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- Posted: Mon, 30 Apr 2012 01:41:31 +0000
Nero trudged down the steep hill, gently pushing branches out of his way where he could, and ducking under the taller ones. The multitude of trees made the ground treacherous with roots and logs, but Nero navigated the forested floor with an experienced air. His eyes roamed, observing the beauty of the land around him; but they always returned to his destination, growing closer with every passing minute. Zanithis. Nero liked to return here at regular intervals, to see if he could find news of his Mother. In such a huge city, the chances were slim, but Nero had his hopes that eventually someone could tell him where she might be. Smiling to himself, he walked on, barely disturbing the peaceful forest around him.
Despite his aversion to cities (and this was the biggest of all those he had been to) Nero looked forward to his visits to Zanithis. Here, he went unnoticed by almost all citizens. In smaller towns, his height and appearance always caused him to stand out, and he was often sought out by the denizens. They had no ill intent, but such things made Nero uncomfortable. However, no matter how tall or wild he looked, the big city folk had far less interest in him. Perhaps they had seen it all in the huge amount of traffic that passed through; perhaps they simply were busy with their lives. Whatever it was, Zanithis to Nero always seemed like another part of the wilds, where as long as you knew the risks and territory, no one bothered you, and you could go about your business as you pleased. Mostly. Nero grimaced slightly, remembering the time someone had tried to rob him. The city guard had called him a hero afterward, but he still would rather have not garnered all that attention when he threw the skinny man into the wall across the street. He would be more careful this time. He shifted the heavy Bowgun on his back. Her name was Diu Sagitta, and she was his most treasured possession. He prided himself on her creation, and on his mastery of her.
Reaching the bottom of the hill, the trees thinned out, and as he approached the road, they disappeared altogether. The sky was blue, and the rolling plains stretched for miles. The mountains behind him reached up to scrape the bottom of the heavens, and the sun strained higher to avoid brushing their snowy peaks. Nero smiled again. He walked on, wondering at the alien feel of cobbled roads under his feet. The walls of Zanithis rose slowly grew larger, intimidating and uncompromising. Nero approved. He slowed, matching his pace to that of the flow of travelers entering the city. The proximity to others was stifling. Nero held himself awkwardly, trying not to stand out. His 6'8" stature made this unnecessarily difficult. Nero cursed his height...again. The guards at the gate looked over the crowd attentively, one's eyes resting on Nero, and then on Diu for just a moment before moving on. Nero laughed inwardly at his previous analogy of the city to the wilds. He was not cut out for this, no matter what he told himself. It was better inside, at least. Passing through the gates, the crowd thinned enough for Nero to push his way out of it. Ignoring irritated shouts, he walked quickly until the people were spread out enough that he could breathe properly again. The claustrophobia was very present when he was so packed in. Calming himself, he felt a bit ashamed and embarrassed about his weakness. Nero walked on towards his favourite inn- The Wistful Woman. The owner was always informative and kind.
Entering the inn, Nero sat down at his usual table- mercifully empty. The common room was fairly deserted, with only one other table occupied by a pair of merchants nursing drinks. Nero judged them as having only arrived a few hours earlier than himself, by the wear on their clothes. The serving girl approached him as he sat.
"Can I get you anything?" She asked, a bit of wariness in her voice for the large man dressed in leather and fur. Diu also drew a slightly frightened look. She must be new, Nero thought. He shook his head to indicate he did not need anything. As she turned to leave he spoke quickly.
"Ann?" Nero asked.
She jumped at his sudden voice, deep and carrying. "Oh! Uh, M-mistress Ann? She's in the back. Do you...want me to get her?" Nero nodded, relieved he hadn't needed to say more. He was so bad at this. He leaned back in his chair and tried to relax. He had noticed that there were even more people than usual in the city. Maybe there was an event that he didn't know about, or a custom. Holiday? Nero hadn't been into those even when he had lived in the city, although some of the festivals had been fun when he was younger. He wondered what now was going on.
He looked up and grinned. Mistress Ann rolled across the common room, somehow slipping between chairs that she had no right to fit between. The huge woman reached him and grabbed his hand. He usually wasn't comfortable with this close of interaction, but she was a kind woman, and one of few people he considered his friend. He wouldn't want to see what would happen to her outside of her comfortable city, but she was a good woman for that. She had been a friend of his Mother's, which was why he always went to her first.
"Ann." He said happily. She chuckled.
"Quiet as ever, I see. That's why I can stand having a big ruffian like you around here. Well, I know what you're after. I'm sorry Nero, but I haven't seen nor heard a thing of Sarah since last time you asked." Her reply was delivered in a light joking tone at first, but was coloured with sadness as it went on. She had known his mother when they were young, and often when Sarah had left her husband and son for a while she would go to visit Ann. However, Ann hadn't seen her since the last visit, well before her disappearance. Nero smiled. He had hoped, but he had been at this for some time. He wouldn't give up now, or ever.
"Thanks." He stood to leave.
"Hang on there, wild-man. I've got something to show you." Ann took the hand she had grabbed originally and pulled him towards her room behind the front bar. Well, she pulled the hand, and Nero acquiesced to go along with her. Letting him go when it was clear he wouldn't run away, she rummaged through a few sheets of paper until she found the one she wanted. "Here!" she crowed triumphantly. She shoved the paper at him until he took it, and then motioned for him to read it. Nero grimaced. He was not a fast reader. His eyebrow arched incredulously as he reached the bottom of the flyer. He looked at her questioningly. She rolled her eyes, a movement that seemed to involve her whole body, causing her to sway alarmingly.
"I know you don't need money, but with the reward promised here, you could hire who knows how many people to find your mother! Or, you could ask the Prince to help you find her as your reward." Her brow furrowed. "Not only that.. I think this could be big. You know my instincts are good, and this 'quest'... I think they'll need you."
Nero was dubious. "Who?"
"I don't know! Whoever else goes on this. Please, Nero. Think about it." Her pleading tone and gestures spoke to him of sincerity and worry. Nero was doubtful, but if she was right, this was his duty to his country. Nero decided he would meet with this Jhandel, for his own sake if nothing else.