The sun was rising like a sleepy child, slowly pushing itself unwillingly from its warm covers on a cold winter's day. It had poked its head half-way above the land, as if it were wondering whether to grace the world with its presence today or not. Rays of light pierced the sky, chasing away the darkness of night. The stars, bright fireflies of the time gone past, took their leave, giving way to the sparkling brightness of dawn. The welkin was still in its dreamy haze, the gentle baby blue and yellow swimming through it truly making it seem like an illusion. A few clouds slowly floated across the lovely canvas, like big ships in an eternal ocean, their sails pained in soft mauve and pumpkin orange. The early birds had begun their morning tributes to the guardian of the day, who was creeping carefully upwards from the east. Sunlight set the world ablaze, the gentle flames gliding down the windows of houses, mansions and castles alike. Flowers opened their cups shyly. A few puddles gave off a shimmer at their edges down on the dirty ground. The dew looked like little diamonds as they reflected the light on the trees' leaves, many of which were now in a cheerful ginger. Changing their attire to astonishing gowns in stunning colours, the motionless silent guardians announced the arrival of autumn. The breeze had become cold, almost chilly, and blew through the land, carrying the smell of rain. Summer had come and gone. The time of fall had begun.
Water playfully bubbled as it sprang out from beneath the mother earth and tumbled like an infant down the smooth rock path. A few lizards rested atop the sunny stones nearby, their heads pointing proudly upwards, as if they were defying the noisy rushing of the stream, indulging in the silence they only knew of. It was peaceful in the mountains, the high forests of pine trees still housing the late mist, which cautiously crept about, quite similar to a petty thief, hiding from the moonlight. The brook hurried through the little road between the old trunks, as if it was going to miss an important event further away. A squirrel poked its head from its comfortable bedroom high up in the branches, ready for one of its last days of gathering stock before falling into a deep sleep that would last an entire season. The sound of a quickened knocking on bark echoed through the woods. A woodpecker it was. Another bird or two out in this hour made themselves apparent. Lonely, a wild dove called out, but was met by nothing more than the cracking wings of a murder of crows, whilst an owl soundlessly flew to its canopy chamber, ready for a good day's rest after a long night of patrolling the forest. An eagle swiftly crossed the sky and, just as that, the sike continued flowing. Going downstairs, it jumped numerous times from terrace to terrace, the world around it gradually changing from the tall evergreens to a masked ball, with an outstanding palette of colour. Sunlight danced across red, brown and yellow, tracing after the running waterway, which was not alone in its journey, for it met with sisterly waters and merged together, to walk the road awaiting ahead of them. On and on, it went on its path, not even so much as casting a gaze at the doe that came for a drink or to the fox that crossed it by using the few stepping stones still lingering around. Its speed was great as it followed the right way, passing by boulders and caves. Others of its kind could be heard nearby as the terrain discarded the plant-life and only narrow spaces between the tall masses of rock remained. Left and right the water clashed, creating a thunder-like sound. Even a mortal's most desperate cry could not be heard now. Faster and faster, it charged through the mountain until finally...it leapt.
Thousands of meters it fell, light shattering in each and every drop into a million pieces. Countless rainbows, small and large, appeared from out of nowhere, a marvelous illusion they were. Yet the travel of the streams was not over, yet. Their landing point was a place of honor and great importance to the inhabitants of the Kingdom of Braemas, ofttimes called the Country of Virtues. It was, in fact, it's capital, Aglea, the winged city. Rather than the solid earth, the water, in this case, first met a large deep pool upon reuniting with the surface, after which it flowed through the colourful "Town of Wonders", a nickname for the area around the most inner wall, where the small residences of the deities were. On each side of every streets, regardless on which level they were, there was always a furrow, over which a thin, unbreakable layer of glass was neatly put in place. Running through the entire complex, sometimes forming lakes and ponds to sooth the spirits' liking, the water eventually reached one of the three possible exits. A grand tunnel, running through the wall, several barriers, both magical and of crossed thick metal poles, halting any intruder in their tracks to drown or be thrown out. After assembling in the large moat on the other end, the water then ran through the many beds in the city. It payed no heed to its onlookers once more. A few ladies were already taking a stroll in Cradle Moon, giggling among each other as they headed for the newly opened tailor's shop. The first area was peaceful like it always had been. A carriage or two were going about, the horses gracefully trotting to their destination. The guards were already marching towards their posts to take the place of the already tired night shift, their armor shimmering in the morning light, their footsteps being the only source of a sound louder than the water's flow.
