by Zentara Shadowsoul
The old adage of the calm after the storm seemed very apt as I stood at the entrance to my overnight shelter. Having been awoken by thunder and heavy rain just before dawn, I’d lit a fire and eaten, having first ensured that Ghost was fine. Apart from being slightly skittish as the initial lightning spiked the air around us he seemed unperturbed by the tempest outside. Like me, he’d grown up used to the vagaries of the weather. I wondered if there was anything that would ever throw him – he was certainly one of the most placid animals I’d ever known.
Now, an hour or so later, the rain had ceased and the sun had risen, casting pale shafts of light through broken roofs and windows. Water dripped onto the sodden ground but birds sang and the air felt fresh as a light breeze wafted along the cobbled street. After a quick word with Ghost to let him know that I was going to explore, I left the old building and wandered toward what I thought might be the centre of An Reviniba.
It turned out that what had obviously been a central square was much closer than I’d realised. Just a few yards from where I’d slept the street ended and a large space greeted me. Large paving slabs had once covered the square but most of these were now cracked or had crumbled as whittan trees, bushes and grasses had pushed them up and taken over. Some golden-nut trees had taken root too, their branches covered with fresh green leaves and pale yellow blossoms. A true sign that winter had gone and spring had arrived.
I wandered along the side of the square, looking through the doorways of some of the buildings. These had been mostly shops or craft rooms it seemed, the debris of rusted metal machinery and shelving, long empty, lining walls behind fallen counters. A few alleyways led off the square, the forest visible at the end of the narrow streets, and I realised that the town itself was fairly small – large enough for the merchants and traders and artisans to live here but no bigger. It was, as Ferantu had said, purely a market town.
There were some larger buildings, too, meeting halls, or guild halls of some kind, broken steps leading up to dark doorways. A few even had rusting metal doors hanging from even rustier hinges but all were deserted and I wondered again – why? Why had the towns-folk left what had once obviously been a prosperous town? Had the Shay left the town en masse as they had the forest, as Ferantu seemed to believe? Or had the merchants here not been Shay? But relied on their trade and had thus been forced out of business once the Shay had gone? And yet, according to all accounts, it had been only twenty-five years since the Shay had departed, not long enough for this place to be in such a ruinous state. No, An Reviniba had been empty for much longer. All the tales I’d heard as a child about Shay Town told of it being a ruin, long before I was born.
Shaking my head, I made my way to the centre of the square. There was an old fountain there, long since empty of pumped water but rain water had partially filled the pool and I washed my face and hands before having a drink. Mosses and ivy had covered much of the stonework, including a large statue that stood at the fountain’s centre. It seemed to be of a metal-smith, for he held a large hammer and had an anvil by his feet. What appeared strange, however, was that in some respects he looked more like a Targ than a Shay. Short, yes, but broad, stocky and bearded. However, his hair was wild and long, his cloak swirling around him, leaves and flowers adorning his tunic. I was mystified. Was he of Targ and Shay blood? And if so, why was he honoured in this way, at the centre of what had once been a major gathering point? So many questions. I was beginning to feel a desperate need to find one of the inhabitants of this place. One who had some answers.