As soon as fresh air returned to his lungs, Maelys felt his muscles relax. Something about Previk’s shop made him feel old and dusty, as if the outside world might forget him if he lingered too long. The boy himself hadn’t been aware of it when he was inside, but being in the warm arms of the sun once more was liberating.
Now, to find Rozire. The sooner the better. The vial of poison he now carried in his coin purse was worth far more than he had expected. If he lost it on the way, he shuddered to think what his mentor might do. Lower Terrace wasn’t the most reputable of cities, after all.
He looked up to the sky. The sun was making its descent, closer to the horizon than the sister-planet Eranos. He still had time, but Maelys had nothing better to do than to go to the meeting spot. With how unfamiliar the city was to him, getting lost was a real possibility.
With a steady step against the cobblestone, he passed down the thoroughfare where people still mulled about. A few were getting ready to head indoors before the sun set, and others went about their business with a hasty gait as they tried to finish their daily errands before it got dark. He approached the marketplace, but not much produce would be sold at this hour.
The buildings of Lower Terrace were nondescript. In fact, many were smaller than what even he was used to growing up in Sedranon. They were made of wood with thatched roofs, and very few of them were more than one story tall. Of course, space was not an issue for the city, since it had no outer wall. It was another oddity, but understandable in this case. Attacking this city had serious obstacles, both physical and logistical. Beyond that, there was nothing in Lower Terrace worth having. Besides, any would be attackers would really be targeting Upper Terrace, anyway.
Maelys got goosebumps just thinking about it. The fabled city inside a city. The true capital of the realm of Tebrein, and in a way the center of the Aenias faith. Few were admitted inside, and even fewer ever left. Rozire was the only one Maelys had ever known to see the city proper.
And he would become the second.
Soon, he reached the agreed upon spot. A secluded patch of grass at the foot of the thick stone wall that divided the two cities. It was behind several storefronts, with no alleys passing through and, by extension, very little risk of anyone chancing upon them, especially at this hour. Most people would be in their homes by now, and the shopkeepers that lived with their business had little reason to even be outside.
An anxious glance at the sky gave him a view of mixed pink with a darkening blue. “Rozire better get here soon,” he muttered. He had tried to sound brave when telling Previk about their nightly infiltration, but in reality, the idea was terrifying. Travelling with his mentor occasionally necessitated being out during the Shadow, but never without an umbrella for some protection and not once had he forced Maelys to be out in full darkness. A lot of things would change today. Perhaps he would lose his soul and prove Rozire right about Aenias. He wondered if the vial of Red Teeth could protect him from demons.
“Ah, there you are,” a low voice stated. Maelys turned to see his mentor walking into the clearing. He frowned to see Rozire using his quarterstaff for support even more than he usually did these days, and his hide tunic heaved in and out with effort.
“Is everything alright?” Maelys asked.
Rozire trailed his free hand down his silvery hair, tugging softly at the short ponytail to pull out the knots. “Yeah, just uh… saw somebody I didn’t want to catch up with, is all. My trip was cut a little short and I had to take a detour on my way here. Did you manage to find Previk?”
“I did,” he replied, wondering not for the first time what task his mentor saw to if he had given Maelys such an important job. “He gave me a vial of Red Teeth.” At that, he grabbed his coin purse and fished it out.
Rozire nodded in appreciation, taking the vial. “Nicely done, Maelys. You must have done a fair bit of haggling if you managed to get this without much trouble.”
“Not really, I don’t think he would have sold to me at all if I hadn’t mentioned your name.”
He shrugged. “You used your assets to your advantage. Can’t fault you for that. He’ll wish to see me, if he knows I’m in the area, I suppose.” After a moment he frowned. “In the future, I’d rather you not mention my name unless strictly necessary, though.”
Maelys shrunk a little. “I’m sorry, if I’ve inconvenienced you, it wasn’t my intent.”
“No, no, you haven’t. But if word of my arrival spreads, I’m afraid our task will grow more difficult. We can trust Previk to keep the secret, though. You did well, in any case.”
The sky began to grow darker as torches were lit in the nearby streets. “Well,” Rozire said. “Looks like we’re right on schedule.”