In Smiling Moon, the situation was very different. A contrast to that sluggish elite, the modest town's folk were up and about, working to the fullest. Women opened their windows to let in the fresh air, cleaned the porches, washed the clothes and pulled the ears of naughty children who tried to steal a cookie. Men were off to their jobs. Some were busy in their bakeries. Others were carefully crafting new pottery. Blacksmiths were heating the iron for another day's hammering. Merchants were taking their usual spots at the markets, shouting out their offers, whilst eager bidders were answering them with the price they'd pay. A couple was moving into their new home. Doctors were rushing to their patients. The commoners in the biggest city of the country were like a frantic beehive, eager to start the day well.
The rivers continued their adventure as always. Passing through their own 'gates' at the second wall, they were met by a glorious view. Ghettos. It was a word used to describe the many houses and tents outside the enormous defense walls. Made by people who were not citizens, they were allowed to stay merely because of their temporary status. The time of festivals had arrived and many new arrivals had to be met, be their part of the audience or the show. The parades in celebration of the good harvest had already set multiple towns aflame and the greatest of all would be held in Aglea, the purest of cities, as her people called her. Markets could be found here as well, for mostly guildless merchants and travelers made up this cluster of people, yet there was a surprisingly medium thievery rate. Albeit the angels had much more important duties to attend to, some magical creatures did patrol these areas, yet it can not be said that the control was strict. After all, there were mythical beings among the traders and the thieves as well.
This segment, dubbed accordingly "No Moon", was as long as "Smiling Moon" in width and beyond it lied great plains of green and yellow. Most of the crops had already been taken in, leaving the rabbits the freedom to roam to their heart's content. Sheep grazed in the valleys, whilst hawks surveyed the land from above. Mice scurried between the grass. A jackal would bark from time to time. The streams from the mountain had now formed a great river that consumed various others as it steadily made its way through the great hallow. It would undergo many changes in pace once it reaches the next mountain ahead. It would gain speed, crash into natural obstacles that diverted its path and form many new waterfalls. Around it were a few towns, other than the capital, but the forests were far more beautiful. The nervous chatter of birds in the trees. Otters merrily swimming about, toying around with each other and chasing fish. The world was splendid and it was just coming in sight as dawn was starting to bloom.
A whimsical traveler, the great river, named Marika, continued her journey. Upon departing from the mountain lands, it raced across the rich valley of Sabia, wishing to carry the first sunlight on its silver back through the land it loved and fed with its life. Great was its width and great was it's glory, a marvelous creation of nature. But every beautiful thing, every wonder, each perfection has it's downfall. And the higher you are, the longer and harder you descend. This was no exception. In the middle of its path, Marika formed the biggest known waterfall. It was tremendous. Named "Sunset falls", it was positioned on the border between Braemas, the kingdom of virtues, and Zulfikar, the kingdom of sins, and has seen many battles in the course of the past half century. Bards sang songs of different kind about the coming of this astonishing leap. Some tales told that it was where the throne of a giant king used to be, but only the back of that huge chair remained. Others spoke of a battle from ancient times, between the spirits of the forest and the water nymphs and how the creation of the waterfall was their peace treaty. But those lovely melodies were only that - songs to flatter girls with.
