The smoke made Amber wince as she moved past a chimney belting out black clouds. Given, that was most of the chimneys she’d passed so far. One would think it was winter and not early autumn with how much wood the city was burning. It wasn’t only wood either. Passing one chimney she wrinkled her nose as the acrid smell of overly charred meat met it. She wanted to press a hand to her mouth but couldn’t spare one, the slick clay tiles that lined the slanted roof garnered her limbs full attention. Almost there, almost-yes! She made it.
Pulling herself up to that nice flat area, she looked around. It wasn’t the highest point in the city by a long shot, but it was plenty high enough for her to get her bearings as she got a good look around. Honestly, it was a bit less colorful than she was used to. She understood that the walls were all made of the same type of grey stone, probably something they cut from the local mountains and brought down the river. It was the same for the streets, grey stone set in blocks that lined up like a monochrome chessboard. But that didn’t explain how most of the buildings were wooden. Somehow the wood looked all washed out, like it’d been left in the rain to rot for several days. Where it wasn’t faded, it was blackened by some sort of thick, oily substance that smelled like it was burning when it wasn’t.
It was much the same with the people here. If there was a popular color among the people she’d seen, she’d say it was a tie between brown and beige. Her own clothing was downright flamboyant in comparison. It shouldn’t have been; it was only a pair of dark pants and an orange blouse, perfect for moving through a forest. But in this city against the monotony of the streets, she might have caught people’s eyes, and she really didn’t need people looking at her too closely. Still she couldn’t help it, none of the clothing she had brought with her would have helped her blend in with just flat grey. It wasn’t custom in her home to wear such a subdued color palette.
She had to marvel at the sheer scale of the city. From up high she could really appreciate that someone probably put some thought into the design. Mainly, there was one large road that cut through the entire city from the front gate all the way to the most prominent structure: the castle gates. The designer had thought to make it easy to get goods through the city to the castle. Besides that, there was a road she could see in the large gap between buildings that led to the port. That road also bisected the city, creating a slightly awkward cross shape. Everything else seemed to branch out from those two roads, without much rhyme or reason. As she looked further on, the city looked a bit more neatly structured the closer it got to the castle. Maybe all this clutter was because the city hadn’t been built all at once? That was possible, it was a pretty large city. From what her uncle told her, lots of settlements started small then grew outwards, though in this case the growth was just more downhill rather than outwards in all directions.
Amber had a bit of ground to cover if she wanted to get to the Adventurer’s Hall by nightfall. She was still fairly close to the wall, and the directions she’d gotten from Sirrus said that the hall was somewhere on the western side of the city on the road that went to the docks. He probably expected her to walk along the street below, until she had pointed out the obvious problems with that idea. No, that long main road was much too crowded, even with an open path she might well have gotten lost in the press of bodies.
Still, she needed to….
A faint sound resonated through the roof beneath her hands. A deep shiver went up her spine as well honed senses reflexively made her pull her feet under her rather than in a seated position.She glanced around. Crouched low, she held her breath as she listened for the direction of the—there! Turning her head slowly she saw a figure skulk out from the shadows of an overhang on a nearby building. It seemed no longer concerned with stealth, as it had been detected. Amber stared into the yellow eyes of a predator.
The house cat meowed slowly, blinking a bit as it walked toward Amber. She slowly stepped backward, her hand shakily reaching for the bow on her back.She pulled out an arrow, though she didn’t notch it. “No closer,” she said, her voice a little more frail than she wanted it to be as she continued to back away from the cat.
It padded lightly forward, tail up as it walked easily along the rooftop. Amber pulled up the arrow, her hand steady with the weapon pulled back.
“I’ll shoot! Don’t think I won’t.” Still the cat moved closer as Amber aimed the bow directly at it. It was just one ca…
Two more thumps, barely audible but enough to make Amber’s head turn. Two more cats, one on the other side of the peak, and one on the roof tiles on the southern side. All advancing, tails flicking as Amber turned her bow up. She stared at them, assessing her options. Options which were rapidly dwindling as the first one continued to close in.
She needed to act, and act quickly. With this many, it was reasonable, more than justified to do so. She could handle this situation.
With a quick turn to confirm the others’ location, Amber took a short glance, then leaped off the top ledge, sliding down the slope, then jumping the small gap over to the next building. She took off at a full sprint.