The road sloped gently upward, toward the third wall and the Second Ward beyond it a league or so distant. Beyond that, at the top of the rise, Ayden could just make out the parapets atop the final wall and the spired roof of the castle keep.
Their caravan halted at the heavily-guarded third wall, and Ayden watched with wary interest as a captain spotted the ambassador and rushed his fellows into opening the gate. They were afraid of this man, and if their actions weren’t enough to confirm it, their songs certainly were.
After three weeks on the road with him, Ayden couldn’t blame them.
The air in the Second Ward was sweet with broad gardens and autumn leaves, stately terraced homes of brick and stone set wall to wall but well back from the cobbled road. ‘Twas sweet relief to be among the relative quiet—fewer songs pressing in against his mind-ear, fewer threats against which to hold himself ready. He spotted no idlers on the (clean) streets; the men were about their business, the children surely at their lessons, the women no doubt home where these humans so single-mindedly thought they belonged.
Yet he knew the sense of security here was false. A few powerful men were no less dangerous than an armed mob.
And ooh, if you haven't seen it yet, the whole first chapter of Crescendo is up now at the publisher's site!
Have a lovely weekend, folks!