Mists of Kel Doran
Season 1 - Dragon-Touched
Episode 1 - The Weave of Fate
Chapter V - The Abysmal Path
Chapter V - The Abysmal Path
Approximate read time ~ 10 minutes
The Abyssal Path was once the greatest highway in Eastern Cyrea., bridging the great cities of Cambridge and Sephyrae as it snakes along the Blackthorn Coast. The elaborate highway stood as a testament to man’s ingenuity as it traversed forests, swamps, and highlands along its route. Life sprang forth as watering holes became outposts, outposts grew into forts, and forts became great cities. Along this path sprang forth the greatest city in the City-State of Ventera, Wyvern’s Rest.
Much of the highway has now collapsed, some fallen into the sea, some swallowed by the giant highland grasses. The decorative pavement is now cracked and broken, its vibrant colors lost to years of scorching sun. Vines grow across the road in an intricate weave of thick, obtrusive foliage. Where once bloomed an endless field of wildflowers now yields the hallmark of a decayed way of life.
It had been months since anyone other than robbers or bandits traversed the roads outside of Wyvern’s Rest; but as both suns crested the horizon, a compliment of colorful wagons creaked north. Three carriages, flanked by blue-cloaked soldiers, made their way along the Abyssal Path toward the fallen city. Their colors were bold and exotic, a stark contrast to the giant plum of dust that lifted along their trail.
Inside the caravan sat several wealthy men dressed as extravagant as the carriages they rode upon. The walls and pillows were lined in the finest silk, but paled in comparison to the exotic furs and robes of the peculiar merchants. The gentlemen spoke of unimportant things and sipped expensive tea, or at least tried. Amoran Davilla, the most boisterous of the men, pulled his cup to his whiskers and attempted to sip. His patience gave way to frustration as the carriage hit a large hole in the road. His tea spilled over the mouth of his cup, all over his exotic robe, joining dozens of other stains from previous attempts.
“Err…Poppycock!” Amoran said. There were other words he wanted to use, but proper form and favor were paramount in a noble city like Cambridge. Rather than curse the ill-maintained roads, he collected himself and attempted another sip, yielding similar results.
A child-like laughter erupted from across the seat as a young girl amused herself at Amoran’s expense. “Such language, Mr. Davilla,” the girl giggled. “Is that any way to speak while a lady is present?” she said with a contagious grin. Camille sat upright and proper, as she had been taught her entire life. Her dress was blue, accented with a line of thin, elegant lace. It fell over the silk cushions to her ankles, while her curly black hair covered her shoulders and neck. By all accounts, she was a proper Lady of Cambria, even if she had not yet reached her twelfth birthday.
Sitting next to her, emerged a disingenuous chuckle. “Having troubles, I see?” Servan’s belly jiggled under his indulgent yellow robe, which bounced independent of the fat underneath. The constant jingle of jewelry around his neck beat to the rhythm of the broken cobblestone below. The trio had lived in the same carriage for over a week now, days from Tiriev and the Riverlands to the south. Dissension had grown as the men grew weary of their strict social customs. They hailed from different circles in Cambridge, and took every opportunity to belittle one another whenever possible.
“Perhaps you should whip out one of your little toys and lull the pot holes to sleep, my old friend,” Servan said with guiled sincerity.
Amoran hid his emotion. His eyes said what his lips could not. A smirk came across his face, knowing restraint would get under his rival’s skin far more than any outburst. “It’s a shame, really,” he began, after a subtle shift in his seat. “A shame that your biggest investment now lies in ruin.” Amoran’s curled mustache lifted and his beard came to a point as he adjusted his lips to remain proper. “One can only hope the REST of your money didn’t go to such waste.”
Camille once again giggled and her laughter echoed throughout the cabin. “Oh, you two,” she said, clearly enjoying the jabs. “Play nice now or I’ll have my father come sit between you.” She adjusted her seat, sat up straight, and smiled in hopes the wordplay would continue.
Servan simmered, but held his tongue and elected not to react, aside from his devilish grin as more tea spilled over his Amoran’s robes.