The name of this incredible landmark, however, did not emerge from myth or legend. Until sunset, the water that jumps from that high peak never sees sunlight. Even when it's miles away, its shine is dimmer, weaker, less magnificent from the time before its leap. But once the hour of dusk arrives, the waterfall, which had been covered in mist and darkness, becomes a beautiful carnival of sparkles. Rainbows form and light makes the drops of water shine like gemstones and gold. For the short moment that is its grace, they named it Sunset Falls. Ever since the arrival of Satan's armies and the creation of Zulfikar, the common folk and higher than them have also associated it with the tragic event that was the Fall from Grace. From the most hopeful of moments, dawn, and throughout the day, the waterfall remains dark and the thunder of the crushing water that reaches the bottom is crude and dreadful, yet come the time when the sun bleeds and goes back to sleep and it becomes a sight to long for each and every day. This being said, the people of Braemas believe that the demons shall never set foot further from Sunset Falls, because their land represents 'the higher land', from which the angels of corruption were cast away from. But this also gives a shred of hope to the dwellers within the sinful kingdom, because they believe that once the High Emperor of Hell, Satan, finds a method through which the sun could rise from the west, their prolonged stagnation shall end and the world will bow before their greatness.
Such were the whisperings concerning Sunset Falls. Beyond it lied a country born from jealousy and hatred, drowned in an ocean of drunken lust, a glutton that choked itself on a wishing bone for the sake of an impossible wish that came from a dream, one of greed and prideful thinking. The earth was either dry and cracked or moist and sticky. It was because of the high concentration of clay in the soil. This was also the reason why it was quite unfavorable to develop the farming of crops, since very few adored such habitats and were edible. Until a certain distance before the capitol, Marika was surrounded by dense forests from both sides. Trees stood tall, the diameter of their trunks being long, their branches stretching higher and higher, as if they were trying to reach the sky, yet they were dead for the most part, never to bear leaves or flowers ever again, or were cursed and their coats were purple and emitted a scent, which had different effects, depending on the individual's species. Hives of small insect demons swarmed about, consuming anything that wasn't dead, corrupted or did not have the tattoo given on the border. Dark hyena-like creatures the size of a adult male bear, only doubled, roamed instead of wolves and were the most common bothersome pests. Tar lakes and swamps bubbled near the river. A lone deer with metallic antlers, mushrooms growing on its back, bloody red eyes and two fangs showing from below its upper lip strolled nearby. Far more horrific beings resided in the forest, like huge snakes with spikes on their tail, ogres with the heads of rams and hallow eyes, raccoons with blank faces and curly long claws, but all of them were mere shadows of what awaited further down the path.
The river Marika had been split into channels by the hands of men and the system was improved when the demonic experts of Hell came. There were seven gates, through which the water entered the capitol of Zulfikar, Iantha. It was dark on the bottom levels of the city, the mist being so thick that you could not see who was standing right next to you. Only the glowing demons inside of the few lamp posts delivered some amount of dim light to guide anyone who wished to travel. The lowest level of the city had waterways for roads and the only way to travel was by boat. "Buses" were what were called the public boats, on which a big majority of the citizens traveled by. After passing the gates at the defense wall, the canals passed through the poorer districts, where buildings often stood alone, but others already had one or two levels built above them.
Mostly lowly critters with slow or failing business resided there, the taverns having little to offer and the 'houses', cheaper fresh but low in quality. Diseases ran freely and took shape of their own, often as cats with rotting sides or dogs with a fine body but only a skull for their head. Demons with the weakest powers fought there and killed each other for the sake of earning points, so the amount of dark essence freely floating about was huge and anyone who could not handle its foulness in such great quantity was not fit for that place. The water often ran green of black there. Although it was the greatest dump, where the garbage and trash of the rest of the city went, it was also the place of elaborate artists from all species to create their works. A broken cabinet door could become a window. A shoe could become a doorknob. A bile of leftovers that were inedible could turn into substance for a fine wall or a carpet. Anything was possible from the junk that was collected. In the morning, it was the part of the city that fell asleep first. Most demons were nocturnal and humans had gotten used to being such as well, thus very few roamed about during the sunny hours.
