Author's Note: Okay, so this is the first part of my new Reedsy-cast series. It kind of fits the prompt, not perfectly but it was harder to make it since the prompts are mostly historical fiction. There is more detail in my comment below. Enjoy! :)
The large gongs on all four corners of the city square chime out a deep, reverberating rhythm. Four figures dressed in ash-colored shirts and long flowing pants of the same color hold gigantic mallets in their hands. The ringing of the gongs. Eight beats means a breach in the walls.
Across the city, on the northern side, ten or so figures emerge from a bunker surrounded by tall, obscuring concrete walls. They wear clothing in a variety of dark colors, various weapons strapped on their back or wielded in their hands.
“Vulper corvum, or raven. A bird the size of a human, razor-sharp claws, beady eyes, earsplitting screeches,” Nainika reminds the group standing right outside of the city walls, preparing to defend their city from the appalling creatures, “Their weakness?”
“Their eyes. Shoot one in the eye and it’s a pile of dust in a matter of minutes,” Lily recites, twirling a dagger between her fingers. Even among the Warriors, she’s known as a dangerous one. Someone you don’t want to get on the wrong side of. Her business is done behind the law, but she still has an influx of customers.
Carolina bounces on her tiptoes, warming up for the battle. The wind blows her golden hair across her face, and she impatiently pushes it aside.
“You guys drive the bird toward me and I’ll do what I do best,” Isaac announces, pulling a gleaming arrow out of the sheath hanging on his shoulder.
“Remember, you only get one shot. We’ll have to take it by surprise, or else we have no advantage.” Katelyn tells him. Her blonde hair is braided out of the way, and her ocean-blue eyes watch the scene carefully.
“Don’t worry, I’ve got this. We’re called the Guild of Warriors for a reason, this is what we’re meant to do,” Isaac shouts as the group takes off jogging toward the city walls, using long ropes to climb up and out of sight.
Meanwhile, behind the stained glass windows of the fortress at the center of town, the Guild of Artists thrives in a slightly more tranquil environment.
Luna absentmindedly braids her long vanilla-colored hair as she watches the other girls paint. She just finished a sketch of a monarch butterfly, probably the thousandth one in her worn leather notebook. She tilts the drawing to the side slightly, and instead of a butterfly, it resembles a bat. It’s all perspective.
“Luna, tell me, what do you think is outside the walls?” Haripriya asks, her brush hovering over the blank canvas, “I want to paint the Unknown, but I can’t quite imagine what would be out there.”
She gestures in a sweeping circular motion to the city borders. Her multi-colored eyes, one grey one green, focused on the view of the city outside the window.
“Probably something dreadful, nothing that could compete with the beauty of Atmos,” Luna says, thoughtfully, “I do wonder, though.”
“There was another breach today, the Warriors must at least know about what lies just outside the walls,” Amethyst states, dipping a brush into a pool of paint the color of orchids.
“I saw them going out to defend the city this morning,” Ivy tells the other girls, tucking her flowing chestnut-colored hair behind her ear, “It must never be boring to be them.”
“Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to be an Explorer,” Varsha says, a distant look in her light golden eyes. Her chocolate-brown hair is tied up in a ponytail. “You know, to always be traveling and on the move. To get to see everything out in the Unknown.”
The other girls nod in agreement. They’re all talented at their job, but that doesn’t mean they’ve never dreamed of doing something more adventurous.
“Their job is dangerous, Varsha. We should all remember that,” Haripriya softly reminds her, “We’re lucky not to have to risk our lives for our city every day.”
At that statement, all the girls pick up their brushes and pencils and turn back to their works in progress.
Outside the walls, three figures trudge through the hot desert-like land. They have scarves wrapped around their necks and pulled up to just below their eyes, keeping the wind from blowing scorching sand into their faces.
The land is flat for miles in every direction, the only break in the monotonous landscape being the occasional boulder.
Meg pulls a water bottle from the sack slung over her shoulder and takes a sip of the refreshing water. The liquid soothes her dry, burnt tongue, making the glare of the sun a little more bearable. After she drinks, she passes the bottle to Brooke then Billien, sharing the small amount of water between them all.
“It shouldn’t be much longer now. Come on, we’re almost there,” Brooke pants, holding up a hand to shield her grey eyes from the blinding light.
“Almost there,” Megan echoes, her blond hair with its teal tips is tied up with a spare ribbon.
Billien’s burlap sack makes clinking sounds as they walk, the spare pieces of metal hitting each other. The Explorer’s job is to map out the Unknown, to look for anything of importance outside the walls, but they have yet to find anything notable. Their time hasn’t been wasted, though, they have become collectors. Bringing back assorted objects they’ve found buried under mounds of sand; bent forks, watches that no longer had the energy to tick, keys that had nothing to keep safe.
These things are valuable back in Atmos, extremely useful to the inventors and artists. They seem to be able to find a way to turn any rusty piece of metal into a beautiful, sculpted masterpiece or an elaborate machine.
