Quinn kept his dice in the soft pouch and was an expert. That was the first thing the boys had done, rolled against each other. Quinn was an expert and had beaten everyone, but his winning had been accepted good naturally. Some were gifted with dice and he was one.
Then had come their meeting with Elymas in the Great Throne Room. They were supposed to be presented to the King but the King was dying, as everyone knew. They’d lined up in the Great Hall, waiting to meet the legendary man who, for all practical purposes would decide their fates.
Sacred Servants had been everywhere, whispering, arguing, their red robes made of fine wool making soft sounds as they walked to and fro between the boys, ordering them to straighten their tunics or not to scratch. Amil, the fattest of the lot, had been sweating profusely, large damp spots under each arm and a river running down his temples. With a curse, one of the Sacred Servants had thrown him a kerchief and told him to mop himself up. Another boy had received a strap to the buttocks for breaking wind.
Then, the great doors had swung open, the last warning hissed, and the desperate kinship they’d formed dissolved into thin air once in the Great Throne Room.
Two of the Sacred Servants, the ones they’d come to know as Strout and Root, prodded them forward, and they’d stumbled into the hall like children come in from the cold.
The doors had banged shut.
Elymas was waiting for them. He rose from the King’s Throne and limped forward until he stood in the middle of the dais. His robe was a deep crimson and the silk was so fine that it created a rippling effect even as he stood still.
A flat gold medallion hung from a finely worked chain about his neck.
Quinn had head of this medallion from Sartone, a middle-aged man who’d once traveled to Casoria to try his luck in the city. He’d worked as a blacksmith, then returned home. Now, he eked out a meager living on a tumble down farm and when in his cups, would hold forth on the dangers of city life at the village’s only tavern.
After Euli’s prophecy, Sartone had been quick to take Quinn aside and give him advice.
“Pack your coins between the soles of your shoes.”
Quinn had pointedly stared down at his bare feet.
“Sew a double lining in your pocket, then. Anything to protect yourselves from thieves. Cut-purses are thick as fleas along Market Way.”
Sartone had gone on to describe the city in ways that Quinn had heard a hundred times before but only now became real. Castle Ursaulis, the Tree of Life, The Warrior King and his dark crow of a councilor, Ondred. He went on to add that Casoria was packed with every tribe in the land, and looming over them all was the presence of the Earth Skyll.