CHAPTER 1: TO GAIN MUSCLE
August 22, 119 AE. 9 months after the Return
Marcellus walked the streets of his hometown of Campus Magnaearum, lost in thought. it was a small port on the eastern shore, recently settled after the end of the civil war. He had lived a hard life - his face was scarred, nose evidently broken many times. His hands bore the marks, the calloused hardness, of a man who had fought all his life. Now, however, rather than a blunted sword they carried a shopping bag, filled with bread, salt, fresh fruits and a few recent beef cuts from the butcher’s.
All around him, the clamour of Valkoran daily life filled the air. Children played and laughed. Merchants at the markets prized their wares. Recruiting sergeants made their boastful promises of glory and wealth. Citizens like him went about their business, all under the careful watch of several red-robed city guardsmen at the corner of the market. Seagulls flew overhead, adding their melancholic cries to the hubhub of the city, and the smell of food and the ocean’s salt hung thick in the air.
Marcellus loved that smell. The smell of water.
He could see his house in the distance, and imagined he could already smell the cooking of his wife, Lydia, as she went about preparing the evening meal. He was snapped out of his revelry by the man roughly bumping into his chest.
He was much smaller than a Valkoran - one of the foreigners, a Kavehan, marked such by his brown skin and exotic accent. “Oh, apologies! I must not’ve been looking. Humbly beg your pardon.” Marcellus grunted, somewhat appeased by the rapid apology offered by the foreigner. Then the man bent and grabbed a piece of parchment off the cobblestones. “Looks like you dropped something, sir. Now, if you’ll be so kind, I’ll be on my way”. Marcellus frowned down on the paper, one he was fairly sure he’d never seen in his life, but when he looked up, the man was gone. Frowning still, he put down the bag with groceries and folded it open.
The words written there were enough to chill even the seasoned fighter’s blood.
Tonight. The docks. Come alone. Do not tell the guard.
We know where your house is.