A day like any other. Murder, theft, rape. Everyday things, really. In my life, that is.
Soon, the tall church tower would announce the second hour and end my tedious guard shift.. for a few hours at least. Until I have to go out again, into the filthy streets of this dark, dirty town.
Maybe my life would be easier to bear if there wasn't this continuous rain that accents the dismal grey colour of the scruffy walls and the ground covered in faeces in their wretchedness. At best, the rain stifles this repulsive smell which always makes me gag.
Well, at least I can escape all of that for a few well-deserved hours. For soon I'll be replaced by Arston, that little chicken. I have no idea how he got into guard duty. He nearly wets himself at the sight of a normal corpse, a corpse with, let's say... two, three stab wounds.. totally harmless compared to what we found behind the smithy last winter. An unbelievable mess. Well, things like that happen. At any rate, I can soon hit the sack, there's the guards house back there.
With heavy boots I trudge towards the guards house; a small, rundown building and the only place in this street that still has lights on. A dirty place, like any other in this town. At least, in Lower Orethjan.
Upper Orethjan; the rich, wonderful Orethjan in the east is an entirely different place. There, the people live in wealth and abundance and their only worry is dying of overeating. The people there are pigs and if the butcher needed them, he would be grief-stricken, for the pigs that the farmer brought him are not even half as fat… there are supposedly man-eaters.. crazy. Well actually, not that crazy, for I wonder so much about the new things in this world that I am gradually stopping being surprised at the new nasty human habits.
To be precise, Lower and Upper Orethjan are one two and the Lower and Upper parts geographically don't have anything to do with North and South, but the worlds that these two are in are two completely different ones. Seperated by relentlessy high wall, they are two towns in one, with the same ruler, even though he couldn't care less about Lower Orethjan. And even the wall has two faces, for on the western side it is as dirty and grey as the rest of the town, and the other side - and I have seen it with my own very eyes - has a noble white granite surface with narrow, black lines cut into it and decorated with gold, silver and jewels.
Two very different worlds. Two worlds in which actually quite surprising circumstances prevail, from a neutral point of view. The biggest wish of the people living in the west is to move to Upper Orethjan, which is only allowed in rare cases. The people in the eastern world, however, can go whereever they want and could enter the western world when they please. But here it's the other way around, most of the eastern dwellers don't even come within one hundred metres of the gate, for fear it would be charged by those dirty wild people of the west who would kill them.
Quite the tragedy.
I look up at the church tower to check, though I can't see it in the darkness, of course, and I think to myself that the tall thing could finally announce the end of my shift. A heavy step of my right foot into the seemingly infinite depths of mud and refuse, a step with my left and a disgusting squelch from my ri.. My thoughts are interrupted by a quiet cry to my left. I hold up my dim lantern and peer into the rain. There, a door is open. Again I look up to the church tower and again I cannot see it.
Damn, what shall I do?
Just carry on and tell this little asshole, as I like to call him, that something isn't right here and leave the matter to him? Another look to the church tower, and then to the door that was open a gap. "Oh damn it", I murmur into my beard and walk towards the door. "Hello?" .... "Hello?" ... no one answers. Quietly I open the door. I would have loved to strangle the carpenter who made this door with my own hands. A real piece of crap, I think to myself as I hear the ear-splitting creak. Another loud "hello" from me and again, no answer from within. My lantern lights up the little room.. rundown, dirty, smelly. There is nothing to steal here, except for perhaps the chamber pot filled with crap that I nearly tripped over, but then again, who is sick enough to steal such a thing. A few surely, but that is another story.
Murder or rape seem most plausible. Either some psychopath sitting there, perhaps one of those man-eaters.. or an old, smelly sod who not even the whores wanted to have anything to do with. If you believe the rumours then you could think it was one of those fat pigs from the east. Supposedly some of them sneak over here in the night and rape our women. The common folk love these stories to really build themselves up against the fat pigs. I think they are full-blown rubbish. The fat people on the west side have their own whore houses... surely they wouldn't want anything from a half starved, stinking poor person. Except perhaps for those mentally retarded pigs that there are, supposedly, but that too is another story.
I let out a quiet sigh. What a load of crap, and just before shift change. Right at this moment, the church bell rings. Damn, I should get this done and over with quickly. In haste I open the only door on the first floor and look around; hardly any furniture, smelly and dirty here too. But not as smelly has I had expected . No fat psychopath, no bloody corpse. Just a quiet whimpering. I look around. A woman is sat in the corner crying quietly, her greasy hair hanging down and old, torn garments on her body. Still, she was a "rich" poor woman, as people called them here, for those people had at least a little hut for themselves. Although you never know what bank or what man they owe money to, perhaps she is being used mercilessly by some rich man so she can just live here. Slowly I walk up to her and try to calm her down, ask her her name, but she just presses her hands more firmly to her face.
"Listen, I only want to help you. Help you!"
Suddenly the woman looks up and looks at me out of deep, dark eyes. Her face is shrunken and dark rings are around her eyes.
"You want to help?", she asks quietly and slightly surprised.
"That's why I'm here", I answer with an assuring voice.
"But you aren't allowed to be here, quickly, you must go or you will die!"
Well that was something. I stare at her for a moment, mouth agape, but then I compose myself again and answer: "No, I want to help you. What's going on here?"
"He'll come and get you.. help? Help!! No one can help me. But you can help others. Take this. Take this bag and throw it into the deepest water you know. Or the hottest fire."
With her claw-like fingers, she holds out the bag and I take it into my turgid hand. Pretty heavy for such a little bag.
"And now go!"
I close my ears. She screams her last words at me and gives me a slap. I get up, staggering and move back.
She gets up and approaches me.
"Go, please, I beg you, go or he will get you, just as he will get me!", she begged with her shrill voice and she bursts into tears again. I want to go to her and calm her down, but she just runs towards me and.. gives me a push I never would have expected from her towards her window covered in leather. I see my lantern fall onto a few pieces of clothing - damn - I see them catch fire - damn! - and look into the woman's face, now lit up by the fire, which is covered in black symbols. I feel my back against the thin, dry leather. I hear it rip. From behind the woman, I see a silhouette approach and I want to warn her, but I am already falling and just a moment later I fall back first into the crap.. or into the deep mud but I don't really manage to look at the ground beneath me because everything goes black. Or white? A white flash. Or a black one? What was that? Shit! And the world disappears before my eyes and I'm gone.
The shocked nobleman! How can such words be used in a book? The, let's call him "normal citizen" has hopefully been entertained and is eagerly awaiting the next part. There is no more to be said, except perhaps that it will be even more exciting. For the nobleman too, I'd like to add with a grin. How shocking the casual tone of voice can be.
But just read on in part two of Dark Runes.