After a few moments of awkward silence, the carriage came to a halt and the wagon master rang out, “whoa Durran. Easy, Felner.” As the caravan came to a stop, a final “whoooaaaaa there.” Amoran and Servan paused their jabs, an anxious look upon their faces, then turned their attention to Camille, whose eyes were wide with curiosity.
Amoran pulled the curtains aside, but there was little more to see than overgrown highland grass. Determined, he slid across his seat and looked out the opposite window. Waves crashed against the rocks just a few feet away, coating the old man’s lips with the taste of cool, salty water. Servan reached the limit of his patience, then heaved a few times in an effort to get to his feet. After he found his balance, he hoisted himself up and reached for the silver door handle.
“What is the meaning of this?!” He bellowed before the door was even open. “You told us there would be no more…” but his words stopped. Servan wedged himself into the doorway and stared in silence.
“What is it, Mr. Kendle? What do you see?” came the curious, excited voice of Camille. She slid her blue dress to Amoran’s window, pulled on the shades, and gasped as her mouth fell open.
Before them lay the sprawling city walls of Wyvern’s Rest. Though the walls were crumbled and many buildings had collapsed, signs of the city’s former greatness loomed before them. Towers stood defiant and the roofline of an old inn peaked above the skyline.
Amoran grew frustrated at everyone’s reaction, unable to see for himself. He tried to peer around the large man’s yellow silk robes, but was unable to find daylight; so he forced his way through the window on Camille’s side of the carriage, then craned his body around to sit on the narrow windowsill.
Though the city itself was quite a spectacle, Amoran’s eyes fixed themselves on something more sinister. Hundreds of pikes lined the highway that lead to the great gates, remains of their victims still impaled upon them. Their bodies sat silent, a gory reminder of crueler times. Though the great city fell from grace nearly a decade ago, the atrocities committed against its citizens are still displayed to this day.
“It would seem even the smallest child was not safe from Petr D’Vayne’s justice,” Servan said, though it was not clear who the comment was directed toward. He held onto the last word longer than he had intended, his teeth clenched at the thought. Along with the pirates and criminals of the day hung several smaller bodies. The sour merchant grew soft while he imagined what grievance would see a child impaled in a public display of cruelty.
Amoran’s words were more difficult to come by. He tugged at his mustache while he stared at the bodies. His eyes watered as they focused on a pair hanging among the masses. Without a word, the old man climbed down from the carriage window and worked his way in front of the caravan. His feet carried him forward, but his head never turned and his gaze never wavered.
As the other eccentric merchants gathered around, Servan studied his old rival. Amoran strolled farther from the safety of the Cambrian guards and Servan’s curiosity could take it no longer. “Eh…old friend?” he said in a voice of concern. “They’re dead, you know,” he continued, not sure what words would distract the pensive man’s course.
As the merchants observed their peer, a blue flash shot from the carriage and bounded up the broken cobblestone. “Cami!” shouted the Cambrian Lieutenant. The soldier leapt off his horse and sprinted after the little girl, his hand gripping the hilt of his weapon at all times. “Camille…Stop!” he cried, desperation in his voice.
Servan grew impatient. He and Amoran were business rivals, but their long trip from Cambria had brought a tentative truce…at least, a cease-fire. “I say, Amoran. Do you think we should be going now?” he said, but there was no response. His face turned purple as he looked to the blue-cloaked guards nearby, “you there! Cambria. You’re supposed to protect us.” The Cambrian soldiers, however, had already dismounted, drawn their weapons, and sprinted after the young girl…and her father.
Camille caught her travel partner as he approached the pair suspended by the brutal wooden pikes. “Mr. Davilla!” she said, her breath shallow. “Are you ok, Mr. Davilla?” she asked as her small hand wrapped around his old, worn fingers. She looked up at the somber, elderly man, his eyes wet and red, a look of loss across his bearded face.
The echo of boots grew louder as the Cambrian Lieutenant arrived at the pair. “Camille,” he demanded. His voice was stern, but a look of concerned draped his face. The dark haired man dropped to one knee and placed a hand on Camille’s shoulder. “Sweetheart, you must listen to me,” he pleaded in a soft, fatherly tone.
“I’m sorry, Daddy,” she said. “Mr. Davilla was…,” she began, but was cut off by her father.
