The Adventurer

When he left the city, he thought it would be loyal.

So he set off across the plains, over the mountains, and tumbled through the treacherous seas.

He thought the city would wait for him – that the people would keep celebrating his memory, that the dusty streets and buildings would stay as they were, pointed in the same direction, casting a familiar shadow.

He thought the old hill that led to the places of his great fears and torment, and place from which his story began, would stay the same.

And he treasured the city in his mind, for its loyalty and faith.  In his mind, the city never changed, it was always the same, with the same cast of characters, the same friends, and shopkeeps, and little children playing in the streets.

In his memory, it was home.

When he returned across the plains, the mountains, and the treacherous seas, he found that the city had completely changed.  He found no familiar faces, and new contraptions filled the streets.

A city doesn’t wait.

In confusion he walked to where the old hill had been, which was covered completely in large buildings of terrifying height, formidable now in strangeness, and asked a kid where his old home had been.  He described it as he remembered it.

The kid shrugged and ran away, smiling.  An old woman tottering by looked at him, squinting.

There was a building that you speak of, she said.  It stood where you now stand.

It was strange, the feeling he now felt.  Untethered, like he no longer had a home.

Invading the Walled Riad by Moonlight

From the Story of Nyam

The king of the barbarians burst into the city, the first of them.

As he caught his breath under the canopy of the massive tree, he saw his breath expel tufts into the air.  His leathers creaked as he lowered his guard and placed his sword on his shoulder, taking in the courtyard.

His breath grew more silent, drowned out by the rain.  He watched it flash in the pools under the slow-burning lamps.  It echoed in the courtyard, the chatter of the water bouncing up from marble floor.  Its rhythm was soothing.

The groundskeeper had long since abandoned the upkeep of the tree.  There were no leaves on the ground, but its branches had been deflected by the wall and grew straight up.  There were too many lawn chairs for one keeper to handle, and most were stacked on top of each other.  There were three tables with chairs around them.  On one of them was a curvaceous silver teapot.  He stared at it.

Above the courtyard, there were many rooms but only one light was actually on.  The grand quarters above the center of the courtyard had a large door and overhanging eaves, and on top of it, you could make out the faint outlines of a roof.

But he could still see the dedication that had once gone into it.  There must have been an army of attendants here, just to clean the pool and fountains.  There must have been a singular mind brought here to carve the arabesques and work on the flowery capitals.  A mind of dedication.

This is how the city-dwellers lived.  They had luxuries that he could not even give word to.  These were not luxuries of gold and silver.  Gems and metals were peripheral.  These luxuries were grandiloquent, vast.  Luxuries of attendants, of time, of believing in a world that would exist tomorrow, of believing that enough so that they would lug stone across hundreds of miles to built courtyards like this one, so that they would summon artisans to carve and musicians to play for them and that they would do things like have tea in a courtyard, not believing that the tales of the barbarians sweeping the land were true.  Or, as it occurred to him then, perhaps taking the time to have tea even despite knowing that someone like him would storm in, followed by an army of others.

He recalled the tales of treasures and opulence.  It occurred to him now that he would not find gold here.  This was a different kind of treasure, one that could not be taken.

He was still there, rooted, as the others rushed past him, bloodthirsty and savage.

One of them picked up the teapot.  He shouted for them to stop.

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