Lez let out a deep sigh as he finished the third involvement of the trilogy, “Amazing how much trouble a cursed ring can cause.” he said before letting out a mountainous yawn as he stretched.
Days before the learning of this place Lez had met with an unusual character, who claimed that some rather important people had planned for him to spy on some unusual fellows up in the rural areas. Where there may or may not have been a small war going on.
Lez had naturally waved away the peculiar man’s claims away, and he had even contemplated cutting the man’s throat in some dark alleyway, after all the man had given no countersign.
The strange gentleman then handed an alien gold coin to Lez, the Dungeons and Dragons game manual, and the trilogy of the Lord of the Rings which he had explained would tell Lez what the people of Techscope thought about elves and goblins in general.
Before then Lez had never heard about the otherworldly company as it was classified beyond top secret.
As the man had not asked for information but had only given it, Lez felt that he had just dealt with a crazy man and felt happy to be given a gold coin and four new books.
Then the incident with the Meet happened, and then Lez had been brought in on the whole end of the world thing, the Purge, and of course Techscope.
After those several meeting Lez had gotten a sickening feeling in his gut to the identity of the man he had been about to murder.
The bard admired the three books and the game manual that had been his bane for countless nights.
These Techs had many delusions about his people. The question was did those in charge want to play into or cure the Techs’ of their nativity? It was a question that was well above Lez’s pay grade.
The books themselves were marvellously well written and were of high quality despite the abundance of racism and the favouritism of humans.
Cursed object, evil tyrants, great battles, and ghostly stalkers. The book had everything including some romance possibilities. It was unfortunate that the Wood Elves in side the book were more like High Elves but that was just a minor typo.
The books themselves told Lez a lot about the Techscope culture. The books’ bindings, their interesting art, and their use of language spoke volumes about them. Books were still a rarity in most parts of the world as scrolls were cheaper and far easier to make.
But what caught Lez’s attention was the text itself.
Normally a team of scholars or monks would be ordered to copy such a manuscript and because of translation problems or bad candle light inconsistency would become an issue.
Lez had unfortunately scrapped one such book because the monk in question had made a mistake in the final published manuscript. Two whole years of work and now everybody thought the reason King Hugo had decapitated an entire village was because a withered old cow told him to and not a withered old crone.
It’s those kind of errors that wreak history and start wars.
But the text inside the books looked as if the publishers had used some form of template. Each character was flawless and aligned in such a way that not even the best cartographer could duplicate.
They were easy to read, easy to understand. Which made them that more pleasant to read.
A loud ahhh came from Lez as he felt his joints pop from disuse. “Never again.”
It had been a long time since the professional traveller had read such a long series. When he first saw the mountain of literature he had been intimidated and believed it to be some dark brooding monster that was in his way, one chapter a day he told himself.
But the trilogy had been so grossly well written that he failed to stick to that promise, now his body paid for his lack of control. Gods what was I thinking? I am not fifty years young any more.
The scholar turned his head and winched as he noticed that the candle was down to a nub and his bowl of porridge was gathering a share of flies. Lez’s stomach growled as it began to eat itself, “Blasted Halfling.” he cursed and rose from his desk.
Shambling out of his tent the rain hit Lez like a slap across the face.
For normal people summer was about dessert heat and praying for a single drop of water. But in Un Neill summer meant getting out the family row boat to visit the post office and any heat involved was sickening humidity that caused you to sweat from your entire body.
In some villages it was like walking face first into somebody’s arm pit.
His hood firmly over his head, Lez trudged through the burning rain and the knee deep mud. His every step proving to be a constant battle not to drown in the muck.
Rain came down as if the heavens themselves had been stabbed with a knife, there was no lightning, no storm, it was just rain, rain, rain.
The Silth who had faced against nearly every known natural disaster and a few unnatural ones fought on till he finally reached the nearest shelter. All the while thinking sarcastically on how good it was to be home.
With one last push Lez reached the newly constructed inn and let out a breath, “How can walking not more than twenty feet turn into such a battle?” he asked himself.
He looked back over his damp shoulder and could just make out his tent through diving droplets of water.
