Cities of Power Ch. 01byxelliebabex©
The Great War had taken its toll on the lives of the generations to come. The anarchy, madness and depravity that had ensued after the obliteration of the known world had continued for decades. Finally on a dry and dusty continent plagued by ruination leaders arose with the forethought for the survival for all, not just themselves and having encompassed the small parcels of still fertile ground, these leaders built three great city states.
Small villages of peaceful hippies and the simplistic descendants of remote Amish communities were taken into a kind of bondage to work the small plots of farm land and raise the meagre herds of livestock that could be found scattered across the wind swept landscape. With peasant labour to work the farms and a new class of slave labour to build the houses of stone and battlements upon the city walls to keep the leaders and their chosen people safe, the monumental cities grew and prospered.
It was such that the three great cities rose from the ashes of what had been the pinnacle of human achievement to start again. Each holding their own belief's as to what would save their brave new world. As the cities evolved under their separate ethos, they came to rely on one another for trade and citizens from the towns mingled with travelling merchants. It was not unusual for arranged marriages to occur between the elite of two cities in return for preferential trade agreements. As news of the towns spread throughout the ruined lands, more people began to arrive at the gates, seeking shelter and food. The towns groaned under the weight of the refugees until eventually they closed their gates.
Over time, the country side surrounding the great cities became dotted with small villages of peoples who had sought out the legendary new cities and been turned away, as well as runaway slaves and peasants. Most eked out an insubstantial living amongst the sparse wooded areas and gathered together into small communities to ward off the roaming bands of thieves. With bandits and village militia in the foothills around the towns, raiding their resources and tapping into their clean water supplies, travel between them became limited and was taken only in direst need and then with armed escorts.
Phoenix, or Techno, as the villagers referred to it, was the city realm of Lord Zhou. His clan prized the knowledge and use of technologies above all others. They created a new fuel and invented modes of transport from the remnants of past civilisations. Robotics and computerised equipment pieced together from bits, and pieces gathered by relic hunters made their lives easier as well as the lives of the lower caste members that served them. The technologies though were pieced together without precise knowledge and understanding causing accidents to occur frequently amongst the lower castes. From time to time warriors of the city's elite would venture out into the country and capture new slaves to supplement the labour force required to keep the city running.
Skirmishes became regular occurrences between the Techno warriors and the Village militia throughout the small continent as time went on. With losses occurring on both sides in every raid, feuds between villages and city of Phoenix became part of the folklore of each group of peoples.
The other two cities did not require the replenishing of the lower castes at the same rate as the Techno city seemed to and allowed petitioners to approach their gates twice a year to apply for refuge. Most were refused and became permanent residents of the small towns and villages set in amongst the foothills and forests between the great cities. Some few of the more desperate people agreed to join the lowest castes of each city and work in slavery for the security of food and shelter.
It was in one such village, close to the city of Gryphon, or Justice as the villagers had named it that Trix lived. The youngest child of the village blacksmith, she had four older brothers and lived a protected existence. She was not allowed to stray from the village in which her family lived, to play in the sparse woods with the other children of the village, she had grown up watching the world rush past her as she learned to cook and sew patches on her brother's clothes. She longed for even the smallest freedoms of village life, but her oppressive father, Spar ruled their home with an iron fist.
Spar had wanted to live in the city of Faith and Justice, Gryphon, but the gates of his chosen city had been closed to him. He had returned on petition day, and though his iron fists had proven him worthy of their survival of the fittest ethos, he had been offered work and shelter amongst the bonded peasant class only if he continued to fight within their security forces. He had turned his back on their offer of becoming a bonded man. Instead, he sought freedom in the villages of the foothills meeting with an aging blacksmith who had escaped the bonds that held him to the city of Gryphon. Finding in the man a kindred spirit, Spar had undertaken an apprenticeship, the value of which eventually saw him earn his position as a village leader.
Trix sat daydreaming about the story of her parent's romance and wedding feast, sighing heavily. She lamented that she would never have adventures or a life beyond this small village, she had come of age last week, and no boy would even look at her for fear of her father and brothers, and she sighed heavily again. She knew she would never have a romance like that of her mother, and she despaired.
Unlike her brothers who were carbon copies of their hulking father, Trix was small and slight. Though she did her best to cut the better parts of her brothers hand me downs into usable pieces of fabric to fashion clothes for herself, she always looked like an orphan boy from one of the poorest villages. Trix smiled as she looked down at what she wore now, real girl's clothes of her own. Her brothers had been trading the jewellery and metal work they created in their fathers forge with the men from other villages who went out on raiding parties to the cities. They had traded for the clothes to give Trix at her coming of age feast. It was a gross mismatch of items, but she loved it none the less and felt like a princess for the first time in her life.
They had given her thick soled boots, with buckles all down the outside of them. Tights with only one hole in them, a pleated leather skirt and a snug top that held her nicely rounded breasts displaying how much of a woman she had become much to her fathers disgust. The best part of the outfit was a leather jacket she had been told had come from one of the Techno warriors who rode those two wheels roaring machines. She had never worn anything so beautiful, and she stroked over the embroidered picture on the back of the jacket, closed her eyes and leaned back against the tree imagining the girl who may have worn it.