“Camille, you just don’t understand,” he said, his hand still gripping his sword, his eyes set within the rocky terrain nearby.
“My apologies, Anduin,” came a soothing voice. Amoran stared at the pair of bodies, scraps of cloth still clung to their ropes, then extended a hand toward the guards to imply their attention was not required. “This one here,” he began. He lifted a wrinkled finger toward the smaller body. “She was a little girl…just like you, Camille. Played hopscotch and skipped along the cobblestone streets…not a care in the world, I imagine.”
Amoran circled around toward the front, still looking upward. “Bet she loved flowers,” he continued. He took in a long, slow breath as though capturing a wonderful fragrance in the air. “She loved to pick them, and loved to give them to her mother.” Amoran’s finger transitioned to a larger body nearby.
“Her…mother?” Camille questioned. Amoran’s words had unnerved the little girl and she took a small step toward her father.
“Yes, my child. Every morning she would come to the town market…her little girl close behind.” He stared for several moments before continuing, “They all have a story. They all died too soon, and for the wrong reasons.” As he stared, a tear fell from his cheek to join the myriad of tea stains.
Back at the caravan, Servan cleared his throat, “You always get all wet in the face from looking at people been dead longer than I've owned this robe?” He continued, hoping to spur a bigger response, “that one there, the blue dress,” he said. “Did ya know her when she had skin?”
Camille gasped as she took a closer look at the smaller body perched high in the air. A small, blue strip of cloth flapped in the air, suspended by the bones of its former owner. The little girl looked down at her own blue dress, then up again. A sense of horror overtook her. Camille’s face grew long, and her eyes grew wide.
Anduin looked at his daughter, then back to Amoran. “Alright. That’s enough for today,” he said as he hoisted Camille to his shoulders. “We need to get underway, Mr. Davilla,” he continued as his military voice returned. He wrapped his arms around Camille’s waist, carried her back to the wagons, and beckoned the other soldiers to follow.
Amoran stared in reverence as he ignored the sarcasm of his old rival. The other merchants saw the emotion and scowled at Servan. Some dispersed on principle, while others remained behind to chastise his choice of words a little longer.
“Eh, right then old friend,” Servan relented. His eyes shot back and forth between the merchants and Amoran,
“Think it’s time to go then?”
Amoran stood motionless before his senses came back to him. He found himself looking upon the dried husks of a family long gone. He felt the tear on his cheek and the Servan’s grin of Servan from across the road. Amoran looked at the bodies, the city walls, then to the sea. In the distance, he saw billowing smoke from the wreckage of ships. He squinted to observe the chaos, but could not discern one ship from the other.
He let loose an ironic chuckle and thought, Well, at least I’m not having THAT kind of day, then looked back to the caravan. He felt sorrow as the little girl clung to her father and began the slow trek back to his wagon. He passed the guards and fellow merchants without a word. As he passed Servan, he took a step onto the rail of his carriage and stopped.
“Did you ever see it?” Amoran asked. “Before it fell?”
“Aye,” said Servan. “T’was my favorite.” He took his eyes off his old rival and gazed back into the broken city,
“This is where I got my start – knew I was destined for riches. Hell, back then, everyone was.” Amoran nodded in silent agreement. For several moments, both men stared beyond the crumbled walls, remembering better days.
“Right then,” Amoran said. “Let’s finish this.”
Servan grabbed the door handle and attempted to hoist himself up, but the laws of physics would not allow it. He pulled a couple more times before he finally just leaned forward into the carriage and allowed gravity to take care of the rest.
A familiar giggle shot from inside as Camille found amusement in Servan’s plight. The wheels rocked back and forth, signaling the wagons were underway. Eerie shadows crept across the window as they passed under the bodies. Amoran leaned toward the windows and pulled the curtains tight as the carriage grew eerily quiet. Even Camille was silent as the shadows crept past her window one at a time.
When the caravan passed under the city walls, the cabins grew dark. Amoran, Servan, and Camille sat in darkness as they navigated the broken city gates. As light struck the carriage, their expressions changed. Everyone looked outside their windows in silence as abandoned, crumbled structures lined the road.
Servan looked to the frightened little girl and broke the silence, saying simply, “we’re here.”
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Mists of Kel Doran