Ballymore had just been little more than a farm and a shed before the war but over the course of the weeks since then had slowly been growing.
The main contributing force behind this expansion had been that Techscope had used its funds to buy the farmers out. Their homes wreaked and a mass of corpses on their lawn the previous tenants of Ballymore had been eager just to abandon everything.
In what seemed like over night Techscope had built a sizeable trading post.
Of course everyone who wasn’t in the loop didn’t know who Ballymore was under new management and figured that the army or some other guild had built a two story tavern out in the middle of nowhere. But the clues were in the paperwork if you looked hard enough.
To Lez the inn was like an an single oasis in a desert. It was dry, it served hot food, the waitresses clean, it had good rates, the rooms were clean, there was indoor plumbing… Now that he thought about it, it was obvious that there was something off about the inn.
With a sigh Lez opened the door to the newly built inn and allowed himself his peace, but the peace lasted for only a moment as Lez was assaulted with the laughter of soldiers spending their coin and pinching serving girl bums.
As Ballymore offered the only civilisation for dozens leagues soldiers who had been stationed within the area were happy enough to take a few hours ride to whore and drink their pay away.
Lez was happy enough to allow the soldiers to get drunk on cheap ale and stay blissfully unaware that the people they were meant to be watching owned this tavern and most likely made their drinks with their alien hands. What he needed now was fire to dry his coat and a nice hot meal.
A middle-aged she-elf in her probable four-hundreds approached Lez. She had a deep angry red scar on her cheek and worn eyes that indicated she had a litter of bastard kids running around probably holding up a bank somewhere.
“W’at can I do for ya, governor?” The woman said with an accent that Lez suspected came from the south part of Un Neill.
Lez handed the woman his coat which weighed enough that Lez suspected that it contained enough water to fill a lake. “Please see that this finds a warm spot to dry. I also seek a good meal in a private spot,” His eyes narrowed on the woman and his voice lowered in tone. “and some company to share.”
The waitress didn’t blush, and didn’t try to play coy. Lez suspected that she had more soldiers passing through per day then the local barracks had since it got built.
“Very well my lord. Just give me a minute.” The waitress said sounding bored.
As the waitress went to about her duty Lez was absorbed in the room.
It was the size of a mansion but wasn’t as nearly as grand. It was practical with little decoration or grandeur. The designers probably had dreams of non-stop parties and orgies.
John and Jessy could have easily have played their little game in here several days ago instead of the cramped little shed they had before. Lez suspected that the two were trying not to advertise that they frequented this town else people would start to investigate into who owned the place.
Once again Techscope seriously underestimated their neighbours, and once again the Silth were not ready to point out to their new neighbours that fake corporations no one has ever heard about typically invest into towns in the middle of nowhere.
The waitress returned with a tray of steaming bread and two full bowls of stew, “This way my lord.” she said and didn’t bother to check over her shoulder to see if he was following.
There was also something else that was unique about the establishment Lez thought to himself as he was lead to the back room. The inn was owned by the company John and Jessy worked but it was managed and run entirely by war torn widows.
The managers, kitchen staff, accountants, the bouncers all of them were female Silth who had lost someone in the war. Some of them were were in fact ex-camp whores and soldiers who had nowhere else to go and who were little better than destitute.
Lez didn’t know how many of them knew exactly who paid their wags and suspected the she-elves didn’t particularly care. A paid job in the current economy that involved some level of respect was more than most uneducated women could ever hope for.
Already the inn had about thirty employees with more coming from everywhere to get both board and employment. There was even talk that a merchant from Nail was supposed to be turning up to spy on Techsope and discover what the fuss was about.
Lez had heard each lady was well paid and knew from experience they had little tolerance for rowdy troublemakers who liked to pinch bottoms and got a little too friendly. These women had suffered enough in life and the company thought to make their futures easier. Or so everyone had been told.
Lez admired the waitress who was escorting him through the many rooms. She wasn’t particularly beautiful partially due to her burn and her many years, still she had a few of her teeth and had a dignity to her. Also, from his vantage point the woman had a very lovely ass.