She had only ever heard stories and seen drawings of the techno people riding their roaring machines, her village being too far removed from the skirmishes that occurred all too often with those people. Her village was located closer to the city of Gryphon or Justice as they called it, and they lived in relative peace if not prosperity.
Trix knew that to keep the beautiful picture on the jacket was dangerous, but as she sat with the small scissors in her hand she could not bring herself to destroy it. Taking up her old worn hand-me-down coat she carefully measured and cut a piece fitting it directly over the design and taking her small sewing box began to stitch it into place before she was chastised again for not removing it. She worked quickly her nimble fingers sewing a nearly invisible second seam over the top of the original to sew in the false back she had created.
Taking one last look at the intricate design longing to know what it meant she sewed the last seam into place wondering once again about the woman who had worn it and what had become of her, feeling sadness at the thought that she must have died. No one would give up a jacket like this willingly. Trix held up the jacket and smiled, the false back made it look worn and older than it was even though she had used the best piece of her old patched coat.
Trix looked up at the sun edging toward to the horizon and stood stretching, her mother had started the evening meal without her help and guilt pulled at her as she gathered her sewing basket and headed inside to help with the evening chores.
Talon rode out of the city under cover of darkness. His clan needed a metal worker to repair damage to their bikes, one of the tech heads had taken their master metal worker to test a new technology, and he had not returned, leaving the clan with inept apprentices whose shoddy workmanship endangered lives. The last scouting party of three warriors had returned with only two riders, the third having crashed. The assumption was that the bike she rode had become out of control due to the substandard repair work of the apprentices. The two remaining warriors claimed that she had been then been set upon by bandits in their report and that they were unable to assist her. Each techno warrior knew the risks involved in leaving the safety of the city walls and accepted the price. The missing warrior, however, had been important to Talon, and he needed to know her fate.
The warriors that had returned reported rumours of a village to the north of the city of Gryphon where a family of metal workers lived. A master blacksmith and his four sons, their work was renowned as the finest of the villages and was valued highly in their bartering system.
Talon had volunteered for the scouting party to find the source of the rumours and investigate their authenticity. His main motivation though had been to discover the fate of Clove, the missing warrior. He looked to his left and saw the figures of Venn and Edge both veteran warriors with reliable skills in a skirmish. Talon touched the tazer at his side to reassure himself it was there.
The three scouts had packed provisions and extra fuel for an extended journey, and as they roared into the darkness each revelled in the freedom of leaving the city walls behind them to venture into the vast wilderness for their own reasons.
They had scouted around the outskirts of the foothills not venturing too close to the small villages for two days following the directions of the scouts that had returned from the last foray in which Clove had been lost. On the third day, they found debris from where a bike had crashed, but as usual there was no sign of the actual bike aside from small shards of broken glass and paint flecks. Searching the area thoroughly there was no sign of a shallow grave that usually marked the passing of a techno warrior.
Camping for the night within a small grove outside of the village closest to the crash site, they had located from the directions they had been given the three techno warriors prepared their strategy for the following morning and bedded down. Their mission had been to confirm the whereabouts of the family of metal workers and possibly bring one back willingly, not engage in futile skirmishes so far from the safety of their own city.
The following morning dressed in the patched cloak and mismatched clothes of a villager, Venn went into the small village, to seek information about the blacksmith and his family ostensibly to repair a knife his father had left him. Time ticked over slowly for Talon who wanted nothing more than to be the one to seek out the information they needed and search the village for signs of Clove and he prowled the tree line like a caged wolverine.
Venn returned shortly after noon, "It's a faith village," he announced. Faith villages had originally sprung up around the city of Gryphon, known to the refugee's as a city of Faith and Justice, where preachers clinging to fragments of old books had become priests and extolled the existence of a greater being. Organised religion had been all but eradicated by the anarchists as they seized power after the Great War and the few survivors made the pilgrimage to the cities of Pegasus or Gryphon hoping for asylum.
The villages and people of the faith were like those of the city of Gryphon, known to be truthful and reliable even to their own detriment and were often called upon to bear witness to events that occurred close to their homes. Their priests were seen as incorruptible, and their word was rarely called into question.
Venn turned to Talon, "She's not here," he was abrupt not knowing how else to tell the news. He threw a set of the dog tags all the Techno warriors wore to Talon who snatched them from the air examining them.
"Who is this?" He growled, reading the name upon them. He had known she had not survived deep within himself, but he pushed knowledge away once more until he was faced with proof in his hands. Shocked to realise these were not her tags, he looked up at Venn, "The crash wasn't her?" Talon's voice was barely audible.
Venn watched Talon carefully weighing how much to tell him. "They say a boy found Clove as he explored the forest, she and her bike had been hidden by broken branches, they say she had minor injuries and the bike was in tact."
