A shepherd walked into The Waning Crescent, an Inn towards the western end of Kuz. It was the oldest Inn and one of the very first buildings built in the city. The walls, though, were solid and flawless. The roof had no broken shingles and the floors did not creak. The Waning Crescent was very well taken care of, its owners took great pride in the building and did whatever they could to make it better.
The shepherd wore the simple clothes of his class and a straw hat to block the sun's rays. His eyes were hardly visible because of the shadow his hat created. There was no one to greet him at the counter, nobody to take his order. That was all very fine for the man, because he did not come for food. The shepherd sat at the table closest to the front door and turned his chair to face the window. He placed his left arm on the table to support himself and casually looked outside.
Smoke was enveloping the city of Kuz. Everywhere people ran, coughing and wheezing, stumbling over each other, trying to find some way out. Men held onto their wives, who held onto their children. Children looked around, confused as to why their parents were dragging them along so violently. Screams could be heard for a short period of time before the people who were screaming realized that the very act was only harming them further. The shepherd shook his head, watching as several families ignorantly headed in the wrong direction, blinded by both fear and smoke.
The shepherd took inventory of the Inn. There were two elderly women sitting on the other side of the door, a younger man seated near the kitchen, his face down on a table. There was a middle-aged couple pacing in the back of the room. The man turned his attention back to the window and paid them no mind. The smoke had not yet penetrated the walls of the Inn, he doubted that the smoke would be able to. In Kuz, the walls of every public building had magical runes etched into them to protect the buildings from natural disasters, invaders and other horrors that could befall buildings in Kuz.
"What sort of monster exists in this world that would do a thing like this?"
Alarmed, the shepherd turned in his seat to see one of the elderly women he had noted earlier. He shook off the look of alarm, cursing himself for looking like a fool. "You know what sort of monsters exist in Kuz, ma'am. Why just last week I had four of his men come and slaughter half my flock. Said they was hungry."
"Yes, well we all expect that in Kuz, but a thing like this has never happened. His men have never threatened the entire city before. Kuz has never even known fire. This is a battle our people do not know. Kuz knows about murder and thieves. Kuz knows about traps set in the woods. His men have never once set fire, never once." The old woman put her hands on her hips and looked out the window scrutinizingly.
The shepherd shook his head. "Pardon me, ma'am, but do you know where this fire came from? Do you know where it was started?" The other elderly woman looked over at her friend, wondering why she was taking so long with the young shepherd. The couple heard the question and wandered over near the shepherd. The young man near the kitchen raised his head, ears attentive.
"Why, I'd imagine his men must have started it in someones field," explained the old woman with a silent logic. Everyone subconsciously nodded, this must be the reason.
A small smile of pity touched the shepherd's lips. "I'm 'fraid not, ma'am. This here fire started in the dark recesses that are the sewers of Kuz." The woman's eyes grew large in terror, she shook her head, everyone else was speechless. "You heard me true, in the sewers of Kuz. You see only the smoke that comes up from the sewers. Ma'am, if you don't believe me, look just yonder." The shepherd pointed out the window and then encompassed the view with his hand. "Do you see the actual fire?"
The elderly woman pushed past the shepherd and put her face against the window. The couple looked at each other and frowned, looking nervously at the older woman. The young man stared at the shepherd, saying nothing. When the woman had looked long enough she turned to the shepherd with a look of incredulity. "He is right. There is naught but smoke." The woman glanced around the room, taking in each one of her companions. "I think we all know what this portends."
There was a silence in the room as each person glanced at one another, no one daring to speak the words that were on everybody's mind. The couple came closer together, gripping each other for support. The other elderly woman walked over to stand by her friend. The silence seemed to last a long time, everyone looking at each other or out the window. Nobody glanced at the shepherd, though all were silently begging the man to say the words that they so feared.
The young man in the back of the room stood up and cleared his throat. He had to attempt to speak several times before he was able to coherently state, "Someone has superseded Illix."