The more you ride towards the center of Iantha, the clearer the water will get, yet don't expect a cheerful blue to paint it. The waters remain silverishly dark and murky all the way until its exiting point. But the further you enter the capitol, the cleaner the buildings will seem. Slowly, the levels increase in number and soon enough, it is impossible to see the top of the buildings from the canals. They stretch on and on towards the grey sky. It was a chilly autumn morning. The mist crept about longer than expected, which was quite favorable for the white vampire bats, who only waited for an unsuspecting victim to become distracted on the streets. The markets on the bridges were still full of corruption, meaning they were teaming with life. Brotels and sisterhouses were yet to close for the day. Curses and brutality could be heard from left and right, but it was not the same as during the night. The working demons were hurrying to their residences so they could eat and go to sleep or practice and prepare for the next evening of terrors. One half of the humans were also getting ready to close down their stalls for the day. Some would move to covered markets, others would venture to private places where they would sell their products. The ones who were not in the buy-and-sell business depended on their job's schedule. Maintainment was done every single day and night. Cleaning was done during the sunny hours. Repairs were done around the clock. Healers had their own time. Owners of bars, pubs, 'houses' and banks did what they had to according to their customers. Unsurprisingly, the human population was equal to, even higher than, the demonic population in Iantha. After all, it was only human nature to give into temptation and the most common reason humans immigrated to Zulfikar was from lust. Women could stand their ground, but men were not so fortunate in keeping their pants on. Another profitable reason was alcohol. There were alcoholics and alcohol-sellers, which could simply not survive under Braemas' strict control on alcoholic drinks. And there were those who simply felt restrained in the kingdom of virtues and looked for fights, for action and adventure. Little do they know, that it is a miracle to simply live through the night if you aren't of high position.
The biggest of the canals, which didn't split a single time, unlike the rest, flowed directly into the castle where the ruler, his family and closest subordinates resided. At the time of that early morning in autumn, the king was absent, for he had taken two of his trustworthy ministers and departed for Hell for a meeting with Satan and his counsel. In the mansion all the candles were lit and servants went about their business. Unlike the city, the schedule here was not divided by the change of the celestial bodies. Depending on what needed to be done, a list of tasks was created for every day and night. Sleep was not a luxury, but a hindrance for most. The servants constantly chanced shifts and worked around the clock, tending to their master's every need, keeping the mansion in perfect condition, making sure that only the central garden, where Lucifer's gate was, was kept flourishing, whilst the rest were kept neatly dead and dry, cooking, unclogging, and paying attention to many details. Racially-speaking, they were mainly fallen angels and demons. Very few humans managed to find a job in the castle, other than being food or toys for the demon aristocrats. Still, there were human ministers, who consulted the king and were honored even by the creatures of corruption.
The day was starting off slowly, the mist had barely left the castle's grounds. Mounts neighed and roared in the stables. Little demon children of guests played around before bedtime. Everyone was either starting their day with a mountain of work or ending it with shadows under their eyes. All but for a very few individuals, one of which was quite peculiar. The young prince, the sin of envy, sat atop a tall bookshelf in the library. It was dim inside and the chilly wind of fall could be felt from time to time. The windows offered little light, albeit they were tall and clear. It was because of the mist and the overall dark aura of the kingdom that the sunlight that managed to reach the surface was so weak and gave little warmth. The tops of the numerous bookshelves were covered in a layer of dust, yet the young man didn't mind at all. A half-read book placed at his side, he stared at the complexity that was his family library. Stairways leading up to its many floors. Books stacked one next to the other in a proper line, not an inch between them. There was even a pool of magical water. If one felt lazy, they could simply toss the book they were reading into it and it would reappear in its original place on one of the hundreds of shelves within this enormous room.
"White is just the brightest shade of grey, huh?" Samir sighed as he looked towards the window.
Stretching, he yawned much like a sleepy cat and began to whistle. It was very unbecoming of someone of his status to make such noice in a library, yet he intented to enjoy every little moment of peace he had before his brother awoke. Once that happened, this calm peaceful time would be nomore and the blue-eyed twin would either be dragged or sent on the latest quest for expensive items he'd have to buy in the end.