That in itself was unusual, and both Venn and Edge could see the confusion simmering to anger under the still exterior of Talon. "The villagers took Clove back to town to heal. They say she left the same day, she should have been back in Phoenix before we left," they watched his muscles bunch and Talons hands shake as he took in the words. "She could be anywhere now, or with any clan," Venn refrained from asking if something could have made her a runaway keeping to the idea to himself and allowing Talon his belief of abduction and foul play.
Talons knuckles had grown white as he clenched the dog tags tightly. He needed to know what happened, he had no doubt of the story Venn had told him, but he still wanted to know where she was. "Did you talk with any healer's?"
Healers knew the ways of remedies and therapies that were practiced in the great city of Pegasus. "I have the report," Venn hedged, "The village did everything to keep themselves safe and stay within boundaries of the peace pact they brokered with Gryphon." He looked at Talon directly asserting his rank within the mission they were on. "The family we are looking for live in a village further north, we are out here for another reason, not for your personal crusade." He dropped the report on a log and walked away with Edge.
The report was filled with discrepancies from the story the returning scouts had given them, and he pushed it into the saddle bag of his bike determining to find out what actually happened to the woman his parents had arranged for him to wed. The political alliance the marriage was to bring was greatly needed by his family, and Talon was a man of duty and honour. He had barely spoken to or even acknowledge the woman he was to wed before the announcement was made, and from that time the woman had avoided him taking riskier assignments from the warriors guild.
Talon did not resent her for her reactions, he too had no desire to marry and give up his warrior life as would be expected by their families, but his innate sense of duty to his family and their place within the elite caste had given him acceptance if not pleasure when he was told it had been arranged. Talon considered the new information that the last time she had been seen she was on her own, but very much alive and he cursed her recklessness.
Two days later the three techno warriors pushed their bikes silently into a small stand of trees close to the remote village of the blacksmith family. They had been scouting the area for a full day locating the hidden dip within the small stand of trees late in the day. They were able to stay safely out of sight while watching the village for evidence the family. They only need one of the men, for now. No point in taking on all five metal workers unless necessary. They crept out into the darkness of a moonless night, to scout around the village; they wore long patched coats to cover their riding leathers.
No sooner had they entered the town than a voice halted their progress, "Evening neighbours," the hulking figure of Spar greeted them. "Don't get too many travellers in these parts," his eyes were bright, and while his words were friendly enough there was an underlying question and threat in them.
Venn stepped forward, "We have been travelling through the villages of faith looking for a metal worker. We heard the best were in this village. I need this dagger repaired, it was my father's and is extremely valuable to me." Venn fished the broken dagger from inside his coat lamenting, "I broke it on one of those roaring machines."
Spar looked at the broken dagger, being in an outlying village bandits often sought out the blacksmith, but these men asked for metal workers, and he looked at them more closely noting the boots that each of them wore, "Killed a few have you?"
Edge felt the hackles on the back of his neck rise, his gut told him something was amiss, "What of it?" He growled belligerently before Venn could answer.
"I think you should come back in the daylight, neighbours," Spar had not flinched at the aggressive stance of Edge, "You will get a more hospitable reception in the morning rather than skulking around the village at night."
Edge grumbled picking up the obvious unease in the man they faced, "Does this dust bowl at least possess a distillery?"
Spars mood lightened slightly, "One of my boys brought some firewater back from his travels. You have something to trade?"
Edge pulled a small clear plastic bag from his pocket, it held five seeds from a pumpkin plant and several smaller seeds that could be apple but the rarity of such tree's made it hard to tell. Spar smiled for the first time, "We might be able to trade, come back tomorrow. Ask for Spar, someone will point the way to my forge."
"I'd appreciate a bottle more tonight, the weather is turning," Edge rumbled, but all three warriors now reappraised the man before them, he was obviously the man they searched for after his mention of the forge.
Spar grunted, "Stay here," and turned and walked deeper into the village. They said nothing to each other all three warriors looking around carefully noting details of the village before they moved into the shadows.
Stomping into the house Spar and called his sons, Emery and Flint, "Get a bottle of fire water and come with me." His eldest son, Cobalt raised an eyebrow inquisitively but said nothing. Leaving the house with two of his four sons, Spar approached the edge of the village once more with the equally formidable figures of his sons following behind him only to find the travellers gone. Skirting the village quickly they returned home to find Cobalt unconscious a large contusion on the back of his head seeping blood, his mother tending the wound, Trix was nowhere in sight.
Spar swore long and loud hammering a wall, Opal looked up from her son's prone form, "They took Trix. They want one of our boys to go with them to their city, if we send one of the boys to them they will set her free, if not..." Her eyes were glassy as she whispered, "How could you be so careless, Spar, the trade could not have been worth the cost of one of our children."
Spar turned and left the house, he couldn't track them at night he knew, but he also knew they wouldn't be unable to move very far or fast on this dark moonless night. He turned to the hutch where several message birds were kept, sending out a coded message of distress to neighbouring villages he returned home to bear the anguish and recriminations of his wife, grateful that his hot headed youngest son, Mica had not been home.