Monday, August 19, 2019

153 - "You Must be Mad” - Shylai’a - A Tale of Heroes

Here's how you can read the story a week (two scenes) ahead of everyone else!


Shylai’a (shih-LIE-uh) sat in the city square of a neighborhood in the city’s InnerWall quarter. She took a deep breath. She forcefully folded her tense arms with her fingers in fists. She crossed a leg over her knee in an attempt to appear casual, unaffected, but her clenched jaw and bouncing foot belied her real feelings.

A momentary breeze in the hot summer air rustled the leaves in the tree above her but did little to cool her mood. They need City Guards! Ever since the attack, they’ve needed more soldiers in the ranks! They’re actively recruiting skilled fighters instead of just pressing peasants like they usually do! So, why don’t they want me?

She snapped her head back and forth as uninterested people walked the street before her. Some stopped to shop or haggle with street vendors, while others just walked on.

She unfolded her arms and tried to forcibly calm them by rubbing her hands across her skirt of heavy banded leather. Part clothing, part armor, the long, thick slats of hardened leather hung from under her sword belt, and fell draped on either side of her leg, which still had the protection and coverage of heavy cloth underneath. She crossed her arms again, over the coarse blue tunic. I’m as skilled as any swordsman they’ve got! I can guard the city as well as any man. There’s no reason I shouldn’t be allowed to join!

But when she had stepped into the recruiting line, the captain had pulled her out and told her to “go home and play house.” When she’d argued that the city had been attacked and needed more defenders, he had shown her the short line of young men signing up and said, “And here they are! Just pick one and marry him!” The men had all laughed. Some had whistled and yelled, “Marry me, sweetheart!”

Shylai’a swore and stood up with her fists clenched. She stood still, tense, as if looking for something to kick or punch. Marry them? They’re all weak and scrawny mama’s boys! I could’ve taken any one of them in a fight! Finally she just grunted and started walking.

As she paced around the perimeter of the square, she noticed a group of people gathered in a clump. They all seemed to be focused on something in the middle of their circle. They were laughing and shouting, but she couldn’t make out what they were saying. Some street rat must be doing a funny dance. They’d better all watch their purses.

Shylai’a strode past them, shaking her head.

“...Great doom is coming! Doom!” an old man’s voice croaked out. “Doom shall befall this city with long dark wings and shiny teeth!”

“That happened last month, you old fool!”

“He’s not much of a prophet. He can only say what’s already happened!” The crowd laughed at their taunts. Some began to disperse. Between the bystanders, she caught a glimpse of an older man, standing up on a bench, wearing a dirty gray tunic over his hunched shoulders. He waved a gnarled wooden cane in the air. He was not tall and the sides of his head had long, stringy white hair over his ears and surrounding a sweaty bald spot.

“Snakes creep through the streets. Little ones. BIG ONES! You all must repent! You must find kindness! The Creator decrees it! If the people will abandon their secrecy and their darkness and their hatred and their hiding eyes, the flowers will yet bloom in this city!”

“There are already flowers here!”

“Yeah, it’s summer!”

The old man laughed. “Yes! The flowers will come! Joy will follow! Children will dance!” He jumped from the bench and began to shuffle his feet to imaginary music, holding his cane before him.

The bystanders, suddenly weary of their afternoon’s entertainment, began to go their separate ways. “You, there, friend,” The old man continued, taking a man by the arm. He turned his head one way and the other, looking closely at the bystander’s face. “Don’t you know what day it is? The new wind is sweet like fresh bread!”

Shylai’a found herself smiling at the harmless old man, in spite of her frustration. The bystander shook his arm free with disgust and just a bit of fear and tossed a few copper pieces at the old man’s feet. “Here. Save your preaching for the chapel!”

"Bless your steps!" the old man said as the bystander wandered away.

The old man noticed Shylai’a and stepped toward her, leaning his head far to one side as he looked at her. “Hmmm....”

“What?” she asked, amused.

“You have fish in your eyes...”

“You are a strange old man.”

He nodded, smiling. “Yes, I suppose I am.”


This continues the story of the heroes in Wynne, in Twynne Rivers, in the world of The Hero's Tale, Family Friendly RPGs. Here's more info on The Hero's Tale, and family friendly RPGing. If you like this story, support us at our Patreon!
Thank you: Chet Cox, Genevieve Springer!

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