This is one that's been sitting around gathering dust. Until I started this now, it was broken up into several pieces, different parts of the story written as the scenes occurred to me. I had the outline in my head, but hadn't I gotten around to finishing it. The name will change when I'm done.

Cityscape

Ch. 1 City of the Dead

The air hung thick and hazy over the streets of the city. The silence seemed to weigh as heavily as the summer heat as Michael looked over the streets and alleys from his perch on the wall.

At first it seemed to be perfect, untouched by time. But a closer look, showed the marks that time and neglect had left behind. The magic of his ancestors could only do so much, too much time had passed. And he was the first of his blood to walk these streets in centuries.

Soon the silence began to bother him, the thrill of the place had long ago begun to grow thin. He ran his hands over the brick of the palace wall to anchor himself to to the feel of this place for he planned to return after he went through this latest load of books. Once he had the feel of this part of the city he returned to the spot where he had entered this section. He felt the energy of the gate and let it pull him back.

The pale stone of the walls washed with color and he found himself back in the alcove of his of the library. He would probably return tomorrow after he had time to study the books he had retrieved from the palace library. He wanted to make sure he had the gate fully set up, he had no intension of becoming trapped the next time he visited the city, and he wanted to explore other cities without losing access to the gate. He also wanted to see if there were any other's left behind when his people had abandoned the city.

Michael grinned at the whisper of power sliding over his skin, he was glad the magics surround the palace and libraries held longer than those protecting the city. He had been adding to what was left as he learned more from the books he read from the library, and those that his ancestors had brought through the gate with them.

They were stored in the house he had inherited earlier this last year. Time enough for that later, he thought to himself and walked over to the bag of books he had left over by the side of the worldgate.

As he hoisted the heavy bag over his shoulder, he activated the gate with a whisper of power. Home again, he thought.


That evening deep in study, Michael found the passage he had been looking for. The book he was holding had been in a separate room from the other books in the library. The protective magics of this room had been even better than those on the palace, he hadn't had to reinforce it as much as the others.

He was getting better at it, using the natural energies of the place, weaving them into a new pattern, subtle enough that he had to look closely to see what he had wrought. His excitement rose as he realized that this was the last piece of the puzzle, the key to the other cities.

He could now gate to any city listed on the palace maps. Now he didn't have to worry about changing architecture, changing streets or running into any inhabitants in his target city. This last spell he had in his hands would shift him to a safe location until he could anchor to a new place. He had only to choose. Michael stared at the map before him.

There was a small city near one edge of the map, the thought had occurred to him that it would be safer to start out with a smaller city. He ran his finger over the name, Wolden. This is it, he thought to himself. His excitement followed him as he put together a kit like the one he had made when he had found this city ab out a year ago.

Most of the things he needed he still had in his backpack, one of those silver space blankets, a few changes of clothing. Practical and attractive, able to suit whatever occasion he might run across. He also had the odds and ends needed for camping; a lighter,camp stove etc. He fingered the last item, a small bag of gold he had found in the palace treasury.

He had no worry that anyone else with magic could trace it to the city. The protections he had found here would repel anyone not of his bloodline, for he traced his ancestry to the ancient kings of this land and he had always been told, that all of that bloodline had passed through the gate to the world he had been born into.

He walked to the alcove he used to gate to the city and pulled himself through to the great hall of the palace. That was another magic he was improving in, he could "tweak" the gate to go anywhere near the main gate. He walked quickly to a new alcove, one he hadn't used yet for any gate.

He had no need to lay the basics of the spell, someone in the past had prepared many of these alcoves for mini gates in the past and those magics seemed to hold longer than most. He wove the spell carefully keeping his goal in mind as he finished his gate. The whole alcove glowed a strong blue-violet.

He wished he could see beyond what he called the event horizon, it would be nice to know what he was jumping into. However there was nothing else he could do but step through. As he entered he felt a shift and nearly lost his balance as the new spell took hold and shifted him from danger.

Soon after he fully entered Wolden a small body slammed into him, dropping an object as it bounced off of him. He swayed, but kept his balance as the vertigo passed from his wild ride. He glanced down to see what the child had dropped and saw a small bag. Michael knelt and reached for it.

Before he could touch it, a woman in a uniform came running up to where he knelt, stooping, she grabbed his hand and said "Wait, don't you know better than to contaminate the trace. If you touch this, we'll never be able to track down the thief".

He looked at her, grateful that the language of his ancestors hadn't changed beyond comprehension. Shaking his hand, he let an insulating layer of power cover his hand like a glove. He had made the spell when he had first arrived at the city and had been unsure about the magics that had been left there.

She dropped his hand at the first touch of power and stared. She backed up and Michael was afraid that, for all the magic his family had worked in these lands, it was uncommon. He hoped it hadn't been forgotten, but then she had mentioned a trace, simple magic according to the books he had been lately reading.

Rannela stared at the stranger before her. She had never seen anyone shield without a spell before. Mages always used elaborate rituals for their magics. They jealous of their knowledge, hiding the true source of a spell in strange words and gestures. She only knew as much as she did about their ways because her twin brother Ranlan had studied to be a mage.

He had never hidden anything from her and had told her some of what he studied when she had asked about it on one of his rare visits from his master. She had never heard of a mage who could do a spell without saying a word. "How did you do that, how did you make a shield without a spell" she blurted out.

Michael smiled "I needed a shield a few months ago, I wove the spell then, it was simply dormant until I needed it".

She looked at him in surprise, she hadn't expected him to answer. She looked at him trying to place where he had come from, his accent wasn't one she could place. His black hair was longer than the current fashion here, it hung loose to his shoulders, his light green eyes watched her watching him as she continued to note, his appearance, her training as guard cataloging him.

There was no sign of which mage school he came from. Usually they wore a broach in the color of their order, Ranlans was dark green, this man wore none. His clothing at first seemed to be nothing special, but they fit him perfectly and that meant money. Wherever he had come from he was doing well, she thought to herself. "I'll need your name and lodging" she told him. "You're a witness and I need to know where to reach you".

"I've only just arrived here and haven't found a place to stay yet, if you have any suggestions, it would be appreciated".

She frowned and thought of the Green Dragon, it wasn't the best place, but it was close to the station and she could reach him easily there "Try the Green Dragon, it two streets over at the crossing of Deris lane and Geller's lane"

He nodded "I'll go there then, and my names Michael Dehrense"he said.

They both turned at the arrival of her partner and the mage assigned to their station. Michael felt the faint aura of magic about the man and discreetly banished the shield on his hand before the other man could notice.

The woman nodded to him "We'll take over now, you go on to the Inn and tomorrow come to the station to fill out the report, ask for guardswoman Rannela".

"How will I find it" he asked softly, watching the mage mutter and gesture over the bag the boy had dropped. He shook his head slightly at the flare of magic, how crude he thought to himself.

"Someone at the Inn will give you directions, or there should be a few guardsmen there" she said, her voice distracting him from the other mage.

He nodded and left them to their work, watching the signs carefully, her directions were good and he soon came to a sign with a large green outline of a dragon.