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Map's Edge: Aletrias

Beginnings, Part One: Take your first steps in the city of Aletrias.

On a morning fair, in a city old, there stood a mighty Oak. Many mornings stood this towering tree in the center of the square. A great many of those mornings led to days of joy and plenty. Some led to pain and sorrow, but through it all, under flame and frost, Aletrias endured. The rising sun revealed this day that it did not stand alone. Here, Cassandra entered, motionless beneath the oaken branches. Entranced by their sway, she noticed not the sea’s chill rolling over the city, nor did she notice the light growing about the ever busying square. The crack of a cart against stone broke the moment’s enchantment and her senses returned. An instant of pause passed, then she set off with all haste. Cassandra was late.

“Cassandra, you’re late,” Lerrick said without turning from his desk.

“Yes, I know, sorry. I got caught up in the square,” She replied. Then she made her way over to the parchment racks, depositing supplies along the way. Stationary, mathematical tools, and countless books filled the office. 

“You’re not a novice anymore. See that this tardiness is left in the past,” He said. He stood up sharply and walked over to the stairs on the far side of the room. Cass took a deep breath and steadied herself on a chair. She loves this work. She would hate to lose it. Especially so if it was lost because she lost track of time.

“We’ve got something special today, I think,” Lerrick said, bouncing down the steps with a dozen books in his arms. In moments like this, his true age shows. He’s not an old man—he’s not even grey, but his solemn countenance and often tedious profession could fool anyone. A moment of awkward silence pulled her out of her contemplation. Oh, he’s waiting for me to say something, she thought.

“That sounds intriguing, if not rather vague. What is it?” She said.

“A key! We’re putting the cataloging order for Stonebreak on hold. I believe I found a key to first age Cemeri cyphers in one of their books. If this works, we can petition the king for a recommission on the Cemeri expedition we closed three months ago,” He replied, hardly pausing for breath.

“That’s awesome news! I had almost given up hope on finding that treasure trove,” She said. This was one her favorite parts of being a collector; the excitement. The feeling of being on the edge of discovery, of wonder.

“You never know what you’re going to find. The past is a tangled web, all interconnected. That’s why we have to be meticulous in our studies. I would hate to miss out on the discovery of a lifetime because I was being lazy,” He said. He had a tendency to drift into accidental lectures.

“Yes, that would be terrible,” She agreed, “I see you already have the Stonebreak tome on your desk. Is the Cemeri parchment ready for decoding?”

“Hmm. No, not yet. We need to check this key to determine its authenticity first. If it checks out, then we’ll move on to their texts,” He said while arranging his bundle of books on the table.

“Alright, then,” Said Cass. She gathered the supplies they would need while Lerrick determined the best order in which to investigate the books. He placed all twelve of them in a row along the wider side of the table. Then he moved the Stonebreak tome from his desk to the center of the table. She had already placed the stationary next to the center of the table, along with an abacus and other mathematical tools on either end.

The hours quickly passed with their minds captivated by their search. They would each examine a book, cross referencing it with the tome and writing down anything that matched the key. When they finished, each book they would switch with each other before moving on to the next two. This way, they could limit the chance of missing something as much as possible. The quiet focus made time seem to just slip away.

 They were about a third of the way through the seventh and eighth books when the city’s clock tower rang noon. Fighting the temptation of lunch and its aroma on the breeze, they finished both the first and second read through of their books. Cass was ready to run out the door.

“Okay, all done! I’m thinking Karrie’s tavern today. I heard earlier this week that she’s hired a new cook,” She said.

“Hmm? Oh, okay. You go ahead. I’m gonna stay here and go over what we’ve collected so far,” Said Terrick.

“Are you sure? I’ve heard very good things about this guy,” She replied.

“Yes, I’m sure. Would you mind bringing back some bread and cheese, though?” He said.

“Yeah, you got it,” Cass said as she put on her coat by the door, “I’ll be back in about half an hour.”

“Alright. Don’t be late,” Terrick sat down at his desk, hiding a smile. This find really has him in a good mood, Cass thought, I do believe he just made a joke.

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