Magnificent stone towers rise high into the sky, their tips tickling the belly of a monumental Cumulonimbus bathed in the gold of a setting sun. Shadows within crevices of the masonry dance and jitter as the light moves slowly by, eager to take over with the night sky. Somewhere deep within the confines of the towers a bell tolls a melancholy eight o' clock. The sonorous noise drowns out the chirping of people and birds alike; Together they live among the towers and bridges and scaffolding of their grand citadel. The striking of the toll dies down enough for the birds to catch wind of the whispers and secrets being told - Carts and stalls making their final hour of sales and trades for the day, rumors making their way among the lips of a new wave of bar-goers, nightly instructions passing from Masters to their Apprentices. Even the soldiers began to lay down their guns, the nightly watch waking from their reversed sleeping cycles to give their service to a city they hold a deep patriotism for.
"I 'unno what the day gunner did to her, but she sure as hell ain't gunna work tonight."
A light smile spread across his lips, "I think it looks simple enough."
Together stood two men - No, one man of rather gruff stature and one boy small in size. The latter had begun at once to start opening the blackened metal casing of a large, fearsome looking machine with four long tubes reaching out towards the sky. A puff of gunpowder emerged only to darken the boy's dirty blonde hair. He paid it no mind, but rather reached right in and began to loosen a particular cog with his hands.
"Y'know, Hope, I ain't quite sure what them pricks up in Centr'l Tower 'ould do without'cha." He leaned his body precariously atop the opened hatch of the device, elbows black simply from the touch. The man watched intently as Hope finished fishing out the stubborn piece of machinery. His eyes lit up bright blue as he turned to face the remaining sunlight, holding the gear up to see more clearly. As the older man watched quizzically, Hope responded instead with a knowing nod and began to simply... Wipe the device clean.
With a new-found gleam, the etched piece of steel found its way back inside the gearbox. "If everyone paid more mind to keeping their guns clean, I would not need to come out nearly as often as I do." Hope reached up with a free hand to give the man's forearm a light jab. "They get dirty and jam up if we do not pay attention." The box creaked shut and Hope stood back up, wiping the grime from his hands to what was a white shirt just minutes ago.
"Aye, you'll hafta talk to the day crew 'bout that one lad. I keep my shit clean, hardly ever gets used anyway." He paused for a moment, noticing a strange gaze from Hope. Following it, he found the sun setting in the distance. "Quite a view, idn't it? Don't think I'll ever get tired 'a havin a external post."
Hope didn't stick around much longer after that. Rather, he was already making his way across the first of many branches that would lead him back to the Central Tower. The city itself seemed much quieter now, the dayworkers having mostly packed up save for a few stalls that like to close later. A handful of people still roam the bridges, stopping to gawk at a particular piece of jewelry or purchase a pastry of one sort or another. Every now and then Hope would catch whispers of transactions, "It's getting closer," "Do you think we'll be ready?" "I'm not sure we're going to make it this time..." Each person just as concerned as the last. A smile keeps to his lips, though, as he is unconcerned with their fears. Everything will turn out just fine.
After a few towers, his eyes become locked upon a particularly calligraphic street sign within one of the towers.
Small bells jingle happily as a new customer enters the store. Behind a rustic mahogany desk sits an elderly man reading a book, a pair of spectacles sitting on the edge of his nose. A sign sat in front of him reading "Closed," but he didn't so much as bother a glance at Hope as he entered. Beautiful brassy widgets and glassy ornaments hung all around the main room, each one more complex than the last. Without much delay Hope found himself standing before a rack of old wooden canes. One particular walnut cane stood out to him, its embossed brass hammer head gleaming in the dim light of the shop. It has been a good six months, perhaps it would be nice to treat myself again. A hesitant arm reached out to claim it like a prize.
Sudden glee shown through his soul as he pivoted back towards the main desk. Before his eagerness could even present the purchase, the old man spoke. "You've finally decided to pay for it, have you?" Hope could only nod with a stupid childish grin. "Then take it." His nose still hadn't left the book. Did he want Hope to have it? Just... For free? Strange, but there wouldn't be any complaining. Hope bowed and thanked the man, heading for the door. But he paused just before leaving, taking out a small pouch that sounded of coin. He took a few out, leaving them on a small table by the door before taking his leave.
"Oh, quit your complaining Mister Pinna, this isn't the worst injury you've come back to me with." I can feel a curious expression navigating my face. "If you don't mind my asking, what happened out there to get you cut up again?"
"We got ambushed. They were waiting for us in the forest below and tried to take a few of us out before we could react."
"Is that how you got this cut under your arm? Goodness it does look like they went for your wings again. You musta' moved just in time. It's pretty deep too, did they have weapons?"
"Nothing but daggers and bracers. The resources of all our cities are becoming scarce."
"Well let's just hope that's the last we see of them... Now hold still dear, I'm almost done." I wince in pain as she tightens down a gauze bandage, but I become comfortable again as soon as she finishes. "There you go, Mister Pinna. Knowing you it should only be a few days before you're tip-top again!" My lips stretch into a faint smile, and I nod in approval.
~ ~ ~
"Acies! Acies are you okay?"
My eyes follow a strange boy in white, his clothes are stained black with gunpowder and dust. He appears happy.
"Yes, I am fine. What do you need?" The boy seems concerned.
"Nothing, I just... I just wanted to make sure you're not hurt, that's all."
"The nurses say I will be okay."
"Well, alright, but don't overdo it okay?" He begins to leave, then turns round again, "Oh yeah! The counsel is holding a meeting about the battle today. I think they were hoping you would come this time, they want to know what happened."
I nod and turn away from the boy, seeking out the hearing room. I make as little noise as possible while slipping in through a side door. They have already begun the discussion.