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Author Topic: The City: A Fantasy Noir Story  (Read 560 times)

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Offline Frozen FlameTopic starter

The City: A Fantasy Noir Story
« on: December 27, 2010, 11:55:19 AM »
   Gallia was an independent city-state located at the heart of three powerful trade nations: Kolbris, Dasheen, and Ecktan. Once it had been a patch of fertile land, located between the three nations, and long-fragmented histories even suggested that it had once been the capital of an empire some thousand years gone. Nevertheless, all this speculation became meaningless when one had entered the city.
   Outsiders often wondered how the city managed to assert itself amidst three larger nations, and to maintain itself for almost a millennium without being gobbled up by them. The histories diverged, some opining that the First Mayor had been a farmer who had communed with the Dark Realm in order to gain power. Others stated that the Black Spire, the monument around which the City sprouted, had been hurled to the earth by the gods themselves in judgment against the three nations, for deigning to stand on the same ground once hallowed by the old Empire. The City, they said, was raised in three days by the spirits of its departed priests and mages.
   On one point, all the histories converged--the City sprang up in matter of days, and it had not done so through the agency of mankind alone. Me? I didn't care. Whether it had been put there by men or gods made no difference to me. Maybe it had been nine-hundred and ninety-seven years since the First Mayor did... whatever it was he did. I'd only been alive thirty-five of those years, and the ones before were hardly any of my concern.
   The streets were dark at this hour, as the Eleventh Chime rang out from atop the Spire's belltower. The chime was heard throughout the city, for all its size. It was said that if you took the Capitals of its neighbors and laid them end-to-end, they would just barely fit within Gallia's walls. The secret to its success? Magic, and lots of it.
   I passed the Low District in search of a bar. Many of them had only creaky wooden signs with flaking paint to proclaim their name. Usually by pictures, for those who couldn't read. There were lots of us illiterates here, after all. A few here and there were illuminated by glyphs, if only faintly. These would flicker every once in a while, and would sometimes need to be re-drawn. An inferior magic, compared to the ones in the High District.
   The taverns here were frequented by either the Commons, or Mages at the lower rungs. Usually Apprentices, Entered Apprentices, and the occasional Specialist. With enough power and influence, one could afford to live in the upper Districts, where they had better drink and better-looking women. Proper Mages usually avoided this part of the City entirely, which is why I took notice when one summoned me this morning.
« Last Edit: December 27, 2010, 11:05:17 PM by Frozen Flame »

Offline Frozen FlameTopic starter

Re: The City: A Fantasy Noir Story
« Reply #1 on: December 27, 2010, 12:53:41 PM »
   After a half hour of searching, I found the Beacon posted above the Dancing Knife. The Mage who posted it must have known somehow of my magical... attunement, since he had taken the extra effort to hide it from Mundanes. Had this not been the case, the place would be crawling with droolers trying to beg help from one of the City's elites.
   I walked in, looking for my quarry. He wouldn't be wearing his robes of office, or at least would take the time to use magic to conceal himself. The only time Mages relaxed that rule was to visit the Shrines in the city. Mages professed no religious belief, but they apparently did believe in getting "service" from the Temple Wives, and visited them often, usually dropping their disguise to edge out those who had been waiting longer and taking their pick.
   Not that I would know anything about that.
   I found him there. To one like me, his Aura signified plainly that he was magically inclined. The chromatic shape around him, its clean definition bespoke that he had this Aura under control, able to bring most of his power to bear when necessary. A half-trained bastard like me on the other hand, would appear jagged and random.
   The tall man in grey sackcloth looked at me, wrinkling his nose in disdain. Once I would have taken offense to that, but I just gave him a wry smirk. I knew I was good at what I did, and so did he, or else he wouldn't have bothered. Taking a seat across from him, I tipped my hat. "Good eve to you, Mister."
   He frowned. "Are you sure that's a proper form of address? Surely they taught that to you in your two weeks at the Academy."
    I grinned and stated in my loudest voice. "My apologies, good Mage. I didn't mean to offend."
    That got the attention of some of the bar's other patrons. When they looked at the fellow across from me, they shook their heads, thinking I was making some sort of jest. The older magician scowled at me. "Point taken."
    A tavern maiden came by, and I ordered their strongest draught. Mages usually drank wine, so I ordered Ale, though I couldn't stand the stuff. Some said the manipulation of Mana softened a man's tastes. I turned back to my would-be employer. "So what can I do for you?"
    "There's been a murder in the High Ring," he said flatly.
    I waited for a moment. "And...?"
    "Even you must know that murder is very rare there."
    "But not unheard of."
    The mage nodded solemnly. "In any event, there is one other wrinkle. You see, the man was strangled with a noose of solid steel."
    Our drinks arrived and I took a swig, nodding appreciatively to gall him. It worked. "Well that is a strange thing. They don't allow steel in your part of the City do they?"
    "Steel isn't allowed anywhere here. You know that."
    "Oh, I know it, all right. And everyone who's been here to see one street urchin split a man's throat with a blade laughs at it every time."
    He shook his head. "Be that as it may, the presence of Steel in the High Ring should have set off an alarm. With the amount of Mana being circulated there, even the tiniest distortion should have been detected."
    "Let's see..." I searched my memory. "If I remember correctly, the inherent solidity and structure of steel makes it almost impossible to manipulate by magic, and it actually alters the waveform property of Mana around it. Right?"
   "Are you sure you only attended Academy for two weeks? Seems like a waste."
    I shrugged. "It is what it is. So let's cut to the chase."
« Last Edit: January 10, 2011, 11:41:27 PM by Frozen Flame »