When the trio reaches the walls, guards push open large copper gates allowing them to enter the city. A figure is leaning against a tree near the wall, goggles pulled over her eyes and freckles sprinkled across her face like stars in the sky. Her midnight black hair is pulled up in a ponytail, keeping it out of her way.
“How was the trip?” Danny asks as they approach.
“It was as you would expect,” Megan tells her, “Nothing out of the ordinary.”
“You know, a broken-down car, some sand, a pile of rocks, more sand, sharp nails, another sand drift,” Brooke says. When it came down to it, The Unknown seemed to just be a whole bunch of sand.
“I found you a few more supplies for your work,” Billien tells her, “Would you like to see?”
“Sure!” Danny says, enthusiastically, moving in closer to get a better view.
He pulls some sheets of metal out of the sack, setting them on the ground to reach even deeper inside. They’ll be useful in her workshop, but they’re not the real prize. He pulls a shiny compass out and places it in her hand.
“It’s an object from the Old World,” he says, “Just like the half-way buried cars we’ve spotted and the occasional clock or piece of jewelry we found.”
“What’s its use?” she asks, curiously tilting the small object from side to side.
“The people of the Old World used it to guide them on their quests. With it, they were never truly lost.”
Danny pockets it, sharing a smile with the exhausted group. She would tell them about the new project she has been working on, but that’s a story for another day.
On the outskirts of the city, the brilliant Writer’s Guild and the majestic Prophet’s Guild savors the abundance of silence. The forest is old and it prefers the quiet as well. After all, the trees have centuries worth of thoughts to sort through.
Inside one of the largest cabins in the area, four of the most prodigious young writers in the city put quill to parchment. Speculating about the past and predicting the future with the help of the Prophet girl, Celeste. Her kind is rare, there hasn’t been another with her talent in over a decade.
“Ego aperiam spirituum forti animo tibi dic mihi quid futurum tenet,” Celeste murmurs with her eyes closed, attempting to connect with the spiritual beings.
“Have they spoken back, yet?” Luke asks, his golden eyes glancing up from the page to watch Celeste.
“It’s difficult, Luke,” she huffs, twisting a lock of violet hair around her finger, “There is a precise state I need to put my mind in, but it takes a lot of effort to get there.”
“Keep working at it, it takes persistence,” he tells her, running a hand through his messy brown hair.
“I read something about one of the legendary Prophets once,” B says, squinting her lavender-color eyes in thought, “It was when I was researching magical creatures, something random thrown in. They said you have to be willing to hear what the Spirits have to say, that you have to want to hear. The Prophet said fear blocks your mind off, suppressing your talent.”
“I’m not afraid,” Celeste defends, “Just confused.”
“Isn’t your brother’s Choosing Day soon, Celeste?” Sapphire asks, setting her quill down on the rustic wooden table. She has long black hair cascading down her back, fading to silver at the ends.
“Yes. He wants to be a Warrior,” her expression turns a little sad, “I want him to do what he loves, I just wish he wouldn’t be in danger every day. I don’t want to always be worried he won’t return home at night.”
“You’ll have to promise to support him, whatever path he may choose,” Saph says softly, “We all have to offer our services to our city, no matter the cost.”
Annabelle hops up from the table, pushing her blue and gold glasses up her nose. She takes Celeste’s hand in her own, always the loyal and supportive friend.
“We stand together, undivided,” she reminds them, reciting the line from their city anthem.
All five of them repeat the line, their perfect harmony of voices echoing throughout the forest.
Back at the bunker of the Warriors, the guards have alerted the guild of another breach in the wards. This time it was nine chimes of the gongs, even more urgent.
Inside the fighters bustle around, hurriedly grabbing silver swords from the walls and preparing to defend the city once again. The guard’s report is playing on repeat in everyone’s heads, it was a strange one, to say at the least.
“What was it they said, again?” Katelyn asks Nainika, while the two girls pull on boots and armor.
“They said the villain had silver hair and a dark cloak, with a black cat at his heels. Then they just lost sight of him, one moment they were chasing him, one moment he was gone.” Nainika says, pulling back her bubble-gum pink hair.
“And that’s the strangest part,” Katelyn finishes. The other Warriors listening in on the report nod along in agreement. Carolina sits nearby, polishing her two identical swords.
“You’re missing the worst part,” Lily begins, storming into the room with an air of panic.
“He’s inside the city at this very moment.”
Ethan chuckles quietly to himself, sharing his amusement with his feline companion. He clenches one hand into a fist, keeping his powers steady. The invisibility veil he has created takes effort to maintain, which isn’t surprising considering it’s a powerful type of magic.
Getting past the guards was easy, embarrassingly easy. Hopefully, that means his task to come will be completed without too much of a struggle. After all, he has a mission to accomplish and a debt to repay.