Vilstram (Part One)
By Josh Vogt (TheLorian)
The city of Prathe was chilly in the cold northern air, situated on the hills just south of a rather impressive mountain known as Mount Nouver, a solitary peak among miles and miles of forest. To the north the land would turn into tundra, and to the south the temperate forests covered endless open wilds, a particularly popular hunting destination for any and all tourists from the area. Now, Prathe was also situated on the east coast of a rather large lake simply known as Nouver’s Tears, not that anyone can ever remember just who this Nouver was or why his mountain was crying, a joke oft made late nights at the pub.
The people of Prathe were tough, hardy folk that didn’t really give a shit what happened outside of their general vicinity. Crime in the city was often at a record low, given the massive military presence and the land’s greatest prison being present within the base of Mount Nouver, nigh impenetrable. However, this oppressive military presence breeds an air of distrust in their authority, and those who oft commit crimes have banded together in the city’s underground, known as the Crescent Moon, often making larger shows of strength. When the people aren’t working, dodging faction conflict, or just making it to the next day, there is always the threat of incursions from neighboring countries that the citizens are constantly drilled for, always fearing for their very lives. They’ve learned not to take any bull shit from anyone, and are some of the fiercest people in the world, fighting tooth and nail to keep what is theirs.
As the sun began to rise, a fierce snow storm began that morning, working up into something deadly. A small, ratty looking boy named Vilstram was searching the alleys behind the shops for something to fill his belly, as it had been several days since begging had last gotten him anywhere; and if you did it too much, they stopped feeling generous. He was just a poor, young teen, dirty blonde hair made so by actual mud and dirt, his green eyes faded and devoid of hope. He knew not to push his luck in places, which was why he wasn’t sure what to make of Daelin’s offer to join the Crescent Moon, given their business of risk taking and general illegal activities. In the past he would never have considered it, but lately they’d had so much success that he had to wonder if he wouldn’t be better off there, some place he belonged, where people would watch his back.
He had to give it a chance, for Daelin at least. Daelin was the reason he was still alive, and he owed it to him to help him out. Vilstram wished he hadn’t been so weak back then that he needed someone to take care of him that winter. It was storms like this that reminded him just how bad it had been back then, when Daelin had pulled him from the storm and nursed him back to health in his own home. For days after that he stayed with him, learning how to better survive on the streets, and it had felt like he’d found a home. That is, until Daelin tried to teach him how to steal. He was a street urchin, sure, and he was proud of it, but he was not ready to go down that kind of road. Over the years he’d been inching closer to being desperate enough to try it, and always pulled himself away from the edge.
He realized he hadn’t found anything for a block and a half, starting to genuinely worry that people were wising up to his scavenging and starting to move their trash somewhere else. As he made his way stealthily between buildings, he decided to take the sewers and head home, perhaps give this Crescent Moon business a genuine think for a few hours before he gave food another shot. The streets were already covered with a light dusting of snow in a storm that promised to get so much worse, but that didn’t matter to him. He knew the secret ways, the faster ways to get about the city, and he was good at it. He could get anywhere he wanted to and nobody would ever be able to follow him, he was sure of it.