The Pyres and the Burned

Chapter 2

The morning had risen early; a slight overcast in the sky was threatening rain. Brenn put a large warmer coat over his blouse before heading down the street towards the northwestern gate. The city was full of shops of every kind. There were venders from nearly every land on this side of the Nor mountains and a few from the other side as well. Merchants were attracted to the city to sell because taxes were low and the city's neutrality meant that even if two nations were at war they could still sell their goods in a legal manner with each other.

As Brenn walked down the streets he noticed the vendors starting to prepare their shops to open up and some of the shady people starting to retreat for the day. A piece of his mind was hoping that he didn't get to the bookstore before it opened. Another piece of his mind was praying that it wasn't as shady as some of the vendors he was walking by. He noticed men with a great amount of worry present when he looked at them, he noticed night walking women that bodies screamed of sickness. Part of him wanted to stop those women and see what he could do for them, but he just kept on walking.

Whores, he told himself. Just whores.

Further down the street he saw a platoon of archers marching to there posts for the day. For a while even after he lost the line of sight he could hear the platoon sergeant's booming voice. A city of magic still had plenty of need for steel, for a city of its size it had plenty of steel to protect it's neutrality in the world's affairs.

After close to another half an hour of walking, he finally came to the only bookstore by the northwestern gate. It was pretty easy to find, painted on a sign hanging above the front store was an open book. When he walked up to the door it was locked, but quickly a young girl came to the door.

"Good morning, sir, c'mon in," said the girl with a smile. Her body movements and eyes told him that she needed more sleep. "Papa is shelving a few books."

"Good morning to you and as an Adept I am advising you to sleep more," said Brenn with a satisfied smile knowing that he was already starting to do good for the people of Mountain City. She gave a knowing nod. "Anyway, I just have a quick need for a book called In The Pacifist's Own Hand."

The girl made a thinking sound as she made room for him to squeeze into the store. "I am not sure if we have it, but I'll go get Papa and see if he can find it."

Brenn watched her dart around a shelf. While she stepped out he started inspecting some of the titles on the shelves. He took a deep breath in and let it out. Almost all of these books were banned by the Prelate. The store owner was obviously taking advantage of the fact that the Prelate had almost no pull what so ever in Mountain City or a temple's Inquisitor Team would've burned the store and killed the family a long time ago.

For a brief second he thought he felt the magic of another. In this city though, that wasn't an uncommon feeling so he didn't give it a second thought. After a few minutes a man that couldn't be much passed his mid twenties came up too him. The little girl was following him like a puppy.

A quick greeting ensued and finally the man asked, "What is the title you are looking for?"

"In The Pacifist's Own Hand," replied Brenn courtly.

The bookstore owner rubbed his chin quickly and smiled. "I have two copies of it. Started to think I wasted some of my precious coins getting a hold of them, not really popular as most of the books I carry."

"These books actually sell?" said Brenn with a surprised tone.

A wink from the man said it all. He continued anyways, "People want to read what they can't and here they can find those volumes. In fact, I've had people all the way from Tlacois buy some right here."

Brenn gave the man a shrug. Bringing his nationality up wasn't going to bargain the price up. His hand reached into his pocketed and found a coin as the man picked the book off of the shelf. "Is this enough?"

"If that one coin actually was four coins," the man said with a grin.

The young Adept's hand reached into his pocket and pulled out three more and gave them to the store keeper. An outrages price, but than again the book itself was the prize not the price he paid for it. When the store keeper handed him the book Brenn quickly put into his inside pocket and stepped out the door.

If he hadn't paused for a moment to make sure the book was sitting comfortably in the pocket he would have been run over by a Death Squad. A mounted archer that was wearing a blue uniform with the Wizard's Guild ever present red cape whirled around and pointed a finger at him, "Have you seen a boy running, a nasty little warlock?"

Most people seized up when a member of a Death Squad questioned them. Brenn had no intention of doing that, though. "A boy? You're after a little boy? I have seen none and I am not inclined to point any out either."

"You better talk to me with a little more respect," the man ran his thumb across his throat. "Or else."

However, when watching the man Brenn could see only annoyance. Not a hint of violence in his mannerism or the way he spoke. "I doubt that." From the corner of Brenn's eye in the alleyway to his right he saw a hint of movement. "Excuse me, but I have studies to get too."

Quickly the horseman turned his beast around and galloped to catch up with his comrades. Just as quickly Brenn went to the alleyway to find the little warlock. When he found the small boy his heart sank. The boy could not have been older than six, wearing clothes that were nothing more than rags and he had big brown eyes.

The Adept inside of him could feel the inherent evil of the child. Yet.. He couldn't condemn the boy. Slowly he went down to his knees and looked the boy in the eyes. "Where are your parents?"

Squeamishly the boy looked around and mumbled, "They left me here."

Suddenly, a wizard's magic engulfed the area. Brenn pulled the boy close to him as an arrow flew over head.

"There's the cursed boy," screamed a Death Squad member as he started too lead a charge down the alley.