“So,” Maelys began. “What exactly is the plan here?”
Rozire tucked the Red Teeth into his vest and stepped closer to his pupil and the inner wall. “It’s pretty simple, really. Not even somebody as thick as you could mess this up.” He gave a smirk at the jab. “We scale the wall, sneak through the Meadows between the cities, try not to die, then once we get to the wall of Upper Terrace, we scale that one.”
“I feel as though some important details are missing for one of those steps,” Maelys gulped.
“You’ve never scaled a wall before?”
“I meant the ‘trying not to die’ part.”
“You’ve never tried to not die before?”
“Well, travelling with you has given me some practice, I admit.” He pulled the umbrella off the loop to his side and unfolded it. “But I’d still like more specific information on how we’re avoiding death.” As he said this, Rozire started eyeing the wall more closely, looking for a good spot. The wall wasn’t very imposing. Too tall to see over, but not high enough to require a ladder to scale, if one had the dexterity.
Rozire did, even if his age was becoming more and more of a limiting factor as days passed. Leaning his staff on the side, he grabbed the top and heaved himself up, and with a grunt of pain rolled himself over onto the wall. “Well, I’ll tell you this,” he replied, catching his breath. With a long exhale he presented the purple vial from his vest again. “This is our ticket to safety.”
“We’re going to poison somebody?”
“I didn’t send you to get a bouquet of flowers, boy.”
“We’re hinging all of this on a little bottle? What if that plan fails?”
Rozire thought about that for a second. “If that plan fails, we’ll just use it anyway. Look, don’t worry about the details until we’re in the moment. Don’t you trust me?”
“A little too much, I think.”
“Good,” his mentor smiled. “And put away that umbrella. I’ve humored you these past few weeks but really, it’s useless. I’ve always found that particular custom of your people rather silly.”
“It keeps away the demons!” Maelys stammered. He clung to the handle with a firm grip.
“Boy if there really were any demons that came out at night, I don’t think being indoors would do you any good.”
“If the stars can’t see us, their minions won’t know where to find us. Don’t you know anything about the Aenias faith?”
“If the stars can’t see you? Do you realize how ridiculous that sounds?”
“Well, thousands of people live in Tebrein. Maybe tens of thousands. If it’s safe to go out at night, I think word would have spread by now.”
“Remind me, who’s the mentor here?” he replied with a raised eyebrow. “Look, if any demons come, I’ll handle them, got it?”
Maelys sighed, folding his umbrella back up with a grumble.
“If we die, I’ll take the full blame,” Rozire added. “Hand me my staff would you?”
He complied, and after his mentor took it he offered a hand to help Maelys up, but instead, the boy grabbed the ledge and threw himself upwards rolling into a crouch once he had scaled it.
“I see your agility has improved to match your new height,” Rozire frowned.
“You’re just getting old,” Maelys shot back. It only elicited a shrug from his mentor. He turned his attention to what lay before them, and the view would have been incredible if the growing twilight didn’t fill him with fear.
The other side of the wall was a stark contrast from the thatched roofing and cobblestone streets of Lower Terrace. It was filled with the deep green of trees and various flora, and the flowing landscape rose and dipped with small hills and valleys. The occasional creek peeked in and out of sight between the forest canopy. The Meadows was a conclave of nature’s beauty, and it served as a barrier in between the two largest cities of Tebrein.
In the center of the Meadows was a giant pedestal, and atop that was Upper Terrace. It was little more than a silhouette in the growing darkness, but even in the distance Maelys could see the shape of buildings that were far larger than any he had ever seen. Unless the light messed with his perception, many of the structures had to be four stories tall, if not more.
“What do you think?” Rozire asked.
“It’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen,” he said, breathless.
“You say that everywhere I take you,” he chided. “Give me something a little more unique for the capital of Tebrein, would you?”
“If it’s as dangerous as you say, it’s at least a beautiful place to die.”
His mentor laughed. “That’s more like it! Come on!” And with that, he jumped off the other side of the wall into the Meadows.