Hi, my name is Melfina. I was thinking of writing a book on Umbra, do you mind if I look around?"
"No," he says as he goes back to work as he immidiately dismisses her from his mind.
Melfina takes a look around, and it all looks remarkably mundane. Weapons, armor, and tools. The room itself had the same charcoal look inside as it did outside.
The biggest difference were the blacksmiths themselves. While Luna's merchants wear what they want, it seems a dress code in enforced here. They wore pants, shirts, skirts, and aprons of different cuts, but all were of the same blood red or charcoal color. They all had different styles of hair, but it was all the same ghostly white. Even their skin all looked unaturally pale.
She's seen all she needs, and approaches the blacksmith again.
"Umm... I'm sorry, I don't know your name."
He looks up. "Prentice."
"Oh... Prentice. That looks like an excellent sword, Prentice."
He scoffs. "I would hope so. I'm the guildmaster." He shakes his head and returns to work.
Uncomfortable and embarrassed, Melfina quickly leaves and moves on. She takes a look inside of Gravedigger's Apparatus, apparently a provisioner. Despite the ominous name and same dress code color scheme as the smithy, she once again finds the shop filled with goods that would be at home in Luna. Boots, maps, tools, and all manner of random but useful items.
I suppose we all need the same stuff, but I can't write about this! Maybe I shouldn't have come.
Melfina begins to head back to the moongate in the hopes that something on the way would catch her interest. One last sweep of her eyes and she sees it - the magic shop.
So obvious, yet it was overlooked. She soon realizes why. Each step increases her anxiety. The conditioned fear from childhood can't be ignored, but it won't stop her either.
She enters, and while the shop has the same oppressive look as the others, it didn't have the same oppressive feeling. The building was much more spacious, and it had the familiar smell of magical reagents that always put her at ease.
Melfina looks over the reagents. Some familiar, others new. Deamon's blood! How do they collect that!
And then she sees the books. The necromancer spellbooks. The cover was a dull, yet dark green, with a skull embossed in the center.
This is it. "I'll take this," she says to the nearest vendor.
"I can tell you're new to necromancy. You might want to pick up some reagents. They're not quite the same as the magery ones."
"Oh no. I'm not looking to actually learn necromancy. I just want to study it."
"You can have some for free. To get you started," he says as he pulls out a matching bag.
"Oh no. Really. I just want to read through the book and add it to my library. It's not something I want to practice myself."
"Are you sure?"
Melfina looks at the empty eye sockets filled with possibility.
* * *
Due to the proclamation of Reunification and a trend in an increase in crime, I wish to submit a request for the hiring of additional guards for West Luna. If approved, I would handle the selection and training, with these initial candidates to already have practical skills so they can begin immediately.
Stark, Guard Captain of West Luna
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