The streets of Durak Holm were bustling today. If you were a visitor to Eretsu from some other great homeland you’d hardly know a war was in full-swing outside the walls. The Gudanna have made a great advance against the Durani forces, and for once the Durani have turned tail.
Though it’s possible the retreat was a plan all along, since the northern forces are blockaded in a heavily fortified state. Almost no one can enter the northern region without taking volleys from Fire Rams posted at every corner of the walls protecting Karana Naga. Even Supakva is fortified to withstand an attack from the outside.
Here in Durak Holm, though, the mindset of the people was much different. Specifically, in the city’s trade quarters it felt almost what the locals would call normal. People were buying and selling, holding conversations, and some were even smiling. This was a most unfamiliar feeling.
Nikara even begun thinking why he’d let himself travel so far south. Then he remembered the withered woman he’d run into not long ago. “A powerful magic lies on that land,” she’d told him. “Surely there must exist a Zri mage in the region, for only their magic would give off such a potent trail.”
Nikara didn’t consider himself a powerful mage by any sort, but what he did know was that his was quite a capable mind. That, and he was faithful in the rites of his ancestors. He clutched the riddled bone necklace he wore around his neck. It was an heirloom, passed down from generation to generation, where now it resided with him. It gave him protection and served as a reminder to where his respect lies.
He continued wandering the streets, tightening the wrapping on his shoulders. The sun was beating down on the city, but it was important that he remained as hidden as possible. He was Urugal, and though he meant no real harm to anyone in his surroundings the general feeling toward his kind was that of ire.
The Urugal clans were, for lack of a better word, savage. Though not savage in the general sense of the word, the clans’ way of life was a bit…unconventional. Where the Durani and Gudanna took pride in riding their golem warmachines into battle, often those left on the fields of strife ended up becoming part of the Urugal golems used in the north.
From an early age Nikara was trained in the ancient ritual of Boneletting, which essentially meant stripping the bones from one’s body and leaving a shell behind. In fact, Nikara’s own golem was created by using bones from his own ancestors. He felt a connection with the golem that was unlike any other knight’s in existence, and he told himself this very often.
The Urugal knight wasn’t a war hero of any sort, but he’d seen his share of time on the battlefield – mostly fighting off the Zikia tribes. His golem had tasted the sting of conflict, but thanks to Nikara’s regeneration magic the golem has long withstood any onslaught it has met with. Still, each and every point of damage the golem takes is a personal attack on Nikara’s ancestors.
This thought severely scarred Nikara’s mind. In fact, this was his motivation for leaving the homelands in the first place. His run-in with the withered witch had led him here, to the lands resting beneath Durak Holm.
He parted his way through the crowd to reach one of the back alleys of the trade quarter. At the end of the alley was a large building with boarded up windows. A black sign hung out front that read, “Krom’s Razor”. For any normal merchant this looked like some run-down inn, however, to a seasoned trader this could be none other than an entrance to the underground black market ring.
Nikara was sure that he’d find something in the city’s illegal trade ring that would help lead him to the powerful magics bleeding from the prophetic Zri mage he was told about. As he approached the building he paid attention to the fencing on the building’s right side. It was bent, ever so slightly, signaling that it had been manipulated recently.
He approached the fence and pulled, opening a concealed door that revealed a dark stairwell. Without hesitating he felt himself stepping down the stairs into the underground world of Durak Holm. He closed his eyes for a moment and took a deep breath. His heart beat with a force unlike anything he’d felt before. If there was anything here that would help him in his goal, this is where he’d find it.
As the door closed behind him he felt himself smile. He was one step closer to strengthening the bond between himself and his golem, and what’s more is he was closer than ever to creating something that would make it invincible.