The wide avenues were impressive. The paving stones were joined seamlessly together, slightly differing shades of blue artfully creating the sense of a river rolling through the immense towers and palaces running down each side of the street. He had once stayed overnight in Abor'maseleine, but this city out-shined that one by far. There were a few peddlers to be seen, but mostly it was just the citizens of the city going about their lives. Mostly women, children, and the old, of course. The city had offered up most of its men to the armies just as the rest of the nation had. His own city, Mar'vuriene, had almost no male population left, as mayor he had been one of the very few men to stay behind when the call was made to muster. He would have gone to, but for his limp right arm. It was the plague of him. But now he had reached the capitol, and he would serve the war effort in his own way.
He had heard the stories that had started coming in from the outside all those months ago. He felt the same disgust, disbelief, rage, fear, and resolve that all the able-bodies did. At first no one had even believed that Trollocs or Myrddraal were real. Merchants and travelers had been laughed at, one man had even been chased out of town and told not to return. But eventually the sheer volume of reports; battles fought in Safer, towns and cities in Jaramide leveled, more and more and more. The stories came out of all of the Ten Nations. Then the call came from the capitol for men to join the army. It got very real, surreal even, very quickly. And he got to sit aside and watch the 'real men' go off to defend mankind and the Light. Not him, he would not stand by helpless and watch the world burn. He could not cleave the heads off of Shadowspawn with sword gleaming and muscles rippling, but he could help lead his people to victory. His father had been a very wealthy merchant, and had become a frequent visitor at court. Last month he had finally received the answer to all of his pulled strings: he was to have a place advising King!
The journey had been a long one. The weeks had started to run together, endless forest beside the Capitol Road, night after night asleep on the ground, miraculously interrupted occasionally by a room at an inn in some flyspeck village. Then one day he was riding, again, hoping a town would present itself so that he might not have another cold, uncomfortable night. That day he had learned to be careful what hopes he prayed to the Creator to grant. A town had appeared along the Capitol Road that day, and he had the worst nights sleep he had ever had in his life. Cyl'rah'liline was a city the size of his own Mar'vuriene. As he approached the city, his joy at the thought of a good night's sleep and a hot meal had clouded his senses and his judgment. He didn't realize what had happened there until he reached the city center and dismounted. That is when he finally noticed the smell. The things he saw done to the bodies of the men, women, and especially the disgusting things he saw done to the poor children of Cyl'rah'liline would haunt him for the rest of his life. He had forced himself to ride through the city calling out for survivors, he had forced himself to open doors and call out for the living. He regretted looking for he had found nothing but more horrors. Heads lay alone on the floors of homes, the rest of the occupants had probably filled the bellies of Trollocs. One child had been staked down to a table, her entrails had been pulled out and covered the floor around the table legs.
He had retched more than one time that day. And more than one time in the days since when the memories ambushed him in the darkness. The terror of that day had steeled his heart and clarified in his mind what was necessary. Those things had to be stopped, at whatever cost. Shadowspawn could not roam the country and do that to his people. The street finally brought him to the gated courtyard that led to the Royal Palace of Aridhol. He presented himself to the guard at the gatehouse.
"What is your business at the palace?" The guard was young, strong, and much taller than he himself was. The man had dark curly brown hair peaking out from beneath the polished silver helmet he wore. His dark brown eyes weren't cruel, only hard.
"The victory of the Light is all, brother. My name is Mordeth, I am here to see King Balwin."