Athril Mores stood at the edge of the world, pondering the metal grave. Waves crashed below at a slow, thoughtful rhythm, like the heart of Naya breathing alongside him. Athril placed a hand on the grave as he looked out over the Gulf. “I will not forget your kindness, old friend. May you find your place among the aether.”
The sound of footsteps broke his reverie, and he turned to see the Calico sisters in their padded leather uniforms approaching him from the bottom of the slope.
“I hope we’re not disturbing you, Lord Athril,” Aimee, the older one said, saluting. The tiny form of a baby Ravess perched on one of her shoulders. Its feathers were much smaller than normal, almost like strands of fur, indicating an unusual subtype. Athril had seen the girl training with it a lot over the past few days. She was convinced the beast would become one of the next prime defenders of their little outpost. “We have some news to report.”
“No need for the formalities, just tell me what you want,” Athril sighed. The decade he felt like he had aged in the past few days came out as he said that. They were not the words of a leader come to conquer.
“We’ve finished mapping out the area,” Aimee continued. “The masons back at the camp think they have a solid wall design that can house over a thousand people.”
“Oh!” Cadri chimed in, brimming with excitement. “And with your approval, they say they can have the walls built within a month! And I also heard that they’re outlining ideas for future wall expansions, once we reach capacity. Athril’s Edge will be a bustling city in no time!”
Athril glanced back to the gravestone. “It’s called Greydale,” he muttered under his breath.
“I’m sorry?” Aimee said, taking half a step closer.
He turned around to address them. “This establishment is called Greydale. I didn’t mount this expedition and march halfway down the continent to take orders from the likes of you. There will be no talk of wall expansions. I don’t want Greydale to be a bustling city. It was never meant to be a bustling city. I picked this spot because we only have to defend ourselves on two sides. The further our breadth of walls, the more we area we have to protect and the greater risk we run of a breach and succumbing to the Wilds!” He took a breath and realized how tightly his hands were balled into fists. He had been yelling again. Damn.
The Calico sisters seemed a bit stunned at his outburst. Aimee regained her composure but was careful not to offend him again. “Apologies, sir. We’re sorry to disturb you. Rest assured that the aether beast population in the immediate area has been dealt with. There will be no expected danger to the encampment for the next several days, but we still have trainer patrols running perimeter constantly.”
Athril nodded. “Good.”
“Sir?” Cadri said, avoiding his gaze as she recovered from Athril’s rage. “T-the reason we came to see you. The wall designs? You’re the only one that can approve them.”
“I’m sure they’re no different from the walls at Redview or Trellin,” Athril said.
“Not quite, sir,” Aimee said. “The masons explained that the saltwater from the Gulf would erode the wooden supports in the walls much more quickly than in the north. If we made them using the conventional method they would fall into disrepair nearly three times as fast.” She frowned and scratched the back of her head. Her Ravess squawked in agreement, and she moved her hand to start petting it. “Or, something like that. With all due respect, it’s best you hear it from them, sir. They can explain it better than me.”
“Nothing is ever simple,” Athril sighed.
“Although,” she added. “Maybe you could discuss with them the possibility of making the walls out of pure concrete instead of segmented modules. If we don’t want to worry about future expansions, we don’t need to build the wall to be portable. We wouldn’t have to worry about the wood at all.”
“No,” Cadri said. “Walls aren’t modulated just to be moved. If they’re structured in chunks they are easy to replace in times of need. A portion can be torn down by wild aether beasts and replaced by a new one within a day if the new wall segment is ready to be implemented. The segmentation may make the overall strength of a wall weaker, but the beasts aren’t smart enough to capitalize on it, and the convenience of maintenance more than makes up for it.”
Athril nodded approvingly. That just about summed it up. “Have you ever considered masonry, Cadri?”
The girl shrugged, uneasy at the compliment.
Aimee grinned at her sister, then looked back to Athril. “Either way, you should discuss it with the masons, sir.”
“Alright, alright,” Athril said. “I’ll meet with them this afternoon over lunch. Anything else?”
“No, sir,” the girls said.
“Very well. Dismissed.”
The Calico sisters saluted again and retired back down the hill. Athril returned his attention to the grave and the Gulf beyond it.
“Oh! And sir!” Aimee shouted back. “If you ever need time to relax and… you know… forget… I know a few people. Just let me know and I’ll buy you a drink.”‘
“Much appreciated, Aimee,” Athril smiled as he called back.
Soon, the only sound was the rising and falling of the waves as they beat against the shoreline of the cliffs below. Naya herself voiced her approval of the settlement in the steady heartbeat of those waves. Not Athril’s Edge.
It wasn’t fame he was after. Naming the town after himself seemed ridiculously self-serving. Better to name it after somebody more selfless.
He nodded his thanks to the metal gravestone once more, then made to leave down the slope and into the campsite below.
The foundation of a city newly forged.