Cover of the story The Wayward Son by Frederick Lacroix

FADING SIGNAL

A Vaintra’s Fate Story
By Frederick Lacroix

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Turvin is in Renysan because he owes a debt, one that was called in.

In the inn where he stays, he meets Algerin, a bard who lives on the road like himself. After helping the man out of a jam, Turvin meets with the man he’s indebdted to, Liko. Liko then introduces Turvin to the reason why he called in the favor; his old friend Junavo Veldar. Veldar’s request is simple: Find his son, who fled with a woman. The merchant thinks he’s gone to Lastport, one of the most unpredictable city in the Kingdom of Renys.

Did the young Mihel Veldar go willingly with the woman, or was he bewitched? And what has become of Lastport since Turvin was there last?


EXCERPT

The hot summer night weighted heavily on Renysan, the Gated City. The sky was clear, and the full moon lit the Port Quarter with its white light. The sound of the waves resonated through the air and the breeze carried with it the scents of fish and kelp to the rare people still awake and working the docks. The deserted, windswept streets of the Port Quarter were quiet, save for the occasional fight between feral cats or abandoned dogs. Once in a while, a small group of drunkards burst into off-key songs with half-remembered lyrics only to have someone shout at them to shut up. Most windows were dark, but a few warehouses and an occasional tavern or inn, of which there was plenty in the Port Quarter, saw candlelight dancing beyond the glass or the oiled paper.

Turvin turned to his side. Dawn was only a few hours away and he was still laying there, wide awake, and sweating like a pig. The wooden frame of the bed under him winced every time he moved and he’d started being afraid that the cheaply made piece of furniture wasn’t gonna last the night. His straw mattress pricked at his skin like tiny little insects biting him every two minutes. Even the brown wool blanket he’d decided to lay on, instead of under, wasn’t thick enough to protect him from the poorly stuffed mattress. But he hadn’t expected anything different when he picked the cheapest room of the Glorious Pig, the cheapest inn in the Port Quarter.

The room was barely large enough to contain the bed, a small wooden table topped with a clay pitcher and its clay goblet, and an uneven, unvarnished, chair whose back was held together by thick rope and where a sheathed sword rested on the seat, pommel and handle facing Turvin. The sole window in the room sported no glass or oiled paper, but closed with shutters whose rusted hinges made an infernal noise every time there was a small gust of wind. Two tattered brown curtains completed the magnificent view one had of the dirty brick wall next door. An empty candle holder stood on the wall just above Turvin’s head.

This place was a dream come true for people who, like Turvin, didn’t want to be noticed. Yes, it was filthy, the blanket smelled and the mattress had stains Turvin didn’t want to think about, but no one that wasn’t a sailor, a criminal, or worse an adventurer, ever came to places like these. On occasion, a destitute merchant or a down-on-his-luck trader found his way in a crummy inn like the Glorious Pig for a night or two, mainly for the gambling, drinking and cheap company, but they were rare. Most places around didn’t cost much more but the odds of waking up in a pool or your own blood were considerably reduced. Turvin had managed to pretend to drink and gamble enough to avoid suspicion before retiring to his room to try and sleep. As a pretend merchant, he had to be out by sunrise so as to ‘peddle his wares’ or the undesirables that kept an eye on such things would start paying close attention to him. And they would doubly so if they learned he was an adventurer.

The citizens of the Kingdom of Renys didn’t have time to go out and explore the world. Those who left their birth place, be it this very city or another, spent most of their life right where they started. The sailors experienced more of the world, traveling between two, three or more port cities around the Northern Islands, and the very fortunate ones even managed to get to the Eastern Islands. The soldiers saw even more; they were generally sent all around the Northern and Eastern Islands, sometimes down south in the Inner Sea, to patrol the lawless islands on their side of The Pit. The least fortunate soldiers ended up fighting the Greys on the Contested Island, where they often died trying to keep their enemy from advancing through. But the rare few who, like Turvin, traveled the breadth and width of the world weren’t well regarded by the populace. On occasion they rendered assistance to a village or a local lord, or even found things thought long lost, but even then, the memory of their good deeds faded quickly.

The world had changed. The memories of old, the history of the world had been forgotten. Two hundred years of history was all that was left.