“Are they treating you well here?” Lez asked watching the waitress’s bum sway as she strode on.
“I feel safe.” The waitress said and Lez took note that she had not answered his question.
Still, safety was a lot more than most people had.
Up stairs the waitress took out a ring of keys and unlocked her personal room. She entered and out of habit, Lez peered back down the corridors to make sure no one was watching him enter a unmarried woman’s room.
Husbands could get irrationally angry fast.
The waitress’s was little more than a cell you would find in a convent. A bed, a table used for a desk, and a trunk with a pitiful lock Lez was pretty sure a good well placed kick could unlock. It was a room that could have belonged to anyone.
As he entered the waitress quickly locked the door and turned her gaze at Lez, no longer did they hold the dull light of a she-elf who was little more than a servant, but a stern coldness that caused Lez to flinch.
“What have you learned?” The waitress asked in a professional manner.
Lez let out his breath and gestured for his bowl of stew. “May I eat first, Nancy?”
The waitress gave Lez a frown and almost threw the twin bowls on her desk, spilling some of the contents. “Enjoy.”
Lez sat at the table and didn’t mind that his contact did not wish to join him. In-between bites he explained what he had recently learned from the books, which was nothing new.
Lez didn’t know what Nancy expected of him.
Being from the city, Nancy probably had reports coming at her from all direction. But this was the country, nothing much happened out here except the occasional livestock molestation and episodes of incest.
Farmer Geff didn’t plan on raising an army of mutated carrots in an attempt to usurp the throne, likewise the other farmers in the area were not in some cult trying to bring terrible gods to the primordial plain. Of course they could be doing that, but it was highly unlikely.
Nothing happened here except that a guard might off himself out of boredom or try to use his rank to have sex with new the boy.
Lez watched Nancy’s expression as he finished his meal and his investigation, he could see the gears in her head move but he had no idea where they turned. Nancy, like himself were just low level informants and information gatherers.
“What did you hear.” Lez asked.
“I heard young Jessy got into a spot of trouble with Dean Nickell.” Nancy said. “Some pretty boy Silth, who all the younger girls here said they would like to ride went into her tent.”
There was a roguish smile on Lez’s face, “Should I be jealous?”
“From what I tell you couldn’t lick this bloke’s boots.”
Nancy eyed Lez as if wondering if she should care to give him some information. “That Soire girl and that demon boy fucked two nights back.”
Lez was appalled such a fine woman would curse, but shrugged. “Inebriation does tend to make to lower one’s inhibitions.”
“Yeah, well the rumour mill was just getting started on that when Vanasher. You know that dean at the academy. The one that sucked down more cocks than her older sister, is trying to set up a meeting.”
Lez held his chin in his hands and thought hard. “Nickell is playing games as always. This Silth who is supposed to put me to shame. What do you know of him?”
Nancy shook her head. “Calls himself Mister Black. Something about his eyes. People think he is a demon, don’t know. Heard his clothes are so fine that they are worth gold. From reports he walked straight into the jungle.”
“Right through the invisible wall?” Lez said, shocked.
“Didn’t stop. Just walked right into the jungle” Nancy answered. “Sergeant McKellen is mighty mad no one saw him exit it and told him.”
Lez pondered this event. Vanasher Nickell was highly ambitious and it was well known that she had eyes on the Academy head master’s seat. She desired to leave her mark on the world, and becoming the first first female head mistress would assure her position in the history book for good or ill.
There were also rumours that she had been infected and in her state was subjected to humiliation from the previous administration.
Since what people were calling now as the Purge there had been several accidents at the Academy.
Vanasher was the voice of the female students and staff, who saw her as a weapon of vengeance against their male oppressors.
“It is still too early to assume anything.” Lez said wiped the crumbs off his face.
Nancy watched Lez for a moment as the bard cleared himself up. With a shrug she began to disrobe.
Seeing this Lez also began to undress himself. It had almost been an entire two days since he had been with a woman, and he hoped that this uncharacteristic bit of celibacy was never going to turn into a habit.
The things I do in service of my country. Lez mused as he removed his shoes.