105 The Grey Sky of Brumau
The town of Brumau, a staging point for defending the Bulwark against the beast tide currently underway. Located approximately in the center of Frenach, only a kilometer from the Bulwark, Brumau was one of the more popular destinations in Frenach and was coincidentally the location of the largest gap in the Bulwark defences. This gap was in the form of a large canyon that split the cliffs of the Bulwark wide open, along with a number of smaller canyons, tunnels and gorges that split away from the main canyon that also needed to be defended.
It would be worth noting that a beast tide was a several month long event that had varying intensity. The beasts would hit the Bulwark in waves, once a week at first, then picking up tempo until there were several waves a day at the peak of the tide. Currently, the waves came about every two to three days apart, but they were getting more frequent.
However, the spirits of the defenders were high. There had only been a few altercations between some of the pirates, gangs, and adventurers that had gathered, but things had been settled down and everyone had made peace, for now.
It was a grey, rainy day in Brumau. Most of the streets in the town were not paved, and as a result had turned into sloppy messes. But the mud did not slow down the activity taking place on one of these streets. This street was lined with weapons dealers, blacksmiths, alchemists, and more. In preparation for a new wave of beasts that was spotted heading towards the Bulwark, the street was flooded with all manner of people preparing their gear for the opportunity to get some valuable essence stones and magic beast materials.
The muddy street was filled with cheerful arguments and conversations even in the rain as various teams made their way in and out of the shops. In the spirit of the competition, the four man teams competing for the top spot on the leaderboard were often lauded as celebrities, and their personalities often grew to match their status.
One of these teams had just exited one of the blacksmith shops and quickly drew the attention of the people on the street. This team had dubbed themselves the Shields of Brumau, and had been in first place on the board since the beast tide began. They were sponsored by the Barron, who was the owner of Brumau, and the leader of the group was also the son of the Barron. As a result, this team had a lot of status in the town, even to the point of being called the Heroes of Brumau by some of the townsfolk, and they loved showing off their status by strutting around town.
Their appearance here set off a number of events. The younger and inexperienced flocked around to get a look and maybe speak to the great Heroes of Brumau, while the battle hardened veterans simply looked on from the side. The civilians of course shouted and yelled, hoping that one of their heroes would glance or wave at them. It was quite the sight to see the Shields of Brumau and their excited fans make their way down the street.
Nobody noticed as the entourage made their was down the street, a person that accidentally happened to be in their path was shoved to the side, sending them down into the mud. The victim was then trampled further into the ground as the crowd of admirers made their way past.
A few minutes later, when the street had returned to normal, the figure slowly picked themselves up. Nobody helped this person... why would they? This was a dog-eat-dog world, and someone with no team and no support would get nothing from the strangers around them.
That was the dark side of Brumau. If you looked past the shiny armor and bright colors of the celebrities and the showboaters, you would find the people in the alleys and slums of the town. Some were misfortunate, some wounded in one of the beast tides, and some were abandoned for one reason or another. The cripples, the orphans, the unlucky, the useless, all of them existed in some way or another in Brumau, trying to scrape a living from what was left behind by the ones more fortunate than they were.
Some of these people had once been heroes like the ones that had just passed down the street. But a stroke of bad luck, a missed parry with their blade, or maybe piss off the wrong gang leader by looking at them, and the next thing you know you were here with nothing to your name but the clothing on your back.
Like the person that had been trampled into the mud, if you were not strong enough, you got pushed down and stepped on. There was always someone looking to take advantage of those weaker than them, and one such case was currently taking place.
As the person who had been trampled was trying to clean the mud from their face, they were suddenly hit from behind, knocking back down into the mud face first.
"Well well, if it isn't Shitstain! Funny meeting you here! I was just looking for you!"
An armored man carrying a sword and shield on his back stood over the prone form of the person he had just pushed down with a grin on his face. Behind him stood a large man wearing similar armor and carrying a two handed sword, ignoring the scene and looking around aimlessly. With them were two women dressed in tight-fitting robes and wielding magical staves. The women seemed to find the mud covered person quite hilarious as they giggled and pointed at the unfortunate person in the mud as the first man stepped on the person's back, keeping them on the ground.
Around them, the other people passing by never even glanced at the scene. This was nothing new in Brumau.
"Get up Shitstain!" the man said as he lifted his foot and kicked the person still down in the mud.
The person slowly got to their feet. It was a young boy, probably in his early to mid teens, though it was hard to see through the mud caked on his face. In fact he was completely covered in mud now, thanks to the man with a sword and shield.
"Remember me? Its your friend Karnel! I was just coming to check on you! How did you do in the last wave? You get any essence stones? I need to borrow some, so lemme have yours." the man said as the muddy youngster struggled to his feet.
The boy never looked at the man, but opened his ragged, mud-caked coat and retrieved a small pouch from inside, then handed it to his "friend" Karnel. Karnel grabbed the pouch with a grin and opened it, looking at the contents.
"Only one stone huh Shitstain? guess you weren't lucky enough this time..." said Karnel as he pulled one essence stone from the pouch.
Suddenly he grabbed the boy by the collar and lifted him off the ground.
"You aren't hiding any extra stones from me, are you Shitstain?" Karnel said with a grin as he held the boy in the air.
Strangely, the boy did not struggle, he only shook his mud-covered head as he hung there.
"You better not be, cause if I find out you have been hiding stones from me Shitstain, I will feed you to the beasts next time they show up."
Karnel seemed like he had his fun, so he threw the boy back into the mud, then walked off with his team as he pocketed the essence stone with a laugh.
After a moment, the boy got up from the mud and walked away with his head low, limping slightly as he did. He limped his way through the mud to a part of Brumau that most of the adventurers and celebrities never came to. Around him were shacks cobbled together with rubble and other random materiels. Here was where the poor and crippled lived, the slums of Brumau.
Before long, the boy had limped his way to a hill that rose up from the surrounding poverty. Nobody else dared to step foot here on this hill. All the townspeople thought it was cursed, an evil place. For the boy though... it was something else.
At the top of the hill was a burned up tree. Only a blackened husk with some branches left, the tree cut a sorrowful picture against the rainy, grey sky as the boy reached it and knelt on the ground head bowed. The only sound was that of the rain as it fell, slowly mixing in with the mud on his clothing and face.
Several minutes later, the boy looked up from the ground and turned his gaze west. In that direction was Brumau's Kreppelin port. In the distance through the falling rain the boy could see the faint shape of another airship coming in for landing. More mercenaries no doubt, here to make some money from the beast tide.
Nothing would change. They would be just another greedy, selfish bunch like the rest.
The boy turned his gaze back to the tree, finding the name carved into the burnt wood.
His mother had been different. She had cared about others. Everything she had ever done had been for someone other than herself. But all that selflessness had only gotten her killed in the end, leaving him alone.
He was still here, fulfilling his mother's final wish. She had asked him to protect this town until he turned fourteen, and he only had one more year left. Once it was over, he could leave this god forsaken place.
So here he would stay with an empty heart, protecting the town that didn't deserve to be protected.