109 Empty Eyes
Despite the random thoughts swirling about in her head, Zoey was able to make her way to Brumau's eastern plaza in one piece. There she found a carnival of activity as hundreds of people filed through the plaza to check the leaderboard in the center. The board itself was a huge, four sided obelisk that displayed the different team names and their score in magical writing on its surface.
Zoey saw that some of the teams in the plaza were clearly high status, as could be seen by the throng of admirers following them around. The shiny armor and the gaudy clothing was a little much though. It was more like a festival than a defense force against the beast tide. But Zoey figured that she would have a chance to see them in action soon enough. She had overheard from the conversations around her that there was a wave coming in tonight, and it was already late afternoon. Many teams were already leaving the town and heading east to the Bulwark in preparation.
Zoey had decided to tag along to see this beast tide. She wanted to see these beasts, and maybe she could get a lead on this corrupted creature she has supposed to take down as well. There was no organized control of all the various teams, most were doing their own thing.
Zoey found herself following the flow of people as they left the town, heading towards the Bulwark as she listened in on the conversations around her.
"Do you think we will get some more essence stones tonight?"
"If the asses up front don't take them all, sure..."
"What did I tell you about repairing your armor? I said to wrap the leather like this..."
"Addar lost an arm last time, so you better be careful rookie.."
Zoey caught various conversations going on around her as she walked. Surprisingly, most people seemed to ignore her completely. It probably helped that she was not doing much to stand out. Aside from her not being in a group, there was nothing about her that seemed to attract attention.
There was also a large group of stragglers following along behind the main group that consisted of the less fortunate. Beggars and scavengers, young and old, Zoey knew when she saw them that they were not fighters, but here to pick up the scraps left behind in the aftermath.
The one kilometer trek to the Bulwark was uneventful, with the rainy gloom of night slowly settling in on them. There were torches brought forth to light the way, and other magical artifacts as well that produced light in various forms. There was also booze being passed around, and the atmosphere was generally lighthearted, not at all what Zoey had expected it to be.
There was a short Vekt that was part of a gang that was completely drunk and could barely walk. His group found this hilarious and was dragging him along, laughing at his feeble attempts to stagger and keep up with them.
She had expected a more somber atmosphere from the people defending Brumau against the beast tide, but she was enjoying the antics of the various groups around her. Zoey noticed that the ground was beginning to slope upwards as they got closer to their destination.
When the column of people reached the Bulwark, Zoey had to stop to take in the sight. The Bulwark was a section of land that had been ripped out of the ground to form the defensive barrier that protected Frenach. The side facing the wasteland was a sheer cliff of rock and stone, the top of which shimmered with a magical effect.
From the side that Zoey was on, it was an upwards slope that ended with a sharp upward spike of stone that formed the edge of the cliff. The cliff itself was over two hundred meters tall in most areas, giving the Bulwark an impressive height.
The place they were here to defend was dubbed as the Gap by the defenders Zoey had overheard. This Gap was a wide washout that over the years had cut into the Bulwark to form a huge canyon that slashed right through the rock, opening a path to the wasteland below. Time and water had created the rather large main canyon and several smaller canyons, tunnels and gorges that split off from the main one.
All of these had to be sealed or defended, and most were too big to seal properly or permanently, and the beast tide had a nasty habit of finding the smallest crevasses to slip through.
As Zoey was standing and taking in the view of the Gap and the stream of people marching into the gloomy depths, someone suddenly ran into her from behind. When she reacted and turned to confront who had done so, she found herself looking into the face of a young boy.
It was a dirty face, covered in mud, and his black hair was matted with filth and mud as well. But, what Zoey noticed most of all was his eyes, they were the same color as the grey sky, and they were empty.
No spark of life, no will, no reaction to her, only emptiness.
What she saw in that boy's eyes gave Zoey a feeling of sorrow so deep, that behind her mask, she felt herself freeze in reaction.
She knew this kind of emptiness. She had felt it consume herself when she had realized that her entire world was dead, and she the only survivor.
It was an emptiness that consumed the self and left behind only a shell.
But why was she seeing this hellish emptiness in the eyes of a boy?!
Just as suddenly as the moment appeared, it passed. The boy broke eye contact and trudged on, shoulders slumped, head bowed. Zoey stared after him, her mind still in turmoil from the encounter.
Who was this boy?? Why did she get that sudden feeling of emptyness from him?
As Zoey watched the boy walk ahead, a group of adventurers neared him, and Zoey witnessed the leader of the group, an armored man with a sword and shield, deliberately push the boy as he walked past. The boy was clearly not expecting the shove, and toppled over into the mud, much to the amusement of the man who pushed him and his group.
The laughter of the group brought Zoey back to reality. Her first reaction was to help the boy, but before she could, the laughing group went on their way, and the boy got up, wiped the mud from his eyes, and resumed walking without any reaction to what had happened.
Something here was definitely off...