The room, so quiet before, went up in one large collective gasp. Everyone flinched at the words and shuddered at the thought. Eventually the people in the Inn came to their senses. When they came to their senses, the young man was sitting in the seat opposite the shepherd.
"Sir. How does a man slay the invincible? And wherefore?" asked the young man.
The shepherd turned to the man, not at all perturbed or surprised that he had arrived so close so quickly. "Hell if I know! I just know what I see and I seen the smoke comin' from the sewers. I ain't no fibber. All I know is when I get back to my fields, ain't gonna be no sheep left. But hell, if someone found it in their mind to slay Illix, is that all that bad? Illix was a mighty foul seed, by my book." The shepherd bit his tongue as a large, violent outcry reverberated around him.
The old woman came to his rescue. "Now, brothers, sisters of Kuz, listen here. This young man has gone through a lot today and so have we all. He may not be aware of what he is saying and we certainly cannot damn someone for irrationality." She eyed the room violently, shielding the shepherd with her body. The rest of the room glared back, more out of fear of the blasphemy than anything else. Seeing that the old woman wasn't going to move, the people eventually settled down.
The room was silent again for a significant amount of time. In Kuz, the true government was not in the senators of the city, but a sort of dark, unstated but undeniably existing government. In Kuz, those who ruled the sewers, ruled the city. Illix had ruled the city for forty years and had enough men to compose an army to rival that of Torunque, a bordering country. Illix had raised a legion of thieves, assassins and trouble makers so foul, so infamous, that the city of Kuz was shrouded in a thick layer of myth and mystery. People came to Kuz, hearing its legends. They left Kuz, if they were lucky, and gained the knowledge of how very few tall tales there were about Kuz. Despite how horrible and grotesque the tales were, they were true to the end. Kuz was a city to be feared. Illix was a man to be respected. It is said that those who speak ill of the man end up in a gully or hanging from a cliff. In one case, a man was said to have been cut up into sixty separate pieces and mailed to every one of his existing family members, friends and acquaintances.
The shepherd stared out the window and shook his head. "Tell me true, mother..." In Kuz, all elderly women were called mother and all elderly men were called father. It was out of respect for the great amount of years they have survived in Kuz. "This man who creates such a monstrosity that it would terrorize a city. This man who slays those above him to gain power. This man who threatens the lives of civilians for whatever his personal, selfish goal happens to be... is he damned? Is he a monster?" The shepherd looked the elderly woman right in the eye with a great intensity, as if the woman were about to answer the greatest question he had ever come across.
The woman placed her arm on her chest. "Oh dear boy. Dear child, what terrible things you must have witnessed in this horrid city. How many that you cared about must have passed." The woman took the shepherds hands and held them in her own, granting any strength she might have. "None here are in any way to blame for this terror, child. The man who did this is a man devoid of any emotion, of any conscience. The man who did this is cruel and corrupt and fate shall see him through its blade by the end! No dear one, this event is not one of Kuz, not of our people. The man who created this does not deserve to be called a man. He is a monster. One fiend will fall, another will rise. There is no change in Kuz." The woman's voice was soft and warm, seeking only to comfort the young shepherd.
The man looked at the woman without seeing her. He hung his head, took off his hat and placed it on his chest. The room stirred, confused. "You're right... He is a monster." The shepherd looked back up at the old woman and stood. "This monster has a name. His name is Kagnos." The man walked stiffly towards the door. "Oh and, you... put the damn dagger away... monsters don't die so easily." With that, Kagnos left the Inn, leaving the room in a mess of emotion.
The young man who had been sitting opposite from Kagnos put his dagger away and looked down, ashamed he had not been quicker and less obvious. The couple seemed to be turned to stone, staring at the door as if Kagnos would appear again and take their lives. The elderly women sighed and shook their heads. It was Kuz. Nothing will ever change in Kuz.